The Late Movies: The Suburbs

Yeah, yeah, yeah ... I'm always talking about how great Arcade Fire is and how much I love their latest album, The Suburbs. Well, for all of you who haven't heard it (or haven't heard it enough!) I just happened upon a veritable treasure-trove of super-expertly-well-shot concert footage of the band performing a lot of the songs from the album -- directed, for the most part, by Terry Gilliam. Yep -- that's Terry Gilliam from Monty Python and the director of Brazil, the latter of which I think has some subtle but not inconsiderable thematic ties to The Suburbs, which IMHO is a rockin' long-form lament-of-sorts about all that's been lost to and steamrolled by technology and globalization and the mass-production of pop culture -- though in an interview frontman Win Butler said that the album "is neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs - it's a letter from the suburbs."

Or, to quote a review from Spin that I rather like:

Radiant with apocalyptic tension and grasping to sustain real bonds, [it] extends hungrily outward, recalling the dystopic miasma of William Gibson's sci-fi novels and Sonic Youth's guitar odysseys. Desperate to elude its own corrosive dread, it keeps moving, asking, looking, and making the promise that hope isn't just another spiritual cul-de-sac.

OK, enough already! Here are most of the songs, in order. Enjoy! (Also note: I think this album is the best kind of slow burn. The first time I listened to it I was kinda meh and the fifth or sixth time it was like WOAH I GET IT NOW.) The title track:

The album's hit single, "Ready to Start."

There's no good video or concert recording for this one -- but give it a listen sans video.

Currently my favorite track from the album:

Another amazing song -- sans video.

I love the Byrds-esque guitar jangle in this one.

It's hard to believe that kids today (these kids today!) will never have the experience of writing letters to their friends, or far-away loved ones, and waiting for reply. I mean, they could, but they would never have to. It's a sentiment that's captured nicely in this song. By the way, there's an amazing interactive stylistically groundbreaking video for this song that I can't embed here for reasons that will become obvious but when you click here.

This is a strange and wonderful little song that reminds me a lot of Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen.

... and it has a sequel! Songs can have sequels?

And then a nice atmospheric little coda ...

College Board Wants to Erase Thousands of Years From AP World History, and Teachers Aren't Happy

One would be forgiven for thinking that the Ides of March are upon us, because Julius Caesar is being taken out once again—this time from the Advanced Placement World History exam. The College Board in charge of the AP program is planning to remove the Roman leader, and every other historical figure who lived and died prior to 1450, from high school students’ tests, The New York Times reports.

The nonprofit board recently announced that it would revise the test, beginning in 2019, to make it more manageable for teachers and students alike. The current exam covers over 10,000 years of world history, and according to the board, “no other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year.”

As an alternative, the board suggested that schools offer two separate year-long courses to cover the entirety of world history, including a Pre-AP World History and Geography class focusing on the Ancient Period (before 600 BCE) up through the Postclassical Period (ending around 1450). However, as Politico points out, a pre-course for which the College Board would charge a fee "isn’t likely to be picked up by cash-strapped public schools," and high school students wouldn't be as inclined to take the pre-AP course since there would be no exam or college credit for it.

Many teachers and historians are pushing back against the proposed changes and asking the board to leave the course untouched. Much of the controversy surrounds the 1450 start date and the fact that no pre-colonial history would be tested.

“They couldn’t have picked a more Eurocentric date,” Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, who previously helped develop AP History exams and courses, told The New York Times. “If you start in 1450, the first thing you’ll talk about in terms of Africa is the slave trade. The first thing you’ll talk about in terms of the Americas is people dying from smallpox and other things. It’s not a start date that encourages looking at the agency and creativity of people outside Europe.”

A group of teachers who attended an AP open forum in Salt Lake City also protested the changes. One Michigan educator, Tyler George, told Politico, “Students need to understand that there was a beautiful, vast, and engaging world before Europeans ‘discovered’ it.”

The board is now reportedly reconsidering its decision and may push the start date of the course back some several hundred years. Their decision will be announced in July.

[h/t The New York Times]

North America: East or West Coast?


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