A few weeks ago we posed a big question: Could our little edu-network make a REAL full-length documentary feature that incorporates kids in every aspect of the production process? It appears we’re going to find out. Within days, hundreds of you volunteered to help make this admittedly…
So here’s the question: You think our little edu-network could make a movie? Like, a REAL full-length documentary feature? As in the next (and better) “Waiting for Superman?” One that kids had a big role in producing?
What you need to do is understand these changes are happening, and build systems and governments and ways of thinking that are resilient to this kind of destructive change that is going to happen. It’s a kind of change that is really hard to predict, it’s really hard to control, so…
Here are a few notes about the creation of my list:
I created the list by scrolling through my mp3 collection. I’m fairly certain I have every Tom Waits studio album; songs on compilations and such may not have been considered.
I did not re-listen to any Tom Waits songs as I made this list. It was based totally on my memory of the songs and the lasting impression I have of them. Some of the songs on this list I have probably not listened to in over a year (and now that makes me a little sad for myself).
I am listening to each song on the list as I write about each one in this post, so my thoughts below are based on that as well as my long-standing feelings about these songs.
And now, the list itself:
Honorable Mention: The entire Swordfishtrombonesalbum
I started this process by making a list which contained 29 songs. No fewer than 4 of them were from Swordfishtrombones. None of those songs made the final 15. However, after Bone Machine, Swordfishtrombones is probably Waits’ most cohesive album and it is full of great songs (“In The Neighborhood,” “Gin Soaked Boy,” and, of course, “16 Shells From a Thirty-Ought-Six” come to mind). If this list contained 20 songs, it is likely that numbers 16 through 20 would all be from Swordfishtrombones.
Honorable Mention: “Dog Door”
This song was my final cut to get to a list of 15. It is probably the Tom Waits’ song that I have listened to more than any other since it was released as part of the Orphans boxed set. It is a perfect representation of his current beat-boxing craziness the pinnacle of this particular Waits sub-genre (of which there have been many through the years). With its pounding bass and percussion, electronic scratches and screeches, and eery repetition of the words “Pitchfork, Crowbar, Claw-Hammer, Hot Tar,” it has become my go to song when I just want to blast out something loud and weird (particularly while driving). However, when it came down to final decision time, I just couldn’t bring myself to call it one of his greatest songs.
#15 “Heartattack and Vine”
The title song from Waits’ 1980 album didn’t make a strong impression on me for a long time. In fact, its inclusion on this list is based almost entirely on a concert experience. For his Orphans tour in 2006, which I saw at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, Waits’ used a fairly straightforward four-piece rock band arrangement, which led to some pretty original and generally more guitar heavy arrangements of some classics. “Heartattack” was one of them. He and his band turned this catchy and rhythmic, but relatively slow, song into a straight ahead rocker, which turned out to be one the highlights of the show for me. At least, that’s how I remember it, and why this previously ignored by me song sneaks into my top 15. Also, the title of this blog is a lyric from “Heartattack and Vine,” so that pretty much necessitated its inclusion here, as well.
#14 “Jersey Girl”
Also from the Heartattack and Vine album, this song has slipped in my mental ranking as the title track has climbed. If you had asked me ten years ago, this song would easily have been in the top 5. One of Tom Waits’ only songs that can really be characterized as a straightforward love song, this one evokes the lustful passion of young love in summer and the exasperating exuberance of spending this time at the Jersey Shore. Did it just sound like I was actually describing a Bruce Springsteen song there? You wouldn’t be too far off, as this song is a common feature in Bruce’s live set, complete with an original verse. The only problem is… Bruce’s version and verse lose the edgier passion of the original (and as a huge Springsteen fan that was hard to write). Over time as the versions have blended together in my memory, my feeling about Waits’ original has diminished slightly.
#13 “Come On Up To the House”
Mule Variations has always felt like an epic album to me. Although it contains a similar number of tracks to many of his other albums (sixteen, in this case), those tracks run the gamut of Waits styles making it feel less cohesive than some others, while still being a great starting point for a new listener. There are several great songs on Mule Variations, but the final song, “Come On Up To the House” is the only one to make this list. With possibly the most optimistic lyrics of any Waits song coupled with a strong but simple piano line and droning bass clarinet part, it is hard not to get sucked in to this triumphant conclusion to the Mule Variations experience.
#12 “Dirt in the Ground”
The first song on the list from my favorite Tom Waits album, Bone Machine. It’s a fairly straightforward dirge about our inevitable deaths with its lyrics “We’re all gonna be just dirt in the ground,” its imagery of flesh eating buzzards, and its biblical references to Cain and Abel. The droning bass clarinet is a great musical touch, but the hook is Waits forcing his deep growl into an unsettling falsetto. The vocal part is certainly not easy listening, but it can chill you to the bone.
