Special birthday edition in honor of my first son, Brendan! All hot-linked for his special day!
#1 DEEP DIVE INTO MUSCLE SHOALS MUSIC:
A. Documentary: “Muscle Shoals” (Magnolia Pictures) 2013
Tucked into the northwest corner of Alabama, hard up against the Tennessee River, Colbert County is home to legendary musicians and recording studios known collectively under the name “Muscle Shoals.” Starting with Aretha Franklin, Percy Sledge, Arthur Alexander, Etta James, Clarance Carter, and Wilson Pickett in the 1960s, a stunning list of musicians have trekked to the area to tap into the funky soul sound that has birthed scores of hit records.
Whatever the music might feel like, the story behind it isn’t always a joyful one, but the results are indisputable. This documentary tells a beautiful and tragic story, because, in real life, such things exist side-by-side. Two studios square off across the Tennessee in this story, FAME in Muscle Shoals and Muscle Shoals Sound in Sheffield. One, FAME, started it all, and eventually, Muscle Shoals had the musicians that started it all, The Swampers.
B. “On the Shoulders of Giants,” by Amy C. Collins, The Bitter Southerner blog, May 12, 2020 — What’s happening in Muscle Shoals today? Single Lock Recording Studio is trying to carry on, while redefining Southern Rock.
Writes Collins: “Music nerds who happen also to be highly skilled and accomplished musicians run Single Lock. Three of the five owners regularly play on the albums the label produces, tour with those bands, or are solo artists on the roster. They know great music, they know phenomenal songwriting, and they are on a clear mission to collect great new music across the region.”
#2 GREAT READ: “The Sickness in Our Food Supply” by Michael Pollan, New York Review of Books The pandemic is, willy-nilly, making the case for deindustrializing and decentralizing the American food system, breaking up the meat oligopoly, ensuring that food workers have sick pay and access to health care, and pursuing policies that would sacrifice some degree of efficiency in favor of much greater resilience. Somewhat less obviously, the pandemic is making the case not only for a different food system but for a radically different diet as well.
#3 WORDS OF THE DAY:
Stochastic — “randomly determined; having a random probability distribution or pattern that may be analyzed statistically but may not be predicted precisely.”
But if you collect enough stochastic (random) data leading up to a specific event you can anticipate a reasonably assured outcome. It just occurred to me, that a typically incoherent Trump speech is an exercise in stochastic patterns — if you listen long enough it will sort of begin to sound coherent.
Scrilla — money. Overheard in an episode of “Billions” (I think.) in which some pissed off older dude is ripping into a punk programmer who invested his “scrilla” and lost 10 percent acting vanilla. The older guy tells him he may not know the latest computer lingo but he sees lies when he looks into the kid’s eyes. He’s right. The kid was skimming his scrilla.
#4 YOUR ISLAND IN THIS SEA OF UNCERTAINTY: A Looney Tunes “High Note” (1960) directed by Chuck Jones and featuring a mashup of “The Blue Danube” and “Little Brown Jug,” as only Warner Bros. could conceive it:
#5 ORDERING IN: From La Cucina di Afrodita — Cauliflower Fritters for lunch and Portobello Mushroom Lasagna for dinner. (Below)
Portions are large so you can freeze or refrigerate leftovers but at the rate those fritters are going, they don’t stand a chance. So good! Extensive menu and delightful people, Justin and Laura! (Also, check out the food photography on their website — incredible!
#6 MULTI-TASKING: Take Moppit for her afternoon walk, stop in for the mail — two New Yorkers! — and shop for produce. I also did my laundry today. Who says life is boring?
Absolutely nothing to report. Life goes on. Some people wear masks, some don’t. Heard that one local hospital, H+, has closed for lack of business. Go figure.
#7 PODCASTS WHILE WALKING: Tougher than it sounds. The other day I was listening to a podcast, adjusting my glasses, and stepping off the curb into space — all at the same time! I went down in a modified tuck and roll then laid there very still and whispered hoarsely, “Oh fuck.” That was a first. A scraped knee, bruised hand, and temporary loss of dignity about sums it up. But about today …
A. NYT Rabbit Hole, Episode 5: “Accidental emperor”. That would be Internet sensation KewDiePie, a guy who basically acts like, well, a guy and is followed by 100 million people and makes $15 million a year saying and doing what he wants for his Bro fans. And you’ve NEVER heard of him?
Next week, Rabbit Hole interviews KewDiePie (Felix Kjellberg of Sweden). But you should binge the entire series. It is a revelation.
B. NYT The Daily, “Reopening warily” — A Louisiana restaurant owner outlines the heartbreaking and financially crushing choices she and her husband face in deciding to reopen. It seems there are no good options. And an autistic daughter with a compromised immune system must be factored in.
C. Sugar Calling, “There’s a quiet all over the world” — Host Cheryl Strayed calls the former poet laureate Billy Collins. They talk about the role silence plays in poetry and in this pandemic. Collins reads several poems, including his own “The Names,” written in honor of the 9/11 victims but resonates today.
#8 GREAT READ, Part 2: “Tinker, Tailor, Mobster, Trump” in PREVAIL blog, by Greg Olear. An intriguing look at the mob ties of Donald Trump — both Russian and home-grown. When you find yourself saying “This behavior makes no sense at all,” it is stories like this that pull the pieces together and provide the elusive rationales.