a roundabout post about why & how to observe the holiday
# of Tracks: 22
Length: 90 minutes
Themes: the breadth of identities contained in North America ~ traditional song forms of the 20th century ~ a vintage playlist with vintage tunes ~ musicians who talk to you through their recordings with humor & generosity & grace
Link: spoti.fi (Spotify) — apple.co (Apple Music) — bit.ly (YouTube)
I love the Thanksgiving holiday. Full stop. I know people have complicated feelings about it. And I believe those people are justified! (I have complicated feelings about it, too.) But I celebrate the damn holiday every year anyway…
My intention with this month’s mix is to convey a feeling of Peak Sharing Energy—an appreciation for all the beings, sentient or not, that surround us. I hope that wherever you are, in America or otherwise, you spend some time this weekend thinking about people for whom (or things for which) you are thankful.
More ranting if you read farther on. But feel free stop here and just enjoy the music’s warm embrace.
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Apple Music Version
The playlist includes songs such as…
^ Helado Negro: “Young Latin and Proud”
^ Blake Mills: “It’ll All Work Out”
^ Allen Toussaint: “Southern Nights”
^ Alison Krauss: “Down To The River To Pray”
Five years ago I posted this question to Facebook:
It turned out to be one of the most popular things I ever put on that particular social network—up there with the announcement of my child’s birth. Many many likes; a couple dozen comments…
Since then I’ve redirected most of the energy put into social media into curating and sharing the occasional mixtape with you, Internet friends. The mixtape I'm sharing this month is the very first one that I shared. I can’t remember if this Thanksgiving mix was inspired by the positive feedback that Facebook post generated—or if making the mix inspired me to ask the question in the first place.
My vague recollection of the sequence events offers a template for giving thanks. On occasion, make sure to give gratitude without asking if you'll get any back; and when you receive gratitude consider how you can pass it along. I hope I might inspire you to bring that kind of Peak Sharing Energy into the waning days of 2022. Because otherwise, December can be a challenging time. The days get shorter; the nights get colder; things end. It may seem even more grim in these times of Internet FUD.But I truly believe we're bigger than these platforms and technologies that have somehow come to define our world. And gratitude is the human algorithm that powers all the best things that our species has to offer.
People Who Died: Peter Schjeldahl — Mimi Parker
Click the names above if you want to learn something about some recently-dead people I’m paying respect to this month — art critic Peter Schjeldahl and musician Mimi Parker.
First I’ll leave you with a quotation from Schjeldahl, not one drawn from his voluminous catalog of art criticism (which is wonderful), but from an interview about his annual fireworks party in upstate New York. In it, he talks about the Fourth of July as a unifying holiday in an ever-changing world; I feel more or less the same about Thanksgiving.
The interviewer asks Schjeldahl why he’s so devoted to the holiday. He cops to being a patriot but quickly redefines what exactly that word means to him:
For me, American patriotism is being loyally devoted to something that’s always changing and never defined. The one thing that doesn’t change about America is that it keeps changing. The natural tendency for a continent as heterogeneous as North America is to break up into different countries, like the Balkans.We tried that once and it was such a nightmare we won’t do it again. Anyhow, it’s inevitable that the symbols we can all share will be fairly crude. Any more refined and you’ve got an argument. The Fourth is this annual reset, to touch some nerve of whatever it is that we have in common just by being citizens. If you rejected that, where would you be? What would you be?
It’s easy to disagree with some of his particulars but I think the general sentiment is hard to argue with.
Finally I’ll share this bonus playlist of songs from Mimi Parker’s band Low. Their music is warm & devotional & autumnal; it is glacially paced & humble & able to inspire deep feeling. I’m sad there won’t be any more of it; I’m happy she left behind a recorded history. Thank you Mimi.
Trigger Warning: Here’s where I get oracular and pretentious.
My assumption is that diaspora is the future of society and that Thanksgiving is a great occasion to reckon with it. This “take” arises out personal history. By and large, my family was disconnected from any religious traditions long ago; and our ethic identity is so hybridized as to be obliterated. It’s pretty clear to me that many more people over the next century will have backgrounds a lot like mine.
Sometimes those diasporic origins will be forced; in other instances, it will be due to the search for better opportunities; over the next generation, I suspect a great deal of human movement will be due to a combination of the two in the form of climate catastrophe and climate migration. Any diaspora causes trauma all around—in the lives of the travelers, and in the countries and communities receiving them.
The only way to survive that kind trauma is to embrace it. If I were forced to suggest a Thanksgiving proverb, I probably couldn’t do better than the most quoted passage from Octavia Butler’s novel Parable of the Sower:
All that you touch you Change. All that you Change, Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God is Change.
Let’s set the G*d part aside because that’s not really my jam. Even without that part, though, this is what my Thanksgiving holiday celebrates: looking change in the eye and greeting it with a simple two-work phrase: THANK YOU.
Extremely Online dysphoria is real.
My partner, a Canadian, pointed out to me that North America is broken up into several countries. But I think what Schjeldahl’s envisioning here is a far more Balkanized continent—Texas, California, the Middle West, Quebec each becoming their own independent countries. Which, today more than any time in recent memory, seems like it could happen? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Thanks for taking the time to put this playlist together and sharing it. I look forward to digging in as if it were a big holiday meal. Happy Thanksgiving!