Monday, December 28, 2009

The Tens.

The 70s were an interesting time to be a kid.

The 80s were an interesting time to be a teenager.

The 90s were an interesting time to be in my twenties.

The Zeroes (I switch formats when I cross the millenium line) were an interesting time to be in my thirties.

So I assume that the Tens will be an interesting time to be in my forties.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Lightning strikes, Maybe once, maybe twice

They say you end up with the face you earned.  I'm facing a big crossroads and have considered the options from many different angles, and it was looking like I'd settled on one.  Then I asked myself, what am I going to be like five years from now if I choose that path, committing to more of the same...

Perhaps I should work backward.  What do I want to be like in five years, and what should I start doing now in order to get there?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gary Busey was exceptionally helpful.

I had moved in with my mom, into her new faux-townhouse condo, where are the row houses are across from the elementary school in Swan River. While she was outside being ditzy, the place caught on fire. I lost pretty close to everything, and freaked out. I walked away, holding my head, yelling out loud "how could this happen to me, after everything else?"

I walked downtown, and reached the hotel with a bar and diner (the name of which I can't recall).  Gary Busey was there, and was about to drive his truck and trailer north to Nunavut with a delivery.  He offered me a ride, and I was glad for the chance to get the hell out of town.

It was a long trip, I guess, but it didn't seem so long.  At one point we came across some airplane debris -- a large wing fragment and a tailpiece from a commercial airliner.  We got out and took pictures of us posing with the wreckage.

I drove for a while, despite having no license, until it looked like a cop was behind us; we switched seats while driving.

Finally we got to our destination.  I don't know the name of the town, but the road forked gently to create a downtown area shaped like the Flatiron building (with the left branch going gently uphill).  There were a few restaurants, a surprisingly well-appointed arcade, and (I think) a remote college campus nearby.  Seemed like a nice place to stay.

As soon as we parked in the garage and got out, a Spanish man ran up to us and delivered a black notebook.  It was mine, and apparently not lost in the fire; it was his task to give it to me, but he didn't know it had belonged to me.  "Remarkable penmanship", he said as he handed it over.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On intuitive leaps.

Once again, I worked through fear of a wrong step and followed the intuition of the moment -- it's said that intuition and instinct remain distinct, but sometimes the Venn overlap is almost all you can see -- and it led me shortly afterward to a positive place, while the choice to hold back would have left me nowhere, still lacking a necessary action.

Moral:  be willing to fail more often in order to make room for more successes.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Before noon on a weekend. Is this normal?

Thanks to a friend texting me for breakfast, and then having to cancel, the day stretches out before me.  Do I go out and do some holiday shopping, or get presents for all the incoming babies (five in my social circle between early November and March)?  Do I prepare material for my next week of work?  Shovel my walk?  Get some packages ready to mail?  Clean the kitchen?  Get some groceries?  Pick up a proper winter coat?  Do some outdoor photography of the freshly-snowy streets, or maybe head down to Habitat to take those pics I promised someone?

Or do I go back to bed for two hours, order a pizza, and play videogames all day?

Compromise:  nap for 30 minutes, install myself at Shaika, and spend the whole day drinking coffee and writing.  Enjoyable, social, constructive, doesn't require cleaning anything.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tales of the Golden City

For quite a few years I transcribed my dreams.  I kept a notebook and pen at bedside to be ready upon any wakening, in case my just-interrupted dream was still reclaimable.  Many of these records are in high detail, and go on for pages.  In general, the sooner I wrote it down the more detail was accessible, but practice did increase my longer-term recall as well.

I don't do it anymore, and for much of my thirties I didn't seem to be dreaming at all (or at least not in any memorable way).  But lately as I've been considering some major life questions, dreams have been forcing their way back in.

A couple of weeks ago, I dreamt that I should tell my boss to take some time to reflect and think about his future.  I didn't, but two days later his boss lost his job, and my boss was thrown into a tornado that has had a noticable impact on him.

Last night, I dreamt -- without TMI-ing -- that my next move in life was in fact the beginning of an initiation of sorts.  This view seems designed to help me gather strength for my return to an important place in my life.

A recurring theme in my adult dream life has been the Golden City (as I've come to call it).  While many of my dreams seem to take place in urban environments, some of these have a particular kind of vividness that sets them apart, and I know even as I'm dreaming them that they take place in this City.  (Take what HDR does for an image, and extend that into the dimension of an entire experience, and that's kinda the idea.)

I associate this Golden City with one real city, although many parts of other cities belong to it.  That real city is where I thought I would be moving every year for the last four, and it's there that I would expect the full breadth of this initiation to present itself, if it exists.

But I think I'm going somewhere else instead, because geniuses don't rely on mere logic for fundamental life decisions.

