News & Notes: Mourning Lou Reed, taking the free out of freelancers, Portland Public Radio, more!

Lou Reed

Lou Reed

Until he died on Sunday from complications of a liver transplant in May, we weren’t thinking about the meaning of Lou Reed and celebrating his songs. Was he more important as a symbol of the lower East Side avant-garde or as a composer of spare, proto-punk songs? Music critic Robert Christgau, who was around from the beginning of Reed’s career, dissects the music side with characteristic depth and attitude.

“And in 2000, when he was 59, came his last full-fledged solo album, Ecstasy, which I’ve been playing since I heard Reed was failing on Friday. If his solo career produced a masterwork on the scale of whatever V[elvet]U[nderground] album you prefer, this de facto farewell is it. Companionable and perverse, enraptured and enraged, brought to the finish line by an 18-minute guitar freakout as world-historical as “Sister Ray,” it reconfigures the passions, resentments, affections, and misfiring neurons that have always driven him to fuse the lyrical and the abrasive, the spiritual and the sarcastic.”

And his personal approach might be the best one—ultimately, Reed’s music and life resonate with each of us in different ways and to different degrees. But if you know rock music at all or the flowering of strange buds on the lower East Side during the Sixties and Seventies, he meant something to you and that plain, pained voice is forever in your ears somewhere, waiting to testify.

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With some unknown trillions of words floating around the Internet (and honestly, I just made “trillions” up: quadrillions might be more accurate), it’s no wonder that particular sequences of these words, specifically those written by non-celebrity freelance writers, have lost a lot of value. Increasingly, writers are urged to give them away for free, and that, per Tim Kreider, writing in the New York Times, is a problem.

“This is partly a side effect of our information economy, in which “paying for things” is a quaint, discredited old 20th-century custom, like calling people after having sex with them. The first time I ever heard the word “content” used in its current context, I understood that all my artist friends and I — henceforth, “content providers” — were essentially extinct. This contemptuous coinage is predicated on the assumption that it’s the delivery system that matters, relegating what used to be called “art” — writing, music, film, photography, illustration — to the status of filler, stuff to stick between banner ads.”

Kreider doesn’t know how to change the culture to re-value writing, but he does have some advice for his colleagues: “Don’t give it away.”

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The Portland Radio Project is coming down the stretch of its Kickstarter campaign, and with LOTS of money to raise toward its $100,000 goal, now would be a good time to head over there. But only if you’re interested in supporting the idea of the best FM radio, a combination of great, wide-ranging popular music with engaged public affairs programs, just moved to the web. Started by former KINK journalist Rebecca Webb, the Radio Project is already up and running, so you can sample its intelligent mix of music for yourself. And it will continue even if the Kickstarter campaign fails to reach its goal. Webb and her cohorts have other fundraising ideas along with lots of programming innovations they’re eager to try.

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Yesterday, I rounded up the set of ArtsWatch dance reviews from the past month in one post (with a little extra commentary). That meant re-reading them, too, which was a fun and provocative exercise, all on its own. Anyway, if you are dance oriented in the least, I suggest some selective dipping into these little essays on Oregon Ballet Theatre, Maguy Marin, BodyVox, Northwest Dance Project, Lucy Guerin and more. It’s just possible that Portland is turning the corner into becoming an important regional dance center, a move that depends on having a large, knowledgeable and opinionated audience!

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Wendell Berry is a Kentucky farmer, poet, novelist and essayist who has been fighting for sustainable agriculture practices, a clean environment, and good local food longer than just about anyone.

He’s a favorite of Bill Moyers, and here’s a clip from an interview they conducted at Kentucky’s St. Catharine College, which celebrated his life and the 35th anniversary of “The Unsettling of America” with a two-day conference.

I’ll end by quoting from a poem by Berry, “The Country of Marriage.”

…More blessed in you than I know,
I possess nothing worthy to give you, nothing
not belittled by my saying that I possess it.
Even an hour of love is a moral predicament, a blessing
a man may be hard up to be worthy of. He can only
accept it, as a plant accepts from all the bounty of the light
enough to live, and then accepts the dark,
passing unencumbered back to the earth, as I
have fallen time and again from the great strength
of my desire, helpless, into your arms.

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