Friday, November 30, 2007

sometime in the next twenty-five days...

This guy is gonna kill some heroes for lots of people. Before that happens I want to make some fearless predictions:

-Lots of pitchers, I bet, will be on there. Especially ones who were hurt (see Paul Byrd or, for that matter, Rick Ankiel). And I don't just mean the ones with that obvious 'roids look to them. In the category of my own worst fears, I have a dread that Chris Carpenter is gonna be on there.

-Lots of people you never heard of will be on there. And that's good. I've heard the argument put forth that it's even worse for someone like Bonds to do steroids, since he was good without them. To me, that's bullshit. The guy who uses roids and squeaks by should be dealt with the same as the guy who uses roids and hits 73 home runs.

-Either some doctors are gonna have to come out and truly stand behind the idea that HGH really does help in recovery from injuries (right now the only legal uses are for unusually short children, AIDS, and adult growth hormone deficiency), or that mythical excuse is gonna get blown wide open.

These are just predictions. I know that HGH isn't the same as steroids, and I know it was not yet banned by the MLB (though illegal in the USA) when some people took it. I also know it is a thorny issue when you come to performance enhancing drugs, and there are always new ones that aren't yet banned cropping up on the medical horizon. I don't even really know where I stand on the morality of it. But I do know where I stand in one respect: there needs to be a fair way to regulate, and with the humongous amount of money and resources available to MLB, the most obvious solution is simply to have mandatory random drug tests for every player, period. And just for the PEDs, mind you, I don't care about all the coke, weed, meth, crack, or even acid they might be taking, I don't think the MLB should concern itself about the baseball versions of Ricky Williams types. To me, random mandatory testing is the only way to avoid the witch-hunt scenario some people are against. It doesn't discriminate on talent, it gets the greats and the squeakers-by alike, and if we could get the MLB not to warn players when their turn was coming, it might even work.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

the corn in the turd

People, life is bound to hand you a lot of turds. But sometimes those turds at least have little kernels of corn in them. You always have to look for the corn in the turd. I didn't make it up. It's something we've been discussing a lot around my household lately, with a good friend having moved last Sunday. He and his dog are gone and I will miss them-- there's the turd. But there's some corn in that turd, too, like the fact that I get his old room.

I'd like this saying about the corn in the turd to spread beyond my own sphere. It's a much more honest way to look at what is sad in life than what those other adages have to offer. Think about it-- I've never really seen a silver lining behind a single cloud; when I walk down a dark street, it's generally the case that there is no sunny side to keep on; at least 30 or 40 percent of dogs never do have their day; never once has even the most carefree hippie's deep-down disposition been "all good"; the negative has a way of being resistant to elimination, while accentuation of the positive often results in the grotesque; the sun is actually less likely to come out tomorrow on a rainy day than on a sunny day, and often there is no next time.

Compare the corn you might find in a turd to any of these old rose-colored glasses adages. Even if the turd does have its corn, it's only a handful of kernels, and they've already been eaten once, and are now covered in shit. This is not the kind of corn you go out of your way to find unless you are already unavoidably in the turd. This is not the kind of corn that can lift you up and reverse what has happened to you and put you at peace with your world. This corn makes no promises and offers as little in comfort as it does in nutrition. But this corn is honest about the turd it lives in, and so I find this corn far more appealing and befitting a world as ready to hand out turds as ours is. So remember, next time life hands you shit, you gotta look for that corn in the turd.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the flow of meaning

Yesterday I hit upon a new high horse to ride in my ongoing battle against my favorite straw man, the academic music critic. I had been feeling uneasy about dissecting Morton Feldman's 2nd string quartet-- whether I had any right to "decode" it a particular way, why anyone should care how I hear it, whether it mattered what the performers or Feldman himself thought-- the usual fears of a grad student (honestly, go ask some, we are pathetic). I thought to myself, this music spews out an inexhaustible flow of meaning. Things keep happening, and new ways to make sense of them keep arising, each sense-making strategy working for some amount of time before being frustrated and receding, possibly to rise again later on. How can I put a stopper in this flow of meaning and talk about how the music means at any point?

