on bossiness and the banning thereof
Buckle in, folks, this is gonna get “ninety minutes and a lot of unpopular opinions”-y.
I thought this was an insightful read, from a perspective we haven’t heard. Read it.From my own perspective, as a woman who is and has always been sorta naturally bossy (via my mother), it can be a drag being this way without trying. It would be nice to be able to turn it off, because there are a number of situations in life that simply don’t benefit from my bossiness. It can be socially chafing to me personally (I’m not even considering how others feel), and sometimes I exert a lot of energy trying to be laid-back. That’s a bad feminist thing to say, oh well.
Young Music Writers + The Problem With News
This isn’t directed at anyone. Actually, it’s directed at myself. Fuck, it’s directed at everyone.
I’ve been thinking and reading a lot and generally preparing to start a new gig soon, as I have obnoxiously mentioned already in this space, and in doing so I have been able to take the time and appreciate. What, exactly, have I been appreciating? Well, a lot of superb writing about culture that, in a typical working week would have sat in tabs on my browser until 5:17 on Friday. At which point I’d read half of a really long, really great piece and just accept that my brain was making fart noises, slowly and steadily, like my dad’s old junker running out of gas on the freeway.
The thing that no one tells you when you’re a young arts writer — and I’m not rewriting that Ira Glass quote that I swear to god I’ve seen printed on American Apparel tees selling for $24 at Brooklyn Flea — is that if you’re lucky enough to be on staff somewhere, news duties most likely will become part of your day-to-day existence. Even when you move out of a job that doesn’t directly have news in the title or the description, if you work on an editorial website that has a news section, it will still fuck up your shit at one point or another. You will get into a fight with your asshat boyfriend and go to bed, for the first time since you were a single-digit human, at 8 p.m. on the night Whitney Houston dies. That’s just one really extreme personal example, but I’m telling you, news changes the way you live your life. No one tells you that, and you probably won’t realize it until Lou Reed dies in the middle of Sunday drunk-brunch. Put away your personal feelings about it because this news post needed to be up 10 minutes ago and there’s a typo, dear god there’s a typo.
Please understand: I am not complaining. I am privileged beyond belief to have always made a living as a journalist. But a couple weeks away from the grind of daily music news has made me recognize the damage nearly four years of doing it full-time has caused my thinking and my attention span. To everything. Sure, it’s made me a faster writer and editor, and a much more rigorous reporter. I’ll give it that. But do not underestimate how difficult it can be to ping-pong between a capacity for news and a mind for criticism. They value different things.
Most of my peers did not get into music writing to cover Justin Bieber’s multiple arrests. Because honestly, that has nothing to do with music. That’s celebrity shit. Most of them probably wanted to convey something real about the art (myself included). News is not art, though a few 20-somethings making $20k-something will make that mistake because of one bad pun they get to make in their lede. I understand why it’s like this, of course. It’s easier to trust a recent college grad not to spell Thom Yorke’s last name wrong in a headline (oh but I did anyway) than it is to trust her to say something meaningful about, say, a new Bob Dylan album. Because oops, Greil Marcus already said everything essential there is to say about Dylan, so let’s just focus on tacking that -e on the end of the Radiohead guy’s name, k?
The point of all this was not to take a dump on music news, though it never fails to amuse me how the patterns of it all are so predictable, the way site A will post this thing only after site B does, even though it’s been on site C for seven hours at this point. (Oh, and then the next day you get a press release about it, after you’re so over it already, ugh.) The point of this was to note that in my moment of appreciating I have been reading in a way that is not hurried, not exhausted after a day of staring at a screen, not wedged in when I should be editing a two-graph post about a new Pitbull video or something else as equally disposable. And in doing this leisurely reading style normally reserved for my weekends on all seven days of the week, I am able to see that we all have a lot to learn. By ‘we’ I mean my own class of music writers, people who’ve been in the game and even around the block a time but probably are still mediocre, for reasons we can’t even help. Between second jobs and third jobs and who’s getting what and he has how many Twitter followers, we can forget the point of this whole thing. I read older writers and wonder how they know stuff. Nineteenth-century composers, the bluesmen who didn’t influence Clapton and co., obscure ’60s soul labels, the musical tradition in Thailand. They know it because they’ve lived and obtained knowledge organically. That’s how life works, unfortunately. If I could cram all there was to know about music history and not have to learn it through natural curiosity, I’d do it. (I saw how that worked out with a history of jazz class I took in college, which I cared zip about at the time; all I can remember is Ornette Coleman, Dave Brubeck, “Straight, No Chaser” and a bald prof who leaned on PBS docs.)
I’ll give you a recent example. Carl Wilson wrote this great Slate piece about Angel Olsen, Lydia Loveless and Hurray for the Riff Raff titled “Young Women, Old Music.” Now, I am so glad someone my age didn’t write this article. I’m around the same age as these musicians, and you know, that’s a different kind of piece. Not to say someone my age couldn’t research the idea and nail the references Wilson does, but he does it in a way that’s effortless, like he’s known this stuff longer than I’ve been alive. Sort of reminds me of the big hullabaloo that cropped up a couple summers back over the It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back entry in NPR’s (not great) “You’ve Never Heard?” series. Music writer Twitter was annoying over this, but one smart thing someone said — I believe Evie Nagy — was that it’s more appealing to have a young person explain Drake than to have him spend time publicly grappling with the historical significance of Important Art before his time. I’m not saying us under-30 music writers should stop writing about albums released pre-Y2K, but can we just stop for a second and recognize that we pretty much don’t know shit? It’s sort of a comforting cycle once you give in. The older I get, the more I realize what I don’t know — and that it’s a lot.
Life update: I’m going to be joining the staff at Flavorwire in a couple weeks as their music editor. I’ll retain some of my freelancing, but I’ll be writing more personally every single day in this new role, so expect more aggressive linking in this space.
Writing update: I tend to not share my work all that much on Tumblr for some reason, but I want to link a couple recent things.
I already wrote my first piece for Flavorwire: a quick thing about the time I got dumped with a Smiths song, the changing concept of a music library, and re-imagining their debut - which turned 30 today - without “Miserable Lie.”
And I’m fond of this review of the great Hospitality album I wrote for Pitchfork last month, so there’s that too.
Chillaxation update: I’m on day three of a staycation between jobs, and oh my god I am bad at this. If anyone wants to come over and teach me how to meditate, I’ll put on some Enya and a pot of tea. That’s not even how you meditate, stupid, that’s how bad I am at relaxing.
Music update: Current soundtrack highlights consist of excellent upcoming albums from Real Estate, Eagulls, Kylie Minogue, Cloud Nothings, and Death; Pulp’s Coming Up; Eric Church’s The Outsiders, Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Small Town Heroes; and still, Sun Kil Moon’s Benji, my favorite album of the year thus far.
Bonus: I’ll be covering SXSW for Flavorwire, so shout at me if you’re also going down!
Home’s All Relative
This weekend I went back to Ohio to participate in an alumni event at my former J-school. On the flight I listened to the great new Sun Kil Moon album that’s largely set in Ohio and read that semi-recent essay collection about leaving New York (“Goodbye To All That”), feeling particularly wistful about where I came from and what I left behind.
Winding up Rt. 33 back toward Columbus this afternoon, however, I was tired and ready to get back to New York. One day in Athens was enough. I’m too old for that shit. I always did remember things better than they actually were.
A few stoplights and the width of Pennsylvania was all that separated me and New York growing up. The on-ramp to I-80 teased me: “New York City, 400 miles.” Had I not been terrified of freeways at 17, I would have wheeled my dead grandfather’s 1993 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme up that ramp and drove until I reached the center of the universe.
By 20 it was unbearable. I would stare out at the stunning Appalachian foothills of my college town and yearn for a skyline, just one fucking skyscraper. I talked my way into an internship in the city, found a sublease on Craigslist, sent a check for $2100 (for the whole summer!) to a stranger, packed up the jersey dresses my mom bought me at Kohl’s (we thought that’s what employees at music magazines wore), and set out on I-80 for my very first New York trip. We were pleasantly surprised to find a very nice Williamsburg condo on the other side. We ate slices of pizza at a hole in the wall on Lorimer I still frequent from time to time. It wasn’t so scary, my mom thought. My dad took a 30-minute nap in my new bedroom before they got back in the van and drove the seven hours home. I watched “True Blood” and tried to pretend I wasn’t terrified of street noises.
