Archive for music

The Dam at Otter Creek

Posted in real life with tags , , , on June 25, 2017 by sethdellinger

It’s been a few years since I used this space to write about the band LIVE.  They will always be one of my favorite bands, but like all artists, their prominence in my life waxes and wanes.  Seeing as I recently returned to the midstate after a lengthy absence and the once-broken-up band recently reunited, they’ve been top of mind lately.

As such, it also occurred to me recently that, having lived so close to the birthplace of a band I am passionate about, it is perhaps a shame I never took an opportunity to explore the landmarks they’ve created.

LIVE is, to my knowledge, the only rock band, of any era, to call Central Pennsylvania home and to also make that geographical fact an integral part of their identity.  Many bands exist that you don’t know anything about where they’re from–personally I have no idea where Queensryche or Deftones are from (and if you do, it doesn’t disprove what I’m saying, so can it) and many bands claim places like California or cities like Boston or New York, or regions like the South or New England.  But LIVE is from Central PA, and York specifically, and their (early) songs are unabashedly about this region.  Ed (the singer) mentions York often, from the stage during concerts all around the world.  So they’re not just a band from Central PA.  These are contemporary artists who have made incredibly successful art about our area; music that is sung by fans all over the world; Ed Kowalczyk crafted lyrics inspired by the very specific blend of elements present in this region and mined universally recognized themes from them.

Their second album, “Throwing Copper” was really the first that most people heard, and it was an international phenomenon.  Their fall from public favor over the years may have obscured the degree to which they were succesful at the time, but “Throwing Copper” was a truly behemoth hit.  Rolling Stone named the band their entertainers of the year that year.  And as popular as the album was in America, it exceeded that breadth in Europe (as the band continues to, to this day).  And “Throwing Copper”–the album the whole world was hip to in 1994 (it would eventually sell 8 million copies) opens with a song called “The Dam at Otter Creek”.

Most of “Throwing Copper” consists of taut, pop-inflected rock with singable choruses. Not so “The Dam at Otter Creek”.  The song opens the album with quiet melodic guitar fuzz, as if an imagined sound from far away.  Like music that had been read in a book, or dreamed. A man’s indistinct voice can be heard.  Is he on a megaphone? What is he saying?  We can’t be sure.  Slowly the sound coagulates, forms into simple repetitive chords, and, like a slow roll of thunder, Ed intones,

When all that’s left to do
is reflect on what’s been done
this is where sadness breeds.
The sadness of everyone.

This is not the typical stuff of radio rock.  This is a song about not living in the past–a common theme, for sure, but not presented in a typical fashion.  For the rest of the song, Ed makes a very bold decision as a lyricist.  In the first stanza (the one above) he presents to us his thesis: if all you think about is the past, that is some sad shit. But then instead of just presenting more lyrics about that idea, he tells us a story, about a time “the guys” built a dam at Otter Creek, and a man dove into the deep water and died.  It is up to the listener to decide how this story relates to the thesis.  Then, after the story, Ed treats us to the wailed refrain:

Be here now.

Of course, if you simply remove the story about the boy at Otter Creek, you have this:

When all that’s left to do
is reflect on what’s been done
this is where sadness breeds.
The sadness of everyone.

Be here now.

So that is a fairly neatly encapsulated philosophy: live in the moment, living in the past is sad.  BUT the “Be here now” line also interplays with the Otter Creek story; is Ed asking us to place ourselves in the shoes of an observer, on the bank of the Creek, watching the boy get carried out in the stretcher?  The listener can make choices about how they want to hear this song; Ed has left some of it in our hands.

Musically, the song builds to an unforgettable crescendo as Ed implores us to Be here now in a vocal rhythm that can only be described as highly unusual.  As a teenager, I had to consult my liner notes to figure out what he was saying.

Before I go on, I will present the complete lyrics and a YouTube of the song itself:

“The Dam at Otter Creek”
Ed Kowalczyk

When all that’s left to do
is reflect on what’s been done
this is where sadness breeds.
The sadness of everyone.

