31 August 2010

Johnny, don't point that gun at me

This morning I listened to an old Fresh Air podcast that featured John Mellencamp. When I'm choosing what to listen to on my commute I don't pay much attention to detail - just that it's the latest episode that I haven't listened to yet. When I heard Terry Gross introduce John Mellencamp, I almost turned it off. I figured, having no real interest (read: admiration for/respect) in his music, why would I be interested in his personal life? But that's exactly the argument I used to convince myself to keep listening, and I'm glad I did. I mean, I never hated John Mellencamp, but his music was always just kind of not entirely unpleasant background filler.

During the interview, he played bits from some songs off his latest album, which came out in 2008, as well as some of his old stuff, the popular (pop) stuff, but note, not poppy stuff. At least not now. He kept insistently reiterating to Terry, who was harping on the old John Mellencamp, that he is now, and has always been, a folk musician. The "old" John, he of "Pink Houses" and "Small Town," he was made, puppet-like, to craft his songs for the general public. He made his folk songs with an anthemic twist, because that's what the people (and the record labels) wanted. When he played them in the studio on his acoustic guitar, they sounded vastly different - the entire mood changed. He refers to Bob Dylan as the greatest songwriter, ever, citing him as one of his biggest influences - and you can hear it on the 2008 album. The first song he learned to play on guitar was the ollllld folk song "Railroad Bill." So there's a little street cred, if you needed it.

After all this talk about Mellencamp, it's not so much he the person, the musician, the interviewee that, ahem, struck a chord, if you will. It's what he said about anthems - the way he seemed, well, almost revolted by them, as if they're a sub-par musical form. This sentiment resounded so deeply with me because we, the generation that had John Mellencamp and like tunes fed into our earballs at knee-high to a grasshopper type ages, seem to love us some anthems. But also it seems like Mellencamp's revulsion is justified - those anthems, back then, were cookie cutter stadium rock anthems, one hit wonder types (with a few worthy exceptions, notably U2). Our primal musical inspiration comes from those catchy, danceable, sing-along-able anthems, but we've done something to the form - we took that tired old cookie cutter and molded into a a thing of beauty - sweeping, orchestral, uplifting songs - thoughtful and well-crafted but equally (or more?) catchy, danceable, and sing-along-able as the old anthems, the ones John Mellencamp finds so unbearable. Of Montreal, Arcade Fire, Muse, Temper Trap, to name a few obvious one. How about this new Deerhunter one (a particularly epic performance of), or this  Hot Chip cut? Bangers count, by the way (think summer 2k7, when MGMT, MSTRKRFT, Peter Bjorn and John, and J.U.S.T.I.C.E. were blowing the fug up). So, somehow, predictable, and yet complex enough to satisfy the aural cravings of even the most cynical music critic. Actually I guess that's a kind of redundant statement. DId ever there live a remotely un-cynical muisc critic?

To call it primal musical inspiration brings to bear two instances of primality - ontogenetic and phylogenetic. There's the individual's relationship with music - I grew up listening to Beastie Boys, Rick Astley, and Depeche Mode. That's me, in a nutshell. Then there's the species - humans are musical creatures. There's something about the anthem, something visceral that communicates with the collective unconscious - the anthem is not about being alone in your room chillaxing at the end of a long day - it's about being-with, it's about experiencing musicality, with others, in a pre-verbal way; sure, songs have lyrics, and sure lyrics matter (for me, they matter a lot), but it's not really about the lyrics - it's about the feeling of singing them together - even when you're singing alone.

27 August 2010

Morning Surprise

I have one of those little Bialetti stove top coffee makers. It supposedly serves three, i.e., it makes three shots of "espresso," but it's not really espresso, and it's not really enough for me (and it's not even the smallest one they have!). So sometimes in the morning when I'm making my iced coffee, if my room-mate has left coffee in the French press from the day before, I pilfer a tad to round out my cup. I justify my pilfering of day old counter top coffee by saying, that's MY French press she's using, and she never even cleans it! That's the Jewish half of me, being guilty for taking day old coffee, and making ridiculous excuses to lessen the guilt, and then feeling ridiculous for making ridiculous excuses.

