Archive for the ‘music’ Category

I was taking a walk through the old neighborhood and out spilled Jimm’s bouquet of albums released between early October 1979 and early October 1980:

  • David Bowie: Scary Monsters
  • The B-52’s: Wild Planet
  • The Boomtown Rats: The Fine Art Of Surfacing
  • The Clash: London Calling
  • Elvis Costello: Get Happy | Taking Liberties (only the 9 songs not released prior to Oct. 1979)
  • The English Beat: I Just Can’t Stop It
  • Marianne Faithful: Broken English
  • The Police: Reggatta De Blanc | Zenyatta Mondatta
  • The Pretenders: The Pretenders (first album)
  • Paul Simon: One-Trick Pony (one of his best, though nobody but me thinks so)
  • The Specials: The Specials (first album)
  • Squeeze: Argybargy
  • Talking Heads: Remain In Light
  • X: Los Angeles (first album)
  • XTC: Black Sea

This block party rocked with a resonance that made all the other musical enclaves wish they could move to this neighborhood. OK. At least bid up the price of the late nineties tribute album in some discovered exurban-gated-ghetto league.

This notion of a stroll around the time block rings more true than my first piece of direct AARP mail that came this week. The proximity of Jimm’s dream list occupies the same cul-de-sac as a framework suggested to me by fellow Hampshirite Arthur Simons. The contextual underpinnings of Simons’ theory lines: (1) his living room, (2) this post, and, (3) the brimming tidal pools of his flash brain floods.

Simons posits that a place visited in childhood lies between two locations. Our sense of adult place lies between the intersection of two or more memories. In essence the first path is commuter-induced bike, car, stroller, or transit travel. The other is memory-powered time travel whether your propulsion is via jet pack or propeller head.

A bunch of corollaries spring from this vantage:

  1. “Tiny” playgrounds we remember as major theme parks –
    Is that because we’re physically larger or because the memories  never shrank but continued to satiate on these spongy vibes?
  2. The first legs of trips seeming to take twice as long as the returning trip –
    Is it that the certainty of the way back closes the perceived distance?
  3. We’re all too aware of the flash forward effect of middle age that lends our earliest imaginings their engulfing stature –
    i.e. the advent of the web until now captures fewer cultural shifts than say the heyday Beatles between haircuts.

I arrive at three conclusions from these time bubbles of musical release formulas:

  1. The return trip is instantaneous while the slog up the ’79-80 hill takes an eternity. (“It’ll be alright.”)
  2. That proximity of inspirations is as much a “place” as any physical landmark, (i.e. we frequented the same musical neighborhoods as teens and that is a basis for endless conjecture and jousting).
  3. Big memories take up lots of room — the further the visitation distance, the bulkier they get.

The curbside appeal of clustering albums into timelines is boundless and reveals …

  • What our musical heroes were listening to at the time — jamming frequencies factor
  • What we were in the act of sweating through or celebrating at the time — soundtrack of our lives appeal
  • What about our childhoods has swelled to larger-than-life stature and what deserves to shrivel and die — always a roll of the musical dice we are willing to rock

Release Party Push back

Garo however, was having none of this — at least the part about appropriating our back yard vanity checks as signifying any real inflections, cultural shifts, or accumulated post collective event wisdom:

“I admit that as much I love wallowing in the filth of my own past, I generally try to steer clear of such list-o-mania. An excellent period it was (particularly in the sceptr’d isle), but of course we’d all think that; it’s when we were paying the most attention. We bought albums the moment they arrived in stores, and we knew what it was up against. (Or as Dish used to put it: My God, it’s Thursday! Isn’t it time for a new Donna Summer album??)”

Garo equated the ubiquity of distribution with the commoditization of experience:

“Now  music arrives to (most of) us after it’s been long-vetted by YouTube users, radio stations, Saturday Night Live bookers, and a topsoil of people much younger than us at least 20 feet deep. By the time we receive it, it’s been out for months, maybe years; we’re therefore no more able to connect it to a specific time and place and zeitgeist than we are to keep straight the various Justins and Selenas and hyphenated rapper sobriquets that buzz around us like lighters at a Blue Oyster Cult concert.”

