Norman Owned Neutral Milk Hotel on Vinyl

“One did not go to the other (1960 GOP) convention. It was seen on television, and so too much cannot be said of that. It did however confirm one’s earlier bias that the Republican Party was still a party of church ushers, undertakers, choirboys, prison wardens, bank presidents, small-town police chiefs, state troopers, psychiatrists, beauty-parlor operators, corporation executives, Boy-Scout leaders, fraternity presidents, tax-board assessors, community leaders, surgeons, Pullman porters, head nurses and the fat sons of rich fathers. Its candidate (Richard Nixon) would be given the manufactured image of an ordinary man, and his campaign, so far as it was a psychological campaign (and this would be far indeed), would present him as a simple, honest, dependable, hard-working, ready-to-learn, modest, humble, decent, sober young man whose greatest qualification for President was his profound abasement before the glories of the Republic, the stability of the mediocre, and his own unworthiness. The apocalyptic hour of Uriah Heep.” – Norman Mailer from ‘Superman Comes to the Supermarket

“There is an old Vulcan proverb, ‘Only Nixon could go to China.’” – Mr. Spock

“We’re surrounded by people who, despite a narrow perspective, insist the music of their youth is superior to the sounds of any other period. Most people who prefer old music mean no harm and it’s often a pleasure to listen to them talk about their favorite artists of the distant past. But others are bullies who intend to harangue is into submission, as if their bluster can conceal their ignorance. They ignore what seems to me something that’s self-evident: rock and pop today is as good as it’s ever been.” – – Jim Fusilli

“Nothing is more despicable than the old age of a passionate man.* When the vigour of youth fails him, and his amusements pall with frequent repetition, his occasional rage sinks by decay of strength into peevishness; that peevishness, for want of novelty and variety, becomes habitual; the world falls off from around him, and he is left, as Homer expresses it, to devour his own heart in solitude and contempt.” – Dr. Johnson

“Won’t you please come to Chicago or else join the other side.” – Graham Nash


Time to clear items off the desk and out of the reading list.

As such this post might have a part-2 at some later date.

Before we get started here’s a word or two about the use of ‘hubris’ in what follows. At no time am I trying to compare, much less say, that what Alaska Wolf Joe calls, Boomer Cultural Hegemony is more important or a greater problem than unacknowledged white privilege. Instead the point here is that both stem from the same root, in that hubris relies of a certain amount of self awareness. Put another way – someone who is guilty of Boomer Cultural Hegemony or unacknowledged white privilege isn’t so much falsely proud as unlikely to have drilled down far enough to really get at the bedrock of his or her thinking.

Hubris assumes that you’ve done some accounting of your thoughts.

Having said that.

One of the various wags I follow on Twitter ran out something that said – more or less – “Where’s this kind of political reporting these days?” The link lead to Esquire’s series on their classic articles, in this case Norman Mailer’s Superman Comes to the Supermarket. The upshot of the podcast is Mailer’s ability to see that Jack Kennedy’s nomination meant that Hollywood had entered politics. Things were changing and something called “charisma” was about to become one of the key elements of any candidate’s run for office. Mailer was holed up in LA typing as fast as he could trying to prove that the old guard, Ike’s generation, were moving from the main action, the center ring, if you will, to the margins. In that hotel room Norman summed up the generation that had run politics from before the war until 1960 and saw that their collective age was pushing them out of the limelight.

Election years are like that. Election years are supposed to imbue you with that kind of prophetic insight. All the more so if the election comes after you’ve established certain distance between major events and the present. After 9/11, two wars, and the most serious economic collapse in 80 years you’d think there should be at least one person out there with such insight. You’d think that after all that there’s gotta be at least one pundit-cum-loudmouth who’d burn with such fire that it would shame a whole room full of even the most ardent Pentecostals.

So what happened?

Boomer weltanschauung.

Boomer weltanschauung suffers from two main problems. The first is its constant drift towards zero-sum thinking. The second is our extreme faith that past is very much prologue and we have lived through the most critical historical epoch of all time. (This is not to say that monumental events did not happen at other times. It just that I’m not sure anyone who came of age the Napoleonic Wars and lived well into the next few decades would agree with the average Boomer.) The second was always manifest is the constant search for the next Beatles or the next Dylan. At no time was the immediate past any less than the key to the immediate future.

