Donut Age: America's Donut Magazine

Semicentenary

I turn 50 this year, a milestone that is neither particularly unusual nor particularly difficult to reach. Nevertheless, custom seems to dictate that I mark such an event in some way. So I rolled out of bed one morning, recalled the Magnetic Fields’ 50 Song Memoir from last year, and decided if Stephin Merritt is allowed the indulgence of writing a song for every year of his life, I could at least get away with making a playlist of songs from every year of mine.

Somewhat uncharacteristically for me, I tried not to overthink my selections: I simply went through my iTunes library “Perfect Songs” list year by year, grabbing songs more or less by gut instinct. My one constraint was to allow only one song per artist, but I resisted the temptation to use that as an excuse for second-guessing earlier choices. A few years didn’t have any 5-star rated songs, and that did require a bit of extra deliberation. I also had to make a couple adjustments when I discovered that songs I’d chosen had been filed under the wrong year, but for the most part, I was able to stay true those initial gut reactions. Here's the full list:

  • 1968: The Rolling Stones, Sympathy For the Devil (Beggars Banquet)
  • 1969: Fairport Convention, Matty Groves (Liege and Lief)
  • 1970: James Brown, Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine (Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine [single], collected on Star Time)
  • 1971: Gil Scott-Heron, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Pieces Of a Man) — 4-star song
  • 1972: Al Green, Let's Stay Together (Let's Stay Together)
  • 1973: Bruce Springsteen, Wild Billy's Circus Story (The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle)
  • 1974: Big Star, September Gurls (Radio City)
  • 1975: Bob Dylan & The Band, You Ain't Goin' Nowhere (The Basement Tapes)
  • 1976: Michael Hurley/The Unholy Modal Rounders/Jeffrey Frederick & The Clamtones, Jacknife/The Red Newt (Have Moicy!)
  • 1977: Parliament, Flash Light (Funkentelechy vs. The Placebo Syndrome)
  • 1978: X-Ray Spex, Genetic Engineering (Germfree Adolescents)
  • 1979: The Clash, Rudie Can't Fail (London Calling)
  • 1980: The Feelies, The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness (Crazy Rhythms)
  • 1981: Soft Cell, Tainted Love (Tainted Love [7"] collected on The Very Best of Soft Cell) — 4-star song
  • 1982: Minutemen, If Reagan Played Disco (Bean Spill [7"], collected on Post-Mersh, Vol. 3)
  • 1983: U2, Two Hearts Beat As One (War)
  • 1984: Big Black, Racer-X (Racer-X [EP])
  • 1985: Tom Waits, Jockey Full of Bourbon (Rain Dogs)
  • 1986: The Costello Show, American Without Tears (King Of America)
  • 1987: Sonic Youth, Schizophrenia (Sister)
  • 1988: Scrawl, Green Beer (He's Drunk)
  • 1989: De La Soul, The Magic Number (3 Feet High and Rising)
  • 1990: Deee-lite, Groove Is In the Heart (World Clique)
  • 1991: Nirvana, Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nevermind)
  • 1992: Bettie Serveert, Tom Boy (Palomine)
  • 1993: Liz Phair, Fuck and Run (Exile In Guyville)
  • 1994: Five Eight, Weirdo (Weirdo)
  • 1995: Old 97's, Victoria (Wreck Your Life)
  • 1996: Imperial Teen, Butch (Seasick)
  • 1997: Aviso, Babyfat (Aviso)
  • 1998: Watershed, Superstressed (Star Vehicle) — 4-star song
  • 1999: Le Tigre, Deceptacon (Le Tigre)
  • 2000: PJ Harvey, This Is Love (Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea)
  • 2001: The Moldy Peaches, Steak For Chicken (The Moldy Peaches)
  • 2002: Mekons, Thee Olde Trip to Jerusalem (OOOH!)
  • 2003: The Wrens, This Boy Is Exhausted (The Meadowlands)
  • 2004: The Mountain Goats, Linda Blair Was Born Innocent (We Shall All Be Healed)
  • 2005: Gogol Bordello, Think Locally Fuck Globally (Gypsy Punks (Underground World Strike))
  • 2006: The Thermals, Power Doesn't Run On Nothing (The Body, the Blood, the Machine)
  • 2007: The New Pornographers, All the Old Showstoppers (Challengers)
  • 2008: Frightened Rabbit, Head Rolls Off (The Midnight Organ Fight)
  • 2009: Wussy, Happiness Bleeds (Wussy)
  • 2010: Titus Andronicus, Richard II or Extraordinary Popular Dimensions and the Madness of Crowds (Responsible Hate Anthem) (The Monitor)
  • 2011: Swearin’, Kenosha (What a Dump [EP])
  • 2012: Hop Along, Tibetan Pop Stars (Get Disowned)
  • 2013: The Uncluded, Teleprompters (Hokey Fright)
  • 2014: Parquet Courts (as “Parkay Quarts”), Pretty Machines (Content Nausea)
  • 2015: Sleater-Kinney, Bury Our Friends (No Cities to Love)
  • 2016: The Goon Sax, Telephone (Up to Anything) — 4-star song
  • 2017: Thurst, Distance (Cut to the Chafe) — 4-star song
  • 2018 (one to grow on): Screaming Females, Shake It Off (The A.V. Club Sessions [single])