Me knowing that Garo never ran off to join any Blue Oyster cults allows me to duck behind my own naivete.

And whether we opt for Jimm’s elevated lanes of memory or Garo’s mania cross-offs, I still have appointments to keep. Increasingly the place and time are one because the place I’m headed IS that stitch in time. And that time is not waiting in line for next Thursday’s Donna Summer or Ruby Tuesday’s Edgar Winter. That all expenses paid vacation knows every rhyme and season. And that’s the commiseration of the tunes in our heads and the songs that pulse to the hearts we’ve developed to contain and express those sounds.

The time-lines are a map. And the only thing more fun than plotting future trips is getting lost completely. Yesterday and tomorrow can move into my musical neighborhood any time they like.

There are all kinds of therapies and fallacies and ointments that apply the marshaling of mental tugging and heart chugging. Our positive thinking powers and prayerful mantra-making are cast into the pantheon of attraction. On the face of it this is called “fortune.” We seek on the hope that we will sow. But perhaps the larger goal (if not the more inflated fantasy) is that fortune will pursue us. Below the surface of fortune are its plumbings and fixtures — the channelings of what we’re out to attract…

- Not the seeds we sow
– Not the hands we’re dealt

But the circumstances we aspire to claim us — our hearts and minds conspiring to pry open this simple, binding assertion. There is no destiny without the pathway and us wayfarers are capable of no more and no less than fumbling for these doorways — whether we turn out to be trailblazers, road kill, or that oddest of travelers: someone whose path travels according to plan.

These mileage markers don’t arrive in my shins when I hit the pew kneelers. These soul deductions aren’t meted out by cost-to-benefit calculations. Such revelations don’t happen in the best prepared lectures or in the most densely packed lecture halls. But an epiphany or two have been known to slip out at least once or twice between performer and audience at venues of reverberating dimensions.

The most recent demonstration occurred last Sunday evening where Lori McKenna was holding court for six consecutive shows over the three-day holiday weekend at Club Passim in Cambridge.

On the surface Ms. McKenna is a mainstay member of the Boston folk scene. She’s a troubadour with an attentive eye for emotional detail. Her band is a cabaret jangle that only she can march to. But her parades attract a diehard following that will gratefully hole-up in Passim to catch every show, regardless of the playlist or the backing players. Her Wikipedia blurb is incomplete without the fairly prominent footnote that McKenna is a major presence in a far larger pond. She’s part of a tin pan alley braintrust stoking the starmaker (and sustainer) machinery vested in Nashville Tennessee. I say ‘footnote’  not because this is an insubstantial source of achievement or revenue for a Boston folkie but simply because country western music never wet my wagon and has little to do with my appreciation for her greatness.

So then, what’s the cosmic interplay between a local folk act and the meaning of universal wish fulfillment?

I could tell you that she engages her audience like a personal confidante. It’s an authentic experience that you don’t get with an insufferable celebrity. Of course, you could dismiss this as the expectation any fan-bonding rapport carries in the price of entry — that two-way intimacy traveling both below and above the main stage.

I could tell you that her sincerity pumps through her songs with that rough-hewn diamond of a voice. You could toss this off as vocal training or the only choice available to the impassioned artist on a starvation diet of creative redemption: they do what they do because they do what they love. With a precious gift comes to incessant need to share it — even when there’s no transaction to complete, there’s a loop to close. And this love is impervious to the pay-outs.

I could impress on you how Lori exudes the housewife life in the town she grew up in where her biggest lifestyle choice was buying a bigger home in the same town. OK, now we’re getting somewhere.

It’s not about the realty market in Stoughton, Mass. It’s about the detour the RV takes when those power brokers make their pilgrimage from the Capital of Living Country to the do-hick backwater where Lori buys her groceries and scribbles down inspirations at delinquent traffic lights.

But how is it that the wife of a plumber and the mother of five gets to do the one thing in her life that entrances her for eight hours at a clip? It’s not industry connections or pedigree lineage or even impeccable songwriting credentials (although she’s helped move piles of Faith Hill and Amanda Moore through the inventories of the check-outs of Wal-Mart home electronics departments).

