Chris Neary is a producer for On the Media.
OTM Staff Picks Volume 42
Monday, January 28, 2013 - 02:32 PM
For a moment in time, these were our favorite things.
When I was in high school, a friend of mine had this amazing Calypso 45 that I would make him play ad nauseam. The A-side was an arrangement of “The John B. Sails,” a song that may have been created for an American novel called Pieces of Eight or may have been a Bahamian folk song, and was later made famous by the Beach Boys as “The Sloop John B.” The B-side is an insane song called “Never Interfere with Man and Wife,” a narrative song about a guy who is always trying to solve problems between fighting couples and ends up just pissing them off. I have been looking for a copy of this single for years, but never knew the name of the artist, so I had no luck finding it. But, thanks to the Internet, I located it this weekend. It’s by an artist named Beacham Coakley, and it was released in 1956. I ordered a couple of copies off of eBay, and I can hardly wait to get them. I haven’t found any biographical information online about Beacham Coakley, but I did find a couple of songs on YouTube. This one’s killer:
Pinballing around YouTube this weekend, I found a clip of the intro voiceover to "No Country for Old Men." Forgot how great it is. It’s just parched Texas countryside and Tommy Lee Jones’s drawl.
Whoever put this clip together (thanks!) cut off the last phrase of the voiceover, which is magnificent. It’s supposed to end with him saying, "You’d have to say, 'Ok. I’ll be a part of this world.'"
Then there’s the last scene of the movie: a dinner table monologue by Tommy Lee Jones. Also great.
This weekend I started listening to Dan Deacon’s newest album, America, and have really been enjoying it. He is a musician and composer by training, and his music is really inspired by live performance and electronic ways of making sound. That means that he does things like use sine waves to create compositions and has piles of electronic equipment on stage in his shows. I like his music because it is lush and rich and complex and rewards repeated listening. You can watch a fun video from the album here:
My staff pick this week is a book called City of Djinns by William Dalrymple. A friend recommended it recently as a great read and it is that, though it’s also a thorough and fascinating history of Delhi, India (the title refers to the ghosts of Delhi and to Dalrymple’s approach -- peeling back the layers of stories, or ghosts, that comprise a city as old as Delhi). There’s something odd about being so compelled by a history of a city, a country even, I’ve never visited. I’ve yet to read Katherine Boo’s much lauded book about a Mumbai slum. And the only book I’ve read about India was a decade ago, Suketu Mehta’s brilliant Maximum City, a portrait of Mumbai. Dalrymple’s approach is totally different then either, it reads like a charming conversation happening at a walking pace with a funny and observant guide. Can’t recommend it enough.
Oh and one more pick. There's something striking about the coverage of Mali's recent battles that acknowledge what I've been thinking about, whether I like it or not -- the way I associate music with the fighting. The Tuaregs that first overthrew the northern Malian government? They sound like this:
The area that the Tuaregs overthrew? It's famous for its uncanny echo of American blues and perhaps its most famous musician sounds like this:
And the south of Mali that's struggling to reunite the country sounds like this:
Overly simplistic? Of course. But it's a bitter irony that the Islamic fundamentalists who pushed aside the Tuaregs and have ruled northern Mali for the last year instantly banned music as heretical. And it makes it hard not to sympathize with accounts like the one below. The first thing some Malians in Niafounke and Timbuktu did when French forces overthrew the rebels last weekend? According to The Times, they played music and danced ...
“No smoking, no music, no girlfriends,” said Amadou Kané, a 26-year-old history student from Niafounké. “We couldn’t do anything fun.”
The prohibition of music was particularly tough on Niafounké, Mr. Kané said, because it was home to one of Mali’s most celebrated blues musicians, Ali Farka Touré.
“After praying in the mosque, it was our habit to play a little music,” Mr. Kané said. “They took that away from us.”
I tend to hate advertising, but lately I've been entertained by some promotional billboards and videos coming out of the beverage industry.
Here in New York, where Mayor Bloomberg's ban on huge portions of sugary drinks has prompted a lawsuit from the NAACP, I've been noticing a particular ad on beverage delivery trucks, paid for by New Yorkers for Beverage Choices. The ad features a manly silhouette, shown only from the armpits up, holding a big beverage just as Lady Liberty holds her flame of freedom. Accompanying the heroic image is the declaration, "Don't let bureaucrats tell you what size beverage to buy." There's even a version in Spanish:
(Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik / Twitter)
According to silhouette hero guy, Bloomberg's nanny state is squashing that most fundamental of American freedoms: namely, the inalienable right to drink oneself into a Slurpee stupor. But there's also another, very different narrative being promoted by the beverage industry, exemplified by Coke's two-minute PSA-style ad called "Coming Together":
Coke paints itself as a partner in the national fight against the problem of obesity, touting its small contributions to stemming the epidemic while severely downplaying its complicity in causing the problem. I'm interested to see which of the implausible narratives will win out: will it be sugar-saturated New Yorkers stick it to the nanny state, or peddlers of high-fructose corn syrup lead the charge against obesity? As I wait to see who wins, of course I'll continue to enjoy a healthy(?) portion of Coke with my burger.
This weekend I saw the 1987 film "Ishtar" starring Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty. It’s about two American aspiring songwriters who travel to Morocco for a gig, and on the way stop in the fictional North African country of Ishtar, where they manage to get embroiled in a conflict between a leftist organization trying to overthrow the regime of Ishtar and the CIA agents trying to keep the regime in power. Its over two decades old, but has resonance with events happening in the world today—and it's funny too: