The Dead Weather - Die By The Drop
Since watching It Might Get Loud a few months ago, my wife has developed a mild obsession with Jack White. His new band, The Dead Weather, played in LA last week at the Palladium. We like to see at least one live band per year and so we ended up going out on a Wednesday night (crazy!), acting like we were both still in our twenties.
The music was fine, I thought, if unexceptional (over-distorted blues with a lot of attitude, songwriting highly variable, lead singer from The Kills who has kind of a nice Shirley Manson thing going) but the experience itself was, as they say, banging. (I know: no one says that.) Jack White plays drums, mostly, --a mistake, I think. His natural showmanship and charisma don't lend themselves to staying penned up at the back of the stage, and he ended up coming out from behind the drums a half-dozen times over the course of the night. Generally these were the best moments.
Something new for me: many concertgoers holding up their smartphones, making live video recordings throughout the concert. Looking down from the balcony we saw the many glowing screens held overhead, like the white tops of waves on the sea. Next to me, during the encore, a girl wrote on her Facebook page. The horror of always being connected....
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A realization I had rereading Crying of Lot 49: we as readers ARE Oedipa (its protagonist). We are in exactly her situation. We believe there is some hidden order undergirding what we experience but we can’t fully fathom it. We can’t make the pieces all connect. As a result we suspect, perhaps, that whatever order we are learning to apprehend is not truly there. It has been concocted, made up as a kind of joke. For her, the "order" is the private mail conspiracy and the joker is (may be) the man whose will she executes, Inveriarty (‘not true.’) For the reader, the joker is Pynchon himself. The novel is either a map to the hidden order of the universe (as art tries to be, exposing the hidden girders, hinting at meanings we can’t fully appreciate) or a beautiful lie (Plato’s phrase)—a sham put in place to keep us amused, to help us pass the time.
Also now rereading Vineland (I have a tendency to keep starting new books without finishing old), whose softer tone I prefer I think to Lot 49. Still paranoia, still the giant conspiracies, but they’re less ferocious and claustrophobic. Lot 49 like being in a cell with the O2 being extracted slowly, mol by mol.
I highly recommend The Quickening Maze (just finished). Less so Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Neil Simon, a master craftsman, does lack some…something. I want Simon to be Norman Rockwell, someone both popular and profound, a popular artist whose popularity and seeming simplicity makes him an easy target for intellectuals who mistrust pleasure in their art. But Simon doesn’t do that, at least not the Simon I’ve read. More like a very very good TV writer. What you see is what you get.