It’s the uncompromising way she got there. She sang in her voice about the firsthand experience of her life. Faith Hill and Tim McGraw tried on that voice and made sure they could fit into it just fine. By the time Lori had established her sound, fame itself needed to relocate and spend time away from its own fame roots — just to be in collaboration with McKenna.

And that’s where the channeling happens. For those of us with mounting boundaries, narrowing margins, and near misses we can’t abide a build-it-and-they-will-come proposition. For Lori it’s as if the guests have already arrived and she has a dozen or so shiny new songs she’ll be hauling to the local mall in her minivan for their seasonal outfits.

It’s not just about suiting up a proper tune and its cadences. Lori told us at the show that her 22, 20 and 17 year-olds were later joined by her “back-up babies” of 10 and 7 through the power of suggestion love. Her gal pals had started their families and presto — the seven-year itch is scratched off the list.

But that’s the shine the future takes towards the wish-granting authority of those who have no names for what they want and the talents to claim those desires.

Lori told us she was going to wake up the Monday before Christmas and slip on her favorite adornment for wrapping gifts: an oversized sweatshirt, perhaps with a hoodie? That’s the kind of prophetic clarity us mere doubters can face with sober confidence, boldface sincerity, and lucid luck. The lucidity lies in knowing the ingredients that go into the making of one’s own luck.

On that score Lori McKenna has written her own ticket and it’s been punched to more than one destination of choice.

Charlie and Nance

Posted: November 27, 2011 in music, review

I still have a soggy spot in my mundane gratitudes for the U.S. snail mail. I know it’s calcified from indifference to credit card offers and the bottomless feeding pile of bulk needfulness. But I also know that we have ourselves to blame for contaminating our timelessness pleasures with our get-it-done-yesterdays. Postcards and letters are not unforgiving of the dues payments and receipts that inspire their send off. What could be more lame than a belated e-card? Starting blocks everybody. The fact that the most important American holiday carries no commercial implication makes us more fidgety than thankful. This vacuum-sucking feast of black Friday holes does not whet my hankering for competitive binges — on display or piled high on inventories of an internal nature.

It’s with that seasonal blessing of my holiday card list that I now pay some overdues to Charles and Nancy Nieland of City Island of the Bronx of New York. They have dwelled there for nearly a quarter century and have their creations and enduring wedlock nestled in their musical sanctuary — all unraveled cords, milk crate bookcases, and pillars of incense. Charlie and Nance live in the lingering vibrations of smoky club PA systems as well as in heartstrings. I saw them last week in Chicago and here’s how it plays out: All the tribulations, street protests, and unresolvable differences in a marriage finding their way to the merciful, symphonic resolution of serenades, bridges, and refrains.

I’ve moved addresses about 14 times since Charlie and Nance signed their last lease. Since then, jobs, friends, even spouses, have wandered in and out of the place I hang my hat. But Charlie and Nance endure — not because they chose the predictable path or even the surest footing but because their communication is no more one-sided than a duet.

They don’t just play to each other. They adore each other on stage and all the healing that entails within the inarticulate, rule-bound, and unclenched heart of any marriage.  I still remember the first time they played together. Her Vanished Grace debuted in 1988 at the inaugural home of the Knitting Factory on Houston Street — just the two of them and a drum machine. I still remember Nance having the trembles but her velvety timberance embracing Charlie and his reassurances. They still bask in those same embraces whether it’s trading off the arc of their spiraling pulses or just vamping it up in campy swaggers with band-mates Maria Theodosiadou and Billy Loose.

School of marriage rock. That is my tribute to Nance and Charlie. There have been lineup changes. There have been side projects. There have been performance pieces and soundtracks. There have been legal disputes. There have even been collaborations on the pet projects of legacy stardom dwellers that never quite transformed HVG into the top-billing of the chart-bounders. There is no more pretense in covering someone else’s tunes than the idea that fame and fortune are on the guest list. They are not only doing what they love. They are expressing their enduring love together while practicing their craft. If there is a higher calling, it exceeds the sonic range of my mixing board.

