- Baby, I’m In the Mood for You – Bob Dylan (The Bootleg Series, Vol. 9: The Witmark Demos: 1962-1964) A demo of Dylan’s raunchiest, most rural love song? Sure, why not.
- Bring it On Down to My House – Warner Williams with Jay Summerour (Classic African American Songsters from Smithsonian Folkways) A raunchy blues song? Sure, why not.
- Jake Leg Rag – Narmour & Smith (Lead Kindly Light) A fiddle tune? Sure, why not.
- Where Shall I Go? – Sister Marie Knight (When the Moon Goes Down in the Valley of Time: African-American Gospel, 1939-51) A gospel tune that lifts off into the stratosphere? Sure, why not.
- Little Island Walking (Peel Session) – Jim O’Rourke (Peel Session) Jim O’Rourke doing a straight-on John Fahey pastiche? Sure, why not.
- We Would Be Building – Daniel Bachman (Orange Co. Serenade) Primitive guitar cover of a Methodist hymn? Sure, why not.
- On The Banks Of The Owichita – John Fahey (The Dance Of Death & Other Plantation Favorites) A primitive guitar evocation of the slow river? Sure, why not.
- I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free – Nina Simone (Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone) A landmark Nina Simone tune? Sure, why not.
- Peace And Love – Gary Bartz And NTU Troop (I’ve Known Rivers And Other Bodies). “We got a hand for the Bronx”? Sure, why not.
- The Raven Speaks – Gary Burton & Keith Jarrett (Gary Burton & Keith Jarrett) A funk number with Keith Jarrett on the Fender and Burton on vibes? Sure, why not.
- Brown-Baggin’ – 24-Carat Black (Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth) Straight ahead funk from a very strange concept album? Sure, why not.
- Disrobe – Medeski, Martin & Wood (The End of Violence) A groove I’ve been sitting on for a very long time? Sure, why not.
- Doing It to Death, Pt. 1 (Single) – The J.B.’s & Fred Wesley (Pass the Peas: The Best of the J.B.’s). “In order to get down, I got to get in D”? Sure, why not.
- You Can’t Blame Me – Johnson, Hawkins, Tatum, & Durr (Eccentric Soul: The Capsoul Label) The world’s weirdest soul hook? Sure, why not.
- Everybody Loves the Sunshine – Roy Ayers Ubiquity (The Best of Roy Ayers (The Best of Roy Ayers: Love Fantasy)) A blissed out fusion number? Sure, why not.
- Blue Lines – Massive Attack (Blue Lines) A genre-creating Tricky rap? Sure, why not.
- The Sad Punk – Pixies (Trompe Le Monde) Changing gears abruptly? Sure, why not.
- Marrow (Live) – David Byrne & St. Vincent (Brass Tactics EP) St. Vincent backed by a freaking great horn section? Sure, why not.
- What We Loved Was Not Enough – Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra (F*ck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything) Heartrending Canadians? Sure, why not.
- Roked – Shye Ben Tzur, Jonny Greenwood & The Rajasthan Express (Junun) Israeli composer, Indian musicians, Radiohead guitarist? Sure, why not.
- %%%%%%%%%% $$$$$$$$$ >>>>>>>> >> >> >> @@@@@@@ – The User (Symphony #2 For Dot Matrix Printers) Dot matrix printer music? Sure, why not.
- Do the Dog – The Specials (The Specials) Do the dog, not the donkey? Sure, why not.
- You Satellite – Wilco (Star Wars) Wilco does late period Sonic Youth? Sure, why not.
- Nothing Clings Like Ivy – Elvis Costello & The Imposters (The Delivery Man) Plaintive country rock from a London kid? Sure, why not.
- Just One Thing – My Morning Jacket (It Still Moves) Unabashed Southern rock? Sure, why not.
- Are You Okay? – Dum Dum Girls (Too True) Can’t be flip about this track. The bridge kills me: “I’m reckless at night/I’m sorry for days.”
- Shake It Off – Ryan Adams (1989) A dark rewrite of an infectious Taylor Swift original? Sure, why not.
- One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend) – Wilco (The Whole Love) Eleven minutes of a murder mystery wrapped up in an NPR-friendly arrangement? Sure, why not.
- Moonshine Blues [live 1962 10 at Gaslight Café, New York City] – Bob Dylan (The Gaslight Tapes [live 1962 10 at Gaslight Café, New York City]) A stark folk original and probably the most harrowing version ever recorded? Sure, why not.