The reasons behind the specific choices are varied and idiosyncratic. They aren’t necessarily the “best” songs of their respective years, nor even of their respective artists, but it’s safe to say that I’ve obsessed over all of them at one point in my life or another. In many cases, a song is indelibly tied to a particular time in my life, but a fair number (especially in the first third of the list) are anachronisms I only discovered years, even decades, after they were released. Some of the choices may have been skewed by the “vinyl limbo” effect (there are a number of albums—particularly from the 70s and 80s—that I dearly love but which aren’t in my iTunes library because I own them on vinyl and won’t let myself re-purchase them on CD or digitally). In short, there is a story behind every one of these songs. Perhaps I will get around to telling those stories one of these days.

A murder of crows

A not-so-new, but perhaps seasonally appropriate playlist. This had a long gestation period, like most of my mixes, but in an unfortunate coincidence of timing, I was finalizing it on 8tracks just as news of the the Orlando nightclub shootings last June was breaking. By that point, I was kind of wedded to the title, but it seemed in very poor taste to publicize it, so I let it sit. I still like the playlist, even if I strayed outside the Corvidae family to populate it.

Tracks:

  1. Los Campesions!, The Black Bird, The Dark Slope (Hello Sadness, 2009)
  2. The Mountain Goats, Magpie (The Sunset Tree, 2000)
  3. The Gothic Archies, Crows (from The Vile Village) (The Tragic Treasury: Songs from A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2006)
  4. Yo La Tengo, Tiny Birds (Summer Sun, 2003)
  5. Peter Gabriel, This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds) (So, 1986)
  6. The Ramones, Surfin’ Bird (Rocket To Russia, 1977)
  7. The Coathangers, Jaybird (Larceny & Old Lace, 2011)
  8. Neko Case, Magpie To the Morning (Middle Cyclones, 2009)
  9. Doc Watson & Merle Watson, Cuckoo Bird (More Music from the Florida Folklife Collection, 1977)
  10. The White Stripes, Little Bird (De Stijl, 2000)
  11. Neil Young & Crazy Horse, (Zuma, 1975)
  12. Ass Ponys, Dead Fly the Birds (The Known Universe, 1996)
  13. Quasi, Bye Bye Blackbird (American Gong, 2010)

Flexion

My neglect of this poor old blog has been an ongoing source of shame for me. The meager trickle of new content over the past few years is one aspect of that neglect. There are multiple reasons for the lack of output, but I will save that discussion for another time. Nearly as embarrassing has been the state of the site’s plumbing, which was still largely based on the HTML templates I cobbled together back in aught-three. Table-based page layout may have been acceptable back then, but they’ve been a thorn in my side for a number of years now. I’ve tried, at various points, to move to a tableless layout, but all the solutions I could find either were hacky, or I couldn’t figure out how to adapt them for my needs.

Then CSS Flexbox came along, or more specifically, Philip Walton’s Solved By Flexbox demos came along and finally worked their way through the internet grapevine to somewhere I would actually hear about them (a few months ago). It took me some time to try out Walton’s methods and get confident about using them myself. It took a while more to get them to do more or less what I wanted them to do. And because I was going to be ripping out the guts of my templates anyway, I wandered down some side-paths about improving my typography and some other aspects of the design. Finally I had to dive into the templates themselves, remind myself how they all fit together, and brush up on my rather rusty Tinderbox skills. Altogether, I’ve spent about 3 weeks on the modernization project, but, with this post I can finally unveil my all-new, mobile-friendly, responsive blog layout. Huzzah!

To be sure, there are probably a few rough spots lurking in these pages. I’m still, at best, a mediocre typographer, and I suspect my choice of color scheme is deeply offensive to someone with a more refined visual palate than I’ll ever possess. But as far as I can tell, the new stuff basically works, and I at least don’t have to be ashamed of my janky old tables any more. It’s a start.

