Monday, May 31, 2010

Daily Update #9: "Dedicated Follower[s] Of Fashion"

I can't stand hipsters. Most of them, anyway. If they're nice, unpretentious people who have a flair for dressing/drinking/living kitschy, okay, fine. But the worst of the worst, the ones who swear by vinyl, the ones who will preach to you about why you need to ride a bicycle (even though they had to take a plane for their inevitable semester abroad - usually Paris), the ones who will try to guilt you for eating meat, the ones whose knowledge of a band is verbatim from the Pitchfork website...and they exist, I met quite a few of them as an undergrad...those are the ones I can't stand.

One time at a Halloween party, I went as Zappa. Some hipster chick cornered me and tried to outshine me with her knowledge. I won the first round when I asked her if she'd heard Thing-Fish. She had not. Things escalated when Captain Beefheart was brought up...yeah, yeah, she'd heard Trout Mask Replica, and that's great. More people should. She told me how much she loved Beefheart and his whole aesthetic...then I asked if she'd heard Safe As Milk, his first album.

Her response? "No, are they new?"

I won.

Look, I'm not a music snob. At all. I will admit that, when challenged, I might grow fangs, but I don't like when people are "ashamed" to tell me what sort of stuff they're into, as if my taste is superior or something. It isn't. I've tried to make this my manifesto over at my review blog. You like what you like, and sometimes you can explain it - "I think Zappa is funny and he writes good melodies" - and sometimes you can't - "Captain Beefheart...just needs to be heard to be believed."

I'm especially not going to let someone whose knowledge of music is spoon-fed to them by various media outlets get away with such pretentious posturing.

What I find most maddening, and I'm paraphrasing what I thought was a poignant, if a bit acrid, statement from the show Community, is how many of them have been able to see the world but still don't get it. I'm not an incredibly serious man, although my friend Luke pointed out that when I start talking history I go into "serious Alex" mode, and I'm sure as Hell not about to tell people how to live their lives.

But I'm certainly allowed to see how much it clashes with my own value system and subsequently bitch about it. And they're entitled to the same.

Having spent more time than normal this past weekend on the subway - specifically the L train - I got to see plenty of hipsters. And since I was out quite late, most of them were calling it a night.

It wouldn't be entirely honest to say I didn't have some sense of schadenfreude, knowing that some of the people I saw stumbling around the subway stations would go home and feel like shit in the morning. But there was a tugging sense of pathos. I wondered if they were so deluded that they would wake up, reflect on what they can remember from the previous night, and say that they had a great time.

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness,
starving hysterical naked,

Dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn
looking for an angry fix,
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly
connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
Who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat
up smoking in the supernatural darkness of
Cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities, contemplating jazz..."
--- Allen Ginsberg, "Howl" (1956)

He said it better than I ever could.

Anyway, I took a quiz. I'm not a hipster.


You're not trying to be hip and you don't give a shit what hipsters think about you.

Personality Quiz: Are you a hipster?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Daily Update #8: "Here Comes Summer"

I promise I'll eventually stop dwelling on how stoked I am that school is out until September.

Anyway, tonight was a good night. That's all I feel like saying.

We went to a goodbye party for a friend of mine from IU who's going back home for a litany of reasons, including maybe going back to grad school out in - of all places - San Francisco. Of course, home for her is New Orleans, which is nothing to sneeze at either. I'd love to go back there again. It was a really enchanting place, and that's just based on wandering around the French Quarter with Dad. I'd love to see the rest of the city, good, bad, and ugly.

It's a little sad to see one of my few connections to Bloomington (and until my friend got here for her summer internship, my only connection) going, but that's just how it goes. It's not like I'm without friends from school.

On a related note, my friend Luke was approved for a Fulbright grant in Egypt. He and his wife Caity will be going in September. I have to say, they really were the first true friends we made here. It's going to be a real bummer to see them off, they're very kind and generous people.

Also, go see City Island. It's a great farcical comedy...really good. I laughed a lot.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

Daily Update #7: "The Door Into Summer"

Hello, summer, my old friend,
Should be nice to hang again.

