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Annie Logue Tag

The 2012 Republican Convention's theme for Tuesday, August 28 is "We Built It," a riff on an unfortunate comment by Barack Obama. Obama was trying to make the point that government provides education, infrastructure, police protection, property protection, and other things that have to be

It’s generally agreed upon that if you don’t have any new flavor to add to the original, you shouldn’t bother doing a cover.  But what exactly are the ingredients for a great cover?

There’s no secret recipe.  Some of the songs below are great because they completely deconstruct the original, stripping it down to its most basic components of chords and lyrics, and build it back up again in a completely different style.  For others, the genius of the original song was always present but the presentation was lacking, and when the talents of a different performer are added, the song gains a gravity that it didn’t have in its original form.  And some of them, whether by generational ignorance or through the general obscurity of the original artist, simply didn’t receive the exposure they needed for their greatness to be recognized until they were delivered by a more familiar voice.  But the finest of these, the ones we love the best, are simply great songs by great artists where the addition of a new twist and a new voice creates something that is greater than the sum of its parts.  You can hear and recognize the glory of the original version in every note of the cover, but the listening experience is taken to another level through the talents of the covering artist.

The process for generating our list was fairly simple.  We created a huge list (800+ songs) of nominees, and each of the authors that participated selected their own top 100.  Those top 100 lists were weighted on a curve and used to generate the list that you see below.  Next week, we’ll publish a separate “honorable mention” post featuring some of the songs that didn’t earn enough votes to make the list, but were important enough to individual authors that we wanted to make sure they received some attention as well.  If you’ve got a Spotify account, you can listen to most of the originals here, and the cover versions here.  If you don’t have an account yet, you can request an invitation (they issue them pretty promptly now).  Enjoy! — Zack Dennis

Troy McClure made the industrial film a legend. In his brief life, Troy narrated such films as “Lead Paint: Delicious but Deadly” and “Meat and You: Partners in Freedom”. He also did the more tourist-friendly “Welcome to Springfield Airport” and the introductory video to the “Ah! Fudge” chocolate factory.

McClure’s work resonates with us because, well, it’s so typical of the genre.

Ford Motor’s River Rouge Assembly Plant is open to the public, which is pretty cool. It also has not one, but two, industrial films

The Rouge was the centerpiece of Ford’s emphasis on seamless integration. Here, the ore, coal, and other raw materials would arrive via ship, and then be turned into steel, parts, and finally cars. The facility has changed a lot over the years. It now houses the assembly line for the Ford F150 truck, the company’s best-selling model, and employs about 6,000 people – down from peak employment of 100,000.

Memphis has a lot of attractions for music fans, all of which seem to exist to help people fill up a weekend and spend lots of money. Only one really matters, though: Elvis Presley’s mansion, Graceland. The pilgrimage has been parodied in “This is Spinal Tap”, self-parodied in U2’s “Rattle and Hum”, and made out to be a place of miracle and wonder.

The house itself is a center-hall colonial, large for the time but tiny by modern McMansion standards. It’s on a nice chunk of land in what was once a gracious suburb, Whitehaven. Graceland has been diminished by the passage of time, and not only because big houses are so common now. The jungle room looks a lot like a goofy basement rec room. The three televisions in the basement look comical in an era of home theatre. And Elvis lacked the same sense of quality as the squires of other historic houses. The Washingtons, du Ponts, and Kaufmanns put care into Mount Vernon, Winterthur, and Fallingwater. Elvis, meanwhile, was a country bumpkin throwing too much money around in the 1960s, a recipe for decorating disaster.

Berry Gordy, Jr. served in Korea, returned to Detroit, got a job at Ford, and started writing songs for his friend Jackie Wilson. Gordy figured out two things. First, there was money in publishing. Second, a lot of the kids who came up singing in


It’s really hard to say what’s right and wrong when raising kids. There is so much that’s weird and random about life that setting rules and passing judgment is pointless; even though we all do it, most parents with a child older than three have learned not to say anything out loud.

So I don’t judge Billy Ray Cyrus. He got his daughter involved in show business, and now blames the pressures of it for tearing his family apart. And yet, we all know families under stress where the only Disney involvement was a trip to Orlando.

