J.G. Ballard’s Short Stories
I just started digging into Ballard's "The Complete Short Stories: Volume 1" and it's a treat. In his opening author's note, he writes "short stories are the loose change in the treasury of fiction, easily ignored beside the wealth of novels available, an over-valued currency that often turns out to be counterfeit. At its best, in Borges, Ray Bradbury and Edgar Allan Poe, the short story is coined from precious metal, a glint of gold that will glow for ever in the deep purse of your imagination." And Ballard's short stories do not disappoint, treating — as his legendary skill — the "real future" that he sees approaching rather than the distant futures of science fiction. His '20-minutes-in-the-future' dystopian cityscapes are terrifying reminders of where we are headed, and his style is an elegant way to be scared shitless into thinking about what we're doing to our world.
If studies are to be trusted, anxiety is plaguing more people than ever before. We are taking in more information and more imagery than ever before, and much of it is negative and confrontational. So if you’re looking for some respite from your newsfeeds and whatever metropolis you happen to live in, have A Soft Murmur playing into your ears. My favorite combination is birdsong and Tibetan prayer bowls. There is an evolutionary theory that states that birds have been comforting to humans for millennia, because when birds are singing it means they’re in the trees and that no danger is approaching. Much like sailors found respite in the sight of swallows as they indicated the coast was near, playing this in a crowded city might be just the soothing presence you need.
Kendrick Lamar at The Grammys
The Grammys are often a great way to understand what the Zeitgest was three years ago. What I’m saying is, they aren’t always terribly relevant. And while Kendrick Lamar was indeed already big news three years ago, his performance at this year’s Grammys was electrifying and hyper-relevant, both thematically and artistically. It’s not that there hasn’t always been an array of compelling black voices demanding more recognition for decades now, but those voices do seem to be coalescing in the (white?) mainstream in a way that hasn’t happened in years. Hopefully this leads to changes, both cultural and systemic.