Saturday, February 11, 2023

Steely Albini

(image from this place)

This article - which is just about a series of tweets - made the rounds on Facebook a couple days back. The article is entitled "Steve Albini On Why He Hates Steely Dan." To be fair, he never said he actually hated them - you can read the Twitter thread here. He said, a shot across the bow, "I will always be the kind of punk that shits on Steely Dan."

Personally I think it takes a great deal of energy to hate something. It's wearying. There's music I don't think about, & music I really don't like, but to say I hate any music is to imagine I've invested actual time into caring about it. & I don't like it, so why should I care about it?

Albini writes well, & is funny besides - I would need to have the money the Steely Dans have & their legion of fans to be able to withstand an insult as powerful as "Music made for the sole purpose of letting the wedding band stretch out a little." I mean, I feel wounded by the shrapnel of that remark!

On Facebook, there were the usual agreements & disagreements, with all the requisite huffing+puffing on one side ("he's only saying that because his music is worse than theirs"), & the smug "me too"s on the other side ("I've always said that!"). The amusing middle ground was the people who would say, "I totally agree & yet I love Steely Dan."

Many might think this is about the power of one person's opinion. How influential & amazing Steve Albini must be to cause such a reaction! It's actually not about that. It's about the insecurity of one's own opinion. Because there are few things that threaten a person's sense of self more than finding out someone else doesn't like what you like.

Which is just weird, right? Why should people like what we like?

It's very simple: we imagine we like stuff because it's the best. Why else would we like it? & if someone doesn't like it - especially someone famous! - it's like being told, it's actually not the best. Something you really love isn't the best. Why on earth would I like something that isn't the best?

This is a scenario I encounter over & over again, & have my entire life. I once told an acquaintance who values "sad music" that a record I recently heard I found terribly sad. This person listened to the record & he told me, "It's not sad at all." I said, "It may not be sad to you, but it's very sad to me." He seemed downright perplexed.

There is a prominent podcast person who, when he interviews musicians, he makes sure to ask them if they like some of his favorites. It's so painful for me to listen to this - a person who is more famous than I am desperate for his musical heroes to validate his own opinions - that I can't listen to that podcast anymore - especially if he talks to musicians.

There's a fellow I met who told me he & his friends were working on a way to determine which music was "objectively" the best. Why would someone want to do that? My first guess would be that they want to be able to "prove" they were listening to the best music.

These are things I've said a million times before. There is simply no way to be objective about subjective opinion. Things from the past that we consider "great music" were saved by elites with whom the vast majority of us have nothing in common - there were doubtless things created that many people enjoyed but didn't have the power to copy, save, etc. Using something like popularity (& in Grammy-speak, profitability) to gauge the artistic value of something becomes a dubious proposition because you find yourself weighing what you like against things you won't. Ditto things loved by critics.

For fuck's sake, just love what you love. It's nice when people like what you like - as a person who plays things I like on the radio, it's gratifying to have someone tell me they like what I play. But when they say, as a couple of people have, "You have great taste in music," I hear that as, "You like the same kind of music I do."

One of the acquaintances I mentioned above was regularly infuriated by movie critics. He usually disagreed with them, & that was upsetting for him in itself, but what really bothered him is that more people read their opinions than heard his. The very idea that their wrong opinion was more widespread than his right one caused him a great deal of anxiety.

It only bothered him because he believed the things he liked were good, great, the best & the things he didn't like were bad, terrible, the worst. He was (& probably still is) so painfully insecure that any disagreement with him was a powerful threat. (As an aside, I've known so many people like this, & almost all of them also hated to be "judged." Because they imagined someone like themselves would be judging them?)

How happy I would be if people didn't use words like "best" & used words like "my favorite" instead. Or if we all had radios shows! Do you know how you can tell what musicians I don't like? I don't play them on my radio show!

For me, discussing things I don't like isn't any fun. Like I said, love what you love. & let other people love what they love. The only way someone else's opinion can affect yours is if you give it the power to. Otherwise, your opinion is the most important for you.

Oh no I can hear people disagreeing with me already!

Friday, February 10, 2023


A couple days & one post late - Tuesday's show recap was the 4100th post on this blog. I wasn't entirely aware of it - maybe I just noticed it now - so I didn't think to write something then. & since there's nothing inherently special about the number 4101 - it's not even a prime number!* - all I can do is note that I missed that round, arbitrary milestone, & share with you a picture of our new kitten Bluto.

* 3 x 1367 = 4101. Boo!

Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Self Help Radio 020723: Speech

This one is all over the place. Initially conceived of as a show full of speeches, it took a turn somewhere & decided to be about speech. Including the speeches you make, but also things like parts of speech or figures of speech. Why, I even tell a story about speech therapy I had as a kid! There's even a special section of songs & talk about freedom of speech.

Hopefully it's a nice listen. Which you can do at both the KBOO website & at the Self Help Radio website. Of course, at the show's website you'll need a username (SHR) & a password (selfhelp) but you can download it if you want. Everything that happened on the show (well, most everything) is noted below.

