Charlie's Blog: Achilles Last Stand


Achilles Last Stand

It was an April morning when they told us we should go 
As I turn to you, you smiled at me 
How could we say no?
LED ZEPPELIN, Achilles Last Stand

Achilles is a Led Zep epic song. Page says it is his favorite song out of Zep's catalogue. I can't say that it is my favorite, but it isn't bad. As for the lyrics, Plant wrote them in a wheelchair as he recuperated from injuries sustained in a car crash that threatened his ability to walk. Since it was an epic song, I will see if I can write an equally epic post.

The first and most basic question I ask about rock and roll is this. Should old geezers be playing rock music? This also begs the corollary question. Should middle aged guys like me be listening to rock music? And if we shouldn't be listening to rock music, what should we be listening to?

This question matters as I watch the slow motion disintegration of AC/DC. Malcolm Young, the band's rhythm guitarist and unofficial leader, has stepped away as dementia saps his mental powers. Now, Brian Johnson, the singer, is unable to tour in order to preserve what remains of his hearing. Now, Johnny Cash got old, but he seemed to mellow like a fine vintage. Even in old age, he was at the top of his game. Then, there's Willie Nelson who has been old for my entire life but still keeps plugging away. Recently, Merle Haggard died, but he performed right up to the end. Country music is much more forgiving to the older folks than rock and roll.

No music is as synonymous with youth as rock music. This leads to the question asked at least once a decade. Is rock and roll dead? So far, it is alive, but rock has never been well. It is both youthful and dying at the same time. It is glorious and perpetually fading. This is best seen in a guy like Jimmy Page who still rocks even if his ponytail is completely gray. Rock is strange like that. I contrast it often with country when middle age seems to be a country artist's best years.

Country is basically of a conservative mindset. The songs harken back to tradition. Country draws upon those who came before. The lyrics tend to be about things like family, God, and country. Even when it is about things like drinking and divorce, they are not seen as good things but things to be lamented. Then, there is the Grand Ole Opry that serves as a repository of all that is good and right in country music. Of course, today country music is getting debauched by things like hip hop. It blows the mind without a doubt, but I think the genre will shrug off this crap.

There is no Grand Ole Opry of rock music. Rock has a bunch of stations running the "classic rock" format. Listening to this stuff is like musical paleontology as you go through various layers of sixties rock, prog rock, punk rock, hard rock, acid rock, heavy metal, hair metal, and on and on. The reason for this feature is that rock is basically of a progressive mindset. Country music fans tend to be Republican. Rock music fans tend to be Democrats. There are exceptions like Willie Nelson who leans left and Ted Nugent who leans right. But rock and country represent the battle between the revolution and tradition. Then, you get something crazy like the Eagles.

The Eagles are arguably the greatest band America ever produced. Their only competition in this regard are the Beach Boys, the Doors, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. I just asked my wife who totally votes for CCR, but I go with the Eagles. The debate is a fundamental one because those who argue against the Eagles will point to the fact that they weren't really a rock band. I could argue that they were based on the songs they made with Joe Walsh, but they really were a country act in the beginning. Compared to many country songs today, the Eagles songs are less rock than today's country. As for CCR, they still rock.

The Eagles are a strange creature in the world of rock. Their greatest hits album is second only to Thriller in units sold. The reason the Eagles are strange is because they are like finding a Model T in the ruins of Pompeii. Of course, such time bending is impossible, so they are like finding a T.Rex in today's world. Drawing upon the insights of Gram Parsons, the Eagles and other country, folk, and roots music acts drew upon tradition to inform their music. The conventional wisdom is that such music is tired and outdated. Yet, it never gets old. Remember this when you hear Styx's Mr. Roboto on the classic rock station.

