The Mechanics & Mystery of Top 40 Lists by bart plantenga

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“The list could surely go on, and there is nothing more wonderful than a list, instrument of wondrous hypotyposis.”  • Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

bart plantenga 

On daily to-do list: add ‘hypotyposis’ [vivid picturesque description] to long vocabulary list.

1bart1I started following Top 40 lists on pop radio stations when I was 8. Some are fascinated by the patterns we see in the stars, some in why autumn leaves turn brown, why love affairs go sour, why males are driven crazy by women’s breasts and why some bet on football games or collect Barbies in their original packaging, I was interested in the order of pop music.

I kept my own lists, ear flush to my red transistor, listening to ABC-AM or the WMCA “Good Guys” waiting for the announcement of the next song, scribbling it down in it’s position in the Top 40 on a lined page with a flashlight propped up on my pillow. I stole 9v batteries from the Acme Super Market to keep the radio going late into the night as if turning it off might mean missing a secret message from the ether about my place in the universe or a mantra that will lead to a level of nirvana accorded only the nerdy among us.

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The Insane Dutch Tradition of Writing Poems For Sinter Klaas by bart plantenga

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The Insane Dutch Tradition

of Writing Poems For Sinter Klaas

by bart plantenga


The Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus comes on December 5, which is celebrated by the giving of gifts, each of which [technically] should come with a RHYMING poem written about the receiver by the giver, usually in a humorous, somewhat mocking tone. This leads to a lot of stress and all sort of online rhyming dictionary site crashing. Not something sane, well-meaning people need during this already busy period of the year… Here is my 2015 version of this inherent stressful event, which we celebrated a day early because Nina is on her way to Paris Climate Summit COP21.

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Poems Are Reports From Inner Space by Stephen Morrissey

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Poems Are Reports

From Inner Space


by Stephen Morrissey


"Dark City" © 2015 Erik La Prade

“Dark City” © 2015 Erik La Prade

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Small Objects That Changed My Life: Shouting At The Ground by :Zoviet*France: radio essay by bart plantenga

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Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 11.58.12Listen now as you read

“A silent man, walking in solitude by a mountain stream… We begin to see what is real and what really deserves our allegiance.” • Gary Snyder

bart plantenga

The first disc I’d bring along to a deserted island is this one – along with The Gentle Side of John Coltrane and Ascenseur pour l’échafaud by Miles Davis. Never mind that I only have Shout on a poor-quality cassette. In 1999, I was asked to participate in an art exhibit entitled “Small Objects That Changed Your Life” in De Appel Arts Centre in Amsterdam. I placed this tape with the below self-made cover – a small detail clipped from a Bruegel painting in a magazine + a dried Paris leaf – into the exhibit with a short explanation. That I never hesitate to mention it when this question comes up is impressive since I have listened to literally thousands of songs and albums and whenever someone asks for a Top 10 of anything, I usually come up with a Top 25 + a mea culpa. There are so many deserving records, so many under-listened-to artists. And yet…

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The Long March by bart plantenga

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The Long March

by bart plantenga


The meditation of the trail: Walk along looking at the trail at your feet and don’t look about and just fall into a trance as the ground zips by. 

• Jack Kerouac

Don’t fall asleep on the Metro-North Train out of Grand Central late at night or you’ll end up somewhere you never in a million years thought you’d end up with the midnight hour approaching. If you’d been on that train, you could have heard me repeating the late-night mantra STAY AWAKE DON’T FALL ASLEEP … over and over and despite – or precisely BECAUSE of! – this mantra, and despite me imploring myself to stand up, go through your wallet, retie your shoe, make a list … I indeed conked out, clueless to the world and was only startled awake when a valise thudded against my seat, just as the signs flashed Ardsley-on-Hudson. I managed to gather whatever wits I had left and leapt out just as the doors began to squeeze shut in … uh… Tarrytown! Overshooting my destination, Dobbs Ferry, by about 5 or 6 miles to the south.

I’d gone to Manhattan to see the prog-grass band Girls on Grass, 2 Brooklyn women – and bassist friend Dave. Only something special can drag me out these days to the past-sell-by-date East Village to engage in that most consumerist of sidewalk dances: the shuffle-app-selfie-click-ice-cream-lick-dance. So only when: 1. my critical capacities tip below zero; or 2. when a friend is playing in a girl band at HiFi, which inhabits the ghostly space of the formerly renowned Brownie’s …

Girl on Grass in HiFi

And as I am about to tell you the rest of this tale, I again hear my partner’s voice of reason whispering sternly into my ear: Do not advertise your stupidity or drunkenness – not charming and not a career maker. Not her actual voice but the one my mind has filed on a mental mp3 under Disapproval/Admonish/Raised Eyebrows.

But I’m hardwired to tell stories like this because humility forges a crooked and poorly marked trail to nirvana, or some place like that. When I encounter an error of judgement nourished by alcohol [not too much, just the right measure I thought], it usually incites impetuous, flakey reactions on my part. Rather than wait for the next train down the track, I decided to walk home. By walking back I mean like walking 2 hours to atone. It’s like winding a tangle of yarn into a ball, a metaphor, you rightly notice, for my unraveled foibles. Yes, walk: It was 85∘with humidity at 120% – if that’s even possible. Whatever the numbers, it’s like walking the doggy paddle and the air is a swimming pool.

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