It’s the Inevitable #NotByBlur Song Challenge for April!

Depending on your age, Britpop acumen, knowledge of my musical preferences, and awareness of Blur’s early, commendable but not quite brilliant debut album Leisure, you may have immediately known what April’s challenge was going to be when you saw the word “bang” in yesterday’s post. Either way, nobody involved in these challenges could possibly have thought they’d make it out of the pandemic year without a tribute to the collective works of Damon, Alex, Dave, and (most of the time) Graham.

Despite how Gorillaz has now technically been a longer-going concern for (genius) Albarn, making goat cheese is a bigger priority for Alex James than plucking the bass strings or hosting BBC documentaries about cocaine, and Graham Coxon has made more solo albums than Blur records, the Essex foursome will always be at the fore for me. So, in the interest of celebrating my birthday in the only obnoxious, ostentatious way I will ever bring myself to, it’s the Not-by-Blur song challenge!

Per usual, there’s only one rule (Gorillaz and other Albarn material are fair game). Make sure to share, have fun, and hashtag it with #NotbyBlur. Also, on the 9th, don’t hesitate to message or tweet at me with your pick! Or, any other day I suppose, but especially on that day. The mind gets short-y as you get closer to forty.

My #NotbytheMisfits Song Challenge Results

I haven’t kept up with these for the most part, but March was a special month. Not only did it mark the one-year Anniversary of (most of us) being in ostensible lockdown, but it also featured the first three-way collaboration on one of these song challenges. I’m grateful that the pandemic brought me together with Matt Gever and back together with Marissa Tisch. Both have been fun bouncing songs off each morning, and they’ve also been great about reminding me of when Jewish holidays have come around. Happy belated Passover, by the way. I hope those of you celebrating found that afikoman.

Below you can find my selections for 30 songs this month that were not written by Glenn Danzig or the Caiafa brothers (though let’s be honest, the number of great Misfits songs that Danzig had nothing to do with number in the single digits).

  1. Mean Jeans – “Life on Mars”
  2. Converge – “Eagles Become Vultures”
  3. The Putz – “She’s a Brat”
  4. The Rezillos – “No”
  5. The Offspring – “Want You Bad”
  6. The Libertines – “Horror Show”
  7. Indochine – “Marilyn”
  8. The Gaslight Anthem – “’45′”
  9. Chixdiggit – “323”
  10. The McRackins – “Candy”
  11. Los Nikis – “El Imperio Contraataca”
  12. Nothing – “Blue Line Baby”
  13. Sweet – “Ballroom Blitz”
  14. Klaus Nomi – “Total Eclipse”
  15. Frustration – “Assassination”
  16. Schlitz – “Destroy Babylon”
  17. Fastway – “Trick or Treat”
  18. Oasis – “Digsy’s Dinner” (seriously; that band was not meant to outlive Tony McCarroll)
  19. Against Me! – “Scream Until You’re Coughing Up Blood”
  20. Choking Victim – “Infested (the Lindane Conspiracy Vol. 1)”
  21. Tyler Childers – “Born Again”
  22. Tom Waits – “Dirt in the Ground”
  23. Ween – “Push th’ Little Daisies”
  24. Jerry Reed – “Eastbound and Down”
  25. The Muffs – “Lucky Guy”
  26. Green Day – “Brain Stew”
  27. Randy – “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Punk Rock Flu”
  28. Aerosmith – “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing”
  29. Def Leppard – “Rock of Ages”
  30. Jimi Hendrix Experience – “Manic Depression”

Now that we are coming up on the one-year anniversary of these song challenges, I may retire them (or at least pass the torch) for a bit. HOWEVER, since April is my birthday month, I couldn’t resist the urge to hijack the thing to go out with a bang. That’s all you’re getting until it goes live tomorrow morning at 8am ET.

Connecticut Youth Jazz in New Orleans (1998)

My first visit to New Orleans, which I’ve mentioned before in light of the 2018 AAG Meeting, came on the coattails of my talented younger sister. She played sax for a couple of bands in the Connecticut Youth Jazz Workshop. The director, Reid Gerritt (who passed away in 2014), collaborated with some CTYJ parents to coordinate large-scale performance trips in 1998 and 1999, the former being to perform at various stages around New Orleans, including the Parade Day of the French Quarter Festival.

