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.

Famous-Misfit Fables

I see there’s a new translation of “Aladdin,” and I’m a bit tempted. Some observations:

From the printed versions I’ve read, the original Aladdin is precisely as different from his Disney rendition as the original Pinocchio is from his Uncle Walt treatment. Primarily in being almost repulsively unpleasant characters with a lot more doom and violence swirling around them. Since I saw the animated version of Wooden Head well before I read the source, it was a searing jolt to make the adjustment. Then I realized, whoah. Carlo Collodi’s story has survived for a reason — it’s scary, even harrowing, like the best of the oldest fairy tales.

With Aladdin, the most profound change is with the genie — fables often suggest that genies take on the personality of their Masters and Aladdin’s is a monster. Couldn’t have that on the big screen, of course, and it’s a testament to Robin Williams’s genius that he incarnated a non-insipid alternative. Finally, I have to concur that “Aladdin” is merely lumped in with the so-called “Arabian Nights” — it reads different and tells a story in a way that none of the others do.

PS 2019: Anthony Lane fills in more details I did not know.

Who Wins If the Lottery Loses?

Here’s another issue that even Grown Olde me can’t quite sort out.

I was confidently informed in publications for kids that I read in grade school that lotteries were being ended and even outlawed in America because the people who could least afford it spent the largest part of their income buying tickets. The same problem casinos present. I’ve always disliked gambling because I know first-hand it can ruin lives and because ultimately it plays on human weakness.

But now I understand it isn’t as simple as that. Casinos, and more commonly the lottery, can be embraced out of desperation — the only way for true discriminated-against outsiders to grab some real power. I’m not certain how true it is, but I get it that they feel the lottery odds may be long but the straight-life odds are zero.

So I now argue that players can include the frantic as well as the foolish. That lotteries might be eliminated because they give too many undesirables a shot at moving up.

Floating around in my head, still.

The Portrait Of Dorian Facebook

Is it new tech or the interwebs or the combination of the two? Anyway, I learned a looong time ago that there was a sort of evil happy-talk associated with online business operations. “Hey, trust us, trust us — we’ll keep things idealized!” The only excuse is that back in them there days, internet commerce really did seem to have open possibilities. But ever since the Amazon flood, that’s been a fool’s delusion.