dual vision

Two people I respect and care about and whose taste I appreciate, only partly because it is similar to my own, have again simultaneously expressed their belief that I should work at making the writing thing pay. And so I will honor their encouragement by making a full and earnest effort at that. 

Now I'm rereading things I've saved over the past 15 years or so, and I ran across this brief essay from 2008—no idea why I wrote it, but it seemed apt for these our times. 

There is nothing new under the sun. Solomon wrote that several thousand years ago, according to Bible traditionalists. Actually, the passage reads, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” And it might have been written only about 2300 years ago, well after Solomon’s lifetime, but the point is that people have been saying this throughout mankind’s journey. In one sense it has always been true, but not in every sense. 

Reality may always remain more or less the same, but our perceptions of it have always been in a state of change. And what we do with those perceptions does sometimes create newness. Monet was the first artist to become famous for painting just exactly what he saw, rather than filling in details with what he knew to be there. His paintings are best viewed from a distance of at least several feet, as closing in on them enhances the lack of detail and makes the subject unclear. His large landscapes allow us to see exactly what he saw, if we look at them from a proportional distance to his own distance from the actual view. As Monet aged, his eyesight deteriorated, yet he still painted only what he could see, which gives us a wonderful opportunity to appreciate his changing perspective. 

He’d have made a great eyewitness to a crime in that he would neither have added or subtracted information based on something other than sensory cues. Most people aren’t capable, it seems, of describing only what they saw and heard; no more and no less. Police investigators work hard to distill all the viewpoints they are offered into factual, objective evidence. 

Our ideas about how the world works changes as we become more scientifically advanced and adept. But what we do with those ideas is pretty much the same as what we’ve always done: we argue over them, start fights and even wars over them, or ignore them all together and continue on blithely in a state of general ambivalence. 

Computer technology has created rapid changes in the art and media industries, but the subjects most important to those industries are the same as always; what people desire, what they believe they need, what they believe is right or wrong with the world surrounding them and inside their own heads. Artists, marketing firms, and advertising agencies still attempt to influence these desires and beliefs in much the same way they always have; through our physical senses and our emotions. An artist’s motivation is said to be more pure because his or her work is not created in order to take advantage of those who view it, however, the line separating artistic integrity from marketing strategy has been the subject of concern since, well, probably since the days of Solomon. 

So sometimes our changing perceptions lead to newness in thought and idea. Sometimes the new ideas create chaos, other times they founder, still other times they lead to positive action. Sometimes they are received in a spirit of enlightenment, and at other times we view them with a jaded eye. This has always been true for mankind, and so, in that respect, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Our patterns remain in place, rotating through cycles the way the earth rotates through seasons. It’s all in how you look at the thing.


Bread Pudding and Circuses and the Demise of Google Plus (pt 1)

This one is a bit critical. You have been warned. The next one will have sugar added. But it is punctuated with frivolity to make things more bearable for the Reader with some of my favorite songs from the G+ era, and images from the Bussard Collector.

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Today while perusing international headlines I was reminded of the time I shared a photo and description of some bread pudding I made and was harangued by an English person because it wasn’t an example of early 1950s British post-war food rationing. BREAD PUDDING CANNOT HAVE ANYTHING FUN OR INTERESTING IN IT. I think there was an implication that if I was being “fancy” with it, I was insulting people who knew it only as desperation pudding. THERE IS A RIGHT AND WRONG WAY TO MAKE EVERY FOOD YOU GUYS. 

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Whereas I was taught to take bread, milk, eggs, sugar, and build on that however I wished to do, not just as a last ditch effort at dessert, but maybe sometimes just that.

I’ve been even poorer than I am now, which is hard to reconcile, since things can’t be a whole lot worse and still hang together, but I do know about making a treat for the kids from Grape-Nuts and an old apple. Never, though, had I imagined being confronted with an admonition regarding The One True Bread Pudding. I mean, Google it? There are as many ways to make bread pudding as there are people willing to eat it.


Why am I sharing this? Well. Something important continually reinforced at Google Plus is that linear insular thought is by no means a “white American” phenomenon. My own insular view had been that there weren’t as many narrow thinkers as there really, really are. In every aspect of daily life, apparently. It grew exhausting, because it was one thing to realize people are politically naive or ignorant or lacking in context, but fully another to realize that no matter the topic, there were always going to be arguments about the One True Way of it all. Even by otherwise intelligent people.

