An Open Letter of Envy and Reluctant Admiration

dream forever live never

To the Woman in the Produce Section Who is Slowly, Carefully Picking Out Her String Beans One by One:

Oh, dear heart—if I had your capacity to focus so precisely on so mundane a task, without finding myself bored to the point of fury within the first fifteen seconds, I could gather all the pills I take for my ADDs and pitch them to the four winds.

If I had that—you fantastic creature—along with your ability to apply such clearly heartfelt dedication to the profoundly trivial, this blog would soon overflow the internet.

And if I had those things—my treasure—and, too, the free time it takes to do what you are doing—oh, sweet mercy! I would be utterly, literally and so, so joyously unmotherfuckingstoppable!

Thank you, apparition of pasts and futures unspeakable, for giving me a glimpse of the man I could have been; and may, one day, yet still be. I will carry your memory with me until my ultimate breath—and speak of you to the angels.

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Important office plasticware update: controversy in the breakroom.

So, I encountered this setup recently:

plastic who

Now, I want to make it clear that the spoons shown here are spoons in the size and shape of every other regular plastic spoon you’ve ever run across. They’re not soup spoons or sporks—strictly normal, everyday plastic spoons; just like the silhouette on the dispenser there.

This is objectively perplexing, because the question that immediately springs to the mind of any rational person is: “What, plastic spoons are ‘multi-purpose’ Swiss army knives, somehow, but plastic forks and knives are just… what; jerks? In what desperate world is this possibly true?”

But beyond the immediate, knee-jerk bafflement it inspires, this nomenclature also implicitly undermines the iron-clad validity of the hierarchy I laid out in this breakroom breakdown, vis-a-vis the logical order of plastic-ware usefulness.

I’ve given all this some further thought, and I would contend that even if forks are not “multi-purpose” (and I’m certainly not conceding that they are), knives—as I went to great pains to point out in the above-mentioned post—are just as good at cutting solids as they are at stirring liquids. (In fact, they’re more likely to be better at stirring than at cutting, if you think about it.)

What do you think? Where do you stand on the relative usefulness of office breakroom plastic utensils? Please do not tell me.*

In closing, I guess the clear conclusion here is that the jury is still out, and opinion is divided. The conversation continues. I’m keeping an ear to the ground and will probably not be updating this blog with any further developments unless they’re genuinely hilarious.

*Seriously; if you even start to reply, think about what you were about to say and imagine yourself hearing someone else say it. That ought to do it.

Critic vs. Nihilist: Setting the Stage

For reference, re: where the below conversation began. My 2010 year-end musical “wrap-up” for the Boston Phoenix. Review at your leisure; strictly optional.

12:44 PM Dan: You may be confused – I don’t think 1337 5P3@K overlaps with texting so much

12:45 PM me: Meh; it’s all the province of The Kids, to me (which I realize is not accurate, but my giving-a-rat’s-ass circuits can only handle so much these days)

Dan: I IMPLORE YOU TO GIVE A RATS ASS

me: TAKE A NUMBER

Dan: (no I don’t)

12:46 PM “Vampire Weekend? Fuck off”

me: “Well, at least someone finally said it.”

Dan: “uncredentialed opinion-havers (‘sup, bloggers)”

12:47 PM me: credibility is dying on the vine here people

Dan: ANDREW GRAHAM HAS BEEN WRONGED

12:48 PM me: heh heh heh—that’s not my message here.

I’m sticking up for society as a whole & music in particular.

my rat’s ass! my precious rat’s ass!

12:50 PM Dan: I still find your love for “credentials” perplexing

me: internet populism is a mixed blessing, at best, I feel.

12:51 PM I do believe that a filter of some kind still merits preserving

12:53 PM Dan: right, but a filter based on whose standards? Good writing or interesting perspectives are more important to me than whether or not the New Yorker thinks the person is “credentialed”

12:54 PM me: absolutely; but the “good writing and interesting perspectives” wheat don’t automatically stand out in & of themselves, from the vastly disproportionate levels of chaff out there—

12:55 PM Dan: and that’s where the Phoenix comes in?

me: so I’m not saying a source has to be credentialed by the New Yorker for validity—I’m saying that a source that serves as an umbrella for content, with a clearly perceptible mission/philosophy/purpose behind it—

or even just evident competence in the category/subject matter—

12:56 PM is more appealing to me than the idea of sifting through pages of google search results, etc.

I’m not voting to shut anything down—I just wish the internet &/or presences that inhabit it would step up a little—

accountability, accracy, etc.

12:57 PM (um, “accuracy.”)

(etc.)

Dan: So it’s more of a Protestant work ethic kind of thing?

12:58 PM me: could be… I guess, just not letting “quality” &/or “attention to facts” just passively slip by the wayside in favor of “hey! I have a thought! I have a web connection!”

12:59 PM Like, for example—this stuck in my mind enough that I was able to track it down by the use of a word I found to be so inaccurate that it really bugged me: http://drownedinsound.com/releases/15697/reviews/4141115

1:00 PM *quote:* “Let’s take ‘I Don’t Feel’ for starters. It kicks off like an enraged Tina Turner fronting Huey Lewis and The News: “I hear the footsteps drop and I knock on the doooooor!” she cries, in what is honestly the most vulgar opening five seconds of any song I’ve ever heard in my life.”

1:01 PM Fact 1: Those lyrics are not the actual lyrics; clearly the reviewer listened to them only once, or on a crappy system/pair of headphones. But there they are, representing the song/artist/album.

Fact 2: Either this writer does not know what “vulgar” means, or s/he is a puritan who shouldn’t be writing about non-classical music.

1:02 PM Because there is nothing whatsoever “vulgar” about any part of the song being described, from the first five seconds to the rest of it.

1:03 PM So: Who’s in charge here? It’s the double-edged sword; everyone can do it, so everyone does. Everyone wants to be in the spotlight (the byline, the voice); nobody wants to do the boring stuff (the editing, the fact-checking), etc.

1:04 PM Being right/accurate/factual is SOOOO BORING compared to being awesome & having people listen to you. So what’s the web going to look like when facts & other boring stuff start to disappear & wikipedia is more awesome than any stupid old encyclopedia?

ET

CETERA

just saying.

Dan: perplexing

reviewers, media, and the masses have been wrong and inaccurate about nearly everything since forever

1:05 PM internet is just the new medium.

me: true—but I’m talking about raw numbers going up across the board, in terms of content—

Dan: I remember a Reader’s Digest article I read in 6th grade that purported to contains shocking Black Sabbath lyrics

1:06 PM me: while “credible sources” (newspapers & other outlets with at least an on-paper commitment to truth, accuracy, etc.) disappearing in the landslide.

Dan: They were absolutely factually incorrect, and formed the basis for the commentary that was the remainder of the article

1:07 PM me: Right, exactly—imagine that, times every blogger or web commenter or wikipedia “editor” with an idea or thought

Dan: Similar laments were probably heard when Steve Gutenberg invented the printing press

me: (or an agenda)

Dan: and ultimately, what’s your beef? That the masses will be misled?

1:08 PM fuck them anyway

me: who do you write a “letter to the editor” to, to complain about a wrongly-reported incident or factual error, when there’s no editor?

Dan: you don’t, you send an email to the writer

me: well, yeah—that’s basically it; “history” (as accurately as it can be managed to do so) is worth preserving.

Dan: perception is reality

1:09 PM me: right—the writer—the “uncredentialed” person with no responsibility or obligation to correct anything, as opposed to the representative of an organization with accountability as part of its basis for existence.

1:10 PM I realize that I’m championing a set of corporate entities like newspapers, etc., here—but it’s the concept underlying them that I still feel has merit, however the execution goes down.

Dan: this is my whole point—the credentials and the basis of accountability is meaningless

me: but it shouldn’t be, is my point—

Dan: GOING TO EAT LUNCH PEACE OUT

me: just giving up on the idea of preserving facts & accuracy because there’s no reliable precedent (arguably) is…

a big mistake.

