[Incredulity Rising]

Let us pause to remember all the angsty white men who invented rock and roll, like Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino and Bo Diddley.

Camus Says

In "The Plague", 1947:

In spite of such unusual sights our townsfolk apparently found it hard to grasp what was happening to them. There were feelings all could share, such as fear and separation, but personal interests, too, continued to occupy the foreground of their thoughts. Nobody as yet had really acknowledged to himself what the disease connoted. Most people were chiefly aware of what ruffled the normal tenor of their lives or affected their interests. They were worried and irritated—but these are not feelings with which to confront plague. Their first reaction, for instance, was to abuse the authorities. The Prefect’s riposte to criticisms echoed by the press—Could not the regulations be modified and made less stringent?—was somewhat unexpected. Hitherto neither the newspapers nor the Ransdoc Information Bureau had been given any official statistics relating to the epidemic. Now the Prefect supplied them daily to the bureau, with the request that they should be broadcast once a week.

In this, too, the reaction of the public was slower than might have been expected. Thus the bare statement that three hundred and two deaths had taken place in the third week of plague failed to strike their imagination. For one thing, all the three hundred and two deaths might not have been due to plague. Also, no one in the town had any idea of the average weekly death-rate in ordinary times. The population of the town was about two hundred thousand. There was no knowing if the present death-rate were really so abnormal. This is, in fact, the kind of statistics that nobody ever troubles much about—notwithstanding that its interest is obvious. The public lacked, in short, standards of comparison. It was only as time passed and the steady rise in the death-rate could not be ignored that public opinion became alive to the truth. For in the fifth week there were three hundred and twenty-one deaths, and three hundred and forty-five in the sixth. These figures, anyhow, spoke for themselves. Yet they were still not sensational enough to prevent our townsfolk, perturbed though they were, from persisting in the idea that what was happening was a sort of accident, disagreeable enough, but certainly of a temporary order.

Camus, Albert. The Plague (Vintage International) (pp. 77-79). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Camus Says

In "The Plague", 1947:

The word “plague” had just been uttered for the first time. At this stage of the narrative, with Dr. Bernard Rieux standing at his window, the narrator may, perhaps, be allowed to justify the doctor’s uncertainty and surprise—since, with very slight differences, his reaction was the same as that of the great majority of our townsfolk. Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

In fact, like our fellow citizens, Rieux was caught off his guard, and we should understand his hesitations in the light of this fact; and similarly understand how he was torn between conflicting fears and confidence. When a war breaks out, people say: “It’s too stupid; it can’t last long.” But though a war may well be “too stupid,” that doesn’t prevent its lasting. Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.

In this respect our townsfolk were like everybody else, wrapped up in themselves; in other words they were humanists: they disbelieved in pestilences. A pestilence isn’t a thing made to man’s measure; therefore we tell ourselves that pestilence is a mere bogy of the mind, a bad dream that will pass away. But it doesn’t always pass away and, from one bad dream to another, it is men who pass away, and the humanists first of all, because they haven’t taken their precautions. Our townsfolk were not more to blame than others; they forgot to be modest, that was all, and thought that everything still was possible for them; which presupposed that pestilences were impossible. They went on doing business, arranged for journeys, and formed views. How should they have given a thought to anything like plague, which rules out any future, cancels journeys, silences the exchange of views. They fancied themselves free, and no one will ever be free so long as there are pestilences.

Camus, Albert. The Plague (Vintage International) (pp. 36-37). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Class Act

Remington Death Machines, Inc, takes blaming the victim to a new low.

Gun company Remington has subpoenaed the report cards, attendance records, and disciplinary records of five kindergarten and first grade students murdered in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, according to new court filings in a civil lawsuit filed against the company.

“In mid-July, the defense served a subpoena on the Newtown Public School District seeking: ‘Any and all educational records in your possession including but not limited to, application and admission paperwork, attendance records, transcripts, report cards, disciplinary records, correspondence and any and all other educational information and records pertaining to’ each of the five first-graders whose Estates are plaintiffs in this case,” according to the motion filed today that sought to protect the victims’ families from further subpoenas.

It's so heinous, I can't even make the obvious jokes about it.

Listening To…

  • King Krule - Man Alive!. Even for King Krule, this feels very unstructured and mumbly. Full of slowly pulsing chords and mumbled lyrics backed by occasional percussion and wobbly melodic lines. I do like it, a lot actually, but I need to be in a very particular mood before I'll put it on.
  • King Crimson - Beat. One of those albums I think I must have owned and then lost (or sold). I know it front to back, but I didn't have a copy in my collection until this month. This is the second of the classic Fripp, Belew, Levin, Bruford -era trilogy. It's not as great as Discipline (few things are), but it's still pretty good.
  • Phoebe Bridgers - Punisher. Understated whispery pop. She has a lovely voice, and her songs are wistful and very delicately melodic. I don't have many reference points for this kind of music these days, so it's hard to come up with comparable artists. I could say something like "a more introspective and sad Taylor Swift", but that's because Taylor Swift is literally the only young female pop singer I know anything by anymore (because Mrs likes her). And really, Bridgers doesn't like anything Taylor Swift so I'll quit bring her up. She's playing here on the 21st, but sadly I can't bring myself to go to shows anymore - and frankly, as a soon-to-be-51-year-old, I'd feel a little creepery going to that show. I do like this record quite a lot though.
  • Ryley Walker - Course In Fable. I play this one daily. It continues his unique experimental jazzy folk sound but, as with each of his albums, takes things in a somewhat different direction. Thanks to a lot of warm strings, this one is a fuller and sunnier record than some of his others; Deafman Glance sounds harder and more minimal by comparison. The lyrics are as abstract and intriguing as ever:

    Weeds begat a mandolin strung out on faith-works
    Splintered into seeds are showing under tongue
    Patterns upchucked from downstream
    A pack-a-day throat that sinks the blues I sing
    Transactions cashless, its collection call rings
    On the other end, I’m shaking shivers
    Taking requests from a queue of givers

  • Herbie Nichols - The Complete Blue Note Recordings. I recently finished The History of Jazz, which chronicles, in pretty much a continuous narrative, all of the big (and many of the lesser-known) movements, sub-movements and musicians in jazz. Pianist Herbie Nichols appears when the author reaches Thelonious Monk, with whom Nichols shares a style of playing (those big, clanging, block chords and a way of phrasing melodies). But Nichols was more of a conventional player: a bit less jagged in his melodies, a bit less likely to repeat a phrase for four bars (or let bars go by with just one or two dissonant spikes), and a bit less likely to slam a one of those big block chords in the middle of a melodic line for for the fun of it. There's a ton of material here - three and a half hours worth - including a lot of alternate takes. Good stuff, a bit much to digest all at once!
  • Throwing Muses - The Real Ramona. Are they the most underrated band of their time ? I don't know, I can think of a few other bands of the late 80s/early 90s that didn't get the props I think they deserved. But, they're on the list. At this point in their career, Throwing Muses had two songwriters and lead singers: Kristen Hersh and her stepsister Tanya Donnely. And so this record has some Donnely-style melodic guitar pop. And it has a lot of nervous, discordant, Hersh-style rockers - some of the guitar in Ellen West sounds like Gang Of Four. And then one or two sound like collaborations, despite what the writing credits say. After this, Donnely and the bassist would leave to form one of my favorite (and also underrated) bands ever, Belly. It's a good record, and a nice reminder of how big and weird the "alternative" universe was back in the final days before Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden (and the long list of sound-alikes) took over the phrase and the entire indie music world for a decade.