Thursday, July 30, 2009

John Peel and Redwoods

Just back from vacation in Bay area, California. Those redwood forests are wonderlands to me. To think the place was once filled with such trees. How could we let loggers cut them all down .... I digress.

Plenty to write about on the conference scene. With vacations and work I have had to follow The ESRI business and GeoWeb conferences via twitter and blogs. Still I'll gather peoples feedback in my next post and add some comment.

With vacation thoughts still in mind. I'm a big music fan. Mostly my interest is in new bands, from all genres. One of my heroes (if I can use such a nonsense term) was John Peel. A unique radio DJ and person. His shows were broadcast on BBC radio 1 from his home near Ipswich in England. Often he would begin his introduction to "the new song by Extreme Noise Terror", by describing the antics of the wasps outside his window. His two hour show was one of life's pleasures. Like many I miss his wit and observations (he passed away while on vacation in Peru in 2004). Anyway, a book of his music reviews was released at the end of last year. There is one review of the book on Amazon by Richard Fudge, I felt it needed reprinting. Not only for how beautifully it is written but its content:

As far as I can tell, John Peel was a fine human being and as avid and influential a music fan as ever existed. This collection of columns published in various British magazines from the 1970s till his death in 2004 shows what an amazingly good writer he was too. I haven't enjoyed a music book this much in I don't know how long--chiefly because his wry sense of humor and nimble wordcraft are hilarious. As I read the book, I would share occasional columns with my wife--and there were times when we laughed so hard we gasped for breath.
As a DJ, Peel was eager to share any music that he found interesting or exciting, and as a result listeners to his radio show could potentially hear anything from anywhere by anybody. There are elements of the unusual in the book, but for the most part Peel deals with mainstream music and culture (certainly mainstream if you're an indie or World music fan) and this book works somewhat as a one-man overview of music from the last half of the 20th century. Having said that, Peel is indelibly British and his columns are therefore packed with references to British life and culture; as an ex-pat I enjoyed this greatly, but someone not so acquainted with UK life will certainly feel left out at times. Don't let this scare you away. Peel's reflections on the musicians who dazzled him (and his derision of the performers and music-industry types who had little going on but a well-marketed pose) are fascinating and insightful, and they resonate with the enthusiasm that was so much of Peel's radio demeanor.
Music writing can too often be pompously self-important. Peel, always self-effacing, is serious, intelligent, articulate, analytical, informed, and so on--but he steers well clear of the pompous.
What is also gratifying about Peel's outlook on life is his appreciation of the decency of human kindness, and his frequently practiced understanding that a few beers can greatly enhance the human experience. I imagine he would have been a great guy to hang out with--and reading this book was a good deal like hanging out with a great guy.

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