Today I came across some great things on the internet, relating to astronomy and astrology. Not just great things, two things that were exactly what I needed to read exactly when I needed it.
First, check out this piece about Bedwyr Williams, an artist who is representing Wales at the Venice Biennale this year with an installation that sounds really exciting and witty and cool. He articulates a lot of the stuff I was trying to say in this post far better than I could. Here are some choice quotes (although I definitely recommend reading the whole thing!):
“Williams’ heroes are amateur astronomers like Phil Shepherdson, who built his own telescope using catering-sized baked-bean cans held together with coat hangers; and Moelwyn Thomas, who built an observatory in his back garden.”
“His serious point in The Starry Messenger is that Britain has lost a valuable hobby culture … What has happened to the great British eccentric?”
“a domesticated cosmos, or domesticity celebrated on a cosmic scale, depending on your point of view.”
Then there’s this horoscope I found.
Leo: This week is a week for getting clean, for getting new, for letting all your bad feelings leave your body through your pores and through your tears. It’s a week for getting rid, as much as you can, of all of the sadness and resentment you’ve carried in your body all winter, for getting rid of all the small hurts that make it hard for you to live. Try, this week, to go forward with nothing but your small self and your weird bravery and no anger but the anger that you need to get by.
I read it here (the other star signs are at that link too). I don’t want to dwell on current situation but I thought it was so pretty and clever and inspirational.
This is quite possibly the most embarrassing song that I actually really like:
Fall Out Boy may have reunited with a frankly astonishing level of success but is it ever going to be cool to like any of their side projects? Surely it’s the failure of the likes of Stump’s solo album that led to the success of the reunion. I do, however, have faith that Stump’s album (which is called Soul Punk) has to be the best Fall Out Boy spin off. I haven’t heard the other stuff but I’m not metal enough to appreciate that Half-Anthrax Half-FOB project and come on, I’m not going to listen to whatever Pete Wentz has been doing. I’m sure he’s still trying to rival Sex And The City’s Samantha Jones with his weird sex puns.
Anyway, here’s a little list of things that are brilliant about This City, and make it such an amazing song to put on when you have to tidy your bedroom.
– In case you didn’t know, Patrick Stump’s city is Chicago. If you listen to the song, it’s not hard to figure out just how much he likes it there.
– Who sings with this much… vigour? I love the fact that Stump sings like he’s drowning and really angry about it. A friend of mine once said that Bryan Ferry’s voice sounds like it’s constantly skirting absolute awful tunelessness and I think the same applies to Stump in spades. It’s almost terrible, but it’s even better for being so close to badness. (I hope that makes sense, as I do mean it as a compliment.)
– You know what, the fact that Patrick Stump sings so intensely really undermines the notion of the “guilty pleasure”. He obviously didn’t feel guilty about working hard on this song, so why should we feel guilty about enjoying it? The amount of effort he puts in is what makes his music so much fun.
– Although his politics are sound (in this song, unless I’m mistaken he’s a 9/11 conspiracy theorist in real life? I don’t know) Lupe Fiasco’s verse in this strikes me as super awkward. “Sorry my brother can’t let you in, cuz the property value might go down to a level that’s not economically sound…” what? It’s like one of those uncomfortable rap songs from Kevin Eldon’s thoroughly uncomfortable new sketch show. Okay, it’s not that bad, just a bit weird.
– You know what, I think my main problem with Fiasco’s part is his use of the word “sadly” in reference to racial segregation in urban areas. Sadness is not an appropriate reaction to racism and poverty, coming from a rapper. Bourgeois white people at dinner parties feel sad about that stuff, rappers should get indignant and enraged and firey. Like Wu-Tang Clan’s Tearz or Kanye West’s Diamonds of Sierra Leone.
– Stump looks inexplicably Klaus Nomi-esque in this video, what with the tall fringe, the new cheekbones with his already pale skin, and the triangular silhouette of his tuxedo. I understand the idea of reinvention, which fascinates a lot of us, especially pop stars but Stump’s new look here just makes me wish his solo work had been more successful. He never really got a chance to grow into it and now he’s back in Fall Out Boy we’re probably going to see more trucker hats and plaid shirts rather than ostentatious shoulder pads and bow ties. We’ll see, I suppose. I mean, don’t all popstars try to be Klaus Nomi these days anyway?
– Yes, yes they do. Though I’d argue most of them don’t know they’re doing it.
– The lyric “you’re never going to take my city away” is so ludicrous that it reminds me of the episode of The Simpsons where they have to move all of Springfield on a load of trucks. It’s so passionate but… is this a real thing that people are afraid of? That they’ll leave their city, come home and find a big pit of empty space where all the buildings and amenities were?
