Entries tagged with “Roy Harper” from this Public Address 1.0

Pinches of Salt

Something occurred to me.

I had just finished reading the introduction to Michael McKeon’s The Origins of the English Novel 1600-1740 when I had a thought (strange how that happens).

Sorting out “modes” or “genres” is a difficult thing. I’ve read lots of stuff about it, including Todorov and David Perkin’s work. I liked the plan of attack that McKeon laid out: rather than starting with an originary hypothesis, he decided it might be better to begin with the time that the idea of the novel was a useful one and work backward from there. Why did the classification of the novel as something worthy of it’s own noun serve a purpose? Good question.

Then I drove to the store. I started thinking about the centrality of the Internet as a label to identify “new” communicative behaviors. Why is this nominalization useful? I don’t recall seeing book length works on how the telephone changed the world. I didn’t hear many debates over the future of the telephone. Or, the distribution of phone books— oh my god, people will be able to randomly pick out strangers and call them! What might this mean for the future of society?

This is why I find it hard to get too excited about all the net discussion. This thing might as well be a microwave oven or a toaster to me. The question that never seems to get asked is: how is it better than the communication technologies we had before? Were there studies on the social behaviors of the party line? Or, why the party line had its boom period, and then faded from use as the costs of single user telephones grew smaller?

A lot of trees are sure being killed over this Internet thing, which is a bit oxymoronic. The real story is much older than that. It reminded me of a song by Roy Harper.

Pinches of Salt

Arthur read stories he got from the shelf
of the gingerbread house of the men in between
making his mind up to keep to himself
and somewhere the future had been.

Pinches of salt
Nobody’s fault
Just the tune of the moon on the ocean.

One year quite suddenly out of the blue
the phone box grew curtains with Sanderson prints
and designers of countryside loaded the view
with “sort of” decisions and hints
And Arthur slept in on the edge of his seat
way back in his mind where the butterflies flew
bred non-committal to live nice and neat
with lots of his dreams coming true

Pinches of salt
Nobody’s fault
Just the tune of the moon on the ocean.

Roy described on his mailing list what “the phone box grew curtains with Sanderson prints” was about. It misses the US audience. In the UK, telephones were slow to come into homes. It was phone boxes first, but then eventually, there was one in every living room. I suspect that the Internet will really be that way for the majority. It’s an appliance, like a telephone. The majority, still wrapped in their dreams and motives will sleep, until it’s just another thing that’s there, suddenly and out of the blue.

After all, we’re just pinches of salt. Nobody’s fault. Just the tune of the moon on the ocean. We give things like the Internet a name, because it’s useful to have something to call it. “Blog” was created to describe a certain type of location on that communication web. In and of itself, the concept is about as interesting as a telephone number, or a party line. The people behind them, and what they say is what I’m in it for.

I do think that there are evolving modes, genres, and types that deserve looking into. However, discussing the machinery behind them bores me to tears. I’m in it for the stories.

Depression and the muse

Depression and the muse


I was never all that crazy about the Red Hot Chili Peppers either.

Roy Harper- Gadfly interview

Shilling for Harper once again

scattered stuff

Just a few scattered notes

Aaro has put up some really nice pictures of Roy Harper. Oh, and a secondhand Roy/Syd Barret story came up on the Stormcock list:

Roy: I once met Syd Barrett . . . pause . . . walking down Oxford St. . . . and I said "Hi Syd How are you doing?"

Syd: [silence]

Roy: "Where are you going?"

Syd replied after a pause "Further than you could ever know!"

There are some cool Mike Watt pictures from Spokane 17 Sept.

Australia seems so civilized: I'd really like to see more public toilet maps available. A very long time ago, when I used to travel to Los Angeles for concerts all the time, a friend of mine got busted for public urination. What a thing to have on your rap sheet. This could have been prevented, if it was easier to find toilets in LA! Why doesn't the US have a "National Continence Management Strategy?"

On a more somber note, re: constructions is a fascinating look at media coverage from around the world on the recent disaster, from MIT. Personally, I think understanding the media and how they manipulate us is a big key to keeping our humanity in the face of all this. All perspectives are by definition skewed, including the indie media. Arm yourself against swallowing any of the tripe whole!

Personal note: I was just told by a graduate student tonight that "poetry makes no sense, I don't understand how they come up with that stuff!" I shrank back in the corner; further and further away from feeling normal. Uh, I like it myself...

