Messy

“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.

My bad!

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.

Silly me!

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.

(long pause)

“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.

Voici!

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.

The Paris Review ran out this memory of Chuck Berry a couple of days after he died.

“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.

Fatty Arbuckle
Woody Allen
Bill Cosby
Chuck Berry
Gauguin

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.

2 Comments

  1. Fearless Lieder

    After many years of being invited to and sometimes even comped to RCDs I learned a neat trick: don’t eat.

    If you must, stop at McDs before hand and shovel down a burger and fries, but don’t touch the food at the dinner. This a) gives you a strange and unique aura and b) prompts doubt in the others at the table. Also, nobody looks good wrapping themselves around a poorly cooked piece of meat.

    There are other reasons but take my word for it, it’s a smooth move.

  2. Mom

    This is why our ethics policy of “sorry, no free food or beverage” serves us well. For a while we would cover business lunches by paying for them (and we are paid Chamber members, after all) but now we just go if it’s interesting.

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