Past in Present: World Books #tbt 001

I recently unboxed my grandmother’s set of World Book Encyclopedia–the same set my uncles used to research school assignments. Fathom that: a time before the internet. Grandma also purchased supplemental year books, 1965 through 1984 (the year I was born), and they’re fascinating in their brevity. An entire year reduced to a series of essays on international and domestic affairs written by journalists, professors, diplomats…astronauts.

I love this set of encyclopedias, although I didn’t need to inherit them. I already took the set I grew up using when we sold my childhood home, and DID NOT need a second clogging up valuable shelf space in my San Francisco apartment. But it was either that or the dumpster, so lo and behold–my bedroom has not one but TWO complete yet different sets of encyclopedias. Like grandmother like mother like daughter. 

They say history repeats itself, but this isn’t wholly true. The pendulum of culture swings towards extremes with reliable regularity, but the faces and places and the events they unleash are always unique if not tainted by similar archetypes. We live in uncommon, unsettling times but I find solace in history knowing that we’ve been annihilated (in every sense of that word) before only to rebuild the world anew. Given the state of the world, I’m particularly interested to see how people assessed their uncommon time. It helps to know people before me also tried to make sense of nonsense, so I thought it would be a “fun” to start some #tbt posts in which I extract passages from Grandma’s World Books that resonate with the now. 

This is from an essay by James R. Reston called “Focus on The Nation.” I recommend listening to The Barr Brothers’ new album, Queens of the Breakers, while mulling this over.

“‘This is a day,” Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare John W. Gardner said in October, ‘of dissent and divisiveness. Everyone speaks with unbridled anger in behalf of his point of view or his party or his people. More and more, hostility and venom are the hallmarks of any conversation on the affairs of the nation.

There used to be only a few chronically angry people in our national life. Today all seem caught up in mutual recriminations–Negro and white, rich and poor, conservative and liberal, dove and hawk, Democrat and Republican, labor and management, North and South, young and old.’

What produced this mood of self questioning and self-doubt? Was it as bad as it sounded? And why did these symptoms of something like a nervous breakdown suddenly seem so much more serious in 1967? These were the questions of the year.”

Must-See: Rose Droll @ Amnesia TONIGHT

When you review music as part of your daily bread, you hear a lot of music. You can usually tell within the first 20 seconds whether or not you want to keep listening, and by the second song you get to know an artist.

Within one minute of listening to Rose Droll I thought, “This girl needs a recording contract.” I want to see what she can do with unlimited resources and support. Droll has an innate ability to write songs that aren’t overthought but are thoughtful. They are truthful, they are beautiful, they levitate with depth but are soft enough to experience on multiple levels–with investment, committing to the complexity of every note and lyric, or within distraction, as a soundtrack to your transitional life. This is music at its best–fresh and raw, with a unique viewpoint.

Droll has unleashed mucho music this year from a massive reservoir of unreleased tracks, and you should support both her and the amazing venue she’s gracing this evening, Amnesia. Then you can say you knew her when she played an intimate Mission District lynch pin after she’s climbed the ladder out of relative obscurity.

So sad to be missing her tonight. Don’t be like me; drop what you’re doing and go! Missed her? No problem. We can see her together at Cafe du Nord on October 15th. PHEW.