- Bladesteel – Daniel Lanois (Here Is What Is) Four minutes of slide guitar with New Orleans drums by Lanois? Sure why not.
- Amy – Ryan Adams (Heartbreaker) A track that opens with Adams’ most annoying verse melody, but transitions into his most heartbreaking chorus melody? Sure why not.
- Stanwell Perpetual – David Grubbs (The Spectrum Between) Three minutes of unresolved tension building with the horn section from Camoufleur? Sure, why not.
- The Things I Say – Joanna Newsom (Divers) A straight folk track that resolves to an ascending backtracked vocal cliffhanger conclusion? Sure, why not.
- Untitled – R.E.M. (Green) Michael Stipe’s paean to his parents? Sure, why not.
- Sun Is Shining – The Fireman (Electric Arguments) Electronica by Paul McCartney and Youth? Sure, why not.
It strikes me as unlikely that the profession of cobbler still exists, given the increasingly disposable nature of shoes. But I’m glad it does; I’d much rather spend tens of dollars to fix a pair than $200 to replace them. The cobbler in Arlington, around the corner from my son’s old preschool, works in a cluttered shop on a cash only basis but does phenomenal work. I don’t know who’ll take his place when he’s gone
And voting: my son will enter kindergarten in the fall, in (redistricting willing) an extremely crowded elementary school. So it’s time for our town to deal with Proposition 2 1/2. Fortunately, our town seems pretty rational about the whole thing, recognizing that the high quality of the schools is what makes our homes worth something. So I’ll pay a little more for the privilege of sending my son to one of the finest public school systems in the country. Seems like a fair trade.
The Cure, In Between Days, The Head on the Door: I’ve heard this song as a country-western cover and as a dance remix, and I’m enough of a child of the 80s that I still prefer the original. For everyone who’s ever got so old they felt like they would die.
Flunk, Blue Monday, For Sleepyheads Only: This was among the first modern downtempo covers of a New Order song I heard back in the day. I no longer need to hear any more, thanks.
Miles Davis, Nefertiti, Nefertiti. The circularity of the main tune, the way the two horns drift in and out of time with each other, the way that the rhythm section led by Herbie Hancock continues to churn as the horns repeat the melody over and over. There’s so much about this tune I love, and it’s not even my favorite performance on this album.
My Morning Jacket, One Big Holiday, It Still Moves. This may be my favorite My Morning Jacket album. They had outgrown some of the rough edges of their journeyman albums—I love The Tennessee Fire and At Dawn, but they’re clearly products of a young band—and had just started to unironically embrace big southern rock sounds, no more so than on this track.
The Beach Boys, In the Parkin’ Lot, Surfer Girl/Shut Down, Vol. 2. You have to admire the early Beach Boys’ total dedication to their aesthetic. They produced a song about just about every aspect of high school and surfing life, including sitting in the car in the parking lot making out with your date, and brought the same tight stack of harmonies to it as they did to everything else. Not essential, but fun.
An article in UVA Today about Saunier from 2014 gives the highlights of his career. Arriving at the University to advise Shannon about public relations, his first advice was that race was, in the early 1960s as the Civil Rights movement unfolded, the biggest single public relations issue that the University faced—and it couldn’t be fixed by PR alone.
One of the first targets was life on the Corner, almost entirely segregated in 1962—until Saunier visited merchants one by one and pointed out that, given the international enrollment at UVA, they might unwittingly be refusing service to a prince, resulting in a PR nightmare. The Corner, with the shameful exception of the White Spot, was duly integrated two years before required by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. One imagines that the conversation with the Route 29 truck stops went similarly, only backed up by the force of the newly passed act.
There’s plenty more in the article about the real, pragmatic work done by Saunier to ensure that black students not only matriculated but graduated. It’s well worth a read, and a realization that the transition from the UVA of minstrels and blackface didn’t become the diverse place it is today without considerable work. We owe a debt of thanks to Saunier for helping the University enter the modern era.
On Saturday afternoon, we were wrapping up a tour of Virginia Glee Club archives in the Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia. I had just taken about 50 alums, friends, conductors and family through the items, which I knew quite well having reviewed all of them—and donated some of them myself. We had also just ceremonially donated former Glee Club director Donald Loach‘s collection of concert programs to the library, and I was feeling pretty good about myself as a historian.
