Because we still have aspirations, dreams, and imagination.
I had a conversation yesterday with a coworker about music that ended up going into some places I didn’t like. We have these faux clashes from time to time, they’re always–always–done with great good humor and the self-awareness that we’re just, you know, funnin’. But this time I actually found myself getting a bit worked up.
It was about music. He took exception to my categorical dismissal of punk as essentially garbage. Fair enough. Superlatives are always wrong. Do I hate punk? Hate is a strong word. I loathe it. I find its self-justifications back in the day one with all anti-intellectual movements. The amount of punk I’ve listened to, while small, has yet to offer anything that might suggest there’s any actual ability on display. The whole point of it back then was to loudly and hideously repudiate progressive rock and the associated slickly produced pop that borrowed many of the aesthetic trappings of prog even while it very decidedly was not prog. Along comes little Johnny Rotten to make a counter-statement and reduce the caliber of rock back to some basement level from-the-gut roar that’s supposed to be what rock is all about in the first place, but hell, even in its infancy rock’n’roll could boast better musicians on their worst day than what styles itself as punk on its best.
That is my opinion. I’m an Old Fart, so deal with it. I listen to music for the delightful things it does among my synapses and my synapses are 62 years old and impatient with three chords, a bridge, and a lot of disingenuous screeching. I long since moved over to jazz because I want good playing, nuance, sophistication, and tonal qualities that surprise in a delightful way.
Had punk come out of the adolescent desires of a bunch of wankers who couldn’t play well but still wanted to be ROCK STARS, I probably wouldn’t feel quite to strongly about it. But it didn’t. (Maybe some of them came out of this, but they were swept under the tent of…) It came with a manifesto and set about trying to wreck a cultural aesthetic that was pushing toward some kind of transcendence.
Pompous? You bet. And a lot of progressive rock was over-the-top, arpeggios and glissandos for the sake of showing off. Partly, this was a consequence of the way such industries work, always demanding the next new thing that sounds pretty much just like the last thing that sold a gillion records and sold out stadiums for umpteen months. The money machine driving variety for its own sake and to hell with any kind of genuine artistic sense. Hell, I would have cut loose with something completely Other under those pressures.
But while that is understandable, what I object to is the abandonment of skill and attention to the actual musicality that came with punk. I dislike punk because, basically, it sounds terrible.
Now, my friend started offering examples of “good” punk and it was interesting. Because the examples offered were of bands that had a sense of that musicality and, aside from poor vocals, had moved away from the primal hammering of early punk toward something more…nuanced? They…progressed. They got tired, I suppose, of just channeling dissatisfaction and rage and realize that their instruments could actually be used to make…you know…music.
I loathe country and western as well, but I would never say that those artists have no ability or talent. They can play! It seems a shame that so often they use their considerable ability to pretend that they can’t, but I respect them as musicians, I just don’t care for their product.
I suppose I am unfair about it, but I can’t help it. I really despise punk rock. Not for the impulses that drove it but for the categorical rejection of musicality aimed at bringing down genuine musicality. I get rage. But we did that in the Sixties and it sounded good!
Except for some of the singing. I have to admit, the whole aesthetic of the singer-songwriter who’s gonna do his or her stuff whether they can carry a tune or not never impressed me. It seemed for a while we were getting over that nonsense, but here comes punk bringing it all back with a vengeance. “I don’t wanna practice! I don’t wanna take voice lessons! I don’t wanna have to be good! I just wanna be a STAR!” Or, so they claimed, anti-stars. Which still required an audience, and the larger the better, which means a following, which means popularity of some sort, which makes you, if you get enough of it, let’s see…a Star.
I just wanted to get some of that off my chest. Thank you for your indulgence.
For anyone who can spot it and decipher it. (Yes, this is frivolous, yes, it was fun, yes, sometimes I have no deep thoughts.)
I put up a new gallery of images from our trip.
One of the things we did since returning was go see Santana at the Fox. Stunning show. Carlos has always been one of my favorite musicians. His sound…well, I can’t get enough of his guitar sometimes. But this night. My ghod, what a performance! I’ve seen Santana more than a couple of times and they have never been better. If I never see another major show like this, I would, I think, be content. The emotions wrung out of me during the show…
Anyway, we noted that Hamilton is going to be there next year. Donna expressed interest, so while we waited for the doors to open I pulled up tickets on my phone.
We shan’t be going to see Hamilton. Not at those prices. We’ll wait for the dvd. (Though it would be very cool to see it live.)
Being now in the midst of our annual sauna, I have plenty to do indoors. So I’ll leave you with another photo just for grins. Stay cool.
And you didn’t even know I was gone.
We went to Florida for an extended weekend with Donna’s sister. Right now, I have little to say about it other than we had a very fine time. I just want to leave some images here to show you a bit of the flavor of the trip.
Just musing on the amazing quality of light. I’ve been reading several science books lately, one in particular (The Invention of Science by David Wootton) that goes into considerable depth about actual Seeing as essential to the transformation of culture from a pre-scientific to scientific basis. But all of them deal with light as a founding subject for the apprehension of the world. Einstein won his Nobel because of the work he did on photons, Newton began with a study of optics, and quantum mechanics wouldn’t be giving both the joys and headaches of our present understanding of nature if not for the whole revelation about quanta and photons and wave functions…
It is essential to everything we are, whether we can see it or not. As Carl Sagan said, we are made of star stuff and you cannot think of stars separate from the light.
So a couple of images for you, showing the marvelous manifestations of light.
Caught out the window of the car on our way back from Pittsburgh.
Stepping out of my car in an underground garage, early morning, where an opportune window let this beauty in.
Have a good week.
At long last, in the fulness of time, it came to pass that the patio needed attention. Yea verily, the walkway from patio to garage lay sore in need of a makeover. The lineaments of the former had become a vexation to those of us who walk upon it daily. As can be seen and attested by this image, while in most ways decorous and even of distinctive character, the stones which we had set down to replace the joke which had lain from pad to door when we originally moved in had lost their charm. Winter especially proved awkward and we agreed that this was but an accident waiting to happen.
We’d inherited those stones from my parent when they redid the concrete around their house. They had formed a wall around a garden plot in the front of their house. Dad just wanted to pitch them. Donna immediately said we’d take them and we spent a hot summer weekend digging a trench and placing them as you see. Donna’s nephew Dan helped. I’m not sure I could do it again, certainly not in one weekend. I was proud of that walkway and it has done it’s job for over 20 years.
But it was time. Something a bit less picturesque and a lot more practical was in order. So we made our plans, got in touch with the man who did my parents’ concrete work, got a quote, and set date.
First problem. Because we’ve had a rainy spring, the date had to be flexible. As it turned out, we had a window. They showed up on a Friday, after almost a solid week of rain, to do the prep work.
Scott Schilling and two young men arrived around nine and went to work. They moved all those stones, piled them up, and started excavating. I spent the time doing other chores and some writing and occasionally emerging to document the process. (Because, like the kitchen remake, I knew I’d be writing one of these.)
It rained that day anyway, though barely. Not enough to cause a massive disruption. During the heaviest part, they sat in their truck and waited for it to pass, which it did.
Our backyard is…idiosyncratic? It has character. Over the years we’ve acquired a variety of objects which Donna has rather wonderfully incorporated. One major change this time is Coffey’s old digging pit. She hardly uses its anymore, so we had them dump the extra dirt in it and Donna went to work later remaking it.
Below is a series of shots from that first day.
The gravel laid, the forms in place, we just had to wait for another dry day to complete it. Fortunately, Sunday was gorgeous, so when they arrived Monday morning it was ready to receive the magic elixir of impenetrable solidity.
There’s something beautiful about wet, freshly-smoothed concrete. I almost wish it could have remained so gleaming. But in the rain and during winter ice, that could be dangerous.
It took them till almost noon to get it done. I had to go to work that afternoon. We did not use it for two days, despite assurances that it would be walkable by the next morning.
I almost wish we had opted to get the entire patio done at the same time, but that would have stretched the budget a bit too far. A project for a couple years from now. We will certainly use the same contractor.
Now, then, came the work to restore some semblance of order and charm to the wreck of the yard. Repurposing those stones was the first set of decisions. Some, we knew, were destined for the front of the house. I pulled up the wooden ties that had framed the small flower bed to the left of the porch. Replacing them—which was inevitable, as the bottom of the two ties had already turned to mulch—gave us a slightly larger area for flowers. I moved the stones carefully. A few of them weigh upwards of sixty or seventy pounds.
Shifting the remaining stones in the backyard was a more studied project. Some of them returned to their former positions, but now only as borders, with a trench for—yep—more flowers.
As for the extension of the patio, Coffey approves. At some point I intend to get a new grill, as we now have somewhere to put one where it can be semi-permanent and easily usable.
Just in time for the full spring bloom.
And I managed to get my improvisational bit of lawn art more permanently fixed. Donna added a touch (the dish) and things are falling into place.
Therefore, we conclude this report by admitting to be pleased with the results.