The Making Of The Long Winters’ “When I Pretend To Fall”

In 2003, the Long Winters released their second album into a crowded field of cleverly crafted, melody-driven guitar rock. Given the crop of that particular era—the Shins, Decemberists, New Pornographers, Pernice Brothers, Weakerthans (and lord, can I get a Beulah?)—you would be more than forgiven for not recognizing When I Pretend To Fall as the cream that rises more than a decade later. The album produced neither hit singles nor commercial jingles, and it all but destroyed the fragile league of extraordinary frenemies who created it. It’s the great sound of coming together while everything is simultaneously falling apart. John Roderick, the man at the center of When I Pretend To Fall, was striving: hoping to win back a girl and attempting to make his mark in a microcosmic indie-rock scene.

Source: MAGNET Classics: The Making Of The Long Winters’ “When I Pretend To Fall”

A fine oral history of a great record. John is a big hero of mine and I wish he’d record more.

Quantum Leap, mapped

A map of each of Sam Beckett’s Quantum Leaps.

Show creator Donald P. Bellisario:

Truthfully, I didn’t know Sam wasn’t going home until the day before the last episode aired. That’s when I made the decision to let him continue leaping through time. As a character, he always wanted to go home, but in the final episode, set in my dad’s bar, he realised that he could have leaped home anytime… if that was what he truly wanted.

Source: Oh Boy – Special Request

The First Woman to Translate the ‘Odyssey’ Into English

Not only is she the first woman, but she’s making some fairly radical changes to the established translations:

“Treat me,” I interrupted, “as if I don’t know Greek,” as, in fact, I do not.

“The prefix poly,” Wilson said, laughing, “means ‘many’ or ‘multiple.’ Tropos means ‘turn.’ ‘Many’ or ‘multiple’ could suggest that he’s much turned, as if he is the one who has been put in the situation of having been to Troy, and back, and all around, gods and goddesses and monsters turning him off the straight course that, ideally, he’d like to be on. Or, it could be that he’s this untrustworthy kind of guy who is always going to get out of any situation by turning it to his advantage. It could be that he’s the turner.”

Source: The First Woman to Translate the ‘Odyssey’ Into English – The New York Times

See also two ‘Troy Story’ videos we made that re-tell the Iliad and the Odyssey in a couple of minutes each:

 

“He’s Got Brown Sauce!”: The Absurd Transcendence of Football Chants

“In the seventies, it was extremely rare that someone would start a song about a specific event or occasion,” says Tim Marshall, author of Dirty Northern B*st*rds, a history of British football chants. “But now, if anyone anywhere does anything notable – Gerrard slipping on his arse or whatever – there’ll be a song about it pretty much instantly.”

The idea of the football chant as one of the last true instances of popular folk song – a song originating among the people of a country or area, passed orally from generation to generation (or ground to ground), with myriad different versions and subtle alterations, marked by simple, instantly gettable melodies – is a strong one and luckily has nothing to do with Mumford & Sons. Even when a song has its base in a pop song – such as the recent, ever-popular chants set to Billy-Ray Cyrus’ saccharine ditty ‘Achy Breaky Heart’ – they are constantly in a state of mutation, warped by misheard lyrics, inebriated lead vocal, and immediate circumstance. There can also be an added element of ‘capture the flag’ for fans who find their rival team with a catchy new song: take what’s theirs and make it ours.

This is good, and rightly champions the terraces as a source of wit and invention. I’m surprised there’s no mention of “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn”: a chant about a politician(?!) to the tune of The White Stripes’ ‘Seven Nation Army’, first sung at football stadiums around the country in celebration of footballers both famous and middling.

I’m particularly fond of a chant currently sung by Watford fans in honour of French midfielder Abdoulaye Doucouré, to the tune of Earth, Wind and Fire’s 1978 hit ‘October’. Altogether now: “… he never gives the ball away…”

Source: “He’s Got Brown Sauce!”: The Absurd Transcendence of Football Chants

My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields and his hearing

Is your hearing now pretty good, considering?

This is a weird thing. What scientists discovered in the past five years is that when they look at people who work with sound in a professional capacity, the part of their brain [that processes sound] tends to be about five times bigger. So as people who work with sound get older, they know their hearing isn’t as good, but at the same time, a lot of guys can still do really good work. We don’t hear in any kind of passive, mechanical way. [Sound] interacts with your brain. So when you hear, it’s a bit like when the scientists talk about the nature of reality and how it’s like an illusion in our brain. Everyone has their own reality, in some sense.

My hearing is technically not perfect. In my early 30s, I had a dip from noise damage. But when it comes to music, I still tend to hear faults with equipment or things like that before most people. Because most music exists between a certain frequency range, and my brain is very focused on mid-range. You can have people with technically excellent hearing, but they can’t discern what’s happening because their brain isn’t processing it.

