All posts by John Burdick

Stalled on page zero

Stalled on page zero

Maybe it is not a monolithic novel within us after all – one big thing collected at the end with the help of a ghostwriter – but something more like a blog or a feed or a drip, a steady tapping of the active narrative and interpretive instincts, an accretion of miniatures that one hopes add up.

A father losing his mind

A father losing his mind

We had some good times, some moments of levity and sudden clarity and connection, after days or weeks of silence. One time, out of a literal nowhere that none of us understands just yet, he said, “John, you don’t know what it’s like to have had a half-way decent mind and then lose it.” Then another week of silence.

Stringent modernism

Stringent modernism

Like most festival-orchestra summer programs, Music in the Mountains did aim to please, when required to. On or near the fourth of July, a concert program might feature some popular works of Copland with solemn live narration by Estelle Parsons. And the crowd would repair to the Tripping Fields for fireworks.

Wonderful world of podcasting

Wonderful world of podcasting

Of course it occurs to me that the leisurely pace, the personable rhythm of podcasts — coupled with great, well-researched content and suggestive audio production — is for many listeners exactly the point. Podcasts must transport the mind somehow but leave the eyes to the business of driving to D.C. on 95 or cleaning the toilet.  And they must eat time.

The crowd is the show

The crowd is the show

It is a truth universally acknowledged that young bands enjoy the enormous advantage of the spontaneous, easily mobilized fan base. In listening-room culture, an older crowd shows the kids the finer points of how this music-sent, music-received thing really works. I wonder if our confidence in each other is irreparably shaken. I wonder if listening rooms — and the Hudson Valley was rich in them — are coming back.

Mattress shopping

Mattress shopping

You try to carry the nervous system imprint from one unit to the next. You try to extrapolate eight hours, a third of your life spent pouring dreams, airs, and fevers into a quilted top platform with which you will eventually have as much in common, genetically, as your children. Everything seems to ride on this choice.

Life in the meat world

Life in the meat world

A little virus with a few unfortunate mutations in its recent past has laid bare the collectivism-whether-you-want-it-or-not that is more or less the contract of life in the meat world, the terms, the deal. “Life,” as the wild Scottish psychologist R.D. Laing said, “is a sexually transmitted disease.” “

The maverick teacher

The maverick teacher

The fiery, life-of-the-mind, maverick teacher is an American archetype: the mercurial, off-script renegade in perpetual hot water with the administration, flouting curricula, crossing lines of propriety, working blue, going taboo, always fired up, often fired.

Holding on to his suffering

Holding on to his suffering

The poetry worked, just as well as if it had all been Philip Larkin-grade. It helped my friend realize that he felt this way because he liked to. That’s a pretty profound discovery, no matter how much innocent ink is spilled. We will give up anything but our suffering, as Gurdjieff, I think, famously said.