At the time, most of us teenagers who either played in one of the bands or operated as a documenter treated the trips as vacations and opportunities to socialize with our friends in faraway cities, even chances to grow up a little bit. We certainly didn’t realize what an inconceivable amount of work must have gone into planning this out in a mostly DIY setting, which Mr. Gerritt did when the internet was only running at 52k. I would love if he were still around so I could ask him about that process. The influence he had on me, even as a non-musician, was unparalleled by most of my secondary school teachers (except perhaps by Reid’s wife Christine, a star Spanish teacher who coordinated a similar group trip to Spain in 2000 that likely steered me down the path culminating in you reading this blog right now. But that’s another story).

Here are a few moments from that New Orleans trip, pulled from my original VHS-C tapes filmed in April 1998. Please ignore anything that came out of my teenage mouth. I knew so little about the world then.


“Just Another Closer Walk with Thee” (April 17, 1998)


The group rushes inside to avoid a downpour and plays in the bar, and then performs Stan Kenton’s “The Peanut Vendor” back outside (April 17, 1998)


The Intermediate Band performing on the Natchez Steamboat (April, 1998)


The French Quarter Festival Parade (April 17, 1998)
Keep an eye out for then-Mayor Marc Morial (now the President of the National Urban League) around 30 seconds in.

On the off chance that you were there, or recognize anybody in these videos, feel free to comment and/or get in touch. Have a great week.

Presenting (Virtually) at UTK Geography Symposium ’21 this Friday

Time to shake off the dust and clear off the cobwebs! After a year bereft of conferencing, I’m excited to announce that I will be presenting my research on using music videos to teach Geography this Friday morning at 11:30 AM ET. Anyone interested can access the Zoom Link here, and the password is “geosym2021.”

My presentation is entitled ‘Dreaming of Distant Pleasures: Teaching Geography with Music Videos,’ and I’ll paste the abstract below. I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends/colleagues and finally getting a long-in-the-works piece of pedagogy work out there. Hopefully this will see the light of day in some journal before too long.

“See” you on Friday morning if you want to check it out! The rest of the 2-day schedule is available here, with links.

Music videos are unmistakably geographic. Academics have been preoccupied with them since long before MTV, culminating in what cultural critic Simon Frith said, by 1988, had
“generated more scholarly nonsense than anything since punk.” Despite videos’ potential for communicating and understanding sense of place, however representative, geography research on the cultural constant has been limited. Even more limited has been any approach to using music videos to teach geography. In my time teaching undergraduate courses on World Regional Geography, the Geography of Popular Culture, and related cultural topics, music videos have consistently provided valuable perspective into how artists represent and reproduce place. Additionally, the reoriented access to music videos in the streaming video era, especially those previously propelled by heavy rotation on MTV, MuchMusic, and an array of upstart cable networks in the late-20th century, has given life to countless forums of (often highly personal) open-access ethnographic content. This paper seeks to build off of Smiley and Posts’ (2014) foundation on the valuable role that popular music plays in geography pedagogy. Using multiple examples of videos and video-related assignments, I argue that music videos provide an excellent foundation for communicating and understanding the relationship(s) between music, memory, and place.

Sources Cited:
Frith, Simon. Music for Pleasure: Essays in the Sociology of Pop. New York: Routledge, 1988.
Smiley, Sarah L, and Chris W Post. “Using Popular Music to Teach the Geography of the United States and Canada.” Journal of Geography 113, no. 6 (2014): 238-46.

Beware the #NotByTheMisfits Song Challenge for March!

If you wanna scream, SCREAM WITH ME. In honor of Glenn, Jerry, Doyle, Bobby, and the various other players who composed New Jersey’s greatest horror-punk export (Michale Graves excepted), this month’s challenge issues 30 days of pure, uncut horror business with a side of brains (which can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or brunch).

I should probably explain where I’ve been.

Living, mainly. As I mentioned last month, I got somewhat burned out and decided to let some other maniacs take the wheel. In my stead, my internet-friend Matt (who I met through a Facebook group of DC-diaspora friends who really took to these song-a-day challenges) stepped in and filled the gap for February with his excellent Not-by-ABBA challenge. Like a man after my own heart, Matt turned right around from one of the glitziest, poppiest pop groups in history and suggested “Misfits March.” The result is what you see up there.

I’m excited to have a new song-a-day challenge up here of my own co-creation. Per usual, download it, share it, tell a friend (or foe), and remember there’s only one rule. Don’t forget to hashtag it #NotByTheMisfits!