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Some of the things people humorlessly and tediously argue over include: ketchup, daylight saving time, Marvel vs DC, and something I enjoy that you’d never try again because of that one time 20 years ago that you had a bad version of it so that’s all it could ever be, ew, the worst. 

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And the lack of awareness about how other people live astounded me. The You Lot contingent drove me mad. What do you know about 325 million people hailing from every part of the world living across a vast geographically complex continent that you can blithely drill it all down to “You Lot Think XYZ?” 

Here on this vast expanse, we don’t even agree about what goes on a hamburger. And why should we? But this taught me that smaller countries that were previously very homogenous had a certain long time order to their lives that has really never existed here. And the remnants of that life still inform many of their views. 


Which is how some of you got the Brexit fiasco, and how we got to the point where 1/3 of people in our own space think their “way of life” is built on a zero sum mode of reality; if anyone else’s life improves, it is at the expense of their own, because they live according to a fairly narrow archaic train of thought; much like in some parts of India where people still live according to the caste their grandparents were born into. And so we have a president the rest of the world laughs at and despises, and no matter how awful he is on a daily basis, it never matters to his contingent, because they know that they know that they know how things ought to be.

Grampa
But it isn’t only the people we think are on “the other side” who are like this. 

As much as the rest of us acknowledge the mutability of humanity, there’s a sizeable number of people who, liberal-minded or not, see things only according to their own light, through their own filters, and by their own train track logic. You might be one of them, though you are a busy bee online sharing the best activist memes and Thinking Well of People Who Are Different From You.

Applause
I realize this sounds mean, but I’ll distill it down to two things: 

1. Never assume the experience you’ve had or read about is the One. I bet, for example, if I visited Britain, I would not find that people eat only curry and chips and puddings made from cheap white sandwich loaf. Don’t be like Trump with his goddamn “Many People Have Told Me,” because it’s an invention of a narrow mind that needs to be The Correct Person At All Times. Yes, you. You were shown that the thing you posted about the other side was entirely fabricated, but because you can’t bear to be wrong, you made it about your “philosophies” instead of just admitting for once that you’d been had. I think you think you are in a competition 100% of the time, which, honestly, sounds completely exhausting, and not at all self-aware.

And if you, a person from Somewhere Else, visited Portland or Orlando or LA or New York, you have seen one city in the U.S during one season. That’s all. You are not an expert on any aspect of America because of that and a few exciting TV shows any more than I am an expert about The Correct Way to Make Pasties because I lived in Michigan for six years and also have watched Midsomer Murders. 


2. This matters so so so much right now, as the political atmosphere in many parts of the world is burgeoning with dangerous ideals, and most of us don’t realize at any time how much it matters because our daily lives have changed very little so far. Here we are on the internet talking about Umbrella Academy, right? “That’s how they get you.” It’s, nearly literally, bread and circuses. It is also, to mix metaphors, that we are frogs in water which is being heated to boiling point—nearly literally. 

 analogies
So yes, I will miss Google Plus greatly. It was a good nearly eight years, and what doomed it was not the endless experimentation we were quietly put through, but the general attitudes people have about it and everything else: false perceptions, hasty judgments, impatience, and a sudden bandwagon rush to embrace Facebook that I bet a whole lot of those same people are now regretting. Hahahahahhhhaaaaaa.

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We could have had it all, and nearly did. 

But I won’t miss all of what we had; it was as riddled with the truth about humanity as anything could be: We have a whole lot of potential, but down here at the root level, we’re just well-dressed ants living beneath a decaying log. We don’t need to compete with each other to be the best at being poor or at being “open-minded” or anything else. We just need to keep from setting ourselves on fire.

PS: pretty soon, I promise, I'm going to write another one of these about how terrific G+ actually was, because it was, even though some of you who weren’t there having a good time with us enjoyed acting smugly like it was a random episode of Shields and Yarnell for you to make ignorant fun of, because: see everything I just wrote. 

Flash


The watching things kind of malaise, day one

Sometimes when I get the late winter malaise, reading doesn’t feel very good and so I watch things; either endless rewatches of Midsomer Murders or Inspector Morse or Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, or things I have overlooked that want some attention. Not usually foreign language things; at least not on day one, because I might shut my eyes for a bit and miss something.