As Mr. Fusilli said in the article linked above –

You go down a dead end with some people, who say to you, Where’s the new Bob Dylan? Where’s the new Beatles? Well, there is no new Bob Dylan. There is no new Beatles. There is no new Thelonious Monk. There’s no new Duke Ellington. These people and their achievements are beyond the reach of anyone, so maybe it is interesting to empty the vaults and study how they got to be who they are. But for most artists, they had something to say in their own times, and that’s really where it belongs. … Maybe this is an unfair example. I don’t know the guy, so I’m not picking on him. But Don Henley put out that album last year, and it got a lot of buzz. Why did it get a lot of buzz? Because he used to be in the Eagles.* Anybody who follows Americana and traditional country can tell you that there are 50 better albums than “Cass County.” Totally accessible work, with traditional storytelling, great vocals, great arrangements, absolutely proving that the art of songwriting is still alive. But then there’s Don Henley everywhere. Maybe this is harsh, but maybe the industry thinks it should throw a bone to grown-ups. Rather than saying this is an excellent album by a new artist, they just say, Here’s the new Don Henley.

Again – a past so magnificent that it holds all the prologue any reasonable person would need.

At the heart of all that is the tendency towards zero-sum thinking which can be traced back to the times we grew up in. The 60s were no time for the middle ground. It was drilled into me, as early as the 6th grade, that not having an opinion was not acceptable. The rush to one side or the other was so great that it was hard to find the time to research an issue much less think it through. At some point ‘for-me or a’gin-me’ crept into everything no matter how small or how trivial.

At this point I was going to say something that pulled all that together. It started off with how I’ve come to like The Kinks more than The Beatles, but I forgot to write it down so it’s gone now. Mailer said he spent most of the 1950s “burning a hole in my brain” by smoking copious amount of marijuana while watching Mike Wallace’s Night Beat. My Kinks digression got lost because I too have burned a hole in my brain, but I did it by just by getting out of bed in the morning day after day after day after …

Aging is what got me started on all this flotsam in that – very soon- I’m about to become another year older.

Whether I like it or not.

Given that, you’d be well within your rights to ask, “So you’re saying that looking back and seeing how we’ve handled things all we’ve done is disappoint you?”

That’s not what I’m saying here.

I’m saving that for another post.

No, I think what I’m saying is, that despite our diminishing mental acuity, we are not excused from leading examined lives even at this late stage. We don’t have to come to great conclusions. (Hyperbole being another one of our sins.) But we should be able to see value in the present and not be nostalgia’s victims.

Speaking of that –

OMGS OMGS OMGS!!! Have you seen HBO’s Vinyl? Mom and I stumbled into it last weekend. Did the entertainment industry run out of old hippies to sucker in? Do they have to rely on us now? The police didn’t chase punk rockers down the street. The kids the punk rockers went to school with chased the punk rockers down the street. And Andrew Dice Clay as some sort of coked-up maniac? Is that method acting or did he just pull something out of memory? MY GOD! You can think of your youth as a perfectly made puttanesca, but after Vinyl gets its hands on your coming of age you’ll think you’re stuck with an expired can of Chef Boy-ar-Dee chunk-style Beef-ar-roni.



Where were we?

Oh yeah – nostalgia. Despite Mr. Fusilli’s many fine points you can still appreciate a thing for itself as long as you’re willing to appreciate a thing for itself, which is not to say that same thing cannot evoke memories just so long as you understand that your brain is acting on more than one impulse. Your job is to find the balance.

And give up trying to figure out this election.

We’re not equipped to deal with it.

Instead let’s dance to this interpretation of The Ring Cycle.

* BTW – it’s Ok to hate The Eagles around here and tip o’ the tin-foil lined M’s cap to Mr. Sharp who sent this along.

One Comment

  1. Fearless Lieder

    I have gleaned the following from your post:

    1. I need to learn the definition of “hegemony”.
    2. JFK is the reason that “Charisma” is one of the main parts of your character in D&D.
    3. “May the best of your past be the worst of your future.” – Irish toast
    4. I had no idea Steve Martin played keyboard for the Trammps.
    5. Bobby Cannavale will always be Gyp Rosetti to me.

    Thank you for your service.

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