Inklings. Why a boring private life doesn’t work anymore. Authenticity. The Incontintental Network
Roger CortonWe need to gin up ticket sales. Give me something exciting.
JCHAs you know, that’s getting tougher with each passing day.
RCWhy? We’ve had this discussion many times. Even if you’re not touring, you’re writing, recording. That’s interesting to fans.
The irony of the digital age is, for me, that the more information we get and the more concerned we are about ‘authenticity’, the more shallow things seem to be.
JCHLook, the average person in Facebookistan has more people interested in what they had for breakfast than what I’m doing. (sighs) OK, you like Lord Of The Rings and all that fantasy stuff, right?
JCHCool. So I just finished reading this book ‘The Inklings’; it’s a group biography of this supposed circle of great literary figures at Oxford. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, etc.
RCThe Inklings. I’ve heard of them. And I would be interested in that…
JCH…BORRRRRRRING! These guys who wrote all this fantastic stuff were some seriously boring guys. So trust me, this is a boring book. I mean, you keep looking for ‘charming’ in there but it finally hit me; the kids are right: boring and stuffy is not charming. It’s just boring and stuffy. And that was the shocker I got: every woman I’ve known has been completely right about me: self-centered, boring, stuffy guys might’ve been cool 100 years ago? But noooot anymore.
RCInvoking women? That bad, huh?
JCHIt’s even worse than that. Since you asked for it, I’ve also succumbed to another classic symptom of boring old fartitude. I’m now the guy who watches all these old movies on the Incontinental network.
JCHYeah, the blood suckers at Comcast keep cutting back on free channels but they have added in these old re-run channels which I call The Incontinental Network. So while all my hip friends tell me about the latest interweb series or HBO thing that I don’t get, I’m re-watching black and white movies from 1949. And the worst part? I love that shit. Always did.
RCSo Comcast is The Incontinental Network?
JCHNo, just these old movie channels. See all the commercials are for catheters. And adult diapers. Reverse mortgages. Pre-paid funerals. I’ve fallen and I can’t get up shit. I realized that people who share my taste in movies are seventy year olds with bladder control issues.
RCWell, now I know what to get you for your birthday. The Incontinental Network. I like that. I’m just surprised because you’ve ranted on about puns being the lowest.
JCHOh you like that? Try this. My new favorite word is… Expirational!
JCHIt’s the antonym of inspirational.
RCSo… not inspiring?
JCHWell, strictly speaking ‘inspirational’ means something that imbues one with the spirit.
RCSo expirational means what, something soul-sucking?
JCHRight. A typical marriage counseling session is expirational. A visit to a city council meeting? Totally expirational. Something that makes you stop believing in heaven, goodness, humanity, the value of whatever it is yer trying to do.
JCHSo how are we doing on time?
RCWhat do you mean?
JCHI mean, this banter must’ve filled about half a ‘post’, right? So we’ll be done soon.
RCWe’re probably four hundred words in.
JCHHOORAY! So getting back to the original thing, I just don’t have that much fabulous stuff to talk about on any given day. The thing that struck me about that Inklings book is how their own lives would be considered, in a way, so very hypocritical by today’s standards.
RCWhat do you mean?
JCHWell, look at Tolkien and Lewis. They both sold squillions of books; thinly veiled fantasies about Christian themes; stuff replete with high adventure. But in a very really way they never really lived. Lewis wrote books about ‘marriage’ and ‘suffering’ and ‘children’ having had none in his life for most of his life. Can you imagine someone getting over like that today?
JCHAnd then, right near the end, Lewis gets married, goes through tremendous suffering (SPOILER ALERT!) and found no comfort in the ideas that he wrote about. I mean he got thousands of letters over the years from people who felt comforted by his writings. But in his own case? He just falls apart.
RCPhysician Heal Thyself!
JCHExactly. Now today, it seems like one has to live one’s adventure… especially in social media. There has to be something compelling, something ‘authentic’. OK, this is a 180 but, think about that Rachel Dolezal woman in the news a few weeks back.