Oh, and before I stick another stamp on the next return to ancient parcel sender … treat yourself (my ossified friends) to the newest HVG vintage entitled See the Moon. It puts the Nance-Charlie chemistry within admiration’s reach. It may even align you more closely to your own starlit trajectories — even on journeys plotted so many moves ago.

A few years ago I saw Janis Ian perform at Club Passim in Cambridge with my wife. Janis introduced a biopic-inspired tune with the insight that people are not really all that worthy of public spectacle. Celebrities are not the basis for celebration. It’s the body of work that inspires and gives life to the individual gifts we contribute to a collective truth called civilization. I’ve always found ideas more interesting to discuss than people. Some truly redemptive treasures come from some pretty loathsome creatures.

I don’t think that makes me a dweeb or misanthrope. But it does bring great joy to the imaginative and experiential side of life — less so to the material and tangible forms that define “the real world” in a person-centric model. Me? I’d rather float a concept than drop a name any day.

In that spirit I have come to praise the brainy, provocative journalism of Sharon Begley. I’ve never seen her subjective self in the interview seat, on a conference panel, or an Amazon alert at the bottom of my convolutional shopping cart. I’ve never sought out a grouping of topics or a collection of resources with her running keyword interference as a vaunted opening into an otherwise flimsy or ill-formed framework for describing our mental conditions, cognitive functions, and neural circuitries. Her smarts are not about shining the brightest but about fusing together the patterns and relationships that occur in the real experiential world — mapping the machinery of neuroscience to the actions we take and outcomes we seek. It’s 10 mg of Ritalin and a glass of warm milk.

A recent piece she ran in Newsweek called Why Everything You Hear About Medicine is Wrong was a splendid profile of a myth-busting gadfly of big pharma fears and conceits named John Ionnidis, Chief of Stanford University’s Prevention Research Center. The piece shows how reducing every chemical redirect to pill form provides a blank check for making unsubstantiated medical claims:

Ioannidis’s first targets were shoddy statistics used in early genome studies. Scientists would test one or a few genes at a time for links to virtually every disease they could think of. That just about ensured they would get “hits” by chance alone. When he began marching through the genetics literature, it was like Sherman laying waste to Georgia: most of these candidate genes could not be verified.

Her point (Begley channeling Ionnidis) is that the circle of common sense that surrounds most medical consumers is much smaller than a universal willingness to believe a cause-and-effect relationship every time a a sponsor study/tester pierces the genome dartboard. All it takes is a hypothetical outcome. It doesn’t hurt to test approved drugs for other uses. Boing! Again, it’s hits by chance. Genome-testing industry? Meet search engine optimization:

By testing an approved drug for other uses, they get hits by chance, “and doctors use that as the basis to prescribe the drug for this new use. I think that’s wrong.” Even when a claim is disproved, it hangs around like a deadbeat renter you can’t evict. Years after the claim that vitamin E prevents heart disease had been overturned, half the scientific papers mentioning it cast it as true, Ioannidis found in 2007.

What ever comes of health care reform, debt ceiling stand-offs, or error-prone medical research, we owe a debt to empirical idealists like Ionnidis for removing our evidentiary blinders and Sharon Begley for her rigor, skepticism, and her regular filing of routine victories over conventional thinking.

Radio Interference

Posted: November 23, 2010 in ConsumerResearch, Google, music, SocialMedia

I attended a focus group for WERS 88.9 FM a week ago on Boylston Street. The management invited 16 random listeners to weigh in on the play mix of this eclectic and sometimes meandering college station. Seventeen of us showed up and everyone told the facilitator the same thing: “Surprise me!”

The consensus among us 35-54 year-olds was for novelty. However, the facilitator was more interested in a comparison shopping of radio formats. Is it just me or is the format of the focus group itself as outdated as the goal of this facilitation? I say that because he kept trying to draw these forced linear parallels between the upstart powerhouse WERS and the balance of the remaining Boston-based FM rock choices. The whole point was to co-opt any style, manner, or focus smacking of the slightest originality from anywhere else.

I told the guy that WERS was in the unique position to build bridges between the contemporary alt bands that draw inspiration from the sounds us middle elders grooved to in our bigger-headed and delusional college days. Wouldn’t it be cool to hear testimonials from the new regime rationalizing what’s preservation-worthy and what deserves to be flushed from the clammy grip of passing hot flashes?

