Thanksgiving Jam

It is Thanksgiving, and I'm finally returning to the blog. I've been working on a lot of academic publications lately, and I've been neglecting my other work. I was hoping I would not have to write another of these in-between blog posts that explain why I've been away, but here I am. I'm full of turkey and pie, and I've been spending the evening worrying about the draft of my current article.

Soon, probably when the new year starts, I will be moving this blog to another site in hopes of increasing traffic and returning to a regular schedule. I will be giving myself a goal of writing one post a week. Many of these new posts will be about my personal adventures with music over the past twenty years. I've meant to write a few more personal blog posts for a long time, and I will be finally doing it. I also want to return to the Track This posts. My final consideration is that I want to write more about roots music and film. I have not even listened to that many…

Late Night Radio Revisited

I've always listened to audio late at night. As a kid, I would flip the dial of my tiny boombox  and listen to whatever weird audio oddities I could find. I was never content with listening to the average music that saturated the FM bands, so I often would switch over to the AM dial to find suitable alternatives. I have written before about playing pool and listening to the radio while always searching for something interesting. Other times I would record myself talking or intersperse my dialogue with snippets from the radio and television and listen to them over and over again. I particularly loved recording dialogue from old television shows on Nick At Nite. Sometimes I even recorded full episodes and listened to them. It's sad that I never found that many old time radio shows.

My great aunt Alice had a ham radio, and I remember loving when she would go on and find people from other countries and places talking. I knew nothing about numbers stations at that time, but I reme…

Seasonal Shifts: DeGray Lake Resort Island Trail

My wife, Carrie, and I hit the trails yesterday and took some cool pictures on the DeGray Lake Resort Island Trail. We were not expecting to find so much wildlife. We saw many deer and a fox family lurking near their den.

Fruit Snacks

When I was a kid, my family and I would travel from Park Falls to Minocqua, Wisconsin to go shopping. On these trips, I would look out the window when I was not reading. We would drive an hour across State Highway 70 through the scenic Riley Lake Wildlife Management Area, a 1,252 area of bogs, spruce trees, and acidic Muskeg soil. I always distinctly remember the Tamarack bogs, where spindly yellow trees contrasted sharply with the green grass they grew past. Sometimes, I imagined these bogs would overtake the earth, spreading the thin trees across the globe, their full tops seemingly overshadowed by their lank trunks. Yet, somehow, they would overpower, despite great odds. These bogs contrasted sharply with conifer groves of blue spruce trees and balsams. Swatches of poplars were also common, as well as stands of maple and alder thickets. I marveled at the different trees and grasses, and felt an affinity for the boggy landscape. I used to walk through similar bogs with my grandfath…

USA Up All Night, or Why I Watch B-Movies

Even before I knew I was a film buff, I watched USA Up All Night, which ran from 1989 to 1998 for over 900 episodes on USA Network, learning more about B Movies than I probably ever needed to know as a teenager. I would enthusiastically tune in most Friday and Saturday nights to watch Rhonda Shear or Gilbert Gottfried screen a particular doozy of a b-movie. Before commercial breaks and between the films, they provided humorous commentary on the films and performed in skits. A notable one with Gilbert Gottfried involved him contending for the position of the fifth Ramone.

The films on the show varied in quality and classic status, but many of them were movies that would not have had so prominent a platform on other networks during the time period. Many became cult classics. These films included much of the Troma catalog, including The Toxic Avenger (1984) and Class of Nuke 'Em High (1989). Both of these movies blew my mind as I was unprepared for the low budget film making, levels…

Fears at the Door

Fear felt different when I was a child.

I remember cowering under the covers once after someone knocked on the door in the middle of the night. I could hear faint adult voices. I think I remember my father telling him that he could not stay here. I stayed under the covers shaking with fear.

Another childhood instance of fear occurred when my uncle first told me the urban legend of "The Killer in the Backseat," where a woman driving on a dark road late at night is annoyed by a truck behind her flashing its lights. She stops at a gas station to get away from her pursuer and finds out that there was a man in her back seat with a knife. The person in the truck was only trying to warn her. Of course, certain details of this story are obviously apocryphal, but it serves its purpose of cautioning people to look in the back seat. I still always do when I get in the car. As a child, this story was very scary to me, and I took it at face value.

Another time I felt true fear was when m…

Top Films of 2018: 5-1

5. Ms. 45 (1981), Abel Ferrara, Image
For some reason, I have watched too many of this sort of film recently. Revenge fantasy movies are a dime a dozen, but Abel Ferrara's film is better than most. It follows Thana, a mute seamstress, who takes revenge on her rapists. The film is highly stylized and the cinematography is spectacular for a low-budget grindhouse feature. Ferrara respects Thana for the most part and allows her to get her revenge in fairly unexpected ways. The film starts off with cascading violence (Thana is raped twice in the first ten minutes), and I expected a much sleazier picture, but Ferrara's attention to detail and the great performance by Zoe Tamerlis Lund, without any dialogue no less, redeems a picture that on paper could read like an eighty-minute exercise in sadism. The brisk pacing and running time no doubt help.

4. The Thin Man (1934), W.S. Van Dyke, MGM
The Thin Man is not a faithful adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's novel, but it is a…