My name's Dave. I'm working on it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


October has flown by. October, the crown of fall. And now it is past. The days have been cold and wonderful, and strangely sunny despite it all... but the brutal winter is coming fast. I can feel it. Looking back - as we must do, this time of year - I am amazed at how much has happened, how much I have changed, and how much will change between this writing and next fall.
Growing older has, if nothing else, taught me the folly of being so serious-minded all the time, and so austere in my seemingly noble goal of constantly refining myself. I fell into the habit of never drinking, smoking, or even making the occasional appearance at the Hedge House to see my friends. All in the name of being better. Of reaching for an ideal.
Better than what? What ideal? What does this mean anyway?
I look down the road I've been on and see that it ends like this: I, old and tightly wound, with my hard-won intellectual clarity clutched in my fists like precious jewels that are no good anywhere. Then I look around for company, and see that my friends realized the absurdity of this approach long ago and have gone out for drinks.
That's all done now. Whether I've received some psychic kick to the head by some fall current or from one of my lovely friends, I have taken that path as far as I intend to.
The moment of clarity came, as far as I can pin it down, a few weeks ago when I took my first sip of Wolaver's Oatmeat Stout at a local public house. I drank, and was amazed. This is the taste of fall. This is the life I have been stubbornly resisting. This is good.
And now October is over, and winter is coming fast. What better time to shuck my asceticism and learn the finer points of good beer? To unclench my fists and go spend time with the people I care about?
Is this folly?
Let's discuss it further over a pint of Black Boss Porter. What do you say?

p.s. Good luck, Wrimos!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's Not Bad, You Just Don't Like It

I've overheard more than one occasion tableside discussion at my work which followed some variation on the following theme: the server presents a wine, describing its characteristics and qualities. The patron then tries it, only to exclaim that the wine is terrible and that she absolutely hates it.
Hours later, the server who helped her quips back: It's not bad, you just don't like it.
Now, there are a lot of factors to consider in judging the quality of a wine, and I'll admit to being quite ignorant of most of them. That said, I know when I like a wine and when I don't, even if I can't really articulate why. But I also realize that palates differ, and it isn't for me to judge something harshly just because it doesn't agree with my tongue.
It reminds me how much we slap judgments on everything in our lives. Granted, there's a certain amount of processing and filtering we must perform in order to take the incredible amount of data we receive on a daily basis and make some sense of it. But it's one thing to observe the world we live in, and another to say it's this, that or the other. There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. What the fuck do we know anyway?
I've found myself guilty of this in the form of thinking about a girl. Forgetting for a moment the basic premise than any boy will generally lose his hard-earned sense of reason and logic when musing about a girl he likes; I have spent substantial amounts of time thinking, nay, overthinking various moments and memories until I've worked myself into a neurotic frenzy over what was probably nothing in the first place. Why did she do this? What does that mean? And will it all end in tears? And so on and so forth, ad nauseum. While I consider myself reasonably intelligent and level-headed, things like this make me question: am I so different from the woman at the bar snarling at a perfectly good bottle of wine?
There are an infinite variety of people, thoughts, ideas, expressions, and everything else you can imagine. Just because something is strange to us doesn't mean it's bad. But it's not even that. I think it's foolish to hastily attach value judgments to things, certainly; for how can you know what a thing is with only a cursory glance? Oftentimes the best things reveal themselves only reluctantly, and over time. You just need to give them room to make themselves at home, maybe have a glass of wine or two, and eventually, you might come to see what they really are. What really gets me, though, is the knowledge that beyond simple ignorance, closing our doors to new and different things is terribly limiting. Isn't that the way we grow? It scares me to open myself up to the possibility of letting myself be changed by life, instead of manning the controls with an iron fist all the time.
But if it's scary, it must be worth trying.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Those Days

I'm always interested in that period of an artists' creative life between the time they began practicing their craft and when they unveil their first official release. Discovering what they were like at a more undeveloped, embryonic stage of their career is something most of them go to great lengths to prevent (I've heard of more than one musician expressing displeasure that such-and-such a demo had leaked to the internet); but these glimpses into the past do offer a fascinating look at how they came to be what they are now, which is invaluable in its own right. The official releases can, all too easily, become the only standard of measurement we have. By some perverted abuse of reason, this often brings me to the conclusion that bands such as the Arcade Fire and Okkervil River were simply born great, rather than achieving greatness, or, God forbid, having it thrust upon 'em. That they arrived at the studio, fully-formed, and laid down those beautiful tracks without a backwards glance, never breaking a sweat, and wrapped it up all in time for afternoon tea.
So when I find some recording that sheds some light on the developmental stages, I jump on it. Cracks appear in the shiny artifice I've built around the idea of 'creating,' and I'm less nervous about setting my own sub-par, off-key ramblings to tape.

I heard a wonderful conversation between Will Sheff of Okkervil River and Brian Beattie, their producer, which contains many hilarious insights into this process as well. Look for it after the gap.

p.s. I hope to update this thing more often, while removing the pressure for Grand Statement entries by cutting back the scale of the writings, and in turn increasing their frequency.

Here's a video I really like, by my #1 rock crush, St. Vincent.


Will Sheff & Brian Beattie talking about the Stage Names
The Arcade Fire - My Mind is a Freeway