“Daughter” by Four Tet

“Daughter” by Four Tet

If I could figure out how to lay claim to and then monetize internet searches for “Good Dad Books For Christmas,” then I would. Every time someone buys a ghostwritten memoir from whatever retired New York Yankee cashed in that year, I’d catch a windfall. New history doorstop tome from Ron Chernow? If you buy it for your dad using my algorithm, then I’d get a piece of that action! A new book about clipper ships? Fishing for coho salmon? Weirdly fetishistic histories of assassinations written by discredited, predatory former Fox news hosts? My search results will help. Every year I buy my dad another of these books, and he enjoys them.

Though, last year for Christmas I bought my father a Stratomatic baseball board game, a limp facsimile of the tabletop stat amusement he spent much of his childhood mastering. The man thanked me in a way disproportionate to what I deserved; he raised me, fed me and clothed me for 18 years, then supported me financially for an additional [redacted] years. One $18.99 purchase could not have evened things out.

If you have a positive male role model in your life, I hope you procure for him an impacting and profound gift. Here is “Daughter” by Four Tet.

Rostam – “Don’t Let It Get To You”

Rostam – “Don’t Let It Get To You”

At work I’ve been transcribing interviews recorded on audio cassette in the early 2000s. These recordings are conversations between the university archive’s scholar-in-residence and area LGBTQ+ people. As oral histories go, these are an archivist’s dream: timely, relevant, pretty sexy.

Because physical media is dead, I use an old Sony Walkman, an aux cable, and some free recording software to convert the audio to a digital format. This way, in the near future, anyone who wishes to hear what life was like for coastal Maine’s LGBTQ+ population in the early 21st century can do so easily via the university web site.

Once I have the newly digitized audio file, I play it through at half-speed so I can transcribe the interviews without having to pause after every spoken sentence, which means that everything sounds to me like conversations between two robots with low batteries, having simultaneous strokes, sinking into quicksand.

This week I’ve been transcribing an interview of a man whose devout Christianity clashed with his gay identity. The most interesting part of the interview is him describing his attempt to find an accepting, inclusive spiritual environment so that he could be both openly: a Christian and a gay man. I can’t go into much more detail because we at the archives are not sure whether he signed a release to have his interview public, but I can talk about the basic skeleton of his narrative, though I wish only to point out one thing he said:

In describing his arrival in Portland, Maine, he said, “It was an incredible time and an awful time—like an Orwellian novel.”

I paused the recording and rewound—“like an Orwellian novel.” Surely the dude didn’t mean that his life was an allegory for fascism or totalitarianism, an experience of terminal boredom shared by all high school students past and present.

I played it for my supervisor, the head archive librarian. “Do you think he means it was a ‘Catch-22,’ in this case a Hellerian novel?” I asked.

“No I think he meant Dickensian novel, like, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.'”

“Nah, I disagree,” I said. The way he said it—Orwellian novel—made me believe that he knew the allusion but he didn’t know how to wield it. Once in college, in a nonfiction workshop setting, a classmate of mine pronounced posthumous as “post-hyoo-mass” and nobody corrected him, because we knew what he was saying. I told that to my supervisor.

“Well, we can’t correct a sixteen-year-old cassette recording,” she said.

Rostam’s “Don’t Let It Get To You” is part of my annual best-of dishwashing playlist. [More on that here.] Stay tuned for a full year-in-review, with each song receiving anecdotal, irrelevant consideration.

The Search For Summer’s Song: I Promise

The Search For Summer’s Song: I Promise

What song will capture my summer? I am searching for it. Discussed: “I Promise” by Radiohead

I stopped going to the gas station closest to my apartment because it began playing unskippable content on the pumps. The first time I experienced it, I thought it was benign because it showed only the weekend’s forecast and a word-of-the-day slide (that day: loquacious) along with some inoffensive public domain muzak. Surely it was ok to pump gas and get the weather and an expanded vocabulary; in fact I left the pump heartened that someone might use a new word in conversation that day—a horizon broadened, an intellect deepened.

But the next time, the pumps played celebrity gossip and hockey bloopers (which aren’t bloopers because any mistake in hockey is a violent crime.) There wasn’t an opt-out button. No mute. No volume knob. The only way to stop it was to stop pumping gas so that the screen could interrupt the content to ask if you wanted a receipt. I am not against celebrities, I am not against gossip or sports or dudes getting hit in the crotch with a hockey stick. I am against these things when I have no choice. And so pumping gas at this station became a hostage situation, a late-capitalist violation of my right to tell marketing to shut the fuck up.

