Expert Witness Comment for the Week

The Beefheart is on order and I can’t think of another player who has done so much to preserve and honor his former leader. Also just picked up the Cuneiform tribute Lucas did back in 2009 (thoughts not formed yet).

And I’m weirdly alienated from the Stones in a way I never thought would be possible. I was actually charmed by the 2016 blues album the first time through (hey, it had shape and tone and kidz had become overly resistant to the old ferts) but by the fourth listen knew it was an empty exploitation. I’m sure the grade is correct, but there’s too much out there to listen to to acquire any more Mick and Keef.

On “Binky Brown”

Reading about this groundbreaking undergrounder in Hillary Chute’s Why Comics? reminds me of the time I first came across it (I believe it was the second printing) in a Missoula “head shop.” The cover alone was “WHAAAAAAT?” This will fill you in on its history and significance.

I couldn’t believe this comic — every page was a revelation (as well as disturbing) that touched on society, the sexes, religion, growing up, and of course psychological disorder of the OCD type. It’s a bit like Elvis — it’s impossible to convey the jolt of surprise as one encountered “Binky Brown” when it was new.

I was on the inexperienced and naive side myself. I was certain Justin Green was going to become a prolific comix genius. For a long time I thought of him with a twinge of disappointment. Older and at least a couple (white) hairs wiser, I now see what an unrepeatable performance “Binky Brown” was. But hey — lots of artists have long and large careers without producing even one masterpiece. I bought the fancy 2009 reprint and thought Green’s work deserved every bit of the celebration.

Le Guin Nails the Charm of Ace Doubles

In the introduction to the first Volume of her Hainish Novels and Stories she recalls from 50 years earlier::

The first three novels in this volume were published by Donald A. Wollheim, the tough, reliable editor of Ace Books, in the Late-Pulpalignean Era, 1966 and ’67. The first two, Rocannon’s World and Planet of Exile, came out as Ace Doubles: two short novels by two different authors in one paperback cover, like two trains running towards each other on one track. When one train hit the other you turned the book upside down and started from the other end. And Ace Double was a very good deal for under a dollar. It was not a very good deal for the authors, or a brilliant debut in the publishing world, but it paid, it got you into print, it had readers.

And one of them was this high-schooler in Montana named Miles. I loved Ace Doubles because they were well-edited and of reliable quality. And even on my teeny budget I could get whatever ones appealed to me. Of course, the what didn’t occur to me is that, “Yikes, this low price means the writers didn’t get paid scrunt!” I didn’t read Le Guin until the unavoidable The Left Hand of Darkness, but some of my favorites included: James White Second Ending / Samuel R. Delany The Jewels of Aptor (1962);  Samuel R. Delany The Towers of Toron / Robert Moore Williams The Lunar Eye (1964); Fred Saberhagen The Golden People / Lan Wright Exile From Xanadu (1964); A. Bertram Chandler Space Mercenaries / Emil Petaja The Caves of Mars (1965); Jack Jardine and Julie Jardine (jointly as Howard L. Cory) The Mind Monsters / Philip K. Dick The Unteleported Man (1966); Lin Carter Tower Of The Medusa / George H. Smith Kar Kaballa (November 1969). I took a pretty extensive break from sci-fi from the time I graduated college until I moved to MA.

 

Karmic Balance for the Ears

Two perfectly offsetting music-listening phenomena today.

Tried two albums from the archives for my pre-coffee floor workout and they were both stinkers (admittedly from the must-listen-to-more shelves), which half-wrecked the workout.

The reverse energy came from listening in the car.

Reina del Cid’s Rerun City (self-released) charmed me the first time through but the second listen convinced me there’s only a couple ordinary tracks on it and that “Let’s Begin” is a tender masterwork. Albums released in December get lost but I’m going to write a plug for her show on Feb. 24 at Atwood’s. Boston locals should go.

I had all these objections to 20 Years in a Montana Missile Silo (Cherry Red) by Pere Ubu the first time I heard it. Songs too short. David Thomas is going through the motions. I could hear the arty punk but not the party punk. This time through, all that just vanished. Strong Top 20 candidate and will be on the year-end discs.

“I’m Not Trying To Win the World …”

Third year of decline in overall visitors and views of the Miles To Go blog (I do still regard the Donna Douglas blowup as distorting). Maybe it’s the decline of blogs as cool new things, or I’m not as fanatic about posting (2017 not as full of disasters as 2016, but this fall and winter have been hit by a couple terrible personal events — not to me), or that I never do nothin’ to make anything viral.

Whatever, I’ve become a quality over quantity poster and am pleased to note that one of the type of posts that jumped up this year is “The Air Is Still and the Light Is Cool,” which are recommendations of less-well-known albums from the past that I adore.

Got one coming up tomorrow, I think.

Time in a Box

When it’s too cold outside for a long walk, I work out in the basement, where inevitably I stare at storage boxes, mostly from Montana. I can’t bear to more than glance at anything I wrote as a teenager or young adult. I tell myself it’s because I didn’t really know how to write then. But it’s also because I’m not that guy, or those guys, anymore and I’m not sure I want to meet them and find out what I think of them. I know I believed foolish, naively happy and optimistic things and it was painful enough losing the illusions once.

It’s painful to sort through my long-gone parent’s possessions and letters and photos (I’m almost three times as old as I was when my father passed away). But I feel disrespectful, dismissive even, leaving everything in old, dusty boxes. Can only go on for so long, though, before I’m hit with a memory like this: The last time I dreamed I was in the house where I grew up — haven”t been there since the ’80s — I was the age I am now and I felt a crushing sadness.

At least the new boxes are tidy.