#19: live blogging the Oscars, because I’m original like the rest of the internets

Coming to you live by way of delayed-until-I-hit-publish downstairs in the log cabin, it’s the J. Oscars Super Live Blog because I made G. watch some horrible movie called The Raven (apparently not nominated for anything) on Friday where John Cusack played Edgar Allan Poe so I cannot, in any way, argue with what she wants to watch. Currently, I am watching the awkward-as-hell red carpet interviews because G. “likes to see what people are wearing.” This means I have reactions like:
Jennifer Garner — she’s a purple stegasaurus, how Barney of her.
Halle Berry — a glam zebra; she even has a mowhawk hairstyle to act as the mane. Well done, you batshit insane, woman.
George Clooney — George somehow makes looking like the Unabomber awesome.
Look, there are Anne Hathaway’s tits. And she just made a mullet reference about her dress? Or it was a butt sex joke.

Okay, what in the hell is this trivia crap they are pulling? Aaaaaand, Anne, who the internets hates or something because she’s really into winning an Oscar and as an actress this is a horrible thing for her to want because it’s sooooooo, like, just terrible of her to want her acting to be recognised as good and stuff, guesses the trivia.

Um, I don’t think Jamie Foxx’s daughter could look more uncomfortable. Maybe she’s wearing a corset that’s pinching. There’s no way it could be the fact that her dad is sexing up on Kelly Rowland live on tv right in front of her.

I honestly expected Daniel Day-Lewis to show up in character. Is Daniel Day-Lewis a character? Like, DDL is a method actor about his own non-movie role? That’d be meta as fuck.

Whoever the short lady asking question on the red carpet is–I know she was on that show Pushing Daisies–looks like her hair is pulled so tight that it’s like she’s scalping herself.

Kelly Rowland just said “there are no words” when it comes to Halle Berry. I disagree; there are at least a few: nuts, insane, holy shit that woman is cracked out of her damn mind, and, of course, glam zebra.

Renee Zellweger or however the hell her name is spelled is apparently trying to look like the Oscar trophy. If Bridget Jones wrote about a Renee movie, would the world explode? Or would it just be retarded? Both?

Queen Latifah is bringing the U-N-I-T-Y.

Why the hell do the red carpet hosts have butterflies “for the nominees”? I don’t get it.

I will bet $65,873,990,042,994 Seth MacFarlane is horrible tonight, but not a dollar more.

The Penguins are also on at the moment, and they are currently winning. FOR YOUR INFORMATION. Also, the Pirates won a spring training game, which means it’s time to guarantee a World Series. YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST.

Nice glasses, Coppola dude. They’re just great. You look like a War Games reject.


Mel Gibson bashing. I keep expecting Seth to make some sort of “I’m banging the kaleesi!” sing-a-long. Oh, instead we get a “we saw your boobs” sing-a-long. I’m impressed with my guess, however.

If G. could get boners, she’d have a boner over Charlize Theron. This is a direct quote. Also, “Channing Tatum looks like a potato.” Channing Chips for the ladies!

Harry Potter is a midget.

Even the Oscars mock Anne Hathaway wanting to win an award. This is reaching stupid levels of stupid.

So, in case you weren’t getting it, Seth singing is awesome. A lot. This is apparently hilarity in action. SINGING, WOOOOOOOFUCKINGHOOOOOOOO.

Best Supporting Actor: I’m guessing it’s going to be an old white guy. The Nazi dude wins and I was totally right in my prediction. Also, I get that Tarantino thinks himself a badass, but is it too much to ask that he not look like he’s on the last legs of a 5 day bender when he comes to this thing? Dressing sloppy does not a scary motherfucker make.

Melissa McCarthy is channeling that Chris Farley SNL talk show host character.

Best Animated Short (? I think?): Paperman, not to be confused with The Paperboy where Nicole Kidman pisses on the dude from High School Musical. Keep that shit straight, yo. Unless you’re into weird, weird, weird, anime.

Best Animated Feature or something: Brave, in which a redhead is not told to dye her hair, and accented people shoot arrows in hilariously and emotional and maturing ways.

Samuel L. Jackson is dressed like a 1950s hotel bellhop.

Achievement in Cinematography: Life of Pi. If you asked me to explain what the hell this award is for, I’d tell you the decision is based on how much fun it is to watch a particular movie while stoned out of one’s mind. And based on the dude who just won it, I’d say he enjoys lots of mind-altering experiences. I may be generalising. Or judging. Also, he won’t stop talking.

