10.03.2018

RIP Geoff Emerick

I've never been one to subscribe to the Great Man approach to history, and yet one certainly did leave us recently. Given that his greatest contribution to humanity partially involves Ringo Starr's drum sound on "Tomorrow Never Knows", and not the subjugation of the native population of a tropical island somewhere, I think I can make an exception.

For those who don't know, Geoff Emerick was the engineer responsible for recording most of the greatest work the Beatles ever committed to tape. While I find that I am a lot less obsessive about the Beatles than I used to be, I'm still amazed at the contribution Mr. Emerick made to the art of recording. Off the top of my head: close-miking of drums and amplifiers (a practice now followed in probably 99% of recordings made), new vocal effects, new means of integrating tape loops and reversed sounds into music, use of distortion, use of creative compression. I would go on, but I don't have my copy of his autobiography handy. Suffice it to say, there's more.

It would certainly be exaggeration to give Geoff Emerick sole credit for creating the sound of psychedelic music, but his contribution was outsized, and persisted well beyond the late 1960s. If you can read past his obvious bias towards McCartney at the expense of the other members of the band, the stories that fill his book, Here, There And Everywhere: My Life Recording The Music Of The Beatles, of the creative exploits of the Beatles, and the now-primitive means by which Mr. Emerick helped to realize the sounds the members of the band could sometimes only barely describe, are inspirational and charming.

I doubt he will get quite the remembrance he deserves. Many people live in blissful ignorance of what it takes to turn great songs into great records, and while there are more pressing issues at hand when it comes to the general level of education of the human population (lets all find Syria on a map first and then worry about "automatic double tracking"), if anything makes me feel alienated at times from so many members of my species, it's the lack of curiosity and wonder that so many seem to feel towards the world around them. Thankfully, Mr. Emerick, by all accounts supremely humble, seemed proud of his small but valuable contribution and must have passed confident that he helped bring pleasure to millions, whether they know it or not.


9.04.2018

Grotesques

Thinking about this girl again, not even out of love, or desperation, or regret, just new insight gleaned from the same old memories.

Passage from my favorite work of fiction of all time:
That in the beginning when the world was young there were a great many thoughts but no such thing as a truth. Man made the truths himself and each truth was a composite of a great many vague thoughts. All about in the world were the truths and they were all beautiful.
The old man had listed hundreds of the truths in his book. I will not try to tell you of all of them. There was the truth of virginity and the truth of passion, the truth of wealth and of poverty, of thrift and of profligacy, of carelessness and abandon. Hundreds and hundreds were the truths and they were all beautiful.
And then the people came along. Each as he appeared snatched up one of the truths and some who were quite strong snatched up a dozen of them.
It was the truths that made the people grotesques. The old man had quite an elaborate theory concerning the matter. It was his notion that the moment one of the people took one of the truths to himself, called it his truth, and tried to live his life by it, he became a grotesque and the truth he embraced became a falsehood.
How does it fit together? Maybe it doesn't.

I think I, finally, fourteen years later, get it. It's 6:24 in the morning as I write this and I have been trying to sleep for hours. Thankfully, I don't have to work today. Sadly, I'll be wasting a day off recovering from being up this late.

There's something about my childhood, I don't know. I was precocious, but, somehow, it didn't work out. The expectations of others were numerous and vague. Somehow, my intelligence placed upon me some set of responsibilities that were never delineated, that I could never satisfy. Somehow, I was always expected to be something other. I had so much "potential". For what, specifically? If I was as smart as everyone thought, perhaps I would have known to ask that question. The problem I'm describing, though, is the lack of an independent self that could conceive of asking such a question.

I think I wasted a lot of time running towards and away. Always in the context that others had created for me. I never even really bothered to figure out who I was, what I wanted. There was like this thing. That existed outside of myself. That had nothing to do with me. Is there a word for a gift that can never be possessed by the purported recipient?

When I wonder: what connected me with Sarah so deeply (and, surely, more deeply than she ever connected with me)? It wasn't her beauty. She was beautiful (and may be still). But rather, it was her beauty. It had nothing to do with her either. What she looked like, what people perceived of her, the context of what she said, what she did, she could never truly convey herself. Her beauty became a prism, her true self distorted and refracted, clouded, unknowable. "It's such a gamble when you get a face". And she knew it. How could she not? How could I blame her for seemingly sleeping only with men who didn't care about her? How could anyone who wanted her for anything other than her beauty seem honest?

Compliment me on anything but my intelligence back then, and I would't have believed you. I would feel you were trying to manipulate me.

I had to give up my apartment in DC on November 1, 2005. There was the described drunken night at some point later that month, and a phone conversation the next day, me, pacing, smoking cigarette after cigarette, in the backyard of my parent's house. Autumn. The yearning eroticism of a sensual wind, leaves acquiescent.

I wrote that she accused me of only wanting her physically. Maybe now I know what to say. Thirteen years too late. All I wanted was a chance to see the text behind the font, and to share with her the loneliness of the dispossessed.

I don't think anything would be different, nor would I deserve differently, had I said those words. I simply hope she has grown to be a person who could believe them if they were spoken.

8.24.2018

Atopia

NYC

Tashkent

The Chambers Street subway station really seems to encapsulate everything I feel about New York right now: this city has the courage neither of utopia nor dystopia.

8.06.2018

Send Me New Words And Old Books

Probably, there is already a term for the junk at the edge of my mind somewhere in something I read a while back... rentier-() but I don't know. Maybe we need a new term. 

For what?

Still hard to say.

Lately, maybe just because I am more careful about tracking my finances, but I feel like I've noticed something, something that, maybe, has been true for a while, but now with added intensity, perhaps due to the collapse of credit as the means of expanding middle-class prosperity that occurred in 2008. Partially it's, of course, due to de-industralization and the rise of the service economy. 

Nevertheless, it sometimes feels to me as if we are in a "new" phase of capitalism. I can't quite put my finger on it how to describe it, what to call it, and really, to those of you still checking this site, I invite you to point me to any words, articles, books, etc. that may tell me what I am trying to grasp at.

Basically, it has started to feel to me that whereas labor was the "resource" harvested to create wealth, with individual income merely a byproduct, a private property that individuals could choose to put back into the system of exchange, now the resource is that income itself. The work that people do doesn't seem to figure into the reproduction of capitalism; the system somehow needs my money more than my labor. The purpose of labor is now to produce money. Something feels backwards. Or maybe not backwards. Just more abstract.

I guess I could just be describing consumer capitalism, but does it feel like 1958 to you? Or 1968, 1978, 1988?

Industrial capitalism - material byproduct is the improvement of the public sphere (transportation, electricity, construction of cities, sewers, etc.)
Consumer capitalism - material byproduct is the improvement of the private sphere (home ownership, cars, laundry machines, etc.)
(something) capitalism - no material byproduct - money seems to turn into money without ever being capital in a classical sense.

Post-material? But "post-" seems lame.

I feel like I'm on the edge of understanding something without being able to do so. 

The best analogy I can think of is horrible. It requires reference to the film The Matrix. Help me!

Interest rates on savings accounts are really shitty, aren't they? By design, too, I'm guessing. "They" don't want anyone to save, do they?

Anyways, hi.

EDIT:
Yeah, I guess the article below pretty much sums it up, and yet I feel that nagging at the back of my head.... there's more to this, isn' there? Can we call something and experience something as new? It can't be that I already understand, can it? No.

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/in-the-age-of-hyper-disparity-the-ultimate-loss-is-a-livable-earth/

4.08.2018

Random, Late Night Thought

As far as I am aware, there is no conception of meritocracy that can account for the conscientious objector.

3.28.2018

Follow-Up

Just curious, for those of you paying attention...

When did the NewsHour become unwatchable?

Was it a gradual process? Or did it happen overnight?

I think I tried tuning in a few times last November but couldn't get into a routine of watching it every day. I tried again over the past ten days or so. There's something really tedious about the amount of time being spent discussing Trump's extramarital affairs and while I expect that sort of thing from the for-profit networks, well, it's not that I even hold PBS to a higher standard as much as I don't enjoy watching people who act as if they have already achieved this higher standard failing to achieve said standard and not noticing. Or maybe my standards are wrong. It's not talk bullshit yes, talk bullshit no, but talk bullshit how. Talk bullshit to who.

(I tend to think that the moral corruption that people are locating in Trump is actually found in said people's own willingness to gossip about him behind the veil of moral superiority. And you may be saying to yourself, well, it's not about the sex, it's about the money, it's about the contracts, the lawyers, the shady dealings, but those things are made necessary by the gossip, by your gossip, not the other way around. It's not that I like Trump. Let's just say instead that I remember the 2000s. I remember how pathetic it was when W. Bush was dropping literal bombs on people and other people were like: haha he mispronounces words and I don't.)

I tried watching PBS on election day in 2016. That was the worst. The overuse of demographics in predicting and describing the results of elections got me more than a bit angry. What's weird about people who are into a certain type of identity politics is that they seem to find it perfectly satisfactory to talk like: women will vote this way and men this way and if you are a Spanish-speaking first-generation immigrant you must do this unless you were born between years X and Y and then you will probably do this other thing but if you are black you have no choice at all regardless (of whether slavery three hundred years ago or Ethiopia in 2005) and why didn't you do what I said to do after all I am one of you and you are supposed to do what I say because we are all the same, aren't we (except that I get to be on TV and disappointed with you and you don't)?

I wish I could write that last paragraph better. Anyways.

When did the NewsHour become unwatchable?

Thanks!

11.19.2017

An Honest Question About The News

Hey. I miss you all and I miss doing this. I hope everyone is doing as well as possible .

Since September 2016, I live in New York. It's ok. Whereas in earlier parts of my life, I would have moved here to be a part of something, now I am here because I don't want to be part of anything. It's very easy to be independent here if one can afford rent. Right now, I can. 

Mine is a very modest life. Boring, not satisfying, but, given the social and political context, I think, smart. Selfish maybe, but then again, I can't help but think that the world is exactly what most people want it to be. Not only because of the willingness of those who benefit from the present situation to persist in maintaining said situation, but also because those who are in opposition to the present situation seem to be primarily concerned with the preservation of the precession of their interpretative frameworks. It may seem selfish to drop out, but then again, isn't it also selfish to think of trying to change a system that so many people seem to want?

Years ago, in a political science class, I argued that tacit consent was a weak basis on which to predicate and assume the coherence of social and political structures and institutions. My comments were met with either indifference or incomprehension (the ability to present the latter as the former is surely the only true prerequisite for sophistication). I feel vindicated and dissatisfied at feeling vindicated.

It's annoying to me that the phrase "fake news" has been monopolized by the right. Every time I try and "get back into" contemporary music and read another mis-informed think piece, more hysterical praise of mediocre "underground" music, another self-serious analysis of commercial pop music (did anyone dream in those heady days of arguing for Missy over Neutral Milk Hotel that the end result would be a successful "career" of having to parse Taylor Swift's social media presence in the stodgy voice of an establishment New York media outlet?), I can't help feeling profoundly alienated. Any time I try and figure out what, for instance, exactly, is going on with the Trump administration and Russia, I can't seem to get any unbiased reporting, just leftist denunciations of liberal hysteria, liberal hysteria (are we, like, supposed to go to war or something?), under-reported "objective" journalism, and the self-serving denials of the Republicans. I'm exhausted by the Internet, exhausted by the constant editorializing, and, even better/worse, the constant editorializing on other editorials. I am doing my best to resist the temptation to hold opinions on that which I know nothing about, and feel resentful at the idea that that is my only option these days, the only condition to be met, to the exclusion of all others, that would allow me to participate in the present discourse.

Yes, the usual caveats about the limits of objectivity as an ideal and a possibility apply, but why I'm breaking my inadvertent silence is simple: I'm looking for advice on how to end my reliance on the Internet when it comes to staying informed about the state of the world. I'd appreciate your answers to this simple question: if you had to go completely back to print news only (assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that this is a feasible option), what would you read?

I'm open to being wrong, but here are my thoughts so far, limited to periodicals I have read with frequency at various points in my life:
The Economist - I used to read this magazine regularly, and I never minded the "house ideology" as it was always presented transparently and coherently, the interpretations discernible from that which was being interpreted. I am tempted to try again unless things have changed.
The Atlantic (Monthly) - They seem to do good work occasionally, but I don't think I have ever allowed them to recover in my estimation since their support for the Iraq war. I check the website sporadically, and the quality of the work there seems to exist in inverse proportion to the significance of the subject covered.
Harper's - I haven't checked them out in a while. I appreciate that they retained at least some sense of critical distance during Obama's presidency.
Newsweek/Time - I seem to vaguely recall a time (no pun intended) when these weren't USA Today with higher word counts. Alternately: the boundaries between objectivity and obliviousness.
New York Times - please tell me there is something else - between the increased lifestyle coverage, the pathetic editorial section, the desire to chase the Internet for scoops, the pompous cluelessness of the house style, and the decreased metro NYC coverage, I just really can't quite bring myself to pay for this thing again. Every time they try and "adapt to a changing world", they seem to rid themselves of more of the characteristics that would make them necessary within it. That their readers seem to think they are reading the same paper they always have shows the level of critical insight within the American elite. Then again, wasn't the justification, in the end, always conformity?
Washington Post - see above, only with parochial haircuts, and (just a reasonable guess on my part), decreased metro DC coverage.
The Guardian - what an embarrassing collapse - I hate that I still go to this website first thing in the morning out of habit.
The New Republic - should have self-immolated with profound apologies to the world sometime in 1997 (or maybe earlier - I'm not old enough to really know)
The New Yorker - at best, the best, but, often, not (these words within parentheses are meant to allow the seven words that precede them to remain distinct from the words that follow, and the closest I will ever come to auditioning for the role of a capable writer) and yet, I live, in New York, so maybe?

As an aside, I've tried, both in earnest and in jest, to Google phrases such as "most objective newspaper" or "best daily newspaper" and have gotten a lot of poll results and financial/circulation numbers. In other words, Family Feud, George W.S. Trow, capitalism, as always and again.

A reminder: this wasn't meant to be another editorial. The questions remain, I hope you will answer.

Thanks!

Best. 

Etc.