All posts by Justin Lancy

Sometimes the Universe whispers an offer of happiness to you:

Pardon me…“, it asks. “Would you be interested in seeing something called ‘Apocalypse Pooh’? It’s a mash-up of ‘Apocalypse Now’ (iTunes / Amazon) and the cartoon version of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh‘, made by some mysterious Canadian film-maker.

“Tell me more…” you say.

Pooh Bear is dancing around in front of a mirror, à la an unhinged Martin Sheen. Do you think you would you enjoy seeing that?

“I would.” you say to the Universe.

And what about Piglet as voiced by Dennis Hopper? Would you like that?

“Very much so!”

Perhaps you’d also like to see Tigger appear in the scene where Chef is in the jungle and he freak…

You hear yourself erupt in a guttural, Sam Kinison-like howl: “I WANT TO SEE THIS!! SWEET LORD –  I NEEEEED TO SEE THIS!!”

“Of course you do,” the Universe says as it regards you with a sort of bored bemusement. “Everybody does.”

Like almost every other person who has ever tried to write a pop song, I’m a fan of The Beatles. Truth be told, though, I never spent all that much time listening to the “Post-Beatles” work of the Fab Four – save a childhood rewind-and-replay-until-the-tape-breaks obsession with a Paul McCartney song called  “Coming Up”.1

Recently, though, I took the time to watch Martin Scorsese’s ‘George Harrison: Living In the Material World’ documentary (iTunes / Amazon) and gained new respect for how Harrison forged an identity for himself both during and after The Beatles. Seeing that film is probably why I noticed that today is the release date for ‘The Apple Years 1968-75’ (iTunes / Amazon)

A remastering of 6 albums worth of George Harrison’s post-Beatles output, ‘George Harrison: The Apple Years (1968-75)’ serves as a counterpart to Harrison’s other post-Beatle boxed set, ‘The Dark Horse Years 1976-92’ (Amazon). This new collection features re-released versions (with bonus tracks, natch) of ‘Wonderwall Music’, ‘Electronic Sound’, ‘All Things Must Pass’, ‘Living in the Material World’, ‘Dark Horse’ and ‘Extra Texture (Read All About It)’.

This collection seems like a great place to jump in to Harrison’s solo work if you are, like me, a lot more familiar with The Beatles than with what he did afterwards, . Check out the trailer above or, for more details on the remastering project, click here to go to the Official George Harrison page describing the release.

  1. I liked the song well-enough, but my love was mostly due to what a seven year old me considered to be McCartney’s bravura, multi-character green-screen performance in the video. []

Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow Do A Joint Reddit ‘Ask Me Anything’.

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More Prince goodness… Herc’s Hideaway has a nice round-up in honor of the 30th Anniversary of ‘Purple Rain’.

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Bob Stanley looks back on the legacy of Prince and Madonna, 30 Years after the release of ‘Purple Rain’ in “Highs in the Mid-Eighties” for the Paris Review.

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Some Thoughts on Roger Ebert’s Writing

I recently came across an aphorism which made me smile:

I smiled because – I mean – how many wooden, lifeless bits of prose have you read in your life which were caused by someone taking this idea too far? There’s a reason that this particular type of bad writing is often called “legalistic”: It is a joyless, bloodless, anti-human kind of writing – which is probably part of why you have to pay a lawyer $300 an hour to read it.

Most of the writers that I enjoy reading place their words on the page with a sort of lightness. It feels like someone speaking to you, like someone trying to be understood. If good writing is a sort of magic trick, then a good writer is the magician, the rabbit, and the top hat – all rolled up in one. It is craft combined with the courage to show yourself as you are that lets you pull yourself out of the hat.

It’s a hard thing, but some writers can seemingly do it with ease.
[Read more…]

Here are some items that I came across this week which I felt showed some of the better aspects of our human nature.

This article originally appeared at Veritrope.com

Human Condition

Lauren and I just finished watching “The Human Condition”, a 10 hour Japanese film that shows what can happen to human ideals in a less-than-ideal world.

It was deeply moving and I highly recommend it, but be warned: It takes you into so many bleak emotional places that it makes “Dancer in the Dark” feel like “Singin’ In The Rain” by comparison1.

Maybe that’s why I felt like I wanted to share a few “booster shots of humanity” with you tonight… so here are some items that I came across this week which I think showcase the better aspects of our nature.

“Faces of the Tsunami”

The main character in “The Human Condition” rails against the suffering of those around him while his peers stand around and say “shikata ga nai” (a Japanese idiom for “it can’t be helped”). Writer MIN JIN LEE examines what “shikata ga nai” means to survivors of last year’s devastating disasters in Japan, but the accompanying “Faces of the Tsunami” photo series by photographer DENIS ROUVRE is the part that really captured me. It is a look into the actual human faces of the tragedy and I think you’ll come away from it inspired by the strength and dignity that you see.

