"But there was nothing about the little, low-rambling, more or less identical homes of Northumberland Estates to interest or to haunt, no chance of loot that would be any more than the ordinary, waking-world kind the cops hauled you in for taking; no
small immunities, no possibilities for hidden life or otherworldly presence; no trees, secret routes, shortcuts, culverts, thickets that could be made hollow in the middle – everything in the place was right out in the open, everything could be seen at a glance; and behind it, under it, around the corners of its houses and down the safe, gentle curves of its streets, you came back, you kept coming back, to nothing; nothing but the cheerless earth."
Thomas Pynchon, "The Secret Integration"
This is Ian Mathers' Tumblr. I live in Canada. I've written about music and other things for Stylus, Dusted, PopMatters, Resident Advisor, the Village Voice, and a few other places. Hi.
I think the average reader picks up a comic book and then puts it down x-minutes later, thinking Good and Bad and does not delve into aesthetics. I think that’s generally true of almost any entertainment.
I worked in a bottle factory. Two summers to put myself through college so I could get haute culture. Working at a bottle factory is this: I stood at the end of a conveyor belt. Ten thousand beer bottles came at me a day. The heat was 120 degrees because these beer bottles were being molded in huge blast furnaces about 40 feet up the line. I took them off, I looked at them, I put them on gauges, I flipped them over, I put them in boxes. I repeated that until 10 000 of these bottles had been done. Then I got in my car and I drove through a dismally bad East St. Louis neighborhood, and I got home. […] Well, I was not capable of reading Dostoevsky after eight hours in that bottle factory. I just couldn’t do it. I could maybe crawl into the living room and turn on the television and stare at whatever happened to be flickering across it for an hour before crawling into bed and getting ready to repeat the whole horrible process the next day. To appreciate Dostoevsky, you have to read a book with a lot of attention.
What I like about novels is that they absorb me because I have to bring some of myself to them. I have to make the effort of reading; it’s not a totally passive experience. But that’s because i’m now in a position where I am not physically exhausted except when I choose to be. If I were still working at that bottle factory I could not read the serious stuff I do. In fact, i couldn’t go to the serious movies I go to. In fact, I couldn’t go to the Japanese melodrama that I go to on Tuesdays at the Bleecker Street because I would not have the energy to get past the language barrier, and see what was going on on the screen. All that I could do is to watch television. A lot of people have jobs like that. Their lifestyles sort of limit the culture that is available to them.
I don’t know why it went one way with me and another way with [them] […] the social stratum that I come from, which is Shanty-Irish lower-middle-class blue-collar St. Louis, there is a tendency on the part of a lot of the people who live in the neighborhood I grew up in to automatically condemn anything that is cultural, that is stamped with that. I sometimes wonder if my own anti-academic attitude is related to that. But, my family would dismiss something as “deep”, which means, “We can’t understand it, so go away.” A lot of the things we were dismissing as deep weren’t. But, they were simply being judgmental and therefore closing themselves off to a lot of things they would’ve liked, they would’ve enjoyed.
You should not just read my Spider-Man stories. You should go out and buy paperback books and go to a library and get hardcover books and you should go listen to the free concerts in the park, both jazz and classical music, and you should go listen to the free rock concerts. You […] have access to all of thw world’s culture, to everything that’s been done, you can get it. And if you don’t get it, it’s too bad for you. You are impoverishing yourself. You can’t blame me because I am not offering you Beethoven because Beethoven is available to you. Personally I read comic books and Russian novels and there are times, with a gun to my head, I would not read a Russian novel, and I want a comic book, dammit. There are other times when I might be in a gloomier or more contemplative mood when a comic book will not satisfy what I’m looking for. One of the few ways we are blessed with in the 20th century, living as we do in interesting times, is that we can get anything we want. It is all available to us. You only have to reach out. If you choose not to reach out, it’s too bad. Why don’t you?
Melodrama in my vocabulary is not a pejorative. It is a form. It is the form I predominantly work in as a matter of fact. It is a form with equal validity and weight with tragedy and comedy. It is one of the three modes of dramatic expression. And as Norman Mailer said, melodrama seems to be the natural mode of 20th century America as tragedy was the natural mode of Socratic Greece. […] An age that embraces melodrama; why does it have to be cheap melodrama? Cheap and melodrama are almost always yoked like that and yet melodrama is in itself neutral, it ain’t good and it ain’t bad. It’s a form. The sonnet is a form; the ode is a form. Melodrama is a form, tragedy is a form, comedy is a form. It’s just a dramatic attitude, and there’s cheap melodrama and there’s not cheap melodrama. There’s bad tragedy, there’s bad comedy. I will say unabashedly with almost no fear of contradiction that was we do in [superhero] comics is melodrama, it’s broad melodrama, fantasy melodrama. That’s what [superhero] comics are. If you don’t like that, go read someplace else, go someplace else. I am not in the business of satisfying the tastes of anybody who is not willing to accept fantasy melodrama as a viable form of entertainment. […] You can’t judge me for something that I have no intention of doing. What I intend to do is produce melodrama. Why condemn it for something it doesn’t pretend to be?
—Denny O’Neil as interviewed by Gary Groth in “War and Peace with Denny O’Neil” for The Comics Journal Number 66 (1981).
