“I think it’s rooted in who I am and my background and how I grew up. I was always a really political kid. I grew up on punk rock (and) very much into anti-establishment stuff.I had always loved this band called the Dead Kennedys. Their singer, Jello Biafra once said ‘Don’t hate the media, become the media.’ That’s always stuck with me. Over dinner after the Women’s March (in Washington, D.C.) I was talking to my good friend … and we were talking about how difficult it was to keep up with the news. And for us, we’re all affluent white people, we’re so privileged. One: That we have downtime, and two: that we’re able to spend it knowing what’s going on in the world. How would a normal person in the world that has a family, a job or two jobs ever keep up with this stuff? No one likes to follow politics unless they’re like a junkie, you know?” – Matt Kiser
“Without knights no chivalry, without court no courtliness, without salon no charm, without material support no deference will last indefinitely, not even as make-believe. In the same manner what shrinks in a world that cheats us out of leisure and other preconditions of our privacy, are the subtleties of our emotional private lives.” Günther Anders
“In questions diffuse and compounded, this similarity of determination is no longer to be expected. At our first sally into the intellectual world, we all march together along one straight and open road; but as we proceed further, and wider prospects open to our view, every eye fixes upon a different scene; we divide into various paths, and, as we move forward, are still at a greater distance from each other. As a question becomes more complicated and involved, and extends to a greater number of relations, disagreement of opinion will always be multiplied; not because we are irrational, but because we are finite beings, furnished with different kinds of knowledge, exerting different degrees of attention, one discovering consequences which escape another, none taking in the whole concatenation of causes and effects, and most comprehending but a very small part, each comparing what he observes with a different criterion, and each referring it to a different purpose.” Dr. Johnson
World War III is a guerrilla information war with no division between military and civilian participation. H. Marshall McLuhan 1970
Last Tuesday’s off-year elections mean that some time has been freed up in Mom’s and my respective schedules. For the past several months we’re been expected to go to campaign kickoff events held in small windowless basement, fund raisers held at some unspecified locations at some unspecified public park, and election night galas usually held at a bowling alley or Elks Club.
As you’ve probably gathered, these events are not tied to some high-powered campaign for a readily recognized local office. Most of the ones we’re asked to attend involve irrigation commissions, fire districts, and other public offices that no one had any idea that the people who held those offices were elected. One position was so small that someone asked, “Where’s that victory party, in a liquor store parking lot?”
Hey – don’t laugh.
I expect that invite will be coming along at any time.
In the meantime we all go back to doing what we were doing before the election started which in my case meant wrestling with a problem so complex that it cannot easily explained.
Not even if you even use puppets.
Have a look –
Here’s an illustration.
Using a neutral example – let’s say that there are those (Group A) who squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom while others (Group B) squeeze from the top.
So let’s say that in either case one group really doesn’t pay any mind to the other. In fact, they rarely if ever cross over to talk to the other. Therefore, following what the video showed, Group A will most likely never see what Group B is up to and vice versa. Moving even further into what the video shows, it is then possible for people in a given group to also be unaware of what the entire group is doing because the algorithm moves people further and further into the margins.
Let’s say that one day someone in Group B discovers this:
It is then possible that it would go unnoticed by some portion of Group B. So some poor guy in Group B who married a Group A individual could be unaware that there’s something out there that could bring peace and balance to his home medicine cabinet.
Rolled up together it means that the Net, which was supposed to be the greatest assemblage of information ever devised is largely becoming a narrow range of possible outcomes. So what’s changed is that it is no longer a democratic vessel for knowledge. The people who came forward to dump their vast knowledge of some obscure topic on Geocities have been replaced with problematic formulas which are only concerned with who you know and not what you know.
And as Master Yoda said, “Meditate on this I must!”
While I do that you can have a look at Pew’s numbers on cable news viewership. The single most important factoid shows viewership up 55% over this time last year which means cable news in prime time is now being watch by over 1.5% of the American population. Or you can take a few minutes to read about icky and creepy Facebook is getting.
And when you’re done we’re all gonna hold hands and sing along.
“Macklemore’s new album, Gemini, has been positioned as a “liberation” from the ponderous interrogations that came before. He’s done, as he put it, with “preaching to the choir”: rapping politics to the white liberals who compose the majority of his fanbase. Which, for many, comes as a relief. He remains the avatar of white guys trying hard not to be the worst, but he’s also — especially in this new incarnation — a salve for those exhausted with the enduring conundrum of white guilt. His endurance makes sense, but it’s also proof of the fickleness of so many components of white liberalism: When you can put a conversation aside when it ceases to thrill you or feed you, how deep was your investment? Is the ability to stop talking about injustice the greatest white privilege of all?” Anne Helen Petersen
“The reader is the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being list; a text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination. Yet this destination cannot any longer be personal; the reader is without his without history … he is simply that someone who holds together, in a single field, all the traces by which the written text is constituted.” Roland Barthes
“We were instructed to write with something of the ease in which we might speak, and that is a good rule for beginners. In time it can be absorbed, taken for granted, and finally disobeyed. The best writing comes, obviously, out of a precision we do not and dare not employ when we speak, yet such writing still has the ring of speech. It is a style, in short, that can take you a life to achieve.” Norman Mailer
“When a man writes from his own mind, he writes very rapidly. The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” Dr. Johnson
Now that we’ve all spent another week getting out of bed asking the question, “Oh what the hell is it now?” I thought it might be time to look at a couple of things that were overrunning my various feeds which were in no way related to the larger events in the news cycle just passed.
Do I have something on my teeth?
Years and years ago when the Bloggitysphere was new some people wondered if sooner or later every possible topic would be exhausted given the total number of people blogging. The question went nowhere until last week when I noticed that the gaping maw that is Medium, Patreon, and the other contributor powered sites started running out titles that seemed like people just thinking out loud.
OK – well … not so much thinking out loud as taking down dictation – sorta like they were writing down stuff that popped up in the interior monolog. You know, your inner voice, that little voice in your head that acts like your brain’s idea of post-it notes.
There were titles like, “Maybe Not” and “Is That What I Think It Is?” which leads me to believe that the email article roundups I get from the various contributor sites might look like this any day now.
Can’t be sure if it’s a trend or not, I’ll let you know if it keeps up. Or maybe I’ll just write to one of these “authors” and ask why he or she doesn’t have the simple common courtesy of talking to him or herself in public like normal people.
Smells like R. Kelly’s sheets
Up top there’s a pull quote from an lengthy article on Macklemore which came out a few days ago. Largely it’s about race and his place in the recording business. I only found it interesting for the first sentence –
Last week, while Twitter was focused on Cardi B vanquishing Taylor Swift to become the first unaccompanied female rapper to reach No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in almost 20 years, Macklemore’s new album, Gemini, hit the top of the iTunes charts — a prime indicator of the listening habits of people too old to understand streaming.
This pretty much fits with our encounters with his fan base – they’re either over 35 or under 15. As the article goes on to say –
This might explain why white people in the Pacific Northwest proved such an accepting audience for Macklemore: We don’t fancy ourselves liberal sophisticants. Macklemore has been called suburban dad-rap, and Seattle is nothing if not filled with suburban dads. You don’t have to be male or even live in the suburbs to fulfill the archetype: You just have to like the Seahawks and local IPAs, live in a “starter home” that cost more than half a million dollars, and own multiple iterations of puffy jacket.
An interesting take, but let me offer you another.
You don’t have to beat the Seattle bushes very hard to turn up someone who is directly related to Macklemore. You can meet all manner of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. While I’ve had several close scrapes with meeting him the closest I ever got was talking to his wife, who is whip-smart and a p-r natural, at a luncheon. The rough distribution of family means that any number of people can easily find a connection to him. Failing that he is the Seattle local boy made good and when you roll that up with the native provincialism found here in The Great North Woods, he is regarded as America’s most beloved rapper/hip hop artist.
Whether or not that’s true.
That provincialism expresses itself in odd ways. The earliest example we encountered was people buying pc’s instead of Macs because Bill Gates’ folks gave lots of money to Seattle charities. The most frequent expression comes when the life-long folks encounter a local phenomena they don’t like. If they don’t like something then it can only be the work of outsiders.
You know, like grunge.
Sure Kurt was from up the road, but he wasn’t from Seattle.
Eddie Vedder is from out of state.
All those dirty boys all dressed alike playing that awful loud music!
Make no mistake – they aren’t from around here even if their mothers went into labor under the Space Needle!
Case in point and speaking of luncheons – one afternoon I was at a function (sans Madame Macklemore) and while poking at my food wondering if it has ever spent time as an organic life form I thought I heard some one mention my name at the next table. Then I could have sworn I heard it again. Half a minute later the emcee gets up to the podium, calls me up, and asks if I have a minute to explain “What a Sound Garden is.”
Omitting the rumors that Kim Thayil goes to many local restaurants and doesn’t pay because he’s Kim f’n Thayil I gave them a thumbnail sketch. Several questions ensued mostly about where the band members were born. While I wasn’t sure the crowd was certain they weren’t from around here. By the time I got back to my seat my Montsanto Chicken Entree Slurry was cold.
Where were we?
Mom likes Macklemore, but I have no serious opinion of him one way or the other. Also, as a sorta semi-suburban dad I have been exposed to much of the music the young people like by way of Alaska Wolf Joe. As such we’ve heard MF Doom, Tyler the Creator, and Death Grips among others. Thankfully we’re old enough that, while we can appreciate some of the genre, we will never be drug into a conversation about Kanye vs. Kendrick. Should it come up all we have to do is look glassy eyed and a tad confused.
Sorta like somebody needs to take us back to the home.
Otherwise please remember this about streaming. You can hide you streaming history. Unlike cd and vinyl albums no one can reach into your streaming and produce the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack and ask, “What the hell do we have here?!?!?!?”
DISCLOSURE: while AWJ isn’t under foot these days I do get suggestions via Twitter and Spotify about new music that’s out there and that’s why this is my idea of suburban dad rap.
And for those of you who like a little something about current affairs –
Moving along –
A Rick-orous vetting of the subject
The front page and the lede are pretty obvious. My own interest usually lies in what you find several pages in or long after the jump. Digitally what starts to pile up around the edges during a week like the one just past says something about how people are expressing their inner voices. Despite all that’s happened in the past seven days an unusual number of posts about Rick and Morty have been turning up in my various feeds.
Most of the content revolves about how dark and realistic the show is. My mini-binge of watching four whole episodes did show that – even for a cartoon- the knock-down drag-out fights between Morty’s parents are less cartoon-y than anything you’d see on Dr. Phil. Otherwise the show strikes me as somebody’s serious allergic reaction to every family sitcom from the 80s.
Since the show is broadcast way past my bedtime and since I’ll never figure out how to access the streamed version (QED) it seemed natural to reach out to Alaska Wolf Joe for an explanation of all things Rick and Morty.
AWJ asks that you watch this one-minute clip before reading on because:
For context, Rick has turned himself into a pickle to avoid family counseling. I should note, for further context, the the family counseling itself is mixed with absurd coprophagia jokes – which serve to diminish the counselor’s accreditation – and which seems to highlight the suspicion that, as usual, the mental health profession is nothing but one huge scam which is insincere. Rick attends this session as a pickle.
Rick and Morty is an animated television comedy series which concerns the adventures of one Rick Sanchez, grandfather to Morty Smith. In between this is what may or may not concern a paper cardboard rendition of the American family circa 2010, which entreats an evenly distributed apathy. We have a chronically depressed mother with deeply inhibited anger, and a father who no longer functions as the patriarchal arbiter of control but rather a haunting of the old patriarchs to be mocked – an accelerated Homer Simpson, drunk off of his own oafishness to the point of banality but a deeply subversive impotency. And of course we have something of the strange figures which millenials occupy in the form of their children, one being a generic teen girl (who’s only personality is signified by some mild-mannered form of consumer vanity, make what feminist critique of that you will), and the other being the eponymous Morty of Rick and Morty.
Of course, in this, I have not characterized exactly what the foremostly eponymous character stands for: one Rick Sanchez. The problem being is that Rick Sanchez does not bear even the faintest resemblance to the rest of paper-mâché renditions of media clichés blended with our own postmodern anxieties. Well, perhaps he resembles the latter part, that part being a certain unwritten postmodern anxiety – for Rick Sanchez is more or less a walking caricature of a certain egoism which openly calls itself nihilism. And this is why, of course, the show is truly despicable. Our main character is a strange caricature of the ubermensch, who is an alcoholic “great man of science” (independent of any lab, and independent of any research) who attempts to play fast and loose with intergalactic aliens not as any form of moral superiority, not as means to a Will to Power; no, he simply does it because he is bored.
