Friday, April 28, 2017

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Ownage?

Potential Goal: Own at least a few songs by each artist who has been inducted.

Results so far: As of 2017, I have at least one recording by most of the inductees – a solid majority. By my count there are 209 acts currently inducted (some were added in 2012 sort of retroactively, such as ‘The Miracles’, when Smokey Robinson had been inducted years before, or ‘The Crickets’ long after Buddy Holly. I do not count these as separate). There are 23 artists/acts whom I have no recording by whatsoever, or roughly 10%. They are:

Clyde McPhatter
Hank Ballard and the Midnighters
The Four Seasons
LaVern Baker
Jimmy Reed
Ruth Brown
Little Willie John
The Jackson 5
Lloyd Price
The Staples Singers
Bonnie Raitt
Isaac Hayes
Brenda Lee
Gene Pitney and the Blue Caps
John Mellencamp
Jeff Beck
Bobby Womack
Tom Waits
Hall & Oates
Small Faces / Faces

Some of these acts I really enjoy. Some I just haven’t bothered buying their work. On the other hand, some I know relatively little about (Jimmy Reed, LaVern Baker) and need to explore further.

Then there’s another category, of artist I only have one song by (but hey, at least I have one song…). Some of these are favorites – Cochran shows up in my 25 most played, Buffalo Springfield is my #1:

The Dells “Oh What a Nite”
Jackson Browne “Doctor My Eyes”
Percy Sledge “When a Man Loves a Woman”
Alice Cooper “School’s Out”
Donna Summer “I Feel Love”
Bill Withers “Lean On Me”
Steve Miller “The Joker”
Eddie Cochran “Summertime Blues”
Bill Haley and His Comets “Rock Around the Clock”
The Isley Brothers “Shout”
Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth”
The Rascals “Good Lovin’”
Gene Vincent “Be-Bop-A-Lula”
Del Shannon “Runaway”
The Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive”
Electric Light Orchestra “Don’t Bring Me Down”
The Ventures “Walk Don’t Run”
Van Halen “Jump”
KISS “Rock and Roll All Nite”
Duane Eddy “Rebel Rouser”
Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers “Why Do Fools Fall in Love”

Finally, there is the category that contains artists currently closest to attaining my goal, that is, those whom I own at least two of their songs. Now, two is not the same as “a few”, but three is. As such at least one more song by these artists wouldn’t be amiss in my collection, while still recognizing that these are lowest priority:

The Moonglows “Sincerely”, “Ten Commandments of Love”
Ritchie Valens “La Bamba”, “Come On, Let’s Go”
ZZ Top “La Grange”, “Tush”
The Impressions “People Get Ready”, "For Your Precious Love"
The Hollies “Bus Stop”, “Long, Cool Woman in a Black Dress”
Lou Reed “Perfect Day”, “Take a Walk on the Wild Side”
Joan Jett “Bad Reputation”, “I Love Rock and Roll”
Chicago “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”, “25 or 6 to 4”
Wilson Pickett “In the Midnight Hour”, “Land of 1000 Dances”
Dion “The Wanderer”, “Runaround Sue”
The Lovin’ Spoonful “Daydream”, “Summer in the City”
The Coasters “Yakety Yak”, “Charlie Brown”
Sam & Dave “Soul Man”, “Hold On, I’m Coming”
Neil Diamond “Sweet Caroline”, “Cracklin’ Rosie”
Donovan “Sunshine Superman”, “Mellow Yellow”
The Dave Clark Five “Glad All Over”, “Over and Over”
Little Anthony and the Imperials “Shimmy, Shimmy Ko-Ko-Bop”, “Tears on My Pillow”

So 60 artists, in total, whom I’d like to be better acquainted with their music: whether I don’t own any of their recordings, or just one, or just a couple. That’s just under 30% of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Looks like I have my work cut out for me.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What Color Is Your Parachute

So my job will soon be ending.