Unaccustomed as I am to speaking, here's my show about speech.

Self Help Radio Speech Show
"Captivating Speeches Made Easy: Even A Child Can Do It! (Introduction)" Better Speaking Institute _Public Speaking Made Easy_
"Universal Speech" The Go! Team _Proof Of Youth_
"Acceptance Speech" Deerhoof _The Magic_

introduction & definitions

"Speech Rapid Fire" Eyeless In Gaza _Photographs As Memories_
"Message Oblique Speech" The Associates _Fourth Drawer Down_
"Political Speech" George Carlin _When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops?_
"Speech For Heated Hearts (The Jaguar Song)" The Color Guard _Speech For Heated Hearts_
"Salad Of Speech" 100 Flowers _100 Flowers_

interview with members of a college Free Speech society

"This Speech Is Free" The Pheromones _Common Scents_
"Freedom Of Speech" Above The Law _Livin' Like Hustlers_
"Free Speech (1st Amendment)" Colin Quinn _Unconstitutional_
"Freedom Of Speech" Arrest! Charlie Tipper _Red_
"Freedom Of Speech" Swansea Sound _Live At The Rum Puncheon_

interview with Constitutional scholar Terrence Tasmin

"The Collected Speeches Of Groucho" The Marx Brothers _Original Voice Tracks From Their Greatest Movies_
"Checkers Speech" The Mr. T Experience _And The Women Who Love Them_
"Blaring Speeches" Blank Dogs _On Two Sides_
"Parts Of Speech" Lori Henriqes _The World Is A Curious Place To Live_
"Power Of Speech" Bob Evans _Goodnight, Bull Creek!_

interview with the Primate Speech Society

"Speech Therapy" Speech Debelle _Speech Therapy_
"Speeches (feat. Oxmo Puccino)" Inna Modja _Motel Bamako_
"Stump Speech" Great Lakes Myth Society _Compass Rose Bouquet_
"Speech Of Foxes" Gem Club _In Roses_
"Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart (No. 2)" Van Morrison _Inarticulate Speech Of The Heart_

interview with Speechifiers Anonymous

"Computer Speech" Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc. _Computer Speech_
"Treated Speech" Cabaret Voltaire _Methodology '74 / '78. Attic Tapes;_
"Speech & Ambulation" Mouse On Mars _AAI_
"Frontline Speech (feat. Prince Far I)" Creation Rebel _Dub From Creation_
"No Speech, No Language" Gregory Isaacs _My Number One_

a story about childhood speech therapy

"Speeches" Faded Paper Figures _Dynamo_
"Speech Bubbles" Why? _Elephant Eyelash_
"Speech Coma" Blood Red Shoes _Blood Red Shoes_
"Beyond Speech" [A]Pendics.Shuffle _Helicopter Hearts_
"Figure Of Speech" Elusive _Allusions_

conclusion & goodbye

"Free Speech" Eddie Harris _Free Speech_
"Speech Of Form" Matthew Shipp String Trio _Visionfest: Visionlive_

Monday, February 06, 2023

Whither Speech?

(image from here)

Self Help Radio's theme tonight is "speech." But what does that mean? Will there be speeches? Will there be songs & talk about "freedom of speech"? What about the parts of speech? Will there be discussion & music about the ability to speak, which is speech? The answer is, of course, yes.

Initially I thought it might be fun to have a show all about speeches. Then I had a caller who requested several speeches, all of which I thought would be quite tedious to listen to on the radio. They were all quite famous, & all quite long (no recommendation of the Gettysburg Address!), & although I suppose they were edifying & historical, I decided a bunch of speeches played back-to-back for three hours, even in the middle of the night, would ultimately be kinda boring.

So what will I play? Oh dude, just tune tonight, midnight to 3am Portland time, on 90.7 fm if you're in town or if you're anywhere there's an internet. One thing is certain - I won't be making any speeches.

Sunday, February 05, 2023

Preface To Speech: Speech Balloons

(by Art Spiegelman - found here)

As a super comics nerd, I love the idea of speech balloons. Says the Wikipedia,

Speech balloons (also speech bubbles, dialogue balloons, or word balloons) are a graphic convention used most commonly in comic books, comics, & cartoons to allow words (& much less often, pictures) to be understood as representing a character's speech or thoughts. A formal distinction is often made between the balloon that indicates speech & the one that indicates thoughts; the balloon that conveys thoughts is often referred to as a thought bubble or conversation cloud.

The origin of speech balloons is cool, & is available at that link, so I don't have to go into it, but I wanted to point out two people who I think are absolute masters of the speech balloon.

One is Walt Kelly, who managed to let you know how a character sounded by the way he lettered the words in the balloon:

(image from here)

The other is Dave Sim, who in Cerebus was masterful at not only conveying the speech in the balloon but also the feelings of the characters. Here is Cerebus himself with a hangover:

(image from here)

There are doubtless better examples from these artists & other examples from the comic world. But those were the first to come to mind.

As if you need any more proof I am a super comics nerd.