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Top Records of 2017

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1. Jessica Lea Mayfield- Sorry is Gone (ATO) A stellar collection of personal explorations based on Mayfield's experiences as a domestic abuse survivor. A haunting release which juxtaposes the ethereal quality of her voice with heavy, confessional lyrics. The music is not the singer-songwriter folk of her earlier records but more of a melodic pop.


2. Propaghandi-Victory Lap (Epitaph)  I never thought I would rate a Propaghandi album so highly, but this is a definite stomper of a record. Propaghandi has been putting out metal-tinged records with singalong lyrics and tough melodies for awhile, but on their seventh album, they found the sweet spot, melding their astute political lyrics, which have only gotten more specific over the years, and damn catchy tunes.



3.  War on Drugs-A Deeper Understanding (Atlantic) Adam Granduciel delivers a perfected version of his Americana-tinged singer/songwriter journeys. Greater production and instrumentation that leads many critics to call it hea…

Remonstrance

Swimming through a sea of dross
Conflicted by the tide of the autotuned
Shattered and destroyed like Milo
Wishing the sound would stop
Because I would like to relax
Give me a break, will ya, please
The valley of the underwhelming
Is slapped up against the sea of the banal
I can only find surfeit in the cold comfort
The embrace of the different,
The difficult, the wordy,  the obtuse
The uncommercial, the unredemptive
The challenging, the posed
What gets in? Top 40 pap? Billious rot?
The challenge is to shut it out.
Gimme a hand, will ya? Please.

Loss and Reclamation: My Personal Path to Healing after Graduate School

Over the past few years, I feel like I have begun to slowly unravel. I feel like I lost part of myself that I might not be able to reclaim. I am far more tired than I feel I have the right to be. But I also have never learned how not to be hard on myself. A colleague told me recently that "you are always so hard on yourself. You have to learn your self worth." Nothing could be truer, but it is hard to rediscover my value because of my own negative thoughts and self-deprecation. All the stress from my PhD studies is finally catching up with me. When I was working on my dissertation, I never had that much time to worry because I was so busy trying to get it done. Now I feel even busier. I teach five classes and have five tutoring sessions on top of it. I am working on an article that does not seem to be gelling quite like I want it to, and I hope that I can eventually catch up on sleep.

My stress management seems to be failing me. I get home after a busy day at work and prepar…

365 Films in 2017 #359-365

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359. Jamaica Inn (1939), Alfred Hitchcock, Mayflower


360. Attenberg (2010), Athina Rachel Tsangari


361. Stagecouch (1939), John Ford, United Artists


362. Eating Raoul (1982), Paul Bartel, 20th Century Fox


363. Charulata (1964), Satyajit Ray, R.D. Bansal & Company



364. Les Diaboliques (1955), Henri-Georges Clouzot, Cinedis


365. Sicario (2015), Denis Villeneuve, Lionsgate


The Legacy of the Joke Band (Disguised as an Analysis of Ween): Part One

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Recently, my friend Joe and I were continuing our age-old battle concerning the merits of Ween, a band that is often labeled a joke band, who recently broke up after years of creating musically proficient, genre-bending "joke" songs. A quick search on the internet shows that Ween has battled this label for years, and they probably tend to even welcome it, given such song titles as "Poop Ship Destroyer" and "Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)." Yet in later years, the boys in Ween proved excellent songwriters, who could assemble a killer band. Their various pastiches of different genres helped define the "Ween Sound," a far-reaching enterprise, indeed. Whether creating twisted country records with actual country session musicians on 1996's 12 Golden Country Greats, giving into their psychedelic tendencies completely on 1997's The Mollusk, or perfecting the pop song throughout their catalog, Ween always surprised. The Zappa comparisons were …

The Constant Agitation of Fiction

I often feel the pull of the written word, encouraging me to read and write fiction far more than I have time for. Yet I have so many stressors in my life, pulling me in all directions, halting my efforts and sapping my strength. It is all I can do to put a few words down on paper for a book chapter I am working on or scribble a few notes for my movie list. I write this from the standpoint of finishing my doctoral dissertation in the spring, teaching the equivalent of six courses, and trying my best to seek tenure.

During these rough spells, I have been trying to read fiction and slowly writing a little. Someday I hope to get back to my manuscript and at least finish one novel or a few short stories or pull a few more of my grey hairs out. I take comfort in the fact that many are late bloomers to this fiction game. However, I have been writing fiction for more than two decades and have never taken it all that seriously. It is a given, but there is something to be said for sitting down…

365 Films in 2017 #349-358

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349. Fearless (2006), Ronny Yu, Rogue


350. The Cat's-Paw (1934), Sam Taylor, Fox Film Corporation


351. The Plumber (1979), Peter Weir, CEL


352. Rollerball (1975), Norman Jewison, United Artists


353. A Film Unfinished (2010), Yael Hersonski, Oscilloscope


354. Fat Girl (2001), Catherine Breillat, Canal


355. The Apartment (1960), Billy Wilder, United Artists


356. Jules and Jim (1962), François Truffaut, Cinedis




357. A Woman of Paris: A Drama of Fate (1923), Charlie Chaplin, United Artists



358. A King in New York (1957), Charlie Chaplin, Attica