Sunday, September 03, 2006

Is this creation or a blog?

So why have I decided to hop on to the bandwagon three plus years into the phenomena?

I find myself thinking a lot. These are mostly random thoughts, often depending on what I’m doing/watching/being yelled at for. For instance, when I think on Sunday, it will probably be about politics because I watch This Week With George Stephanopolis followed by Meet the Press followed by my wife mocking me for watching said programs. When I think on Saturday it will probably be either about baseball and how sick to death I am about how Fox Saturday Baseball always and exclusively shows the Yankees.

Steph has recently begun working Weekend nights. This means a lot of Friday and Saturday nights at home keeping an ear out for Addy while re-watching movies and drinking alone (always a good combo, right?). Tonight I’m watching The Royal Tenenbaums and drinking Moosehead, which is probably my favorite movie ever and favorite beer ever. Kudos for me.


I certainly hope it’s not arrogance that is driving me to catalog my thoughts. I mean, heaven forbid any of my thoughts get lost to the ravages of time, dissipating off into outer space along with the 94.7 J.B. and Sandy Show. I would like to think that my thoughts have value in and of themselves. Even more so, I would like to think that any discussion that they prompt would have even more value. Still though, isn’t the purpose of every personal blog a little self serving and pretentious? We feel as if what we are doing and feeling is so important to put it on public display. We leave a comment section so as to receive affirmation that what we do, say, and think is important.

Here’s the thing though: the most successful blogs have a focus. Whether it’s about a struggle over cancer, politics, or a baseball blog, those are the ones that I continually go back to (note: deadspin.com is the greatest site the World Wide Web has ever seen).

Most blogs serve as simply a way to keep up with friends. And that’s an excellent thing. It’s just not me. This blog will not be about my life and the highs and lows and the minutiae of what it’s like to be me. I’m not often going to tell you what I did today, I’m going to tell you what I thought today. This is certainly not a diary. Diaries are to be naked, brutal, and private. Knowing that people will read your thoughts will invariably alter those thoughts. It’s like Schrödinger's Cat.

Maybe it is arrogance. Not only do I enjoy reading my old thoughts from years past, I’ve seen the jolt of excitement that runs through my wife when she gets a comment. Also, in order to comment on deadspin.com you either need to be invited or have a blog of your own, preferably with the occasional sports reference – more to come on that.

So what to expect? A quick but not an exhaustive list of things you’ll read about here at Dear Mr. Supercomputer: music, fatherhood, the state of Cleveland sports, my disdain for reality television, politics, education, priceless Scoop Jackson quotes, random links that I find funny and/or interesting, movie reviews, sleep deprivation, why flying is among the worst experience anyone can… well… experience, and a dash of spirituality.

I am not ashamed: I hope to be funny, thought provoking, and generally what you would hope for from a first date. I hope to receive comments. It will be moderately stream-of-consciousness, but it will be edited to achieve maximum impact.

I sure hope I can keep up with this blog. One of my characteristics that just makes me so awesome is that when I do something, I like to go all out. Whether it’s in my job, or my fantasy baseball team (which is abysmal at this writing), I like to throw myself into something. To be honest, I don’t do a whole lot, but what I do do, I want to do very well. And if it doesn’t stick, I don’t do it.

I hope this blog sticks.

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And now, my first post.

I figured there would be no better place to start than with the reference of the name: "Dear Mr. Supercomputer. "

At the risk of overedatorialising, Sufjan Steven’s recent release, The Avalanche, is in itself a projection of what independent music is becoming.

In 2005 Stevens released Illinois, a sprawling, 20 plus track, 75 minute epic album with overlong song titles, all based in Illini history, culture, and folklore. You would think that 75 minutes would be enough. It turns out that Stevens had another 70 plus minutes in him and therefore released The Avalanche: Outtakes and Extras from Illinois.

Normally, albums such as this feel like a B-sides collection: the stuff that wasn’t quite good enough to be on the original album. Or when they try to disguise the fact that it was the throwaway material, such as Radiohead’s Amnesiac was to Kid A. On Avalanche, however, the tracks are just about as strong as the ones on Illinois. Granted, there isn’t the coheasiveness and overarching theme of redemption, but if you were to replace any of the Illinois tracks with one from Avalanche, you wouldn’t know the difference.

The album begins with the title track, which begins softly enough, but eventually becomes a wall of sound of halting strings and a rousing mantra. The following track, for which this blog was named, is as strong as any track on any Stevens album. In 7/8 time, Stevens asks questions of humanity over the rhythm of a computerized keyboard. From that point on, the tracks touch on everything from the historical influence of politician Adlai Stevenson, the insight of author Saul Bellow, and Stevens’ particular forte: random, folklorish events from rural and mid-level towns.

It is almost as if each track begins with a basic line or melody and Stevens continues to add layer after layer of instrumentation until it can barely hold the weight. And this is why the album is a microcosm of independent music.

Technology, particularly recording technology has gotten to the point where any schmuck with a computer can write a song and save it on the computer. When the right time comes, a layer of instrumentation can be recorded, generated, or hell, even emailed into the track. Lush production is no longer reserved for the major record labels. Rock is no longer solely for guys with braggadocios egos and overcompensated inferiority complexes. You can be an introspective literature major and wind up on top 10 lists across the country. All it takes is someone with Stevens’ knack for hearing multiple melodies from one basic chord progression. In “The Henry Buggy Band,” Stevens introduces the basic guitar riff and melody and by the time the refrain hits, there’s a resounding call by a supposed chorus.


Stevens was able to create a strong, lengthy album from what were basically his leftovers. He reworked the songs, added to them, changed them, and even offered three different takes on “Chicago.” While Stevens is clearly an acclaimed songwriter and a musical madman, The Avalanche shows us the incredible sound that can be produced, so long as you have the creativity. A-

5 comments:

Adam said...

Welcome Geoff. I am confident your blog will be quite wonderful - I hope it sticks. We do know that all computers go to heaven - so you should do just fine.

Kendra said...

we all have to dump our brains sometimes, Geoff.

even stephen hawking.

do you think he has a blog? i'm gonna look

gk said...

Adam - are you a Sufjan fan??

Adam said...

I don't know if I can call myself a Sufjan fan because I haven't heard all his stuff or anything. I just don't buy music very much which keeps me from listening to much new music...but I have really liked what I have heard of Sufjan (some of his last couple cds). I actually was first exposed to him through his Christmas music (oddly enough). Anyways, I do like him and might just consider myself a real fan someday. (long answer to a short question. I'm good at that...)

gk said...

That's cool. Illinois might just be my favorite album of all time. But Seven Swans would probably strike your fancy.