Fly man's best friend's skies | Bleader

Fly man's best friend's skies

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This story on the all-pet Pet Airways, operating out of Wheeling, pleasantly reminded me of one of the Reader's classic stories: "The Invisible Man," Lee Sandlin's 1996 account of attempting to pick up a cat from O'Hare without the use of a car:

"Still, I had a new surge of energy when I stood at last at the light. I started up the access road to see what I'd find there. I didn't feel hopeful; I was perfectly prepared to believe that the freight office was another five miles ahead. Nor did I have any faith that, if I found it, the cat would be waiting for me. But I did feel a slight, mysterious, but undeniable satisfaction. Maybe it was only that I'd accomplished a grand and useless stunt. But it was almost as though I had struck a blow for those of us who don't drive: I had secretly recaptured a bit of territory from the dictatorship of the internal combustion engine."

Speaking of Sandlin, yesterday I floated the idea (on Twitter, of course; that's what it's for) of a 33 1/3-esque series of short, affordable works on classical music. Should some adventurous publisher choose to take me up on it, I can't recommend his writing on the genre highly enough. One of my constant gripes about classical music criticism is its laser-like focus on technique and individual performers at the expense of, you know, the music. It's strictly evaluative, not explanatory, as opposed to a lot of pop music criticism, the best of which can interest you in a performer even if it's about a show that you didn't attend by someone you've never heard of.

In other words, it's written for a tiny subset of the potential audience, and I suspect, but can't prove, that's why the medium is dying off (alternately, a great explanatory work about the subject, like Alex Ross's The Rest Is Noise, can still do brisk sales). By which I mean: this is how it's done:

"I'm not denying that Ives was a patriot. His saturation in American pop culture, American music, American values and ideology and philosophy was so profound it amounted to a kind of religious ecstasy. The falseness lies in presenting him as a nice guy. He was just as American in his hair-trigger anger and furious xenophobia, and the radical originality with which he treated the forms of classical music sometimes seems prompted by a hatred of everything civil, decorous, traditional, and European. The turmoil of his music--the vast storm fronts of marches, hymns, jigs, ballads, hornpipes, and anthems--is really a kind of patriotic road rage, an urge to sweep away all traces of the foreign with blasts of pure homegrown energy. This can make him come off as nothing more than a foul-tempered crank, though it also resulted in the soaring grandeur of his Fourth Symphony, the Moby-Dick of American music."

(Mad seconding of his description of Charles Ives and the Fourth Symphony. More on Ives if you're up for it.)

Speaking of 33 1/3, if you haven't yet sampled the series, you can't do much better than Michael Fournier's brilliantly analytical take on the Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime. Aside from Jon Savage's comprehensive Sex Pistols history England's Dreaming, I don't think I've ever read anything that so contributed to my appreciation of a piece of music. I'd never have known how highly structured the album is, nor that they were such James Joyce heads.

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