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.
I said that this blog is a place to throw out issues great and small that I haven’t sorted out as an arts critic. So here’s another.
I notice that as I’ve gotten older I’m less drawn to performers who do not seem to have any clear path to growing up in their youthful work. I recently went back over some ’80s Memphis Garage Rockers anthologies and those seem delightful rampages — but frozen in time, which is fine. Into the ’90s releases I have more and more hunger for songwriters and players that are not stuck on a road to playing what they were at 18 when they’re 36, and that’s all they got.
I’m at the same time reacting heavily to the glorification of oldies (both as releases and performances). Is this merely giving in to the idea of pop music as a career process rather than a cosmic spasm of the soul? Is this because an increasing chunk of what I find contemporary sounds have no age references? Is this because anger and assimilation are no longer landmarks on a tidy age line?
Two final birthday notes. Instead of assembling a knockout-album soundtrack, my birthday surprise this year was that I played a record for one of my favorite intriguing reasons: I could not remember a single thing about it (happens when you dig into the hard-to-reach back stacks of CDs). Turned out to be very intelligent and very entertaining:
Giancarlo Vulcano, Unfinished Spaces (Distant Second, 2011)
The soundtrack for a documentary about Cuban National Art Schools (!!) that combines Cuban and classical avant-gardes from a fellow who does many TV soundtracks (??). Anyway, 20 quite short tracks that keep you swaying and bopping along the whole way. Check it. Sooner than I did.
Next, an afternoon drive in the cold sunshine where again and again I recalled that one of the last times my Mother spoke to me was on my birthday the year she passed away (about six months later). She was far from lucid then, but suddenly she came out with this:
“I remember the first time I saw you — when they placed you, wrapped up, on the counter next to me.” (This was the era of anesthesia childbirth.) She had never, ever, said this to me before.
I remember the plain little rooms of the pre-hospital “medical center” where I was born. And yes, at least a few times each year on this day, the two of us are back there.
Captivating meditations on sleep and esp. dreams. I may have mentioned this before, but Mother was fixated on her dreams, many mornings recalling them in detail. I have a very peculiar book of hers that purported to explain everything in dreams as some sort of signifier or signal or warning. Offers no research justifications beyond the way obvious: yes, dreaming dead people you knew have come back to life is scary and probably a warning that something unexpected is going to happen.
I’m gonna come out and say it — most years there’s at least one wonderful record I hear but cannot explain satisfactorily. In 2018, it’s Minor Empire, Uprooted (World Trip).
Here’s the scoop.
Go hear them if you can.
But pick up that CD for sure.
Sometimes the ocean in which we are the merest of ripples can deliver tiny joys. Today on our walk through the park, after seeing the rather yucky slug on the walkway, I mentioned that it seemed like years and years since we had seen any Woolly Bear caterpillars and how I remained fascinated (in fun) with their ability to predict the upcoming winter.
We then proceeded to see six of them, all very small, four edging along and two squished. Still have a little tingle from my words made fuzzy flesh.
From “Police Incidents”
First, a classic Students Are Back muck-up:
“At 11:13 AM, a caller reported that a couch was stolen from outside their apartment door. Later in the day, the caller reported finding her couch in another apartment. The resident said his roommates must have brought it in and the caller insisted it was her couch, according to the report.”
Next, some Street Surrealism:
“At 4:30 PM, a caller reported that a man approached the caller and her friend, asked to use their cell phone and said he needed to speak with Herbie Hancock, the jazz artist.”
I wrote about my life-changing first encounter with his work. That transcendent jolt was followed by I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream, Dangerous Visions, “A Boy and His Dog,” and so many others …
Obit with a lot of scoop and a terrific photo.
Joyce Carol Oates just put this brilliant comment on Twitter:
If you haven’t read her incredible 1966 story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been,” you must.
It is a masterpiece beyond compare.
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.