Whenever I get my email newsletter from The FADER (yes, I’ve literally tried EVERYTHING now), I find that I always tend to click through to articles written by Haverford alum Duncan Cooper… without even thinking about it. I guess it might be true what they say about the apple and the tree. Anyway, thanks to this little article, I think I may have made an ACTUAL musical discovery (and luckily enough, the band’s on tumblr!). Pop culture, Haverford… seemed relevant.
Last Wednesday evening, after a long French lunch, I went to the Grand Théâtre in Angers for a night of vocal jazz. You know, away from all the fliers. Anyway, I don’t have much to say about the show; technically, it was quite good - amazing, even - but I don’t know enough about jazz as a style to really say. Really, I want to talk about everything but the show.
Possibly one of the best reasons to come to Europe is that there’s a lot of old stuff here - older than anything you might find back home in the US (except for some faint cultural memories that we’ve been trying to stamp out for centuries and maybe some trees). The Grand Théâtre, while not ancient, still encloses a bit of the past. Sitting in the third balcony, I could practically change the diapers of the cherubs painted on the ceiling… but only if I wanted to risk a four-story vertical drop to the orchestra. Vertigo aside, I was happier in the balcony where I could admire the chandelier as a neighbor, rather than imagine and re-imagine movie scenes where some clever person cuts the chandelier rope.
At theaters like this one, I always feel like I need to know how to behave, and all other (pop) cultural knowledge is practically irrelevant. Maybe that’s why I like going to the theatre. Perhaps it’s the pull of tradition and propriety that creates a sweeping tidal force at the end of a performance; I don’t know. What I do know, though, is that I have never ceased to be creeped out by the slow and inevitable metamorphasis of a round of applause from a roar of enthusiastic clapping to a singular rhythm, as if we had been invited to participate in an audience clap for a song no one could hear.
I should also probably mention that, when invited to sing along with the group, everyone in the theater sang on key… and caught onto the melody very quickly. So, really, it could just be that the French, as a culture, are more attuned (haha) to music, more attentive to detail. It could just be that they’re better listeners, and it’s only natural to hear the rhythm of your neighbor’s clapping and catch on. So, I don’t know, maybe we, as Americans, don’t really hear music in the same way.
What’s the best way to show musician’s you care, anyway?
P.S. That was my subtle way of demanding how to tell Seal that he can cry on my shoulder.
As the dawn of the New Year is typically a time for us to lie to ourselves a bit, I figured I would spend my sick-morning working on the first of what I’m sure will be MANY fine contributions to Omnivosaurus Rex in 2012 (why does that number ring a bell?).
So here is my postcard to you from France. You, Walker, and also you, our reading public, whoever you may be at this point.
Since postcards don’t typically have that much space for text, and since Walker loves best-of lists, and since I love lists in general (almost as much as I love foreshadowing), here is a list of the top five ways how, in the last few months of 2011, my time in France has made me a better consumer of pop culture:
5. My friend, in a bout of homesickness, discovered the bluegrass covers playlist on 8tracks.com, and I subsequently discovered the entire website. (8tracks > spotify, in my opinion.)
4. You can buy tickets to basically anything in FNAC. “Oh, I’m just passing by to browse the books…” BAM! Tickets to the next show at the Chabada.
3. France loves fliers. Paperwaste be damned. At LIT-rally any public place in Angers, you can pick up leaflets with information about next week’s new film releases (and timetables), upcoming shows, free events.
2. Speaking of which, I can get into almost anything for free here… either because it is free or because I am under 26. (Suddenly being underage is a good thing?)
1. Facebook lists: more useful than google reader and twitter lists. I’ve become so paranoid about being out of the loop in France that I’ve liked, friended, whathaveyou’d every venue and organization in Angers that has a significant facebook presence… and can now read all their updates in one convenient place. Frankly, I’m a fan of pretty much all the recent additions to facebook.
So, things are going mighty well here in sunny France. Hope you’ve missed me as much as I’ve been missing you. Keep up the good work, Mr. Walker. I’ll be around.
