The Baystate Objectivist

The Baystate Objectivist

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Literary Roundup

Stuff to Read

News from the world of literature is always interesting to me, perhaps because I'm a state of Massachusetts certified English teacher, or was until I let my license lapse. All I would have to do is take the test to get it back, but I'm not interested.

Ken Kesey once said that America co-opts its revolutionaries by showering them with money and honors. I doubt at the time he was thinking of his own co-Non-Navigator of the Merry Pranksters, Captain Skypilot Ken Babbs the Intrepid Traveler. I don't know about money, but lately Babbs has been collecting the honors. First he was invited to address the English Department at the Air Force Academy. Babbs is a decorated U.S. Marine pilot, but crossed military lines to speak to the Air Force instructors on how to teach the novels of Ken Kesey. He did arrive decked out in Marine regalia.

It was a challenging audience for the Captain, not exactly beatniks and Deadheads.

However, he said his talk went over well with the military types:

When I got up to speak I shed the blazer to reveal my flourescent orange loggers suspenders to great laughs and cheers. I started the talk with the question, "Is anybody here ready to have a psychedelic experience?" whereupon two cadets raised their hands and cried, "We are."

They were promptly expelled, just kidding, everybody got a good laugh....

Babbs was also honored recently by the Beat Museum. Here he is posing by the official Merry Prankster shirt worn by Neal Cassady.

This is a picture of Neal Cassady when he was a baby.

Just kidding. Here's the real Neal with Allen Ginsberg, no doubt at the time never suspecting that his clothing would be displayed in museums.

The Captain also attended a Dead reunion show (what he calls the "Leftover Dead") and took this picture of a giant turtle appearing on stage.

I'm surprised by how commercialized and mainstream the legacy of the Grateful Dead has become. I can't help but wonder, what would Jerry Garcia have thought of it all?

Style Over Substance

I am saddened to hear of the death of Massachusetts writer John Updike. Despite living in Massachusetts since 1959, Updike was considered the best example of a certain kind of urbane New Yorker style writer. He was indeed a brilliant stylist, although in my opinion Updike's writing often had more style than substance. The subjects of his books always seemed too small for the size of his talent. The Rabbit Runs series for which he was best known was a mean spirited trivialization of the American middle-class male, which made him well loved by leftist literary critics. But for all the praise he received, most of his books were more praised than read. His death was treated as the passage of a literary giant, but I predict Updike's reputation will fade with the passage of time.

Bad Call

Stephen King is not half the stylist Updike was, but I predict that King's books will still be read for generations to come. This 2006 novel was recommended to me because it is the first King book to have a homosexual as a lead character. Frankly I had stopped reading King. Ever since his near fatal accident King's books had become too dark to be fun.

The queer angle is minor in this book that has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with technology. Cell shows King returning to form with a story that is a good mix of funny and scary. Something awful starts happening to people who use their cell phones, which King himself makes known he has never owned. If you're sick of seeing everyone walking around talking on cell phones, then this book is your vengence.

Great God Google

Before he was an internationally known cyber-revolutionary Jeff Jarvis used to advise the company that does Masslive with the Springfield Newspapers. I'll bet today they wish they had offered a big sum of money to keep him. Now he has a book out about the wisdom of Google and its ethos of honesty and transparency. I haven't read it but I'll bet it's good. If you can't afford the book, Google itself gives away for free what it says are its ten most important principles for success online.

1. Focus on the user and all else will follow.
2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.
3. Fast is better than slow.
4. Democracy on the web works.
5. You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer.
6. You can make money without doing evil.
7. There's always more information out there.
8. The need for information crosses all borders.
9. You can be serious without a suit.
10. Great just isn't good enough.

For the background info behind each principle click here.

Endless Winter

More snow last night, so walking downtown at dawn today my woodland way was turned into a snow lined corridor.

Some canines conspired to trick their humans into taking them out so that they could meet and tell dog secrets.

Once downtown Northampton was clogged with snow.

Oh my, not a day for bike riding!

Hey Spring, we're getting more than a little impatient.

Today's Video

This terrible weather reminds me of an old video by Dinosaur Jr. the most successful band ever to rise out of Amherst. I saw their lead guitarist, J. Mascis, wandering around downtown last summer and asked him if I could take his picture. He responded with sign language, putting a finger to his lips and nodding yes. I quickly took the following photo without alerting anyone around us to the world famous rock star in their midst.


Anonymous said...

Mascis should shave his head. He'd look a lot younger (assuming he cares)!

Mary E.Carey said...

Thanks for posting those Google tips and link!

Don said...

To my mind, there is no better analysis of what happened to the 'Sixties' than Kesey's point about co-opting--the mass sell-out migration from the self-indulgent portion of Hippie Nation to 80s Yuppiedom, that also very likely contributed to Garcia's gradual withdrawal from the world. On a slightly related point, I'm pretty sure that Mascis et. al. had to add the 'Jr.' because there was an original that was basically a pick-up band consisting of Robert Hunter, John Cippolina, and a few of the SF regulars. If my memory serves me well, they did basically one tour, opening for the JG Band, in 1976, and that was about it for them, which makes the copyright odd. The novelty of that outfit was the rarity of Hunter singing his songs in an electric group context. It was entertaining, but even though Bob can be expressive solo, the relatively underappreciated singing talents of his songwriting partner were underscored at this show.

Anonymous said...

You "preach" fiscal responsibility non-stop while having a degree in English which you obtained with government educational grants, not loans. But you're "not interested" in going back to teaching which could help get you off the dole. You're a healthy, middle-aged man with no dependents living on welfare. You are pathetic. Stop the one-man pity party and get a job. ANY job.

Tommy said...

Dear Anon,

Fuck you, I do what I want.

Anonymous said...

You do what you long as taxpayers pay for it.

coffee said...

John Updike's conventional wisdom seems to have affected a lot of people -- I see little quotes of his all over

Anonymous said...

Tommy, anonymous was right, you are a welfare parasite who just fucks off all day long. not a bad job if you can pull it off