Saturday, August 30, 2008

Today's Lesson

I realize now that I can't really force myself into people's lives. As much as I want to be a part of them, if circumstances demand that it is not to be, then I ought not try as hard as I sometimes do. Essentially, I cannot try to forcibly convince people that my presence will be beneficial to them, no matter how true I think that is! Beyond trying to project the best part of me, there's not much more I can do. Why? To answer, a line from a favourite Neil Young song: "I can't tell them how to feel".

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Beautiful Keats quote:

“ ‘If I should die,’ said I to myself, ‘I have left no immortal work behind me—nothing to make my friends proud of my memory—but I have lov’d the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remember’d.’ ”
I never realized that making a promise could be so heart-rending. In my case, it's the sense that the time is so far away, the horizon seemingly endlessly looming around me. I...don't want to say I think my promises will be untrue. But it's painful to think their context will be lacking further down the path. In particular, it's unsettling, yet sobering, to finally realize that yes, the world does not revolve around me, and that ties do not stay strong just because I want them to. Bah, change, what good is any of it!?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I wrote about "rock poetry" a few years ago, with no success - not even I understand just what my position was at the time. I'd like to make a quick observation on the matter now that some time has passed. My stance now is strongly inspired by Christgau's: namely, that the function of lyrics is rather different than that of a poem, as the latter is meant to be read, the former to be sung. Good lyrics can often seem unusually flat when quoted, the words themselves sans musical context somehow seeming not as bright as when heard. Their general inability to translate strongly to the pure page shouldn't be taken as a negative pronouncement on the form, I think: it's just that lyrics (obviously) rely on their medium to convey emotion, and so comparisons to classical poetry are unfair. I understand what people mean when they call gifted songwriters "poets" - the meaning of the word has somewhat shifted I suppose - but taking it too literally can lead to confusion and crises of confidence (I speak from experience!). It's a different form, and has different methods of making you feel something. So, assessing the worth of a songwriter is necessarily more complex than simply comparing his writing to that of poets past - for there are few who could rise to such a challenge.

As always, this view is subject to change as well, but the issue was bothering me for a while now. I never knew mimicking Christgau was such an easy option!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nowadays, I tell myself that I don't care too much about objectivity in album reviews and all that; much more important things to worry about, no doubt about it. But still. One of the problems that comes with assessing an album is knowing when to stop the needle, as it were, and confidently say that you understand it. Christgau says it's his gift to know when that point is, and that's something to be really admired. I find it's very easy to think you've understood an album (or an artist) only to be proved wrong several years down the line. I can think of several albums which I've already judged in my head, but where there is a nagging feeling that there's something unfinished, that there's the possibility that there is more to be unearthed. What prevents me from repeated listenings at that point? Time, most obviously, and the fact that it's usually with albums that I find merely adequate; the probability of being rewarded in the endeavor of listening again thus appears rather slim. For the moment, then, I'll just have to assume that for every one misjudged album, there are two whose essence I get with time.
It's occurred to me that this latest fad of mine might be better placed in a separate blog, or, you know, in my head where it belongs. My direct violation of this sensible advice is the simple fact that, unlike many of my posts, this is fun. For me, that is, and isn't that what this blog is all about?

1) John Prine, "Please Don't Bury Me". Just some old-fashioned fun, certainly. But lightweight, never! I like the fact that he was able to ignore the inane "new Dylan" tag and write songs like this. Ironically, it's by being true to his own vision that a Dylan comparison is most warranted.

2) Sparks, "Big Bands". I could choose pretty much anything from the debut album, really. What's more, the core elements of my description would remain very much the same - intelligent lyrics, amazing voice, and crazy song structure! Here, the fact that it occurred to them to write a song on the subject should be enough to earn congratulations: one can easily relate to it in spirit, doubly so when Russell gives it such a delicate vocal treatment. What I especially like is that, contrary to many other bands with a bold musical vision, there is some sort of logic behind all the music; "experimental" and "ground-breaking" can still be charming.

3) The Beatles, "And I Love Her". Might want to check this band out - they sure can pen a good tune.

