pitchfork music videos

Pitchfork has posted a list of 100 awesome music videos, all linked via Youtube. In other words, an excellent way to kill two hours. But not all awesome music videos are created of equal awesomeness, so here’s the crabwalk.com guide to which videos are most worth your time:
Page 1: A-Ha, Air, The Avalanches, Blur.
Page 2: Busta Rhymes, Cee-Lo, Cyndi Lauper, Daft Punk.
Page 3: The Decemberists, DJ Shadow, Dr. Dre, Duran Duran.
Page 4: Elton John, The Eurythmics, Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Page 5: The Jacksons, Jason Forrest, Journey, Junior Senior, Kate Bush.
Page 6: KMD, Kraftwerk, Lionel Richie, M.I.A., Madvillain, Missy Elliott.
Page 7: My Bloody Valentine, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, The Postal Service.
Page 8: R. Kelly, Radiohead, The Replacements.
Page 9: Sinead O’Connor, Talking Heads.
Page 10: Toni Basil, Twisted Sister, Village People, Wu-Tang Clan, Yo La Tengo, ZZ Top.

the trend again

No MP3 Monday this week, as I was up in Seattle this weekend for a wedding. But an update on an old one.
On May 15 I posted about The Trend, a terrific Missouri power-pop band active in the early 1980s. Today, I got an email from its leader-turned-lawyer, John McMullan.
“We have been very fortunate to have been given a tremendous ‘reminder’ by our inclusion in the newest Yellow Pills, and the feedback has been uniformly positive,” he says.
On to my write-up. For starters, I’d assumed an early R.E.M. connection (“You can tell they listened to Chronic Town, but the burbling bass and speed-freak drums say they were up to something of their own”). Not so, apparently:

[T]o my knowledge, none of us had ever heard Chronic Town prior to the recording of the album. I know that I became familiar with R.E.M. during the summer of ’83. (Our album was recorded in July, 1982.) Later demos of ours included guitar sounds derived directly from Peter Buck, but our album was mined from an odd Monkees/Records/Shoes/Fools Face combination. We weren’t sophisticated enough for R.E.M. at that moment!

And as to my in-retrospect-not-particularly-generous comment on his later work:

I happen to agree with your truism that power pop artists do not age well. In fact, none of them, including myself, retain the urgency required to play true power pop well. Maybe it’s a metabolism thing, or a domesticity thing, but it’s true. In fact, most of my favorite power pop acts never even made a 2nd album that I really liked!

For kicks, I’m reposting the Trend song that initially grabbed my attention, “(I Feel Like A) Dictionary.”

worst mayor of dallas ever

John Henry BrownToday I make a nomination for Worst Mayor of Dallas Ever: John Henry Brown. I actually don’t know much about his term as mayor (1885-1889), but he’d already had a long and storied evil career by then.
[A]malgamation of the white with the black race, inevitably leads to disease, decline and death,” he wrote in 1857, when he was a state legislator from Galveston. At the time he chaired the House Committee on Slaves and Slavery, and he was making a proposal that proved too radical for even that committee. Arguing that Africans had been “indisputably adapted by nature to the condition of servitude,” Brown proposed a legislative resolution calling for the rebirth of the African slave trade. (It had been banned in 1808, even though slavery was still legal.) The committee rejected the notion.
In 1860, with abolitionist fervor rising (particularly in parts of North Texas that didn’t grow as much cotton), Brown told Texans to “whip no abolitionist, drive off no abolitionist — hang them, or let them alone.” And after the Civil War, rather than stay in a Union-controlled Texas, he ran away to Mexico like a little punk.
John Henry Brown: A little punk.
There used to be an elementary school in Dallas named for him. In the segregation era, it was a whites-only school; when the children of Elmer Hurdle — a black man who lived half a block from John Henry Brown Elementary — were told they couldn’t attend there, they became plaintiffs in the first Dallas school-desegregation lawsuit. (It was dismissed four days later, in 1955; Dallas didn’t really desegregate for many years after that.)
As time moved on, the school’s student body shifted to being 98 percent minority, which created a bit of dissonance with Brown’s little punk past. But in 1999, the Dallas school board changed its namesake to Dr. Billy E. Dade, a Dallas teacher, principal, and college professor.

