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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28 Oct '04 07:45:50 AM

I'm not sure I ever adequately understood what 'My Michelle' was about, in detail, but I think it always bothered me that it was somehow 'bad' and featured my mom's name prominently.

28 Oct '04 07:44:15 AM

It would be interesting to speculate, I suppose, as to whether that casual remark equating 'realistic' overproduction with quote-marks holds up to the attractive response to the advocate of realism in sound recording, that all recording and accompanying production are in some way unrealistic - contrivances that do not simply provide a transparent (audio) window onto 'what actually happened'. Holds up, I mean, in the sense of being able to maintain the insinuation of campiness (which I hadn't really thought through beforehand).

28 Oct '04 07:37:42 AM

Often when I go back to a rock record that I once liked, say in college, or more likely, as an adolescent, the thing I now dislike the most is the drumming (considered separately from the drum production, which I almost invariably feel irritated by, whether it's a record with 80s-throwback airplane hangar drums or 90s 'real drums! see! real!' overproduction - cf. the remark of Sontag's, below, about camp seeing everything in quotes).

This was occasioned by my buying a copy of Appetite for Destruction on CD. (The first time around I owned it on tape.) It always feels so strange, being reminded of how committed to memory the records I used to listen to are. The present tense is appropriate, because they never really go away.

27 Oct '04 07:44:07 AM

I don't understand, at all, how one could always skip 'Mo Money, Mo Problems'. That song makes me happy to be alive. Sometimes I stop listening to the record just so I can hear that song over and over again.

26 Oct '04 08:48:50 AM

'Sincerity has no place in popular music, any more so than it does in cooking.'

Susan Sontag on camp:

10. Camp sees everything in quotation marks. It's not a lamp, but a "lamp"; not a woman, but a "woman." To perceive Camp in objects and persons is to understand Being-as-Playing-a-Role. It is the farthest extension, in sensibility, of the metaphor of life as theater.

42. One is drawn to Camp when one realizes that "sincerity" is not enough. Sincerity can be simple philistinism, intellectual narrowness.

43. The traditional means for going beyond straight seriousness - irony, satire - seem feeble today, inadequate to the culturally oversaturated medium in which contemporary sensibility is schooled. Camp introduces a new standard: artifice as an ideal, theatricality.

25 Oct '04 04:37:11 AM

'In modern times a great deal of nonsense is talked about masters and disciples, and about the inheritance of a master's teaching by favorite pupils, entitling them to pass the truth on to their adherents. Of course Zen should be imparted in this way, from heart to heart, and in the past it was really accomplished. Silence and humility reigned rather than profession and assertion. The one who received such a teaching kept the matter hidden even after twenty years. Not until another discovered through his own need that a real master was at hand was it learned that the teaching had been imparted, and even then the occasion arose quite naturally and the teaching made its way in its own right. Under no circumstance did the teacher even claim "I am the successor of So-and-so." Such a claim would prove quite the contrary.

The Zen master Mu-nan had only one successor. His name was Shoju. After Shoju had completed his study of Zen, Mu-nan called him into his room. "I am getting old," he said, "and as far as I know, Shoju, you are the only one who will carry on this teaching. Here is a book. It has been passed down from master to master for seven generations. I also have added many points according to my understanding. The book is very valuable, and I am giving it to you to represent your successorship."

"If the book is such an important thing, you had better keep it," Shoju replied. "I received your Zen without writing and am satisfied with it as it is."

"I know that," said Mu-nan. "Even so, this work has been carried from master to master for seven generations, so you may keep it as a symbol of having received the teaching. Here."

The two happened to be talking before a brazier. The instant Shoju felt the book in his hands he thrust it into the flaming coals. He had no lust for possessions.

Mu-nan, who had never been angry before, yelled: "What are you doing!"

Shoju shouted back: "What are you saying!"'

24 Oct '04 10:45:39 AM

Stereolab records never sound like they might even have a chance of being overwhelmed by technology now.

24 Oct '04 10:38:39 AM

Denn Bleiben ist nirgends.

24 Oct '04 10:27:49 AM

'His conscience? - It is easy to guess that the concept of "conscience" that we here encounter in its highest, almost astonishing, manifestation, has a long history and variety of forms behind it. To possess the right to stand security for oneself and to do so with pride, thus to possess also the right to affirm oneself - this, as has been said, is a ripe fruit, but also a late fruit: how long must this fruit have hung on the tree, unripe and sour! And for a much longer time nothing whatever was to be seen of any such fruit: no one could have promised its appearance, although everything in the tree was preparing for and growing toward it!

"How can one create a memory for the human animal? How can one impress something upon this partly obtuse, partly flighty mind, attuned only to the passing moment, in such a way that it will stay there?"

One can well believe that the answers and methods for solving this primeval problem were not precisely gentle; perhaps indeed there was nothing more fearful and uncanny in the whole prehistory of man than his mnemotechnics. "If something is to stay in the memory it must be burned in: only that which never ceases to hurt stays in the memory" - this is a main clause of the oldest (unhappily also the most enduring) psychology on earth. One might even say that wherever on earth solemnity, seriousness, mystery, and gloomy coloring still distinguish the life of man and a people, something of the terror that formerly attended all promises, pledges, and vows on earth is still effective: the past, the longest, deepest and sternest past, breathes upon us and rises up in us whenever we become "serious." Man could never do without blood, torture, and sacrifices when he felt the need to create a memory for himself; the most dreadful sacrifices and pledges (sacrifices of the first-born among them), the most repulsive mutilations (castration, for example), the cruelest rites of all the religous cults (and all religions are at the deepest level systems of cruelties) - all this has its origin in the instinct that realized that pain is the most powerful aid to mnemonics.

In a certain sense, the whole of asceticism belongs here: a few ideas are to be rendered inextinguishable, ever-present, unforgettable, "fixed," with the aim of hypnotising the entire nervous and intellectual system with these "fixed ideas" - and ascetic procedures and modes of life are means of freeing these ideas from the competition of all other ideas, so as to make them "unforgettable." The worse man's memory has been, the more fearful has been the appearance of his customs; the severity of the penal code provides an especially significant measure of the degree of effort needed to overcome forgetfulness and to impose a few primitive demands of social existence as present realities upon these slaves of momentary affect and desire.

We Germans certainly do not regard ourselves as a particularly cruel and hardhearted peoiple, still less as a particularly frivolous one, living only for the day; but one has only to look at our former codes of punishments to understand what effort it costs on this earth to breed a "nation of thinkers" (which is to say, the nation in Europe in which one still finds today the maximum of trust, seriousness, lack of taste, and matter-of-factness - and with these qualities one has the right to breed every kind of European mandarin). These Germans have employed fearful means to acquire a memory, so as to master their basic mob-instinct and its brutal coarseness. Consider the old German punishments; for example, stoning (the sagas already have millstones drop on the head of the guilty), breaking on the wheel (the most characteristic invention and specialty of the German genius in the realm of punishment!), piercing with stakes, tearing apart or trampling by horses ("quartering"), boiling of the criminal in oil or wine (still employed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries), the popular flaying alive ("cutting straps"), cutting flesh from the chest, and also the practice of smearing the wrongdoer with honey and leaving him in the blazing sun for the flies. With the aid of such images and procedures one finally remembers five or six "I will not's," in regard to which one had given one's promise so as to participate in the advantages of society - and it was indeed with the aid of this kind of memory that one at last came "to reason"! Ah, reason, seriousness, mastery over the affects, the whole somber thing called reflection, all these prerogatives and showpieces of man: how dearly they have been bought! how much blood and cruelty lie at the bottom of all "good things"!'