Then an alum asked a question that stopped me in my tracks. “Do you know who the first African-American member of Club was?”
After a pause, I replied, “No, but we should.”
The Virginia Glee Club is part of the larger story of the University of Virginia, and that story includes discrimination against African-Americans. It wasn’t until 1950 that Gregory Swanson, a graduate of Howard Law School, applied to take graduate courses at the University of Virginia, was denied admission, sued and won, becoming the first black student at the University—only to drop out in the summer of 1951. The University’s president, Colgate Darden, said he “was not well prepared for the work.” In the early 1950s two other African Americans followed in Swanson’s footsteps, and Walter N. Ridley became the first black student not only to gain a degree at the University but also the first black student to receive a doctorate from any Southern university.
It took the undergraduate schools a few more years, but in September 1955, following on the heels of the 1954 Brown vs. Board decision, three black students matriculated in the engineering school. Theodore Thomas and George Harris dropped out by the following spring, but Robert Bland continued on and was the first African-American undergraduate to graduate from the University in 1959, nine full years after the struggle for integration started. Also at the end of the fifties, Edgar F. Shannon took over as University president, and that’s when things started to get rolling.
I knew that the first black Glee Club member had to have joined sometime after 1959. I knew the story of David L. Temple, Jr., class of 1969, who was a member of Club from 1967 to 1969 and desegregated the fraternity system at the University, but I believed the first African-American member of Glee Club came earlier.
My second thought was that he would have joined during Don Loach’s first season as conductor, 1964-65. There’s a story in our archives that the Glee Club went on tour that fall, only to have their bus refused service in a truck stop on Route 29. After the tour, Loach raised the issue with President Shannon, and subsequently the truck stops got integrated. It’s a great story, and I assumed that this young man (whose name I’m still working on identifying; I have a bunch more candidates to work through with yearbook pictures) was the first student. (Update: I was closer than I thought. See below.) But as I was flipping through the 1965 yearbook, I found a picture of one of the graduating students of the Class of 1965 and knew we had found our candidate.
In 1961-1962, the group picture of the Glee Club for the first time has a black face. (That’s the picture up above.) The young man standing on the second row to the left side of the stage of Old Cabell Hall is Edwin S. Williams, of Smithfield. He stayed in the Glee Club for two seasons—as did most members, since it could only be taken as a graded course for two years—and completed his BA in chemistry, graduating with the class of 1965. And I believe, based on the evidence I have so far, that he was the first African-American member of the Virginia Glee Club.
There’s certainly more of his story to be told, and I will continue to look for more information. But one of my first questions is: if the truck stops on Rt 29 were first integrated in 1964-65, what did Williams do when the Glee Club got on a bus in 1961-62? I think we have a lot more to learn, but I’m glad we’ve taken the first step.
Update April 28: Donald Loach filled in the missing pieces by confirming that Edwin S. Williams was still in Glee Club in 1964-1965—was the baritone section leader, in fact—and was the Club man not served at the truck stop. So the stories are connected! And we need to fix our roster information.
I couldn’t go through a week long visit to the South without checking into a few barbecue stops. Top of my list: 12 Bones in Asheville.
My cousin took me and Lisa here a while ago, after they first opened, and I’d made a few visits since. Even if they didn’t famously have a picture of President Obama on the wall from one of his several stops while campaigning, it still would have been on my short list because (a) they do pulled pork really well (b) likewise, sausages (c) they understand that side dishes are not an afterthought.
They also have a sense of humor, which is why Hogzilla is on the menu. This is a hoagie roll that barely holds a bratwurst sliced in half, topped with pulled pork, pepperjack cheese, and sugar-cured bacon. I had skipped it the first few times, but was ravenous this time (we got there after 1pm). So I figured “why not” and ordered it, with collard greens and jalapeño cheese grits on the side.
It arrived at the table (outside, in the cool breeze coming up from the French Broad—another reason to visit). It looked a lot bigger than I thought it would. I began to have second thoughts. Still, it smelled good, so I decided to start with the sides.
First bite: the cheese grits are the real thing, with just enough heat. I try the collards next, which are delicious but not quite as remarkable as the ones at the Admiral last night (though admittedly that’s a horse of a different feather altogether). I look at Hogzilla again out of the corner of my eye: still there. Still big.