4) Warren Zevon, "The French Inhaler". Years ago, I remember one reviewer of Zevon's self-titled album advising the rest of us in the art of seduction: just put this song on and draw close. I can guess the particular couplet he was thinking of, and indeed it's a beaut. Whether it's a good idea to coo to your interest that their face looks like something Death brought along, though, is another matter. Reliable sources (his son, no less) tell us that this song is to be imagined as a conversation between Zevon and his wife, and so it's inevitable that some of it is a little impenetrable. But the pieces I do get are all worthwhile.

5) Nick Cave, "Mercy". There was a period of around a year where I was actually a little scared to put on Tender Prey again, because I'd convinced myself that great as it was, it was akin to the soundtrack of the apocalypse. It's not as grim as all that, but taking this track and the one that follows it, I can see why a younger me could get affected in such a way. The atmosphere is brutally evocative - the delivery of "I told her to get down on her knees", for example. And the wry rumination on death is still eminently quotable. I don't find myself in the mood for it all that much (thankfully!) but when the mind is a particular shade of gray, there is nothing like it.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A bit of (intended) effluvia, for a change: long ago, I talked about an inadvertent switch to IE that made me wonder whether it was just tabs that made me drift away from ol' Firefox. Probably, but now I've found a reason to make the gradual move back - and it turns out I was rather prescient, because v3 was the magic number with its introduction of the "smart" address bar. A small improvement in the grand scheme, but I've found it rather indispensable with familiarity. Kudos to the developers for the idea.

Late night, maudlin street

Given choices and late nights, the best I can do is invariably the classic "Why must I choose in the first place?"; what's remarkable is that the thought seems very potent when created, but the next day it seems awful close to a cop-out. And if that seems familiar, then really it's because things are not that much is different from the days of thunder & fire. What, I wonder, does all this choice mean anyway? I can't comprehend how wildly divergent they all are, but still you wonder if any of them can be blatantly wrong. After all, there are always little mysteries on offer wherever you go, and unraveling them is about as satisfying as it gets for me. All this thinking, all these years, and still answers do not present themselves - is it even commendable that I'm still asking these questions?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Caroline and I

Variations on a theme by Forster/McLennan.

"Caroline and I
Born in the very same year
Alive at a similar time
It gave me something small
That I could feel"

I actually thought I lost you for a second there. Of course, looking at you again after all these years, you really aren't all that different, and so it's easy to chide me for being melodramatic again. But that isn't the you I'm talking about: I mean the person hopelessly entwined with the days that time and circumstance took away from me. The memories go strong still, but I can't live with them alone; I need something tangible, I need something to confirm to me that the time did in fact exist.

Only now did it strike me that perhaps the last scrap in our romance is the very room I sit in now. I don't think you ever visited, nor for that matter is there any physical suggestion of you anywhere here. Open my desks and you will see no love letter or trinket to remind me of you; there are but mounds of papers and the assorted paraphernalia that make up my daily life. But the marvel is that, given all these changes, the past is invoked easily enough. It just takes certain days, where the view from my window shows more than the beautiful blue sky: and what it suggests is that time has not passed at all - a day, a year, a century, none of it has any meaning. The room is either safely excluded from all time, or the very intersection of all of it; whatever it is, having seen all that is and will be, you will always remain somewhere within it.

And yes, before you ask, it also resurrects the day I'd rather not remember. I remember thinking it was as if all time around me had stopped; aside from the words I heard you speaking, perfect in their clarity yet simultaneously nonsensical in what they were implying, I cannot remember how the rest of the world revolved. Yet even now I can be reminded of the instant with perfect strength, and my strongest feeling is simply gratitude that it is allowed to live on. We never will regress to our former selves - for good reason, might I add - but the moments that shaped us will live forever.

I suppose that one tries to write about past loves in order to try to forget them. Forgetting would be welcome, as it would free my mind and heart. But as I get towards the end of this little piece, I cannot help but feel that the real goal of all this writing is to make the past immortal. I know my powers well enough to sense this is beyond me, but I am glad I need no longer to wonder about the permanence of those times. Should the questions come back to me, I need only look out my window, to the sky that forged us and broke us apart, to know the answer.