I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe
The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken
Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell
November 16, 2017 - 12:41 p.m.
You are getting the combo special; what I did yesterday including an idiot story, thoughts about NERFA, and a medium drink.
I'm back to going to games with Alan, that's a very good thing. When we go to game he gives me a ticket for the next game. I put it on the table where I keep my wallet, keys, meds, watch, anything that I need to be able to always find quickly. Last night I got ready to leave and got my wallet, keys, and watch, but instead of the ticket to last night's game it was the ticket from the last game I went to with Alan. I was frantic, did I throw out the wrong ticket? I looked under the table. I looked all around the table. I checked to see if it were in my wallet. I considered the possibility that I put it somewhere for safe keeping and forgot it. I picked up the ticket from the last game in the hope that it had miraculously changed from water into wine. Nope, it still said, November 15 on it. Yeah, it was the right ticket. It was always the right ticket. I had a brain glitch. I know why. I had just been putting things on my calendar for December. My mind was a month ahead. It isn't easy being an idiot.
I of course just missed the bus as I had wasted all that time. Fortunately, it was rush hour and the buses run every 15 minutes instead of every half hour. That fifteen minutes was my time to grab something to eat and make sure I had time to get through security and up to my seat. As it was, Google Maps said I'd be arriving at Madison Square Garden five minutes before the game started. There was a decent chance I'd miss the tipoff. I texted Alan to let him know. Then I made great time and got there fifteen minutes before game time. I couldn't get dinner, but I got a pretzel dog from Auntie Anne's. The line at security was not terribly long. It's not fast. It's like getting on an airplane, you empty your pockets, they look through your bag, and you walk through a metal detector. I had enough time that I was able to turn the wrong way from the escalator and had to walk two thirds the way around MSG to get to our seats. With all that I was there before the national anthem was played.
The Knicks were playing the Utah Jazz, the most inappropriately named team in sports. They originally played in New Orleans where it was a great name. They should have changed their name to the Seagulls or the Beehive when they moved. This happened in 1979 and I'm still complaining about it. Not that I hold a grudge.
I picked a good time to return to going to Knick games. For the first time since 2000 I'm optimistic about the team. They are fun to watch, and they win. Kristaps Porzingis is the best player they drafted since Patrick Ewing in 1985. He could develop into being their best player ever. He already has the best nickname, The Unicorn. The Knicks fell behind by 10 at the half and Porzingis was having an off game. Instead of feeling hopeless we felt pretty good about their chances. They took the lead late in the fourth quarter and ended up winning by five. They gave up 60 points in the first half and only 41 in the second. I love this team.
Now on to NERFA. Many people were surprised to see me there as I had posted that I was not going. That was because of money. I don't have any. Then I get a message from President Cheryl, she isn't the current president, but we still say President Bush or Clinton. Madame President told me about this:
A part of every conversation at NERFA is, "who did you discover?" The purpose is get recommendations who to check out, but it does something else; it gives me insight into how other people listen to music. This goes on outside of NERFA but it's not as concentrated. The two life changing artists I discovered were Mama's Broke and Élage Diouf. When I said that many people would react with, "they were a lot of fun" or "They were quite good." They were not experiencing them as I did. Meanwhile other people were getting excited by acts that I thought were very good but didn't get blown away by. Some I thought were not even good. I never name the acts I don't like at all but two descriptions from my notes were "A Mighty Wind" and "A Hallmark Card." Yet an artist whose work I love, loved the Hallmark Card. I had to walk out after two songs.
These differences in people's perceptions always make me think. I want to understand them, to put them in context. The metaphor I came up with is teachers grading essays. Some, the ones whose opinions I care least about, put great weight on the handwriting and margins. Others are technocrats who put emphasis on vocabulary and grammar. Those things are important but far from sufficient. I put great emphasis on content, I want something original. Something that nobody else could have written. Some people will like the essay because they agree with the author's opinion or perspective. That's what most pop songs do. I will overlook spelling errors and bad handwriting if the thesis is original. If I were to mock myself, I'd say that I obsess on novelty.
I adore NERFA, it's essential for my mental health; a place to recharge my emotional batteries. I tend to emphasize what I love but that's not all there is. A truthful assessment of NERFA is that it's a sea of mediocrity. It has to be; only in Lake Woebegone can all musicians be above average. We can't move NERFA there, it's in FARM territory. Most artists are near the middle, neither great nor terrible. It's like that in every field of endeavor. When I talk about the sea of mediocrity I often see relief in the listener, they are happy to know they aren't the only ones that feel that way.
A saving grace is that we don't agree on who is great, mediocre, or terrible. Some of it has to do with genre. I love Irish Music, Poor Man's Gambit and NUA were highlights for me. I know they aren't to most attendees' taste. When I take pledges at WFUV I often hear people complain about the Irish shows, one of my prime reasons for loving the station. I don't like Jackson Browne and those that play whatever the genre it is that he plays. Intellectually I know he's not terrible, but he bores me.
This is why I dislike the in-the-round format. I spend three times as long to hear the one artist I'm interested in. People will say, "but you might discover someone new you like." Yes, but I'm at NERFA I'm always hearing someone new. The difference is that I can walk out after one or two songs if I don't like them and listen to someone else that might be good. I went to one large in-the-round and heard just one song by the act I wanted to check out and had to sit through lots of people I didn't want to hear a second song by. I know some people love in-the-rounds. People should do what works for them. I know others avoid them as I do.
I know I'm forgetting stories I wanted to tell. Did I mention in any of the entries that there were two musicians named Orion three? I have never heard of anyone that wasn't mythological hunter/constellation, names Orion. I had a great conversation with one of them. I didn't see him perform but he gave me a CD.
I'm finished writing about NERFA, but I will keep its spirit in my heart all year round and people will say of me; "He knows how to keep NERFA if any man knows the secret."
It's late and if I ever want to start editing my photos and listening to the music I collected at NERFA I better get moving.
Attica! Attica! - November 21, 2017
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