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May162020

Listening to Every Song I own: Letter “C”

The latest update in my absurd project to listen to all 11, 704 songs in my iTunes library straight through no skipping (called Abba Zappa Zoo, thank you to Mike Gluck ) included Song #1235: “Charlie Loves Our Band” by From Good Homes to #1334 “City Rising from the Ashes” by Deltron 3030.

The Math:

99 Songs
10.5% complete — 11.3% complete

Trivia:

“Charlie Loves Our Band” by the New Jersey folk rock band From Good Homes pays tribute to their most loyal fan in the group’s early days. It’s an incredibly sweet reminder that, when creating anything, you have to start with one “Charlie” and can always go somewhere higher from there.

“City Rising From the Ashes” is one of a dozen great songs on the self-titles dystopian hip hop album Deltron 3030 from the year 2000 about the year 3030.

1. The most common title words in this block are “City, Cherry, Child, Chill and Choice”

2. In one string of songs “City of Dreams” by the Philadelphia bar room rockers Marah and “City of Dreams” by The Talking Heads sit next to each other.

3. Best one-two punch: “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick followed by “Children’s Work” by Dessa.

5. Song you really must know but probably don’t…

“Chase” an instrumental soundtrack banger by Giorgio Moroder which has become intro/outro music for dozens of people, places and things.

 

May72020

Interviewing True Crime Writers/Broadcasters…

In my ongoing quest to speak to all of the world’s most interesting creative people, I’ve been interviewing writers and broadcasters in the true crime genre I admire for The Blotter Presents podcast. Most recently..

Phoebe Judge. Host and Co-Producer of the incredible “Criminal” podcast. 

I spoke to Ms. Judge on the May 6 episode of the program (#142) about her journalistic background as a midwesterner who cut her teeth reporting from the deep south, “Criminal” not being crime-solvers or moral arbiters, what counts as a story about crime or wrong doing and the placement of the now immortal “I’m Phoebe Judge. This is Criminal”

 

Robert Kolker
Robert Kolker, author of “Lost Girls” An Unsolved American Mystery” (2012)

I spoke to Mr. Kolker on the April 7 episode of the program (#138) about the Netflix adaptation of “Lost Girls”, covering a crime story with no arrest at the end, the best medium for an ongoing investigation and his new book, which Oprah just chose for her bookclub in April.

Who should I speak to next?

May72020

Daily Links: Prince, Members Only Jackets, Marriage in Crime Fiction, Live Music Venues in COVID-19

— Live music venues are barely hanging on in a COVID-19 world. And they need our help. [NYT]

Sessions is a global live music streaming platform co-founded by Ex-Pandora Founder Tim Westergren.

RIP Florian Schneider, co-founder of Kratfwerk, dead at 73. Overdue for induction in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

An Oral History of the Members Only Jacket (via Collectors Weekly)

Anil Dash breaks down every music video Prince ever made.

— “The Elusive ‘Good Marriage’ in Crime Fiction” [Crime Reads] (via @lithub)

— Currently seeking alternatives to Pocket. Is Raindrop it?

Apr242020

How to Host a Shelter-in-Place Film Festival

Note: This guide was the basis of an episode of the podcast Deviate w/ Rolf Potts which aired on May 6, 2020. 

While we’re all on lockdown and not working or home schooling around a kitchen table, perhaps in the off hours, you’re looking to catch up on some movie watching. A bender with the queue of your choice, perhaps? Hold on, now. We don’t know when we’re getting unlocked down here. Think longer.

Something like your own Shelter in Place film festival.

Designing a film festival for family and friends or just yourself enables a lot of great time with movies plus the added pleasure of how they all hang together. It’s not the same as “Binge watching’ an endurance event designed to complete a long narrative and lose track of time. But you could binge watch the year 1997 and we STILL might not be out of the woods with this thing. Your Shelter in Place Film Festival still has a lot of sitting and watching and snacking to it but with more reasonable expectations.

It ain’t hard to do, so long as take a few pre-emptive steps which make building your own film festival fun instead of a multi hour wander ending in a shrug. Here’s how

1. How much time do you have for this?

An afternoon? A day? A weekend? Film Festivals are inherently a time-bound activity.

It may seem counterintuitive to begin planning with how much time you wish to spend watching movies than how many or what movies you wish to see. But you can always add movies if everyone’s having a great or cut the lineup short if everyone’s drifting off to the kitchen or falling asleep.

You cant add another Friday.

Setting a time limit also creates reasonable expectations. Watching 11 movies in a day is not going to happen. Watching 3 over a week might seem anti-climactic, something you’d do anyway instead of an event. Since film festivals are about maximizing quality for each hour spent watching, not about watching until you or your guest physically can’t anymore.

Wait, guests?

