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Partying Is Such Sweet Sorrow 

This column will self-destruct in less than 10 minutes

Wednesday, Feb 1 2006
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like at this moment to announce that I will be retiring from this program in two weeks' time, because of poor ratings. Since this show was the only thing I had going for me in my life, I have decided to kill myself. I'm gonna blow my brains out right on this program ....

-- Howard Beale, Network (1976)

Oh, now, don't worry: not with a bang but a whimper. That's the way this column's world is going to end. I just thought the Beale quote was a saucy way of beginning that end. But make no mistake -- it is ending. Today. As of this moment, or at least when you finish reading, I pronounce you free of my serialized ruminations on the subject of music. All that's left to clear up are a few minor technical questions, submitted by readers over the years, that have gone unanswered -- lingering mysteries, long-held suspicions, dangling chads. Let's get right to it:

Q: What do you look like?

A: I'm tall and what you'd call barrel-chested. I have blue eyes and currently wear a beard, because beards are fashionable, among other reasons.

Q: Do you listen to all of the CDs you get in the mail?

A: Oh God, no. That would be impossible. I do my best.

Q: What does "OK Then" mean, anyway?

A: I've never really known. All I knew when I began this column in June 2003 was that I didn't want to name it something stupid, like "Koncentration Kamps" or "Sound Mind" or any other music double-entendre or pun. Then I decided that if I couldn't come up with something clever (which I couldn't), I'd choose a total non sequitur, something that didn't mean that much at all. Today, I regret this. Or maybe I have mixed feelings about it.

Q: Why are you such a smug asshole?

A: Whoa, just ask that out of nowhere, huh? OK, fine: I'm sure it has something to do with being raised upper middle class and spoiled, and from gleaning most everything I know about the world through mass media channels, and then becoming very, very cynical as a result, because, if you'll allow me to again quote Mr. Beale, "Television is not the truth. Television's a goddamn amusement park. Television is a circus, a carnival, a traveling troupe of acrobats, storytellers, dancers, singers, jugglers, sideshow freaks, lion tamers, and football players. We're in the boredom-killing business."

Q: Why are you so obsessed with Network, and what does this have to do with music?

A: Good question. (Strange that a reader would have known to mail in a question so apropos of my line of thinking at the moment.) To answer the second part first: I've written more than 100 columns about music, so leave me alone. Re this movie, it's one of my favorites of all time, because, for one thing, it was so prophetic. It foresaw the devolution of news, politics, and even interpersonal relationships into these strange postmodern entertainments, mere distractions from lives few of us remember how to live. Its message is depressing, but as art it's fearless and inspiring. Best of all, it won four Oscars: Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actress. Imagine such a daring movie doing that today. It's just not possible.

Q: Why are you listening to that one Cat Power song right now?

A: Oh, you mean "Colors and the Kids"?

Q: Yeah.

A: I dunno, just kind of depressed, I guess. Here, listen: "Must be the colors and the kids/ That keep me alive/ 'Cause the music/ Is boring me to death." I know, it seems weird for a music writer to quote that line, but it's not. This tune hinges on two opposing thoughts -- "I could stay here, become someone different/ I could stay here, become someone better" and "It's so hard to cope/ Here in the city/ 'Cause you want to say, 'Hey'/ To everybody." Hope/joy vs. despair/anguish. The two states helix around each other in this song. My tenure here as a music writer (and I guess this applies to most people's lives in general) is defined by that helix: I hope eternally for good jams, but that very hope informs a recurring disappointment, which subsides for periods of time when good jams arrive, but which returns eventually and so on. It's Sisyphean. But there are the colors and the kids, and there always will be.

Q: Are you serious?

A: About what?

Q: Well, that just sounded kind of fruity or New Age-y. Kinda stupid.

A: "I'm trying to get at something so simple --"

Q: Excuse me?

A: It's from a poem by David Berman of the Silver Jews (see, that's music-related). Just shut up for a second:

I am trying to get at something so simple

that I have to talk plainly

so the words don't disfigure it

and if it turns out that what I say is untrue

then at least let it be harmless

like a leaky boat in the reeds

that is bothering no one.

Q: Ummmmm.

A: I've always liked those lines.

Q: This is sort of a depressing way to go out.

A: Gosh, I know. I don't mean it to be. I've had some amazing times doing this job. I could give so many shout-outs right now to everyone who's made covering local music in this town a joy, but I think that -- and I know this is so clichéd and all -- I think that such a list would be too long to publish. Equally lengthy would be a catalog of all the good times I've had, the bands, the songs ... all of this amazing stuff. But again, too much.

Q: So you're resorting to this gimmick?

A: Yeah. And I even stole it from someone else. When it comes down to it I'm not even that original.

Q: So this is goodbye?

A: Pretty much.

Q: OK then.

About The Author

Garrett Kamps


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