The brief: Tell us about 5 songs *and/or* films. It could be the ones you think are the greatest. Or that move you most. Or that are under-appreciated. Something along those lines.
The people: Webstock speakers and assorted Webstock people.
Today with Mike Brown. These are 5 songs I associate with Webstock.
Anything Could Happen – The Clean
This is the song we opened the very first Webstock, in 2006, with. That sense of wide-eyed possibility:
Anything could happen
And it could be right now
And the choice is yours
So make it worthwhile
is at the heart of what Webstock means to me.
That Summer Feeling – Modern Lovers
Webstock happens in Summer and I always associate it with Summer and this is my favorite Summer song! We opened Webstock ’11 with this song. And it *has* to be the version with the “dip dip” backing vocals. Jonathan Richman has a kind of unbridled innocence that trumps cynicism most every time.
Poi E – Patea Maori Club
We played this song to start Day 2 of Webstock ’13. Listening to it rocking through the Town Hall meant the day couldn’t be anything but amazing.
Calling All Angels – Jane Siberry
This is my go-to song when things are tough and I need some help. “Calling all angels, Help me through this one” can become like a mantra. There’s been a few times during Webstock’s history I’ve needed it!
Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying – Belle and Sebastian
I was watching the wonderful documentary about ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’ and it struck me that this song sums up what we’ve tried to with Webstock as well as anything. We didn’t know anyone making conferences how we thought they should be made – so it might as well be us. We didn’t stand a chance – although, somewhere down inside, we kinda thought we might.
I move forward / The only direction / Can’t be scared to fail / Search and perfection.
If you can get past the misogyny in the video, the song has a invigorating message. The idea of the track is that once the masses are onto something, he’s moved onto the next big thing. As web workers, there’s a little of that in what we do every day. My friend Lodro Rinzler, author of The Buddha Walks Into a Bar, once even used the video as the basis for a column about overcoming fear as a Buddhist.
The Eye Has to Travel
This is the only movie I have ever in my life watched twice in a row. Venerable fashion editor Diana Vreeland has a reputation for brilliance; this documentary does a beautiful job of explaining why and illustrating how. Her aesthetic was truly ground-breaking; her fiery missives were called the first blog posts. Why not paint your nails red and learn about this legendary woman?
Jiro Loves Sushi
The first sushi chef to earn three Michelin stars is 86 years old and works in a tiny 10-seat shop tucked into the Tokyo subway. His obsession with perfecting his “simple” dishes is an inspiration. After watching this beautiful, and at times heartbreaking, film about his passion for perfection, I felt motivation to take my work to the next level. I may also have cried a little.
Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s
This documentary is not much more than a long-form advertisement for fabled luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman – but oh, what an ad. Full of whimsy, couture, hyperbole, ridiculous personalities, and holiday window porn, it’s a feast for the eyes. I tend to get caught up too often in in pixels and projections, forgetting about how emotionally fulfilling beauty can be.
Who Needs Forever? // Astrud Gilberto (Thievery Corporation Remix)
I have two rules in life: “Never don’t buy shoes”, and “It’s never the wrong time for the Beastie Boys”. To those I should probably add: :Every restaurant should always be playing the Verve Remixed albums”. The storied jazz label released three collections of remixed jazz favorites, and the results are ethereal, elegant, and always appropriate. This song is like lighting a candle and pouring yourself a glass of red wine: an unfailingly good idea.
I’m moved by process. The thing behind the thing. The prototype, the failed sketch. How do people build better, design differently, make their vision real? Sometimes, the process exposed is itself the thing of brilliance.
The Making of JAWS (2000)
However bad your projects have gotten, Speilberg had it worse in 1975. Over budget, over timeline, and at least two shark prototypes over projection, the Jaws team pulled through as we find out in this incredible story of the power of iteration (and faking it).
Jeremy Denk (2012)
Denk reveals Bach’s musical grammar, and in the process, reveals his own process (and genius).
Glenn Gould (~1950)
The humming. You can hear the humming on most of Gould’s albums, but to see him working though it: delightful.
Burden of Dreams (the making of Fitzcarraldo) (1982)
An unforgiving nonfiction tale on not giving up or in on one’s vision.
My favourite Van Morrison album, and the title track from said album. Lester Bangs wrote better about it here, which is an extract from the 1979 book “Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island“; and features a great collection of top-ten desert island rock & roll albums.
Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel – Townes Van Zandt
I’m probably channeling Mike Brown here, but Townes Van Zandt is too great to leave off the list and I’ve been digging him a lot recently.
Atlantic City – Bruce Springsteen
Off arguably his best album, Nebraska.
Song for the dead – Queens of the Stone Age
I just finished reading a biography on Dave Grohl so I had to include this. Some of the best rock drumming ever by the man himself!
My favorite movie about Hollywood, bar none. Gloria Swanson is a revelation.
One of my top five movies of the last decade; so quietly beautiful and feminist.
This movie is a schlock-fest. The book is a mess; the dialogue is horrible. But it also shows how star charisma works: Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, and the palpable chemistry between them, turn a throwaway melodrama into something of substance and charm. Now I just fast-forward through the old people parts and make myself a near-perfect movie.
Goodfellas (steady-cam shot)
When people find out I study media for a living, they always ask my favorite movie. I have dozens of favorites, but I always say Goodfellas, and this ridiculously impressive steady-cam shot is one of many reasons why. Watch it and be seduced.
Marilyn Monroe on ‘Person to Person’ with Edward R. Murrow
I hate the way Marilyn Monroe has been flattened into a one-dimensional sex object, and always show this clip to my students to emphasize what was so special about her: an ineffable mix of charm, self-deprecating humor, and unspeakable beauty.