I pick it up; it holds together really well. This is not to be taken for granted at a barbecue joint. Half the sandwiches I’ve had in our pretty-good Massachusetts BBQ places fall apart because whoever put the sides on the plate put too much juice on, soaking the bread. The motto here could be “12 Bones: We Know How to Use a Slotted Spoon.”
I take a bite. The first bite is spectacular, with the spice flavors from the bratwurst complemented by the smokiness of the pulled pork and the sweetness of the bacon. The pepper jack is invisible, though I suspect it contributes to the sandwich’s cohesion.
Before I realize it I’ve eaten two thirds of the sandwich. Then I have to slow down. I look over at my dad, who’s ordered the same thing. He’s eaten only a third of his. “That’s a lot of meat,” he says. “Yeah,” I say.
I make myself finish it. I feel full. Hours later, I still feel full. I suspect I may never need to eat again.
I will return to 12 Bones. But next time I think I’ll just get the pulled pork.
I’m still coming down off the high of last weekend. What an amazing 145th anniversary celebration for the Virginia Glee Club. And yet it was comfortable and relaxed in a way that I didn’t think it could possibly have been. We had friends and family there, and alums from the early 1950s all the way up through last year in attendance.
Things that were surprisingly great: having older fossils (and Glee Club honorary grandmother Bonnie Ford!) in the Glee Club House on Friday night, and not having the house fall down under her; in fact, the house didn’t even smell bad. Showing up as alums for the party with a keg and a dozen College Inn pizzas. Watching the eyes of the older alums light up as they experienced the magic of “songs on the bar.”
Getting up early on Saturday morning and watching the Lawn wake up, then watching all the alums spontaneously appear. Don Loach showing real fire as he led us briskly through “Hark, all ye lovely saints” and two numbers from “Summer Songs.” Singing the first movement of Testament of Freedom with alums from seven decades. Watching John Liepold absorb what Club tradition had done to “Winter Song,” which he introduced into active repertoire almost 25 years ago, then conveying everything he wanted done with rubato and dynamic without saying a single word. Singing the James Erb “Shenandoah” facing the back of the hall and hearing John’s occasional finger snaps clarifying the beat as we listened closely to each other. Singing the Shaw/Parker “What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor” at maximum velocity and finding it lay ready for me, more than 20 years after we toured it. Hearing the conductors trade stories about having sung with Shaw. And doing the Biebl with over a hundred current Glee Club members and alums.
Marching a crowd of alums over to the Small Special Collections Library and watching them absorb a small portion of the treasures from the Glee Club’s archives there. Seeing Tyler along with a crowd of 1990s alums at the Biltmore. Choking up during Don Webb’s toast at the banquet. Watching the current Virginia Gentlemen sing “Perfidia” with three alums from the 1950s, including two of the original eight members. Jumping up with them and the current Club to perform “Shenandoah” as an entire Glee Club army.
I’ll post more but wanted to get a few thoughts out today. And the great thing is that we get to do it again in five years!
Mom warning ahead: Prince wrote about sex so I will too.
Just 4 the Tears in Your Eyes: I still can’t believe that this song was only a b-side. I heard it for the first time 22 years ago when I picked up his first, and best, career retrospective, the three-disc monster Hits/B-sides compilation. It’s an appropriately somber note on which to start this retrospective and a useful reminder that Prince had spirituality as well as sensuality working for him.
Shy: Depending on how I feel at the time, this is either a monstrously underrated track from the underrated The Gold Experience, or it’s an arch piece of songwriting. I figure, the way life is, it’s probably both. But I love the way he builds the track off the footsteps of the protagonist, adding just a lead guitar, then building the track out on top of the rhythm guitar pattern that falls in behind the verse.
Adore: The slow jam that closes out Sign o’ the Times, complete with horn section and falsetto for days. An endlessly fascinating love song. This is definitely the song that Beck was listening to when he wrote “Debra.”
One of Your Tears: From the in-retrospect seriously interesting Crystal Ball rarities collection. I understand why this track remained a rarity; when your song has the narrator’s estranged girlfriend sending him a used condom in the first verse, it’s kind of amazing that it can actually recover. But the stacked harmony that fills out the chorus has insinuated itself into my brain.
Come: Okay, now shuffle is just playing with me. The salacious horn-driven title track from another underrated Prince album from the early 1990s and probably the most explicit paean to cunnilingus ever written. It appears that this song was a last minute addition to Come (the album), but it doesn’t sound like it. I hope Heaven has a horn section this funky.