BONUS CHALLENGE
My friend Marissa, who has been running similar photo challenges on her pandemic Facebook group, has once again collaborated with the Not-By theme for this month. It is the Misfits-based photo challenge! No photos of any of the Misfits necessary.

Ben Irving at the Carlouel Yacht Club (Clearwater Beach, FL)

In early 1938, Ben Irving took his third (documented) trip through Florida, stopping around the Tampa Bay region on the 16th-19th of January. It’s unclear what his specific business was in Clearwater, but he wrote on the reverse of this postcard (above) that he was on his way across to Tampa, likely around Safety Harbor on route 17.

Shortly after the Great 2020 “Lockdown” began, my partner and I took a drive across to check out Clearwater and seek out a pair of postcard sites from Irving’s collection. We spent half the day there without realizing that Clearwater is basically to Scientologists what Salt Lake is to the Latter-Day Saints. We should have noticed it when we saw the intense glow-up on the Hotel Fort Harrison, which Irving had visited previously in 1936 (and will likely earn its own entry sometime). If you want a harrowing gaze into the Scientologists’ relationship with Clearwater, check out these documents from the Seventies.

Anyway, this entry is about Clearwater Beach, which is a municipality of Clearwater on a long, skinny offshore archipelago across the causeway into the Gulf. It has a more distinct beach-tourism orientation with a major aquarium and, apparently, 100% more Hulk Hogans. On the northern isthmus of the island, right before it tapers off and becomes Caladesi Island State Park, lies the Carlouel Yacht Club, established in 1934.

The Carlouel Yacht Club (Clearwater Beach, FL), June 2020. [SonicGeography.com]

It would be interesting to see an analysis on the discourse of the term “yacht club” during the Depression versus now (whether the emphases on privatization and exclusivity were different at the time), but either way, Clearwater Beach used a photograph of a Cabana scene there to advertise itself in the pre-Disney era. There were enough families in the area by this point two decades past the city’s incorporation who could afford the $100 membership (roughly $1,950 in 2021), and the Cabanas, facing out into the Dunedin Channel (a smart move, given storm surges off the Gulf), were a good image to sell the area to snow-bound Northerners. It must have worked, since the club operated exclusively in the winter months prior to 1954, when I assume Clearwater’s permanent resident population ironed out. An official 1950 count put the population around 15,000; today it is well over 115,000.

On that initial visit to scope out the Yacht Club, for reasons of privacy and COVID, we were not able to talk our way in. However, I met the club’s General Manager Kelley Williams outside, and we exchanged info. A little over a month later, I was able to line up an appointment to wander the grounds with the above postcard. Kelley took great interest in my postcard, and it occurred to her that they had the original reference photograph somewhere. After some searching, she found it on the wall of a small bathroom upstairs from the central Palmer Room. I was dumbfounded:

Kelley was unaware of who framed the image and ascribed the “ca. 1940’s” caption on the plaque or when they did it, but the postmark on Irving’s postcard proved that the photo was taken sometime in the 1930’s. I have no way to prove my suspicion that the photo was completely staged, but that’s still my suspicion, along with how the picture was probably taken shortly after the cabana housing was completed. Why wouldn’t they have wanted to show it off, along with the mile-plus of sandy beach on their doorsteps?

As much as I hate photos of printed photos (especially those with frame glare), I couldn’t find a scanned version. Here’s the original with a special overlay of the postcard:

I also didn’t realize, even as I was searching for the original depicted site to re-photograph it, that the image captured a profoundly physically different era for the club. In the mid-1950’s, around when the club switched to year-round operation, a fire destroyed most of the original structure. From the history page on the Carlouel website:

During the reconstruction, the decor changed from casual to a more formal appearance. Later improvements included enclosing the bay front terrace, adding the Palmer Room, building a sea wall, roque court, swimming pool, tennis courts, and additional cabanas. The short-course Olympic pool was added in 1962.

I guessed that they would stage the photo right inside the club’s entrance, but I did not suspect how the original waterfront was basically extinct. Kelley did not have access to any old maps or other documentation about the reconstruction, and I suspect few, if any, members from that time are still around to recall it. All I could really do was take a guess based on how the main entrance and banquet hall sit on the club’s classic acreage. I am prepared to be told I am way off, but here are two of my guesses:

I’m partial to the latter, since it also worked with the current setup of the cabana housing, which is now formed of connected units, unlike the individual houses seen in the pre-1938 photo. The landscaping is so radically different from the original photo that I also took the horizon into consideration, as well as how much space the beachfront sand originally occupied.