Which is weird.

Until now I've always left jobs, not taken contracts when offered, or worked positions where it was known ahead of time when the end date was scheduled.

For the first time none of these is the case. My school said they'd appreciated the work I did, thought I was a good teacher and professional, and would not be renewing my contract.

On the advice, then, of family I picked up a copy of What Color Is Your Parachute. Now, unfortunately, a day or so after I took it out of the library the author died. But I'm not the superstitious sort, and so I pressed forward undaunted.

The book, essentially, is really good at helping you do the following: figure out what sort of person you are, then figure out what makes you happy. Check to see if what you do for work now aligns with what makes you happy, if not, what steps do you need to take to get there?

Most interesting, to me, was an exercise where you write out seven of your happiest experiences / achievements. Times when you were proud of your accomplishments and felt it in a joyful form.

Only one of the seven which came to mind (last) had to do with education.

When you then figured out which skills you had, and which were the ones which lined up with your happy stories, none of my teaching skills lined up.

For example, I have a fairly prodigious memory, am a very good editor, and talented at getting students to empathize with difficult historical perspectives. But these, or their constituent parts, typically don't factor in to what made me happy.

The rule for the happy achievement stories was that they had to be events - not "getting a college degree" for example (which would take years and far too many aspects to tabulate effectively) or, in my case, "reading the Classics" or some such. Here, then, with tweaks to protect the innocent, are my seven stories:

1. Biking with Jane on Palau Ubin

Went to the ferry, hung out, had no real plan. When the ferry was ready to go we left and enjoyed the passage. At the port we got food at a nice shack, again unplanned, then decided on a whim to get bikes to rent and then go around the island.  I was blissfully happy watching Jane bike in the afternoon light on that sleepy tropical isle. We went where we wanted to go, and eventually found our way back to the port, returned the bikes, and took the ferry back.

2. USVI Hike to Waterlemon Key

Used the map at the hostel-place to find the most direct route. Found the road, got lost, found the paths again. Hiked up the side of the mountain, had an incident with the hermit crabs and orb weavers. Torrential rain but continued unperturbed and determined. Found the Key, took some photos, headed back to the town, got a nice meal ducking out of the rain.

3. Framing and Flower Arranging at the Monastery

For the framing, it was nice to be a liaison, to be out of the compound on official business. It required my input, my artistic sensibilities – and it was lasting, unlike sweeping or mopping which would need to be done again next week. The publicity of the pieces being hung in the main foyer was nice, the feeling of contribution – and going with a friend, so much as I could consider anyone there to be a friend. The flower arranging was so impromptu and spontaneous it was unlocking a hidden talent, an almost savant-quality. The aesthetic aspect, the thought required in the pairings of vases and flowers, the trimming – it all was to create something, rather than erase dust.

4. Teaching Improv at AJC in Singapore

The idea that I was making an impact, making a difference to these kids specifically, to the school, possibly to the island. Introducing something new, changing the game, subverting the system. It felt edgy and provocative to make fun and challenge the OBMs. The performance had a lot of students come to see, and performing was fun, after so much training. They will remember that performance, I think.

5. Hiking from GG Park to Home

As a kid in middle school I was able to piece together in my mind a good enough map of the city to figure out how to make it from the Academy to the Beach, to follow the Great Highway, then take Sloat to Ocean, and finally home. Having never done it, the challenge and spur-of-the-moment decision made it all the more exciting and increased the feeling of accomplishment. Similarly when I was able to talk my teachers into letting me stay on in the Park when we were done at the Arboretum, and get myself home. My knowledge and ability to navigate the Park, or the MUNI bus lines even if I got lost to still figure out the way, was nice.

6. Biking to Redstone

The sheer insanity of biking from Carbondale to Redstone on the side of the highway, by myself, age 14, is astounding to me. It was uphill! (But at least I got to coast back.) Sense of accomplishment, going the extra mile. Similarly on Wilderness, my willingness to keep working on the drainage project while others rested, that Boxer mentality, gave me a sense of pride and I enjoyed showing off that I could do what others couldn’t.