The next day I started my internship. That first day sucked. I sorted CDs for one of the chart guys. When I left it was storming, and my jersey dress hung in clumps as I went into a Blockbuster on Broadway. I couldn’t drink legally, I had neither friends nor money, and I thought every neighborhood was unsafe. It was the perfect moment to rent old movies on my mental bucket list. I tried to get a Blockbuster card but was denied because my first debit card had not yet arrived in the mail. I thought to myself, ‘I could have sorted CDs and rented movies back in Ohio. This is a mistake, I don’t belong here.’
It got better. For as long as I’ve lived in New York it’s gotten better. I’ve gotten smarter at navigating (both directionally and figuratively), found more of my people, carved out my own modest home. But I think I’ll understand that it’s time to go when the momentum halts. I’m not a lifer. I’m not sure I’m a lifer anywhere, except in my own nostalgic mind.
Lewis’s law is an observation she made in 2012 that states “the comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.” Lewis has written frequently about misogynist hate directed at women online.
Can we just repeat that a few more times,
“The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.”
“The comments on any article about feminism justify feminism.”
bolded is important
Transit Tales, pt. IV
Every morning I make a point of looking at the artwork in the subway tunnel between Atlantic and DeKalb on the B/Q track. I’m sure there’s a specific name for this kind of piece, but the easiest way to describe it is as a flipbook arranged horizontally across the tunnel wall, shifting to the next splash of color as the train moves toward its destination.
This morning I noticed something different from my window seat. The train had a delay right as the artwork was tapering off, and there right next to it were three white buckets covered in dirty handprints, stacked horizontally. They resembled something my mother use for storing frying grease, and they were in their own nook like they were meant to be there.
I suppose the juxtaposition felt a little like an analogy for the city: found art and unexpected beauty butt up against trash. No one thinks twice.
On Personal Web Strategy
I suppose I went nearly cold turkey off Tumblr maybe six months ago, right around the time I discussed my anxiety about my parents’ losing battle with age. It’s felt like there’s been a lot of living crammed into those short months, new responsibilities and new opportunities and new apartments and new companions.
The truth is, I haven’t missed it here one bit, which is weird to think considering how much I used to enjoy this space. Since then, I’ve been trying to unteach myself certain habits w/r/t/ the internet that I’ve been practicing for more than half my life. Specifically, the need to reveal myself online.
After chronicling my relationship history as it relates to the internet earlier this year — for potential suitors and bosses down the line, not to mention my family — I had this slight nagging feeling that there should be a real good reason to make myself vulnerable in that way online. But first I had to learn it wasn’t a great idea. Some of my generation doesn’t understand it’s not a way of life, this living outloud on the internet. And how could we?
I launched my Livejournal when I was 12, and it was where I first learned HTML and The Rules Of The Web. I still remain online friends with some folks I met there through a fan group called “Cuomosexuals” (o_0). I don’t think I would be the same person I am today if I hadn’t spent my formative years feeling on the internet, and I certainly would not do what I do professionally without it. Mostly, all that was a coping mechanism for the negativity in my life I was unable to process at the time. And that’s long over. Spending what felt like half the year recapping Catfish made me realize that I don’t have an unhealthy relationship with the web, and I no longer use it to fill some hole in my life.
Anyway, the whole point of this is to say, I’m re-accessing my general web strategy as it relates to, uh, my existence. (A lot of what Lindsay Zoladz wrote a couple weeks back on this topic really resonated with me.) It’s an odd way to feel when your job involves putting words on the internet all day long, and I still do have a big interest in vulnerable writing from others. So we’ll see. My after-hours free time spent not Tumblring has opened me up for some more original reporting (most recently this), which is more satisfying to me personally at this point in my life than little red hearts.
work stuffs//we threw a show with Minor Alps//Juliana’s shoes tho