2. Who all is invited?

A film festival for just you and your loved ones at home is the easiest way to do this. Level up by inviting friends or another family to join: Everyone watches the movies in their own home then signs on to zoom or google hangout afterward at a designated time to talk about the movie you just saw. Watching movies all at the same time while all on video conferences I’ve found technically complicated and not very rewarding.

If you’re making it a truly virtual film festival, it’s a bit more important to stick to a schedule so all participants know when they should be watching and when they should be yapping with each other. We’ll get to scheduling in just a sec but first..

3. Who is choosing the movies? You can either designate a leader who picks all the movies but also bears responsibility if they suck or you can create a list based on a theme (see next) and vote. A designated leader, like dictatorship, is more efficient. Democracy, as Oscar Wilde said, “is great but takes up a lot of weeknights.”

If you’re the leader, do your own research and come up with the program or poll your own electorate of family and friends for both a theme or movies that fit it. But remember, planning a film festival isn’t all that different than planning a party. It’s designed to entertain the guests not show what sort of genius you were coming up with the event in the first place.

In my experience, film festivals benefit from a strong leader so the movies are well chosen and hang together someone but a leader that listens to those he/she has invited to their festival.

4. Theme? Festivals have themes to distinguish themselves from binge watching. The idea is many movies creatively grouped in a interesting way. Half the joy is coming up with that creative list rather than just hitting “next” on the remote control.

Self-creating film festivals come in a few different types: A Vertical Festival is usually organized around the body of work of a creative person (all of Denzel Washington’s pre-Oscar movies, All movies directed by Ava Duvernay) A Horizontal Festival is organized around something non-people related all the chosen movies have in common (movies who all have “Star” in their name, movies that take place in Chicago).  A Spring Cleaning Festival is a conscious attempt to see movies that have languished on your to-be-watched list for too long. A Hall of Fame Festival is usually grouped around the perceived “best” movies in a genre (Romantic Comedies) or a given time period (the 1990s). A Hub and Spoke Festival will begin with a beloved, well known film then see ancillary movies (another movie by that director, a remake, another movie featuring a jazz soundtrack) and material (short films from that director, a documentary about the hub film’s subject) from there.

The purpose of a Vertical Festival is to notice commonalities (Michael Douglas never plays a working-class person) and evolutions (Laura Dern often played quiet characters in her 20s and loud characters in her 40s and 50s). The purpose of a Horizontal Film Festival–because you have declared the thing they have in common up front–is to notice differences (look how many different kinds of movies took place only at night). A Hall of Fame Festival will inspire debate and discussion b/c “best” is a subjective criteria. A Hub And Spoke Festival usually needs a strong leader to push the spokes out far enough from the hub so the movies at this festival feel different enough from one another. A Spring Cleaning Festival is better reserved for a my-family-only kind of festival where everyone’s had a hand in the queue to be cleaned out in the first place.

4. What movies? Whether you go with one leader or a group vote, start by collectively making a first draft list of movies that fit your theme. Most likely it will be larger than the time you have. If it is, either the group votes or the leader should chose their best judgement. Failing either of those, go with the movies highest rated on Rotten Tomatoes unless you are really into watching bad movies.

5. How? It is best to have either hard copies of your chosen films, either on DVD or digital download. Streaming services are notorious for removing movies from their library without telling anybody and you don’t want to depend on a movie being available service on day of your festival because there’s no promise of that.

6. Schedule. Unless your theme requires you to go in a specific order, start with a short fun, banger of a film to whet everyone’s appetites. End on a movie with uplift because if you end with a horribly depressing movie, the audience will not only feel that way about the movie but the festival itself and most likely you as well. In between, you generally want to alternative between heavy and light in tone, between short and long in run time.

7. The Next Day. After your festival do something completely different like go for a hike or call someone. I find watching a bunch of movies in a row a mostly forgettable activity (and then what’s the point?) if it’s all swallowing and no digesting.

 

Apr32020

Daily Links: Bill Withers (RIP), COVID-19, Joan Didion

Goodbye, Bill Withers. You will be missed terribly but your songs–“Lean on Me”, “Ain’t No Sunshine”, “Just the Two of Us”, “Lovely Day–will live forever. Mr. Withers twin interviews on Death, Sex and Money and Bullseye are two of the great conversations with a musician in the history of radio.

