Saturday, January 15, 2022

YouTube and Old Music: Where Memories and People Meet

Scott D. Parker

Do you ever get lost reading YouTube comments? No, not those. I don’t read those either. I’m talking about the other ones. The good ones. [And yeah, there is a book-related comment at the end.]

There is a fantastic YouTube channel if you enjoy old music. I’m talking stuff from the 1940s-1960s. It is curated by Jake Westbrook (that’s the name of the channel as well) and he collects songs for different moods. Last fall, I discovered him and listened not only to the “Vintage Autumn Music” but thoroughly enjoyed his Halloween playlists. One of the best, interestingly, was his Thanksgiving playlists. He’s got ones for Route 66, summer, and many others.

What I particularly enjoy is reading the comments. If you need a dose of goodness, check these out. More often than not, the commenters praise Jake for the curation, but more importantly, they praise the music. Some are from younger people who never lived when this music was on the radio or TV. They marvel at how good the music remains and lamenting modern music.

A particularly nice sub-set of these comments are from folks who have lost parents or grandparents or other family members. The commenter usually relates a memory this music evokes. One really got to me. It was of a grandchild who played these vintage songs as the grandparent was bedridden. The music calmed the older person, letting them get lost in their memories as they passed from this life into the next.

Cut to more modern music. I’m a huge fan of Frontiers Music. This is a great record label that releases new music by new artist who still like melodic rock as well as older artists who no longer have a home in the big music companies. Think Enuff Z’Nuff or LA Guns. Their hashtag is their motto: #RockAintDead.

Anyway, yesterday, the weekly email featured videos of new releases and one of them was for The Alan Parsons Project’s (with a full symphony) song “Don’t Answer Me.” I LOVED that song as a teenager. It was prompted me to buy the album.

Yet, I hadn’t heard it in a long, long time. Naturally, I clicked on the link and heard a newer rendition with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. Oh my was it gorgeous. But that prompted me to return to the original and it’s fantastic pulp-style video.

But it was in the comments associated with the original 1983 version that I again got lost in. Unlike Jake Westbrook’s playlists, I was among the generation who experienced this song when it was new. Now, so many of the comments relate to “I’m 21 and I just found this song and it’s so good” kind of vibe. Or, as you can imagine, ones in which younger people discovered the song in the mom’s stack of CDs or their dad recently passed away and this is the song that helps the commenter remember a recently deceased parent. I went down an Alan Parsons Project rabbit hole, but I also experienced the memories of all the commenters. It was a wonderful trip.

But then I got to thinking about books. While there is certainly not a YouTube for books, where is a site for comments like this? Where is the site where grandchildren can talk about how they read their grandfather’s favorite book as he lay on his deathbed and the grandchild realized how good an old book was?

That is a site I’d love to visit.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

How Many Degrees Away from Crime (If Any)?

Does crime, to some degree, not touch everything?

Over the last week, two people of note and one of infamy died, and for each one, I realized as I read the obituary of the first, then the second, then the third of these people, there was a connection to crime and heinous activity, though the directness of the connection differs drastically in each case.

First, on January 6th, 2022, Peter Bogdanovich died.  You could say that during his life he was one contemporaneous degree away from crime, the horrible and grotesque murder of Playboy model and developing actress and Bogdonavich's girlfriend at the time, Dorothy Stratten, murdered of course by her creep of an estranged husband, Paul Snider. 

Second, also on January 6th, 2022, Sidney Poiter died.  Poiter seems to have lived about as blemishless a life as one can lead, and his connection to crime was to the same degree as it was to anyone who ever worked with Bill Cosby.  I saw, as they came out, the trilogy of films with Cosby that Poiter directed and co-starred in the 1970s, Uptown Saturday Night (1974), Let's Do It Again (1975), and A Piece of the Action (1977), and I'd be dishonest if I said that as a twelve, thirteen and fifteen-year-old I didn't like them.  At the time, they were most enjoyable.  And they did well commercially.  They have all or nearly all Black casts, and they are each loose and lowbrow crime comedies.  I'm sure they've dated by this time, but it'd be an interesting experience to watch them again after all these years, with what Cosby became, or more accurately, what we all found out about Cosby, in my mind.  On the other hand, maybe it'd be better not to see them again.  And not so much because of anything having to do with Cosby.  I'd probably rather just keep those movies in my mind as the fun movies I saw at that age.

Third, but hardly least, on January 10th, 2022, Robert Durst died.  His connection to crime is as direct as a connection can get.  He almost certainly murdered his wife in Westchester in 1982; in 2021, he was convicted finally of killing his long-time friend and supporter Susan Berman in the year 2000 in Los Angeles; and in 2001, he did kill (but successfully claimed self-defense)  a neighbor he had in Galveston, Texas at the time.  Asterisk on the Texas acquittal: in that case, he did get convicted for tampering with evidence and for dismembering the body of the neighbor he shot, all in an attempt to dispose of the body, which he did in Galveston Bay.  No degree of separation between Durst and crime, to say the least.

The virus of viruses, more pervasive than Covid and certainly eternal -- scelus.

(That's Latin for crime.)

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Get Back: A Character Study Featuring Four Guys You May Have Heard Of

By Claire Booth

A lot of a writer’s life is watching people. Observing, analyzing, theorizing. Then you take that material and you form it into fictional characters. Those observations usually fall into just two categories. The first is people you know—family, friends, co-workers—although those observations are always colored by your personal history with them. The second is people you see briefly—the local coffee shop barista, the guy on the street corner with the “Stop Nuclear War” sign, a politician getting interviewed on the nightly news.

Any of these can create the spark for a character. But seldom do you get a deep dive into people who you don’t know. Sure, there’s reality TV, but those shows are guiding you to a particular view, through editing and those little talking-to-the-camera interviews that the participants do.

That’s why the new Beatles documentary is so fascinating. There are no confessional re-hashes and no late-in-life reminisces. Just pure unadorned footage of four people trying to figure out whether to stay in what amounts to a marriage.

For a writer, this is an incredible window into human behavior. For a Beatles fan (full disclosure: I’ve been a huge one since childhood, listening to them on vinyl with my dad), it’s an incredible gift.