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More Videos of “Looking for Clues” Than You Were Looking For (5 January 2017)

Today in the car, I heard Robert Palmer’s “Looking for Clues” on the radio, and I don’t remember hearing it before. I’m familiar with Palmer’s radio hits in the mid-80s, and I went through a period where I played the self-titled Power Station album a ton, but I honestly haven’t spent a lot of time with his catalog, and I’m sure I’d love it. 
This was going to be a post about how I loved this song, and I was going to do my best to avoid comparing it to the Talking Heads until I realized that the Clues album came out the same year as Remain in Light (an album on which Palmer plays percussion) and features Talking Heads’ Chris Franz on bass drum, so why fight it? The marimba / xylophone solo is excellent as well, and if I’m reading the liner notes right, is played by Palmer as well. It fits in well with the tense funk in the rest of the track. 

What I wasn’t prepared for was the collection of videos made for the song (not to mention two fairly solid live performances – one played at top speed, one performed later in Palmer’s career). There’s at least three distinct videos, so I present my initial ranking of these clips.

3. Palmer romping in front of a green screen, reminiscent of the Toni Basil directed video for “Once in a Lifetime” (and her own “Mickey,” I guess). “Looking for Clues” was one of the videos played on MTV’s launch day, and I’m assuming this was the version.

2. Palmer, guitar in tow, sings in a forest of ladders. I assumed this was for something like Top of the Pops, but then I found the TOTP performance, so it went back in the list. [Edit right before posting: further digging has this clip appearing on the show TopPop, but it stays anyway.)

1. Palmer, in his signature dapper look, walks through a creepy hallway filled with costumed people. I appreciate that, when compared with the odd shot of Palmer’s mouth behind the magnifying glass in #3 on this list, this video amplifies the unsettling mood.

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Looper

The album I listened to the most last year was William Tyler’s Modern Country, largely because it became my new “working” companion, so Tyler’s tunes are very familiar at this point. I like what Tyler did with a small band on Modern Country (and I would love to see this band tour), although the essential setting is watching Tyler loop all of his different guitar lines through his series of pedals. I’m a sucker for effect pedals, and when I owned a guitar I owned more pedals than appropriate for a musician of my ability (I probably have a stray distortion pedal in a shoebox somewhere), so I was thrilled to watch the video below of Tyler discussing some of his pedals and techniques. 

I thought of this video as I listened to Modern Country for the first time in 2017 this morning. Between this album and a second cup of coffee, the day flew by. 

Proportional Toothpaste

Last week, I saw Chris Gethard’s off-broadway show Career Suicide, and it was funny and touching in the way that drew me in to his show, and knowing the topic (and seeing an excerpt on Stephen Colbert’s show late last year, if I remember to go back and look for it, I’ll add the link here) and a bit of Gethard’s history, it was about as dark as I expected (which was largely tempered by being self-deprecating). It ends its run soon, and I’m not sure if something else will come of it (a recording, etc.), but I’d recommend it nonetheless. 

One of the off-handed insights Gethard shared from his decade plus in therapy was that he has a proclivity for responding to negative things disproportionately. I think we all do this to a degree by nature of being emotional beings, but I’ve been thinking about how I do this as well, or rather when I do this. I’ve realized that in more difficult times (when I’m stressed, or tired, or other things weigh down, etc.), it’s harder to shake the small stuff. This isn’t surprising, but to put such a fine point on it felt good, and hopefully something that will help me recognize the bigger picture quicker through these small irritants. 

This probably stuck with me more now because so many people are laying out ambitions for 2017 and self-help social media seems more conspicuous this time of year. With the caveat that I realize that it’s an oversimplification (i.e. “don’t @ me”), but the idea that happiness is a choice bothers me at least in the sense that it discounts legitimate reasons for why people may not be happy in specific moments (or, perhaps to put a finer point on it, puts the blame on unhappiness squarely on ourselves). Sure, there are times when there’s good and bad available in significant portions, but happiness is not a switch to flick on and off and can take more time (and more work) than a single point. I guess I’m opposed to blind optimism as a salve, and these types of messages seem to advocate for blindness.

