Monthly Archives: February 2017

John M. Ford (YGtCTO Words #41)

The Last Hot Time

Book written by John M. Ford

The way of the polymath cannot be easy. Something new and interesting always lurks around the next corner. Not surprisingly, this can lead to dilettantism as the next shiny object attracts attention away from the current fixation. This is just supposition, of course. Isaac Newton and Thomas Edison, among so many others, are never thought of as dilettantes, though their contemporaries may have felt otherwise on occasion.

Genius can be hard to pin down, making it even harder to identify. Human beings can lose focus bringing all that curiosity and acquired knowledge to bear on an artistic pursuit that requires great craft and inspiration. Perhaps the only upside is that the ability to absorb vast swathes of information sets those inspirational fires burning.

I never knew John M. Ford, but his writings were everywhere in science fiction circles for a few, too brief, years. The obvious takeaway from any first encounter with his words was that the man knew stuff. Repeated encounters made you go back to the other works and wonder if this was in fact the same person. While we can accept that someone might know all of these things, the difficulty comes in seeing how he wore the particular work at hand like a glove. (That’s saying something, ain’t it?)

John M. Ford

Recent decades

have moved us away from the concept of a “genre ghetto,” but science fiction, mystery, horror, and romance have all been characterized thus. Each genre has been associated with certain tropes: space ships to ripped bodices. None of the genres is actually limited by such perceived requirements. In short, a lot of work gets promoted as one thing or another and then that’s what it is.

Ford never published outside the science fiction and fantasy realm. He wrote a lot of non-fiction for Asimov’s Science Fiction, as well as two of the best Star Trek novels. He wrote wonderful poetry. And then there were the stories and books- too few.

It can be easy when Alan Moore writes for DC Comics or Ford writes in the Star Trek universe to expect quality as we know they have skills. But then it becomes apparent that they have fully digested the specific needs of the fictional playground and made it so much better than it could have been.

Then, the artist goes on to continue to create their own original work. Moore and Ford both demonstrate a remarkable facility to make their talents serve the work at hand. Like Picasso and Tesla, they take us somewhere new while never forgetting to leave enough breadcrumbs for those willing to follow.

In the first instance, the artist puts the lie to any thought of selling out. In the latter, they help us move just a little further along on discovering our potential.

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. 178 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.

King Crimson (YGtCTO Music #41)

Waiting Man

Song performed by King Crimson and written by Adrian Belew, Bill Bruford, Robert Fripp and Tony Levin

Has there ever been a band like King Crimson? I don’t mean their music, which is wonderful all on its own. I’m talking about our commonly held idea of a band as a set group of musicians who work together over an extended period of time. They have produced at a remarkably high level while engaging in a version of professional musical chairs. Looking over their history, the personnel reads like a cross-section of prog rock elite who happened to meet up and decide to make a record. Then, they play a few gigs and go their separate ways. In King Crimson terms, Beat was news because it was the first time the band had made two albums in a row with the same members.

This started me thinking about artistic associations. The image of the traveling theater troupe may have set the standard. The members are permanently attached like the vision of a circus. They go from town to town, living out their private dramas always in one another’s company. Artistic collectives fire the imagination of anyone wanting a demarcation point when looking at history.

King Crimson

The King Crimson record
featured here takes Jack Kerouac as a jumping off point. Neal and Jack and Me is probably the most explicit example. He proved to be the connective tissue across much of American literature in the 1950s and 1960s as a founding member of the Beats. Drawing a circle that includes Allan Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ken Kesey, and many others, a movement is defined. They all knew one another. Presumably, they compared notes. They doubtless argued. People come and go through various circles of influence. Movements don’t break-up so much as peter out with death or apathy. We tend to mourn the individuals more than the end of such a group.

Orchestras change members all the time, but popular bands make news with change. (Orchestras do, too, but not with every new addition or departure.) Doubtless, the cult of personality comes into play here, except that bands become a personality all on their own. I suppose the personality of King Crimson has become one of change and inquiry. As in- did you hear that Crimson is on tour? Oh? And who’ve they got this time? Other than Fripp, that is?

Then, there is the driving force behind a band or a movement. Robert Fripp has been the King Crimson constant for all these decades. Was Kerouac the driving force behind the Beats? I don’t really subscribe to the great man theory of history, though it makes for an easy shorthand in conversation. One artist can write a good book or make good music, but you don’t get anywhere if you surround that person with mediocrity. Maybe the better way to look at the people who have passed through King Crimson is the way that they have gone out and used their experience to create new art under different circumstances.

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. 179 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.

Frank Gilroy (YGtCTO #120)

From Noon Till Three

Written and directed by Frank D. Gilroy (from his book)

I was fairly young when I first saw this western from 1976. I do recall being alone at the time. Even without my father near at hand, I was fairly likely to choose a western before just about anything. The other memory that stands out is a desire to share the experience- that urge to turn to someone and make a comment before realizing that no one was there. I don’t know if I talked about the movie later with anyone. It was just a little too weird.

In essence, a mediocre outlaw sleeps with a woman while on the run. He brags a little, but pretty much leaves her in the dust at the first opportune moment. He is captured and serves a long term in jail. When released, the outlaw discovers that the widow has written a huge bestseller romanticizing their time together. Maybe this movie explains my fondness for Don Quixote, which I did not tackle until much later.

Looking back, it’s interesting to see my younger self dealing with questions of truth- fiction and non-fiction. How much can an artist mine their own experience before owing something to their inspiration? How much truth can any person make if experience is subjective?

Frank Gilroy

Gilroy’s real accomplishment is putting these questions out there in a way that entertains, while drawing us into the predicaments of the main characters. These are not issues that have disappeared, only morphed into concerns for more types of media. Much of our modern journalism has created a strange relationship between subject and chronicler that only accelerates compromises as the methods of sharing information foster the importance of headlines over actual content. From Noon Till Three was as much about the rise of surface impressions over personal depth and true character.

Charles Bronson, Jill Ireland, Gilroy, and all the rest of their collaborators make art of this because of the humanity at the core of the film. The situation feels ridiculous at points to all of the characters. Simple choices about personal survival have ended up causing harm and disunity.

Everyone has these artistic gems that they hold close. Part of being human is being affected by the world around us.. Some, like Star Wars, remain a part of the common parlance. Few a few brief years after the release of the first movie, we lived in a world in which you could only see it by waiting for broadcast television to show it. Can you imagine?

Then, something like From Noon Till Three is this strange movie that really is unknown. I don’t know if I have ever seen a copy on disc or tape. It looks like it might be stream-able now, wich is rather cool. Maybe it was simply the right art at the right time. I’m probably going to wait a little longer before I find out.

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. 180 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.