wax banks

second-best since Cantor

Month: August, 2015

Scattered observations on RPG style, tweet-aggregator/aggravator edition.

Just testing out tweet embeds (and wishing the phrase ‘tweet embeds’ didn’t exist), no big deal.


Note pertaining to art in/as time.

‘Music is a technology for regulating the movements of animal bodies.’ I wrote that, and I almost believe it — though I have trouble fully believing anything anyone writes, yes absolutely including myself. And by ‘movements’ of course I mean not only hips and lips but flows at a larger scale: the self-circling movement of the flock. Groove is what inorganic matter (the room, the air between our animal bodies, the wax cylinder on the phonograph) has instead of what we call ‘memory,’ and rhythmic pulse guides us into that groove, a literal older way, an inherited instruction set applicable at scale. Harmonic pulse too, both mnemonic (for remembering lyrics, though also vice versa) and complex desire-map.

(I’m listening now to a recording of Miles’s band doing ‘Honky Tonk’ at the Cellar Door in 1970, Jarrett moving in sly circles around the inexorable slow pulse of the bass guitar, harmonic information flowing across smooth stone surface while a rhythmic channel carves away a deepening straight line beneath…)

Music’s an adhesive, and please note by the way that ‘cohere’ and ‘adhere’ mean two related but different things. It acts on our will, pulling rather than pushing; and we/our bodies respond to, or in some complex sense are manifestations of, that will. And it does so according, lossily, to the intentions of its makers. They are parts of the mind the music brings us into contact with, and that mind’s desires are encoded — mapped — in the work; the music gives us more direct access to that desire than any other technology, which is why every culture that’s ever existed has reinvented music according to its own desires. (Now the directness of the sax solo — Grossman? Bartz? I can never remember, damn it — fulfills the contract established by Jarrett’s polytonal keyboard fantasy. Blues music is a cultural technology of survival, the man says.)

Art is a machine for inducing psychotropism at a distance.

And if you can get from that pronunciamento to ‘action at a distance’ as a partial definition of ‘magic,’ well, I’m right there with you.


The trick might be to find someone really deserving, not necessarily brilliant or ‘interesting’ but at least committed to bringing something beautiful into the world, and to give them a boost, and to do so beautifully — lastingly.

A beautiful idea will do, in a pinch.

How to be a better TV recapper, if you insist on being one of those at all.

Don’t say these things:

  • ‘Character X had Emotion N in that scene (unstated: ‘…which is obvious, because the actor was “acting” that feeling on the screen’). I can relate. I had a feeling like that in college.’

If you’re ever tempted to share an insight into human behaviour that you gleaned from watching Garden State or equivalent, don’t. Don’t, don’t, please don’t; and also piss off. And for God’s sake, we can see the actors acting right there. No one needs you point out when a character is feeling an emotion.

  • ‘Character Y’s storyline this season explores Themes A and B’ (unstated: ‘…which are obvious to any adult who’s paid even the slightest attention to the show this year’)

Spot-the-symbolism and let’s-enumerate-‘themes’ are stupid parlor games writers play when they’re out of original ideas. (That’s why they’re so popular in high school/college English classes.) If you go babbling about the symbolic register you’d damn well better have something more interesting to say than ‘I liked this.’

  • ‘Character Z would never do C or D, which totally took me out of the story’

Characters aren’t people, they’re devices — story elements — and your disbelief isn’t of interest. If you can’t justify your disengagement other than ‘He would never act that way!’ then you’re not a critic. That’s one of the things critics do, for Christ’s sake.

  • ‘Let me talk about the psychology of this nonexistent being whose every action is scripted by six demographically identical Hollywood hacks’

See above.

  • ‘I can’t point to any single element that made this sequence work, but…’

If you don’t know why the scene works, shut your mouth and figure it out, or else just give up.

  • ‘Here are twenty different phrases, every one histrionically equivalent to “Character Q performed the following actions”‘

You don’t need to melodramatize character actions on a TV melodrama. What’s happening onscreen is clear to everyone who’s paying attention; you shouldn’t bother with anyone else. If you have nothing to say, say nothing instead of hyperventilating to meet word count.

  • ‘Here is a list of awesome moments from tonight’s episode involving Character T!’

Oh, that happened? To a main character on the show I just watched? Well, knock me over with a feather.

You’re welcome, rube.

(N.B.: I’ve probably made these mistakes in the past. I’d like to think I haven’t made them in a longish while. Dunno though.)

Lasers in the jungle somewhere.

A housewarming party for beloved friends in Newton (but not the inexcusably chi-chi part), no lawn and not really enough room for all the guests but there’s a koi pond and we lay out blankets in the driveway at dusk. Nerd nights on Wednesdays playing German board games and talking about our spouses. Blueberry picking and a dip in the swimming pool at a commune full of medieval reenactors. July 4th on the lawn on a hill above Union Square, music playing, raucous laughter, the now-unfamiliar clink of wineglasses. Friday dinners with an unexpected group of new friends from preschool.

And everywhere we turn, our children — asking impossible questions, telling weird stories, hiding in the woods, hoarding only the blue Legos, forming tenuous ad hoc alliances against one another, feasting on freshly picked fruit, rolling their eyes at the sight of coffee cups, crashing one another’s balance bikes, dashing down the corkscrew ramp around the massive central tank of the New England Aquarium, pestering Central Massachusetts’s local fauna, repeating verbatim snatches of overheard profanity-laden argument, singing the occasional Queen lyric, scrambling up and down rock formations and the low-hanging branches of deciduous trees, absolutely breathtakingly beautiful and impossibly wise and good. Better than us, though we’re alright for the most part.

I wouldn’t’ve known to want this until five years ago, when I first heard my son’s cries and I transformed (as he did) into some unfamiliar new person.

Now it’s all I want, just about, and though I can’t quite believe it, it’s right here. We have what we need.