3/25/2013 1:04:31 PM
By Miles Olson
Published in 2012 and available through New Society Publishers
If you could rewrite the ending to Where the Wild Things Are, would you? In the beloved children’s book, Max—sent to his room for acting wild—imagines his escape to the world of Wild Things. When he becomes king of this new land, everyone celebrates with a wild rumpus. Such fun! In the end, though, Max realizes he does not belong with the Wild Things and returns home to his family (which happens to be sitting down to a civilized dinner). Its fun to be wild, the story tells us, but not our destiny.
Miles Olson, author of Unlearn, Rewild, is living out a tale parallel to Max, though it’s one that will likely end differently. There are no wild monsters in Olson’s story. Rather, every creature is wild. We must learn to live with the wild things, he suggests. We must remember that we are wild things.
From the book’s start, Olson outlines a framework for sustainability far more radical than any notion I’ve dared to entertain seriously—namely, that we should reorient our collective dream of the future and begin moving toward a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Not that such a change would happen in a lifetime, he notes, but over the course of several generations. “My thought is that most developed cultures are those that have the most seamless relationships with their land base,” Olson writes. “They are so good at tending their gardens that you can’t even see them.”
Living in such a society does sound idyllic, but getting there from five-lane highways, megamalls, and the American dream seems daunting. Somehow, at the point in my thought process when a little voice says, “That’s impossible, stop thinking about it,” Olson’s apparently says, “That’s a great plan, make it happen.” And it seems to be working. He’s been squatting for about a decade in the woods with friends, in cabins built from scavenged materials. He gardens and forages and doesn’t, apparently, need coffee to formulate sentences in the morning or whiskey to take the edge off at night. This experiment has lasted the whole of his adult life, so far.
The book’s back cover claims that Unlearn, Rewild is “part meditation, part ethical investigation, part hard-core survival guide” and it’s true. Olson’s ideas are well-considered, his solutions grounded. If you’re looking for a different ending to the story of civilization, the book is not to be missed.
8/13/2012 11:20:01 AM
The Expedition: Book 1–Dark Waters
by Jason Lewis
Available now at BillyFish Books
Mixing the drama of a travel adventure with philosophical introspection, Jason Lewis’ account of the first human-powered circumnavigation of the earth is, simply put, an absolutely riveting and inspirational read.
In Book 1: Dark Waters—the first of three books to be released one month apart beginning August 1, 2012—Lewis’ 13-year journey begins as he and partner Steve Smith set sail for the United States from Portugal in a custom-built, 26-foot pedal-powered boat they call Moksha. The courage, patience and persistence they display on the three-month journey across the Atlantic is extraordinary, but that’s nothing compared to Lewis’ decision to skate across the United States on roller blades while Smith takes the “easier” option of biking. Each stage of Lewis' journey would easily stand as a lifetime achievement for any other individual, and speaks to the unbelievable dedication and effort required to make it around this beautiful and amazing planet under your own power.
While the book could easily stand on its own as a straight-forward travel adventure, Lewis smartly recognized his experience as an opportunity to help others recognize their role and responsibility on this planet. The journey offered him the opportunity to speak to hundreds of groups of children in 37 countries, and allowed him to raise $66,500 for a host of humanitarian efforts across the globe. To that end, Lewis’ experience stands as a guide for each of us to reference as we try to learn how to live better with one another, and how to better take care of the only Earth we’ve got.
As one might expect, Lewis' journey across the globe was fraught with danger at nearly every turn. The first major part of the voyage was the Atlantic crossing from Lagos, Portugal to Miami, Florida by pedal boat—an incredible physical, mental and emotional undertaking. As Lewis relates, the act of pedaling across the Atlantic leaves little room for error, and even the seemingly simple task of catching a fish can become an adventure. Here's an excerpt describing Lewis' encounter with a runaway dorado:
--- --- ---
November 15. Day 29
1 a.m. There are many God-awful things that I’ve come to tolerate on this boat,
but getting up at all hours of the night to pedal for three hours will never be
one of them.
4 a.m. Just finished first graveyard shift - a real killer. Like motorway driving
at night when you’re dog-tired, except worse. Head slumping forward every few
minutes, then whipping back and smacking against the stern window. (Journal entry)
Long-term fatigue, or Creeping Grey Funk as
we called it, became an evil thing lurking in the shadowy recesses of our
sleep-deprived minds, waiting to crawl in and feed as exhaustion grew. Slowly,
imperceptibly, it wound its way like a parasite into every aspect of our lives,
lessening our ability toexecute
tasks safely, and stealing even the tiniest scrap of pleasure from things we
once enjoyed, like reading a book, or cooking a meal. The rigid shift system
was becoming a double-edged sword. The same discipline that kept the pedals turning 24/7, and the
boat from drifting off course, allowed for only three hours of sleep at a time,
and never more than five in any 24-hour
period. After a fortnight of this,
we were turning into the living dead.
Steve suggested we break up the hamster
routine by doing a little fishing. On Madeira, we’d been befriended by Heinz, a
boozy old salt with an ivory beard and bushy
eyebrows. A former U-boat commander, Heinz made it his business to show up
every morning and pick holes in our preparations for the big crossing. The
other annoying habit he had was to bang on about fishing.
“Vat are you doingk for zer fees?” he asked
for the umpteenth time on the penultimate morning of departure.
Our response was always the same: “We’re not
going to bother Heinz. We have all the food we need.”
“But you must fees to survive! You must fees
On any other morning, he would chant this as
a mantra until we either found a way of getting rid of the old bastard or
Today, however, he reached into his jacket pocket, and pulled out a roll of
stout marlin line and a thumb-sized lure carved from wood. Furnished with
eye-catching tassels at one end, it was, according to Heinz, “Guaranteed to catch more fees zan you know vot to
We’d been trolling Lolita the Lure (so
nicknamed) for an hour a day since leaving Madeira, and caught not a damn
thing. The result of each day’s effort was so predictable it had become a
running joke. “You hungry?” Steve would ask, pulling in the line. “Let’s see
what Lolita has caught us for dinner tonight shall we?”
Something had to change. Lolita needed a
Using red and black felt-tip pens, I gave Lolita a pair of
exotic Cleopatra eyes and sassy
smile. Provocatively curled Betty Boop eyelashes completed the picture of sex
appeal although, as Steve pointed out, the idea was to get the fish to
swallow the lure, not have sex with it.
Whatever. Within a minute of throwing out the
all-new pimped-out Lolita, the line strained to its limit, and a huge dorado
fish soared into the air twenty yards astern. All hell immediately broke loose.
The inside of the boat erupted into a melee of shouting, swearing, and shrieks of delight
as we pulled the gasping beast alongside. The challenge was now to land the
thing without it flipping off the hook. Retrieving the old sail bag we’d used
to store our Madeiran veggies, I jumped into the
My plan was to scoop the fish into the bag,
which Steve could then haul aboard. The fish, not surprisingly, had other
ideas. As soon as it saw me, it shot under the boat, and started winding itself
plus the monofilament line round and round the propeller.
Events then took an unexpected turn. What
started out as a harmless bit of fun spiraled rapidly out of control.
The sail bag had slipped from my fingers
during the confusion, and was slowly drifting upwind. Or, to be precise, the
bag remained stationary in the water while Moksha
and I were blown downwind. I started to swim towards the bag. “I’ll just go
and grab it,” I yelled.
“You sure it’s worth it?” Steve shouted after
I pretended not to hear, and kept swimming. Damn Steve, I thought irritably, being a safety officer as usual. After
all, the bag was only a few feet away.
But by the time I reached itMoksha
was already sixty feet downwind, pushed by the wind and the waves.
On the long slog back, swimming breaststroke
with the bag around my neck, I tired easily. With our legs doing all the
pedaling, our upper bodies had lost what little conditioning they’d had on
land. A wave broke suddenly from behind, filling my nose and throat with
saltwater. I stopped to cough out the brine, losing valuable seconds as I trod
water. When I resumed my stroke, I looked up and saw the boat even farther
downwind. This was alarming. Moksha
was drifting faster than I could swim.
