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February 2019

Ever Heard of Nan Vernon?

I have a number of CDs full of MP3 music, much of which, as I've mentioned before, I haven't really listened to. One of these was playing in my car a couple of weekends ago when I was on my way home from hearing a guitarist named Michael Chapdelaine, of whom more in a moment. I mention the circumstance because it was dark, and the fact that it was dark probably affected my reaction to what I heard. 

One of the albums on this CD was Delphonic Sounds Today! It's a sort of tribute album to the Del-Fi label, which put out some classic Top-40 stuff in the late '50s and early '60s. If you're a serious pop music buff, you knew that, but I guess I'm not, because I didn't. It consists of Del-Fi releases--not necessarily hits--performed by contemporary artists; well, contemporary as of almost 20 years ago, anyway. And I was mostly enjoying it--there were hits like "I Fought the Law" and downright weird stuff like "Luci Baines," by The American Four. I can't imagine why someone thought it was a good idea to write and record a less than respectful rock-and-roll tribute to then-President Johnson's daughter. 

Then suddenly we were in Twin Peaks, with a track that sounded like it could have been recorded for the show. It was someone named Nan Vernon, singing a Bobby Fuller song called "A New Shade of Blue." I had never heard the song, but when I got home I found it on YouTube, and it's a pretty straightforward "slow song" of the time (1965 or so).

Now imagine it sung by Julee Cruise or Chrysta Bell in a Lynchian arrangement. Like I said, the effect was probably enhanced by the fact that I was driving down a country road in the dark, but suffice to say that this track belongs in The Roadhouse. Unfortunately it's not on YouTube, or as far as I can tell on any of the streaming services, and I think the CD is out of print, but cheap used copies are available on Amazon. If you're a fan of Twin Peaks-ish music (and maybe no one who reads this blog except Rob G is), this track alone is worth four or five dollars.

Of course as soon as I got home I looked up Nan Vernon. According to Wikipedia, she is a Canadian singer who seems to have only one solo album to her credit, Manta Ray, released in 1995. It also seems to be out of print, but I think I'm going to buy it. There are several tracks from it on YouTube. 

You can get something of an idea of what her "New Shade of Blue" is like from her cover of one of the greatest pop songs ever written, "Love Hurts":

Oh, and about that guitarist, Michael Chapdelaine--he's really good. Also an engaging performer, so I recommend that you go hear him if he comes your way.

And in case you're wondering about "Luci Baines" (but don't say I didn't warn you):

Does that voice sound vaguely familiar? It's Arthur Lee, who, with a new band called Love, a few years later would produce the classic Forever Changes. (The link is to my 52 Albums piece about that album.)


Andrei Rublev

I admit that I approached this film in more or less the same way I would approach reading The Faerie Queen: more (much more) interested in having seen it than in seeing it. There are classics which I think I should read (or hear or view) for their historical significance, but don't really expect to enjoy. This was one of them. 

Five or six years ago (at a guess), it was shown on Turner Classic Movies and I recorded it. Since it's almost three and a half hours long, I didn't want to watch it all in one sitting. So I watched thirty or forty minutes of it, then stopped it. But later when I tried to resume I discovered that the DVR apparently can't handle files that big. I gave up and put the DVD on my Netflix queue. It didn't work its way to the top till several weeks ago.  

In the meantime I had seen Tarkovsky's Stalker, and didn't really like it very much overall, its reputation notwithstanding (see comments here). In that position it joined Solaris, which I had seen maybe ten years ago and also found disappointing--and, to tell the truth, somewhat dull. Also mysterious, but, as with Stalker, not attractive enough to make me want to dig into the mystery. So I was pretty well positioned to conclude that I am not a Tarkovsky fan, and therefore not especially looking forward to three and a half hours of his work. The fact that Andrei Rublev is a loose account of the life of a Russian iconographer of the 14th-15th centuries did not add excitement to the prospect: an edifying but somewhat dull history and/or art lesson, perhaps?

But I was surprised again, in the opposite direction. I had expected to like the others more than I did. I liked this one more than I had expected, and rather more than the others. I don't want to overstate that. I do not love it, and I'm not sure I'll want to see it again, for reasons I'll mention in a moment. But it was rewarding.

