wandering (noun): a going about from place to place
By now I should have this (mis)timing thing licked. But I don’t, so I am allowing myself the quarterly luxury of sharing some longer pieces found on the web that have captured my attention.
Should any of you care to share your ideas on how to break my logjam, by all means, please post in the comments section. All I ask is that you stay away from programmatic approaches. Reading is my lifeblood and supposed to be fun; I don’t need a 12-step program to read better/faster/more.
What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane (The Atlantic)
There are more than a few pilots who write, and, among them, William Langeweische stands out. The first thing I remember reading by him (most of what I’ve read by him has been published in The Atlantic) was an elegant essay entitled, “The Turn.” Among the many careers I’d considered in my childhood was pilot, and so I thought I knew something about how humans experience a banked, horizonless turn. By the time I finished the essay, I was aware of how much I didn’t know.
Since then he’s covered more than a few aviation disasters, including the Columbia breakup. Here he takes on the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines MH370 some five years ago. In the end, what happened remains a mystery, and some other writers vehemently disagree with his conclusion. Read both and decide for yourself.
Tom Petty’s Problematic Album Southern Accents (Longreads)
More than once I’ve described a major contradiction in how I discover music: often, it’s by reading. I’m not certain if that says more about my obsession with music or the written word and it doesn’t always work that way. It certainly didn’t with Tom Petty. I remember I was sitting in a friend’s basement, in the fall of 1979, listening to the radio, when I first heard “Refugee,” from Petty’s breakthrough album, ‘Damn the Torpedoes.‘ I was hooked enough to love that song and at least always give him a hearing.
It probably helped that something about Petty’s demeanor bought him a pass with almost everyone. Like John Mellencamp, Petty had a contract because he’d written a near-hit for someone else. But, he didn’t irk the classic rock royalty–in fact, they adopted him. He wrote radio-friendly songs. Even punk fans were willing to cut some slack, mostly on the basis of the single from the second record, “I Need to Know“.
Here, in a book excerpt, Michael Washburn takes on the 1985 concept album, Southern Accents. I actually don’t own a complete Tom Petty album, but I do have one song from that record, “Spike,” in my library. Written and sung in character, I’ve always described it as the un-Tom-Petty Tom Petty song. Personally, I think Washburn may be expecting a bit much from pop music, but he’ll make you think about a guy who was more complicated than his Florida cracker gone SoCal persona might suggest.
My sister, a therapist who works with at-risk populations, was the first person I heard use the expression “first world problems.” I immediately recognized it as an updated form of a statement we grew up hearing. Ours was one of those homes in which the starving children of Africa (in particular) and the really-have-nots of whatever locale would best make the point were always in residence. Familiarity aside, I thought the addition of a bit of snark really helped lend necessary perspective.
Jessica Pressler‘s recounting of recent goings-on at the Grace Church School, located in Brooklyn Heights, offers a primer on such problems. There’s not a single person you’ll encounter in this tale that doesn’t drip privilege. I’m including the wronged parties, for whom you’ll feel justifiable sympathy, in that statement, although such things are relative.
As I finished the story I couldn’t help thinking about Dan Ackroyd‘s character in “Trading Places,” a bedraggled, soaking wet castoff who’s lost everything, looking through the restaurant window at Eddie Murphy who’s taken his place. As in the film, it’s not a pretty picture, but one I just couldn’t turn away from.
Wagner To Sleaford Mods: The Frankfurt School On Music In 10 Songs (The Quietus)
What if there were a way to unite my obsession with music and the intellectual tradition I was strongly encouraged to follow? That’s actually a question I’ve never pondered, in large part because, even before I’d graduated, my frustrations with both the Frankfurt School and mainstream liberalism as explanatory frameworks had grown to immeasurable proportions. Imagine my surprise, then, in stumbling across this essay by Stuart Jeffries on a site I hadn’t heard of but will visit again.
Here’s why reading about music works for me (but might not for you). Like anyone who struggled to make sense of Dialectic of Enlightenment and Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, I knew that the Frankfurt crew took a special, if not especially warm, interest in popular culture. They held some especially odd beliefs about high culture and its value as a counterweight to corporate capitalism.
What I hadn’t known until I read this essay, was that Adorno was the child of a well-known opera-singer and that he’d studied composition with Alban Berg. Nor did I know he’d met with Thomas Mann as the novelist worked through Doctor Faustus, providing input on the process of composing music.
It was also news that the high -priest of disparaging entertainment using $55 words was a fan of Daktari, a TV-show that, even as a child, I recognized as distinctly second-tier. But mostly what caught my eye was the use of YouTube videos to illustrate various points and the wide range of music offered, some of which I knew and some of which I heard for the first time.
For me, it doesn’t get much better than that. Happy reading.