Stephen Jay Gould (YGtCTO Words #63)

Ever Since Darwin

Book written by Stephen Jay Gould

Science used to be popular, but now we have a category in the bookstore called popular science which receives about as much attention as the architecture books. That’s probably not fair. The architecture books wind up on the coffee table and the popular science books land on nightstands waiting for insomnia to strike. I judge unfairly, though the current New York Times #1 science book is Hidden Figures. Comparing it to all other books by a quick flip to Amazon sales ranking and it perches at #1,140. Good thing it became a movie.

I don’t see anything by Stephen Jay Gould becoming a movie, though I would love a series of documentaries. He had a magical ability to identify a topic that could be of wider interest and then present it in such a way that a layman could understand as well as enjoy, down to the illustrations which actually illuminated the subject at hand.

Stephen Jay Gould

Back before radio, when public lectures were a going concern as entertainment, working scientists performed demonstrations of all sorts- noisy electricity demonstrations and light refraction shows. Nowadays, working scientists pop up as talking heads just like other people caught in a few moments of widespread fame. The forum is different, as is our seeming attention span, and we don’t really hear them discuss their findings or how they arrived at them.

Like every other pundit,

they pontificate as much as they enlighten. Realistically, that may not be too far afield from Victorian science demonstrations, for all I know. The real difference, it seems to me, is the growth of science experts who don’t really do the science, but interpret it for us- journalists as well as those with science training, but little knowledge or appreciation of actual research, collaboration and corroboration.

So, a working scientist who writes primarily from his field of expertise for the thoughtful reader with little background in that field- can it be possible? Can he be a good writer on top of that? That is pure gold.

Gould wrote a regular column for Natural History magazine and many of his books are collections of those articles. They are outstanding examples of the science essay. By the same token, he knew his audience. No reader picked up Natural History looking for the swimsuit section, no matter how intriguing the possibility.

I suppose the best reason to read popular science and history- any good non-fiction- is to think deeply about something. The trick is finding the guide who takes you through the subject with a quick word for the potholes in the road and a nice touch for describing the scenery. The best writers stand out and leave behind knowledge that accrues for a lifetime.

Lastly, a quick afterthought- since I bothered to flip to Amazon. Who the #*!! categorized Ever Since Darwin as Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction?

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 112 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.

Chairmen of the Board (YGtCTO Music #63)

Give Me Just A Little More Time
Song written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland, and Ron Dunbar; recorded by Chairmen of the Board

Ahhh- Seattle, Washington, and Athens, Georgia, we hardly knew ye’. What has become of your music scenes, Liverpool and Bakersfield? Once a site becomes worthy of pilgrimage, does that means it is no longer fully alive? What say you, Graceland and Rock Hall?

We are so obsessed with the passage of time that we focus on the way music transports across the years while giving little notice to the way it carries us geographically. As music (and its creators) have become more mobile over the centuries, the influence of locality has become less clear. Folk music has the clearest roots that remain apparent, but that uniqueness can often be a bar to wider popularity. (I started citing examples, but the reality is that all music is listenable, just not necessarily going to market well for our current sales channels.)

The surprise is that pockets of commonality do arise within popular music. The location-specific genre that caught my ears by surprise was Carolina beach music. I knew the tunes before I knew that style, which may be the best way to fall in love with a style. (Which came first for you- Nirvana or grunge? The Temptations or Motown?)

The revival in the 1980’s gave me a name for this loosely defined music. My “in” was Chairmen of the Board’s magnificent song. I moved on to The Showmen, The O’Kaysions and The Foundations. Apparently, the rest of the world has noticed Build Me Up Buttercup as it keeps popping up.

Chairmen of the Board

Even more than all that, Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts… Really, what can one say?

All of which gets you a genre. But not immortality. You need something unbelievably special.

And that happened-

Check out J. J. Jackson’s But, It’s All Right– oh, sweet, lovely heaven. Pair that with Give Me Just A Little More Time on repeat and you’ve got some very, very happy ears. You may even have to try the Carolina Shag.

I found myself on the Carolina shore a decade or so after getting my limited handle on the beach music concept. I didn’t do much to explore the music scene beyond tuning in a couple local radio stations. So, it’s a little strange to me that I can hear some of these songs and I’m back on that beach or standing on the porch looking out to sea. I can’t say that I smell the ocean, but I do feel the shadow of a lighthouse and sense the crash of the waves.

More than a lot of artistic groupings, Carolina beach music feels de facto and haphazard, but that’s okay. Sometimes the only order we can bring is through our senses and not through pure logic.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 113 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.

A Selection of Actual Radio Station Call Letters That Are Actually Words

KISS-FM 99.5, San Antonio, Texas
“99.5 Kiss”  Format: Rock

WEST-AM 1400, Easton, Pennsylvania
“Music and Memories AM1400″ Format: Nostalgia

WHEN-AM 620, Syracuse, New York
“Sportsradio Sportsmonster” Format: Sports

WHAT-AM 1340, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“The Voice of the African American Community” Format: Talk

WUSS-AM 1490, Pleasantville, New Jersey
“SuperHits of the 60’s & 70’s” Format: Oldies

KELP-AM 1590, El Paso, Texas
“El Paso’s Christian Station” Format: Religious

KEEP-FM 103.1, Bandera, Texas
“Texas Rebel Radio the Fan” Format: Adult Album Alternative

KILT-FM 100.3, Houston, Texas
“Houston’s #1Country Station” Format: Country

WALK-FM 97.5, Patchogue, New York
“Long Island’s Best Variety” Format: Adult Contemporary

WHO-AM 1040, Des Moines, Iowa
“News Radio 1040 (Who)” Format: News

(2005)