Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Angels In Heaven Done Wrote My Name

FLIPPER "The Lights, The Sound, The Rhythm, The Noise"
BLIND WILLIE JOHNSON "Let Your Light Shine on Me"
BOXCAR WILLIE "I Saw the Light"

Not to be confused with the Sensational Six of Arkansas, of course, the Sensational Six from Alabama let loose a slightly mocking take on this song more affiliated with Southern gospel. It's taken from Let Us Talk About Jesus, a super fascinating compilation assembled by Kevin Nutt (a premium from WFMU's 2005 pledge drive) that explores the influence of country on black gospel. The Flipper tune is from Blow'N'Chunks, one of the four or five best live albums of ever. Then we have yet another B.W. Johnson tune and finally we end with an authentically caucasoid take on the song we started out with. I was going to post a lot of other "light" and "electric" songs but this is all the server space I have right now.

Record high temperatures were reached here in Portland today and yesterday. Across North America, last month was the warmest April since records were first kept some ninety years ago. So, being one of the freckled and fair, I am to the best of my ability avoiding the sunlight altogether, though I do enjoy the stuff and of course it is a rare commodity here in the Pacific Northwest. Too many people I know have melonomas, I guess, and I just prefer to take my little exercise walks in the early evening rather than high noon.

But, that's not the reason that today's loose theme is (electric, well, angelic, mostly) light. When in Seattle for the EMP (where, yes, the subject was Electric Light Orchestra, but this coincidence is purely nominal and surface-like), I swathed myself in that consumer-happy glow you get while you're on vacation. Among other things I picked up the new issue of Cabinet. Now, I always buy that thing -- it is probably my favorite magazine and not at all expensive for what it is. I guess I shouldn't just spend every cent I have as soon as I get it, whether I'm on vacation or not. By the time I'm forty I need to learn if not how to save then how to spend, no? (Forty is sooooooon, by the way.)

The (excellent) piece by Wolfgang Schivelbusch in Cabinet (new issue's themed electricity: very excellent) looks like it might be an excerpt from Schivelbusch's new book, Three New Deals : Reflections on Roosevelt's America, Mussolini's Italy, and Hitler's Germany, 1933-1939, which I am offically stoked about. I first got into this cultural historian 'cause his 1992 book Tastes of Paradise: A Social History of Spices, Stimulants, and Intoxicants seemed such an obvious companion piece to Piero Camporesi's own social food history woorks like The Bread of Dreams, the tome I've mentioned on here at least once before that posits thanks to a magical combination of hunger, poor diet when food could be had, and hallucinogenic herbs or spoiled grains like ergot, every person in the Middle Ages was essentially tripping their balls off, especially the poor. Schivelbusch's Paradise book shows (among other things) the history of spices and intoxicants that first came into use after the discovery of the New World. I just instantly dug the way he writes, since it's so clear and smart and free of the kind of Jungian leaps Camporesi's prone to (though the two of them are totally apples and oranges).

Since I never even finished undergraduate studies, I appreciate smartypantses who you don't have to have read twenty other books or get teached at for years in order to "get," and yet who also aren't watering their ideas down too much either. I guess it helps that Wolfgang is (or was) a freelance writer rather than a professor somewhere? Schivelbusch's 1988 book Disenchanted Night: The Industrialization of Light in the Nineteenth Century, which I got into next, is among my summer re-reading plans. I post these songs in honor of that great little book. In case you care, I also aim to re-read Emmet Grogan's self-mythologizing autobio. Ringolevio, a sporadically brilliant large book written by the founder of the SF Diggers. I also aim to actually read the far larger still Man Without Qualities, instead of just getting a few pages through it and giving up. Do wish me luck. Or laugh at my folly. Or both. And stay away from the sun!


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