Musicians and writers used to be able to rely on record companies and publishers for advances, but those are smaller and harder for mere mortals to get than in times past. And, many bands have found to their chagrin that record companies offered the most

The Chicago Blackhawks are one of the great sports turnaround stories. Yeah, they won the Stanley Cup, and we’re all happy about that here in Chicago, but the big story is how the team went from almost no fan base to a huge one. I was at the home opener in 2006 as a guest of the team’s old ad agency. There was hardly anyone at the United Center that evening. Three years later, the Hawks sold out every game.

What changed?

Draumalandid is part of a full-on multimedia expose of Alcoa’s aluminum smelters in Reydarfjordur, Iceland. The company’s first plant was planned in 2002, built in 2005, and became live in 2007. The music is the soundtrack to a documentary based on the book Dreamland: A Self-Help Manual for a Frightened Nation, by Andri Snaer Magnason. The book came out in Icelandic in 2006 and was released in English in 2008, although it has not been published in the U.S. (I bought my copy on a trip to Iceland).  It was written before Iceland’s economy tanked, but it addressed the existential crisis: what kind of nation should Iceland be?

Iceland is to countries as the platypus is to animals: it’s neither one thing nor another. Even its continental status is ambiguous, as the divide between the North American and European geologic plates runs through the island. It has just 300,000 people, highly educated, very sophisticated, and poor for most of the country’s history. Iceland has two major natural resources, fish and energy. Fishing the Arctic is hard and dangerous work, and unlike in Saudi Arabia, Iceland’s energy resources aren’t easy to transport. The country is rich in geothermal and hydro power. You can swim in outdoor pools all year round, which is great fun (and I know of no better cure for jet lag than sitting in a hot tub in bright sunshine on the day of arrival),  but it doesn’t make for a robust economy.

Whenever there’s a corporate scandal, there is going to be an example of ridiculous excess. You can count on it. This time, the excess came from Washington Mutual, you mortgage brothers can’t deny.

I was a happy Washington Mutual customer for years, both in San Francisco and Chicago. The people who worked in the branches were really nice and efficient, and their service charges were the lowest around. I was sad when the bank failed, although I was thrilled that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation existed so that the bank’s failure wasn’t a hardship for me.

But the Feds never like bailing out banks, even though they have done it quite a bit in the last few years. Hence, a bank bailout is followed by lots of subpoenas and hearings, and that is why we now know: Karen and the Kauai Krewe like big bucks and they cannot lie.

Yes, her homegirls tried to warn her that rapping big bucks make her look corny. But she did it anyway, and now it is entered into the public record. Billy Bragg could not have skewered the banking business better.

This week's root of all evil

I am tired of all discussions about diet and exercise. Part of the problem for me is that the math is so incredibly imprecise. We are told over and over that weight gain = calories consumed – calories burned, 1 pound = 3500 calories. If it were so easy, Weight Watchers would not have had revenues of $1.4 billion in 2009.

There’s a catch, and that is that the body’s metabolism adjusts to a given weight level. The rate of calorie burn can vary, which also means that the rate of weight loss can vary. Are you burning 100 calories per mile when you run, or only 75?

We know that people do have weight problems, and that losing weight and keeping it off is very, very hard. And we also know that the advice we get from Those Who Know changes all the time. I remember when butter was bad and margarine was good, the ideal diet was high in carbohydrates and low in protein, and a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of apple juice made a fine snack for a toddler.

Now? Butter is good! Protein is better! No nuts for children under six, and juice is as bad as pop!

And that’s saying a lot, because pop, it seems, is more sinful than whiskey because it is made with high-fructose corn syrup. (In defense of my state’s many corn growers, I should point out that high-fructose has more fructose than regular corn syrup, and that the extra fructose is added to give it the same fructose levels, and the same calories, as cane sugar.)

A video that always makes me happy, and violates Viacom's copyright:

YouTube is taking another round of fire in the ongoing debate about intellectual property rights. Earlier this month, the court documents in an ongoing copyright infringement suit between YouTube

One day last September, the mail included a hand-addressed envelope with a New York City postmark and a return address that turned out to be a Mail Boxes Etc. store near Times Square. Inside was a sheet of paper with an odd story on it and instructions to go to TippersMusic.com and request a CD from a band called The Twenty % Tippers.

How exciting! Finally, mysteries were coming my way! And as someone who read a lot of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden back in the day, I am always looking for mysteries.

The March issue of The Atlantic has a thoroughly depressing article about how employment might not pick up when the economy recovers. As if that wasn’t enough to send you to the liquor cabinet, the article goes on to explain all of the spillover effects from reduced employment. People unemployed when they are young will always make less money. Blue collar workers will never have good jobs ever again. No one wants to marry a jobless slacker who sits on the couch all day, so marriage rates will fall. All of this will change our culture, society, and politics.

So pour yourself a double.

This recession is different from the usual post-World War II because it was brought on by a financial system crisis, not by a downturn in the business cycle. Because of that, it’s difficult to say what a recovery will look like. Maybe Don Peck of The Atlantic is nuts and employers will have to add tons of new employees to meet demand as soon as it picks up. Maybe.

On Saturday, another devastating earthquake hit, in Chile, and that gives us another chance to look at some of the numbers associated with earthquakes and rebuilding.

The Richter scale, used to measure the magnitude of earthquakes, is a logarithmic scale of ground motion. Hence, an 8.8 quake is almost ten times as strong as a 7.9 quake and 100,000 times as strong as the 3.8 earthquake that hit north-central Illinois on February 10. (It’s also a measure that is falling out of favor with seismologists because it is less descriptive than other ways of looking at earthquakes, but it’s simple, so it sticks.)

The next big number is the death rate. That is only loosely correlated to the magnitude of the quake itself. That’s because ground motion doesn’t kill people, falling buildings do. If an earthquake prone area is affluent and has strong building codes, the death rate is likely to be low. The Loma Prieta quake that interrupted the 1989 World Series in San Francisco had a Richter magnitude of 6.9 and killed 63 people, mostly because sections of the Bay Bridge and Nimitz Freeway collapsed. A 6.8 earthquake struck Kobe, Japan in 1995 and killed about 6,500 people. Most of the dead lived in the old section of the city, in wood-frame houses with heavy tile roofs that collapsed and crushed the occupants. A second problem was poor emergency response by the local and national governments which meant that some people were not rescued and others who survived the quake with injuries died from the lack of care.

Sita Sings the Blues is a great, sad movie about a breakup. The creator, Nina Paley, mixes animation styles and narrators, using the story of the Hindu gods Rama and Sita in the Ramayana. It’s beloved by reviewers , but it’s not always easy to see. That’s because the work produced its own drama, that of Paley attempting to get the rights to include the songs of Annette Hanshaw. The issue is the underlying compositions, which are owned by big publishing companies. Copyright on works created before 1978 now lasts a total of 95 years; Congress extended the law mostly at the request of the Walt Disney Company to protect the image of Mickey Mouse.

Copyright is a balancing act. On the one hand, creators should be able to derive economic value from their work. On the other hand, there is a point where a work either becomes useless (such as articles I wrote in 2001 on virtual private network technology) or part of the culture at large. The problem is that now, copyright has extended beyond the creator’s lifetime and probably the lifetime of the creator’s heirs. The big beneficiaries are corporations that have the ability to lobby Congress.

Music publishing, of course, has long been a route to riches, which is why so many publishing companies have ripped off so many naïve composers over the decades. Nina Paley cannot negotiate with the estates of the composers to use their songs, because they do not own the works. The publishing company that does offered to clear the songs for $3500 each, more than Paley could afford to pay. They would not negotiate further, and says on her Web site that she realized that it would cost the publishing company too much in legal fees. (I doubt Sony BMG is relying on Lawyers for the Creative Arts.) Film distributors will not handle Sita Sings the Blues until the copyrights are cleared.

When I was a kid, I had to listen to whatever the DJ picked. One of the odder decade-end lists was Nielsen’s list of the most-played singles on radio between 2000 and 2009.  It’s a head scratcher – “Drops of Jupiter” got more play than “American

Americans have a unique phobia about taxes. Years ago, politicians told us that we could have more stuff by paying less money, and we liked that. And so, we believe it despite all evidence to the contrary. And now, our country faces massive deficits and a budget that cannot be cut.

The choice is between raising taxes or cutting Medicare, Social Security, and the Department of Defense. Both are bad politically, but taking an ax to spending will be worse. And although I would rather not see my taxes go up, I am also not happy about living in a rich country where some people have no health care, our educational system is below world standards, and there is at least one person out there who would rather vandalize a church than acknowledge that some Americans go to bed hungry at night.

The first question, of course, is what goes into a tax base. Some jurisdictions tax income (corporate, individual, investment), other s tax consumption through sales or luxury taxes, and still others tax wealth through property taxes, estate taxes, or ownership permits. And, of course, quite a few do a mix of all three.