This is why the line from Gethard’s show stuck with me – there are things (personal and public) worth anger, frustration, and tears, and to ignore these things is unfair and unnatural. That said, there are things that bother me more when I’m already bothered, and maybe the way to get back on track isn’t to deal with the minor thing but to think about the bigger things that pushed my patience (in whatever form it manifests itself) to the edge. (Again, I’d imagine that this is part of “choosing happiness” as well that doesn’t come across in a meme, but I’m not sure that everyone regurgitating the meme intends that. Again, don’t @ me.)

I thought of this again this afternoon when I was about to leave the house for a walk. While getting ready to brush my teeth, I angled the head of my toothbrush a little too sharply against the opening of the tube of toothpaste and did something I don’t ever remember doing before: the bristles flicked a spec of toothpaste upward into my left eye. My immediate reaction once I realized the cause for my temporary blindness was “that’s a new one” and a giggle. I wiped my eye clean, brushed my teeth, and then went out for a walk before the sun set. I hope that the next time I do something like this, I respond similarly, but if I take it as a harbinger of certain doom, I hope I realize that it isn’t the toothpaste that’s stinging me. 

Thinking about Eleanor Bron, Among Other Things

22 years after it came out, I saw the video for Yo La Tengo’s “Tom Courtenay” for the first time today. I’ve heard the song a ton, so it was strange that I never knew that it had a video for it. 

Anyway, the video is excellent, not just for the premise but for the way YLT and director Phil Morrison play with the premise through the Help et al. homage shots, and I lit up with glee when Marshal Crenshaw showed up. I knew Morrison’s video for “Sugarcube” and his Superchunk videos, so I was thrilled to see this one, as it’s just as good. 

On a related note, watching this video sent me down a minor Yo La Tengo wormhole, so 2017 is already off to a solid start.

Outward

2016 was the first time in close to a decade that I didn’t blog anywhere on the internet. In a way, that started with NYE 2015, as even in my recent lean blogging years, I sat down and wrote something at the end of the year. On NYE 2016, the thought occurred but went away quickly, largely apropos of the rest of the year spent away from this and other blogging spaces. To say I was silent online wasn’t entirely true (although I took various unannounced Twitter breaks, largely outside of baseball season, I stayed relatively active there and on IG), but it was a year away from a lot of the places that started to feel pro forma. It started by saying less, eventually reading less as well.

One of the realizations I had toward the end of 2016 was that my life was often better when it was offline; rather, 2016 was the first year where the internet didn’t feel like it enriched my life, and I think that was on me. The best way to deal with this was to pull back and pull inward, but honestly it wasn’t a year of true introspection, as I’ve done my best processing out loud (or at least outward facing). At most, it was a year of quiet and silence, and at times quieting the noise felt therapeutic (or at least less tiring). It was a trying year for many people close to me, and I’ve realized that it was an exhausting year for me, and looking back, I’ve had to work to find the good (and, in some cases, legitimately great) things throughout the year. In past years, the digital record in places like this made this reflection easier, but this year is “off the record.” I found the value in embracing quiet, but it left a lot of the things I’d like to remember going forward rendered mute.

In past years, with mixed results, I’ve fought back any instinct to make big proclamations or resolutions, and I’m not going to now. I’ve enjoyed tuning out a lot of the noise, but I’m not OK being completely quiet, and in the past, I’ve used spaces like this one to scream. I’m going to try this for myself however often I can spare to do this, I’m going to turn off the auto-sharing, and when something feels right to tweet or share, I’ll do it, and if nobody reads the rest of it, that’s fine with me. At worst, it will be there waiting for me to read another time, and at best, it will feel good just getting it out of my head.