Man, oh, man, have I been anticipating the end of the semester for some time! The thought of summer in New York just seemed so remote, so far off, the light at the end of the tunnel...

...okay, my semester wasn't that bad, but I was ready for it to end. I also hated the little teases of warmth we got in March and April, only to have it 35 degrees and rainy the next week. At least the weather here is simply bipolar, unlike Indiana weather, which has full-on schizophrenia.

The transition from student-during-finals-mode to holy-shit-it's-summer mode was an easy one. Over the course of this week, I...

+ Got to party on a yacht
+ Drank on a weekday during business hours twice
+ Used my insomniac skills in a non-academic setting
+ Replaced the Kenneth Anger DVD's that I lost in my could-have-been-a-divorce
+ Realized I now have a network of friends within the Conservatory, not just mere acquaintances
+ Left the house Thursday at 7PM and got back Friday at 10AM.
+ I might or might not have fallen asleep on the train and missed my stop, waking up at the West 8th Street/NY Aquarium stop. (Okay, I did.)

And that's just the stuff I can talk about. (I can say no more.)

I don't think I did anything close to this as an undergrad. Don't worry, I will not be making this a regular pattern of behavior; the fact is that I needed this. It was a means of releasing tension.

Anyway, I've got my fourth date with a certain lady tomorrow. Things are just looking really good right now...and they have been for a while.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Daily Update #6: "I'm Not What I Appear To Be"

(Note: this is not a reflection of my current or recent mental state. I just like having music to go with my writing.)

Someone said to me last week, "It's really cool you can get away with maybe doing your thesis on Zappa," and that kind of pissed me off...granted, I was polite about it, assuming this person had the best of intentions, but still. I don't think I'm "getting away" with anything in doing this. The guy was a clever songwriter and composer, and coverage of his works in writing have been plentiful...just not that good.

There's the token "journalist with some sort of axe to grind" type of biographical sketch, and those are no fun. The worst is Barry Miles' book; he starts off painting a fairly good portrait of the man before getting downright mean in putting down anything Zappa did post-1972. In discussing the 1988 tour, where the entire band wanted Frank to fire bassist Scott Thunes because of his abrasive demeanor during rehearsals, Miles writes that Zappa wouldn't have thought twice about firing Thunes if he'd been doing drugs on the road. Shit like that just comes across as the author trying to get back at Zappa for some reason or another.

And then there's the books written by fans. Some of it is borderline samizdat-type publications, with at least two of my books rather mercilessly copying and pasting (with citations, mind you) from assorted Zappa sites.

THEN there's the academic approaches. Ben Watson's The Negative Dialectics Of Poodle Play comes really close in offering a great discourse on the material. However, there's also some head-scratching parallels that he suggests, such as "Dinah-Moe Humm" being inspired by one of John Ruskin's letters, or "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow" having something to do with King Lear. Sometimes he needlessly overextends his analysis. Watson also falls into one of the great traps with die-hard fans of any artist: no other artist or musical group comes close. For no real reason at all, Watson trashes Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band as a way of building up how We're Only In It For The Money is a vastly superior record. He fails to acknowledge the latter would not have existed without the former, opting to make a sweeping generalization about the culture that embraced Pepper rather than giving the album itself a fair assessment.

It came out fairly recently, but Kelly Fisher Lowe's The Words And Music Of Frank Zappa comes really close to being the best. It doesn't quite make it. I'm not saying one absolutely HAS to be a musician to successfully write about music, but Lowe's attempts at describing the music he's analyzing gets pretty amateurish. He also has little to say about Zappa's instrumental works, glazing over a substantial chunk of Zappa's output as a result. I don't like playing the "Oh, well, he clearly just doesn't get it" card, but his lack of appreciation for Burnt Weeny Sandwich seems to stem more out of not appreciating the music, wondering instead where all the political or scatological lyrics are.