Love and only love will break it down


I'm trying to get back to normal somehow. I turned off the TV when I heard the news of children being taken to "ground zero" to be swabbed for DNA tests to identify the body parts of their parents. It's just too much. I told myself that I wasn't going to write about it any more for a while. I'm so sick of the hate. There have been a couple of good essays that cropped up that I want to link to, however.

First up, Ian McEwan's Only Love and then Oblivion talks about what we should be concentrating on right now. I'm so tired of the liberal sniping; it makes me embarrassed to be a liberal. I know the history, you're not telling me anything I don't know. Keep your hate, ignorance, flag-waving, and government-trashing to yourself right now. That just fuels the anger, and makes the unseen enemy win.

Then, Metagrrrl's post of an essay by Vikram Singh was heartening, because it isn't about the present, or past blame, but about the future. That's where the focus should shift. All the nations of the world need to come to the table, and we in the United States should be hoping for reason to prevail rather than brute force in order to revive civilization.

Before political discussion was shut down (and rightly so) on the C-18L literature mailing list, the comparison was made to the situation facing Thomas Jefferson's efforts, in allegiance with the UK, to shut down piracy on the high seas. Massive fleets sailed to the trouble spots, and the threat was quelled in the early 18th century. In that case, it worked and the world became a better and safer place. I hope that happens this time, but like everyone else, I have my doubts. But it's a far more valid comparison than the Pearl Harbor analogy. Like the piracy problem, this is an international problem in need of international solutions.

I put on Roy Harper's Unknown Soldier.

And I cry in my sleep
For all the hungry children
And the unbelieving sheep
We're not at war, any more than Jefferson was at war with pirates. It saddens me that the national rhetoric is so damn imprecise. The machine geared up from the first day into this jingoistic hatred. The only thing we have to fight it is love. I hope we learn from this, but like everyone, I'm not so sure.

Oh Canada


On the heels of Roy Harper's reasoning comes U.S. bashing no longer a game. I wish the people commentators in the rest of the world would say more things like this:

We usually take this Canadian prejudice lightly, as a kind of foible, but we may have to begin seriously questioning it. Anti-Americanism is not the game that we have so often considered it. America is the most vital and progressive country in the world, the most significant source of democratic impulses, our best friend by far, and the place where much of our culture originates. If our intent is to be authentic and consistent, can we afford to share anything with those who base their politics on hating America?

Perhaps we should acknowledge that reflexive anti-Americanism (as opposed to honest disagreement with the United States) is a poison afflicting large parts of the world, a poison we should purge from our own system.

The reflexive anti-Americanism of everyone, including Americans like me, should be more closely evaluated. I like it here. I can't walk across the room without thinking about the gaping hole in the NY skyline. No one deserves this. The people in the aspirin factory in Sudan didn't deserve it either, or the countless others destroyed by regimes funded by the US. But summoning those memories while the tears are still wet in everyones eyes is just poisonous. I wish more writers would think before they write. The US is filled with good people; good people who need to be vigilant of the message that the world sees in the upcoming days/months/years. We have to stand together for a reasonable response to unreasonable terror. Freedom wasn't attacked, humanity was. But freedom is at stake.

O Superman


I am sick of trying to remember all the politics that I'd pushed to the back of my skull. Contrary to a lot of the writing out there, I don't think it helps. What helps is recognizing that the people who I read are people, not pundits. Close on the heels of my discovery of Roy Harper's thoughts, I felt better reading Johanna's thoughts on a Laurie Anderson concert. I'm envious. Though I haven't listened to music in days, I suspect I might try again tonight. I read Milton's Sonnets, but the politics in there is just too much to talk about right now. They rang true, but they are rhetoric in service of yet another doomed cause. O Superman is looming in my head right now. Thanks Johanna, it actually really helps to think about it.

And when force is gone, there's always Mom.

There are a lot of moms grieving right now, and a lot of babies without moms.

Responses to crisis


I was very distressed by Daniel of Tinyblog's heralding the Guardian commentary as the best he'd read about the terror situation. The bristling is due in part to the spin of the article implying that the UK's hands were somehow clean of innocent blood. I was appalled and enraged at the exertion of British nationalism as if it were somehow a shining light of example of a great world citizen. I suppose a history lesson is in order, but I don't feel compelled to supply it. This is a world crisis, not just a US one. Citizens of many nations were killed in the destruction of the World Trade Center.

I am heartened by Roy Harper's latest diary entry. It is a much more reasoned, and yet impassioned, response.

I realised that the land of baseball had been rudely creamed into the twenty first century.

