July 4 – 11, 2015

The struggle to post more than once a week is real, I tell ya. Last Saturday (our nation’s birthday) I spent grappling with the Singular Endless Computing Project that is WXDU. But I also found time (as documented previously) to eat a hot dog & tater tots because America.

At nightfall we drove out to the boonies to wish Jenks & Elysse well on the occasion of their wedding. Useful tip: Every wedding party would be substantially improved by amateur backyard fireworks displays. Mark that down. A+++

I didn’t (and still haven’t) listen to any of the “Grateful Dead” farewell shows from Chicago. I never much cared for Bobby’s songs even when Jerry was alive, and I don’t really see the point of paying attention to the remnants of that band now that Jerry has been dead for 20 years.

(My curiosity has been piqued a little bit by Will Hermes’s coverage in Rolling Stone, and even moreso by Lee Ranaldo’s report from the front lines. NYCTaper has two of the three shows up for download, so maybe one day.)

Nevertheless, nostalgia & the zeitgeist demanded some Grateful Dead. I gave away my tape collection decades ago, but nowadays there’s the internet. I had a hankering for a good “Franklin’s Tower,” which is how, thanks to Google, I wound up at headyversion.com, a site where Deadheads attempt to settle the age-old debates over which shows featured the best versions of which songs via simple up-or-down vote.

Consensus suggested the October ’76 shows in Oakland, so it was off to archive.org. Be sure to scroll down & read the comments, as they are a remarkably accurate representation of any/all parking lot or dorm room Deadhead discussion.

My love/hate relationship with live Dead recordings goes back to high school, nearly 30 years, and all of those mixed feelings were brought into extra-sharp relief by this show, which features some exceptional highs scattered in amidst copious quantities of the wretchedness that every Dead hater loves to carp on.

I lapsed into a bit of a Twitter reverie:

My friend Bo stepped in & summed it up remarkably well:

I kept listening, though. Some things just get so baked into your brain that there’s no point in struggling against them.

In other news: Confederate flags are coming down all over parts of the South, going up in 10x strength all over other parts of the South. Harper Lee’s pre-Mockingbird debut novel, in which an older Atticus Finch turns out to be a reactionary racist, is finally published.

I haven’t read it, and I’m not going to read it (hell, as far as I can recall, I haven’t even read To Kill a Mockingbird), but it’s remarkably topical, if the reviews are to be believed. Near as I can tell, it’s all about how Atticus was fine with loving people of all races back in the 30s, when “everyone knew their places,” but by the mid-late 50s, he’d been spurred by the rise of the Civil Rights movement and the NAACP to choose sides. And as a white man in Alabama, he chose the only side that represented the preservation of the status quo & his own self-interest.

Today all the news is about the internecine battle between the pragmatist racists who want to take down the rebel flag to get themselves out of the spotlight & back into the comfortable shadows, and the absolutist racists who want to fly it from every pickup truck and public building in the land.

Sunday night we watched that soccer game, along with everyone else in the world. It was fun, although I was a little bit grossed out by all the cheering & “U S A !” chants from other people in the bar where we were watching. Soccer is supposed to be the sport of underdogs and weirdos, the sport that’s mocked & ignored by the “U S A !” contingent.

Plus it was embarrassing because the first half-hour of the game itself was embarrassing. I mean, I don’t know how else it could have been played, but it seemed untoward to keep racking up the points against a team who so clearly hadn’t bothered to actually show up, mentally.

There was a ton of great playing to watch, though. I just felt bad for Japan & thus was disinclined to jump up & applaud when we kept scoring ludicrous points against them.

This week I blazed through the new Charlie Stross Laundry Files novel, the Annihilation Score. Like all of the books in that series, it was pretty good. Unlike all of the books in that series, it was narrated by Mo O’brien (Bob Howard’s wife) rather than Bob. This was a welcome change, although Stross kinda struggled throughout the first half of the book to establish a voice for Mo that was substantially different from Bob’s.

Honestly, the whole series has kind of meandered slowly downhill since the Atrocity Archives, so I tackle each new book with diminished expectations. But I still read them — and enjoy them in the moment.

Last night we went to see Amy, the documentary about the decline & fall of Amy Winehouse. It was extraordinarily unpleasant to sit through, inasmuch as it kind of replicated the conditions under which she fell victim & eventually succumbed to drug addiction, alcoholism & bulimia. Lots of focus on her dysfunctional relationships & her struggles with celebrity; less & less attention paid to her art the longer the movie went on. It is in many ways as exploitative as the tabloid coverage that surrounded her when she was alive.

The filmmakers clearly intentionally used large amounts of footage of Amy entering & leaving buildings & cars under a barrage of flashbulbs & clacking shutters — it became a recurring motif throughout the second half of the movie. It was at times unbearable to watch — literally. Not the spectacle of Amy being besieged, but the actual flashing & clattering & yelling. In that sense, it was hugely effective as a device, but horrible to endure.

(I found myself thinking a lot about paparazzi, and about how digital photography has totally transformed that experience. Nobody was bothering to select angles or frame shots — they were just holding the shutter release down & shoving their cameras in her face. Were it me, I think I would devote a hefty percentage of my income to paying big burly dudes to grab & smash cameras, and settle the resulting lawsuits.)

Ultimately, I don’t think the movie did Amy justice as an artist at all, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t already familiar with her work. But it’s a grim depiction of the life & death of a modern supercelebrity.



July 4 – 11, 2015

2 thoughts on “July 4 – 11, 2015

  1. ron says:

    I often wonder whether or not those in the camp of the GD haters are themselves capable of playing a kazoo.

  2. Ha, well, at least in the case of my friends, the loudest Grateful Dead haters are musicians. But so are the loudest Grateful Dead lovers.

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