I wonder if Chuck Klosterman has seen this stuff

Image from Billboard via Google Books.

In an essay published last week, Chuck Klosterman wondered what artist people 300 years from now will think of when they think of the genre known as “rock ‘n’ roll.” His conclusion, after running through the Beatles, Elvis, Rolling Stones and others: Chuck Berry.

To which I heartily concurred.

But what if Klosterman had asked a different question: What songs will people remember, or want to hear, 300 years from now? Or even 30 years from now?

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Passage for today

Thinking about those who served, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“They shared the weight of memory. They took up what others could no longer bear. Often, they carried each other, the wounded or weak. They carried infections. They carried chess sets, basketballs, Vietnamese-English dictionaries, insignia of rank, Bronze Stars and Purple Hearts, plastic cards imprinted with the Code of Conduct. They carried diseases, among them malaria and dysentery. They carried lice and ringworm and leeches and paddy algae and various rots and molds. They carried the land itself — Vietnam, the place, the soil — powdery orange-red dust that covered their boots and fatigues and faces. They carried the sky. The whole atmosphere, they carried it, the humidity, the monsoons, the stink of fungus and decay, all of it, they carried gravity.”

— Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried”

(A PDF of the short story is available here.)


Sunday read: Those kids today

Image from appleibite.com.

The Washington Post (h/t Longreads) had a fascinating piece a few days ago about a 13-year-old girl and her life in the digital age. Essentially, it all comes down to her phone: checking it for “tbh” acknowledgements (“to be honest,” a compliment), worrying about what will happen on her birthday, and essentially using it as a social lifeline.

Katherine Pommerening’s iPhone is the place where all of her friends are always hanging out. So it’s the place where she is, too. She’s on it after it rings to wake her up in the mornings. She’s on it at school, when she can sneak it. She’s on it while her 8-year-old sister, Lila, is building crafts out of beads. She sets it down to play basketball, to skateboard, to watch PG-13 comedies and sometimes to eat dinner, but when she picks it back up, she might have 64 unread messages.

Pommerening is apparently a good kid: good grades, good family (though she has a hole in her heart; her mother died of breast cancer not long before), good attitude. She’s doing a project on the Photoshop and the media, and I hope she takes its lessons to heart.

But still: Her life seems curiously devoid of actual face-to-face contact (though that may be a choice of the writer, Jessica Contrera), and she’s having to grow up with the entire world watching — or at least that part of the world that has access to her social media apps, which seems bigger than the world I had to deal with almost 40 years ago.

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Hey hey, it’s Fountains of Monkees!

Image from tvhistorypod.com.

Nice piece in fastcocreate.com (h/t to DB) on Adam Schlesinger and what he brought to the production of the Monkees’ new album, “Good Times!”

Schlesinger, the bassist and co-songwriter for Fountains of Wayne, has become a go-to guy for what the author terms “fictional music” — that is, music for fictional musicians — including “That Thing You Do!” for the Wonders, “Way Back Into Love” for the film “Music and Lyrics” and songs for the TV series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.”

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Knocking down the ducks

Image from 4tunate.net.

Terrific article about the decline of duckpin bowling by the incomparable Dan Barry. I had no idea things had gotten so bad:

Her sport is so yesterday that whenever another duckpin alley closes, the remaining alley owners descend like predatory relatives to cart off the mechanical parts of duckpin setting machines that have not been made in two generations.

That’s partly because the guy who invented the machine refused to sell to Brunswick, but that’s another story.

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The outrage machine kicks into overdrive

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch via mentalfloss.com.

Outrage sells. Outrage gets attention. Outrage provokes more outrage.

Katie Roiphe talks about outrage and Twitter in the June/July Esquire:

The danger of social media is that outrage feeds on outrage, instant rage flashes into more instant rage, the group instinct overtakes any individual event or person … With the efficiency of the medium, speed and rawness are privileged over depth.

Twitter has some useful purposes: news flashes, one-liners. But to much of the news media, it’s best for stirring up outrage. The stories write themselves.

