Sunday, February 25, 2007

Snowy weekend

Nothin like gettin nailed with nearly a foot of snow right after it sooo seemed like Spring was on its way. The beginning of February was a deep freeze -- And it ends with a blizzard. This morning cars were just about buried up to the tops of their wheels, unless of course a snowdrift made it even worse. I could barely open the door to get outside. And it took all my might to get into my car. The plow/snowblow people came around 3:30 this afternoon. Took em long enough, eh? Our landlords aren't the greatest at getting things done. The poor saps who weren't home or didn't answer their doors to move their cars and have their spots plowed are gonna be pissed tomorrow/tonight. Like this guy/gal (not good):
But really, when I'm not the person who owns the car above, I don't mind the snow so much. A fresh fall makes for some beautiful sights. And there's just something cozy about getting blanketed. I didn't get a chance to capture any really beautiful shots, but here's a look down our street this afternoon, right when the snow was starting back up again (three more inches to come they say):

Friday, February 16, 2007

Woody on diversity

I've been getting into older American music lately: folk, old time, mountain music etc. I've also been getting into americana and alt-country. These interests led me to this album:

For those who don't know, Nora Guthrie, Woody Guthrie's daughter by his second wife, discovered thousands of unpublished Woody lyrics that he never got around to putting to music. She asked Englishman Billy Bragg to pick some of these lyrics and make 'em into music (I heard somewhere that Bob Dylan was initially asked, but turned Nora down for some reason--but don't take my word for that). Billy, in turn, got Chicago rockers Wilco in on the deal. Thus, Mermaid Avenue was born.

And what we were given here is some amazing music. The songwriting (what I mean is the instrumentals and vocals) is beautiful and deep and yet simple enough to remind you of centuries of music that came before it. The lyrics--well I've known about Woody for a little while now, but I guess I never paid extra close attention to what he was saying, because the lyrics on this album are often spectacular. Which brings me to the point of this post.

There is one particular lyric on this album that really grabs me: track six.
She Came Along to Me

Ten hundred books could I write you about her
Because I felt if I could know her

I would know all women
And they've not been any too well known

For brains and planning and organized thinking
But I'm sure the women are equal
And they may be ahead of the men

Yet I wouldn't spread such a rumor around
Because one organizes the other
And some times the most lost and wasted
Attract the most balanced and sane
And the wild and the reckless take up
With the clocked and the timed
And the mixture is all of us
And we're still mixing

But never, never, never
Never could have it been done
If the women hadn't entered into the deal
Like she came along to me

And all creeds and kinds and colors
Of us are blending
Till I suppose ten million years from now
We'll all be just the alike
Same color, same size, working together
And maybe we'll have all the fascists
Out of the way by then
Maybe so.

I'm not sure when this was written, but the window would be early 40s to mid-60s; if I had to guess from the content, I'd say some time in the 40s. Anyway, there's a lot of stuff going on in this song. Woody takes the individual experience and extrapolates it to the collective; he's talkin civil rights and feminism; he's a bit postmodernist; and, perhaps most striking, is this song's discourse on diversity.

Woody sez that diversity is the key to progress: the "wild and reckless" get with the "clocked and timed," the "lost and wasted" with the "balanced and sane." When different folks get together, they not only moderate, but they essentially change one another. The acceptance of diversity, here, is the engine of life: for if life were ruled by some monolith and nothing else, then we'd be missing out on a lot of variety, a lot of passion, a lot of things that makes living living--no matter your perspective.

Yet, the last stanza is difficult to put a finger on. Woody sez that "we'll all be just the alike" after years of mixing. Gone will be the kinds, creeds, and colors. We'll be one people. And where does that leave us? Perhaps we'll be rid of the fascists because we'll all inherently be fascists. We'll be one master race, one culture, all mixed up nicely in a brave new world of mass media, where we feel, through osmosis, hate for anyone trying to do anything that is nonstandard. Don't even mention beings from another planet. That would probably be the worst fear of all. Is that what Woody means?

