31 December 2017

Once a Writer, Twice...??

An older friend who has earned the authority to say so tells me (paraphrasing here) that my writing is tantalizing but unpolished. Given the surfeit of mindless positivity in circulation today, I certainly appreciate the frankness and take no personal offense. I also think it is the proper assessment. In the end, though, I don't anticipate bending towards journalistic accessibility as her critique suggests, or at least not with any particular alacrity.

The task of giving concrete voice to inner thoughts must count as an abiding passion of mine by now, actions speaking loudest of all as the saying would have it. Even so, it is not and never will be an identity; definitely not a personal one, and most likely not a professional one either. For better or worse the tuba seems destined to continue in both roles until further notice. Identity being a far heavier burden than passion, the process of making peace with the externally imposed demands of professional instrumentalism1 has been long, slow, and often tumultuous. Not too much has changed since my mother first diagnosed her 4 year-old only child as "stubborn," and so it is that the intervening three decades of psychosocial development have seen the formation and refinement of many elaborate rationalizations for this trait's oft-neglected social utility (and a few half-hearted efforts at personal reform). Tuba playing has nonetheless been the site of my most extensive and compulsory mediation with a society which lets no good deed goes unpunished; and so, having thus given over one life-consuming endeavor to such protracted mediation in exchange for an identity, the mere thought of giving over other parts of myself to this miasma is a bridge too far. Given both where this society has been it has been and where it is going, any mediation with it is destined to be an ongoing, dialectical process rather than a cleaner teleological one, heroic in a Promethean sense rather than the Spartan one that I, like most other professional brass players, would much prefer to known for. (At least I have that in common with my colleagues in the brass world. This has not always always been obvious.)

I should add that relocating to a place where I can actually make a living playing my horn has allowed me to further compartmentalize this uncompromising streak, which to say also to consolidate it. In hindsight, it's clear enough that in my twenties I was conditioned by failure on this front. The material payoff for compromise was then so meager as to not be worth the trouble, and I became less and less sure that professional instrumentalism suited me at all even as my commitment to instrumentalism more broadly construed never wavered. Nonetheless, as I type this I have turned down a grand total of two paying tuba gigs simply because I didn't want to endure them, and needless to say I've accepted dozens which I would rather not have. I remain weary of those self-styled musicians-in-the-trenches who would make such amenability into the single criterion of a classically capitalist musical meritocracy; and yet in my gut I am indeed strangely proud of my record in this department even as intellectually I will always look at such pride as irredeemably perverse and have no less trouble than ever conjuring some pretty good abstract arguments and real-life anecdotes alike to support that assessment.

As for other accounts, my lifetime earnings as a composer are not enough to buy a tank of gas, and my earnings as a writer of words are literally zero. If either state of affairs bothered me intensely enough, I would have done more about it; I've certainly been party to enough facile huckstering over the years that appropriating a few tactics here and there wouldn't be all that hard. For now I have no such inclinations. I have long suspected and now truly believe that relative to the competition I have much more to offer in these two areas than I do as a tuba player. In college I used to ponder this question as one of choosing the right career; now I'm thankful that I made the "wrong" choice back then. As long as I can survive as a tuba player, I can listen, study, and write strictly on my own terms, and I'll be at peace with this balance in a way that I never could be were the polarity reversed.

Of course in my capacity as uncompromising, rationalistic grown-up-only-child, I'm not content to stop there: I have often been left with the impression that others need me to compromise on their behalf more than they really care about bringing me along for whatever world-conquering careerist ride they have plotted out. It is invariably a ride which requires, let's say, a band of other sentient human beings, each one spontaneously grabbing a paddle and commencing to row in proper synchrony as if by magic. (This will certainly be the narrative spun later, whether or not it is the least bit true.)

Having thus gone "further," there remains the "deeper:" I sensed in the discussion which prompted this post (which was offline and one-to-one) as well as in many prior mediations something akin to so many canonical art-historical polemics: form as against content; art as against entertainment; writing for oneself as against writing for the audience; and not insignificantly, refined as against unrefined modes of expression. To wit, I decided years ago that my posture here and anywhere else I might publish my "writings" is most definitely not as a writer per se but rather as a thinker presenting thoughts via the least wretched of the many wretched avenues one has for doing so.

I'm just seasoned enough to acknowledge the puerile aspects of this sentiment, and likewise to stand by it unapologetically even so. Scholar, critic, theorist, analyst...these are at least fit to be personal identities, if not in every case professional ones. "Writer" is, besides being tainted with the stench of Hollywood pretension, too vague in one sense and too specific in another. "Prophet" meanwhile is a rather absurd and value-laden term which is used and abused in much the same vein as is "genius," but one which is thus applied quite often to people whose writerly (and musical) achievements I most admire. Rather than indicating privileged communion with an all powerful creator, it could simply mean one who speaks The Word of a given discipline from a place of great knowledge; who mediates with a body of knowledge in service of society, as opposed to the messier, joyless task of mediating with society in service of a body of knowledge as so-called professionals do. If we can ever agree upon less loaded terminology to indicate that distinction, I will happily put it into service.

1. Spell-check/autocorrect flags this word, hence it's worth clarifying that I mean it to encompass both performing and teaching. To omit the latter would implicitly deny the role it has played in sustaining me both financially and, for lack of a better word, spiritually.

30 December 2017

The Sneakernet of Everyday Life

A couple of years after college I commenced sporadic production of a half-humorous zine as an outlet for various petty frustrations with the world of music and musicians. The focus was more personal and quotidian than on this blog, which I started around the same time. Blogging being public and more or less permanent, I have always maintained that the more personal the content the more interesting and unique it ought to be. Ditto regarding any imperative towards expression as that word is broadly and colloquially construed across The Arts. Seems to me that any such imperative is necessarily colored by several more general features of the society or social group in question, e.g. the degree of shared experience, conformity to norms, obedience to authority, and so on. In other words, most of us are not quite different enough from each other for the public airing of even the most intimate details to be the least bit interesting to our various constituencies. (And if a public airing is to be deemed necessary on purely therapeutic grounds, then the offending malaise must be a particularly virulent and contagious one indeed; on which point I must thereby beg your indulgence in suspending judgment of this meta-airing until its purpose has become clear.)

In any case, as the blog has skewed speculative, the zine has become an archive of the personal, and this dovetailed with the fact of the latter's strictly private and offline circulation. I have recently resumed production after a long hiatus and am finding it quite useful in exactly this way. The reason, however, for writing at length on all of this now is to relate a very practical use, perhaps even a necessary one, which has recently emerged and which never would have occurred to me the day I brought out the first installment.

Employers are demanding to moderate what their employees say about them online, and not even a jazz tuba player can avoid falling under surveillance. This was ostensibly the case with a certain car opera recently staged in and around LA by a company you probably haven't heard of, and it is ostensibly the case regarding my current employment with an entertainment franchise you’ve most certainly heard of. Neither of the organizations in question will ever be mentioned by name here, not by me at least, and not by you either if you happen to know me well enough to put all of this together and would like me to be able to address any new developments to the already limited extent possible under the circumstances. They will not be mentioned because as a condition of employment both demand authority to moderate online content pertaining to them, and because one is known to devote significant resources to this. (And really, what quantity of resources is not "significant" when you consider the implications of such policies and the time-is-money realities of running a business?)

For what it’s worth, I don’t have to start a limited-run, privately-circulated, dead-tree social commentary franchise with which to digest, explore, archive and (usually) exorcise the vicissitudes of such personal experience: I already have one as an existential matter if not much of a material one. What I didn’t have before was real necessity for such an outlet ("real" in this case meaning "beyond the personal")1. Thanks to the new thought police, which, like so many other rhetorical constructions of modernist dystopian thought, has coalesced fragmentarily and incrementally rather than all at once, now I do.

For anyone just devoted enough to my personal concerns to be an earnest and comprehensive reader of both publications, it might be useful to think of the zine as a sort of annotated bibliography in support of the more sweeping generalizations I make here about the professional circles I inhabit, and perhaps also as a way of “blogging” on topics and experiences which would be socially ungraceful and/or professionally damaging to address publicly online. I suppose this betrays my rather cynical view of prevailing norms of social and professional comportment, but unfortunately there is almost always something arising from artists' relationships with employers and/or with each other which really ought to be addressed and brought to wider attention, i.e. for the specific purpose of giving the community a chance to look itself in the mirror. Social grace and professional viability are quite flimsy excuses for forgoing such opportunities: first, because together they amount to very little when compared to the potential chilling effect of the new reality; and second, because, as I am attempting to outline here, it is not impossible to have it both ways given the variety of media and social settings presently at our collective disposal. In any case, there won't be much worldly grace or prestige left to preserve if transparency is ritually sacrificed to branding in this arena as it already has been in so many others. Unfortunately the seemingly ideal online platforms which emerged in the 1990s are in the 2010s now equally ideal for surveillance. Hence the ongoing need for a Sneakernet of Everyday Life.

1. Again, is “personal” necessity ever better than oxymoronic vis-a-vis the act of telling others about yourself? And does the therapeutic value of artistic "expression" really hinge on the act of public presentation over and beyond private creation? Even if the answer is simply, "It depends," these two questions are always worth pondering before hitting the Send button. Ask me how I know.

28 December 2017

Preliminary/Residual Thoughts on Descaling

(1) When even the most specialized of academic specialists cannot hope to keep up with the deluge of publication in their narrow specialty, the result is a new and distinctive kind of social volatility borne of something like information overpopulation. Research findings would then resist synthesis into social action, operating only in fragments scattered far and wide throughout the social system. Many collective advances would remain mere potentialities whose likelihood of manifesting plummets as the system continues to grow in scale. No matter the gross quantity of raw information such gains in scale might beget, the basic unit of social agency (the individual human being) stays pretty much the same. Ditto the system gain from pooling such units into networks (e.g. research teams, political action committees, musical ensembles) which show diminishing returns at scales proportionate to today's information overload. Even the effect of introducing better information into the system is mitigated by diffusion given such vast scale as the current global village (not to mention its Virtual shadow-world) has attained. The tortu(r)ously slow burn of incremental progress seems pleasurable in comparison to the fracturing and anomie which the present situation promises to engender.

(2) The above assumes that an increase in the gross quantity of overall knowledge production begets a corresponding and proportionate increase in the (smaller) gross quantity of competent and constructive knowledge production; this as opposed to merely spreading ever thinner a fixed quantity of collective intellectual potential. This is a very large assumption which may not be warranted; but if not, then we are left with an older, simpler problem: the haystacks grow while the needles and the metal detectors pretty much stay the same. As for the sentient pieces of throbbing flesh wielding the latter device, one can only hope that their dignity is not too closely cherished.

(3) Perhaps then there is something to be said for periodically turning one's back on the great data diffusion and carving out a little extra time to cherrypick the choicest nuggets from the twilight of pre-computerized thought, e.g. in the same vein as Debord but with a dash more childlike curiosity and a tad less puerile obstinacy. Whatever strictly perspectival shortcomings individual thinkers of the recent past might now be understood to have had, at least the economy of ideas within which they were subsumed was of a more just and optimal scale. Even the choicest of today's intellectual nourishment is grown in depleted soil, meanwhile, and thus perspective has become a problem of abundance rather than one of scarcity. If this is not quite a fatal blow to progress, it just as surely has not been adequately accounted for by progressives who merely consider the ostensible quality of information but not the system-level prospects for making any use of it whatsoever. In any event, it promises to be a very long time indeed before ideas are again permitted to circulate in an optimally-scaled intellectual environment; optimally-scaled, that is, not merely for progress but also for dignity.

(4) A recent 30 second junket on Google produces one intriguing and one utterly demoralizing revelation: (a) the term/concept "descaling" has found at least cursory usage in the heavy economics literature; (b) in absence of companion terms to narrow the field, any such Google search is badly confounded by the far more pressing and widely discussed issue of how to clean a coffeemaker.

25 December 2017

First Reflections Occasioned By the Long-Awaited Digital Matriculation of the ECM Catalog

(1) A lot of new stuff suddenly sounds a lot less new.

(2) It is a unique pleasure (not to say an essential one) to encounter severely "dated" music which nonetheless remains compelling.

(3) Only now is it obvious to me that my musically formative years (the late 1990s and early 2000s) had a unique and identifiable sound (the playing, the writing, and yes kids, even the production) which has undoubtedly left its mark. Even ECM's distinctive and consistent house production leaves room for this impression.