It consists of eight separate episodes, and a sort of prologue. I got off to a bit of a bad start with the prologue, and with the first episode; to be more precise, a somewhat baffling start. The prologue involves a group of men trying to launch a hot-air balloon while in imminent danger of some sort of attack. There's no explanation of when or where or why this is happening, though since the balloon seems to be made of animal skins I suppose it is nowhere near modern times. The balloon, carrying one man, finally gets into the air just as the attackers arrive. The passenger has an exciting but short flight. And that's the end of that. In light of the entire film, I conjecture that this is some sort of parable about art and artists, but I don't know.

The movie proper begins with several monks, of whom Andrei Rublev is one, leaving a monastery in dissatisfaction, headed for Moscow where they hope to get work as icon painters. I'm going to describe this next bit as it appeared to me:

The monks are caught in a downpour and ask for shelter in a ramshackle building in which several dozen people are sitting and standing around. They are being amused by a man who leaps around and sings satirical songs about the Boyars. This goes on for a while. Some soldiers arrive on horseback. They enter the building, grab the entertainer, drag him outside, and slam his head into a tree, leaving him either dead or unconscious. They smash a musical instrument which I presume belongs to the entertainer. The soldiers sling the man's limp body over the saddle of a horse and leave.

The first Russian film I ever saw, apart from Potemkin when I was in college, opened with a young boy seeing his father crushed by a falling tree and ended with that same boy, now a man, being brained with an axe. That's about all I remember of it and I don't have any idea what the name of it was. I saw it with a friend and as I recall our opinion of it didn't come to much more than"Well, that was really Russian."

So after the prologue and the first episode I figured--I feared--that I was dealing with a similar work in Andre Rublev. And I did continue to be confused at times by what was going on--who people were, why they were doing what they were doing, and so on. But a coherent picture did take shape around the theme of Rublev's artistic vocation and attains its fullness in the final episode, "The Bell," which is not really about Rublev at all. It involves the very reckless pledge of a teenaged boy to direct the casting of an enormous bell. By "enormous" I mean that the mouth of it is at least ten feet wide. He is the son of a famous bell-maker who has just died, and the boy asserts that his father left with him the secret knowledge essential to the process, and that he will undertake the job himself. It is reckless because he will die a very horrible death if he does not succeed. I'm not going to say how that comes out, of course, in case you haven't seen it. I'll just say that I've sometimes wondered how such feats were accomplished, and that seeing something of how it was (presumably) done was something close to awe-inspiring. 

So: all in all, a fascinating, thought-provoking work from the sort of literary point of view, and moreover, visually impressive, often very beautiful: a rather important aspect of a visual medium, and one in which I thought the other Tarkovsky films I've seen fell considerably short.

I'd like to see it again. And yet, as I said, I'm not sure I will. That's mainly because Episode VI was so hard to watch. It's called "The Raid" and it depicts the pillaging of a town all too convincingly. It was pretty disturbing and I'm not sure I want to go through that again. I suppose I could always skip it. 

Andrei_Rublev_Russian_poster

Original theatrical poster (from Wikipedia)


Detectorists, Series 3

It's on Netflix now, but DVD-only. There are only six episodes, and they're only a half-hour or so long, and I've watched the first four (i.e. the first DVD). I just did a search to make sure I was right about the number of episodes, and saw a sad headline: "Why Detectorists series 3 will be the last." So now I will never have more than two episodes yet to watch. But I will give writer-director (and lead actor) Mackenzie Crook the benefit of the doubt, and suppose that in his estimation he can't do more with the characters and still keep up the quality.

Anyway: if you've seen the first two series and liked them, I'm sure you will like this one. If you haven't seen them, you should. I might rate this one of the best things ever done for television. I just read over what I said about it in December of 2016, and it still holds, so I won't repeat myself. 

I will however repeat that it's really sad that there will be no more.

Detectorists-series-3-air-date-1024x768

Oh, and one other thing: I did notice one aspect that seemed a falling-off from the previous two series, and that was the quality of the cinematography. It isn't as crystal-sharp and vivid as I remembered. Then I realized that I had watched the other two in streaming HD, and basic DVD quality is lower. So I guess there's a reason to have Blu-ray. 


