“13” Turns Twenty

13_28blur_album_-_cover_art29Happy Friday, everyone. I recently noticed that Blur’s everything-falls-apart masterpiece “13” came out twenty years ago today (March 30 in the States, to split hairs). I’d be remiss if I let that landmark slip by without mention here, because I completely missed the anniversary of their self-titled album (my entry point as a fan) two years ago.

Blur’s mid-90’s rivalry with Oasis (manufactured as it was to sell copies of NME), formulates one of my favorite lectures I include in my European Geography (GEOG 371) course. Popular culture reinforces geographic assumptions, especially the sense of place that permeates any discussion of “the North” and “the South” in England. Not since The Beatles vs. The Kinks had there been such a raw encapsulation of that dichotomy. For the record, I do prefer The Kinks, too (and not because of any predilection for Southern England; I just enjoy their music more than most bands in the first place).

Anyway, in 1997, Blur were shedding their Britpop skin and embracing Graham Coxon’s love of American indie rock, perhaps best manifested as the wonderful “You’re So Great.” As I said, Blur was my entry point as a fan, so I didn’t fall in love with the band’s foppish (in a self-aware way) era. Like many of my friends who were listening in this era, I remember being less enthused at 13 when it landed in 1999. “Coffee & TV” felt like the only marginally accessible song on the album, which didn’t matter much to critics, but to a teenage American, it felt like a bit of an affront. I recall putting the CD on at some friends’ house in Syracuse while we sat around as a party dwindled; by the time “1992” got to it’s third-level of noise, walked over to the boombox and turned to me and said “I’m, uh, gonna change it.” If you want to get a decent impression, feast your brain on this:

Knowing what we know now, though, makes the accomplishments of 13 all that more remarkable. Namely, the band had long since shed any sonic accouterments of what had ostensibly made them huge, defied every music writer in the UK, and more or less entered into the worst collective period of their lives. Again, I was too young and under-educated in life to recognize half of this album as a heady mix of cries for help and the other half as gleeful conflagration of their rental castle-mansions. I’ll never forget reading a story on Blur in SPIN in the wake of the trans-Atlantic success of “Song 2” that really harped on how much the members hated one another. It seemed pretty sensationalized (because it was), but I can only imagine how much resolve it took the four of them to remain a band. In 1997, Graham Coxon sang that “DT’s [delirium tremens] and coffee helps to start the day,” and in 1999 he sang “sociability is hard enough for me” to chronicle a years-long battle to overcome alcoholism. “Coffee & TV” sounded convincing enough, and one of the all-time great videos to dramatize his ‘coming home’ certainly helped this case. Stateside, it remains in contention against “Girls and Boys” for the vaunted title of ‘Blur’s most successful single that doesn’t go “WOO-HOO.”‘

Anyway, since it’s 2019, there are a multitude of ways to hear 13 in its entirety if you’re interested in doing that today. Twenty years ago, Blur played most of the album live at the Hippodrome Theater in London, and a fan named Claire Welles taped the gig off the radio. A little over a year ago, she digitized it on YouTube. Considering the teeming oceans of Blur material on the site, it’s only accrued 556 views so far. I’ll embed it here if you’d like to add to that count.

One dynamic that I can’t get out of my head while listening to this was how so many of those cheering fans, like so much of Britain on BBC1, were hearing songs like “Trailerpark” and “Battle” for the first time ever. I believe that Napster, Limewire, and Kazaa were all active by this point, which had fundamentally changed the lifespan of anticipated music’s release. Gone were the days of that hot new single arriving at the BBC on a CD encased in some briefcase with a combination lock.

Damon Albarn, right on brand, didn’t sound too enthused to be performing these songs, but again, the fact that the band still existed in 1999 was remarkable. Considering the worldwide success Albarn had waiting in the rafters with James Hewlett at this point, it’s even more understandable that it feels like he’s punching the clock here. Still, you can’t help but imagine he begrudgingly knew how insane and special this new album was. And no matter what your feelings are on Albarn, he headlined Glastonbury two years back-to-back (2009-2010) with two different bands.

Alright, I’ve said enough. Happy 20th anniversary to 13, hope you all have a great weekend, and if you’re anywhere near Oak Ridge tomorrow night (Saturday 3.16) come see me and Nina Fefferman (UTK Evolutionary Biology) talking science with comedians Shane Mauss and Dave Waite at the Grove Theater. It’s close to selling out, but there may be tickets for sale at the door!  More info in my previous entry or at Shane Mauss’ site here.

Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

It feels strange to be posting this so far away from the land of Norman Rockwell (Western Massachusetts, where I traditionally spend this holiday), but I’m grateful nonetheless to be able to spend the week with family and friends. No matter where I am in the country, this is always my favorite part of the year.

