Edward Bolman: The records of Jim Copp. Ed: “Oh, Mr. Copp, are we in Flumdiddle yet?” Jim: “Why, no. We’re in a forest, East of Flumdiddle.” Jim Copp was a towering genius in the field of children’s records. For anyone wishing to become acquainted with Mr. Copp, I recommend visiting the Playhouse Records Web Site. On Youtube, you can watch Jim perform “Agnes Mouthwash” live and marvel at the idea of Jim’s insanity warming up the audience for Billie Holiday.
Matthew Cheney: It should come as little surprise to anyone reading this that I am fond of a blog called The Old, Weird America. It is an in-depth exploration of Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music (about which Greil Marcus famously said, “the old, weird America is what one finds here”) that also provides copious examples of other recordings and variations of the songs on the Anthology, as well as information on the musicians. It’s a time machine and a treasure map. I especially recommend to our readers the post on “John the Revelator.”
Michaela D’Angelo: One day last July I was wandering through Mass MOCA, looking at a great deal of nominally clever, but ultimately uninspired and uninspiring “art”. I walked up a flight of stairs into an exhibit by the German expressionist, Anselm Kiefer. It absolutely took my breath away. Great slabs of paint on enormous canvases that looked as if they had been unearthed, and though they were quite abstract, they seemed to say everything there was to say about war, loss, life and death, with a vividness and impact that was uncanny. Months later, they continue to haunt me. And one more thing, if you still believe in the salvific power of rock and roll, check out Matthew Ryan.
Robin DeRosa: Lentil burritos and http://thebloggess.com/
Jeffrey Ford: I’ve known Steven Erikson (author of the Malazan books) for a while now. I usually see him once a year at the World Fantasy Convention. In addition to being an incredibly talented writer, Steve has also been educated and trained as both an anthropologist and archaeologist. He remains active in these fields and always has interesting stories to tell about his journeys and discoveries. A couple of years ago he told me about some crazy trip he took to a remote spot in Mongolia where he very nearly died. This past year he told me about Saveock Water, an archaeological dig underway in England. The site being excavated for the past ten years by Jaqui Wood and her students is unlike anything ever discovered in the U.K., or for that fact, the world. As of 2011, they’ve found 42 ritual pits of a very bizarre nature. These pits, dug into the clay, are lined with dog fur or sometimes swan feathers and also worked into the walls are the remains of certain birds and other creatures and in one instance a goat. At a certain compass direction many of the pits have fist size chunks of crystal pressed into their walls and all are strewn with a special lilac colored sand gotten from a very distant beach. These findings are undoubtedly the results of some very secretive, idiosyncratic practice of witchcraft. The shocker is that the pits date back 400 years to the 1640’s and then forward in time to the most recent being dug some time post 1970. So this ultra-secret rite has been carried out over centuries all the way into modern time. There is speculation as to what the purpose was, but as Wood says at the site I’ve offered the link to, the more they excavate, the less and less clear it becomes as to what was actually going on at Saveock. There’s so much more to this story than I’ve room for here. Check it out. Steve’s final comment on it to me was, “400 years of kids just havin’ fun.” If you’d like to know more about Erikson and his work here’s the link to a Wikipedia page about him.
Nick Mamatas: Chen-style taiji quan. It’s just like the tai chi you might have seen older women doing in the park, but it’s painful and you can beat people up with it. I swear by Chen practice, which has helped mitigate my chronic bronchial infections and keeps me perfectly balanced while standing up on the bus.
Luís Rodrigues: Pontypool, simultaneously adapted to the screen & the airwaves by Tony Burgess from his own novel Pontypool Changes Everything, is wonderful. It takes Burroughs’ ideas of language as a virus, mixes it up with Orson Welles’ broadcast of The War of the Worlds with a dash of wordplay & the zombie apocalypse, & then unleashes it upon a small town in Canada. The film/radio play is almost entirely set inside a radio station where a washed-up sardonic announcer played by Stephen McHattie broadcasts his morning show while the town around him spirals into madness & cannibalism. Most of the horror (& some carefully placed humour) is delivered through audio reports from the survivors outside, until the crew realizes — obviously too late — that spoken English is in fact the primary vector for the disease. A sequel, Pontypool Changes, is in the works, but I doubt it’ll be as good as this.
Eric Schaller: The BBC radio broadcasts from 1998-2002 dee-jayed by Joe Strummer, formerly of The Clash, and called not surprisingly “London Calling.” These are a great eclectic mix of everything from Elvis Presley to world music. You can download them from either here or here.
Brian Francis Slattery: Joseph Spence, The Complete Folkways Recordings, 1958.