Sunday, December 25, 2022


Ever notice that all the advance technology anyone seems to come up with in Marvel and DC geared solely for destroying things and not building them? Things like affordable housing, updating infrastructure, providing solutions to the causes of environmental change? Even protecting American citizen rights to vote in local and federal elections. For all the protecting the heroes and their technology promises, their use of it in the stories only creates more carnage once implemented. Think of how many decades we've seen Marvel heroes fight among themselves in New York City, smashing through and destroying buildings, whole city blocks, without a thought of innocent lives are in those structures. Consider the famous DC animation where Superman shows Darkseid "how powerful I really am" and proceeds to knock him through skyscrapers, in one side and out the other like the jets that crashed into the World Trade Center, without a hint of whether the structures were occupied or not. It's pretty a sign that comic writers and the corporations that employ them are cynical as to the value of heroes and view their exploits. The problems of the comic book world just keep multiplying, and it would seem, logically, that the efforts of the meta-humans to save the world only hasten its demise.


One of the long-standing praises sung in behalf of The Modern Age was the speed with which the affairs of the world were suddenly conducted, with the advent of air travel, the telegraph, radio, and eventually television. It was believed, as McLuhan did in his Musings in Understanding Media and, inevitably, The Medium is the Message, that this acceleration of seeming real time, and the attendant shrinking of the world into spheres that collided and overlapped, would produce comprehension and clarity of a reality that formerly with held its secrets.

That is finally a large hope for what's considered to be one of Modernism's great aims--to produce art, literature, and technologies that transforms the way the world is experienced. Your experience with this obscure composer fulfills that promise, somewhat: you, and the thousands you speak of, shared the experience, did their research with the technology at their disposal, and finally wrote about it in the same few hours. A little more of the world's culture was known and shared at the same time, little different from the first live television broadcast, coast to coast, where thousands of Americans viewed the same scene at the same time. 


Richard Brautigan stylistically and conceptually went to the well too many times as his writing career as a professional writer lasted longer than his inspiration, but he did write poems that retain their charm and uniqueness until now. "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace" has an alluring sparseness of line to it as the narrator attempts to reconcile a reality transformed by technology with an idea that a natural world, already perfect, can survive the transformations.

I like to think (and

the sooner the better!)

of a cybernetic meadow

where mammals and computers

live together in mutually

programming harmony

like pure water

touching clear sky.

I like to think

(right now, please!)

of a cybernetic forest

filled with pines and electronics

where deer stroll peacefully

past computers

as if they were flowers

with spinning blossoms.

I like to think

(it has to be!)

of a cybernetic ecology

where we are free of our labors

and joined back to nature,

returned to our mammal

brothers and sisters,

and all watched over

by machines of loving grace.

Influenced by Chinese and Japanese poetry and not a little by WC Williams, the quizzical lines and images describe a world, not explain it, and that is what keeps the poem fresh, more than a time piece. It keeps you guessing. It is of its time, an age of hippie whimsy, but this, along with other verses, are not bound by its time. 


 A "go to" album we slap on when we need to be invigorated or otherwise risen from the depths of imagined or real despair? The issue is that I have at least a couple of hundreds set aside on a dedicated shelf, discs, let us say, that I can count on to raise my spirits and inspire may another blathering appreciation on my music blog. But I chose this one, Second Winter by Johnny Winter, released in as a quaintly three sided double discs, three sided because, explains Winter in a brief note, that they recorded everything it had at the time, all the songs that were ready for the public, and that they didn't want to dilute the quality with half-hearted filler material. I paraphrase Winter's words, but that's what he meant exactly. His first release "Johnny Winter" released earlier in 1969 on Columbia after much hype that the label had signed a rumored blues guitar genius, unheard, for 600, 000 dollars advance got so-so reviews from critics when the guitarist gave the world a traditional and fine blues record rather than the flashy Hendrixian pyrotechnics most were expecting. Second Winter is Winter and the Band digging into the material with rather amazing variety of roots rock and blues styles. Not a wasted track, not a wasted second, no filler, I think this is one of the great blues-rock virtuoso showcases for the era and for all time. "Fast Life Rider", "Highway 61 Revisited", "Hustled Down In Texas", "Miss Anne"… The back-up of bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer John Turner give the lead a firm, persistent, uncomplicated support, allowing Winter the framework to display his malleable blues virtuosity in a variety of context. A bonus is brother Edgar Winter's occasional keyboard and sax work. 


One of the rock and roll architects has left the stage. Chuck Berry and Little Richard in their prime always meant more to me, but Lewis was a close third in my personal rock and roll canon. No one could pound a piano with more verve or energy, and it seemed to me watching old clips of him live over that he was not so much playing piano as he was committing assault upon it. His singing, as well, was unique, his own and impossible to cogently emulate. His southern accent became a tight, coiled sound that was as much about barely constrained energy as it was about tone, timbre, or range. It was a primitive glee to raise havoc that battered the limits of the chord progressions. God help the audience if whatever possessed this artist escaped the musical bars that constrained it. That Jerry Lee Lewis found a second career as a fully realized country artist only makes sense; one always had the feeling that he thought the Devil and God were wrestling for his soul. If rock and roll were the indulgence of the baser, untamed qualities of the human spirit, country was the area where home, hearth, heartbreak, and healing of a sort could balance the emotional scales. He was an original architect of rock and roll, a phenomenon that will not reoccur in any future unfolding of human history.


Bob Seger will be remembered mostly for all the glorious melodramatic self-examination that began with "Night Moves", a tune that initiated a string of hit singles and platinum albums. Like some others here, my listening history with him goes back further, back to the wonder of rhythm and blues and psychedelic hybrid primitivism that was half inspiration, half thrash. "Black Eyed Girl" has it all, a sleepy, trudging blues holler. Seger sounds like he's just woken up from a night of hard drinking and equally hard loving, and finds himself alone in a dark and dirty hotel room. Drums and bass are very effectively basic, and the guitar work by Seger is minimalist that the flimsy wall between "minimal" and "amateurish" could collapse at any moment. And Seger hollers his brains out, pushing his upper register in what seems to be a melding of James Brown and Robert Plant. It's what Blue Cheer would sound like if you got rid of the atonal guitar solos and had your thumb on the turntable.