Best of ATM 2017, Arts, Music, Film & Culture

As 2017 comes to its close, Across the Margin takes a look back at some of its most treasured moments in Arts, Music, Film and Culture…

Throughout this final week of 2017, Across the Margin has been seasoning the air with thanks for all those who have spent time within our pages whilst sharing our picks for the “Best of Across the Margin, 2017.” Our best-of compilations conclude with a look at our choices for our finest articles in Arts & Culture…

 

“Remembering Prodigy” by Kamere Mills

Remembering the late, great hip-hop artist Prodigy, one-half of Mobb Deep, through four essential tracks…

“The news of Albert “Prodigy” Johnson’s untimely death hit me like a ton of bricks. Prodigy was a lyrical kingpin and a hip-hop legend, and he’d clearly left lasting impressions and influences on the hip-hop community and listeners across the decades. Social media outlets were flooded with tributes from fans, journalists, producers, and other rappers. Nas, coming off as despondent on his social media feeds, wrote, “QB RIP King P. Prodigy Forever.” Ja Rule, with whom Prodigy had beef at one point, displayed a deep respect for Prodigy (“As you may all know, me and P have had our differences over the years…but what y’all don’t know is that we also had our moments of reconcile and talk like men and work out our problems…glad we had that time life is too short. RIP king…”). Pusha T said he is still rocking bandanas because of Prodigy and Havoc, Prodigy’s lifelong friend and partner in Mobb Deep, simply posted a picture of them when they were just little “thuns.” Fans all over the world shared their favorite verses, tracks, photos, memorabilia, and memories. Through his verses, Prodigy gave us colorful narratives from the street, complete with his signature anger and pain, and mixed with an unapologetic bravado. He had us all stuck off the realness.”

 

Podcast — Beyond the Margin: Psychedelic Integration with Katherine Maclean

Beyond the Margin does a deep-dive into the world of psychedelic education and care with the founding director of the Psychedelic Program of New York, Katherine MacLean…

“In this episode of Beyond the Margin, host Michael Shields welcomes in studio Katherine MacLean, a research psychologist with expertise in studying psychedelics and meditation. Katherine is the founding director of the Psychedelic Program of New York where she leads trainings in psychedelic harm reduction. A true and passionate psychedelic ambassador, Katherine has worked with MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Studies)The Center for Optimal Living, and the Brooklyn Psychedelic Society in order to further psychedelic research and offer patients a safe place to receive treatment and education. Her Ted Talk, entitled “Open Wide and Say Awe,” details the ways in which psychedelics allow for deeply enriching experiences with long lasting improvements in well-being, greater confidence in making life changes, and reductions in psychedelic distress.”

 

“Twenty Years Later — Radiohead’s OK Computer by Chris Thompson

Twenty years after its release, Radiohead’s seminal album OK Computer, with its experimental sound and prophetic visions, continues to strike a resonance with our modern times...

“Twenty years ago, legendary rockers Radiohead released an album that to this day still sounds as innovative and pertinent as when it was first released in the United States on June 1st, 1997. That album, OK Computer, has been widely praised as a timeless work of art, a musical compilation comprising twelve influential and genre-shifting tracks that, looking back, seem almost prophetic in nature. Considering the melancholic complexion of OK Computer twenty years after its release, one has to wonder if Thom Yorke and company didn’t have access to a crystal ball, as its an album that depicts an emotionless world overwhelmed by widespread consumerism, and overshadowed by political turmoil and social narcissism, creating a vibe that sadly, feels uncannily familiar to our current times.”