1:11 PM HAVE A GOOD LUNCH PEACE

Judge mental.

godjudge

I fully acknowledge that I’m not getting the whole story, but—based on their overall demeanor and physical appearance—when I see people with tattoos, shirts, bumper stickers and/or sweet airbrushed vehicle art that reads, “Only God Can Judge Me,” I generally have the impression that these are people who God would probably judge pretty harshly.

We’ll come back to this.

…But for the moment, I just wanted to point out that the following excerpt from the middle section of Steve Albini’s classic treatise, “The Problem with Music”—not always included in online reposts, possibly due to the lower swearing content and/or lack of immediately apparent/transferable relevance to being, you know, cool about band stuff—is, at this current moment, awkwardly and profoundly relevant to America in general and the Internet in particular. (This is in or around “blogging” vs. “writing.”)

But, as I say, we’ll come back to this. It’s late. For now, please complete the assigned reading below, at your leisure, and be prepared for discussion in class when we reconvene.

Excerpt from Steve Albini, “The Problem With Music,” The Baffler, Nov. 1993, pp. 31-38 (why, yes—I do have an original copy):

II. What I Hate About Recording

1. Producers and engineers who use meaningless words to make their clients think they know what’s going on. Words like “punchy,” “warm,” “groove,” “vibe,” “feel.”

Especially “punchy” and “warm.” Every time I hear those words, I want to throttle somebody.

2. Producers who aren’t also engineers, and as such, don’t have the slightest fucking idea what they’re doing in a studio, besides talking all the time.

Historically, the progression of effort required to become a producer went like this: Go to college, get an EE degree. Get a job as an assistant at a studio. Eventually become a second engineer. Learn the job and become an engineer. Do that for a few years, then you can try your hand at producing. Now, all that’s required to be a full-fledged “producer” is the gall it takes to claim to be one.

Calling people like Don Fleming, Al Jourgensen, Lee Ranaldo or Jerry Harrison “producers” in the traditional sense is akin to calling Bernie a “shortstop” because he watched the whole playoffs this year.

The term has taken on pejorative qualities in some circles. Engineers tell jokes about producers the way people back in Montana tell jokes about North Dakotans. (How many producers does it take to change a light bulb? “Hmmm. I don’t know. What do you think?” Why did the producer cross the road? “Because that’s the way the Beatles did it, man.”) That’s why few self-respecting engineers will allow themselves to be called “producers.”

…Tape machines ought to be big and cumbersome and difficult to use, if only to keep the riff-raff out. DAT machines make it possible for morons to make a living, and do damage to the music we all have to listen to.
_________________

Now, all that’s required to be a full-fledged “producer” is the gall it takes to claim to be one. Now, all that’s required to be a full-fledged “producer” is the gall it takes to claim to be one. Now, all that’s required to be a full-fledged “producer” is the gall it takes to claim to be one. Now, all that’s required to be a full-fledged “producer” is the gall it takes to claim to be one. Now, all that’s required to be a full-fledged “producer” is the gall it takes to claim to be one. Now, all that’s required to be a full-fledged “producer” is the gall it takes to claim to be one.

Discuss amongst yourself, Internet.

Too many bands, not enough… Oh, forget it.

“So—I hear you’re in a band these days, Kyle?”

“Yeah, Aunt Beth. We’re called American Car.”

“I am 63 years old and even I am aware that your band will be impossible to find on the internet. Did my sister fall down the stairs while she was carrying you?”

Sigh. I knew you wouldn’t ‘get it,’ Aunt Beth. Whatever. We’re playing a show next week with Banana Phonetic and Tree Frog Avengers. We’ll be doing a new song I wrote about how a girl made me feel.”

“I want to talk to Kyle. I know Kyle is in there. Kyle, can you hear me? It’s your Aunt Beth. Follow my voice.”

Based on a true story. Well, probably, anyway. You can’t make this stuff up.