This is a song called “Nantes” by a band name after another city, Beirut. When I studied abroad in Nantes (waaaay back in 2009), people would ask me if I picked Nantes over Paris because of the Beirut song, and I always said yes in response to this cheeky question. Truthfully, though, I didn’t even know there was a song called “Nantes” until I got there. I like to think that I had one up on anyone who asked me about the song because I had actually seen the city, which, for the record, looks like this:
Now, I love the song almost as much as I love the city, especially that opening, “Well, it’s been a long time, long time,” which feels so right now that I’m heading back to France (on Monday!). While the song does a great job of evoking my own personal nostalgia, though, I’m not sure “Nantes” accurately captures the city either musically or lyrically. Of course, I’ve just made an intangible and entirely subjective judgement… but on the other hand, that’s what Omnivosaurus Rex is all about.
It’s probably always been a trend to name songs after cities (or locations in general), but I’ve observed a preponderance of city songs peppered throughout some notable recent releases. Beirut’s recent Rip Tide, for example, calls upon Santa Fe and Goshen, and even highlights New York’s East Harlem neighborhood. ”East Harlem” has wormed its way into my heart, and maybe that’s because I’m a native New Yorker, but I also love “Santa Fe” and “Goshen.” Most revealing of all: “Vagabond” is probably my favorite track on the entire album. The image of a rip tide complements the idea of an itinerant vagabond, which is perhaps what makes the location songs so exciting to listen to; the album sketches a journey for the listener.
But the very suggestion that a song can act as a place is what makes writing place-songs so risky. What exactly are we supposed to understand from a place-song? And please don’t use the word “essence” anywhere in your answer. Is a place-song descriptive? Emotive? Analytical? Editorial? My intense love for Bon Iver’s “Perth” will not necessarily translate to a love for the capital of Australia… or will it? Place-songs, it seems, are not exactly named after places, but seem to be named for places or by places.
Place and song only truly converge in folk music — and I mean real folk music, none of this Mumford & Sons business. While today’s musical innovators attempt to insert place into song, folk music takes the opposite direction. As songs endure and become ubiquitous, they merge with place. ”Perth” will never remind me of Perth; it will only ever evoke memories of early summer in New York and Philadelphia, and when I remember these few days before my trip in a few years’ time, I’ll be thinking of Georges Brassens and Pete Seeger (who will become the definition of America for my students, if I have anything to do with it).
P.S. Realitweets digests will be on hiatus until May 2012 at least because Nicolas Sarkozy doesn’t understand the way the internet generation watches TV.
Disclaimer: I took these photos on the subway with my cell phone, which, as phones go, is definitely on the lower end of the Intelligence Quotient scale.
I cannot tell you how sad I am to miss the October 2 premier of KenBurns’ latest documentary chef d’oeuvre on the Prohibition. (I mean, I guess I probably won’t be that sad on October 2, really, because I will be in France, but you know… ceteris paribus…)
Look at our lives; look at our choices: I’m a 20-something college graduate who would rather read Hemingway or Stein than the newspaper. In the meantime, we may or may not be solving the unemployment problem and we may or may not be mending our broken economy (the real reason I avoid the paper). What we do know for certain: 15.1% of the American population is, by definition, poor. SO! it is absolutely the perfect time to premier a documentary that will remind us of a romanticized time in our history, a time, ironically, of perhaps an even larger federal legislation SNAFU.
Advertising this little baby should have been a cinch, but no. As if we didn’t have enough problems already, the PBS advertising team had to drag grammar into this as well. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, take a moment to carefully look at the main copy of the ad: “How did a nation founded on rights, ever go so wrong?” Nevermind that the conditional “could” would probably sound a bit better than “did;” I’m hung up on this egregious comma usage. Here is a list of what commas are for (taken straight from the mouths of babes, William Strunk and E.B. White… BABES!):
To separate items in a list
To set off an appositive, clause, or parenthetic
To set off a quotation
To set off the name of the sentence’s addressee (Hey, Mike, could you slam me a beer?)
To organize a date (Wednesday, September 14, 2011)
To separate academic degrees, titles, and other abbreviations from the name to which they are attached
NOT to create a dramatic pause in your stupid pun. I cannot. If you’re that committed to creating a pause with punctuation, use an ellipsis (dot dot dot), which has already been somewhat bastardized for this purpose. For the love of everything good, LEAVE THE COMMA ALONE! In my opinion, though, the carriage return between the second and third lines creates enough of a pause without any (extraneous) punctuation whatsoever.
Weirdly, this is not the first time I have addressed comma usage on Omnivosaurus Rex. Go figure.
