Monday, September 14, 2009

Pop curators

Pitchfork Media recently published a list of the top 500 songs of the millennium, along with several other retrospective lists covering the past 10 years.  These “top x” pop culture lists are bullshit in most cases, since the lists imply that the authors are definitive authorities on purely subjective matter.  These lists might be relevant if they were compiled as “most influential,” simply because influence is easier to assess than quality (though it’s still a fuzzy science).  Instead, they usually come across as snobby and irrelevant.  Also, the evaluation criteria is usually unpublished or nonexistent; if Pitchfork posted their criteria somewhere, I couldn’t find it after about 10 minutes of searching.

Still, I don’t mind throwing out the rankings and using this list as a general guide to the music of the ‘00s.  Ryan McGinness, one of my favorite visual artists, has a great quote from a 2005 interview in Giant Robot in which he discusses the role of the curator.

Everyone has a word processor and can cut and paste, so that has created more "writers."  With digital video you have more "filmmakers."  We have "musicians" who can't even read music.  Ultimately, when you broaden any field, the whole of the output becomes diluted, and it's more and more difficult to separate the extraordinary from the average.  This is why the role of the curator or DJ is becoming more and more important.

I trust Pitchfork as a filter through which I get my music, but the whole “official list” thing really gets under my skin, no matter what the context or medium.

Sometimes I wonder if young people are so compelled to passionately argue over & defend their preferences in music, movies, art, etc. because these are the few areas in which they can claim “expertise.”  In our 20’s, most of us aren’t really experts in anything, so we have to construct pride in areas of personal preference - which is easy to do since our preferences can never be objectively proven or disproven.  Not saying this is the case for everyone, just speculating that this is a factor for some.

And of course, since I felt compelled to write a blog post about a pop music list, I’m obviously not above this behavior.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


In July, I went to Paris.  Physically and mentally.  And with my girlfriend.  Amazing Paris comic journal courtesy of Lucy Knisley.

Lengthy vacations allow us to pull up the anchor and drift for a bit.  The difference between today’s Johnny and June 2009 Johnny is probably greater than the difference between June 2009 Johnny and the Johnny of one year prior, and not just in fromage content.

As such, New Johnny’s in charge now, and he’s plotted a new course for the ship.

For starters, I’m cleaning house.  Earlier tonight, I dropped a load of clothes and rarely-used household items at a local non-profit resale shop that funds LGBT services.  (If anyone needs a white noise machine or a shaving cream warmer, hit up the Brown Elephant on Halsted.)  More of my apartment detritus is going up on eBay later this week.  A friend is stopping by tomorrow to pick up half a dozen dress shirts that have been too big for my scrawny frame since the first day I bought them; their departure is long overdue.

I’ve also begun making changes in my computer use.  Patton Oswalt said in his recent AV Club interview, “You can replace the internet with five really smart friends,” and wow, there are a lot of things I like about that brief quote.  As a technophile, mitigating my habitual and at times junkie-like interaction with personal technology is a difficult and evolving process, but I’ve made a few inroads.  One big help: Leechblock, a Firefox extension that lets you lock yourself out of websites you choose, during time frames you choose.  I’ve configured it to keep me away from Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, and several other sites after 9 PM.  It also locks me out of certain sites after a time limit of my choosing; this keeps me from spending all day on 4chan or some other such internet sinkhole.  Per Aldous Huxley via Neil Postman, I’ve ruined many hours on the internet, and I’d really, really like that to stop.

This post will have to end here.  I’m approaching the dangerously recursive territory of losing sleep to spend time on the computer writing a blog about how I should spend less time on the computer.