Archive for Arts

God Bless Joan Jett

JJ

This is an excellent interview by Chris Bath that covers much of her career,

Back in the day, friends of mine indulged my Joan Jett fervor. I even dragged a bunch of them to a show in Buffalo, NY – a cherished memory.

Simplicity is beautiful

h/t DE

Oliver Sacks’ crabby last note

Oliver Sacks was unsurpassed as an author of extended medical case-studies; he was also a marvellous memoirist. His range of erudition was impossibly wide and deep, and the tone of his prose was tender, profoundly courteous, and delightful even when melancholy.

In his last published piece, called “The Machine Stops” – published posthumously this week in the New Yorker – his tone is entirely different. It’s crabby and pessimistic. It is like nothing else in his entire oeuvre.

I cannot get used to seeing myriads of people in the street peering into little boxes or holding them in front of their faces, walking blithely in the path of moving traffic, totally out of touch with their surroundings. I am most alarmed by such distraction and inattention when I see young parents staring at their cell phones and ignoring their own babies as they walk or wheel them along. Such children, unable to attract their parents’ attention, must feel neglected, and they will surely show the effects of this in the years to come. …

I am confronted every day with the complete disappearance of the old civilities. Social life, street life, and attention to people and things around one have largely disappeared, at least in big cities, where a majority of the population is now glued almost without pause to phones or other devices—jabbering, texting, playing games, turning more and more to virtual reality of every sort. …

As one’s death draws near, one may take comfort in the feeling that life will go on—if not for oneself then for one’s children, or for what one has created. Here, at least, one can invest hope, though there may be no hope for oneself physically and (for those of us who are not believers) no sense of any “spiritual” survival after bodily death.

But it may not be enough to create, to contribute, to have influenced others if one feels, as I do now, that the very culture in which one was nourished, and to which one has given one’s best in return, is itself threatened. …

When I was eighteen, I read Hume for the first time, and I was horrified by the vision he expressed in his eighteenth-century work “A Treatise of Human Nature,” in which he wrote that mankind is “nothing but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which succeed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a perpetual flux and movement.” As a neurologist, I have seen many patients rendered amnesic by destruction of the memory systems in their brains, and I cannot help feeling that these people, having lost any sense of a past or a future and being caught in a flutter of ephemeral, ever-changing sensations, have in some way been reduced from human beings to Humean ones.

I have only to venture into the streets of my own neighborhood, the West Village, to see such Humean casualties by the thousand: younger people, for the most part, who have grown up in our social-media era, have no personal memory of how things were before, and no immunity to the seductions of digital life. What we are seeing—and bringing on ourselves—resembles a neurological catastrophe on a gigantic scale.

The hope presented in the essay’s last words seems not truly felt:

Between us, we can surely pull the world through its present crises and lead the way to a happier time ahead.

(That is such a depressing sentence.)

As I face my own impending departure from the world, I have to believe in this—that mankind and our planet will survive, that life will continue, and that this will not be our final hour.

Many years ago I capped off a story to my son Miles with the phrase “all’s well that ends well.” The story’s context made the meaning of this bit of Shakespeare come to life for him for the first time, Miles said. It was a pleasing moment for both of us.

That nearing his own end Oliver Sacks saw catastrophe not just coming but already here, barely rallying to convey even the flimsiest expression of hope – this stunned me (though it shouldn’t have) (we haven’t been taking care of our minds).

When I begin to lose hope …

… I hear people sing. I understand that this is a common sentiment.

You Are Here

YouAreHere

I’ve been here many hundreds of times, across the water from Vancouver’s Science World, yet apparently I have never been fully here, as in ‘YOU ARE HERE’. How did I miss this great sign?!

My teacher and friend Robert Creeley titled at least eight of his poems “Here.” It was the title of one of his very last published poems:

Up a hill and down again.

Around and in –

 

Out was what it was all about

but now it’s done.

 

At the end was the beginning,

just like it said or someone did.

 

Keep looking, keep looking,

keep looking.

And here is one from “Hello,” a book from Creeley’s mid-career:

 

Since I can’t

kill anyone

I’d better

sit still.

.

“Taking a Second Look With Local Photography Legend, Lincoln Clarkes”

LC

A lovely interview with my friend Lincoln in Scout Magazine, by Thalia Stopa.

Photo by Michaela Morris 2018

Ways of knowing other people

This quite moved me:

In 1980 [Arthur] Ashe retired after thriving in an era when on-court behavior was starting to get out of control, thanks to men like Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Because of them, his reputation for sportsmanship and gentlemanly composure stood out. That reputation played a large part in his selection as America’s Davis Cup captain. He oversaw a team led by McEnroe, who was earning his “superbrat” nickname and would send Ashe into one of the most turbulent moments of his career.

In 1981, in Cincinnati, the Americans were playing against a strong Argentine team when McEnroe — who’d already embarrassed Ashe in other matches — got into a war of words with the great José Luis Clerc and loudly cursed at him for all to hear. Ashe said: “I thought I might punch John. I have never punched anyone in my life, but I was truly on the brink of hitting him.” Yet the consummate sportsman went light on McEnroe, giving him just a stern warning.

Some, at the time, felt Ashe had compromised his principles to placate his best player, but there was something deeper going on. The two men were opposites, but Ashe, who’d had it in him since childhood that he had to behave perfectly on the court, also had a sort of envy of McEnroe’s way. Later in life Ashe wrote: “Far from seeing John as an alien, I think I may have known him … as a reflection of an intimate part of myself. This sense of McEnroe as embodying feelings I could only repress, or as a kind of darker angel to my own tightly restrained spirit, may explain why I always hesitated to interfere with his rages even when he was excessive. … At some level … John was expressing my own rage, as I could never express it; and I perhaps was even grateful to him for doing so.”

He also once remarked, “I’ve got to admit that for a long time I’ve had this urge to walk out on Centre Court at Wimbledon and for just one match act like McEnroe.”

And then,

That said, he knew McEnroe would not have been able to act like that if he were black.

The book review is titled Why Arthur Ashe Is the Spiritual Father of Colin Kaepernick.