Tuesday, January 03, 2006

On a writer who speaks to me

I'm late in posting. Mike and I picked topics from Democracy Now!'s headlines today and we did that hours ago. I've been dragging all day and can't attest that anyone received strong therapy at the office today.

Then we got off the phone and Mike probably started his post immediately. I was hungry, so I went into the kitchen. I had a half loaf of bread. In the fridge I had mayonaise, some vegetables that had gone bad and a jar of peanut butter. Looks like a peanut butter sandwich, right? Wrong. It was empty. Except for a spoon. I'd snacked on it while we were pulling the whatever on the latest edition of The Third Estate Sunday Review. "Whatever" because I'm not sure what to call to it. We started early Saturday and were busy mainly with research for the essay before those of us on the east coast (most of us) broke away to begin our New Year's Eve festivities, we'd gotten a lot done but still needed to regroup to firm things up and finish some pieces that had been started. I was already in a foul mood because I'd bumped into an old lover at the party I went to and he expressed interest. Rebecca swears that it's for the best that I didn't join him at his condo but came back here to get on the phone and back to work on the edition. She's probably right. It did end on an unpleasant note and there's probably no point to starting off the year with remorse. But I was in a pity mood while I picked up the phone and grabbed the peanut butter to munch on. Jess sensed my mood and said for everyone to be quiet for a second. During the silence, he played Melanie's "Peace Will Come (According to Plan)" and not over the CD player, he picked up his guitar. I know it helped me focus but I believe it helped everyone.

However, I was talking to Dona on Monday and she thinks that "the crew" that worked on Christmas Eve should have taken New Year's Eve off and let the others put out the edition. She says that was asking a lot out of people and she knew from calling around that everyone was exhausted.

(Not everyone. Betty was home with two sick children and she actually enjoyed having that to do as opposed to, as she put it, "Staring at the walls and thinking, another New Year's alone.")

But it really did wipe everyone out. I don't think it was because we all partied hard (though most did). C.I. was planning on drinking and ended up not. It was too much trouble making sure everything was ready for the party and working on the edition. Then when guests started arriving, C.I. stated that it was "Enjoyment with one eye on the clock."

I really feel for C.I. because the rest of us have had a break from online stuff but C.I's had new stuff up at The Common Ills and no break. Pulling together "The Common Ills Year in Review 2005" did not take two, three or even four hours. It took over twelve. I calculate it at fourteen because I called Monday right as it was about to go up. But C.I. notes that there were three fifteen minute breaks "at least." It was fourteen hours. Which was partly due to problems with the screen freezing up and being slow.

I'll write about the year in review later this week. I'll toss in the two news items you should be aware of at the bottom of the post. Don't expect much from this post by the way.

The one thing I do want to talk about tonight is Kat's "Kat's Korner: 2005 in Music." She listed thirteen CDs all told. (Two reissues.) I think it was a strong list. I know last year she worked on something (I'll hunt down the link later in the week) noting some strong albums of the last forty or forty-one years. It was a huge list with some really important albums on it but there were people who were unhappy with it. I hope that's not the reaction this year.

If I made a list, I'd make a point to put Jack Johnson on it. But that's my taste. Kat was very clear that this was her selection and that there are probably other worthy CDs out there.

I think she highlighted some albums that really had something to say. Focus on the eleven albums of new recordings and you're seeing people who really made contributions this year.

I'm tired but I'll copy and paste the eleven (title and artist, no commentary):

Early 21st Century Blues. This Cowboy Junkies
Portrait of An American Girl. Judy Collins
The Beekeeper. Tori Amos
A Bigger Bang. The Rolling Stones
Monkey Business. The Black Eyed Peas
Those Were The Days. Dolly Parton
Motion Sickness: Live Recordings. Bright Eyes
A Time To Love. Stevie Wonder
Back To Bedlam. James Blunt
Get Behind Me Satan. The White Stripes
Bowery Songs. Joan Baez

Mike said on the phone tonight that he'd just heard the Judy Collins CD since Christmas. He knew the rest and had them. Why? Because he buys when Kat praises. I do as well and have those CDs and others she has noted in 2005. Ty noted a Diana Ross Christmas CD (which I'm too tired to go look up the title of now) and I purchased that as well as Eurythmics based on
Rebecca's word of mouth.

The point? There was music to get excited about in 2005 and for me the resource for that music was my friends. I can remember talking to C.I. about how disgusting music was not all that long ago. Looking back, I realize it was when "the Disney Kids" were taking over. As a thinking woman, I couldn't get behind that. I was honestly thinking, "Okay, Lainie, you've hit the wall everyone usually hits where you stop listening to anything new and just constantly put on your old favorites."

That really depressed me and I was probably depresed with regards to that for six months despite C.I. constantly noting some CD that wasn't on the radio or mailing me one that wasn't on the radio. Music is really important to me (I've got the Cowboy Junkies on right now) and it's a constant in my life. It can make me think or energize me when I'm tired or down.

I really can't imagine what life would be like without music.

Kat doesn't just list some CDs in "Kat's Korner: 2005 in Music," she also addresses the problems of coporate consolidation of radio. It's really an amazing piece of writing and she made me laugh when she commented on Billy Idol's "To Be A Lover" video. (I won't spoil your laughter so read her review/commentary/editorial if you remember the video.)

Music should matter to our lives. The excitement that someone I know has over a new CD is infectious. I rush out and purchase (unless they have hugely differing tastes). Thanks to C.I.'s intervention at the beginning of the reign of the Disney Kids, music crept back into my life. Thanks to people like Kat it's a key part of my life again.

In case it's not clear, I'm not really a TV watcher. I'm not like C.I. who doesn't watch out of disgust with the lame shows now on. I've just never been that much of a TV watcher. My entire life, it's been come home and turn on the radio or stereo. So music being such a part of my life in 2005 was a big thing to me.

Kat's an important voice to me personally. I think the attacks on her were nonsense for any number of reasons. That would include the fact that Kat doesn't have to "correct" her opinion just because a man doesn't like it. That also includes the fact that a woman claiming feminism should have told the man, "Deal with it." Instead, she chose to join in the attacks and attacked Kat in countless e-mails (including one to her reader that she was supposedly apologizing to).
The reality is that the man who couldn't take a passionate woman with thoughts and ideas of her own writes freeze-dried crap that's dead on arrival. Kat did a thing last year (again, I'm too tired and lazy to look up links tonight) where she wrote about how bad writing was killing music.
Bad writing wasn't a typo or a mistake in subject-verb agreement, bad writing was lifeless writing.

She went on to discuss how if you feel passionate about something, you should write about it in that manner. The man who attacked Kat is far too busy trying to appear reasonable and, as Kat noted of people like that a year ago, too busy attempting to impress you with his knowledge (which is limited and reads like he read two books on Bob Dylan before annointing himself an expert).

I read my local paper and several others. It is very rare that a music writer speaks to me anymore. I miss the days of Patti Smith and others who wrote with fire and passion. There was a review in Spin, years ago, of Fleetwood Mac's Tango In The Night. I wish I knew who wrote that. (It's not available online, I looked over a year ago.) But that was an amazing piece of music writing. The writer tied the album into memories of when Rumors hit, being at a baseball game with some children and the constant refrain of "DON'TSTOPTHINKINGABOUTTOMORROW" in such an amazing way that you felt like you were hearing Tango and Rumors just by reading the review.

The world does not need anymore writers saying, "Unlike on the last album . . ." "This is another benchmark . . ." Or any of the other nonsense that passes for "criticism." Music is an artform, a living one. If you can't create within your review, please don't sap the life out of music by boring us with your factoids.

Kat never writes in that passion-less, dull, plodding manner. She turns criticism into art as the finest music writers have. "Kat's Korner: 2005 in Music" went up this morning and I was in one session after another for most of the morning. At lunchtime, I picked up my messages and there were thirty friends who'd called asking that I pass on to Kat how much they enjoyed her writing.
I hadn't even had time to read "Kat's Korner: 2005 in Music" myself but I dialed Kat's number and passed on that she was a huge hit with my friends. She asked me what I thought and I had to tell her I'd read it while I listened to Democracy Now!, ate lunch and read it. The program was a strong one today but I kept raising my head and asking, "What was that?" because I was lost in Kat's strong writing.

Music can and should matter. If someone wants to write about it, that should be because they have something to offer which isn't repeating all the factoids you gleanded from a book or two.
Music writing today is too formulaic. Especially reviews which exist around:

1) Set up the album.
2) Now drop back to the last album.
3) Say this is good but note reservations.
4) Toss out two more song titles and give a phrase or two to describe each.
5) Concluding statement.

That kind of writing will kill the enthusiasm for music. So check out Kat's latest because she's picked some artists who made musical art (and statements) worth hearing in 2005. Especially if you're someone that thinks no artists weighed in one the war or the state of the world today in 2005, you should check out Kat's list. People are weighing in, they just aren't getting the attention of the Clear Channels (and are getting slammed by those who put out freeze-dried crap and want to prove how "reasonable" they are).

Now here are two pieces of news that you should know about.

Bush Support Dropping Among Armed Forces (Democracy Now!):
Meanwhile, a new poll by the magazine group Military Times shows support for President Bush among US armed forces has fallen over ten percent in the last year. The survey found support for Bush's overall policies at 60 percent, down from 71 percent. Support for the Iraq war for is at 54 percent - down from 63 percent. The Times says the poll found "diminished optimism that US goals in Iraq can be accomplished, and a somewhat smaller drop in support for the decision to go to war in 2003."

US Air Strike Kills 14 Civilians in Iraq (Democracy Now!):
In Iraq, Reuters is reporting a U.S. air strike has killed 14 members of one Iraqi family in the northern town of Baiji. An Iraqi military spokesperson said the air raid damaged an additional four houses, injuring at least three other people.

I think the items speak for themselves and really only found inspiration today in Kat's musical commentary. Check out the list and support the artists who aren't afraid to make a statement beyond, "Baby, baby, I love you, baby, baby."