There’s nothing for it. Steve will have to come back and get me…
He was sitting on the stern, anxiously
watching my progress. Somehow he’d managed to retrieve the fish from the water
and had it clasped tight to his chest. Now I’d have to suffer the ignominy of
hearing him say, "I
told you so!"
“Steve!” I yelled. “I think I’m in trouble!”
His mouth opened and closed, but the words were taken
by the wind. I was about to call out again when my throat froze with the
The fishing line …
fouled around the propeller…
In the time it took for him to rummage in the
stern compartment for a mask and a knife, go overboard and cut the tangle free,
then clamber back in and turn Moksha
around, we’d be completely separated.
I’ll have to make it back myself, or…
I remembered the story my father once told m of how,as a boy, he’d nearly
drowned off the beach at West Bay in Dorset. After the initial frantic struggle, he described the
sensation as being almost pleasurable, “like falling into a trance.” My
grandfather, watching from shore, ran in and dragged him out just in time.
Another surprise wave broke from behind,
flooding my lungs a second time. As I fought for air, what I took to be the
same woozy sensation began spreading throughout my body. Blood was thumping
against my eardrums. Nothing seemed to matter anymore. Like the near miss with
the trawler, that interface between light and dark, life and death, seemed
perfectly normal, as if this was the way it was meant to be.
My arms grew steadily weaker, and my stroke
more erratic. I should have known hypoxia was kicking in when the sky turned
the colour of red wine and the water around me black ink, as though saturated
with blood. From the dying dorado, I thought
deliriously. Sharks sprang to mind. The
smell of blood will attract them, whip them into a feeding frenzy…
At that moment, something tripped in my
the idea of drowning seemed tolerable, almost pleasant, being eaten alive by
sharks most certainly did not. The soporific state of quiet surrender vanished, replaced by a primal urge
to live welling up from the innermost depths of my being. And with it came
reality hurtling back
into sharp focus.
I began swimming for my life. My arms were screaming, but I knew that
keeping sight of Steve between the towering crests was the only hope I had.
Waves were breaking from behind, one after the other. Frothy sputum, whipped from the crests,
blurring my vision. Moksha slowly
slipped from view. As the seconds turned into minutes, I no longer knew whether
I was making progress, or even heading in the right direction. The only thing that kept
my spent arms turning was the certainty that sharks were closing in. Any second
I would feel razor-sharp teeth tearing into my flesh…
In those final seconds of hopelessness and
despair, going on as if for eternity, the fingers of my right hand collided with
something solid. I felt my wrist being grabbed—Steve heaving me on deck. When
all seemed lost, I imagined a divine hand reaching out and offering me my life
Slumped on the stern deck, gasping for
breath, my eyes met the gaze of the dying dorado, its silent suffocation all too poignant.
8/13/2012 9:29:48 AM
Editor’s Note: Jay Ruttenberg is the
founder and editor of the New York-based comedy journal The Lowbrow Reader. Dubbed “an excellent and actually quite
high-minded comedy magazine” by The
Village Voice, the magazine was born in 2001 when Ruttenberg realized that
there wasn’t a quality publication devoted to comedy. Since its first issue in
2001, Ruttenberg and a small team of very talented writers and illustrators
have consistently surprised readers and critics alike with their articulate
defense and admiration for what many have dismissed as dumb humor. Ruttenberg recently
edited a book of selected writings and drawings from the first eight years of
the journal called The Lowbrow Reader
now on Drag City. An everlasting supporter of zines and zine culture,
Ruttenberg recently shared with us a list of his current favorites.
Here is my personally biased,
unapologetically subjective list of ten great contemporary zines. I applied
both terms broadly: “Contemporary” extending to works that are still being
published (however sporadically), even if their debut issue came out many moons
ago; “zines” to describe independent print publications produced more for love
than for profit.
I would be remiss if I
neglected to point out that Fashion Projects is edited by Francesca
Granata, who happens to be the more eye-catching half of my household.
Likewise, I would be remiss if I failed to place said publication at the top of
this list. Fashion Projects is a whip smart journal about arty fashion
and fashiony art. On the surface, Francesca’s publication could not be more
different from mine: Fashion Projects addresses Milanese designers and
Parisian fashion critics, while the Lowbrow Reader features Adam Sandler
idolatry and cartoons of people on toilets. Friends find it odd that both
publications are produced in the same apartment. But to me, they are very
similar. Both zines cover subjects that historically have been commercially
vibrant yet critically disparaged. Nobody would mistake me for a fashionista,
but through Francesca I have been introduced to some other noteworthy fashion
zines, including Garmento and Vestoj. In any case, I enjoy
everything about Fashion Projects except for the irritating fact that it
is inordinately more popular than the Lowbrow Reader.
Henceforth, I proceed
The famed political
journal was recently relaunched and uplifted from Chicago
It is very much a journal, but camefrom the zine world. I think a lot
of people who now publish independent magazines got their initial kick in the
rear from the Baffler’s original run. (I certainly did.) It was
politically prescient and bred founding editor Tom Frank’s wonk-adored book, What’s
the Matter with Kansas?
To me, the Baffler is steeped in Chicago—you
can smell the city just turning its pages. I am curious to see how the new
editorship and New England headquarters will
ultimately affect the publication.
Since 1979, David
Greenberger has interviewed nursing home residents and published his
transcripts in this slim, celebrated zine. Duplex Planet is kind of the
ultimate zine—it deserves every bit of its renown. In limiting his focus to
such a specific niche, Greenberger covers the world. Too many small
publications do the opposite. The Duplex Planet has spawned a cottage
industry featuring books, art shows, music albums, and more, but the zine
remains its foundation. If Duplex Planet had started in the contemporary
day as a website, it may have attained a similar popularity, but I guarantee it
would not feel as special and enchanting.
As far as I can
tell, Flop Sweat is among the only recent comedy zines besides the Lowbrow
Reader. It has only published two issues, but both are winners: classy,
funny, offbeat. I enjoyed Flop Sweat so much that I contacted the editor,
Joe O’Brien, about writing for the Lowbrow Reader. His article, a
defense of Chevy Chase, ran in our fifth issue
(years before Chase’s resurgence in Community) and is included in our
book. Although there has not been an issue of Flop Sweat for a few years,
I really hope the future holds further editions. One little-noted advantage of
zines is that they are not wed to strict publishing schedules. Without
subscribers or demanding distributors, publications can take years between
issues. All that is lost is momentum—which, of course, can be the silent
At this point, zines
about rock music seem redundant. The subject is so over-covered; as I write,
aliens are no doubt spying on planet earth and plotting to kidnap our leader,
Bruce Springsteen. Galactic Zoo Dossier, however, is startlingly unique,
a rabbit-hole of obsession. Although it revolves around obscure corners of
psychedelia, the real charm lies in the delivery. Each issue is beautifully
hand-written and illustrated by Galactic Zoo Dossier’s honcho, a
mustachioed man known as Plastic Crimewave. His world is inimitable.
Love Bad Movies
This smallish, newish
zine is published by a young couple in New
York. The premise is simple: With each edition,
various writers contribute essays in praise of scorned movies. The issues come
in loose themes. Had something like I Love Bad Movies been hatched 15
years ago, I suspect it would have trafficked in the irony of the era. As it
stands, the zine is mostly loving and even serious. Nobody has time for bad
novels or bad art—but for some reason, there remains something captivating
about bad film. The publication taps into the phenomenon with gusto.
The Minus Times
Our Lowbrow Reader
Reader book, Galactic Zoo Dossier, andthe Minus Times
all share a publisher: Drag City, the Chicago
record label/publishing house/film company/etc. Long before the Lowbrow
Reader was associated with the company, I was a Drag City
enthusiast. The Minus Times is a lovely example of the aesthetic that
defined the label’s early years. It is handsomely produced and rendered
entirely on an old manual typewriter. The writing is top-drawer, with all-star
contributors presented with an almost comical lack of fanfare. The Minus
Times is proudly abstruse; its editor, Hunter Kennedy, always lets the
reader come to him. (In September, Drag
City and Featherproof
Books are publishing a big Minus Times anthology, The Minus Times
Show with Elliot Aronow
Whereas many successful
zines ultimately transcend their format, breeding books and the like, the newly
hatched Our Show with Elliot Aronow came into being in reverse, as the
offshoot of its creator’s web show. The Our Show program is a kind of
modern-day take on Glenn O’Brien’s TV Party. As a zine, Our Show
is entertaining and eccentric, examining the fussy tastes of its editor. It
reads like an underground Monocle as conceived by a single aesthete.
Roctober recently published its 50th
issue, which coincides with its 20th anniversary. It is a thick
publication in an old-school mold, with gazillions of short reviews and
compelling tales about fringe American culture. This was the template for
sundry zines during the format’s heyday, but there is a reason why Roctober now
stands where so many others closed shop long ago. The publication is written
with lucidity and care, and will most likely be producing clear-eyed reviews
There is no
explicit mission statement behind this book-sized annual. Usually, lack of
focus is a recipe for disaster. But Yeti, edited by Mike McGonigal,
turns this into an advantage. Connections gel between the zine’s seemingly
disparate passions: hoary gospel and folk music, contemporary art, literature,
avant indie-rock. In the past, each issue came accompanied by a CD; moving
forwardin the spirit of Time’s Arrow,Yeti is upgrading
to vinyl. In its diverse enthusiasms, the journal illuminates the pleasures
inherent to being a good audience member. And I think this is the sensation
that most unites all of these publications.
Read more about Jay Ruttenberg and
The Lowbrow Reader.
5/18/2012 9:18:12 AM
“Most lucky reporters get
to see one major movement in their lifetime,” Chris Faraone wrote in early
October 2011. “Occupy is shaping up to be the most intense beast I’ve ever
witnessed.” At that time, Faraone was in southern Florida, seeing the earliest days of Occupy
Miami, and coming to terms with his initial skepticism. “I’m becoming convinced
that of all the mass movements I’ve covered,” he says, “this one will grow the
quickest, and become the biggest.”
In his new account of the Occupy movement, 99 Nights With the 99 Percent, it’s fair to say that
Faraone approaches his subject from a unique angle. Like many veteran
activists, he has deep roots in the precursors to Occupy. 99 Nights’ first two chapters cover this world of high morale and
low turnout, from spirited actions in front of Bank of America branches to
anti-foreclosure neighborhood barbecues. If this portion of the book is gritty
and loose, it is also infused with the same tough spirit that Faraone encounters
throughout the next three months. It is this spirit that allows him to overcome
his early reservations about Occupy’s procedural tedium and its tendency to
overshadow other ongoing struggles.
Faraone’s book, like the
movement itself, is diverse and challenging. The structure is strictly
chronological, but swings wildly between a number of different occupations,
personalities, and events. During the first three months of Occupy, Faraone
crisscrossed the country at a dizzying pace, and his writing manages to capture
at least some of that madness. In between working groups and flash-bang grenades,
the book overflows with interviews, photos, and blistering first-hand
At the same time, there is
little that Faraone romanticizes about the movement. Though it’s clear he is
energized by what he sees, the book maintains a critical tone that gives his
narrative a good deal of authority. Faraone pulls no punches in describing
camps’ lack of diversity, internal violence, and complicated relationships with
police and other movements. Faraone’s furious attention to detail presents an
absorbing, immediate account infused with red-eyed sincerity.
It’s that sincerity in
fact that makes 99 Nights a less than
complete history. But if we don’t get a full picture of a disparate and complex
movement, we do get a vivid sense of the passion and energy that pervaded
Read an excerpt of 99 Nights With the 99 Percent, right here.
Image by Katie Moore. Used with permission.
10/13/2011 11:55:35 AM
The highly publicized, highly contentious, state-sanctioned execution of Troy Davis on September 21, 2011, reinvigorated America’s longstanding conversation about the death penalty. A Gallup poll released this morning found that only 61 percent of Americans approve of using the death penalty for convicted murderers, a 39-year low. Our country seems to be the cusp of cultural change when it comes to capital punishment. Do you know where you stand?
It’s okay if you don’t. The death penalty is a morally complex issue, tangled up by competing threads of history, media, the political process, religion, class, and—last, but not least—emotions.
Sensing a need for national conversation about the death penalty, ThinkProgress blogger Alyssa Rosenberg launched “The Pop Culture and Death Penalty Project”—a six-month-long exploration of the intersections between art and crime, morality and mortality. Beginning next Wednesday, October 19, she’ll be hosting discussions about books, television shows, and films that deal with the topic in one way or another. Subjects include Richard Wright’s Native Son, 1938 film Angels with Dirty Faces, and a few episodes of HBO drama Deadwood.
Unfortunately, Rosenberg didn’t include any readings from the alternative press. I hope to fill in that gap for you, highlighting a few articles that tell the human stories of criminals, victims, and everyone caught in the fray.
Could you forgive the man who shot you in the face? The title says it all in this tale of forgiveness, bureaucracy, and racism by Michael J. Mooney for D Magazine. Rais Bhuiyan confronts his assailant ten years later and tries to stop his execution.
- “The executioner is the one that suffers,” says Jerry Givens, a former executioner for the state of Virginia, in this profile from The Daily Beast.
- A writer for The Good Men Project describes the awkward feeling one gets when reporting on an execution.
- One by one, countries are ditching the death penalty, according to an article in The Economist. The West African country of Benin is the latest to abolish capital punishment permanently.
- “Humanism cannot support the death penalty,” begins a recent moral case against capital punishment put out by the Center for Inquiry. “Humanism stands for a social ethics of equality, individual human rights, justice for everyone, and government that defend their citizens. Death penalty supporters appeal to these principles, too. But they narrowly interpret them to justify government killings, and they coldly apply them to the weakest among us.”
Utne Reader has reprinted a number of fantastic articles about the death penalty in the past few years, including “Give Me Death,” in which a lawyer explains why his client volunteered to be executed; “Thou Shalt Not Kill. Unless . . .,” in which a counts down to an execution in Texas, one day at a time; and “At Death’s Door,” an interview with long-time death-penalty activist and Catholic nun Sister Helen Prejean.
- We wouldn’t want to forget the classics. George Orwell’s 1931 essay “A Hanging,” in which he describes the execution of a criminal by the British Imperial Police.
Sources: Center for Inquiry, D Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Economist, The Good Men Project, ThinkProgress
Image from Marion Doss was taken at the “instant bullets from a French firing squad hit a Frenchman who collaborated with the Germans. This execution took place in Rennes, France on November 21, 1944.” Licensed under Creative Commons.
7/11/2011 11:28:24 AM
During the final showdown, the arch nemesis usually makes some kind of grandiloquent speech to the hero. This is how comic books and superhero movies work. The villain taunts the do-gooder, narrates his twisted personal history, or brashly reveals details of his master plan.* So many words are spilled, but the inner meditations of both hero and crook remain unknown, except for a few expository thought bubbles. But that’s about to change; the thought bubble just got a radical makeover.
SVK, an experimental one-shot comic written by Warren Ellis (of Transmetropolitan notoriety) and Matt Brooker, has an extra layer of subtext hidden among its pages. Illuminating the comic’s pages with ultraviolet light reveals additional dialogue that belies characters’ most secret thoughts. (Comparison below.) SVK is a cyberpunky crime story “about cities, technology and surveillance, mixed with human themes of the power, corruption and lies that lurk in the data-smog of our near-future.” The comic comes with a small UV-emitting reader, so you don’t need to bring the comic to a rave to read the invisible ink.
“Comics break the rules of storytelling, invent new ones, and break them again—more often than almost any other medium,” explains SVK’s design company BERG. “This graphic novella is about looking—an investigation into perception, storytelling and optical experimentation.”
