Day Off Armchair Reading

Leafing through Rolling Stone issue 1079 yesterday, I came across a quote from Billie Joe Armstrong. For Diner patrons unaware, he’s the lead singer/songwriter for the newly-critically acclaimed rock band Green Day. The cover story is about how they’ve grown from a power punk band to culturally relevant ideologues who happen to play aggressive music. Much of the interview was about where they came from and how they came to create their newest release (which, IMHO, is very, very good).

One story involved the band going to buy vinyl albums to play while they were on recording breaks and there was a wide variety in their purchases: Husker Du, the Replacements, the Kinks, the Plimsouls, the Doors, Meat Loaf, et al.

When asked about the purchases, Armstrong simply said:

“Everyone’s gotta get their inspiration from somewhere.”

Another piece was on Harvard professor Cornel West. He’s come from the streets, was involved with the Black Panthers in the ’60’s, an influence in The Matrix movies and is widely considered one of the most preeminent intellectuals of our day…while still maintaining an approachable and engaging persona. He was asked by Obama to do some campaigning for him during the election process and agreed to do so only on the condition that he could “be Obama’s number one critic the day after the inauguration.” Trust me, from the tone of the article, he’s held up his end of the bargain. (“Obama’s a strategist, and I’m suspicious of strategists. It’s the quest for truth vs. the quest for power.”)

Anyway, along with the “inspiration” theme, he was talking about those that influenced his life, everyone from his mom to musicians to God (he professes to be a Christian) to Martin Luther King to Einstein, etc., and says this:

“I’m a bluesman in the life of the mind, a jazzman in the world of ideas…

[The democracy I dream of must be] Poetic. And by poetic I don’t mean a person who writes verses. I mean those who exercise imagination and get us out of our egocentric predicament! Give us a sense of awe and wonder! So we become concerned about something outside our little bubbles, our own little slices of reality, our own little professional managerial spots, our own little iron cages. There’s a lot of material toys in those cages. But you’re still in prison. And poets allow us to shatter those bars.”

And, for whatever reason, that little phrase inspired all sorts of thoughts and ideas and comparisons and contrasts and lists. Kinda made me want to enroll in Harvard and major in Cornel West. Like Mr. Armstrong says, we all get inspiration from somewhere, right?

Coffee-chat question of the day: Where do you get your inspiration from?