lulu wilson, slave

Lulu WilsonOne of the best parts of the New Deal — at least from the perspective of a historically-minded journalist — was the Federal Writers’ Project, which paid writers to collect oral histories, pen travel guides, and otherwise keep busy. (Among the later-to-be-big names on the payroll were Studs Terkel, Nelson Algren, John Cheever, and Richard Wright.)
One of the works produced by the FWP was Slave Narratives: A Folk History of Slavery in the United States from Interviews with Former Slaves, a massive 17-volume compilation of just what it sounds like. Between 1936 and 1938, writers fanned out across America, searching out ex-slaves (by then quite old) and asking them about their lives. Their prose is marked by the time, with its exaggerated black dialogue, but it’s an invaluable window into the lives turned by slavery.
The Library of Congress has put more than 2,300 slave narratives online, and they’re worth reading. I picked out one to post here: the story of Lulu Wilson, aged around 97, and a resident of 1108 Good Street, Dallas, Texas. (Good Street is now called Good-Latimer; my guess is that her house was roughly where I-30 and I-45 meet on the southeast side of downtown Dallas.)
The images below are the entire five-page narrative (click on them to zoom to a readable size), but here are a few excerpts:

My paw warn’t no slave. He was a free man, ’cause his mammy was a full blood Creek Indian. But my maw was born in slavery, down on [her owner] Wash Hodges’ paw’s place, and he give her to Wash when he married. That was the only woman slave what he had and one man slave, a young buck. My maw say she took with my paw and I’s born, but a long time passed and didn’t no more young’uns come, so they say my paw am too old and wore out for breedin’ and wants her to take with this here young buck. So the Hodges sot the n—-r hounds on my paw and run him away from the place and maw allus say he went to the free state. So she took with my step-paw and they must of pleased the white folks what wanted n—–s to breed like livestock, ’cause she birthed nineteen chillen.

On her brothers and sisters:

I gits to thinkin’ now how [her owner] Wash Hodges sold off maw’s chillun. He’d sell ’em and have the folks come for ’em when my maw was in the fields. When she’d come back, she’d raise a ruckus. Then many the time I seed her plop right down to a settin’ and cry ’bout it. But she ‘lowed they warn’t nothin’ could be done, ’cause it’s the slavery law. She said, “O, Lawd, let me see the end of it ‘fore I die, and I’ll quit my cussin’ and fightin’ and rarin’.’

On the Civil War

Wash Hodges was gone away four years and Missus Hodges was meaner’n the devil all the time. Seems like she jus’ hated us worser than over. She said blobber-mouth n—–s done cause a war.

And on her grandson and the then-new Social Security program:

He’s got four chillun and he makes fifty dollars a month. I’m crazy ’bout that boy and he comes to see me, but he can’t help me none in a money way. So I’m right grateful to the president for gittin’ my li’l pension. I done study it out in my mind for three years and tell him, Lulu says if he will see they ain’t mo more slavery, and if they’ll pay folks liveable wages, they’ll be less stealin and slummerin’ and goin’s on. I worked so hard. For more’n fifty years I waited as a nurse on sick folks. I been through the hackles if any mortal soul has, but it seems like the president thinks right kindly of me, and I want him to know Lulu Wilson thinks right kindly of him.

Lulu Wilson

Lulu Wilson

Lulu Wilson

Lulu Wilson

Lulu Wilson

shaq in 1988

I was looking through the DMN’s archives to see the first time we ever mentioned Shaquille O’Neal. Shaq went to high school in San Antonio, after all, and we’ve historically paid a fair amount of attention to recruiting.
Turns out that our first reference was in an article from Sept. 30, 1988, at the start of his senior year:

Basketball recruiting experts are touting four Texas big men as among the best in the nation — San Antonio Cole’s 7-0 Shaquille O’Neal, 7-0 Matt Wenstrom of Katy Mayde Creek and Kingwood’s pair of 6-10 posts, Todd Schoettelkotte and Rodney Odom. Schoettelkotte, who signed early with Purdue, is the only one of the four who has committed to a college.

We all know Shaq turned out to be pretty good. How about the rest?
I know all about Matt Wenstrom because he played for North Carolina, my college team of choice. He was — and I say this respectfully — a nobody. A big body, but no skills; he scored a grand total of 194 points in four years, mostly riding the pine behind Eric Montross and the immortal Kevin Salvadori. Because of that big body, he actually had a cup of coffee in the NBA, adding all of 18 more points to his life total.
Rodney Odom went to UCLA, redshirted, transferred to UNC-Charlotte and had a nice college career there. He played for a while in Poland, and now you can hire him to come train your AAU team.
As for Todd Schoettelkotte, he apparently didn’t stick around long at Purdue, since it appears he finished his playing career back in Houston at Rice. Now, it seems he’s “a Director in the FTI Forensic and Litigation Consulting practice,” with “significant experience assisting companies with complex financial accounting and litigation issues in a variety of industries.”
I’d imagine that that being mentioned alongside Shaq was, in retrospect, the peak of each of their athletic careers.

knights of the golden circle

Monday is Juneteenth, the Texas-centric (‘though not Texas-exclusive) holiday commemorating the end of slavery. The American South after the Civil War was as close as I ever came to an academic specialization, so expect some 1860s/Reconstruction links in the coming days.
First off, did you know about the Knights of the Golden Circle?

The Knights of the Golden Circle (KGC) was a secret society originally founded to promote Southern interests and prepare the way for annexation of a “golden circle” of territories in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean which would be included into the United States as southern or slave states. During the American Civil War, Southern sympathizers in the North, known as Copperheads, were accused of belonging to the Knights of the Golden Circle…

[Founder George] Bickley’s main goal was the annexation of Mexico. Hounded by creditors, he left Cincinnati in the late 1850s and traveled through the East and South promoting an expedition to seize Mexico and establish a new territory for slavery. He found his greatest support in Texas and managed within a short time to organize thirty-two chapters there. In the spring of 1860 the group made the first of two attempts to invade Mexico from Texas. A small band reached the Rio Grande, but Bickley failed to show up with a large force he claimed he was assembling in New Orleans, and the campaign dissolved…

During the 1863 Gettysburg Campaign, scam artists in south-central Pennsylvania sold fearful Pennsylvania Dutch farmers paper tickets purported to be from the Knights of the Golden Circle for a dollar. Along with a series of secret hand gestures, these tickets were supposed to protect the possessions and horses of the ticket holders from seizure by invading Confederate soldiers. When Jubal Early’s infantry division passed through York County, Pennsylvania, they scoffed at these ticket holders and took what they wanted anyway, often paying with Confederate currency or drafts on the Confederate government.

os mutantes, gilberto gil, caetano veloso

A trailer for the upcoming Os Mutantes documentary. Not sure how the doc will turn out, but Brazilian 1960s culture has been a mid-level obsession of mine for about a year now.

“Imagine a 1960’s Brazilian rock band on a weekly television program disguised as aliens, witches, or conquistadors, performing surreal hymns to such bizarre figures as Don Quixote (or at other times Genghis Khan and Lucifer) while tossing massive nets and giant rubber caterpillars across their audience…[Os Mutantes] provoked even further outrage by fashioning their own outrageous musical instruments, often constructed out of such common household objects as rubber hoses, cans of hot chocolate, or bottles of bug spray. Finally, they did all of this under the watchful eyes of a brutally repressive right-wing military dictatorship, as they were regularly censored by the government…”
The name of the doc comes from their song “Panis et Circenses,” which means “bread and circuses” — “a derogatory phrase which can describe either government policies to pacify the citizenry, or the shallow, decadent desires of that same citizenry. In both cases, it refers to low-cost, low-quality, high-availability food and entertainment, and to the exclusion of things which the speaker considers more important, such as art, public works projects, democracy, or human rights.” Pretty ballsy to play that under a military dictatorship. Here’s a (so-so quality) video of the band playing the song:

