Altamont at 50

A nuanced, intricate look back that I think is quite necessary.  Some thoughts:

If you were stuck in the sticks as I was, it took years to piece together exactly what happened, period. Could not have imagined that I would get to a place where, after I found out they wanted $700 for a ticket to their latest concert, the Rolling Stones were performers I could hardly bear to think about.

The worthy move now is to step away from the monster villains Hell’s Angels, the tainted, tormented, tortuous superstars, the cosmic cultural moment and focus on the key victim. And never again imagine that Meredith Hunter died because he waved a pistol around.

Making Junk-Drink Junkies

Somehow, you suspected this all along. There’s a special pit in hell for those who pushed tobacco and garbage food, especially on children.

I saw the change happen. When I was in Jr. High, soft drinks were not served anywhere in the school and the clear word was that they were bad for you. (But who could miss how many kids zipped across the street to the convenience store to buy a hit of bubbles?)

By the time I was a High School Senior, in 1970, Park High was getting a nice yearly check from Pepsi to have a soda dispensary right in the hall next to the cafeteria.

Aaargh.

R.I.P.: Tomi Ungerer

I think I was a bit too old for his kid books, but I’ll never forget that in a used bookstore (in Bozeman, MT?) I ran across a collection of his erotic drawings from a French publisher. I thought “Humph! Yeah, sure.” But when I checked it out –YOWSAH! They were vivid, inventive wildies with a heavy S&M component. I remember I had to hide it away in my bedroom in my parents’ house, but boy, was it a find, a revelation. I was saddened, but not surprised, that it almost ruined his career when the kid-book publishers found out about his porny works. Deserves a major revaluation.

Fine profile from Paris Review.

 

Bats: Cuties or Creepies?

We checked out the Empresses exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum today (yeah, I’m sorry we didn’t get out earlier so I could plug it before its final week) and aside from the most wondrous silk stitching I’ve seen in my life, I was stuck with a couple zoological-perspective revelations.

First, the symbol of the Emperor is the five-clawed dragon, the symbol of the Empress is the Phoenix. I noticed that to bolster the real-world actuality of the imaginary birds, they were always painted (and stitched, and carved) the same way (long neck with crested head, long legs, some peacock aspects to the plumage) and often in a natural setting — a bird among birds.

Second, it blew our brains how a different cultural attitude toward an animal can change its representation in art. I knew bats were considered good luck symbols (because of no more than a weird word coincidence), but did not realize how much a different connotation, even perception, of an animal could alter its representation in art. There were lots of bats with beautiful curly wings and cute, whiskery faces. And then some utterly wild ones that had white wings, pink heads and blue bodies (more like butterflies, really). Concluded that these were understood to not be realism in any way, but their own sort of ideogram.

[Single most astonishing object: the head-on-both-ends dragon seal of the final Emperor. It was not melted down like all previous ones because he was the last Emperor. Weighs 40 pounds. Incredibly detailed, utterly ferocious monster.]

Dragon seal.jpg

The Chaotic Creation of the Digital Newsroom

I’ll probably need a second life to read this book, but I wish that were more possible. This is a crucial tale and the selected examples are perfect. Abramson was of course correct about how to keep the professional ethics intact, but in retrospect that was not gonna happen under any circumstances. Must note that the one myth believed by too many otherwise smart people was that “local news” was going to be the fiscal salvation of modern journalism: that readers would pay more for hacked-out stories set in their neighborhoods than the most brilliant presentation and explanation of world-sized stories. I thought it mostly reflected contempt for the audience.