Oxford American Southern Music Issue

The Oxford American magazine recently released its Twelfth Annual Southern Music Issue, and, as always, the magazine and enclosed CD are outstanding.  Oxford American is billed as “The Southern Magazine of Good Writing,” and once a year, it devotes an issue to southern music, including a CD of the music discussed in the magazine.  I first discovered the annual music issue in 1999, when my friend and co-worker Sid gave me my first copy, and I have been following the magazine ever since. 

The “southern music” of these issues consists of nuggets of a wide variety of the good stuff.  In the CDs I have from past annual music issues, the artists included people I already knew – such as Sonny Burgess, Odetta, and the Del McCoury Band – to new discoveries for me – like the Gosdin Brothers’ 1968 recording of “There Must Be Someone (I Can Turn To)” on this year’s CD.  There are occasional odd gems, like when the 2000 CD included a recording of Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish singing “Leaning” from Night of the Hunter that made me love the song and his voice outside the context of the haunting scene in the movie.

Last year, Oxford American started a new approach with its music issue. Instead of covering a broad geography, the magazine began to focus on one state each year.  Last year was Arkansas, and this year’s issue concentrates on Alabama.  I really liked the previous broader approach, but the state-by-state approach is growing on me.  And either way, it is the best magazine-CD out there, and it still covers a wide range of styles and time, with songs from the 1940s through 2010.  Additionally, I like that the magazine’s approach has evolved over the years so now there is a feature story about each track on the CD.

There are also other articles, like fiction by Greil Marcus and an article about the song-writing team of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant.  Never heard of the Bryants?  The article will tell you the story behind their songs recorded by the Everly Brothers, like “Bye Bye Love” (recorded by the Everlys just to get the $64 session fee).

Oxford American has struggled through the years to stay in business (like another music magazine I loved, No Depression). From my recollection, and from the missing CD in my collection from one year, the magazine’s troubles peaked in 2004 when they stopped publishing for a period. Do not let that happen again. You may pick up the magazine at most bookstores or order the magazine and back issues from the website, which also has this year’s track listing (under “Further Listening”). FYI, I have no affiliation with the magazine, I just wanted to share.

A version of this review was also published at NoDepression.com

Two Online Time Killers

Chimesfreedom is posting two simple peaceful games here.  In these two games, there is no violence and the only thing that gets killed is your time, even though each game only takes a few seconds.

Winterbells is a simple game with nice graphics (and soothing background music) where you click to start and then move your mouse cursor over the bells to direct the rabbit to jump as high up the scale as possible.  My computer tells me I once broke 8000, but not today.

Redsquare has simple graphics where you grab a red square with your mouse and move it to avoid getting hit as long as possible.  I have been close, but have not broke the 18-second challenge.

What is your high score on these games? Do you have other online games you like? Leave a comment.

Madoff Raised a Tragedy

Bernie Madoff Mugshot
Today it was announced that Mark Madoff, the son of Bernie Madoff, apparently hanged himself in his New York City apartment. His father was arrested two years ago today.

There are accusations about whether or not Mark Madoff and his brother had knowledge about what their father was doing and whether or not they benefited from it. But it was Mark and his brother who turned in their father.

We do not know what other dark clouds Mark Madoff was facing, but it is easy to see that his life was changed by the actions of his father. Add to that the albatross from his own choice to betray his father. Unfortunately, Mark Madoff’s children now carry their father’s burdens, even though Mark’s wife worked to lessen the connection to their grandfather by changing their last name. According to reports today, Mark Madoff’s two-year-old son was sleeping in the bedroom next to the room where Mark hanged himself. One’s heart goes out to the family, despite the suffering created by Bernie Madoff himself. I cannot help but wonder how Bernie Madoff feels about all of the tragedy he has wrought on so many lives, including his own sons.

Bruce Springsteen has written several songs touching on the father-son relationship, borne out of his own troubles. The lyrics to “Adam Raised a Cain” seem relevant here: “They fit you with position/ And the keys to your daddy’s Cadillac./ In the darkness of your room,/Your mother calls you by your true name.” It is unfortunate that the sins get passed on from generation to generation.

You’re born into this life paying,
for the sins of somebody else’s past,
Daddy worked his whole life, for nothing but the pain,
Now he walks these empty rooms, looking for something to blame,
You inherit the sins, you inherit the flames,
Adam raised a Cain.

In one of his most beautiful songs, “Long Time Comin’,” Springsteen sings one of the best wishes a parent could have for a child. In a single line, he gently erases the curse of “Adam Raised a Cain.”

“Well if I had one wish for you in
this God forsaken world, kid
It’d be that your mistakes will be your own.
That your sins will be your own”

On this cold winter day, may your sins be your own.

Leave your two cents in the comments. Photo via public domain.

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    Army of Shadows vs. Inglourious Basterds

    When watching Army of Shadows recently, I could not help comparing it to Inglourious Basterds.  It might not be fair to compare Army of Shadows’s realistic portrayal of the French Resistance to the Nazi-killing fantasy, but let’s do it anyway.

