Saturday, August 20, 2016

Mystery shelf

Most of the time, when I'm writing for work, I have music on.  I like to play music that I know really well, so that I can tune it out.  I generally need something that will help me tune out background noise, since I'm immensely destractable.  Academic writing can be staggeringly difficult.  Stories of spending entire days to write single paragraphs are not uncommon.  The words must be specific - never a word too many or too few.  The meaning of each word is precise and intended.

So, I'm working on a paper for which I did the analysis more than a year ago.  Other stuff got in the way, so now I'm trying to crank it out.  It's a paper about predictors of risky sexual behavior in adolescence.  Let's say that I'm currently not 100% thrilled with how the paper is turning out and the stress of not having it done is making it much harder to finish.  Cue writer's block.

The album I posted above is one of my go-to albums for writing.  The music is such a huge part of the movie.  It's foreboding and thunderous.  It's tragic and relentless.  It's other pairs of words that sound good together.  It's a collaboration between Clint Mansell, the Kronos Quartet, and Mogwai.  There are a lot of reasons to like it.

I imagine that most everyone hates or is otherwise indifferent to this movie, but I love it immensely.  It questions the nature of love, time, self, loss, energy, maybe even god, but it's most certainly about the cyclic nature of life.  It doesn't tell you anything in a straightforward way - you have to interpret the plot for yourself.  Every person experiences something different.  It's directed by Aronofsky, so that helps explain it.  It's kind of a slow, brutal journey; not something you watch for entertainment or to critique on its realism; it's something to experience and think about afterwards.

Unlike other music that I try to tune out, for me, this music brings me back to the emotional place of the movie.  Ever see Dancer in the Dark?  If yes, then when I say "the last song" you're going to want to cry.  It's the same thing here, but the place the Fountain soundtrack brings me back to is this creative mystery emotion headspace, where everything is questionable and unknown, yet with purpose waiting to be uncovered.  It's the perfect emotional place to put myself so I can write, so I use it sparingly; Especially during times like right now, where I need to get some goddamn words on journal-quality paper and stop writing in a blog to no one.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Baraka - Kecak dance

The above is a clip from the documentary (of sorts) Baraka.  A beautiful film, but this is the part that sticks with most people.  It shows a Kecak, a form of dance created in the 1930s in Indonesia.  It comes from a more traditional form of trance-inspired dance.

Whenever I think of this (or of other places where people congregate to sing in unison) I inevitably turn to Durkheim's notion of collective effervescence, a term for a shared emotionality that lends itself toward belief in the sacred.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

This fucking thing.

In 2004, fresh out of college, I moved down to Florida to become a contractor - I had about 15k in student loan debt and I wanted it off my back as quickly as possible.  Home repair seemed like a worthwhile skill and a fast way to earn enough money.  I certainly learned the skill - I built decks and patios, painted, replaced roofs, installed flooring, electrical, plumbing, etc.  I bought a small, beat-up house and, in between contracts, I fixed it up.  I was pretty good at the work, although I didn't particularly like doing it for a living.

At the same time, by moving, I'd effectively trashed a good relationship and distanced myself from every friend I'd ever had.  I started to have difficulties making my mortgage payments and I didn't have the time or energy to work on the house.  I had trapped myself.  Over time, I grew extremely depressed.  While I'd been dealing with depression for 10 years by that point, I hadn't veered toward the suicidal in some time.  It started to gnaw at me.  Those who've been through it know that it doesn't really ever go away - it just hides and waits, the first to spring up when thoughts go dark.

It's hard to muster strength in the middle of a depressive episode, but at one point, I realized that if I didn't get out of Florida, it was literally going to kill me.  I began working like mad, trying to get the house ready to sell.  I took on nearly 10k in credit card debt and quit working for others for several months.  I focused solely on getting the house finished.

Summer in Tallahassee often means a heat index around 110 degrees, so I worked nights.  During one stretch of a couple of weeks, I completely remodeled my laundry room - refinished cabinets, installed counters, replaced the sink, put in a vinyl floor, fixed the ceiling, painted everything.  The laundry room was across a breezeway from the house and the air conditioning was slight, at best.  Still 85 degrees at night, I'd work, covered in paint, sweat, and an almost insane commitment to completion,.  I worked to exhaustion.  My beard grew long, my hair wild.  I'd get looks at the grocery store, but was too manic to care.  This was not a good head space.

I would play music while I worked.  I had no internet, no TV, and a massive music collection. During this time, I slowly created what amounts to a mix CD.  To this day, I have no idea why.  Perhaps it was just my playlist.  It had no target, so I guess I made myself a mixtape.  I really wanted to get it right.  It became as much an obsession as getting the cabinets painted and the floor put down.

I love and hate the end result.  It fits together beautifully, mapping the erratic flow of my depressive state.  It gets dark, real dark, but not unexpectedly.  It's heartbroken, but motivated.  Hopeful, but withdrawn.  Challenging, but strained.  Townes sings his poppiest song, yet is so desperately clinging to affection.  Mara Lee Miller sings boldly about being afraid.  Donovan dreams of beauty, Damien Jurado dreams of death.  It begins with innocence and ends with acceptance.

I've created a hundred mixes, but this one is the one that haunts me.

Summer Mix - 2006
Blind Willie McTell - "It Must Be Love"
Townes Van Zandt - "Fare Thee Well, Miss Carousel"
Bosque Brown - "Still Afraid"
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - "Love Letter"
Al Green - "Tired of Being Alone"
Donovan - "Wear Your Love Like Heaven"
Damien Jurado - "Tonight I Will Retire"
Cory Branan - "Spoke Too Soon"
Malcolm Middleton - "Solemn Thirsty"
Mice Parade - "Focus on the Roller Coaster"
Snowglobe - "Rock Song"
The Pogues - "Living in a World without Her"
Six Parts Seven - "Now Like Photographs"
Dixie Dirt - "Appetite"

As postscript - In September, 2006, I sold the house, paid off all my debts, moved back to NC, took the next 6 months off, and shaved my beard.  And yet, I could never leave this fucking thing.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Oh, hi there.

Just a note to say that I have no idea what I'm doing with DM at the moment.  Not that anyone's here, but for now, I'm throwing random songs I like up here.

I may keep talking about music.  I'll probably talk a bit about politics, since, you know, christ almighty.  I'm also working on my dissertation this year, so it's important that I get into the habit of writing, even about non-science things.  Gotta flex the ol' word-thinkery-do.


Unwound is the kind of band where, when you first start listening to them, you have to ask yourself if you have the headspace to listen to them right now.  It's not really easy-to-consume music.  The albums go places.  They meander.  They pinpoint.  They make an argument for, and serve as their own evidence of, the power of music as art.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

One of the guys from Blank (perhaps the singer?) went on to the bands Cross My Heart and Liars Academy. I don't know anything about either of those bands, really, or even any more about Blank, but this song has gotten quite a few plays in the last 15 years. I figured it's only right to throw it up here. I love how it comes out swinging, then pulses between delicacy and rage (like a headache - get it??) I feel like they owe a lot to Braid, but they started coming up around the same time. Either way, play this in the background and have your hip friends ask you about it.

In the end, Braid did this whole thing much better.  This is one of my favorites: