Harold vs. Donald, round 2

P. Shauers, Donald and the Golden Crayon

Last year, there was Donald and the Golden Crayon, a satirical look at Mad King Donald, inspired by Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon (1955). For more on that, see my interview with the book’s author and publisher from October 2018.

John Darkow, Donald and the Black Sharpie (6 Sept. 2019)

This year, it’s Donald and the Black Sharpie, in which at least four five six people have invoked Johnson’s hero to mock our Evil Orange Overlord’s insistence that, with his magic pen, he can change the weather. Even before John Darkow’s cartoon (above), Bradley Whitford tweeted:

On September 6th, Dana Milbank and Tom Toles published a full-length parody of Johnson’s book, which they titled Donald and the Black Sharpie.

Tom Toles, from Donald and the Black Sharpie (words by Dana Milbank, 6 Sept. 2019)

Well, the text is a full-length parody. Toles provides a select few illustrations.

Also on Friday, Jimmy Kimmel did a Donald and the Magic Sharpie parody on his show.

On CNN on Sunday the 8th, Jake Tapper presented his own version of Donald and the Black Sharpie.

(I can’t embed the video here, but you can see it on CNN.)

Finally, on September 16th, Ward Sutton published Donald and the Purple Sharpie in the Boston Globe.

Ward Sutton’s Donald and the Purple Sharpie (16 Sept. 2019)

Sure, it would be better if Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did her job and began impeachment proceedings against our Traitor-in-Chief. And, no, I don’t expect any elected Republican to step up: they have been Quislings throughout, only occasionally murmuring an objection.

However, until enough elected officials find the courage to act, we can at least laugh at the deranged orange bloviator. Laughing in no way offsets the damage he continues to inflict, I know. But shared laughter reminds us that we’re not losing our minds. It reminds us we are not alone. We see what he and the entire treasonous Republican Party are doing.

In his classic comic strip Barnaby (1942-1952), Crockett Johnson understood the power of satire. And so Johnson would I think be pleased to see Harold’s crayon wielded to mock the malignant narcissist and his sharpie.


For calling these to my attention, thanks to Ellen Gilmer, Dave Rintoul, Thomas Hamilton, Maureen O’Hara, Olga Holownia, Linda Nel and Stephen Sloan.


Updated (thanks to Olga) on 10 Sept. 2019 to add the Jimmy Kimmel Show, and again (thanks to Linda and Stephen) on 18 Sept. 2019 to add the Ward Sutton cartoon.


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Delights

If you have yet to read Ross Gay‘s The Book of Delights (2019), here is an invitation to pick it up. A collection of 102 brief essays he wrote over the course of a year, the book is about the possibility — the necessity — of attentiveness to joy in the world. We live in dark times, and the book does not ignore that. Gay’s sense of delight is capacious, including appreciating beauty, understanding fear, enjoying music, considering the insights gained from pain.

Let me give you an example — one I have shared with many friends, since first I read the book back in March.

The phrase “communities of sorrow” does not appear in Gay’s The Book of Delights.  But the idea does.  Gay writes:

     Among the most beautiful things I’ve ever heard anyone say came from my student Bethany, talking about her pedagogical aspirations or ethos, how she wanted to be as a teacher, and what she wanted her classrooms to be: “What if we joined our wildernesses together?” Sit with that for a minute. That the body, the life, might carry a wilderness, an unexplored territory, that yours and mine might somewhere, somehow, meet. Might, even, join.
     And what if the wilderness — perhaps the densest wild in there — thickets, bogs, swamps, uncrossable ravines and rivers (have I made the metaphor clear?) — is our sorrow? Or, to use [Zadie] Smith’s term, the “intolerable.” It astonishes me sometimes — no, often — how every person I get to know — everyone, regardless of everything, by which I mean everything — lives with some profound personal sorrow. Brother addicted. Mother murdered. Dad died in surgery. Rejected by their family. Cancer came back. Evicted. Fetus not okay. Everyone, regardless, always, of everything. Not to mention the existential sorrow we are all afflicted with, which is that we, and what we love, will soon be annihilated. Which sounds more dramatic than it might. Let me just say dead. In this, sorrow, of which our impending being no more might be the foundation, the great wilderness?
     Is sorrow the true wild?
     And if it is — and if we join them — your wild to mine — what’s that?
     For joining, too, is a kind of annihilation.
     What if we joined our sorrows, I’m saying.
     I’m saying: What if that is joy?