Achievement in Visual Effects: Life of Pi, again. Because, again, drugs and movies are fun. The guy speaking just said Mike Malone, but I thought he said Mark Malone, and I thought he was a big Steelers fan, and, well, he just got cut the fuck off by the production people. Mark Malone’s mustache celebration should never be cut off. Oh, and I will include that as a pun, thanks.

The Penguins are still winning, FOR YOUR INFORMATION.

Jennifer Aniston and Channing Chips making waxing banter, hilarity ensues.

Best Costume Design: The Russian movie. Or whatever. Anna Karenina. The dog just got excited, so apparently he’s a big fan of period movies. Or at least, the costumes.

Achievement in Make-Up and Hairstyling (?): Le Mis. I’m certain people will find a way to bash Anne Hathaway for this. Which she deserves. Because, good God, wanting to win an Oscar is lame. Holy Pink Tights.

Bulimia jokes are always awesome!

GLAM ZEBRA introducing 50 years of James Bond. Who will be the next Bond? I’m guessing Harry Potter, because MI6 or whatever can run much more efficiently and cost-effective when they get rid of the R&D department and replace it with a magic wand. Hermione can replace M. Right? That’s the boss lady, isn’t it? I’m rather Bond ignorant. Sadly, I know way more about Austin Powers.

I have no idea who that lady is singing a Bond song; I think I’m supposed to, though. I’m a cultural failure.

Kerry Washington kind of looks like a walking bobblehead.

Best Live Action Short Film: how short must a short film be? I wonder at the regulations in play here. Curfew. Applause follows. There’s no way anyone there knows who they are applauding for. “Producer-in-crime” was actually stated.

Best Documentary, Short Subject: It better be whatever that was about old people dancing. Inocente? or something? My computer only types in English (AAAAMMMMUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRIIIICCCCAAAAAAAAA)

Liam Neeson could kick your ass. It’s funny, in that not-funny way, that Lincoln led to Mississippi finding out they hadn’t ratified the 13th amendment and then had to do so quickly. Life as art as life and whoa.

Best Documentary Feature: Searching for Sugar Man. I read an article about this guy once; is that on the same level as watching this movie? Also, any time I see people from South Africa, I try to guess their age and see if they had been a part of the apartheid society because, um, I have no idea why. But it’s what I do.

The Penguins are still winning, FOR YOUR INFORMATION.


Um, is that how John Travolta always talks? He sounds like English is his third language. Look, without any reference to Face Off, there’s no reason to bring out Travolta. I remember when it was a big deal when Catherine Zeta-Jones wore that body suit and went through lasers in whatever that movie was with Sean Connery, where Sean was a master thief–Entrapment? For the internet’s sake, I’m just going to assume she’s lip synching. Actually, from now on, I’m just going to assume everyone is always lip synching, all the time, including when I’m having face-to-face conversations with people and that this is proof the Matrix exists and the computers control everyone around me. I used to think it was called “lip singing” and I didn’t understand how singing with one’s lips was different than actual singing and found it very confusing. I believe this whole section of the Oscars is called, Musicals Matter. I haven’t understood a single word Jennifer Hudson has sang. I don’t think I have good ears, but I get the feeling in all the recaps people are going to talk about how she slayed.

Is Russell Crowe going to sing live up in this bitch? Maybe he’ll improvise some lyrics about beer, gladiators, and his rugby team. Isn’t actually really lame to have people in a movie currently up for awards to sing live at the award show? If the movie wins a bunch, then this singing just makes it clear that the Oscars is bias; if they don’t win, then why would a movie that can’t win be featured? It’s a no-win situation. Oh, right, it’s Anne Hathaway’s fault; she’s such a try-hard bitch. AND RUSSELL DID SING, THE WORLD IS GLORIOUS.

Well, kids, I’m old and G. has to go to work in the morning, so, that’s it for me. I don’t give a shit who wins, but for the sake of the universe’s sanity, I hope Anne’s tears don’t drown the Earth. I assume she’s crying whether she wins or loses and the flood could be of biblical proportions.

My predictions include Zero Dark Thirty, because fuck it. I think the Oscar voters like the idea of pissing off Spielberg again.

Good night.

