Saturday, July 24, 2010

What is a Classic? or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Everything (except all the shit I don't like)

When I'm doing some work in my apartment, whether its compensable or not, I usually like to have some music in the background. Sometimes, rather than crank up my ancient and increasingly decrepit desktop to which the stereo speakers are attached, I click on Radio on the TV. Today I made a rare visit to the galaxy of "Classic Rock". There are some curious decisions being made somewhere. It got me to thinking about what constitutes a "classic" in terms of contemporary popular music.

It doesn't necessarily indicate that such a recording or album was really all that good. It could very well be a distorted remembrance, a nostalgic re-appraisal of something that was once so ubiquitous and saturated popular culture to the extent that an annoying piece of shit can now be fondled as a re-discovered mole that was dormant for decades. Surely it was a masterpiece, because it is remembered so easily.

In general, there are as many canons as there are individuals. And I'm just thinking about contemporary popular music, not, for example, the tired debates of literary culture and the human sciences, fraught as they are with canon making, unmaking and remaking. And by contemporary I'm referring to the recollections of MY contemporaneity: the 1970s (faintly), 1980s (regretfully), the 1990s (exultantly) and the 2000's (ambivalently, if not despondently).

But someday, SC, we're going to have to compare our respective cinematic canons. Just promise that you won't begin to pummel me with a Criterion copy of Yojimbo.

Anyway, it seems to me that the term "classic", in terms of how Radio on the TV uses it, is pasted upon anything that is generally considered to be a particularly salient exemplar of its zeitgeist, a protuberance of the spirit of an age. Or, given that it is such an elastic term within contemporary popular culture, sometimes it appears to signal a cultural contribution that is somehow transcendent or universal, and can be appreciated beyond the straight jackets of period, genre or reception. Or sometimes its just a heuristic to encompass those things that "we" really liked at the time and still do, the problematic part being that pesky matter of the "we". But can I have something to say about that? Do I have to know something before I can?

Within our listomaniac North American popular culture, the general qualities of things are given hierarchical order and structure through a cognitive reflex of relative rank and distinction. This helps to lighten the burden of the past and calm the anxiety of influence. As an interpretative community, "we" know what the "classics" are, or we're told what those are by an acceptable arbiter of aesthetic Taste at either end of the spectrum, from bohemian e-zines to faceless corporations (or websites like Pitchfork who exemplify the qualities of each). And then there are standards to either emulate or somehow surpass. Or fall miserably short of. Then again, the merit is in the Form, so you really can't fail as long as you have a model. Go ahead, borrow what you want. Stop waiting for the divine afflatus of original genius, its never gonna blow again. Let's see how you can build on this, as long as the appropriate nods and internal footnotes are provided. Formalists unite!

But back to Radio on the TV. On the "Classic Rock" channel, you'll get your steady diet of Dark Side of the Moon, but you're not likely to hear anything from Meddle. Is there no paternalistic arbiter who considers that a "classic"? Can I make line changes and substitutions? What about a little less of The Wall and anything from The Final Cut. Can I trade that Joshua Tree for an Achtung Baby? Instead of Peter Frampton's talking guitar, can I get some Frank Zappa? Every once in a while though, "Classic Rock" will surprise you with a Fairies Wear Boots, a Jailbreak, or a Tom Sawyer, as it just did.

Generally, "Classic Rock" appears to cease remembering around 1983. And it doesn't seem to acknowledge 1970s instrumental music. What, no "Frankenstein"? The album cover alone was classic. I'd post a picture but it may frighten younger readers. It still scares the shit out of me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Archive Fever

This morning I am waiting. Waiting for a call. Waiting for an email. If I had a cellphone I'd be waiting for a text. If I had a beeper I'd be waiting for an annoying sound to terminate as quickly as I could. If I twittered I'd be waiting for a tweet, whatever the fuck that is.

I am waiting. I've got the Archive Fever. Real bad. I can't stop scratching it. It won't come off in the shower. There is no salve, no lotion. It scars the body. It scars the memory. As if I didn't have enough of each of those. I'm hot-blooded, check it and see. Got the double vision too. That's right, Radio on the TV is on. I'm at Charlo's place, eating a Jos Louis, the eight-track cranked up, throwing away doubles of Wayne Gretzky rookie cards.

Before undertaking another fool's errand to the Archive, I'm waiting for a sign. A puff of smoke. A gesture.

I'm an asset, waiting to be activated. To be called up. To be sent for. To be made. To get made.

I'm waiting for something toxic to run its cycle, knowing that it never will. I'm reeling in the years, stowing away the time. The things that pass for knowledge, I can't understand.

I'm waiting to solve the aporia of completing two fulltime jobs simultaneously. One job, the universal dream. When there will be World Enough and Time.

To prepare for hockey. For football. To enjoy music again. To begin the biblophagistic project, the fool's errand that will occupy the red zone of my life. Like all its predecessors, it too will likely fall still-born from my imagination.

I'm waiting to follow the worms. All you need to do is follow the worms.

For now, I've got the Archive Fever. When I'm called back, will I be able to make sense of it? Probably not, but Government wants it. It is important. It's the Information. Doesn't matter what else it may be.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Domestic Drafts and Decadic Disruptions

Its time to move the chains. July is here, but June almost held the line of scrimmage. My head is still feeling the aftershocks after the scrum.

The end of the month didn't help it out much, and I have to admit that I genuflected to the chthonic gods as the particle board desks danced about and the tenuous ceiling tiles appeared ready to crack and crumble upon us, the faithful martyrs of the research room. Why couldn't a comet or a three-headed calf Ussher in this epochal event on the geological calendar? Why didn't I choose to work from home, where this particular cataclysm would have been smothered within the sonic swell of my stereo speakers?

Perhaps the Underworld was upset with the time it was taking to complete the DHL Draft. It had begun to unspool the previous week. By that Friday, within 30 minutes of the commencement of the actual NHL Draft, I made the last selection of the DHL Draft. The Highlanders ended up skating away with Brett Connolly (Stammer's future linemate), Beau Bennett (Sid-e-ney Crosby's future winger), and a mature veteran to help advance the cause of my embryonic dynasty. Mission accomplished.

Seconds after making my beaubonic pick, I was out the door. Bomber and I were going to watch the real thing unfold at a local sports bar. Yes, a self-advertised SPORTS bar. I found Bomber sitting at the crossroads of the Entertainment District, enjoying the visual delights of downtown. Its been getting harder for Bomber to separate himself from his suburban fiefdom of sylvan domesticity. But tonight we were going to see, and hear, exactly how well we fared with our forecasted phenoms.

We got to the "sports bar" around 6:50. Ten minutes to the Draft. I began to reconnoiter around. I knew it needed to be a cloistered area, far from the madding crowd of downtown hipsters who decide to pleb it out at the pool hall to the barely audible strains of the music track. No shortage of smaller TVs -- we'll stake out a demesne with a table and turn up the volume as we revel in our rite of spring/early summer. Once we annexed a suitable area, we returned to the bar to ask for the appropriate channel and a little volume. "You wanna watch what? What channel? Yeah, TSN is on most of the screens." Fair enough, we just want a watch it in a corner where the waitress will bring us food and beer and we can turn the volume on slightly. "Well, the volume for all the TVs would be affected, and we'd have to turn off the music." There is no music playing, I replied. "Yes, there is." It could barely be heard above the din of the pool playing pretend-plebs, but yes, there was an inoffensive soft pop/classic rock soundtrack for them to bob along to. Well, could we just have volume for the first hour or so, until more patrons arrive? I doubt they'll miss the music, and just maybe some of them might be interested. It does have to do with hockey. We'll buy food and beer. I felt like I was negotiating in a New Jersey TGI Friday's to have the Ottawa Senators game turned on. No, it's not on the Nascar Network or NBA Gametime .... nevermind.

Seemed the self-styled Canadian sports bar only turned on the volume for what they deemed "major sporting events". It wasn't like it was the goddamn Grey Cup.

Bomber was thirsty, so I grudgingly gave them the last dough they'll ever get out of me, and we had a beer while watching the opening of the draft in maddening mute. At least we didn't have to endure any more of the "Taylor vs. Tyler" tripe that necessarily kicked off the proceedings.

After the predictable first few picks, we headed across the street to another bar. We got a spot in front of a TV, ordered some pub food and a pitcher of Mill St. draft as we resumed watching the Draft.

My boy Connolly couldn't have gone anywhere better. Ditto for Beau Bennett, the last pick of our draft, passed over for players that might never get to the NHL. Bomber's second round pick turned out to be a steal as well.

Then, for the last week of June, the celebrations began with another Zaphodiad on Canada Day eve. Graven plugged in a great set ("I Speak your Sadness" is phenomenal), and, though I had to endure universal ridicule for my odd musical tastes, I also enjoyed the instrumental jazz-core of Ace Kinkaid.

On Canada Day, I sequestered myself from the patriotic throngs to watch the NHL "Free Agent Frenzy", which turned out to be, as it always is, a nibbling of chum.

The following evening it was off to Bomber's pastoral compound. After the requisite intergalactic bus ride, grumbling along with the rest of the bustling hive as they fled the quotidian tedium of Work, I arrived beyond the Pale. It was soul-refreshing to spend a couple of days in the hinterland with Bomber and Lauzzy. Swimming, drinking, retelling stories that never get old, as well as spinning a few new ones. It was especially nice to see Lauzzy's 2 yr-old. I wonder how many more years it will take for her to realize that she was named after Voltaire. Perhaps she will prefer to think of herself as named after Jimmy Page.

The weekend was wrapped up with an Indian buffet worthy of a Mughal emperor. Hopefully I will be able to visit Lauzzy on his home turf in the middle of the South Seas next winter.