Thursday, August 30, 2012

How Do You Pick the Top 100 Artists of All Time?

I was watching VH1, as I often am when posting genius strikes, and musing on the possibility of being able to determine the "Top 100 Artists of All Time." I mean, how could you possibly try to assemble such a list? Even if they do have such musical luminaries as P Diddy and Chris Jericho voting on the list. We're all too hopelessly boxed in by our own prejudices and limitations to make a real go of things. I, for one, have an appreciation for hip-hop but definitely not to the extent that I could place artists in the general firmament with any accuracy.

And as I watched, I also realized that they were acting like modern music started in the late 1950s. Um, hello? What about Billie Holiday, the Gershwins, Judy Garland, Lena Horne, Artie Shaw, Glen Miller, Irvin Berlin, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, and on and on and on. Are we saying that rock wasn't born out of a combination of big band, blues, and country? Yet none of these pioneers were mentioned.

This kind of show makes you want to make your own list, so I will indulge this urge and make my hopelessly inept list. I'm thinking in terms of innovation and influence, so far as I can see, and who seems to have laid the foundation for what is going on in contemporary music. I'm also going to follow what seemed to be their implied structuring of the rock era and forward, rather than the whole of modern pop music.

20. The Beach Boys
19. Dolly Parton
18. The Rolling Stones
17. Aretha Franklin
16. James Brown
15. Queen
14. Neil Young
13. U2
12. Prince
11. Michael Jackson
10. Radiohead
  9. Chuck Berry
  8. The Who
  7. Elvis Presley
  6. Stevie Wonder
  5. Dusty Springfield
  4. Led Zeppelin
  3. Johnny Cash
  2. Bob Dylan
  1. The Beatles*

Of course these don't necessarily represent my favorite artists and there are so many people who have had a huge impact not on here. But it works from my perspective. Most of the biggest influencers of modern popular music are here. Whew - no wonder they always get so much flack when they try to do these! It's damn near impossible.

*I decided to leave individual artists off of my list in favor of their bands. However, I would place Paul McCartney at #21. Not John Lennon. Ever Beatles fan must choose a side and I have chosen the right side**, i.e. Paul. Paul McCartney is the closest thing we have to Mozart in terms of generating an astonishing number of beautiful melodies. Most of the Beatles songs that have gained universal love are due to his melodic genius. When Paul is bad, he's a little sappy and sentimental. When John is bad, he's like your crazy uncle who is getting drunk and naked at your cousin's christening. So let's end the madness and get real. Paul is not dead - Paul is awesome.

**"Preference" questions can have right answers. Like, would you rather your lover have a metal hand (a la Anakin Skywalker) or a withered hand (a la Mr. Rochester)? The right answer is withered hand. Metal versus human flesh? Please.

Who do you think the most influential artist of all time is?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The State of the Franklynn

So... I've been a little MIA. I have received several pointed texts and comments about my blogosphere absence, which I take to mean at least some of you guys have missed me. To those who have been wondering where I am, I apologize and I'll catch you up. To those who haven't, no harm, no foul.

Well, I'm officially unemployed - yay! I'm officially completely packed/shipped for Vancouver and unpacked in Knoxville - yay! I'm officially a TN permanent resident and a soon to be Canadian temporary resident - yay! I've been all around town getting all of the necessary ducks in a row and I will tell you what. It is a full time job. Praise the Lord that I've had so much time off to get everything taken care of or I quite possibly could have turned into a sniveling mess.

The result of so much good productivity, however? I have had little time or energy for three of my favorite things: reading, writing, and blogging. Luckily, most of my to-do list is crossed off at this point (what an amazingly satisfying feeling), so that means I will be devoting some quality time to visiting with friends and doing a lot of those other 3 things.

As things quiet down a little bit before the big move, I'm taking some time to reflect on what the last 3 years have been about. What did that time mean for me as a person? I probably won't really understand that for years to come, but it's been illuminating to start to process those questions. You will likely see the fruit of some of that in the next few days, but I'll do my best to keep in entertaining and not emo. ;)

I am heartily ready to be settled down in Vancouver, which I will be as of this Saturday. Prayers and good wishes are much appreciated as we get back and forth on the boarder with all my stuff. I am very thankful and lucky that my parents are going to help me out with the move - I know that I can do these things by myself, but it is so much easier and less stressful to have people there to support me. I would have been miserable if my dad and aunt hadn't helped me so much with the move from DC (and my uncle with the most amazing ribs of all time). It's a good and humbling thing for me to ask for help and I'm lucky that I have a family who always rises to the occasion.

