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Mostly arts

Thursday 2/25/21

* I have to fill out some forms for Post Road which is publishing "The Last Field" in their spring issue. When proofing the galleys I was struck by the first sentence: "Of fields, my father had three." The piece is in Cheer Pack: Stories.

* Wrote Salmagundi about their spring issue, because I am supposed to have a piece in it, either a personal essay about climbing the Monument, called "You're Up, You're Down, You're Up," which is being adapted into a part of Saving Angles: Finding Meaning and Direction in Life's Unlikely Corners, or a short story, "Read the Ice," which is part of Longer on the Inside: Very Short Fictions of Infinitely Human Lives.

* I came up with a St. Patrick's Day op-ed idea that I'd like to do for someone. It pertains to Oscar Wilde and The Picture of Dorian Gray.

* Yesterday I wrote a new op-ed, a sort of defense of Archie Bunker. Which is not what it might sound like. Sent it to the Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, USA Today. Not really expecting anything to come of it at those venues. But that's where I started.

* Kelsey Grammer's Frasier character is getting another show. Cue the jokes on Twitter. Mean-spirited jokes. Unfunny jokes. I have never heard anyone say what is obvious about Frasier the original show. It's unwatchable in its last few seasons. A different show. I don't mean that there are different turns for the characters. The early seasons are detail-oriented, incisive, with verbal panache. They're sharp. The characterizations are tight. Everything is precise, but flowing. After Niles and Daphne get together--which I cite because that's when you can start to see the change, which later becomes overwhelming--everything becomes broad. Niles and Daphne change their voices. Grammer changes his, too. The sharpness goes away. The wordplay goes away. It becomes very Borscht Belt. "He was already eminent when my eminence was merely imminent," is a line from the early seasons you'd never hear later on. Frasier himself goes from keen, acerbic, cagey, to fuddy duddy, whiner, cloying. All of the smartness and nuance leaves the show. Watch Niles's mannerisms in the early season, the precision of his movements and what we come to know those movements to mean. You will see none of that in the last few seasons. The triumph of early Frasier was how smart it was, and that the smartness didn't cut into audience. It was important that way.

* I supplied biographical information to Auteur for the Scrooge book so that they could include it in their fall catalogue. The cover will be made off of this image of Scrooge first meeting the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in the haaz-infused streets of London.

* I'm looking for all of Jerry Lee Lewis's 1964 Saturday Club recordings and it's not going well. Can only locate about three-quarters of them. He does a marvelous version of "White Christmas" on Christmas Eve that never comes up.

* Watched Nicholas Ray's They Live By Night (1948). Cathy O'Donnell's Keechie is the picture.

* I wrote a story today called "Come Out, Won't You?" which is for Longer on the Inside. It's the shortest piece for that project, actually--450 words. I am getting better every day. A devastating work, this one. It's both so advanced and so real.

* Continuing to work out the first chapter--which may become two chapters--of Same Band You've Never Known: An Alternative Musical History of the Beatles. There is a discussion of one of the Beatles' best covers, which has never been discussed. It's just not come up in any book.

* Found an 8-CD box of Byrds outtakes from 1964-1966. Have to download it and convert.

* I wonder if Bob Bailey was really disappointed when Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar ditched the five-part episodes. He comes on the show, and that's what he started with--and it's the best radio I've ever heard. Some of the finest art I know. I make no allowances like, "best populist art" or anything like that. I mean, an art on high--that's also incredibly entertaining. I think you can learn a lot about humanity from those five-part episodes. And about yourself. They do the five-parters for thirteen months, then revert to the half-hour format that was in place before Bailey came on in the role. And they're nowhere near the same level. I understand how hard it must have been to do a seventy-five minute episode every week--with fifteen minutes segments appearing each weekday--but the drop-off is significant. The art is only there in the five-part episodes. Bailey had years to go on the series, but it never approaches what it was during his first thirteen months.

* This is Tuesday's Downtown segment. I think it was strong. I don't like to rate these things, or what I write, because I think everything I do is near about the same level. I'd say that's one of my most defining characteristics. But I still like to be able to single out a "Girls of the Nimbus" or a segment such as this one. I think it's important what is said here, moving how it is said, and funny, and poignant, and it's unlike anything one will hear on the radio. And I also know that no one could give a toss. I know you could play this segment to 500 station managers in America, and not one of them would think anything of it, because I believe we've all but lost the ability to tell what is good, what's great, what's mediocre, what's awful. Not everyone. But everything is now about anything else other than what that thing in question actually is. It's what orbits the thing, not the thingness of the thing. I know that no one wants this because it's new, it says vital things, it's intelligent, it's actually funny, not some parroting of unfunny phrases that people pretend are funny. No one talks this way, thinks this way, thinks this quickly, sounds like this, knows this much. That makes one undesireable in today's world.