I haven't done this in a while, because my room-mate will often come home at night and finish the coffee - but last night, she did not, and that half full pot was staring me in the eyeballs this morning. To my delightful surprise, upon my first sip I tasted a hint of cinnamoniness; when I returned the ice cube tray to the freezer I noticed the can of Trader Joe's gingerbread coffee. Off season: maybe. Magically delicious: a thousand times yes.

20 August 2010

9 Out of 10 Dentists Agree

Two of my lady pals are dating younger mans. The hot Spanish girl I used to work with, 34 year old Maria del Mar, just married a 27 year old. Not like any of us are very old so it's not a robbing of cradle, but also because none of us are very old, the younger mans are kind of quite young. I seem to keep meeting/dating young ones too. This is the (kiddie) pool we've been thrown into, in the city of New York, in the year of our lord 2010 - a pool of young mans who are neither too (old and) jaded with (bad) relationships, nor too (young and) slutty and in need of wild oats sowing. A pool of twenty-five-ish year olds who seem legitimately interested in, or at least not terrified of/fetishizingly fascinated with older women. Not just the whole "older women are so grateful" thing (and by the way I thought that whole "grateful" bit was a new-ish thing - but I just saw this old French comedy at MoMA, The Story of a Cheat, released in 1937, wherein the young protagonist referred to his "grateful" countess lover).

Nobody blinks when a twenty-five year old woman says she's dating a thirty-year old man. Or a twenty-three year old woman dates a thirty-three year old man (as another [young] friend of mine is doing). Blah blah blah, right? The other way around, you're a cougar. A desperate woman. A Demi. Or so it's been. The more I come across this with my friends, and the more I come across it in my own experiences, the less blinking my eyes seem to do. Maybe my eyeballs just don't need as much moistening anymore.

17 August 2010

Subway Etiquette, or, Stop Blocking the Fucking Door You Asshole

If you're someone who reads this, then you probably already know I got me a shiny new job. I'm happy I have this job. I can pay my rent, and my bills, and buy food and pretty dresses and cheap Forever 21 costume jewels and the fancy burritos from Papacito's (not just Taco Bell [even though I do love Taco Bell and still eat there all the time - ALL THE TIME]). Probably my favorite part of my new 9-5er is the commute. The G to the L to Union Square in no time flat. I drink my coffee, catch up on my podcasts, maybe have a tiny cat nap on the way home, and PRACTICE MY FINELY HONED RAGE skills.

These people on the subway, you'd think they never rode the subway. You'd think that they think New Yorkers aren't typically poised to go postal. You'd think that they, being human, might have a sliver of humanity. No, indeed. Their favorite thing, I've noticed, is to get onto a not-necessarily-very-crowded subway car, from a crowded rush hour Union Square platform (you know, a hypothetical kind of commuting situation) and stop as soon as they step into it. Like, "Phew! I made it on. My work here is done." It's funny because even the people behind them who have to push their way on, they do the same thing. "Yes! I got on! Right here at the door seems cozy."

Sometimes, it's a crowded car emptying out onto a crowded platform. You hear the announcer say "Let them off let them off!" And yet there the platformers are, standing directly in front of the doors when the train pulls into the station, as if this is the last train that will ever come, EVER, and it's going to the promised land, and if you don't get on it now you'll be stuck at the Metropolitan L station FOREVER! I, embodying a charming combination of politeness, knowledge of basic physical laws, and non-cutthroatness, stand aside enough to let people off first. Of course, that then leaves a vast swath of empty platform area (the area where those disembarking should disembark onto) for the less polite, less wise to physics, more, shall we say, savage of our species to step in, and fuck shit up. Clearly we need some kind of regulation beyond the "Let them off" communique and the scolding that follows thereafter - and by regulation, I mean regulator.

I also really like it when people treat that one pole in the middle, that ONE that pretty much EVERYONE in the middle of the car needs to hold onto, like it was placed in that position for them to lean their nasty ass crack on, or to hug their arm around while they fuck with their phone/iPod/New Yorker. Hey DUDES - that pole is for the thirty-seven of us to wrap our outstretched pinkies around so we don't stumble at every start, stop and turn, thereby stabbing unsuspecting strangers in the feet with our stilettos (I have a scar on each foot).

Who ARE these people? Do they have ANY sense of the world that exists beyond a millimeter outside of them? It makes me dream of a time when I might be brave enough to ride a bike over the bridge. But then again, who ever will I silently rage over? I guess I'll always have sidewalk-blockers for that.