Yesterday I started to catch up on Murdoch Mysteries, had two episodes of that, but it didn’t fit my mood. So I watched some movies. Clicking on the images takes you to a trailer.

First I watched Crooked House, from 2017, with an intriguing role played by Glenn Close. I have read the book several times; it was one of the first Agatha Christies I read, because I was a kid and liked the title. I wasn’t sure if they kept the original ending, but was willing to be either pleasantly surprised or mildly annoyed. Either way, the reviews and ratings for it were all over the place, and after watching it, I can see why. (Here's a review that liked it more than I did.) It was super stylish, and had a groovy atmosphere with some fun performances. But the P.I. office conceit was more air than there; a little more could easily have been made of it. And the rest was oddly edited. I felt like I was watching something that could have been really great. Instead it was…unbalanced. Well, the story is meant to set you off balance. Just probably not in the way that it did. I'm glad I watched it, though. 75/100

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Next, I watched An Inspector Calls, from 2015. This is based on an old play I had not read or seen before. I had a rough idea of the story, but was not prepared for it at all, which is a good thing. I looked up a few reviews first; The Spectator haaated it, so I thought perhaps that was a promising sign. They didn’t even bother trying to understand the context J. B. Priestley was concerned with, at all, but that’s par for their course. And it was nicely eerie, well-paced, and David Thewlis was terrific in his role.

The movie is not perfect; the nature of styling a film like a play sometimes makes a viewer feel sort of remote, but stlll it was stylish, gripping and thought-provoking, and I’d recommend it to people who can enjoy a fairly static setting and mostly dialogue. 85/100

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Finally, I turned my attention to exploring some Tom Hiddleston roles. Lately I’ve been fascinated by him. I didn’t really get the Loki love, though I do enjoy that character, but after I saw him in The Night Manager, I was intrigued. And he’s a very interesting person to explore on YouTube. (This is a smart 17 minute conversation about adapting that book.) I maybe have thoughts now, about someone far too young (video) to be having thoughts about (images.) But I realized I hadn’t seen him in anything (maybe?) besides that and Crimson Peak, so I chose three movies I knew little about, read up on them, and then began with Only Lovers Left Alive, from 2013.

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I liked it a lot. I don’t know who else I know who would; if you ever describe things as “too arch,” definitely not you. I think three, possibly four of my six offspring would dig it. Tilda Swinton was terrific, but of course she was. The Detroit setting is perfect, and though I haven’t been there in 20 years, I recognized it, which is something I appreciate. There are some wide streets there with empty houses on them that are simultaneously tragic and beautiful, and make you feel like you are in the middle of absolutely nowhere instead of on the edge of a large city. I hear they’re working on that, guess I hope so. 

Only Lovers Left Alive is a slow-paced stylish dialogue about day to day existence, what matters in it: love, mostly what doesn’t: everything else. And that’s about all. But I found it rich viewing, and might watch it again after a two cocktail evening to reexperience the mood/trance music in an extra relaxed frame of mind. 90/100  


Thursday this and that

I woke up with this song in my head, the original version, but the Mel Tormé recording always pops into my head when I'm thinking about it. 

When I was little, and older vocalists who sang "standards" would try to score with pop hits, it made me so uncomfortable. Now I understand they were just trying to stay relevant in a world that no longer had teams of songwriters churning out [music by/lyrics by] for singers to eventually take and make their own. Little wonder they hated early rock and roll; it must have seemed so silly and ephemeral (as it largely was,) but later pop hits seemed like fair game at first, only they weren't. Even singing a banal Carpenters song took a certain light youthful touch most of them didn't have.

It feels sorta sad to realize that now. Most of those people were relegated to singing the same old thing they'd started with, to ever aging and shrinking crowds and during guest appearances on afternoon talk shows, prime time variety shows, and The Love Boat. And then all of that went away, too. 

Only a few of them lived long enough to see their music revived and appreciated again during the file-sharing years and nascence of YouTube. But here we are, fighting over the original goods at estate sales alongside west coast jazz and classic rock collectors. And we have room in our hearts for many more different styles of music than previous recent generations did.

this is too long. but I really appreciate the slow, slow tense build-up. eight minutes will do, though, to love humans for awhile.


