Music

That’s All It Took

In the fall of 2007, I wrote about the first time I saw Emmylou Harris in concert. It was a great show, and it turns out clips of the eventual BBC program have now turned up on YouTube. I’m posting a couple here because, well, you can never get enough Emmylou, and I also feel lucky to have been at a show that was filmed.
“For No One”:

These aren’t embeddable — which I think we’ll agree is kind of dickish — but you definitely want to click through:
“The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn”
“Sin City”/”Wheels”

Standard
Lost

And Here I Thought You Needed A Flux Capacitor

lost5ben.png
The return of “Lost” means the return of the weekly recaps I construct for Pajiba, and I’ve been looking forward to them, and the show’s return, for a while now. There’s no other show out there quite as fun and interactive, at least in the sense that it rewards you with minor clues and twists the more you devote your fetishistic attention to the happenings of people who crashed on a time-traveling island.
Anyway, although the first two episodes aired on one night, the recaps are still split by episode, so there are two this week.
Click here for the recap.

Standard
David Foster Wallace, Passages

Passages: “Derivative Sport in Tornado Alley”

From David Foster Wallace’s essay about growing up playing tennis in the Midwest (available here online and as part of the fantastic collection A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again). He writes about being a lazy but occasionally inspired player thanks to his love of math, and it’s a nerdily detailed and completely entertaining read:

When I left my boxed township of Illinois farmland to attend my dad’s alma mater in the lurid jutting Berkshires of western Massachusetts, I all of a sudden developed a jones for mathematics. I’m starting to see why this was so. College math evokes and catharts a Midwesterner’s sickness for home. I’d grown up inside vectors, lines and lines athwart lines, grids — and, on the scale of horizons, broad curving lines of geographic force, the weird topographical drain-swirl of a whole lot of ice-ironed land that sits and spins atop plates. The area behind and below these broad curves at the seam of land and sky I could plot by eye way before I came to know infinitesimals as easements, an integral as schema. Math at a hilly Eastern school was like waking up; it dismantled memory and put it in light. Calculus was, quite literally, child’s play.

Also:

Tennis-wise, I had two preternatural gifts to compensate for not much physical talent. Make that three. The first was that I always sweated so much that I stayed fairly ventilated in all weathers. Oversweating seems an ambivalent blessing, and it didn’t exactly do wonders for my social life in high school, but it meant I could play for hours on a Turkish-bath July day and not flag a bit so long as I drank water and ate salty stuff between matches. I always looked like a drowned man by about game four, but I didn’t cramp, vomit, or pass out, unlike the gleaming Peoria kids whose hair never even lost its part right up until their eyes rolled up in their heads and they pitched forward onto the shimmering concrete. A bigger asset still was that I was extremely comfortable inside straight lines. None of the odd geometric claustrophobia that turns some gifted juniors into skittish zoo animals after a while. I found I felt best physically enwebbed in sharp angles, acute bisections, shaved corners. This was environmental. Philo, Illinois, is a cockeyed grid: nine north-south streets against six northeast-southwest, fifty-one gorgeous slanted-cruciform corners (the east and west intersection-angles’ tangents could be evaluated integrally in terms of their secants!) around a three-intersection central town common with a tank whose nozzle pointed northwest at Urbana, plus a frozen native son, felled on the Salerno beachhead, whose bronze hand pointed true north. In the late morning, the Salerno guy’s statue had a squat black shadow-arm against grass dense enough to putt on; in the evening the sun galvanized his left profile and cast his arm’s accusing shadow out to the right, bent at the angle of a stick in a pond. At college it suddenly occurred to me during a quiz that the differential between the direction the statue’s hand pointed and the arc of its shadow’s rotation was first-order. Anyway, most of my memories of childhood — whether of furrowed acreage, or of a harvester’s sentry duty along RR104W, or of the play of sharp shadows against the Legion Hall softball field’s dusk — I could now reconstruct on demand with an edge and protractor.

Standard
Politics

We Come To Proclaim An End To The Petty Grievances And False Promises, The Recriminations And Worn-Out Dogmas

obamainaug1.png
“Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.”
— President Barack Hussein Obama

Standard
Passages

Passages: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

From Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer-winning, heartbreaking, flat-out brilliant novel:

As they made their way through the increasing gloom, Joe seemed to steer only according to the light shed by the action of her palm against his wrist, by the low steady flow of voltage through the conducting medium of their sweat. He stumbled like a drunken man and laughed as she hurried him along. He was vaguely aware of the ache in his hand, but he ignored it. As they turned the landing to the top floor, a strand of her hair caught in the corner of his mouth, and for an instant he crunched it between his teeth.