The show is intent on forcing you to listen to the same unfortunate talking points that anyone who wants to tell you that they are a self-professed existentialist will offer you; namely that there is no God, there is no meaning, and that Science proves that our universe is inherently chaotic. Therefore, instead of truly grasping for any intrinsically person moral truths in this chaotic world, we instead should just know that there is no truth, and accept that our fate is ultimately meaningless, and that science was right all along. This last point perhaps is the one which is most curious, considering that it really was not a talking point of the existentialists, who more or less were concerned with the human experience in regards towards life and death – not in meaninglessness, but applying the recently developed phenomenological model towards these inquiries of meaning and authenticity. But even as Nietzsche or Kierkegaard predated phenomenology, and are both clichéd as being rather dour individuals, they too were nowhere near the supposed blind-faith “scientific” nihilism of our current predecessors. They stressed an individual’s choice, continually, to find meaning or to affirm faith – and especially for Nietzsche, in defiance of this apparent void which could come to fruition as the idea of “Nihilism.”
Indeed, this show is most despicable because it professes this bleak void in self-styled smugness, and despite this, offers no ethical perspective whatsoever. Life is horror, we are all going to die, no one will speak our name at some point, etc. etc. And this is comedy. That is precisely what is so despicable. This is comedy. Who are we supposed to be empathizing with? Who are we supposed to be laughing at, or laughing for?
But I would like to justify that the problem is not itself a worldview of virulent and universal absurdity. In fact, there are two authors which I could consider immediately who also regard a form of universal and cosmic absurdity, if not total nihilism. But what is more, I would like to establish that I believe that they fulfill some duty within the content of their own work, such that they can be considered morally responsible for the ideas which they espouse. One of these authors would be Franz Kafka, and the other would be H.P. Lovecraft.
Regarding Kafka, I want to establish that his universality is the universality of the absurd – a world in which all of its proponents were equally absurd as one another, and that it was inescapable. But what is important to note is that he thought that this universal absurdity was human made, and implicitly, could be fixed by human action. This is most evidenced by his behavior towards his own works. It was reported that when he wrote them, he read them out to his private circle of friends, and these were extremely rapturous events. They would all break out in laughter – even if a bitter laughter – over the terrifying and absurd moments in his novels. Nonetheless, I find this laughter moral. The importance of what makes something moral is precisely that it prescribes a world that is other than it already is; at the minimum, it serves a hypothetical which tells us how we should regard the future of human life. It is impossible to read Kafka’s novels and feel that, despite the banal horror which haunts the lives of his protagonists, that he ever condones this system. Kafka, if he is to be remembered at all, is one of the first satirists of the horror that could become the capitalist, socialist, and fascist bureaucracies of the twentieth century – and we are sure to remember him not just a satirist, but as a moralist who strictly warned us of such systems. As such, it is only fair that we can say that Kafka concerns a moral stance within his work.
Lovecraft, on the other hand, is a much stranger case. A large amount of the fear of alienation and destruction which haunts his works is the production of xenophobia and racism. It is hard to encounter his works without seeing the hints of something which became repressed in his more significant works – namely, the suppression of the Other. But in between that, he forecasts a void which is no less significantly universal, and which distinctly forecasts scientific nihilism but also the limits of scientific nihilism. The fear of Lovecraft, of course, is that when we finally pierce the veils of human knowledge and of the scientific method, we find out that what exists beyond the veil either hates us, will annihilate us, proves that we are infinitesimally small within the scheme of the cosmos, or all three.
I will consider that Lovecraft is a wrong moralist. The world which resulted from the racial intermixing of American culture hasn’t destroyed us, and for the most part, the discoveries of science haven’t come to destroy us yet – pace, all the horrors of warfare (primarily the nuclear, which Lovecraft did not live to see.) But it is unmistakeable that Lovecraft had a moral purpose of his world in which he forecasted cosmic nihilism and annihilation, fear of the Other and fear of man’s knowledge – he advocated what can be considered an almost reactionary turn within society. He may not necessarily have literally advocated a politics, but it is hard to read Lovecraft and think there is not something hidden underneath this Gothicism which is profoundly in desire of something. And that is why I, if somewhat dubiously, have to call him a moralist: he is a moralist of science, in saying that we should watch ourselves lest we find the wax wings of our scientific innovation too close to the sun. The cosmos may be a horrifying blur of chaos which man has best left untouched, but we can avoid this fate if we return to a purified humanism.
I want to connect this to the fact that I feel ultimately that Rick and Morty lacks any sense of moralization in the goals of what it satirizes or what it portrays. It is worse than simply misunderstood Nietzscheanism, it is Nietzsche’s enemy, the raw prospect of nihilism. Rick and Morty asks us to laugh at a hollow parade of pop cultural clichés underneath the guise of a minimal science fiction plotline. And indeed, isn’t it somewhat absurd I can be saying all this of what essentially amounts to a watered down cartoon version of Back to the Future? But Rick and Morty no doubt has philosophical pretensions, and what is worse, it is undeniable that certain elements of its audience take it to be philosophical on the whole. As such, it is a work which must bear the weight for the morality of its representations, and clearly fails to do as such.
This is why it is despicable. Of course it is absurd to ask that a work which essentially amounts towards being a pop cultural distraction should be moral. But it is hard to find in the entire work a single point of prescription, of hope, of meaning. Rick and Morty is the worst type of fiction, for it is neither aesthetically pleasing, nor wholly entertaining, nor does it open us up towards anything which can be considered a new perspective. Instead, it seeks to reaffirm ourselves of our worst suspicions: no alternative is viable to the society that we live in, family is a banal formality which makes everyone miserable, the universal is uncaring and chaotic, morality is wrong, religion is wrong and God is dead, the only good interest is self-interest, and scientific development is always Good and Right. This is the ideology of Rick and Morty. The ideology of Rick and Morty is the ideology of Late Capital. It professes these values because it allows us to become subservient to the disappearance of the human subject under the masses of data, underneath the metaphysical burden of the scientific world which the scientific model has produced. Rick and Morty is a popular portrait of what we can establish as the current human condition, and now more than ever is it apparent that our current human condition is the dissolution of humanity into data points. Rick and Morty is complacent with our current cynical world view beyond all other complacencies. And complacency is morally irresponsible. Thusly, it is morally irresponsible.
There is no need for us to create any piece of artistic media which claims to kill idealism, for we are already all materialists. We are materialists wandering through the black night of morality, in which one can look up at the limitless stars, which looks suspiciously like the monitor lights of server stacks, and realize that they are all dying – and in which no elder god or bureaucrat can screech at us from the deepest reaches of this infinite moral abyss. In this night, under the faint and dying light of the moonless cosmos, all cows are black.
And if you have 23 minutes to spare – here’s the Readers Digest Condensed and/or meta episode that sufficiently sums up the series.
If you’ll excuse me I have to go now and see if Medium would be interested in 5000 words because I was just wondering if it’s hot in here or is it just me?
Please enjoy this musical interlude while I’m away.
“News media has become a marketing industry for the most profitable culture in preparation for next season. They control the speech, they control the narrative and will destroy anyone who gets big enough the matter. Now with the permanent ban of Milo Yiannopoulos from Twitter, many are asking if free speech as a concept is under siege. The answer is of course a mighty YES! However, it’s not coming directly from the State this time. Today it’s coming from the corporate cultural and the daytime talk shows they invest in. This is an age of government partnership, as though acting indirectly is less communist. As if killing less people when we steal their production is less fascist.” – Anthony J. Mountjoy
“To alert advertisers caught on junk or blatant fake news sites, Storyzy sends them an email with eloquent screenshots attached. ‘We contacted about 400 brands, says Pierre-Albert Ruquier, marketing director and co-founder of Storyzy. Reaction varies. Some clearly don’t care and don’t even bother to respond. The biggest advertisers usually refer us to their media buying partners. We talk to most of them, even though we are often received coldly. Weirdly enough, we are also sent to large to consulting firms that advise big clients on brand safety issues. The vast majority of advertisers don’t know where their ads land. Or choose to ignore it. That’s why when they refer us to their media buying agency these won’t budge. The reason is that almost all campaigns are ROI-based, a field dominated by behavioral targeting and retargeting.’” – Frederic Filloux
“This is a very boring, simple explanation as to why the NFL’s ratings are declining. It is not an opportunity for you to shoehorn in your feelings about Colin Kaepernick protesting the game. No one really cares about your feelings about Colin Kaepernick’s protest, because if you are the kind of person who gets really offended by Colin Kaepernick’s protest, then your feelings in 2017 are the most boring and predictable thing about you, and telling on you in a deeply unflattering light. The simpler and also boring systemic problem with the NFL that might actually explain something is its success, and how that success made the ownership class in the NFL fat, lazy, and locked into a business model they have no real reason or incentive to change, even with falling TV ratings. The absence of real risk of failure is a start. Stakeholders in the NFL cannot lose—at least not under the league’s current structure.” Spencer Hall
“Pro football in America is over the hump. Ten years ago it was a very hip and private kind of vice to be into. I remember going to my first 49ers game in 1965 with fifteen beers in a plastic cooler and a Dr. Graybow pipe full of bad hash. The 49ers were still playing in Kezar Stadium then, an old gray hulk at the western end of Haight Street in Golden Gate Park. There were never any sellouts, but the 30,000 or so regulars were extremely heavy drinkers, and at least 10,000 of them were out there for no other reason except to get involved in serious violence … by the end of the third quarter of any game, regardless of the score, there were always two or three huge brawls that would require the cops to clear out whole sections of the grandstand.” Hunter S. Thompson c 1971-72
“I believe marriages would in general be as happy, and often more so, if they were all made by the Lord Chancellor, upon a due consideration of characters and circumstances, without the parties having any choice in the matter.” Dr. Johnson
“In an electric information environment, minority groups can no longer be contained—ignored. Too many people know too much about each other. Our new environment compels commitment and participation. We have become irrevocably involved with, and responsible for, each other.” H. Marshall McLuhan 1967
Here’s a scant few items to move along.
Psycho and Cupid
Most weekdays I have lunch at the desk while also listening to the news on the radio. That means sitting through some amount of talk as the only stations with news these days like to call themselves “news-talk radio.” What you learn from news-talk by either listening or, in my case, being involved with it for all of a week, is that the average person in American has no idea how many books are being published at any given time. The short time I spent with the format was little more than a parade of USPS, UPS, and FedEx delivery people bringing book after book after book. Sometimes when we drive to the WA coast I will look at an old patch of clear cut and wonder if all it went to making the books that turn some portion of financial minutia into alarmist economic porn.
And sometimes I wonder if all those trees were turned into self-help books.
Which is where I came in on the news last Wednesday. While waiting for the headlines I had to sit through an interview with a marriage expert, or rather an expert on why marriages go wrong. His general take was that humans, as far as he knows, are the only primates who fall in love, in turn, as of the late 19th and early 20th Century people adopted love as the central core of marriage. Prior to that he believed that marriage was a utilitarian venture – an easy way to acquire more labor. Put another way – a man can only afford one ox, but he can cook up five little laborers if he can find a woman to go along with his long-term business plan.
Mr. Expert wound up by saying that’s all out the window today. Per him- marriages fail today because people are no longer interested in utility much less love. Today’s marriage is all about finding someone who will turn you into a fully self-actualized human being and if that doesn’t happen in a reasonable amount of time then…
Time to find a lawyer and see who gets custody of the Tony Robbins DVDs.
Companionship? Child rearing? Taking the trash out? Looking out for each other? Seeing what that noise in the basement is? The ability to keep the US mortgage companies in business?
All out the window.
As many of you know, and I’ve said this in this space for a very long time, we don’t hold back. By God, we’re proud of the world-class synchronized snoring routine the two of us have worked on for years and years. Instead that’s all for naught as this entire time – if we were true moderns- Mom would have been busy liberating the blue light from the crystal prisms of my mind.
Or visa versa.
I had no idea.
Speaking of Mom –
Allow me to introduce myself
Here’s a quick 60 seconds of video that sums up Facebook’s latest set of problems.
Zuckerberg got played by people smarter than he is. All we see of him now is the bottomless narcissistic injury inflicted by the fact one of them was Donald Trump.
Which brings us back to the subject of marriage.
Those of you who’ve met us know that I married up. In addition to being a hot leggy blonde Mom’s smart and smart if a real razor sharp way. Her current take on FB states that of all the local platforms FB is quicksand.
