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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13 Aug '03 11:28:48 AM

And I am well aware that the way I noted the instruments is standard. And yet.

13 Aug '03 11:26:27 AM

I wanted to mention Monk's late sixties quartet in a paper I'm writing, but as noted below I am avoiding, like, filler. But I acknowledge that I should probably include some. So I was proud to have written:

'This aphorism of Thelonious Monk's takes on special significance in light of his later recordings, especially those of the quartet with Charlie Rouse (ts), Larry Gales (b), and Ben Riley (d).'

Yet somehow I feel like anything less than a big dumb ugly sentence or paragraph full of context-setting information will be regarded as unacceptable. Mark called something I asked him about - a place where I was being snotty about someone else's argument - a 'mastery move', and now I see them all over the place. I think the coded instrument names are a kind of mastery move. Or at least an exclusionary move. There shouldn't be a problem with them - I can't write without excluding some people, especially when it comes down to contingent exclusions based on knowledge - but in this paper, at least as I've got it in my head so far, I'm going to be testing those limits much further. I'm allowed to act as if Kraftwerk is common knowledge, right? And a million jazz records? And 'NY State of Mind'? All in the same paper? I know how footnotes should work and how they can be abused, but I hate footnotes. And anyway they would be cheap.

My constant excuse to myself - pre-emptive excuse in response to my pre-emptive mental failure to live up to imaginary standards - in the past few months has been: I am writing about popular music here; if you aren't familiar with these canonical artifacts then that's your problem, not mine. Yes, I know that this is likely a serious attitude problem when 'you' is my professor.

I mean, seriously, it's like that phrase I quoted somewhere a couple of years ago, from an academic source: 'The Beatles, a popular British rock music group'.

13 Aug '03 11:07:28 AM

Mock indignation is so cute, isn't it?

13 Aug '03 11:04:33 AM

I intended to complain here about Columbia's apparent reluctance to profit off of the repackaging of old material to a new generation of listeners, namely me, since I have been able to find very few reissues (and remasters) of Monk's sixties recordings since I discovered a few years ago that I like them better than his earlier recordings for Riverside. I was under the impression - no, I had the true, justified belief - that this was because they were just not reissuing them for some dumb reason to do with profit margins. Until about a year ago that was probably partly it, but last September they reissued two studio albums and a live set. And this month, or rather 'this month' in the special release-date language, they're reissuing four more. Aside from the fact that I'm utterly destitute and in the middle of a massive music purge that if I were more disciplined would not be immediately rendered moot by my rapid acquisition of new records I will never play, this should make me very happy. I can't stress enough how much more I like Straight, No Chaser than any of the fifteen discs of the Riverside box. That might even be true of the It Club and Jazz Workshop live sets, sound issues aside. I get more continuous pleasure out of them, at least, though the Riverside recordings are more interesting for what I'll dumbly call 'historical' reasons. (Hearing Monk play Ellington for a whole album, or Monk play standards for a whole album, or Monk play with Coltrane, or Monk practicing 'Round Midnight' alone in the studio for twenty minutes, or Monk with a big band, or plenty more, are all 'historically' fascinating and certainly not unpleasurable just because I have gotten stuck using a stupid word like 'historical'.) But. The three reissues from last year have been out over a year! And despite my ceaseless record store patronage I haven't seen any of them, in any store, for the entire year. Even though I don't really think I care about this that much - I will buy and love these records in due time, I'm sure - the fact that it bothers me enough for me to notice makes me somewhat unhappy. Or irritated. Tonight I am a free-music anti-copyright crypto-anarchist.

13 Aug '03 10:14:58 AM

'all really new ideas go through three stages - the joke, the threat, and the obvious'.

12 Aug '03 08:43:09 AM

A biography of Heinrich von Kleist, favorite of Deleuze and Guattari, especially in plateau twelve, '1227: Treatise on Nomadology - The War Machine'.

11 Aug '03 10:23:43 AM

I truly dislike these moments when an as yet unvisited (but planned) part of something I'm writing rushes up at me, like the edge of a cliff, and it's nothing like my map said it would be, and I can't see how to get back on the trail other than to go back home and draw a new map. Which is not an option.

