Chad Comello

Librarian, cinephile, et al

Tag: Novemblog 2017 (page 1 of 3)

In praise of wedding reception air drumming

I didn’t realize I had a reputation. At a wedding recently, the bride and groom told me one of the things they were looking forward to the most was my air drumming. They had seen it in action at a previous wedding and had enjoyed it so much that they decided they would make time at their own wedding reception to watch me perform and even participate themselves.

Humbled though I was, I didn’t set out to be a beloved wedding reception air drummer. Out on those shiny faux wooden dance floors, air music is all I can do. Because I can’t really dance—aside from the slow-dance swaying that hasn’t improved much since middle school—my strategy for participating in reception dancing is to pretend to play the music well enough to appear united with the exuberant, sweaty throng of guests who are actually dancing.

This doesn’t happen at every reception. The right combination of people I know, complete strangers, and alcohol have to be in place for this very particular set of skills to be unleashed.

Without:

  • people I know, I wouldn’t have the comfort of a supportive home base in which to air-boogie;
  • complete strangers I know I’ll never see again, I wouldn’t be OK with making a fool of myself;
  • and alcohol and the liquid courage it provides, I wouldn’t be dancing in front of strangers and people I know at all.

Until I learn one day how to go beyond the simple side-to-side two-stepping many tall, lanky, self-conscious white dudes like myself resort to under dance duress, air drumming will have to do.

And you know what? I enjoy it. I’m good at it. Though I tend to stick to drumming because I was a drummer before anything else, my air talents aren’t limited to the percussive arts. I’ll thrown down a mean air rhythm guitar, string, horn, or bass line too, and make it look good. Any palooka can flail around pretending to play “Don’t Stop Believin'”; it takes a true air instrument craftsman to accurately mime the crunchy guitars in “Party in the USA” or the synth solo in “Shut Up and Dance”.

There are at least two weddings on the docket for me next summer, so I have a few months to get back into air shape. Once I am, you’ll find me out there again, planted in my air power stance—knees bent, left foot forward, leaning back slightly, and doing my part to keep the party going.

The Christmas Songs

It’s that time of year
When the world falls in love
Every song you hear seems to say
Merry Christmas
May your new year’s dreams come true

— “The Christmas Waltz”

For a while I only listened to Christmas music in December. This rule kept that music fresh, even sacred (something I like to do), and tethered to the season it’s meant for. But as a compromise to my wife—a Yuletide hedonist if there ever was one—a few years ago I bumped up the unleashing of my Christmas collection to the day after Thanksgiving. This allowed me to enjoy Thanksgiving before switching gears to the Christmas season.

This year we kicked things off, as I always do, with Christmas With the Rat Pack, followed by She & Him’s Christmas Party. It’s not even December and I’ve already listened to the Christmas albums of Nat King Cole, Relient K, Perry Como, Hanson, The Oh Hellos (quickly becoming my favorite), Count Basie, Marty Robbins, and the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. But I’ve got plenty of stuff left to accompany me to the end of the year, when I send them back into digital storage to await their annual calling.

Family Video to the rescue

Home for Thanksgiving weekend and in the market for a Christmas movie to watch, my sister suggested Die Hard. A great choice for many reasons, one of which being I hadn’t seen it in a while and was due for a seasonal rewatch. Plus my wife hadn’t seen it. (Perish the thought!)

The problem was we didn’t have a copy of it, the library was closed, and it wasn’t on Amazon Prime or Netflix. Instead of picking another Christmas movie, we did something I haven’t done since high school: rented the DVD from Family Video.

Until about ten years ago this was commonplace. I have many fond memories browsing the shelves of Blockbuster, Family Video, Hollywood Video and the like, taking too much time to decide as the evening’s movie-watching time dwindled. Frankly I’m surprised Family Video is still around, but this weekend I was happy for it and for its continuing presence in the cultural landscape.

Yippee-ki-yay, movierenters!

Great Olin’s Raven!

The first baby in my family has arrived. Behold Olin Charles:

olin

I’ve made fun of my wife for all the pictures and video she takes of her sister’s kids.

I get it now.

Move it, McDonald’s

The replica of Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, Illinois, where I used to work, will be torn down next month:

Kroc, considered by the company to be the founder of the modern chain, built his first restaurant in 1955 after franchising the brand from the original owners, Richard and Maurice McDonald. The Des Plaines restaurant was torn down in 1984, the same year Kroc died. The McDonald’s Store No. 1 Museum opened the next year, with the original restaurant’s sign out front.

Why is it being razed?

Repeated flooding led the museum to close off interior access in 2008, while still allowing tourists to peek in the windows. McDonald’s said visitors to the site have declined in the last decade since tourists have been barred from entering the space. Flooding in the area also continues to be a problem.

Can’t say I’m surprised. It’s in a terrible location (with a modern McDonald’s right across the street) and the mannequins inside look super creepy, especially at night. It’s also, as those who watched The Founder will know, not even the first McDonald’s.

Not sure if Des Plaines will be sad to see it go due to the historical significance and tourist draw, or happy to replace it with another business that actually generates revenue. I suspect the latter.

