josh blog

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.

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25 Sep '02 09:53:39 AM

Tonight I took the bus home from downtown Minneapolis after midnight. I had been out so I didn't have my headphones or anything with me. The bus was very empty and very quiet. I had some music in my head, though:

Stereolab, "Metronomic Underground" - because I put it on a mix I made for Katie's birthday, but I had it in my head anyway because it happened to be on an old mix I threw on this morning on my way to campus. Just hearing the bass line and imagining little variations on it and trying to see if I think that's what the actual variations are in the song (and also how long I could go before it seems like I had to vary it, and which ones seemed like the ones that I had to change the part to) was very entertaining and entrancing. It was harder to hear the vocal parts because I can't replicate the sounds they make (either because they're in French or too delicately nuanced a variety of nonsense).

Cee-Lo, "Big Ole Words (Damn)" - but only the part around "which is essential for provin' my people's potential", because I couldn't get away from it. I think I can sort of hear the fake synth-flute too.

Whitesnake, "Here I Go" - so just the other day I wrote to waking ear and commented how I would find it hard to do the same project, because the things that show up in my head every morning seem to be pretty limited to what I've heard recently. But that strangely that morning this Whitesnake song - which I hadn't heard in years - had popped in totally unwanted and for no apparent reason. Unfortunately it popped up again tonight while I was walking home from my bus. Interestingly, despite being so long, I still remember lots of it. Hearing the part leading up to the chorus in my head is surprisingly like just hearing it, as far as the big dramatic surge and effect on me are concerned.

24 Sep '02 07:01:10 PM

I always forget: I only mean that stuff about the first half of the record.

23 Sep '02 10:00:03 PM

Listening to Mouse on Mars, especially Niun Niggung, reminds me of the last English course I ever signed up for. It has sort of special meaning for this page and for me. The course was on American literature from 1945 to present, and it focused on postmodernism (maybe I should put scare quotes around that but I don't feel like it). On the first day, the professor read a poem and then lectured on the view that what's distinctive about postmodern art is the way it attempts to defamiliarize what's familiar to us. I only went to that one day, because although the topic sort of interested me, it sounded like the course wouldn't be rigorous enough, wouldn't press the questions that always seemed to come up in literature courses, but that never got enough attention. I went and dropped the course and signed up for two philosophy courses, one on philosophy of mind and one on twentieth century continental philosophy. The first two days of the latter were so good that I went and changed my second major to philosophy instead of English.

I've never thought much at all about the idea I encountered that day, defamiliarization, though it certainly comes up in certain ways in all kinds of things that I do. But, as for Mouse on Mars: today they sounded to me like the paragon example of postmodernism as defamiliarization, defamiliarizing enormous chunks of all dance music. Paragon, not just because they're so thorough about it, but because it all sounds so natural and easy. That seems to me to be a strange thing to accomplish simultaneously.

And sound seems so plastic on the record.

23 Sep '02 06:18:17 AM

Oh looky.

23 Sep '02 05:43:00 AM

(What would it look like to apply these minoritarian / majoritarian distinctions to normatively applied genre words like "rock" or "indie" or "jazz"?)

23 Sep '02 05:37:15 AM

Phil with a story about learning from the Real Book.

23 Sep '02 03:36:54 AM

Claire Colebrook in Gilles Deleuze, p. 117:

The distinction between minorities and majorities (or between a molecular and molar politics) is therefore not one of numbers, but of types of quantity. A majoritarian identity has established its extended unit of measure -- its notion of a proper or representative number. It makes no difference how man men or humans there are; we all still know what 'man' is. This is an extensive multiplicity. Adding more members does not alter what the group or multiplicity is. It is therefore possible for humanity to include or recognise women or blacks as 'equal'. It did so, not by changing its notion of the human (as rational, individual and goal-oriented), but by arguing that women and blacks could also be rational, democratic, economically-motivated and moral, 'just like us'.