This came up tangentially. A rage filled FB post has been floating about for a few days regarding how a transaction was handled at a local business. Having once worked in retail it struck me as a customer service thing that went off the rails, but those who’ve read the post have broken out the digital pitchforks and iTorches in order to join the digital lynch mob.
Mom’s had a couple of invites to weigh in on this one. Some invites ask for her wisdom, others want her to put up a quick, “I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF YOU KIDS!” post. She has declined saying that – once you look at that kind of post on social media – you’re sucked in with no way out. Admonish, conjole, beg or rant, nothing changes. There’s something about our natures that pull us in and make us drown in someone else’s anger.
Long story short – pick your battles, but be really, really picky about the ones you chose. Don’t lose your own time and your emotional energy.
And while we’re talking about readily losing your shit…
Profits of Rage
“Trying the politicize science fiction fans is like trying to teach a paramecium to play jazz piano.” Harlan Ellison
You should what happens when you try to do that with football fans.
Let’s start with some unassailable rock-solid facts:
1. Tim Tebow is a deeply religious man.
2. Tim Tebow couldn’t make it in the NFL.
As most of you remember from tuning into last Sunday afternoon’s episode of “Oh Say Can You Knee?” Various pundits and double domes were casting about looking for anybody who went genuflecting on the grid iron. The name several landed on was Tim Tebow.
For those of you just tuning – Tim Tebow is no longer a member of the NFL. He suffered from what some call the Heisman Curse, i.e. those who win college football’s highest honor never make it in the NFL. Normally the victims of the curse aren’t much known outside of the city they play in. Tebow was different in that his knee taking, in the name of his faith, made him known to a wider audience. That in turn lead the culture warriors to weaponize this knee taking. Granted, the rage then was minuscule vs. what’s happened in the past couple of weeks, but it part of a larger interpretation of fact by the shadowy figures in the culture wars and those in the media who profit from using our emotions against us.
Put another way – the very recently deceased Hugh Hefner made a fortune playing off men’s essentially horny nature. The cable news outlets, talk radio, and various web sites do the same thing with your misdirected rage. Don’t think that Mom’s the only one who noticed the angry morass on social media. There are others who know that – to slight restate Mr. Pynchon – if they can get you to talk about the wrong thing, then there’s money to be made. Which means that if Mr. Bannon is what he says he is, then in his Lennist America the useful idiot abound and they need little or no direction and the money will come rolling in. (See M. Falloux above)
Throw it out there and see what sticks.
Want an example?
OK – is standing for the National Anthem little more than your own virtue signaling that you understand the previously established form of political correctness?
Been pnwed by your emotions yet?
Give it a second.
Moving along –
He’s about two weeks away from starting in the NFL should someone take him on. But as the article mentioned above states – the average NFL team is little more than a portfolio asset these days. So it’s not that Kaepernick is completely frozen out solely based on his actions. Seattle was mentioned as his most likely landing spot as it would come with the least amount of public outrage. But Seattle has a solid starting quarterback in Russell Wilson who is 1-1 in Super Bowl starts. Like Tebow, Mr. Wilson has an expanded fan base beyond the city he plays in due to his openness about how he and his fiancé were saving themselves for his second marriage.
Kaepernick’s frozen out because there are teams who could use him, but they’re getting by as there’s money in mediocrity. Behind the scenes there a mess of teams who don’t want him because those teams might improve and that might upset the delicate balance of the bottom line.
Hell, if you want to be mad at somebody – go pick on Jerry Jones.
The Cowboys haven’t won the Super Bowl since 1995 and they’ve been out of the playoffs for 11 of the subsequent years while turning his multi-million dollar investment into a $4 billion asset.
And did you see the J-man take a knee last week?
You sure did!
Long story short – anybody looking to display the head of the NFL as if it were the Gorgon or Meuda’s is a fool. The NFL has been its own best tackle dummy for several years now. The only thing Mr. Trump has done is give them an external push down the stairs because, God knows, the’ve been taking that tumble for some time.
The number of games on tv is its own form of pollution. What was one or two games on a weekend and one on Monday night has turned in a 12 to 14 broadcast marathon on Sundays. Prime time now has both Monday and Thursday night games and if that’s not enough the NFL has their own damn cable channel, streaming service, and a cozy deal with DirectTV. The commissioner has tried to edge the CTE problem and he wouldn’t let Junior Seau’s daughter give a speech that basically said – my Dad’s job ended his life early.
So before winding this up let’s go to the replay:
“In an electric information environment, minority groups can no longer be contained—ignored. Too many people know too much about each other. Our new environment compels commitment and participation. We have become irrevocably involved with, and responsible for, each other.” H. Marshall McLuhan 1967
Moving from the industrially based media of the 20th Century to the wide open digital present means we move from the slightly off key chorus of the few voices to relentless cacophony. Like an old Altman movie we drop in and out of no end of conversations. We struggle to listen to one at a time. In that environment we are enthralled by the shouters, the loud ones who put forth their point of view leaving us to do the one thing none of us want to do.
Master our emotions.
Feel free to have your spouse help you. You know, the other day I heard that marriage is nothing more than getting your old lady and/or old man to get you to go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.
And then tell you to take out the trash.
With that – let’s go out on one of Mom’s favorite videos.
“Twitter’s a collective scrolling howl of bitterness, bile, animadversion and obloquy. It’s the social media place to tell people they’re wrong, express political despair about the coming nuclear apocalypse, and personal unhappiness about yet another rejection letter. Twitter’s a bubbling vat of dissatisfaction and dismay leavened with occasional harassment. Facebook is organized around wishing people happy birthday, sharing family photos, and announcing career successes. If Twitter is staring into a pit of sadly writhing maggots, Facebook is cartoon bunnies hopping about the screen and looking up at you, waiting for you to festoon them with medals for meritorious conduct. No wonder everybody’s on Facebook, while Twitter glumly sheds users as it begs old and potential tweeters to please stop backing away slowly. And yet, the bleakness of Twitter make it oddly cheering and comforting—while the relentless optimism of Facebook feels like all those billions of cute bunnies are sitting on your head, or using their oversize buck teeth to chew out your heart.” Noah Berlatsky
“The wind carries the rhythm of drums through the birch trees. Long-haired and bearded people stand around fires, many with their eyes shut, appearing to be in a trance. The scent of burning wood, mead, and leather wafts through the air. The pagans have gathered at the burial mound to pay homage to the gods through music and dance. This isn’t a scene set a thousand years in the past. This happened few weeks ago at the pagan and metal festival Midgardsblot. The three-day event, which takes place on an ancient mound cemetery on the southern coast of Norway, combines heavy metal and folk music with Old Norse pagan culture. Among this year’s lineup were new big names in black metal such as Gaahls Wyrd and Oranssi Pazuzu, as well as old pagan metal legends like Moonsorrow and Týr, the Mongolian pagan horde Tengger Cavalry, and the Icelandic Sólstafir. And to top it all off, there was a recreated Viking village, plenty of historical knowledge, and the Blót—the sacrificial ritual for the old gods.” Ruby Morrigan
“It’s almost an embarrassment being an American citizen traveling around the world and listening to the stupid shit we have to deal with in this country.” Jamie Dimon, chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase
“When there were periods of crisis, you stood beside him. When there were periods of happiness, you laughed with him. And when there were periods of sorrow, you comforted him. I realize that as individuals we can’t just look back, that we must look forward. When I think of President Kennedy, I think of what Shakespeare said in Romeo and Juliet: ‘When he shall die take him and cut him out into stars and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.’ I realize that as individuals, and even more important, as a political party and as a country, we can’t just look to the past, we must look to the future. So I join with you in realizing that what started four years ago–what everyone here started four years ago–that is to be sustained; that is to be continued….If we do our duty, if we meet our responsibilities and our obligations, not just as Democrats, but as American citizens in our local cities and towns and farms and our states and in the country as a whole, then this generation of Americans is going to be the best generation in the history of mankind He often quoted from Robert Frost–and said it applied to himself–but we could apply it to the Democratic Party and to all of us as individuals: ‘The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.'” Robert F. Kennedy 1964
Lately it seems we’re consumed with one side or the other’s harangue that we can barely hear ourselves think. For example – just this morning I was at our farmers market waiting for Mom to pick out something while I fumed and stewed on recent events. Then in the midst of my compulsory daily outrage I began to hear something. As I concentrated on the sound rather than my thoughts it came to me – I was hearing the Goldberg Variations. So lost in my thought I did not notice that right there – right next to me – a teenager had been furiously hammering away at one of my favorite Bach pieces.
On an accordion.
Rather than bring the kid up to speed on how the accordion is the essence of Satan set loose upon the world, I decided instead to think about those things that uplift both mind and soul and in that moment I thought it might be best to get away from the turbulence that has come with this year and look at the things that are getting swept to the side. So what follows is a collection of items that have been bookmarked with the intent of getting around to them sooner or later. Some touch on the relentlessly thorny issues at hand and some are merely things to note.
Do with them what you will, but take them in stride.
Remember that we are all not only a good people, but the good people who dared to think that we could send a Shemp to the Moon and return him safely to Earth.
With that in mind:
1. While the USAF admits that Lieutenant Colonel Eric Schultz died in a crash a couple of weeks ago, the same USAF doesn’t want to talk about what he was flying when he crashed. Luckily, the crack investigative journalists from Popular Mechanics are on the case.
2. Alaska Wolf Joe sent this with an email that only said, “Derrida weeps.”*
3. Under the heading, Florida Man vs. The Hurricane comes the story of the gent who suggested – as a joke- taking up arms and taking a shot at Hurricane Irma. He was quoted as saying:
”I’ve learned that about 50 percent of the world could not understand sarcasm to save their lives. … Seems the joke may have gone over many people’s heads. I’ve got people in my inbox mad as hell because they think this is actually happening. I don’t know whether to laugh or sigh.”
(Ed. Note: JEEPERS MISTER, SAY IT AIN’T SO! SAY IT AIN’T SO!)*
4. While everybody’s been hearing lots and lots about DACA, North Korea, and God knows what some ideas have crept back into style. If you listened to Bruce Sterling’s SXSW keynote this year you’d know that age-old McGovernite idea of a guaranteed income is making the rounds.
Yes, George McGovern, the man The American Conservative once called a better conservative than most of the conservatives who hold office today.
OK – except for the Kid Rock guy.
That speech was AWESOME!*
Sterling’s version was a bit more expanded than lifting people out of poverty. He’s anticipating a world where AI and The Internet of Things displaces workers. In that situation the guaranteed income would create new ways to keep people occupied. Retirement could start as early as 4 or the military could be expanded so that it not only prepared for combat, but would provide forrest rangers or youth counseling.
Once the gang at Davos got through having a good cry over why their home-girl Hilary didn’t get elected they moved on to talk about the guaranteed income.
5. I forgot if this is something I sent AWJ this or if AWJ sent it to me.
Bernard Stiegler in his unreadable scholarly postmodern account of the coming automation of society – Automatic Society 1: The Future of Work (Polity Press, 2016), “demonstrates once again (as he has done in virtually all his many previous books),” according to Bert Oliver, “that our technological era, like every distinctive technological epoch before this one, has generated novel technologies in such rapid succession that they have the effect of disrupting social life fundamentally, continually requiring new cultural practices and social adaptations – in this case the probable massive shrinking of employment because of digitalization”.
That is my favorite thing I have read in a long, long time because it begins with the words, “in his unreadable scholarly postmodern account.”
In a semi-related matter we’re coming up on the one-year mark for getting genealogy updates in broken English from some sort of cousin who moved from Finland to Sweden in the past year. So far she’s pushed our history back to about 1350 CE. Along the way we’ve picked up some Swedish ancestors and, as we get into the 14th Century, there seems to be some Norwegians in the mix – ergo the mention of the Viking Blood Metal Gathering. (See above.) Bad enough I was having trouble keeping up with all the Finnish metal bands, now I have to keep track of the Swede and Norwegian ones as well. Along those lines – we do need to take a minute and see how a band performing the popular music of the day almost had a scrape with a Hegelian epoch defining moment.
First – a bit of background – most of us have long heard the phrase, “Everybody remembers where they were when (x) happened.” Pick one – JFK, the Challenger, 9/11 – they’re all memorable historic moments, but they’re not necessarily big-picture game changers. In Hegelian terms the fall of the Berlin Wall is an epoch event as such events come with realignments of power and social structures. One almost happened this weekend when the pro-Trump Mother of All Rallies (MOAR) march was scheduled for the same day as the Juggalo march on Washington.
As the rally wound down, some participants said they were heading over to a protest nearby: a gathering of “horrorcore” rap fans who call themselves “juggalos”. The juggalos are super fans of the rap duo Insane Clown Posse, identifiable by their black-and-white, clown-like face makeup.The Juggalos gathered outside the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday to protest the FBI’s classification of their group as a “loosely organized hybrid gang”. The Justice Department has placed the Juggalos in the same group as overtly violent gangs like the Bloods and the Crips – a classification the fans dispute. According to the National Park Service, some 3,000 people were expected to attend the rally on Saturday – almost double the size of the MOAR.
(Tip o’ the tinfoil lined Bruins cap to Mr. Taylor for that one.)
Sadly, the gathering took place about a mile apart and nothing happened. This was disheartening to me as if both sides had clashed I expected the sun to be blotted out by all the think pieces flying through the Sunday morning sky.
So we’ll have to wait for another day.
Oh well –
Going out with two clips:
First, the uplifting one to stir your soul and encourage your better self to always step up when needed.
“The more total society becomes, the greater the reification of the mind and the more paradoxical its effort to escape reification on its own. Even the most extreme consciousness of doom threatens to degenerate into idle chatter. Cultural criticism finds itself faced with the final stage of the dialectic of culture and barbarism. To write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. And this corrodes even the knowledge of why it has become impossible to write poetry today. Absolute reification, which presupposed intellectual progress as one of its elements, is now preparing to absorb the mind entirely. Critical intelligence cannot be equal to this challenge as long as it confines itself to self-satisfied contemplation. (Prisms, 34) Theodore Adorno c. 1955
Perennial suffering has as much right to expression as a tortured man has to scream; hence it may have been wrong to say that after Auschwitz you could no longer write poems. But it is not wrong to raise the less cultural question whether after Auschwitz you can go on living–especially whether one who escaped by accident, one who by rights should have been killed, may go on living. His mere survival calls for the coldness, the basic principle of bourgeois subjectivity, without which there could have been no Auschwitz; this is the drastic guilt of him who was spared. By way of atonement he will be plagued by dreams such as that he is no longer living at all, that he was sent to the ovens in 1944 and his whole existence since has been imaginary, an emanation of the insane wish of a man killed twenty years earlier. (Negative Dialectics, 362-363) Theodore Adorno 1966
“Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. … We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.” Karl Popper
“Global capitalism is brutal and heartless. In other news I got a great app for my phone that allows me not to feel!!!” Eddie Pepitone
“If I wanted your opinion I’d beat it out of you.” Elvira Mistress of the Dark
“In a time of war the nation is always of one mind, eager to hear something good of themselves and ill of the enemy. At this time the task of the news-writer is easy; they have nothing to do but to tell that a battle is expected, and afterwards that a battle has been fought, in which we and our friends, whether conquering or conquered, did all, and our enemies did nothing.” Dr. Johnson
Remember Harmabe’s grieving mother, Covfefe?
This was the week where someone asked when I got past my existential crisis. The quick answer is, “Never.” In fact I’ve come to think of it as my companion animal.
Some of us have a deep inexplicable need to put our thoughts down in writing now and then and lately it’s been getting harder and harder to focus on those thoughts. The news cycle and its tawdry lover, Outrage have been coming at us so fast and so furiously that I just can’t get a grip on anything. Facts, factoids, news, both real and imagined fly over the transom like that shower of arrows in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
Not long ago things were so much simpler. Every morning you’d open your inbox and find a note from Barbara Streisand telling what to think and when to think it. Then once or twice a month FedEx would bring a stack of papers which were the rough equivalent of that the Brits call a white paper. A few would be from Amal Clooney, but the bulk were written by Sean Penn.
Not to conflate this with Adorno’s statements, (above) but you have to wonder what you’re supposed to blog when you can’t focus?
Therefore – here comes a few items that need to move off the desk before they hit their expiration dates.
Casting about for further info on Mr. Alaska I learned a term I had not heard before, The Dirtbag Left. Two guys who call their podcast The Chapo Trap House were busily trashing Mr. Alaska while performing an audio skit which portrayed Seb Gorka as little more than a loud, talkative, stock character straight out of a Republic Serial.
“The dirtbag left”: A term coined by Amber A’Lee Frost of Chapo Trap House, a popular politics podcast that was once described by the Guardian as “leftwing Breitbart,” “the dirtbag left” describes a political movement that champions socialist ideology with an aggressive disinterest in pandering to prominent liberals (any Hillary Clinton advocate, for example). Dirtbag leftists disdain the average liberal’s commitment to pomp and circumstance, to upholding civilized discourse. Moreover, the dirtbag left believes vulgarity can be a powerful political tool. (In an essay on the necessity of political vulgarity for Current Affairs, Frost writes that in the Trump era, “If we do not embrace the profane now and again, we will find ourselves handicapped by our own civility.”)
Chapo is the flagship show of the Dirtbag Left, a phrase coined by co-host Amber A’Lee Frost to describe a take-no-prisoners style of American socialism that’s ascendent in the age of Trump. While examples of the Dirtbag Left can also be found in publications like The Baffler, Current Affairs, and podcasts like The War Nerd and Street Fight Radio, Chapo remains the purest example of the species. “It’s a movement that uses many of the tactics of the online alt-right—humour, memes, Twitter trolling and open animosity—while remaining committed to progressive leftist ideology,” John Semley wrote earlier this month in Maclean’s. “A given Chapo episode sees the hosts yukking it up at the expense of hacky mainstream media op-eds (New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is a favourite target of the gang’s derision), or critiquing the limp, liberal identity politics of the recent, and much-lauded, Wonder Woman movie.”The comparison Semley draws with the alt-right is apt. On substance, Chapo upholds the democratic-socialist politics of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, but in style it is much closer to the vituperative, insulting, shock-jock tactics used not just by Twitter users with Pepe the Frog avatars, but Trump himself. The response of mainstream liberals to these tactics on the right has been to double down on the importance of civility. “When they go low, we go high,” as Michelle Obama famously said. But the Dirtbag Left has no use for civility, and instead wants to counter the alt-right’s mudslinging in kind. Their slogan could be, “When they go low, we go into the gutter.”
A better grasp of the Dirtbaggers’ inconoclatic ways are also found in this article which Alaska Wolf Joe called the best think piece he’s read all summer.
It starts off with –
SOMETHING HAS GONE BADLY WRONG with our atheists. All these self-styled intellectual titans, scientists, and philosophers have fallen horribly ill. Evolutionist faith-flayer Richard Dawkins is a wheeling lunatic, dizzy in his private world of old-fashioned whimsy and bitter neofascism. Superstar astrophysicist and pop-science impresario Neil deGrasse Tyson is catatonic, mumbling in a packed cinema that the lasers wouldn’t make any sound in space, that a spider that big would collapse under its own weight, that everything you see is just images on a screen and none of it is real. Islam-baiting philosopher Sam Harris is paranoid, his flailing hands gesticulating murderously at the spectral Saracen hordes. Free-thinking biologist PZ Myers is psychotic, screeching death from a gently listing hot air balloon. And the late Christopher Hitchens, blinded by his fug of rhetoric, fell headlong into the Euphrates.
Critics have pointed out this clutch of appalling polemic and intellectual failings on a case-by-case basis, as if they all sprang from a randomized array of personal idiosyncrasies. But while one eccentric atheist might be explicable, for all of the world’s self-appointed smartest people to be so utterly deranged suggests some kind of pattern. We need, urgently, a complete theory of what it is about atheism that drives its most prominent high priests mad.
Shorter answer – the Dirtbaggers are the Anti-Pelosi.
And I get that. We have this running joke in the family that’s based on people we met back in the wayyyy early 90s at the Utne Reader Salons. Every so often someone would bring a friend who could only be described as a Poo-Ass Progressive who felt obliged to go way off topic and present their liberal bona fides which always started with, “You know, there’s some very good rap music and I was watching Cossi fan Tutte the other night on PBS…”
And on and on without every coming back to the topic at hand.
It’s what the kids call, ‘virtue signaling’.
You know, like when you tell pollsters you think Kid Rock would make a good senator.
Where were we?
All of this seems to be a subset of the larger issue of whether or not it’s OK to punch a Nazi. There are those, like the Dirtbaggers, who are all for the idea. Then there are the Poo-Ass Progressive who fear that if you punch a Nazi they win and history will repeat itself. We’ll be faced with our own version of Germany in the 30s where the Nazis will get the upper hand after force is used against them.
Can it happen here?
It is plausible, but is it possible?
I’ve come to believe that there would be a collective sigh of relief if history would repeat itself. Regardless of the outcome people could finally let their collective hair down for a minute and bask in something that was coming back around. Which is to say what I started out with here – lately things have come at us at such a furious pace that made – just maybe – for a few days or even a whole week it would be nice to be able to get a grip on what’s going on.
But in a way that would be more like taking a couple of Tylenol when you have the flu.
You’d feel better for a little while but, but you’d still have the flu.
While you’re thinking about that, here’s a quick how-to guide.
You try so hard but you don’t understand just what you will say when you get home because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is,do you, Mr. Jones?
Someone asked if Alaska Wolf Joe had required summer reading.
If we were going to spend a portion of August driving around Colorado to see how little time we could spend in Unincorporated Rio Blanco County (4 hours awake, 7.5 hours asleep, and .5 hour in misc. activities) then we would need something to talk about.
The book opens with a definition of artistic hierarchies which sorta kinda fits with some ideas I’ve had about the future of the economy. Lately I’ve come to think that we might be at the early stages of transformation into what the next dominant form of economic organization might be. Ranciere begins with defining art by talking about the dominance of modernism, especially modernism’s emphasis on the rules and hierarchies of what constitutes great art. Out of that he sees the old avant guard as a reaction to those rules – a naysaying of a kind or the taking up of an opposite point of view. As such modernism could only be undone if its core was either ignored or replaced. Which is what happened under post modernism. The rules were never challenged. The rules were reduced to text, meaning was no longer the possession of the creator, but became the sole property of the observer.
Much the same can be said of what everybody likes to call ‘late-stage capitalism.’ (LSC)
Sooner or later it will be replaced, but not by socialism or communism. In face, and this is my current thinking, it will be replaced by something we cannot grasp in the same way modernists could not believe their rules of art would become an artifact. Under this definition of LSC neither communism nor socialism are replacements. Like the old avant guard they were merely reactions to the existing order rather than the future. Even the definitions of left and right, liberal and conservative are defined by a single system of economic order. Prior to it one was from France or England and a loyal subject – without further qualification – of his or her respective monarch.
No, there might be something coming and it could be evolving at this minute, but we can’t see it. At a bare minimum someone might get a glimpse, but like the physicists of the 19th Century – it’s all speculation until someone develops the math – the correct set of proofs – to find out if it’s truly real.
Until somebody comes up with the math at least we can all consider the alternatives to how to conduct ourselves in polite society.
“When you step up the environment to those speeds everything becomes psychedelic, you create the psychedelic thrill. The whole world becomes kaleidoscopic and you go inward, it’s not an outer trip.” Marshal McLuhan
“You don’t know Grand Funk? The shirtless antics of Mark Farner? The competent drumming of Don Brewer or the bong-rattling bass of Mel Schacher?” Homer Simpson
“It’s not a well defined line. If you’re in despair, if you’re in trouble, if your heart is broken, you turn to Jesus. In country music if you’re in despair or if your heart is broken then you go have a beer.” Larry Gatlin
“Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.” Dr. Johnson
Last Wednesday only one piece of analog mail came through the slot. It was my invitation to experience something called “Senior Summer Camp.” This was my chance to spend a week at a nearby assisted living community to find out what the place was like and to supposedly, “Connect with people your age and have experiences just like the ones you had at camp all over again.”
There’s a panty raid you won’t wanna miss.
I’m seriously considering it as it might be my only chance to live in one of those places Alaska Wolf Joe calls ‘the people pound.’
For openers our insurance company says we’re cancelled after TrumpCare (TM pend.) passes. Then there’s the small matter that the NRA has declared open season on registered Democrats, which doesn’t bother me because, as you can see below, the NRA is a little late to the party.
Lots of people have told me that’s a joke and that may very well be true, but none of them will be the one who finds out that somebody took it as an action plan.
When you pull those two items together then I might as well spend a week at the assisted living place as there’s no time like the present. Besides I might be able to help move the place into the future. Sooner or later there won’t be anybody left in the weekly Matlock Discussion Group. In a few years us Boomers born after 1955 will be plentiful enough that the weekly Matlock group will be replaced with bingo which means – as I’ve said many, many times before – sitting next to some guy who wants to tell you how he put bug spray in his bong while Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon comes screaming over the senior center’s public address system.