– Only today did I realise that he sings “I was born and raised here” not “I was born on Bay Street”. Patrick Stump really produces the best Mondegreens! And I appreciate the fact that his hometown-love hasn’t yet reached the heights of various Californian musicians who expects us to know the individual streets of wherever it is they live.
– I like Stump’s dance moves, namely, his manner of dragging and stomping his foot in time with his music. He looks like one of those horses that can “count” and “do maths” by stamping their feet. Again, this sounds loopy but is very much a compliment.
– I really love how all the “related videos” are other pop songs, except for one video of David Mitchell. That may just be an indication of the kind of stuff that I watch on YouTube that YouTube memorises against my will, but I like to think it’s because they are both endearingly geeky and have struggled with weight issues and mad fringes.
That’s it. Now I’ve earned the derision of music snobs everywhere, I’ll make one last concession to good taste and recommend that you check out French punk band Sport, whose album is available to download for a price of your choice, and is also very good.
My boyfriend used to ask me to sew up holes in his clothes and reattach buttons that fell off. I refused because I think people should know some basic sewing skills by the time they reach a certain age, regardless of gender or even background. Just stuff like reattaching buttons and maybe simple alterations to hem or sleeve lengths.
Last time I went to visit him I offered him some tips on sewing buttons so he could reattach them himself. (Advice to readers: don’t buy Atticus clothing) His (male) housemate saw us sitting around doing this little impromptu sewing seminar and decided to join in, because he had some fraying jacket sleeves that needed touching up and wanted tips.
The weird thing about teaching crafts or textile stuff to men is that about halfway through the lesson they decide that they already know whatever you’re showing them how to do. They argue with you or get sceptical about your techniques. That’s not a complaint or a sleight against men, just a funny thing that seems to crop up quite often in my experience.
I love Sufjan Stevens’ point in the little blurb above about “real people making real things with their hands”. It’s very Death Of A Salesman, but also I think it’s interesting and profound in an age where the internet is presented as this amazing tool of democratisation. Like, it’s great that the internet allows people to promote their music or art or writing (hi) and get that stuff seen on a scale that they probably couldn’t have managed before. It would be unpleasantly obstinate to say that any of that stuff is not “real”. But crafts of any kind (not just knitting and sewing) can be a private thing that you do only for yourself and maybe having secrets is more important now because sharing has become the default and keeping things for yourself is the more unusual choice. This has as much to do with the culture of celebrity as it does with the internet though. I mean, you can become famous just for instagramming or tumbling enough things that people like.
Of course if you’re so inclined you can sign up to Ravelry Dot Com and share your knitting projects and patterns with knitters all over the world. It’s a wonderful resource and I’ve spent ages browsing patterns on there, although ultimately I had to delete my Ravelry account. I knitted my grandma two jumpers and posted those projects, but then she died and it just made me sad that those were the only two completed projects on my Ravelry page (account?). I wouldn’t say that particularly soured me on social networking but it made me so happy to see Grandma in jumpers that I knitted for her and looking at the handful of comments I got for those pictures just made me bitter and sad.
If you’re writing songs with Garageband or a blog with WordPress (hi) or making art on Photoshop, obviously that’s fantastic and creative and is arguably still a craft if not an art. I’m not the type to unequivocally slag off anything new-fangled because I don’t think progression or devolution are linear, but crafts/working with your hands/”making real things”/techne?, it all requires such a different kind of creativity and approach to problems that it can only complement your primary artistic pastime or career.
A lot of us react to writer’s block by trying to restrain the infinite possibilities we have when it comes to sticking one word in front of the other. I mean, if I wanted to I could devote the entirety of the rest of this post to a story about prisons for sharks. A lot of techniques intended to solve writer’s block involve forcing yourself to write on one topic.
Too much choice can be crippling and sometimes knitting or sewing or model-making can be refreshing because it’s so limiting. When you’re knitting something really repetitive it can give you a lot of space to think, which is nice. You have to work through it because you can’t copy and paste a line of stitches. God, I sound like a cranky old lunatic, no wonder Sufjan kept it so concise.
But making things is cool.
I treat galleries that have free admission in pretty much the same way as buffets: so long as I don’t have to pay I will go back again and again as much as I can. My boyfriend mostly disagrees with this stance but last month when I went to visit him in London we crammed in a trip to the Tate Modern before a friend’s housewarming party. He complained that we’d already been there once (in our lifetimes!) but I hushed him and pushed him and both parts of the evening turned out delightful.
Anyway, one of my favourite things I saw there were the sculptures of Germaine Richier:
At the time I was really struck by the vast difference between Richier’s figures and the gentle roundness in certain Picasso portraits of women, especially this one which was one of my other favourites from the same trip. I don’t know if this says something about how male and female artists approach female bodies but I think there’s a real sense that while those admittedly gorgeous Picassos are the work of someone looking at a body, Richier’s work suggests the effort and stress of owning your own body. Putting aside ideas like size and beauty, I don’t think many people would visualise a part of themselves as smooth and tranquil because we all know our own histories. Obviously we romanticise ourselves and our experiences but again, that’s something we do to present to someone else.
