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Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Things They Carried (1990) by Tim O'Brien

Book Review
The Things They Carried (1990)
 by Tim O'Brien

  The Things They Carried is like the real-life version of the fictional Vietname memoir/work of fiction that forms the basis of the film Tropic Thunder.  That fictional book was also called Tropic Thunder.  The Things They Carried is named after one of the interlinked short stroies about the author's experience fighting in Vietnam- the story describes the items carried by the soldiers during the tour of duty in Vietnam.  Poetic, it is not.  Lyrical, perhaps- but not poetic. Readers looking for cutting edge prose technique are likely to be disappointed. Instead, you get literal stories about phrases non-combatants may have thought to be metaphorical.

  One story concerns the platoon taking mortar fire in a literal shit field- so called because local villagers used it for the deposit of their feces over a lengthy period of time.   I would say that much of The Things They Carried is cliche, but of course, that is only because lesser lights have so often covered the same ground, particularly Hollywood, which had codified the Vietnam experience with it's code of mud, blood and incomprehensible combat objective.  All that is here in purest form, making it a must for Vietnam war buffs and fans of combat literature.

Arroyo Seco Weekend: Day 1

Show Review
Arroyo Seco Weekend: Day 1
Gold Course next to the Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA.

  Yesterday I went to Day 1 of the new Arroyo Seco Weekend, a new festival- pitched somewhere in the Venn Diagram between Desert Trip, Coachella, Stage Coach and a food and drink fair.  Arroyo Seco Weekend raises the question, "Have we reached the point of a post-music music festival?"  The answer I think, for now, is no, but Arroyo Seco Weekend has raised the issue for resolution at a later date.

    The first argument AGAINST Arroyo Seco Weekend being the first example of a post-music music festival was the obvious monster draw of the night one headliner: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  Like, I suppose, every human being living in the United States between the late 1970's and today, I like me some Tom Petty radio hits.  Not so much into the deep cuts, but man oh man his hits, and I've never been to one of his infrequent tour dates (Petty's Tour Archives on his website look like the IMDB page of Daniel Day Lewis:  2008. 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014...)  So while I wouldn't say I exactly jumped at the opportunity to attend, I wasn't hard to convince.   Mostly, my reluctance had to do with the location.  The only Rose Bowl area event I've been to was an exhibition match between Manchester United and the LA Galaxy. That event drew something like 80,000 people, whereas I was told that the capacity for Arroyo Seco Weekend was 25,000.

   As it turns out, logistical concerns were unwarranted.  I arrived late in the day, parked with ease, and walked 10 minutes down, essentially, the length of a golf course.  No line at the front entrance.  The interior layout was scaled down festival- closer to a Renaissance Fair size then Coachella.  Three stage- two major stages and one smaller tent. A huge difference maker between this and other Goldenvoice festivals was the amount and variety of food options.  It was entirely possible to just eat and drink something different every forty five minutes for the entire time you were there, albeit one had to be able to wait in lines between stops.

  The crowd was old to very old- the only demographic keeping the crowd from simply being "very old" was the number of young children- down to babies in strollers, there with parents. Long before Tom Petty took the stage, it was clear, to me, that Goldenvoice is on to something hugely lucrative, and it perhaps a formula that Live Nation, their major rival, simply will not be able to match.  It's hard to imagine the corporate, oxen-like Live Nation being nimble enough to pull off an analogous festival.

  Certianly, it would be fair to say that Arroyo Seco Weekend is pitched towards an older, "bougey" crowd, but it's not fair to say that it is anymore expensive than Coachella.  There was a clear absence of the elements that make Coachella today an exasperating experience for anyone above the age of 25: No EDM, no hip hop and no artist edgier than Broken Social Scene.   There was a heavy jazz/soul/funk vibe, with a noted New Orleans flavor (Preservation Hall Jazz Band and The Meters were two featured artists.

  If anything, I was surprised at just how democratic Arroyo Seco Weekend turned out to be- I was expecting tiers and tiers of access, exclusive seated dining experiences,etc.  Instead, VIP was just a roped off area at the side of the two main stages, a la Coachella in it's earliest days.  The Artist Access area was located on the Third Floor of the Donahue Pavilion in the Rose Bowl.   That was a needed oasis- as it moved toward Tom Petty's set time, the crowd around the main stage was close to unbearable.  A notable visual from this time period was people trying to fill up their inflatable sofa's by whipping them in crowded areas.

  Can I be the first to recommend Margo Price for Arroyo Seco Weekend next year?  I think she'd be a great fit!

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