How innocent are any of us? I thought. How innocent can any of us be when billions of us are being deprived.. In the face of huge amounts of wealth. I could suddenly hear the worldwide clammer of recriminations. I silently wished we were all in the global village as equals. Then I thought that I'd rather be in a village of 100 people.. Self sufficient.. Where leaders couldn't be 'elected' by spin. I was dreaming again. What if...

Then I thought that we had all deserved this; that we hadn't taken care of our own. That we had let them fester in heaps of fundamentalist rubble until they had puked their disease all over us. Do we have to test each other's bravery so much?

Then I think of my song 'I Hate The White Man', which was written so long ago now, and was written because I was outraged by the actions, ignorance and attitudes of western Europeans and Americans. The same people who are outraged by events that seem to impact upon their greed and overweening wealth, but who forget all too easily what they might have done to cause these events, and then, to compound the felony, forget about any of it altogether. As if nothing happened. Arrogant.

To be blamed by any European nation with the cowardly claim that "we brought it on ourselves" is pouring salt on a stinging wound, a wound that screams to be avenged. The minority that make the laws, and control the money deserve this righteous outrage. The citizens who were killed deserve our grief. Condemning a nation, or a race, or a religion, is a comfortable oversimplification that hides the real complexity of the problem. Roy sees that clearly:
As I've just said to one of my American friends, America is this great lumbering giant who's been looking for trouble for decades, but on the other hand is the source for so many of my inspirations, and those of my friends. Republican fascism is hard for me to take; to have been so angered by Vietnam, and horrified by the American destruction of President Allende in Chile and the subsequent sponsorship of the murderer Pinochet.

And yet so hugely inspired by the freedoms of the jazz age, 'Bird' and Miles, Kerouac and the Beat Poets, Steinbeck and Hunter Thompson. The USA is a great juvenile melting pot, and that's all there is to it. The great sprawling American landscape of diners and canyons, cowboys, hobos, dancers and trippers is part of my lifestyle. It is still a weird and wild frontier, and even in it's most obnoxious manifestation, much more acceptable, benign and romantic than any grim blinkered worship of a fantasy deity which one could be required and compelled to worship five times a day.

A living experiment with millions of tides, attitudes and quirks powered by at least the idea of freedom of expression. And developing. And though I rail against the many obvious injustices, at least I am free to do so. But to want to turn everything from Morocco to Egypt, from Turkey to Pakistan, to lead, is not the right way. It's exactly the wrong way. What America now has to do is what we've all done in the last day, which is to take a good look at ourselves. And what we're doing in the world. And to the world.

I read another editorial in the Toronto Sun that challenged Bush for not being more aggressive, more warlike, more anxious to strike against anything. Opinions will differ, but there is no question that sides must be taken. Knowing Roy's politics, knowing that his heart is close to mine in concern for humanity, it was incredibly uplifting to read his choice:

And let America now go out into the world. Not as tourists, but as equals in it's hope and despair. Not to gape at Buckingham Palace or the Eiffel Tower, but to look into the eyes of nations, and to take home some understanding. Not to further sour the world with retaliation, but to teach the world a lesson with restraint. To attack another nation is only to contribute to further reaction and to eventually bringing the whole pack of cards down.

Maybe You think it needs to..

The previous paragraph intones my hopes for my world. In the cold light of day, what has been enacted in New York is of nuclear war proportions. It is inconceivable that the USA will not not respond in kind if it can locate a target. It will also pull in it's allies. I am one of those. I've now stood up. And I've now been counted, and I have to own up to my own heart. Sink or swim.

I have no choice but to stand with my country. Not blindly to follow it into Armageddon, but to stand with it in the intolerance of terrorism. Sink or swim. There is a difference between restraint and inaction. I wish the reeling "shadows of the indignant desert birds" to be stopped from moving across not just our landscape, but the landscapes of the UK and Russia and all the countries of the world. This is a world situation, not just a US one, and no amount of flag waving on any side will help the problem. Humanity must stand together, sink or swim.

New CDs (for me, anyway)

A bunch of CDs in my mailbox all at once.
  • Sparklehorse—it's a wonderful life [playing now, reserving judgement]
  • Nirvana— From the Muddy Banks of the Wishkah [I'm finally sick of the crap sound on most Nirvana boots]
  • The Who— sings My Generation
  • The Who— A Quick One [both of these replace old cassette tapes]
  • Laurie Anderson— Bright Red [never heard it; rounding out the Laurie Anderson collection]
  • Roy Harper— The Unknown Soldier [supplementing my vinyl]
  • Concrete Blonde— Still in Hollywood [I've been going down memory lane with their first record lately]

I suppose I should write more about music. I just feel a bit dated right now. My tastes are not locked in the past, but there just hasn't been much that has really gotten me excited lately.