Standard
Music

My Musical Year In Review, 2008 — Coda

JustinTownesEarle2008.jpg
Total albums purchased/acquired in 2008: 78
Of those, albums released since 2000: 53
Albums from before 2000: 25
The number of albums I got this year bumped my total collection to somewhere in the neighborhood of 370 records, meaning that something like 20% of my total collection came from 2008. Weirdly, I wound up with the same ratio of acquired albums to total library last year, which I didn’t think would happen and would be impossible to continue to repeat unless I bought a storage unit and started stockpiling CDs like a madman. But if anything, it’s a reminder that the collector in me still enjoys keeping track of the numbers and seeing what I’ve got, where it came from, what the trends are, etc.
And because I still feel the same way, here’s what I wrote last year:
“I do know that the sheer amount of music released last (and every) year, combined with the atemporal and personal-discovery nature of music, means that my list of the top albums of the year almost never looks like the ones compiled by the aging critics at Rolling Stone or the hipsters over at Pitchfork. My best albums of the year were quite literally my best albums of the year, the ones I bought and listened to and couldn’t take out of my car stereo without just one more listen. Music is personal like that, and this was what last year was for me. I can’t even really make a top 10 list or anything; all I could hope to do would be to trim a few disappointments and leave the many good albums I came up with. But since I can’t do that, here’s a selection of tracks from my year in music.”
And I still hold to that. It would be impossible to list here all the songs I loved last year, but these are some of the best. (Instead of embedding the clips, I’ve linked to them where available. It saves space and load time, so deal.)
Gary Louris, “She Only Calls Me on Sundays”
Billy Bragg, “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key”
Justin Townes Earle, “South Georgia Sugar Babe”
Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell, “Two Different Things”
Caitlin Cary and Thad Cockrell, “Something Less Than Something More”
Willie Nelson, “Time of the Preacher”
Muddy Waters, “She’s Nineteen Years Old”
Gin Blossoms, “Cajun Song”
Blind Boys of Alabama,“Way Down in the Hole”
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, “Once in a While”
Kasey Chambers and Shane Nicholson, “Sweetest Waste of Time”
Ben Folds Five, “Song for the Dumped”
Eytan Mirsky, “(I Just Wanna Be) Your Steve McQueen”
Hank Williams III, “Broke, Lovesick & Driftin’”
Old 97′s, “Here’s to the Halcyon” Old 97's - Blame It on Gravity - Here's to the Halcyon
Tift Merritt, “Broken”
Tres Chicas, “Foot of the Bed” Tres Chicas - Sweetwater - Foot of the Bed

Standard
Music

My Musical Year In Review, 2008 — 7 (Christmas Bonus Edition)

(Almost done. I got a lot of music this year.)
This year, my sister and I didn’t buy each other that many albums as Christmas gifts. We realized that some of the CDs we wanted were already owned by the other sibling, and that we’d be a lot better off just swapping music en masse. So when we met up at the family homestead, I brought my laptop, she brought a couple dozen of her favorite albums, we bought some blank CDs, and that was that. I had bits and pieces of a few of these albums (the Dylan, the Chicks), but for the most part they were all new to me. As such, I haven’t even begun to process all the music she gave me apart from liking it as much as I figured I would. (I also think it’s pretty clear from the release dates that she buys a lot more new music than I do, so I really won out. It’s like I got great records from 2008 for free simply by waiting.) So here then is a list of the albums I ripped from her, and that I’m sure I’ll be spinning throughout 2009:
wrap-lynnelovin.jpg
Shelby Lynne, Just a Little Lovin’ (2008)
wrap-raygrain.jpg
Ray LaMontagne, Gossip in the Grain (2008)
wrap-lucindahoney.jpg
Lucinda Williams, Little Honey (2008)
wrap-krausslive.jpg
Alison Krauss and Union Station, Live (2002)
wrap-blackanti.jpg
Lewis Black, Anticipation (2008)
wrap-fratstand.jpg
The Fratellis, Here We Stand (2008)
wrap-remaccel.jpg
R.E.M., Accelerate (2008)
wrap-wardwar.jpg
M. Ward, Post-War (2006)
wrap-milkplane.jpg
Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (1998)
wrap-shehim.jpg
She & Him, Volume One (2008)
wrap-dylantheft.jpg
Bob Dylan, Love and Theft (2001)
wrap-clinedef.jpg
Patsy Cline, The Definitive Collection (2004)
wrap-jacketurges.jpg
My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges (2008)
wrap-escovedoanimal.jpg
Alejandro Escovedo, Real Animal (2008)
wrap-deathcabstairs.jpg
Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs (2008)
wrap-chicksspaces.jpg
Dixie Chicks, Wide Open Spaces (1998)
wrap-chicksfly.jpg
Dixie Chicks, Fly (1999)
wrap-brucenebraska.jpg
Bruce Springsteen, Nebraska (1982)
wrap-cashhymn.jpg
Johnny Cash, My Mother’s Hymn Book (2004)
wrap-kileylight.jpg
Rilo Kiley, Under the Blacklight (2007)
wrap-coldplayviva.jpg
Coldplay, Viva La Vida (2008)
wrap-killersday.jpg
The Killers, Day and Age (2008)

Standard