Considering how 2018 has been a tragic year for so many and difficult for most, I hope that this holiday (still my favorite one) gives you all an opportunity to take stock of everything good in your life and prepare for whatever you have coming up in December. At the very least, I’ve got a few posts sitting in my drafts that I’ll hopefully get up before the Winter break.

Take care of yourselves and each other!

 

AAG 2018 New Orleans

I don’t remember if I’ve spoken about Jamey Essex on this site, but he was my first Geography TA way back in ’01 (pronounced ought-one). Here, he breaks down the gritty dynamics of AAG in a joking-enough manner. This may be helpful for those of you who are wondering what we talk about when we talk about AAG. If Raymond Carver had been from NOLA, that would have been a perfect title. Though Jamey and I only ran into each other briefly (he entering the Sheraton Hotel and I on the way out), we had a nice chat that broached a couple of the subjects he traverses here. Sometimes, it’s reassuring to know that even people much more advanced in their career than you are still fighting many of the same battles.

Jamey Essex

I recently returned from the annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers (AAG), held this year in New Orleans, Louisiana. I skipped last year’s meeting, the first one I had missed since I first attended in 2000, that year held in Pittsburgh and myself as a newbie MA student at Syracuse University. I passed on the 2017 meeting in Boston because I was on sabbatical, didn’t have much of anything in my research quite ready to present at that point, and just needed a break from the conference. (Also I had tickets to the Final Four in Phoenix, and took a jaunt to the Grand Canyon, which was far more fun than the conference anyway.) It was therefore rejuvenating to go to this year’s conference and see friends and colleagues I had not seen in a long time, and to present some original research. And it’s hard to pass…

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Checking in Again with the Farragut Hotel

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A little over a year ago, I joined Knox Heritage so I could attend an open house of the under-extreme-renovation-at-the-time Farragut Hotel building in downtown Knoxville. I hadn’t been able to track down any of the hotel’s official records from 1938 and 1940, the two occasions I have evidence to believe that Ben Irving stayed there. The work that the contractors and development company had been doing, even at that point, was pretty astounding.

A few Fridays back, many of us had the rare opportunity to do another walk-through. It was impressive how much progress had been made. One of my favorite points that owner Rick Dover mentioned was that, although they were building a full kitchen for a morning breakfast buffet, the new Farragut would not have an in-house restaurant. There are too many great restaurants within walking distance, and they were encouraging guests to actually get to know the city around the hotel – a sentiment I can get behind. Here are some photos from the visit.

 

The building’s official re-opening as the Hyatt Place at the Historic Farragut Hotel is slated to be weeks away, which means that workers are scrambling to get all the holes filled and everything else in working order as I type this. The Knoxville News-Sentinel interviewed the new General Manager (who moved his family from Austin to come and run the show) and gave a pretty good bullet-point history of the building on their site here.

Thanksgiving 2017

I can’t remember any time in my life when this wasn’t my favorite week of the whole year. Coming soon, I’ll be posting my GEOG 371 mix tape, end of semester retrospectives, and perhaps some best-of-2017 lists. But for now, I’m grateful to take a day or two for myself to slow things down to a crawl (or, laugh until I can’t breathe hanging out with my cousins).

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone, wherever you are.

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Reagan Bombs – Wind Me Up

Hometown Sounds

Though he moved to LA a few years ago, superstar DJ Jesse Tittsworth can’t escape the pull of the DC music he grew up with. Partnering with filmmaker Scott Sanders, known for the 2009 blaxploitation comedy Black Dynamite, Reagan Bombs updates DC’s indigenous go-go sound with Techno and House influences to create “DC GoWave”. Their self-titled album was released on cassette and digital by the DC label Swedish Columbia run by Shelby Cinca, formerly of the DC bands Frodus and The Cassettes. The album’s first single is “Wind Me Up”, a well-known go-go catch phrase, and Sanders edited this music video with some of the same classic go-go VHS footage that contributed to the samples in the album.

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The Union of Socialist Geographers Newsletter, 1975-1983

I have a new post coming soon with information about the classes I’m teaching this upcoming semester. For now, this socialist geography time capsule (1975-1983) just came through the wire, and I figured I’d pass it along.

AntipodeFoundation.org

We’re pleased to announce that AntipodeFoundation.org is now the home of the archive of the Union of Socialist Geographers!

Thanks to the tireless work of Jim Thatcher (University of Washington Tacoma), Eric Sheppard (University of California Los Angeles), and Clark Akatiff (one-time Professor/life-long professor of geography), we’re able to make available the USG’s Newsletters, published from 1975 to 1982, as well as its final publication from 1983, “Society and Nature: Socialist Perspectives on the Relationship Between Human and Physical Geography”.

The archive will remain here for research, education and scholarship, freely available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license. As you’ll see in their introduction here, Jim, Eric and Clark have reached out to a number of editors, authors and contributors, and they–and everyone here at Antipode–would like to sincerely thank all those who responded. If you have anything to add to the archive, or have any queries, please contact…

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