I shiver in my bones: The best of 10,000 Maniacs

My gateway to Serious Music, 10,000 Maniacs functioned as such things should: mild incitement. Listen to an early track like “Planned Obsolescence,” collected on 1990’s Hope Chest. On one speaker a riff distorted beyond recognition, evidence that someone was listening to Eno’s Roxy-era manipulations; on the other, an organ sedate enough to play on the Mitch Miller show. The bass is seeped in dub. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Taking aim at a modest proposal

I’ve read Facebook acquaintances who should know better writing a variation on, “Let’s train teachers to carry weapons.”

My answers:

(1) I’m not paid enough to teach a hundred students per section yet you want to train me to murder somebody?

(2) What will this training consist of? Would it be part of any pedagogical or professional development?

(3) Why should the burden of murder rest on my shoulders and on my conscience?

(4) Will the NRA or Florida supply the weapon when many school districts can’t afford school supplies, or will it work like those poor school districts — teachers bring their own weapons like they do their own markers and pencil sharpeners?

(5) Will I be subjected to the thorough background checks that the NRA and Florida despise? What if I pass this background check but still freak out when a student questions the grade awarded him or her — what if I fire my weapon at the student?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Worst Songs Ever: Billy Joel’s ‘I Go to Extremes’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Billy Joel’s “I Go to Extremes”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #6 in March 1990.

I struggled. For sure I wanted Billy Joel, but I didn’t hate enough of the seventies singles to include any, and this means “Piano Man,” too predictably and boringly hated. Instead my choice rested between “A Modern Woman” and “I Go to Extremes.” Readers might ask, “Who?” about the former; that’s why I chose the second single and top ten from Storm Front, Joel’s inexplicably popular 1989 album, home of the history lesson “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” for many readers the reason why this series exists. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

The state with the prettiest name, part #851

A dandy distillation of Florida’s gun laws, i.e. none. Print and hang on your fridge!

    1. You don’t need a permit or license to buy a gun, nor do you have to register a firearm.
    2. You don’t need a permit to conceal carry a rifle or shotgun, although you do need it to conceal carry a handgun.
    3. The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services must issue a concealed weapons license to an applicant as long as the person meets a certain set of requirements, including being a US citizen, being the age of 21 or older, not having a felony conviction and demonstrates competence with a firearm.
    4. You can buy as many guns as you want at one time; Florida doesn’t regulate that either.
    5. Gun sellers need no state license.
    6. Florida does not regulate assault weapons, .50-caliber rifles and large capacity ammunition magazines.

But Florida does require three-day waiting period before you can buy a gun, so there’s that.

Newtown, Sandy Hook, Pulse, Las Vegas, and San Bernadino, Charles Pierce writes, “demonstrated that, to our government, mass slaughter is just part of the price we pay for being free. It is now the second week of February and nobody is going to do a thing.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Once again — the carnage in Parkland

At the dawn of the new millennium I covered Parkland as a Sun-Sentinel news intern. A quiet city undergirded by an opulence that avoided ostentation — Al Gore visited several times that autumn (it remains a Democratic stronghold in Florida’s most Democratic county). Compared to, say, Sunrise and Plantation, Parkland was a model city, known for vicious zoning battles, as shown by the only commission meeting I covered. Many former students attended Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, named after one of Florida’s few literary giants. Well-named too, for its graduates are among the state’s brightest.

The only way to stop carnage like this afternoon’s is to create a coalition that aims for a repeal of the Second Amendment, for thanks to Heller and the late Nino the right to own a personal weapon, within certain limits, is constitutional. “Background checks” ain’t gonna work, sorry, not when the suspect had a legal right, as of this post, to buy a gun.

The other option is to let sea level rise finish the job.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Worst Songs Ever: Don McLean’s ‘Vincent’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Don McLean’s “Vincent”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #12 in May 1972.

“Starry, starry night/Paint your palette blue and grey,” Don McLean warbles in the opening verse, and we know we’re in for a woeful, woeful night. The follow-up to “American Pie” honors a painter known for his thick, savage daubs of paint on the canvas and offers a thick, savage aural biography of this painter because the age demanded the commemoration of a proto-Fauvist in Lawrence Welk hues; I can imagine the bubbles rising as McLean strummed the acoustic chords. Quivering with sensitivity, McLean summons the Kirk Douglas who honorably played Van Gogh in Vincente Minnelli’s 1956 biopic but with none of the physical menace — his painter speaks as softly as a dog trainer, and the average dog trainer projects with more authority than Crosby-Nash, Terry Jacks, and James Taylor, the men among whom McLean ranked himself as a peer, and why not. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

Worst Songs Ever: Bruce Springsteen – ’57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)’

Bruce Springsteen’s “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On)”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #68 in May 1992.