I find myself drawn to this because I’ve come to really appreciate sadness. Sadness connects us to others. As Gay suggests, it binds all of us humans together because we all carry within us sadness and pain. It is an affective opening-up, and in this sense sadness is the opposite of depression. When I mentioned this idea to my therapist, he said that there are many flavors of depression, and that I was describing anhedonic depression.  So, revise the previous sentence to say that anhedonic depression is an affective break with the world, an inability to feel.  But sadness offers — or, at least, can offer — a deeper connection to the world, and to our fellow humans.  On the Venn Diagram of emotions, sadness overlaps with love.

The previous paragraph is one of my delights. Since reading Gay’s book, I have been trying to be more attentive to delights. After mentioning this to Mark Newgarden in New York, in May, he asked was I writing these down? I was not. So, in June, I began keeping a kind of diary. I call it “Daily Delights,” even though I don’t write in it every day. Here are four more.


From 26 June, Manhattan, Kansas. Upon finishing my swim, I pulled myself out of the pool as another swimmer — who had just arrived — remarked to the swimmer in the adjacent lane that she knew she wouldn’t need to wait for a lane because I was predictable.  Smiling, I said, “What do you mean? I warmed up the lane for you.” After a brief, good-natured conversation, I wished her a good swim, said that I was glad to be so predictable, and began to amble off to the showers. Worried that she may have insulted me, she walked a few steps with me to explain herself. I assured her that I understood and that I was indeed predictable.

Our conversation prompted this reflection. “Predictable” is one of those few words that renders a negative judgment both as itself and as its negation. To say that a person is “unpredictable” conveys the notion that he/she is unreliable, potentially volatile, emotionally unstable, or even unhinged. Though it should be complimentary, “predictable” — when applied to a person — generally means “boring.” If we want to compliment someone’s predictability, we instead say that she/he is reliable. Or, if we want to praise unpredictability, we may call a person surprising or, perhaps, exciting. And, yet, of course, we are all of us a mixture of predictability and unpredictability. I may reliably swim for 40 minutes at the same time of the day or typically jog the same two routes. But I also embrace the unpredictability of travel, where my jogging route is not the only thing that changes. Life is a balance between the need for surety and enjoyment of change, the comfort of the expected and of finding joy in what we did not anticipate.


From 7 July, Berlin. I often say that time abroad affords me a much-needed mental-health holiday. Which it does. And lately I’ve taken to joking that I’m hiding from the U.S. — that’s why I’m traveling to so many places. I have to keep moving!

It would be more accurate to say that time abroad grants perspective. It gives me space. It provides a distance from which I can think. It allows me to reclaim my mental space more fully.

Donald Trump is a parasite who colonizes human consciousness. Placing an ocean between myself and the parasite diminishes its power. Temporarily.

It’s a bit like putting some distance between yourself and King Leck (in Kristin Cashore’s Graceling novels). In the case of Bitterblue and Katsa (though few others in the realm), the distance — and ultimately, the death of Leck — helps the fog lift and clarity return.


From 27 July, Vienna, after spending a long time staring at Johannes Vermeer’s The Art of Painting (c. 1666-1668) in the Kunst Historisches Museum: There should be a term for the experience of looking at realistic paintings after seeing a Vermeer. The (unfair) comparison makes everything else feel a bit flat. You feel that you could step into a Vermeer, as if what you have seen is not just canvas but window or portal. I spent more time looking at the Vermeer than I did any other piece of art in the museum. I had a similar experience with Vermeer’s Woman in Blue Reading a Letter, on display at the Alte Pinakothek in München in the fall. The experience of looking at a Vermeer is almost hypnotic. And you need to be there, in the gallery, looking at it. No reproduction of Vermeer has quite the same effect.


From 7 August, Edinburgh. Days are so full of thoughts and impressions. Impossible to note even just the interesting ones and keep experiencing the day. I had that thought this evening, darting between and among the umbrella’d and the uncovered, as the rain fell, but more lightly than earlier in the afternoon/evening.

Or, more succinctly: It is impossible to both live life and chronicle it fully.


In conclusion, I’d say this: inasmuch as it is possible, do not let malevolent leaders, oppressive systems, collapsing climate, etc. rob of you your own capacity for joy. I realize this is hard — and harder for those who are the direct targets of the regime’s* cruelty. I am grateful for — and acknowledge my own privilege in having — business, family, and friends that enabled me to travel this summer. I should also add that there are also more troubling thoughts chronicled amidst my delights — omitted from this narrative, even though making sense of my tangled mind is in fact one of my delights. OK. That’s all. Find delight where you can. Take care of yourselves.


* I am thinking of Mad King Donald’s regime, but feel free to insert any of the many others we have to choose from: Jair Bolsonaro, Rodrigo Duterte, and now — it seems — Boris Johnson…

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Mundo Azul, Berlin

Mundo Azul, Choriner Straße 49, Berlin

This is the bookstore I want to live in. Mundo Azul (Choriner Straße 49, Berlin) is an international celebration of beautiful children’s picture books — some of which I knew, many of which I did not, and all of which are well worth reading. While browsing, I had the sense that the proprietor, Mariela Nagle, had selected each one intentionally. She displays them not because they are popular — though there are some well-known titles, along with many that were (to me) discoveries. She displays them because they’re art that she wants to spend more time with, and that her patrons should get to know.

And then there’s the space itself.

Two rooms of books, carefully displayed on wooden shelves, many book-covers facing outward — catching the eye, drawing you in for a closer look.

There are places for sitting and reading.

(Or for taking silly selfies with your friends.)

Ada Bieber and Philip Nel display 3 books: Jessica Love’s Julián Is a Mermaid; Megumi Iwasa’s Viele Grüße, Deine Giraffe (German translation illus. by Jörg Mühle); Ruth Krauss and Maurice Sendak’s Löcher Gibt’s, Um Sie Zu Graben (A Hole Is to Dig in German).

And what is that tiny sign in the middle of that bookshelf over there?

Yes! That one! On the little easel.

“Silent books”? Does that mean what I think it means…? Yes. Perusing the books confirms that they are all wordless. An entire shelf devoted to wordless picture books! When Mariela Nagle noticed my interest, she strolled over with a new one she had just gotten in — from Portugal, which (she says) has more independent children’s book publishers than anywhere.

I think I got that right. Mariela, if I am mistaken, please correct me! I visited the shop with no intention of writing about it — so, I took no notes. I only decided to write about it afterwards, as I walked away thinking of all the people who would love this shop! Instead of writing only to them, I decided to shout it from the rooftops! Or, at least, from the laptops — via this blog.

This is the book Mariela showed me. It’s a wordless, anti-capitalist parable.
On the subject of anti-capitalist parables, I like this one even better. It has words — Karl Marx’s. (Thanks to Ada Bieber for directing me to it… and to the store!)

If ever you are in or near Berlin, you must visit Mundo Azul. Plan to spend the afternoon. Yes, all of the afternoon. And it is OK if you do not speak German. Mariela speaks German, English, and Spanish (and possibly other languages — I neglected to ask).*

If you cannot get to Berlin, I highly recommend browsing…

After you’ve done that, you’ll of course start saving up for a trip to Berlin….

Vielen Dank an Mariela und Ada! Es war wunderbar!


* Update, 11 July 2019: I met up with Mariela this evening at “Drawings from East & West: Sino-German Picture Book Exchange Salon,” and I asked. She also speaks Italian and French.

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How to Make Engaging Video-Lectures for On-Line Classes

Though I’ve only been teaching on-line for a couple of years, I’ve developed a visual style (heavily indebted to others’ visual styles*) that works for me. I’m offering this video for people who are teaching on-line and who want to make more engaging video-lectures. But please keep in mind that my visual style may not work for you. It may take time to develop a style that works for your personality and pedagogy. Indeed, the styles explored in this video would not work for all of my class sessions.

As I note (in the video), for more serious subjects, I adopt a more serious visual style. And there’s a much greater frequency of visual tricks in this video because I’m (a) trying to convey the many visual possibilities in a brief time and (b) making a semi-humorous (?) instructional video.

Anyway. Here are 9 tips on how to make engaging video-lectures for your on-line courses.

I hope it proves useful to you! Critique and comments welcome, of course!


* some influences listed in video’s end credits.