I’ll give you an example. Once, a very long time ago, I got really bad middle-ear damage from doing some live sound. Something happened, and my hearing collapsed, pretty much. It went on for quite a long time. If it’s more than two days, then you’re usually looking at permanent damage, and this was really, really bad.

Then, during this period of bad ear damage, the alarm system went off in the house. I noticed that I could really hear the components of how the alarm was put together in an incredibly detailed way that I never would have heard without my ear nearly being half gone. I could really hear shit that I could never hear before. My brain was essentially still processing whatever it was getting on a pretty high level—or working overtime. After years of practice, you just learn to work hard. Like muscles. So in that respect, I’m very conscious of my hearing at this point in my life.

The MBV gig I went to in 2008 was the loudest thing I’ve ever experienced, so I’ve always been a little curious about how Shields and co’s hearing is holding up. Also: new album on the way!

Source: My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields Dissects His New Loveless Vinyl Remaster, Talks New Album | Pitchfork

An exploration of Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica

These Earworm videos by Vox are great. They’re part Song Exploder, part 33 1/3, part music theory class.

I bought the subject of this episode—Captain Beefheart’s Trout Mask Replica—as a teenager and it has always been a curiosity to me: an album I admire more than I love or am inspired by. Here Estelle Caswell, with the help of Samuel Andreyev, breaks down album opener ‘Frownland’ to better understand it’s baffling mix of blues, rock and free jazz. It’s made me listen to the album again with fresh ears and notice things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

On dreaming

Ordinarily she didn’t tend to dream much. Even if she did, she usually had forgotten most of the dream by the time she woke up. Sometimes faint scraps of her dream would get caught on the wall of her consciousness, but she couldn’t retrace these fragments back to any coherent narrative. All that remained were small, random images. She slept deeply, and the dreams she did have came from a very deep place. Like fish that live at the bottom of the ocean, most of her dreams weren’t able to float to the surface. Even if they did, the difference in water pressure would force a change in their appearance.

—Haruki Murakami, 1Q84

Some opinions about Tweetstorms

I will say: though tweet storms suck as a medium for collecting and preserving your ideas, they are a pretty great compositional gambit. One of the biggest struggles I have as a writing instructor is getting people to just write. By breaking that down to 140 char chunks, I think people find it easier to piece together something that flows one idea at a time.

So please! Keep doing that. Just, you know, copy the words and paste them into something with a single stable URL.

Tim Maly: Some Opinions about Tweetstorms

The library of things

The Library of Things is a new service from the Sacramento Public Library that offers things for checkout—such as sewing machines, musical instruments and yard equipment. The items in the Library of Things were chosen in a voting process by Sacramento Public Library patrons and funded by a Library Services and Technology Act grant administered through the California State Library.

Sacramento Public Library – Library of Things

What an excellent idea—something that every town and city could do with.

The mind of John McPhee

McPhee has built a career on such small detonations of knowledge. His mind is pure curiosity: It aspires to flow into every last corner of the world, especially the places most of us overlook. Literature has always sought transcendence in purportedly trivial subjects — “a world in a grain of sand,” as Blake put it — but few have ever pushed the impulse further than McPhee. He once wrote an entire book about oranges, called, simply, “Oranges” — the literary cousin of Duchamp’s urinal mounted in an art museum. In 1999, McPhee won a Pulitzer Prize for his 700-page geology collection, “Annals of the Former World,” which explains for the general reader how all of North America came to exist. (“At any location on earth, as the rock record goes down into time and out into earlier geographies it touches upon tens of hundreds of stories, wherein the face of the earth often changed, changed utterly, and changed again, like the face of a crackling fire.”) He has now published 30 books, all of which are still in print — a series of idiosyncratic tributes to the world that, in aggregate, form a world unto themselves.

McPhee describes himself as “shy to the point of dread.” He is allergic to publicity. Not one of his book jackets has ever carried an author photo. He got word that he won the Pulitzer while he was in the middle of teaching a class, during a break, and he returned and taught the whole second half without mentioning it to his students — they learned about it only afterward, when the hall outside was crowded with photographers, reporters and people waiting to congratulate him. For McPhee’s 80th birthday, friends, family and colleagues arranged a big tribute to his life and work. But McPhee found out about the plan shortly beforehand and squashed it by refusing to go. Bill Bradley, the former basketball star and United States senator who was the subject of McPhee’s first book, “A Sense of Where You Are,” was one of the organizers. “You can’t celebrate somebody who doesn’t want to be celebrated,” he told me.

The Mind of John McPhee – The New York Times

To my knowledge, I’ve never read anything by John McPhee, but I expect that will change soon. This is a wonderful profile of exactly my sort of person: McPhee seems obsessively curious about the fine detail of everything in addition to being very process-driven in his work.