Here is a conversation I had with someone my age about his first complete viewing of The Lion King. Of course if I'd realized he wouldn't have checked the connections before asking about the problem, most of it would be unnecessary. But then I was thinking this is something else we need to do a lot less often these days, and he just took his setup for granted. It's funny or alarming or I don't know, how quickly our patterns change. Screen Shot 2019-02-28 at 9.16.41 AM

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The Lion King is pretty epic, and it has sumptuous sounds and visual artistry, and I'm mildly disappointed in his reaction to it. Oh, well. I wonder what he would think of Marvel's live version of African landscape? He'd notice you enter Wakanda from it in a similar manner to entering Themyscira from the sea, but hopefully he wouldn't pick up on that note so singularly as to lay down the rest. 


Next, here is a blog post I wrote just about nine years ago. Gosh, nine years ago me was so young. And comparatively full of mental energy. It's incredible how much has changed since then. My sons are grown up, the daughter mentioned in it has her own family now, and that New Jersey garden is hundreds of miles away. But it was a sweet though brief time in my life. I will probably share some other posts like this one now and then for awhile.


Do you watch The Orville? It's one of a handful of current TV shows I am very happy with. People sometimes complain that all the nostalgia and pop culture knowledge in it is from mid-late 20th century U.S.A. I think that's a hilarious conceit, personally, but I also wonder if some specific future era will look back at our youth and find that time one of the most appealing, the way people are currently fascinated with (a highly fictionalized version of) 15th century Europe? It could happen. 


Hmm, not wanting to end this post on what is essentially a commercial, let me just say that I'm still thinking over what the space is best suited for these days, however, I like having it as a collection container for whatever happens to be on my mind, and can only hope a few other people like seeing what's there, as well. Let's find a photo in the Bussard Collector to finish the page! (Probably the whole blog could just be devoted to whatever I have saved on my hard drive over the past few years, tbh.)Addio-a-Gabriele-FerzettiThis is Gabriele Ferzetti. Wasn't he dreamy? Click on the photo to see a film clip featuring him with Monica Vitti; you see mostly her face rather than his, but, well. And then so. You should just watch this whole movie, L'Avventura, if you've never seen it. 


Monday Miscellany

I have 90% prepared a blog post on the letdown of hearing the top 50 songs of 1982, but it will keep. I’m going to cover the highlights of my day yesterday, instead. It will be interspersed with a few of the songs I have played in obsessive amounts that are from…THIS VERY CENTURY. 

I know. But I was informed I spend too much time on nostalgia. This is incorrect. All the nows are still now. I heard “Knee Socks” yesterday, though, and the beat is back in my head for awhile. The video here is a cool slightly stripped-down live version, but this is the album recording that can stay with me for days.

IT WAS SUNNY YESTERDAY! AND THERE IS SUN RIGHT NOW! I doubt that will last; two entire days of sun in Cincinnati in late February is not even a thing. But for now, I am soaking it in and getting things done. 

I was trying to clean the front room, where the TV is, and that involved taking apart the vacuum cleaner again. But when I reassembled it, the vacuumed dirt still didn’t reach the canister. As I had cleared every tube and opening, and shook out the filter, this was puzzling. 

I took my son to Meijer to pick up something he wanted and was disappointed to find no Meyer lemons. Later I had a conversation with another son, who is assistant manager of a Kroger produce department, and he told me he and the manager decided they would never order any because they just go bad. That was so irritating to learn, but he said the larger Kroger would have them.
amusing live performance of this song

Between those two things, I was rereading a comment someone made to me at Google Plus and thinking about how uncomfortable it made me. I’d told this person before to stop making personal comments like that, but he doesn’t get it. I talked to two people about it who both agreed my reaction was sound. Only the more I thought about it, the more upset I became, what with that and the vacuum cleaner and the lemons, so I stopped what I was doing and took some comfort measures.

I put on some Tom Hiddleston speaking in foreign languages videos on YouTube, and made some risotto. Risotto is a nice meditative thing to make, and I will show you how in my other blog later today. 

Did I doze off after that? Have you?

