Monday, June 20, 2005

ramping up

I'm attempting to get psyched for a big project, so I'm going to prattle a bit.

"Do you want to go to a movie?"

"I dunno, mom."

"I don't think there's anything good out. Have you heard anything?"

"Well, this is unlikely, but the New York Times really likes that new Batman movie."

"Oh, yeah I heard that,"

"But I take everything I hear from them with a grain of salt."

"I don't think there's anything good on... I might see that Mr. and Mrs. Smith movie... that's probably really bad but I could see it."

"Yeah... probably not art... but anyway... whatever you think."

I'm not sure when I became terrified of influencing my mother. Nevertheless, I am now unable to make a statement without qualifying it into neutrality. I am unable to state a preference without an addendum, and dissenting information instantly is buried under ellipses and mumbles.

It has something to do with impressionability. My mother genuflects regularly to the Cult of Youth and Buzz, while I am off reading a b-list Fowles book whilst listening to T-Rex and perhaps flipping channels between AMC and USA. I wear a lot of grey undershirts like they were meant to be on the outside. Not that I'm immune-- I wear overpriced suede slip-on active lifestyle footwear and check pitchfork media about twice a day, even though it's only updated five times a week. I like art. All of which makes me a source to my mother. In the scene of high-class suburban Kansas City, while the rest of the town is willfully ignorant (perhaps returning the favor) about what happens in New York and LA, my mother works on scoring a new pair of Campers or knowing the words to the new Shins song so she can sing along in her Volvo-- maybe a step and a half behind 50 year olds in Soho, but running as fast as she can.

Now, I love my mother. I wouldn't change a thing. But I am easily mortified, and my definite aversion to seeming like I give a shit whether people like my shoes or my sound (I do, I do) makes it difficult to have a conversation that references fashion, art, literature, music, or pop culture. I tend to bend the conversation towards the weather, politics, and the squirrels in the back yard. Kansas politics is arcane and depressing, and it has been sunny for a week straight, so there has been a lot of rodent-oriented discussion. Or, I can talk about architecture. Most of my prattle about buildings dissapears into some merciful hole in the air, usually without comment.

My secret plan is to make her think I'm dull, without becoming dull.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Yeah, six month hiatus... can't say there's much of an excuse either.

I'm visiting my parents right now. They're unbelievably enthusiastic about my being here. It's kind of infantilizing in a way; eating dinner with them every night, going to movies, feeling embarassed. My girlfriend and I went to a downtown gallery opening and I found myself walking 10 steps behind them, pretending I was on my own.

In any case I went to a jazz festival last night. With my parents. I have only a passing knowledge of contemporary jazz, and my parents are even less interested. Given my inability to have a normal conversation with my parents about anything but the weather and maybe politics, this was the perfect chance for my mind to wander. These two ideas arose:

1. The possibility of creating a new patriotoism around the fact that our country invented blues, bluegrass, jazz, rock, and rap music. And still is the foremost world power at all of them. No, really, this is amazing. I can't say my ancestors had anything to do with it, but the strange mix of freedom and opression in this country has managed to create most of the great pop music in the western world. Maybe I'm just being Amerocentric, but most European and Asian pop music sounds manneristic and self-conscious. In a bad way, like they're playing by someone else's rules.

2. Most of the people there weren't actually hearing the music. Jazz is so prevalent, especially in its "lite" variety, that the basic tropes of improvisation have been internalized by most americans. When I actually bothered to think about what was being played, I was impressed by how good some of the stuff was, who it reminded me of. But if I stopped paying attention, it might as well have been coming out of an elevator. They might as well have put up a big sign that said "imagine soothing jazz music coming from here."

And boy do I hate the word jazz. Jazz. Most labels for music are a bit goofy. Blues. Rock and Roll. Hip Hop. Crunk. But jazz is the worst. Jazz. You have to enunciate until you spit the "j" and the tail rolls out on infinite sustain: JHazzzzzzzzzzzz. ugh.