Sunday, June 21, 2015

What Did You Learn From the Time In the Solitary Cell of Your Mind?

This is just a programming note, to say that I'm going to have to delay my long-awaited discussion of my recent wine tasting dinner.  I was in a car wreck on Wednesday--totally fine, no big deal, physically--but my car is totaled and I may have to now buy a new car or some nonsense.  Anyway, between that and my burgeoning tuna fisheries business, I won't have the necessary love and energy to do a good write-up of the whole thing any time in the next week.

But I do still like Belle and Sebastian.  Everyone suffers in silence the burden….

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Best Link of The Week?

I heartily recommend you check out this post over on The Corner.  It's about what happens when an entitled bitchy NYC feminista (who naturally blogs for Jezebel) is refused service at a hipster NYC tattoo parlor.  Opening graph:
This is, unquestionably, my favorite story of the week. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds, I ran across one of the more absurd P.C. meltdowns I’ve ever seen (and that’s saying a lot). A Jezebel blogger pitched an online fit after a tattoo artist denied her request for a neck tattoo. Her post, titled in Jezebel’s oh-so-winsome style, “Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Get a F**king Neck Tattoo” (edited since this is a family blog), relates the sad tale. She wanted to get a tattoo of her daughter’s name on her neck, had been warned that some tattoo artists might not like to do that, but pressed on to “hipster-est tattoo parlor in New York City” anyway. The following exchange took place between Jane Marie (the blogger) and Dan (the tattoo artist):
Dan: “And then you want your daughter’s name… on your neck?” Shakes head left to right.
Me: “What.”
Dan: “Not gonna happen.”
Me: “Wait, what? Why?”
Dan: “It’ll look tacky. It’s just tacky.” 
Me: “Wait, you’re telling me what will look tacky on me? Don’t I get to decide that?”
Dan: “A neck tattoo on someone without a lot of tattoos is like lighting a birthday candle on an unbaked cake.”
Does she react well?  She does not.  But Dan--who turns out to be a highly righteous dude--does not back down.  Read the rest here....

Sunday, June 14, 2015

You Can Get F*****

So rarely do I blog that, at times, one wonders why I blog at all?  

Certainly I so wonder.

I blog rarely because the "events" that comprise my life tend toward the minimal and the mental.  And thus the uneventful.  E.g.: an "event" of last month was borne of a documentary I watched about Bowie (Five Years on Showtime).  The key moment: Robert Fripp, describing the difference between POP and ROCK said something….

Well, what he said is R-rated.  But the essence is: danger.  Danger.

And that gibes with the Ian Buruma NYRB review of the Bowie museum exhibit he saw at the Victoria and Albert--the element of danger in his music.  A meaningful revelation to me.  Yes.  An event, though mental, in my life: that is an element I respond to in his music.  Deeply.  The danger.  Non-ironic danger.  Real danger. 

In graduate school (I have a BSS in orthopedic dentistry) I remember driving some people somewhere--probably to the Corn Rodeo--and I put on Diamond Dogs--which opens with a spoken-word section about dogs eating cats, and filth, and the broken city--and this silly person in the backseat, who's now a semi-famous writer, asked me in a whimpering, doll-voice to please, turn it off.  It was scary.  And I did so, smiling, and wishing her destroyed….

And that's true, utterly, what Fripp and Buruma note.  That IS one of the great powers in his music: the sense of real danger.  Of, to use the LA-appropriate word, stakes.  

The Fripp quote: "the difference between pop at rock is that, at a rock show, you can get F******"

Meaning the last word in all its senses.  And Fripp--bespectacled and buttoned-up as he comes on--is, in truth, a dark, subversive wizard.  (Like Burroughs, another seemingly buttoned-up martinet).  Listen to early 70s King Crimson, and you'll know.  "Starless and Bible Black"--that song, to this day, unsettles me.  It is legitimately menacing.  In the best, most non-negotiable way.  

Anyway, that insight seems to me utterly true.  (Is this why, as we age, we tire of rock music?  Because  danger seems much less appealing at 40 than 20?  Because it has become real?  Much more, uhm, dangerous.)  And explains why I have so much weariness for, say, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Elton John, and Bruce Springsteen.  To pick at random.  Where there is no danger, there is no rock.  This is what McCartney lacked--why without Lennon, there was no greatness. 

