Two of the books I'm reading at the moment are Dave Van Ronk's brilliant memoir, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, and Harvey Pekar's Students for a Democratic Society: A Graphic History. VanRonk's book is more enjoyable than anything I've read in I have no idea how long; a laugh out loud funny personal history of New York and Greenwich Village in particular from the 1950s through the 1970s and covering in delightful detail what Utah Phillips called the "Great Folk Scare."
Pekar's book is, in essence, a Classics Comics telling of the history of the student free speech movement and anti-war movement of the late 1960s. It's beauty is in its remarkable succinctness, the direct result of its being a comic (or "graphic novel" if you prefer).
As succinct as Pekar's book is, it is in Van Ronk's memoir that I found the most cogent critique of the anti-war New Left I've ever found. Van Ronk writes:
“[M]ost of these people were not really radicals, just a bunch of very pissed-off liberals. They had no grounding, and indeed no interest, in theory, and their disdain for studying history and learning economics infuriated me. The core problem with the New Left was that it wasn’t an ideology, it was a mood – and if you are susceptible to one mood, you are susceptible to another. They wanted the world to change, but essentially it was a petty bourgeois movement that had no connection with what was really going on. The working class at least has some power – if the working class folds its arms, the machinery stops – and as for the ruling class, its power is obvious. But what power does the middle class have? They have the power to talk: yak, yak, yak. To interpret, reinterpret, and re-reinterpret. And that is the history of the New Left in a nutshell" (emphasis added, p. 200).
Now log onto Amazon and go get your self a copy; I can't recommend a book more.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
I got this idea from my friend Nora's blog. Today is my birthday, and these are the first 55 things that showed up on the screen when I sat down and started typing.
1. I used to love live music, now I dread it.
2. I love the novels of Richard Brautigan and Douglas Coupland.
3. New friendships are harder to start, and old friendships harder to maintain as I get older.
4. I regret getting rid of every guitar I’ve ever owned and gotten rid of.
5. I own far too many books that I’ve never read.
6. I love language; I wish I spoke five or six.
7. I love to cook.
8. I like washing dishes and other small tasks because they have a clear beginning and an end.
9. I love dogs and cats, both. I like animals, but I'm not so crazy about nature.
10. I enjoy starting conversations with strangers.
11. I just wish I were nicer.
12. After a couple false starts, I find I like blogging more than I thought I would.
13. When I play guitar and I play a song with a bar chord I feel like stopping and explaining that there will be a slight delay. I’ve been trying to play an effortless Bm for over 30 years without even the smallest sign of improvement.
14. I’m fascinated by the song “Mack the Knife,” especially Dave Van Ronk’s version.
15. I love music with melody. If there’s no melody it’s going to be a hard sell.
16. That we can’t just chose today to have the world we’re going to have eventually anyway, infuriates me.
17. Whenever I overhear some bozo refer to the idea of national health care as “socialized medicine” it is all I can do to not kick him in the jewels.
18. In my head I can dance like Gene Kelly.
19. If I had a lot of money, I’d be broke.
20. Peter Green is fine, but my favorite Fleetwood Mac is the Buckingham Nicks era, hands down. Great songwriting trumps great guitar playing.
21. Lenny Breau, Larry Coryell and Michael Bloomfield are my favorite guitarists.
22. If I could have one super power it would want an ability to heal people. And x-ray vision.
23. Rufus Wainwright is not the worst thing I’ve ever heard, but only because he has a sister.
24. I believe only someone with a heart of stone can listen to Jeff Buckley without laughing.
25. I wish I wasn’t as good at sarcasm.
26. I would love to wear a hat, but I’ve never found the right one.
27. I believe that when all non digital TVs stop working in 2009 there will be a very brief window during which political organizing might actually be possible.
28. I don’t believe there is a nuclear holocaust waiting just around the corner.
29. While it is silly to claim there is no intelligent life anywhere else in the universe, I don’t believe any of it has contacted us.
