Treme (YGtCTO #258)

Television series created by David Simon and Eric Overmyer

In the process of writing these thoughts, I usually revisit the topic at hand. I read some commentary. I spend some time thinking about the subject. As is no doubt obvious by now, I seek out my way into writing about whatever attracted me in the first place. Sometimes, I don’t remember the first place and it takes some research to jar loose the necessary morsels.

The research has provided all sorts of information. More than a few artists were unusual in their personal lives, like Wilkie Collins. Others had serious issues, often holding prejudices that can not be defended (and should not be). Then, there’s the bits where I seem to be on my own in appreciating something. Really, that never happens because… well… the interwebs… It is really hard not to find someone who shares your infatuation. True, the mirror image is just as common. Someone, somewhere, is more than happy to rain on your parade. But that’s folks like you and me. Usually, people who are experts in their field tend to agree with me or, at least, fall somewhere in the middle of the road.

Until now…

Treme

I was rather caught off-guard by the vigorous knocking that professional critics have given Treme. You could put some of it down to David Simon’s status as a critics’ darling in the wake of The Wire… or maybe that’s it. I don’t know. The weird thing about reading critics like I’ve been doing is that you notice the ebb and flow of critical opinion over time. Some of my subjects died more than a century ago. People still write about them, sometimes trying to tear down idols and sometimes to restore them to their perch. In general, you could blame that on critics 1) starting with a conclusion and then writing to justify it; or 2) relying on criteria that they believe matter.

Look, for every thing that I have written about, there are ten that I have not liked. That could be because I started out with a bad opinion and it just wasn’t going to change or perhaps I gave the thing a chance but my criteria at that time were just not going to be met.

I’d love to believe that universal criteria for quality art exists, but I think that ultimately the only bad art is whatever bores everybody. If somebody finds your creation a little invigorating and helps brighten a few moments, more power to you. Maybe the next creation will work for two people.

Treme had some problems that nobody could miss, but it also spoke to me about the price of recovery and the comfort found in art and food and working with your hands. It spoke about the importance of place, whether you stay or go, and how you carry place with you forever. Treme made me feel like I was part of a large country with room for more pain and more miracles than any single heart can hold.

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. 42 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.

Wilkie Collins (YGtCTO Words #86)

The Moonstone


Novel written by Wilkie Collins

Why do we read? Because it is difficult and the books are there.

Occasionally, in middle school, we made a field trip to the local branch of the county library. They were down the street and around the corner, so we would walk on over en masse and terrify the librarians. Most often, we made these treks because we were doing research for term papers, which we were learning to write. Less often, we went in search of a book to read of our own choosing. This would lead to the inevitable book report.

More often, books were assigned by some arcane principle determined by the English teacher. We would arrive in the morning and find a fresh library book sitting on our desk. These felt random and onerous. Mine was always more boring and much thicker than everyone else’s. (Well, I know there was one girl who did seem frequently more oppressed than me. She was convinced the teacher disliked her and she may have had a point.)

I was one of those students who arrived way early due to the intricacies of the school bus system, left standing outside whatever the weather. So, I dashed inside once the doors were unlocked. Once, I tried to rearrange the books. As it turned out, the teacher actually remembered where she had placed the books not twenty minutes beforehand. That did not end well.

Wilkie Collins

When you’re twelve
and about to enter a horror movie, there’s that definite sense of dread, but it is paired with a certain excited anticipation. You’re really looking forward to all the emotions that are going to occur, but also a little stressed already. Take away all those good feelings and what you have left was how I felt about most of the books assigned to me: book award winners about coping with challenges, Willa Cather (so much Willa Cather…) and slow moving 19th century tomes that added immensely to the burdens that had to be dragged home. I would have traded five comic books, including two Incredible Hulks, for any Harry Potter.

I don’t have any idea why I ever picked up a book after they stopped being assigned. Obviously, I don’t remember many of them all that fondly. It is true that I lightened that diet with many things that I did want to read, but I was saved by the freedom to roam throughout the public library and go where my interests went.

The Moonstone, in truth, did not look absolutely dreadful and it was kind of entertaining, but it was long and I can’t pretend I didn’t think it was a slog. But it stuck with me, as has Willa Cather and probably all the rest that I can no longer name. I had no real way of judging the quality of anything back then. (I was publicly embarrassed by a teacher for saying that Shakespeare was not exactly hot stuff.) That became the groundwork. And the reason I have little patience for anything that feels like I’ve already been tormented enough.

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. 43 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.

Louis Jordan (YGtCTO Music #86)

Jack, You’re Dead

Song composed by Dick Miles and Walter Bishop, Sr. and performed by Louis Jordan and His Tympany Five

What an absolutely unbelievable discography. He was nicknamed “The King of the Jukebox”. And I heard about him because Joe Jackson adored his music. (Joe Jackson of Is She Really Going Out With Him? fame.)

Some cool cat who tried on new identities practically every day was a real hepcat on the day he joined my work team. He carried his music everywhere. I think some people thought he inflicted his music everywhere, but he was really into the Joe Jackson album. I’m not sure he ever knew it was all covers of old songs, though that was probably hard to miss. I do doubt that Louis Jordan meant anything to him.

The tunes stuck in my head. They’ll do it to you, too, if you’re not careful. I remembered the name and started buying the various compilations that popped up here and there. They were mostly imports and it was difficult to make heads or tails of Jordan’s career.

That’s the thing that always seemed strange. I felt down to my toes that this was major music in the pop and rock arena. There is something so perfect and clear about how it lays the ground work for everything that happened in the 1950s and beyond. Other than a few nods to Jordan’s song Caldonia, there was so little information out there. Every discovered song re-enforced my feeling that I needed more.

Louis Jordan

Now,

it’s become apparent that I lived on an island of ignorance. Plenty of people adored Louis Jordan. There never would have been so many re-issues. But, he was not of that moment and he wasn’t getting the attention that could filter through a world of radio, television, magazines and newspapers. Elvis and the Beatles certainly were well-documented. Serious digging provided a few Louis Jordan snippets, but I mostly stumbled on them while looking for something else.

Mostly, that’s how it goes. We ramble through life and bump up against some art that sticks to us like brambles, but it’s hard to really get invested. I don’t bother half as much as I did when I was young, even if it has become easier.

I don’t want to imagine a world in which no one hears Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby?, but I can easily imagine a world in which people hear it and like it and have no further clue about the song. That’s not too far afield from how most of us consume art most of the time. I can’t imagine being constantly open to full evaluations of every picture and word and note, so it means coming to terms with the temporal nature of all these creations.

Maybe that’s part of the high value that we place on art. We know that it is always somewhere between momentary and decades, but never just how long it will last.

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. 44 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.