#27: I’m Better Than You: a Narcissistic (non)Defense of My Inability to Try, part 1

[02/17/14]
The sun and blue sky lie about just how damn cold Ohio is right now. We will use this as a metaphor, a symbol, because we might as well. We will use this because such contradictions are apt for Joel. He awaits this interview with something akin to Tourrette’s–constant moving, feet bouncing up and down, an inability to stop touching his beard, to not use his hands when answering questions. He often stops talking during the middle of answers to shake his head. When asked about this particular tic, he says he can’t stop himself from finding ways to criticise his responses, which means he can never give a real response because all of his responses have been vetted through some sort of internal-as-external-voices process. The world, it seems, is always just about to break his words into atoms.
Even by appearances, he’s a bit of a contradiction: he wears v-neck sweaters and ties with Red Wing workboots to his job in insurance; his idea of comfort wear is a collared shirt, tie, and a zip-up hoodie. He swears by his boots. He can’t seem to decide if he wants to own a Ford Focus or F350. He fantasises about moving off the grid in Montana or moving to the beach on the Gulf Coast or moving to the desert in Arizona or moving to the perfect weather of San Diego or moving to Dubai because doing so would be, to him, some sort of defiant rebellion about what he’s not supposed to do. He makes no sense, and he’s all too aware of it. The awareness haunts him; it’s why he can’t answer questions without stopping–a crippling self-consciousness, not about what he does, but about what he says and how it could be construed and how it seems that ideas evolve in the middle of sentences. The world, he knows, never stops.

At one point in your life, all you wanted to do was be a quarterback, yet you never actually played organised football. Do you consider this a rather symbolic explanation of who you are?

I mean, I can’t really say no to that, can I? When I was young, I played football all of the time; when we lived in Pittsburgh, I would use a balled-up sock in the living room and throw passes to myself. When we moved, I would play in the front yard, being both teams, driving up and down the yard, throwing passes to myself, running hand-offs, narrating the action. I loved football. I would make my dad run patterns in the back yard. I wanted to be John Elway. I begged for these football uniform things that came with cheap helmets and cheap shoulder pads; I think they were in the JCPenney’s catalouge. My obsession with cleats and mouthpieces–had to have the same one as Bo Jackson–was a bit ridiculous. I remember one time in winter, I was walking somewhere with my mom and I wore a pair of my football pants; I kept telling her I had to get used to the cold just in case Green Bay drafted me. It was a serious consideration in my head.
Sports was easy when we lived there. I was a superior athlete, and I knew that. Like, the day of Little League tryouts, my dad walked me up to the field and on the way he basically told me not to be arrogant just because, even at 9, I was better at baseball than most of the older kids. I had been participating in Little League practices since I was 7, two years before I would even be allowed to be on the team. I never thought about it, but I still knew it, you know? But, there wasn’t a youth football league there. It was all backyard football. After my parents divorced and we moved back down to the Pittsburgh area, there was a youth football league, but I was no longer a superior athlete–I was a typical athlete, and suddenly football was scary–kids were bigger, I could get hurt, maybe I’m not good enough, etc. And I had no drive to challenge that fear and actually find out for myself. I chose to play youth basketball instead.

In the end, though, you quit on basketball as well. The only sports you never quit on were baseball and golf.

I guess it really depends on your version of quit. I didn’t quit playing baseball until I got too old to participate in proper leagues, but, I mean, I didn’t try to play in college or anything. And golf, I’ve continued to play to this day. I really like golf. But in both cases, I have let myself be content with my inherent abilities. Like, I was awesome at baseball, just awesome. But as I got older, I didn’t continue to be awesome because I never worked at it, I was just enough better than others to be considered ‘good.’ I didn’t do drills, train myself, or try to become better. I just allowed myself to be as good as I was inherently. That’s sad. It’s the same thing for golf–I never pushed my parents for actual lessons, I never tried to be any better than I was the first day I picked up a club. I got better over time just from playing, but that’s more to do with the benefits of just playing more often, not because I pushed myself.
Golf is a game I understand, psychologically, as in, it suits me. It’s a loner sport within the socialisation of competition. There’s power, there’s finesse, there’s mental adjustments to the course, the weather, the distance, etc. It involves walking, which, weirdly, I find to be soothing. But I’ve never wanted to be anything other than ‘decent enough.’ Or, rather, I’ve always wanted to be great, but not enough to actually try at it. I am, to this day, convinced that I could be great at golf, or that I could have been great at golf–that I could have played college, gone second-tier pro or something, with the ‘right training,’ that I should have convinced my parents to spend money on training and travelling and the sports pyschologists or whatever. It’s all rather naive of me, but I still think I could do that if I invested the necessary time and money. It’s like having a ghost follow you around everywhere: there’s this person who could have existed and I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about that ghost.
And the real sad part is, like, I gave up on organised basketball after 8th grade, but I still played all the time. It’s probably been my favourite sport to play. I particpated in intermurals in college every single semester and I loved it. And I was damn good, but I always had excuses for why I had quit in 8th grade–I wasn’t tall enough, I wasn’t part of the ‘basketball crew,’ I wasn’t going to given a fair shot, blahblahblah. Basically, I was a chickenshit, scared of what it meant to be challenged by other damn good players, and I could not handle the idea that I might fail. It was way easier to make jokes about practice getting in the way of my pot smoking than it was to risk failure. And so the ghosts just keep queuing up behind me. And I can’t stop myself from thinking that my views on my skills in any sport are way over-inflated, that I’m pulling an Al Bundy, creating grandious ghosts as some sort of bizarre excuse for that fear.

