10,000+

Not boasting, just explaining: I’ve written somewhere in the region of 10,000 words today for various things. No wonder my brain is quietly crying at me right now. It’s also the reason that the blog is going to go quiet through the weekend; I’ll catch up with 366 Songs on Monday, or at least try to. Right now? I need to not write things for awhile.

“NO! It Is Truly — HOPELESS!”

As I said on Twitter today, it’s been one of those days where work can expand to fill any free time around it. Realistically, it’s been a few weeks like that now, and between that and a couple other things in the real world, it’s been a completely exhausting period in general. I’m nowhere near caught up with where I want to be, either – I’m literally just in front of deadlines, and hoping that tomorrow will bring some kind of massively creative outburst that will allow me to jump ahead of everything else in my way and just get shit done enough for the weekend to bring something resembling relaxation. Quite how August turned out this weird, I have no idea, but I’ll be honest with you: I’m kind of over it already.

366 Songs 326: Sunflower

It’s unsubtle, unoriginal and overproduced, but I love Paul Weller’s “Sunflower.” Honestly, I’m not sure if I could really explain why, beyond the fact that I always find myself singing along to the chorus, and that I like the way it sounds – by which I mean, the actual sound of the instruments, the gruffness of the guitar at points, the thud of the drums in the chorus, the way the flute sounds and producer Brendan Lynch’s random beeps – but it’s a song that I always find creeping up on me when I hear it, overpowering my intent to sneer because it so blatantly rips off not just one, but two of Weller’s major influences during this period of his career. I mean, anyone with a passing similarity with the Beatles will think that “Dear Prudence” lives on in the draped guitar of this song –

– and, it does, I guess, but really, the guitar really comes from ELO’s “10538 Overture,” which took “Dear Prudence” and made it a little heavier. I mean, listen to that riff:

It’s a riff so nice that Weller used it again on his next album, even more shamelessly:

Suuuuuure you’re the changing man, Paul (I still love that video, though).

366 Songs 235: Goodbye Mr. A

This song always translates into the death of my father, in my head; it was on constant rotation on the music television channels in the UK at the time I was there as he was getting sicker, getting worse and not coming back, and I had those channels on a lot for some reason. Background noise that didn’t talk to me too much, I guess.

It’s weird, because musically the song is about something else entirely; it’s Britpop if Britpop had worshipped ELO instead of the Kinks and the Beatles – Listen to that organ, or those swooning backing vocals, and you’ll know it’s true. There’s something very generic about the song despite that, though – outside of those two touches, it could be anything or come from anywhere; it’s as if the band had listened to “Mr. Blue Sky” on repeat for a day before recording this, but not learned enough about what made that song so worthwhile – There’s not enough worth remembering in this song beyond the particularly ELO-influenced sections, as if the Hoosiers could only make the catchiness work when they weren’t thieving the life out’ve Jeff Lynne’s most-well-known song.

Somehow, I’ve ended up having a deeper appreciation of ELO as a result of revisiting this song. I have no idea if that’s a good thing or not.

366 Songs 234: Otis

The one thing that always grabs my attention about “Otis,” beyond the audacity of the sample – which, let’s be honest, is just great, isn’t it? To use so much of “Try A Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding at the start, and then so little when the track actually gets going? I love that, it’s so ridiculously, hilariously bold – is Kanye West’s upstaging of Jay-Z when they swap verses. “Got five passports/So I’m never going to jail,” Jay-Z says at one point, and Kayne immediately follows with “I made ‘Jesus Walks’/So I’m never going to Hell.” Later, after Jay has gone on about Benzes and “can’t you see we gettin’ money up under you,” Kanye counters with “Can’t you see the private jets flyin’ over you?” Because, of course, private jets and over is more impressive than Mercedes Benzes and being under you.

It’s a weird, hilarious thing inside a song that’s already so over-the-top with the dick-measuring and one-upmanship that it makes me convinced that everything in the song is as parodic and self-aware. It’s the only way the track makes sense to me; otherwise, I think too much about the bravado and boasting and wonder what it says to me about my life and can’t find an answer.

“This Is No Longer An Industry That Rewards Working-Class Values, In Other Words”

To be a writer in this market requires not only money, but a concept of “work” that is most easily gained from privilege. It requires a sense of entitlement, the ability to network and self-promote without seeing yourself as an arrogant, schmoozing blowhard. And it requires you to think of working for free—at an internship, say, or on one of those gratis assignments that seem to be everywhere now—as an opportunity rather than an insult or a scam.

This is no longer an industry that rewards working-class values, in other words, and I underestimated how hard it would be to shuck them. It still seems strange to me that people work, unpaid, without a guaranteed job at the end. And I haven’t reconciled myself with the central irony here: that journalism, ostensibly a populist endeavour, is becoming a rarefied practice best suited, both financially and psychologically, to the well-off.

From here. Well worth reading, and lots of food for thought that I am still chewing, to extend metaphors past their original comfort zone.

366 Songs 233: I Figured You Out

Dismissed by Elliott Smith as a “silly pop song” that he wrote in five minutes and discarded, “I Figured You Out” becomes something different in the hands of Mary Lou Lord; it’s both lighter in tone – Lord’s vocals lack the flatness and melancholy of Smith’s, after all – and somehow more sad as a result. There’s a wistfulness and vulnerability in her voice that makes the whole thing seem more harsher, as if she’s less prepared to sing lines like “So go on and pick up/You don’t care what poison you choose/What person you use/Should’ve been me, yeah/Shouldn’t it be?”

Sadness always sounds worse coming from an unexpected source.

Authorship Denial and The Collection Box

In reality, organizations still had some enormous advantages. Organizations are sustainable; they outlive the vagaries of human attention. Some individuals flourished in the newly democratic blogosphere. But over time, people got bored, got new jobs, found new interests, or otherwise reached the limits of what people-driven, individual-driven publishing could accomplish for them. The political blogosphere — the cacophony of individual voices on both left and right circa, say, 2004 — evolved toward institutions, toward Politico and TPM and The Blaze and HuffPo and the like.

Personal publishing is like voting. In theory, it’s the very definition of empowerment. In reality, it’s an excellent way for your personal shout to be cancelled out by someone else’s shout.

From here.

This is actually from a piece about Medium, a new blogging/social site/tool that’s interesting me, even if I’m not sure what I’ll end up doing with it should I get an invite to the beta. Here’s how Medium describes itself:

Medium is designed to allow people to choose the level of contribution they prefer. We know that most people, most of the time, will simply read and view content, which is fine. If they choose, they can click to indicate whether they think something is good, giving feedback to the creator and increasing the likelihood others will see it.

Posting on Medium (not yet open to everyone) is elegant and easy, and you can do so without the burden of becoming a blogger or worrying about developing an audience. All posts are organized into “collections,” which are defined by a theme and a template. (For example, this post is in the About Medium collection with a simple article template.)

As Joshua Benton, author of the quote at the top, says, there’s something weird/fascinating about this idea of curated posting:

What’s most radical about Medium is that it denies authorship.

Okay, maybe not denies authorship — people’s names are right next to their work, after all. But it degrades authorship, renders it secondary, knocks it off its pedestal… Degrading authorship is something the web already does spectacularly well. Work gets chopped and sliced and repurposed. That last animated GIF you saw — do you know who made it? Probably not. That infonugget you saw on Gawker or The Atlantic — did it start there? Probably not. Sites like Buzzfeed are built largely on reshuffling the Internet, rearranging work into streams and slideshows.

It’s been a while since auteur theory made sense as an explanation of the web. And you know what? We’re better for it. In a world of functionally infinite content, relying on authorship doesn’t scale. We need people to mash things up, to point things out, to sample, to remix.

I both agree and disagree with that last part, but that tension is, in large part, what makes Medium so interesting to me. Is this where the idea of group quality as differentiator comes into its own?

“Positive Believability Ratings”

For the second time in a decade, the believability ratings for major news organizations have suffered broad-based declines. In the new survey, positive believability ratings have fallen significantly for nine of 13 news organizations tested. This follows a similar downturn in positive believability ratings that occurred between 2002 and 2004.

The falloff in credibility affects news organizations in most sectors: national newspapers, such as the New York Times and USA Today, all three cable news outlets, as well as the broadcast TV networks and NPR.

From here.

The one comfort I take from this is that Fox News’ ratings are pretty much the worst on the survey.