Sunday, October 30, 2016

Happy Halloween, America

This may be the scariest Halloween ever.  Two ghouls are in the lead for the Presidency.  They claim to be people, but that seems to be just a masquerade.  Even in their guises as humans, they are horrifying.  Parents could use their names to scare children to eat their vegetables and do their homework.  But then the children would have nightmares.  The parents already do.

The financial markets are being inflated by the Federal Reserve into a monstrous bubble, a bloated spectral presence that could bring back the demons and vampires of the 2008 financial crisis.  Pension plans, annuities and long term care insurance are being scared to death by ultra-low interest rates.  Anyone hoping to retire is hanging garlic over their front doors.

Overseas, demons, banshees and poltergeists bedevil us.  The Middle East is a seething mass of murderous conflict, seemingly a nightmare from which we can't wake up.  North of the Middle East, a fiendish demon toils at midnight, boiling eye of newt, toe of frog, wool of bat, and tongue of dog into a toxic mix that he flings in all directions while chanting diabolically in a language not heard since ancient times.  In North Korea, a beast with curved horns labors with a crooked smile revealing jagged teeth to find ways to deliver inferno thousands of miles.

Our industrialized economy spews noxious fumes that heat the Earth hotter and hotter.  Everything we ingest--food, water, and air--causes cancer or heart disease.  Even sweetness itself, in the form of sugar and other natural sweeteners, silently stalks our health. 

Alfred Hitchcock never made a movie so scary.  The real world would scare the bejesus out of Vincent Price.  If Stephen King needs inspiration, he can simply pick up a newspaper.  The truth is we have Halloween year round.  The only thing that happens on October 31 is people wear costumes.  The rest of the time, we can only try to stay safe, if that's possible.  Happy Halloween, America.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Nobel Committee Got it Right

Awarding the Nobel Prize for Literature to Bob Dylan was exactly the right thing to do.  He's a great singer-songwriter, whose songs touched millions and influenced generations of musicians and composers.  He richly deserved the prize.  Equally important, the Nobel Committee recognized that literature isn't just a dry, narrowly defined collection of dusty texts appreciated only by tweedy, dust-covered obscurants.  It's an organic, dynamic concept that evolves and grows over time.  Stories are told in many ways and today's troubadours are among the modern world's best story tellers.  There's a lot of literature to be found in smoke-filled bars smelling of stale beer and cut rate whiskey, a lot of story telling set to the simple chord progressions of the blues and rock and roll.  The Nobel Committee could have a great time selecting future prize winners from the vast literature of popular music, rocking out instead of plowing through another snoozer of a book.

Who might be eligible for the Prize in today's new, expanded literature?  There are plenty of potential nominees.  How about:

Bill Haley and His Comets.  Rock Around the Clock was the song that start the rock and roll revolution.

B.B. King.  The King of the Blues brought the blues out of the honky tonks into the larger world.  Sweet Sixteen is one of his finest ballads.

The Rolling Stones.  Among the greatest of the rock and roll literati, the Stones give us so many choices.  Honky Tonk Women is a gem.

Mountain.  The Nobel Committee sometimes looks at works of the less well-known.  One of the hardest rocking bands of the 60's and 70's was Mountain, four guys who created a bigger sound than ten other guys could and inspired generations of hard rockers to follow.  Their best song is Mississippi Queen.