A Placeholder Post

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Despite the new office, I’ve been writing here more (yay!) (or yay?)  Nevertheless, I did want to do another post where I collect my writing on other sites, since the last one of these.  It is sort of like the blog version of a TV clip show.

At Cover Me, I continue to not write any feature articles, although I’m thinking of one to pitch the team.  But I did contribute to two “Best Covers” collections.  We did Neil Young covers, and I wrote about: 50–Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s live rocking “Like A Hurricane,” 37-Gillian Welch’s mellow “Pocahontas,” 27–Elizabeth Mitchell’s gentle “Little Wing,” 19-Wire Train’s 80’s indie rock “Mr. Soul,” 17–Dala’s pretty “A Man Needs A Maid,” 14-Great Lake Swimmers’ atmospheric “Don’t Cry No Tears,” 10-Cassandra Wilson’s slow, jazzy “Harvest Moon,” and 7–the Pixies surprisingly poppy “Winterlong.”

Then we did Buddy Holly covers, and I wrote about 35–the Flamin’ Groovies fuzzy, scuzzy “That’ll Be The Day,” 24–Steve Hillage’s spacy “Not Fade Away,” 22–Justin Townes Earle’s rocking “Maybe Baby,” 19–The Beatles’ only “official” Holly cover, “Words of Love,” 14–The Bunch (a “supergroup” including Sandy Denny, Richard Thompson and Linda Peters, soon to be Thompson) doing a pretty “Learning The Game,” 12–Hot Tuna’s concise “It’s So Easy,” and a surprise at 9–Canadian singer Serena Ryder’s New Orleans influenced “It Doesn’t Matter Any More.”  Next up, Radiohead, a band that I don’t really like, so I’m opting out.

Star Maker Machine continues to be where I post most often.  This year, our holiday theme was “Unsainted Nicks,” and I contributed a piece about Nick Lowe’s “Christmas At The Airport.”  I was prolific in responding to the annual In Memoriam theme, writing about Roy Hargrove, Russ Solomon (the founder of Tower Records), Marty Balin and Yvonne Staples and Edwin Hawkins.

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Why Do (Almost) All Of My Teams Disappoint?

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Bob Mould: Disappointed
[purchase]

For some reason, I am a fan of sports teams that almost always disappoint.  And yet, I keep rooting for them, hoping that this will be their (and my) year.  What did I do to deserve this fate? And why did I pass it down to my son? When pressed, I usually argue that your fan loyalties are like your family–you are stuck with them, for better or worse.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if this curse has been passed down patrilineally in my family.  To the best of my knowledge, my grandfather Harry Becker was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan (I’ve never heard that he rooted for any other teams in any other sport).  Harry emigrated to Brooklyn in 1909 from England when he was about 6 (there’s no record of whether he had a favorite football team back in London,although based on the neighborhood he lived in, West Ham would be a good guess). The Dodgers (or the Superbas/Robins, as they were called during various points early on in Harry’s fandom) were a notoriously bad team for much of their history.   From 1910-1940 (when my father was 3), the Brooklyn franchise lost the World Series twice, in 1916 and 1920, but for most of the rest of that period were usually mired in what was called the “second division”–the bottom half of the 8 team National League.  In fact, as Wikipedia notes, “the teams of the late 1920s were often fondly referred to as the ‘Daffiness Boys’ for their distracted, error-ridden style of play.”  And, of course, after that, they came be be called the “Bums.”  Sort of an early version of “LOLMets.”

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English Needs More Words

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R.E.M.: So. Central Rain
[purchase]

How many words does English have?  Depending on your source, you get different numbers, so let’s just go with “lots.”  Yet, despite this, there are some situations that call for new words.

A few years back, it dawned on me that there’s no English word to describe your relationship with your child’s in-laws.  I mentioned that in passing in this piece, noting that both Yiddish and Spanish (languages that I have a smidgen or less of knowledge about) have such a word.  Before I started writing this, I found this piece from Slate that discusses that same thing, better, and a few other areas where English is deficient.  So, read that–after finishing this, of course.

Moving on.

Let’s say you are sitting down with a friend, having coffee.  The conversation gets animated, and you knock over your coffee cup, drenching your friend’s shirt with scalding brown liquid.  Of course, while grabbing napkins, you say to your friend, “I’m sorry.”  And your friend, while really pissed off, is likely to respond,”That’s OK,” or something like that.  You respond, “Yeah, I’ve really been out of it since my father died.”  And your friend replies, “Oh, I didn’t know.  I’m sorry.”  Your response is likely to be something like, “Thanks, it’s not your fault.”  Which is probably true.

My point is that we need a different word to mean “Sorry, I did a stupid thing and am seeking forgiveness,” or what I’ll call an “apologetic sorry,” as opposed to “I’m sorry that something bad happened to you, without any fault on my part,” or what I’ll call a “sympathetic sorry.”