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  • Literature for Adolescents (Fall 2018): Sneak Preview (31 May 2018). Some videos from an earlier on-line class — the later ones are better than the earliest few. I was still learning how to make these. Indeed, I still am learning how to make these. I’m sure that in 6 months or a year, I’ll look back at the above critically.
  • Sherman Alexie and #MeToo (5 April 2018). The results of a conversation in my on-line Multicultural Children’s Literature course. I taught Alexie’s novel, and then the news of his mistreatment and harassment of others broke. So, I added a discussion to my course on how we might respond. I shared it publicly in the hopes that others might find it useful for approaching the topic in their classes (on-line or in-person). Some found it useful. Others definitely did not.

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Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat

I’m borrowing the title of Charles Mingus’ tribute to Lester Young because my uncle Terry Webb liked Young, Mingus, and this song. To the best of my knowledge, Terry did not wear pork pie hats. Earlier in his career, Terry wore bowler hats. Later, he wore a Tyrolean hat. Or no hat — as in the photo below.

Philip Nel and Terry Webb, August 2018.

I could not be at Terry’s funeral in Bournemouth today. So, I sent this brief video reminiscence — which I am sharing here for any who would like to see it. Friends. Family. People who enjoy tributes for a favorite uncle.

Yes, that is an actual postcard from Terry, sent in 1975. Another annotation: the three photos that cycle through during the “same wavelength” section were cropped by Terry himself. While going through Terry’s hard drive of photos to make photo albums for Terry’s widow, my sister (Linda) came across those three, labeled terry_phil1, terry_phil2, terry_phil3. One other note: near the end, the Charlie Parker CD I hold up is one Terry gave me when he was visiting us in Nashville in the 1990s. Whenever the two of us were anywhere near a record shop, we’d go in and he would always get me a jazz CD he recommended. This particular one does indeed have “Parker’s Mood” on it. No one watching this video today could have known any of the above, of course. But hopefully the intent came through.

As I worked on selecting the music with Terry’s friends Vic Grayson and Derek Fones, I realized how much of my jazz knowledge comes from Terry. They would mention a song, and I would think: Oh, yes, Terry and I chatted about Bill Evans. And Charles Mingus. And Duke Ellington. And, of course, Charlie Parker. Here’s our Spotify playlist for the funeral.

Terry’s choices (communicated to Derek, a week or so before Terry died) are:

The Spotify playlist lists this last one as “New Orleans Function,” but don’t let that fool you: it’s actually “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble.” It’s followed by a shorter Armstrong recording of the same song, and another version by Kid Ory. Terry asked for “Oh, Didn’t He Ramble” as the exit music: we’ve added a few extra recordings so that the music keeps playing as people depart the chapel. Terry wanted people to enter to “Parker’s Mood.” However, since “Parker’s Mood” is so brief (and would conclude before people had finished entering), we decided to precede it with Bill Evans’ “Peace Piece,” and then begin the funeral proper with “Parker’s Mood.” This way, people could actually have a chance to listen to the Charlie Parker. Also, how many funerals begin with “Parker’s Mood”? I think Terry would have liked this somewhat unconventional beginning.

(Derek and Vic and I discussed including Mingus’ “Goodbye, Pork Pie Hat,” but it ultimately did not make the final playlist. As is ever the case, we had more music than time. So, check out the album Mingus Ah Um and listen for yourself. Indeed, why not give yourself a treat and listen to the whole album?)

So long, Terry. And thanks for all the delight — musical and otherwise — that you brought to our lives.

For their invaluable help in planning the funeral, special thanks to my cousin Vicky O’Neill and Head & Wheble funeral director Bob Bowater. For their indispensable assistance in making musical selections, thanks to Vic Grayson, Derek Fones, and Terry himself!

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Terry Webb (1934-2019)

Terrence Dudley Webb passed away on 12 April 2019, just over two weeks after learning that he had lung cancer. He was 85.

Terry Webb and his father Leslie Webb (1904-1992), c. 1935.

Born March 23, 1934 in Pretoria, South Africa, Terry was the first child of Leslie Ralph Webb and Mona Beatrice Webb (née Schwegmann). Leslie was a mechanic, fixing adding machines, calculators, and typewriters. He was, in his way, an early computer engineer — a field that would later be of interest to all three Webb siblings. Mona’s belief in a benevolent god and ability to see the best in everyone gave him — Terry would later reflect — “optimism and courage.”

Graham Webb (1936-2015) and Terry, c. 1939.