We pause. Joel almost looks like he’s smiling, like the only way to respond to himself is to find a way to laugh about it. The twitching continues, the legs move even faster and then suddenly stop. He stares down at his hands and just waits in silence. It’s hard to know how much of this is true; qualifying ‘good’ when it comes to sports is a difficult process. He says he remembers his dad saying he was ‘scary good’ at being a quarterback, but that’s not from an objective observer. He doesn’t have stats or figures or championships to back up any claim, and the way he stares at his hands almost looks like he thinks they, somehow, hold that objective truth.
The real truth is, sports aren’t an objective truth–the only clear truth in any game is winner and loser, and, yet, even that gets argued sometimes. We hear things about who should have won or a team should have lost a game because of mistakes, yet somehow didn’t. It’s as though sports cannot have any defintion, that the act of participating in a game means you have elected to join a fluid universe where subjective views will determine who you are. And that by moving in the fluidity, you will never be able to assess yourself because the only opinions that matter are other people’s.

#22: I continue to try to figure out what it means to grow up and become an actual human being

I have to admit, despite all of my narcissistic writing tendencies, that I have not had too many moments of actual self-realisation. Perhaps such lack of epiphanies is what drives my internal leanings; it would inherently make sense. I don’t know who I am, so I must filter all of my world through the lens of “I.” It would also probably explain my incessant need to start most of my posts with obvious throat clearing: I have no ability to enter a topic without first bringing some sort of meta-commentary on the thought process / develop an explanation for why I am even writing. Life is complicated.

This week, crystalised yesterday in a coversation with my friend, Pat, I realised I am a moron. And this realisation was not difficult to ascertain, nor was it actually a surprise. Pat and I were talking about the ridiculous mindset of some of the American voting public. I relayed to him a story about how at lunch I had to hear an older woman complain about the cost of her healthcare, how she was entitled to disability from the government because she at least earned it unlike all those moochers”, how Obama won in 2012 through a sinister consipiracy of voter fraud proven by facts on the internet, and that while she doesn’t believe we are in the end times at this moment, the apacolypse is coming soon. I cannot handle people like this. I may disagree wildly with the conservative approach to government, but I can, at the very least, allow them to have an opinion if it has its own version of logic. However, you cannot complain about healthcare and demand government money be given to you and then immediately go into how the man who supports those very things shouldn’t be the president. That’s incomprehensible, and it is a specific type of destructive thinking: if it is important to me then it matters with no regard for the actuality of the thinking. I want my government money because I need it; Obama is a Muslim Antichrist socialist from Kenya hellbent on ending the world and this affects me because I’m a solidly white Christian American.

The problem, however, is I cannot truly condemn people who think like this because I do the exact same thing with a loosely connected idea.

I am a strong proponent of strict regulation when it comes to the environment. The science clearly indicates climate change is occurring and that we humans are major factors. To ignore these facts puts the Earth’s, and thus our own, existence in peril. Keep this in mind as I’m about to start writing about something completely ridiculous in light of those previous sentences. I have been, for quite a while now, trying to convince G. to let me buy a truck. And not just any truck, but a diesel engine truck, which means 250/2500 or bigger. I argue that owning such a truck makes sense because with the amount of outdoor maintenance I have to do on our yard, I need a commercial mower which means I need a trailer, plus I need to haul materials and because we need something with four-wheel drive. And the diesel engine makes sense because they last longer and hopefully we wouldn’t have to buy another one in a long time.