What The Tools Are For

There were three bits of technology writing that I saw this week which I thought went beyond the usual “nuts-and-bolts” fare and into far more interesting territory: looking at the human purposes for the tools we use.

GABE WEATHERHEAD wrote this excellent piece which starts off as a straightforward software review before lunging into more personal territory. Regular readers know I am a fan of Gabe’s work and posts like this are a good example of why.

BRETT KELLY shared his own approach to preserving important memories and, in the process, actually shared some of his most important memories with his readers.

Finally, PATRICK RHONE‘s story of his daughter’s first exposure to American commercial television clarified the problems with the TV industry’s business model in a way that some overly-wonky analysis would have likely clouded.

By the way, people who want to show support for humanistic tech writing like this should use the Macdrifter donation page, buy a copy of “Evernote Essentials” or “Keeping it Straight”, or subscribe to the Read & Trust Premium Newsletter (which regularly features Brett and Patrick’s writing).

“Two Splendid Journalists”

It has been an especially bad month for American journalism — first from the loss of ANTHONY SHADID and now with news of the death of MARIE COLVIN. David Remnick wrote a moving tribute to Colvin for the New Yorker and Sherry Ricchiardi for the American Journalism Review pays her respects to both Shadid and Colvin in a piece called “Remembering Two Splendid Journalists”. In it, she shares personal stories about how each reporter tried to make a meaningful impact for people living in the war-torn places that they covered.

I thought this passage was on-point and especially lovely:

“Even in brief conversations, these two journalists forcefully drove home their message: The human condition was a sacred beat. When Shadid drove into an Iraqi village, he went straight to the barber shop or the local mosque. “You can find out everything there if they trust you,” he said. Colvin traveled with Chechen rebels, sleeping in caves with bags of grenades for a pillow. “You eat what they eat, you drink what they drink, you never act like you are above them,” she said.”

Whatever beat you patrol, I think that showing respect for “the human condition” gives your work additional depth and impact. Many thanks to everyone mentioned above for bringing that level of respect to the areas that they cover!

  1. Seriously – one critic said that it “stands as the Grand Canyon of Despair” []

Spotify Search Playlists help you quickly find music that gets your head nodding and makes your ears happy!

This article originally appeared at Veritrope.com

I’m a fan of Spotify, a freemium music service which gives listeners access to a collection of over 15 million songs. It’s a fantastic way to enjoy music, but its library is so large that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with options when it comes to putting together playlists or finding new artists.

One solution: “Spotify Search Playlists”. Here are two search tips which can help you quickly find music that gets your head nodding and makes your ears happy.

[Read more…]

This article originally appeared at Veritrope.com

I wasn’t aware of journalist Anthony Shadid until I learned of his recent death, but I found myself inspired by his work and by the recollections of his peers:

Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the Washington Post (and more recently the New York Times), Shadid died at the age of 43 of an asthma attack while on assignment in Syria, prompting an outpouring of grief from his colleagues and his readers. He also wrote several acclaimed books about the Middle East, including the soon-to-be released “House of Stone: A Memoir of Home, Family, and a Lost Middle East”.

Shadid went beyond the standard practice of documenting the actions of the powerful by also telling “smaller” stories about the daily experiences of ordinary people, earning his reputation for putting a human face on some of the Middle East’s political and social complexities.

Of his work, Amy Sullivan of The Atlantic said “There are great reporters and there are great writers. And then there are the rare few who inspire awe by being both.”He was the best of our breedsaid TIME’s Bobby Ghosh, going on to express a sentiment which I saw echoed by many others:  Shadid’s talent, combined with his lack of ego, made him one of the finest journalists of his generation.

To humanize something, I think, requires a deep well of both humility and empathy. It is the act of making one person’s interior experience visible to the rest of us. With professional skill and with personal kindness, Anthony Shadid made a life’s work out of helping people understand each another better. It seems to me that his ability to write “poetry on deadline” won’t soon be replaced, but perhaps it’s that spirit of generosity towards both the people he wrote about and the people he worked with which will be his most enduring legacy.

UPDATE — Final Mix Released! (See Below)

Long-time readers know that I’m a big fan of Karsh Kale, my old neighbor and the current heavyweight champion of making music with cool people all around the world. For Valentine’s Day, Karsh shared an early mix from a recent collaboration with Blackstratblues (a.k.a., guitarist Warren Mendonsa’s new project after moving on from Indian Rock legends “Zero”).

“Hallelujah / Ode to a Sunny Day” is a straightforward concept: Kale sings a Jeff Buckley-esque interpretation of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” over the music to Mendonsa’s “Ode To A Sunny Day”, which was originally featured on 2009’s “The New Album”.