By Nick Hornby
At a theater performance last spring I was introduced to some relatives of a blog-pal. "So how did you two get to know each other?" was a question I received from one of her in-laws. As I began to explain, another in-law chimed in "Internet Dating!" A moment of silence and embarrassed smiles all around. While we are hardly an "item" (except, perhaps, in Halldór Laxness literary criticism circles) it was a interesting point, not completely without validity. The use of the internet has probably been the biggest change in the courtship and mating dynamic (to say nothing of how men and women interact) since the introduction of the "pill" in the early sixties. A stay at a B&B a few years ago found the Weaver and me the only couple staying there not to have met via on-line dating! Many others have met people by having their blog read, sometimes with the most amusing/mortifiying face-to-face encounters.
All of this, and more, is covered in Nick Hornby's latest novel, Juliet, Naked. Reading it brings up the question: Will all new contemporary fiction (fiction set in the "present") have an internet component? This book is full of emails, blogs, cyber-stalking and Wikipedia entries. Nick does a good job integrating these elements into a story about triangle of three failed people: Tucker Crowe- a reclusive ex-rock star, Duncan- Crowes' stalker/blogger/interpreter, and Annie- quiet museum director and Duncan's "other".
Hornby has explored some of this turf before, notably in High Fidelity, I think that one's appreciation for a book like this would depend on how much interest one has in dysfunctional English obsessives. It is deftly written, even breezy at times, which helped keep my interest. The character of Jackson, Crowe's young son, gives us a sense of perspective - he's the only person in the book who isn't living his life one (or more) steps removed from "here and now" reality. He also supplies some of the parenting theme; he is Crowe's last chance at becoming a real father.
I sensed that Hornby was trying to express some of his mixed feelings toward the internet; how it can distort yet revitalize reality. He also covers aging musicians and how disappearing can be a savvy career move. One of Hornby's problems is that he doesn't offer much insight into the musical process- making his premise seem artificial. He did offer a bit of hope that internet communications could help a person break out of a rut, if only for a short while.
A marginal recommendation; if you enjoyed High Fidelity you might like this as well. It isn't as funny, but is somewhat deeper.
Facebook™ is trying to register the word "Face" as a trademark. Even Stalin, in his most revisionist excesses, never went as far as to restrict the usage of a common word. If Mark Zuckerberg does get his way, will we have to come up with a different word for that most basic human feature to avoid paying a license? Or will the word "face" have to have to be updated with a ™ symbol every time is is written? Will The Beatles I've Just Seen a Face become I've Just Seen a Face™? Will hockey games have "Face™-offs?"
I think I'll try to trademark the word "anus." I'll then be able to redefine it and use it as I see fit:
Photo:Elaine and Priscilla Chan
Under the Camden Bridge, Minneapolis, 1973
"Old Camden" referred to an area of a few square blocks next to the Mississippi
River, just down a hill from "Camden", a small business district on Minneapolis' north side. In the late 1800's it had an active mill, with a small dam on a creek named for the shingles which were made there. In the 50's and 60's it was completely undeveloped, the tall Camden bridge over it dominated the area. It remained popular- with fishermen, kids and the occasional wino. There were islands in the river to swim to and explore on a hot summer day, with rope swings out over the water and small sandy beaches.
The gothic-looking bridge had its share of graffiti- mostly just scratched stuff, no real "art". It was cool underneath it, and the years of water seeping through it had caused little limestone stalactites to form in spots. On a Friday or Saturday night there would be teenagers drinking, and playing hide and seek from the police.
The bridge remains, its been rebuilt twice since I used to hang out there, the whole area has been turned in to a park, nicer in some ways, but no longer "Old Camden".
FITK - Your Trusted Identity In Cyberspace
P. Batty, learned scholar, esteemed essayist, internet crackpot
(To be read in a terse, raspy "radio" voice, preferably baritone, with descending inflections at the end of each sentence):
What are you going to believe?
How can you be sure of anything?
Who do you trust?
If you read it here, you can believe it.
It's a sure thing.
If I Were a Bell I'd Be Ringing
Saint Joseph's Church, Minneapolis, 1977
Summer is winding up with a bang here at Flippist World Headquarters. Almost all of my summer projects are done, the weather has been glorious, I finally got a photo into the State Fair Art Exhibit (report on the preview tomorrow!) and my blog-pal Annie's art team won an Emmy!
Life is good.
I'm probably way too old to be writing fan letters. The only one I've ever previously written was to Mad Magazine. I was eleven. Here is my second, forty-nine years later:
I saw you play at the festival last year. On the surface, you were just a bunch of kids, intent on playing your quiet music for a group of jaded strangers- mostly music junkies like myself who were beyond redemption. We were an audience who had seen it all before but were still seeking that ephemeral "high", that special moment when all internal barriers dissolve and the music becomes internalized- ego dissolves and only beauty, truth and love remain; a form of magic as old as humanity.
When you played, and the form and emotional content of your songs became apparent, my defenses were shattered. Yours was not an "act" nor was it a "show", it was just you. Later, when I got your CD and could listen to the songs carefully, I was just as taken.
