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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30 Dec '02 06:07:37 AM

And I know I won't agree with lots of what I said about the Feelies at some point later on, but it's not as if agreeing with my future self is the point or anything.

30 Dec '02 06:04:36 AM

I sure do seem to hear the melody to the title track a lot when I play Whisper Not, but I doubt it comes up more than the two or three times one would expect from straightforward piano trio jazz.

Hear it a lot over the course of listening to the whole record, I mean. This may have something to do with time passing more quickly than I realize.

And the record repeating, I mean.

It sure doesn't seem like it, though.

30 Dec '02 05:52:30 AM

Marjorie Perloff's page at the Electronic Poetry Center. Perloff wrote an excellent book called Wittgenstein's Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary, about which I hope to write more later.

27 Dec '02 07:17:15 PM

I saw O (the Othello remake with Mekhi Phifer, Julia Stiles, and Josh Hartnett, and yes I know this will send my hits from searches for "Josh Hartnett" back up again after years of decline) last night; they use "Aquemini" in a date rape scene. If I am remembering them all, then every use of popular music in the film was used to generate surprise in some way. Usually at a scene change. "Aquemini" is slightly different, though, because it starts quietly, and there's a loud moment in the middle, timed to come when O looks in the mirror, imagines Mike in his place fucking Desi, and loses it. But knowing the song, I expected there to be some kind of dramatic moment in the middle of the scene, or at the end of the scene (they didn't have to use the whole song). This is different from my usual experience watching a movie, which I suppose people who didn't already know "Aquemini" might have here - where the music used in a movie seems to come out of the movie, derive its motion, its force, from it.

26 Dec '02 01:43:37 AM

I think if I played the Feelies' Crazy Rhythms for a number of people, they would focus on the voice to the exclusion of the other parts of the music, whereas I find myself doing the opposite. When there are vocals (there are long sections with none), they sound mannered - at least that's the nicest way I can put it. Also the most tentative, because I can't tell yet whether they are mannered, whether they're supposed to complement in some way the jittery, "perpetual nervousness" (like in the title of the first song) of the songs, or whether they're just not that good, but well-meaning at least. Less charitably, I might say that they sound like vocals done in the wrong style, regardless of whether or not they are done well so far as they could be in that wrong style. The music is fast, skip-fast back-and-forth, but stretched out over passages that are relatively long compared to the space of one bar of music. I can imagine long, vowel-carried vocal lines working well over such music, and in fact, at one or two places there are backing vocals that sound this way. That's probably in some sense a predictable and thus safe choice, though. My alternative probably is, too, though it's not as pretty: as they are, the vocals occupy an uncomfortable space between singing and talking, but although there are some resemblances to the Talking Heads (whose girly-weak guitar noises resemble the Feelies', too) I haven't yet decided that I think the vocals have an affective purpose similarly related to the lyrics. (I'll probably capitulate once I can understand the lyrics, but, you know.) Given that they're in that uncomfortable space, though, I can see (and wish for) vocals that sound more like talking. Instead, syllables are artlessly held out in what sounds like a mistaken or uninformed notion of what singers are required to do in light of their being, nominally, "singers". But. This has its charms.

None of this, though, explains why I focus in on the band to the (relative, obviously, given the above) exclusion of the vocals. I only meant to note what some people might unduly focus on if they were to do it the other way around.

23 Dec '02 09:44:08 PM

I swear I must have been reading the lyrics sheet. I can only recognize the "but now I'm not so sure" part.

23 Dec '02 09:38:46 PM

The guy at the store told me to play Around the House really loud, but it is suprisingly good at low volume.

It makes it sound more like a tasteful lifestyle accessory, which given the photos in the album art may not be all that far off.

23 Dec '02 09:33:31 PM

I came across this just now and it reminded me of something I've been thinking about lately, some arguments I want to make (in a philosophy paper, sometime) about this kind of wrong reading being "right". If they are acceptable, they seem to force a total change in criticism. If you're like me, you might find that trying to write at length about a reading you know to be "wrong" in some ways is very hard. Typical demands of good critical writing include completeness, textual fidelity, coherence, etc., and I suspect often the reasons that these "wrong" readings are "wrong" is that they have to forsake those things in order to get the appeal to the listener that they do have (from wherever else it comes from, emotional resonance, personal history, funny brain chemistry, idiosyncratic tastes, etc.). When I write about a reading, I start pushing for these things - thinking, where is the evidence in the song for what I am saying here, how can I make this stand up for others, etc. (Yes I know I have written "etc." three times in this paragraph.)

So. Uh. The question is, where does criticism go when this stuff is thrown out?

23 Dec '02 06:39:13 AM

"The old thing where it always was, back again. As when a man, having found at last what he sought, a woman, for example, or a friend, loses it, or realises what it is. And yet it is useless not to seek, not to want, for when you cease to seek you start to find, and when you cease to want, then life begins to ram her fish and chips down your gullet until you puke, and then the puke down your gullet until you puke the puke, and then the puked puke until you begin to like it. The glutton castaway, the the drunkard in the desert, the lecher in prison, they are the happy ones. To hunger, thirst, lust, every day afresh and every day in vain, after the old prog, the old booze, the old whores, that's the nearest we'll ever get to felicity, the new porch and the very latest garden. I pass on the tip for what it is worth."

- Beckett from Watt