It’s been 9/11/11 in New York City for 45 minutes and I just finished posting a #realitweets update. I regret nothing, but maybe it’s time for a moment of reflection. A decade ago, I was in 7th grade walking from homeroom to math class. As we filed past the other 7th grade homeroom one of my friends said, “Did you guys hear? A plane hit the World Trade Center.” Envisioning a news helicopter crashing like a fly into a windshield, I reflected just long enough to hope that no one had been hit by falling debris.
It took a very long time for news to trickle down through my Upper West Side middle school that day as, one-by-one, my downtown friends got excused to leave school early. Every now and then one of my cell-phone-owning friends might get a call or (if they were super high-tech) a text message with news about friends and family. In general, though, we experienced an almost absolute dearth of information until the radio shows had figured out how to describe what was going on and the TV networks managed to start broadcasting again.
I’m sure this story doesn’t seem all that unique to most of you readers; it isn’t unique. As we’ve learned over the last ten years, everyone has a story about 9/11 because everyone remembers where they were on 9/11 — even if the story is mundane and the person was far away. Each year on and around the anniversary of 9/11, TV specials propagate these stories. New perspectives and interviews emerge, as if taking a new angle on 9/11 obfuscates the exploitive marketing of grief.
As we see (almost) every week in my #realitweets, cameras have near-invasive access to our lives, and while most reality stars opt into their fifteen minutes (or so) of fame, many regular people also make unwitting cameos as a result of being in the right/wrong place and the right/wrong time (combine as you will). The average man-on-the-street has a camera of his own (called a “cell phone”), so he has no need to wait for the news crew. These days, news goes viral. Viral phenomena, almost by definition, are fleeting; the Twitter livestream has redefined the meaning of old news.
But even in midst the ever-accelerating turnover of news coverage (exception: Hurricane Irene, the story that would not die), the industry hasn’t been able to let go of 9/11. In fact, I think for the past decade our generation has borne witness to an historic event that has yet to recede into history — that, in fact, has been denied the right to become actual history as a result of the unprecedented access cameras and internet voyeurs have gained to our lives over the last ten years.
It’s an interesting shift, given the theme of escapism that has appeared in non-news media since 9/11. I came upon a recent article on Salon.com that posits the early-2000s proliferation fantasy and superhero films as Hollywood’s attempt at political dissimulation. While I don’t totally buy his analysis of Harry Potter, I will say that this article reminded me of an observation I made about post-9/11 advertising: it was all babies. Babies and old folks. This trend in advertising intended to breed in consumers a nostalgia for simpler times in America — and simpler American values. It also asked consumers to look to the future, and to take comfort in the children who were barely cognizant on 9/11/01. The goal was to draw Americans into the past or future because the present was overwhelming.
Frankly, I wish this whole psychological process had gone in reverse. We should have let the stories proliferate early on, when we needed the information; we should have let our historic moment overwhelm us completely and run out of steam. Now, we’re so deep in the mire of “rememberance,” we’ve forgotten that nothing can be “remembered” that hasn’t fully passed.
Don’t forget to pick up your special edition of the Sunday Times! -Thea
After taking last weekend off for Labor Day (which I always almost call “Memorial Day”… #notanamerican), I’m back with pathetically few tweets for you. While my reality TV consumption is still at an (embarrassing) all time high, a lot of the shows I’m watching have hit their mid-season slump, lighting the slow fuse to the pyrotechnics that will close the season. There was too much crying on The A-List, not enough crying on Bachelor Pad, and altogether the wrong kind of crying on Dance Moms.
Luckily, we’ll always have Jersey Shore, although I do have to take just a moment to call out whoever made the trailer for this season… because, really:
Wait. After yelling like a remix of himself Mike knocks his OWN head into the wall? #realitweets
The suggestive editing of that trailer is just barely this side of false advertising. I’ll move on, though. In honor of Mike “the sprained-tuation Sorentino, I’d like to take a moment to trace his (miraculous) injury and recovery over the course of the last two episodes:
Actually, I’d take Mike’s storyline over the Ron and Sam Saga (RSS) any day. My new favorite relationship is the power-suite: Deena, Pauly, and Vinny, who all had some shining moments these last two episodes.
Vinny + Dr. Phil… scariest hypothetical hybrid of all time. What kind of accent would he have? #realitweets
To mix things up a little this coming week (which is my second to last in the US!), I plan to tweet a couple episodes of A Day in the Life, Hulu’s pop culture documentary series, as a juxtaposition for my standard reality canon. (Comp Lit Major… I can’t help it!)
Happy tweeting, tweedos! (Can’t believe I’m using a Snooki neologism.)