A Mets Fan Braces Himself for Meaningful Baseball, or, Thoughts & Lists for the 2015 MLB Postseason

The past few springs, I’ve intended to write a post with the title (or subtitle) “On Being a Mets Fan in [YEAR].” Each year, the details change a little bit, but the tone remained the same: hopeful for a small step forward, general disgust with ownership, and relief that baseball, the first True Sign of Spring, means that I survived another winter. “On Being a Mets Fan in 2015” would have involved me hoping that this team reminded me of the 2005 Mets: a generally likable club on the brink of getting good. At best, I hoped the Mets could bridge the gap to a competitive run next year and, maybe, end up in the Wild Card game.

Then this year went insane. I won’t run through all of it, but the highlights: a big winning streak early on, six weeks of being the worst team in baseball, injuries abound, and one of the strangest weeks for a professional sports team and its fans. This doesn’t even get into the #LOLMETS stuff that permeated the year. I can’t remember loving a baseball season more than I have this year.

Somehow, hours away from the beginning of the playoffs, the Mets season isn’t over. In fact, it’s on pause until late Friday night, where two of the three best pitchers in the National League await them. I don’t know how I’m going to make it until then. In any case, I’m ready to be heartbroken.

—–

Last year, on the eve of the playoffs, I wrote a series of lists that were way, way off. I’m going to do some of them again, but I’m not posting a list of rooting preferences because deep down it turns out I’m superstitious. I’ll do the Mets related ones once their season ends, too. For now, here are my award predictions:

American League:

  • MVP: Josh Donaldson (although I think Mike Trout probably deserves it).
  • Cy Young: David Price (I think getting traded to a contender tips the vote away from Dallas Keuchel, also deserving of the award.)
  • Rookie of the Year: Carlos Correa (although I think Fransisco Lindor is deserving too, I think Houston’s playoff bid makes it the tipping point.)
  • Manager of the Year: Jeff Banister

National League:

  • MVP: Bryce Harper
  • Cy Young: Jake Arrieta (for recency bias, over Zach Greinke, although a recent episode of Effectively Wild argued that Kershaw was still better than both.)
  • Rookie of the Year: Kris Bryant
  • Manager of the Year: Joe Maddon

Old Reads: What I Found While Clearing Out My Instapaper Account

I love Instapaper, and it was likely the first app I bought when I got my first iPod touch(!). It provided a simple solution to a problem I encountered often: it lets me save articles in a clean, off-line format to “read later.” The off-line part is less important now that I have an iPhone, but I still appreciate having things I selected to save for the moments I had to read.

For a digital hoarder like me, this was a blessing and a curse. It let me “catch up” on everything I wanted to read, at least until the collection of saved links became too much. This past Saturday morning, I went to my account on the web and found that my saved links went 46 pages deep. At 40 articles a page, this meant over 1800 unread articles (I screwed up the math on Twitter on Saturday. I still hadn’t finished my coffee, in my defense). I got to work deleting most of these long-irrelevant articles with the hope of making it manageable.

I’m down to 173 articles. Some of them are things I want to move to “long term” bookmarking, and some of them are recent links I earnestly want to read. While combing through these links, I saved a few relevant, representative, or otherwise amusing ones to link below. Now, it’s on to clean off my desk, get caught up with my laundry, and audit my bookshelves (sense a theme?)

Question in the Form of An Answer: Frank Ocean (Passion of the Weiss) –  This is the oldest thing I have saved, and I can’t remember if I saved it because I didn’t read it or because I wanted to save it for something else. From April 2011, a couple months after Ocean’s Nostalgia, Ultra and after the wild Odd Future performance on Jimmy Fallon, this interview is still a few years away from Ocean’s largest cultural impact (“No Church in the Wild,” Channel Orange, and Ocean’s letter about his sexuality). I heard “Bad Religion” from Channel Orange recently (it must have been on TV, which seems very weird), and earlier I saw someone share a Photoshop of the new Drake mixtape rewritten to be about Ocean’s next album, so maybe all of this means that I should queue up Nostalgia, Ultra again.

The Top 100 Albums I Need to Hear, 1996–2011: A Highly Subjective and Personalized People’s List (SCTTTNNNT) – Scott Tennent is a terrific music writer, and around the time that Pitchfork did their “People’s List” thing (remember that? Well, if not, the individual ballot links look dead) and meticulously compiled a lot of ballots to make a list of albums he hadn’t heard. I know I read it, and I’m pretty sure I saved it for reference for later.

