Friday, June 28, 2013

The first sight of her pulled me into another world, one which I am still trying to escape from. At least, that's what I would like to say. In truth, it's not the world that has changed, just my place in it. While externally everything is as it should be, since she made her entrance, all that I used to perceive may as well have happened to another person. Skeptical as I am of a glorious reunion with that past life, I can't say that I have no hope altogether. But time is not on my side.

How could one person cause a person to break in two? All she did (with ease) was, through her presence, simply release from inside me a doppelganger that I never knew existed. While we share many things, a soul is not one of them. Each time I hear a call from the old world, this parasite tries to drain it too, desperate to compensate for its missing core. It is an ashamed admission that this husk has nonetheless managed to best all of my attempts to overthrow it.

On certain quiet nights, as I pause to reflect, I try to play back moments that left an impression on me, most of them likely only inhabiting my head and no one else's. But I deliberately avoid anything to do with her. Partly it is because of how she has seen me on the road to self-damnation. Yet there is also an element of me wishing to pretend that things are the same as they've always been, that it's still the same pair of eyes that sees and understands everything around him. If I were to concentrate really hard, I think, maybe I would be able to get back to familiar surroundings. On other not-so-quiet nights, though, the facade of all this seems quite clear to me. Whatever I may convince my mind of, there is no escaping from the universe with the secrets I hope to dream away.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Having found myself in a familiar state of happiness, thanks to a succession of fine albums that have made their way from my shelf to my head and heart, I tried to think back to how this purple patch started. I think it was sparked by two somewhat nondescript purchases that happened to occur around about the same time: Van Zandt's Our Mother the Mountain and Clark's Old No. 1. Both I now consider fine albums, the latter especially so, but at the time they were little more than curious explorations, obligatory fills in the gaps in my record collection. As I was in the process of absorbing these albums, I thought it fit to see the fine Van Zandt documentary Be Here To Love Me, which set me on an immersion of more of his work, and its siblings, amongst them Clark's Texas Cooking. At this stage I started to realize my palate had a particular taste for a particular strain of country and folk, which in hindsight should have been blindingly obvious the moment I first listened to John Prine many years ago now. Anyhow, this set about the aforementioned remarkably fruitful set of purchases, for which I am grateful. The only problem is that I find it hard to listen to anything without a steel pedal anymore.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The moral thrust of this 2000 documentary, ostensbily on vinyl collectors hit somewhere close to home. The filmmaker's depressed excesses aside, it is at least partly concerned with a valid question I've grappled with as I fill the bricks in my nascent collection: aren't there better things I could be doing? (Only) Partially on the heels of such thinking, a few years ago I went so far as to give up on music for a little bit. While I've since more than redoubled my efforts in terms of collecting, the question still gnaws at me from time to time: where is all of this going, exactly?

I'm not sure I have anything new to offer as an answer, but I think the older answers seem as sensible as they ever did. First, collecting for its own sake -- making the focus something other than the music -- is the road to madness. I don't think my condition will reach the heights of some of the documentary's subjects, specifically in terms of buying albums I have no intention of listening to. I can't say that my buy-to-listen ratio is great, but I definitely do intend to get around to all the albums sometime or another. Some of them I've kept shelved for years, waiting for the right time to either revisit or listen for the first time. (This includes many classic rock releases that I should have memorized: Moby Grape, The Band,  et cetera. Matter of fact I feel shameful admitting that they've stayed relatively unlistened for so long.) It's been a perennial problem of mine, figuring out how exactly to fit in more music as time and mental bandwidth will allow. Yet I'm inclined to give myself a pass on this, since I have been trying to chip away at some of these semi-permanent fixtures in recent times.

Second, eccentricity is softened when it is shared. Part of my personal insecurity with my collection is the element of fantasy that's involved sometimes when stepping back and looking back at it -- the thought that if a fellow music aficionado should come across it, I should get a nod of approval. It's a pity that I've only had few such friendships, all with people from a very different musical upbringing. (The first of which may have sowed the seeds for a completely different musical obsession some years down the line, when I'm all cleaned up. But one problem at a time.) Being an esoteric discipline, of course, it's not easy to find other obsessives. But it would definitely validate the sense that all of this is not imagined happiness, that others think the music worth seeking out. And as I write this, it reminds me of the value of keeping such friendships active when they are formed.

These are not to suggest that I'm immune to the thrills of collection, though. Indeed, the seeds were sown when reading GS's site, I think, and seeing its encyclopaedic approach to rock music. Some part of me acquiescently responded to that, and took that knowledge as being something to aspire to. It's why I've never shook quite off the dream of writing music reviews, despite limited success in having anything to say at all when it comes to describing albums I really like. (The template for the music review site is in place, though, ready for a rainy day.) It's why a job application form that asked for my extra-curricular interests saw me filling in "budding record collector", even though this was back in the day when all I had was Grateful Dead and Neil Young albums. Neither of which I'm all that embarrassed by, because I would note that the reviewing obsession is quite different to the collecting obsession. Indeed, ten years on, and my respect for GS isn't diminished all that much, not least because he doesn't fall prey to the trap I mentioned earlier, namely, hoarding but not consuming. (Whether or not rating all the Kiss albums is a good use of time, though, is another story.) Maybe more importantly, when it counts, what you get from the reviews is a genuine sense of love and devotion to the music -- its emotional rather than symbolic impact. That is something that is questionable when the collection obsession becomes more extreme.

The above also doesn't address another question the documentary tries to probe at, namely, why go through this puzzling ritual? The easy answer is that obsessive is just the way I am. (Pity it's not in the things that matter, my unkind half feels forced to interject.) More instructive is the admission that there is definitely an element of compensation in the act -- loving music is so unconditional, so guaranteed, so clean. None of which is bad. Only that it's likely symptomatic of an psychological inability to feel entirely at ease in the real world and those who occupy it. Then again, I'm tempted to say, so what? I've known that for a long time. Could it just be something I have to live with? And if so, why not derive as much happiness as possible while I can; and if music is the doorway to that, so be it? The counter-argument is likely that this view deliberately ignores the reality that this is not how humans are wired, specifically, that it means an existence in slavish devotion to plastic (or to vibrations in the air) rather than flesh and blood, which will ultimately be an unsatisfying one. And yet, again, this is under the assumption that collection (or reviewing, or whatever) is the only thing going on in one's life. Which is likely a crucial point -- should one choose to spend one's free time collecting Dylan bootlegs (thankfully I took a pass on that life), that's one's own pejorative. But when the notion of what is free time encroaches upon the elements of a halfway "normal" life, perhaps that's cause for, if not concern, at least acknowledgement that there's a conscious choice going on here. If one looks straight in the mirror and decides that it's the right choice, what else is there to the say? In my case, I can't count the times I've hummed a tune to myself and decided that the Doors were right when they spoke of the unreserved friendship that only music can provide. But I can't claim them to be the only times that meant anything to me. Which, I think, means that while I'm not too dissatisfied with the choice I've made, I'm not above thinking that some obsessions can be displaced without shaking my sense of self too much.