Just like when the guys
built the dam at Otter Creek
and all the water backed up.
Deep enough to dive.

We took the dead man in sheets to the river
flanked by love.
Deep enough to dive.
Be here now.

We took him three and three
in a stretcher made from trees
that had passed in the storm.
Leave the hearse behind.
To leave the curse behind,
be here now.

 

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that I live awfully close to York, and so I probably live awfully close to Otter Creek.  So I started researching it.  Where is the creek, where is the dam?

Well, it’s a thorny question to ask.  A lot of people on the internet have a lot of answers.  Where the creek is is simple enough–it meanders for a few miles in the rural farmland outside of York, eventually emptying into the Susquehanna near a tiny place called Airville.  But the dam?  Some say there used to be one, some say there never was, others that the song tells a true story about kids who made their own dam.  Ultimately I decided I’d go see for myself.

There is a famous picture on the back of “Throwing Copper” that shows a sign for the Otter Creek Recreation Area.  This is that album art:

 

live

I was able to figure out quite easily where this was.  This is a parking lot that belong to the Otter Creek Campground, but is open to folks who are not campers at the campground.  The interesting thing about this parking lot is it is RIGHT AT the spot that Otter Creek empties into the Susquehanna River, AND it is in a spot that there is a river island about 150 yards from shore, making the Susquehanna look very small, so people pulling into the parking lot might be confused as to what body of water they are really looking at.  It’s, quite frankly, a little confusing.  Here is a picture I took of this confusion:

IMG_20170624_115021546-01

Alas, the famous sign from the album art has been changed, as one would imagine it would be after 25 years.  Here are the sings there now:

IMG_20170624_114151380

IMG_20170624_114412379

While the sign has been changed, after having been there, one can clearly tell it is the same parking lot as the one in the album photo.

Here are a few more pictures I took while in the campground parking lot:

IMG_20170624_115447262

IMG_20170624_114955629-01

Interesting, right? Given the lyrical content of the song. However, this is ALL Susquehanna River right here. If one dove here they would not be diving into Otter Creek,

One immensely interesting takeaway here is that the creek emptying into the Susquehanna finally sheds light on the lyric “They took the dead man in sheets to the river”.  What a perplexing line that has always been for me! I’d often wonder if we were talking about a creek or a river, and why/how do you take a dead man from the place he got hurt…to the place he got hurt?  But standing there, I can see that they would be moving him from the small creek to the large river.  Now…why they might do that would still be a mystery.  Also, this geography coupled with the lyric almost makes it certain Ed’s lyric is about this very specific spot.

And so, voila, that being the case, I will tell you, there is no dam there.  Maybe there was at some time, of that I have no idea.

Yes, some people will say this: there is a dam on the Susquehanna about a mile downriver.  I’ve seen some folks say THAT is the dam in the song.  That’s clearly poppycock.  Admittedly, it would be more clear if the song was “The Dam ON Otter Creek” instead of AT; the at does leave room for interpretation, but it is my assertion that the line “we carried the dead man in sheets to the river” authoritatively places the story at the confluence of Otter Creek and the Susquehanna River, dam be damned.

After I spent some time in looking around the confluence area, I got back in my car and drove for an hour or so around the country in the area, criss-crossing back and forth over the creek as many times as I could, looking for more access points; maybe secretly hoping for signs of a dam, but also just vibing in the origins of LIVE and remembering there are things about the midstate that are worthy of high art.  Yes, it is beautiful, serene, and contemplative, but as Ed is aware in plenty of other songs, it can be dark, derelict, and sinister.

