Archive for January, 2013

Monday Medley

What we read that wasn’t about Michelle Obama’s hair…

  • Michael Weinreb on Donald Westlake, whose novels serve as the source for the new movie, Parker.

Ranking Bob Dylan Songs, #44: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll

Hey, remember the Bob Dylan Rankings? I haven’t done one in over a year and a half, but now it’s back (at least, for today). I’m abandoning my old self-imposed chronology, and I’m going back to writing about whatever song strikes my fancy. Today’s song: “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll.” 

(Also, YouTube has really cracked down on Bob Dylan songs, so most of the videos will have to be covers or live versions.)

“I revere Bob Dylan, but is that an awful line, or what? Who in the hell philosophizes disgrace? Who does this speak to? Do you think there is anyone in the world who gets up in the morning and says to himself, ‘I think I’ll go and philosophize some disgrace today?’ What does that even mean? It’s not that it’s vague in the sense that Dylan is so often marvelously vague and evocative. It is more like it is specific but clumsy. It doesn’t sound good… It’s awful. It’s not a particularly good song, although Dylan’s admirers will soberly insist that it is a great song, and I suppose they are entitled to their opinion.” —Bill James

Yes, Bill James, I am entitled to that opinion. “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll” is a great song—though not one of Bob Dylan’s best—and the clumsiness that James identifies is part of what makes it great.

“Hattie Carroll” is a remarkably literal song. It starts with the simple, matter-of-fact line, “William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll” (and by “starts” I mean it really starts with that line—the first sound, before any music, is Dylan’s nasally voice spewing out that clunky name), and proceeds to tell the story through a bunch of meandering, rhyme-less clauses strung together somewhat artlessly—the word “and” is sung 31 times. All the stretched out sentences and nested clauses make it somewhat hard to follow, but the gist is clear: William Zanzinger, a rich young Maryland landowner killed Hattie Carroll, a black servant, by hitting her in the head with his cane at a white tie function where he was a guest and she a servant. Though he was convicted of the crime, he was sentenced to only six months in prison. Continue reading

Monday Medley

What we read while blood doping with Lennay Kekua…

Monday Medley

What we read while building our own Death Star in the private sector…

Monday Medley

What we read while getting used to writing “2013”…

‘Twas 2012: Top Ten Movies of the Year

Did Lincoln make the list?

Did Lincoln make the list?

Although I already tried to identify the year’s “trend” in movies, I didn’t do a Top 10 list, and obviously no summation of the year is complete without a Top 10 list. Normally, I don’t do such a list for movies, because I rarely see more than 10 films in a given year. In 2012, though, for a variety of reasons—like embracing Josh’s philosophy—I saw more movies than in any other year of my life, so I finally feel qualified to make a list.*

*Of course, I didn’t see EVERY movie this year. So to clarify whether any given film missed the Top 10 because of quality or omission, here is the full list of movies I saw this year:

24) The Amazing Spider-Man

23) The Campaign

22) Zero Dark Thirty

21) Flight

20) The Five-Year Engagement

19) Jeff, Who Lives At Home

18) The Dark Knight Rises

17) The Perks of Being a Wallflower

16) Sleepwalk With Me

15) Safety Not Guaranteed

14) Skyfall

13) 21 Jump Street

12) Argo

11) Lincoln

 

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