Three Philosophers Discuss Hope

Someone recommended this podcast to me, and I in turn recommend it to you. The topic is Hope:

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the philosophy of hope. To the ancient Greeks, hope was closer to self-deception, one of the evils left in Pandora's box or jar, in Hesiod's story. In Christian tradition, hope became one of the theological virtues, the desire for divine union and the expectation of receiving it, an action of the will rather than the intellect. To Kant, 'what may I hope' was one of the three basic questions which human reason asks, while Nietzsche echoed Hesiod, arguing that leaving hope in the box was a deception by the gods, reflecting human inability to face the demands of existence. Yet even those critical of hope, like Camus, conceded that life was nearly impossible without it.

The guests are:

Beatrice Han-Pile, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Essex

Robert Stern, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield

Judith Wolfe, Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of St Andrews

And they know their stuff. Or at least they were able to convince this non-philosopher that they do. I was especially impressed with Dr. (I assume) Wolfe, who, whether she's Christian or not, certainly has a deep understanding of Christianity. 

Click here to listen. I guess you can also download it to your phone etc. though I did not. I don't do podcasts very often, because usually when I want to listen to something music wins out. 

What struck me most about this discussion is right there in the description: that the hope left in Pandora's jar was originally considered to be a bad thing. As a child I learned of Pandora in the pages of Compton's Pictured Encylopedia, and I thought the significance of the story was that the gods did not make the opening of the jar a complete triumph for evil. I guess I thought that the presence of hope meant that there was actually some chance of its being fulfilled. It never occurred to me that it was a twisting of the knife: that we are condemned to futility while always falling into the illusion that things might be otherwise. Sisyphus will keep pushing that rock forever, but he'll also forever think "I just know it's going to work this time."

Personally I'm inclined to agree with those who consider hope of any except the Christian sort to be at very best something to treat with caution and skepticism. It's like alcohol: too much will only make you sick.

This discussion of hope is part of a BBC radio series called "In Our Time," and judging by this program, and by the titles of others in the series, a great deal of it would be worth hearing: see this list of episodes. "Eclectic" is an understatement: in recent weeks consecutive programs dealt with Samuel Beckett, Papal Infallibility, and Venus (the planet, not the goddess). 

 


Machine vs Bugs

I logged in to Facebook and there was a link to a YouTube video from a band I "liked" (and like), Laki Mera. So I thought I'd listen to the song. It was good. Then I noticed on the YouTube sidebar a video called "Bothering Bald-faced hornets with an Action Drone AD-1". Why did YouTube connect that to the music video? I have no idea. But it caught my attention.

That looks interesting. No it doesn't. Liar. It's 13 minutes long. So what? Okay, I admit I'm curious. Of course--who wouldn't want to see a drone bothering a hornets' nest? But I don't want to take that much time. Seeing a drone bothering a hornets' nest is worth 13 minutes of your time. Yeah, but it's getting kind of late, I should do something more useful. I repeat, seeing a drone.... Okay, okay. You just have to take out the recycling, you have plenty of time for that.  OKAY.

So the voice in italics won and I watched it. You can, too. It is exactly what the title says--well, a bit more than "bothering"--it's a drone attacking a hornet's nest. And it is kind of fascinating. But I will warn you that at several points the hornets are flying so thick that it's creepy, and I'm a little concerned that it could give me a nightmare, so I'm going to get away from the computer for a while before I go to bed.

I suggest watching/listening to the Laki Mera video to help clear that out.

 


If There's One Thing I Despise, It's a Mob

Or: "Driving Through The Caution Lights."

In 1932 my grandfather was the judge in a case where the lynching of the defendants was a very real possibility. This is what he said to the court:

Now, gentlemen, this is for the audience, and I want it to be known that these prisoners are under the protection of this court. The Sheriff and his deputies, and members of the National Guards, are under the direction and authority of this court. This court intends to protect these prisoners and any other persons engaged in this trial. Any man or group of men that attempts to take charge outside of the law are not only disobedient to the law but are citizens unworthy of the protection of the State of Alabama, and unworthy of the citizenship which they enjoy. I say this much, that the man who would engage in anything that would cause the death of any of these prisoners is not only a murderer, but a cowardly murderer, and a man whom we should look down upon with all the contempt in our being; and I am going to say further that the soldiers here and the Sheriffs here are expected to defend with their lives these prisoners and if they must do it, listen gentlemen, you have the authority of this court, and this court is speaking with authority, the man who attempts it may expect that his own life be forfeited or the guards that guard them must forfeit their lives. If I were in command, and I will be there if I know it, I will not hesitate to give the order to protect with their lives these prisoners against any such attempt.