#17: there is a light that never goes out

G. and I live in a log cabin in a small, small town with limited access to things I had previously grown quite we used to; we have developed a strange fascination with discovering “better” grocery stores, places with vegetarian options in the freezer aisles beyond that of the veggie burger; we talk of front doors and barn doors and laminate or wood flooring and paint colors and bathroom remodels and paying the electric bill and adding a deck or patio and turning the detached garage into a three season room, building an attached garage to the back of the house and we worry about money, about work, about the world around us turning into something we no longer can even pretend to comprehend; the log cabin sits up on a small hill, the gravel driveway winding up from the road, just after the small bridge over the shallow creek that acts as one of our property boundaries; we have deer and rabbits and feral cats and groundhogs and moles and frogs and god knows what else bedding down in our lawn, our marsh, our woods, our barn; there was never a time in my life, beyond the few months prior to this purchase, that I would have imagined myself in such a place, never would have pictured my adult life as one of planned extended trips to the grocery store, as one of being close to pretty much nothing, of having to take 4 hours to mow the yard, of having to wait for the Amish buggy to make its way across the intersection before I can go; the patience required to live here is one of faith–faith that the things you need will be at the places you can go, faith that the world is still accessible while it seems far off, faith that this patience is exactly what you need; there are days when I feel the barometer of Understanding enduring a free-fall drop in pressure, like the world itself has started to collapse in on itself and I’m watching the sky twist in fun mirror ways, as if G. and I are both too big and too small to take on the responsibilities of owning this house; there are days when all I can smell are cows and corn; there are days when getting on the highway reminds me of being young and declaring that driving at such speeds meant “we are going somewhere,” and now I know that “somewhere” has nothing to do with a place, that so much of driving is only an excuse to have a destination but that’s not right, more, like, that so much of driving is an exercise in accomplishing something even though the time in a car accomplishes little; there are days when I look at houses for sale from inside my car and wonder if the G. and I would be different if we had bought that one instead of our log cabin in a small, small town; how much can a house define one’s life and the home is where the heart is and does a house equal home or does home equal a house or is there a way for a log cabin to be so much more than this piece of property where we have staked our claim, in whatever fashion we are capable of staking such a claim or how much different are we, here, now, surrounded as we are by woods and water and grass and skinny roads than those people who ventured west at one time in history hoping to stake their claim to woods and water and grass; the log cabin sits up on the hill, facing the marsh, the garage, facing those strangely oversized steps down to the garage, a single story of home wherein the small tasks to finish never seem to end–the, I’m told, the life of a homeowner, an abridged cliche or unfinished, the life of a homeowner who cannot afford to have each problem fixed by somebody else, that’s what it really means; there are days when I wonder if what we are paying for is the credibility to announce ourselves as adults; there are days when the carpet needs replaced, when the stove and fridge and dishwasher and microwave don’t match and this matters so much, when the wallpaper can no longer be endured, when it seems like everything needs painted, when everything needs cleaned, when closets cannot hold their contents, when all that feels right to do is shuck off this mask of responsibility and bed down in the brush in the woods and wait for the cold to descend, wait for nature to reclaim that which I believed I had the right to stake out; there are days when the sun is all the cats and dog need to feel content; there are days when I can’t remember how long I’ve been driving, if the trip into town has been long or short or both or neither; once, I watched a porcupine waddle away from our backdoor, a drunk riding the undulations of the yard, and I realised that at some point he was going to die, and I felt bad that the world he knew was such hard walking terrain, like I owed him to level the area out, to remove swaths of yard, to bring in fine top soil and fine grass for him, to find a way to remove the hindrances to his drunkenness, to grant him the soft pillow of earth upon which to give up and rest; there are days when G. and I fight; there are many more days when G. and I laugh, there are days we slow dance in the kitchen, next to the rustic, barnwood-esque table, the mismatched appliances our audience, the dog doing his best to be a third dance partner, the song in my head, perhaps hummed, perhaps not; there are days when the sun doesn’t seem to exist and these are the hardest, when the clouds have weight and space and vacuum out the oxygen; there are probably way too many days when I ask myself, what the hell am I doing; there are probably not enough days when everything is in its proper place; there are days when I’m convinced the world owes me, some inexcusable narcissism to explain away laziness and fear; there are bookshelves in almost every room, holding not just books but records, movies, pictures, random knick-knacks that state who we are or wish to be seen as or who we understand ourselves to be; we have alphabetised everything because order is important, a vital declaration of how we see things, of their importance to us, important enough to take the time to organise their order; there are days when I feel like the log cabin thinks I am a stranger or a ghost haunting the man who wanders room to room–unless you build the house, though, aren’t you always a stranger or at the very least, a type of extended visitor or perhaps that is my entire problem with understanding this home; there are days the log cabin glows with sun and these are the best kind of days, the sun and the sky and sharp air, the blue stretched like an art panel; there are too many days when I can’t figure out where the time went, when did it become this month, this year, when did I become this man; there are days, actually every single day, when the dog runs in circles when somebody enters the house; there are days, actually every single day, when the cats yell at us; there are days, actually every single day, when there is some chore to start, to finish; there is every single day the waking up to G., seeing the world as a better place because she is in it, seeing the log cabin as the place we staked our claim to together, realising how much of becoming an adult is actually the act of loving someone other than yourself, recognising that the log cabin–up on the hill looking over the marsh and the garage and the gravel driveway, looking further over into the downtown of our small, small town, looking even further to the only real road in or out of our small town, looking further still to the next town over, the town where we work, shop, eat, the town we find ways to make ours, looking as far as we can to the ways we imagined our future being and never seeing this log cabin, never seeing this small town, never seeing the long drives to “better” grocery stores–is where we are, the home with neighbors who keep a “show” cow in their backyard, the home in a town with people who keep shetland ponies in their backyard, right next to the elementary school; there are days when all of this makes sense, just like there are days when daylilies make their comeback and the yard looks like it got a remodel; there are always days with room to grow and to dance with my wife.