Richier incorporates lots of found pieces into her sculptures which I find especially cool because a) it made for a lot of cool little stories on the plaques at the gallery and b) it supports my idea of her sculptures representing the body as seen by its owner, because we all have pieces of ourselves that seem to come from the outside (genetics, luck, trauma, etc). Oh, and c) I just really like surrealism and collages and stuff.
What made me want to write about Richier’s sculptures today though is the unseasonably horrible weather we’ve been having at the moment (in the UK and I think Spain too?). The cold is so cruel right now that maintaining a physical body does presents challenges. These sculptures show the beauty of endurance and experience and I think they’re weirdly cheering to look at when I know I have to go out soon and the wind is going to freeze my face off. I mean, we can only spend so long sitting inside, hiding from it and eating soup. Let’s all admit to feeling like lounging Picasso babes when we’re indoors and regal, angular Richiers when we’re outdoors.
Kesey gave the word and the Pranksters set upon it one afternoon. They started painting it and wiring it for sound and cutting a hole in the roof and fixing up the top of the bus so you could sit up there in the open air and play music
The painting job, meanwhile, with everybody pitching in in a frenzy of primary colors, yellows, oranges, blues, reds, was sloppy as hell, except for the parts Roy Seburn did, which were nice manic mandalas. Well it was sloppy, but one thing you had to say for it; it was freaking lurid. The manifest, the destination sign in the front, read: ‘Furthur,’ with two u’s.
– Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test
Don’t judge me…
I’m considering buying this:
I got my first ever CD player as a gift on my thirteenth birthday. I received two CDs (one of them was Green Day’s Nimrod) and listened to them non-stop on a family holiday to Greece.
That CD Player has lasted me TEN YEARS. During that time I have owned THREE IPODS. It hasn’t always been easy, of course. The flap that covers the batteries came off a long time ago so they tend to fall out and get lost in handbags. For the last few years it’s made a weird whirring skipping sound when it plays songs. Oh yeah, and then there’s the constant incredulity you are faced with whenever you have to tell people that you still use a Walkman. Seriously, certain people find it as mind-boggling a lifestyle choice as telling the time with a sundial.
And it’s not like I go around proselytising about my brand loyalty! It’s a simple case of running into someone and having to pause your song in order to have a chat. We’ve all been there with some device or another. But God forbid someone broadcast their tastes and preferences in the day of the hipster, especially if those tastes are even an inch outside of the mainstream. My affection for the Walkman stems not from some misguided sense of what’s “cool” or a desperate notion that I need the stuff I own to prove my individuality (or represent it where my personality can’t). It’s simple reliability! Sometimes I can’t be bothered to recharge my iPod, or lose the cable to connect it to a computer. Sometimes I want to listen to music that exists outside of the 4 GBs that the iPod can store!
[I will take one moment to get pretentious and point out that the word “Walkman” is WAY nicer-sounding and catchier than “iPod”. Walkman sounds dignified and professional and has gentle, grown-up vowels. iPod still sounds desperately aspirational, clinging to an idea of “futuristic” that’s still years off in 2013, let alone in the year of its birth 2001. It conjures up goofy sci-fi films where people take food in pill form. Whimsical mumbling time over.]
I like my CD player and I like my iPod, and I especially like how easy it is to live with both gadgets side by side, using each one to supplement the other. It’s not like that with every part of 20th/21st century life! For example, I can’t use my typewriter in the evenings because it’s too loud. But as of today I’m really concerned about how much longer my little Walkman has left. A new fault has emerged: it plays the first twenty or so seconds of the first song and then completely loses track of it’s place. The word “disc” starts flashing on the inch-long screen, which means that it doesn’t think there’s a disc inside it at all. I would compare it to a sort of gadget senility, but there’s no way that’s not a horrifically insensitive thing to write no matter how sentimentally attached I might be to this particular lump of plastic.
It may solve itself, but it may not. This might be the end, and I have to face it by making the proper arrangements. Hence the link and picture at the top of this post. Why not
The primary argument against, say, getting a cassette player is the fact that I already own literally hundreds of CDs. Of course I save them to my hard drive and put them on my iPod (and I have some songs that are on my hard drive but I’ve not yet got around to copying them onto disc) but consider that I can only have 1000 or so songs on the iPod at any one time (obviously this is 100 CDs with ten tracks… or it would be if I only filled my iPod with albums, in their entirety. I have EPs, a few audiobooks and some random songs from mixes, samplers and just tracks that I randomly came across on blogs and stuff and downloaded just because they were there. My brother will feel vindicated, in the unlikely event that he ever reads this, in knowing that these randomly encountered songs include Taylor Swift’s I Knew You Were Trouble. Whatever). If my favourite albums mostly exist in the default mode of CDs (I mostly buy CDs, sometimes vinyl) then a CD player probably makes the most sense in terms of accessing my music immediately. Like if my iPod battery runs out unexpectedly.
On the other hand, the worst thing about the CD player is stopping to change CDs in the middle of the street. My fellow Walkfolk know that this is always going to look awkward. As nice as it is to limit your own access to music sometimes (iPods can give me “itchy fingers” and make me unwilling to listen to an album all the way through in the right order… even if I love that album) the player is big enough and the CDs are even bigger. I tend to pack between 3 and 6 CDs with me when I’m listening to the walkman, and I carry them in 2 to 3 CD cases. It’s not a perfect system. CD cases are about as sturdy as an origami crane, especially when you stuff them into a tote bag along with your wallet, a comb, two paperbacks, some keys and a bottle of contact lens fluid. A friend of mine once smashed the cover of my copy of Californication by leaning on it with her elbow. Don’t get me started on the bit at the centre of a CD case – the raised bit that slots into the omphalos of the disc. Those things are the fucking devil.
So a tape player would require me to copy my music to tapes. This is the best argument both for and against switching to tape. There’s no way that I’m going to copy every CD I have onto tape if only because of the expense. I would need well over a hundred tapes. If the iPod is supposed to solidify a new notion of music as a non-physical entity that you channel rather than carry around, I can’t really say that this redefinition has stuck, just yet, for me. My bank of CDs is the foundation of my music collection, not my hard drive. The thing is, laptops break and I’ve had to add all my music to itunes afresh every time I take it back to the Apple Store for fixin’. I’m only human and no matter how much I love certain albums it’s easy to forget what I have until the moment I decide I want to listen to it. Ah, but what if that album isn’t currently on the iPod? Well, I’ll just have to wait until next time I sit down with my laptop, my hard drive, my iPod cable, the iPod and possibly the CDs containing the music. And hope that once I’ve assembled all that junk into a little nerd workshop, that I remember how many TLC albums I actually own (I think I have two).
So there are reasons that I’m shackled to CDs, but it’s that same inconvenience that lures me towards tape. I hope that nothing I’ve written so far makes you doubt that I love my iPod. I currently have an iPod touch and it’s great. I just think it needs supplementing. It’s like the Jack Lemmon to my Walkman’s Walter Matthau. Sometimes the iPod encourages laziness and flicking. I really hope I’m not the only one who’s had trouble concentrating on a whole album, all the way through, in one go, just because it’s on my iPod and the option to switch songs is there? It’s not a problem with the CD player when that element of choice is gone, and by extension tapes would further eliminate that opportunity! I wouldn’t even be able to skip individual songs!
Is discipline really something that people seek out in their choice of music player? I don’t know if that seems dumb. I don’t like people who say that CDs or MP3s are “soulless” mediums, that’s like saying “real women have curves”, it’s ignoring the validity of other possibilities to make people happy. I mean, why would you want to ignore that? Why let nostalgia blind you rather than making you happy? Why limit yourself to understanding physical substance as the parallel to emotional substance? I don’t understand this way of thinking. But putting together playlists on tape does seem different to making playlists on iTunes (where is the On The Go playlist option on the iPod Touch by the way? I miss it!) and making mix CDs (for myself, rather than as a gift for a friend) just seems like a waste of a disc. Is a tape more like a collage than a list? I don’t know. Maybe all this is about nothing more than experimentation. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But of course, it has to be asked: if I already own both a Walkman and an iPod, would the tapes be important artifacts or just tchotchkes?
I want to finish by saying that I wrote most of this post yesterday, and since then I’ve had better luck with the CD player. I’ve listened to several Yacht and Say Anything songs and everything went fine, so it might be on the road to recovery. However, I thought this was still worth posting because I have a whole other entry coming up about technology and media that touches on similar topics. If we’re in kind of an uncertain era, culturally speaking, then the best approach is probably to just admit to ourselves that it’s all very interesting and ask lots of questions.
To close, here are some extracts from amazon reviews of CD players that I might buy:
“We were shocked to find that there are only a couple of models still on the market. This one is a good choice though. No problems at all and she says she is tempted to order another to put away for future use in case they stop making them, which surely won’t be too far in the future.”
“This is a sleek and smart CD player with all you need to do the business.”
“bought a spare one because I hope this does not disappear from the market. CDs are an excellent medium for good music and should not be allowed to be fully replaced by MP3 players. The convenience of a walkman makes it valuable alongside a good quality hi-fi.”