September 28, 2008

Look Out Young Son

Saw Spiritualized Friday night. Their set just might have been perfect in every way (setlist, sound, smoke machine, minimal stage banter/ bullshit).

But that's not why I'm writing this. The opening band was called Grand Ole Party. They are from San Diego. When first seeing them, I was intrigued. The schtick: two nondescript looking indie dudes who play bass and guitar. They also sing pointless backup harmonies. The main attraction, though: the lead singer is this really foxy chick who also plays drums. She looked kinda like Karen O, only more on the cute side than the exotic side. She was wearing a very short black frilly dress. I was up front, and clearly saw her facial expressions (and other things, considering she was wearing a dress and straddling the snare drum) as she was singing and playing drums. I was attracted.

Obviously, some other guy was too, since at one point he shouted "I LOVE YOU" from the back. Then, at the end of the show, she mentioned something about how she was going to sell merch in back if anyone wanted to chat. The same guy yells "OH, I DO!" She turns to one of the nondescript indie dudes/ backup singers and mumbles, "Oh, no..." into the mic. The guy in back just keeps yelling, "OH YEAH!"

Then they played the last song, and it was over.

My queary is this: is it legitimate to like a band, despite the fact that they sound like a rip-off of another band (like a YYYs without any sonic experimentation, if that's possible) and aren't very sonically groundbreaking - only moderately enjoyable, and the studio versions of the songs aren't even that good - just because I have a crush on the chick in the band? (And, before you ask: I pussied out on talking to her at the merch table in back. Fuuuuck...)

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September 18, 2008

"Hey, hey, hey! I was watching a ballgame here!"

A short, maybe meaningless observation:

The beginning of this article somehow reminded me of some of our best ballgame impressions:

"HOT chicken!"

"Panchos! Panchos! Git yer panchos HEAH!"

"HE'S rattled!"

It reminds me that ballpark chatter might be my favorite form of nostalgic jargon (can we call it jargon? Or is it something else entirely?), juuust beating out another perennial favorite, "1930s newspaperman-speak."

I also realize that one can very easily replicate the sound of ballpark chatter simply by writing it down - if you've been to a ballgame, you know exactly how it's supposed to sound.

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Over the mountain

I coasted nearly three miles tonight, down the mountain.

I thought ahead to the trips I'll make over that mountain, and how on the other side everyone will say, "just over the mountain," when I tell them where I live.

I wondered why I've always mistakenly thought that the time it takes to travel a given highway will eventually decrease after enough repeat trips.

I thought of the Shenandoah Valley.

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September 15, 2008

Lost in the supermarket of poor song interpretations

I've used ever since the days when the RIAA was sending cease-and-desist letters for copyright infringement as fast as lyrics search sites could spring up. In my experience, it's the best resource for song lyrics on the Internet. Rarely does the comment section reveal much insight or meaning beyond what one could gather from listening to the song itself, but it's not short on entertainment.

Less popular songs typically have two or three comments saying "I can't believe no one has commented on this great song!" or "No comments? Come on guys!"

But once the ball gets rolling, a few common forms emerge:

The painfully obvious interpretation, obviously, points out a fact that is obvious. Sometimes, the commenter will without shame admit that what he or she is pointing out is, in fact, obvious.
Does anyone else find this song depressing? Maybe I'm just being weird, hmm. The supermarket is obviously some sort of metaphor for something, but I can't think of what.

The literal interpretation. The irritating thing about this type of response is that it can counter anything even the best interpretations of any song. It heaves historical, cultural, and biographical insights aside, no matter how grounded, because maybe, just maybe, it's not metaphorical in the slightest and it's just a simple song about something that happened to the author.
Maybe he really got lost in a supermarket. I did, and I couldn't find my parents, and it scared the crap outta me. But I don't think he did. Maybe you guys are onto something. This was pretty pointless, then, huh?

In a twist on the literal interpretation, some comments relate the lyrics to one's own personal experience. The profound lack of elaboration implies shared nostalgia conjured by the song.
I've gotten lost in the supermarket before.

Some people miss the point completely.
The supermarket is his happy place, like where he used to go get high or something. His life led him there, but it's lost his effect, and he doesn't know what to do anymore.

For others, every song is an existential narrative about relationship strife and loneliness.
The whole part with the getting lost in a supermarket is kind of a metaphor for the writer's life. If you're lost in a supermarket, you're trying to find someone, you know, the person you came in with. In this song, the writer kind of is saying how he's lost in the world and he's just trying to find someone he can relate to or someone who will give him attention.

Eventually, someone will pipe up with biographical or anecdotal details straight from the source, which can clear up much doubt as to the song's inspiration, assuming the stories are factual.
Mick Jones wrote this song while living when he was broke and had to live with his grandmother. I believe in a recent Rolling Stone that he talks about this. Anyway, here he is, this hipster punk musician in a popular band, and he has to share a flat in the suburbs and just wallow in the lameness.

Peacemakers are common. The peacemaker puts in his or her two cents, yet not without the disclaimer "but hey, what do I know?"
I think this song was commenting on commercialism. with the lines "I've got my giant hit discoteque album" and "I can no longer shop happily" he seems to be unhappy with how commercial everything seems. But then it also has a strong theme of loneliness. Great song no matter how you look at it!

Unadulterated nostalgia is something everyone can have, but only a few bother to share.
I find this song depressing because my uncle loved this song and he's no longer with me.

Every so often, there's a serious, plausible, and coherent interpretation.
He lived his life like the commercials told him to, as in he followed all the trends thinking they had the answers ("I save coupons from packets of tea / I've got my giant hit discoteque album"). But when he wanted something substantial, personality, although modern culture promised it, it isn't there, hence is lost in the supermarket of modern culture.

Link: Lyrics for "Lost in the Supermarket" by the Clash

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do want to destroy the world">Maybe "corporations" do want to destroy the world

In his recent book, cognitive scientist George Lakoff described a problem endemic in the American left; they act like the public is rational, and that this rational decision making takes place (largely) at a conscious level. Of course we know this isn’t the case.

In a recent lecture, Naomi Oreskes, an historian of science, described the wily, “big-business” forces in America who befuddle the minds of non-scientists. As a result, many laypersons think sentences like “there is no scientific consensus regarding global warming” or “evolution is a theory in crisis” are true. The lecture, which analyzes the former instance of the problem, is online, and I’ve posted the link below. It’s insightful and educational, and made me a little less skeptical of conspiracy theorists on the left. (Reading PNAC publications did that too.)

The moral of the story is that Milton and Mill were wrong. The truth (whatever that might be) simply doesn’t win out in free and open discussion.

My moral of the story is that, if Palin is America’s next vice-president, I’m eyeing a few more foreign grad programs come December.

September 12, 2008

"Hunker Down"

Indeed. Nice WSJ blog entry on the 'Cane.

It's kind of scary, since I don't quite know what to expect. But really, I just wish the Cubs/Astros game I was going to go to tomorrow wouldn't have been canceled. And at least I'm not running through Galveston Bay in a bear suit.


September 11, 2008

Submersed? Submerged?

What is the difference between these two words? Which describes a petal beneath a fountain? My, that's pretty.

I accepted another rejection letter from The Missouri Review. Green marker "Please try us again." They could have at least used red. Let's be honest. Stick to the facts. There's nothing hopeful, life-giving, or recyclable about a rejection notice. But I'll add it to the pile; a proud pile.

Meanwhile, I keep writing. I came up with a killer title, so I'm working on putting a story after it. Learning about submers[g]ing and entomologists. Researching how to go about getting a novel published, for when the time comes. I'm also listening to very much David Bowie...also for when the time comes.

Let me share this "Eight Line Poem" by Mr. Jones:

Tactful cactus by your window
Surveys the prairie of your room,
Mobile spins to its collision,
Clara puts her head between her paws.
They've opened shops down on the west side,
Will all the cacti find a home?
But the key to the city
Is in the sun that pins the branches to the sky.

The song reminds me of the Econ/Tony cactus persuasion. And also of the animated Peter Pan. "Clara," I assume, is a dog with more than usual personality.

September 9, 2008

First Impressions

From Waynesboro, VA

We live 21.9 miles from the nearest Panera Bread but near enough to the newspaper office that I could play long-toss with my co-workers on their smoke breaks from our second floor back deck.

The lights were out when we arrived last week. None of the switches worked so we spent our first night in a hotel watching The Daily Show and Colbert Report and preparing the wording of a complaint phone call we were planning for the power company in the morning.

It was only a matter of flipping the circuit breakers on, which, luckily, we discovered the next morning before calling to complain.

We also found our apartment keys and three pages of the eight-page lease on the street corner that morning. That's where they'd blown from the car rooftop the night before.

She was angry. I was giggly.

Tucked beneath the windshield wipers of my car, which had spent the night stretching wide in our gravel parking area, was this note:
You are blocking the parking of this residence plus you are blocking parking 4 my car. If you are about to move in please note that each apt. has 2 spaces apiece and you are blocking both of mine. my car was unable to park comfortably because of yours being in the way. But if you are not a resident of --address redacted-- than next time I will call the police and have it towed. So please be considerate and park further down. Thank you, Apt.--address redacted--
Fairly pleasant greeting considering the U-Haul was attached and pretty obviously part of a moving operation.

Our landlady found and read the note that day too, told us not to worry, and described that we weren't actually blocking anyone else's spot, that the author of the note only had one car, and that it was indeed parked comfortably. For a diagram, click this link.

We have a toilet with a lot of swirl and little power. We kill a few bugs every night. And it's the laundromat for now until our landlady brings over the new washer and dryer.

We nailed in a new mailbox and share a shake a day from Kline's Dairy Bar. We see mountains all around us but our windows are painted shut. We've had a mottled move-in and I start in the morning.

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Making things

Over the summer I decided to learn some sort of craft. First I figured I'd jump into pottery, then I considered painting. Money got in the way and I ended up learning how to sew. Not with bare hands and a single needle; with a sewing machine.

I bought some fabric, some beer, and spent the next six hours (straight) making a bag in which to store my newspapers. Here are some pictures:

Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

The original idea was to create a bag that's black, white, and re(a)d all over...hence the whole storing newspaper in it. Then I figured I should paint something sweet on the front that also represents the writing aspect. I chose my exploding typewriter.

Speaking of that riddle (what's black, white, and re(a)d all over?), it was only a couple of days ago that I realized that wasn't a joke from the right wingers calling newspapers super liberal...or communist. I was pleased to discover it's a little more innocent.

Also, I've been introduced to some pretty cool sites that delve into this stuff a little more, if anyone is interested. Check out Thread Banger, Design*Sponge, and BurdaStyle.

And just for kicks: McCain Winning Coveted "Stock Photos" Demographic?

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September 6, 2008

Regarding "Pretentious"

Youtube has become something of an intellectual clearing ground.

I wouldn’t for a minute attest to the expertise of the participants or the quality of the arguments. A multitude of serious persons advance and attack various positions by staring into a web cam and reading some short essay they’ve written on a trendy French philosopher, or on whether abortion is ever morally permissible, or on God.

This is innocuous and obnoxious; the number of arguments made by misusing technical terms is astounding, annoying, and, in many cases, will be cured when the participant enters college and has to write a paper for an expert on the topic at hand.

Someone thinks he’s a property dualist because properties do not exist. This is a pedantic philosophical distinction that you can ignore, but the “someone” in question still doesn’t know what he’s talking about. There is a person who misuses his terms. Is this O.K.?

No op-ed here will change this basic state of affairs.

My purpose here, then, is to fight an Orwellian battle over the use of a term. In this case, it is often misused as just obviously a term of abuse, an insult that nicely maps to a certain category of mistakes. The term is “pretentious,” as in “those pretentious Swedes.” (I don’t know any pretentious Swedes).

Something is pretentious if it demands attention, especially a certain “lofty” sort of attention. Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is pretentious. Darwin’s Origin of Species is pretentious. Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica is pretentious. Nabokov’s Lolita is pretentious.

All of those claims betray a slight of hand and a bait and switch. The term is misused deviously and annoyingly. Calling something pretentious in absence of a critique might be a complement.

“Pretentious” most often means that something demands more than it deserves. A poem is pretentious when banal and flashy. An historical claim is pretentious when it involves difficult analysis with little concrete importance. A philosopher is pretentious when he uses difficult terms but cannot support his statements.

The effect of this ambiguity, the difference between something’s demanding attention and its failing to deserve that attention, allows Youtube talking heads (worse even than Fox News talking heads) to dismiss difficult and important thinkers by calling them “pretentious.” Of course an urbane person will see this is wrong.

Annoyingly, abusers of the term think they’re saying something impressive. This (moralistic, manneristic?) tirade is to say that you just can’t use “pretentious” as an insult without defeating the claim you mean to insult. If someone claims importance for some reason, and that reason is wrong, and you’ve defeated his claim, you can go further and rub his nose in it by noting his pretension.

If you don’t like an essay’s jargon, you can call it highfalutin and risk appearing naïve, but please do not think “pretentious” expresses your distaste with someone’s language. Raging Bull might bore you (you silly naïf), but it is pretentious only if it’s shallow.

So, when an unimpressed reader calls, e.g., Jacques Derrida pretentious for his use of certain terms, she either takes herself to have in waiting a defeater for Derrida’s corpus (what would that be?), or lacks a firm grasp of her term of abuse.

This strikes me as a rather pitiful position for one to be in, to fail even at insulting another for misunderstanding one’s words.

Property Dualism misused

Jacques Derrida misunderstood

September 5, 2008


Just a couple of things I've run across lately that caught my eye:

+ This American Life now has t-shirts.
+ SLATE: Hockey Mom vs. Soccer Mom.
+ Retail Imitates Art. Is This A Sincere Form Of Flattery?
+ THE ONION: Step forward for African Americans.
+ The Chicago Tribune released a re-design prototype.

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September 1, 2008

Last one here

My allergies have gone haywire, and my medicine(donated by one Evan Moran) induced a constant flow of tear drops from my right eye.

But it helps to keep my mind off the fact that one year stands between myself and something very new. I'm still at The Sad Bear, a place that's changed some on the surface but still boasts bits of The Beat and first-generation Sad Bear residential life; both through relics and spirit.


I'm staying in touch. And I'm happy. The exploding typewriter still hangs on the wall.

Probably a lot of thing could be said about life in Hillsdale right now. But a recent text message ("Be chill") kind of started me off on the right foot for the year. So maybe I'm heading in a direction that'll keep me happy, excited to learn, and forward-thinking.

I cover three beats for a local newspaper as a freelancer, I'm still doing crime writing, and I'm managing The Collegian. Still a lot of things ahead.

I guess it'd be nice to hear from Jack Hittinger more often...but I can deal.

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