Heyyyyyyy speaking of Pink Floyd, that brings us to today’s topic – David Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock. While the book is jam packed with info it tends to be a bit subjective in that it probably comes closer to reflecting Weigel’s personal taste than being a prog-rock Baedeker. But realistically when you deal with niche music genres that’s bound to happen.
Therefore I shall give you my personal take on the alleged rise and fall of prog.
Say ‘YES!’ to Yes
In the 1990s several musicologists in Britain put forth the idea that much of the composition in the 19th Century suffered from Beethoven envy. They thought that the Ninth Symphony paralyzed some composers who thought that unless they came up with something that out 9th’d the 9th then they would only be remembered as artistic failures. Oddly enough musicians and performers in the 1970s were faced with the same problem when this irreproducible gem appeared in the early half of the decade.
Obviously you can only take in that exquisite melody and nuanced performance so many times before you find yourself emotionally drained and mentally spent.
So what were you to do back then?
Stereo equipment was reasonably affordable and records were less than $5 each so all you really had to do was find something else to listen to until you were in the proper frame of mind to experience the man we called, le Dandy.
Sure, there was plenty of popular music going around, but what was there to chose from?
God knows, the woods were full of sensitive singer songwriters. They’d put out all their feelings on the very first track of and then repeat the process eight or nine times to flesh out the album. This lead many of us to ask, “How many goddam feelings do you have?”
You listened to that at your risk. Back then people would listen to that stuff and be so overcome with such a peaceful easy feeling that they became motionless for weeks at a time. Even after they snapped out if it their movements were slow as if they lagged behind reality by a second or two. If you asked them a simple question like, “Do you know what time it is?” they would struggle to focus their attention on what you had said. Years later they saw the 70s as so much missing time and irretrievable memories. That’s why when people ask me, “HEY, did you see The Walking Dead last night?” I smile and say, “No, but I went to a Poco concert once.”
This didn’t leave much and as the sky was dark with Englishmen riding their winged dragons long enough for Roger Dean to get a pencil sketch down, prog seemed to be the best choice.
Proggy went a’courtin’
Weigel spends little time letting prog bask in its glory days. His summary of the peak years deals with personnel changes and band infighting. As such the back half of the book is pretty much about the genre’s decline.
For me the decline in the number of prog-rock albums I bought can be summed up in one word.
A key element of popular music is that it lets you get up and work off some excess energy while allowing you the opportunity to get all sweaty with a member of the opposite sex.
Such was the case with Glen Miller, such was the case with Joey Ramone.
Back in my day prog was not something the young women liked much less tolerated. They’d flip through your record collection and when they got to the Fripp, Giles, Giles, Gong, and Fripp section they’d make a face like there was something nasty smelling in the room. If you said, “Look, I got the new Yes Album!” It didn’t register. Instead they could have sworn you said, “You know, my job at the rendering plant complements my passion for taxidermy perfectly.”
As an aside – yes, we went through people’s record collections. Back then there was no FB, Tinder, or credit scores. You judged people by the vinyl they owned. Today you look through somebody’s medicine cabinet, back then you took a couple of fingers and flipped through the records. You know, …Grand Funk … Bachman-Turner … Grand Funk … Doobie Brothers… Doobie Brothers… Doobie Brothers … what a maroon!
Don’t give me that look.
I saw you do it.
Prog was a total failure when it came to courtship. You can’t dance to it, there’s not one single album that features anything anybody would admit to as being “our song,” and what kind of relationship would you be part of if you met somebody who was OK with making out to Van der Graaf Generator?
Because … damn … that’s just … damn
Weigel says there was one single moment when it was obvious prog was done. Early in the book he spends some time talking about how Procol Harum’s Whiter Shade of Pale as the one song that lead Brit pop musicians into prog. Some of them had long wanted to break out of the 4/4 structure and let things like an organ take the lead instead of the guitar. So when Peter Gabriel ran out his punk version of the song in 1979 it was an announcement, from no less that one of the major figures in prog, that its era had come and gone.
Days of Future Passed
The book does deal with the current state of the genre which begins with elders introducing the music to their young (see the video above) but finding it’s not something the kids take to readily.
The book’s intro and last chapter talk about how prog hasn’t really come back around again. Jon Anderson tried to get newer proggy kind of groups to tour with some of the Yes reunions, but it was a bust. Us potty old duffs don’t want to hear anything new – we just want to hear what we listened to in our teen years over and over and over again. That’s why prog nostalgia cruise ship tours do very well with middle aged high-school science teachers and graying tech workers.
Not surprising. When he was much younger AWJ liked DSOTM and we even went to see Roger Waters perform it live. But I think that’s a far as he got. A few years ago while stuck in traffic we got to talking about prog and he brought up some on his phone to play over the car’s sound system.
“Wow, that’s awful.”
And what of the book?
It’s an interesting read, but the breathless style leaves something to be desired. Sorta like the author staged a 50th anniversary celebration in a train station with people coming and going and talking over each other while others strained to hear the departure announcements. You might want to wait for it to come out in paperback or pick it up at a yard sale while you’re out on some fine Saturday morning looking for old Roky Erickson records.
The book’s single greatest fault is that Weigel is no fan of Krautprog. In fact he dismisses all of it in one sentence saying the German language and understanding of musicality never lent itself to prog.
But he carries on about PFM for five pages.
Again – what to make of a given genre is always subjective, but no mention of Can, Air, Guru Guru, Neu, or even the more accessible stuff like Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk?
If we take that at face value that means I’m walking around with this massive body of useless knowledge – half of which – Weigel thinks is as practical as hoarding Weimar pfennigs.
On a wholly unrelated note – the family reunion is progressing well. A cousin from the midwest and I will be comparing our genealogy research notes and hoping like hell we’re not related to these two.
“Let historians not record that when America was the most powerful nation in the world we passed on the other side of the road and allowed the last hopes for peace and freedom of millions of people to be suffocated by the forces of totalitarianism. And so tonight-to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans-I ask for your support.” – Richard M. Nixon
“The result is, we live in peace, without arms or armies, secure in the knowledge that we are free from aggression and war. Free to pursue more… profitable enterprises. Now, we do not pretend to have achieved perfection, but we do have a system, and it works. I came here to give you these facts.” – Klaatu
“And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter. tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…. And one fine morning … So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Read over your compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” – Dr. Johnson
One housekeeping note:
Welcome to The Cloud.
A couple of months ago the company that had this page and a couple of other of our projects on a shared server got sold to some mega-corp. Since then the service has gone to hell. Case in point – every time you filed a help ticket or made a phone call you had to deal with Oleg.
Oleg’s favorite word is “Dunno.”
Doesn’t make any difference what you asked, why can’t I get into my site, what’s with all the error warnings, what’s your hat size, given any thought to what you want for Christmas, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?
“Dunno.” says Oleg.
The only full sentence he uttered over the last couple of months came in a phone call two weeks ago. He was brief and to the point, “You to go into terminal tonight and change DNS with instructions you will get in email.”
Pretty much knew the answer to that before I even asked, but I successfully fought off the urge to say, “Is your cousin who rigged our election there? Tell him it’ll only take a minute.”
So that evening I went into my terminal as instructed and moved this web site to somewhere in The Cloud where Oleg can’t find it. He’s still got a file with some images I need, but I should be able to extract those when I get a spare moment or two over the 4th of July weekend. Otherwise please enjoy your nice new fluffy cloud-like surroundings.
Did that gum you like come back in style only to lose its flavor on your bedpost overnight?
This post comes at an auspicious time. The new episode of Twin Peaks won’t be out until next week For those of you who haven’t seen any of the new ones Alaska Wolf Joe brings you up to speed on how it’s been going.
In general, Twin Peaks 3, Twin Peaks 2017, etc. tends to have a sense of identity loss. It is, I believe, not particularly clear as to what identity is lost – Lynch’s, the soul of nostalgia, the characters, etc.
What little I can say is that in essence it follows from Lynch’s tradition in both Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive as opposed to early efforts such as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and the original two seasons of Twin Peaks.
Eraserhead might be the clearest explication of the world Lynch seems to continually hint at. The industrial process of the world has left behind something which is not only soulless, but which is ultimately completely alienating to the human subject. All relations are foreign, biology fails to predict the structures of its constituents, and even the duties of the Father fail in the face of near schizophrenic horror.
Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet attempt to offer something a bit more reassuring: the banality of life offers a guise to the horror that is lurking. Our subjects are normal, our predictions of them have not failed, yet something is deeply, deeply wrong at the fringes. What is this surplus we cannot account for? No longer in the machinic hellscape but the comfortable world of petit bourgeois homeliness, something evades ethic – avoids custom. There is always a cruel logic which structures these worlds underneath suburban or rural homeliness, perhaps not a machinic or capitalist schema, but something paranormal, or deeply sexual. There is a trauma which waits in accordance with the spirit and/or the psyche.
In Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, we exit even the realm of societal or filial relations and end in the wake of Los Angeles, where the city has eroded the few things which thread the subject together. Subjective knowledge, the manner in which any character (subject) gains knowledge that pertains to themselves alone, is abstracted into nothing but series of signs. The main character in Mulholland wakes up with no recollection of themselves, and finds that only through the world can they attempt to recollect themselves. The world is a vast place filled with signifiers that construct identity. In the end of Mulholland and the middle of Lost Highway, Lynch shows us as much: names change, events switch and become new referents, and no one but the audience notices – the audience alone wondering if from this new display of chaos they can even construct an identity for the film.
Twin Peaks is caught in this last stage of work, but it seems even more hopelessly lost as it situates itself in the vessel of ‘modern television’ – endless references to the series’ history, but also Lynch’s career, and the style of shows that took blatantly from Twin Peaks mystique. But it resembles something more like a disorganized manner of thought than a cohesive product of entertainment. Aesthetically, it’s poor, and the storytelling is so badly paced and vague so as to become tedious. Yet it is the furthest explanation of this hollowness of the subject in the final stage of Lynch’s work: what refers to us? Who are we, if not the signs outside of us, however they may be situated?
Therefore let’s remember what Mr. Lindemann meant when he sang “Erst wenn die Wolken schlafengehn kann man uns am Himmel sehn wir haben Angst und sind allein, Gott weiß ich will kein Engel sein!”
Right as Rain
I haven’t been watching the new Twin Peaks much less American Gods or whatever else you’re supposed to gorge yourself on these days. Instead I’ve been reading up on morality and ethics and will probably blog about that in the near future.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re saying, “Morality? You?”
So noted, but let’s not look past the possible entertainment value.
How I got down this path all started with a major Tweetstorm that went around on a Sunday morning in April. It centered about The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. Earlier in the week NPR had mentioned the book as the fastest selling bookclub selection since the election. Left leaning groups were eager to get the book to see if could provide some insight into how the other side thinks. Supposedly there had been many substantial and lengthy discussion of the book both online and in person.
Half of the Tweetstorm was all for reading the book and starting conversations and the other half pretty much said, “STOP NORMALIZING REPUBLICANS!”
OK – that got me to thinking – how can you normalize a group of people when their whole brand has been built around being normal?
Ike and Mamie? A plain cloth coat? The Silent Majority featuring special guests The Johnny Mann Singers? Wasn’t it no less than Norman Mailer himself who said the GOP was the party of small town authority figures and shop owners?
How normal can you get?
Face facts – Republicans are the people who stayed all the way through the tv show so they could hear the PSA suggesting everybody attend the church of their choice on Sunday. (Not like they had to be urged much less reminded because that’s what they were going to do anyway.) Then, and only, then, once the PSA finished did they leave the couch to heed, what civilized people refer to as, the call of nature. Not like us dirty Leftists. The second we heard the words, “Book ’em, Dano!” we were off to give in to our base instincts, no better than the beasts of the field, and wiz like a racehorse. At least the neighbors were thankful that we used the indoor plumbing. They knew if it wasn’t for the public decency laws us rancid Bolsheviks would be out voiding our molotov cocktails on the front lawn. They knew darn well that if we tried that then it would only bring the law and the last thing we wanted was The Man sniffing around our suburban dens of iniquity where the weed smoke hung in the living room like it was pea-soup fog.
But that was then and this is now – the time when drug laws have become more relaxed. In some states we’ve lost all fear of law enforcement coming to the house because a neighbor believes hemp is being set alight. And there’s no telling where this will go. Maybe we’ll not only lose all fear, we’ll loose what little sense of decency we’ve been getting by with, maybe at the end of the Dancing with the Stars we’ll forgo the use of household porcelain and wander outside to commune with nature.
Then you’ll have a whole new reason to tell us to get off your lawn.
A reason you never thought possible.
Just you wait and see.
Just you wait and see.
But how easy is it to be normal these days?
Thankfully there are pundits out there like Kaeley Triller Haver who describes herself as a typical, normal mom who happens to do a column for an online publication. The short piece linked shows that, like all good pundits, she does her due diligence which in her case means that once dinner is finished and the kids are in bed she sits down at the computer and Googles about for people trying to freeze their limbs off, drink blood, or be so out of touch that they still twerk.
Look, I get it, it’s strictly research and if she’s driving over to pick the kids up from soccer and thinks to herself, “Wow, I’d better take a minute tonight and see if any elementary school principals are going around in drag!” then we should think nothing of it.
Again – this adroit participation in the public discourse has been going on for years. My father hired a guy who used to tell my grandmother, the Democratic machine operative, “With all Due respect Mrs. O’Malley, I am a Republican and always will be.” My father eventually fired him because Mr. Republican would lock the store up early so he could inspect the restrooms in the public parks. He’d come to the house, own up to it, and give my father a full accounting of he found on his rounds then use our phone to share his findings with the police. I remember the last time he pulled that stunt. My father was so outraged he actually shut off Gunsmoke (Something I believed to be impossible) and fired Mr. Republican right there in our living room. Flabbergasted that the tv was off and stayed off, I watched Mr. Republican pull away in his Chevy station wagon that had a “Nixon’s the One” bumpersticker placed on the driver’s side of the rear bumper. Thinking back it’s fitting that the bumpersticker was on the drier’s side. It said he was the man of the family, the decision maker, the one who wore the pants, the one took a flashlight every night into every crapper the city parks department had to offer.
Put another way – Kaeley Triller Haver and Mr. Republican are involved in what the Alinskites in my Rolodex would call, “civic engagement” and if it takes thinking about how some one-off weirdo exercises his and/or her libido all day so they could become engaged citizens then so be it. Tolerance is not without its protocols and while she might not be tolerant of me, I am very much tolerant of Mr. Republican, who is no longer with us and Kaeley Triller Haver. If an average American woman can raise a family while going out of her way to make sure she can find out as much about pregnant transsexual women and faithfully track down little boys wearing dresses then who are we to judge?
Am I outraged about what she said in her column?
No, far from it.
In fact, I see her column as her way to becoming a more fully actualized human being. As the elders of the American Left used to say long ago, “She’s getting her head in good place.” and she getting it there even if it means she stays up until 3am night after night scouring the Internet(s) for every last person who just might be a “nonbinary neutrois, gyneromantic, asexual demonkin.”
So to her let me say, in the tradition of our elder Leftists, “Hey righteous Momma, right on.”
Speaking of conservative women …
“One should never see sausage and nice-nice being made.”
Mark Zuckerberg says his long term goal is connect all the people in the world with one another whether we like it or not. So I guess it shouldn’t some as a surprise that I got a ‘MEMBER ME?!?!? note on FB a couple of weeks ago from the woman Alaska Wolf Joe calls, Debbie the Psychedelic Republican.
The midnight recitations of Gatsby? The constant updates on her three-week shopping trip for the perfect peyote button? The time she barged into my dorm room to give me a full accounting of all the orifices in her body only to run out as quickly as she barged in? Or all the trouble she went to when she offered to be a guide to a Grateful Dead concert only to blow it off at the last minute, and leave several us drowning in a sea of those nonbinary neutrois, gyneromantic, asexual, demonkins known as Dead Heads?
… it’s starting to come back to me
At the end of her note she asked that I write and catch her up on what I’ve been doing for the last 35 to 40 years. I sent a pretty tight paragraph that covered the highlights, but I haven’t heard back.
There’s several reasons – the first would be that I left no room for doubt, I’m still pretty much what her friend Calista’s husband would call an Unrepentant McGovernik. Hot on the heels of that was the breezy tone of my note, similar to the prose you see here, which would probably lead her to say what she said to me me time and time again, “I was going to invite you to (function) but nobody wanted you to come. They’re afraid of what you’re going to say.”
I was never hurt by that as I realized at a very early age that I was completely nice-nice challenged.
And what is nice-nice?
Mom defines nice-nice by putting her hands under her chin, wiggling all her fingers, and in her tiny, sparkly, precious-princess voice says, “OHHHHHH let’s make nice-nice! We’ll go over to some one’s nice house with all the other nice people and we’ll have some nice tea and some nice little cookies and it will be so nice because we’re making nice-nice. (Expletive) nice-nice.”
You can look it up, but it’s a well known fact – couples who exhibit compatible antisocial behaviors stay together longer.
Where were we?
American suburban nice-nice usually begins with getting invited over to see some new patio furniture, a dinette set, maybe a large appliance, or any item an economist would define as a durable good. Think of nice-nice as the participation trophy for having shopped at Sears.
Debbie’s pals, like many people in my past, were afraid that if I came I’d bring with me a certain kind withering sarcasm that would curdle the nice-nice. (Never mind that it was the only hostess gift I could find on short notice.) The point of nice-nice is to celebrate the normal, and like cheese, most people just don’t want to ask the question, “Who moved my normal?” They like their normal right where it is. They don’t want some moonbat libtard coming around asking if the think their normal might look better over there.
But that’s all pretty much conjecture.
What I believe was the real reason I haven’t heard back is Mom and Alaska Wolf Joe.
Maybe Debbie thought I was in a trailer park somewhere overseeing the giant cloud of radioactive natural gas trapped a mile beneath unincorporated Rio Blanco County, Colorado. Instead I was out having a life and there’s these two very important people who’ve been at the very core of it.
In fact, until we open our mouths or if viewed for a distance, we look pretty normal too.
Now and then we could even be mistaken for Republicans.
In the meantime sit tight as I have some reading to do. After all this time it makes sense to try a different approach. Instead of reading the jacket blurb and flying off the handle like we did in the old days, I’m going to take a serious gander at Haidt’s book. But I’m not going to get crazy and run a highlighter through parts or even start an outline to create a cogent argument about what he said.
After all we do have to uphold a few of the old blogging traditions lest we get mired in digital apostocy.
In the next couple of weeks I’ll also be working my way through Davis Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends, the new book about the rise of and fall of prog rock. Here however you rest assured that if I go through Weigle’s index and find no mention of Can, Popol Vuh, Guru Guru or any of the other German bands I will come right back here immediately and go bat-shit ballistic without reading another word.
“Media theorists discuss the body primarily as the site of the senses, (see senses) however Descartes began his discussion of the body as an assertion from the mind. The Cartesian man establishes his existence and the limits of his physical being through the existence and limits of his senses. “I think therefore I am” most simply articulates the self identifying the senses of the self, to the self’s body. Lacan complicates this understanding of the body, though, with his discussion of the “mirror stage” of child psychological development. Lacan theorizes that man, sensing himself from within his own body, is only able to conceive of his body as an accumulation of pieces–or other bodies. This accumulation is only truly composed, when the whole is viewed in reflection, at a distance, alone. For Lacan, bodily integrity or wholeness is only achieved with the assistance of an ‘other’ seemingly detached object–the mirror. This differs from Descartes because the Cartesian man is an accumulation of parts sensed simultaneously as one whole body, whereas the Lacanian subject can not conceive of the whole body until the entire entity is visualized–a primitive media interaction. Maurice Merleau-Ponty engages these conflicting arguments, claiming that while the Lacanian man feels disembodied by this distanced image of his whole, the Cartesian man feels comfortable with his self-sensed self, and identifies the image as a model of himself, rather than his detached self. In Lacan’s model, selfhood may only be understood with the assistance of an outside object–i.e. one mirror. Lacan reflects on the destabilizing effect this discovery can have–realizing that identity is only definable with the aid of an outside object. This is the beginning of the new thoughts on embodiment.” – Maggie Hansen
“Today at F8, Facebook revealed it has a team of 60 engineers working on building a brain-computer interface that will let you type with just your mind without invasive implants. The team plans to use optical imaging to scan your brain a hundred times per second to detect you speaking silently in your head, and translate it into text.Regina Dugan, the head of Facebook’s R&D division Building 8, explained to conference attendees that the goal is to eventually allow people to type at 100 words per minute, 5X faster than typing on a phone, with just your mind.Eventually, brain-computer interfaces could let people control augmented reality and virtual reality experiences with their mind instead of a screen or controller. Facebook’s CEO and CTO teased these details of this “direct brain interface” technology over the last two days at F8. – Josh Constine
“What was it he used to say (after the transformation when he was safe & invisible & the unbelievers couldn’t throw stones?) ‘Heh, heh, heh. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.'” – Amiri Baraka
“She had a snake for a pet and an amulet and she was breeding a dwarf but she wasn’t done yet She had gray-green skin, n doll with a pin I told her she was awright but I couldn’t come in (actually, I was very busy then) She said she was A Magic Mama and she could throw a mean Tarot And carried on without a comma That she was someone I should know” – generally attributed to the Comedia Del”Arte
“When a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” – Dr. Johnson
Every now and again you have to take a plunger to your zeitgeist.
Make yourself comfortable, we’re gonna be here for awhile.
The sun finally came out which in turn brought people out of their homes and into our business district. Walking along with the rest I had to stop and wait for the light to change. Standing next to me was a tall thin man who was whistling. He caught the attention of everybody waiting on the corner as he was one darn fine whistler. He was whistling along with perfect pitch and feeling in a most entertaining way.
The Mighty Mouse theme.
On Whistler’s other side was a woman carrying an enormous purse. She was transfixed. She never took her eyes off of him. She was also the first to notice that his mood was changing. Even though he stopped she didn’t break her stare. When he started again he only whistled the refrain, “Here I come to save the day.” only in a lower key and at a much lower volume. The light stayed red and that’s when refrain grew darker and emerged like Whistler just tasted something nasty. Whistler stepped off the curb into the gutter then back up onto the sidewalk and at that moment the light changed.
Sure hope Mr. Trouble wasn’t hanging around as Whistler took off at what could only be called a trot taking with him that mighty sound. The woman with the outsized purse watched him for a second or two then looked at me and asked, “Wonder what’s going on in his head?”
An excellent question dear lady, but hardly a new one.
Wondering what’s in the other guy’s head is an ancient quest. Some anthropologists believe that somewhere in prehistory warriors ate the brains of their enemy believing it would give them complete insight into the other guy’s thinking. Today nobody believes you could derive such a benefit some such a thing. Making matters worse, last week The National Geographic Society said there’s no much nutrition to be had by eating your fellow human being.
So what does that leave us?
If the F8 Conference is any indication we’ll soon be able to twitch, shimmy, and spit our vacation photos directly onto our Facebook pages which will then lead to the slippery slope of creating the human-brain-to-computer interface. The outcome will most likely be some way to hook up some sort of electronics directly into your nervous system and that interface will be provided by some large corporation like FB or Samsung.
Or to use the indelicate term by hackers years and year ago,”One day there’ll be a way for somebody to jack into your meat.”
And what’s the payoff?
Now that The Guardian revealed Facebook’s policies on being no fun it’s not like we’re going to get to see what’s flying through the brains of the Patrick Batemans of the world. Hell, we might not even get to see your Uncle Ed’s constant dithering over Ginger vs. Mary Ann.
If there’s no entertainment value in seeing what going on in the other guy’s head then let the Scandinavians be chipped and we shall sit quietly and pretend to be enthused when we see the inner workings of their minds fly past us on social media.
“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Since the first of the year the industry’s go-to buzzword has been “collaborate.” Makes no difference where you look, which trade journal you read, or whatever pundit you set your watch to – it’s all collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. As winter wound down two groups coalesced around the word – those who use it all the time and the rest of us who have idea what they’re talking about.
Come early spring I got invited to one of those biz gatherings that everybody insists one of us attend and then regrets having extended the offer once I show up. (This will become apparent in a moment.) For an evening we were going to set aside our mutual anxiety over reporter slappings, the precursor to reporter tackling, along with the economic and physical threats to our continued work. We’d take a couple of hours,rid our minds of all the commotion and unite to be in the same place for one night as a greater whole united by the single fact that none of us understood one word coming out of the other guy’s mouth.