And that's another problem: Lowe is too politically correct. Any time he discusses one of Zappa's potentially controversial songs, he distracts himself by justifying the content against contemporary mores. It gets in the way of his enjoyment of the music at times, denouncing "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy" as something that is sick and "not at all funny." I personally think he could have had a simple disclaimer in his foreword about how Zappa approached satire with a sense of carnivalesque humor. Making it as offensive as possible challenged the values of his listeners, causing them to wonder what makes it offensive to their ears.

Then there's his foreword, where he bitches about how much of his book he had to amend because he committed the cardinal sin of letting Zappa's widow know about his book. There's a lot of dog-shit about "fair use" and "composer's intent," and even though Watson was able to quote screeds of lyrics throughout Zappa's canon, Lowe could at most cite three lines from a single song. I understand that most academic texts aren't exactly million-sellers. The book wasn't going to be in the display window at Barnes & Noble, so Lowe should have just had the book published.

A tinge of melancholy hovers over the book, as Lowe passed away a year after its publication; first of all, he died young. Second, this means there won't be a revised edition, no chance for an intellectual discourse between the two of us, not even a chance for me to say, "Hey, I really did enjoy your book." It sucks.

I haven't had a chance to give Dangerous Kitchen: The Subversive World Of Zappa a serious read, but I remain optimistic.

How did this turn into a literature review?

Anyway, I don't think I'm "getting away" with anything in writing about rock and roll music, thank you very much. It's still not getting the proper treatment by academia, with a bunch of Rolling Stone-minded goons on one side acting like rock and roll was theological text and that nothing by today's standards will ever beat the music that came out in [insert best year of said critic or scholar's life HERE], but then (and even worse) are the writers who denounce anyone who puts rock music on a higher shelf than pop music as a "rockist," implying that their tastes are racist and sexist simply because a majority of the rock genre was made by white middle-class males.

It's like the assholes behind such rubbish as The Gospel According To The Beatles (don't get me started) have already tilted the playing field, resulting in the other batch turning out such deliberately provocatively-titled books as How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music, which - go figure - even has five-star reviews on Amazon saying it's a good book with a deceptive and sensationalistic title.

Not quite sure where I was going with this, but I think a middle ground exists. Frankly, I like acknowledging that Zappa, Lennon, and Hendrix were in fact mere mortals who had bad days and had their own dark sides. They weren't messiahs, they weren't anything more than men of extraordinary talent. Of course, I wouldn't spend my whole time focusing on that, it's just a point worth making. I like that pragmatic approach: The Beatles weren't the be-all, end-all for popular music. I recognize that.

But it's material meritorious of studying. We can even incorporate post-modernism, tonal theory, and all that fun shit to make it legitimate.


Daily Update #5: "Everybody needs an education"

Well it's come to this: my ethnomusicology paper on The Plastic People Of The Universe. I about danced in the street when I checked the syllabus and saw the page requirement was 9 to 11 pages, not the 20 I had originally thought. This takes some of the pressure off.

Speaking of pressure...

Boy howdy, I've got it. I'm not one to ever complain about any sort of ailment, but all this work has given me headaches and heartburn. I'm counteracting it with Maalox (which tastes like pool water) and Excedrin, which contains caffeine.

Oh, and coffee. Lots of coffee.

"Thanks to all the mathematicians
And the inventors with their high IQ's
And the professors in their colleges
Tryin' to feed me knowledge that I know I'll never use!"

A pretty almighty fuck-you to the educational system, no?

I can't even pretend to be all that defiant. I love school and I love learning. However, I also think this paper topic would be better as a dissertation.



Saturday, May 22, 2010

Just Checking In

Just so you all know, The Beatles are bigger than Jesus.

I do like this song, too:


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Daily Update #4: "Sleepwalker"

It appears Dave Davies had mastered the whole blazer/t-shirt/jeans combination some ten years before I was even born. I shouldn't even try to think how much he'd already seen of the world by the time he was 23.