I am speaking with feeling and I know it because I am feeling it. I absolutely have no patience with mob spirit and that spirit that would charge the guilt or innocence of any being without knowing of their guilt or innocence. Your very civilization depends upon the carrying out of your laws in an orderly manner. I am here listening to this case trying to sift the truth or not the truth of it and I am going to strengthen that guard if necessary and I am going to let everyone know that any attempt, and I believe these boys understand, that you have got to kill them before you get these prisoners. That is understood and they have told me they would, and they will do it. Those are the instructions and orders given to the guards.

I absolutely have no patience with mob spirit. I could never have been a lawyer, but I did inherit enough of my grandfather's spirit to put me in absolute agreement, intellectual and emotional, with him. I am speaking with feeling and I know it.

That was my initial reaction to the Covington Boys vs. Progressive Opinion affair, though not my initial reaction to the incident that sparked the conflict. In that reaction I'm happy to say that I passed the Covington Catholic test, as described in The Atlantic by Julie Zimmerman. That is, when I first read of the incident I thought Hmm, that looks bad, but there's probably more to the story. And I waited to see what facts would emerge when the dust settled. One lesson that we all ought to have learned in recent years is that sensational stories in the media often prove to be far less sensational when more light is shed on them.

Of course there was a great deal more to the story, so much so that the original "narrative" was shown to be largely false. I know there are still holdouts for that view, but I don't think it's tenable. As an assessment of the facts these two pieces speak for me:

Andrew Sullivan, in New York magazine: "The Abyss of Hate vs. Hate." 

Caitlin Flanagan, in The Atlantic: "The Media Botched the Covington Catholic Story." 

Note that neither of these is a conservative publication, and neither of the writers is a Trump supporter; quite the contrary. I'm not sure what Sullivan's views in general are these days, but I don't think he can be described as a conservative. I had pretty much given up on him a while back and only saw this piece because someone linked to it. Flanagan is, as far as I can tell, more or less a conventional liberal, but clear-eyed and not an ideologue. She's one of the few writers currently at The Atlantic whom I'll take time to read.

For me this was something of a Young Goodman Brown moment. Brown is the protagonist of the Hawthorne short story which bears his name. In brief, it describes the crisis of a young Massachusetts Puritan man who discovers that all the respectable people of his town are participants in a rite of devil-worship held at night deep in the woods. Nothing ever looks the same to him afterwards. (You can read the story here.)

The initial reaction to the Covington story among journalists, various celebrities, and the left in general was the work of a mob in every respect except that of physical violence, and that was vehemently threatened (which put me in mind of Yeats's line "had they but courage equal to desire"). It disgusted me. On a visceral level I was sickened by the mindlessness of it, by the way a mob joyfully discards all constraints on its ugly passion. A mob is an entity in itself, something bigger, more stupid, and more wicked than the individuals who constitute it. 

But internet mob actions happen fairly often. What made this one so disturbing to me was similar to what disturbed Goodman Brown: not that there were devil worshipers in the woods, but that the respectable people were among them, as excited and happy to be there as any witch. Usually these mobs are made up of anonymous people with no power apart from whatever they can collectively exercise as a mob. But the mob attacking the Covington boys was led by institutions and people who have a great deal of cultural influence: The New York Times; The Washington Post. CNN. Pundits and entertainers. One of the first of these I saw, after the initial story appeared, was from Michael Green, one of the screenwriters for Blade Runner 2049. Green said (on Twitter, naturally) of the now-famous boy in the MAGA hat :

A face like that never changes. This image will define his life. No one need ever forgive him.

My interest in seeing BR 2049 again died a quick death when I saw that.

There were worse, of course, including the Beauty and the Beast co-producer who thought the boys should be fed head-first into a wood-chipper. Some of the attackers deleted and apologized for some of their most offensive and violent comments.  The press backtracked to a degree, but at least from what I saw most went no further than to admit that the situation was more complex than they had initially said.

I don't know whether any of them have ever admitted that their story was just plain false in every important respect. At worst the boys were guilty of bad manners and "disrespect" (an odd complaint to make in 21st century America)--unless you believe that a MAGA hat is only and always a symbol of white supremacy, and anyone wearing it a white supremacist, morally equivalent to a Klan member. Or that the silly "tomahawk chop" gesture, used by fans of every sports team with an Indian name, is the moral equivalent of burning a cross. It's one thing to say that the hat and the gesture are offensive and insensitive, combative where reconciliation is needed. I would largely agree. But it's quite another to say that they are threats of violence, even a species of violence, and only used by racist monsters. I know there are people who believe these things, just as there are people who believe Obama is a secret Muslim. Reason is powerless in such cases. 

