RAMH@6: Discoveries (A Playlist, and a Rumination)

[Image: 19th-century drawing by A. Roeseler for “the German Punch,” Fliegende Blätter.
Posted on Flickr by user “digitalsextant.” For the whole three-panel thing, click the image.]

I wondered what I’d write about for Running After My Hat‘s sixth anniversary — because, damn it, I was determined to write about something rather than let it pass completely unremarked.

Before I get into the gist of my answer to that question, I thought I’d offer you up a playlist of a variety of music from posts here. Each link in the below table takes you to the post where it was featured; the links open in a new window or tab, and the corresponding posts almost always include (or link to) lyrics, if appropriate. (If you just want to see the post title and date, hover your mouse over the link without clicking on it.) The songs follow no particular sequence, except that (in my estimation) they sound pretty good in this order.

A little audio-player thingumabob appears below the track listing. Feel free to ignore this, or use it as a soundtrack for what follows.

# Artist Song Time
1 Nicola Benedetti Concerto for violin and strings in D/”Grosso Mogul” I. Allegro  5:28
2 The Staple Singers Slippery People (Club Mix)  6:38
3 Lenka The Show  3:56
4 Ariana Grande Tattooed Heart  3:15
5 B.B. King One Shoe Blues  3:15
6 Shook Twins Rose  2:58
7 Old Crow Medicine Show Down Home Girl  3:47
8 Rising Appalachia Swoon  2:30
9 The Black Keys Lonely Boy  3:13
10 Dominant Legs Make Time for the Boy  5:12
11 Santana (w/Rob Thomas) Smooth  2:33
12 Caitlin Rose Pink Champagne  4:06
13 Emmylou Harris/Rodney Crowell Spanish Dancer  3:45
14 Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Mr. Pinstripe Suit  3:39
15 The Rankins Movin’ On  3:27
16 Carrie Rodriguez Lake Harriet  3:12
17 Lucky Soul Upon Hilly Fields  3:55
18 Red Molly Wayfaring Stranger  5:42
19 Tom Waits Hold On  5:34

…and here’s the playlist-player doo-dad itself. (Total length of all songs together: ~78 minutes. So, yeah: settle in.)

(Note: The playlist goes automatically from start to finish, once you click the little Play button. To fast-forward to the next number, once a song is playing you’ll find a little fast-forward button to the right of its progress meter — and a fast-rewind to the left, for that matter.)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

So, to the question of the moment: why “Discoveries”?

What it comes down to is that I’d always thought of RAMH as bringing something to the Web… But on the contrary, doing the blog has in fact brought much more to me: many things completely unexpected, even unsuspected.

Take the music, for example.

The first post in which I embedded an audio player was on July 5th, 2008. The featured song then: “Cool, Cool Considerate Men,” from the musical 1776. Before that Independence-Day week, I’d never seen the movie. Never heard the soundtrack. But for some reason, as soon as I heard the song I realized I wanted to figure out how to share it.

I’d contemplated sharing music before, but never acted on the notion. No hurry, I’d always thought: I had so much favorite music, I could start at any time…

What a laugh. I didn’t have that much favorite music to share. And when I opened my mind to all the music I’d never listened to at all, all the artists I’d never heard of, forgotten about, ignored — wow, what a revelation.

So that’s the first discovery to which RAMH led me, a discovery which I’ve finally boiled down to a playlist wide-ranging but short enough to fit on a CD. (It was tough.) The reason the music classifies as “new” varies. I might have known the song before, say, but never from that particular artist. Or I’d never even heard of the artist, period. Or I knew the artist like an old pair of jeans, but they’d somehow hooked up with an amazing tune. And every one of these tunes, these performances, absolutely delighted me when I first came upon them. They still do.

This is also a good time to mention another discovery: how reliable have been the musical instincts of the other bloggers and RAMH visitors whose suggestions I’ve read over the years. Some of the songs in this playlist I “discovered” all on my lonesome. And many, many of them came to me by way of someone else — possibly a stranger at first — whose tastes I came to admire, and to rely on.

People whose musical tastes I eventually came to rely on include (but are not limited to): Kate Lord Brown, Julie (Jules) Danielson, Froog (of Froogville), Marta Pelrine-Bacon, Nance Meeker, Jayne Guertin Schlott, Simon (of Beat Surrender), Mike Simpson, Steve Page, Cindy Page, Dad, Mom, and of course The Missus. Thanks, everyone!

On to Discovery #2, which might be summed up as: Why do I blog?