30. I believe in very few absolutes; I may only believe in one: literacy makes life better. It is always better to know how to read and write than not.
31. I believe that if you have a child, and you love your child, you should never allow your child to major in "Communication."
32. I believe all academics suffer from some degree of autism; mostly serious to profound.
33. I don’t care that much about baseball, but I love baseball history.
34. I love Paris. I loved it two minutes after I got off the train the first time. I love going back to it again and again.
35. I will drive a car until it says “no mas,” and refuses to come back into the ring at the start of the next round. Next year my current car will be allowed to buy liquor anywhere in the US.
36. I hate uncomfortable clothes, but I love to dress up for about 10-15 minutes.
37. I believe there is a veritably unlimited supply of excellent table wine available for under $10 a bottle.
38. If I did not have to, I don’t think I would ever leave my house. I suffer from angoraphobia; I am afraid that, if I leave my home, I will be attacked and mauled by long-haired rabbits.
40. 98% of all art – music, film, novels, poetry, painting, etc. – is mediocre to unspeakably horrible. The search for that 2% is one of the best things about being alive.
41. My favorite car is a 1963 Dodge Dart with a 225 slant-six engine and push-button transmission on the dash.
42. I cook eggs really, really well.
43. I enjoy sitting around a table, talking and laughing with six or seven friends more than anything else I can think of.
44. Spending a lot of money on really good shoes is never a bad idea.
45. For years I’ve thought that I could do so much more if I could only tolerate public restrooms.
46. My favorite time of day is around 2:30-3:00 in the morning.
47. The list of things I don’t understand grows at an alarming rate the older I get. If I make it to 80 I'll be an imbecile.
48. Every time I take flour, water and some yeast and make a loaf of bread I feel as if I have been witness to a miracle.
49. I believe that most of the greatest films ever made are comedies.
50. I am not ready to come out and admit that I have lost patience with LOST, but I’m getting there.
51. After years of wanting to I finally got invited to contribute to the Village Voice Pazz and Jop Poll, but it turned out to be just at the very moment that I stopped caring about new music.
52. I believe that if Lincoln or Jefferson were to try to run for office today, the Rush Limbaugh’s and Karl Rove’s of the world would make sure they didn’t get very far.
53. My sense of time has become so distorted that it has led me to question my sanity. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that. Forget I said anything.
54. I have almost no ability to remember people’s names. Oddly, however, I always remember dogs’ names. I am always fond of people who name their dogs after themselves.
55. It annoys me that the Democratic Party hasn’t figured out if it takes the White House and has a large majority in the Congress that, if it designs and enacts a system of national health care, the only way Republicans could ever oppose it in the future would be to run on the campaign promise that, “If elected, I will get rid of your health care!” It would change the dynamics in politics forever.
Monday, August 18, 2008
My wife hates it when I do it when she's with us but, for quite some time now, I lie, quite pathologically, when strangers ask the names of our dogs.
I've been through most of the famous TV and movie pairs: Butch and Sundance, Starsky and Hutch, Tango and Cash, Laverne and Shirley, James West and Artimus Gordon (one of my favorites); for a while I'd use the name of US Presidents and Vice Presidents, especially the obscure ones. Theodore Roosevelt and Charles Fairbanks once lasted almost two weeks..
Musical duos was a popular phase; Peter and Gordon, Chad and Jeremy, Ashford and Simpson, Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra (one of my favorites).
I try to change the names every day or two. Sometimes we go out already prepared, increasingly however, I find I enjoy the excitement of improvisation.
Earlier today I took them to the park and a woman with a small dog asked "What are their names?"
"Fuckwaffle and Carlotta," I replied.
Then I quickly explained, "They were rescue dogs and had those names when they came to us. We tried to get them to accept new ones but they just don't seem to get it." I smiled helplessly.
She offered a number of tips on how to introduce new names. I thanked her and we moved on.
I feel a philosophical phase coming on.
I think I'll go see if Adorno and Horkheimer want a cookie.