Ephemeral or perennial?

The facilitator was having none of it. He wasn’t biting if it wasn’t already being done somewhere else. This bummed me out, man.

Flash forward to a recent Friday afternoon ritual, a.k.a. “Friday afternoon musical challenge” where knowledge diva Sadalit “Sadie” Van Buren petitions an unpolished list of 95/128 hub-based miscreants and would-be session-hands. Each week Ms. Van Buren invites us to disrobe from our silicon-coated techie armor and into our secret musical selves. Sadie picks out a segue-conducive musical theme and then we strike our collective encore lighters for a jukebox jam. We pool the soul and body-piercing rhythms and melodies that line the standing room only sections of our most favored play lists and treasured performances.

Sadie tosses that spinning platter into the air and we lunge for those hidden stashes of inspiration we would never entrust to social media — let alone the servers we prune and pamper to exasperation behind our rave-proof firewalls. The resulting pile-on is impressive — sometimes the majority of list members join in. One collaborator who I divine some similar inspirations from asked the group how much of our constructions were supported by Google validations when fumbling for the misplaced reading glasses of our inner listening ears.

Q: (courtesy of Philip Edward Kret): How many of you in this group honestly think these things up on the spot and how many are in front of you (your whole collections to peruse!) on your iPods, and how many use tools like Google to cheat your aging memory. Lots of memory aids going on here methinks or maybe you just have a nice neat record collection and have all you need to know (lucky you!). Thoughts?

A: (courtesy of Adrian M. duCille): It’s mostly in my head – I’m bopping my head & singing on a daily basis (long commute)?

These Friday afternoon bolts of lightning remind me of what my first wife said many bumps in the road ago. She said that sanity itself rested on the presence of music. With it we have a chance to do great things. Without it we’re shattered, collectively and solo-wise. Everyone has a song inside them. Every collaboration is a variation on that theme — a tireless novelty that enmeshes our thinking and our emotions.

In that spirit we all appreciate the conductivity powers of “our” Sadie — a possessive coined by Lynda Moulton and seconded by her gallery of musical challengers.

Ice Preserver

Posted: October 24, 2010 in ConsumerResearch, music, privacy, SocialCrit

I’ve started a postcard writing campaign. Yes, it’s a hallmark moment served up in one economy-sized wireframe panel. Partly it’s a marketing ploy to compete for attention that no one is servicing — hence the complete abandonment of the U.S. mail as a non-Holiday social medium.

Partly it’s to reconnect with people whose memories remain with me, worthy of safekeeping no matter how or where they’re kept (or even on display). This treasuring of closeness to past intimacies carries on regardless of present friendship status. Any comparisons here to Facebook are unavoidable and baseless.

The icebreaker overture got me thinking: with unlimited storage, an email account for every persona, all-you-can-eat bandwidth, and a generous calling plan, what’s to keep us from reaching out and rekindling the warmth of those reflexive and reverberating friendships?

These days it feels like pretty much the gravity of foreseeable times and dates flies against this mission. From the deep long-term commitments of bosom parenting to the fleeting distractions of surface life there is, no calendar for holding dates like the ones I’m proposing. The out-of-the-blue barge-in has been abolished to the forcible entry ways of high school reunions and rounded-off milestone birthdays. The community of boundary crashers has no place in a perennial state of “what’s expected of me lately?”

Our consumer-driven culture is no different in the affection economy. It’s the hunted down fixation that love chooses you (you having no choice in the matter). Once you’ve skirted universal cosmic loneliness you may run into the arms of the most fashionable boulevard. In the light of day it remains a blind alley. But we never saddle up the same fatalistic sand bags around families. Perhaps the fact we don’t get to choose family members is obscured by the lengths we go to isolate ourselves from our appointed siblings and parents.

Even a hospital visit is an ice preserver. That’s the shivering sting of one chosen family member’s determination. His rationale? A discharge was not merely a release from another friend’s post cancer surgical recovery. It was a reprieve from needing to pay a single bedside visit. Ironically, he was released from responsibility the same day the other guy was released from the hospital? Why? Because the other fellow could not face another sting from our old friend, Coz Loneliness.