To a few friends and family members, I floated this thought–keep using “sorry” for the apologetic situation, and use my new word, “snorry” for the sympathetic version.

What do you think? Can we make it go viral?

Probably not.  Shakespeare is credited with creating more than 1700 English words.  But if there is one thing clear about my writing, I’m no Shakespeare.

Can you think of any other situations where the English language lacks a certain je ne sais quoi?  Does that give you schadenfreude? We could discuss it over hors d’oeuvres.  Or is creating new words just so much chutzpah?

Our featured song is “So. Central Rain,” by R.E.M.  If you don’t know why, I’m snorry.

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AOG Linguistic Kardashian Award 2

Back in April, 2016, before our country’s antiquated Electoral College, Russian interference, misogyny, terrible reporting, and some sort of mass insanity resulted in the election to the Presidency of a buffoonish demagogue who surrounded himself with a crew of deplorable and corrupt fixers, scam artists, sycophants, reality stars, future jailbirds, and unqualified family members that would be laughed at in the worst banana republic, I bestowed the first AOG Linguistic Kardashian Award for overexposure to “firestorm.”  You can read it here.

Since then, I feel the need to bestow another award to “the base.”  I don’t know when this word became in vogue, but now, all you hear about are politicians playing to their base.  Wikipedia defines “Base” as:

In politics, the term base refers to a group of voters who almost always support a single party’s candidates for elected office. Base voters are very unlikely to vote for the candidate of an opposing party, regardless of the specific views each candidate holds. In the United States, this is typically because high-level candidates must hold the same stances on key issues as a party’s base in order to gain the party’s nomination and thus be guaranteed ballot access. In the case of legislative elections, base voters often prefer to support their party’s candidate against an otherwise appealing opponent in order to strengthen their party’s chances of gaining a simple majority; typically the gateway to overarching power in a legislature.

This interesting column from Charles Houmans, the politics editor for The New York Times Magazine, from 2017 notes:

A political party’s base, for much of the 20th century, usually came with an indefinite article attached: a base, rather than the base. This was a straightforward reflection of how parties operated, as sometimes lumpy and uneasy coalitions of disparate interests.

Houmans goes on to describe how this changed:

In 1990, when Bush proposed a tax-reform package that included modest increases in some brackets, House Republicans revolted, led by an ambitious Georgia congressman named Newt Gingrich. “It is a signal,” he told The Washington Post, “that the base of the Republican Party opposes raising taxes and that the package had better be awfully good.” The base had, in Gingrich’s formulation, become something new: not a coalition to be expanded but a force to be propitiated or crossed at Bush’s peril. It was not there to be molded by politicians like Jack Kemp. It was there to give orders to them, through mediums like Gingrich — whose personal policy hobbyhorses, it just so happened, matched the base’s.

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My Favorite Music of 2018

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Yeah, I know it is mid-February.  Blame Trump.   And see my prior piece.  The idea of doing a full discussion of my favorite music of 2018 is just too daunting.  If I wanted to do it with the level of detail that I did in the past, I’d never get it done.  So, as part of my new approach, I’m just going to list a bunch of albums that I liked last year, with little or no analysis.

I know that there are some albums from 2018 that would probably have made the list had I listened to them, and I’m sure I left out some good stuff, but that’s just the way it is.

The Best

The album I probably listened to the most last year was The Decemberists’ I’ll Be Your Girl.  Although they did try to bring in some new sounds, it still is a Decemberists album, and I liked it a lot.  And, of course, people get killed in odd ways.  Add to that, their late in the year EP Traveling On, and they had a great year, in my opinion.

Second on my list is Lucero’s Among The Ghosts, in which the band (mostly) stripped out the horns that were part of their last few albums, but it wasn’t completely a return to basics–their writing and playing has just gotten better and better with each release.  And two songs about the Civil War!

I also wanted to mention Angélique Kidjo’s brilliant re-imagining of Talking Heads’ Remain In Light, one of my all-time favorites.  You can read more of my thoughts about it here, where it was Cover Me’s top cover album of 2018.

I did see a bunch of great concerts last year, but want to single out the three different, all amazing, performances by Rhiannon Giddens that I was privileged to attend.  A solo “workshop” performance and full band show at the Clearwater Festival, and the “Sisters Present” group show at Symphony Space.

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

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David Bowie: Changes
[purchase]

If you know me, or read the small print under my picture, you know that music blogging is a hobby, and that my real work is as an attorney.  Being a lawyer is something that I wanted to be ever since I was a kid, probably because my dad was one, and he seemed to enjoy the hell out of it.  He also explained to me that being a lawyer meant that you could learn something new every day.

