music


19
Mar 20

How are you settling in?

Everyone is getting a little more adjusted to their current realities. More people are staying indoors and at home, such as they can. And there are adjustments we’re all learning to make. It’s interesting to see and hear about. In between the many work emails and such.

Not everyone can, of course. Some people’s work requires them to be physically present. And some people just don’t get it. (But they’re liable to, if they keep that up, and they’re going to give it to others.)

And, it turns out, we don’t have the power of bulletproof young people we thought we did, either. Yes, Young People Are Falling Seriously Ill From Covid-19:

New evidence from Europe and the U.S. suggests that younger adults aren’t as impervious to the novel coronavirus that’s circulating worldwide as originally thought.

Despite initial data from China that showed elderly people and those with other health conditions were most vulnerable, young people — from twenty-somethings to those in their early forties — are falling seriously ill. Many require intensive care, according to reports from Italy and France. The risk is particularly dire for those with ailments that haven’t yet been diagnosed.

I wonder when the stigmatization of the people living their social lives really begins. You’ll have to somehow distinguish between the folks going to work to pay their bills or venturing out to take care of the vital necessities of life. But places that haven’t shut down their venues, or had their events shut down for them by executive power, the people there are going to get judged, I’m sure.

Even our cats get it; stay home.

We had to open a box late last evening and boxes, as cat owners know, may as well be C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe. So I thought I would turn it upside down. Defeat the cat! He can’t get in. No, he couldn’t. He got on. So, I thought, maybe I’ll just make you a little cat house.

He liked it immediately.

Because they don’t have enough things to climb on or in around here.

I shared that picture with a fellow cat owner, and she sent me this video and urged me to build …

I will not. Because I have another idea.

On the dual subject of pets and finding things to break up your days just now …

Don’t watch that one while walking up steps, that’s what I learned.

This one is quite interesting, for different reasons:

These sound interesting to me.

Experiments: Now is a great time to learn science by doing science. In this series, we take kids through real scientific research projects, showing them how to apply the scientific method to develop their own experiments. Check out the full collection of experiments — and give one a try!

Explainers: We have explainers on many topics, from how to read brain activity to the greenhouse effect. Each is designed to take a deeper dive into the concepts that underlie science news and research.

Technically Fiction: These stories look into the science behind fiction, from Harry Potter to bigfoot to what it would take to make an elephant fly. These can be a great place to start if your child doesn’t think they like science.

I started a musical conversation this evening. Some of the good ones that came through …

And this is aimed at marketers, but we’re all doing a bit of that these days, if you think about it. So think about it.

Be mindful. That’s terrific outreach advice. Grace and patience, friends. Grace and patience.


18
Mar 20

Hello, hello, hello

The best time, I told Instagram, for a run in the early age of social distancing? Obviously on a day when it is in the mid-40s. The preferred time would be when it isn’t raining, but the forecast was not a reality today.

Aside from the wind, and the rain, and the cold, it was a nice little three-and-a-half miles around the neighborhood. In a few weeks, if and when it warms up, I’ll have to think adding a few more miles back into the routine.

After a big meeting today, and thinking of an email and a conversation from the last few days, I pitched an idea which got the approval for further pitches. Up chains it goes. Now it needs a title, apparently. So that was a happy task for much of the afternoon, and perhaps part of the rest of the week and, if it goes well, for some time into the future. More on that then, then.

Let’s look at links.

I’ve come to really admire The Undefeated in it’s short run. It launched in late 2016, but it has covered a lot of ground and its writers manage to have a simultaneous air of authority and attitude that’s not always easy to pull off.

Maybe it is a bit easier in this brief essay, because the whole system has been a farce and the women who have been at the center of it have carried themselves with such poise, none more so than Simone Biles, who does all that while still competing at heretofore unknowable levels, having to maintain a criticism of her sport and constantly being the center of that as a spokesperson while also, you know, at the ripe old age of 23, being amazing:

She knows that it takes a village to raise a predator above reproach, to look the other way when his predations become so far out of hand as to be a well-known secret. She knows, from experience, that true, explicit acknowledgment and real structural change are required.

It’s unforgivable that Biles must use her hard work and success in this way — risking it all to advocate for herself and other gymnasts trapped under the governing body’s irresponsible purview. It’s unfortunate that the other side of her luminescent medal and legacy is dulled by that governing body’s paternalism and neglect. By pressuring an institution that performs in the face of its own inaction and injustice, Biles makes legible the ways our society tucks violence against women under the proverbial floor mat, and the ways in which women continue to materialize the strength necessary to demand the world beyond violence that we deserve and imagine.

This will be something a lot of people find useful, or will otherwise be looking for in the coming weeks. Stuck at home? Enriching activities to do with all ages from the Indiana Young Readers Center:

Looking for extra activities to keep children busy? Explore some of these activities put together for you by the Indiana Young Readers Center, located in the Indiana State Library. Remember, children of all ages can benefit from play and reading. Keep your kids engaged with some of these resources.

Sadly, my age group was not included. I’ll just have to fall back on my experience as an only child.

The apparently innumerate senator is from Wisconsin.

And the 3.4 percent he’s using here in his rhetoric works out to just over twice the population of his state. But, really, it is the rhetoric that’s a problem here. That data point isn’t being used correctly. So he’s using an incorrect data point, incorrectly.

To say nothing of the knock-on effects, and the many other medical cases that will be marginalized as hospitals become forced to triage everything:

These choices could be particularly devastating for the tens of thousands of Americans awaiting new organs, transplant experts said.

The outbreak has already caused serious disruptions. Doctors in some parts of the country say an inability to quickly test potential donors for the coronavirus has led them to decline viable organs, forcing some ailing patients to wait longer. To avert the spread of the virus among vulnerable patients who must take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of their new organs, doctors have canceled most routine follow-up visits for transplant recipients. And in anticipation of a surge of coronavirus patients requiring beds in intensive care units, some hospitals are now performing transplant operations only for patients who are at the most dire risk of death.

[…]

Without a transplant, Branson said his surgeon told him last week that he might only have about 30 to 45 days to live. But he said the hospital considers the surgery needed to remove part of his uncle’s liver to be elective — and therefore nonessential.

In a statement to NBC News, Dr. Elizabeth Pomfret, the chief of transplant surgery at UCHealth, confirmed that the hospital had suspended some transplant surgeries.

Meanwhile …

Never mind that younger people are also susceptible. But if you’re talking ’bout my generation (and not the one that actually claims that song) …

So, who is taking COVID-19 seriously? Possibly Gen X, who are born between 1965 and 1980 according to Pew Research Center, and are often referred to as the “sandwich generation” because many are caring for children and older parents. On social media this weekend, the hashtag “GenX” trended, with the “latchkey generation” saying that they were the most prepared to live in isolation.

From a psychological perspective, there might be some truth to this argument.

As they tried to explain this — and I stipulate that painting sweeping generalizations over a 20-year cohort, which is nothing more than the thinnest of constructs anyway, is silly — they missed one important potential external factor: MTV.

Now, usually, when I point to MTV, it isn’t in a good way. But it works out this time. We were just ready, because of what we already knew.

Also … is any other group allowed to see itself in this light?

Our little group has always been
And always will until the end


5
Feb 20

I see a woman in the night with scissors in her hand

I’m not one to go in for aesthetic as a driving principle. The concepts employee a lot of people, and it is obviously effective. Sometimes in obvious, sometimes in ever-more subtle ways. It’s just not something I think about a lot, or give a lot of credence to its effect — which is the huge and obvious error, of course.

Use this shade of paint or that one. Put the product on the aisle, at eye level or on the end cap, I don’t care that much. Place your advertisement in this commercial break or in that magazine. Good for you. Burn incense in your shop, or just go crazy with the oils and potpourri. I’ll say “Whatever.”

I notice those things, for the most part, but it doesn’t obviously sway me one way or another when I do. I’m not immune. I wouldn’t suggest it. We’re all susceptible. But I think that the subtle has more impact on my decision making process than the obvious. I think this is because most of my shopping and errands and such are very task-oriented. And the task is usually “Find the least expensive thing possible.”

So a coupon is a good thing. And today I had a coupon. For a haircut! At the place I normal endure! This was a half-off coupon, and it expires tomorrow. So, tonight, I made a stop and had them take about half my hair off.

But while I’m sitting there waiting for my turn, I made a decision about hair aesthetics:

Just do an image search, and you’ll get the bigger point, of course. But also, I’m not the world’s biggest Neil Young fan.

The lady that cut my hair this evening was nice. We chatted, which I rarely do a lot of sitting in that chair. I think they probably appreciate the break, usually. But, tonight, we found ourselves talking about the weather and the upcoming snows — which aren’t forecast to be nearly as frightful as she seems to think.

