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Avoiding Sleepwalking Through History

July 27, 2009

I’m borrowing the title for this post from Haynes Johnson’s Sleepwalking Through History, a powerful indictment of Ronald Reagan and the “ethical wasteland of the eighties,” focusing on the “cynicism and inattention of the American People.”  In light too many current events I can’t help but hope our current president and political climate won’t allow for the public to avoid confronting and dealing with challenging issues.  First of all, in terms of race, I’ve never felt we entered a “post-racial” society (whatever that means) with the election of President Obama.  There are too may important questions to still ask about race.  Hua Hsu’s article from the Atlantic is one touchstone, and with the recent arrest of Henry Louis Gates there is another one.  I liked reading what Stanley Fish had to say about it, as is always true, and it has me hopefull that our country will soon all sit down for a beer and genuine dialogue about the state of race in our country.  Far too much is assumed to be changed, and far too many problems still exist.  It’s not illegal to yell at a police officer, as Adam Winkler points out in the Huffington Post, and I’m glad Obama didn’t fully back down from his voicing of frustration with the situation.  I for one will be staying closely tuned in to the developments, and am hoping above all it doesn’t get lost as a story-of-the-week.   The same goes for the number of times I’ve heard Harry Truman’s name kicked around in the health care debates, and how many of the current issues being proposed go all the way back to his administration, if not earlier. 

On an unrelated note, as usual, I must take a moment to note the loss of Atomic Records in Milwaukee.  For many years, for all of my years, I have made a visit to the local independent record store a part of my visit to any city.  Just ask my parents, who waited for me outside of many fantastic stores over the years in cities from DC to Toronto to San Francisco.  When I first visited Milwaukee, to see the Replacements play at UWM, a stop at Atomic was an essential part of the day, getting the buzz on what is now seen as an historic concert.  But now, like so many indie stores I can’t even begin to name, including the Instide Track, where I was lucky enough to once work, it is in the history books.  I found this out by visiting what might be the last of the great indie stores in Milwaukee, RushMor records.  I was in town to see Sonic Youth (outstanding, yet again – was it my 25th time seeing them?  I’m pretty sure it was) and found my way to this gem of a store.  The owner and I chatted for a while about the lost art of browsing record stores – how great it is to flip through a “new releases” bin, ask what is playing over the speakers in the store, get a ton of that fantastic record store attitude (see Jack Black in High Fidelity), and walk out with records you never knew existed, let alone intended to buy when you first entered.  Will music ever be the wame way?  There is so much available and so many sources to hear it (and steal it, as way too  many do), but I still miss being able to pick it up or see the poster or, best of all, get a personal recommendation from someone passionate about the music.  That’s how I first heard the Beastie Boys – and might I add how sad I am to hear about MCA being diagnosed with a cancerous tumor and the cancellation of their Lollalapooza (and other) shows – strength to you, Mr. Yauch!  Now I have to deal with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs instead?  As Rene Descartes said to the bartender just before he disappeared forever, “I think not.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. July 27, 2009 2:39 am

    I think the whole matter was naively and poorly handled on the part of the president and Gates.

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