7. My Columbus Lesson

Getting high school students at MAUHS to ‘click’ and to tackle the biggest questions History has to offer on relativistic versus absolute ethics, all while analyzing a primary source and having a Socratic discussion was pretty awesome. I felt like I had ‘arrived’ as a teacher.

Some observations:

1) Hiking / Biking. I eschew physical exertion, most notably the gym. But I really do love taking long rambling walks, and when I was younger loved to bike. 

2) Nature. The first two happy memories I could think of were both topical. Golden Gate Park also played a role - long my favorite San Francisco destination.

3) These aren't jobs. Hiking and biking around in nature is not a paid position. Which, frankly, is rather disappointing. I wish I could spend my days wandering the City of San Francisco, driving to Marin, hiking through the woods, or exploring a park. In part this reminded me of why I got into teaching in the first place: time off for good behavior.

4) The last time I could think of when I was happy was at least four years ago, which isn't a great sign.

As it happens everything else in the book pointed to politics, which is not a huge surprise. The overriding issue was that while these moments were my happiest, they were weren't what I wanted to do. I feel a strong urge to solve the world's problems and help people. To use the example of the monastery, even when I was there, and quite happy, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling that my time would be better served working on something other than myself. 

Here I am, 30 year sold, having taught for the better part of a decade, and ready to move on. 

So I'm looking into politics. But if you can find me a job where my wandering around the City or in nature is beneficial to mankind - I'd like to hear about it.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Favorite Movie Each Year Since Birth

As my sister said on her blog: All the cool kids are doing it. I define this to mean film you want to watch on any given day, so it skews towards the 'fun' (although, clearly, not in all years) as well as giving priority to films I actually own, since that seems a good indicator.

1986: Labyrinth
1987: The Princess Bride
1988: A Fish Called Wanda
1989: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
1990: Goodfellas
1991: Hook
1992: Reservoir Dogs
1993: Groundhog Day
1994: Chungking Express
1995: Ulysses' Gaze
1996: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie
1997: The Fifth Element
1998: The Big Lebowski
1999: Galaxy Quest
2000: Snatch
2001: Spirited Away
2002: Talk to Her
2003: Zatoichi
2004: The Incredibles
2005: MirrorMask
2006: Paprika
2007: Across the Universe, I guess? A particularly crummy year.
2008: Synecdoche, New York
2009: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
2010: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
2011: Midnight in Paris
2012: Les Miserables
2013: 12 Years a Slave
2014: Guardians of the Galaxy
2015: Spotlight
2016: Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World

There you go. Incidentally Jess and I only share *two* films in common - 1986 and 1987. Go us.

America's Cultural UNESCO Sites

Four-ish years ago I began to wonder about why America had relatively few cultural UNESCO sites - and two years ago why the 20th century is generally underrepresented by World Heritage inscriptions, at least for history. (They have a good track record for industrial and architectural heritage.)

Of course, America's cultural and historical dominance of the 20th century may be a factor.

Our currently designated cultural sites, though, aren't even American. Two are earthworks (Poverty Point and Cahokia) and three are from Southwest cultures (Mesa Verde, Taos Pueblo, and Chaco Canyon). Besides these five indigenous selections, there are two from the Spanish (La Fortaleza in Puerto Rico and San Antonio Missions) and two from the British colonial era (Independence Hall and Monticello). The only UNESCO property on the list that post-dates 1776 is the Statue of Liberty - a gift from the French. A single mixed property on the list (considered both natural and cultural) is Papahanamoukoukea. This site, of sacred value to native Hawaiians I believe as the origins of creation, has no actual structure, or monument, just cultural religious significance.