#16: using Angels & Airwaves to pschyoanalyze the actuality of Blink 182’s sadness and general emo-ness, all the while really talking about what it means to grow up vs. what it means to mature

I. Blink 182 and the Music Video Art Form as a Declaration of Self

Here’s something I think people tend to forget now as ‘music video’ is an archaic term: videos played a key role not just in promoting music but in helping streamline how we, the listeners, viewed [literally] a band, singer, etc. As such, it is also easy to forget that a relationship with a band could be, at one point in time, almost entirely based on what a video made us think a song actually meant. Off the top of my head, I remember videos, at least vaguely, for “What’s My Age Again,” All the Small Things,” “Dammit,” “First Date,” “Adam’s Song,” “Feeling This,” and “Down.” I know there are more. Oh, “I Miss You.” Out of these videos, 2 would be considered ‘serious’: “Adam’s Song” and “I Miss You.”

II. A Brief Interjection to Highlight a Blink 182 “History”

Blink 182: pop punk band. Makes videos. Tries to make a ‘mature album.’ Takes hiatus. Now they’re sort of back together?
Angels & Airwaves: ethereal (?) band, as in, big and long, sort of like drone music with actual instruments. Blink 182 Member: Tom DeLonge
+44: um, a band. Blink 182 Member(s): Mark Hoppus and Travis Barker. Travis is also in, by a rough count, 4,988,092 bands and a plane crash. And I think a brief reality show?

I. Continued

The easy summary here is Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown.” The long summary is, in order to understand Blink 182, one has to accept the following premise: by making videos that were intended to make fun of themselves or others or both, Blink successfully created a formula that allowed them to write whatever they wanted to without ever having to actually answer what they were writing about. This allowed them to sell albums with titles like Take Off Your Pants and Jacket [a terrible pun that I’m sure some newspaper editor somewhere wished he had thought of] and bask in the glow of not being able to be criticized. In the same logic of Juggalos, if you don’t like it, you just don’t get it; you’re not part of it. Up until the self-titled album, Blink’s entire musical output appeared to be as shallow as their music videos showcased. Shallow here not being a critical word in either way, but used as an expression to underscore the inherent “Blink-ness” of songs with lyrics like “I want to fuck a dog in the ass.”

III. The Focus Here

…will be on the albums Dude Ranch, Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket, and blink-182.

IV. A Complete and Utter Decimation of the Heretofore Organization of This Post

Yesterday, in the kitchen of mine and G.’s home, while G. made soup, I had a total meltdown. And I’ve decided this meltdown is exactly what I’m trying to get at here, eventually, through the use of Roman Numerals and a lack of coherence or movement forward: I have no idea who I am or who I’m supposed to be and this forms the crux of who I think I am, or, at the very least, who I think I should be / act like; as such, a persona is created, one that may or may not be natural, but the idea of ‘natural’ is, in and of itself, a point without a sharp end because ‘natural’ now, today, has less to do with personal understanding and more to do with understanding the cultural in which one has grown up. But that’s quite what I mean. I think. Or at least, the meaning of it has to do with sincerity, sarcasm, facades, and what it means to believe in advertising.

V. Wherein I Attempt to Write a Section Longer Than a Few Sentences

Let’s have a moment of honesty: how does one (me) stop making self-references within self-referential writing (see headline for this fifth section)? The constant self-awareness within self-awareness no longer feels meta but anti, as if the spiraling-inward-process creates more questions than reveals anything worthwhile.

Fuck it. Being mature and being grown-up are two different things. Being grown-up is an age thing; being mature is the act of making correct, logical, right, and/or hard decisions because those decisions are what need to be made. Anyone can be mature; only grown-ups can be grown-up. What Blink-182 wants you to think with their serious side is that they have matured; what they have actually done is grown up. They have elected, ironically I guess, is to act their age, and their age comes with fears, new understandings, beliefs, etc. Being grown-up can (and should) lead to maturity, but it doesn’t have to. The problem is the way we intertwine the two things so that they become synonymous with each other. To me, this isn’t just wrong but also dangerous–not like a crazy dude with a multitude of guns dangerous, but dangerous in that because we see one in a person we expect the other. And these expectations are not always fair. Case in point: people lamenting the Blink-182 they had come to enjoy when the self-titled album was released; they were crushed for trying to sound like a ‘real’ band (whatever that means) and because what they were doing didn’t seem natural to who they were prior to its release. However, when you then consider the side projects of the two main songwriters, in all likelihood, that album was probably the realest interpretation of the emotional standing of Mark and Tom as Blink-182 members. This is not say prior albums weren’t in some context natural; it is to say that the easiest thing a band can do is find a way to sell records; the hardest thing a band can do is find a way to sell records of themselves.

Should you destroy who you are in an attempt to revitalize yourself? Sometimes, a song needs headphones, not speakers.

The heart of all of this is authenticity. I believe we are obsessed with A. simply because on some interior level we are all aware that A. is nothing more than a psychological construct we come up with to feel better about ourselves and the things we like. We dismiss A. when it suits our needs; embrace it when it supports us; and lament its disappearance when we wail against the terrors of the things we ‘don’t like.’ Essentially, A. acts as the basis for how we understand ourselves, and, yet, there is nothing authentic about A. Consider: the very idea of Blink-182 existing has to do with a long history of humankind making music, developing / expanding / progressing / digressing / etc. further and further until present day. They are authentic in that they play instruments, write notes and lyrics, perform said notes and lyrics. However, no matter what one says or thinks or does, there will always a be a historical precedence for any musical sound, which means, a band builds itself upon the past. A.’s existence inside this vacuum then has nothing to do with the band but the band’s perception by us, the listener. We put the sound and the story of the band up against music’s past and the band’s contemporaries  and create for us an algebraic formula: A. = Our Judgement + Our Previous Knowledge + Our Current Thought of Ourselves. This is both inevitable and unavoidable. And there is nothing inherently wrong with it. The problem, for lack of a better word, is the fluidity of the right half of that equation. Because nothing about those three items is static, A.’s definition constantly evolves to the point that A. doesn’t ever mean anything other than what each individual person decides at that exact moment. This means music means nothing, except at the moment it’s being listened to.

Now consider this on a human level. The formula still works. The fluidity allows us to change, mature, grow-up; but it never allows for anything to ever actually be authentic for any period longer than when that very thing is considered. Self-understanding has the violence associated with roiling waters or high tide. I build up the defences of sarcasm and self-deprecation as way to battle insecurities over sincerity, over wondering how much of who I think I am has been determined by commercials, by family and friends, by strangers, over a barrage of cultural expectations of being a Man, of being White, of being Educated. And as I continue to parse through each of those things, instead of feeling more and more comfortable with myself, I feel uncomfortable, as though what I’m finding is that I’m even emptier than I had feared, that I’ve built myself out of constructs of others. It is the nature of growing up in a community, a culture. What I want to be is sincere; I’m tired of irony and defences, but I’m not sure how to operate in this world as such. Here’s a beginning: I love my wife. I love my family. I love my dog and cats. Not just snow falling, but the idea of snow falling, causes such great anxiety in me that I battle panic attacks. I love movies, pretty much any kind. And I don’t think Blink-182 is that bad, but I’d rather listen to Angels & Airwaves.

#15: a rebuttal or an arguement or an agreement or, this is what it means to grow old

My friend Colin wrote an article about 90s nostalgia, sort of. Or about Matchbox 20 releasing a new album, sort of. [It can be read here: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/column/163196-in-defense-of-not-buying-into-90s-nostalgia/]. As someone who is quite the 90s apologist, I deemed it my responsibility to come up with some sort of response. Also, I am thrilled at the idea of an internet call and response, like some sort of Space Odyssey-esque live concert throwdown. I think that makes more sense in my head.

To sum up, crassly, it is impossible for bands from the 90s to be anything other than bands from the 90s according to critical reviews precisely because said reviewers cannot stop themselves from referencing the 90s. This, in turn, renders the new music anything but new, if you will. The newness is overrun by nostalgia by the reviewer, who in turn, in announcing his/her nostalgia, renders the very idea of the band making music nostalgic, as if Matchbox 20 put out a new album only to sate the 90s thirst of the listening [and sometimes buying] public. No matter Rob Thomas’ pleas to the contrary, his band’s existence is entirely predicated on people remembering his band’s 90s existence.

Do I disagree with this assessment? Not entirely. Am I unfairly summarizing? Most likely. But like the Nitty Gritty Band, let’s get down to it:

Have you noticed that on the radio certain decades of music are lumped together, as if they are, in fact, similar? “The best from the 50s, 60s, and 70s all day long!” “Your favorite 80s, 90s, and 2k station!” But then, those stations will have subsets of programming, like 70s at 7 or a Hot 90s Weekend or some version of an 80s Dance Party, thus underscoring the idea that these groupings are actually separate. The interesting part of this has nothing to do with programming in and of itself, it’s that the programming is being put together to function in a certain way: recalling youth. There are two important factors here that I will deem scientific even though I have no science to back it up: 1) The children of the 50s and 60s were the first to really make music an every day thing, thus making music a time landmarker, guides to who they were and who they became; and 2) their children, of the 80s and 90s, grew up with music as this cultural and time landmarker, embracing it in a duel way–growing up on their parents’ music, while at some point, for me it was my early teens, beginning to branch out and ‘discovering’ their own music landmarks.

The very first album I purchased with my money was a Green Day cassette, 1,059 Smoothed Out Slappy Hours [or something like that. I don’t quite remember]. It was a ‘full length’ of two early Green Day EPs. At the time, Green Day was blowing up with Dookie and ‘Longview’ was the jam of the century, but I didn’t realize that bands put out more than one album or something. Hence, what I bought. I also remember the cassette for Dookie being blue, which I thought was the most incredible thing in the world for some reason. The importance of this purchase, in the long term, is that I will [until my mind goes] always remember that Green Day was my first purchase, and, therefore, I will always, to some degree follow their career path and, at this point, lament that they are not the band that I remember them being. What I don’t know how to answer, though, is who do I want them to be? And, here is the crux of this idea of critical review that Colin was speaking of: how could I actually evaluate Green Day’s latest album without considering what it meant to be so young and naive and amazed at the glory that was Dookie? My ability to listen to the band without any notion of that is impossible because my musical world has a foundation that has, in some fashion, been partly built by 1990s Green Day. No matter Rob Thomas’ argument that Matchbox 20 only released one album in the 90s, his bands’ fans will always remember that initial introduction and they will always be a 90s band to them because that is where the landmark has been posted. The notion that of whether this is fair or unfair, however, is an entirely separate issue.

The idea of what it means for a band to grow is something I’ve struggled with as a fan and a listener for quite a long time. I find the idea that band should still beholden to its beginnings as a failure, by me and by the band. And, yet, when a band changes too much, I disavow them to some degree, spend my time wishing they sounded like they ‘used to.’ For this struggle, I have created a simple, yet successful in that it answers nothing, rubric of sorts, incorporating three bands I enjoy, all at different degrees, and all have shifted in level of my popularity list as time has gone on: Brand New, Taking Back Sunday, and Saves the Day.

The career paths, according to J:

Saves the Day: upon hearing Through Being Cool, quickly ascend to the top of J.’s personal list. It is enough punk rock to make me feel like I’m not a total wuss, even though its chock full of emo. Also, it is a fantastic driving album. I ignore all earlier albums because I hear that they are “faster.” To me, this sounds like a terrible thing. The I’m Sorry I’m Leaving e.p. and Stay What You Are are everything I want them to be, somehow sad and violent and beautiful. Then it turns out that the way Chris sings is too hard on his throat. He adjusts his singing voice. This destroys everything for me. Somehow, Saves the Day is no longer Saves the Day and the only thing that changed was how Chris’ voice sounds. They somehow didn’t grow as a band and yet changed, thereby sounding enough like I wanted them to sound yet different enough to change how I heard them to make me only wish for “Shoulder to the Wheel.”

Taking Back Sunday: this is the easiest summary–TBS has been making the same album their whole career. You know at the halfway point they’re going to have that slowed down “accoustic” turd for whatever ungodly reason. There will be skittering vocals, handclaps, gang choruses–all good things–and Adam will be mad at some girl. They never move as a band. Yet, they remain, in their own way, popular. And there is something comforting about hitting play on TBS album, in that, much like a horror movie, I know exactly what I’m in for.