The evening’s hospitality consisted of being issued a can of Sierra Mist and a plastic cup full of ice. Once the hotel staff was reasonably sure you had a sufficient grip on both items you were hustled off into a side lobby for the social hour. No sooner had I proven that I was capable of using my opposable thumbs correctly I was approached by someone who works for a very, very, very large media conglomerate. She greeted me warmly, but you could see that she was gravely disappointed that Mom wasn’t coming. Nonetheless I was pulled over to a clutch of people who were also holding their still unopened cans of Sierra Mist as they listened to some guy saying collaborate, collaborate, collaborate over and over and over. In a hushed voice my acquaintance told me the man talking was the social media guru for a half dozen or so media groups in the US and Europe.
His larger point was, “We must find a way to easily communicate the need for collaboration in order to break through and break down the old cultures of boardrooms and newsrooms. We must find a way, a clear simple way. Maybe something simple, only a few words.”
So I said – you mean like, stop, collaborate and listen?
That made Social Media Man light up. “YES! Exactly!An excellent start! Was that something right off the top of your head?”
No, that’s not mine, a famous man said that long ago.
His eyes got wide as he asked, “WHO?”
Ten to 15 seconds of uncomfortable silence passed. You could see that he was waiting for me to say something like “GOTCHA!” or “Had you going there, didn’t I?” But I remained calm, expressionless, and silent until it became clear that I wasn’t joking.
When the silence hit the 20 second mark I wandered off.
“Neil dear, I think there’s something you should know. Listen: to be eccentric, you must first know your circle.” Miss Webster
Some of you have asked how the family reunion is coming along.
So far it demands that you become something like a Cold-War-Kremlin watcher.
The communication ranges from pitiful to alarmingly paltry. On the older end we are graced with family who doesn’t want that damn Internet in the house because it could start a fire. On the other end there’s several of those guys between the age of 45 and 60 who only use a computer at work and then only sparingly. At night they park themselves on the couch trying to develop a taste for Matlock so that they’ll more easily transition into their Golden Years. Somewhere in the middle is the cousin organizing the whole thing who seems to be the only other person besides myself who is not afraid to use a computer and who will admit to owning a smart phone.
His last email simply said,”Looks like your niece is coming.”
At this point most of you are asking, “Aren’t you, thank you Jesus, an only child?”
There was a dog . . . I remember that . . . we had a dog . . .
Meanwhile you’re asking, “Did you ask him what he meant by that?”
Did I mention that Cousin Other Smart Phone Owner’s favorite thing is going off the grid?
After sending that email he went straight to Billy Jack, Arizona after leaving his smart phone with his sister in Phoenix before he went walkabout.
Never mind that I’m riddled with anxiety over the whole thing. If we go then at some point I have to wade through all the mud that others created long before I was born. A few cousins think if we talk it through it will be like traveling back in time and healing a wound and once we’re done everything will be fine.
They mean well, but at some point I must square my shoulders and deal with the bad things that happened long before I was born. That means grief, sorrow, and many other things. Sure some of them try to explain it, but as Mom’s mom Granmmom once said, “You should be happy. Your friends are your family. You made a family for yourself. How about that?”
She was a wise woman.
To honor what she said you have my solemn promise that I will not use this page to bother you with all the anxious moments I’ve had and will probably continue to have over getting together with my relations.
Because that’s what Medium’s for.
One housekeeping note:
Recently the cat and this page turned 17.
Years ago the cat would spend the summer nights endlessly going from window to window all over the house to see what critters were going about in the night. Now he gets off the bed at first light, sticks his head between the vertical blinds on the sliding glass door, look around some, comes back to bed, and flops all over Mom.
The output of this page, minus the Mom flopping, has followed a similar trajectory.
“Nothing beats the taste sensation when maple syrup [claps his hands] collides with ham.” Dale Cooper, government employee
“But I am, of course, a dirty leftist commentator, and will play fast and hard with the truth.” Alaska Wolf Joe
“The younger people are probably the most junior people on the team; for them to say something, they would have to be really confident in themselves. To have a younger millennial account person go up to a senior creative person and say, ‘We’re not going to do this, we think there’s a problem with it’ — that’s an uncomfortable power position to put a young person into. Products don’t solve problems. They’re trying to present a product as a solution to a very large, very important, very serious cultural and societal problem. The only way a company can get away with doing that kind of thing is if they’re really doing something. You can’t tell me that you’re doing that, Pepsi.” – Mara Epstein, Ph.D., Professor of media studies at Queens College
“I think the message that Pepsi hoped would come out of it is that Pepsi is in touch with what is going on. It would get young people thinking, ‘Is Pepsi a brand for me?’ But they missed the point. It’s completely overproduced. If you want something to feel at all genuine, why are you using celebrities? Let alone celebrities that have no association whatsoever with the thing you’re advertising. It makes sense that this was done in-house because it doesn’t have the creative rigor that an outside ad agency would bring. People at the agency rip each other to pieces if something isn’t good. It’s harder for that stuff to get made by an ad agency. I think what probably happened in this case is that someone just really wanted to use Kendall Jenner. Someone inside attached themselves to the thought that she is really of the moment. It’s really transparent when we do that. If you’re going to use a celebrity, you really need to have a good reason to use them. The world is craving authenticity, even if authenticity is a completely overused word. People want these things to feel real. Like use real people. This ad was the least relatable piece of communication I’ve ever seen. It feels manipulative. People are not stupid. I think they were smart to take it down. It looks like it could cost $2 million just for production alone … And having Skip Marley do the music doesn’t make a difference. Even if you had Migos do the soundtrack. Even if Offset had written the soundtrack, purely out of love for Pepsi, it wouldn’t have worked. – ad exec who did not wished to be named
“The Theater of the Absurd dramatizes the recent dilemma of Western man, the man of action who appears not to be involved with the action. Such is the original and appeal of Samuel Beckett’s clowns. After 3000 years of specialist explosion and increasing specialism and alienation in the technological extensions of our bodies, our world has become more compressional by dramatic reversal. As electrically contracted, the globe is no more than a village. Electric speed in bringing all social and political functions together in a sudden implosion has heightened human awareness of responsibility to an intense degree. It is this implosive factor that alters the position of the aristrocrat, the teenager, and some other groups. They are now involved in our lives, as we in theirs, thanks to electric media.” Marshall McLuhan 1958
“It is not very easy to fix the principles upon which mankind have agreed to eat some animals, and reject others; and as the principle is not evident, it is not uniform. That which is selected as delicate in one country, is by its neighbours abhorred as loathsome.” Dr. Johnson
Now and then we like to have an outing that will keep our credentials as cultural anthropologists in good working order. Our preferred destination for such things is Los Angeles, but time and Alaska Wolf Joe’s ongoing experimentation with being a coastal elitist on the opposite coast have limited our options. Sure, Portland’s close, but even there we’ve worn down the possibilities there to little more than running out some tepid snark about the town being wholly dependent on foreign beard oil.
Instead we decided on coastal Oregon so that we test the proposition, “In Heaven there is no high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that’s why we put it in everything here.”
Make yourself comfortable, we’re gonna be here awhile.
The central engine that drives coastal Oregon forward is neither lumber nor tourism. Instead the entire area seems to run on a limitless supply of pancake batter and whipped cream. The more successful eateries resemble one of those infinitely re-arrangeable executive toys you’d find in the SkyMall catalog. It makes little difference if you come alone or with a party of 12. The tables can be bent or shaped into any number of configurations as if they were made from Silly Putty instead of wood. The ensuing breakfast, which the locals still believe is the most important meal of the day, is surprising low on dairy products. Perhaps the butter would only get in the way of the whipped cream, several flavors of syrup, and soda pop which seems to be every bit as popular as coffee at that time of day.
These scalable breakfast nooks also come with attached gift shops as knick-knackery is a serious component in the coast GDP. Each offers a wide selection of Christmas ornaments year-round and the following items, each of which we took a pass on:
Pushing away from the breakfast table and wandering out to work off the HFCS we’d injested we found this retail establishment.
When we tried the front door we found they weren’t open yet, but my mind was reeling. Vegan alligator?
Is he in a tank in the back or some old bathtub? Did they caulk up and old show stall and keep him there? Does he have a name like Free or Wind? Wondering aloud about that last one Mom said, “Alligators live in water, so you gotta think of a water sign, probably Aquarius or Aquaria if it’s a gal gator”.
OK, but does he do tricks? Does he play hacky sack with a trainer? Can tourists buy little bags of pressed quinoa cut into shapes that look like little fish?
Because if those were around it would blow open the synapses on each and every French postmodernist alive!
Oh hey – speaking of semiotics – while in Oregon my Tuesday began with this 3-minute video popping up in my Tweety.
And my afternoon ended with Kendall Jenner sticking the HFCS to The Man!
Here to explain all things related to those on the lower rung the Kardassia is our own Alaska Wolf Joe –
Consider, I suppose, that the Pepsi ad is much like the Syrian attack which it so closely pairs with chronologically, a simile of bourgeois hors d’oeuvres and red wine, flesh and blood. Perhaps as Barthes would point out, red wine itself creates insatiable thirst at best, and at worst is a consequence of the social event (war). (Barthes’ Mythologies, “Wine and Milk.” To summarize here, I recall Barthes’ analysis of wine as being paradoxically dry but thirst quenching – in that in his own terms, “[…] at least thirst serves as an initial alibi for its consumption[…]” (Mythologies 79) To note briefly here of war, it is similarly a galvanizing act of quenching, its initial process claims to be a reagent in the reaction of peace, at least at the outset.)
No doubt in the mythology of the infamous Kendall Jenner advertisement, Pepsi itself is portrayed a nourishment of the body, that which quenches thirst. A better question to be asked of the commercial may be this: Why are they thirsty? The ideological supposition itself is immediately formed, “They are thirsty for justice!” but this is a lie.
I read it as that they thirst because they are attractive, creative, and have a surplus of sexuality – they are thirsty precisely because they are bodies in motion, but particular bodies: bodies of enjoyment. This thirst is not caused of a natural biological need, rather at the outset we can compare it with surplus value: it is the thirst of those who can afford to waste their biological energy in Spectacle. It is their raw hedonism of pleasure through protest, pleasure through art, pleasure through imagined narratives of “countercultural critique” which enables them to be thirsty. It is the perspiration of jouissance. They can only afford this thirst because of their status with regards to Capital. If they were truly proletarian, this Spectacle would be impossible, the thirst would become dangerous. It is not so disparate of course, worker’s hands have still manufactured this Pepsi, but it is precisely this which causes these young bourgeois to thirst. For the workers themselves are already thirsty, are already suffering – they could enjoy a nice cold Pepsi. The young bourgeoisie lacks this thirst; they do not have nearly such a miserable condition in life. They must become more symptomatic, more laborious. They must create thirst in order to enjoy this Pepsi. And what an enjoyable Pepsi it will be, once they have earned it.
To compare, here is Zizek on soft drinks:
A more pressing issue is at hand that regards the political in the commercial itself. I had recently watched Fritz Langs’ Metropolis, a great film of ambiguity regarding the bourgeois support of the worker as Spectacle. One of the things most mystifying about the film is that we do not know precisely what it is that the machines do. In the inadvertent gaze of Langs’ directorial sensibility and the overtones of the script, this renders the workers even more as an inanimate object unto themselves – even more as an undifferentiated whole only recognizable for labor value, removed and alienated of their subjectivity, brought through to the “self-consciousness” of their position in the master and slave dialectic. There is nothing more they are conscious of, and nothing more that we are conscious of, than that they are laborers. Their machines are nameless, their work is nameless, and they themselves (virtually) are nameless.
Contrast this, of course, with what we are offered here in the Kendall Jenner Pepsi ad. Its most infamous initial image is simply of that of protest signs devoid of any coherent message. It is a revolution without organs. A woman in a hijab scribbles on photography. What is she photographing? Kendall Jenner poses in front of a mirror. What is she modeling for? A man plays a cello. We do not hear the music he plays.
It extends too to the actions: This man perspires over his cello, this supposedly Muslim woman throws these photographs aside, Kendall Jenner discards her wig and (miraculously) changes into a proletarian costume, revealing her “authenticity”.
Inevitably, there is no answer. For what is there to consider of it but Spectacle? What are they joining, of course, but Spectacle? The musicians in the street, the break dancers whispered of briefly in the montage are the most authentic consumers in the whole commercial: they are already aware that this is a celebration, a perverted Carnaval, a burlesque of revolution.
Do not focus on the moment which has now cemented itself in our cultural conscious of Kendall Jenner handing a Pepsi to a cop1. Focus on the sequence afterwards, in which the cop smiles and looks over at the other cop in a knowledge of agreement. An agreement to what? An agreement to enjoyment. This is precisely what is novel about this commercial, what is truly revolutionary. For there is no longer a moment of free love, the uninhibited flow of orgone, no longer mass revolt, no longer “hanging them by the last bit of rope which they will sell us” there is—enjoyment. The revolution here is that the entire world will become a Pepsi commercial. The gross surplus enjoyment, the raw and impossible jouissance of all existence is nothing but an orgiastic enjoyment of Pepsi unto infinity.
