Monday, July 29, 2019

Hard rock for soft people

Remember when we used to make fun of those easy listening stations? That terrible schmaltzy elevator soundtrack for old people? Aren’t you grateful that we were hipper than that? We listened to new and exciting sounds, uptempo mod beats that captured the dynamic and heavy changes we were going through, expressed the intense emotions we were feeling like no generation before us had ever felt anything. Ever. That’s why we stick with those artists through dye jobs, heart surgeries, liver transplants. Because we know they won’t ask us to listen to anything we’ve never heard before. What could be easier?

Monday, July 22, 2019

Choose your own adventure

Somebody might be showing you their new car and tell you they’d gotten all the options but no they didn’t. You can’t do that. That’s what grown-ups know that younger people have yet to internalize: that every selection involves a reduction of options. If you spend Sunday morning in bed you can’t spend it at the park. If you spend your paycheck on beer you can’t spend it on rent. Every decision you make is a crapshoot, and sometimes what you get is actually crap. I prefer binary choices because the odds that I’m wrong are an acceptable 50 percent.

Monday, July 15, 2019

For real

Two weeks on the road visiting family both immediate and extended. Drove home through the rain to join my granddaughter teaching her boyfriend rummy 500. Later opened a folder of scanned images and saw for the first time photos of long-gone ancestors from before the Great War. Went to bed temporarily qualmless and sinking. Opened a book first thing this morning to read a short piece about Kafka by David Foster Wallace. And he (Wallace) writes “… our endless and impossible journey toward home is in fact our home.” I’m adrift here, in a good way, with nothing to add.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Nobody expects this

Back in the 15th century, expeditions from Spain were all over the world discovering new places. As history makes clear, this is because they were very inquisitive. Occasionally to a fault. Anyway, this led to words from the Spanish language entering general usage even for English speakers. For instance, on encountering a big lizard basking in the sun, one sailor might have said to another, “My, but doesn’t he look comfortable,” hence the modern term “Comodo Dragon.” Or even closer to home, in Europe: In Spanish, Germany is called Alemania, which makes sense because those people are crazy about beer.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Danny Boy

Originally, there was this folk tune called London Derriere, which was inspired I assume by a Piccadilly strumpet with a singularly impressive behind. It was collected in the 1855 book “The Ancient Music of Ireland” from the Society for the Preservation and Publication of the Melodies of Ireland, but didn’t generate much chart action until 1913, when a Englishman named Frederic Edward Weatherly published his version with new lyrics all about Irish people. It was a 1965 hit single for Detroit native Jackie Wilson, making it all in all one of the most egregious instances of cumulative cultural appropriation ever.