 

“Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 7 Deconstructed” by Geoffrey Golia and Michael Shields

Reunions, retribution, and blue dragon fire abounding as Winter falls upon King’s Landing in Season 7’s tension-filled finale, entitled “The Dragon and the Wolf”…

“Throughout the last few episodes, I’ve been struck by how determined both Daenerys and Jon have been about striving to not only hold themselves to a higher standard of conduct and leadership than those around them, but also to create a more just social and political order. It’s as if they’ve been reading Edmund Burke and Marcus Aurelius. The World of Ice and Fire is not kind to those seeking to operationalize virtue — just ask Ned Stark. Though perhaps virtue can only be utilized, or imposed, through the threat of annihilation by dragon fire? Regardless, we can see from Jon’s inability to lie even to Cersei (whose dishonesty and treachery has reached Trump-esque levels) that he is profoundly virtuous and ethical. Dany, too, with wise counsel from Tyrion, decided not to commit a mass casualty war crime in an effort to live up to her moral compass. So, as we approach the question of whose claim is best, and how all that might all play out, we must consider each character’s ethical concerns. It’s still my view that a marriage between Jon and Dany would be the best way to mitigate or prevent what would essentially be a Targaryen civil war, and that is most likely what is going to happen, especially given their maritime lovemaking (at Denny’s they’d call that scene, “the moons over my Dany”). A union between Jon and Dany would not negate questions of royal priority (technically, Jon’s claim is better) or who would “rule” (Dany has, I would argue, more and better experience), but given their shared goal of making the world a better place, and utilizing Tyrion as Hand and royal marriage counselor, the hope is they would rule jointly, justly, and with as little drama as possible. Everything about their story arc leads me to believe that, if they both survive the Second War for the Dawn, they would avoid, as best they could, any further suffering.”

 

“David Carl’s Trump Lear” by Michael Shields

Trump Lear is an unflinchingly deep dive into the psyche of a man succumbing to madness and concurrently a hard-hitting, hilarious satirical take on the all out attack upon the First Amendment by the current administration…

“King Lear, the tragedy written by William Shakespeare and first performed in the early 1600s, depicts the inexorable descent into madness of a king after he disposes his kingdom to two of his three increasingly unworthy daughters. The result of which was chaos and darkness for all. It is of little wonder, in today’s chaotic political landscape, that an artist would invoke such a Shakespearean classic as King Lear in order to craft a theatrical performance comprising of an uncanny impersonation of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. And this is exactly what comedian/actor/improviser David Carl does with Trump Lear, one of the most enjoyable, and deceivingly intense and profound, shows you will stumble upon among New York City’s overbrimming theater landscape.”

 

Podcast — Beyond The Margin: An Interview With DJ Trackstar of Run The Jewels

Beyond the Margin delves into hip-hop, turntablism, and the phenomenon that is Run the Jewels with DJ Trackstar…

“In the latest episode of Beyond the Margin, host Michael Shields conducts an interview with Gabe Moskoff, better known to fans and the hip-hop community as Trackstar the DJ. Trackstar is best known for his prolific mixtape work and as the touring DJ (and unofficial third member) for Run the Jewels (RTJ), the rap supergroup composed of El-P and Killer Mike. Trackstar has performed at hundreds of venues and dozens of festivals all over the world, including Madison Square Garden, Coachella, and Glastonbury Festival. Along with longtime collaborators Run the Jewels (which has never performed with another DJ), DJ Trackstar has also appeared on Late Night with David Letterman (twice), Conan O’Brien, the NME Awards, the BBC, and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Trackstar has released over one hundred and fifty mixtapes, including collaborations with Royce da 5’9, Big Boi, Killer Mike, El-P, Lupe Fiasco, Hot97’s Peter Rosenberg, Pete Rock and Camp Lo, amongst others, and he is the man behind the popular RAP FAN clothing line.”

 

“Twenty Years Later — Elliott Smith’s Either/Or”

Across the Margin commemorates the album that catapulted Elliott Smith into the limelight, Either/Or, on its twentieth anniversary…

“Elliott Smith is a wonderment. His unique and deeply affecting brand of lo-fi indie rock has an intriguing power and his introspective lyricism embodies the anguish that so often accompanies life. But his music is curiously empowering too. Within the third track (“Ballad of Big Nothing”) off of his third album, Either/Or, released February 25th 1997, Smith confidently croons, “You can do what you want to whenever you want to. You can do what you want to, there’s no one to stop you,” hinting at the unstoppable force pulsating within each of us. Yet at the the same time, Smith’s lyrics can be sobering and utterly humbling, as later in “Ballad of Big Nothing” we are reminded of our utter insignificance when he further wails, “do what you want to whenever you want to…though it doesn’t mean a thing.” Such is the conundrum that is Elliott Smith, an artist with a catalog of songs that are served with a gentle whisper, yet pack the emotional punch of an atomic bomb. And there is no album that better exhibits Smith’s ability to delicately yet emphatically break hearts than Either/Or. Although Elliot Smith became a darling of the indie rock scene with the release of his first two albums, 1994’s propitious Roman Candle and 1995’s breathtaking, self-titled effort, it wasn’t until Smith released Either/Or, twenty years ago today, that his legend became cemented in stone.”

 

“Phish Destroys America (Phish Fall Tour 1997)”

In 1997 Phish set out to destroy America. All those who witnessed their late fall run are well aware that they triumphantly succeeded…

“Describing Phish, and what makes them special, has always been an ambitious undertaking for those already initiated. Because of this, a dissection of one of their tours, and a phenomenally celebrated one at that, might not translate well to fringe fans or those on the outside looking in. But often, and definitely so in this case, it isn’t about making a deep, often cultish, passion accessible to others, but rather about celebrating art with those in the know. What follows can be described best as a fan-centric celebration, and an excursion into the heart of one of the most transcendent and important tours that any band has ever embarked upon, Phish’s twenty-one date 1997 Fall Tour — the one in which they “Destroyed America.” On the twentieth anniversary of Phish’s commencement of a fiery and impassioned romp across America, where the seasoned jam-band could be found nightly wielding their improvisational psych-rock at the absolute peak of their powers, a deep-dive into what made that tour so very important in the scheme of “Phistory” is in order. So what is it that provokes so many die-hard fans to still wax poetic about a month-long tour now twenty years in the rearview? Why do these moments in time still stand so tall in light of all the musical grandeur that occurred prior to this run, and all that would occur throughout Phish’s prolific thirty year career thereafter?”

 

“For Your Consideration: Deadpool” by Chris Thompson

Flagrantly snubbed by the Academy, a case is made for Tim Miller’s Deadpool as the Best Picture of 2016 by an devoted fan…

“There has been an abundance of comic book films released in the last decade, and the cinematic offerings from studio powerhouses such as Marvel and DC Comics have run the gambit from remarkable to truly unwatchable. But amongst all of those films, few, if any, have done anything to truly shake up a genre that many feel has reached its saturation point. Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, especially 2008’s The Dark Knight, won high praise as a rich and thrilling crime drama, with co-star Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker earning him a posthumous Academy Award, and the film went a long way to elevate the genre. 2009’s Watchmen, a neo-noir superhero film directed by Zack Snyder, smartly combined elements of sound, images, and characters in new ways to fashion a film that felt like you were actually watching a graphic novel unfold on screen, trailblazing a new direction for superhero films.”

 

“Twenty Years Later — Wu Tang Clan’s Wu-Tang Forever” by Kamere Mills

Twenty Years after its release Wu-Tang Clan’s Wu-Tang Forever remains a triumphant exemplar of the almighty power of The Wu-Tang Clan…

“History has taught us that not only are double LPs in hip-hop an ambitious undertaking, but they routinely fall short in fully appeasing their fans, with complaints of several songs too many, an unnecessary amount of skits, and overzealous guest appearances. Tupac, Biggie, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and E-40, among others, all released double LPs in the late ‘90s, a fad of sorts at the time, and while perhaps housing some bangers, most listeners agreed that those double LPs could have been condensed into one solid album, where no turn of the tape or change of disc was needed.

There is always one, however, that breaks the mold.”

 

“The Top 20 Episodes Of Breaking Bad” by L.P. Hanners and Michael Shields

“It is hard to fathom, but it has been just over nine years since the premiere of Breaking Bad. And it seems like only yesterday that Walt was bidding adieu to this life, passing into repose amongst the instruments that bore into existence his truest of loves, his precious Baby Blue. In that time our obsession with Breaking Bad has scarcely waned. Thus, to address our amplifying withdrawal, we would like to take some time and revisit the series as a whole. To meticulously pluck through all the grandiosity, and cipher out the cream of the crop, we present The Top 20 Episodes of Breaking Bad.

The process wasn’t simple. In fact the time spent in deliberation over the episodes credited was extensive. Many factors were taken into account, including overall impact to the series and to the viewer, the importance of the episode within the scheme of the series, character development, media impact, and just pure awesomeness. We didn’t create a mathematical equation to calculate the exact pleasure derived from each episode, but we came damn near close. And so with that said, allow us to present the fruit of our labor. Buckle in as we take you on a trip down memory lane. Presenting, The Best of Bad…”

 

Twenty Years Later — Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One

In April of 1997 Yo La Tengo dropped an absolute classic, an album that twenty years after its release remains entirely awe-inspiring…

“It wasn’t until a few years after its release that I first got my hands on Yo La Tengo’s stunning classic I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One1. Although late to the party, I fell hard for the album, and in looking back, I can still attest to the fact that it was one song in particular that roped me in. A foray in electronica for the indie rock band from Hoboken, New jersey, “Autumn Sweater” is as mesmerizing and beauteous a song as I have ever come upon. A track laden with anxiety — a theme song for the antisocial and anxious (“I tried my best to hide in a crowded room, it’s nearly possible”)  — “Autumn Sweater” is a peculiar love song, one where two misfits slip away arm and arm, “me with nothing to say, and you in your autumn sweater.” But it is heartbreaking as well, as it contemplates the early days in a relationship, when everything comes so easy, and it questions if relationships are worth fighting for if something as simple as smiling doesn’t come as easy as it once did. These introspective and weighty ponderings on love and loss are delivered by singer/songwriter Ira Kaplan with a rich subtleness and an integral hint of desperation and reluctance, all while swaddled tightly within a layered and mosaic rhythm that is entirely hypnotizing. “Autumn Sweater” still has a hold on me to this day. Amazingly, it is just one of the numerous musical gems that are skewered across the masterpiece of an album that is I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One, released twenty years ago today.”

 

Podcast — Beyond the Margin: Tribe, Tragedy & Community With George Guidotti

Beyond the Margin examines community, the power of togetherness, and the divisiveness that has run rampant in the United States (or has it?)…

“In its latest podcast, Across the Margin welcomes back in studio George Guidotti, a seasoned and enlightened software executive and sage mind. In the previous episode featuring George, he and Beyond the Margin’s host Michael Shields critically dissected author G. Edward Griffin’s weighty novel, The Creature from Jekyll Island, which promotes undisclosed theories about the motives behind the creation of the Federal Reserve System. Once again using an enlightening book as the source material for the podcast, in this episode George and Michael delve deeply into Sebastian Junger’s Tribe: On Homecoming & Belonging, a book that examines humanity’s innate attraction to tribal societies and explains why we are stronger when we come together, and how that can be achieved in today’s divided world.”

 

The Top 50 Albums of 2017

Presenting in its entirety, Across the Margin’s selections for The Top 50 Albums of 2017…

Let’s face it, much like 2016, 2017 has been, in many ways, a son of a bitch. In a year where the country feels divided like never before, it would benefit us all if we leaned upon the ultimate of all unifiers. That thing that transcends creed, race, social status, and income: Music. Music has always had the remarkable power to not just unify, but to, in times of need, heal. To provide an escape from the madness, and also, in this current climate in the United States — act as the soundtrack of The Revolution! Once again, whittling down this year’s musical bounty to a choice fifty was challenging to say the least, but we are proud to present to you the albums which received the most play over here at Across the Margin in 2017. So, let’s get into it and drop the needle…

 

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