#11 “Make It Rain”
This song from Real Gone was another highlight from that 2006 Ryman Auditorium show. Unlike ”Heartattack and Vine,” which I was inspired to reexamine, I was already sold on “Make It Rain.” Like the live “Heartattack,” this one is another guitar, bass, and drum rocker. Like the previously mentioned “Dirt In the Ground,” this one also features a prominent Cain and Abel reference. Unlike either of them, this more recent song highlights a tone of defiant anger that has become prevalent, for better or worse, in some of his recent work.
#10 “Anywhere I Lay My Head”
The closing track from Waits’ 1985 masterpiece Rain Dogs, “Anywhere I Lay My Head” might be the most comforting song ever written. It is certainly the most comforting song ever written by Waits. Comforting is not something I usually go for in music, but everyone needs a song they can sit alone and listen to whenever they are feeling a little bit out of place. This one is mine.
A beat poem set to music, one of the most captivating musical elements of “Time” is how from time to time Waits will almost set the song off time with just a slight
#8 “Innocent When You Dream (78)”
Here, at the center of my list, is the song that introduced me to the music of Tom Waits. “Innocent When You Dream (78)” is featured prominently in the final scene of the movie Smoke (seen above).I remember very little of that movie now, however for probably two years after watching it and hearing this song I listened to nothing but Tom Waits. Like many of Waits’ songs, “Innocent” is a song about regret and failure. Like many of his best, it is also about forgiveness and hope.
#7 “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets To the Wind In Copenhagen)”
This is the song everyone uses to introduce someone new to the music of Tom Waits. Why? Because it’s epic, yet accessible; it tells a story, yet leaves much open to interpretation; chronologically it’s Waits’ first great song, yet it holds its own with everything that followed; and it’s utterly heartbreaking.
#6 “Hoist That Rag”
Unlike the aforementioned Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits typically avoids anything political in his songs and if the the horrendous “Road to Peace” is an indication, that’s a good tendency. On the other hand, if he wrote more songs like “Hoist That Rag,” a sarcastic rant against the war in Iraq that out-preaches and out-rocks anything on Springsteen’s album Magic that tackles the same themes. I could also go on and on about the great percussion on the track from Waits’ son Casey, but then I’d have to go on and on about Les Claypool’s bass work, which would only highlight how much I was neglecting a discussion of how Marc Ribot created one of the best guitar riffs of all time for this song.
#5 “Goin’ Out West”
"Goin’ Out West" may be the one Tom Waits song you can refer to as Rock and Roll without feeling any need to qualify the statement. Hard driving drums, distorted guitar, and as macho as can be ("I’ve got hair on my chest. I look good without a shirt."), this song is all about being an American man in search of his American dream. It just rocks. Hard.
#4 “Train Song”
In the music of Tom Waits, trains represent similar things that rivers represent in the music of Bruce Springsteen (final Springsteen reference, I promise) - the long and winding journey of life, full of hope, sadness, wonder, mystery, and death. Waits has many songs featuring trains but there is only one “Train Song.”
#2 (tie) “Christmas Card From a Hooker in Minneapolis” and “Kentucky Avenue”
This pair of story songs from the otherwise subpar Blue Valentines album have always felt to me like two sides of the same coin. In “Kentucky Avenue” the teenage protagonist sings to her friend of the mischief they could get into if she could break him free of his wheelchair. In the end she longs for them to leave their midwestern home and hop a freight train to New Orleans; however, we all know that in the end she must eventually leave on her own. Years later our protagonist writes a Christmas Card for her old childhood friend in the wheelchair, who we now know as Charlie. Having turned to prostitution she is now pregnant and in legal trouble. But, she tells Charlie, everything is about to change since she found a new husband who will love her and help raise her child despite her past. In the end though, she must reveal that this is just another fairy tale, and, as we can assume she has many times before, she asks Charlie for a loan to get her through this rough patch in her life. As a two part story, these already brilliantly devastating songs are imbued with an unmatchable emotional force.
#1 “That Feel”
At the end of the day, this closing song from Bone Machine tells you everything you need to know about the music of Tom Waits. Simple yet filled with so many contradictions - despair and hope, sadness and joy, victory and defeat, life and death. Once Tom Waits gets his musical hooks into you, you know instantly that the one thing you can never lose is “That Feel.”
So, @JWPhilly has found an article stating people are either Raindogs or Bone Machine. I’ve got to disagree. The Waits catalogue is a broad church. Dependent on your system, it’s Grand Weepers and Grim Reapers, or Brawlers, Bawlers and Bastards. Jazz or Weird.
“When it comes to the rather expansive catalog of Tom Waits, there tends to be two flagship albums in the running for title of the idiosyncratic songwriter’s best work. There’s Rain Dogs from 1985, a record close to the hearts of fans and critics alike, and then there is 1992’s Bone Machine, a different beast altogether, the one you don’t dare trifle with until you’re good and ready. Rain Dogs is the one longtime fans use to introduce Waits to the uninitiated, it being a sampler of sorts showcasing every one of his various personas and being experimental but not too jarring. Bone Machine, though, is the one fans keep hidden amongst themselves, a secret treasure only the devout are privy to and the seasoned are worthy of.”—
Soon, @benmorse and I will be publishing our “15 best Tom Waits songs” lists. Since everyine is obviously quivering with anticipation over that, here’s a little teaser. One of us is a Raindogs guy, the other a Bone Machine guy. Who is who should be clear very soon, if its not already.
“One of the things that happens in schools is that people think they can divorce things curriculum and pedagogy from the other systems and structures that exist in schools - things like food service and discipline and parent relationships and hiring and the dozens of other processes and interactions that happen in schools, but it is our experience that is not the case. When you have a vision for what a school can be, it has to permeate every pore of the school.”—Chris Lehmann http://practicaltheory.org/serendipity/index.php?/archives/1346-Everything-Matters.html
“The gun is not a mere tool, a bit of technology, a political issue, a point of debate. It is an object of reverence. Devotion to it precludes interruption with the sacrifices it entails. Like most gods, it does what it will, and cannot be questioned. Its acolytes think it is capable only of good things. It guarantees life and safety and freedom. It even guarantees law. Law grows from it. Then how can law question it?”—Our Moloch by Garry Wills | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books
“We have grown accustomed to what will happen next. The President will likely visit a funeral or a memorial service and, at greater length, comfort the families of the victims, the community, and the nation. He will be eloquent. He will give voice to the common grief, the common confusion, the common outrage. But then what? A “conversation”? Let there be a conversation. But also let there be decisive action from a President who is determined not only to feel our pain but, calling on the powers of his office, feel the urge to prevent more suffering. His reading of the Constitution should no longer be constrained by a sense of what the conventional wisdom is in this precinct or that. Let him begin his campaign for a more secure and less violent America in the state of Connecticut.”—David Remnick on Newtown and what Obama must do about guns: http://nyr.kr/UGJBMA (via newyorker)
“Homework is an institution roundly disliked by all who participate in it. Children hate it for healthy and obvious reasons; parents hate it because it makes their children unhappy, but God forbid they should get a check-minus or other less-than-perfect grade on it; and teachers hate it because they have to grade it. Grading homework is teachers’ never-ending homework. Compared to that, Sisyphus lucked out.
Supporters of homework say that it’s a way of getting parents involved in their children’s education by bringing school into the home, and that has to be a good thing. But it’s also likely (contrary to President Hollande’s assumption) that the people most hostile to homework are affluent parents who want their children to spend their after-school time taking violin lessons and going to Tae Kwon Do classes—activities that are more enriching and (often) more fun than conjugating irregular verbs. Less affluent parents are likely to prefer more homework as a way of keeping their kids off the streets. If we provided after-school music lessons, museum trips, and cool sports programs to poor children, we could abolish homework in a French minute. No one would miss it. ♦”—
“When asked to explain why they serve so many veggies, the French parents mentioned “taste development”, which is prioritized by French paediatricians and parenting books! The FSP tells parents: children’s appetite diminishes around the age of 2 years old. This is when ‘neophobia’ (fear of new foods) tends to appear (in about 3 out of 4 children).
The FSP makes other recommendations that the AAP might not agree with. For example, they recommend putting your baby on a ‘four meals a day’ feeding schedule from around 9 months old: breakfast, lunch, snack (which is like a mini-meal), and dinner. They recommend sticking to this rigorously. The AAP suggests, in contrast, three meals and three snacks per day (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack). It’s worth noting that France has the lowest rate of child obesity in the developed world–by far. When I moved to France, I know I found it very hard to believe that my daughters (then in kindergarten and preschool) didn’t need to be constantly eating. But according to the French they can wait comfortably between meals–even as babies.”—
Good eating habits are learned from a young age. It’s a lot easier to prevent childhood obesity than to cure it. Plus, there has to be some satisfaction in raising a child who realizes that a carrot actually tastes better than a chicken nugget.