No lurker on Springsteen message boards, I have no idea how die-hards regard Human Touch and Lucky Town these days. When Springsteen released this pair in March 1992, he faced the steepest backlash of his career. Never mind the fact that Soundscan, which had changed the way in which the industry accurately tabulates sales, would have affected the chart trajectory of any project released after the summer of 1991. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

New York gets its Ingmar Bergman retrospective. Make your own.

Despite its status as a cosmopolitan center, standing astride a doomed peninsula and the broth-warm waters of the Florida straits, Miami is Cape Coral next to New York City. Goddamn Film Forum and its centennial retrospective on Ingmar Bergman. In search of a proxy experience, I’ve revisited several Bergman films on DVD and streaming services in the last two weeks and plan to revisit more. Whether they “hold up” in the crassest sense matters not a whit beside the many glimpses of the numinous in even a minor work like Face to Face (1976), in which Liv Ullmann’s psychiatrist wanders through a room, picking up an object here, discarding it there, trying to keep her sanity while the camera fixes on her like an inquisitor; or the splash of a man overboard as he sinks to his self-inflicted death off-camera in a major film like Shame. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Worst Songs Ever: Robbie Robertson’s “Somewhere Down the Crazy River”

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Robbie Robertson’s “Somewhere Down the Crazy River”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #24 on Billboard‘s Mainstream Rock Tracks

Some great songwriters are great singers. Many songwriters get by as singers. A few great songwriters can’t write great songs for themselves and suck at singing. Not many critics cared in 1987 when Robbie Robertson dropped his eponymous solo debut. In theory the album should have been, as they say in tennis, a match point. Accustomed to letting Richard Manuel and Rick Danko (and Levon Helm on occasion) take the mike, Robertson now found himself in a context where The Band’s warm but weird takes on American folk motifs were as distant from potential listeners as the National Recovery Act was in 1985. To modernize his sound he turned to Daniel Lanois, on fire after producing U2 and especially Peter Gabriel’s So, the second a benchmark for songwriters who thought echo and Suzuki omnichords pointed toward the future by dating themselves to a present. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Singles 2/9

It’s February, which means we were overdue a Drake single. This one has been #1 two weeks. I’m sorry I already covered “Hotline Bling”. In other news: times were tough for former college radio stalwarts.

Click on links for full reviews.

Lil Uzi Vert ft. Nicki Minaj – The Way Life Goes (Remix) (7)
Luna – Free Love (7)
Momoland – BBoom BBoom (6)
Luke Bryan – Most People Are Good (5)
Rae Morris – Atletico (5)
Carrie Underwood ft. Ludacris – The Champion (3)
Frankie Cosmos – Jesse (3)
They Might Be Giants – I Left My Body (3)
Drake – God’s Plan (2)
of Montreal – Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia (2)
Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey – The Middle (2)
Steel Banglez ft. Yungen, MoStack, Mr Eazi & Not3s – Bad (1)

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Worst Songs Ever: Heart’s “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You”

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

“All I Wanna Do (Is Make Love to You)”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #3 in March 1990.

Three albums into an impressive comeback, Heart were ready to get weird. And “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You” is fucking weird. Written by Robert “Mutt” Lange during the peak of his commercial stranglehold, “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love to You” tells a story not often told in eighties pop: a casual encounter from, the woman’s point of view and its consequences in which, thanks to the gusto of Ann Wilson’s performance, the woman has agency. She regrets nothing. Despite his callousness, she misses this magic man — specifically, she misses this hitchhiker’s sexual prowess. The chime of the guitars is pure Mutt Lange, and there’s a coldbloodness to the arrangement and production that mirrors the dude’s dismissal of his lover. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Let’s meet up in the year 1995: The best of Britpop

Should I finish my collection of short stories, bound for Pulitzerland, and die before fifty, then the scholar bees may find certain reviews in my college paper blasting Pearl Jam for not having a sense of humor and holding up Blur as the antidote. This would’ve been in 1995, at the peak of a movement that hasn’t been repudiated enough, I suppose (did deep enough and you’ll find a Menswear review). Maybe it has. Maybe I’ve missed something. Tony Blair is a laughing stock, if not a suspect worth bringing to The Hague in handcuffs. Was “Britpop” ever anything besides taxonomy for “English bands that sold a lot of records in the mid nineties?” or, in America, “The classy alternative to Alanis Morrissette and Seven Mary Three?” Let’s say “Britpop” was a folly, a recrudescence of masculinity at the dawn of the acceptance of — or, to be cynical, the marketing — sexual/gender fluidity. My list makes a mild redress. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment