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I forgot…

The Million Song Dataset is an interesting thing: MSDS. Although, witnessing art through data analysis sure seems like it would lead one toward the mean, as is happening in pop music these days, songs structured and run through focus groups, with all the rough edges smoothed out, analyzed to a sheen (never thought I’d agree with Trent Reznor, but there you go). Then again, using the Million Song Dataset, researchers figured out contemporary pop music features “…less variety in pitch transitions, towards a consistent homogenization of the timbral palette, and towards louder and, in the end, potentially poorer volume dynamics.” (Source) So it’s not only less adventurous, but also has worse sound because everyone tries to be louder and louder and louder. And what does Reznor do, to oppose this trend? Bigger and bolder stage show. Whoopee. The audience is in a state of semi-permanent distraction, and if anything, needs music (and other arts) that nurture our need to focus deeply on one thing, not more bombast and flashing lights. And, of course, if it’s too loud you’re too old, bla bla bla. No, it’s volume being used to disguise poor songwriting, factory craft, and an extremely limited set of…
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the critic

I got  review of a CD one of the bands I’m in put out recently, readable here, and what struck me most was the somewhat confused attitude our music provoked in the reviewer. Victory! This quote stuck out: “if I knew what the band wanted me to take serious and what to laugh at, the recording would be a greater success.” I realized that most of the reviews of any artistic endeavor I’ve had subject to critique evoke the same confusion, the “what do I do with this” reaction that validates why I make art in the first place. It’s what I cherish in other artist’s work, and what I tend to critique first in art I find wanting. I don’t mean that I prefer art that is difficult or that one must struggle to understand. That approach is usually as predictable as the most mainstream art (witness: just started reading the Flounder, Gunter Grass, how drab experimentalism for its own sake seems, detached from the historical moment). To make art that eludes easy categorization and produces confused emotional states, yeah, that’s what I like.

Work and play

Because I just made a “to-do” list, and because I’m running an Intro to Games Studies class this semester, so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about play, angles of definition, what the opposite of play might be—the quick answer is “work,” but saying work is the opposite of play is “cheap,” as J. Huizenga put it. He also said: “Since the reality of play extends beyond the sphere of human life it cannot have its foundations in any rational nexus, because this would limit it to mankind. The incidence of play is not associated with any particular stage of civilization or view of the universe. Any thinking person can see at a glance that play is a thing on its own, even if his language possesses no general concept to express it. Play cannot be denied. You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play.” For Huizenga, play is always voluntary. Work is voluntary, though it might not seem so. We are all free to not work, in the sense of a job that produces income, and in the sense of an avocation as well,…
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To Do List

I understand the symbolic import of New Year’s eve/day, the turning over of a new calendar, leaf, rock, what have you, but I never much felt it, every day is the start of a new year. But, in keeping with my plan today to update all the various websites I shepherd, here are some artistic plans for 2014 (mostly so I remember to them): >Release 2 CDs, 1 by each of the bands I am in (Pants & the Family, 2Rabbit). With favorable winds, by the end of January. >Publish a novel, The Emissary, and a book of poems, Straddling the Sibyl. Both in March, with a party to launch. >Recruit some other authors for Pski’s Porch Publishing. >Finish my third novel, and a board game to accompany it. >Finish 2 books of poetry, 1 comprised of 100 sonnets, 1 a novel-in-verse about Louis Armstrong. >Finish listening to all the damn CDs I own. That’s good for now, and I can update the list as I finish or add items. Enjoy the next 12 months.    

Whence we revel in the objects of our revulsion…

I’ve not read any of the Hunger Games books, though (or maybe because) I do like science fictional dystopias in general, but I have now seen the first two movies, and I’m troubled by something–though maybe I just don’t get it. It’s clear the Hunger Games is meant to be a social critique of some kind; the author says she was inspired by channel surfing between reality TV programs and actual war coverage. On one channel, there’s a group of young people competing for I don’t even know; and on the next, there’s a group of young people fighting in an actual war. I was really tired, and the lines between these stories started to blur in a very unsettling way. That’s the moment when Katniss’s story came to me. So, she wants to make some kind of point about violence, and war, and our reality-tv-slash game show culture, and if I were to guess, I’d say she thought they were all bad things, or at least too much of them had saturated our media, most specifically the media made for younger people. So why revel in the violence to such a degree? She relies entirely on the things she critiques–violence, narcissistic…
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Gotta Serve Somebody

While reading articles in an academic journal recently, I was struck by how the mode of inquiry seemed derived from Management Science. The journal is written and edited by Humanities scholars and publishes articles about popular culture, yet almost every article, in the 3 issues I read through, eschewed any kind of moral or ethical argument in favor of describing the system that produces different works of art. I used to think this instinct toward systematization–in concert with a studied absence of moral critique, which I first noticed in academic literary criticism–arose from a disciplinary envy of the Sciences. The Humanities cannot prove things the same way the Sciences can, and for whatever reason, the proof offered by the Sciences has become much more valuable in the last 50 years. So, Humanities scholars have looked to a variety of systems to try and seem more objective in their scholarly work: linguistics, Marxism, structuralism, post-structuralism*, and so forth. Now, I’m beginning to think it’s not so much an envy of the Sciences, though that is surely a factor, but moreso an institutional need to appear more objective brought about by an increasingly Corporatized university system. More and more professional administrators, as…
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GTAV and the Communist Manifesto (and Derek)

I found the Communist Manifesto on the list of free ebooks available on Kindle, so naturally I downloaded it, and read it on my smart phone. I’ve read it before, and each time I’m struck by how right on the predictions of captitalism’s demise is, and by the naivete of the solutions offered. Maybe naivete is not the right word; a pessimism that clouds the vision of human innovation, especially when it comes to maintaining a sick body politic, is more accurate. I was reading it on my cell phone, did I mention, a book that could land you in jail simply for having a copy in years past. I read this:   “Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But in order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to it under which it can, at least, continue its slavish existence. The serf, in the period of serfdom, raised himself to membership in the commune, just as the petty bourgeois, under the yoke of the feudal absolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern labourer, on the contrary, instead of rising with…
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2 Tons of Gravel

Sounds intimidating, no? 2 tons, that must be a lot of gravel, #2 crushed, for those scoring at home. It will be dumped in my driveway on Weds, to fill holes in my driveway. It’s not that much, really, enough for about 20 feet of rut… I’m so excited. Summer is withering into Fall, time to spread the gravel. Pski’s Porch Press will be releasing 2 books in the Fall (1 novel and 1 book of poetry), 1 in the Spring (poetry), that’s the schedule thus far. Send me an email and I’ll come read from them in your house or yard or local tavern. The 2 bands I’m in (Pants and the Family and 2Rabbit) are getting ready to launch a Kickstarter to get some $ for recording. We need gigs! Anyone looking for bands to play cool as shit original music also send email, we’ll come play. email is marcpski at gmail dot com. CDs I’ve listened to, as I try to listen to all the ones I own: 721) Arab Strap: The Last Romance; 722) Living Colour: Vivid; 723) TV on the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain; 724) Sunn 0))): Black One; 725) Ian Brown: Unfinished Monkey…
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Almost——>

Soon I will get back to blogging, I promise myself. Finished some projects, had a great party, now, time to get back to these goddamn cds and so forth, In the meantime, a great article by Chris Hedges: http://www.bostonreview.net/us/war-betrayal-chris-hedges?

Some Poems

By me–this journal has an interesting idea, everyone who submits then votes on other submissions, 3 rounds of voting, and the top however many get in the journal. It’s certainly a different approach than the editor or editorial board as guardian of taste… http://www.sixfold.org/PoSum13/Pietrzykowski.html