Ordinary language is all right.
One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.
I wonder just how surrounded by these promises we might find ourselves if we were able to locate them in creations less formally elaborated than the string quartet, the play, the painting; Ted Cohen, for example, would probably let in jokes and metaphors, having found no great reason not to. These are made of language; it's a small step from there to the possibility of hearing the promise whenever someone opens her mouth.
'Does a philosopher give invitations to a lecture? Isn't it that, just as the sun attracts nutriment to itself, so he attracts those who will be benefited? What physician issues invitations for someone to be cured by him?'
I have some kind of standard for talking about myself, and experiences I have had; often it registers as feeling held back from writing or talking, unless I feel authoritative enough. It helps to have a sense of completeness or wholeness or incisiveness about what I want to say.
This standard is for 'my' experiences but it's what I use when talking about my experiences of things, namely, other people's artworks. But then when I want to say the same sorts of things about other people that I might say about artworks, that authoritative feeling never comes. The words I want to use feel exposed.
My new apartment is in Frogtown, just a short (kind of) walk from downtown Saint Paul. I have determined to spend more time downtown and figure it out. It needs figuring out.
I wrote something long and snide about the particular way in which the downtown area is dead after business hours, but I decided that it was too snide and probably too ignorant, and so I deleted it.
One thing I saw tonight was this memorial to Roy Wilkins, the civil rights leader. As with any piece of public memorial art these days, particularly one that is not plainly a representation of a famous or non-famous person, or a big rock with dead people's names on it, it has a big sign explaining some of its symbolic features. But, for once, I was surprised. The sign explains that the outer walls of the memorial contain quotations from Wilkins' speeches and writings; and they do, but I didn't see the point of inscribing them inside the little metal doors (you can see two in the picture I linked to, inset slightly down from the top of the wall). I tried one and found it was designed to swing closed again on its own, due to its weight. Since I didn't expect this it had closed before I actually read the quotation inside. You have to work to find out what's inside, I thought. When I walked away I thought: oh. You have to work to know what's inside.
Every time I try to sift through my more than five years (?!) of archives, thinking that it's about time I do something helpful for my potential reader, I eventually come to a halt in horror at the natural decline in quality (so I say) of what I have written, as it spoils. And then I do nothing helpful for my potential reader. There should be indicies! FAQs! Lists of the closest thing I can offer to record reviews! Tonight, at least, I've wondered whether it might not be easier if I were to think about it in terms of genre, because at least I can agree when I put it to myself that I tend now to construct posts in a handful of identifiable types. So:
1. The exploratory redaction (which, if it were easier for anyone else to understand, would probably come out more like the discursive essay of encounter or expertise that is more common on academic and amateur intellectual blogs): e.g., these notes on Robert Creeley, or this post on Haruki Murakami, this one about William Carlos Williams (and its longer predecessor), a burst of enthusiasm for Stevie Wonder, or my first listen to Derek Bailey's 'Ballads'.
3. The single, 'long', critical remark on music or sometimes something else (where it's usually about one thing, usually a song, and mostly out of a well-internalized intellectual conscience I try to base whatever I say that's interpretive on concrete details of the sound of the song; and, uh, somehow a lot of them seem to end up being about, like, feelings and stuff): e.g. 'Me and Mia', i (er, unless that's an exploratory redaction too), Kesto, Buffy recognizes her sister, love theme from 'Top Gun', a drunken post on 'Fulfillingness' First Finale', or some sort of manifesto.
4. The single, usually shorter, critical remark on music (where 'critical' usually means 'arguing with something some critic said about some record'): like 'I Got a Story to Tell', '99 Problems' (maybe), 'Underneath It All' (where I'm responding to myself, I guess), the 'guitar' songs on '69 Love Songs', or The Blueprint 2.
6. Intellectually stirring quotations (that in some obscure way I think have something to do with good ways to do criticism or philosophy, usually in opposition to an ambiguously characterized BAD WAY): e.g. Mikhail Bakhtin from 'Problems of Doestoevsky's Poetics' (and right below, Adorno from 'Minima Moralia'), a little Karl Jaspers, some jokey Wittgenstein, Nietzsche on little people, or Cavell on professionalism and philosophical practice. There are so many of these that my ''' key may soon break.