That being said, here are a few other shots I took of the creek at other points on my drive:

IMG_20170624_121525337_HDR-01

IMG_20170624_121537638IMG_20170624_121630707_HDR-01IMG_20170624_122010105-01

Posted in Snippet with tags , , , , on March 22, 2017 by sethdellinger

Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes
by Sun Kil Moon

Richard Ramirez died today of natural causes. He got amped up on speed and broke into houses, bludgeoned people to death, wrote shit on their skin and left them. They finally got him and he went to San Quentin. His last murder was south of San Francisco. A guy named Peter Pan, from the town of San Mateo. The little girl in the tenderloin was his first, and in the laundry room he took a dollar from her fist. His last free days were at the Bristol Hotel. I was reading “Nightstalker” when I went and rang the bell. The doorman buzzed, said, “You’re just like them all.” He gave me a key and a black cat led me down the hall. I had a flight today from Boston to Cleveland. Got a death in the family, gotta do some grieving. Lost my baby cousin and it’s eating me up. And I’m achin’ real bad and I need a little love. Richard Ramirez died today of natural causes. These things mark time and make us pause and think about when we were kids, scared of taps on the window, what’s under the bed and what’s under the pillow. And the Jim Jones massacre got in our heads and the TV headlines, “Elvis Presley’s Dead”, and the Ayatollah Khomenei hostages and Ronald Reagan dodging bullets. One day I’m gonna stroll through the old neighborhood. Rick Stan’s my age, he still lives with his mom when he’s not in jail from menacing and stalking, writing bad checks and cocaine charges. Mark Denton had such a beautiful smile, always sat on the porch passing the time, and drinking a beer and smoking a pack until one day poor Mark had a heart attack. My friend Ben’s got a good job as an electrician, his sister married the pool shark Jim Evans. And my next door neighbors whom I love so, and they love me too, but they passed long ago. And if you walk just a few blocks down Stahl there’s a house that was the scariest of them all, a cute little palm with a sign “For Sale”. For those Sexton’s kids, life was Hell, and I’m telling the truth and if you don’t believe it, pick up Lowell Cauffiel’s “House of Secrets”. Had to fly from Cleveland to SFO. I got 3 months off until my next show. Gonna spend time with my girl, make a record this summer, fix my kitchen up and hire a plumber. The headlines change so rapidly. Today I came to the studio to work on something pretty, then I saw the news on James Gandolfini while I was eating ramen and drinking green tea. The “Sopranos” guy died at 51. That’s the same age as the guy who’s coming to play drums. I don’t like this getting older stuff, havin’ to pee 50 times a day is bad enough. I got a naggin’ prostate and I got a bad back, and when I fuck too much I feel like I’m gonna have a heart attack. I woke up today, I saw the headlines, an airline crashed and 2 people died, and I’m at a barbecue in San Rafael, and everybody’s drunk and feelin’ pretty well. At 53 years Richard Ramirez died but in ‘83 he was very much alive. He was the scariest killer in the band. He had a pentagram in the center of his hand. And everybody remembers the paranoia when he stalked the suburbs of Southern California and everybody will remember where they were when they finally caught the Night Stalker. And I remember just where I was when Richard Ramirez died of natural causes.

 

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on March 7, 2017 by sethdellinger

Have Yourself a Melancholy Christmas

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on December 24, 2016 by sethdellinger

For many years, I have posted the below clip of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” to social media around the holidays.  It is far and away my favorite Christmas song.  For the decade-plus that I spent living and mostly being alone, the melancholy twinned with optimism in the song struck a special chord within me.  The song seemed to harken to a nostalgia of lovely, warm, joyous holidays, while acknowledging the fundamental hardship of life–of being alone, of losing track of people, or long, dark, cold winter days and memories that slide through your fingers (please note I refer here solely to the original lyrics made famous in this Judy Garland version, not the bastardized, senselessly happy remakes to come after it).  Today, I played it in the background while passing a lovely lazy day with Karla and I immediately began to choke up; the song was a companion in melancholy with me for so many years, the tears came like a Pavlovian response.  Of course, life is happy beyond my wildest dreams, exquisitely so–but that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of melancholy.  My love, the boy, and our dog make life glorious–but there are still long, dark, cold winter days, and friends I’ve lost touch with, and memories that slide through our fingers like the water in the swimming pool on Parsonage Street when my sister saved me from drowning when I was six years old.  Someday soon, we all will be together–if the fates allow.  Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.

