Woke up just a little while ago — clearly, I’m already adjusting to my post-Gradeapalooza schedule. Commencement is this afternoon, followed by the end-of-year faculty party, to which Mrs. M is contributing Southwestern/Black bean hummus. Between now and then…
Earlier this week, my childhood (and present) friend Michael Dearing sent me a link to what may be some of my coming music purchases. Those who know me (or have followed the blog) also know that I have a taste for off-the-wall and obscure rock music, be it garage, psych, prog, or many of the other oddball subgenres that are out there. And having grown up in the burbs of a Midwestern city as the 70s turned into the 80s, I also acquired a taste for the minor-league hard rock and proto-metal bands that everyone’s older brother seemed to have played in.
It’s this lot that seems to have inspired the Brown Acid series, a Nuggets-style collection of the bands that were spawned by the Blue Cheers, MC5s, and Stooges of the world. And I was about a 5-hour drive from the epicenter, it seems:
Much of this combustion appears to have taken place in Youngstown, Ohio […] a town that suffered from the demise of the steel industry during the decade (Bruce Springsteen’s Youngstown, from The Ghost Of Tom Joad, was written about the city), perhaps providing the impetus for the town’s youth to form bands.
“I’ve talked to guys from that part of the country, and they can’t really pinpoint why this is. There was a studio there called Peppermint [opened in 1971, and still recording today] that recorded a lot of these bands. It was a working class city, and there’s just a weird amount of great bands and records that came out of that part of the country. Even LA and New York don’t seem to have that kind of thing happening. When I go to write the city name in the liner notes it’s like, ‘yep, another Youngstown band.'”
I’ll probably pick some of these up pretty soon. In the meantime, here’s the first album:
One of the things I love about traveling with the Spawn (as I did for the last couple of days) is the conversation, at least until her Dramamine zonks her out. She spent some of yesterday telling me about what she calls her generation’s “hustle culture“, where creatives (or reasonable facsimiles) spend significant amounts of time talking about all the work they’re doing in order to make it in their fields. Writers talk about the various projects on their spinning plates, musicians about their multiple gigs, and perhaps ecdysiasts liveblog their implant surgeries. All of them are creating their own mythologies of sacrifice and heroic effort in order to reach their dreams.
The Spawn is of the opinion that some of this comes from the fact that her generation entered adolescence and awareness around the coming of the Great Recession, and have internalized an idea of struggle-as-virtue. She also compares it to the jock ethos of pushing one’s body to (and sometimes beyond) its limits to earn the scholarship or roster spot. Maybe she’s right. As a medievalist, it strikes me as a sort of public flagellation, a mortification of the flesh in the hope of some eventual salvation.
Fortunately, she also recognizes that what matters in the long run is the story, or the song, or whatever the performance is. As the saying goes, “No one wants to hear about the labor pains — they just want to see the baby.” So she keeps writing and keeps working, because that’s what people will read. The mythologizing can come later.
Speaking of seeing the baby, I had the opportunity to read an advance copy of The Truth About Parallel Lines, the debut novel from Jill D. Block. It’s a far more mainstream novel than I usually read, a decades-spanning look at the lives of several women of varying ages in the New York area. As I read, I found myself caring about and rooting for the characters as they face the challenges of their lives. When I talk to my students, I tell them that one of the valuable things about reading is the opportunity to inhabit someone else’s worldview, even if that someone else is fictive. This book is a fine example of that.
I also appreciated the fact that Ms. Block inhabits her various viewpoint characters in an honest, unobtrusive way. Her transparent style is reminiscent of the classical Hollywood cinema, where the viewer experiences the story without the filmmaker calling attention to him/herself. That’s something I admire, particularly in an era where I run into too many “hey-look-at-me” stylists. She’s a good read.
So if you like cleanly written, genuinely human stories, I suggest that you go ahead and get a copy of The Truth About Parallel Lines. I liked it — perhaps you will as well.
Well, I need to have some lunch and such before heading over to Commencement, so I’ll close for now. But I’ll close with a bit more music. Speaking of self-mythologizing, occasionally I’ll indulge in the “What’s your ‘walk-up music‘/theme song?” game, and I’m fond of asking my students that as well. Mine varies a bit from day to day, but typically winds up as one of these two, both of which make me feel like a bit of a bad-ass, even if I’m just going to talk about comma splices. So anyway, here they are, and if they help pump you up for your day as well? Great! Most days, it’s this one:
Feel free to add your own in the comments, and see you soon!