MLB’s Super Sweet 16 Prospects Coming to a Pennant Race Near You (Grantland) – I should preface this by saying that Jonah Keri is one of my favorite baseball writers, and the point of sharing this isn’t to show what he got wrong/right. After all, Keri was not the only one who thought Meyers and some of these other prospects were poised for a breakthrough. Instead, reading through the article almost two years later, it’s crazy how much has changed (not to mention how some of these guys still haven’t had their shot. Two additional notes: first, the paragraph on Oscar Tavares is heartbreaking now. Second, lest one accuse me of living in a glass house, here are my far more recent, far worse baseball predictions.

Top of the Pops: YouTube Shakes Up the Billboard Charts (Slate) – I must have attempted to clean out Instapaper a little while ago, because the articles leapt ahead around page 35. This article from 2013, which I admittedly didn’t read, prompted me to think about the last time I thought about “Harlem Shake.” It’s funny how quickly things move from ubiquitous to forgotten.

Three weird audio links – Sometimes, I try to use Instapaper as “short term bookmarking.” This only works if I go back to it before sending another 20 links that push it down. So occasionally, I save videos or audio clips with the intention of listening or watching when I get home. Here are three I found (probably from Twitter, although Instapaper doesn’t save the source. Sorry) that provide a representative sample of what I found in my archives.

“A Guided Tour of Beck: Making Sense of His Canon” (Vulture) – Maura Johnston’s survey of Beck’s catalog from last February might be an even better read now after Beck’s (somewhat) surprising Grammy win this February. I adored Beck around the turn of the century, gave cursory listens to a lot of last decade’s releases, and at some point completely checked out on him. I’m keeping this in my unread folder to see where I should delve back in.

“The Red Sox are David Ortiz’s Team, and Boston is His City” (Yahoo! Sports) – I noticed a lot of trends in the articles I saved. It makes sense, particularly when there are many things I’d like to read and have time to read only one or two of them. I went through a lot of articles on Ferguson, and as I worked through these articles I saved several tributes to the late David Carr (appropriately, there were several of his pieces saved in my archives). There wasn’t much about the Boston Marathon, perhaps because it fell into the window that I appear to have cleaned out, and partially because I read a lot of those things right as they happened. This article, from last spring, fell into the category of things I read (and enjoyed) and then saved for later “use.” I’m not sure what I intended to do with it, but I didn’t mind skimming back through it again.

“Hail Satan, Tonight: John Darnielle’s Wolf in White Van” (The Hairpin) – One of my favorite uses for Instapaper is to save things about books that I’ve bought but haven’t read. I think my pipe dream is that I’ll “remember” to come back and read it after I’ve read the book. I read this one (or at least the beginning of it) and saved it for when I got around to reading Darnielle’s novel. It’s sitting on my shelf in largely the same place it’s been since I bought it.

“Portland, ME: Locavore in Menu and Decor” (New York Times) – We took a trip to Portland on November 1, and while we enjoyed our brief stay, we were unprepared for the unseasonable cold and rain that night and the snow the following morning (this seems laughable given the past three weeks and nearly 100 inches of snow in Boston). Our trip was truncated as we preferred to call it an early night versus running around rainy streets under dressed. I saved this for a future, sunnier return visit (and I’ll take your recommendations as well).

“The Full Transcript of Lil’ B’s Groundbreaking Lecture at MIT” (The Fader)This link represents a large number of things I save to Instapaper – I had a genuine interest in it, read some of it, have no intention of reading the rest of it, and still won’t delete it.

“Brother from Another Mother” (The New Yorker) – This is the most recent thing I’ve saved – Zadie Smith on Key and Peele. I had at least ten of Smith’s pieces saved – fiction, culture writing, now-paywalled pieces, etc – for “when I have my complete attention to devote to it.” There’s a fighting chance I finish reading this one before my vacation ends.