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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22 Jun '03 07:43:40 AM

It worries me that Stephin Merritt's 'expressive' voice on "Busby Berkeley Dreams" sounds a lot like the one he affects in "Love is Like Jazz" since I seem to be committed to hearing that one as a snide move to skewer what he sees as the ersatz attempts at authentic, spontaneous expression in jazz. I don't want "Busby" to be infected by insincerity.

That would probably remain true even if I could determine some reason that Merritt would knowingly do such a thing. (A tactical one related to the song, not a strategic one related to his more general attitude toward sincerity.)

21 Jun '03 07:15:30 AM

But for my purposes it won't be Marcus Aurelius' indifference.

Meditations 11.2, translated by Gregory Hays:

"To acquire indifference to pretty singing, to dancing, to the martial arts: Analyze the melody into the notes that form it, and as you hear each one, ask yourself whether you're powerless against that. That should be enough to deter you.

The same with dancing: individual movements and tableaux. And the same with the martial arts.

And with everything - except virtue and what springs from it. Look at the individual parts and move from analysis to indifference.

Apply this to life as a whole."

18 Jun '03 05:08:48 AM

'It is most interesting that in Greece, India, and China, one of the paths to wisdom is indifference, or the refusal to accord things differences in value. Such differences express the egotistic, partial, and limited viewpoint of the individual -- the viewpoint of "the frog at the bottom of the well" or of "a vinegar-fly at the bottom of a barrel," as mentioned by Chuang-tzu: "All I knew of the Tao was what a vinegar-fly stuck inside a barrel can know of the universe. If the master had not lifted the lid, I would still be unaware of the universe in its integral grandeur." Such disinterestedness and indifference bring us back to an original state: the quiet and peace which exists deep within us. It preexists the affirmation of our individuality against the world and against other people, and hence preexists the egotism and egocentricity which separate us from the universe, and which sweep us inexorably into the worried pursuit of pleasure and the perpetual fear of pain.'

- Pierre Hadot, What is Ancient Philosophy?, pp 278-9.

28 May '03 08:50:28 AM

At the moment I consider most entries I make here to be little more than mute gestures to the effect that music is still important to me. Though I still often experience those fleeting moments of fascination, excitement, awe, wonder, happiness, clarity, hunger, and love from playing records from day to day, those moments have become isolated. I can't get them back, hold on to them long enough to concentrate and express in words how they affect me. Time was that ten things a day to say about music occurred to me, and I only had to stop to try to solidify a few. I didn't even consider everything I wrote a success, then, but I expressed myself so freely that over time I felt I was able to convey some sense of the overwhelming, ongoing importance of music for me. Now, as those moments become isolated, as I'm not able to integrate them (even for myself - writing aside) into my life, every further experience is correspondingly impoverished. What's left are desultory remarks that merely talk around what I would prefer to talk about, those moments. My favorite thing of the past few months has been a series of conversations I had, during seminars, with Ramona and others. Since coming here, I've had few, which is frustrating enough. But more frustrating: I seem to have lost the easy tendency to conversational thought, so important to how my writing here worked a few years ago. The ability to question myself. It's connected to a sense of possibility: "the ability to conceive of everything there might be just as well, and to attach no more importance to what is than to what is not". Formerly, I thought this might just be because my way of thinking had changed enough that I less commonly slid into having, or at least expressing, thoughts that I knew from experience could prove to be less inescapable, more malleable, than I first anticipated. That was likely optimistic, and vain. I should recognize an alternative. Or several, in combination. Acquiesence: that even if I seem convinced of this now, sometime in the future it will change (or, it will never change). An inability to imagine alternative ways of looking at things. Or, just as bad, an inability to decide which of a host of competing ways of looking at things to pursue. In conversations where I'm sufficiently caught up, unselfconsciously just talking back and forth, though I sometimes still feel the urge to respond in detail to every single little thing the other person says (recalling myself as an eager student, much younger, overly precocious), usually that host of alternatives falls away, and the words just come. (Part of the value of conversations lies not in how well they covered their ground, how completely or honestly or accurately or smoothly or civilly, but in the way we can look back to them as investigations of a sort, with a spontaneity that it's hard to achieve in any other way, spontaneity which can make the investigations revealing and surprising.) This can be joyful, because nowhere else do I get an external impetus for sustained thought, especially one that allows me to string out a series of the smaller sorts of thoughts I am still capable of making (small, and sometimes hard and clear like crystals, but inert) - apparently the only chance those thoughts now get at doing more than circling round the edges of what's important.

The subtext for all of this is depression, plain and simple. But I -

I don't know, I suppose.

27 May '03 09:06:58 AM

Notes to self about 2003 releases. (While there could be something simply prudent and well-organized about writing this down, it should really be taken as betraying my minor anxiety about not being able to play the music-critic game at the end of the year - to play it well seems to require, if you're not simply a sieve with an enormous throughput of records provided by a large disposable income or a press connection, a sort of insidiously competitive collector mentality.)

New records I've enjoyed: John Fahey, Prefuse 73, Masada Guitars.

New records I've enjoyed, but less: Killer Mike.

Less: Freeway.

New records I've been confused or ambivalent about: Dave Douglas, Ted Leo.

Forthcoming records I look forward to being frustrated and unsure about until I maybe come to like them or not, depending: Matthew Herbert Big Band, Outkast, Luomo.

Comps and reissues: Mouse on Mars, Mouse on Mars.

(I am prone to forgetting about even the ones I like a fair bit, so that I might never listen to them enough to really feel honest saying I like them at the end of the year.)

(I've probably forgotten some already.)

27 May '03 08:53:49 AM

I very much like the pinefox's criticisms of Simon Reynolds on this thread. Particularly on Dylan: why is it that Reynolds gets to be right about the surface unpleasurableness of Dylan's voice? I don't even know what the fuck his songs are about most of the time - just listen to that sound!

This doesn't mean Reynolds isn't aware of something very strange and potentially significant: that lots of people think Dylan sounds awful, annoying, strange, bad. Or that, beyond that, some people who do end up thinking tht he sounds just the opposite. Or even worse, that people do think he sounds bad but think that that makes him sound good at the same time. But I don't know why Reynolds decides to overlook all this. Perhaps because he slipped into thinking that people have to like music just because of the reasons rock critics say they do. (Or maybe he was just addressing himself to rock critics, a professional taking part in a technical debate, as it were. But in that case, who the fuck cares?)

27 May '03 06:45:42 AM

"Mozart isn't going anywhere. (This last sentence can be read at least three different ways.)"


27 May '03 06:36:39 AM

The even more threatening thing about this, besides the potential disconnection between a style in its original setting, and a style as received by say listeners across the ocean, is that this disconnection could be endemic in so many ways. It takes something like a skeptical argument, which makes me suspicious, but I could even say that I am ultimately cut off from the original context of every record I own.

That it's easy for me to conceive of an argument like this tells me not that it's necessarily right, but that the actual contact I do have with those contexts is complex - partial, mediated, and other uncomfortable sounding and poorly understood and used words from 'theory' - such that I'm liable to misrepresent them unless I stay on the level of the particular.

27 May '03 05:58:40 AM

On that one skit on Supreme Clientele, I always think that the crackhead says "crap rules everything around me" (compare to "cash rules everything around me") rather than "crack rules everything around me".

On "Village Ghetto Land" I always think Stevie says "Source cover" when he says "sores cover their hands".