Since I brought it up, though, by the time he was 23 he'd seen a lot of the world. He single-handedly invented metal by slashing the speaker cone of his amp with a razor, he'd enjoyed a #4 hit single in Europe as a solo artist ("Death Of A Clown"), The Kinks had gotten to tour all over Europe, Australia, North America, and (duh.) the UK, and he had just written "Strangers" and "Rats," two terrific songs from a terrific album.

Of course, he also dropped out of high school, lived in a society where one could get a break in the music business without getting sodomized (literally or metaphorically) by Lou Pearlman or moonlighting as a Mouseketeer in exchange for a shot at the top, and (along with his bandmates) was banned from the US from 1965-1969. He was also smack-dab in a depressed period of his life, which involved consuming mass quantities of wine and hallucinogens, when he was my age.

I'd say he and I are about even.

Monday and Tuesday, due to my lack of sleep, morphed into a hybrid 38-hour day. We'll call it Muesday. (The considerably less creative, yet considerably more theologically tilted, bastardization of Sunday and Monday is Sonday.)

Anyway, how are you?

Today again, my friend Amy and I hit the books for our final. What was once a daunting "HOLYFUCKSHIT HOLYFUCKSHIT" task has simply been reduced to, "Dammit! I knew I was right the first time when I said it was one of Haydn's LATER pieces!" One more group study session to go - on Sunday - and then we'll be all systems go to say adios to a semester that has been, to say the least, eventful.

But let's concentrate a bit more on recent history, shall we?

Let's go back to Muesday. I was too pissed-off at the truly awful blast of gray/rain/wind that gone thrown at me...

Once Amy left after our study session on Monday, I stayed up so late it got early finishing my paper, printing it off (and its appendices, of which there were eight), and burning CD's of listening material for my professor. Printing my papers involved a late-night hike to the campus computer lab. As I was coming back, it was all I could do to look around me and once again (happily) soak in my surroundings.

Part of me misses those Endymion jaunts to the Herman B. Wells Library, whether it was the seven-minute walk from mine and Graham's place, the fifteen-minute walk from Shelley's place, or even the twelve-minute walk from Eric's house on the East side of campus that I took just about nightly during the hot muggy summer of 2007.

I rested for a couple of hours, dealt with everything I mentioned in my previous entry, then went to class. It went well; I wonder if I can choose who is on my thesis committee, because the instructor I had for Philosophy of Music was a great guy. Knew his stuff, and always provided good comments on my exams. I told him to stay in touch, because I was eager to hear what he thought of my paper as well as the music I provided.

Remember that girl I mentioned, the one whose grandparents are friends with my parents? Well, we met up for Indian food on the Upper East Side. She brought her roommate with her, an Indiana native. We both knew where the other was from, which after 9 months now of introducing myself to people and saying, "I'm from a small town in Indiana called Seymour. It's where John Mellencamp is from? No? Haven't heard of it...that's okay, you're not missing anything!" was a bit refreshing.

Look, I need to stop getting so hung up over things I might not even need to get hung up over. Mom heralded this girl's arrival (for ease of reference, let's just call her Genevieve - a Kinks reference) so much that I couldn't help but be nervous. And have some preconceived notion about who she was before we even sat down and ate together.

I don't even think she and I had so much as bumped into each other as undergrads; in fact, I only recall us meeting once, and we were in 9th grade. For whatever reason, I thought she'd be fairly it would turn out I'm now wondering why I didn't actively pursue even a friendship with her while we were both at Indiana University.

Oh, right. I was engaged.

Anyway, I wish I could provide some sort of scenario that left me knowing full well how she felt about me...and, yes, how I feel about her (besides as a really great potential friend.) She's cute, she's smart, and she's interesting...but I have no idea if we'd click, or if she's even interested. Plus, she's here for the summer. We've both got another year of school, too. I couldn't do long-distance unless I knew it would be worth it.

And not that I'm ready to pledge my undying love for her, but the girl I've gone on some dates with - to make another Kinks reference, let's call her Victoria - is cute, smart, and interesting. The only difference is, I know she's interested. I got a random Facebook message from her saying she was thinking about me. It made me smile. When I texted her during my class that we got to listen to Neil Young and how suddenly my day was sucking less, she texted back "Nerd! :)"

For all of the love songs out there, it's pretty hard to think of any like songs. Yes, there's "Bohemian Like You," which has a terrific chorus and a great riff...but the lyrics are stupid. It anticipated the rise of the hipster by about five years, all the shit about vegan food, one's ex crashing on the couch...throw in an extra verse about snorting coke off of a toilet seat in Williamsburg and/or something about both parties having spent a semester abroad and you'd be set.

I wish I had a song for my situation with Victoria. Because I like her a lot. There is a dramatic shortage of songs that are about just liking someone. It's all about love, sex, or the end of a relationship.

Around 1AM Wednesday morning as I was reading in bed, one of my colleagues sent me a text asking if I was still up. Since I was, I told him I was and asked what was up. His response: "Friendship." So I got up out of bed, put on what I'd worn that day, and waited for him. I needed the interaction as much as he did.

I told him about this thing with the two girls. He told me about some things going on in his life. We walked to the 7-11 on Avenue M for late-night beverages. And he left around 5:30.

What do you know? That was 23 and a half hours ago.

Oddly enough, I'm no closer to any sort of conclusion than I was the last time I talked about this. Can I really complain too much about this whole thing?

I'm starting to bore myself with all this drivel! Let's call it a night.

*It is a pretentious name, isn't it? She doesn't even look like a Genevieve...but "Sweet Lady Genevieve is such a great song. In fact, how about I play you out with it?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Daily Update #3: "Fuck You (An Ode To No One)"

You know, some days you just wake up and have a slightly moody disposition. Could be that you just didn't get a good night's sleep. Could be that you had an unnerving dream. Not that this happens to me (and no, I'm not being sarcastic), but it could even be from a hangover.

Or, some days you wake up from two hours' sleep to find gray skies, constant rain, and a text from your supervisor saying "Mandatory meeting @ 12.", and once you get there (and are consequently ignored for ten minutes) you're told you yourself didn't need to come in.

In short, I'll state my grievances in an open letter.

"Dear world,
Fuck you. I was cooped up in my apartment all weekend writing a 20-page essay while it was nice and sunny, not a cloud in sight. Then today I have to walk to the McDonald's - which, by the way, I had to go to McDonald's for this meeting - in the wind and the rain, only to be told I didn't need to show up.

Couldn't have made it nice and sunny today? Couldn't have had it be shitty outside all weekend instead, when I didn't set foot outside of the house?

You're a jerk, world. This is why you don't have any friends. Neptune isn't really busy with the wife and kids every time you call, he just sees it's you on the Caller ID and ignores you. You know why? Because you're a bringdown.

Oh, and I wasn't supposed to tell you this, but Venus has been seeing both Mars and Jupiter. At the same time, in fact. It's a pretty sick little threesome thing they have going on.

Dictated, but not read,

Hopefully these bad vibes are something that can be corrected with coffee, a donut, and maybe even (let's face it, I've probably earned it) some ice cream.

Don't judge me. I rarely eat junk food. The worst thing I regularly consume is Wheat Thins. Oh, the horror!


Monday, May 17, 2010

Daily Update #2: "Can You Dig It?"

"Can you dig it?
Do you know?
Would you care to let it show?"

I'm not too big on Taoism, but this is a cool little song. I listen to The Monkees while editing an academic paper I wrote on Zappa, so what? Big whoop, wanna fight about it?

I'm still getting all my citations together. The wireless here has had a pretty nasty case of hiccups this weekend. This isn't fun when a majority of your research is online. If it does this tomorrow, I'm doing my Ethnomusicology paper at the computer lab. That is almost completely dependent on materials online. I have a (VERY OVERDUE) book from the BC library called Rock Around The Bloc, which I could get off of Amazon for the low price of $79. (When did this happen, by the way? Weren't books cheap at some point?!) The other book is a bunch of letters written by Vaclav Havel.

Actually, I'll save that for tomorrow. Otherwise I might run out of things to talk about.

Anyway, I had a hard time getting started today, so I watched some of the Daria DVD box. I rarely purchase things like CD's or DVD's anymore - one thing I learned from Shelley was financial responsibility - but when I saw pre-orders were slashed from being about as expensive as Rock Around The Bloc to just under $40, I couldn't pass it up. Such a great show...I always wished I could be like Trent. Not personality-wise, I clearly have more ambition...but he just looks cool. Pierced and tattooed. I can only wish. Tattoos are stupid expensive.

Besides, what would I get? Tribal ink is out, mainly because I'm not a douchebag. I wouldn't get a picture of anyone...too much detail (thus more expensive), but what about some sort of symbol? The downside to this is what if the symbol loses meaning for me? If I'd had the extra money, two months ago I would have gotten the khanda - the symbol of the Sikh faith - on my left forearm. Now I think, "Well, maybe." My only problem is that when I tell people I'm interested in Sikhism I have to field questions about beards, turbans, and if all Sikhs wear white...and why I'm not doing any of those things

A couple of weekends ago at the Sikh Day Parade, I saw plenty of Sikh men who shaved and weren't wearing turbans.

Bottom line: I believe in a God. I believe in reincarnation. And I don't think breaking the cycle of rebirth has anything to do with one's diet, how many times a day you pray (quality over quantity, I say), or how you wear your hair.

What was I talking about? Tattoos, right?

Anyway, I made a lot of apologies to Shelley through email last night. It was just going to be a quick little "Hey - how are you? I need your address so I can send you the stuff you left here. Take care, Alex."

But I just felt this nagging feeling to let her know that I'd had time to myself to think about how things went wrong. I owned up to a lot of mistakes, and spared no detail apologizing for everything I did. Told her I was growing up, acknowledging my own flaws and working on them.

She has found a job and enrolled in classes at the City College, AND found a place with roommates (who have a cat). I'm glad we're both better off, not just me and not just her. I have this nagging feeling that she thinks she won't find anyone...I mean, come on, if you can't find your future spouse in 5 weeks' time in a new city while job/apartment/school-hunting, you'll never find true love. (Sarcasm.)

Part of me thinks, "Who knows, maybe I've already met my future wife..." and another part of me thinks, "What if I haven't even met her yet?" I also wish I could look ahead five years, find myself, and just ask. Who is she? How will I meet her?

Of course, I'm in no rush. I'll just keep doing my thing, all I really know how to do is write, make music, and be myself. Never mind that I've got at least one more year of school in my immediate future.

Anyway, I've procrastinated enough. Time to get productive once more.


PS - If this seems trite, incoherent, or stupid, that's probably because it is. It's good for me to just sit and write stream-of-consciousness, paying no mind to syntax and including proper citations. In other words, it's a nice balance to hours spent on my ass in academic mode.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Daily Update #1: "Stone Free"

Perhaps in order to remind myself that I...
1.) Have a blog.
2.) Need to update it periodically with medium-length posts rather than two borderline hypergraphic posts once every four weeks...
...I should start writing daily. Nothing too grand, just treating it the way I've been treating my little black book.

No, not that kind of little black book; I'm no Casanova, nor would I want to be. Trust me. What I'm talking about is my planner.

After Shelley and I broke up, for the sake of my own sanity and to make my days feel less empty, I would write what I did that day, each day and every day. I even write a short summary of my week at the top of the page, mainly characterizing it by the weather and whether (shit, homophone NOT intended) or not my week was hectic/busy or fun and easy.

Kind of like Twitter, except not incredibly stupid and limited to 160 characters. I'll also try to give some sort of song/album title as an indication of my mood. "Stone Free" is a Hendrix tune, the flip-side of "Hey Joe."

Right now, I'm listening to Roxy And Elsewhere while I work on my Philosophy of Music paper. The focus is "Sensory and Intellectual Beauty in the Works of Frank Zappa." Since the first two-thirds of the class centered around a book by a close-minded curmudgeon named Peter Kivy, discussing only "pure" or "absolute music," that is, music without words or a programmed story...for him, it doesn't get much better than Beethoven...I did dedicate half of my paper to Zappa's prowess as a composer of instrumentals.

I've gone on to discuss songs that he released in versions both with and without lyrics - "Strictly Genteel," "The Duke Of Prunes," "Outside Now," and "Inca Roads" - which were all first heard with lyrics, and "Holiday In Berlin, Full-Blown" and "Amnerika," which both came out initially as instrumentals. Of course, I cheated a bit with "Amnerika," because the lyrical version hasn't been officially released. Either way, it would have been part of Thing-Fish. I still think he could/should have made time for it on that album...90 minutes for a triple-LP set is a bit short. One of those platters actually runs only 27 minutes - what the Hell is that, an American Beatles or Stones hack-job? Shit...

Anyway, the second half is about Zappa's sensory "beauty" (using that term loosely - he wasn't exactly a cheery lyricist) and intellectual beauty. The former covers songs like "Dinah-Moe Humm" and "Carolina Hard-Core Ecstasy," which is such an overlooked but wonderful piece of music. Great harmonies, and Bozzio rocks the SHIT out of it. (I phrase my aesthetic assessment of the song a bit more delicately in my paper.) I use these as examples of "sensory beauty" because they're essentially expository pieces, with a lot - and I mean a LOT - of detail.

There's also a quick detour to "Village Of The Sun," where Zappa shows his sentimental/nostalgic side. Imagine if I wrote a song about a Friday night in Seymour, Indiana, back when I was in high school. It's THAT incongruous, and yet it's magnificent and heartfelt.

Another big point I make regarding all these songs with words is that Zappa, ever the grump, went so far as to say in his autobiography that "aside from the snide political stuff," most of his lyrics were written simply because the records wouldn't have sold otherwise. A statement like that is bullshit...first of all, it trivializes the songs in question; second, he's actually a really clever lyricist. I mention how those above-listed songs follow the basic construction of popular song - verse/chorus/bridge, etc. - and that if they were ever done sans lyrics, they would prove redundant without the primary melody.

On the other end of the instrumental spectrum is this "snide political stuff," songs like "Trouble Every Day" and "Dumb All Over" (one of the greatest verses ever written, and I mean ever!), wherein the music is actually quite static and riff-based. Both songs feature vocals up-front and center in the mix. An instrumental version of either of these would be almost uninteresting, and due to Frank's vocals being more spoken than sung, a melodic replication of his intonations would be monotonous.

I'll end with "Jesus Thinks You're A Jerk," a song that is both musically and lyrically interesting.

Now that I've bored you all to sleep with this clap-trap about a musician whose fan-base is generally a bunch of obsessive musical dorks, I can slip this out under the radar...

I've actually gone on a few dates. There's a girl I'm really hitting it off with, but I'm going to wait before I think about getting serious with anyone. Assuming no one I know is reading this - and that this will just be one of many entries that is little more than me marking time and procrastinating - there is someone I'm holding out for. Don't know how she feels about me, but her grandparents are friends with my parents...and I've been told that she talks about me to her grandmother.

Look, when it comes to women, I can be really stupid. (An understatement - have I told you about some of the monsters I associated myself with before I met someone decent and almost married? I know we weren't meant to be, but Shelley was sane and doesn't have a malicious atom in her body! Maybe sometime I'll write about Katrina...Jesus God, was she fucked in the head.) When my mom told me all this, I blew it off as, "Oh, she's probably just mentioning me because it's a person they have in common." I also added that she would think I was weird.

But then I told all of this to a friend of mine - a woman, ten years my senior whom I met at the St. Louis conference - and she told me this:

"I read that as a definite "she digs you" sign. Why? Cause when you dig someone, no matter how well you know them, you always find ways to mention them in conversation."

So, yeah, nothing gets past me! My older brother might be dead-on when he says I'm the "dumbest smart person" he knows. Anyway, I've messaged her that we should get lunch or coffee sometime. I'll see where it goes and try my damndest to pick up on any signals. Stuff like that gets me borderline neurotic. Mainly because I don't like to waste my time or that of others, I really think that whole "will they/won't they" dynamic only works on television. If it hadn't made for such great entertainment, I would've been bothered that Jim and Pam didn't get together the moment he came back to Scranton.

And now I'm talking about The Office. Wow. Anyway...we'll see. Frankly, I still remain skeptical. If I just wind up making a really good friend out of this situation, that's fine, too.

"The suspense is killing me! I hope it lasts!"
- Willy Wonka

Weird, a year ago I actively despised having such uncertainty in my life. All I really know for sure is that I don't plan on moving anywhere anytime soon. Everything else - going straight into a PhD. program, finding Miss Right and whether or not I've even met her yet, whether or not I'll be working at three different schools in the city as an adjunct - remains to be seen.

I kind of like this. Never thought I'd say that, but hey, I guess people's attitudes can change.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Almost A Month Has Gone By? Shit.

How does this happen? I really don't mean to disappear from my blogs for so damn long, it's just that I've been busy with school, music, and friends. I especially didn't want it to seem like I wrote my last entry and said, "Okay, that's it, I'll be all but shutting this thing down soon." Far from it. Think more of my accidental hiatuses as a sign that things are going well.

Who am I talking to? Who still reads this?

*Camera pans out to reveal our hero, a lit match in hand, surrounded by nothing but darkness*

Ever since I changed the URL unannounced (let's face it, is a pretty stupid web address for someone who'd love nothing more than for his parents to never read this blog) the only comments I've gotten have been from Andrew, Jordan, and Shelley. I'm sure she won't be back here anytime soon...though I'd love to know what she thought of my last entry.

Frankly, I hope the next time I hear from her it's after she's found someone. I'm sure it will be her on some level doing the whole "look at me NOW" bit, but I really think there's someone out there for her who is infinitely more patient than I am, who actually likes television (the entertainment, not the band - I love the band Television), and doesn't give a shit about her parents. I guess I have a little more of a traditionalist streak in me than I'd like to own up to. Maybe it's because on some level I've had a largely positive relationship with my parents and my brothers; it also has something to do with my hatred of drama. Okay, be has everything to do with my hatred of drama!

That said, people are mixed when I tell them I wish Shelley nothing but the best.

Earlier this month I spent about an hour making this big playlist of psychedelic tunes mainly from the 60's and 70' makes for a nice little jukebox-type assortment of songs to have on while I'm doing things. "Blue Jay Way" came on; it's one of my favorite Beatles tunes...although it's bright and sunny out, making the juxtaposition an incongruous one.

Anyway, lots of stuff has gone on, good and bad. I'll do the bad first.

I have two papers and two finals, yet I'm only in three classes. My last final is going to be the toughest. The papers should pretty much write themselves.

My mom's sister-in-law was found dead in her home earlier this month; another of her sisters-in-law has been diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. I'm not terribly close with a lot of my extended family, but this isn't easy on my mom. At all.

That's the bad stuff.

On with the good stuff:
+ I met with the program director to talk about my next year of study. Everything seems to be going pretty well. She was on the brink of bouncing in her chair when I expressed my interest in a Zappa thesis, suggesting topics and potential sponsors.
+ I have a job with the Census Bureau now. It's fun work and the hours go fast.
+ In researching my ethnomusicology paper on The Plastic People Of The Universe, I've realized that this is not just a topic I need to revisit...this could turn into my PhD. dissertation.
+ This week, after talking about it since October, I finally decorated my apartment. Lot of stuff now up on the walls.
+ I've interviewed with a babysitting service that said I can work as soon as I take a CPR class and get my fingerprints entered into the NYPD's database should I ever decide to moonlight as a kidnapper. That will be my first order of business upon completing this semester. Babysitting, not kidnapping!
+ Over the past few weeks, I'm finding myself regularly calling my friends (Graham, Bray, Andrew) and talking with them for extended periods of much for me saying I hate talking on the telephone, I guess.

Things are going really well here, don't worry about that. Hopefully as the semester ends I'll be able to regularly write here.