Scarlet Pussy: Another early b-side, I think of this as the early flip side to “P. Control.” While it’s unusual in early Prince songs for having a female protagonist, the song doesn’t escape reducing her to her sexuality. But it’s got a George Clintonesque narrator, an electrofunk backbone, and an unforgettable chorus. So there’s that.
I Would Die 4 U: What does it say about this song that it’s probably the least memorable of the hit singles from Purple Rain? Only that Purple Rain is an album so full of win that it couldn’t have been written by anyone else. The beats and the one-note verse and the minimal arrangement (synths, handclaps, synth bass) all add up to something a lot more than the parts.
Interactive: Another Crystal Ball number, this is a rock number that featured in Prince’s Interactive video game CD. (Has a more early-90s sentence ever been written?) I don’t think the rock that Prince was writing in the early 90s was his best stuff, but this track is pretty good, particularly the guitar work.
P Control: The remix version of the lead-off track from The Gold Experience, this is another track on Crystal Ball. This version adds scratching and backing vocals and plays around with the instrumentation on the bass track, but it’s otherwise the same great song. I’ve always loved this song because it plays gleefully with the dirty words and paints a portrait of the most independent of his female musical protagonists, in which the only way the narrator wins a chance with her is by acknowledging and respecting her strength. That’s a long way from “Scarlet Pussy.”
Hide the Bone: Yeah, OK, shuffle, we get it. I should listen to Crystal Ball more often.
Bonus: Cloreen Bacon Skin. After “Hide the Bone,” I listened to about another hour of miscellaneous Prince stuff before this track came on. Another treasure from Crystal Ball, a fifteen minute funk jam with just Prince on bass and Morris Day on drums, featuring Prince doing an impression of an elderly James Brown via George Clinton and … really, I don’t know what else to say because if you weren’t already looking up the song on Youtube by the end of that sentence, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.
Composition note: I dictated this via speech to text while driving to Charlottesville, only to lose it when the WordPress app hiccupped, so had to rewrite it from scratch.
First, UVA’s selection of John Unsworth as the next University Librarian and Dean of Libraries (UVA Today, Cavalier Daily). Unsworth’s selection makes sense on a number of levels. Back when I was an undergraduate, he was a founder of digital library sciences and the use of digital technologies in research at UVa with the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities. More recently, as the dean of libraries at Brandeis he oversaw a large library system. Interestingly, from the CD article, it seems he’s stepping into a student-led debate over the role of libraries and the transition from physical to digital, with students protesting the sending of books from the stacks to long-term storage. I can’t think of too many other people I’d like to have thinking through the considerations in that debate.
Second, President Obama’s nominee for Librarian of Congress, Carla D. Hayden, got her Senate hearing yesterday (New York Times, Washington Post). As expected, the nominee’s bona fides as both a librarian and her capabilities in extending libraries into the digital future went unchallenged by the committee, though the relationship of the Copyright Office to the LOC was raised as a possible issue. Her smooth hearing was a nice update to her previous history in 2004 with the federal government, when in her role as head of the ALA she went toe to toe with then-Attorney General John Ashcroft over the library records provision in Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. In fact, aside from the usual partisan carping in right wing blog circles, there seems to be remarkably little argument with the position that Dr. Hayden is precisely the right candidate for the job.
Why do issues of digital literacy and concerns about transitioning to digital humanities figure so largely in both these selections? I’d argue that they are the right questions for all libraries and other professions which rely on data, which these days includes just about … everyone.
The case as decided by the appeals court seems cut and dried. The case argued by the school board, and behind North Carolina’s hysterical anti-LGBT law last month, seems more rooted in fear and bigotry than in the law. The concept that transgender students are more likely to commit sex crimes in public restrooms than GOP lawmakers is a fallacy, and in trying to protect against this strawman case, the rights of transgender people are being sacrificed.
Put more simply: you’re a transgender boy, born female. Under North Carolina law you are told you must use the women’s room. How long until there is a massive outcry from women afraid that you are there to cause them harm? The net effect is to deny you the use of any public facilities at all, which is clearly discriminatory.
It would have been cheaper, and more intellectually honest, for the North Carolina GOP (and the Gloucester County School Board) to simply erect signs in hospitals, public schools, and airports that state “No transgender people.” Or, given the way the rhetoric is coming from GOP presidential candidates these days, “No transgender or Mexicans.”