That was sarcasm.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"I remember when my life was not constantly on shuffle."

There are certain lessons life teaches that I must really love, because I seem to insist upon learning them over and over again. One of these that I'm thinking about right now has been phrased many ways; its essence: the way you do one thing is the way you do everything.

And so it was that the last line of Bernard Perusse's article on recreating albums verbatim in concert reached out and demanded my attention.

The last album I listened to in full -- from start to finish, as out-of-date as those terms might be at present when it comes to modern music packaging and delivery -- was Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation. (To complete the circle of irony, it was because I had been reminded of their recent tour playing the album.)

My relationship with music was built in two key ways. One was listening to commercial radio, which gradually shifted over into watching music video shows and stations. The other was intensive listening sessions to certain albums.

The first activity kept me exposed to new ideas. The second allowed me to understand in depth those to which I had already been introduced.

I still listen to songs intently, but even with a band like Radiohead who provide high payoff for however much attention is invested, album listening is rare.

One reason is that music has become an urban survival tool, making the daily dayjob commute less personal and more bearable. Another is that internet culture has turned up my ADD meter, such that it's more difficult to not get restless when asked to sit still and listen to one musical act for an hour or so.

Regardness, shuffle is now the norm -- my new way of maintaining one of my most important relationships. Is it any wonder that every other aspect of my life becomes equally chaotic?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Completist collecting.

I have the five-disc blu-ray edition of Blade Runner.  It's important to me that I have this edition, yet I only ever watch the main new cut -- one disc of five.  Why do I need the five?  I like the movie a lot, maybe even love it, but I'm not maniacal about it...
I think the key, though, is feeling that some day I might reach the level of mania.  I will need all that information in that moment, and I will have it.
Inspiration fleets by like a breeze, and enthusiasm without fast fuel often sputters.  It's not unimaginable that some day I might be taken by the need to go into Blade Runner really deeply, and anatomize it as I've done with previous hobby horses.  It's great fun to be in the throes of these romances... And I've also seen many doors ajar that closed due to delays in procuring that key object of desire.
If this happens to me with Blade Runner, I'm prepared now -- I've got that one covered.  And this is a comfort to me.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Rock Hero Guitar Band

I support Rock Band and Guitar Hero, the video games.
First, I had always wondered about the popularity of Japanese rhythm games, and why the idea never caught on in the west.  The answer, potentially, is that it's all about how you culturally frame the essential actions, not the actions themselves.  (Final Fantasy, your day is coming.)  So the popularity of Rock Band gave me that way of considering the question.
Second, I like the way it gives non-performers a pretty good hint of what it's like to play in a band with people.  Not live, of course, but a group of friends drinking and playing Rock Band on a Saturday night carries something of the dynamic of a jam band getting together in someone's basement.  Of course it's not the same thing, but there's a taste of it.
Third, real guitarists -- and it's always the guitarists, which says a lot about guitarists -- are just wrong when they complain that people should be learning to play real instruments instead.  In my experience, people don't generally play Rock Band because they have inner musicians longing to get out (though they might anyway), and many of the musicians I know do play it as well.  People play it because it's a fun way to play a game and listen to music with friends, it gives focus to a party with grown-ups who might not otherwise be able to think of anything fun to do, and it's fun to pretend to be a rock star for a little while.
Further on that point, if Rock Band ever actually does prevent anyone from taking up real music, then music is better off.  I mean that quality-wise, but with the shape of the music industry these days it applies quantitatively as well.
So what's my point?
None of this affects that I fucking hate my upstairs neighbors at least three times a week.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What does the word "art" mean?

The barrier of taste is gone, of course.  Craft is pretty much gone too.

Debate continues over subtler issues like authorship -- does art need an artist?  "Artist", of course, is a much simpler word.  It uncontroversially signifies one whose intention of action is the production of art.
But then we're still at "art"...

Subjectively, I don't feel the controversy, since I have a definition of art I find sufficiently satisfying.  And I even grant it some movement toward "truth", since I feel (and have argued) that it represents the threshold of what is both sufficient and necessary, without an ounce of extra fat.

Essentially, to me "art" represents the relationship between an observer and an observed.  If you're looking at Voice of Fire and attempting to relate to the work as an artistic piece, there is art -- in that space where your intentionality as audience connects with the presence of something observable (which would include even ostensibly empty space).

Aside from being relatively tidy, I feel that this extends the most generous plausible grounds to each end of the artistic interaction -- the art and the experient of the art.  It presumes goodwill on the part of the latter and potential value within the former, and the unique quality of every singular experience degrades any good vs bad art considerations.