Merry Christmas everybody!  Life truly is grand–melancholy is the proof of it!

My Favorite Music of 2016

Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 7, 2016 by sethdellinger

It’s that time of year again, oh friendy friends!  Time for my favorite music of the year blog!  For those who haven’t slogged through these before, allow me to get these perfunctories out of the way:

  1. All music on this list is NEW music that was released in calendar year 2016.
  2. A mix CD of songs from my list can be easily obtained by messaging me and asking.  Those on my “mailing list” will receive one without asking.
  3. I am not saying this was the “best” music of 2016.  I used to say that but people got their undies in a bunch.  I’m just saying it’s my “favorite”.
  4. If you’re interested in lists from years past, they can be found here:
    My Favorite Music of 2009My Favorite Music of 2010My Favorite Music of 2011

    My Favorite Music of 2012

    My Favorite Music of 2013

    My Favorite Music of 2014

My Favorite Music of 2015

And before I proceed with this year’s list, I’d like to address what was probably my biggest disappointment of my music listening life: this year’s Band of Horses release.  When I heard of the album, and learned it’s title, and saw the artwork and read the tracklist, I was perhaps the most excited I’d been for a new release since the height of my Pearl Jam fandom.  I fully anticipated making it the number one album on my list this year.  Instead, it does not even appear.  The reviews were very mixed–some were ecstatic whereas others reacted quite like I did, and many were very neutral.  So obviously it can be heard many ways.  I personally, after listening about ten time during it’s first month of release, may never listen to it again.

I’d also be remiss if I did not mention Prophets of Rage, a supergroup combination of Rage Against the Machine, Public Enemy, and Cypress Hill.  Again, many detested it and many loved it; I loved it and thought it was beyond the bee’s knees.  However, for the most part, it was not new music, and it does not make the list, but it formed a very important part of 2016 for me.  In addition, Neil Young+Promise of the Real released a live album, Earth, that felt as fresh and vibrant as a new studio album and I listened to that thing like crazy, but again: not really new.  Now: my list!

15.  Explosions in the Sky, “The Wilderness”

14.  Ray LaMontagne, “Ouroboros”

13.  Public Enemy, “Man Plans God Laughs”

12.  Kiefer Sutherland, “Down in a Hole”

11.  DJ Shadow, “The Mountain Will Fall”

10.  A Tribe Called Quest, “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service”

The Tribe’s triumphant return was well worth the wait, with lyrics poignantly reflecting the temper of the times and thankfully light on misogyny.  And the beats are dope.

9.  M83, “Junk”

thqjx379jnM83’s new album is a kind of throwback space funk jam-off, like a ride in a technicolor elevator, with purple felt walls.  Impossible to dislike.

 

 

 

 

 

8.  Warpaint, “Heads Up”

Warpaint have now built upon the dark, groovy introspection they created in their first two albums with more intricate jams and a subtle pop sensibility; their musical landscape is now a universe all their own.

7.  Mexico City, “When the Day Goes Dark”

This powerful Australian band hadn’t released any new music for six years.  Their return when-the-day-goes-dark-1-600x600was worth waiting for, as they morphed from terrific bar band into a piledriver of country and blues rock.  A potential classic.

 

 

 

 

 

6.  Jim James, “Eternally Even”

The mastermind behind My Morning Jacket didn’t connect with me on his first solo album a few years back, but this year’s “Eternally Even” tickles my Jacket bone.

5.  Paul Simon, “Stranger to Stranger”

Simon is never bad.  But as he ages, I seem to keep thinking he is getting better and better; his lyrics become more adventurous (from The Werewolf: “The fact is, most obits are mixed paulsimon_strangertostranger_rgb-640x640-e1460038643460reviews./ Life is a lottery, a lotta people lose./ And the winners, the grinners, with money-colored eyes/ they eat all the nuggets, and they order extra fries./  But the werewolf is coming.”), his music more modern, playful, daring.  “Stranger to Stranger” is a delight from start to finish, but especially for those familiar with his full body of work; his evolution is a bewildering achievement.