In the words of I.F. Stone, “is it necessary to repeat after 2,000 years all the things you people learned in Sunday school?! How — how absent-minded — how forgetful!”
The Virginia Glee Club has a long history with the celebration of Founder’s Day, the anniversary of the birth of Thomas Jefferson, founder of the University of Virginia. While the Glee Club does not dress up in purple robes for dawn rituals (at least, not that we’re aware of), the group has been associated with the holiday for decades, and some of the Club’s most significant moments date to Founder’s Day celebrations. A few examples are below.
1943: The Testament of Freedom
The 1943 Founder’s Day concert was one of the Glee Club’s earliest Founder’s Day triumphs. The Club’s 1930s impresario, Harry Rogers Pratt, had resigned as director in 1942 to contribute to the war effort, and Randall Thompson, the head of the music department, had stepped in. He also brought along one of his young professors, Stephen Tuttle, who would become the permanent director of the Glee Club in 1943. Thompson was approached by the president of the University, John Lloyd Newcomb, to write a work for the celebration of Jefferson’s birthday. He responded with The Testament of Freedom, which set passages of Jefferson’s writing to music for men’s chorus and orchestra, and dedicated it to the Virginia Glee Club.
The first performance was recorded by CBS for nationwide broadcast, since the work’s text provided an uplifting message of patriotism and resolve, and it was subsequently transmitted over shortwave to Allied servicemen stationed in Europe.
1976: Founder’s Day Bicentennial
The Testament continued to be an important part of the Glee Club’s repertoire—it appears on 1972’s A Shadow’s on the Sundial—and reappeared with some frequency at Founder’s Day concerts. One such occurrence was in 1976, when Club performed the work at the University on the Bicentennial Founder’s Day alongside Elliott Carter’s “Emblems.” This wasn’t the first time the group performed the work; they had previously sung it with the Norfolk Symphony and at the Kennedy Center.
1981: Seven Society award and donation
By 1981, the Glee Club had undertaken three international tours in less than a decade and was starting to see the necessity of establishing a fund to support members who could not afford to pay their own way. In the late 1970s the Glee Club endowment had been established to support touring activities, and it received a boost in 1981 when the Seven Society, following their award of the James E. Sargeant Award to the Glee Club (given for organizations who made outstanding contributions to the University), made a donation to the fund of $777.77.
1993: Thomas Jefferson’s 250th Birthday
Probably the most spectacular Founder’s Day (other than 1943) was the 1993 celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s 250th Birthday. On that day the Glee Club rolled out of bed early, put on our orange and blue ties, khakis and blue blazers, and took a bus up the mountain to Monticello to join a live broadcast of the Today Show. There we stood on risers in the pre-dawn moonlight with Jefferson’s home in the background and sang several numbers from Neely Bruce’s “Young T.J.,” commissioned for the day.
There was a certain amount of standing around and waiting, and at one point several of us had to make a trip to the restroom, where we found ourselves standing next to Willard Scott making awkward small talk. A few guys had an encounter with another Today Show personality when they met UVA alumna Katie Couric after the taping and gave her a VMHLB hat.
After Monticello, everyone piled into the bus (and an overflow car) and drove like crazy. We only had two hours to get to DC and the Jefferson Memorial, where we were to sing for the President. Traffic mostly cooperated and we arrived later than planned but in time to sing in the ceremony. I’ve written about that part of the day before.
We closed the day with a bus ride to Richmond, where we sang for a group of UVA donors at the Jefferson Hotel, somehow changing into our tuxedoes somewhere along the way.
I rolled out of bed early this morning and had the dogs walking down Massachusetts Avenue by 5:30. A jogger ran past and I said good morning.
“Seen any Redcoats?” she asked.
“Not yet,” I replied.
She went on her way and I stopped to think about it. It’s a little odd living along the route of Paul Revere’s ride, and even odder when the town stops completely so that grown men, dressed in Revolutionary costumes, can point cap guns at each other and play dead.
But, I realized today for the first time, the reenactments are an amazing gift. The thought of British soldiers marching along in front of my house made me feel irrationally anxious, as though it were my family really in danger. That feeling of invasion, of disruption—I’m pretty sure that Captain Jonathan Parker felt some of that as he prepared to face the Redcoats.