This isn’t even the most ridiculous part.

When I decide that we must get something, such as my future truck, I cannot stop myself from looking up prices online. Autotrader is permantly open on my laptop. I see if trucks I’ve marked as “possibilities” [despite already knowing that none of them are an actual possibility] have sold and feel dejected when one has. There is a part of my brain that believes a purchase will occur and some asshole has taken that away from me by going in and paying for a truck I have set aside on a laptop screen in some delusional belief about the future. However, it gets worse. Part (most) of my desire for owning a hulking 4×4 vehicle comes directly from a crippling paranoia of and disdain for driving in snow. I hate snow. I hate snow to the point of panic attacks, and I feel it is necessary to wall myself up in a societally-accepted tank whenever the threat of snow appears. And this is how I started looking at Hummer H2s on Autotrader, and this is why, in terms of weather/vehicles, I am a goddamn Tea Party member.

The problem with making decisions solely based on fear and paranoia is that irrational thoughts find a way of being rationalised by the person having them. Facts/blatant self-hypocricies/outside opinions will not, cannot, factor into the thought process because it, in some way, totally makes sense to me to think owning an H2 because of the 4 months or so of possible bad weather is a good idea. I disregard all my notions of environmental concern when it no longer trumps my personal concern. What this also means is that I can grandstand all I want about how stupid it is for that lady at lunch to contradict herself about entitelements/Obama, but she’s only thinking in the same exact way I am. Protect myself, worry about the others later if it’s convienent.

It is a deconstructionist approach to life. We can take an abstract idea–say, the social safety net–then destroy it to fit whatever definition works best for what we want. For the hard right, the safety net is an “entitlement.” For the hard left, the safety net is an “equaliser.” We are talking about the same thing, but we’ve broken it down into nothing, which means we are actually arguing over nothing, because the “nothing” [unlike the movie Neverending Story] can only be defined by breaking down other abstractions–entitlement to abuse to moocher to rising government costs to the collapse of American society to the Rapture happening. To me such deconstructionist thinking is absurd, but to those who believe it, not only is it not absurd, it is an inherent truth of being. But, in general, such things are still abstractions because we are arguing over the idea of something–the idea of government waste, the idea of a moocher–because in every single instance there is a counterargument based entirely on the need of the person making the argument. The cycle of thought does not allow for logic because to the thinker the logic is clear and infallible.

Factually, the largest portion of our current budget goes to healthcare and Social Security, and then Defense. Factually, owning an H2 is terrible for the environment. Yet, fear and paranoia dictates the logic necessary to rationalise the need for both. Living in the United States means being part of country where the general consensus states that not only must we have the largest military might in the world, we must have the largest by a wide margin. Without it, we apparently put ourselves at risk of the rest of the world coming together and rushing our borders like some vicious Orc horde; the terrorists win; and the Rapture begins even earlier than expected. There is absolutely no reason we need more missiles than could ever be used in a war without utterly destroying the planet because if it ever came to that, there would be no reason for humanity to even exist. However, we have been trained for decades, starting with the Cold War, that the U.S. must be omnipresent as a War Power in order to protect our way of life. Even if you disagree with that mindset, if you have lived here, you have grown up with that as a societal norm. There is no way to escape it. It’s insidious and pervasive and absolutely necessary to keep reinforcing in order to justify the bloated budget; according to the warhawks’ line of thinking we can’t take away money from defense and put it towards the safety net because without the defense there is no safety net. Change is not in dollars and cents; change is entirely spiritual, and the bottom line is our country’s spirit has been warmongering for decades.

Knowing this as our cultural baseline, it makes total sense our political representatives cannot find a way to talk to each other in non-hyperbolic, accusatory terms. We are all always worried about losing the war, whatever the hell that war may be. Sports are wars on the field, there is a war on drugs, there’s a war on women, a war on Christmas, a war on religion, a war on gun rights; we are all righteous soldiers in the wars of our everday lives. We must win; we must vanquish; we must, at all costs, be protected from the snow. And here is the problem with saying all that: it’s a hyperbolic response to an abstract idea of U.S. society, and it, sadly, ignores the greater good we are all capable of accomplishing.