I also looked up the satellite imagery of the Yacht Club (above), which only served to add to my confusion. If the Club has not acquired or last any land since the 1930’s (which is perfectly unlikely), then those Tennis courts are directly on top of what was once the voluminous beach. Interestingly enough, you can see on this satellite image where the public Mandalay Point Road ends and a private drive of mansions with boats (some appear to be yachts) docked across the street.

The Cabana Colony (site) at the Carlouel Yacht Club, Clearwater Beach, FL (1930’s vs. June 2020)

Per usual, cracking a little into the mystery behind a landscape depicted on one of Ben Irving’s postcards has generated a bevy of new questions. Maybe I’ll have to go back there sometime. Maybe someone who was there and then will see this and reach out to me. Either way, it was a privilege to do this. Special thanks to Kelley J. Williams and all the Carlouel members and staff on board that day. Until next time…

UTK GeoSym 2021: Call for Abstracts!

Through February 26th, the GeoSym committee (Geography Grad Students Research Symposium) at the University of Tennessee are accepting abstracts for their 2021 meeting (online), rescheduled from 2020. I’ll share their CFA below, with contact information for the co-chairs, Danny and Lindy. I had the privilege of chairing this biennial event in its second occurrence in 2016, and I echo their remarks that it’s a wonderful, congenial place to present new research, especially for first-timers.

Donghee Koh tells Matt Miller to talk to the hand as Brooke Pearson helps check people in (2016).

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS: GEOSYM 2021

We are pleased to welcome you to GeoSym 2021, the student-led conference for geography at the University of Tennessee. This year, GeoSym will be held on Zoom from Thursday, March 18th to Friday, March 19th.

If you are looking for a place to share your research in a relaxed, genial environment, this is a great option. Opportunities exist for undergrads, grad students, and faculty to present their research in a series of panels and presentations. We also welcome professionals employed in geography and related disciplines to present their research.

EVENT KEYNOTE SPEAKERS

Dr. Latoya Eaves is an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Dr. Eaves’ research focuses on critical approaches to race, gender, and queer geographies with a regional focus on the U.S. South. She is a member of the Governing Council of the American Association of Geographers and is a co-founder of the AAG Black Geographies Specialty Group. Dr. Eaves earned her PhD in Global and Sociocultural Studies at Florida International University (Miami, FL) and previously served as assistant professor at Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro, TN) before joining us at UT.

Dr. Stephanie Shepherd is an assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Auburn University. Her research is focused on fluvial geomorphology, anthropogenic impacts on riverine systems, and GIS applications to these topics. Dr. Shepherd earned her PhD in Environmental Dynamics from the University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, AR) and previously served as assistant professor at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania (Bloomsburg, PA) and as visiting assistant professor at Franklin and Marshall College (Lancaster, PA).

REGISTRATION INFORMATION

Registration for GeoSym 2021 is free. Sign up at this link between now and February 26, 2021. Abstracts and scheduling information are submitted at this same link.

We look forward to having everyone join us and please do not hesitate to contact us with questions.

Danny Burow (dburow@vols.utk.edu)

Lindy Westenhoff (lwestenh@vols.utk.edu)

GeoSym 2021 co-chairs

Helen Rosko presents her SEDAAG-award (TM)- winning research on the Moonshine industry (2016).

Going Back to Mayo Part II: Back in Mayo Again

Back in Mayo means obligatory selfie with the Mayo Water Tower. July 2020.

Considering how much down-time 2020 has afforded us, I found myself surprisingly mobile this year. It turns out that driving across the country is a good socially-distanced activity, even when passing through states which are, with a lot of help from psychopathic governors and yell-talking Boomers who still think they have a shot with that 20-something bartender, COVID-addled nightmares.

Speaking of Florida, I found myself back in Mayo, the seat of the state’s thinly populated Lafayette County. The whole county’s population sits well under 10,000, and the Republican Party ticket dominated over 85% of the vote, among the most lopsided differential in the state. I hate to paint any state as “Red” or “Blue,” considering how Georgia proved that nothing is permanent, but Florida really feels like the quintessential nest for Trumpism (see previous paragraph). I’m still unconvinced that boats can operate in Tampa Bay unless they are flying at least two MAGA flags. Further into this tangent, the preponderance of Trump boat parades led some right-wing pundits to express sheer shock at their Dear Leader losing based upon this gaudy empirical evidence. It’s almost like they learned nothing from the 1936 Literary Digest election poll, but some a bizarre inverse version focusing on people whose identity and self-worth is expressed through boat ownership (that I’m not qualified to conduct).

