Big news out of Georgia yesterday: R.E.M. (or is it REM? Periods or no periods?) is breaking up. To touch on yesterday’s discussion, this seems like the sort of iconic news event for whatever the phenomenon is where you hear something like that and think, “Huh. I thought they were dead.”
I didn’t think R.E.M. was dead, but one of them had some health issues a while back — brain tumor, maybe? A quick glance at the indisputably authoritative Wikipedia says no, it was a brain aneurysm, it was Bill Berry, and he left in 1997, at which point it’s safe to say I was no longer paying attention. “Green” (1988) was the last album I bought, although I think “Automatic for the People” (1992) is lying around here somewhere. A guy I knew in the Fort had a one-night fling with Michael Stipe when they passed through Bloomington on tour.
And when I reread those two paragraphs, I am reminded why one should never tattoo one’s enthusiasms on one’s body. There was a time when I wore the grooves down on “Murmur” and “Reckoning” and the rest of the early catalog, and if the tattooing thing had had any traction then, I might have opted for a discreet “Radio Free Europe” inside an ankle. They were my favorite band in the last time in my life when I thought I needed to make such a designation. Such things are only evident in hindsight, and thank heavens for that, eh?
As (a very small) part of this enthusiasm, J.C. and Sam and I day-tripped to Athens when I visited them in Atlanta one year. We made the drive noticing all the parallels between Georgia’s Athens and Ohio’s, which is where J.C. and I became friends: It’s a college town about 90 miles east of a large city. The road there starts out a traditional interstate, then becomes a plain old four-lane. And once you get there, well, you’ve got your traditional college town, which immediately sets off the ache of nostalgia and familiarity in anyone who ever spent time in one. You want to stop the students on the street and tell them savor every moment and stop snoozing through your comp lit class and you’ll never live like this again (nor want to).
And then we visited the Uga graves — that’s pronounced “ugga” — and the Tree that Owns Itself and ate in one of those places every college town has, probably a vegetarian/locavore/Moosewood hippie trough, and visited a bookstore. Then, while near a courthouse-lawn cannon, Sam said she thought the guns still had some mobility to them, so I put my hands on the barrel of one and pushed down, and whaddaya know, it moved, and poured about a gallon of accumulated rainwater, no doubt mixed with discarded beer and frat-boy pee, onto my shoes.
Then we went home. Now that I think of it, I was probably already pretty much over R.E.M. by then.
The other big news out of Georgia yesterday was the execution of Troy Davis, of which you have probably heard enough to at least make up your mind about the morality of the act. I have rather studiously avoided death-penalty arguments over the years, although I have my opinions about it. In general, I think: Some form of it will always be with us, because Americans are bloodthirsty people. We have almost certainly executed innocent men and women, and we will almost certainly do it again, and maybe the people of Georgia did it last night. And I’m against it, not enough for the Full Prejean but enough that I admire those who make its opposition their life’s work.
My ambitions are more modest — to get people to stop using “electrocute” as a synonym for “shock.” No one recovers from an electrocution.
OK, so: Speaking of Helen Prejean, which makes me think of movies, it’s now September, which means the list of movies I must see is already growing. So far: “Contagion” and “Drive.” Anyone with fewer weekend commitments seen them yet? What am I missing? I was going to avoid “Contagion” on general Paltrow-ish principle, but it’s my understanding she dies early and the rest of the film is “Traffic”-esque, which I loved.
We haven’t discussed the post office here, have we? You’ve probably heard about the organization’s financial problems, which set off the usual clamor in the well-paid flying monkeys of the conservative chattering classes (Roy’s got you covered there). It so happens I needed to get something in hard copy to the other side of the country in a two-day time frame not long ago, and alas, it was a Sunday. (This was a parcel consisting of about 100 pages of paper, letter-size.) My first stop was FedEx, thinking that was my only alternative. No, they couldn’t absolutely, positively get it there overnight, but they could get it there by Tuesday, for … the lady put it on the scale … $54.
“Are you kidding me?” I gasped. Of course not. I rechecked my requirements, found I only needed it to be postmarked by Monday, so I went to the post office the next day, and Express Mailed it for $18. It got there Tuesday, same as the FedEx package would have, for $36 less. Just so you get a sense of what we’re in for, in a USPS-free world.
Everybody saw this yesterday, but just in case you didn’t: Elizabeth Warren, bringing the Awesome.
Alas, work beckons. And the lawn-service trucks just pulled up outside, which means soon I won’t be able to hear myself think, let alone think of jangle guitars. Happy Thursday.