Perhaps the greatest human fraility is our need to be entertained. We may be liars, at-all-costs-self-protectors, psychopaths, oil baron douchebags, whatever, but the real fraility capitalism, and those who take advantage of it, preys on is entertainment, the desire to be soothed by something other. In its purest form, such a desire leads to creativity; at its most bastardised, it mutates from creativity into self-hatred. It seems pretty obvious to me that those Tea Party Patriots loudly proclaiming their love of the United States actually hate it. They hate it because it isn’t the place they imagine in their flag-waving fantasies; they, in turn, support (capitalism) the voices (Fox News, Drudge Report, Rush, etc) who soothe that hatred by confirming their fears. In this cocoon, we are safe; everyone agrees with us; and anyone who doesn’t is attacking us; the war is ever on. What the previous statement ignores, however, is that, in general, most of the people in that cocoon believe they are accomplishing the greater good. They will save the country from itself; the problem though, again, is that the country they are saving doesn’t actually exist.

Fixing this is rather simplistic: put some bankers in jail where they belong; close corporate tax loopholes in conjunction with lowering those tax rates; stop defunding science that could change the world for the better; stop pretending education is a score-rating endeavour [really, Obama, tying federal funding to graduation rates is only going to make colleges pass students who should have failed (which, really, is already happening because schools need the tuition money, education be damned)–you may have noticed this at the lower education level, perhaps? No? You still think this is a good idea? Okay, well, thanks for that.]; accept strict environmental regulations because the world still needs to exist later; quit pretending that making money is more important than any other action in life–put mandatory CEO salary limits, start investing in your employees because they in turn will invest in the economy which in turn means your company is inherently being invested in, and, for the love of everything, stop acting like making money is somehow a patriotic act; being a patriot means giving back to the country you care about–pay your taxes, bring your companies here and hire workers with a living wage, make people see that the U.S. means something to you other than dollar signs.

There’s obviously more. There’s always more. It’s a fluid society. And if I have to give up my desire for a legal snow tank, then others can make some spiritual changes as well.

#18: adventures in Gossip Girl

In today’s exciting debut of a random column idea that may never be followed up, we start in the middle of season two of the rich-kids-of-NYC-and-not-the-OC-doing-dramatic-shit-or-whatever, and shit is hitting the fan. For those of you who don’t know, Gossip Girl is a teen drama that ran on the CW, I think, for I have no idea how many seasons and is now on Netflix and G. enjoys watching it, which means I watch it, which means I spend way too much time thinking about the purpose of the show, beyond, of course, showing people in their twenties playing teenagers who, by way of family or something, have more money than some small countries or even some middle-sized countries.

Something I don’t understand: shows about poor people are always comedies; rich people can go either way, but apparently poor folks don’t have drama. While I will not support this with a thorough researched proof of such a general statement, I will say Gossip Girl = millionaires cavorting in dramatic fashion, and Raising Hope = poor ass folks who make us laugh. Proof, check, and mate.

I can’t finish this. They just had the one high school senior writer douchebag nonchalantly mention he had a story accepted by the Paris Review, and wires in my brain just fried. Oh, and his little sister is apparently a design superstar gone homeless because, like, dads are so overbearing when it comes to making clothes for a living at 15. Everyone is a superstar! See, kids, the GOP has it right: cash money = better human, as long as you’re white, or maybe, just maybe now, Hispanic. We’re getting political.

I understand that television operates on a heightened emotional scale, that we, as viewers, don’t want to invest our sitting time in something that merely reminds us of our every day lives; what would be the point? If that’s what I wanted, I would just film one of my days, then put it on repeat on the tv. The excitement and ratings for such a thing would most likely be lacking. However, I find something about the obvious class warfare in this show to be unsettling, probably on a purely politically correct reasoning. I have a hard time believing watching television informs who I am, and, yet, it clearly does. This gets pointed out to me quite often on the website Cracked. What that means is, when I watch rich people assume a life of jet-setting dramatic good times, I assume that my life would be one of Europe luxury train rides and St. Bart’s golf courses and yachts and boat shoes and slick-as-hell pastel shirt, tie, and v-neck sweater outfits [okay, I can’t make fun of the last one. There are very few of Chuck Bass’ outfits I wouldn’t willingly wear]. Oh, sidenote: the guy from the Princess Bride who always says “inconceivable” all the time just made an appearance as somebody’s mom’s boyfriend. This caused much chagrin. Ugliness is not tolerated in the world of money.

Oh, and now senior superstar writer is going to write for New York Magazine because, um, he’s from Brooklyn, man, and the kid has all that talent to go with those cheek bones. Where was I? Oh, right, tv’s influence on my ability to actually know the world around me: I will never be able to be objective.

#13: The Guy strikes again: “When Punk Goes Acoustic, Country, Folk, Singer-songwriter?”

First of all let me assure the readers this has no relation to the Punk Goes… compilation series by Fearless Records, nor is it any attempt to give them new ideas.

The timeliness of my piece is a little past fresh, I know. But within the last five years there has been a rash of punk musicians (usually singers) breaking off to write, record, release, and tour on stripped down songs. These songs could be conveniently categorized as one of the words I used or perhaps more often as an amalgamation of them.

In the past I read some negative responses to these artists and this “trend”. However, I argue that this is not an issue of musicians identifying the new hip trend, but rather as an honest lifestyle change in response to aging, growing up, and the events compiled over the course of a life. This could also reflect the overall economic landscape much like Black Sabbath exploding in late-70s England.

Let me toss out a few names at this point. Of course, I started this with Chuck Ragan and Tim Barry at the forefront of my mind and as the genesis of my hypothesis. Naturally, I know they aren’t the creators of the style, but they are probably the flag-bearers of this explosion. Some other current purveyors are Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio, Chris McCaughan of a personal favorite of mine, The Lawrence Arms, and “Spacey” Casey Prestwood, former guitar player for Hot Rod Circuit, later of Drag the River. In the late 90s, Mike Ness, of Social Distortion, released a couple country albums. The influence was in Social D’s music before, but he briefly ran with it.

Speaking of Drag the River, pretty much that whole band has roots in the punk scene. Chad Price came aboard from ALL, Jon Snodgrass was in Armchair Martian, which was perhaps more of a sideways move rather than a new direction. Prestwood, as previously mentioned played guitar in punk bands.

Dave Hause, of the Loved Ones and prior to that The Curse(Joel and I saw them open for Andrew WK in State College back in the day. After the Curse’s set, we went into the entry room with the pool tables at the venue during Flaw’s set. A decision neither of us has ever regretted for one second. I liked the Curse and of course WK brought the party and I believe Joel slapped hands with the man and contemplated  never washing his hand again, much like WK would continue doing with his white-t and jeans), has taken the detour down the dusty acousta-punk road. And on his album’s opener “Only Time Will Tell,” he raises the question that helped reinforce my thoughts on this being a lifestyle change, a reaction to life, the universe, and everything (the answer is not 42 with apologies to Douglas Adams). “Is it written all over my face? Should I even feel ashamed? / Or, is it that early thirties thing, where some guys just go insane?  / And then the doctors give us lithium, but we’re never quite the same.” Actually pretty much that whole song is about the loss of innocence, the piling up of the disappointments of life, all of the places the road turned where we didn’t want it to go.

And at the heart of all of these artists, I feel these lyrics (the general idea and feeling of loss and often hopelessness), along with their punk backgrounds, is the common factor that ties them together. These artists are all in their 30s at least and, definitely in Ness’s case, older.

I’m 31. Joel is a month and a half shy of the same [I have no idea what he’s talking about. I’m like 22]. I can certainly and confidently say that for me life’s events and the unexpected and unwanted detours it has sent me on have really hit hard and sapped me of a lot of my anger and fire. I feel I’ve earned myself a good scream, but honestly I just don’t want to. I don’t want to yell at anyone. I barely want to speak as loud as being coherently audible requires. I’m done fighting with people, arguing for the sake of arguing or the simple amusement it brought me, and trying to be right or (in the unlikely event that I am actually right) trying to prove it. I don’t have it in me. My sails are more limp than Bob Dole’s pre-Viagra penis(And that is how you stay relevant in pop-culture folks, timely references). I’m sorry if that image disturbs you as much as it does me, well almost as much anyway, I’m quite disturbed that somewhere in the vicinity of 12 years after he was a spokesman for them, on a Friday night, I am sitting at home thinking about Bob Dole’s penis. Hey, I guess that’s just where my life is at. But I suppose that sheds some light on how I can relate to the subject at hand, whatever it was before I digressed.

Oh yes, the trials and tribulations of the world bursting one’s backstreet bubble, if you will. I am a fan of Hot Water Music and Avail, but 94% of the time I will listen to Chuck Ragan and Tim Barry over their work with their respective bands. Hot Water is still going and I’m pretty sure Avail is done, but I am in no way saying those dudes can’t still rock it like they did when they were young punks, but I relate to their older, toned down material much more at this point in my life than I do to those earlier records. It probably also speaks to why yesterday I realized I have a real appreciation for William Elliott Whitmore’s music way more than I ever had. I’m finding the new Cory Branan going the same way, I’m listening to Mutt for the first time as I write this and my expectations have been surpassed. I think in the case of Whitmore and Branan, I discovered them too young, when I was still relating more to angry, bitter, pessimistic punk records rather than quieter, but often still bitter, pessimistic alt-punk records.