She lives in on a hill and when it snows her car can slide down the driveway, even with the emergency brake engaged.

What happens if you park sideways, I asked.

She lives in a duplex. Parking sideways would block in her neighbors.

So they could park sideways, then, and you could call the boss tomorrow and say you’re blocked in?

This thought had never occurred to her. I could tell because I saw a glance in the mirror, where she was looking for the boss.

And my hair got cut, which was, perhaps, the productive highlight of the day.


30
Jan 20

‘Am I sitting in a tin can’

Standing in the back of the control room this evening, talking with the engineer, the young man running the teleprompter and the reporter who was casually sitting at the lighting position. We work in a dark control, as you should, and on the light panel there is a small gooseneck lamp so you can see the many buttons and potentiometers.

The reporter, says to no one in particular, that she thought it was a microphone, until she saw the little beam of light coming out of the bottom.

So I started singing “Ground control to Major Miya,” which she took up. And then she asked me what my favorite Davie Bowie song is. Which was a mistake on her part.

I’m not a Bowie fan, really. I know the hits, and I appreciate his place in the scheme of things, culturally, and his artistic image. He’s just not for me. But, I said to the young woman who may know Bowie’s entire catalog or just has a tenuous grasp on her parent’s appreciation of Bowie’s music, I’m going to say his duet with Bing Crosby.

I could write an essay, I said, on how Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy allowed for the post-postmodern remix culture we all live in. This was where I looked at everybody listening, to make sure they were still with me, and the two college students and engineer, who is about my age, all agreed.

Some music executives, I said, sat in a boardroom with a lot of drugs and said what if we put Bowie and Mr. Crosby together. And there were a lot of drugs in that boardroom to come up with that idea. But then you take a look at the conceit of the special, Bing is house-sitting for his distant relative, Sir Percival Crosby, and along comes Percival’s neighbor, David Bowie. He comes over to borrow a cup of sugar or his piano or something, a conversation develops and then they sing this song.

Bowie hated Drummer Boy. The show writers had to add in the Peace On Earth bridge to get him to go along with it. He only did the special, Crosby’s last, since his mother was a fan of the crooner. And so this unlikely thing was born.

I’m riffing on this singularly odd musical moment, we’re out of ideas, we can only mash things up, and the continued success of this bizarre collaboration has made every pop culture thing possible in the last 40 years. Everyone is really going along with the argument. (Remember, this Christmas special, where the gag is Crosby staying at a relative’s house, which turns out to be the former home of Charles Dickens, is older than everyone listening to me.)

Sometimes I wonder if my best role here is just in saying random things like this that makes people think. But right about then another student walks up. He’d been sitting at the camera position, as far away as possible in the room.

“I heard you say Bing Crosby’s name. I have a Bing Crosby story. Well, my family does.”

And if there’s one thing that life tells you, when people come from across a room to interject themselves into the conversation with an anecdote, it’s worth hearing out. They don’t always pay off. But this one did, in a big way.

Sadly, it isn’t my story to tell. But if you see a studious young man with an intensity about old crooners behind his eyes, ask to hear the story. He’ll happily tell you about it. And it is worth hearing.

Anyway, that all happened between these two shows. Miya, interviewed the baseball coach in this show. She’s doing a nice job with it, but everyone here is doing some good work. Even the freshman, who’s apparently taking over everything:

And they talked, what else, basketball in the talk show. It is, of late, not the happiest of topics. But, hey, angry talk is sometimes successful talk?

(It’s actually easier, and better, to do happy sports talk. That’s why they’re putting smiles on their faces.)

Anyway, let’s all put smiles on our faces. Tomorrow’s Friday, and then the weekend will, happily, be upon us.


9
Oct 19

Spanning the generations

Here are a few more student productions:

These are from last night. They’re starting to get the hang of this. They’d probably be even better if I didn’t manage to get in the way here or there.

I could show you other videos that other people have made, some truly stellar work is floating around. But, instead, I’m going to go back to the 1930s. I’m reading (still) Frederick Lewis Allen’s Since Yesterday. It’s a good book, but it is like that bit of steak that just won’t get chewed up to a size that’s safe to swallow. The 1930s, which is the focus of this story, just … keeps … going. Imagine how it must have felt to live through that decade.

But the Kindle says I’m 70-some percent through the book, and we’ve got to a happy subject for a change, the big boom of radio.

Allen cites a Depression-era Harper’s Magazine story which recorded there were 17 symphony orchestras in the United States in 1915. By 1939, Allen tells us, there were over 270. This surge was brought on because of the huge boom in radio. (In 2014, Wikipedia tells me, there were 1,224 symphony orchestras in the U.S. not including our many modern youth orchestras.) Music programming was a popular choice and radio helped contribute to a successful, nationwide musical education, that is, perhaps, peerless.

Part of that success is owed to a program called The NBC Music Appreciation Hour. This show, conducted by Walter Damrosch (a famed composer), was broadcast from 1928 to 1942. During the thirties, an estimated seven million children heard the show weekly, in some 70,000 schools nationwide.

The show also aired on Saturdays in Nashville. It was the lead in for WSM’s weekly barn dance. Once, in 1928, Damrosch said ‘there’s no room in the classics for realism.’ George Hay, who was on his way to becoming a legend in country music and the host of the barn dance, came on right after and said his show was full of realism.

“The program which just came to a close was devoted to the classics. Dr. Damrosch told us there is no place in the classics for realism. However, from here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the ‘earthy’.”

That’s how the Grand Ole Opry it’s name. DeFord Bailey, a Tennessee-native and the grandson of slaves, played the first song after Hay’s speech, a song that would soon become a classic, Pan American Blues:

Bailey was a multi-instrumentalist, and they say he was impressive on most everything he played. He was an Opry Star for about 13 years, and he toured the country. They fired him in 1941, ostensibly over some licensing issue, but if you read about it you get the sense there was a lot more, and a lot less, to the story, which wouldn’t surprise anyone. Bailey stayed in Tennessee, but didn’t play much publicly after that. He did come back much later for an Old Timer’s Special. Here’s a clip, two full generations after he kicked off the Opry:

Watch him. He doesn’t move. There’s no fanfare. There’s just that sound.

Sound defined everything.

Last week I reviewed a paper on the “Forgotten history of South Carolina radio.” It was about the 1920s and the stations that came and went, mostly in the low country. I loved the paper. I wanted it to do more, even as it did enough. It’s papers like that which sometimes make me wish I’d been a historian. But, then, I realize if there’s ever anything I want to learn about, I can just open someone else’s book and they’ve already uncovered the mysteries. Do you want to know about the first football game broadcast in South Carolina? This paper has it:

On October 7, 1923, the Charleston News and Courier reported that WSAC had carried live, play-by-play coverage of the September 29 Clemson-Auburn football game from Clemson’s Riggs Field. Since there is no record of any previous, live broadcast of a sporting event in South Carolina, the distinction of being the first plausibly belongs to WSAC. W.E. Godfrey termed the broadcast a success (the game’s final score was 0-0) and said that WSAC would provide play-by-play coverage of other Clemson home football games that season. The professor added that it was likely that WSAC would soon become a “popular station.”

The Clemson student paper, which at one point wrote about their team as “The Jungaleers” wrote about the game extensively. It’s a slow load, but if you’re into this sort of thing, you should give it a try.

Anyway, the mystery in this particularly scholarly paper that I was reviewing for a conference was how those early local Carolina stations later gave way to colonial programming from out of state. The answer, as ever, is economics. That station that started in a furniture store, or the one that was just a front to sell radios and a few other examples, are remembered as brief fly-by-night operations. None of them seemed to last more than two or three years. There were signal problems to contend with, as was the case in much of the country back then since the government wildly underestimated the booming growth of radio in every sense. And even the towns of South Carolina were rural enough that they didn’t get linked into the growing national networks until much later. By then the local stations were gone, the big signals were coming in from cities out of state and that’s your colonial broadcast. Without reading a complete history, I’m guessing it probably didn’t start stabilizing for local broadcasters until the early 1940s, or perhaps the 1950s. That’s just the story of broadcasting in the South.

But the 1930s in South Carolina radio would be intriguing too. A couple of quick searches showed me that some key names from some of those early 1920s stations wound up running other projects, creating and building stations that would ultimately become broadcasting staples in the palmetto state.

Maybe the 1920s and 1930s radio is an interesting tale in any state. Maybe I should look that up and pretend to be a historian.

Or I could make these connections:

Maybe in ninety years or so someone will look at podcasts the same way. Maybe someone midway through the 22nd century will figure out how to power up, convert and encode YouTube videos and start stumbling on some of these things we are doing today. Maybe they’ll think highly of us.