It also has the effect of bringing into the big tent such things as random events, natural objects, inadvertent performances, readymades, brut, anti-art, commercial art.  In opposition to the rules of competition as they apply to finance, this open view would, I believe, enhance the role of the artist in society, not diminish it.

If I demand realistic craft in my painting, I will approach Voice of Fire with suspicion, and declare it a paint-roller job.  Regardless of the failure of the work to meet my subjective criteria, the work was approached by me with the intention of perceiving it as art, thus I had an artistic relationship with that work.  The details of my legitimacy checklist are irrelevant at the macro level, what matters is the joining of the object with my intentional perception.

So a tree, a bag whirling in the wind, a thrift store painting-by-numbers, a blank sheet of paper, the sound of a car idling -- all of these are art the moment we ask the question.  The depth of the art can be debated, but it becomes impossible to disqualify the work from contender status.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

The value of formula, and of goths.

No cultural standards remain in the west. This was arguably already underway by the late 90s, but it certainly seems explicit and difficult to challenge today. Society functions in de facto agnostic mode now, with no legitimate claims to a primary epistemological position remaining (though the jockeys of those horses still strive against one another for legislative power).
Every form of retro, including their futurisms, have found acceptance and inspired tribal bonds -- in fashion, art, philosophy, probably most of the sciences.
When I hear a contemporary act playing rock music, what I subjectively hear is "rock" music -- a conscious decision to pay homage to the genre by wearing its appearance. I used to believe that by mixing genres one could overcome this reification, but even if that were true (and I no longer believe so), the strategy itself has unavoidably become exalted to genre status, such that this "eclecticism" takes its place alongside the others... "jazz", "blues" -- god, especially "blues" -- "electronic", "punk" -- god, especially "punk" -- even "noise".
I concluded some time ago, aided by drugs and rave culture, that music as an art form was essentially dead. That is to say, there were no more directions in which to explore it. Pure atonality, randomness, maximum volume, silence, system noise, field recordings, extreme time -- every achievable departure from the accepted had been explored. Every corner of the map charted, nowhere be monsters.
With nothing to contribute in terms of movement of the form, only local action remains. Music as a spiritual or artistic act, a relationship with the energy of creativity, continues regardless of such concerns. But those who seek the authentically untested -- where does this leave us?
Some will glibly label the notion of "no more ideas" absurd -- how can there be an end to ideas? My report is that after a decade of seriously considering the question, and asking it to the musicians of my acquaintance, I have never received the challenge of an undismissable answer. Nobody has ever said "here is an unexplored concrete or theoretical area into which future musical vanguardists might embark". And yes, I've heard Jandek.
- - - - -
Thus, the value of formula.
Within the formulaic -- and I use this word without perjorative intent; I have already demonstrated that I consider the formulaic inevitable, so it would be poor sport to dismiss it as unworthy as well -- we have a microcosmic representation of every practical element important to the artist (save one, of course).
We instantly choose our tribe, our audience for our personal performance of the Art of Making Defining Aesthetic Choices. In the internal consciousness of our tribe we find the rules of achievement, and learn to measure ourselves within the set of tribal standards.
If I start a noise band, I am likely to bring myself into contact with others who enjoy and/or perform noise music; I might achieve the same essential benefits from a relationship with the creative energy by playing blues, but then I'm going to be spending my time with the blues tribe, which may not be as socially amenable to me.
If I wear a Metallica shirt, I am engaging in exactly the same kind of interaction with my environment, even if I am acting with ironic intent.  I am selecting reality's filter for its interaction with me.
Every decision we take defines us to the world, thus defining the world.
- - - - -
Goth is not a cultural genre.  Maybe it was, but no longer.  Goth is an asterisk, and the essential function of the asterisk is to disrupt.
In a book passage, an asterisk says "there is more, you must stop now and consider whether that matters to you".  A baseball record, a presidential record, a historical record -- when these earn an asterisk it is seldom a stabilizing influence.
Consider the range of contemporary gothdom.  Every daylight genre, from cowboys to drag queens to business suits to ravers to jocks to geeks, has a goth corollary.
The death that goth represents is the death of consensus culture.  It reminds us that every stance is a pose, willfully or otherwise.
- - - - -
Now a clearer picture of our genre afflictions emerges.  We select our territory and our teammates, with whatever perspective we have at our disposal, and we play the game.
This is the realm of the formula, and it does seem to walk comfortably hand-in-hand with the spectacle.  Nevertheless, it can be beneficial, satisfying to a degree, and generally worthwhile to take part in this show.
Still, the only possible remaining question lingers, unanswered:  when the map is filled in to every corner, where do we go next to find real adventure?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A heritage moment.

My traditional inaugural post, a picture of two chairs fucking.