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Friday, December 30, 2005
2005: A YEAR IN WHICH THINGS HAPPENED
Which is to say, this is my year-end wrapup. There are section headings.
What 2005 was
2005 was trying to get pregnant, and there were signs of hope and some disappointments, but by the end of the year there was enough morning sickness to justify crossing your fingers. But it could just be food poisoning. Or a hangover. 2005 knows it's not supposed to be drinking, what with the trying to get pregnant and all, but it's been a hard year. 2005 is hoping for twins but mainly cares that whatever pops out is healthy. Some of 2005's friends are hoping that it dies in a particularly dramatic fashion, but they don't tell 2005 this, as this would be cruel, but they think it anyway; they remember 1999 with a certain relish. 2005 has been getting more and more subdued since the process began and the negative results started coming back ("negative results," it thinks about that phrase sometimes, a contraction of "the results came back negative," sure, but it shifts the emphasis, makes it sound a lot more final, and, not coincidentally, sums up a lot of other things 2005's dealing with right now that it'd rather now get into), to say nothing of the weight gain, and lord knows I'm the last person to be talking about weight gain, but it is a medical symptom after all. It's just the most visible sign. You used to be able to tell what 2005 was thinking just by looking at its face, but now there's like a thin film covering it, metaphorically speaking. 2005 is looking inside itself and seems to be lost there. If it weren't for the drinking, 2005 would be no fun at all.
What we learned about the music business in 2005
The legends we had read turned out to be true in spirit if wrong in specifics, and it was that latter bit that threw us off for a while. Because what usually gets complained about is the totality, but there are a lot of good people doing their best, but it only takes a few bad apples to spoil the bunch, another cliche that, whoops, turned out to be true, although maybe it's more like that "rotting from the top down" or something. You know what they say about rich people? You know who owns record labels? Well.
Why we're using "we" here all of a sudden
I believe it's called "distancing." Whoops, er, should've said "we believe" there. Ah well.
The moment of the year
We were not able to devote the attention to year-end pieces we would have liked to, and so we did not get to write about moments at all, but the musical moment of 2005 is not even in question. It occurred during the Electric Six show at the Bowery Ballroom, when Dick Valentine came out and played "Jimmy Carter." Now, the album this song appears on had not yet been released in the country we were in, and even then it doesn't carry any of the particular signs of a massive crowd-pleaser that some of their other songs do, i.e. it's a guitar-only power ballad about ex-presidents. But Miss Clap and I decided that this was our summer jam of 2005, and so when it started, we reacted much the way, say, any resident of MSG during a Bon Jovi concert would react when "You Give Love a Bad Name" comes on: we put our arms around each other, pumped our fists, and sung along at the top of our lungs. Thing is, not only were we not at a Bon Jovi concert at MSG, not only did not most people not know the song, but even if they did, they probably wouldn't react in the way we did. (Indeed, as we were told later, we attracted some odd looks.) So it was just us. But that was OK: indeed, that was actually kinda great. As much as I love that rush of being part of a crowd all reacting with joy to a beloved song etc. etc., this was something different, like a command performance, except without the command, like we had created a command performance for ourselves out of thin air. In a way, it's analogous to one of the pleasures of being a fan, when you know the catalog so well and have a great deal of affection for obscurities, you can get really excited when you attend a concert of the object of your devotion and they play one of those obscurities. But this was sort of a perfect version of that, distilled to its very essence, and thus the source of a feeling the song itself tries to convey: triumph. Now, this phenomenon is somewhat rare in music due to the contageous nature of fandom (the best example would be a particular type of gig that I'm told happens occasionally: you play a small town and not so many people show up, but those people have become fanatically devoted to your band and pass the night in a kind of ecstatic rapture), but you could make it happen wherever, with whatever. Might not be a bad idea. It helps if you have someone like Miss Clap as a co-conspirator.
Other people we meant to analogize to a stereotype of a developmentally disabled kid
Tyra Banks, Geraldo, a few others.
Why we're not going to see The Ringer
Apparently, it doesn't actually make fun of developmentally disabled people, and that would seem to be its whole raison d'etre.
A brief point about Hurricaine Katrina
There's this notion in cultural and artistic criticism that art, especially art that's primarily entertainment (there being, in cultural and artistic criticism, a weird divide between art and entertainment), has the unfortunate side-effect of dissipating energy for social change by acting as a valve to let off the pressure of opressive conditions, that if there were no entertainment the masses would have no option but to rise up. For instance, in a recent Harper's piece about Lars "von" Trier, Jim Shepard writes, in reference to Lars, "He knows movies keep people vacant and slack-jawed when constructive anger might be a more appropriate response to their lot in life." Now, there's a whole bunch of problems with this, but if you're looking for a practical critique, you might turn to the events of August, which precipitated a real social unrest, but only after numerous towns and one major city were almost entirely destroyed, and even then, the social unrest mainly concerned immediate concerns like food and shelter. I guess you could argue that the real reason for the unrest was that the masses could no longer watch TV, or that their sense of outrage had been dulled by years of exposure to the mass media, but it seems a more reasonable conclusion that art, as usual, isn't a factor, and that the only thing that's going to prompt social unrest, by and large, is a catastrophic event of one sort or another, and that, in effect, wishing for social unrest to be triggered is to wish for something fairly horrible to happen. It seems more sensible to observe, if you want to talk about social unrest, that the actual practical execution of revolt is a primarily bodily endeavor, and so the best way to trigger that is to threaten basic bodily functions. Thus rooted in the body, it would imply that not only does art not really suppress unrest (it's unlikely that showings of Wife Swap to hurricaine victims would have made them less agitated), but in terms of directly inspiring it, it has a hard task on its hands, since it has no real direct effect on the body. In other words, if you're looking to why people don't protest their own unjust conditions more vigorously, Hollywood blockbusters might be the wrong place to look.
A brief point about Robyn
I am told that it's somewhat surprising to see Robyn's self-titled album on my year-end list, so maybe I should say something about that, but I don't really have much to say aside from that I like different parts of it in different ways at different times. I can tell you about the first time I listened to it, though. I had to take one of those complicated train rides that is now required of me if I want to get to north Brooklyn from my current apartment, and so I was taking the overground shuttle train as I the CD whirred into existence. So I passed between buildings and yards as the intro speech played, dulled a bit now maybe but absolutely thrilling at the time, which is one of the curious qualities of the Robyn album--it's designed both for initial impact and for replay value, but those two things tend to function independently. And then, another moment of the year: the pause between the intro and "Who's That Girl," absolutely perfectly calculated, because when that Knife beat comes in, shit, it's like an answer track, a validation of the brag in the most casual way possible. And it sounded perfect, just then, on that minute or two minute long train ride as we passed over small streets and Atlantic Avenue and pulled into the station on Fulton street, seeing the tops of buildings in the distance, cars below, and I felt like there was a reason, a purpose, for what I was doing, besides just the errands I had to run and the places I had to go. And that's a big part of why Robyn is one of my three albums of the year.
What 2005 actually was
Not too shabby.
My New Year's resolution, which I do not usually do, make resolutions I mean
To write more, and to do whatever it takes to make that happen.