As I mentioned above, for a long time I assumed that I blogged as a way of making myself known to the outside world. The advice, after all, was universal, especially for (would-be) writers: when someone asks, Do you have an online presence?, you must have a blog to point them to.

The catch? This “universal” advice turned out to be time-limited, in effect for years but only until the widespread use of what came to be known as social media. No one really expects anyone, even writers, to maintain a really active blog these days (not unless they’ve got some other reason for doing so). Now those longed-for agent and editorial contacts are just as (if not more) likely curious about your presence on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and all the rest.

Furthermore, one thing continues to confound me: the extent to which writer’s guidelines for publication and contests forbid previous “publication” in any form… including on a personal blog. If you’re going to show off your writing on a blog, you must limit it to writing which you (a) have already published or (b) don’t care to have published. While some more far-sighted publishers and periodicals are relaxing a bit on this front, they constitute a tiny minority of outlets for print.

So, again: why blog? I’m still figuring out the answer to that. Importantly (to me), I’ve recognized what I was getting from blogging before which I’m no longer getting, an element I had disregarded or dismissed. Which leads me to…

Discovery #3: Facebook.

I know, I know. A firehose of trivia. Insubstantial. Impermanent. Careless. Indifferently courteous. Slapdash. And all the rest: I know.

Here’s the thing about Facebook, though — a reward which blogging (for 99% of blogs, including RAMH) can’t even begin to touch — it is indisputably social.

I could put up a blog post after three days’ work, and never hear a peep from anyone about it. I could see from web-visit stats, maybe, that some people were at least seeing the page. But unless they were friends, these visitors themselves seldom acknowledged the post: not in a comment, not in an email, not in a link back to RAMH. Silence — crickets.

On Facebook, here’s what happens: you drop a ten-word wisecrack or other mot, and eight or ten people “like” it. This doesn’t mean that they really like it, of course — the “like” acknowledges, reliably, only that they have seen it, and probably read it. They might comment with an emoticon, or an “lol,” or an “Oh, I’m so sorry,” or “Wow — I never knew that!” The point is: it’s something. And that has been Discovery #3 for me, a true revelation: I never really, really blogged because I wanted to promote or market myself, or to show off my writing, or because I thought I had something important to say. Because if any of that had been true, I’d still be posting three or four or more times a week; you couldn’t keep me from posting.

No. The reason I blogged, the thing I didn’t realize about myself until the world moved on from blogging to all those shallow, trivial, quick-and-dirty online venues of little to no “consequence,” was simply this: I needed people; I was lonely.

Anyhow, RAMH will not to my knowledge be going away for a good while. I still use blogging as a lash — an incentive — to explore music. (If I hadn’t had this anniversary thing to work on, I’d have posted another pair of entries in my long-ignored “What’s in a Song?” series this week.) I still like to assemble the whiskey river call-and-response things on Friday. I have not forgotten about my most recent series, on the Golden Treasury of Natural History — or, really, about any of the other topics I have written about from time to time.

And sometimes, rarely, I still like to put something here just because I don’t want to consign it to Facebook’s time-limited shredder.

And yes, I expect — the gods willing — I’ll still be here posting a “RAMH@7” entry, and a “RAMH@8,” and so on.

Thanks so much for visiting. Always.

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  1. Thanks for writing, always! You’re an inspiration to me and love to catch your comments and views whenever I see them WHEREVER I see them.

    • Thanks, Cynth — that means a lot to me. I just hope you never ask me for a definitive answer to the question, “But which place is the REAL you?” Because you will get an answer which may suggest that I seek treatment for multiple-personality disorder. Ha.

  2. I know I am going to enjoy listening to the playlist and following the rabbit holes to the various posts. It’s possible the set-up you presented is easier than I think it would be, but still, I think once again, “These are the days of miracle and wonder.”

    Regarding FB and the ubiquitous likes, I admit that when I hit “like,” what I mean is, “I read your post, I appreciate it for a variety of reasons, but if I don’t write a short, thoughtful response, at least you know I read it and thought about it.”

    I only two of the songs on your playlist (“Lonely Boy,” and “Wayfaring Stranger”) and of the two, I hadn’t heard Red Molly’s version of Wayfaring. Immediate reaction: I must learn this version, both the guitar and the mando. It must be. Sharing the music is a mitzvah.

    • Oh, thank you, Farida — it’s delighted me to know you’ve been wandering through here in recent months.