Errata

Despite what the timing might suggest, this is not a Valentine’s Day mix, unless you equate Valentine’s Day with mistakes, regrets, and apologies, in which case I guess it is, albeit a few days late. Just one more thing for me to feel sorry about.

Tracks:

  1. Tsunami, Enter Misguided (A Brilliant Mistake, 1997)
  2. Wussy, This Will Not End Well (Wussy, 2009)
  3. Old 97’s, Crash On the Barrelhead (Fight Songs, 1999)
  4. SLUTEVER, So Prone (Pretend To Be Nice [7” EP], 2011)
  5. The Buzzcocks, Something’s Gone Wrong Again (Singles Going Steady, 1992 [re-release])
  6. Lemonheads, Fucked Up (Hate Your Friends, 1987)
  7. Hüsker Dü, I Apologize (New Day Rising, 1985)
  8. Velocity Girl, Sorry Again (Sorry Again [7” EP], 1994)
  9. Wussy, Dreadful Sorry (Wussy, 2009)
  10. Wye Oak, Regret (If Children, 2008)
  11. Galaxie 500, Sorry (This Is Our Music, 1990)
  12. The Magnetic Fields, I’m Sorry I Love You (69 Love Songs, 1999)
  13. The Waco Brothers, Regrets (The Waco Brothers, 1999)
  14. Luna, Bobby Peru (Pup Tent, 1997)
  15. The Costello Show, Brilliant Mistake (King of America, 1996)
  16. The Mountain Goats, Cotton (We Shall All Be Healed, 2004)

Musical interlude

I am acutely aware of the lack of activity here on Donut Age of late, but I’m not prepared to resume even my decidedly irregular posting frequency yet. So in lieu of real content, I will just share some music mixes I’ve created in the past few months.

Power animal

A long playlist (63 tracks) of barn-burners and blood-pumpers. Field tested during hours 11 and 12 of what was supposed to be a 10-hour drive and proven effective at combatting road madness and/or somnolence.

Testing the tensile strength of metaphors

It has become something of a tradition for me to make a Valentine’s Day mix. The 2015 edition explores some of the unlikely and/or tortured metaphors for love, lust and heartbreak.

Fimbulwinter

While Midlantis has not suffered as much as some other regions, this winter’s tenacity has been such as to put one in an apocalyptic frame of mind.

Happy listening.

Visualizing ennui

I know my blogging has never been exactly punctual or steady, but with my las post having been made in January of last year , I'm not sure I can even claim to have a blog any more. Oddly enough, at no point in the last 20+ months did I say to myself, "I'm going to quit blogging for a while." I've always had intentions, sometimes more vague than others, of getting back into the blogging swing; I've just kept finding excuses or distractions to stay away from it.

This lack of public communication has been mirrored by a rather extreme aversion to do any kind of serious introspection, which can be seen in my journalling habits over the past few years. I used to be, in my high school and college days, an fairly dedicated journal-keeper, but somewhere along the path of marriage, work, and children, I lost that habit, only resuming, very tentatively at first, as I was trying to pick up the pieces of my life following my divorce and return to New Jersey. By 2011, I was starting to journal somewhat regularly again, and 2012 saw me burning through 80-page Moleskine 'Cahiers' as fast as one a week for a few stretches. These journals make for some pretty tedious reading, as they largely consist of me turning in circles over the same old complaints about lacking motivation and direction, and enumerating anxieties I had about moving forward with my life. But at least they show that I was trying to make some kind of sense of my depression and looking for a way to take control of my life again.

Those efforts, at least as measured by my journal keeping, started slowing down in late 2012, were little more than a trickle by early spring 2013, and crashed entirely by the following fall. A couple days ago, I finally got to the last page of a journal I'd started over a year earlier, and that mostly by dint of a conscious push I've made in the past 6 weeks to try to resuscitate my journaling habit.

I think pictures tell this story as well as anything:

2011:

Roughly 6 journals (469 pages) filled. 2011: 6 journals

2012:

25 journals (1,965 pages) filled. 2012: 25 journals

2013-14:

4 journals (314 pages) filled, and counting. 2013-14: 4 journals (so far)

I'll leave for another time delving into why I turned away from journaling, except to note that my lack of interest in engaging with the world at large these past many months, has been matched, if not surpassed, by an aversion to engaging with myself, neither of which seem like healthy traits I have some hope that my recent resumption of journaling might signal the beginning of a broader turn for the better.