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January Media Diet

Feb 02, 2021

In the interest of cataloging material, I’m doing a monthly media diet of things I watched, listened to, or read. I had high hopes for the start of the new year (including this whole affair) but January disappeared into the mess of insurrection, impeachment, inauguration, and investment stonks. So other than finding myself subscribing to more newsletters, and reading way too many articles of January 6th, I didn’t end up tackling anything very substantive this month.

Books

  • Joshua Freeman, American Empire: The Rise of a Global Power, The Democratic Revolution At Home, 1945-2000 (Penguin)
  • Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer, Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974 (Norton)

Last year I planned to use some of the time in quarantine to get through some books for class lectures and never did. I actually brought all the books home in March when everything shut done and ended up bringing them back to the office over the summer. I finally finished two for the post-1945 discussions (although I apparently read all of Fault Lines when it came out and forgot about it). I’m now on to Steven Hahn’s Nation Without Borders that is also part of Penguin’s US history series.

Albums

  • Barry Gibb, Greenfields

The collaborations are great and Gibb’s voice really fits the country style. Although this really feels like a return to the Bee Gees pre-disco when they released some pretty good albums in the English singer/songwriter vein. Cucumber Castle, Trafalgar, and Life in a Tin Can all have good cuts on them and hopefully Gibb gets someone to do “South Dakota Morning” with them on a future volume.

  • Steve Earle, J.T.

In the summer of 2018 I had a ticket to see Justin Townes Earle in Oklahoma City but in the rush to finish my dissertation I ended up skipping the show. I was tired and decided the best use of my time was to work some more and call it a night. The ticket wasn’t too expensive and I figured Earle would be back on tour in the future. Unfortunately he died last year of an overdose and I’ll never get around to making up that missed show. There’s little good that can come out of a death but Steve Earle channeled the pain of his son’s death into an excellent covers album that completes an unfortunate trilogy with his other covers albums Townes and Guy. Throughout the album you can hear Steve’s pain. On “Far Away In Another Town” you can hear his voice crack when he sings about being lonesome on his own and when he sings “Tell my daddy I tried” on “Harlem River Blues” you feel it in your bones. The album, which includes the original song “Last Words,” covers most of Justin’s best songs and seesaws between uptempo and mellow songs giving you a 34 minute view of someone processing their son’s death.

Movies

  • The Reagans (Showtime)

A really good miniseries unpacking the Reagans. Good relevance for today in thinking about how politicians come to power and move themselves to the front of the party apparatus.

  • The Matrix
  • The Matrix Reloaded

I actually watched these at the very end of December, but whatever. At one point in college I started to watch the Matrix and got to the point where Neo has to pick between pills and for whatever reason I stopped the movie and never finished it. The special effects seriously do not hold up two decades later but the movies themselves are fine. I can see why everyone in high school and college loved them but they’re really just big dumb sci-fi movies with some pop philosophy on top. Fun two hours and about it.

There’s some others on my Letterboxd account but that’s the only ones I’m going to bother writing more about.