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Sun August 25, 2013

What We're Reading | 8.25.13

The Apollo 11 astronauts.
Credit NASA

Each week, members of the WFPL News team spotlight interesting stories we've read and enjoyed, for your weekend reading pleasure:

Gabe Bullard: I can't think of any better way to convince you to read this story about the musician Harry Nilsson than posting this quote:

"His is a career that feels both forgotten and deeply embedded in modern pop. He sang standards and rock and jazz and winding conceptual songs and tiny little kids' tunes and commercial jingles. He wrote, voiced, and spearheaded an animated film starring Dustin Hoffman. He played Dracula in a movie. He soundtracked a sitcom and nearly fought Jackie Gleason in a nightclub. He was "the Beatle across the water." He tore up London bars with Ringo Starr and Keith Moon. He invented the remix album. He also invented the mash-up. He dropped acid with Timothy Leary. He sang of moonbeams and fire and coconuts and puppies. He was a prodigious songwriter whose two biggest hits were covers. He made his father's abandonment the centerpiece of his songwriting, and yet rarely acknowledged its importance publicly. He performed live in concert in his prime exactly zero times. He lobbied for a songwriter named Randy Newman and is responsible for the career of Three Dog Night. He composed scores for Otto Preminger and Robert Altman. He wrote a musical about the Wright brothers. He had no. 1 albums and pop smashes and disastrous failures. He won Grammys. He was hilarious, and such a sad man."

Read Deconstructing Harry.

Erin Keane: Once upon a time (some may say a better time), nostalgia was considered a medical condition—a melancholic, sometimes deadly ache for home. Now it's a powerful marketing tool. But nostalgia depends on the absence of that long-ago time when music was just better, I mean, what are kids listening to now, anyway? In other words, you can't miss childhood if you don't give it away, like this group of 10 guys in the Pacific Northwest who have kept a single game of tag going for 23 years.

They started the game when they graduated from high school as a way of staying in touch. Game is in play during February only, there's a formal tag agreement, and the lengths players will go to tag each other are fairly extreme. ("I got tagged during my father's funeral mass," says one.) I wonder if we can start something similar with a never-ending game of Super Mario Bros.? Read The Awesome Story About a Group of Men Who Have Been Playing a Single Game of Tag for 23 Years.

Joseph Lord: NASA put people on the moon. Now, The Washington Post reports, the agency has a challenging mission that involves capturing a rock in space and sending humans into lunar orbit to check it out. Maybe it's not exactly as inspiring as Apollo 11. In this story (with nice presentation), The Post writes that NASA has "middle-age problems" and, like all agencies, a need for more funding. Read NASA's Mission Improbable.