Back in 2014 I mentioned which American sites were being considered for inclusion, on the 'tentative' list, and the list hasn't changed much (they added the San Antonio missions, expanded Monticello). Below is that updated enumeration, only here it's only the cultural properties under consideration (the natural properties still on the docket are the Okefenokee, White Sands, Petrified Forest National Park, and Fagatele Bay. Except White Sands I'm down.)

1. Civil Rights Movement Sites (Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Bethel Baptist Church, 16th Street Baptist Church)

Sure. I think the US Civil Rights movement is of global significance. Heck, Robben Island in South Africa is a UNESCO site, so why not our buildings?

2. Dayton Aviation Sites (Huffman Prairie Flying Field, Wright Cycle Company and Wright & Wright Printing, Wright Hall, Hawthorn Hill)

Sure. We invented flight, it happened at a certain place, let’s commemorate that place. Odd that it's not Kittyhawk, but whatever.

3. Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings (Unity Temple, Frederick C. Robie House, Hollyhock House, Taliesin, Fallingwater, Herbert and Katherine Jacobs First House, Taliesin West, Price Tower, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Marin County Civic Center)

Definitely. I’m a huge fan of Wright, and have been to five of these sites. Other countries have similar UNESCO designations, such as the works of Anton Gaudi in Spain or the multi-country inscription for Le Corbusier designated in 2016.

4. Fort Ancient State Memorial (Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, Newark Earthworks State Memorial)

Meh. We have two major earthwork designations already – Cahokia in Illinois, designated in 1982 for the Mississippian culture, and Poverty Point in Louisiana, designated in 2014, for the Poverty Point culture. Now, the Hopewell are very important to North American culture, so if it becomes a site that’s cool. But that should be it for earthworks.

5. Mount Vernon

I guess? I mean, if we’re talking precedents of Presidential homes in Virginia, Monticello is a very unique space that Jefferson designed. What makes Mount Vernon special? It’s postcard perfect, but so far as I'm aware it's a pretty typical plantation house. Of course, it was George Washington’s home, and that’s swell, but does that make it globally important?

6. Serpent Mound

Nope. Potentially of the Hopewell types listed above. Either meld the two sites, both located in Ohio an hour away from each other, or just go with Fort Ancient. I’m for grouping them and calling them ‘Earthwork Legacy of the Ohio Valley’. That’s an inclusion I’d support.

Note - even if these are all added, we've only gained three American sites. Mount Vernon was begun during the era of British colonialism, the two earthwork sites, again, predate our founding. I am a huge FL Wright fan, but that's an architectural heritage, not as much historical (at least we'd be int he twentieth century). So the two historical sites are for flight and Civil Rights. Both deserving, but I think we can do better.

As such I've expanded upon my original post, below, for eight sites we should definitely add of universal cultural importance. Not all are 20th century, one isn't even of the American era, but all I think are most deserving.

1. The National Mall, Washington D.C
. (Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress, National Archives Building, Smithsonian Building 'The Castle')

The Washington Monument in the largest stone obelisk in the world. The Lincoln Memorial and Thomas Jefferson Building represent the influence of the Beaux-Arts in America. The National Archives Building houses our Constitution, and Declaration of Independence. The Vietnam Memorial had global ramifications on memorial design, and the Smithsonian Institute was arguably the first of its kind. This grouping of buildings has become universally recognized as quintessentially American, grouped around the lawn and reflecting pool. All have been restored or preserved under the most rigorous standards.

2. Historic San Francisco, California
(Golden Gate Bridge and Fort Point, Alcatraz, Angel Island, Presidio, Waterfront from Land's End to the Ferry Terminal, Cable Car Lines, and Chinatown)

San Francisco is an iconic, globally identifiable city. A city of incredible historic significance, it was originally settled by Native Americans five thousand years ago. Sighted by Sir Francis Drake in 1579, the Spanish arrived in the mid-1700s, and the city was the epicenter of the 1849 Gold Rush, bringing cultures from around the world to develop a unique, lively city. In the 20th century San Francisco was privy to many counter-cultures from the beats to the hippies to the gay culture the city is now famous for. Initially the seat of the United Nations, it is undoubtedly a global center.