I’m sure Chuck still really kicks ass in Hot Water and I bet their live show is still as good as I heard it was, but he has this other creative outlet, and he’s awesome at that and he likes fishing and all that stuff that I for one never associated with being “punk”. But when you aren’t as young as you used to be it is nice to be around a quiet body of water with a couple close friends or all alone except maybe for a couple cold drinks and just relax and reflect and get away for awhile. It certainly beats hanging out at some noisy crowded public place full of annoying assclowns and their terrible life choices serving as reminders for the disappoints you’ve accumulated over the course of your lifetime.

Side note on Tim Barry leading to yet another tangent, Joel and I are good friends with Ryan, or Bill as we affectionately call him. Bill was the one responsible for dubbing me The Guy and he recently sent me a picture of his mom hanging out with Tim Barry after one of his shows. For the record, Bill wasn’t at the show, his mom and step-dad had driven to one of Tim’s shows somewhere which made two really cool accepting and receptive people all that much more so. And that brings to mind the fact that this style of music is a nice middle ground for aging punkers and their parents. My parents are into The Boss, or Bruce Springsteen, but I prefer to call him The Boss, so I could see them listening to The Gaslight Anthem with me, and then venturing into Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry and the like. Well, probably more my dad than my mom, because in high school I was always rocking some cd on our computer in the kitchen and my dad sometimes liked what I was listening to. I specifically remember him liking The Get Up Kids and later The New Amsterdams. But of course when I listened to Small Brown Bike, I cannot recall his reaction to the music, but he definitely stood there laughing and shaking his head about the band name, so strip away the band names and smooth down some of that rough punk edge and you’ve got some music to be enjoyed both generations.

I have taken my point a to point q to the twilight zone to left field to point b approach that I have perfected as much as one can perfect, say diarrhea, and I’ve lost my thread and steam. So, The End.

#12: Home? Home. Say Anything makes a comeback. And I get personal about Twitter, with apologies to Colin Hanks

Let’s be upfront about one thing (we will call this the ‘throat-clearing-process,’ if that’s all right with you, dear reader): I never know how to start these. I get ideas in my head while I’m at work, and, I gotta be honest, I’m often quite tickled with myself about what I come up with, but then, at home, sitting in front of the monitor, I end up thinking, ‘how the hell do I write this? I don’t even know what I was thinking.’ Tis frustrating, you must believe. I typically spend more time trying to find what music I’m going to listen to in order to conjure back the ideas I once had streaming forth when I was mowing than I do actually writing anything. These are big decisions. Vital. My world of writing is really only about sound.

G. and I are in the process of buying a house. This is a strange development, precisely because not too long ago I went on rant about how I was destined to move to the South, and now we are moving just slightly south of where we are now, which is way above the Mason Dixon line. I’m not allowed to say that we’ve bought a house, because it isn’t official yet, and G. considers to say such a complete and utter jinx and disaster will occur. To me, it is already our first house and I’ve been singing Madness and CSN&Y in my head. Sometimes in a lyrical mash-up of the two. I’m the Girl Talk of songs about ‘our house.’ It is all right to be impressed.

[…] <— let’s consider that a navigational tool indicating I’m transitioning.

When Say Anything released …Is a Real Boy, I remember there being a huge clamor over Max being roughly 13 years old when he wrote the album. I think he was actually 20 or so, but whatever. The important thing to mention in most write-ups concerning the album was that Max was young, this was vital to understanding the album, and that such ‘maturity’ at that age made made the album better to listen to. I find such sentiment bizarre and proof that liking music is mostly psychological. I do not mean for that to be profound; I mean it in the way that, like, people get drunk faster when they are in a social setting that is conducive to ‘being drunk,’ in that, our minds can warp our bodies into believing (or liking) whatever the hell it wants. That is weird. I mean, think about it–it is impossible to consider this album in a vacuum, yet, one has to wonder if such a vacuum occurred, would the people who wrote glowing reviews precisely because of the youth/maturity dichotomy hear the same thing? Does the music actually sound different to us when we know something like that and consider it a good or bad thing? Would Nickleback sound different to me if I knew they donated every single dollar they made to a charity program I agreed with? I don’t think it would, but who the hell knows? I don’t like John Mayer’s music, but his [in]famous interviews in Playboy and Rolling Stone actually made me consider him, not so much as a musician, but as a guy who seemed fully aware of who he was and what he was doing making music [for a quick rehash: Mayer writes crappy songs because crappy songs sell. It is, in reality, a complete dismissal of the buying public, and that is what people should have been offended by, not that he said he had a KKK dick]. And because I know this now, I hear his songs differently. I still don’t think they’re good, but I think they’re not good with a purpose, and thus I don’t despise him like I despise Nickelback. AND THE SONGS HAVEN’T CHANGED IN ANY WAY. This freaks me out. […] Anyway, Youthful Max writes …Is a Real Boy, an album that I immediately love. And who wouldn’t, if you dig the youth angst rock? It was filled with what was supposedly authentic feelings–it was all ‘autobiography,’ after all, the liner notes said so, a pseudo concept album about a young man who couldn’t stop himself from saying anything that he felt, and John Cusack movies be goddamned. It was personal! It was real! Also, it was catchy as hell and rocked out. But, more importantly, and here I think is where age was such a mitigating factor, it was “authentic;’ he was too young to be jaded by the music industry, so his emotional jadedness was real, yo!