* Walked eight miles Tuesday, three yesterday, three today. Not doing enough cardio. Virtually doing none. That needs to be addressed.

* Had not seen Tarkovsky’s Stalker in some time so rewatched and impressed as hell. Exciting moviemaking. 142 shots in 163 minutes. Not a lot of directors have the courage to hold shots like that. It's anything but a verbal film, I'd say, but it's like those people who don't say much so when they do it counts for more. Consider these lines: "Mankind exists to create great works of art. At least that's unselfish."

* It's not going well with the Archie Bunker op-ed. Sent it to a couple more places. Unpromising.

* Trying to get $900 someone owes me so I can pay off the credit card.

* I am not dealing with things, because it's all such ugliness, then I have to do and say things I don't want to do and say. But I don't have a choice, or else I'm just letting these people destroy me and any chance I have for a life. But it's stressful, and it's violent, and it's so unpleasant. The more in the right you are, when someone else is up to total no good, the more they will hate you. You can catch them red-handed. Like some crime on video. They'll hate you more. Most people are that way. Publishing people are far more that way even than most people.

* Found this handy round-up of Gene Vincent appearances on Saturday Club. The first ones are from the spring of 1960, so that's a few months before the Beatles left for Hamburg for the first time. They probably would have listened.

* I don't know what's going on with the site. I really have no clue. I have not been dealing with that either. So that's something I need to do.

* I have to get back to fighting, and then sustain it.

* I think this is how I die. I just think it's how it will continue to go. I don't think you can make great art in this world and be successful. I don't think enough people can tell what it is, would care what it is, would partake of what it is. I think you'd be too resented. I don't think you can get anywhere when all that you have is what you have--by which I mean, the quality of that which you have made. I think if Sgt. Pepper was put into this world right now by a musician who was blackballed by an industry, that it would do nothing. And I think that even if a lot of people heard it, less than twenty would term it any good at all, if a million other people weren't also saying how good it was and that you should pay attention. I think it'd run so counter, too, to mediocrity that it would be lost on people. It'd be too ahead of its time, even if it was something that in truth captured the times better than anything. I'm not saying that this record would. I'm simply using a work that became well-known as an example. I feel like one out of five million people now can appreciate anything of quality. If it's not mediocre, if it's not stupid, I think it's lost on people. I don't think they can recognize its value. I'm not going to have any support from anyone in this industry--and you need the whole of it behind you anyway--nor from anyone in this world. I'm not someone who garners support. I'm seen as too much of a threat. I make people too uneasy because of what I am. Which they do pick up on on some level. I frighten people. I intimidate them. I make them uncomfortable. Thoughts of me do not assuage their egos, their self-esteem. I like "smart person" things. I do things they don't do. The people who might care, who don't care that much, often resent me for being stronger than they are, and even when they don't, they just think I don't require any help, backing, support, a kind word, a simple gesture, encouragement, a bought book. I exist in a vacuum. Some people will tell me, "Millions and millions of people will love your work, and you will be here to see it," but I can't honestly see ten people loving it. I hope I'm wrong. I'm wrong so rarely. And I feel like I know this so well, know all the reasons so well, understand the death sentence so well.

* I've been working on a couple stories in my head. Longer ones. But not super long. Probably in that 2000-3000 word range. I can do a lot with 2400 words, stretch out and stay compact. It's a good length for me. I shouldn't say that in a way, because they're all good lengths for me, and I overturn the expectations of what can be done at a given length. The stories are called "Torso Jim" and "Sensible Heat." I have to turn to creating because it's the only time I have any control. If there was a magical scale that measured the actual value of a work, I know my works would beat anyone else's. Anyone else ever. I know there's more mass, with this magical scale, than in Shakespeare. I know there is. I have complete certainty of that. But I think it puts me at a further remove from this world that these works understand so well, and doing more of them, and always getting better, just increases the hate, makes 600 things sit here with me rather than 550, with nowhere to go; increases the confusion--"what the hell is he?"--and increases the envy. Never underestimate how little people in publishing do or create. Even if you were awful at writing, if you were productive, they'd hate you for that alone. They fear even that. They're always scared that they can't think of anything to write. The blank page dominates them. They seek to avoid it. They create work that is not real work just to stay clear of it. You should see them all on Facebook, doing their little researches--"Hive Mind!"--for things they will never, ever write. And would have no value if they did. Though their friends would publish it for them. The same people, the same kind of person, who of course would want me dead. Who would sooner part with their soul than allow me to pass--even across the threshold of tiny magazine, seen by virtually no one, read by no one. So I create more, and it gets worse on various fronts. But I need that time of the making of the matchless art. If I didn't have that time, I'd already be dead. It's all I have. And then there is more work, more amazing work, and it gets easier and easier for me, as it changes, and grows, and new forms are invented. And then what do you do with it? What do you do with a life that is not livable? Even as you live--in a different way--as much as a human possibly could.


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