Part of the secret power of a mob is a truth of human nature that we would all prefer not to see: it feels good to hate. Really good. There's a kind of ecstasy in surrendering to it. There is a lot of hate in our politics now. There is plenty of it on the right, but there is at least as much on the left. And many or most of those on the left are unable to see it, even when, in cases like this, it is on striking public display.

To a degree this is to be expected as the normal human tendency to be blind to one's own faults while having a keen eye for those of others. But part of it is that progressives have defined themselves particularly and explicitly as we who do not hate, we who are not those who hate. By definition, then, hate is something that other people, their enemies, do. It's the very essence of their opposition to the right, which they see precisely as the party of hate. Therefore whatever indignation they feel and express is not hate. If you see something in them that you might be inclined to call hate or malice, it is their righteous anger. It is an aspect of their virtue, so of course they aren't ashamed of it.

Empathy, openness, and fairness are also among the qualities on which the left prides itself, and ones which were nowhere to be seen in this affair. How was it that thousands, at least, of presumably sane people were able to focus so much hatred on one teenage boy, caught in a strange situation which he did not create, with a look on his face which they deemed arrogant, and moreover symbolic of the world's greatest evils? (Of personal grievances as well--some commentators were enraged because the picture reminded them of someone they hated in high school. If I felt that way about someone I would not expect anyone else to take it seriously.) In matters like this the left is absolutely unwilling and/or unable to consider the possibility that legitimate disagreement can exist, that anyone can see the matter other than they do and not be an evil person. In this view it's simply not possible that anyone could have reasons for supporting Trump that are not evil or at the very least hopelessly and culpably stupid, and in any case beyond respect, dialog, or simple courtesy. (I'm speaking generally; there are individual exceptions.)

All this has been under way for a long time, but it's reached a dangerous pitch now. There are a couple of remarks that I see frequently on conservative web sites: "This is how we got Trump" and "This will not end well." Both are applicable to this situation.

Flanagan and Sullivan are worth quoting in confirmation of those two observations. Flanagan, on how we got Trump, and may get him again: 

I am prompted to issue my own ethics reminders for The New York Times. Here they are: You were partly responsible for the election of Trump because you are the most influential newspaper in the country, and you are not fair or impartial. Millions of Americans believe you hate them and that you will casually harm them. Two years ago, they fought back against you, and they won. If Trump wins again, you will once again have played a small but important role in that victory.

Sullivan, on the bad end toward which we seem headed:

A campaign slogan for a candidate who won the votes of 46 percent of the country in 2016 is to be seen as indistinguishable from the Confederate flag. This is not the language of politics. It is a language of civil war.

I can understand this impulse emotionally as a response to Trump’s hatefulness. But I fear it morally or politically. It’s a vortex that can lead to nothing but the raw imposition of power by one tribe over another....

This is the abyss of hate versus hate, tribe versus tribe. This is a moment when we can look at ourselves in the mirror of social media and see what we have become. Liberal democracy is being dismantled before our eyes — by all of us. This process is greater than one president. It is bottom-up as well as top-down. Tyranny, as Damon Linker reminded us this week, is not just political but psychological, and the tyrannical impulse, ratcheted up by social media, is in all of us. It infects the soul of the entire body politic. It destroys good people. It slowly strangles liberal democracy. This is the ongoing extinction level event.

And a commenter at Rod Dreher's blog offered this warning: 

We are driving through the caution lights because we trust our civilization, our safety, our wealth, our technology, to be secure against self-destruction. It’s never safe to ignore the caution lights. C. S. Lewis wrote that “pain is God’s megaphone.” We would be fools to ignore the signals.

One lesson that a mob teaches us is that the restraints of civilization can be more easily broken and discarded than we like to think. And this recent incident teaches us, if we were so naive as not to know it already, that education (or "education") is no guarantee of resistance to the impulse.

I absolutely have no patience with mob spirit. I am speaking with feeling, and I know it.


