Thursday, September 30, 2010


When I purchased False Priest (amazing, btw) from Polyvinyl, I received The M's Future Women along with it for free. I've been extremely busy listening to False Priest as much as humanly possible, but today I finally listened to Future Women for the first time. As is more or less always the case when I listen to new music for the first time, I was unable to get much out of the experience. In fact, all of the songs sound sort of the same to me. It's not that I really think they all sound the same, but the differences all kind of blur together. They all sound like generic songs. And even as I can't tell the difference, I know perfectly well that if I listen a lot to this album, the songs will (probably) stop sounding so generic to me, I'll be able to pick up the distinctions, and they'll all sound relatively distinct, whether or not I end up liking the album (although this is not invariably true - one reason why I dislike albums like La Belle's Moon Shadow, The Dismemberment Plan's Emergency & I, and The Webb Brothers' Maroon is because the songs never became un-generic to me; even though I listened to those albums a lot, I can barely remember a single distinct from them).

This is not an original thought; I have had this thought many times before. However, what was original was that today was also my last day of classes for the year, and I was also thinking about my relationship with my students. I'm terrible at remembering people, and out of my five classes there are actually two where I can't honestly say that I know all of the students. But that makes three where I do, and I know those students reasonably well - I have ideas about all of them in my mind. Even in the classes where I don't, I know a lot of the students. And yet I am reasonably sure that when I start new classes in 2011 I will know barely any of the students at all for weeks, and for months quite a few of them will be a blur to me. It's hard to imagine now, when the students I teach all seem so familiar - can they really remain blurs for so long? And yet, judging from past experience, that's precisely what will happen.

So apparently my relationship with music is actually quite similar to my relationship with people - they both seem like indistinguishable blurs to me at first, but give it enough time and most of them resolve into quite distinguishable figures. That's kind of interesting. I've been reminded lately of just how unusually non-physical I am by a friend calling me weird because of it - and it really is true - I've often said I wouldn't really miss all that much if I became a brain in a vat. I love music, of course, and I like having ears. But it's interesting to me that all of these sensory impressions, whether auditory or visual, take quite a lot of time to take on me. I think I'm just less good at the physical than the mental, in general, even with those physical sensations that really are important to me.

Why I Like Being an English Teacher

People come to you sometimes and ask you to spend a while talking to them about grammar! Like, that actually happens! People want you to talk to them about grammar for a while.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Thin, Weak Thinker

I don't particularly like fairy tales, and I can't remember ever having liked them. This apparently makes me anathema to Tom Lynn from Fire and Hemlock, but I can't help it. They don't seem interesting to me. They don't involve interesting characterization or plot or themes. I'm perfectly happy with some stories that don't fit the typical character-driven templates (Borges or even Hitherby probably qualify in this respect), but fairy tales never seem to offer interesting or thought-provoking themes to make up for it. What's more, if you know one fairy tale, you know them all. It's no wonder someone just made a template of all the different fairy tales; the differences between them really are that minor, that you can just mix and match a countable number of elements, and BOOM, you'll have a fairy tale.

On the other hand, I do really like, and can't remember ever having not liked, mythology. I suppose the difference between fairy tales and mythology is that, even if mythology also has elements of redundancy, even if mythology also doesn't tend to have the deepest characterization, it's epic. And I like epic. Stories on a large scale, with myriad characters in complicated relationships that you have to keep track of, where the redundancy almost manages to substitute for characterization because it's the same characters involved each time - that always appeals to me, whether it's a fantasy epic, a mythological saga, or, heck, even the history of the Roman or British royal houses.

I was thinking about how I tend to like stories based on fairy tales, even if I don't like the tales themselves, but the more I think about this the more I wonder if it's true. I am a huge fan of intertextuality - I like all sorts of stories that refer to each other, again, because they make the story more complicated, they grant it hidden meanings - actually, I suppose I like intertextuality for the same reason I like epic, or even sitcoms - they're all storytelling forms which involve the possibility that is kind of pointless or even unnoticeable on first glance becomes meaningful and even fascinating once you know all the context - but I wouldn't say that fairy tales as referent are a particularly important focus for my interest. It's more mythology, I think, that I really appreciate the references to - it's the mythological scale that always seems to hit me when I encounter it in a story, and make the story seem more numinous. All of the children's books that hit me that way as a child - I think of DWJ, of course, but also of Susan Cooper - are drawing on myths and legends, epic cycles. Perhaps "Tam Lin" counts as a fairy tale - it's closer to that than to an epic, anyway - but even Fire and Hemlock is secretly referring to the Odyssey and even T. S. Eliot as well, plus I think the stories of actual fairies/elves are broader than simply "Tam Lin" and add additional resonance that bring them closer to the mythological level.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Reasonable Fascimile Thereof

I am at that stage in my procrastination where I feel an overwhelming urge to blog about. . . things. We will see how long that continues; probably not long.

Anyway, now I am going to blog about "Flight of the Bumblebee," by Rimsky-Korsakov. This is a rather famous short piece of music that I am sure everyone has heard before, but, being fairly ignorant about classical music, I personally was not aware that it was actually originally from an opera, The Tale of Tsar Sultan. In listening to this piece of music just now, I was impressed by the way that it really did sound like an insect's buzz - but much less annoying.

Saturday, September 4, 2010