“Thanks for being out there” was a line attributed to our walk through a suburban Toronto phone book in 1979. We were mounting our own cross-border field investigation to discover the mystery behind the majestic melodies of a Canadian band named Klaatu, inspiring quests to conquer the same cosmic isolation now prompting the very postcard campaign. Is the great expanse of time still within the reach of our brotherly grasp? The constancy flickers in blocks of sawdust, anytime minutes, and a dim, thinning glass of hours, now out-of-circulation.

Will we pick right up where we left off? Will the postcard carry all the weight of a 20th century telemarketing blitz? What’s to become of these living memories? Is there a conversation to be joined here?

Fullest disclosure: I have experienced nirvana on earth. It’s a place where you set the bar in terms of expectations around what to learn, how to learn it and who you’re learning it with. It’s called Hampshire College. The good news is that I realized what a blessing this was as it passed by. The downside is that assembling a Div II committee has as much to do with getting a job as interdisciplinary crossovers have to do with the marketability of a Hampshire degree. Not much.

I conveyed those post graduating years of buyer’s remorse to Greg Prince at last week’s Hampshire’s 40th anniversary weekend and he had an interesting and market-worthy response. He said that he didn’t report to a jerk until the ripe old age of 45. He said a little post grad adversity might have helped him better handle this high probability event.

Greg also weighted in on who came back to camp Hamp. He said that most college reunions pull on the impulses of the founding classes and the more recent rounds. In the case of my Alma mater that means any cycle from the mid seventies through the pre-aughties only accounted for about half the attendees.

But even though the numbers didn’t support too many chance double takes and flash memory floods there were enough ancestral underpinnings to leave this celebration to redemptions of far greater consequence than chance. In fact when a current student used a Q&A session as a chance to parade his grievances with the administration in front of us bystander alumns.

I turned to a total alum stranger and we shared the uncanny sensation that these peeves were of a perennial vintage and could be vented on any administration by the close of any semester (not to diminish the hopes that inspire these hard questions!) Perhaps the ultimate icon of Hampshire uniformity was Eugene Mirman‘s observation that the Q&A sessions of all workshops began with some grad saying how very interesting the discussion had been. “Now for the next ten minutes I want to talk about something very weird and only vaguely related to the topic we’ve come to discuss.”

It’s especially comic that Mirman picks up on the digressive patterns formed in the first workshop I attended on the role of improv comedy in schools led by Ari Friede 87F and Tim Sniffen 87F. Their whole inclusionary bent is to own up to accusations: “yes, I’m that jerk” as a way of moving beyond blame association. The tool they stressed was to append “yes, and…” to the dissenting opinion as a way of steering towards a defensible consensus. In practice the best response to “this is a terrible situation” is “yes — and we have to deal with this.” Subtext: you are stagnant, lonely, isolated, and we need to find our way out of this toxic environment. I liked the hand gestures for facilitating the consensus-taking temperature in larger groups. For or against could be responded to as five fingers (on board), 2 and-a-half fingers (halfway) or a fist (completely resistant). Great feedback tool.

I volunteered to perform an open cycle of “yes, and” loops with another alum and found it revealing (and humbling) how much I was closing off the discussion rather than opening it up. And I wonder why I’m hard to collaborate with!

The next session was called Making Media — the Emerging Futures. Too much of this resembled a corporate round table about where to park your investment dollars — the answer for now is cable. Higher abstractions like the future of journalism and participatory democracy were either trampled by this quarter’s P&L or tabled in favor of some future business model that could restore our collective sense of 20th century equilibrium — a trained cadre of reporters that process raw information into meaningful know-how.

Jonathan Friedland 77F hinted at the direction this was heading: “People pay for mobil information.” What I infer? The difference between a set of Google results and the five restaurants on your iPhone that won a certain dining award is that you’re going to act on the latter — that’s where the justification sets in. Eve Burton 78F reported one hopeful reference to Hearst’s Times Citizen Union paper in Albany and how ad revenues were spiking on the days the staff promises to nail indefensible officials through a concerted effort to do hardcore investigative reporting.