 

“Every Food Service and Delivery Strike Happening Right Now”  [The Cut]

 

The cancelled SXSW Film Festival will be showing many of its feature films virtually via a partnership with Amazon Prime [Indie Wire]

 

Unsurprisingly, time spent watching streamed entertainment has spiked 20% worldwide [Bloomberg News]

 

“This Pandemic is not your Vacation” — Anne Helen Peterson [BuzzFeed News]

 

“I’ve Spent 27 Years in Solitary Confinement. Here Are Some Tips on Making the Best Use of Time Alone.”[Mother Jones]

 

Recommended: “Trouble in Lakewood” the classic 1993 New Yorker story by Joan Didion about The Spur Posse.  [via Robert Kolker]

 

Mar142020

The Arts During COVID -19:

 

I also understand that the words “arts” and “culture” can, to some smack of blue-state elitism. Let us bear in mind then that your kids school play, the marching band at your high school football game, the industry that puts books in your church or school library, the shows you watch on television and the video games you pay with your friends are all the products of an arts and culture industry, their fuel being drawing and imagining and thinking and dreaming and making shit up for our consumption and enjoyment. You already spend an ungodly amount of your time and money on arts and culture whether you chose to call it that or not. Now, that industry needs you to show up more than ever.

Mar142020

Listening to All of RUSH’s Albums to Honor Neil Peart: Hemispheres

Hemispheres -- RUSH

I am listening to all of Rush’s albums in order to honor the life and work of their drummer and lyricist Neil Peart who died on Jan 7th at age 67. Next up…

Album Name: Hemispheres

Released: October 1978

Folks, I’m afraid this one’s going to be quite brief as Rush’s sixth studio album “Hemispheres” does nothing for me. The last of their golden prog rock period is the proggiest of them all, featuring on one site a mini rock-opera and on the the other a twelve-minute instrumental. The musicianship here beats all but leaves me cold as a dead fish: Virtuosity will never move me like songcraft. So fine, if you love this record, keep on doing you, but I’m going to take a quick pass and scuttle right on the next one.

Mar42020

My Top 5 Movies of 2019: Last Black Man Of, Apollo 11, Booksmart and Others…

Did this last year. These are the 5 best movies I saw in 2019. Doesn’t mean they came out in 2019. Just means that’s when I got to see them for the first time. David Dylan Thomas is much better at this than me so I borrowed the layout from him.  Movie names will link to their profiles on Just Watch so you know where to see them.

In reverse order:

5. Last Black Man in San Francisco

Almost a visual poem to a city and two residents/best friends who no longer feel like they belong there. Beautiful in the way Moonlight is beautiful (2019).

4. Apollo 11

Not one extra foot of film was shot for this minute-by-minute documentary to commemorate the 50th anniverary of the 1969 moon landing. Meaning everything was reconstructed from existing NASA footage, so tangible and real you feel like it happened yesterday. And you were there (2019).

3. Half the Picture

Documentary on why so few movies are directed by women puts the lie immediately to any excuse dreamed up by studios or the resident misogynist in your life. Will also remind you how many of your favorite movies weren’t made by bearded white dudes in baseball caps (2018).

2. Booksmart

The John Hughes movie the 21st century deserves: kids of all shapes, sizes, races and gender doing hilarious teenage shit. Olivia Wilde, the actress turned director, has done an amazing first-timers job here (2019).

1. Leave No Trace

If you want to know where and why America is where it is in 2020, this tale of a wounded war veteran and his estranged daughter will show you with beauty, sadness and power (2018)

Honorable Mention: Support the Girls is the best movie ever made about one day inside a Hooters, a huge compliment. Hale County This Morning, This Evening is a moving photo essay of moments in a southern town that will take your breath away.

Mar32020

Listening to all of RUSH’s Albums to Honor Neil Peart: A Farewell to Kings

 

"A Farewell to Kings" -- RUSH

I am listening to all of Rush’s albums in order to honor the life and work of their drummer and lyricist Neil Peart, who died on Jan 7th at age 67. Next up…

Album Name: A Farewell to Kings

Released: September 1977

Rush’s fifth studio album is the second of their golden prog-rock period where side-length sci-fi tales of ridiculousness were coin of the realm. Many vintage RUSH fans love this stuff but it is not for me. Therefore, it will surprise no one that Mr. Peart’s contributions I zero in on here and continue to appreciate most all these years later, are on shorter, more approachable material.

Best Drums: “A Farewell to Kings”

Often overlooked, I think, due to its sonic similarity to “2112,” the band’s preceding album, what begins as a woodsy British folk ballad soars to the heights of a classical opera, mostly thanks to a wash of keyboards. But what would sound metallic and thin is made magisterial by the sober throb of Neil Peart’s drums. It’s foundational rhythm at its quiet best.

Best lyrics: “Closer to the Heart”

Possibly Peart’s finest composition, an open-chested plea for tolerance, peace and a new way of living from a famously shy and quiet man.

And the men who hold high places
Must be the ones who start
To mold a new reality
Closer to the Heart
Closer to the Heart

The Blacksmith and the Artist
Reflect it in their art
They forge their creativity
Closer to the Heart
Yea, Closer to the Heart

Philosophers and Plowmen
Each must know his part
To sow a new mentality
Closer to the Heart
Closer to the Heart

 

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