Now you are in a new phase- working, working hard, working with other people, and giving up some control in order to reach a wider audience. I wish you the best of luck. You've got new songs too, I'm looking forward to hearing them. Songs are ideas, and they are sort of like children in some ways. Gestation, birth and nurture: then out on into the world to live or die on their own merits. And if the idea is a true one, the world becomes a better place for having them.
I don't know any of you personally, that's probably for the best. Your world is different than mine in so many ways, but the one way in which it is the same is that we are all trying to communicate: you with your songs, me with my blog. The modern music biz is peculiar. Beyond a certain stage it ceases to be communication and becomes commerce (there's little danger of that happening to this blog!) It is hard to avoid, but it doesn't have to happen.
I won't be seeing you play this year (although in the internet age there will be other "eyes' and "ears" to give me a sampling), and beyond that, who knows? "Time will tell", a wise person once wrote to me, a simple platitude but a true one. The life of any musical group is uncertain, as is life itself. But your music, which has become a part of my life, has already worked its magic.
Eternal Summer #5 - The Fair
Hypnotist and Subject, Minnesota State Fair
Our State Fair is theater. Not exactly high-brow, but thoroughly scripted, rehearsed and acted. We, the people of Minnesota, are the actors. User generated content? It has always been full of it, years before the internet, and in thousands of weird and wonderful ways. It is the official end of summer, at least in Minnesota. Ending on Labor Day (traditionally the day before school starts) it is a punctuation mark; a full stop on the sentence of the seasons. Its popularity grows each year. It exists in a world of its own, beyond parody and irony, beyond reductionism and analysis.
Congress of Oddities, 1976
"I celebrate myself, and sing myself"
~ Walt Whitman
Eternal Summer #4 - Play
Eternal Summer #3 - Adventure
Under Minneapolis, 1968
The summer after I graduated from High School was an awkward time, I was neither man nor child, but dimly aware that after college started in the fall my world would change forever. There was still the neighborhood gang, boys ranging in age from 14 to 17, too young to drink and it was too early to be doing drugs (that would hit our backwater town a year or two later.) And there was still summer, with its inevitable surprises.
There were other illicit adventures to be had, and exploring the storm sewers was one of them. We did have the sense to check the weather first, although we never went far enough to get into real trouble. Part of the thrill was the sense of dread while crawling on your belly in a tight pipe for hundreds of feet, and then the sense of accomplishment when you finally made it into a small junction- a space big enough to sit down and light candles and savor the moment.
Those storm drains have long since been fenced off, I'm sure that getting caught in one now would earn a youthful miscreant a trip to jail. It is dangerous, more than one "urban explorer" has perished recently in the catacombs of Minneapolis. But danger is the attraction, for a dank sewer's charms are few.
Eternal Summer #2 - Paradise
Paradise House, Bath, 1995
The summer of 1995 brought the hottest summer on record to South-west England. The Batty family thought it merely balmy at first, compared to Minnesota in August. We had been to rural Sussex and Saint Ives, the temps were in the mid 80's. By the time we reached Bath, it was well into the nineties, and the only thing air conditioned in town was a McDonald's. We arrived in Bath in the late afternoon, our B&B was the aptly named Paradise House. Situated on a hill overlooking the city center, it was just high enough that one could catch a breeze while relaxing in a glorious garden. The boys got the room with the bay windows, the lights of the city at night were spectacular. We were in the back of the house, in what was the "cat's" room (or so she thought.) In the morning breakfast was served (with linens) by a uniformed staff.
B&B's are funny things. Many of the ones we've gone to in the U.S. have seemed to have been designed according to a "B&B master plan" - over decorated, with cheesy furnishings and more than a bit twee. Paradise House was perfect; classy and tasteful yet comfortable. Even the boys got a sense that a summer vacation could be something other than a cabin at the lake, or the Econo-lodge in the Black Hills.
Eternal Summer #1 - The Lake
Woman Lake, 1980, Photo by T. Rummelhoff
"Going to the lake" is a summer ritual here in Minnesota, land of 10,000. Whether it is a short trip to one of the Minneapolis lakes or a week long expedition to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness along the Canadian border, summer and water are inextricably bound together here- making up for the lack of an ocean (although Lake Superior is pretty big.) Even when we were young and poor we usually managed a getaway, if only for the week-end. Yes, there was drinking, but the stronger drug was the lake itself, the smell of the fresh water and the spell of the hypnotic waves, taking us far away from the city and its lurid excitements.
This year, for various reasons, I've missed out (although if we get much more rain, the lake will come to me.) There still is a chance, maybe in October; no swimming then, but still very attractive in its own way.
I'm In With The In Crowd
A panoramic photograph I shot at last year's Iceland Airwaves has been accepted to the Fine Arts Exhibition at the 2010 Minnesota State Fair!
(cue music: We Are The Champions)
I'll show it to you here, but in three panels- it is kind of hard to shrink a 48" wide print down to 800 pixels. I'll have more about the exhibition in a few weeks:
Cosmic Call, Left
Cosmic Call, Center
Cosmic Call, Right
Cosmic Call is the name of the band which was performing to this audience. This is a "stitch" of five images; this panoramic was actually cropped down from eight separate exposures!
How I Spent My Summer Hiatus #4 - Remodeling (really!)
This jumble of mashed together images illustrates the Flippist World Headquarters new "personal hygiene facilities." Birch paneling with pine trim, LED lighting over the tub/shower (6 watts instead of 75!), and built-in linen storage makes this cozy (8x8) retreat inviting.
You Must Remember This...
"Was that a sigh of disgust?"
"No, none of those..."
"A sigh of respiration, perhaps?"
"Prithee, do tell, what did it mean?"
"It was merely a sigh of indigestion."
Chinese Comment Spam Poetry
Death is sad, but even more sad to live unhappy.
Maturity is the ability to adapt to life in the vague.
When a person's heart can hold different conflicting things, this man started to become worthwhile.
Such a good blog, see later how to do ah!
I am so grateful to the dynamic of the blog!
Readiness is all...
Only shoes of people who know where one shoe pinches...
Has never been fame and fortune, the are from Shi Feixin.
Really touching article.
Attracted by your popularity.
Do not look for lessons from the failure of people, success is far away.
Suffering humiliation in the environment, the creation of our new life of self-reliance.
Have you eaten? ~ ~ ~ Still at work, hungry Oh
Unless a tree in spring bloom, otherwise the result is unlikely in the fall.
We can give each other the best gift is "really care."
~ Via Lab Munkay's Deep Thoughts of a Shallow Mind, Translations by Google Translate
How I Spent My Summer Hiatus #3- Cool, Wet & Hot
A groovy evening concert in Minnehaha Falls Park by some old friends was interrupted by a deluge of biblical dimensions:
No need to get upset, not when you can just duck in to Sea Salt restaurant for a quick bite. Somehow I was left with the impression that the the folk there liked their condiments on the hot side:
Homo Sapiens is the only animal which enjoys eating hot spices. I don't really know why that is, but Robert Johnson once had this to say concerning the subject:
Hot tamales and they're red hot,
Yes she got'em for sale
Hot tamales and they're red hot,
Yes she got'em for sale
I got a girls, say she long and tall
She sleeps in the kitchen with her feets in the hall
Hot tamales and they're red hot,
Yes she got'em for sale, I mean
Yes, she got'em for sale,
Yeah Hot tamales and they're red hot,
Yes she got'em for sale
Summer Re-run: The Magic Broom
A shameful episode of my past.
Bill was a skeptic. "Show Me" was his motto.
The teen-age gang was hanging out on Ma Lewis' screen porch, playing cards, as was our wont on a summer's day. The banter, by chance, turned to ESP. This was the era of Uri Geller, Kweskin and other quacks. When Bill went home to eat, Rich and I hatched up a plot to confound him (an ever-popular pastime of our youth). We arranged a series of subtle hand signals to tip off what card was being looked at by the "tester" (ie: Big Bill) so that the "subject" (Rich) would know its value and suit. When Bill came back after supper, the trap was set. I suggested that we use cards to see if anyone had ESP. We would keep a tally, and compare results.
I was the first subject, with about 2 "hits" out of twenty (a "hit" was divining either rank or suit - getting both would be a "double hit"). Bill turn as guesser came next with about the same results. Then Rich was the subject. Bill was tester, and I was the impartial "observer" - of course I positioned myself to see Bill's card. Rich got about 8 hits the first round. He leaned back for a second round and the porch broom was knocked over by his chair. He picked up the broom end, and began idly fingering the straws. In the next round he got about 16 hits, and Bill was starting to sweat. In a stroke of inspired mischief, Rich claimed that the grasping at straws improved his odds. He called it his "Magic Broom". We did a third round, and a fourth, and while I would never let Rich get better than about 70 percent, every once in a while he would "get" three or four double hits in a row. We gave up after awhile, but we didn't tell Bill it was a hoax until three days later.
He has never forgiven us.
Originally posted July 17, 2004. Additional material and illustration added..
How I Spent My Summer Hiatus #2 - Remodeling
I must be possessed by remodeling demons; my sitting room has undergone several makeovers this summer.
The first version was nice, but a little too "mannered":
And I couldn't keep the dogs and cats from fighting.
The next try was more on the sensual side:
I liked that one, but the room still needed that special "spark":
You can see all the "makeovers" of my sitting room at Polyvore.
Instruction to the Peoples of Earth:
You must realize that you have the right to love beauty. You must prepare to live life to the fullest extent. Of course it takes imagination, but you don't have to be an educated person to have that. Imagination can teach you the true meaning of pleasures. Listening can be one of the greatest of pleasures. You must learn to listen, because by listening you will learn to see with your mind's eye.You see, music paints pictures that only the mind's eye can see. Open your ears so that you can see with the eye of the mind.
Sun Ra, 1956