There is another gas station nearby that is always one or two cents more per gallon and I go there now, because no one else does, because it forces nothing on me, because for the 90 seconds it takes to fill up my tank I like to lean against the side of my car, place my feet on the concrete base of the pump, and zone out. I get a good stare going, alternating between an unfocused blot in the distance and the numbers ticking up in front of me.

Two days ago I was doing this—attempting a zen emptiness at the slightly more expensive gas station—when a minivan parked at a weird angle on the opposite side of the pump. It didn’t park like you would in any other car—lining the rear of it up with the nozzle—no the minivan’s nose was at the pump, and it broke me from my stare because I thought I was looking at a new kind of car with a gas tank in the front, that I was about to see someone pop the hood and stick the nozzle directly into the engine. Efficient! Dangerous, yeah, I thought, but efficient.

A woman in a sweater and an ankle-length dress got out of the passenger seat, walked around the front, and approached me. She had a kind, familiar face, one that reminded me of a kindergarten teacher, or a librarian, or a compassionate speech and language pathologist who would make a point of praising you for your work on eliminating your stutter, even though you don’t care about progress because you care only for the end result: speaking freely. Still, it would feel good that someone noticed.

“You look like you’re having a calm moment,” said the woman.

“I guess I am,” I said.

“Can I interest you in some uplifting literature?” She held out a brochure. Its title was Will It Never End? Finding God After Suffering.

“Oh.” I said. “No, thank you.”

“OK!” she said, and got back into her minivan and left.

At work I told one of my coworkers what happened. “I got proselytized to at the gas station this morning,” I said.

“Kind of a weird spot to do God’s work,” she said.

“Do I look particularly despairing? Do I look sad?

“No, you don’t,” she said without looking up.

Perhaps this is my summer’s song: a previously unreleased track from the twentieth anniversary reissue of Radiohead’s OK Computer. This is the song for a man with a resting sad face, a man whose life intersects at the comical and the ironical, who is naive enough to think he can avoid advertisements, whether they’re for gas station hot dogs or for God’s many-roomed house.

The Search For Summer’s Song: Cut To The Feeling

The Search For Summer’s Song: Cut To The Feeling

What song will capture my summer? I am searching for it. Discussed: “Cut To The Feeling” by Carly Rae Jepsen

We do not deserve Carly Rae. She owes us nothing. She should give us nothing. We drag our knuckles toward obsolescence, we kneecap our empires, we embarrass ourselves and soil ourselves and break ourselves in half, yet Carly so loves the world that she gives her one and only genius.

Don’t give us a whisper, Carly Rae, or even a burp. We deserve none of it.

This could be the song of my summer.

The Search For Summer’s Song: I’m The One

The Search For Summer’s Song: I’m The One

What song will capture my summer? I am searching for it. Discussed: “I’m The One” by DJ Khaled, feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne

Perhaps this is summer’s song: a collaboration of braggadocio, a group effort at making promises not a single one of these dudes with feature verses on this track can keep.

Khaled—who tries and succeeds at redefining the DJ’s role as one of facile mediation and posse orchestration—brings together Lil Wayne, Justin Bieber, Quavo, and Chance the Rapper to feature, though I can also imagine him hosting these artists to see if they would be his starting five for an upcoming celebrity basketball tournament. (I can see them beating Arcade Fire.)

Some people have strong, half-formed opinions when I ask them about DJ Khaled. They love him; he has become a comfortable waypoint on the pop landscape since 2010’s “All I Do Is Win.” Others, still, hate him as a low-rent jester who screams, “Another one!” at the top of every song, as if it’s a promise that music will continue unabated forever.

Even those with whom he surrounds himself are in on this joke: the DJ as headlining star. Lil Wayne in his verse: “ Straight up out the Crescent / Fly your bae down for the Essence / For the record, I knew Khaled when that boy was spinnin’ records.” It’s the music industry’s open secret! A DJ who jockeys no discs! Who cares. “I’m The One” is good, treacly, and I welcome its constant rotation.

“Another one!” says DJ Khaled, reassuring us. “Another one! In case you were worried about the collapse of art and commerce, the twilighting of our civilization, brought low to its knees and returning to dust. Another one.”

Here is another one.