The 50 Best (?) Shoegaze (?) Albums

I don't know how many readers of this blog are interested in this. I only know for certain that one person is, and that's Rob G, who sent me the link to Pitchfork magazine's "The 50 Best Shoegaze Albums of All Time." But it's one of the enjoyable things about blogging that you can write about anything that happens to interest you. And the pop music sub-genre "shoegaze" is one that I like a lot. (In fact it's one of only two sub-genre names which, when applied to a band, will cause me to be interested in hearing the music even if I have no other information about it. The other is trip-hop.)

The question marks in my title, by the way, are meant to say that I don't necessarily agree (of course!) that these are the best, or even that they are all shoegaze.

The Wikipedia article, which uses the term "shoegazing" rather than "shoegaze," describes the style well enough. Like any such term, it's not precise. The word itself comes from the fact that some of the first bands which defined the sound often seemed to be looking at the floor while playing. The Wikipedia article explains all that. I'll just say that in my mind the term implies very thick guitar textures combined with wistful and dreamy melodies and lyrics. Personally I lean toward the overlapping term "dreampop"; that is, the shoegaze I like tends also to fit the "dreampop" category. 

ShoegazeToolsTools

Here's a suitable-for-dictionary-example example, Slowdive's "Waves":

I've heard a lot of the bands on the Pitchfork list. My opinions follow, and discussion is welcome, naturally. If it seems strange to you that I have so many of these, and yet mention at several points that I have not actually listened to this one or that one very much, or even at all, it's because of the great firehose of music from which I drank between roughly 2000 and 2010. For much of that time eMusic.com offered music on mp3 which was almost free, so that if I was the least bit interested in an album (I'm old-fashioned about albums) I would grab it. Soon I had far more than I could listen to, and I'm still working my way through it.
 
I don't mention the Slowdive albums that appear on this list because in my mind Slowdive is shoegaze and everything they did is good-to-great, including their recent "comeback" album, which is just called Slowdive. (Thanks to my friend Daniel Nichols for introducing me to them back in the days of the mixtape.)
 
#49: All Natural Lemon and Lime Flavors, Turning Into Small. I have this album and have only heard it a couple of times. On that basis, it's not a favorite. Kind of...jerky beats. Nice sound but no great tunes jumped out. That could change with more hearings.

#46: loveliescrushing, Bloweyelashwish. Only heard one song by this group, but I really like it, and they're on Projekt, which is a generally good label (though mostly "darkwave," which I like but is certainly not everybody's cup of tea).
 
#39, Windy and Carl, Antarctica. I would call this ambient rather than shoegaze. I have several of their albums and they're all somewhat similar, but iirc this is one of my favorites. 
 
#37, Asobi Seksu, Citrus: On the basis of a few hearings there are at least three or four tracks here that I really love. Have meant to return to it for a more attentive listen. "Thursday" is a remarkably joyful song. If you don't like it there's probably something wrong with you.
 
#35, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, Ashes Grammar: Haven't heard this one, but have another of theirs, Autumn, Again, which I would call more interesting than involving. Sort of jagged and jumpy but intriguing. Don't know how it compares to this one.
 
#32, Alcest, Souvenirs l'autre Monde: As suggested in the review, very heavy in places--black metal meets shoegaze. Pretty good but you might not like the noise level at some points.
 
#31, Ulrich Schnauss, A Strangely Isolated Place: It wouldn't have occurred to me to call this shoegaze, but I love it. I think this is one of those things that either hits you hard where you live, or doesn't. But if it does, wow. I'd actually recommend another of his albums, Faraway Trains Passing, over this one, but they're both extremely good. Faraway Trains is sonic sehnsucht for me.
 
#30: Blonde Redhead, 37: I don't know this one, but I have their Misery Is A Butterfly and like it a lot. Also less typically shoegazey. Quirky little tunes and vocals.
 
#27: Lush, Spooky: I have a best-of which includes some of these songs. Doesn't knock me out.
 
#24, Lilys, In the Presence of Nothing: Another one bought in the great firehose and not really listened to. Seems fairly typical but deserves more attention.
 
#23, Catherine Wheel, Ferment: A great album. Actually rather hard rock, but very melodic. Rob Dickinson is a great singer. When I first heard it I thought of it as updated psychedelia.
 
#8, Swervedriver, Mezcal Head: Have been wanting to hear this, as it's so highly regarded, but on the basis of one song it doesn't strike me as especially my cup of tea. Closer to Ride I guess but not as shoegazey.
 
