Umberto Eco (YGtCTO Words #71)

Foucalt’s Pendulum
Novel written by Emberto Eco

If you find yourself attending PAX West, East, South, Aus or Dev, then one of the things that you will notice is the warm welcome. Conventions, be they for yarn, drugs, lawyers, etc., tend to leave the attendees feeling wiped out after a few hours. When I was younger, I definitely had better staying power, but the other lingering feeling was this weird sense of being an outsider.

Really small gatherings managed to avoid the us vs. them break by being too small to exclude anyone. “Hey, you showed up- come on in. You say you just wandered in because you’re staying in the same hotel? Well, have a look around!”

Too often though, you have this sense that by walking through the doors then you have become part of this quasi-world that exists for people with a unique obsession, perhaps an unusual world view. That can be strange enough. Then, you realize how many people actually attended and start noticing that they have broken down into smaller groups. There are the top tier sellers. Those are the aloof people judging the rest of us. Look at the ones who know how to purl sitting in their circle.

At PAX, they flew their freak flag proudly. Many spoke about how online interactions had reassured them that they were not the only people in the world who liked what they liked. Hugging occurred.

Nowadays, popular culture has made it a lot more difficult to say that you can’t find anyone else that likes what you like. People know who Deadpool is, for crying out loud. I could make a side-comment here about a wizard school and no one would look askance. Be all that as it may, a significant difference remains.

We all spend a lot of our day thinking.
Some of that thought is shallow and some of it can get down to the minutiae- you know- I want pasta as opposed to I want a nice orecchiette with cherry tomatoes, arugula, olive oil and hints of black pepper and garlic.

Excuse me while I eat something.

Umberto Eco

Okay, I’m back.

Never living inside someone else’s head, I will never know if I obsess over things more than anyone else. My limited experience of semiotics suggests that some people do obsess about details more than me. Yet, I like that world. I enjoy thinking hard about art and culture.

But I’ve never been entirely at home at the conventions. At some point, my patience discussing this one part of my life runs its course. It’s not that I don’t think there is much to be considered in the writing of Robert Sheckley or all the episodes of Buffy or saving ancient COBOL programs or…, but that there is so much more out there in life.

Umberto Eco seemed like a wanderer, also. He wrote beautifully about packing awkward items for travel, his experience of student protests, and about conspiracy theories. Breaking through to popularity with The Name of the Rose, he even became a subject of reference himself.

Before Oliver Stone and the internet made it commonplace to be curious about weird stuff- essentially letting your mind go where it wants- Umberto Eco showed me that it was okay to wonder about stuff. You could be just a little or a whole lot weird and still go out in public and behave yourself.

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. 88 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.

Sam Cooke (YGtCTO Music #71)

Somebody Have Mercy

Song written and performed by Sam Cooke

Was it really 2005 and how does a date with a two at the start feel so long ago? That was when the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honored Sam Cooke as part of its annual Music Masters festivities. Somehow, we got wind of the impending star-studded concert. I even had enough time to read the thick biography referenced in the promotional materials. The night was long and fantastic, capped by Aretha Franklin as well as featuring more highlights than I could easily be crammed into a lifetime, let alone a few hours.

Was it really December 11, 1964 when Sam Cooke died? I was barely walking and not yet talking. Such a brief overlap in our lives realistically counts for nothing. From the first moment I heard him sing, he was already dead. Everything that he would ever do had been done.

That 2005 fete hosted by the Rock Hall featured a couple artists who had known Cooke, a couple more that were contemporaries, quite a few like me that barely overlapped his life, and one or two who were born long after.

In my mind,
there has long been this pantheon of pop musicians that sit on their own musical Olympus because something about them rises above all the rest. This is no knock on the ones that I love, but I think it’s pretty clear that Elvis Presley and John Lennon and Frank Sinatra and Charlie Parker are sitting there with Billie Holiday and Woody Guthrie. (It’s true in other areas also, from the sciences through politics). The pantheon itself as well as the very idea that such a thing exists is a social construct- a way to bring order to a mass of information.

