The Treasure in the Trash

Johnston graphicAs much as I associate Kansas with The Wizard of Oz, I have yet to come across one canary-colored brick in my eight years as a Kansan. There are, however, a number of historic red brick sidewalks and streets in Lawrence, the city I call home. The words “LAWRENCE KANSAS” appear, imprinted, on the bricks, so no one can mistake their parentage—they belong to their municipal mother.

One day, while walking alone on one of those sidewalks several years ago, a red milk crate sitting next to a dumpster in a nearby alleyway caught my eye. I decided to investigate, and soon found myself thumbing through the cache of rejected records inside—my inner pop culture junkie jonesing for a fix, my eyes sparkling in their sockets like twin disco balls.

Had my wife Becki seen me, she would have said I reminded her of the silver-haired hoarder who rummaged through the rubbish bins outside of her old apartment. How could either of us forget that bow-backed man, whose spine was shaped like the curve of a shepherd’s crook?

[Read more...]

Becoming Uncool in the Pursuit of Truth

This morning, prepping for a class I’m teaching called Writing about Film and Music, I stumbled across a YouTube clip of the legendary Brian Eno, producer of U2’s 1987 The Joshua Tree, talking about his role in the making of that iconic album:

I got the sense that [U2] was capable of making a real marriage between the two things I was talking about, between something that was self-consciously spiritual to the point of being uncool—and uncool was a very important idea then, because people were being very, very cool, and coolness is a certain kind of detachment from yourself, with a certain defensiveness, actually, not exposing something, because it’s too easy to be shot down if you’re exposed…

Later, Eno says that U2 was never a critical darling, because they were perceived as wearing their “hearts on their sleeve.”  Recall the way Bono has used arena stages as a bully pulpit for his various causes: El Salvador, Northern Ireland, Iraq, and gun violence. I confess I’ve always loved this about Bono, though I know it makes lots of people squeamish. [Read more...]


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