It was still sunny later in the afternoon after more things that actually matter got done so I turned my attention to the big canvas I want to finish painting on. Well, I turned my attention to finding an audiobook to listen to while working on it, but just as I got started, a threeway text conversation began about my son arranging all the oranges in the known world in order to win a Kroger produce department contest, and that’s when I learned about the Meyer lemons, and was mad again, but I did get some painting done. Paint
My son was home by then, the costermonger one, and we decided to drive together to gigundous Kroger for a few things. They had the Meyer lemons marked at $1.99/lb, because they do have a tough time selling them to these food heathens, and he paid for me to have three bags, also two bottles of Ommegang Three Philosophers, one of my favorite domestic ales, and then we went home to drink strong ale and watch The Lion King, which he didn’t remember ever seeing, beyond a couple song videos.

He was just blown away by the movie, and yes, the beer enhanced that, but anyway, we spent about three and a half hours watching it because we had to pause now and then to discuss 2D animation and so forth, and it was really a very rewarding time. Ale
Oh, but also, my other son took off the vacuum hose and found a bent bobby pin in it. No one here uses bobby pins, so that was odd. It did explain why I thought the hose was clear when it wasn’t, because the pin was wrapped around the inside perimeter, but that thing was causing most, though not all of the trouble. 

Lemons


Friday Farrago

I keep a Text Edit document open and paste things into it, to look up, think about, or use later. Today I'm going to share some of what's on the current one. And random images downloaded to my phone.

Here's a list of famous people who have hazel eyes. I meant to look some of them up to see if they look like mine, but was too lazy so far. Kelly Clarkson, Brooke Shields, Kristen Stewart, Ben Affleck, Jenny Mollen, Olivia Munn, Jason Statham, Tyra Banks, Jeremy Renner, Dianna Agron, Steve Carell, David Beckham, Heidi Klum, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Jessica Biel, Jason Bateman, Demi Moore, Rebel Wilson and Angelina Jolie.

I just looked up a few and they seem to all have the blue/green kind instead of the yellow/green/brown kind, except Jada Pinkett-Smith, but all her photos seemed to have colored contacts, so whatever. Oh, here's one. 86305602

"being a grown-up, and your petulant fascism about the things you like" 

Probably a topic I wanted to address, because it often is. People are so weird, to me, about their tribal consumer preferences, and actually judging people who are not interested in them. But also people like to talk about how they wish to not be a grown-up, and I do not relate to that at all. I get that they just mean all the pressure and worry sucks, but being adults is our general life goal, and we get to drive cars, have sex (theoretically, anyway,) and drink cocktails, so. Dsc_3651_20367388613_o

Anyway. Like what you like, and pat yourself on the back for it being "nerdy," if that enhances your pleasure. None of it is a contest.

Avarice is enthroned as his bosom's lord, and assumes the style of the Great King; the rational and spirited elements sit humbly on the ground at either side, the one immersed in calculation, the other absorbed in the admiration of wealth. The love of honour turns to love of money; the conversion is instantaneous.  The man is mean, saving, toiling, the slave of one passion which is the master of the rest: Is he not the very image of the State? He has had no education, or he would never have allowed the blind god of riches to lead the dance within him.  And being uneducated he will have many slavish desires, some beggarly, some knavish, breeding in his soul.

--Plato, The Republic

That probably needs no explanation.
Nihilist

The United States has grown wary of impeachment. The history of its application is widely misunderstood, leading Americans to mistake it for a dangerous threat to the constitutional order. That is precisely backwards. It is absurd to suggest that the Constitution would delineate a mechanism too potent to ever actually be employed. Impeachment, in fact, is a vital protection against the dangers a president like Trump poses.

This is true, and I think it is a paraphrase of an essay in The Atlantic. The reason it is important to me is because it's yet another indicator of the world we're living in which is determined to ignore contextual logic in favor of hysteria, keywords, and short-sightedness. But I don't feel like repeating myself today.
Mark

palliative care for a non-viable fetus ≠ the execution of newborns. 

Duh.

The press keeps trying to manipulate what people have said lately in a fervent attempt to stir up even more divisions between us. Let's just say no to that. No one is going around trying to "abort" healthy babies after they're delivered. Sunny

You were not a 1940s movie star or a major league baseball player. You certainly weren’t Jim Garner. You were not even Robby Benson.