And two more siblings. When two-year-old Terry was told that the family would soon gain a new member, he looked forward to welcoming a little sister. So, his brother Graham’s arrival in June 1936 was a surprise. But Terry adapted. In a photo taken three years later, the two brothers — clad in matching sweaters and shorts — sit side by side, Terry smiling as Graham leans against him. The little sister finally arrived in November 1941, when Gloria was born.

Thanks to comic books, young Terry had taught himself to read before he began primary school in 1940. In 1946, a job in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) brought the Webb family — which now included their Zulu servant Donswene — to Lusaka. However, the promised house was still under construction, the small cottage where they lived had a leaky thatched roof, and the local schools weren’t up to par. Not wanting to send her sons away to boarding school, Mona convinced Leslie to return to South Africa. After a short stay with Cyril Webb (Leslie’s brother) and his wife Iris in Durban, the family at last moved to 97 Glenwood Drive, Durban. There, the Webb children would spend the rest of their childhoods.

Though girls’ education was not a priority, Terry noticed that his sister Gloria was bright and inquisitive. He encouraged her studies, insisting that she enroll in serious academic courses, including Latin and Maths, rather than the “domestic science” classes that girls usually took. He also challenged her to think critically.

By the end of his high school years, Terry had discovered be-bop. The music of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Thelonious Monk begat a life-long love of jazz. Though more passionate about his musical education, Terry attended to his formal education, graduating from Durban High School in 1951 and Natal University in 1956.

While still a college student, this be-bop aficionado became an accountant, joining the Durban firm of Murray, Smith, Berend and Noyce. That combination — avant-garde jazz and careful financial management — encapsulates Terry’s personality. He had a sharp mind, but also a wry sense of humor. He was meticulously attentive, whether to the complex harmonies of a Lester Young solo or to the intricacies of an audit. He was fluent in the languages of art and of economics. For that matter, Terry also spoke French, Afrikaans, and — much later — Luxembourgish.

Terry married Pat Fletcher on 27 June 1959. Though (and perhaps because) they were childless, Terry took an active interest in the lives of his nieces and nephews, taking them to dinner whenever his travels brought him near, sending postcards from those travels, or — with his niece Linda — playing golf.

As Terry put it, “professional ambition” inspired him in the 1960s to take up golf and join the Royal Durban Golf Club, where his younger brother was already established as a first team player. Upon Graham’s passing in 2015, Terry recalled: “Notwithstanding my lack of ability, he introduced me to his friends, partnered me and gradually taught me the finer points of the game.”

The Webb siblings in 2004: Terry, Gloria, and Graham

While Terry rose in the ranks of chartered accountancy, he always remembered to mentor younger colleagues. When the firm of Murray, Smith, Berend and Noyce merged with Deloitte (then Deloitte, Haskins and Sells) in 1975, Terry joined Deloitte as a partner, moving to the Johannesburg office a few years later. In 1987, he moved again, this time to manage Deloitte’s Luxembourg office. In 1991, he retired, and he and Pat moved to Ferndown, Dorset, in the UK.

When Pat died in 1996, Terry reorganized, downsized, and moved to the Bournemouth flat where he would live for the next two decades. But not on his own. In February 1999, he — quite by chance — met Evelyne King. She, too, was recently widowed. They started chatting, and just clicked. They married on 6 April 2001.

Evelyne and Terry in Salzburg, Austria. December 2006.

Since they both liked to travel, over the next 18 years Terry and Evelyne visited Paris, Nice, Venice, Rome, Tuscany, Lake Como, Hong Kong, China, Japan, Singapore, Lisbon, Madrid, Andalusia, Amsterdam, Athens, Brussels, Budapest, Salzburg, the Canary Islands, the Arctic Circle, Norway, Iceland, Scotland, Switzerland, and many places in the U.S. — New York, New England, California, Colorado, Texas, Las Vegas, Arizona, Utah. (This incomplete itinerary at least gestures to their geographic range, even if it cannot conjure the many delights of traveling together.)

Back in Bournemouth, Terry was a member of the Probus Club, the Big Band Club, and (from 1998 to 2011) the Board of Governors of the Bournemouth School, serving as its Chair from 2007 to 2011. During his tenure as Chair, he helped establish the fiscal foundations for improving the school’s infrastructure, increasing its enrollment, and attracting the brightest students from the area. As Headmaster Dr Dorian Lewis noted, the school gained much from Terry’s “generosity of time and spirit” and his “wisdom and good humour.” As did all of us who knew Terry.