Such a conceit, however, rendered follow-up albums nearly impossible. He would never be that young, his jadedness would come off as insincere [cue: Eminem]. And this is exactly what happened. Well, after some other interesting tidbits regarding his personal life, including disappearing while on tour [one that I was supposed to go see, that bastard] and ending up in some sort of mental hospital–something that further cemented his authenticity, by the way–as well as supposedly engaging in freestyle rap battles on street corners in NYC, recording an ill-fated album with Chris from Saves the Day under the band name Two Tongues that had some really strong homoerotic overtones, and, in the one thing that I’m not sure if I should thank him or hate, obtaining Jesse Lacey’s former girlfriend [this is obvious: hate him because Jesse is my boy, dawg or love him because maybe this inspires Jesse to keep writing the best albums in the modern musical universe, sorry I have a man-crush music boner (and how’s that for homoerotic undertone)]. What does any of this have to do with the subsequent follow ups to ...Is a Real Boy? Jack shit. But, yet, it means everything. Because with Max it is impossible to separate what I know of him with how I hear his music, which is, in fact, totally fucking absurd.

Anarchy, My Dear is the best album Max has put together since Real Boy, and it is obvious that it is the true sequel–I think the song ‘Admit it, Again’ might be a small clue to such thinking. But what makes it the best? Why is it so much better than In Defense of the Genre and the self-titled album? The simple answer is because it sounds more like Real Boy and that’s who I want Say Anything to be. The complicated answer is, when you are Max, how do you keep making the music people want you to make while actually also doing what your original conceit was–how do you make ‘new’ music? You keep saying whatever it is you feel. And you don’t feel the same way you did when you made Real Boy, so it is actually impossible to make that album again. The argument against that, though, is how is it that Anarchy works? This also has a simple answer: lots of gang vocal choruses. This is the catchiest album he has written in a long time, and it is enjoyable to listen to. Also, he’s still doing the ‘say anything’ conceit, but now he has something to be angry about: people complaining about him. He’s also happy in love, apparently, so he can write lovely little songs about that. His world, like your world, has changed and evolved. But as fans, we expect our artists to stay exactly where they are. It is an unfairness we willingly embrace to the point that we feel like the artist fails us by not being who we want him/her to be. And this, dear Reader, is why it is important to know that we are buying a house north of the Mason Dixon line: my life has evolved in ways I could not have predicted and I have no idea how much that has influenced what I hear when I listen to this album, and, frankly, that’s fucking weird. I am in a place in my life where Max’s maturity makes total sense to me, thus making this album something I relate to, and it has nothing to do with the music, yet, I just gave you a musical explanation for why this album is better [catchy songs! gang vocals!] and I have no idea what any of this means, and, in reality, I am just making up the idea of Max maturing simply because it fits my version of things. And because I can go on the internet and read things about him and interviews with him, which, in turn, makes me think I know him. And this is why Twitter is so scary.