RCI’m a black woman trapped inside the body of a white girl. Tragic. Yeah, notice how quickly that left the headlines.
JCHKareem Abdul Jabbar wrote an absolutely great article about this in Time Magazine. It got lambasted by a ton of people, but I loved it. Basically he points out that the woman was, by all accounts absolutely great at her job. But because she was found to be in-authentic? Get the hook!
RCYeah, but that’s a pretty extreme example.
RCHave -you- lied on a job application recently?
JCHWell, that would presuppose that I’ve actually had a real job recently. I actually did years ago though but that’s another story. My point is she actually -could- do the job. So even in that extreme case I wonder how much -anything- in our private lives matters once we get on the job. I view this stuff like a lens. You know how you can look in a camera and you move the focus ring and it changes which part of the piccie comes into focus?
JCHWell, you can focus on Rachel ‘lying’ or you can focus on her job; a job that she apparently did very well at.
RCAnd I’d still fire her.
JCHWell, duuuuh. But you take my point. Once everyone focused the lens on her ‘facade’ they stopped even -thinking- about her actual results. For example, people who hate Clinton will always mention the blowjobs.
RCYou mean Bill, right? I don’t recall hearing about Hillary’s blowjobs.
JCHUh… right. But people who liked Clinton? They focus on the economic good news. It’s the exact opposite of how a ‘rational’ machine would evaluate things.
RCThat goes back to your album Compartments. No bad man is all bad. No good man is all good.
JCHRight. Nobody is consistent. Here’s something: I read a great interview in Guitar Player this month about Mastodon. The first guy is going through the usual interview spiel about songs, equipment, etc. but then the second guy refuses to play along. He says something like, “I’ve been playing the same rig since 1999. I knew how I wanted to sound the moment I heard an AC/DC record, I figured out how to get that sound and I’m done and I have nothing else to say about that. I know your readers are interested, but that’s the deal. And thank goodness I’m in a band with guys who love me and we all work together great and I just want people to focus on the music.” Initially it comes off as kinda rude. But if you read all the way through, he sounds like a nice guy and it was something I wish I had said.
RCBut then how would anyone market?
JCHThat’s right. If it were just him the band would get nowhere. And he’s the first to realize that. So I never want to come across as ungrateful, for example, for what you do to help.
RCIt’s not me I’m concerned about. But getting back to ‘authenticity’, I saw that and I think there is a calculated factor. I think his ‘FU’ attitude is part of their appeal.
JCHAnd they say I’m cynical.
RCI’m just saying it could be part of a plan ‘Good cop. Bad cop.’ Anyway, how do we square the circle? If you’re correct and the back story matters more than the content. And we’ve established that you’re this boring guy who sits around watching The Incontintental Network. So… how does JCHMusic get over?
JCHNo idea. But I think it matters. The irony of the digital age is, for me, that the more information we get and the more concerned we are about ‘authenticity’, the more shallow things seem to be. Everything from opinions to tweets to on-line dating? It’s all first impression. I can’t imagine a guy like C.S. Lewis or Tolkien getting over today.
RCOn line dating?
JCHYeah, they’ve got all that research now that shows it’s all bullshit. All that stuff about women being more interested in ‘a sense of humor’ versus guys being shallow? Rubbish. Everyone judges based on the piccie. We’re all shallow. One of the benefits of big data.
RCFine.But getting back to Tolkien and Lewis, so what? They were for their time and this is our time.
JCHWell, I’m past time, buddy. I can never hope to swim in the contemporary waters. It’s why I gave up almost immediately on the whole ‘marketing’ deal.
RCBut you haven’t given up. You post all this ‘blather’ as you call it.
JCHRight, but even that is totally wrong. It’s really not meant to attract new fans. I’m just, in the common parlance, pinging the same five to ten thousand people I reached back in 2002.
RCWe keep meaning to discuss all the lies about the whole ‘web music’ thing. But guess what?
JCHWe’ve passed our minimum daily requirement?
RCBlew right through the word count.
JCHHOORAY! I think there’s a Judy Holliday movie starting in about ten minutes.
RCNext time. Big data, mister!