 

 

4.  Emily Wells, “Promise”

Wells is an astonishing talent, and “Promise” proves she’s an artist worthy of canonization.  Eschewing her previous catchy violin hooks and hip hop undertones, here she digs deep–the level of introspection at times becomes hard to watch.  But ultimately, while not an album of happy, singalong songs, “Promise” proves instead to be a key addition to any music library concerned with–frankly–the meaning of life.

3.  Radiohead, “A Moon Shaped Pool”

What’s still to be said about Radiohead?  They are as good as everyone says, as is this album.  Including a studio version of “True Love Waits” (re-worked for piano) nearly broke me in half.

2.  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, “Skeleton Tree”

Cave’s son died tragically while the band was recording the album, and it can be heard in every sound.  It’s a quiet, low-tempo, mostly spoken-word collection of songs, and it is not for the faint of heart.  It is brave, and it is terrifying, but it does not wallow.

1.  Bon Iver, “22, A Million”

bon-iver-22-a-million

I haven’t said much about this album online, as I grew into it slowly, and it came out shortly after a few albums I’d been talking about at length, so I figured I’d stop clogging up everybody’s feed with my music stuff.  But as I kept listening, and listening, and listening, it became clear this album was not going to go away. It is an album of absolutely confounding elements–it incorporates so many genres, styles, and influences, it’s amazing it is coherent.  And it sometimes approaches unlistenable, as vocalist Justin Vernon simply sings through a synthesizer without any music for long lengths of time.  But ultimately it’s not about being catchy, or easy, or even “artsy”.  The album is a true experience, and one that is deeply felt.

 

Favorites, 2016

Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2016 by sethdellinger

Back in the old days of the Notes, I used to write a lot more about music, movies, and books, and I would every so often post updated lists of my absolute favorites of things.  Not due to any pressing interest from the public, of course–mostly just because it’s fun for me, and also because having such a blog post can be quite handy during discussions online; I can just link someone to the entry to aid in a discussion of favorites.

Of course this is not to be confused with my annual “Favorite Music” list, where I detail my favorite music released in the previous calendar year; these lists detail my current all-time favorites, which are (like yours, of course) constantly changing.

Looking back at my entries, it appears as though I haven’t done a big posting of lists since 2012, so I’ll make this one fairly comprehensive.  All of these lists have changed since 2012–some very little, some quite dramatically:

My top ten favorite poets

10.  Jane Kenyon
9.   Robert Creeley
8.  William Carlos Williams
7.   Sylvia Plath
6.  Billy Collins
5.  Denise Levertov
4.  E.E. Cummings
3.  Philip Levine
2.  John Updike
1.  Philip Larkin

My top 10 favorite film directors

10.  Federico Fellini
9.  Sidney Lumet
8.  Alejandro Inarritu
7.  Christopher Nolan
6.  Paul Thomas Anderson
5.  Alfonso Cuaron
4.  Stanley Kubrick
3.  Werner Herzog
2.  Alfred Hitchcock
1.  Terrence Malick

My top ten bands

10. This Will Destroy You
9.  My Morning Jacket
8.  Godspeed You! Black Emperor
7.  Radiohead
6.  Seven Mary Three
5.  Hey Rosetta!
4.   The National
3.  Band of Horses
2.  Modest Mouse
1.  Arcade Fire

 

My top ten music solo artists

10.  Tracy Chapman
9.  Ray LaMontagne
8.  Father John Misty
7.  Leonard Cohen
6.  Jim James
5.  Nina Simone
4.  Willis Earl Beal
3.  Emily Wells
2.  Paul Simon
1.  Neil Young

My top ten favorite (non-documentary) movies

10.  Citizen Kane
9.  Night of the Hunter
8.  Fitzcarraldo
7.  Magnolia
6.  The Trouble with Harry
5.  Children of Men
4.  Where the Wild Things Are
3.  The Thin Red Line
2.  I’m Still Here
1.  The Tree of Life

