Category Archives: You’ve Got to Check This Out

Philip K. Dick (YGtCTO Words #65)

The Short Happy Life of the Brown Oxford and Other Classic Stories (The Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 1)


Stories written by Philip K. Dick

At this moment, Philip K. Dick feels like another piece of the cultural pie forced into the common parlance because he was adored by lovers of science fiction and comic books. In both cases, it took one hugely successful film to leave us saturated with super-heroes and science fiction based on questioning the nature of reality. For comic books, it was the first X-Men movie and for Dick, it was Blade Runner. There has been no escape from either ever since.

If you zipped back in time and told me as a youth that I would see so many such films, then I would have happily awaited the day, certain that it would mean a better world for everyone where we understood the positive mythology of superheroes and the cautionary tales of PKD. Of course, superheroes have become props for blockbuster films aimed to generate massive amounts of cash as quickly as possible while remaining as forgettable as possible so that we look forward to the next fix without too much trepidation.

Come to think of it, that sounds like something Philip K. Dick would dream up.

Or maybe not. Check it out yourself. His short stories have been lovingly collected in highly readable volumes. They are a nice dip into some wonderful science fiction of Fifties and Sixties written by someone who was fast enough to crank them out and brilliant enough to make you forget how many he wrote so quickly.

Philip K. Dick

As much as anything,
PKD provided high entertainment value. One of the ways he did this was to rely on some standard themes, which he masterfully altered and evolved. The short stories often feel more concrete than his novels.

Let’s face it, one of the appeals of adapting PKD to the screen is that he gives you a plot that can be defined in conventional terms surrounded by various twists of the lunacy dial. Blade Runner feels like an exception in that the film feels almost more unconventional than the book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Or maybe that’s the secret to the desire to bring PKD to the screen? Directors can demonstrate their own creativity by expanding on the initial weirdness provided by the story.

Ultimately, some artist had to capture the general zeitgeist of dystopian angst built up around our growing technological and pharmaceutical dependencies. Maybe we’re still too close to him in time to truly appreciate his importance. Maybe it is simply the curse of science fiction that once the predictions feel dated, then we move on to the next artist with a reconstituted vision built on more current knowledge.

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. 106 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.

Cornershop (YGtCTO Music #65)

Good to be on the Road Back Home
Song written by Tjinder Singh and performed by Cornershop

“Make room for a lady”

That’s the moment that gets me every time. I have to reach for the volume and turn it up.

Every decade that piles up adds another couple presidents and innumerable moments of asking “What the…?” By now, I look back over the presidents and see waves of one political stripe giving way to another until they change places again. Sure, plenty more is involved, but here I am most interested in the similarity of political ascendancy to the weather in Rochester, NY- if you don’t like it, wait a bit and it will change. Obviously, the challenge is waiting a bit, especially if you happen to be on the outside (or worse) looking in.

Movements- political, artistic, social, etc.- all have their day. Pokemon Go, we hardly knew ye.

I am part of a generation that is moving with tentative steps into the age when we are more often found on front porches cursing “those damn kids.” (And a great ancient quote would look really good here, but I did a little research and found it was bogus.) So, I have heard my contemporaries living up to expectations and complaining that there isn’t any good music being made anymore. I do wonder if it isn’t just an excuse for not bothering to look. After all, we have plenty of entertainment available already. Why keep making more? I rather like the excuse myself on hectic days.

Cornershop""

In my better moments, I remember to wait for the next wave, because there have been so many good waves already. In the ebb times, the challenge becomes remembering that new art is coming. Somewhere, in a dingy apartment, ideas are being worked out while the macaroni and cheese simmers on the hot plate.

Sometime ago, between Lyle Lovett and Wilco, the tide brought Cornershop to my ears. They received the “fresh” sounds moniker from a lot of people, but that would have been useless if they hadn’t offered a way into their sound for ears that were not as fresh. They had a hit that transcended expectations of the radio.

It is hard to express the importance of those waves in building community. As much as we hold deep political views and cling to self-defining tastes, we ultimately define ourselves by the people that share those tastes and views. When we feel isolated, it is because our internal voice has found little corollary in the external world. Those ebbs break down our communities because we feel that no one cares what we think. If you are not reflected in the popular entertainment, in the voices of your leaders, then you no longer feel a part of the population.

The miracle may be that Cornershop broke through to significant success in the late 1990s. But the necessity is that a place remain for them and, just as importantly, those to whom they gave an outlet and a voice.

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. 107 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.

George Kaufman (YGtCTO #192)

You Can’t Take It With You


Stage play written by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman

You can’t make this stuff up. Our first home as a married couple was the second floor of a three family house in the distant suburbs of Boston. The place was large and the people nice enough, even with the first floor fire from smoking in bed.

We also learned the valuable lesson that timing is everything when seeking a place to live. We saw the railroad tracks on the other side of the backyard fence, but were too naive to foresee the implications. You’d think we would know better as we had turned down a place in Boston’s Back Bay when we heard the subway pass by just outside the walls on the first floor.

The tracks served the commuter rail, which proved convenient because I could walk a block and catch the train into work. Plus, we knew the commuter rail only ran during times when we would be awake. That did not take into account the leasing of the tracks to Amtrak or freight carriers overnight.

So, upon moving into our new abode, we happily unpacked our fragile items and put them up on shelves. I still remember waking suddenly to the entire building shaking as a loud rumble approached and subsided. My response at the time involved turning to my wife and saying something like, “It’s just like that scene in You Can’t Take It With You.” You know that you’ve married well when you can make a reference like that in the middle of the night and receive an agreeable nod in return.

Items teetered on the edge, but nothing broke. We probably shifted everything to the floor until morning.

George Kaufman

Studying theater
in college provided quite a few revelations, but the best may have been George S. Kaufman. First, the gratification of finding that the same genius had been involved in so many plays and movies that I loved- we’re talking smart comedy that relied as much on timing and word-smithing as performance- it made sense as a model for a career in ways that auteur‘s seemed created by luck more than by sweat. For that matter, humor required sweat and work if you wanted to be really good. Everything does, which is not a bad lesson to learn in college.

If you spend any time at all working in theater, amateur company through full blown Actors’ Equity production, you know that it is a collaboration. You also discover the full slate of human personality. Then, you get to see them under duress. It can be hard to find a model for quality behavior in the morass that ensues. Even when people say that someone behaved like a gentleman, they may be suggesting that he was a prig.

My favorite story is about how Kaufman gave notes to his cast individually, foregoing the usual group postmortem that torments so many casts and crews. Hearing stories about Kaufman as a director and a collaborator- he knew how to bend without breaking. He brought creative solutions to intractable problems. Most of all, he treated everyone with respect.

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. 108 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.