Consider then the impossible fantasy of a Pepsi commercial, so enjoyable that it never ends – it is a never-ending montage of fantastical commercial enjoyment, it is this revolution without organs which we have glimpsed carrying on ad infinitum, it continues until the entire world’s factories have stopped, that the world’s population is starving, the clouds have darkened with pestilence, our urine has turned black with blood from kidneys which have tasted naught but Pepsi for years, and finally into the absence of God’s position in the heavens a lone voice screams: “Pepsi!” This is the horrid jouissance of Pepsi. The impossible horror of a commercial reaching its liminal conclusion in death.
Is this not how the end of the world will look? Will it not look like this commercial?
As that’s all a bit much to chew on in one sitting, no matter how much Log Cabin syrup and whipped cream you put on it, I shall be succinct.
Barthes becomes difficult to use in after information becomes suddenly ubiquitous and easily manufactured. The old media was based on the scarcity of the means to produce content which is why co-opting symbols – as seen in the video above – made sense. His Mythologies remains an important read and maybe well go into this more at a later time.
Meanwhile – being the low season on the Oregon coast the store’s hours were highly variable and thus my search for the vegan alligator will have to continue in the summer months.
“In today’s all-farm-to-table-everything environment of “conscious consumerism”––where we’re willing to pay more for a steak if we’re told the cow was happy before somebody slaughtered it, clothing companies like Everlane use their dedication to “radical transparency” as a marketing tactic, and it is possible to purchase fair trade cocaine on the deep web––a product’s worth is often linked to the perceived ethics of those who produce it. When it comes to music, this means that artists are viewed as part and parcel with the work they create. If they seem like a decent person, we’re more apt to listen to their music with favorable ears; conversely, if we enjoy their work, there is part of us that automatically assumes that person embodies the values we assign to their music.” Drew Millard
“But by the following year, in Age of Spin, Chappelle has figured out what he wants to say about Cosby, a man he says ‘has a legacy I can’t just throw away.’ He mourns the loss of Cosby as someone to be heralded as an entertainment pioneer and an icon who paved the way for black men to follow in his comedic footsteps (though Chappelle’s comedy is, uh, a little more explicit than Cosby’s ever was). He marvels at the sheer amount of time Cosby must have devoted to assaulting women, estimating that his ‘400 hours of rape’ makes the 65 hours you need to get a pilot’s license look like nothing. One of the best moments in either special comes when Chappelle dissects a confrontation that happened during one of his own shows, when a young white woman kept interrupting him as he tried to talk about Cosby. She apparently started shouting, ‘Women suffer!’ while Chappelle kept trying to say, ‘I know!’ But he describes drawing the line when she tried to insist that her suffering was the same as Chappelle’s. ‘She had no idea,’ he says, shaking his head. ‘Bill Cosby was a hero to me.’ What Chappelle wishes she would’ve understood — and what he keeps telling his audiences in Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas, as he has throughout his career — is that a lot of this stuff is more complicated than many might want to admit.” Caroline Framke
“All this while, Mailer has in clutch Why Are We in Vietnam? He had neglected to bring his own copy to Washington and so had borrowed the book from his hostess on the promise that he would inscribe it. (Later he would actually lose it – working apparently on the principle that if you cannot make a hostess happy, the next best thing is to be so evil that the hostess may dine out on tales of your misconduct.) But the copy of the book is now noted because Mailer, holding it one hand and the mug of whiskey in the other, was obliged to notice on entering the Ambassador Theater that he had an overwhelming urge to micturate. The impulse to pass urine, being for some reason more difficult to restrain when both hands are occupied, there was no thought in the Master of Ceremonies’ mind abut the alternatives – he would have to find The Room before he went on stage.” Norman Mailer from Armies of the Night
“A new age is upon us – and yet the some old qualities, love and admiration of them, still remain. These qualities are to exist and find their expression in new forms, comformable to modern life, usages, and tastes. Otherwise, we shall have but a nation of smirking persons, polite, dapper, genteel, and correct, following the established forms, their shrunken frames concealed in costumes, because, if they were stript, their meagerness and deformity would disgust the world.” Walt Whitman
“The art of the writer, like that of the player, is attained by slow degrees. The power of distinguishing and discriminating comick characters, or of filling tragedy with poetical images, must be the gift of nature, which no instruction nor labour can supply; but the art of dramatick disposition, the contexture of the scenes, the involution of the plot, the expedients of suspension, and the strategems of surprise, are to be learned by practice; and it is cruel to discourage a poet for ever, because he has not from genius what only experience can bestow.” Dr. Johnson
What follows is a disjointed mess that comes from a week of blogger’s block exacerbated by unexpected grief.
For those of you just tuning in, here’s how the division of labor works around here. Mom hears about a Rubber Chicken Dinner (RCD) and if it warrants attendance I go. Early in the week she got word that a “leading figure” in the community was retiring after 35 years ceaselessly toiling away at his no-show job so he could raise money for one of the two better known political parties. Our representation was required because he managed to scare up major cash for those who immediately represent us. Per Mom – not only would our local solons be stuffing their faces, they’d also be at the podium to dole out a few words which had a very close scrape with the heartfelt and sincere.
The treacherous portion of The RCD goes by a couple of names. Some call it “the pre-func” while others try to whitewash its sins by calling it “The Social Hour.” In either case only the most extroverted among us come away unscathed. Seeing as that I am not one of those outgoing lucky few I live in dread of the last 15 minutes before dinner is served as that’s the time when trouble seeks out the shy and reserved.
And this quarter hour was a doozy.
Looking across the room I saw two people charging right at me. Within seconds they were do close to me that the words “personal space” lost all meaning.
HIM: Are you who we think you are? HER: (taking my chin and tilting my head up) Who looks after your sideburns, your dog? ME: We don’t have a … HER: Nonsense! HIM: Look for a mustache, I’m not seeing one! HER: Where is your mustache? ME: It and the girlfriend who insisted I grow one disappeared about ’81. HIM: No beard? HER: (Tilting my head the other way) No beard! HIM: Then you are not who we thought you were!
Glad we cleared that up?
Good thing those two weren’t amateur phrenologists or I’d still be there.
Wait, there’s more.
Now on Medium: Visit the (sic) and bury the lede
Regardless of how March came in where you live it went out with two RCD’s here. A few days after receiving a critique of my facial hair (see above) I had to wander out for the retirement dinner of a local business exec. His company was giving him a big send off for his many, many years of having roughly the same DNA as the company’s founder. There were many stories and jokes about his endless golf trips which painted a much larger picture – a picture of dedicated employees who were relieved when he was in Palm Springs or Vegas or Phoenix because then they could get some work done.
Taking no chances I arrived 5 minutes before dinner was the be served to avoid any Imperial entanglements.
The entanglements waited until I was in the parking lot.
A guy I see around the neighborhood every so often comes up and says, “Hey – you know about th’ social media right?”
o…k… sure …
He gets between me and my driver’s side door, put a finger in my face and lets go with, “I went to this thing about business using Facebook and the other shit and it was all a bunch of damn kids. Ever heard of the Medium bloggers?”
Sadly … yes.
“They say you gotta get a Medium so you can be a thinker leader!”
I think the term is “thought leader.”
“Yeah, yeah! You gotta do that. You gotta do a Medium blog and it’ll be all about you and how you are the guy who’s working on all this social media blogging!”
Sorta like Armies of the Night.
“I guess you can write about 80s bands if you want. Use ‘em like those things, those metaphors and similarities! Isn’t that what you blogger guys do?”
The upshot here is that the guy paid good money to sit through six hours of metric-free anecdotes delivered in a peppy tone from a panel of Silicon Valley executives. For all that money he felt he had come away with knowledge that resembled nothing more than the All New, two-topping, Saltines and Mayo Special from Domino’s. I didn’t heave the heart to tell him that all FUTURE OF THE MEDIA conferences are like that.
In short – his solution was to get somebody who is twice the age of the average conference panelist (i.e me) who won’t so much inject perspective into the discussion as dump cold water all over it. He was looking for somebody who would smother the panel in pessimism and gloom.
And I’m just the man to do it!
Hey – it took me years to build my brand and I’m proud of it.
So BOO-YAH you high-sheriff panel talkin’ motherfuckers!
Truth is you don’t need me. What’s going on with the conventional media (papers, tv, cable, & radio) is obvious. Just this week Bloomberg turned lose something that can be called ESPN’s memorial service pre-func.
ESPN broke ground on this $175 million, 194,000-square-foot facility, called Digital Center 2, in 2011. It was billed by executives as “future-proof,” capable of adapting to any possible change in the way people watch sports. At the time, ESPN looked indestructible. Its namesake cable channel had just topped 100 million subscribers and was posting record profits for its parent company, Walt Disney Co., even as streaming apps such as Netflix were growing rapidly. Ratings for live sports, unlike almost everything else on TV, were soaring. And ESPN had big games year-round—Monday Night Football, college football bowl games, Major League Baseball’s opening day, and the NBA playoffs, to name a few. A cover story in this magazine in the fall of 2012 dubbed ESPN the “Everywhere Sports Profit Network.”
Five years later the network’s profits are shrinking, and the 10,000-square-foot SportsCenter studio has already begun to look like a relic. The show’s formula, in which well-fed men in suits present highlights from the day’s games with Middle-American charm, is less of a draw now that the same highlights are readily available on social media. Viewership for the 6 p.m. edition of SportsCenter, a bellwether for the franchise, fell almost 12 percent from 2015 to last year, according to Nielsen. Keith Olbermann, the SportsCenter-host-turned-political-commentator, put it bluntly on a podcast last year: “There’s just no future in it.”
Nobody needs a Medium page.
It’s all out there if you know where to look.
Besides – a Medium page?
You do have your dignity to consider. I do believe that these applauses are for some new honors that are heaped on Caesar.
“Bo Diddley had been backstage with him one time and was talking about magic and the radio. Back then a lot of people believed that the radio was magic, that sound waves traveled to different dimensions, maybe all the way to heaven. You ever get this little shiver in your spine, Bo Diddley asked him, like it’s hot and cold at the same time? That means someone’s been making love while a song of yours is on the radio. It goes right through the air and slips back into your soul. You know? And then, you ever get a sudden pain in your left foot, sharp, like a needle’s gone into it? That means somebody died while your song was on the radio. Somebody died.
“That was too much. It spooked him, and he’d gone to the library and checked out all the books they had on mysticism and magic. Madame Blavatsky and books on past lives and the occult. He read through most of them, but it made his head spin, and he stepped away from all of that.
“ ‘I don’t know,’ he said, and he shook his head. ‘I wouldn’t let any of them work on my car. Not one of them.’”
This list has been sitting on a legal pad for a few months.
Here’s the problem of how I can now come to a conclusion. The greater point I was after was the separation of creator and creation. Chuck Berry was proof that you can outlive your scandal(s) for a time, but the second you die your mistakes will come right on back. Berry’s death coincided with Dave Chappelle’s Netflix specials. Both were shot a couple of years ago, but the most recent ends with Chappelle trying to make sense of Bill Cosby.
Critics of the show – incorrectly- griped that Cosby did not lead to the comedy of Dave Chappelle. Cosby was one of the pioneers in a new form of comedy that did not rely on mother-in-law or women driver set-up and punch line jokes. Cosby brought forth a new form where comics talked about their lives. The material was based on life and the inadvertent discovery of humorous moments. At the end of the Cosby bit Chappelle runs out the many honorable things Cosby did while still acknowledging that 400 hours spent raping women is as heinous as it can get, but he still doesn’t know what to make of it and he ends with a look in his eye – the look you see older guys get – when they really don’t know if they’ll ever make sense of it.
That’s why my short list will most like remain on my shelf. I’m not sure what I’m to make of it either. I offer no defense of what the men on that list did nor do I condone their sins. In fact, the thought of Chuck Berry reading Madame Blvatsky stopped me in my tracks for an afternoon.
What are we to make of that?
In the meantime – please – let’s not get into political correctness.
Please save that paltry and threadbare out-of-the-box answer for another time.
Instead take a moment and wonder if the old Romans were right to wait for 100 years before they undertook the study of a famous life.
While you do that there’s a rumor that an evening of karaoke has been added to the family reunion so I must prepare something.