I was asked to read my response to "In the Kitchen" outloud. I did it under duress. I know that the distinctions I made about it were far outside the scope of a mixed class of grads/undergrads. I was flattered though, by the comment that if the teacher didn't know better she'd swear that I stole it from somewhere. So maybe I'm fitting into this discourse community?

A black male writer was cut from the syllabus in favor of yet another female writer. The teacher expressed concern that her sylabus was skewed in favor of black writers in this section. I didn't have the heart to tell her that this now makes the male contingent of writers less than 10 percent of the class. I really don't care, I'll read anything. But I learn more from people who write perhaps a bit closer to my experience.

People I wish I could write like:
  • John Doe
  • Paul Westerberg
  • Steve Wynn
  • Roy Harper
  • Guy Kyser
Why are all my favorite writers musicians?

Not just Cricket


Sometimes blogdex is a really great tool. Thinking about contemporary music (though I admit I was listening to some stuff on the Beta Band site with some amusement) I think turret a phone could put most modern bands out of work. But that's just my opinion.

In an unusual synchronicity to a recent post on Roy Harper— who had a defining song called When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Creasenot just cricket came in at number three tonight. This is just too good, I've got to jump on the bandwagon. Confused by the rules of cricket? You won't really need them to enjoy this game, though I suggest all American readers click on the link just to check them out.

Roy Harper-- The Spirit Lives


A recent e-mail from Traci, now Roy Harper's wife (congrats and all that), informs the anxious public that preorders for the 2 cd live recording of the RFH gig on Roy's 60th birthday will commence on September 10th. Traci also reports that a new tour dates page has been put into place. A few snips from The Spirit Lives remind me why I empathize with Harper so much:

"Well, Johnny Rotten was a fan of mine at one stage. And although punk felt like the same thing happening again that had happened a generation earlier, when you're booted out there's very little you can do about it," he says now, looking back.

While lots of pre-punk tendencies have been reaccepted, from wah-wahs to flares to prog, one thing that never has been is the strong sense of pastoralism and Wordsworthian romanticisation of the countryside, always prevalent in Harper's music . . ."I do pay a decent amount of homage to my roots" he agrees. "I try, the majority of times I pick up a pen, to refer to the whole of me and that includes those references, which I couldn't throw out."

"I have an emotional being which is huge," he acknowledges. This could be a boast, but it might be an affliction.

At 60, Harper is aware that his roving, angry, inquiring spirit has meant that he's been too large to harness for mass consumption.

"With me, it's the material," he says. "A 20-minute song is unplayable on radio. Most people don't have the attention span to get through even a quarter of that. So you need a certain dedication to approach my stuff - which cuts out 90 percent of the population to begin with.

I've been wondering about the attention span thing. I surfed randomly into Write the Web to find an interview with one of the creators of Blogger. Evan Williams states that his notions about the blogging "concept" are Frequency, Brevity, and Personality. I've seen lots of one word, or one sentence fragment, logs. I don't like them much. But then, maybe I've just missed the boat. There is brevity, and then there is shallowness. I like things that are long, rambling, and deep. Can't you tell? I must, because I love Roy Harper.

On a thin line


I was thinking tonight about how much I measure things based in popular music. I think part of my allergy to Jamaica Kincaid’s "On Seeing England for the First Time" was based on my presumption that the topic had been dealt with so much better by a few white males who will never be the part of any curriculum.

As I went to the store, one of those songs came on my stereo: Living on a Thin Line

All the stories we've been told of kings and days of old
But there's no England now (there's no England now)
All the wars that were won and lost
Somehow don't seem to matter very much anymore
All the lies we were told (all the lies we were told)
All the lives of the people running round and castles that burned
Now I see change but inside we're the same as we ever were

Living on a thin line, Oh tell me now what are we supposed to do?

If they listened to Jamaica Kincaid, all the people of England would just die. However, most people really don't find this an acceptable option. Like poetry, songs don’t present answers, only questions. If they attempt to present answers, they generally fall flat. We don’t have Milton’s faith anymore; it’s one of those castles that burned. Humanity became displaced, though as Davies says, inside we’re all the same as we ever were.

A much deeper treatment of the problem is One of These Days in England by Roy Harper. But they’re white males, immediately judged exempt for consideration both for their gender and their existence outside the academy as musicians. I don’t like exclusion, whatever the reason. Tell me now, what are we supposed to do?