I started reading when I was about four or five, and pretty much have not stopped since. And for the past 20-odd years since that event, people have been giving me books, I’ve been buying books, and I’m pretty sure I’ve even stolen a few. But the fact of the matter is that I only read most of them once or twice and not more. Sometimes I think that buying an omnibus is a great idea, only to find that it’s entirely impractical and unwieldy. The result is that I have a boatload of great books that are in good condition, but might be too beat up to sell back to Powell’s. This is where internet crowd-sourcing comes in.
If you are one of my friends, and you live in Portland: Would you be interested in stopping by, rifling through, and picking some up?
And after that, does anyone know of a good non-profit to donate my books to? I’d like to donate to a place that offers free books for people in need, and it’s imperative that it’s a place that doesn’t restrict what its clients read.
I’m not sure how replies on Tumblr work, so put any ideas in the ask/submission box OR @ me on Twitter OR message me on Facebook OR call me, if you’re that awesome and actually have my number.
Daniel Johnston is playing at the Wonder Ballroom in Portland, Oregon on Friday, August 26, 2011. He’s a legend in independent music. But I won’t be going to his show, because the one time I saw Daniel Johnston was so amazing, I couldn’t ever enjoy another one of his shows.
This is the story of the time I ended up seeing Daniel Johnston play for a handful of bewildered suburbanites in the gym of Lied Middle School in Las Vegas, Nevada.
My aunt, an elementary and middle school teacher for nearly twenty-five years, got her Master’s in education when I was in high school. She went to a weekend program with other working educators like herself, and among their ranks was the art teacher from my high school, and a guy named Eric who looked like a Mormon Michael York and worked at Lied Middle School, the place where we would all see Daniel Johnston play music for a bunch of people who had no idea what the fuck was going on.
Now, I was a senior at this point, I think. I may have even been a freshman in college. I had always liked weird shit, by Las Vegas standards, which wasn’t exactly sky-high because “Las Vegas standards” pretty much seemed to consist of eating at Applebee’s and getting music from Best Buy. So when Eric told my aunt and the rest of the Master’s class that he had somehow finagled it so that DANIEL JOHNSTON was playing a concert in the gym of Lied Middle School, my aunt was like, “You should go. He invented that music you like.” And me, having a nascent sense that an adventure was afoot, said I would go.
Now, I’d never heard of Daniel Johnston. I had barely started listening to bands like The Smiths. I wasn’t exactly sophisticated. (I’m still not very sophisticated, as my housemates can tell you, as they hear me fart all the time.) But the story that filtered down from Eric, to my aunt, to me, was that Daniel Johnston was some kind of mythical musician in the cult underground, he was bipolar and schizophrenic, and he was playing at this middle school. To be considered “cult underground” by Las Vegans in the late 1990s/early 2000s was really not that difficult. I mean, that city is the setting for Showgirls for God’s sake. It’s not exactly Seattle circa 1990, you know? To say I wasn’t prepared for Daniel Johnston is an understatement on par with saying that The Strip is kinda bright at night.
So we got there, and I sat next to Carol, the art teacher. Let me say here, because I hope Carol is reading, that she’s more hip than I ever was. You know how when you’re a teenager, and you see an adult that totally loves and respects the weirdness of teenagers, who totally has their finger on the pulse of youth culture in the best way, and nurtures talent like a tiny baby birdie? That’s Carol. There is no one in the world I’d rather sit next to for a farce like this.
“I don’t know much about this guy,” Carol said. “But some of my kids are super into him. They wanted me to come, so I did.”
“I don’t know anything either,” I said.
We chatted. Some kids from my school were there. The bleachers were sparsely occupied, mostly by people Eric knew from his weekend Master’s degree course, and overly accessorized youths such as myself. The gym itself was your standard brand-new middle school gym, with a shiny wood floor, bleachers, school colors. The school had not yet been open long enough for that weird patina of emotional pain to settle onto the room, a place that would surely host a constant stream of humiliations, cruelties, fights, and defeats. Perhaps it was actually the perfect place for Daniel Johnston.
As I write this, I’m starting to think it never happened. I’m starting to think that this is some kind of screen memory or dream I had.
Just before Daniel Johnston was to perform, Eric came out. His voice shook. Hell, his body shook. “It is my pleasure to introduce Daniel Johnston.”
Daniel Johnston appeared, shuffling out with a single guitar. He had graying hair, a paunchy belly, and he looked like he was a few days removed from a shower and change of clothes. He looked at us like he thought he was in his bedroom and was surprised to find us all there. As for me and Carol, we were just as bewildered.
“What the hell is this?” she muttered.
“I have no idea.”
Then Daniel Johnston began to strum his guitar and sing – if you can call what Daniel Johnston does “singing.” And the lyrics. The only one I remember is “The real bunny ate the chocolate bunny,” or something to that effect.
Carol and I were beside ourselves. I can’t speak for her, but my emotions ranged from awe to fear to feeling like even though it was a free show, I didn’t quite get my money’s worth. After it was all over, we turned to each other and I said, “You know we’re bonded together for life because we witnessed this, right?”
“Definitely. That was weird.”
A decade later, after moving to Portland, I understand the gravity of what I witnessed. I understand why Eric’s voice shook. Outside of the sterile vacuum of suburbia, Daniel Johnston is a big deal. And while I’ve never been what you’d call a fan of his, I feel like seeing that show was one of the catalysts in my life, some kind of echo of a world outside that valley where an old guy singing about the real bunny eating the chocolate bunny was a legend. And so that’s why I could never be content with seeing him at the Wonder Ballroom.
