Monday, August 25, 2008

Only rock and/or roll

So, this is pretty much how it's been for me:

Get up early. Spend a couple of hours struggling to dig in on the new draft of the novel, which has gotten big and unwieldy.

Get to work by 8:30. Come home around 5 or 6 beat with a pocket full of sawdust and a head full of self-doubt about my level of precision with hand and power tools and wondering what I might have accomplished if I'd had those hours to write...

Spend a couple hours helping Edna silk-screen new stuff for her booth at Artists and Fleas (N 6th street btw Bedford and Berry, Saturdays and Sundays 12-7).

Get a couple hours of restorative horizontal time.

Repeat five to six days out of the week in order to keep the bank account hovering at about $100 once the rent, bills and groceries are paid. (This is why I didn't like Hillary's health-care plan: how exactly are you going to require someone in this position -- I work for an independent craftsman who himself operates on tight profit margins -- to pay for insurance without subsidizing it?)

Anyhow, them's the breaks. Glad to be working. Etc. etc.

But every once in a while I try to remind myself why I persist to tough it out in this rich man's town.

Maybe I bicycle down to the Rockaways on a Sunday morning and spend some time in the ocean. (Ten minutes in the ocean can take years off my week.)

Maybe the movie gets picked up by Netflix. Hardly a payday, but it makes me feel like a somewhat accomplished individual with a day job instead of a dead-ender in a rut.

Maybe Matt Morandi finally plays a show as pantagruel on a picturesque corner of Staten Island as thunderstorms pelt Jersey across the water. (see my last post)

And maybe I give up the horizontal time on a Thursday night to go see Asa Ransom.

In this city that's such a magnet for ambitious careerists, I can't help but love it when those bands or artists or movies or writers come along, the ones who come out swinging like the New York goddamn Giants against the New England Nazis and manage to trigger that response in me that the stuff I love triggers -- that thing that keeps me spinning a record twenty years after I first fell in love with it, free of self-conscious posturing and meticulous,'quoting' of whatever's in vogue-- a rhythm not enslaved to beat -- a style not enslaved to fashion -- who also happen to be genuine and nice people (kudos to TV on the Radio, Johnny Society and Dave Deporis, by the way. Just to name a few).

And when they come along -- and I'm fortunate enough to hear about it -- well -- it's a pleasure to break out the camera, stay out late and double the coffee intake the next day. From time to time. I'm not a young man anymore, after all.

I know, I know. That's an unprofessional attitude. I shouldn't be shooting bands because I want to. This is an industry. Nothing's special and nobody's any better than anybody else unless their label pays me to say they are.

How else is the media to be controlled?

The measure of art is marketability. Focus groups. Featured artists. Target demographics. Glossy magazines and sponsored blogs. Database advertising. Quantified individuality. Corporate patronage. Ivy league bricolage. Ones to watch. Hot or not. Synergy. The appropriate and accepted soundtrack for your preferred lifestyle. Listen to what you're supposed to listen to, look at what they show you, eat what they shove in your face and like what you're told to like.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a firm believer that art and media have both cultural and monetary value and commercial viability beyond low-cost broadcast filler, American Idol and paid product placement. Heck, I even think the potential exists for the arts to be a vibrant and lucrative sector of the economy should viable and sustainable decentralized (read as 'not centered in giant corporations...I didn't say it'd happen in my lifetime...) revenue models be established.

In the meantime, I say fuck 'em.

This city ain't dead yet.