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.

Unresolved Music-Mind Matters, Pt. Whatever

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?

R.I.P.: Penny Marshall

“Laverne & Shirley” took place well after I had stopped watching regular TV series. And A League of Their Own is in my rankings, her second-best movie.

But her perfect work, and a landmark I think, is Big. It’s also my favorite Tom Hanks performance — he is in touch with how to feel and think like a child as, well, nobody his age could be and does an incredible job of portraying how a child in an adult body would pretend to be a grownup. The horrible gnarly matter of children and adult love and even (gulp) sex could have been screwed up so totally and seems to unfold the only way it could have worked. Josh’s interactions with best-buddy Billy are a marvel of tonal control as well as hoot after hoot jokes.

And, the first time we saw it, the ending made me cry and sense more vividly than I had in years how much I loved my Mother. No matter how warm and harmonious your childhood life is, every one of us wanted to ditch it with all our heart at some time. The final point of Big is: no, you don’t really want to throw it away, even if you could.

Conundrum of Isolated Human Tribes

This has puzzled me since I was a kid. Over the years, the romantic notion of the ideal-civilization “Lost Tribe” became obvious bullshit — they were much more likely to be impoverished and hostile — even murderously hostile — to outsiders.

This was the first spectacular incident that I can remember.

And now we have another one.

(For the record: explorers get sympathy; “missionaries” get their proper place in Dante’s universe.)

There Goes Simon’s Rhymin’

We voted this morning (Yes, Yes, Yes and Mr. Baker is toast and even better there was no doughnut table to guilt-trip you about not donating something to the polling-place school).

Then I did my initial listen to what, for now anyway, is Paul Simon’s final album, In the Blue Light. And it felt like closing a circle.

Back in Park Senior High, the simpering set adored Simon & Garfunkel, but I thought “Parsley” puke and even “Sounds of Silence” too quivering-nerve. “Bridge Over” was impossible to scoff away, however, and did provide my first revelation: the simp set was in love with Artie and Paul was ready to divorce all of them.

I think the Dean has had a damn-near-perfect ear for Simon through the decades and we responded to identical same tracks. Except that I always adored “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor,” which came out the year I became an official adult and started living in my own apartment. Yeah, here’s somebody mirroring my mind. But I did have trouble with “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War” — thought it was abstruse. I have not checked to see how much lyrics were modified, but sure enough, this is now a masterful metaphysician operation.

Biggest stinko of the whole set (I’ve listened to it twice and realized I did not even grok this cut the first time through) is that “Love” is track #2. It’s a plain regression to S&G manners and mores and even language. Worst of all, it confirms that part of Simon still respects simp swill. And if “The Teacher” is clearer than it used to be, I still can’t bother to pierce its opaque. It is abstruse.

“Darling Lorraine” is a casually complex example of the Simon the old pimple farms would never grasp — he became an adult, even a weathered adult, not just a pop star with years heaped on him. “How the Heart Approaches What It Yearns” pulls back every lonely era of my life and best of all “Can’t Run But” delights me anew as a twittering and trumpeting machine that radiates the sensibility of the saints.

Thanks for the trip.