He was right–that is probably one of the best things about being a lawyer–over my career, I’ve learned about many different industries, met lots of interesting people, and for a pretty long time, made reasonably good money.  The best period of my career, I think, was when I worked in-house at a large financial services company.  I took the job, kind of hoping to find that elusive position that I could work and grow at until I retired.  Sadly, not too long after I joined, the company sold off the part that I worked for, and my position was eventually going to be eliminated.  I could have stuck around, waiting for another in-house position, and many of my friends and co-workers did that.  Some of them got them, some didn’t, and even those who did often moved around, as consolidation and the changes in the legal and financial services industries eliminated jobs.

I was offered the chance to move to a successor of the small law firm I had worked for before going in-house, and it seemed like a good opportunity.  Ultimately, though, I was not happy, and left to start my own practice.  I worked as a solo practitioner, in a home office.  I learned how to set up all of the technology needed, do my accounting and bookkeeping,  and how to practice law without paralegals, associates, mail room and copy guys, etc.  And I learned how to try to get business.

It was fun being my own boss, working in casual clothing, being able to work at my own pace, watch TV or listen to music, or cook, or do errands during the day without answering to anyone.

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My Favorite TV of 2018

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Talking Heads: Television Man
[purchase]

Remember in my last post, where I blamed Trump for my failure to write more here?  Well, I also blame him for the fact that I didn’t listen to as much music this year as I have in the past.  More on that, in my upcoming Favorite Music of 2018 post.  But I also blame Trump for the fact that there is so much good stuff to watch on TV.

Remarkably, as sort of embarrassed as I was  by the number of shows on last year’s list, this year’s list is even longer.  So it goes.  Not everything on here is a gem, but all had something that made me put it on this list.  And, as I mentioned last year, there are a bunch of shows that I watch, even though I know that they aren’t all that great, but are still fun.

Because of the ability to stream older shows, I also discovered some series from prior years, so there’s a separate section for things that were “new to me” in 2018.  But, if the show has a new season in 2018, it is in the main section.

As I have been writing the blurbs for the shows, I noticed that in a surprisingly large number of the shows, the main characters, or the smartest characters, or the most interesting characters, were women, and/or the shows related to women’s friendships, relationships, and issues.  Which is interesting.

Last year, my favorite show of the year was BoJack Horseman, and honestly, it could have been my favorite again this year, because the new season was great–although it probably wasn’t as great as last season, but it still had some incredible moments.  It was hard for me to pick a favorite this year, but if I had to, it would be the final season of The Americans. Last year, I noted that there had been a slight drop off in quality, but the final season was as good as anything the show has done.  They were able to end the narrative in a way that brought closure, but without a happy ending for people who didn’t deserve one, and appropriate ambiguity.  As one of my favorite TV critics, Alan Sepinwall, wrote, “They stuck the landing.”  (He ranked it no. 2, by the way).  The Golden Globes agreed, finally giving this great show its due.

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I Blame Trump

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Led Zeppelin: Nobody’s Fault But Mine
[purchase]

I blame Trump for pretty much everything these days, and I’m not done blaming him for things, as you will see in a month or so.  One of the things that I blame him for is the increasing unwillingness to take responsibility for one’s own actions.  And despite my complete contempt for the man, I’m going to adopt this approach, and blame him for my failure to post anything here since September, and anything truly new since May.

And, I’m going to adopt another one of his behaviors, over-praising his own accomplishments, by stating that my writing on other sites has been the best music blogging ever.  No one has ever seen such incredible music blogging,  in the history of the world.  Believe me.

At Cover Me, I haven’t written any stand alone pieces (thanks, Trump), but did contribute to a few group articles: a Best Abba Covers list, in which I wrote about Wilco’s live cover of “Waterloo,” featuring Lucius, from the Solid Sound Festival (which is on my festival bucket list), which came in 25th, Mike Oldfield’s cover of the instrumental “Arrival,” (19), and Richard Thompson’s “Money, Money, Money,” from his great 1000 Years of Popular Music collection (6), a Best Nirvana Covers collection, for which I wrote about The Bad Plus’ jazz version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” (27), Graham Parker & The Episodes’ cover of “In Bloom,” (23), Maya Beiser’s borderline insane/brilliant multitracked cello interpretation of “Lithium” (18), sisters Shelby Lynne and Allison Moorer’s intentionally dissonant take on “Lithium,” (8), and Laura Love’s bass and vocal version of “Come As You Are” (2). Personally, I would have ranked Love lower and Beiser higher.

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Falling Down on The Job

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Toad The Wet Sprocket: Fall Down
[purchase]

It is almost fall, and I haven’t written a new post all summer.  This really isn’t any way to run a blog.