Anyways, that's where I've been. We will be flying out first thing on Friday (prayers that United doesn't lose all the luggage!) and then I will be an official Canadian temporary resident. I kind of can't believe this is really happening...

What have you been up to in the last hazy, crazy days of summer?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Books Like Whoa: A Bookish State of the Union

Hola, mes amis! I've been off the grid for the last few weeks as I've been making the transition from life in DC/working full time to life in Knoxville then Vancouver/being a full time student. I'll post later on the general state of the Franklynn, but for now, The Broke and the Bookish's book survey is the perfect vehicle to update you on my bookish life.

So without further ado...

  • The book I'm currently reading: Death in the City of Light by David King... It's a fascinating subject (a serial killer on the loose in Nazi-occupied Paris), but the writing isn't spectacular. It's entertaining enough to keep me going.
  • The last book I finished: Inside Scientology by Janet Reitman... Help me, this was a fantastic read. I really appreciated the reporter's attempt to keep an objective tone and portray this cult (and by the end of the book, that is clearly what it is) with an even hand. Look for a review coming soon.
  • The next book I want to read: Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon... I got about 33% of the way through right before the move and got distracted, but it was lovely thus far and I want to get back to it ASAP.
  • The last book I bought: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson... I am trying to get all of her works because she's kind of what I want to be when I grow up. I got this one from my favorite used bookstore and I'm looking forward to diving in.
  • The last book I was given: Mystery and Manners by Flannery O'Connor... My best friend from high school, Jolene, gave this to me when I was visiting in Nashville. She enjoyed it in her MFA program and wanted to pass the love along. It has her annotations, which I just love in any book. You feel like you're reading it with that person.

What are you reading right now?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Books Like Whoa: Jonah Lehrer vs. The Bob Dylan Fan Club Mafia

Jonah Lehrer has done it this time. He has invoked the wrath of the Bob Dylan Fan Club Mafia and he will not escape unscathed. They will be burning copies of Imagine on his lawn for years to come

I mostly just wanted to marvel at my own serendipitous timing. I happened to post my own review of the book on Monday... which happened to be the day the dogpile hit the fan for poor old Jonah.  The very same day, as a matter of fact. I guess I was just clairvoyant on the timing - I could smell the controversy in the air. Tablet magazine uncovered that Lehrer had outright made up quotations from Bob Dylan in the early chapters of the books- the ultimate journalistic no-no. Not to mention the fact that he chose to do this to one of the most iconic and obsessively loved figures of our time - did he really think no one was going to sniff that out?

On top of the "self-plagiarism" allegations that emerged about a month ago (which I chose not to mention in my original assessment, in an effort to give Lehrer the benefit of the doubt), Lehrer's reputation is pretty much in shambles at this point - his publisher's have even pulled the book from stores, making my links in the original review moot. I guess I should hold onto my copy, as it is now an artifact of journalism gone very wrong.

What do we say about an author who has so clearly gone astray? Well, probably a lot of the same things that Oprah said to James Fry. Or Ira Glass said to Mike Daisy (BTW - there is no force more terrifying than the terrible fury of an Ira Glass spurned).

People mess up - they want to make a grand point and instead of doing the hard work that sticking to the facts often requires, they take short cuts. They create what they need to be able to say "finish" and then hope that their charm and powers of persuasion can override any dissent. What's sad in all of the cases I mentioned is that by adding some simple clarifications, these storytellers could have more or less made the same point without having their message undermined. Imagine is no less a thought provoking book for not having those Dylan quotes, or even for not having a lot of hard science in it. It's still an interesting case study compilation that gets at a few interesting questions about the creative process. That makes Lehrer's decision to lie all the more sad.

I've updated my review with some of these thoughts, but wanted to put a separate post as well - not trying to self-plagiarize here ;)

What do you think of the latest crazy literary/journalistic rodeo?