Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Random thoughts: when I was younger I wanted to read a writer’s thought processes as well as their conclusions. I was less concerned with tightness and finished work than with evidence of thinking, rather than the end-product of that thinking. So I devoured e.g. Paul Williams and Gina Arnold, writers who made the act of thinking aloud part of their shtick.

It’s what initially attracted me (along with a lot of other things) to blogs, as well. I enjoyed eavesdropping on and indulging in my own mutating takes on things. I still do, especially in conversation, and one of my longstanding habits has been to explicate that process aloud to friends, e.g. “OK, here’s how I got to from what we’re talking about right now to this new topic I’m going to bring in.”

For a lot of people, especially intellectuals and writers, this is maddening. Just tell us what you think already, goes the logic. It’s sound methodology, without question, and when I realized I could apply it too, I did a complete 180 in the way I approached writing and reading. I became impatient with sloppiness, or at least I kidded myself that I did. Because there’s slop galore in both my writing (the SOTT book could be cut by a good third) and my tastes--I still have a deep weakness for expenditure without return in music, for long meandering albums and compilations that go in circles (Sandanista! and Headz 2 mean more to me conceptually than, say, Let It Bleed, even though the latter is fifty times better), for mazes I have to root around in for the good stuff and therefore feel like I accomplished something.

That’s a big part of what music writing is to me anyway. To some degree it manifests itself in the “find the one good song on the otherwise useless album”/“my nuggets are better than your nuggets”/“be the first on your blog/ck” game I’ve indulged in less and less for the past couple years. But in a larger sense that’s what processing lots of records is about. (“Processing” is Bob Christgau’s term. He uses it in his PopMatters interview--love how a guy who throws his hands up at the myriad and real differences between dance-music styles sniffs at kids who don’t know or care why the Kinks and the Minutemen aren’t the same, but then this 64-year-old follows it up by saying Michiko Kakutani and David Denby “make [him] barf” so I like him anyway.) I do less of it now for a number of reasons, chief among them my iBook went haywire in the early summer and I got so infuriated I pounded it with my fist. (I am really ashamed of this; I need to learn to control my temper.) The laptop works now--I typed this tangent on it--but it won’t play CDs, robbing me of a three-year habit of basing my entire life around the thing. Another reason is that my day job keeps me busy and, because I declined to purchase speakers for my work computer, unable to listen to music freely and/or not on headphones, the latter of which gets uncomfortable after a while. (Plus it’s hard to concentrate with them on, and there’s a number of things to concentrate on.) I have a small DVD player (five-inch scrren, Audiovox, cheap) that I listen to CDs; my boombox is in storage in Seattle.

That’s where I’ll be in less than a month. In March, I had a going-away party and my colleague Neal brought his best friend, Angela, whom I’d known for a year. I’d been interested in her but didn’t want things to be weird. The short version: we got drunk and made out. A month later, I went back for the EMP Pop Conference, and we made things official. I’ve been dating her for six months long-distance--she’s from NYC and has come here once (and will again this weekend), and I’ve stayed with her in Seattle twice. This hasn’t been easy for either of us. And NYC’s expensive and I miss Seattle dearly. So at the end of October I’ll be leaving eMusic and in mid-November I’ll be flying back to Seattle permanently. I have no jobs lined up (to the many people who’ve suggested I try for The Stranger gig: I have it on good authority that the person doing the hiring was no fan of my Seattle Weekly section, so I have no plans to apply) but will continue freelancing for eMusic and hopefully anyone else who’ll have me. Probably I’ll temp. But if having a very-much-a-day-job has taught me anything it’s that I miss the process/ing of music writing--of wading through stuff and seeing what sticks, of taking chances because you never know, of getting a buzz every so often from being first on my blog/ck, of seeing what I think and why I think it, of going out and interviewing people and coming back with more good stuff than I need. God help me, I even miss hustling for work to a greater degree than I should admit to myself, nevermind anyone who might happen to be reading this.

So that’s what’s going on with me. I also plan to blog more often, though lots of plans go haywire and this one might too. We shall see.