My Mount Rushmore of Singers

At this moment, anyway:

Sam Cooke, Frank Sinatra, Julie Andrews, Whitney Houston

With a runner-up trophy for Marty Robbins.

Studs Terkel’s ‘Working’

I picked up a copy of Studs Terkels’ Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do, a sort of oral history of life and work in and around 1970s Chicago. I’ve kept it on my nightstand and slowly chipped away at it when I was between other books. It’s quite long and I’m not even halfway through, but it has some interesting pull quotes from a variety of subjects, like:

A copy chief at an ad agency:

“We’re all vice presidents,” laughs the copy chief. “Clients like to deal with vice presidents. Also, it’s a cheap thing to give somebody. Vice presidents get fired with great energy and alacrity.” …

“You become what you behold.”

A steelworker:

“Everybody should have something to point to.” …

“Automation? Depends on how it’s applied. It frightens me if it puts me out on the street. It doesn’t frighten me if it shortens my work week.” …

“You can be a fanatic if you had the time. The whole thing is time. That is, I think, one reason rich kids tend to be fanatic about politics: they have time. Time, that’s the important thing.”

And Terkel:

The science of medicine has increased our life expectancy; the science of the business frowns upon the elderly. …

It is about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying. Perhaps immortality, too, is part of the quest. To be remembered was the wish, spoken and unspoken, of the heroes and heroines of this book.

These are not yet automata.

Things I’m thankful for: a Thanksgiving list

  • my wife
  • family
  • friends
  • my job
  • my banjo
  • books
  • the coming winter
  • movie theater gift cards
  • the Judge John Hodgman podcast
  • Sam Cooke
  • the smell of evening air
  • Thanksgiving
  • a warm bed in a cool room
  • lakeside morning runs
  • egg nog
  • health insurance
  • trees

A Ghost Story

“O’er all there hung the shadow of a fear,
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted,
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
The place is haunted.”
– Thomas Hood, “The Haunted House”

I thought of that poem, used to great effect in Slow West, after seeing A Ghost Story, David Lowery’s breath of a film.

It’s best to know as little as possible about it. But know that it’s a haunting, beautifully shot, melancholic, slyly funny, and mercifully short meditation on the slipperiness of time and memory. Quiet, bathed in natural light, it shows how mesmerizing it is to follow a ghost that is unstuck in time. Pairs well with Richard McGuire’s graphic novel Here.

‘Working toward the truth’ in “How to Think”

There goes Alan Jacobs being right again:

it would be better for all concerned if we were content to say that our political opponents are merely wrong. But that’s unlikely to happen, at least widely, because once you say someone is wrong you commit yourself to explaining why he’s wrong — to the world of argument and evidence — and that makes work for you. Plus, you forego the immense pleasures of moral superiority and righteous indignation. So speculation about our enemies’ motives will continue to be a major feature of our political life, which will have the same practical consequences as Old Man Yells at Cloud.

9780451499608

This is something I wrestle with, especially after reading Jacobs’ excellent new book How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World At OddsRighteous indignation and moral superiority—the chief renewable energy source of cable news and Twitter—make for an intoxicating but lethal combo. They don’t negate the ability to think and explain reasonably, but they can easily overpower the desire to, and turn the tendency to emote first and think later into a destructive habit.

Jacobs is one of my favorite cultural and political thinkers. Clear headed, fair minded, intellectually rigorous and generous, his insights in this short book and on his blog are encouraging and timely: how to examine biases, how to reckon with cultural “others”, and how to engage in the hard labor of “working toward the truth” with a generosity of spirit and strength of character.

That last point is important. Lacking generosity and strength of character not only make us bad thinkers, but bad people. There’s a reason the book isn’t called How to Be Right:

When people cease to be people because they are, to us, merely representatives or mouthpieces of positions we want to eradicate, then we, in our zeal to win, have sacrificed empathy: we have declined the opportunity to understand other people’s desires, principles, fears. And that is a great price to pay for supposed “victory” in debate.

It’s especially difficult to engage with political opponents who are terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad thinkers. But the sooner we all realize how wrong we can be, and how good and healthy that realization is, the sooner we can become better thinkers and break the vicious cycle our unhealthy human tendencies trap us in.

Another thinker I highly respect is Andrew Sullivan, erstwhile blogger at The Dish and now weekly columnist. His latest tackles the danger of the “right side of history” fallacy:

No party, no cause, no struggle, however worthy, is ever free from evil. No earthly cause is entirely good. And to believe with absolute certainty that you are on “the right side of history,” or on the right side of a battle between “good and evil,” is a dangerous and seductive form of idolatry. It flatters yourself. And it will lead you inevitably to lose your moral bearings because soon, you will find yourself doing and justifying things that are evil solely because they advance the cause of the “good.”

Current events are bearing this out. Idolatry is one of the easier sins to commit because anything can be made into an idol, and we live in a culture that’s particular fertile ground for doing so.

Who are some current writers and thinkers you respect, and why?

Older posts

© 2017 Chad Comello

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