3. Points of Departure: Gagarin’s Start and Kennedy Space Center
(Joint-party site: Kazakhstan and Florida, United States)

This joint-party site is designed to venerate one of the few positive developments of the 20th century’s Cold War in the form of the Space Race. Gagarin’s Start, part of Baikonur Cosmodrome launched both the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, and first manned spacecraft, the Vostok 1. The Kennedy Space Center was the site of the first trip to another celestial body, as well as the space shuttle program that ushered in a new age of scientific discovery and international cooperation, in the form of the International Space Station serviced by both the United States and Russia.

4. Historic New Orleans, Louisiana

The French Quarter (Vieux Carre) comprises a little less than a square mile of buildings dating from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, with an array of cultural influences – Spanish, French, and Afro-Caribbean – that has played a critical role in America’s culture, and the world’s. Culturally the area may be most famous for Bourbon Street. Other historically significant districts besides the French Quarter include Treme, of tremendous global important as the site where jazz was invented as well as being a major influence in the blues, zydeco and Cajun culture generally. As the mouth of the Mississippi, it has played a very important role in the country’s military, economic, and cultural heritage including the development of steamboat technology in the 1800s by Robert Fulton.

5. New York City Cultural Landscape, New York
(Skyscraper Ensemble: Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, Woolworth Building, Metropolitan Life Insurance Tower, Times Square, Brooklyn Bridge, United Nations Headquarters, Central Park, Seagram Building, Federal Hall National Memorial, Grand Central Terminal, 9/11 Memorial)

New York is the largest city in America; located on the island of Manhattan it is considered one of the critical ports and cultural centers of the world. Initially settled by Native Americans the Dutch created permanent settlements in the early 1600s, with the English gaining control before the 18th century. It was part of the American Revolution, and was the city where Washington was inaugurated and Congress first convened. As the entrance for millions of immigrants in the 19th century the city grew significantly, and the city became an important focus of industrial developments. The growth of Wall Street in the 20th century lead to New York becoming a financial center, while movements such as the Harlem Renaissance, the East Village, and New York’s museums solidified a cultural influence. Perhaps most famously New York is home to Broadway – the leading light in global theater. Skyscrapers reached new heights in New York, as well as other engineering feats and designs into the mid-century. Finally the adoption of New York as the location of the United Nations cemented the importance of the city in world affairs.

6. Electric Pioneers, New Jersey and New York (Thomas Edison National Historic Park and Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe)

The workshops of Edison and Tesla capture the place where the modern world began to become electrified. Menlo Park saw the invention of the commercially viable light bulb, the phonograph, and significant improvement in the technology that allowed for moving pictures. Tesla's Wardenclyffe saw a giant batshit crazy "wireless energy" tower (since demolished) but the original building - designed by noted American architect Stanford white- still remains.

7. Ford Plants, Michigan (Piquette, River Rouge, Highland)

The assembly-line, the industrial, interchangeable parts revolution began with Ford's practices of industrial design. The three locations, from what was basically a small garage (where the first Model T was made) to the massive factory structures and plants that came to dominate the 20th century's reliance on mass market economies and production and mass consumption lifestyles.

8. Historic Jamestowne and Fort Raleigh, Virginia and North Carolina (Jamestown National Historic Site and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site)

Where it all began - the foothold that started the British on the path to becoming an empire. The origins of North America's colonization, and the origins of North America's slave trade. Unfortunately this designation would be rather difficult to get the U.N.'s 'okay' to preserve. We have located the two areas - but no real surviving structures from those colonies exist (at Jamestown there's part of a church tower from the 1600s - but that's it). Arguably it would not be a viable choice, therefore. If they're feeling generous, however, they totally should.