Who You Callin’ Eccentric?

I really like Joseph Bottum (Jody to his friends), the literary editor of the Weekly Standard back at its launch, author of a terrific book (An Anxious Age) and nowadays head of the CLASSICS Institute at Dakota State University in his home state of South Dakota. (Which makes him some kind of 8th cousin of Hinderaker, doesn’t it?) He’s quite the polymath as well as an extraordinary dinner host, as I recall from one especially memorable multi-course, multi-wine dinner at his home in Washington in the late 1990s, which wasn’t complete until we had sampled the authentic, high-test absinthe that he had managed to procure and smuggle past Bill Bennett. Memory fades a bit at this point, but I think I started burbling something about how absinthe makes the heart grow fondue.

Jody recently turned up at Hillsdale College to deliver a terrific lecture on the popular music of the 1960s. As usual, it is a Jody tour de force. It’s 55 minutes long including the questions and answers, which means it should only be viewed by Scott Johnson while he’s looking over the genealogical connections between Bottum and Hinderaker. However, around the 26:40 mark, Jody lets fly with: “In much the same camp as Steven Hayward,  and his eccentric liking of progressive rock, from Procol Harem to Pink Floyd.”

Now, first of all, no: he taking total license here for alliterative purposes. Procol Harum and Pink Floyd are both second-rank prog rockers. I never liked them much at the time, and less so today. Jody should have said, “from Genesis to Gentle Giant.” That would have worked just as well for his alliterative affectation, and also for accuracy. (And I also must dispute his characterization of prog rock as “heavy metal gone to college.”)

But second, and more to the point: JODY BOTTUM IS CALLING SOMEONE “ECCENTRIC”!?!? Black pots everywhere are turning in their kettled graves. Seriously: just check out the dude’s haircut. To be sure, I’m delighted to be called “eccentric,” but I think I’m actually a very feeble example of the specimen. Especially next to Jody. Anyone who knows Jody (and me) will know what I mean.

Jody continues: “Personally, the thought of listening to ‘In the Court of the Crimson King’ makes my eyes water.” Fair enough. #MeToo on some of that. A lot of prog rock hasn’t held up very well. (Though Hillsdale alum Jack Butler is going to be very cross with Jody about this slur of King Crimson.) But finally from Jody: “But more power to Steve Hayward if that’s what he likes.”

I like more power. So I’ll take it. But also challenge Jody to take on the next wave of my deplorable tastes: Grateful Dead, moe, Phish, Twiddle, String Cheese Incident. . . I could go on. But this is enough to appall Jody for another whole lecture. Enjoy:


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