Jeffrey Miller

A Writer's Life

Category: Culture (page 1 of 7)

Remember to stop and smell the roses

Not just take a picture of them.

Geef Voor New Wave

Geef Voor New WaveI’m at the gym the other day working out and I’ve got my iPod loaded with classic new wave tracks. When one of those tracks, “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” by X-Ray Spex comes on, I am immediately teleported back in time, back to December 1980 and January 1981 when I first heard this song on a new wave compilation album I bought at Plaza Records in Carbondale, Illinois.

As compilation albums come and go, it was a pretty decent one. Though for the life of me, I can’t figure out why Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were included with some of these bands and artists, unless Tom Petty’s Hearbreakers were confused with Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers. Big confusion, I know.

Whenever I hear any of these songs from this album (which is out of print and has never made the jump to CD) I always think back to that time. Indeed, when I think about those songs, I always think the time I went to the Space in Chicago to see David and the Happenings. I think of cold, gray days. For some reason, I have always associated my indoctrination with punk rock and new wave with those cold winter days. Warehouses converted into punk clubs, broken down buildings, steam rising up from sewers, winter blue-gray skies ringed with grayish white clouds. Pasty-faced men and women dressed in black; their eyes wild with anticipation. Safety pins, skinny ties, buttons on a lapel. I think about “Style Before Gel” in Damaged Goods–one night at the Space Place.

Sometimes all it takes is one song to take you on a journey.

Geef Voor New Wave Back

Who’s up for a journey back in time?

Fall from grace

Life sometimes imitates art.

Lisa Robin Kelly who portrayed Eric Forman’s wild and loose sister, Laurie, on That 70’s Show probably wishes she was back playing the bad older sister instead of being the actress having run-ins with the law.

Talk about your fall from grace.

Ice Cream Headache — Coming Soon

Set in a small town in Illinois in 1968, the novella centers on the lives of a community of people whose lives intertwine on one fateful day in May of that year, including: Ray Jackson, isolated and strong in the face of losing his business and wife; Johnny Fitzpatrick, who has decided to run off to Canada to avoid the draft; Jimmy Smith, who overcomes psychical and mental limitations and willing to believe the best about people; Nancy Smith, who has devoted her life to raising her only child against great odds; and Earl Jansen, who carries the guilt of an accidental shooting two years earlier that forced him off the police force. These characters are linked together in conflict, and in articulate friendship and understanding. Their plight as human beings is one we all share.

Soda Jerk

I don’t recall ever seeing a soda jerk in action, but I do remember as a young child going to a drugstore and having an ice cream soda at the store’s soda fountain. Years later, when I was in high school, I would often go to Ford Hopkin’s drugstore in downtown LaSalle, Illinois which had a luncheonette in the back.

In Ice Cream Headache, one of the characters, Ray, remembers when he was a kid and his father took him to the soda fountain. It’s a nice, nostalgic aside in the story. Readers are going to find a lot of these in this novella.

The rich get richer–and stingier

There’s a great article in this month’s Scientific American™ which talks about how less compassionate people become the more money they have.

But why would wealth and status decrease our feelings of compassion for others? After all, it seems more likely that having few resources would lead to selfishness. Piff and his colleagues suspect that the answer may have something to do with how wealth and abundance give us a sense of freedom and independence from others. The less we have to rely on others, the less we may care about their feelings. This leads us towards being more self-focused. Another reason has to do with our attitudes towards greed. Like Gordon Gekko, upper-class people may be more likely to endorse the idea that “greed is good.” Piff and his colleagues found that wealthier people are more likely to agree with statements that greed is justified, beneficial, and morally defensible. These attitudes ended up predicting participants’ likelihood of engaging in unethical behavior.

Read the rest of the article here.

I’ve been saying this for years. It explains a lot; like how when I was delivering newspapers back in Oglesby,  Illinois, the rich folks on my block were the lousiest tippers.

Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm — She’s Got the Beat

In the late summer of 2001, I was writing a series of articles about USFK (United States Forces Korea) organizations doing things in the Korean community. One of the articles I planned to write was about the Eighth Army Band that was giving a concert with some Korean bands in the middle of September.

Then 9-11 happened.

At the end of October, there was another concert, this one near the Amsa Prehistoric Settlement Site in southern Seoul and the Eighth Army Band played at it. Before the band played, the audience was entertained by traditional Korean dancers and drummers.

Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm — Swilling OB, 1990

I’ve got this “Big Country” look going for me one Sunday afternoon in Itaewon, swilling OB in a restaurant underneath what used to be the Burger King. The name of the restaurant was called Vincent, as in Vincent Van Gogh. All these places were the same: the standard menu: kimchi fried rice or pork cutlet, OB on tap, and a name that had you scratching your head trying to figure out why it was named after a composer or artist.

“I’m feelin’ Radioactive, think I’m gonna meltdown tonight” — Scott Wilk + The Walls

In the mail today!

A flashback to those glorious, goofin’, pogo jumping, slam dancing early the 1980s.

I saw this band at the Southern Illinois University (SIU) Student Center at the beginning of the 1980 fall semester, (shortly after I saw David and the Happenings perform at an outdoor party in Lewis Park) and the band would be one of a half-dozen New Wave acts I would see that semester along with The Pretenders, The English Beat, Ultravox, and Polyrock.

I bought the album at Plaza Records in Carbondale but it was never reissued as a CD until recently through Wounded Bird Records.

Although a bit dated, it has held up quite well over the years. Although Wilk comes across as sort of a cross between Elvis Costello and Warren Zevon, the music takes one back to those early days of New Wave when a farfisa beat and saxophone ruled.

 It’s going to get a lot of playing time on my iPod.

Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm — Yes, Yoko

I wonder how many photographers I pissed off by spoiling their shot by being on the other side of this glass maze when Yoko Ono walked through it.

You can read all about her 2003 visit to Korea in one of the articles I wrote for the Korea Times entitled, “Yes, Yoko”in Waking Up in the Land of the Morning Calm.

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