    There was something disorienting about the way that Quintin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds glorified violence while also portraying the enemy as a regime that glorified violence.  The movie is supposed to be fun, and I understand that.  I love some of Tarantino’s violent movies, like Pulp Fiction.  And Inglourious Basterds had some excellent scenes, with Tarantino doing an outstanding job of portraying building tension in the opening farmhouse scene and in the scene in the bar.  But I just could not fully enjoy a movie where we were supposed to root for a sadistic character (played by Brad Pitt) against sadistic Germans when it almost seemed the Pitt character would have fit just as well in a Nazi uniform instead of a U.S. uniform had he been born in Germany.

    By comparison, one cannot imagine the “heroes” of Army of Shadows working for the Nazis, even though we see those characters doing acts of violence in a much darker movie.  Army of Shadows portrays members of the French Resistance in day-to-day activities to survive and continue the movement.  The movie seems to show what it was really like to resist a totalitarian powerful authority like the Nazis.  The individual’s struggle is to keep the resistance alive in the shadows while betrayal lurks around every corner.

    There is no large-scale successful destruction of Nazis in Army of Shadows, and, in fact, you do not see any successes toward stopping the government.  But the main characters are still heroic in their existential struggle to continue in spite of the appearance that everything is doomed.  In the movie, Resistance leader Phillipe Gerbier (played by Lino Ventura) speaks of facing death but might as well be speaking of the movement itself when he says, “It’s impossible not to be afraid of dying.  But I’m too stubborn, to much of an animal to believe it.  If I don’t believe it to the very last moment, the last split second, I’ll never die.”

    The 1969 movie is directed by famed French director Jean-Pierre Melville and based upon a 1940’s novel by Joseph Kessel, which in turn was based on Kessel’s experiences in the Resistance.  The book appears to be out of print, and the movie only made it to the U.S. a few years ago.  When the movie was released in 1969, French critics campaigned against it.  They believed it glorified the Resistance and Pres. Charles de Gaulle (although the movie is not about de Gaulle) during a time when the president was not popular due to his reaction to a 1968 student uprising.  So the film did not do well in France, and it was not released in the U.S. until 2006.  More than five million viewers have watched the trailer of Inglourious Basterds on YouTube while viewers have only seen the trailer there for Army of Shadows less than 35,000 times.  After more than 40 years, it’s time to see this excellent movie you might have missed.

    Bonus Subtitle Note: Yes, for you non-French speakers, Army of Shadows is in French with subtitles, and I understand the “resistance” to foreign movies.  You cannot type on your computer or play with your iPhone while reading subtitles.  I understand.  When I put a foreign movie in my Netflix queue, I often move it down the list as it makes it way toward the top.  But do not miss out on great movies like this one just because you have to read a little, and if you saw Inglourious Basterds, you made it through the German subtitles at points.  If you want to read more about Army of Shadows, the Onion AV Club has a good discussion of the movie here.

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    John Lennon Anniversary News Roundup

    Today is the thirtieth anniversary of John Lennon’s death.  Below are some of the interesting stories about the anniversary, ranging from Lennon’s life at the Dakota to speculation about a Beatles reunion.  Follow the links of interest.

    — Back in the days before cable news channels, most of us learned about John Lennon’s death while watching Monday Night Football.  The NY Times Blog has the story behind Howard Cosell’s announcement of Lennon’s death, including a link to hear Cosell and Frank Gifford during a commercial break discussing whether or not to say anything.

    –The Behind the Music blog from the UK and MyKawartha.com from Canada both imagine a world where John Lennon was not killed on the streets of New York three decades ago.

    The Los Angeles Times discusses controversies surrounding Lennon’s classic song, “Imagine.”

    The Atlantic Wire questions whether or not John Lennon was a pacifist.

    Huffington Post reviews the new documentary about Lennon’s final days and the murder, Losing Lennon: Countdown to Murder.

    From Australia, the Sydney Morning Herald has information about the doctor who first saw Lennon at the hospital after the shooting.

    — The New York Times discusses life at the Dakota when John and Yoko lived there. John and Yoko brought sushi to the building’s pot luck dinner, and some neighbors were not happy that the couple owned five apartments in the building.

    Rolling Stone has the never-before-published complete interview with Lennon three days before his death as well as other stories.

    Examiner.com presents the television schedule for upcoming Beatles-related shows through December 16. Among the list, Paul McCartney will be on Saturday Night Live this coming Saturday (Dec. 11).

    MusicRadar.com reports the British tabloids are talking about a possible Beatles reunion — with all four Beatles.

    The most important thing today is to play some of John Lennon’s music. You know the songs you like, so I do not need to tell you what to choose. Just listen to whatever you like, and sing along or maybe dance when nobody is looking. That is the best way to remember his gifts to help us and get us through the nights.

    Leave a Comment below to let us know your memories and/or what is your favorite John Lennon song.