You can't live in the past, but you shouldn't bury it either. That impulse to bury the past has been prevalent in much of the twentieth century and bleeds into the twenty first. This is how you get so much modern art, architecture, and noise masquerading as music. These things do not represent something new so much as a stick of dynamite to the old. The prejudice is that tradition acts as some sort of restraint on innovation. I believe that tradition is the spur for innovation. Great works of art and music inspire others to ascend to the same lofty heights. Yet, because this generation despaired of painting a new Mona Lisa, it chose to defecate on a canvas and call that art while denying any such thing as beauty. The problem is they have never been able to erase that Mona Lisa. Memory is a stubborn thing.

Being a conservative and a Catholic puts me in the right perspective when it comes to issues of time. Secular progressives always try to erase the past and look to some glorious future under the sun when all problems will be fixed by their brilliance. The reality is that human nature is corrupted by original sin. You can't build a utopia out of such material. For the progressive, all sins stem from ignorance which is why they believe education is the salvation of humanity. So, they take over public schools and try to put mandates on private schools and homeschoolers. The goal and aim is indoctrination. They will erase the bad ideas and replace them with good ideas. Of course, those good ideas are THEIR ideas.

I'm revisiting this piece after an absence. It is the afternoon, and I am back from a day of work. It is hard to write in the evening when you are tired. Exhaustion is something that fascinates me, and I plan on writing more about it. I don't think we explore exhaustion. Usually, we rest or go to sleep when we get tired. What if we didn't do that? What if we pushed ourselves to endure a bit more each day? I can say that I have done some of that in the past. I have experienced sleep deprivation to the point of hallucination. I have worked so hard that I have collapsed on the floor in a sweaty pile and slept the entire night there.

The thing about exhaustion is that I am not sure how much of it is physical and how much of it is mental. I recall hearing about the 40% rule the Navy SEALS have. When you reach the point that you feel you are completely tapped out, you are only 40% done. You still have lots of juice left in the tank.

I have been keeping a journal lately. The inspiration for this came to me after reading an article about the erosion of handwriting. I confess that I suffer from this problem. As I try and write cursive, the motor functions of my hand are surprisingly difficult. I find it hard to form the letters and the words as I write them. Some people have advocated the cessation of teaching handwriting in public school because of the ubiquity of keyboard devices and touchscreens. Some part of me recoils at this silly notion. Handwriting matters, so I take up a notebook to pen thoughts. I need the practice.

One of the upsides of keeping a journal is a liberation to be even more honest in those pages than I am here. Writing for a public forum makes you hesitate on sharing more intimate details. I doubt anyone will ever care to read my scratchings since so few read my blog. But a journal is also like an artist's sketchbook for a writer. I'm not going to worry about being messy since it is a rough way of writing. From this rough work, I expect finer work to emerge from the raw material.

This brings me to the Trump thing. That guy is causing a lot of trouble for a lot of people. The Republican Party hates him. The Democrat Party is going to really hate him in November. Mexico hates him. The media love to hate him, but they still keep giving the guy free air time and press. But no one asks the most fundamental question. Who loves Donald Trump?

The people who love Trump are working class people. Many of them are white and male, but I've seen blacks and women who support him. Basically, if you work for a living, you are going to like Trump. If you don't work for a living, then you are going to hate his guts. The simple fact is that working people are mad, and Trump taps into that. Where he directs that energy and anger remains to be seen.

I can honestly say that I am tired of the status quo. I have felt stuck in place since 2008. I despise Barack Obama. I can't stand Hillary Clinton. I am fed up with a Republican Party that acts like Democrat Party Lite. And the best guy for the job was the guy nobody liked. So, here's Donald Trump. He won't make it better, but he will make it different. The hope is that after his destruction something positive may emerge.

The problem we have today is not collapse but stagnation. This was the problem back in the seventies before Reagan came along. Things just felt stuck. Reagan tapped into that frustration, but he had a conservative playbook to draw on. The man had a brain. Trump just has a mouth. He is a brainless fool. Yet, he will have to draw upon the people he is alienating to create a cabinet and an administration that will get things done.

I am ready to vote for Trump. I don't want to vote for Trump, but he is the best thing we have at this point. I already know what Hillary will do, and it will be bad. Trump can only do better than her. The working class has spoken, and I am a working class person.