10 Aug '03 12:32:46 PM

I want to write more but I fear it would mean my ruin.

10 Aug '03 12:26:56 PM

One problem among many I've been tangled up in this summer is the long-standing one, getting myself to write. Or, rendering myself able to write. Or, uh, writing. Obviously I could use some of this rendering on this page, but it's much more urgent that I write papers for my exam next month.

One piece of advice I've found particularly helpful came from Mark, who said that answering this question is often fruitful: 'why is this making me write so badly?'. One answer (there are many) at the time (and most of the time, really) was: because it makes me think I have to write in a certain way to respond to it or write about it, 'it' being James Edwards' book Ethics Without Philosophy. The problem extends to most philosophy that I read in my classes because stylistically, and formally, it's all pretty much similar, and calls forth the primal essay-writing guidelines that were imprinted on me at a young age (but which I never even fucking had to use, so why is this a problem, god dammit?!) - and then organization and clarity and robot-dumb hand-holding and fill phrases like 'it is obvious' and 'later I will show' quickly overwhelm my ability to express my thoughts. This was never a problem for me in the past because I just wrote down clear, reasonable, interesting arguments, and teachers are pushovers for those, especially next to some undergraduate writing. But the arguments got harder, and my inclinations became more cussed, and it stopped coming easily. Worse, somehow I developed my own personal style further while simultaneously becoming more aware of, and more anxious about conforming to, 'the style that papers are written in'. So, the answer to Mark's question is often for me that my subject matter and my venue make me believe that I am locked into a certain style of writing that I then resist with every resource I have available, the most deadly of which are perfectionism and aestheticism ('I can't write it down until I know exactly what I want to say'; 'I can't write it like this, it's correct but it's totally dreadful'). And one thing I've done to solve this problem is simply to write my papers exactly in the style ('the'?) of my entries here, which is to say, however the fuck I want, and with lots of commas, colons, dashes, lists, precariously adjoined appositive phrases and clauses, disregard for ignorance (which at its extreme is: I know this and you don't, therefore you are ignorant, go look it up if it's so fucking important to you), discomfort and avoision ('foilage') of formal trappings and integrated quoting (which often thus means no quotes at all for these papers), and uh all the rest of you know my stuff. Only without superfluous references ('avoision') that will confuse or irritate or please my readers, a certain level of uh real world speech plasticity to the uh writing ('uh'), and uh that's about all I've got, right now. Oh, and since these papers are so much longer than blog entries, there is some opposition generated merely by the fact of my having to construct longer chains of thought. I have had some success at dealing with that by simply writing outlines and then writing blog entries for the parts of the outline - and not writing the next one until I can see how to write it without any of that annoying connective information that isn't just implied by the forward motion of the content of the writing.

Another important response to this same problem: I sit and try to write to the point of a section of the paper, but off of the top of my head - which is how I write blog entries, on the spot, no notes, no preparation (for the most part) except for thinking and living. Various amounts of on-the-spot editing are involved but most often that just means that if I am trying to write something that I can't get to come out the right way, I'll just give up rather than keeping it to rework later. But that kind of approach is utterly foreign to the recent paper-writing me, with notes, outlines, books spread out everywhere. So I am combatting it head-on. I don't know why I never thought of this before. Somewhere the need for precision and exactness got me scared.

This has all been pretty successful, relative to my utter lack of accomplishment for the past two years. But only on two papers. A third as yet unstarted (except for thinking, always except for thinking) paper is going to give me more trouble, because I have to have to have to make it a more rigidly normative paper, to offset the other two (one of which has some unconventional and somewhat inchoate material in it, but a strong central argument; the other of which is weird and evasive, thank you very much Gilles fucking Deleuze, unmentionable spiritual ancestor to said paper) so that I can pass this exam on my first try and get my MA and not have to fucking worry about it any more. Word.

Also, there is no hip-hop slang.

Or one-sentence paragraphs.