Coming Home and Spacing Out

So I’m back. Did you miss me? I was on the road for a few days taking care of some family matters, and was too far out of the loop to do much in the way of blogging. A few quick observations:

I picked up White Line Fever, the as-told-to autobio of metal legend/world’s scariest human Lemmy. It seems that Lemmy has had sex with several women and done drugs on multiple occasions. Who knew? More seriously, it’s an amusing if unfocused look at a man who is simultaneously exactly as he appears and much more interesting than he is usually presented. If nothing else, he offers an account of an early Beatles show that reminds us that although the Stones presented themselves as dangerous, it was the slum kids from Liverpool who were the real “hard men.”

I spent a lot of time driving this weekend, and because I ran out of CDs, I discovered that there a long stretches of highway where country music is the only thing on the radio. As usual, listening to mainstream country proved to be about as pleasant as an enema with McDonalds apple pie filling. While I’m rather fond of old-school country (like this, or this, or even this), whenever Mrs. Mondo tunes into a country station, I’m astonished by the total absence of musical personality. The performances are flawless, and having grown up in Nashville, I know how good the studio musicians are (Scary good, if you were wondering. Better than I’ll ever be.) But to borrow a metaphor from Frank Zappa, it’s music without eyebrows. It’s like the world’s best Holiday Inn band with a rotating bunch of lead singers. (And basically, that’s a pretty accurate description. The first-call studio fraternity in Nashville is extremely tight, and the same players appear on a huge number of tracks.) The drum sounds, the guitar tones, the timbre of the fiddle — they’re virtually identical from track to track, artist to artist. Whatever personality a given track has comes purely from the vocalist, and it’s an open question as to whether the songs reflect the vocalist’s true identity or are chosen to fit a predetermined persona. I can’t argue with the Nashville model as a successful business practice, but a more nondescript glob of undifferentiated goo it would be hard to imagine. Give me my cruddy garage band — we’ll make mistakes, but we’ll mean them.

At another point in the weekend, Mrs. Mondo and I spent an evening with several of my high school classmates — not an official reunion, but a get-together they have on a monthly basis. Like a lot of bright kids, I spent most of my high school years feeling hideous and alienated, not without reason. Consequently, I avoided the first several reunions my class had, finally returning for my twentieth. What I discovered when I went back, and what I rediscovered this weekend, was that none of that crap mattered. What mattered was that somewhere once upon a time, we were all in the same place together, and we were all beautiful — even the ugly ones. Saturday was a good time that I wish could have been longer.

In glass bottles, Sun Drop still appears to have little bits of fruit pulp. I don’t notice it in other bottles. It’s still good, though.

OK, now that I’ve taken this to Larry King levels of rambling (“Sugartit, Kentucky! Go ahead!”), I’d like to “put you some effin’ knowledge,” as they say at Ace of Spades, about a news story I saw today via National Review Online.

As some of you already know, I’m a vocal supporter of human exploration and eventual colonization of space. The space program shaped my childhood in some ways, and although I’m an admitted geek, it pleases me a great deal to find some people I greatly respect on my side. One such person is Stephen Hawking, who tells The Telegraph that he believes humanity must leave its earthly cradle within the next hundred years or face extinction.

The blogger at NRO is dismissive of the chances of this happening. I hope he’s wrong — I think space exploration may well be a matter of human survival, but for reasons of a different sort than Hawking’s.

One of my favorite writers, Harlan Ellison, suggested in the introduction to one of his collections that what really killed the dinosaurs was a lack of imagination, a failure to dream. Meanwhile, I’ll borrow a metaphor from my main man Northrop Frye and suggest that dreams can be centripetal — turning inward — or centrifugal, turning outward.

We live in a centripetal age these days, turning inward and trying to improve or perfect what we have. But I would argue that we need centrifugal dreams as well, and again, I’m not alone.

This weekend, I traveled about 1200 miles, further than most of the people who have ever existed may have journeyed in their lives. But it’s not enough. We need to turn outward as well as inward.

So I’m back. Did you miss me?

About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Family, Literature, Music. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Coming Home and Spacing Out

  1. majormaddog says:

    I agree. Good to have you back.

  2. Mike says:

    Wasn’t it Arthur Clarke that said “If the human race is to survive, then for a majority of our future history, the word ‘ship’ must be understood to mean ‘spaceship.'”?

    Of course I can’t find the exact quote now. I guess it could have been Heinlein instead of Clarke.

  3. nightfly says:

    Well, I missed you.

    Laugh if you must (and I’ll join you) – what you said about Ellison and the dinosaurs dying from lack of imagination reminded me of two things: early in UHF, Weird Al says of his own character: “One day they’ll all be sitting around, eating breakfast, and they’ll say ‘HEY! We screwed up!’ We should never have fired George Newman because he’s got imagination!”

    The other thing was (I’m sorry) something I wrote – the Doctor dealing with a bunch of people who insist that he can’t actually be who he plainly appears to be, that’s it’s all some trick or con. They demand to be taken to his planet, then, if he’s the real deal – a thing that he can’t do, since what used to be there is less than powder drifting through the cosmos – and then he loses his temper at their refusal to dream: “Would you like to know what destroyed my people? Once we mastered time and space, we stopped asking questions. All in the name of science, of course… We blew out the candles and called it Enlightenment. It killed their imagination, it killed their science, and ultimately it killed them. No bomb, no war, no disease, no cataclysm… the end came long before; the event only served to smash the tomb and scatter the ashes.”

    When I think about such things, I think that this must be the reason he left in the first place – he wasn’t done with discovery. The other Time Lords were sick of him trying to convince them, and it made him so unpopular that he left to convince anyone else who’d care to listen.

    Hopefully Ellison won’t ever sue me over the idea!

    • profmondo says:

      First off, Nightfly, thanks for dropping by! Anyone who can reference UHF, Dr. Who, and HE’s litigiousness in a single comment is right in my wheelhouse.

      In a related thought, my dad once suggested that true omniscience would be little better than total idiocy, as in either case, there would be nothing to think about (Stipulated: God is a special case.). We have to dream, to wonder, in order to have a life of the mind at all.

      Don’t be a stranger!

  4. Pingback: I’m the Rural Spaceman, Baby… | Professor Mondo

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