Oh, I wanted to draw on that for a bit of writing on boys and their self-conscious need to assume if you were friendly to them you liked them and wasn't that icky? Whatevs. But also, Robby Benson. I'd forgotten about him. He turned out awfully well, too, which is nice.

Here's a link to a super terrible website about the village where my grandpa grew up.

It has a chicken salad recipe for some reason. My mom would have said they meant well. Montalbano

Finally, I made a list of shows that appear on American TV at varying times that I follow/am trying to follow. I think it's incomplete? Because there isn't a strict schedule anymore. I left out the ones you have to work to find in alternative places.

The Cool Kids
Criminal Minds
Doctor Who
DuckTales
Endeavor
Midsomer Murders
The Orville
Riverdale
Stranger Things 
Young Sheldon (way better than the show which spawned it)

But also I hope to see A Discovery of Witches, not because I was super keen on the series after the first book but because I just now learned Matthew Goode plays Clairmont, and I am ready for that. If I don't have to pay someone extra for it.


Speaking of obsessions…

I love this, you know. I love it so much.

And lots of other people do, too. I feel they are my tribe on this big strange planet.

I feel a little bad about it, but my favorite is the only one on here sung by a man; the Polish one. I just do respond to a man’s voice, and I like his. I mean, I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t good. But for me, he’s almost the new version of original Dutch Guy, except Polish. Very pleasing. 

(This is original Dutch Guy.)

My new favorites otherwise are: Arabic, because the language is neat fitted into that space and there’s extra groovy harmony, Chinese (Mandarin,) because she is awesome and could sing me into a calm dreamy place, plus there’s a fun vocal background bit, and Czech, which is maybe how a woman would sound good to me if I were attracted to women. 

Apparently, the German version is also sung by a man. Let’s hear it.
Ooh, these lyrics are way different than the original German version. They make a lot more sense now for the show, though the original sounded pretty fun. 

The Latin American Spanish was also left out of the collection.
That’s pretty cool. I like the pacing.

 

Speaking of obsessions and my tribe, the Wall Street Journal posted a fluff piece on how people are going out in winter with no socks on. As it was posted at Facebook, naturally there were people snidely decrying others who do things purely in the name of fashion. Like, your choices are facile and stupid because they aren't the ones I make. 

But then I saw this and responded, and the world felt better, and then the DuckTales thing turned up, so today is not too bad so far. Sensitivetypes(I removed the names even though it was a public post, since people have odd illogical ideas about how that works.)

I do own socks. First, my oldest daughter sent me a couple of funny pairs that go up past my ankles and are just right with boots, and then one of my sons gave me a large package of thin, cute, “no show” ones for Christmas year before last, which are good for the suede oxfords that need light cushioning and for when I have a cold or etc. Between these two sets I am set for a long time to come.

In general, though, ugh. Socks are the clothing equivalent of crumbly meat mixed into in smooth food or raisins in cookies, or bubble tea. Life is far more enjoyable without them. The person who mentioned foot odor should probably just take better care of her skin or shoes or both. It’s generally avoidable. 

 


They're playing my song again

I was thinking about the nature of pop music and how it changes a lot from time to time, by which I don’t mean instrumental trends, or what kind of beat or who’s laying it down, but the formula itself, which changes less often than those little details. 

Bearing in mind it hasn’t been my primary form of music since I was a child, I still think, looking back over it all, that what I did sing along with in the 70s was not materially different than what my oldest daughter (again, briefly,) sang along with in the mid-late 90s. But when I overhear a “top pop” song lately, it’s something else altogether. I first noticed it when the neighbor next door would have on what seemed like a station that played only Disney Channel interstitials, while the kids were in the pool. The formula was even more basic and narrower in scope, and super artificial.

I would have accepted this:
 
But what they played is what kids around my youngest son’s age (20) on down to around 10 will have adapted their ears to, unless they grow up, as he did, never really hearing it at all. At least there’s a lot more variety for their parents to share with them and for them to discover on their own through the internet. Some will develop broad tastes swiftly, others wlll settle into one thing or another and stay there, at least for awhile. My son listens to: Radiohead, Interpol, David Bowie, and some classical music. But he’s pretty young, and might add in another band some day.