Brand New: Brand New is by far my favourite band. I make no apologies for this. I will, however, make an apology for this: Their debut album is okay. I have grown to like it more now as I filter back through the history of the band. In truth, it’s a decent pop-punk album with lyrics that at times seem better than the usual pop punk album. I once argued, with Colin actually, that Brand New were the Beatles, in that they started out pop and then progressively moved away from the pop into what I would say is more ‘internally inspired’ music. TBS writes songs they know their fans will scream back at them at shows; Brand New writes songs that they want to play. I also have a strong belief that Jesse and I should be best friends, something that I’ve written about before, because I am confident Jesse gets what it means to be a fragile egocentric individual. What I have seen from them is a willingness to see where they can take their core sound, to think not of people, but to think of notes, of structure, of purpose and feeling. You would think, then, that means I believe in bands’ abilities to grow and change, but I also know that my Brand New fandom is cemented in the first time I heard ‘The Quiet Things That No One Ever Knows.” And this means, that when Daisy came out, I looked for that same moment, and I didn’t get it. And in order to be honest with myself, I have to say that I didn’t like the album as much as I wanted to, and, yet, I still loved it. The hard part to answer is, is that because it’s good or is that because it’s Brand New and it is still close enough to who I see as Brand New at the core that I can successfully filter in “Quiet Things” even when it isn’t actually there?

What this means is every single album that is not a debut album ever put out in the history of music is an exercise in nostalgia. Each one is in constant communication with previous incarnations created by the band, as well as in constant communication with the person listening’s own history with that band. While this may seem dangerous when we want to see music criticism as this objective action, such a delineation isn’t possible. Music criticism, at its core, is still an expression of liking vs. not liking, and, as such, objectivity is a hollow game; I mean that with total affection–we cannot describe listening to music without, to some degree, having it filtered through the things we would like to listen to. How could we? We are listening to music because we like it; this will always form a center around which all of our musical choices and reactions coalesce. The reason for the 90s nostalgia boom is because those of us who grew up in the 90s, who remember dance music being the new disco and Nirvana and Britney Spears and Jay-Z and DMX and Green Day and Ace of Base and Hootie and the Blowfish and rollerblades and JNCO jeans and Alien Workshop and everything else, are all getting old enough to look back at that time and push it all together into one cultural lump that we can then render happy; when we were there, living it presently, there would be no way Hootie and DMX were the same, but now, looking back, it becomes all part of our ‘youth,’ a time when we were starting to announce who we were and who we wanted to be. It’s the reason oldies stations proudly say they play music from 3 different decades even though those 3 decades cut a huge swath in the music landscape. With enough time, it might not all sound the same, but it is the same because it no longer is music. It’s youth, remembered. It’s history, played. And, most importantly, it is a version of ourselves we can reshape. I can, in time, play Ace of Base for my niece, and she will have no idea what is going on, and I won’t be sharing some stupid Swedish pop song; I will be sharing who I was with her, and I will be able to tell stories and make fun of the world that I grew up in, all the while letting her know that this was good, it was a life I lived and am here, now, sharing this song with her, because of it.

#14: wherein I attempt to undermine all understanding of the word ‘unsettled’

I find it relatively impossible to actually write. I often, pretty much daily, come up with things to write, but I am 1)incapable at the time of thoughts to actually transcribe them and 2)incapable of allowing those thoughts to settle in before moving forward onto another thought. Essentially, I tend to freewrite. In my head. All the time. Observe, from a graduate class piece a while ago, as an example of what it is like to follow my brain:

