Rockcrit and A-Mama Ann Powers thinks way too hard sometimes

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Here's my navel

The paragraph that stunned me most in Joan Didion's exquisitely unbearable grief-book excerpt in the NYT last Sunday was this:

I have been a writer my entire life. As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs, a technique for withholding whatever it was I thought or believed behind an increasingly impenetrable polish. The way I write is who I am, or have become, yet this is a case in which I wish I had instead of words and their rhythms a cutting room, equipped with an Avid, a digital editing system on which I could touch a key and collapse the sequence of time, show you simultaneously all the frames of memory that come to me now, let you pick the takes, the marginally different expressions, the variant readings of the same lines. This is a case in which I need more than words to find the meaning. This is a case in which I need whatever it is I think or believe to be penetrable, if only for myself.

I love the way this graph is so rigorous until the end, when it just kind of fizzles out into helplessness. Kind of like the great lady's Terry Sciavo analysis in the NYRB a while ago. It's terrifying for me to see Didion unravel, since her writing is what taught me the power of voice as a beacon of identity -- and a shield. If Goddess Joan can't do it anymore, how can I? (Of course, she's had is awful rough of late.)

Beyond such anxieties, Didion's piece did bring me back to an often-pondered question: what is the limit of disclosure for a writer who uses first-person (or one who doesn't always, but whose personal experiences highly influence, say, her criticism)? Having lived inside my writer-head for so long, and also inside the world of screened images and commentary, I do sometimes feel a bit like James Woods in Videodrome, merged and invaded. What won't I write about? Really serious things or really trivial things? And what do I feel about the things I don't "write" about -- am I creating scripts about them anyway, shared only with myself? What has been impossible to turn into prose, even internally, or what (I fear) will someday be?

A genius "I, Anonymous" like Peter Guralnick would certainly poo poo such questions. I like how Xgau gets to the strong and weak of Guralnick here, anyway.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Timelessness is so last century

The best thing anybody said in the Dylan doc is Pennebaker's comment about how Dylan's great skill was in adapting -- a new way of saying something oversaid, I wish I'd written it down. The third best moment (second is Dylan's sheepish nonapology to Joan Baez) is Al Kooper's utter astonishment at having been part of history. His quote I got:

I was just caught in this whirlwind of being tacked onto this music that was going to be forever, and being involved in it. And knowing that it was going to be forever. I was just pretty much in awe during "Highway 61."

Contrast this with something a former indie rock musician, now playing every Sunday in a Seattle megachurch, said to me recently:

Playing in church, the hope is that the songs will be more timeless. If I play in an indie rock band, the songs will be around for maybe three months. Or maybe somebody will play that song ten years from now if we’re lucky.

What happened?

Not that this second guy and his band even approach Dylanesque, but it strikes me that the very goal of making lasting impact seems far less pressing these days, for artists. You could say that what's been lost is unecessary ego, pretentiousness, self-delusion. I'm just curious why the mood seems much more get-by than it was even in the mid-90s, and whether that has any impact upon how the music is presented, by the artists and their enablers and received by their fans. Sure, there's mucho blingaling, and desire for commercial domination, and even the strong assertion of identity and, occasionally, values. But the sense that art might move the ice floe of history seems delusional now. Even Bono is, at heart, a pragmatist.

I'm not interested in pompous world-saving gestures. I am, however, interested in what constitues artistic excitement. Who are, not the Dylans, but the Al Koopers of today?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Into the pool with you

So I'm giving this blog thing a try. When I returned to writing fulltime this past June, I got sucked into the microcosm of music blogs, which alternately fascinated and overwhelmed me. Finally, I thought what the heck, I'll throw down. Jason Perfect Sound Forever is the enabler and catalyst. Thanks my friend, I think!

Some ways this will not be like some other music blogs I admire: It won't have MP3's at first; it won't have tons of obscure stuff because that's not what I do; it won't, I hope, be too insider-ish. Basically I'm planning to use this blog as a space to share those insights and observations I can't get into print elsewhere, because I'm the kind of loudmouth who gets frustrated when her "deep thoughts" about certain subjects aren't read by others. (Obnoxify!)

I also enjoy reading mama/daddy blogs and adoption-related blogs. Oh, and recipe blogs. So I'll probably write a bit on those subjects (food, my kid, radical reformation of the nuclear family unit) too.

To wit: the three times recently I wished I had a blog were:

-- When adoption glamor-mom Angelina Jolie wasn't generally worshipped for taking the place of the wonderful but old-hat Jamie Lee Curtis;

-- when I couldn't find anywhere to print my gushings about the Mountain Goats' amazing Sunset Tree;

-- when Brenda Chenoweth of Six Feet Under, a character I identify with to an alarming degree, was getting pummeled by the plot and I wanted to LEAP to her defense.

So I suppose that's the kind of stuff you'll be getting here. Plus links, if I can figure them out, and some personal details.

Why the name?

-- "Eensy Weensy Spider" is, in my opinion, the greatest summation of existential reality ever put to melody. Up the water spout, rain, sun, down the spout, up again. C'est la vie.

-- My comments here will be more eensy weensy than epic, more blahblah than feature-length.

-- I expect that my eensy weensy darling child, Bebe Brooklyn, will be a topic of attention.

So thanks for reading and let me know what you think of my rambles on.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Welcome to Eensy Weensy

Greetings and welcome to what will become the world of the thoughts and musings of Ann Powers. Please check back for updates. Much gray matter will be churned here!