My ten favorite novelists

10.  Malcolm Lowry
9.  John Steinbeck
8.  Isaac Asimov
7.  Ernest Hemingway
6. Oscar Wilde
5.  Kurt Vonnegut
4.  Mark Twain
3.  David Mitchell
2.  Don DeLillo
1.  Dave Eggers

My top twenty favorite books (any genre, fiction or nonfiction)

20.  “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole
19.  “Slade House” by David Mitchell
18.  “The Terror” by Dan Simmons
17.  “You Shall Know Our Velocity” by Dave Eggers
16.  “Point Omega” by Don DeLillo
15.  “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell
14.  “Fallen Founder” by Nancy Isenberg
13.  “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
12.  “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
11.  “Under the Volcano” by Malcolm Lowry
10.  “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers
9.  “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway
8.  “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut
7.  “Dubliners” by James Joyce
6.  “Letters From the Earth” by Mark Twain
5.  “White Noise” by Don DeLillo
4.  “Endurance” by Alfred Lansing
3.  “Your Fathers, Where Are They?  And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?” by Dave Eggers
2.  “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer
1.  “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

My top twenty favorite albums

20.  “Funeral” by Arcade Fire
19.  “Nobody Knows” by Willis Earl Beal
18.  “High Violet” by The National
17.  “The Battle of Los Angeles” by Rage Against the Machine
16.  “Swamp Ophelia” by Indigo Girls
15.  “Mirrorball” by Neil Young
14.  “Dis/Location” by Seven Mary Three
13.  “Abbey Road” by The Beatles
12.  “Graceland” by Paul Simon
11.  “Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis
10.  “‘Allelujah!  Don’t Bend!  Ascend!” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
9.    “Kid A” by Radiohead
8.   “Strangers to Ourselves” by Modest Mouse
7.   “This Will Destroy You” by This Will Destroy You
6.   “Time Out” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet
5.   “Secret Samadhi” by LIVE
4.   “Infinite Arms” by Band of Horses
3.   “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire
2.   “RockCrown” by Seven Mary Three
1.  “Into Your Lungs (and Around in Your Heart and On Through Your Blood)” by Hey Rosetta!

 

My top five composers

5.  Philip Glass
4.  Cliff Martinez
3.  Hans Zimmer
2.  Felix Mendelssohn
1.  Carl Nielsen

My top ten painters

10.  Edgar Degas
9.  George Bellows
8.  Mark Rothko
7.  Johannes Vermeer
6.  Mary Cassatt
5.  Maurice Prendergast
4.  Thomas Eakins
3.  Henri Rousseau
2.  Andrew Wyeth
1.  John Sloan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Badass Harrisburg, Media vs. Trump, Eraser, Alexander Supertramp

Posted in Prose, Rant/ Rave, real life, Snippet with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2016 by sethdellinger

It has now been over a year and a half since we moved to Harrisburg. Like every time I’ve made a large move, it’s been interesting how at first there is a large amount of culture shock, and then just a few weeks or months later, it’s almost like you’ve always lived there. It’s hard to imagine there was a time that I lived in Philadelphia, or Erie,  or Carlisle.  It’s hard to imagine there was a time when I actually could not imagine moving back to Central Pennsylvania. Did I ever actually move away from here? But also, the first time I lived here, I couldn’t have imagined living in Harrisburg, but now it seems the natural center of this area. Harrisburg gets a bad rap from many people, for those are people who are afraid of it, or have never spent much time in it. Granted, it is a city with its troubles, both financial and otherwise. There are plenty of areas that are downtrodden, poor, and wanting of many of the services that the surrounding areas take for granted. But there is a lot to love here, and plenty of neighborhoods that you can feel safe in, and with nice modern housing. There’s more than enough to do, more than enough beautiful views, and a vibrant arts scene. In fact, there are more things that we have not been able to do than those we have been able to do. And it seems clear to me that the city is still on the move. I know there have been lots of stories over the decades about the revitalization of Harrisburg, but this time it does seem legitimate. The independent music scene, hipster coffee shops, art galleries opening all over the place. Even a vegan coffee shop close to the state capitol building! There’s a lot to love here, and although there are certainly times when I’m riding my bike down a side street here that I miss being right in the middle of traffic on Broad Street in Philadelphia, there’s also something to be said for walking out of my job every night, looking to my right, and seeing the beautiful Capitol Dome less than a mile away, or walking my dog six blocks and being along the Susquehanna River Trail, almost always as the sun sets.

 

*****************************************************************

 

The fact is, the system IS rigged against Trump, in the sense that the media (hold up; did I say the MEDIA?? You hate the media, don’t you? [I’m probably not talking to YOU here, but to about 30 people on my Facebook who bitch more about the media than the atrocities they report on}  But what is it you are talking about, when you say “the media”? It’s an institution with hundreds of thousands of outlets, platforms, and systems, and it’s actually one of the best things about our country–one of the things that really DOES keep us free. But see, you gotta do some work, too. You have to sift through some things, figure out what sources you trust, the nuances of how to best receive information from the media, and where and when you receive it. You have to READ things. Hey, quick–who’s your favorite columnist? Don’t have one? How do you HATE the media when you’ve never really consumed it to begin with? Stop being lazy. The American freedom of press truly does set us apart–and I’m not one for “American Exceptionalism”. But yeah–most of the media operates by making a profit, so be careful, and above all READ things. And it does make a difference if it’s printed on paper; it’s harder to trick your eye into only reading the “interesting” stuff or items you already agree with. Just read the news. Hating and callously dismissing “the media” is just active laziness. And memes are not the media. FYI) are not obligated to report on an aspiring despot who would end the American experiment like it was no big deal. The “media”–contrary to what many seem to think–are not obligated to be neutral observers of facts only at all times. They are to report facts, yes–but also interpret them (again, this is where understanding media nuance will serve you well: there ARE places you can go for just fact, and places you can go for opinion, and places you can go for analysis. If you go to one place expecting it to be something it isn’t, you might think it’s corrupt, when in fact you’re just a novice). So yes, the media are biased against Trump because they are reporting on a man who would destroy our nation–and harm the world. And it is not their DUTY to remain neutral. The media IS biased–but not against Trump; they’re biased against evil.

********************************************************************

 

I wasn’t ready for Thom Yorke’s solo album, The Eraser, when it came out in 2006.  I was baffled by it, listened to it twice, and put it away–not knowing if it was bad or I was daft.  I put it in on a whim today and it turns out I am ready for it.

 

***********************************************************************

 

Two nights ago, I got to meet Jon Krakauer, an author who is currently among America’s top 3 or 4 nonfiction authors.  I’ve admittedly only read two of Jon’s books–“Into the Wild” being his most famous book and a work that has touched my life very deeply.  In it, Krakauer tells the story of Christopher McCandless, who left a very comfprtable and promising life, wandered the country with little to no money and no contact with anyone for over a year, eventually hiking into the Alaskan wilderness where he would eventually die.  Chris’s story is complex and multi-layered–it can’t be reduced to one single element.  When I was at very low points in my life–still drinking and in deep depressions–Chris’s decision to disappear and walk into the wild until he died appealed to me.  Later, sober and happy, other elements of Chris’s philosophy and his journey resonated with me.  Here is an excerpt from a letter he wrote to a man he met on his sojourn across the country.  The man–who had been deeply affected by a month or so he spent with Chris–received the postcard after Chris died:

“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.” –Christopher McCandless

While it was McCandless whose story has so impacted me, Krakauer’s decision to tell it, and the respect he gave the story, resonated.  In the many years since “Into the Wild” was published, Chris’s story has become of major import to a growing legion of people who find something inspiring about him, and Krakauer does not shy away from his role as a steward of the story.  It was an intense honor to meet him.

14523071_10210950434462592_3352102669841301256_n

****************************************************************************

The sun goes up, the sun goes down. The wind begins to whistle through branches now bare with late months.  The sky grays, the wind grays, everywhere color mutes, curls into itself.  Even the insects look at you with worry.

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: