Jan 30, 2015

"I wish I were alive in the 60s": The Past is Always Better

We all hear the bullshit line, "oh, I was just born in the wrong decade". We should instantly realize how idealistic and insensible this statement is.We can always make the past appear more rosy than it actually was. Even, if like Jim Miller, we lived the past.

Jim Miller reviewed the latest Jimi Hendrix album Axis: Bold as Love (Dec, 1967) in the Rolling Stones issue of June of 1968. He derided the album stating: "Jimi Hendrix sounds like a junk heap...his songs too often are basically a bore, and the Experience also shares with Cream the problem of vocal ability." This is the album that is ranked #82 on the Rolling Stone's 500 greatest albums list. 

Miller was one of the few early Rolling Stone's reviewers to strike a long-lasting career in music reviews. In 1999, 30 years after his initial review Miller wrote a book called Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock & Roll: 1947-1977. The book has Miller chronicling the "critical moments in the advent of rock and roll" including the famous moment when Hendrix lit his guitar on fire at Monterey. "At the end of the set, when he sent his Fender up in flames, the bonfire did not seem gratuitous," Miller writes. "It seemed rather a gesture of innocent gratitude, a burnt offering to the unknown pagan gods who had blessed this harvest of creativity, and granted one man-child a moment of rare bliss." Only ten months later, Miller incredulously finds Hendrix sounding like a junk heap. In fact, many of the then present music writers were highly critical of Hendrix's stage antics and guitar heroics. 

This short foray into the history of music demonstrates even a professional's ability to alter his past experience into one more pleasant than it really was.

Jan 26, 2015

Monday Morning Quote (Aurelius, 1/26/15)

"Reflect often how all the life of today is a repetition of the past; and observe that it also presages what is to come. Review the many complete dramas and their settings, all so similar, which you have known in your own experience, or from bygone history: the whole court-circle of Hadrian, for example, or the court of Antonius, or the courts of Philip, Alexander, and Croesus. The performance is always the same; it is only the actors who change."

Marcus Aurelius (trans. Maxwell Staniforth)
Emperor of Rome, 161-180

taken from Meditations book X

I'm starting to really think that much of our life is preordained by the social and political structures that we live in. Even my judgments on good and bad are based on it. I have no real freedom to decide from a rational, non-biased standpoint. I honestly don't think a tabula rasa type starting point is even achievable in mind, yet alone a real world thing. I find myself perpetuating irritating standards in my private life with my girlfriend; someone whom I should feel comfortable and free around. I'm not entirely sure what it is I'm trying to express. Aurelius above seems to think we are all just going through the motions of a script that has already been written long ago and will never change. He was thrust into the most important and powerful position in the ancient world: Emperor of the world-state of Rome, and even he found it difficult to be who he wanted to be; he was always being dragged this way or that by powers outside his control.

Marcus Aurelius is considered to be the last of the 'good' emperors before the start of a string of 'bad' emperors. All the good emperors immediately preceding him, and he himself, became emperors by being adopted by the current emperor and obtaining the position by legal heredity. The next emperor was Aurelius's genetic son Commodus who began the string of bad emperors. Aurelius's trust in nature (he says in the Meditations that "in the ways of Nature there is no evil to be found") betrayed him. He would have been better off personally selecting an appropriate successor than let the system of heredity choose for him.

Jan 24, 2015

Silly Post

Sharaz-De - "My lord, if I have found favor in your eyes, then listen to me with kindness, for I ask you only one thing, and hope you will not refuse me. The night, O lord, is still the realm of birds of prey. The dawn that will bring me death is far away. Grant me this, my King: that to brighten the hours ahead, I might recount stories ancient and rare till the new day robs me of speech and being. if the story is pleasing, grant me live another night and I shall tell another."

The King - "Errr, I do have Neflix you know. Guards!! Off with her head!"
We not only rely too much on mass media for our entertainment, but it seems we don't want anything but.

Jan 21, 2015

Monday Morning Quote (Nietzsche)

"If a man wants to become a hero, the snake must first become a dragon: otherwise he is lacking his proper enemy" - Nietzsche

Wed Review (Age of Bronze: A Thousand Ships by Eric Shanower)

I read Homer's Iliad on a lark without knowing much about the text itself and was surprised when the I discovered that the book starts with the war of Troy already begun. This book sets out to tell the story of how the war got started. It begins with Paris's story and then the capture of Helen, and concluded with the Greeks assembling an army to attack Troy.

There were a few extremely interesting and exciting chapters, but also a few boring ones. I guess its this inconsistency that I disliked. The art is excellent and seems very authentic, the author included sketches in the book of how he designed the Trojan throne room, and the comic maintains a superb internal consistency concerning 'camera' angels and the physical environment. I actually felt at times like a fly on the wall in history.

The story is also pain-painstakingly crafted. I don't know much about how scholars have created the 'authentic' telling of this story, but the author appeals to the authority of scholars for the creation of this book. Nothing is done just because the author felt the whim to do something... that's probably why the book is at time boring though.

I will be reading subsequent volumes and will probably even check out more works concerning this time period/story that just the two Homer poems I've read. (also, I don't think you need to have read Homer to read this book - you could come in fresh).