Friday, March 30, 2018

Rattling in my brain pan

Hm -- I'm in a bit of a rut, aren't I? Summary: "You've got to forgive your parents, for God's sake." You'd never guess this was year 1 of the empty next nest, would you? Mebbe some backwards glancing will gestate other thoughts.
  • "Adulthood is overrated; maturity is underrated" -- Mike D considers post-Beastie Boy life. Sidenote: NYM has a fab annotation format to their interviews. I wish more outfits would use it. Heck, I wish I could use it.
  • Another Mike D quote I'm mulling over: "When I grew up in New York, the city was unique in that you could get music from all over the world here. Now you can get any music you want on your phone and New York, or Manhattan anyway, seems a lot less diverse." Related: CDs & vinyl are outselling downloads -- not good news for the industry.
  • "This was the era when documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman's Titicut Follies was such a devastating examination of the mental health system in Massachusetts that it was banned for over 20 years. This was the era of great academics like Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn putting their careers on the line for the sake of protest. It was a swirling vortex of anger, class struggle, racial divisions, and ecstasy found through LSD, spiritual communes, the occult, and something in the music. Was it folk? Was it garage rock? Was it the proximity to New York City and Newport that spoke to the musicality of Boston?" -- "It" was Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, a legendary and magisterial talent's most legendary and magisterial work.
  • "Please call us" -- this collection of classified ads from The San Francisco Oracle (1966-1969) does a terrific job of evoking the thrills, goofiness and heartbreak of that particular scene.
  • There's nothing particularly revelatory in this Smithsonian puff-piece about "All in the Family" -- except, in my case, the YouTube clips of Archie tirades. As I watched, it suddenly struck me: "Oh my goodness -- I'm the same age as Archie Bunker!" One quick Google of Carroll O'Connor and nope: he and Jean Stapleton were, in fact, younger.
One more I'm not just getting older, I'm getting old moment.
  • Mennonite content: Mennonite woman snags best license plate ever! If you've got eyes for a comely/studly Menno but are not yet a member of the tribe, here is the deep inside track -- you will be expected to sing it at some larger gathering involving way too much food. Your cue, before reaching for the plate: "Alright, people: 606?"

Friday, March 23, 2018

Music hath charms...

...but before we soothe, let us inflame (because the world needs more of that, doesn't it?).

The figure on the right bears a striking resemblance to JD; the figure on the left...

I've been a fan of "Colonel" J.D. Wilkes and The Legendary Shack-Shakers' Xtreme-Psycho-Billy stylings since Cockadoodledon't (2003). Wilkes' Fire Dream -- the follow-up to his (vis-à-vis the Shakers) divorce album After You've Gone -- is acoustic, and possibly more disturbing because of it.

This guy loves it, too:

I saw Between The Buried And Me open for this guy a couple of years ago. At the time their album Coma Ecliptic was a critical darling. Automata I isn't garnering quite the same love, which is a shame -- I think it is a more focused and driven and structurally impressive step forward for the band. Can't wait for II.

For "soothing" you can't beat Bill Frisell.

Or Brad Meldau.

"After Bach" -- very Bach-y, very Easter-y.

Speaking of Easter-y -- it's not a frame of mind I easily enter into. I tend to square my shoulders and frog-march myself through the Lenten Season and its conclusion. "You don't get the religion without the cross, empty tomb, etc., so suck it up and be happy for those who more easily dig it."

Behind the blue-and-white velvet rope I noticed that some from the "easily dig it" group were posting this guy's abject apology, followed by the offending video. And ... what can I say? ... the entire kit-and-caboodle hit me in the solar-plexus.

I sent the link to a number of friends, to see what they thought. I didn't get many responses back, but the consensus among those who did seemed to be, "You gettin' soft there, WP? (Not that that's a bad thing!)"

Ah, maybe I am. I approached my wife next.
She: It has this lovely, very gentle, call-and-response — not at all the bullying, “Can I get an 'amen'?”
Me: Yes — amen! And, I dunno maybe I'm stretching things, but don't you think it kinda syncs up with the back end of what René Girard is saying?
She: Hm. The whole Revelation thing.
Me: Revelation 5 — shall I recite?
She: . . . aaahmm . . . ? 
Plus, I am privileged to know people like this -- sincere folks who are stepping out and putting themselves on the line in an effort to do right and extend the table. They make their share of bone-headed mistakes to be sure, but I am grateful to be in their company, so what can I say but thank-you -- and shalom.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A Wrinkle In Time (Great Expectations)

Newsweek: So you’ve seen the movie?
Madeleine L’Engle: I’ve glimpsed it. 
And did it meet expectations?
Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is.
A precise, and (assuredly) approved, depiction of the story within.
L’Engle isn’t around to give us her frank opinion of the latest attempt to bring her book to screens. But if there is critical consensus it might be: It was the best of movies, it was the worst of movies. David Edelstein casts a gimlet eye on this hemming and hawing, and suspects his colleagues of soft-peddling their displeasure for fear of being read as un-woke. Taking a stab at same, he concludes, “Let me put a more positive spin on a negative review. The book is still out there for people to read: Please do so.”

Amen to that.

Any openness I might have had for this latest movie was quickly revoked when I saw the first trailer. I had zero issues with the casting of the Murry family — in fact, I was thrown by just how perfectly Chris Pine embodied my own conception of how the father appeared and behaved. The three witches and the worlds they introduce, however, seemed to come directly from current Disney stock (one daughter said, “Tim Burton’s Alice? — ugh”). I can’t imagine our beloved, contrarian bard summoning much patience for such predictably tawdry visual opulence.

I haven’t read everything L’Engle wrote — her best stuff is incomparably wondrous, but she wrote plenty that’s not. Regardless, I can’t recall from what I’ve read anything that suggested she was much impressed with movies in general. Stage, on the other hand, was a very big deal to her.

There is a great difference in kind between cinema and theatre. Audience experience of theatre is, by its nature, participatory and liminal. Everyone involved is filling in the blanks in their own unique yet communal way. Film is, by and large, “a wrap.” I suspect L’Engle reflexively distrusted the cinematic impulse to put definitive parameters on the beholder’s imagination.

Whatever the case, Madeleine clearly believed there was nothing more powerful than a girl reading — and loving — a book.

Amen to that, too.

Leah Schnelbach glories in “the sheer weirdness of [L’Engle’s] work” — please read. It is an excellent articulation of the esoteric power of L’Engle’s invitational fiction. That said, I was particularly struck by a single, digressional paragraph Schnelbach feels compelled to add, which begins, “I should mention that not all of this craziness was necessarily great. She did have a tendency to equate ‘light’ with good and ‘black’ with evil. She also perpetuated a really odd Noble Savage/Celt/Druid thing, and also some of her books promote much more gender normativity than I’m comfortable with . . . (etc, etc)” Reading this equivocation, it occurred to me that perhaps the most subversive idea L’Engle sowed within her readers’ consciousness was that they, like she, truly possessed the power to forgive not only beloved authors but parents, siblings, lovers,  — you know: the people who seem to wound us the most deeply.

Might I get an “amen”?

Friday, March 09, 2018

The last time I cried

 A nephew recently threw a multi-generational shindig in honour of his 30th. Those of us for whom 30 is a receding memory stuck mostly to ourselves, sipping déclassé brews and chatting amiably whilst the kids (30! What was that even like?) engaged in more robust varieties of socializing.

The neph's a passionate gourmand, and ensconced himself in kitchen triage, attending to fires inside and out while the scene bubbled happily around him. An early party trick included chicken (or veggie) wings, and a Hot Ones* line-up.
At some point in my last two decades, spice became a risk-management affair. I still appreciate a kick, but have received the heel hard enough to give hot sauce label warnings their due. I eyed the line-up warily. The only label I recognized was "Da Bomb"  we had a bottle cluttering up the fridge for a while before I finally threw it away, half-consumed. Flavourful stuff, but hotter than I want my chili to be.

Da Bomb was fourth of, I believe, eight or nine sauces in ascending order of Scoville units. I tried the milder sauces, then finally reached for Da Bomb. I was surprised to find it less scorching than I recalled. Emboldened, I reached for the sauce that came next  something called "Mad Dog dabbed a little on a freshly fried wing, and . . .


Hard to say what came first  hiccups, full-body sweat, copious tears, etc. All I know is that asking for a glass of milk felt like a mistake, because my teeth burned hotter when I exhaled than when I inhaled.

As the youngsters gathered round the old duff melting into a hiccuping puddle of sweat and mucous, the neph's charmingly candid wife admitted she may have confused the order of the hot sauces when she moved them from the bar to the serving table.

No matter. As I recovered, the young bucks in the room sprang to the table to test their mettle. Debate ensued as to whether Mad Dog was the hottest or merely the penultimate.

I didn't — and don't  care. There will be no Mad Dog in our fridge. There will be no more crying today.

Friday, March 02, 2018

Friday Frippery

Brendan Hines' sleep-deprivation-inspired fizz will have to suffice for a post this week.