That's when it hit me that I, like my straw man critic, was approaching the problem the wrong way. I don't have to stop up the flow of meaning in order to describe it. Instead, I can talk about how meaning arises, how it moves, what shapes it takes, what currents flow through it, where it penetrates, how deep it is. I can describe meaning in the act of meaning.

But isn't that solipsistic? How something means to two different people is just as different as what something means, isn't it?

Hell no. How something means to someone is a much more accountable notion than what something means to someone. When you're talking what, you get into all those "What this song means to me is..." sorts of situations, you get some obstinate refusal to exit subjective experience, you get all these "I hear it like this" kind of things, and they can get heated. Eventually some consensus is reached, a solid dam is built up in the flow of meaning, and often a small village or huge city is erected around the ensuing lake of meaning. Of course, those damn lakes, those damn damn lakes, they can get a bit stagnant, their beds aren't the kind that've been shaped by water for eons, they don't move in any unpredictable ways after they stabilize, and of course, you can't drive your boat through the damned damn.

My straw man is asked what something means, and as an answer he gives a damn. I don't give a damn. I don't want to stop up that flow of meaning. I want to catch it in the act of meaning. I want to describe it as meaning arises. I want to talk about the means of it's meaning. And that's a more objective pursuit. If you want to talk about the means of something's meaning, you need to talk about that something in a lot of detail, you have to describe with nuance how the actions and aspects of that something give rise to a flow of meaning, then to look at that flow of meaning, and to see if there are patterns, ways it tends to go, currents and counter-currents. But shit, no need to stop it up and make a stagnant puddle. Gotta leave it open. Like instead of a damn, maybe a giant, thinly latticed net that lets everything through, but whose ropes are sensitive to the vital stats of each subsection of the flowing river of meaning. So you get an idea how it moves, instead of stopping it up just so you can say more certainly what it is.

That's all.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Internets

I was thinking about these internets. They are getting huge. I mean huge. Doesn't it blow your mind? I don't want to sound like an old man or something, but holy shit everybody.

Yesterday, that person who comes by six days a week to put a bunch of trash in a little slot in my door brought us the yellow pages too. Yellow pages? Wow, remember that? That was a different time. Now, again, I know I'm starting to sound like an old man here, but let me explain. What has been blowing my mind about the internet has a lot to do with those yellow pages.

I'm sure I'm the millionth person to have this revelation, but the hugeness of the internets has changed how we find information. The search is what I'm talkin' about. Yellow pages? You know how long they'd have to be to cover every subject on the internet, even to list just the top few sites for any subject? You said it. Long as shit.

There are a few ready-built reactions to this. One can be amazed and stand in awe of this information superhighway, or one can decry the internet as some sort of lowest-common-denominator cesspool, which, after all, is probably built and maintained for the most part by people procrastinating doing something else. One can see it as a way forward for liberty and freedom, or one can see it as the beginnings of a Big Brother sort of thing. I figure whichever way you look at it, you gotta admit it is a giant world of culture, of cultural information and cultural traces, maybe cultural trash at times, maybe more the leftovers and refuse of culture, but culture nonetheless. And I for one am someone who takes culture seriously, wherever I find it. So when I think about how huge these internets are, and I realize that it's all culture on there, it tends to blow my mind.

It's vast and confusing and complicated out there in that "series of tubes." Too intricate for something like a yellow pages to be of much use. That's why searching has gotten better and better. But even just searching isn't quite enough in this huge, huge world. Searching can tend to be either too directed (do you really trust those top few ad-type hits on a given search?) or too neutral (i.e. unpredictable) with regards to quality or taste for lots of people. Enter all these "social bookmarking" kind of business, enter thousands of people writing blogs, etc. Now you can search the searchers, so to speak. Find ones you agree with, or disagree with, or sometimes agree with, but ones you can get to know and trust. Like a good music reviewer who you don't always agree with but who writes with enough personal opinion that you can get an idea how you would feel about the record from how they feel about it.

Hey, man, sure this is all trite. But I don't care, because these internets are huge, my friends, they are gigantic, and they blow my mind. I mean, they blow my mind without my having to notice anything about them other than what is plainly there, without looking too close or thinking too hard.