7. References in some form to real actual life, so far as that goes: e.g. about my great hair, about learning, about irrepressible tendencies, about security blankets, or about this one time when I danced.
8. A group of things (like a sequence of remarks on songs, only, not): e.g. Futurama and Kill Bill. There are more, I suppose. Maybe this kind is really #3 or #4.
9. Criticism of criticism, or philosophical remarks on criticism: e.g. a question about diminishing returns (I suppose), frustration, ethics and aesthetics and people, interest, a more personal note that remains relevant to method, 'lacked a firm funk aesthetic', and a lot more that are less appealing as I sift through them.
11. One-liners of various themes: e.g. Beanie Sigel, Angel and taste, Dr. Dre is old, Mozart: dead, and more, fun, or bums, drifters, Dylan, Merritt. This one probably ranges across a lot of the categories. But has more jokes.
12. Reflexive complaints and notes: e.g. one of many notes on difficulty with writing, another one, a note on disadvantages of my 'method', or another such note. This category sometimes fuses with #9.
Huh. That was a lot more satisfying than usual. And I've only hopped back to November of 2002.
I sure hope none of these links are fucked up; my post editor is broken.
I've probably gotten more semi-public (think of Christgau's term 'semi-popular') recognition than I actually think I deserve for writing this blog, just because friends and friendly admirers with more cultural capital than I have (or, er, with paid work as writers) keep referring to the blog. I have noticed a tendency for it to be mentioned last, as in Geeta's story on academic bloggers (with an appendix, how academic, har); this does not surprise me as I keep quite unhelpfully responding to friendly questions with things that are hard to fit into roundup articles. Below I have pasted what I originally made up to send to Geeta.
reflection is supposed to have something dignifying and upbuilding about it. i don't usually feel that way about academic work or music criticism; they pass over the person who is supposed to be built up and then insist that reflection be carried out in forms of writing that keep the person from getting back in. i write my blog because i wish that things were different, and i'm thinking about how to make them that way.
i'm usually frustrated by how this works out, probably because my goals are so impossible.
i don't read or look at many so-called academic blogs. they can be worthwhile, but the most worthwhile thing i see about them as such, the capacity they have for bringing academic discussion out into the public sphere, is only so redeeming. when a blog seems to me something like a more casual, self-published academic journal, i'm less interested in it. i'm more attracted to blogs written by non- academic people who nonetheless want to think in public, where they might be lucky enough to find other people to think with. i also find that many blogs written by people who are otherwise paid to write come off like annexes, or afterthoughts. i wish it were possible - it's not, always, since it's so hard to write seriously without being paid for it - to have all their thoughts on their blogs, and not just the afterthoughts.
a great example of the 'amateur' intellectual blog is ray davis' pseudopodium. i also like to read the language poet ron silliman's blog. i think that at the moment one of the few blogs i read regularly that's actually by an academic (grad student) is franklin bruno's, but then apart from some occasional posts about, say, analytic philosophy, it's hardly 'academic' in the sense i used above.
This subject trips me up every time I want to address it. There is always so much more to be said, because the level of ignorance of self is so great.
Why do I have to wait until I am sixty to hear Biggie on one of these stations?
The most common response I've heard and read to this line of complaint - 'why can't you be happy with what we've got' (so far, they imply disingenuously, as if once the station got on its feet or established its identity it would start bumping 'To Live and Die in L.A.'; or better: what we've got in this terribly embattled state we're in, suggesting they're doing the best they can do) - quietly overlooks just how perniciously exclusive that 'we' is. If we are getting some culture, finally, and we are happy and excited, then why don't you just stop your useless complaining, they seem to be saying. It's funny: there is a question in the radio station's FAQ that underscores just how selfish and individualist its approach is (is forced to be, perhaps): 'I do not like this new thing. I only want to support the other MPR station. Are you using my dollars for this thing?' (No, they assure the talk radio and classical radio listeners.)
Do not retread the seemingly endless sequence of slights and insults to black culture and its creators and performers by acting as if you're getting culture here, on this radio station. If it were deserving of the name, it would not be so transparently selfish, while claiming more for itself.