Nah, I don't think so. Ten million years is such a long time. We probably won't even be around then. Woody knows this. It's the ideal; it's Platonic I suppose. As with Plato's Forms, the idea of some kind of beautiful perfection that is just out of our reach is motivation for finding the good*. Unlike Plato (perhaps--depending on how you interpret him), however, I think Woody recognizes his over-the-top idealism for what it is. When he talks about the unfathomable sum of 10 million years, he acknowledges the impossibility of his stated perfect mix of people. Even so, he can't say with any confidence that fascism will be dead. He "supposes" everything in the last stanza. It's no mistake that the whole song ends with "maybe so." What he presents is a land of pure conjecture. And what that leaves the listener with is only a focus on the process--one that has value in and of itself. It's a beautiful echo of ancient, timeless philosophy, but with lots of twists.

And it all comes back to the central theme of the song: the importance of one-on-one interaction. If we aren't willing to challenge ourselves by opening up to a different experience or by thinking deeply about something unfamiliar, then what, really, are we living for?

Anyway, I originally intended this post to be about hate in America, particularly how "in-group thinking" contributes to unbelievable divisions in this country and how it seems an inevitably perpetual problem. Maybe if I remember what the hell I intended to say, I'll continue this next time I have computer access. Happy weekend.

*Good is generally a bullshit term, in my opinion. However, sometimes the context requires it, and sometimes it is rhetorically useful. When I use it I'll try to stipulate exactly what I mean. In this case I mean Platonic beauty.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The rebirth, or, a bit of an introduction

The rebirth

I had three posts sitting here for so long. They were three lonely, crappy posts. Later, I discovered MySpace where I made several other posts -- some crappy, some not so crappy. But MySpace is a shit place for posting anyhow. I've come limping back to Blogger, hoping to make some quality posts. The three crappy posts have found their way into the abyss of bytes, where they will no doubt find a better home as I recycle the space they were taking up in order to produce something different.

A bit...

I currently live with my fiance in the middle of Wisconsin. Grew up in the burbs of Chicago. I've been in the area here for about 6 years now. I never thought I'd be here this long, but things happen. Suffice it to say, I really adore this place, but I know that I need a bit more elevation in my visual diet along with temperatures on the more moderate side.

I say this blog is partly about place because I have a strong sense of place. For me, that means a lot of things, but chiefly that I need to feel a sense of substance about the area I inhabit. While that explanation is vague, there's really no other way to say it and still be accurate about how I feel. I can say this though: Wisconsin is beautiful, and when I ponder the place I live, I sometimes get the warm fuzzies. I love the community I live in, I love camping the shit out of this state, I enjoy the history that informs present day WI, and I think that the sense of governmental duty here has deep roots in progress. Taken together, this is a great place to live. It's just too fuckin' bad that the last two-plus weeks haven't seen the lows climb above zero. While the temperature doesn't really ruin this place, it does kill about 6 months of what I like to do most: hike and camp. Maybe I just need to suck it up and become a winter camper, someone might say. But I've camped in my supposedly 0 degree bag when it was in the 20s, and I was literally not a happy camper. Maybe later in life.

Anyway, I wasn't a fan of Chicagoland. I had the opportunity to leave, so I did. I suppose I could have gone anywhere in the country, but rural central Wisconsin was convenient, so I settled in. Let me tell you, despite my love for nature, it was quite a change to go from a metropolis of seven million to a small town that could be counted in the hundreds in the winter. But it was a positive change. I now live in a city of 25,000, within a bike ride of anything I could want, including grocery stores, music, a state university, rivers, forests, and lakes. I love the fact that I'm only about a five-minute bike ride from completely exiting the city proper, and a one-minute walk from a six pack. While my passions truly lie in the rural life, my sense of social/environmental responsibility combined with current technology and city planning schemes require me to live elsewhere. I'll take the compromise I have now.

I also say that this blog is about sound. My love for sound is just about as strong as my love for the outdoors. Together, they inform my passions and creativity. When I write "sound" I generally mean music, but I might also be referring to various other noises of beauty.

How all of this melds is what I find intriguing about life. I also fancy myself a sort of thinker and writer. I see this blog primarily being a creative outlet for me; in other words, here will live my random musings. I currently work as an editor (business-related stuff). And for writers, editorial work can sometimes be antithetical to what we truly love. I need this venue. If other people stumble upon this thing and find some value here and want to converse, that's a sweet bonus.

So, welcome. Join in on my journey, which I guarantee won't end in this here place.