When a song comes along like “Funk You Up” did a few years back, everyone pays attention because they got it just right, combining new and old elements that most of us respond to; in this case it was nostalgic with a contemporary edge. But that isn’t happening very often lately. I don’t think that means it won’t anymore; this era is just not one of the…better ones for it.

My middle son listens to current alternative music and that has recently taken a rather banal turn, to my ears. (Sorry, Brendon.) That waxes and wanes, though. The youngest millennials, like him, probably take comfort in it. I’m waiting it out. 

Back to me! I listened to pop music most heavily from ages 3-13, and you know, during one of the best eras for it; 1968-1978. It would be silly for anyone to dispute that, so we won’t try. It had everything pop music was meant to have, and the best examples of it are still good to listen to now. The novelty songs from that time haven’t aged so well, of course, nor the ones meant for what were then called “teenyboppers.” I liked some of those at the time, because I was a child. They weren’t the ones I obsessed over, though. 

Here are some songs that I either craved hearing as much as possible, or that I did own and so I would put the record on and let it repeat for an hour or more, with brief explanations as I remember them now. Laugh as much as you like.

"Reuben, Reuben," by whoever…(but this is a hilarious version featuring Patsy Cline)

When I was 7, my grandma gave me a record player for my birthday, with a box of children’s records. It was a green and white carrying case, and you opened the lid to set it up to play records. I had it til I was 16. I adored the song "Reuben, Reuben," and played it over and over again. Also, "Buffalo Gals." Such fun to sing along to.

"Brandy," by Looking Glass (turns out the lead singer would have been cute if he got a proper haircut)
I think this is one of those deals wherein the band played something different from their usual repertoire, it hit big, and they had to suffer with it thereafter. Too bad. I related hardcore to this song at age 7 or 8, and pretty much all along for years afterwards. If I confess I also had a thing for "Delta Dawn," you might just feel sorry for me or think I was a strange child, and as that was established long ago, let’s leave it.* 

I grew up thinking I would wear a braided silver chain and mourn happily for the man who loved me briefly and then went away. I just now realized I’ve sort of written it into my NaNoWriMo stories about Lena Spano and Lily Palm. Hmm. Well, anyway.

"On and On," by Stephen Bishop (this was an okay haircut for back then; at least it framed the face well)

I had the album containing this song when I was about 12. But mainly I played this one song on an endless loop while lying on my white ruffled organdy canopy bed, thinking about what it would be like to go somewhere with a beach and be very alone and sad, alone in the middle of a vast space with an atmosphere that seemed just right for it. Also, it made me Sinatra-curious. It's a more clever song than you might have noticed.

You Should Be Dancing (live) by the Bee Gees (this is not the same recording, which was better; is contained in link below)
The live version from Here At Last…the Bee Gees Live, which I played while dancing on the stair landing in our house, with my neon disco light flashing that I earned through the junior high magazine (or maybe the wrapping paper) sales they forced us to do. The stair landing was about four or five feet square, so, you know, about the size of a real disco floor in some places, and it was my special spot. I snuck down to it to watch Carol Burnett when I was supposed to be in bed when I was 8 or 9, and it’s where I fell asleep with the new puppy, Monty Python, when we first brought him home when I was 11, and where I answered the phone when I won tickets to a Royals game from a radio station, which started me and Mom going to games regularly for about three years starting when I was 13. It’s likely I was listening to this song when I took the call, but I did love a lot of the album, and learned to love the rest of it later on.

"Anybody Wanna Party?" by Gloria Gaynor

I was about 14, and played this for an hour at a time on my parents’ cheap stereo in the living room, until my mom asked me to stop for awhile. It was the 12 inch “disco version,” and I’d dance to it at first, then lie under the speakers and just let it move through me. 

 

There’ve been other songs I obsessed over since then, but the last pop hit that caused "emotions" was about 20 years ago. I listened to it when I was alone in the car, and sang along until I was sobbing.
But now I’m back to thinking about what kind of man I’d enjoy loving from a distance while wearing my cool silver chain with the locket and serving up drinks to a mostly faceless crowd. I suppose it’s who I was always meant to be, at least until we get to have androids made to order. 

 

 *What in the...ugh, ew. Don't ruin this for me. Screen Shot 2019-02-18 at 11.00.03 AM


reading [between thoughts on music] between the lines

This weekend I am reading the Lord and Lady Hetheridge series by Emma Jameson for the third time. 