So when a presidential candidate, a master of Twitter’s no-nuance explosiveness, is constantly depositing bombs of outrage on the Internet — building a wall, kicking out 11 million people, talking about conspiracy theories with an “I’m just sayin’ ” nonchalance — it’s like feeding chum to sharks. Whoo! Outrage!

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Chuck Klosterman asks the wrong question, but comes up with the right answer

Image from thebits.hu.

Chuck Klosterman wants to know: Who do you love, if you’re living 300 years in the future?

I imagine a college classroom in 300 years, in which a hip instructor is leading a tutorial filled with students. These students relate to rock music with no more fluency than they do the music of Mesopotamia. … (The professor) shows the class a photo, or perhaps a hologram, of an artist who has been intentionally selected to epitomize the entire concept. For these future students, that singular image defines what rock was.

So what’s the image?

Klosterman goes through a number of candidates — the Beatles, Elvis, Dylan, the Rolling Stones — before concluding that Chuck Berry will sum everything up.

Which is exactly what I thought as I began the article. I mean, what other rock ‘n’ roller has a song embedded in an interstellar probe? What other songwriter took the everyday stuff of mid-century America — hamburgers, cars, school days and record hops — and turned them into poetry? Who else has a bedrock riff named for him?

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My favorite albums: ‘Hollywood Dream’


Image from Amazon.com.

There used to be a record store in New Orleans called Leisure Landing. It may have had the best selection of new records in town (if you wanted used, there was Record Ron’s), and they also had the best prices: $5.99 for a new LP when retail was $7.98 or $8.98. When I had some extra money, I’d go there after school, taking the streetcar down St. Charles and walking a few blocks to Magazine. Leisure Landing was where I bought “Beatles ‘65” and “The History of the Bonzos” and who knows how many other records.

(Funny how you remember these things.)

The other thing about Leisure Landing was, if they didn’t have it, they’d happily order it. They kept a copy of PhonoLog, the thick, yellow-sheeted database of recordings, near the register, and if your request was in there, they’d find a way to get it.

Which is how I ended up ordering Thunderclap Newman’s “Hollywood Dream” one day.

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Sunday read: A fool and his money?

Image from Flickr.

Neal Gabler’s been getting a lot of crap for his Atlantic essay on mismanaging money, and certainly with some reason. Aspects of his story sound like a woe-is-me plea from a guy with First World issues, including a good living as writer and scholar, a former New York City residence replaced by a house in the Hamptons, and children who benefited from fine educations (and, in the most questionable financial decision mentioned in the story, a wedding paid for by Gabler’s 401k).

But Gabler’s story is worth reading, if only for the larger message about financial management. (I’ll put aside the parts of the story which touch on lack of economic growth; that’s a subject for, well, a political campaign.) He starts with an observation: a 2013 Fed survey in which 47% of respondents said they couldn’t come up with $400 in an emergency. This is presumably the survey he’s talking about; the tidbit is on page 26.

Though I’m between jobs, I’m pretty fortunate, with some savings and severance. But the economy can be fickle and Lord knows emergencies can chew up money in no time flat. I’m not sympathetic to someone who blows a 401k on a wedding, but an unexpected hospital stay? Bye-bye, nest egg.

Moreover, he brings up the question of financial literacy, and I hope that’s something that gets a larger hearing. Between living paycheck to paycheck, anyway.

Anyway, read it.

And for a different perspective — on how keeping up with a showbiz life prompted author Neal Pollack to restructure his own life — here’s a sobering Q&A with the “Alternadad” writer. (And here’s an interview I did before he went to L.A. It’s got a couple nice bits of writing!)

I’m not a brand, brought to you by me

Image from YouTube.

I was reading an article about a reality show (don’t ask), and I saw it again: “brand,” as in “personal brand” or (in the article) “public brand.”

I hate the whole idea of “personal brand.” The writer didn’t like it either — she used the description with almost tangible scorn — but there it was, having worked its way into our societal conversation like an army of termites.

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