A friend sent me a link to this article about a week ago, and my thoughts have been rattling around in my brain like the last few sad coffee beans in a can. I don’t read The AV Club regularly, and in fact only read it when someone sends me a link. That being said, I find that this article hits on some larger issues that I’ve encountered in the few AV Club articles that I have read. Namely, there is a sense of stubborn snobbery that classifies certain items of cultural flotsam as “more important” than others.
First of all, as a Netflix user, I am pretty pissed off that they are changing the plans. I’ve had Netflix for three years now, and for the first two years, there was little change and I hardly ever had problems with them. In the past year, there have been two rate increases, and even on a relatively new MacBook, getting streaming videos to play can be a challenge. There is something about this decrease in quality that speaks to the general notion that they are essentially the only game in town, so they can do whatever they want. I like Netflix. I don’t mind them being the only game in town. But I don’t like feeling trapped by my video rental company when I feel trapped by basically every other institution in my life. When I’m worried about current events, I don’t want to stare at Netflix and think about how I’m getting screwed by them, too.
That being said, this AV Club article takes things to a whole other level when they begin postulating about all the cinematic classics that get lost when viewing formats change. Certain movies simply have not made it from reel to VHS to DVD to streaming. And so, concludes the article, so much art will be lost as a result, for many Netflix users will switch to streaming-only and lose access to discs with the complete Charlie Chaplin collection, and so on.
If you are a film historian or comedy buff, this is a problem. But if you are either of those things, you’ll probably make an effort to find those movies anyway. And if you’re not, that’s okay because we all have different interests and different ways in which we consume culture, which is the part that this article and many others from this outlet forgets.
What rankles me in regards to this article is, I think, the author’s own seeming gap in knowledge about pop culture and history. There was a time, not long ago, when all of film was regarded as trash for the uneducated masses. It was not considered a serious art form. This kind of taxonomy exists just as much today, for half a century after the advent of television, many culture snobs refuse to make a distinction between Gossip Girl and The Wire. Both have their merits, and both are not for everyone.
I suffered through reading “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” a chapter in Dialectic of Enlightenment that lambasts cinema as an unworthy endeavor entirely, from the insipid plots to the concept of “celebrity.” And they were writing during the era of The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, and Casablanca, films that have since been canonized as part of a “Golden Age.” Of course its authors, Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno, had fled Nazi Germany and somehow ended up in Santa Monica, so it’s rather easy to see why they were in such a bad mood about the American obsession with movies. And maybe the same thing haunts Sam Adams – not the beer maker or mayor of Portland, Oregon – author of, “The Convenience Trap.” Times are tough. I understand.
Bemoaning Buñuel’s work getting pushed over for something “more readily available” smacks of a similar sort of cultural snobbery. I’ll confess to never having seen a Buñuel film, but I will just as readily confess that I am a mid-level film enthusiast at best, and much prefer television. But to whine about this shift in canon without so much as a nod to cultural and historical situation is to come off as painfully unaware of one’s surroundings. The canonization of works has been an endless thorn in the side of basically everyone who deals with any sort of culture. Who knows, maybe there was a female filmmaker who made a film that illustrates what Buñuel was trying to do better than he did, and she didn’t make it into the canon because she was a woman. History and culture are full of such turns, and to trust or revere one piece over the other with no acknowledgement of the nature of cultural progression is naïve at best, if not straight up irresponsible.
For what it’s worth, I kept my disc option on Netflix. I probably won’t use it to track down Fritz Lang’s student films or what have you. But if someone does that, it really doesn’t matter to me. I have my own canon, and bigger things to worry about than poor old Luis Buñuel.
Everyone, with the impending and annoying election year coming up, and the Repubs in their full crazy mode, let’s not forget Santorum.
To some, Santorum is a senator and presidential hopeful. To others, Santorum is the foamy mixture of fecal matter and lube that is sometimes the product of buttsex. So read up on spreading Santorum, and all the hilarity that ensues.
My favorite is this bit, from the blog, quoting an article in the Washington Post:</a>
Santorum hasn’t been running against Barack Obama. He’s been running against Dan Savage, a syndicated sex columnist. It’s hard to blame him. His opposition to Obama is theoretical. But thanks to Dan Savage, his name is quite literally mud.
He’s trying all kinds of things. Yesterday, he showed up at an event and handed out free jars of homemade Santorum jelly. If you’re aware of his Google problem, you will realize how horrifyingly awkward this must have been.
Santorum jelly! How delightful! I bet it has an earthy flavor, maybe a slight seediness like raspberry.
Spread the Santorum around, kids, and whether you’re conservative or liberal, always be on the lookout for crazies and homophobes.
“Since her death in 1979, the woman who discovered what the universe is made of has not so much as received a memorial plaque. Her newspaper obituaries do not mention her greatest discovery. […] Every high school student knows that Isaac Newton discovered gravity, that Charles Darwin discovered evolution, and that Albert Einstein discovered the relativity of time. But when it comes to the composition of our universe, the textbooks simply say that the most abundant atom in the universe is hydrogen. And no one ever wonders how we know.”—
Jeremy Knowles, discussing the complete lack of recognition Cecilia Payne gets, even today, for her revolutionary discovery. (via alliterate)
I realized quite some time ago that I had too many opinions and thoughts on pop culture to be contained in my Facebook posts. Not to mention that a good portion of the people on Facebook don’t understand why a woman with an advanced degree in writing (me) would ever be excited to the point of public urination about the latest Transformers movie (also me). And then a couple friends told me I should start a blog, which I obviously agreed with, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.
Just to keep this in the spirit of Tumblr, I’ve attached a picture of Insanity Wolf.