But I have been writing regularly elsewhere, so let’s catch up on that while I consider how to finish the real post that has been sitting in the drafts folder for a while.

Over at Cover Me, I actually wrote a full piece–a lengthy review of the new William Elliott Whitmore album of covers, Kilonova.  Whitmore is a riveting performer, with a voice that is unforgettable, and he takes a group of covers, that range from Bad Religion to Johnny Cash to Bill Withers, and makes them special.  Highly recommended.

I also contributed to a bunch of group features–two Q&As: What’s your favorite cover of your favorite song?  for which I wrote about Sarah McLachlan’s cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill,” and What’s your favorite original song that’s best known as a cover? which prompted me to write about Dave Edmunds’ “Queen of Hearts,” best known, if at all, from the Juice Newton cover.

We also did a bunch of “Best Covers Of” features.  The one on Beyoncé barely interested me, but it turned out that a friend of a friend of my kids named Garth Taylor, of the Rooks, did a beautiful cover of “1+1,” and it finished 12th.  For the Rolling Stones feature, though, I had ten nominees out of the final 50: Bettye LaVette’s soulful cover of “Salt of the Earth” (8), Susan Tedeschi’s bluesy cover of “You Got The Silver” (15), Cal Tjader’s jazzy instrumental version of “Gimme Shelter” (17), Social Distortion’s scuzzy take on “Under My Thumb” (26), Golden Smog’s faithful cover of “Back Street Girl” (30), Otis Redding’s ad-libbed, horn-heavy version of “Satisfaction” (32), Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit’s live take on “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” (34), his former band mate Patterson Hood’s sloppy live version of “Loving Cup” (37), The Feelies’ jangly “Paint It Black” (40), and Elvis Costello and Lucinda Williams collaborating on “Wild Horses” (43).  And for the Madonna feature, another one that really was not that interesting to me, I nominated Tommy Emmanuel’s cover of “Borderline,” featuring. Amanda Shires, and it finished third.

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Summer Reading

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Fountains of Wayne: It Must Be Summer
[purchase]

I have excuses for not posting here, really, I do.  I work, my son got married, my daughter came home from Barcelona for the event, I attended an off-year college reunion, and there’s just lots going on, including the greatest sporting event in the world.   So, I figured that the first day of summer is an excuse to post my writing on other sites since the Spring Cleaning post.

And thus our feature song is Fountains of Wayne’s great piece of summery power pop, “It Must Be Summer” from their excellent 1999 album Utopia Parkway.  I’ve long been a fan of the band, and their output is uniformly great, even if some might, humorously, consider it a tad formulaic.

My participation at Cover Me has been recently been limited to contributing to the now-regular “Best Covers Ever” feature.  For the Fleetwood Mac piece, I  wrote about Matthew Sweet & Susanna Hoffs’ cover of “Second Hand News” (No. 30), Whiskeytown’s cover of “Dreams” (No. 20), and Hole’s cover of “Gold Dust Woman” (No. 1!!!).  For the Pink Floyd piece, I discussed The Mavericks’ surprisingly good cover of “Us & Them” (No. 36), Bettye LaVette’s cover of “Wish You Were Here” (No. 29), and Elephant Revival’s cover of “Have A Cigar” (No. 17).  I had never heard of Elephant Revival before, but someone in a Jason Isbell fan group on Facebook happened to post the cover during the nomination period, and I really liked it, and investigated some of their other music.  Sadly, they appear to have recently broken up.  The next artist being featured is Beyoncé.  In addition, in my role as a Cover Me writer, I was a guest, along with editor-in-chief Ray Padgett, on a Sirius XM game show, 70s 80s 90s, NOW, where I attempted  to not sound like a jackass, and, I think, mostly succeeded.

At Star Maker Machine, our Punk theme prompted a discussion of the very punk band Stiff Little Fingers, and their song “Fly The Flag,” and a piece about the relationship between reggae and punk, a marriage maybe brokered by Don Letts.  Our next theme was May/Might, which led me to write about a family favorite, Jules Shear’s “You Might As Well Pray,” featuring Amy Rigby, and about a Left Banke song often covered by Richard and Teddy Thompson.

For the Gems & Stones theme, I reflected on Neil Diamond, whose talents as  a songwriter and performer are sometimes obscured by the schmaltz.  And, most recently, for the Speak/Talk theme, I reminisced about Romeo Void, whose song “Talk Dirty (To Me)” epitomized the interview that I did with the band back in college, and whose success may well have been short-circuited due to their label’s unwillingness to support a band with an overweight female singer.

Going forward, there will be a Clearwater Festival recap, either here, or at Star Maker Machine, if I can figure out a way to work it into the theme.  Also, in July, I will be making my debut as a blogger for the legendary Capitol Theater in Port Chester, which should be fun.

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