A minoritarian politics does not have a pre-given (or transcendent) measure or norm for inclusion or identity. Each addition to the group changed what the group is. (When non-middle-class women were included in the women's movement feminism had to change its image of femininity as domestic, well-mannered, refined and 'lady-like' to include women who worked and laboured outside the home. When women of colour were included this led to a challenging of women being 'equal' to men, for many of the norms of masculinity were tied to white Western culture.) An intensive multiplicity cannot increase or decrease without changing its quality. You add more light to a colour and it becomes a different colour. This is an intensive multiplicity. You take one red thing out of a box of red things and you still have a box of red things. This is an extensive multiplicity. Following on from this, a minor literature does not write to express what it is (as though it had an identity to repreat or re-produce). A minor literature writes to produce what Deleuze and Guattari refer to as a a 'people to come'. Its identity is always provisional, in the process of creation.

23 Sep '02 12:14:12 AM

The Magnetic Fields, "It's a Crime"

Love-as-crime is closely related to love-as-ownership and love-as-trust (like in Abigail, Belle of Kilronan). Obviously anything that is like you giving me your heart, or me mine to you, can end up in crime once someone violates the trust involved in handing over their heart. But love-as-theft can happen before the trust is even established. Maybe it happens under the illusion or pretense of trust. Merritt suggests that kind of theft here - Dudley Klute sings about being fooled, or at least it seems so. "I shouldn't have bothered cause you're just like all the others, now I know and I won't do that again." And being fooled suggests being intentionally fooled; the girl who'll drive the Bentley away puts me in mind of a grifter or something. Yet Dudley sings: "I did't listen cause my brain was missing and I only found it today." And in comes love-is-mindless, and maybe its close cousin love-is-crazy. This is the part that interests me, because I'm not sure I've ever been fooled into giving over too much of my heart. (Well, maybe.) But love-is-mindless is reflected in the whole range of desire, from catching a glance of that one girl you'll never see walk by again; up to the the times where you're temporarily crazy with love which give away into something more normal (?) if not altogether sane as a relationship develops; and the flashes of uncontrollable emotion that send us rushing to mend a relationship or that we sometimes secretly believe are the parts to keep holding out for, the giddy, lighter-than-air moments. (Secretly, because maybe it's naive and immature - and hopeless - to hold out only for those. But we have to hold out.) So even if we've never had to fill out a police report, love-as-crime might say something to us about love-is-mindless.

Until I thought about all this while writing, I had a hard time seeing what this song did have to say about it. The chorus goes, "it's a crime to fall in love," but the rest of the lyrics sound more like other people are committing crimes, when they even seem to stick closely to the title theme at all (many of them seem not to). But the crime is falling in love, and that means the singer is committing the crime (or accessory to it maybe?) too - or perhaps only him. The singer is worried someone might - no, wants someone to - lock him away if he shows that he's been affected, shows that he's been stupid enough (he's had plenty of chances before, and they all turned out the same) to let his heart be broken again.

This throws me for a little loop, enough of one that I don't know how to respond. I said that love-is-mindless is reflected in the whole range of desire because I wanted to indicate (or prove maybe, in the something-to-prove sense) that I might still know something about it, in contrast to being fooled into love, which I can say I don't know about just because I haven't had enough experience (it's not that I think I'm just really canny or overly cautious, though I am the latter), even though I'd rather not say that because part of me suspects that it happens to people so often that it just makes me feel lonely and unloved (ha) to not have had someone try to fool me into love. Or rather, into thinking they loved me so that I would think (more sincerely) that I loved them, which is a funny thing to say "into love" about.

I think there are some tacit assumptions about all of this at play in how I've been listening to the song. "It's a crime" sounds sort of like something you'd say when you were hurt, like an accusation. It's easy to listen to this, I think, and gloss over the part about the accuser having fallen in love too. Even better, and going along with some of the things about being fooled or not thinking clearly in the lyrics, it's the kind of thing you can say even when you don't really think it's the other person's fault, at least not intentionally their fault. Or maliciously. Like manslaughter. Or better, involuntary manslaughter.

22 Sep '02 09:10:39 PM

A month ago I played Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space and had to take it off because "Broken Heart" made me feel too bad. Today I listened to it and felt a tiny bit of joy because of feeling sad at hearing it. I don't think I was experiencing catharsis, but something different. The joy wasn't at having gotten out the negative (?) emotions. It was more like, joy at the quality of the sadness, at my ability to experience it without losing it. I don't understand catharsis at all, though, so who knows.