josh blog

like showing up to class without doing the reading

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28 May 03:50:28 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 04:06:58 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 03:53:49 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 01:45:42 AM

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


27 May 01:36:39 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 12:58:40 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".

27 May 12:54:59 AM

Gary Sauer-Thompson with links and remarks about one of my favorite topics, philosophy as a way of life. (The links are to articles about Nietzsche, Foucault, and Hadot.)

26 May 04:31:02 AM

The Magnetic Fields, "No One Will Ever Love You"

I often call this song by the wrong name - "If You Don't Cry", which is next on the album. This has to do in part with the way "No One" opens; the first two lines are "If you don't mind / why don't you mind". It also has something to do with the theme of the second song. Its chorus goes, "If you don't cry / it isn't love / If you don't cry / then you just don't feel it deep enough". For reasons I'll go into more when I write about that song, its chorus is deeply unsettling to me. I always feel vulnerable to accusations that I haven't really been in love. Realistically speaking, this may be true, but since my slight past experience of being in love is the only basis I have for understanding how I feel now, I can't really handle the skepticism. I hear "If you don't mind" in something like the same way I hear "If you don't cry": both refer to being visibly affected in some way. My worry about being visibly affected is strong enough that I hear the line in such a way as to ignore what seems to me (on reflection) to be a more "complete" or "better" understanding of the line in the context of the whole song.

(trails off)

24 May 03:54:41 AM

In order to make a dent in my looming shelves of unread books (looming, really: Murph just built me a shelf that's like seven feet tall), I'm going to make a summer reading list. This is just the beginning - I expect more. I'm serious about Anti-Oedipus but doubt I'll end up making it through A Thousand Plateaus, so maybe I shouldn't try. (Maybe my goal for the summer should be: no starting books that I don't finish.) Also, more rules: two books going at once is OK, but no more than three. Some of these are meant to be read in concert, which in the case of the stuff on German philosophy, may make for a somewhat limited couple few weeks. And for some reason even though I've already read like 500 pages of Anna Karenina, I feel the need to start over with a new translation. It's pretty, though. The book, I mean. Yes, that's my excuse.

Kant: A Biography - Manfred Kuehn
Hegel: A Biography - Terry Pinkard
German Philosophy 1760-1860: The Legacy of Idealism - Terry Pinkard
Beyond Good and Evil - Nietzsche

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus - Wittgenstein
World and Life as One: Ethics and Ontology in Wittgenstein's Early Thought - Martin Stokhof

Anti-Oedipus - Deleuze and Guattari
Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus: Introduction to Schizoanalysis - Eugene Holland

The Man Without Qualities - Robert Musil
Tristram Shandy - Lawrence Sterne
Cosmopolis - Don Delillo
Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

This may seem ambitious (well, it is, given my swivelheaded reading habits), but I would normally actually be planning on reading more, and that greater volume would start to swamp me with indecision and abandoned books. So maybe I'll er not even think about the other books I want to read. Like say this Musil has turned out super smooth, all of Part 1 on the first day, no sweat, and fun going. So whattabout that Proust there eh?

(So far I am managing to not put Benjamin's selected writings on my list because I don't own volume one and would of course have to start from the beginning to do it properly. This is no longer a viable option for Montaigne, though.)