music


7
Jan 21

Sing and sing and sing and sing

I finished reading Jon Meacham’s Songs of America. Yes, Tim McGraw is listed as a co-author. He did contribute some sidebars. They were included in the book. For the most part it wasn’t clear why. Meacham doesn’t need the help with history, and maybe twice McGraw contributed something to our understanding of the music. (And he’s certainly capable of doing that, but it didn’t really pay off here.

It was a lot more like the guy at the next table over just offering his opinion on a song you just played him. Maybe he knows it well. Maybe it sparks a memory from long ago. Maybe he’s hearing it for the first time. And he figures, well, since you’re talking about it and played it for him, he should probably offer a paragraph or two of thoughts on the matter.

And that’s what Tim McGraw did. I wondered how this arrangement came to be. It’s Jon Meacham. Which kinda diminishes McGraw, who has three Grammy wins and 17 other nominations among his other honors. He knows music, this is not a matter of dispute. He’s apparently written five other books, and one of those was a bestseller. But here, why was he here if a few sidebars was all he was going to contribute.

And then, at the end, they mention it. They are neighbors.

Anyway, it was an interesting book. You’re going to learn about songs you know. You’re going to discover important songs you haven’t even heard of before. Here are two little excerpts, from Meacham.

Susan B. Anthony had gone down to vote in the 1872 Grant-Greeley election. She was arrested and taken before a federal judge. The judge asked her if she had anything to say after her conviction for … voting.

Ward Hunt was on the U.S. Supreme Court. History doesn’t remember him especially well. He didn’t let her testify, read aloud his pre-written opinion, told the jury how to vote and immediately overturned motions for appeals. Anthony was charged with a fine. She told the judge she would never pay. She never did. Probably you’ve never heard of Judge. Hunt. Everyone learns about Susan B. Anthony, even if only a bit, in grade school.

Just go ahead and play this video while you read the text in next image.

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused Marian Anderson’s participation in a concert at Constitution Hall under a “white performers-only” policy. Ultimately, a lot of DAR members left the organization, including Eleanor Roosevelt who would get the ball rolling for this Easter concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The contralto was in full force, a global star. No one knows how many thousands or millions listened on the radio, but one of the estimated 75,000 there in person was said to be 10-year-old Martin Luther King. (I’ve seen one reference on this, but I am struggling to find more.) He’d speak in front of Lincoln 24 years later, of course. She sang from the same spot that day, too.

Senator Mike Braun is from Indiana, and I have a question for him and the others who found themselves in this rickety position this week regarding the cynical political pandering of which he was a part. This was his message last week, and for quite some time:

And then yesterday happened — prior to which he was face-to-face with people in a way that rarely happens and he formalized his Arizona objection — but after the deadly assault, he wrote this:

So, senator, do us all a favor and explain this. You were certain, prior to the seditious raid on the U.S. Capitol, that this objection was something that needed to be done. Now, not at all. You withdrew your objection to the formal vote certification. So which is it, senator? Did you feel the wind change? Or are you that easily persuadable?

And which, in your estimation, is a better attribute for a United States senator?


28
Aug 20

The preferred Alanis

It’s been a day. It’s been a day in a week. It’s been a day in a week in a month. It’s been a day in a week in a month in a year.

And it was a GREAT day to see this. Just play it.

It is quiet in the house. I am sitting by a window downstairs and, watching this a third time I noticed there are four or five other people in the video. I was too busy the first two times watching this mother doing her job, providing a stay-at-home anthem while holding her beautiful child.

It’s so, so perfect.


26
Jun 20

750 quick words on Trek

I’ve lately been idly listening to Star Trek while doing other things. Today we met the Klingons for the first time again, which means we’re on episode 26, a third of the way through the run of the original series … and it’s just about ready to get good, I guess. They had a narrow window through which to reach out and impact the world, when you think about it.

The third season is almost universally panned, the first 10 or 12 episodes of the series have a few interesting moments, but once you remember that this is the series that bred continuity into the zeitgeist, it was woefully inconsistent. And that’s even after allowing for the production values of the day and the new genre they were helping to pioneer. It’s all over the place.

This is how you met the universe’s running baddies on a Thursday in mid-March of 1967:

And the next week, this episode plays itself out. Kirk and Spock beam down to head off the enemy threat. The locals aren’t bothered at all and perceive no threat. (It’s an allegory, you see.) The threat appears, and John Colicos is warm and real and full and does a lot with a little, to be honest. Now the good guys are trying to blend in with the locals to subvert the threat. This goes poorly, and Spock told you so, what with his cool calculations and his odds.

There’s a fanfic out there somewhere that reveals he was just making up numbers, and, when confronted by this charge, he runs away crying. There has to be. After all, one of the dramatic devices they routinely revisit is Spock telling everyone who will listen just how bad the odds are. And, of course, they emerge from the problem relatively unscathed, minus a few red shirts. No one ever calls him on this. Ever.

So Kirk and Spock, having failed to talk the backward and humble-looking Organians into coming under their protection, try to take matters into their own hands, but then then Organians stop all of this by making both the Federation members and the Klingons hot. Ow!

Because, I guess, having people mimic a warm stove eye was as inexpensive a special effect as the show runners could pull off.

Someone out there has compiled some of the original shots next to the 2009 remastering, which is what I’m watching on Netflix. This is a fine and fun bit of side-by-side video.

Note how George Takei is playing Sulu when they first come under attack. Note how Colicos is almost licking his lips, “A shame, Capitan. It would have been glorious.” It’s a moment at the end of the episode that’s so beautifully, rhythmically paced that it sets the whole mood for the ever-changing archenemy-cum-tense-ally. It’s a shame it took 30 years to get him back into the franchise.

And, too, note how not every update is a good one. Specifically, when the humble Organians return to their natural form. In the original it is a brilliant white light. In the reworked version they take on the lighting effects of a bad rave.

It was good for it’s time, this episode, I’m sure. It’s hailed as a classic, and it holds an 8.6 rating on IMDb. But today its interest is purely historic. This one sequence goes a long way toward guiding the rest of the entire franchise:

It also sets up the biggest plot hole in the entire Trek universe. If the energy beings abhor conflict and can stop it this quickly, the Federation should have drawn any number of enemies to this planet, playing this out over and over, creating new allies across the quadrant. Or the galaxy. Or whatever they called it that week. (They were really loose with the language in the early days. It’s amazing that fans found it in their hearts to forgive the show for that.)

Also, this episode figures into one of the big musical hits of the late 1980s.

And a segue like that lets us wrap this up with our favorite game, The Passage of Time. That episode originally aired in 1967. That song was a hit in 1988. We’re (much) farther removed from that song than they were from that episode.

Within the franchise, the time between us and the debut of Deep Space Nine is greater than the time between the Deep Space Nine’s beginning and the episode above. Deep Space Nine debuted in 1993.

Remember, this was an allegory then, but what is it today?


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