I needed to be able to picture Tony in order to appreciate the story better, so I have decided to see him as Anthony Bourdain, only shorter. If he looked in formal wear like Bourdain did at the 2016 Emmys, it would explain a lot about why Kate is able to overlook their extreme age difference so easily.

Fitted
I was never particularly interested in or knew anything about Bourdain, by the way, until he died. His death was certainly a real tragedy, and I learned a little about him at that time, but not much; it seemed too sad.

The main reason I’m rereading this series this time is because I want to get back to the Doyle and Acton series by Anne Cleeland. I read the first five, maybe the sixth, don’t perfectly remember, and there are eight in total. So I requested six-eight from the library and will pick up with them in a few days when they arrive.

These two book series have a lot in common, and they also are both clearly influenced by Elizabeth George’s Inspector Lynley series, and maybe a bit of P. D. James’ Adam Dalgliesh series, as well, though that one belongs more to the "lonely widower detective" genre, which is totally a thing in case you didn't know. Of course, it all starts with Lord Peter Wimsey, but that's for a longer piece of writing than I intend to do.

Those two series are rather more cerebral, but they both feature a police detective who is a member of the British peerage, and that aspect of his character factors into the plotlines and how others see him. Inspector Lynley works with a female sergeant who is from a lower class background, and that is the element both the Cleeland and Jameson series share. 

In both these newer series, the bond between the young woman and her “guv” develop rapidly, the people around them don’t fully understand it, and the ensuing tensions are explored amidst the solving of murders. Screen Shot 2019-02-12 at 5.32.35 PMOverlaying that basic setup are two very different atmospheres. Lord Hetheridge is straightforward and fairly transparent. He’s confident and has a certain amount of innate power, so he uses that to solve crimes, build relationships, arrange life to his satisfaction. He’s wholly a good guy, though with some of the same feelings we all have from time to time that could lead to ethically ambiguous decisions, but generally don't. We see the stories develop from his point of view, but also from Kate’s, and the other member of their team, Deepal Bhar. 

If you like “light” crime reading with a bit of romance, and don’t mind a few inconsistent minor details, you might like this series. It doesn’t go nearly so deep as the Inspector Lynley series, and a lot of cliched ground is covered, but the characters are people to root for and the crime plots are fairly interesting. I suppose they're what people like to refer to as "guilty pleasure" more than anything else. I enjoy them without guilt, don't need things like this to be more than what they are. If the basic premise sounds good, but you want to stick with something more deep and absorbing, have a look at the Elizabeth George series, instead.

The other series, about Doyle and Acton (I searched for far too long for a good list or review that was also spoiler-free, which is how I started the first book; this is the closest I could come) is another matter. It began, I think, in 2013, and I expect if Cleeland tried to sell the beginning of it now, she’d have to change a lot about it; Acton's personality would displease quite a few people. As it is, I read she had a tough task selling her publishers on a couple later entries. The stories, mainly from (Irish and therefore intutive, don'tcha know) Kathleen Doyle’s point of view, follow a similar progression to the Hetheridge ones, but with more moral ambiguity and some sinister twists, revealed in measured electric shocks as the plots unfold. I appreciate that a lot in fiction, which allows us to explore the darker paths we’d never take in real life. It’s often mentally arousing.
StylusBut not everyone can enjoy fiction that both mirrors real life and disrupts our basic understanding of good guys and bad guys. I think that’s one reason people like fantasies set in made-up times and places; the characters in them sometimes get to behave intriguingly in ways that we could not accept in a setting that looks and sounds just like our own. To that end, if that's you, I'd say go back and read the old Adam Dalgliesh books for thought-provoking crime stories with more literary merit and fewer moral dilemmas. I enjoy Doyle and Acton's dialogue, but am not sure to whom I'd recommend the series. I might reevaluate that statement after I read the remaining books.

And it’s possible someone else could write this premise as a series and do it better, but would they? I kinda figure that since stories are told by the people most interested in telling them, they are pretty much told as they’re meant to be…but I don’t want to get any more existential than that, because I meant to talk today about songs I was obsessed with from ages 10-15 or so, and here we are, instead. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