50 Years, 100 Albums: Chapter 2

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In the months before I turned 50, inspired by Stephin Merritt’s Magnetic Fields album 50 Song Memoir, I had the conceit of writing about 100 albums that have been significant to me over a half-century of life, two for each year between 1970 and 2019. This is the next chapter in that project. The first chapter is here.

Musical ecstasy is the closest I’ve ever come to a religious experience. In my early adolescence, the The Rolling Stone Record Guide was my Bible.

Before the book fell into my hands sometime around 1979, my…


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Photo by Lucas van Oort on Unsplash

My version of a mid-life crisis came early, in my mid-thirties, when I was overcome with the urge to go back to school. I was bored and demoralized by my day job and at a dead end with my writing. My brain felt atrophied; it needed to work on something new. I toyed with going to law school but decided it would be more than I could handle while keeping a full-time job. On an impulse, I signed up for a graduate class at Eastern Michigan University called American Cultural Landscapes.

The teacher was an assistant professor who had lived…


I talk too much. At work, especially, people have told me: too many words. I tell them, “I know this.” I tell them at length about the many times people have told me this before.

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I do my best not to talk. I join most meetings with every intention of not speaking a word. I mute my Zoom connection and sit on my hands so I won’t be tempted to click the unmute button. I pray no one will utter the fatal words, “Steve, what are your thoughts?”

When I know it’s unavoidable that I’ll have to talk, I plot…


There is a sentence in Andrew Sullivan’s recent review of Edmund Fawcett’s book, Conservatism: The Fight For a Tradition, that I can’t get past. Sullivan makes the assertion that there are two “moods” to conservatism:

The first is an attachment to the world as it is, and a resistance to too drastic a change in anything. The second is an attachment to what once was — and a radical desire to overturn the present in order to restore the past.

Nothing too controversial here. The conservatism that resists change is the one articulated by William F. Buckley, Jr. in the…


America, We Have a Problem

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Photo by Francis Chung / E&E News and Politico via NBC News

On January 6th, 2021, as he headed into the Capitol building to debate the certification of the 2020 Electoral College vote, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, a rising star in the Republican party with evident presidential aspirations, pumped his fist in support of the barricaded pro-Trump crowd that had gathered in mistaken belief that the election had been “stolen.” A short time later, the crowd, incited to action by the President and visibly encouraged by Hawley, would breach the barricades, invade the Capitol, kill a police officer, attempt to smash their way into the House…


We Can’t Keep Working This Way

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Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

The best way I’ve found to gauge my burnout level in my day job is to stop doing it for a short time: take a week or so of PTO and monitor my state of mind as the time draws closer to going back to work. Most of the time, when I do this, my feelings register somewhere on the positive side of neutral — bummed that my break is almost over, but ready and willing to pick up where I left off, and already thinking about what I want to accomplish in the next week. …


50 Years, 100 Albums: Chapter 1

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In the months before I turned 50, inspired by Stephin Merritt’s Magnetic Fields album 50 Song Memoir, I had the conceit of writing about 100 albums that had been significant to me over a half-century of life. My plan was to pick two albums released each year between 1970 and 2019 and write about whatever associations I had with them. The project stalled early because it felt self-indulgent and pointless, but I’m picking it up again here as an occasional installment. It may indeed be self-indulgent and pointless, and I may turn 64 before I’m done, but that’s all right…


Foolish Optimism in a Dark Age

It’s almost the end of 2020, and like many folks I am beyond ready for that magical moment when the radioactive ball will drop onto a silent Times Square and smash this cursed year into the rubble of history. Over the past few weeks, as COVID-19 vaccines have started to roll out and Donald Trump’s pending eviction from the White House has drawn nearer, I’ve rediscovered something I’d become accustomed to living without: cautious optimism about the future. I know it’s foolhardy. The anticipation I felt at the end of 2019 feels in retrospect like a cruel joke, and there…


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Photo by Neroli Wesley on Unsplash

I want to talk about my favorite song of 2020, a small beacon of light in this terrible year, but before I do that, let me start by acknowledging that it took me far too long to recognize the obvious: Taylor Swift is one of the great songwriters of our time. That’s not a sentence I would have written even six months ago, but I get it now, I have the zealotry of a converted skeptic, I burn to evangelize my newfound faith. Her stature is comparable to that of Bruce Springsteen in the mid-’80s, a mainstream pop music giant…


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Photo by Jukan Tateisi on Unsplash

I’m a slow starter. This has been true of me for a long time. Several years ago, I reconnected with a middle school teacher on social media. She remembered my ambition to be a writer and asked if I’d kept at it. I lamented that I was almost forty and still trying to get my first book done. She said she wasn’t surprised; I’d always needed to do things in my own time. “You’ll do it when you’re ready,” she wrote.

A few years later, I was ready. I wrote that first book, a middle grade novel. It was good…

Stephen Fife-Adams

Author of unpublished novels, dad/husband to extraordinary humans, anti-fascist, music-besotted cis white American he/him. Rep’d by Roseanne Wells @jdlit.com

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