#7: Catherine Wheel, Chrome: I haven't heard this, or at least not all of it, but think the tape of Ferment which a friend sent me and which was my intro to CW actually includes a few songs from this. If so it's probably as good as Ferment.
 
#4 and #1, My Bloody Valentine, Isn't Anything and Loveless: I have both of these but have not listened to them that much. They're sort of...demanding. Loveless seems to be pretty much universally loved (heh) so I have hopes. Isn't Anything seemed almost abstract on one hearing. 
 
#3, Ride, Nowhere: Yes. Closer to psychedelic rock than to, say, Slowdive or MBV, but a great album.

The Green New Deal

I'm not going to go on about this, but I couldn't resist passing on this comment from Neo(neocon):

The entire Green New Deal document is worth reading, by the way, for its almost-unhinged quality of unbridled enthusiasm, wild optimism, and complete lack of consideration of any physical and financial realities.

If you think Trump's wall promise was unrealistic..."retrofit every building in America"?!? Every?

"Neo", by the way, has officially dropped the "neocon" part of her online name. She was, at the time she chose it, a new conservative (see this), and I guess more or less fit the usual (non-hostile) definition of a neocon: a person who has moved from left to right politically. But she doesn't seem to think it's applicable anymore. 

Personally I liked "Neoneocon" better, partly because "Neo" just makes me think of the The Matrix


That Blockbuster in 2005 Feeling

I'm not on Twitter, but my wife is, and yesterday morning she showed me a very interesting thread from a D.C. priest, Fr. Matt Fish. Here's the first item (I'm sorry, I just can't bring myself to use the word "tweet" except in a discussion of bird songs.)  

Said it before, and I'll say it again: working for the Catholic Church in America in 2019 feels something like working for Blockbuster Movies in 2005. We're still arguing about how we should display the DVDs, and meanwhile our current model and customer base is about to collapse.

Because I don't immediately see an easy way of copying the whole thread into this post, I'll give you this link and recommend that you read it all. His basic thesis, one I've seen at least suggested elsewhere, is that the Catholic Church in this country is heading for a sudden and steep decline, because--well, here's his next bit:

Simply put: every diocese is full of parishes that have much smaller, now mostly older, congregations, in aging buildings with less money, and in a few short years we will hit the bell curve with both people and money. And we're barely talking about it.

I think this is probably accurate for much of the country, because by and large Catholics are not, religiously speaking, reproducing themselves. That is, so many younger people who were raised Catholic are leaving and not coming back that there will be a steep population decline. This will probably be worse if it becomes the case that there is any real difficulty or hardship involved in being Catholic. It seems likely to be especially the case in the formerly very Catholic, and now very secularist, regions like the Northeast. Just because the Church has been so big there, its diminution will be striking. Those are also the areas where social and occupational pressures against Christians in general are most likely to be aggressive and effective (if what I read is to be believed). The Church won't disappear, but many parishes will become unsustainable, and the buildings will become bars and yoga studios and whatnot. This sort of thing has reportedly been happening for a while to the Church of England.

And yet this is not the picture I see here in Alabama. Yes, there are parishes being closed, but there are also new ones being erected. The closures have less to do with overall decline than with the movement of people, which is, broadly speaking, a continuation of the suburbanization that's been going on for several generations. My local parish is thriving, at least as far as numbers are concerned. There are now many more Catholics in the town where I went to high school than there were when I was growing up. Some of that, but I don't think all, is the rising number of Hispanics. 

Perhaps we're heading for the same cliff, but it's just a little further off. From where I sit it does seem that more young people are leaving than staying, and that certainly doesn't bode well. Perhaps we're looking at a hill rather than a cliff.

Another possibility occurs to me: if the South in general remains at least nominally and predominantly Christian, while it remains appealing for economic and other practical reasons, and certain other areas of the country become more actively anti-Christian, the result could be a sorting of the "liberal" and "conservative" socio-political factions (quotes necessary for reasons that should be obvious) into geographical factions. The eventual result could be the national divorce which many have been predicting and/or fearing and/or advocating for a while now. 

And by the way, on the question of why so many people are abandoning the Church--sure, there are some clear reasons, such as the sexual abuse horrors, but I think there is something deeper and more fundamental going on. Those who have been reading this blog for a while may remember this post from a few years ago: "No matter what the Church did, he was done with it". "He" being that twit, Modern Man.