Thursday, February 27, 2003
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Down to brass tacks: Is anyone in your list still relevant? Close call. Bowie was irrelevant by 1980, so he put out a pop album and cruised on royalties. Gabriel was irrelevant by 1983; he made "So" (which was short for "So Lame I Didn't Bother with a Title") and cruised on the royalties. Plant was irrelevant in 1969, when Zep xeroxed the Jeff Beck Group (who were already harder, louder, and more accomplished musically, plus not dorks); he and Page became re-issue kings and cruised on royalties. Bruce was irrelevant in 1982. "Nebraska" and "The River" (both great records) confused his core audience, so he made "Born in the USA" and cruised on the royalties. (He did later return to his darker, slower stuff on "Tom Joad," but the Jersey meatheads still weren't buying. Kudos to Bruce for trying again, but he's still irrelevant.) As for Costello. He made a bunch of trashy, fun shit in the 70s, tried to get pop-sophisticated in the 80s, tried to get respect in the 90s, then made some more trashy, fun shit on "When I Was Cruel." Have you heard "Tear Off Your Own Head" off that particular record? It's got a great riff, a great chorus, a great beat, and it sounds wicked good cranked to eleven.
Re your second point (no more rock, only subgenres), it's bracing to consider rock's history. Very few artists in the past 30 years have done anything the Beatles didn't do first or better. Like REM? Listen to "We Can Work It Out." Like Soundgarden? Listen to "Helter Skelter." (About the only thing the Beatles didn't do well was country, which always came out sinding a little too Wild West rather than Nashville. On the other hand, they started their career doing Buddy Holly covers, so they knew the form.) I think of the Beatles as the great vertical axis in rock, and nearly everyone else as lines on the horizontal axis, emerging from some point on the vertical.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
"Slow Burn", David Bowie
"45", Elvis Costello
"The Barry Williams Show", Peter Gabriel
"Darkness, Darkness", Robert Plant
"The Rising", Bruce Springsteen*** (denotes winner)
By virtue of this list, we left to presume that rock is effectively dead. When the last 70s rocker expires, there will be no more rock, only pop, "alternative" or metal. I mean, does anyone listen to Peter Gabriel or Robert Plant anymore? And I know that Elvis Costello is god to rock geeks, but that is all. Only Bowie and of course Springsteen can really make an argument that they are relevant any more, and with Bowie, you're pushing it. This is sad.
Friday, February 14, 2003
Tuesday, February 11, 2003
This then raised an interesting question in my mind. If we accept, for purposes of argument that the GOP platform is "[personal] greed is good" (meaning more for us, less for the government), then a politician is, by nature, perfectly in line with that role (no one would argue that politicians aren't greedy - for power, approval or money). However, if we also accept that the Democrats say that "[personal] greed is bad" (meaning more for the government, and hence more hand-outs and wealth re-distribution), then you have a politician who is by nature, greedy and vain (give me votes because I'm the best!; let me spend your money on things I like) who has to pretend to be something other than what he is. The Democrats, then, have the handicap of having to do their job while maintaining that they're out for your best interests. It's much easier for the GOP politicians to simply say, no taxes, more income, than for the Democrats who have to justify more taxes with byzantine programs to spend the tax money on. Anyway, it's just a working hypothesis.
As an aside, I was finishing Thompson's book whilst sitting next to a fellow who was halfway through Peggy Noonan's "When Character Was King", her ode to Reagan. That's called juxtaposition.
Monday, February 10, 2003
What it all boils down to is the essential unanswered question: punishment vs. reform? The Quakers thought the "penitentiary" would provide the solace necessary for the prisoner to reflect and pray, thus becoming repentant. It turns out it just made them crazy. The failure of this style of imprisonment led to what we see today, although at the time, the penitentiary was viewed as a giant step forward over the fractured, unorganized jail system that existed at the time which usually led to prisoners being let out without concern over trying to improve them, thereby providing no real relief from crime (the prisoners could often get "better" after discussing what they did wrong with some other similarly-situated cons).
It therefore seems logical that for all prisoners, other than those in for life or on death row, some reform is necessary. If we want to decrease crime, then we need those who are incarcerated not to repeat when they are released. This then leads one to look to a mixture of "hard labor" (punishment) with some rehabiliation included. If one is in for life or on death row, reform would appear useless (unless you want a more peaceful prisoner to decrease in-house violence) and the state should see fit to make the prisoner's life a living "Inferno". While Dante had the right philosophical idea, can you imagine budgeting for gold cloaks encased in lead?