Five years ago, I wrote about how some colleagues and I first wound up in Mayo in 2010 while interviewing locals about 2001 wildfires. In March 2015, my friend and I stopped through on a scenic drive between Tallahassee and Gainesville. A number of shops and eateries that I recalled from 2010 were no longer there, including one prominent smokehouse, which I believe had turned into a pizza place of dubious functioning status.

The supposed (according to a December 2020 Google Search) home of Casa Frias. In 2015, this building housed a cafe-restaurant with a bizarrely misspelled “Ya’ll” on the entrance.

I only had time to grab lunch at a corner cafe (apparently defunct, even as of this writing 5 months later), take a few photos of the amazing Lafayette County Court House (and Chateau de Lafayette across the street, seen in this post’s cover photo), and stop into the Dust Catcher thrift shop, run by Vi Johnson.

Vi Johnson reads on a slow day at the Dust Catcher Thrift, Mayo FL, July 2020.

I chatted with Vi for a few minutes before purchasing a one-time-use camera from 1999 and getting back on the road. Despite owning the building, Vi was hoping that somebody would buy her out, considering how many books and curios she had accumulated with no real hope for moving otherwise. Similar to many similar towns I’ve found via the Ben Irving Postcard Project (Belding, MI, for example), the Interstate Highways had long since redirected most traffic away from FL-27, sapping the tiny municipality of any real potential for sustainable economic gains. As if that wasn’t already an insurmountable challenge to any local entrepreneurs, she added, the opening of Dollar stores at opposing ends of Main Street “absolutely killed” her. Additionally, the biggest local company, a logging concern, had successfully petitioned to remove most of the parallel parking spots from Main Street in order to give their mammoth trucks unfettered access to tear through the mostly-vacant downtown. I’m not injecting any personal opinion here when I type that it’s a sad state of affairs.

Anyway, the last thing I want to do is look down my nose at small towns that are, through no fault of their own, aging out and clinging to life. I finally read Chris Arnade’s book Dignity this fall, and in it, he outlines the danger of romanticizing the struggles of those “left behind” in America. I also struggle with my love of small towns, considering how I have never really lived in one. As I’ve also written here, I grew up in a town that loved throwing that label around, but considering how much money (both New England-auld and 90’s nouveau-riche) swirls through the place, I would refrain from slapping John Cougar Mellencamp in the background of a video about it (more on that coming in 2021).

If anybody reads this and happens to know somebody opening up a retro-style café or bar, I have a lead on a functioning, vintage soda fountain for sale in North Florida. You can’t see much of it in this photo (below), but it’s under there, I promise, and it’s a classic.

It’s the #NotByTomWaits Song Challenge for December!

Grab your $29, fill your jockey full of bourbon, and clap hands while whistling through the graveyard, it’s the NOT-BY-TOM-WAITS SONG-A-DAY CHALLENGE!

Tom Waits playing a grizzled old prospector in 2018’s ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ (as much as I’m partially convinced they just set up hidden cameras and filmed what he was doing that week anyway).

As I hinted yesterday, for most Tom Waits fans, the mere mention of Little Anthony and the Imperials elicits thoughts of “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis,” one of the truly saddest and funniest and most beautiful songs ever written. It’s also not the only Minneapolis song I drew directly from for this challenge; “9th and Hennepin,” a standout track from ‘Rain Dogs,’ gave me an excuse to ask everyone for songs about intersections (the topic of one of the first episodes of The Casual Geographer). Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t shout out his songwriting (and life) partner Kathleen Brennan, since she co-wrote or inspired many of these alluded classics.

In honor of Mr. Waits’ birthday on the 7th of the final month of a year in which we all felt, at points, like the Earth was dying screaming, I couldn’t resist this. DIG IN:

Per usual, there is only one rule, and it’s self-explanatory. Be careful with this one, though; Tom is all over pop culture in places you may not expect. Download the matrix, have fun, don’t forget to tag it #NotByTomWaits, and keep asking around regarding where Mr. Knickerbocker’s at (even if nobody’s sure).

I try to refrain from using profanity on this site, but as your special treat for this unveiling, enjoy my favorite Tom Waits Letterman interview, which is probably the funniest fucking thing I’ve ever seen.

“Notice how he worked around that hinge!”