And the feeling as the Redcoats turned and marched away when our family finally got within sight of the Green, the Minutemen already playing dead, slumped on the wet grass…
It’s one thing to read about and even be able to explain the events and causes of revolution. It’s another to experience them at an emotional level, affecting your neighborhood.
Last note: as we walked up Mass Ave toward the Green, hearing the drums of the British, the crack of muskets, it was as though we were just feet away from history. And then there was a giant boom: cannon. It was indeed the shot heard ’round the world. And next year we know that we have to wake up even earlier to go and see it.
At least the pancakes were good.
- Temptation – Elvis Costello (Costello and Nieve: Live at the Troubador: Los Angeles)
- Typical Situation – Dave Matthews Band (Under the Table and Dreaming)
- Stone Cold Bush – Red Hot Chili Peppers (Mother’s Milk)
- The Candy Man – Cibo Matto (Viva! La Woman)
- Night Flight – Jeff Buckley (Night Flight single)
Temptation: Not the New Order song. I’ve loved this song, in this arrangement, for a long time, really ever since I had Tower Records order the Costello and Nieve set for me back in the 90s. It’s literate without being arch, musically witty without being precious, and it’s got the right amount of irony and true emotion. And one of Elvis’s finest lines: “I wrote this song in Nashville, 1978. I was watching a very famous singer on stage, and I said, ‘That’ll never be me. I’ll never be trapped by fame…’ Well, that part was true.”
Typical Situation: I don’t listen to Dave Matthews much any more (and was never part of the crowd that saw him live). And this song isn’t the one that comes to mind when I think of him—the lyrics are a little overstated and pompous without actually meaning anything. But the arrangement is great and it’s really well engineered; unlike some later DMB tracks it’s actually a pleasure to listen to. And fantastic flute work from the late LeRoi Moore.
Stone Cold Bush: Never one of my favorite tracks from RHCP lyrically, the combination of John Frusciante, Flea and Chad Smith is nevertheless fantastic here.
The Candy Man: If you’re looking for proof that music in the 1990s was a different time, look no further than this album. Two women, Japanese expats in New York, make a trip-hop album about food. Tchad Blake’s contribution as producer and engineer is evident, but the supreme weirdness of the lyrics make it unforgettable.
Night Flight: I’ve written about this, a single released in advance of the issue of the complete Live at Sin-é, before—almost 13 years ago! I was overly harsh on his melismas then, though I do think he spent too much time in the upper tessitura. And the guitar work is pretty solid on this rendition too.
Sacramento Bee: UC Davis spent thousands to scrub pepper-spray references from Internet. You’d think it would go without saying in this, the age of the Streisand Effect, that the best way to eradicate mention of a horrible mistake online is not to try, but rather to own up to it and address it head-on. The absolute worst way is to try to whitewash it via dubious SEO tricks.
Guess which path UC Davis chancellor Linda Katehi chose?
You don’t realize how long ago your childhood was until you confront the obsolescence of some of its key artifacts head-on.
The Girl asked me about looking a word up in the dictionary. I looked at Lisa and she said, “Oh, daddy has a dictionary you can use.” So I took her down to the basement library, opened the door to the bookcase, and brought out My Dictionary: a 10 pound Webster’s Unabridged from the 1980s. The Girl’s eyes went wide.
“Is that the one you won?”
We’ve been talking about standardized tests in the house. Last week was The Girl’s first bout with MCAS, and so I talked to her about some of the “bubble tests” I remember taking as an elementary school student—apparently Virginia did some sort of standard testing, but whether for calibration purposes or what it was never quite clear; I certainly never remember receiving a grade.
And then Lisa put in, “And your daddy was the best, and they gave him a prize.”
Oh yes. The Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth. I took the PSAT as a seventh grader and had the second highest score in the mid-Atlantic. And they gave me a dictionary. This dictionary.
Honestly, I didn’t use it that much when I was a kid. I had already gotten to the point where my spelling skills were pretty good, and if I wanted more information about a word I usually went to an encyclopedia. But I brought it with me to college after my first year, and then to Northern Virginia, Cambridge, Boston, Kirkland, and back to Arlington.
Now The Girl is simultaneously thrilled that it’s available and awed at how heavy it is. And she doesn’t know that she has a dictionary on her iPad that’s more comprehensive and up to date. I don’t have the nerve to tell her yet.