Marquee Moon

So after almost a decade of hearing Marquee Moon it finally clicked with me. I mean I always liked it, but there was no way I’d ever have put it on the same level as Blank Generation or Pink Flag or The Clash or Never Mind the Bullocks. But yeah I hear it now. It feels strange that I could ever not hear it. (I’ve had similar experiences with Eliot, Stein, Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney, and Jay-Z).

It’s like the first time I saw the duck in the duck-rabbit (that one didn’t take me 8 years). It can’t really be argued for (inductively or deductively no, demonstratively yes with a but), it just clicks. And when it does, you want it to click for other people too. There’s an irresistible urge to show it to people you care about because you hope they’ll experience the same pleasure you did (I think this is the truly social dimension of aesthetic experience).


Poetry Monday: John Ashbery, “Crazy Weather”

It’s this crazy weather we’ve been having:
Falling forward one minute, lying down the next
Among the loose grasses and soft, white, nameless flowers.
People have been making a garment out of it,
Stitching the white of lilacs together with lightning
At some anonymous crossroads. the sky calls
To the deaf earth. The proverbial disarray
Of morning corrects itself as you stand up.
You are wearing a text. The lines
Droop to your shoelaces and I shall never want or need
Any other literature than this poetry of mud
And ambitious reminiscences of times when it came easily
Through the then woods and ploughed fields and had
A simple unconscious dignity we can never hope to
Approximate now except in narrow ravines nobody
Will inspect where some late sample of the rare,
Uninteresting specimen might still be putting out shoots, for all we know.

From his superb Houseboat Days


It’s weird how the same scholars who use “apolitical” as an insult are often the first to assert that everything is inescapably political. So is “apolitical” just code for “political in a bad way, political in a way I disagree with,” like how “problematic” seems to be code for “transgressive in a bad way, transgressing *my* values.” Like, one of the points of transgressive/subversive art is that it does transgress your own values, make you angry or uncomfortable or offended or confused, challenges your beliefs and changes the way you think.

the pleasures of hate-reading revisited

Recently I went through a hate-reading phase (mostly MRAs and diehard kill-
kill-kill-kill-kill-the-poor Randians and other social Darwinists). I attributed it to a trivial masochism and the emotional rush described by Hazlitt. Now, though, I think the better explanation is confirmation bias. We tend to assume that people who (strongly) disagree with us on crucial issues are either ignorant or corrupt (or if “corrupt” is too crude, substitute dishonest/problematic/irrational/suffering-from-false-consciousness/fill-in-the-blank)

Hate-reading confirms (in our minds) that our assumptions are correct. The more we read the opinions of those infuriating cretins, the more convinced we become that our side is in the right (cause I mean, like, just look at what they’re saying), and, thanks to some heuristics our species has evolved, we *love* being reminded that our beliefs are true. It wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying to read ignorant/corrupt people who agree with us (and for any given belief, there are plenty of ignorant/corrupt people who are vociferously advocating it).

As penance, I’ve been seeking out articles and books and artworks and online communities by intelligent/ethical people whose beliefs directly clash with mine (they weren’t hard to find). And it messes you up, spending time with good, smart people whose beliefs you find absurd and/or repugnant, and vice-versa, but it messes you up in the best way possible.

Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream [RCA]

What a curious album by this big-sunglassiod crooner– at times so retro as to be classic, at times clearly indebted to the usually laudable trends pervading the new wave of r&b right now. Find yourself some decent technology to consume this heap of ear candy, clearly the work of a studio maven with an eclectic love of hodgepodge. “Adorn” is a sure-fire single, and “Use Me” contains subtlety and intelligence worthy of Frank Ocean himself.

Action Bronson and Party Supplies: Blue Chips [Fool’s Gold, 2012]

NYC’s most famous Albanian rapper-by-day and chef-by-night hasn’t altered his style too much since his debut, 2011’s promising and overlooked Dr. Lecter, except for exchanging a established producer for some punk who goes by “Party Supplies” and hails from, I kid you not, Williamsburg. It turns out Party Supplies not only has a damn good ear, but an eclecticism that leads him to sample everyone from Dean Martin and Aaron Neville to Iron Butterfly and Frank Zappa. Challenging samples, like the ballsy strings-only in opener “Pouches of Tuna” or the ballsier theft from Ghostface Killah (to whom Action is always compared, though I think Nas is just as accurate) in closer “Tapas,” establish beyond all doubt that, at least on a strictly technical level, Action Bronson belongs to a very elite group of rappers. Sure, Danny Brown has a song about being a “pussy eater,” but could Danny Brown endite a line like “she grew a bush just like a baby plant / still i ate it, like it was bucatini razor clams?” The Bronsolini is talented, but he’s no show-off: a show-off doesn’t release a track like “9-24-2011” in which he botches the lyrics– multiple times. The culinary metaphors are witty, but, as this Feinschmecker should know, a great flow needs some meat as much as a great voice does (*cough* Christina Aguilera), or great guitar chops (*cough* Jeff Beck). And to be fair, there is quite a bit of substance here. His subject matter, though, is for the most part limited to drugs, hoes, and food– or so a cursory listen would have you believe. Dig deeper– as his verbal dexterity and apt beats will encourage you to do– and you’ll find poignant reflections on everything from his mixed feelings about his dad to his anger at an ex to his anxiety over his small penis. And the rest? Hell, I’m not going to gripe about an esculent hook like “one marrow roasted / spend it on the rosemary bread, lightly toasted / drizzle with the vinaigrette / stuff dutches and it’s pulling like a cigarette.”