Sam Cooke

Some of these artists have been up there as long as I can remember. Their pedestals may have shaken while I re-evaluated them at some stage. A few were added as I learned more about them, but they were always familiar. One aspect of the “social construct” nature in all this would be the lack of any real surprises. None of these people just appeared and their music has always been around. Moreover, they exist as personalities and icons as much as artists.

Sam Cooke has a seat, too, and he probably always has for me, but that’s due to the timeless nature of his music and his voice.

Let’s try an experiment. Think of one of the members of your pop music pantheon. Play their song. As much as it is an aural experience, you also see them in your imagination with all their defining gestures and physical attributes, dressed in some well-known attire. Sam Cooke’s music never felt accompanied by an image for me, which is strange.

Of course, recognizing his background and the world at the time of his greatest living popularity, that in itself is an accomplishment. Somehow, Sam Cooke transcended my limited perception of the Chicago and the African American experience of the 1940s and 50s and moved on to ethereal brilliance.

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. 89 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.

Radio Play Snippet

Sometimes you start writing and then you stop. Sometimes that’s a good thing. This radio play snippet probably could be fixed and expanded. I count one, maybe two, chuckles.

(Intro. music)

(SFX-Newspaper being opened, looked through.)

MEL: Hmmm… hmm. Apartments for rent? (pause-more rustling) Here we go… . Eastside. (to himself) “Easy commuting distance to Downtown. Near Youngstown.” Nope, don’t think so. … “One bedroom in large house. One hundred and fifty per month. ” Good rent. Probably doesn’t include utilities. All right. (picks up phone-dials as he reads the number) 555-6666. That’s easy to remember.

(Phone rings on the other end and answering machine picks up.)

OTHER END: (Deep voice.) Greetings.

MEL: Hello, I’m interested in… .

OTHER END: You have reached 666-1313. (Mel groans to himself.) We’re unavailable right now, but we usually are. We’d love to call you back, though. We usually do. Please leave your name and phone number like a good soul. Thank you.

MEL: Yes, I’m…

OTHER END: Please wait for the beep. (Pause) Beep.

MEL: Yes! I’m looking for… I mean I’m interested in the apartment advertised in the paper. My name’s Mel. I can be reached at 555-4753. I suppose I can answer any questions when you call.

OTHER END: Or you answer them now.

MEL: I could, but this is only an answering machine and… . (Pause) Wait a second!


MEL: This isn’t an answering machine.

OTHER END: That would seem to be obvious.

MEL: But it said it was.

OTHER END: I lied, apparently. It’s been known to happen.

MEL: Oh. (Pause) I was calling about the apartment…

OTHER END: I remember.

MEL: Ummm… . Is it still available?

OTHER END: When can you move in?

MEL: I asked…

OTHER END: When can you move in?

MEL: I suppose next Saturday.

OTHER END: Saturday’s bad. How about Friday?

MEL: I could do that.

OTHER END: Fine, then it’s settled.

MEL: No, I want to see it first. I can’t just commit myself.

OTHER END: Why not? You’ll see it when you move in. You can rely on my judgement until then. It’s a very unique opportunity to leave in a very unique environment.

MEL: I don’t know if that’s what I’m looking for.

OTHER END: Of course it is. The address is in the paper. We’re just off East Thirteenth. (Hangs up)

MEL: But what about the utilities?

(Music up and out)

(SFX-Mel pulling up in the driveway of the house.)

MEL: Sure is big enough. Awfully black, but it doesn’t look too bad in the sunlight. Probably disappears completely at night.

(SFX-Mel gets out of his car and walks up the steps to the front door of the house. He rings the doorbell which plays a bit from the “Volga Boatman.” Heavy footsteps are heard and the large wooden door creaks open.)

BUTLER: (Little voice) Good afternoon. May I help you.

MEL: I think so. I’m here to move into the apartment.

BUTLER: You must be Mel. We’ve been expecting you. Please come in.

(Door swings wide.)

ALL: Greetings, Mel!

(Mel screams and faints.)

BUTLER: Oooo. He fainted.

VLAD: (Voice from the OTHER END. Sound of him walking forward-long train dragging behind.) Quickly- get some water and smelling salts. (Scurrying feet with things dragging.)

JASMINE: Here, Vlad, honey.