      …and, of course, to know that there’s someone else still out there carrying a heavy-duty blogging torch forward (not just at one, but at two venues!). I always used to believe, in any bloggers-vs.-social-medianiks comparison, that the former must be more thoughtful, thought-provoking, indeed better people than the latter. I guess I still believe that except now, of course, I spend more time as one of the latter than as one of the former, and so don’t talk much about the difference these days. :)

      P.S. I have been finding myself wanting to click on a “Like” icon in email so often in recent months. A true sign of degeneracy!

  3. I need to listen later today while I finish grading exams. Perhaps it will help students get better grades?

    • Hmm. Well, your students probably surprise me even more than they surprise you, so I should hesitate to make predictions. Still, I can tell you this year’s anniversary playlist feels more, um, energetic (?) than the last two. So it depends on whether the students (and/or their grader) prefer to work to bouncier, “noisier” tunes.

  4. s.o.m.e. one's brudder says:

    Why do I read RAMH? Well, it’s always waaaay more fascinating than all the “mots” on FB. It has substance, and meaning, and a great link to curiosity, too. Would I read it or even found it if you were not my Bro? Well, possibly, if it existed in the absence of our biological terms of endearment, it would like mean that this other person with so many things that I found/find interesting would exist and in this part of the “world wide web” I would likely still have become entangled. However, you are my Bro, and it’s led to a corollary to your “I was lonely” – I miss my brother. I can get as good a piece of him for a few minutes here, as I could hope to in any phone call/Skype/FB connection. Thanks for having it available!

    • All of that back atcha.

      What’s funny now is that I continue to think of you as my main link to relevancy among “young people.” I’ve got younger online friends — sorry — including (among others) Marta, although she’ll possibly be shocked to think of herself as young. And of course there are certain youngsters among the bloodline, as well as their partners. But I won’t think I’ve crossed over into “I’m on my way out the door” territory until I catch you yawning.*


      * Er, not counting real-life too-much-brew and too-late-on-a-Saturday-night instances.

  5. Jill Reit says:

    Enjoying the playlist at work. :)

  6. s.o.m.e. one's brudder says:

    oh, and another thing…Were you aware of the other “pop culture” use of Lenka’s “The Show”? I realize that your experiences with Baseball are about as heroic as mine and really more of a Jean Shepherd type of experience, but – you should check out “Moneyball”. It’s a really good movie – even for someone with less than a passing interest in baseball (to paraphrase Garrett Morris: “baseball NOT been berry, berry good to me”). This song plays an important part, I think twice. Very touching and not treacly, at all, to me. Good for the “summer game”, too.

    • Haven’t seen Moneyball, although I’d read good things about it when it came out. (I think I finally saw Bull Durham about 10-15 years after its release.) I can see the song being used in that context, though!

      I thought Lenka had more or less dropped out of sight. Of course, this didn’t factor in that my line of sight on such matters extends only about a meter in front of my face… In January, she had a new song selected as the backing track for a Diet Dr Pepper commercial, and says she’s working on a new album. Good for her.

      Here’s a video you might like, for a song of hers from last summer called “Nothing Here But Love.” She doesn’t wear a costume, but rather something called “body-sets”… and moves very, veeeeeeeery carefully.

  7. Sorry I miss this last week, JES.

    Many happy returns to RAMH! And I’m very pleased to hear that you’re intending to keep the blog on – despite the apparent indifference of the mobile Internet world to worthwhile content.

    Thanks, too, for the little shout-out up there. Did I really coax you into giving Tom Waits a try? If so, I can count that amongst my more worthy lifetime achievements. Anything else you picked up from me??

    Thank you for this splendid compilation – lots of good listening here.

    And I’m looking forward to the next instalment of What’s In A Song?

    By the way, ReCaptcha seems to have started coming up with some resonant – surreal! – word pairings and inventions. Today I have modpany flax. Say what?

    • Well hello!

      Yes, that’s right — I have given Mr. Waits a go, at your urging, although it would be stretching the point to call me a convert. Ditto Peter Greene, and the very early Fleetwood Mac incarnation, and of course a whole hell of a lot of bass players. (And I can’t remember anything in specific, but I believe your Barstool blog sent me down any number of musical rabbit holes.)

      There’s something to be said for blogs which cause one to adopt a particular way of looking at the world — or at particular cultural slices of it. By any measure, Froogville was such a blog for me!

      I’ve almost given up trying to figure out reCaptcha’s mood swings.


  1. […] about this year’s playlist: last year, the topic was “Discoveries” — songs which I’d encountered more or less as […]

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