Not to say that danger alone suffices to make great, or even good, music.  (Exhibit One: solo John Lennon).  It clearly does not.  But madness, depravity, being TAKEN--that is always in the cards, at a good rock show.  On a good rock album.  "You might get F******."  Literally or otherwise.  (Hence the deep linkages between rock music and mind-altering drugs.  "You might get F*****").

So that was an "event" of the last month--seeing that documentary, being reminded of how much of Bowie's power derives from danger and also, seeing him in images (and I'm moving to a new topic now, in the non-eventful way of thought, as captured--the rhythm of thought I mean--in Eno's Music For Airports) from his unearthly beauty.  (A brief clip of him striding from a hotel in Paris in 1976 clad in trousers and a loose black knit sweater has convinced me to never wear jeans again.  Really.)

Which made me think of the dissappointing last season of a much-overrrated show, Mad Men--one of the few great moments in a forgettable ending involving a junior nobody who's been fired telling Don that the only reason for his success is that "he's good-looking."  Yes.  Correct!  That reminds me of Jaigello in the Aubrey/Maturin books--the sense we all have, I believe, of wanting to befriend and to be liked by those who have true beauty.  Not the beautiful people… but the truly beautiful.  And there are very few of those.

If Bowie looked like Meatloaf, but wrote the same songs, would he be Bowie?  Of course not.  And it's a stupid question, obviously, because if he looked like Meatloaf he wouldn't have had the same experiences that Bowie had, and could never have written the same songs.

So that's an event, so to speak.  Or reading the Palliser series.  Or watching the sublime Jiro Dreams of Sushi.  And my thoughts about Trollope.  Or Charles Baxter's essays, which include one about Bartheleme which deserves to be read.  Or The War On Drugs, which is who I'm listening to a lot, but who cares?

BUT.. here's why I bother writing... Oh--remind me--I have a link you all need to read--about computer languages...the best thing I've read on the net in months, especially great for all those (like me)who always wonder what comptuer programming's really all about, and what all those languages are and mean.  It's not brief, but you will love every word.  And you'll finally have a sense about the difference between Perl and Python and Java and C.   Just give it a few paragraphs.  WHAT THE HELL ELSE DO YOU HAVE TO DO YOU RECALCITRANT NINNIES!

Where was I?

Man, isn't Mad Men such a wearying, tedious, repetitive show?  Not that it doesn't have its moments, but how limited it proves to be in the end?  You know why?   Because no one ever takes any action, ever, out of generosity of spirit.  There is no altruism, no kindness, no wit (has there ever been a popular show that had so few moments of humor?  Which is a central experience of all life!) 

All actions in Mad Men are borne of covetousness and fear and vituperation.  As if that's the sum total of the human experience!   I mean, yes, obviously: humans tend frequently toward the petty, toward the fearful and mean.  No doubt.  But to represent human expereince in ONLY those terms--as Mad Men does (has Betty ever done anything even slightly generous?)--is just as stupid and ignorant as would be a show that showed people acting only out of high-minded ideals.

Contrast it to The Sopranos, a show that's two orders of magnitude greater.   Obviously, on The Sopranos pettiness and cruelty abounds.  But what makes it a great, a transcendental show, is that there is a full spectrum of emotions depicted there.

I'm suddenly so tired.  So so tired.  And I can't go on about The Sopranos.  But do I need to?  You all know that its powers, how it shows many, many more aspects of human emotion.  Meadow cleaning the floor of her grandmother's house after she has the party there, in Season One.  Tony and his conflicted efforts to be a good son.  His attempts to help Irina to find a better life.  Carmela hungering after a true spiritual life.  AJ trying to join the military, in the final season, to help his country (stymied by his parents).

But wait.

My ultimate point is subverted.  Because, though mostly I don't experience any real events, I did, this weekend.  

Yes.  Yes yes.  A Real Event!  Involving other people! And wine!  And some lawyer insulting my wife!  And more wine!  Wine that's better than any I've ever had.  Wine that costs 1200$ a bottle!  And people insulting Texas!  And me having to translate French poetry!  And plastic surgery!  

This is all true.  Activity!  And activity that's not only mental!  But real!  In my life!  And it will be described to you, my friends.  Soon.   So, so, soon.....

And you know what?  I'm listening, right now, to August and Everything After.  And I love it.  And I won't apologize!  SO DON'T TRY TO MAKE ME.

You don't want to waste your life, now, baby....