As many of you may already know, the Brattle Theatre in Harvard Square is in serious trouble. Due to rising costs and declining attendance, they may be forced to close their doors at the end of this year, unless they can raise enough money to pay off past debts and stay in business.

Run by the non-profit Brattle Film Foundation, the Theatre is a film lover's institution, and the only single-screen moviehouse left in the Boston area. I've probably seen hundreds of films at the theatre during my eight years living in Boston; I also volunteered in the Foundation's offices from 2002-04.

In order to help the BFF realize its goal, I'm participating in the BRATTLE MOVIE WATCH-A-THON on a team with other members of my film group. Sort of like a walk-a-thon, the goal is to see as many films at the Brattle as possible between Nov. 11 and Dec. 4, and solicit pledges, with all proceeds going towards the BFF.

If you're interested in helping out, you can make a pledge by credit card by clicking here. For more info on the Preserve the Brattle Legacy Campaign, go here.



What better way to celebrate this blog's third anniversary than with its first ever picture? Yes, we've entered the 21th Century at last. I took this snapsnot the last time I was in my hometown (July 2003). I believe it's the interior of a vintage Milwaukee Railroad lounge car. It was on display in front of the Milwaukee Art Museum as part of a fascinating exhibit on Brooks Stevens, a mid-20th Century industrial designer who was responsible for, among other things, the 1950s re-design of the beloved Oscar-Mayer Weinermobile (which was also on display in all of its gargantuan phallic glory).

Thanks to everyone (anyone?) reading this. I've thought about doing a little redesign myself, but I have to admit this particular template fits both this blog's title and mood perfectly. Here's to another year of silliness and occasional sublimity.



October 2005: CD-R

1975: Disco Tex and His Sex-O-Lettes, "Get Dancin'"
1976: Stevie Wonder, "I Wish"
1977: Blondie, "(I'm Always Touched By Your) Presence, Dear"
1978: Patti Smith, "Because The Night"
1980: David Bowie, "Fashion"
1982: Indeep, "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life"
1985: The B-52's, "Summer of Love"
1986: They Might Be Giants, "She's An Angel"
1988: Morrissey, "Suedehead"
1989: The Mekons, "Learning To Live On Your Own"
1991: Kirsty MacColl, "Walking Down Madison"
1993: The Magnetic Fields, "Strange Powers"
1994: Ani DiFranco, "Hell Yeah"
1996: Amy Rigby, "20 Questions"
1998: Emm Gryner, "Summerlong"
1999: Super Furry Animals, "Northern Lites"
2000: The Dandy Warhols, "Bohemian Like You"
2002: Ivy, "Kite"
2003: The Weakerthans, "The Reasons"
2004: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, "Me and Mia"
2005: The New Pornographers, "The Bleeding Heart Show"

I turned thirty earlier this year. No, I didn't have the requisite pre-midlife crisis, bemoaning my lost twenties or obsessing over missed opportunities and all the things I hadn't accomplished; a decade ago, I couldn't even imagine myself at 30. All year long, I've been working on a project I started (and originally aborted) two years ago where I reminisced, year by year, what presence music had in my life, and how my tastes had evolved and changed.

Naturally, a lot of my old friends are also hitting the big 3-0 this year, mostly people I knew in high school or college. Every year, I make a mix CD for one particular friend's birthday, which is on November 1. Months ago, knowing her 30th was around the corner, I came up with the idea of crafting a chronological mix that would include one song for each year of her life, from 1975 to the present. Unfortunately, it's awfully hard to fit thirty-one songs on an 80-minute CD-R (and I'm not about to go back to making mix tapes, 120 minutes or not). For awhile, I toyed with the idea of stretching the project across two discs, but that would lack cohesion and purpose--the idea was to pop in one disc and get a clear sense of how music has evolved and changed over three decades.

So, I had to leave out a few years, rather arbitrarily. I originally tried not to skip more than one year in sequence, but damn if I just couldn't find anything I was satisfied with from '83 or '84. The selections here weren't necessarily meant to represent what most music sounded like in a specific year. You could argue that the oddly hip-hop flavored (but by today's standards, relatively tame) "Walking Down Madison" could've only come out in '91, or that "Fashion" practically screams 1980, right down to its very last "beep, beep". However, "Northern Lites" didn't kick off a huge tropicalia revival in '99; nor should "20 Questions" suggest that feminist rockabilly was all the rage in '96.

If anything, the selections feel less representative of their time as the disc goes on and the years fly by. "Get Dancin'", of course, is arguably the most dated track here (although I cheated--it actually came out in 1974, but it made the US top ten in 1975, and it works so well as an opener) and even the most casual listener knows who Blondie and Bowie are. By the late '80s/early '90s (or, when my friend and I were teenagers), there's a noticeable shift towards semipopular and cult artists like The Mekons and The Magnetic Fields (bands, by the way, that I had not heard of at that time). Once I reach the late '90s, there's no attempt whatsoever on my part to include songs that were genuinely popular (though "Bohemian Like You" was huge in Europe after its inclusion in a cell phone ad).

Do the better-known songs from my youth translate as nostalgia for those formative years, while the later, more obscure songs figure in as wish-fulfillment for what I thought should've been popular then? Probably, but it's more like a happy accident--as with every mix I make for a friend, I pick songs I think that person might like. I will say that "The Bleeding Heart Show" is my favorite track of 2005 so far: like many songs I love, its momentum gradually builds until it practically, surprisingly erupts into an euphoric, transcendent outcome (in this case, it's a tremendous "hey la, hey la" chorus). I'm not sure it's a significant advance on "Get Dancin'"; if anything, this mix hopefully suggests that every year produces good music--or at the very least, one memorable song.



Not especially long into this year, I acquired my first computer with a CD-RW drive. The change was as seismic as when I received my first Discman eleven years before. Simply being able to copy a compact disc had unexpectedly grand implications: no more stocking up on analog cassette tapes (often running all over town to find the best deal on this gradually vanishing commodity)! No more patiently sitting and waiting for the dub from disc to tape to be completed in real time! No more worries about whether an album would neatly fit on one side of a 90-minute tape! (I loathed albums that were 46-47 minutes long; on a dub, it was so annoying to have to turn the tape over to get to that last orphaned song). In an exceedingly brief time, I amassed a huge stack of CD-Rs, frequenting libraries far and wide to replace many of the tape dubs I had made since moving to Boston.

If video killed the radio star, then the mix tape was slaughtered by the mix CD. As much as I loved the former, it wasn’t too hard to make the transition. Instead of hours spent crafting out sequences on paper ahead of time and hoping everything would fit tidily on two sides, I could just take the songs I wanted, rip them into my ‘puter, and continually rearrange them in any order. I could even test out the mixes ahead of time before committing to anything permanent. I made my first mix CD for someone I was sorta going out with at the time (he wasn’t worth it), called “Take Your Shoes Off and Throw Them in the Lake” (Kate Bush fans should know where that line’s from). Fortunately, it wasn’t long before I sent CDs to people I’d been making mix tapes for incessantly over the years; I even made one for my mother.

Naturally, CD-Rs aren’t entirely flawless in relation to their analog counterparts: they held less music (more than one-third less than 120-minute cassettes), and, as with the medium in general, something aesthetically appealing was lost when you didn’t have two distinct sides to play around with. Nonetheless, I immediately embraced the new technology, working within the single-side, less-than-eighty-minute parameters to construct something artful and immediate. Still, months later, I was in Milwaukee for nine days, meeting up with my parents and visiting a good friend. I somewhat foolishly brought about 70-80 discs with me (in a large Case Logic notebook), primarily so I could make one last mix tape for my friend on her antiquated boombox.

About a month after I started to make CD-Rs, I received a big cardboard box of discs in the mail. A few weeks before, I had inquired about writing for Splendid, an independent music website that’ll review anything sent to them. I’d submitted two of my own reviews via e-mail, but hadn’t heard whether I got the gig until the box arrived. As a staff writer for the site, I was required to write three reviews per week: one “pick” (300-500 words long, a disc I liked), and two “at a glance” reviews (150-200 words, a disc I didn’t like, or a minor release like a compilation, reissue or tribute album). I tore open and rummaged through my mysterious package. Of the pile of fifteen discs (and press releases) scattered before me, I’d heard of just one band (Arab Strap, whom I only knew by name, not sound). I still remember my first three reviews: Jerry Fels (a DIY-er in the bratty (but amusing) Jonathan Richman mold), Aaron English (okay pianist/songwriter who has listened to Sting’s soundtrack for The Living Sea one too many times) and The Soulthieves (awful, awful bar band from Colorado; I can still remember the melodies to some of their ghastly songs!). Guess which one was the “pick”?

Splendid got me to write on a weekly basis, and thus instilled in me a discipline of the type I had not known since I was a student. And although I had to sift through a lot of a crap (nothing was as execrable as The Soulthieves, despite a band called Shugaazer, which, as my review noted, was soulless, Pro Tool-ed to death hack rock which had nothing whatsoever to do with Ride or My Bloody Valentine), I was exposed to a multitude of musical genres—everything from ambient skronk to Ethiopian jazz. However, it also temporarily (but royally) fucked up the way I listened to music. Making time to absorb three albums per week (never mind the quality) to the point of accumulating enough intelligent stuff to say about each of them was often a maddening task. Along with my rapidly multiplying collection of CD-Rs, it left me with far more music than I knew what to do with. No wonder I didn’t get to hear some of my favorite albums of that year (like The Shins’ Chutes Too Narrow or Ted Leo and the Pharmacists' Hearts of Oak) until the following one.

Go back to 2002



1. I've been writing in my journal at least every other day (reading this has inspired me). It's reminded me of how much I love scribbling down my thoughts with a pen, regardless of having to edit or revise. I did this for years before I began blogging, and I feel that, by devoting time to it again, I'm recapturing something that I lost. Unfortunately, it leaves me with less creative energy to post here.

2. For the first time in five years, I dressed up for Halloween and went to two parties. I was a recycling bin, dressed in blue with recyclable items stuck all over me with glue or packing tape. The tape didn't work so well, and that day's brief, wet snowstorm didn't help either. But most people knew what I was. A few guessed "trash" (not the first time I've been called that); one person thought I was supposed to be "the gutter", which I liked.

3. Sunny, relatively warm weather has returned at last! So, despite daylight savings ending and all, I've been spending as much time outdoors as possible, before the snow returns. Biked to my beloved Fresh Pond last Sunday, and yesterday, T. and I drove up to a fog-shrouded Gloucester, walking out onto a remote lighthouse pier to what very well could have been an edge of the world.

4. I've fallen so far behind in writing about the movies I've seen and the music I've listened lately to that I'm afraid I can no longer get up.

5. I broke down, bought a mop, and cleaned my kitchen floor. Which is a better excuse than having to wash my hair.