Terry is survived by his wife Evelyne Webb, his sister Gloria Hardman, as well as cousins, nieces, nephews, other family, and many good friends.

A funeral will be held at the Bournemouth Crematorium on Friday, May 3, 2019 at 1 pm, followed directly by a celebration of Terry’s life.

Flowers or donations, made payable to Cancer Research, may be sent care of Head and Wheble, 1A Oxford Road, Lansdowne, Bournemouth, Dorset, BH8 8EY, telephone number 01202 551190.

— Philip Nel (Terry’s nephew)

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Peace Pieces

album covers: Harry Kalahiki's Mungo Plays Ukulele, Kronos Quartet's Pieces of Africa, Django Reinhardt's Monsieur Guitare: The Very Best of His Early Recordings 1934-1939, and Dmitri Alexeev's Chopin: The Complete Preludes.
Peace Pieces

In these unsettling times, I turn to music to help me calm down — especially at day’s end, when I need to sleep. While calming melodies might not grant complete tranquility, they do nudge me in that direction. Thinking that others might also appreciate some soothing sounds, here is a playlist — roughly two CDs of music, incidentally — that I’ve named “Peace Pieces” (after the Bill Evans tune). It’s a mix of classical, new age, and jazz.

Looking for other relaxing music? I very much enjoy the late Jóhann Jóhannsson’s Orphee (2016). The opening track is #22 in the above playlist.

And there’s Moby’s Long Ambients 1: Calm. Sleep. (2016), which is also available for free on his website. (Breaking news: while creating that link, I learned that last week Moby released Long Ambients 2 via Calm. Within a month of its Calm release, the new album will become available via Spotify and Apple Music.)

The classic ambient record — my Desert Island Discs ambient record — is Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978). It’s excellent for relaxing.

If (for variety’s sake) you’d like a slightly different version of Eno’s album, check out Bang on a Can’s 1998 recording. I’ve listened to Eno’s so often that I lately find myself gravitating just as often to the Bang on a Can record.

I find Max Richter’s 8.5-hour Sleep (2015) to be a bit uneven. I like some pieces, but others are, frankly, less conducive to sleep. However, From Sleep (a 1-hour version of Sleep) is more likely to invite slumber. Indeed, two tracks included in From Sleep appear in my “Peace Pieces” playlist.

One more (added on Sunday, after this post went live): Winged Victory for the Sullen. Don’t let the name throw you off. The music is very grounding and not depressing — or, at least, I don’t find it to be. “A Symphony Pathetique” (from their self-titled debut) appears on my “Peace Pieces” playlist. Below are two albums and a couple of singles.

And with those bonus playlists (well, bonus albums, really), I’m concluding my week of posting a playlist each day. Miss any of the week’s musical delights? Links to the rest are below. And you can find others via my Spotify account.


The full list of the week’s mixes/playlists


Final thought. When I began this blog back in 2010, I imagined that one of its primary functions would be sharing mixes. Back then, that proved far too labor-intensive. Indeed, I have since had to take down mp3s that I posted. The Yahoo interface through which they were playable (but not downloadable) has long since been abandoned, leaving the files vulnerable to theft. So, I swiftly complied with copyright holders’ requests by taking down not only the files I was asked to remove, but all of them. (I have begun reconstructing those mixes via Spotify: The “meta” mix is now available again. Others will become available when I find time…)

Now, perhaps, the blog is finally realizing its initial mix-sharing aspiration — though, yes, you do need to be on Spotify in order to listen. (Using Spotify is free, but using it without ads requires a subscription.) I hope these mixes have been enjoyable for you!

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12″ Mixes from the 1980s & 1990s

Soft Cell: “Tainted Love / Where Did Our Love Go” (1981)

From the late 1970s into the 1990s, producers issued extended mixes — accompanied by instrumental versions, remixes, bonus tracks (songs cut from the record, live versions) — on 12″ records. The same size as a regular LP, each 12″ record had but a few songs on it. It might play at 45 rpm (like a single) or at 33 1/3 rpm (like an LP). By the mid-1980s, 12″ records were everywhere. And I do mean everywhere. Spotify doesn’t have it, but Google Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark (Blaster Mix)” (1984). It’s his famous hit song but with more drums, and placed more prominently in the mix. Also: more glockenspiel. And just… longer.