There’s a lot of great stuff in this quotation, but the bottle factory bit especially stuck with me. Working in a forklift factory* one summer in university was pretty formative for younger me, mainly because I was suddenly and irresistibly confronted with the fact that I no longer had the energy (mental, emotional, physical) to do anything more than watch some TV and drink some beer when I got home. I could write a little on the weekends, sometimes. And, I mean, I hadn’t been consciously being a dick about all those people the culture I live in had been telling me just weren’t smart or sophisticated or caring enough to be involved or interested in anything “worthwhile,” I just kind of bought the party line.
You know the one: the fact that I was in university for something relatively esoteric and genuinely enjoyed kind of weird music and liked less obvious entertainments as well as the stuff enjoying mass popularity meant I was somehow part of a rarified elite. As if the people around me who weren’t into the more “advanced” stuff I was just needed to care more, or be educated by someone who cared more (the condescension!). I mean, I wasn’t walking around being an overt asshole about this stuff (I don’t think, or if I was, nobody ever seemed to notice or call me on it, which is a shame), but layered in the background of my approach to life there it was: there was an “us” and a “them” and I was safely “us.”
And one summer, just one summer, working what was honestly a pretty easy fucking job (certainly much easier than O’Neil’s) was all it took to tell me clearly and inescapably that the only thing keeping me from being lumped into the “us” I assumed were so common due to just… some weird lack of virtue was the luck of my circumstances and the way they gifted me with the time and freedom to do what I wanted. Sure, I made a lot less than the people I worked with there (and the number of women and men you could see visibly running themselves into the ground in explicit exchange for a house, a car, nice things for them and their partners and their kids was humbling too), but I paid a lot less too. And I got to believe, before that summer at least, that made me somehow a better person. What a shitty, untrue thing to think. What kind of damage did it do to me as a person? How much of it have I been able to repair? And how much more damage would it have done if I’d blithely kept on, in all innocence, thinking it all these years?
*(Literally, it makes forks to go on the lifting part of forklifts. I don’t know what else to call it.)
they finally stopped making the ipod classic :(((((
have had my 160gb for like…at least 5 years now, pretty sure more; it seems to be working ok besides the dwindling battery life. you can get a replacement battery for i think $70 or so?? but i would ideally, if i can scrape it somehow, like to buy another classic as backup before they are gone bc somehow there is (as far as i know) no other mp3 player on the market with that capacity and like, i’m down to 1 or 2gb free even when i’m trying to be tough about clearing shit, so
i don’t even know what to do…like i think i could learn to live w/o portable listening?? but i don’t know what else i would do with my music for actually listening to it…like, i can’t on the laptop for a bunch of reasons; attn span probably being the worst—bc like i find it not easy to get into a good focused listening mode anyway but w/ the whole internet etc sitting right there in the same box it’d be exponentially worse—but also that the laptop is noisy as fuck and would fuck with listening to anything that wasn’t busy/loud enough to drown it out
aaaaaaa aaaaaaa aaaaa i know how stupid it is that i am this bothered by this but
If you’re stupid, so am I… my own iPod isn’t having battery issues, but it’s just a matter of time. How dumb is it that I care this much? I don’t know. When I was a kid, first with a stereo at home, then a Walkman, then a Discman, the iPod was literally what I dreamed might be possible one day. Then they kept improving it, getting closer and closer to the ideal in my head. That ideal clearly wasn’t shared by enough people to keep the damn thing going.
I could put music on my phone, but its battery life is already crap and there’s so little room there (I don’t really need 160 gigs, but I also don’t want to add time swapping music every day or few days, I’m behind on enough as it is). I refuse to buy something that’s like a shittier version of my phone just to have music on. I’ll look into other players, sure, but I’m guessing Apple’s probably gone out of its way to make that a shitty experience. There are too many things on my iPod that I love fiercely that aren’t on Spotify and its ilk, and besides a lot of my out-of-apartment listening takes place underground with no reception (and while I do listen to music on my computer, the distraction issue noted above is very real).
I can’t exercise without music (not that I’ve found the time/place to do so since moving here, sigh), my commute is kind of brutal without music (unless I’ve got a really great book, and still sometimes in the morning I’m not up to reading), and like I suspect a lot of people I know many cherished experiences with music over the past decade and change involve headphones and a device like the iPod. I kind of figured, as the last classic iPod lingered on with no updates for a while, that it was on its way out. And this is pretty much a classic example of a privileged problem. But damn, I am surprisingly sad to see it go.
ETA: Okay, this is just enraging.
When I used to go out, I’d know everyone I saw.
Now I go out alone if I go out at all.
The Walkmen - The Rat
I was, what, 22 when this came out? Those lines, this song, gave me a lot of conflicting feelings including but not limited to creeping unease, pride, terror, and defiance. A decade later, it’s still not fully true but it’s a lot closer, and it mostly just makes smile fondly about my twenties. It was great; let’s never go back.
"free speech" is my fav. thing nerds resort to to defend their opinions they’re literally saying "I am completely out of coherent defences for my opinion so I’m just going to state that it’s not legal for you to arrest me for it" am i supposed to respond with "its ok im not a cop" or what i dunno
Not only is this very true, we have evidence that the “free speech” thing doesn’t even tend to fly with the cops, especially if you’re not a straight white man (like I am).