“Seventy-one per cent of the people in this country want strict controls over all privately owned guns. That figure, which was recently published by the Gallup Poll, represents all regions, and all age groups and all kinds of people, including gun owners. Their common desire for limits on the possession of firearms is not a sudden, nervous desire set off by the assassination attempt on Governor George C. Wallace or by the latest alarming statistics on the crime rate. Rather, polls taken over the past generation show that around three-quarters of the public has consistently felt this way. Though it is true that a democracy moves sluggishly in response to the push and pull of contending factions, a full generation seems a long time for a demand by the American public to go unmet…”—A Gun-Control Debate, Forty Years Ago: Click-through to read more from Richard Harris’s Comment piece in August, 1972 http://nyr.kr/MUmSaC (via newyorker)
“This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ours, cause we don’t give a darn. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that’s all we wanted to do”—Message on mimeographed copies of lyrics distributed by Woody Guthrie to fans in the 1930s (via oracionessucias)
Folklorist Alan Lomax spent his career documenting folk music traditions from around the world. Now thousands of the songs and interviews he recorded are available for free online, many for the first time. It’s part of what Lomax envisioned for the collection — long before the age of the Internet.
“No one else could sing a cliché like “This train carries saints and sinners” and still sound not just like they mean it, but that they are reminding us of something vital.”
Click the link for a great track by track review of the new album. I agree with most everything in it. I think the classic rock Springsteen fans won’t find much here to celebrate, but the fans who also appreciate albums like Nebraska, Ghost of Tom Joad, and particularly the Seeger Sessions will have a blast with this one.
Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend On It
Support for Republican candidates, who generally promise to cut government spending, has increased since 1980 in states where the federal government spends more than it collects. The greater the dependence, the greater the support for Republican candidates.
Conversely, states that pay more in taxes than they receive in benefits tend to support Democratic candidates. And Professor Lacy found that the pattern could not be explained by demographics or social issues.
“Young people, ages 12 to 34, are spending less time in front of TV sets, Brian Stelter writes, the first evidence of a generational change in viewing habits. The decline — nine minutes a day from an average of more than four hours — reflects the great number of viewing choices. “Young people are still watching the same shows, but they are streaming them on computers and phones to a greater degree than their parents or grandparents do,” he writes, which could have great meaning for where advertising dollars are directed.”—The Breakfast Meeting: Young People Drift From TV Sets (Which Are Getting Huge!) - NYTimes.com
The expectations of leading universities do much to define what secondary schools teach, and much to establish a template for what it means to be an educated man or woman… . Yet undergraduate education changes remarkably little over time. My immediate predecessor as Harvard president, Derek Bok, famously compared the difficulty of reforming a curriculum with the difficulty of moving a cemetery.
In an earlier era, when many people were involved in surveying land, it made sense to require that almost every student entering a top college know something of trigonometry. Today, a basic grounding in probability statistics and decision analysis makes far more sense.
The Unprecedented Audacity of the iBooks Author EULA
By using [Apple’s new iBooks Author] software, you agree that anything you make with it is in part ours. But if it can say that and have legal force, can’t it say anything? Isn’t this the equivalent of a car dealer trying to bind you to additional terms by sticking a contract in the glove compartment? By driving this car, you agree to get all your oil changes from Honda of Cupertino?
When I make something myself, no matter what software I use to make it, then — assuming it doesn’t infringe any copyrights — it’s my right to distribute it however I want, in whatever format I choose, for free or not. I don’t lose the right to publish my novel if Microsoft determines that I wrote it using a pirated copy of Word. Would I lose that right if I tried to sell my iBook outside of the iBookstore and Apple got wind of it? I don’t know; we’re in uncharted waters here. Or how about this: for a moment I’ll stipulate that Apple’s EULA is valid and I’ve agreed to it implicitly by using the software. Now suppose I create an iBook and give it to someone else who has never downloaded iBooks Author and is not party to the EULA, and that person sells it on their own website. What happens now?
“[A large media company] would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.”—
Early in the morning, iPod dock plays Brahms
Man rises from bed and puts on his TOMS
Man cues up a podcast, walks out in the morning light
It’s the working, the working, just the working life
Through the Skype chats of fear, through the webinars of pain
I see my daddy meeting clients, eating tapas from Spain
Factory Records t-shirt, extra ticket to The Knife
The working, the working, just the working life
End of the day, tripel and duck-fat fries
Men bike through these streets, vintage frames on their eyes
And you just better believe, boy,
somebody’s gonna hear “Holden, remember what your mother and I told you about making positive choices?” tonight
It’s the working, the working, just the working life
"Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Factory’ If His Dad Had Been a Brooklynite Working in Transmedia Platforming"