R.I.P.: Robert M. Pirsig

Writer who nailed his moment. 

Nice that Montana State University honored him.

(Though I have to be honest and say when he taught there, it was the toilet of writing-teacher jobs. But by all accounts he had wonderful effects and I wish I could have studied with him as …. a … well … 7-to-9 year old kid.)

I thought Zen and the Art was a captivating book, drew you into the spell of a flamboyant storyteller who was capturing a cross-America jaunt in the lineage of the Beats, the Merry Pranksters and itself as a final chapter. The land wouldn’t seem as open after the mid-’70s. I did not consider it profound, though I appreciated the boost for my interest in Buddhism and thought it laid out a detailed, off-beat, personality.

What I really resent, though, are comparisons that claim the book is a “post-counterculture” influence the way Carlos Castaneda is a ’60s influence.

Whatever its limitations and overrations, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is not a malevolent fraud.

Remember Biosphere 2?

I knew I’d seen Steve Bannon somewhere long ago.  I paid an intense but brief session of attention to the Biosphere 2 calamities more than 20 years back because it seemed like some muddled sci-fi story come to life. Biosphere 2 did not have clear, compelling explanations of its mission, and it seemed as much con job as science. Had no clue how common its tone and temperament would become in American culture and politics.

The Disappointing Development Beyond Disappointing in My Lifetime

Farhad Manjoo said it best in the Times:

an overall attitude that brutish capitalism is the best that nonelite customers can expect from this fallen world

That is our current condition in America. The anti-materialist crusaders in my youth warned that this was all to possible. Back then, I thought the danger was real, but that awareness of it would be enough to prevent it happening. But then, I thought the lessons of Viet Nam would be learned and we would not stumble into our current state of endless war. It coarsens, and corrupts and gives strength to the pernicious idea that we live in a cursed world where there’s no agency, only fate. And that chaos is only a form of change.

The Voynich Finds Its Niche

There’s no point resisting the conclusions of this essay. 

I’ve been fascinated by the manuscript ever since I heard about it as a romantic book-boy out in the sticks. I mentioned it early on in this blog. But I looked at my reproduction around the time I did that post and was disillusioned — how could I have thought the text was a made-up language? It’s merely decorative script-babble. Plus, the mysterious, secret-knowledge manuscript was a lot more common fantasy back in the ’60s and ’70s. I’m almost cynical enough now to put down the Voynich as being too famous for being famous.

Closing the Frut Loop

I mentioned these guys before and yes this is next year’s spring clean-up and I fond and played both vinyl.

Several points.

First I have to do my old–brain sketch of the state “oldies/teenage rock ‘n’ roll” in the late ’60s/early ’70s before American Graffiti turned the timeline around forever.

I’ve hated Sha Na Na from day one because they “honored” pre-Beatles rock and doo-wop by turning it all into a campy joke — which is another way of calling it “junk” like the stuffy Establishment. There were better offerings out there — a Montana State U performance by Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids was a scorcher and did more to inflame my curiosity about early rock and than anything I’d heard on the freakin’ radio.

But it was still — you know — kinda like Grease before Grease. Flattop and funny outfits and something stuck back in time more or less.

Any slice you take — rock and doo-wop before 1964 was a highly eccentric choice of repertoire in the late ’60 for a young rock and roll outfit.

Frut were motor-oil hippies who played a lot of oldies as though the tunes were utterly a part of a rock and roll continuum and that should be celebrated. And they had exquisite taste in oldies: “Bristol Stomp,” “Donna,” “Come Go With Me,” “Buzz Buzz-A-Diddle It,” “Ruby Baby,” “You Can’t Sit Down,” “Sea of Love,” “Peggy Sue.”

That list suggests a teen-sigh bias, but the beats were harder with Frut and there wasn’t any hearts ‘n’ flowers so common in that era. Instead they were undeniably kinda … punky.

This is encapsulated by the cover of the 2nd and last Westbound LP:


The is an ultimate victory for no-budget. You take a snapshot of the guys gettin tanked in some snork living room. But it conveys to the tracks in a good way.

Okay, three final negs:

The original tunes are mixed at best. For every “You Just Gotta Have What It Takes” (to rock and roll — which deserves a cover or two), there’s a “Take Your Clothes Off and I’ll Love You!” (Uh, guys, sexual negotiations were way past that phase even when that ditty was new. )

Westbound was notorious for bad sound on bad vinyl pressings and no more so than with Frut. My supercharged turntable reveals that the vocals were a lot stronger than I realized, but that does point to the one lapse on the otherwise superior Spoiled Rotten:

They cover “Save the Last Dance for Me.” You can challenge Freddy Cannon and even Dion, sure … but Ben E. King? Not so much.