I am not what you call a prolific Twitter user. I follow six people. Four of them I know personally. I follow two celebrities: Colin Hanks and Bubba Watson. I’m sure those two have thousands of followers, but I would bet I’m the only person on Twitter whose sole celebrity choices are those two. Twitter is, obviously, a haven for celebrity stalking. […] Let’s move on. My point is this: my wife reads a lot of celebrity gossip. This in turn means she reads a TON of celebrity gossip comments. And here’s what I’ve discovered: normal people are scary as shit sliding off a roof right above your head when you’re taking a nap in a hammock. These commentors make wild accusations, judgments, and just out right batshit insane ideas regarding whatever celebrity the article is focused on. And this is okay to do. Because celebrities aren’t people, they’re celebrities. They want the attention. They release pictures to magazines! They’re PR people are setting up ‘photo shoots’ for the paparazzi! No relationships are real! Unless you like the couple! Then it’s love! Or something. It’s total insanity. But people have no qualms making these judgments because, simply, access to a celebrity is, on the surface, so easy. The internet has made any famous person to some degree obtainable. Do you want to know what Scarlett Johansson’s nipples look like? It’s on the internet. Why is it on the internet? Because she’s famous, she took a photo of herself, some dude hacked her phone (and this is okay, because, again, celebrities aren’t people) and now commentors can talk about how Scarlett is fat. Or something. There is this completely bizarre dichotomy of knowing personal things about a celebrity, and, because we know these personal details, we don’t consider them as people. It makes no sense. We have so much access that detachment is our only way of dealing with it. The common argument is that celebrities do this to themselves by being famous. That they are granted a level of benefit the rest of us normals don’t have, so this is the trade-off. I suppose that’s true. But it’s still weird.

Consider: I follow Colin Hanks on Twitter because I really like the show The Good Guys, and I decided that I would follow him to see if he’s like his character in the show. This is my rationale. And I deemed it logical. And now I know that Colin enjoys ramen, the LA Kings, and presented at the NHL Awards. Also, my rationale is flawed because I’ve seen him in multiple movies, like that one serial killer movie with Diane Lane where Colin gets killed in a huge vat of acid or something, and that Orange County movie with Jack Black where all I really remember is Jack Black in his underwear asking if he should start the party or something along those lines. Yet, I have decided that Mr. Hanks is like his Good Guys character, not the kid who wanted to get into Stanford or the police dude in Untraceable [I think that was the title? I could look it up but it would be cheating. It’s where the killer puts all the deaths online because computers are scary or something? Wasn’t he also in an episode of the O.C.? The meta-episode about a tv show and he hits on Summer? Right? And there’s all the talk about how he improvises his lines, a reference to Seth, etc.? Oh, and does anyone remember when Adam Brody played [not]Seth in that movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith?] This means that I filter all of his Twitter updates through the lens of what I know about his character in the Good Guys. And I now feel like I know him, to some degree. I know he likes a lot of the bands I do; he likes ramen, as do I, although I buy mine for 30 cents at the grocery store, he goes to fancy restaurants; he likes hockey. In general, these are similar superficial things I know about my actual friends. But do I know him? Of course not.

The thing about Twitter is that it manages to both let us see celebrities for how they want us to see them, while at the same time mangling our ability to discern what we know about pretty much anyone. There is an uproar anytime someone famous tweets something controversial, but it’s only controversial because we don’t expect them to have such thoughts. We still don’t think of them as people outside of the construct we have created for them. It’s like if Rock Hudson had a Twitter today, he’d probably have accidentally outed himself, but people would have found some way to filter it so that it seemed ironic or whatever so that we could keep seeing him as a man’s man. All told, I’m convinced Colin Hanks and I could be friends, but I think this only because I watched a tv show that I found entertaining, then decided to follow an actor on a weird social media invention. There is nothing there of substance, yet I’ve constructed a foundation that Mr. Hanks has freely offered. It’s not like I’m interacting with him in any way, nor do I actually think of us as ‘friends.’ What I think is that having this platform has turned people not into purveyors of celebrity, but turned them into people who think we are all somehow existing on a level playing field–the internet is the great equalizer. It’s not true–Colin could pay off my student loan debts without even blinking, I’m sure, whereas such a thing would change my life profoundly–but people still grasp onto the idea of the ‘personal’ as this thing which renders everything impersonal. It’s a dramatic cultural shift.

And what does it all mean? Hell if I know. But I think it is pretty clear that no matter how one decides to look at it, having such access is changing the way we think, what we like, and how we respond to it all. And what does it really mean? Colin Hanks, be my friend!

#1

This is off the cuff, and, therefore, it is not thought out at all and is probably a bad way to debut any of this. Essentially, once I determined that such a site was a good idea, I promptly lost any ideas of how to start it. Crumpling under pressure, etc., etc., etc.

I have this notion of exploring iTunes’ effect on my relationship with music. At the same time, I don’t see anything really developing out of that, nor do I have a clue how I would like to go about it.

This entire post is about not having anything to post. Is that irony or meta or neither? both?