Less sanguine was Jonathan’s summation of his employer’s assessment that what’s bad for papers “is good for Disney” in the same way that anyone with a wholesale message to sell is happy to sidestep the retailer (or in this case the distributor). The biggest buzz in that message this week is getting consumers to buy their Toy Story 3 tickets online and inviting their Facebook friends to go with them. Groups of 80-90 have vouched for their love of Buzz, Andy, and the distribution model.

The last session (and the one where I bumped into former President Prince) was Dirty, Rotten Capitalism: Hampshire College Entrepreneurs Challenge the Hampshire Status Quo. This title implies an inverse relationship between the corporate and the public interest. Fortunately this session was about the attendees, not the facilitators, one of whom posed the ultimate gold standard for self-referential alumni objectives: how can we create more of me? Gratefully, the collective weight of the topic was not bogged down in Hampshire dogma and mis-applied correlations between self and collective interest.

My favorite response to the alumni role wasn’t about “learning” or inbred innovation but having it “beaten into them” by the schlub factor — the fear of being anything other than average that permeates the risk-averse boards of nonprofits — why would nonprofits deserve any less non-protection than for-profits?

On the chance meeting front I couldn’t pass Margaret Cerullo in the airport lounge without rekindling the memory of Michael Current. In fact his presence reverberates more greatly than any of the earthbound friends still within our midst. I talked up my Internet Research course with Aaron Berman. I also met up with Joel Olicker and reinvested my admiration for his prescient Greening of Northampton documentary. Perhaps Joel will release his musty master from the shackles of 3/4″ in the less-than-handy industrial box. I also found the ever-humble and legendary “Gunther” who has been forever the guardian angel of the Hampshire video community.

John is the guy who makes the things happen in the overpriced collateral that school cranks out. Of course John has always existed several beaming signals under the official radar and that beacon continues to shine because of John’s love of the work that Hampshire students produce. Does he care about hierarchy? Does he feel slighted for all the non-promotions that never broke his way? He could not be bothered less. In fact the one remark he took personally was when I told him that of my twenty addresses Amherst was the only place worthy of a return ticket. Now, that’s an endorsement worth ringing.

Gunther did say something I found puzzling, flattering, and galling all in one breath. He said that mine was the “golden era” of Hampshire video — as if the show Infinity would go on forever? To be more specific he said that the school lost momentum with the departure of Jerry Liebling and Greg Jones, perhaps because their interdisciplinary focus was framed by real world practicality. Man, just to hear the title “Visual Literacy” come up in cocktail reception conversation sent me to the warmest of fuzzy places.

One of many unplanned newer acquaintances sprung from a Gunther conversation including Jud Willmont F92 who produced “A Taiji Journey” — a work on his father’s odyssey to China to connect with his Taoist pathways. While we were viewing the work I was reconnecting with my first memories of the basement TV studio — inaugurated as the spanking new color video mecca when Mark Geffen’s Beckettesque dad played the title role in his 1984 revival of Krapp’s Last Tape.

The Malarians: Head Music Meets Thundering Heart

Finally there was the house of Hampshire band — those maverick, raving, psychedelic Malarians. The band, fighting trim in their navy blue turtlenecks, was in midseason form despite a double-decade hiatus. The animated tour-storming and play-list was finally unsealed in their recent Boston, Worcester, and NoHo gigs. Reading glasses anyone?

The irreverence began with a manic and cuddly Mal Thursday trampling over the reputation of the current ex-Yalee President. On what grounds? On the suspicion that a gradeless div system was being drummed out of Hampshire diplomas and replaced with the dreaded accuracy of academic “standards.”

As the heavens pissed down some hard rains the dance floor broke open in a mindless abandon. And what burdens were abandoned for this fleeting revival? Pretty much anything a former Hampster does to get by in this the big, square world. Yup.

All those out-of-Hamp accommodations gave rise to the soaring harmonies and sonic exuberance of these garage legends on a stormy, raw Saturday night under the clammy circus tent. Those dance steps were not made or born but grateful for their improbable pirouttes through makeshift sanctuaries of past and future. Non satis scire: To know is not enough and the Malarians had us leaving the banquet hungry for more.