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Feb42020

Daily Links: Dan Deacon, Sundance, Harper Lee

— If you think old @giorgiomoroder film scores are Boss, you’re going to love @DanDeacon ‘s new album “Mystic Familiar”. Case in point: https://t.co/TmfqjYlBVJ

— “Sundance Names Tabitha Jackson as New Festival Chief” https://t.co/ZL5JeN2jkX (via Farai Chideya)

— “150,000 Botanical and Animal Illustrations Available for Free Download from Biodiversity Heritage Library” https://t.co/J7VlJHhhoZ

— One of the better names I have heard for a movie blog is “The Projector Has Been Drinking” https://t.co/leu0UyZClR  

— “People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.” — Harper Lee (via @Belletristbooks)

 

Jan292020

Listening to all of Rush’s Albums to honor Neil Peart: Caress of Steel

 

So 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.

Album Name: Caress of Steel

Released: September 1975

Rush’s third studio album was considered a bomb, a claim not without merit: The first side contains some of their finest songwriting in a pair of tracks — “Bastille Day “ and “Lakeside Park”— that manage to be as grand and epic as their 12 minute outer space operas while feeling human and made of flesh rather than make of titanium and being a song you appreciate the audacity of rather than actually, eh listen to.

A bit of context here: The typical narrative of Rush is these 12 minute three movement dramas about based on JRR Tolkein and Ayn Rand are them at their best. Then around “Tom Sawyer” (1980, eight albums into their career) they got a taste of having a 3 minute hit song and never went back. In effect they “sold out” and turned their back on the nerds who supported them from the jump.

My relationship with them is just the opposite. I’ve no need for 12 minutes of something called “Cygnus Book II” because I discovered the band in their 3 minute song years of the 1980s and that’s what I fell in love with so that works for me.

Here then, side one of Caress of Steel is what they would become in another 5 years. Side two is where they were at the moment. It’s an uneasy coexistence and the album is so bottom heavy with three movement wankarama dramas that the (better) first side feels tacked on.

Ah well. I never owned this record and heard all I needed from it when I bought the Rush: Chronicles greatest compilation on something called a “CD” once upon a time. Nothing lost.

Best drumming: That opening from Bastille Day is killer:

https://youtu.be/mT1gmKUoqbY

Best lyrics:

“Midway hawkers calling “Try your luck with me”
Merry-go-round wheezing the same old melody
A thousand ten cent wonders who could ask for more
A pocketful of silver, the key to heaven’s door”

— Lakeside Park

https://youtu.be/tgeg-xadx9s

A surprisingly sweet track about an amusement park Neil Peart worked at as a teenager in St. Catherine’s, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto. I am always pleased when a Rush song is about people and this world we share together.

Jan272020

Books v. Movies: Not an Either/Or

Lithub alerted me to a fascinating statistic that in 2019, more Americans went to the library than to the movies.

That’s wonderful news but let’s bear in mind a few things;

1. Books are not superior to movies. There are brilliant movies and terrible books. And both are magic. Being forced to chose is a false choice no one really has. And if I had to chose between them, I’d chose a quick death by firing squad instead.

2. Going to the movies isn’t fun anymore. Movie studios are having a tough time getting people to come to theatres for all but the loudest splashiest movies. And this is not the citizenry’s fault. How often do you have a pleasant evening at the movies watching something where nothing blows up at a price point you can repeat more than say once a quarter? Unless every single person who likes going to the movies in America is a 14 year old boy, this is leaving a lot of the paying audience out in the cold. 

3. “That doesn’t mean people are reading at libraries.” This sentiment is elitist and historically wrong. Libraries since the beginning of their history have functioned as levelers between classes so the economically disadvantaged may have the same tools, resources and access to information as everyone else. Read Susan Orlean’s magisterial “The Library Book”. It turns out, the earliest public libraries loaned farm equipment, tools, livestock supplies, as well as newspapers and books. Now they also provide internet access, musical instruments, toys to kids who can’t afford them and vinyl records (hooray!)

4. The public good. Use of libraries for whatever reason equals belief in something called the public good, the commons, a nation we are all part of instead of “give me mine and screw you” they have changed so many lives for the better including mine. So have great movie theaters.

Our lives are better for both. Make them a part of yours!

Jan202020

Daily Links Special for Dr. Martin Luther King Day

 

MLK March on Washington Speech

— NPR: ‘I Have A Dream’ Speech, In Its Entirety https://t.co/kBC12Wlln0

— New Yorker: From 1965: Renata Adler reports on Martin Luther King, Jr., and the historic march from Selma to Montgomery. https://t.co/KevfNjsnou

— Paste Magazine: Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day With Musical Tributes From Patti Labelle, Joan Baez & many more. https://t.co/YBCTnHi8cH

“I fear I may have integrated my people into a burning house” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

Jan122020

My Annual Playlist of Songs I Heard for the First Time That Year: AKA The Smokler 50 (2019)

Welcome to my 8th annual playlist of songs I heard for the first time that year. It includes songs that are brand new to 2019, a few, but mostly those I found on my explorations of music across time, genre and medium

I cut things off on Dec. 31 with 905 songs discovered via streaming playlists, terrestrial and satellite radio, personal recommendations, research into artists I only know so well and regular visits to record stores. The total 905 is about 60 more than my usual average of 825-850 new songs per annum. I’m pegging that to the documentary film I made this year about the comeback of vinyl records which meant turning the usual stream of new music discovery into a geyser.

From there I chose 50 I feel like I could listen to endlessly without getting bored but that also remind me of my coordinates in the galaxy of music that year. I also keep an eye on diversity as you finding something new (to you) is half the point: Even if that year meant 79% listening to say celtic punk rock, that’ll still only be say 15% of the playlist.

If you listen and say “How all over the place!” or “I discovered 3 new bands! Hosannah!” I’ve done my job. If you listen and say “wow, you must really like Artist X or Genre Y” I haven’t.

Enjoy! And if you would, tell me what you find.

 

Jan12020

My New Year’s Day Prayer: Ring out, Wild Bells

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

The flying cloud, the frosty light:

The year is dying in the night;

Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

 

Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

 

Ring out the grief that saps the mind

For those that here we see no more;

Ring out the feud of rich and poor,

Ring in redress to all mankind.

 

Ring out a slowly dying cause,

And ancient forms of party strife;

Ring in the nobler modes of life,

With sweeter manners, purer laws.

 

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,

The faithless coldness of the times;

Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes

But ring the fuller minstrel in.

 

Ring out false pride in place and blood,

The civic slander and the spite;

Ring in the love of truth and right,

Ring in the common love of good.

 

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;

Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace.

 

Ring in the valiant man and free,   

The larger heart, the kindlier hand;

Ring out the darkness of the land,

Ring in the year that is to be.

Alfred Lord Tennyson