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I spent the last month listening to every REM studio album in chronological order - Lifes Rich Pageant

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I did not misspell the title, it is the original spelling of the album. They always write contractions without the apostrophe on their album and song titles, because, art, I guess. Now this is the first (of many) albums, which "is the one REM sold out with". I'm firmly on team "REM never sold out", but as I don't want to be commenting on hairstyles each post (yes, there will be more of that, once we get to Monster) and my music knowledge is limited, we'll be looking into the claim of selling out today.
For Lifes Rich Pageant, the accusations of "selling out" is due to changes in musical style and production. REM moved from folky post-punk to more straightforward rock, with the most obvious change being Buck moving from his fast arpeggiated guitar to shorter riffs. The production is cleaner, instead of all the instruments and vocals being mixed into one interwoven sound, Stipes vocals are firmly in the foreground and each instrument can be heard clearly. The result is that the album is a lot more accessible than the previous ones were and much more radio friendly (in theory, more about this later). And to some people making music more people want to listen to = selling out. But let's take a closer look:

Lifes Rich Pageant
This album rocks, it has 5 really good rock songs, Begin the Begin, These Days, Hyena (with some crazy piano, I'm guessing by Mills), I Believe (with awesome banjo playing by Buck) and Just a Touch, which they kindly added to have a good comparison to their old style, as it is an older song (written around Reckoning) and mixed the old way (everything squashed together, to use professional music jargon). It also still has appropriate REM weirdness (selling out my ass) with a weird samba? thing and distorted vocals in Underneath the Bunker, strange folksiness in Swan, Swan Humingbird and Superman, which will get a shout out. The lyrics, while still obscure, are clearly political, with Fall on Me and The Flowers of Guatemala using very few words to very effectively address pollution and US involvement in counter-insurgent genocide in Guatemala.

Shout outs
  • I tried to google if Mills is playing the piano parts in Hyena and Just a Touch (live he is always playing bass and the piano is missing) because they are wild

  • This is the first album where Mills gets to sing lead, on Superman, a cover from the relatively unknown sunshine pop band The Clique from 1969. I think at this point REM was trolling the record company, choosing this song (which sounds very 1970s) as a single, over all the radio friendly rock songs on the album

  • Fall on Me, the other single, makes more sense, it is very REM, jangle guitar, melodic bass and vocal harmonies. Thanks to the cleaner production you can even hear Berry in the chorus singing "It's gonna fall". Which is cool, because Bill Berry is cool.

  • Flowers of Guatemala is a song you have to listen to. The lyrics are a masterpiece.

  • Closing thoughts: I own this album and Murmur and I have always preferred it over Murmur. This is the most consistently good album of IRS area, with Fables of the Reconstruction having higher highs. These two I would recommend, though I also like Reckoning and Murmur. My least favourite album from the IRS area is Document and up next. It is the album where they started working with Scott Litt as a producer, who had an immense influence on the REM sound of the 90s.

    All the doctors ranked from worse to best - The Best

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    Finally, my favourite doctors, some were a surprise to me, some are expected.

    The good

    I never thought he would be in my top five. The doctor working with the military should not be a doctor I like. But he is just so nice. Not fake polite nice, like Five, but genuinely kind. This doctor, same as his stories, are comfort food television, and just like everyone else in the last two months, I needed that.
    Best story: It's not considered a good story, but I really liked the Green Death ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    The only NewWho doctor in the "good" category. His character is heavily based on the second doctor, which explains why I like him. He also has the alieness, sometimes reacts as detached as a 900+ year alien would to moral dilemmas which would bother a human, while still being inherently kind. While his stories lost in quality in later seasons, his persona stayed consistent. It also helped that I really like Amy and Rory as companions and Clara was less annoying paired with him than Twelve.
    Best story: The Girl Who Waited (It is such a stand out that I don't want to name any others)

    The doctor people either love or hate. He is rude, full of unearned confidence and pompous. All of this makes him extremely entertaining to watch, I even enjoy his many bad episodes. I'm probably one of the few people in the world who liked The Twin Dilemma. Maybe I'm over-analyzing, but I always feel like there is a very kind person under all the rudeness and a scared person who dares himself to be brave under the pompousness. The delivery of "Is Perry dead?" in Trial of a Time Lord broke my heart a little.
    Best story: Vengeance on Varos

    Best story: So many, Ark in Space to Genesis of the Daleks, most of season 13, Face of Evil, City of Death and I really liked the Pirate Planet, because of crazy Douglas Adams energy.
    He is the archetype. As he said himself in his regeneration story, he is the doctor, with the definite article. He is enthusiastic, erratic, but smart and with a plan, alien and kind. His stories are some of the best stories in Who and if anyone wants to dip a toe into classic Who, he is the one I would start with. As much as I like Three, his show often feels like a different show, with his earth bound UNIT stories and One and Two often have very 60s TV pacing, which modern viewers might find glacial. Having said that, the best doctor, without a doubt is:

    The moment I heard him described as the "space hobo" I knew I would love him. I was right. He really is the ultimate traveller, bumming around the galaxy with his friends, never really sure where he will end up, with his pockets full of knickknacks he randomly picked up. He is also the only doctor who is not an authority. The Time Lords are not turning towards him for help, they ignore him, because he isn't important and once he brings attention to himself, they harshly punish him for breaking their laws. In all other incarnations, he is much more powerful, this doctor really is the scrappy underdog, relying on his wits to safe the day. He also has the best companion ever, with Jamie.
    Best story: The Power of the Daleks, The Macra Terror, The Enemy of the World, The Mind Robber and The War Games for the ending.

    All the doctors ranked from worse to best - The Middle

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    This is short, mostly because the doctors on here are those I do not have much to say about. They are all OK doctors, I just don't relate to them.

    Lower middle

    I first had him on the worst list, but he does not irritate me, he is just kind of bland. His regeneration story saves him, he knows for all the four episodes he is dying. saves his companion instead of himself and DOES NOT WHINE ABOUT IT, TEN!
    Best story: The Caves of Androzani

    The movie is just so bad. He is mostly confused about who he is or involved in an action scene. The badly written romance, which wouldn't even have worked had both characters been human does not help. In the few moments he is allowed to be the doctor (including Night of the Doctor) he is good and more interesting than Five (easy as this is).
    No best story, just a bad movie and a television short

    Upper middle

    He just never clicked with me. He has a really good arc over the course of his series and is probably the most rounded characterised doctors, so he is here purely out of personal preference.
    Best story: The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances

    Is sooo much lower on this list then expected. The chess master with elaborate plans and kind of immoral seems like the kind of doctor I would like. I think it was because he had on one hand this adorable father - daughter relationship with Ace and on the other would sometimes actively lie to her for no reason other than plot. Maybe that would have been addressed in future stories.
    Best story: Ghost Light or The Greatest Show in the Galaxy

    I don't have that much to say about her. I like her, I like that she is kind, but also detached and seems to have different priorities a human would have.
    Best story: Demons of the Punjab, (because it highlights everything, which is different with the new doctor and show runner), It takes you away (because it is so inventive)

    All the doctors ranked from worse to best - The Worst

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    So, despite the fact that I actually had to go to work as usual and had 10000000 other projects to work on, I decided that this is the time to finally watch classic Doctor Who. Not all episodes, just recommended ones from each season. And then I wrote blog posts about it. #priorities

    Here are all the 13 doctors ranked starting with the worst:

    The worst
    These are the ones I actually dislike. Please read the explanations before you murder me.

    Best story: An Unearthly Child (first episode). It's the first episode ever.
    Ok, I actually do not dislike him, unlike the others in the "worst" category, who actively irritate me. The problem is his era. Most of his episodes are bad quality, have missing parts and are really slow paced, compared to modern television. He also gets sidelined a lot and the companions are driving the plot more than he is. I already watched his episodes some time ago and did not go back to him when I decided to have a proper go at classic Who this time. So if anyone thinks I´m being unfair to the first doctor, this is probably true unlike...

    I can already hear all of tumblr screaming at me. He was the first doctor I watched and I loved him. And then his last "season" happened and I just could not stand the endless whining anymore and was actively looking forward to his death/regeneration. After getting to know the other doctors he went further and further down the list, as I find he is missing the alieness the other doctors have. But mostly the whining.
    Best story: I admit he has a lot of good ones. The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, Midnight

    Just like with ten, it was one season, which made him drop down the list. The season with the sunglasses and electric guitar. I just don't enjoy seeing someone have a midlife crisis. His dynamic with Clara made me want to punch both of them in the face most of the time. I don't have a problem with the doctor being rude (Six is very high on this list), but the way Moffat writes his "asshole genius" characters just does not vibe with me.
    Best Story: Heaven Sent (probably my favourite NewWho story)

    First of May speech (kinda)

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    This is the speech I wrote for 1st of May, but then didn't give it.

    I always was the good foreigner, the one to show off, the example for good integration. I have the right skin colour. I come from a desirable country. Nationality matters. It appears to matter more than any other aspect of me, as it is usually the first question to be asked, sometimes even before my name. It is vital for judgement and to place me into the grand hierarchy of foreigners in this country. I'm high up in this hirarchy. I'm young(ish), educated and usually employed. Also, as Icelandic people like to tell me "Ég tala góða Íslensku". It is one of the many ways random Icelandic people like to let me know that my existence in this country has their approval.

    Icelanders like to let me know how and why they approve of me. In conversations with more openly racist foreigners the adventitious nature of my skin colour, nationality and "culture" are commented on. If the Icelander is a self proclaimed liberal it's all about being "dugleg", next to my language skills.
    Because if there is one defining trait of being a good foreigner it's being duglegur. Dugleg í vinnu, dugleg að tala íslensku, dugleg að blanda í samfélag, dugleg, dugleg, dugleg. A good foreigner works hard. A good foreigner speaks Icelandic. A good foreigner blends in. A good foreigner does not complain. Always. A good foreigner works tirelessly for the approval of any and every Icelander and is grateful when it is granted. "Þú tala góða íslensku". "Hún Christina er mjög dugleg".

    I know I'm breaking protocol here. First and foremost a foreigner's function is to like Iceland and Icelanders, to soothe the nagging suspicion that "bezt í heimi" is just collective performative nationalism in the face of a crippling inferiority complex. After all, "How do you like Iceland?" is not more than fishing for compliments.

    Being a good foreigner means confirming Icelands and Icelanders superiority, and because of that it is chasing an ever moving goalpost. With equality superiority is lost. First it's about working hard and learning the language. Then it is about not rocking the boat and staying pleasant when faced with underlying racism and structural inequalities. The promise of integration a mirage in the distance with acceptance just around the corner.

    Individualism has taught us, that if we only work hard enough we can reach even the farthest goal. It is the grift of the capitalist society, which the lone foreigner is especially susceptible to. Sociocultural differences being used to justify socioeconomic ones. It is implicitly understood that we do not only have to compete with each other for our place in society, but even to have one at all. There are only so many token foreigners even the most liberal society needs after all.

    The solution for sociocultural marginalisation is the same as for the socioeconomic one: organise, organise, organise. If you organise you do not have to work harder than everybody else to have a fraction of the rights and acceptance, you can demand it. Just look at the famous slogan: "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!" We need a slogan like this for us foreigners. Then we can change our answer to "Þú ert dugleg að tala íslensku." from "takk" to "why do you think I would give a fuck about your approval?"

    Posted on - Categories: Iceland

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