Co. Design is excited for what the comic says about the increasingly hard-to-pinpoint border between the digital world and the physical one: “Given Ellis’s proclivity for dystopian futurism and BERG’s penchant for weird techno-wizardry, we’re betting the story involves some interesting variations on themes of augmented reality.” A commenter on BERG’s blog has an exciting idea about where the future of comics might lead: “I’ve been wondering myself if there was a way to animate comics by using a Smartphone as a viewer. You could embed tracer objects with the comic frames and the phone would track movement, perhaps even play sound effects and dictate the dialogue.”
*Supervillains can, of course, be women, too.
Source: BERG, Co. Design
Images courtesy of BERG.
5/24/2011 1:03:51 PM
You may have heard: It’s Bob Dylan’s 70th birthday. For many people out there this seems to be a tough milestone to grasp, leaving them incapable of figuring out just what it means for our life and times. Or, as Michael Hogan puts it at Vanity Fair, “Seventy isn’t that old anymore. So why is it that Bob Dylan, who reaches that milestone on May 24, seems so positively ancient—a feature of the cultural landscape itself, whose age should be calculated in geological eons, not anything so ephemeral as months and years?” It’s like when my mom read Chronicles: Volume One—she said it made Dylan, a hero of hers, mortal. And sometimes, she said, you don’t want your heroes to be human. I suppose each watershed birthday for the hero-who-never-wanted-to-be-a-hero (if you believe what he says) rings that same note: The man is human, he ages, and will eventually—just like all of us—age no more. Maybe that’s why 70 is a hard pill to swallow. It reminds us that the youthful “voice of a generation” will return to dust. And yet, Dylan today continues what often seems like a never ending tour.
Enough of all that. It’s a birthday, after all. Here’s a look around the web to see how folks are celebrating the man at 70.
Buzz Poole, writing for The Millions, tries to tackle the mythical lore and impact of Dylan and his work:
Dylan, like [William Carlos] Williams, [Walt] Whitman, and others of their poetic, patriotic ilk, sucks the marrow from America, gnaws on its bones and slurps – not so much concerned with decorum but getting the flavors – the grease stains on his sleeves, the gristle stuck in his teeth, evidence of the contact. These flavors he tastes are not always the same or always enjoyable, but they spring from deep-running sources, some of which are polluted or diverted, but their purity remains unquestionable. Unlike the aforementioned men of letters whose legacies have grown mythical after their deaths, Dylan has lived side-by-side with his own lore, equal parts his creation and the creation of others.
Imagine living a life where people think you did change the world, or that you have the power to change the world.
That last part might get to the point of Dylan better than anything I’ve read. While people still look to him to be something he has stated time and again that he is not, no one stops to wonder just what it must be like to have so many people—for more than four decades now—think you could do something as implausible as change the world with a song. No wonder he comes off curmudgeonly. If you’d been put in the same box since you were 20 you probably would, too.
At Vanity Fair “Ken Regan unveils a trove of never-before-seen images at New York City’s Morrison Hotel Gallery [and] Michael Hogan reflects on Dylan’s audacious refusal to give the people what they want.”
Ed Ward reviews “How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan” for Oxford American, admitting he didn’t expect to like it:
[W]hy was it, forty-five years later, that when I got Ace Records' new compilation How Many Roads: Black America Sings Bob Dylan, my first thought was "This probably isn't going to be very good"? Simple prejudice. Bob Dylan's music was so important to my generation of white middle-class kids that it was hard for me to imagine how the soul singers on these twenty tracks could get inside it in a meaningful enough way to bring their art to it….
It turns out, of course, that my reaction was right and wrong.
Democracy Now! dedicated their show this morning to rare interviews from the Pacifica Radio archives, including an interview where Pete Seegar calls the young musician “the most prolific” song writer in America.
The Atlantic Wire has a Dylan round up of their own with stories from Rolling Stone, The Telegraph, Time, and more.
Source: The Millions, Vanity Fair, Oxford American, Democracy Now!, The Atlantic Wire
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