In the last couple of weeks, I’ve come across two very different approaches to completing a retrospective about music in the 1990s. They clearly indicate why it’s a bad idea to half-ass the structure of a retrospective.
The first was a 10 part series on A.V. Club called “Whatever Happened to Alternative Nation?” It was published over a number of weeks, written by a single individual, and set to track a particular genre over a 10 year period with some reference to his personal life as it informed his reaction to the evolution of the genre. There’s a clear logical and narrative arc, and for me at least the pleasure of both recognizing what he was describing in some cases and having a reaction of “never thought of it that way, but of course!” to others. The time spent getting through all the articles never once felt like seconds off my life that I will never get back.
The second was a 90 minute broadcast / podcase of NPR’s All Songs Considered entitled “The 90s Are Back, or Whatever…” Despite the repeated disclaimers that it wasn’t supposed to be comprehensive, and that they encouraged listeners to respond online with the phrase “Hey idiots,” I have rarely been as irritated as I was after the first 30 minutes - and it was because they just half-assed their preparation for “Album of the Decade” and were making no sense at all.
It’s a given that using the decade as a construct is going to create some challenges - 1988 to 1993, for example, might be a more logical time frame for grouping music than 1991 - 2000, just because of the influence of bands on one another, prevailing trends, etc. But that doesn’t excuse making sweeping claims that even a musical dilettante like your (not) humble correspondent can recognize as bilge. “Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” was groundbreaking for sonic and gender reasons? Maybe if you hadn’t been listening to hip hop previously - it was a good album, to be sure, but let’s not oversell it. Chemical Brothers looking like the breakthrough that was going to make electronica huge in the US? Only if you hadn’t been listening to the music coming from the UK for the preceding 5 - 10 years and feigned ignorance of the US market for that style of music.
Again: I’m a dilettante and I recognized this. They’re paid to listen to music and write about it.
And yet… the balance of the podcast was perfectly interesting, if not completely surprising - because once the presenters stopped flailing around trying to sound like they could come up with a unifying theme, and just explained the appeal of a given song for them either in context or in retrospect, their passion for music came through. If they had just stuck with that approach from the beginning they would have been much better off.
It’s not life or death. Better to be a scattered and credible enthusiast than claim authority and flail. That’s the appeal of blogs and podcasts and amateur media… isn’t it?
I don’t care about basketball as such. I’m not adamantly opposed to it - that would be odd - but rather indifferent. However, my older daughter has been playing on a girls team of a weekend, so I’ve been going to games and making enthusiastic noises (in lieu of my actual reaction to the thuggish prep school kids who compose most of the league).
Yesterday as a way of getting our collective mind off having just got power back after over 60 hours, we set out en famille to see American University take on Lafayette College at home. And it was a good laugh, aside from the unfortunate cheerleader who took a bad landing and probably wrecked her knee. There was some atmosphere, the pep band had a bagpiper, and as an old fart I found all the student volunteers to be cuddly and adorable… even the ones who weren’t in the low-cut-blouse-skinny-jeans-and-boots uniform. Plus AU has a player called Vlad from Romania. I mean, what else could you ask for?
Contrast that with the assault on the senses that was a Washington Mystics game (10 seconds of inaction = opportunity to play crap music at 145 decibels!), and it was a welcome reminder that even when it’s a sport I’m not that much interested in, the college version is probably better.*
*Generalization does not apply to contrasting a game at Camp Nou versus an ACC match up at the University of Maryland.
Thanks to the vicissitudes of work (proposals FTMFW, and I’m taking a break so don’t judge, if you please), I was officially unable to watch tonight’s State of the Union address, as opposed to unofficially not bothering. Dim memory suggests that I must have watched a few over the years, but the only one that I can clearly remember is the one in which Bill Clinton used the phrase “pap smear test.” Not because I saw it, but because several friends who happen to be ladies spent the next several days saying “I can’t believe I just heard the President of the US say ‘pap smear’ on television during the State of the Union address!”
It would appear that folks whom I follow on Twitter weren’t overwhelmed, but I can’t say that I share in any disappointment… addressing government spending is boring, detail-oriented, sets the diffuse collective good against narrow incentives to spend, and if actually implemented would result in the immediate turnover of all branches of government when commie sympathizers liberals and echt volk conservatives discovered how much of their well being is directly and indirectly the result of public spending.
There’s no possible way to make a speech to get people to sign up for that. We can’t even get people to cope with gas at $4 a gallon without a collective meltdown. So if the president’s speech was long on happy generalities and short on details about how much our allowance is going to be cut, I can’t blame him. What’s the point?
boys only ever admit to liking pop music in retrospect
The main ideals of the Goldilocks mindset are not universal truths, but rather a way of thinking with which anyone can agree or disagree. There aren’t many core precepts. Again: “Add things until it starts sucking, take away things until it stops getting better.
These close games for SC are killing me. All those blood pressure tablets were for naught.