The rather poetic lyrics are here (“I demanded that a dagger of pure shining steel be made / To kill my love, and I did it / At five o’clock on Central Avenue / But the people in the dining room / Are occupied with being born and with dying”).
Finally, here’s Os Mutantes playing with another great musical hero of ’60s Brazil, Gilberto Gil — currently the country’s Minister of Culture (!) in the Lula government. It’s astonishing how much joy they played with, considering the political situation and the sort of songs they’re singing:

And since it’s illegal to mention Gilberto Gil without mentioning Caetano Veloso — both were famously jailed by the government — here he is playing in 1998:

Finally, here’s a video of Brazilian songstress Cibelle covering Veloso’s 1971 “London, London,” written while he and Gil were in exile there. Both song and video feature American New Weird America singer Devendra Banhart (who I initially thought was too weird for his own good, but who I’ve come to enjoy quite a bit):

pruno, maine frenchmen, touch & go

Cleaning out the “to blog” emails to myself:

  • Tonight, I’m going to go home, put on some music, and pour myself a nice glass of pruno.
  • Interesting story on the resurgence of French in Maine. There are some very clear echoes of the situation in south Louisiana: The post-World War I use of the school system to punish French speakers; the post-World War II push to assimilate; the “dumb Frenchman” jokes; the class barrier between native dialect speakers and those who consider Parisian French the only legitimate French. It’s one of my real regrets that I grew up in south Louisiana in an era when adults who grew up as French speakers were shamed into not teaching their children the language. As it was, the French I learned in school was so tenuous that Spanish has pretty much subsumed it all.
  • If you’ll be in Chicago in early September, I’d highly recommend attending the Touch & Go 25th anniversary bash. Along with crabwalk.com faves Calexico, Enon, Quasi, !!!, Ted Leo, and Pinback, you get to see reunion shows by the pleasantly bludgeoning Girls Against Boys, the best-space-rock-band-out-of-Alabama Man…or Astroman?, and the dreamy Seam. (Seam is of particular note; they were terrific in the mid-’90s but haven’t done anything for eight years.)

    GVSB was featured in this week’s MP3 Monday. As was Bedhead, whose leading Kadane brothers now perform in The New Year, who’ll also be at the bash.

latest cheating stories

I’ve returned a bit to the cheating beat at work, which has produced a couple of front-page stories over the last few days. The better one ran Sunday:

An alarming number of students who graduated from Texas high schools last month probably cheated to get there – and state education officials are in no hurry to catch them.

A state-sponsored analysis found thousands of suspicious scores on the 11th-grade TAKS, the test students must pass to graduate.

The study found 96 Texas high schools where groups of last year’s 11th-graders turned in unusually similar answer sheets – suggesting they may have been copying each other’s answers. Scores in almost every Dallas neighborhood high school raised red flags.

Eleventh-grade classrooms were more than eight times more likely to have suspicious scores than those in other grades, researchers found.

The study’s results don’t surprise experts. “Levels of cheating in high school are at astronomical levels,” said Tim Dodd, executive director of the Center for Academic Integrity at Duke University.

But in Texas, state and local officials say that these unusual patterns in data – even those that researchers say are millions of times less likely to occur than your being struck by lightning tomorrow – are not enough to trigger scrutiny.

The result is that many of the most egregious cases of likely cheating will go uninvestigated.

The other one ran Friday:

A state-sponsored analysis has flagged 114 North Texas schools as having suspicious scores on the 2005 TAKS test – scores that could suggest cheating by students or teachers.

Dallas, the area’s largest district, led the way with 39 schools. Plano ISD, with nine schools on the list, had the area’s second-highest total. Fort Worth ISD had seven, the Lewisville and Richardson school districts each had six, and McKinney ISD had five. Five charter schools also made the list.