The Cure: “Boys Don’t Cry (New Vocal Mix)” (1986)

The production on that Springsteen track — and on many of these — can be excessive to the point of parody. But not always. Though they’re not available digitally, Peter Gabriel’s 12″ singles for his So album (1986) included some beautiful, different arrangements of those songs. (You can find the 12″ arrangement of “In Your Eyes” on his live albums.) Turning to songs included here, the “Mendelsohn Extended Mix” of INXS’s “Need You Tonight” (1987) begins by dropping out the drumbeat and a guitar part while placing the synthesizer further up in the mix. When the drums arrive later, and the omitted guitar later still, the song already has already established a slightly dreamier feel. It’s familiar, but different.

Some of these also will not feel like “new” renditions of familiar tunes. The 12″ of Soft Cell’s cover of “Tainted Love” (1981) has become the definitive version of that song. Likewise, the 12″ versions of New Order’s “Blue Monday” (1983) and “Bizarre Love Triangle” (1986) are likely the recordings of those tunes that you know best. And some of these exist only in their 12″ versions — Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” (1980), Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” (1982), Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two” (1988).

Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock: “It Takes Two” (1988)

Likely because I was a teenager when most of these songs were released, I’m fond of these 12″ singles, however bombastic or excessive they may be. I like the massive chorus that opens Depeche Mode’s 9-and-a-half-minute mix of “Never Let Me Down Again” (1987). And as far as I’m concerned, Annie Lennox and Aretha Franklin can sing “Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” (1985) for as long as they like. So, then, here are 74 extended mixes — running a total of eight hours — mostly from the 1980s. (There are also some tracks from the 1990s, and two from the 1970s.) Enjoy!

New Order: “Blue Monday” (1983)

Coming tomorrow… the final playlist in this week-long experiment in musical delights!


The mixes/playlists thus far

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Go! (a travel playlist)

Nearly 30 years ago, when my nephew Graeme was born, I sought music to give him. But most of what I found in record stores proved unsatisfying. (Why listen to kid-i-fied cover of a great song when you could listen to the original?) So, I started making mix tapes for kids — which later became mix CDs. Now that we have arrived in the era of the playlist, here’s a playlist (mixlist?) of songs about travel, all derived from those earlier mixes. Needless to say, all are suitable for children and their adults — though most were not written expressly for children.

walk / don’t-walk signal in Maastricht, 2013.

Continuing this week’s theme of musical delights, tomorrow (Friday) we will party like it’s 1989. Or even 1979. Bring your dancing shoes!


The mixes/playlists thus far

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Mah Nà Mah Nà: Italian Cinema, 1965-1976

Album covers for Fumo di Londra, Svezia Inferno e Paradiso, Ad Ogni Costo, & I Giovani Tigri.

Need a pick-me-up in the middle of the week? Whether you’re listening on Wednesday (the day I’m posting this) or not, welcome to this collection of sonic uplift! I’ve named it after the song you almost certainly know: Piero Umiliani’s “Mah Nà Mah Nà,” made famous in various versions performed by Jim Henson’s Muppets. On this playlist, however, you’ll hear the original, from the soundtrack of Svezia, inferno e paradiso (1968). You’ll also hear 49 other songs, composed by Umiliani, Ennio Morricone, Armando Trovaioli, Piero Piccioni, and others.

To give credit where due, this selection of film music by Italian composers, all recorded between 1965 and about 1976, draws inspiration (and a good portion of its playlist) from a 90-minute mix created by Bill DeMain over 20 years ago. He gave it to me on a cassette, but without song titles.

The original "Italian Cinema" mix tape compiled by Bill DeMain
The “caffeinated” side of Bill’s original mix.

Maybe 5 or so years ago, assisted by the Shazam app, I managed to reconstruct much of it digitally. (It has long been a favorite mix of mine!) When I couldn’t find a particular track, I added something in a similar vein. I had such fun making it that I made a sequel. This playlist includes tracks from both — the attempted recreation of Bill’s original and my “Part II.” Though not everything is available on Spotify, a surprising amount is.

Tomorrow, this week-long experiment in musical delights continues with… a travel-themed playlist for children and their adults. See you then!


The mixes/playlists thus far

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