“an examination of how I interpret what I hear and what I read

Examination = examine = doctor = I just got health insurance for the first time since I worked at Abercrombie and Fitch, but I haven’t been to the doctor since I was 18 and broke my wrist when I tried to dunk a basketball and was rejected by the rim and landed awkwardly = that was when I should have been working with my baseball coach for the Cradle of Forestry, a company that took care of national park campgrounds and other sites, but I said no because I thought I was going to work the early morning shift at my friend Isaac’s parent’s gas station, but that bombed, so there I was playing basketball, breaking my wrist, and losing out on my last season of American Legion baseball = there was a time when I loved baseball more than anything in the world, but then I shrank away from what it meant to actually have to work hard at it, and decided that it would be funnier to explain this by saying instead, ‘but then I found pot’ = Gillian loves the Cleveland Indians, so for the first time in years, I’m actually dedicating hours to watching games = I now own an Indians hat = isn’t it strange that her stepfather is a doctor from the South Carolina, yet now he’s an Indians fan because this is his adopted hometown = is Akron my adopted hometown? in that, here, now, I’m not growing up anymore, but I’m being asked to be a grown up?
Examination = examine = doctor = there’s a movie about med students in residency who kill homeless patients just to see if they can get away with it, but I don’t remember the name. It starred the dude who played Peter on the TV show Heroes (which, incidentally, was one of those travesties caused by the writer’s strike that one year and shouldn’t have been as bad as it was, but I only actually thought that until the one weekend I watched season one again with my sister and it was pretty horrible, so I’m confused about how I defended it in the first place), but there was another med student who I was told I look like and I took great offense to this because I thought he was goofy looking, which, of course, means that I am goofy looking, and I was told repeatedly that I was wrong, he was not in fact goofy looking, but I don’t know if that is the same as saying I’m not goofy looking = when I started noticing my face getting rounder and I was beginning to look like Ben Rothlisberger = that med student actor, whose name I can’t remember, was in an episode of CSI: where he played himself as twins and he killed his other twin and but then assumed the identity of that dead twin in order to continue his Ponzi scheme or something, and he was also in this movie whose name I also forget that involved aliens coming to Earth, and Charles and I watched it when we were living in the Indian Valley condo in Kent, and it was surprisingly funny = all I can really remember about this guy who supposedly I look like is really from this alien movie where he was a stoner, so perhaps I’m most agitated with an implication that has nothing to do whatsoever with our looks.”

I assume most people are like this.

The question becomes, about that little piece, is that a natural way of thinking or have I created that as an interpretation of how I think but  exaggerated it for the effect it would have on the reader and the answer to that is I have no damn idea. And if it is an exaggeration, how does that, in turn, effect my ability to actually deduce what [and how] I think? Behold: a transition into a more timely example:

Yesterday, at around midnight, G. and I were driving home from a party for my brother-in-law’s return from Afghanistan. We were driving west [this is vital]. In my mind, going west, going south, are the destinations. I have interwoven geographical longing with ‘what to do with my life’ career-mindedness. I was trying to explain this to G. as we drove, and I realized as I was talking that I have no idea what drives this feeling, this utter sense of being unsettled, other than I am still discovering how to be comfortable with myself. And that seems to me to be one of those empty ‘large’ phrases because, in truth, I feel pretty comfortable with my life; yet, there is still, always, this compulsion to move west, to move south, to see and be immersed in some other place, all the while, I have this compulsion to write, yet I rarely, if ever, finish projects; I am constantly drumming up ideas; and, yet, still, my comfort resides almost solely in the fact that G. has allowed me to morph into this person that I am, in that, she has been gracious in my non-bending rule that our house must have acres, and I don’t want to live in a big city, and that I still ramble on and on and on about other places, and, mostly, I still will sit at the kitchen table in our house in a small town on 9 acres and say, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing with my life.’ But then the follow up statement is, ‘I know what I should be doing, but I have never believed in its plausability, so I have long undermined it and am, now, not shockingly, at a bit of an ethereal crossroads as I have allowed this coal [under] mining to go on and on, razing, if you will, my projected future, and the frustration I feel is at my, well, impotence, in the face of this razed future because knowing what you should be doing and actually getting there after cutting off one’s own legs much earlier in the process is a daunting task that I am not sure I know how to face.’ Or something along those lines.

It is the special snowflake vs. none of us are special line of thinking: I am driven by the notion that I am a special snowflake and deserve the career that I have deemed suitable for my happiness, but I feel it necessary to state realist statements that indicate that there are many people who think that way as well and there is nothing spectacular I have done to indicate that I should be given the chance. When I think, my brain has footnotes. If God is listening, then I demand he make my footnote voice more in agreement with me.

I just don’t get it. I mean, I suppose I could blame all this on the modern living advertising malaise, creating the need for more and better and always. But that seems so passe. Or, at the very least, it seems like the exact excuse that the malaise would want me to have because modern living could solve it if only I were to, you know, purchase the iPhone 5 or something. Here’s what it is: I often, with seriousness, talk about going off the grid to G., yet I am fully aware that my life is entirely dependent on this technology that I not only use, but constantly surrounds me. What I know of myself is filtered through it to a degree that I am not sure there is a separation, and, hence, everything is white noise, I am white noise, and there is always something soothing yet never peaceful about white noise.