24 December 2017

Automation and Autonomy

A friend suggests that live musical performance by human beings could become a species of Vintage Aesthetic when seen against the impending advance of computers and computer-brained robots. No doubt this dynamic has already manifested itself here and there vis-a-vis existing technological leviathans (e.g. "canned" music), and no doubt it will eventually take its place in the canon of anti-aesthetic prescriptivisms alongside moral uplift, the literary imperative, political activism, cultural preservation, and pediatric neural calisthenics. All of which is to say that it promises to have the same chilling effect that such historically contingent prescriptions have always had even as it keeps a lucky few human artists gainfully employed.

To take such a sea change and make it generative rather than prescriptive requires a retreat into the absolute. Indeed, I don't think it is a coincidence that as we perceive the general pace of change to have quickened artistic autonomy has become ever less fashionable, i.e. that feelings of anomie or "normlessness" would beget various desperate attempts to contrive new norms. The word "perceive" is important here, for do we not also see a strong correlation between the more-is-more phenomenon and a certain constitutional fixation on change as against stasis? Change-in-the-air is the supreme rationalization for scorched-earth modernism, whose manifestations range from puerile self-importance to the burning of libraries; hence there is always an important balancing role here for the attempt to step outside the parochial concerns of the moment. I would certainly not place the aesthetic sphere at or near the center of such concerns, but nor does banishing it to the compost heap of history do it justice. Everything is aesthetic, much as everything is political.

We must take the Vintage issue seriously, and certainly the larger one of automation/computerization as well, but only on our (and our art forms') own terms. That is, it behooves any contemporary musician to face directly the formal, technical, and aesthetic questions that automation raises, or raises in the negative, as it were. Fruitful cross-pollenation is inevitable, healthy coexistence is not, and prescriptions are always already constraints, no matter how urgent they might seem to be. Indeed, is it not merely by accidents of history that such urgency ebbs and flows? And is that not a powerful argument for artistic autonomy rather than against it?

23 December 2017

Against The Literary Imperative

literature/the novel: "a lie that tells the truth"


=pre-industrial infotainment?!
e.g. when the latest trove of freshly leaked government records is not nearly entertaining enough to hold the attention of an audience whose record keeping is not quite so thorough. instead, storytime! ergo the collective appointment of mandarin technocrats to digest the proverbial federalist papers on our collective behalf. ergo the offense taken to such appointees, drawing as they do equal attention to our own deficiencies as to any justly-sounded alarms. down with the mandarins! unless they entertain us! (and unless we may continue to reason anecdotally! especially if we are 'oppressed'!) thus is the political colonized by the aesthetic and the aesthetic colonized by the political; thus are the minds and souls of the people conquered, in their own names, so as to preserve psychic domicile over a dead land mass; thus the suddenly-old saying about 'letting the terrorists win' metamorphoses from talk-radio zinger to supremely useful figure of speech to the master narrative of our time; etc., etc. so no more art for art's sake k? cuz that is a lie that just plain lies. and we won't stand for that any longer.

...perhaps more specifically...

=victorian infotainment?!
i.e. for those tough household spills wherein The Truth in its unadulterated form is simply unspeakable. in its place, a little white lie! just this once! for your own good! hence a privileged position for literature among The Arts, the lesser castes aspiring half-heartedly to do what literature does vis-a-vis Great Big Truths and Little White Lies. all hail literary thought, the bounty paper towel of the left, soaking up spilled grape juice a whole glass at a time while the leading national brand just turns to grapy pudding. don't make grapy pudding, kids! make art!


this place of literature in The Arts and in Society can (and should) (and must) be deconstructed in the best sense of that term. perhaps owing to the impenetrable language in which this has been undertaken by academics, word seems not to have reached the (wo)man on the street that sometimes (or, uh...perhaps most of the time??) a lie is just a lie. less excusable yet is the effect of such "privileged positions" on the internal political dynamics of the professional art world: as in the wider political and social world, a subclass of Limousine Liberals emerges, an art-ontological Bourgeoisie who not only wield the greatest explanatory power but know it too. hence more is more: more narrative, more amplitude, more ethnicity, more mixing of media, more shouting over each other just to be heard; and yes, ever more consequentialist mendacity in purported service of deferred truthtelling. whew!! damned if you don't have to deconstruct just to get through the day!! damned if a profusion of Little White Lies isn't the most effective concealment of one Great Big One!!

hence the guiding rejoinder to the given truism:
"If truth-telling is so important, why not just do that? What are all these indirect paths we keep hearing about and what is lost/gained by way of each one?"
the aestheticist 99% demand answers.

...to wit...

=an aesthetically nihilist (or at least agnostic) social imperative for literature (and its imitators, all the other Arts)

that is, an imperative to address itself (themselves) to social matters which demand corrective Truth-Telling on account of a prevailing Lie which is presently doing more harm than good. (this is nothing like the Little White Lies that literature tells! those we are proud of!)

but of course there are *other* socially valuable functions for art and literature, and there are *other* aesthetics which have prospective value/potential but which necessarily are at odds with this narrow social imperative. further, wider social imperatives necessarily beget value systems, and any value system grown up around such concerns is bound to reinscribe itself on the narrow internal value systems of artists and artmaking. this, then, becomes the opposite of the liberationist gesture which activist artists would like to posit for it; rather, it clutters the social world of critical and popular reception with arbitrary proscriptions and inhibitions, above all a deep distrust of the ineffable which is anathema to so many extraliterary artistic traditions in so many ways.

21 December 2017

Career Designs: Relative and Absolute Privilege, and the Even Keel

I seldom go long between social encounters with laypeople bent on idealizing my career choice on my behalf, the customary remark being something about "following your passion." Needless to say that my peers and colleagues are rarely quite so saccharine when discussing music as a vocation. The combined effect of these contradictory expressions can be disorienting, though to be sure they both betoken a familiar grass-is-always-greener outlook as well as the facility with which we can put either face on things, not just in our various interfaces with outsiders but also in our own minds. That is, we may reason relatively, as the layperson tends to (think Symphony Tubist vs. Ice Road Trucker), or we may present our real situation (statistically speaking, probably not anything like Symphony Tubist nor anything approaching it) in absolute terms.

There are good reasons for artists (and everyone else for that matter) to keep sight of the relative sense, if not merely to avoid saying something that they might later regret. But if The Arts so broadly construed are thought to have even the slightest objective social utility, then there is, dare I say, a reciprocal imperative on the extra-artistic world to keep sight of the absolute sense in which the vast majority of artists one can expect to meet face-to-face are dealing with much the same mixed bag of joys and sorrows that any committed professional does.

For me, music certainly has proven a potent avenue through which to learn that sources of great joy are uniquely suited to pile on great heaps of sorrow, and are typically also quite happy to oblige. This is a Life Lesson with implications beyond the narrow concerns of any one profession, yet I doubt that someone who has never truly devoted themselves to a calling can meaningfully understand it, particularly because it is a profoundly dualistic statement whose reverse does not hold: sources of great sorrow, as a group, are not particularly likely to also be sources of great joy. There is something in there about the wretchedness of the human condition, I think, but that is another topic for another time. More to the point is that the irreversibility of this fundamental vocational principle is what causes so much of our dialogue with outsiders to remain rhetorically anchored in the notion of relative privilege. To posit this relative privilege as a defining characteristic of artisthood, however, is to commit three related errors: first, by obfuscating its non-exclusivity to The Arts; second, by defining The Arts via what they are not; and third, by failing to account for the fact that this roller-coaster ride of privilege and obligation is quite a bit more than the sum of its parts.

Indeed, this latter reality is why so many of us academy-trained creatives were at some point told by an institutionally-sanctioned mentor not to get "too high or too low." If we were in fact told this, then we were, for one thing, fortunate to have fished out of the academic miasma at least one person who knew what they were talking about, and this in spite of their own relatively privileged position in the selfsame anti-meritocracy which we ourselves ostensibly aspired to enter. This much we may even have realized at the time. Less apparent back then, in all likelihood (and ever more so with "privilege" in seemingly perpetual ascendance as a watchword) was that we were being asked to withdraw from the relative into the absolute, to set our own standards for success rather than triangulating based on the messages being sent to us by the external social world; all of which is to say that every degree of failure to meet these internally-generated standards which is occasioned by an external factor makes it that much harder to swallow the more strident critiques of bourgeois art currently in circulation.

I am certain that my musical mentors were also correct in advising that "You get out of it what you out into it," and I expect that this is a less controversial statement than the one immediately preceding it. Precisely because this is such good advice in all areas of human endeavor, non-initiates of virtually any stripe getting a rare window in on the artist's habitus are bound to fixate on what appears to them as a conspicuous lack of either putting-in or getting-out. In fact you can't even admit to other musicians that you're not available for any reason other than that you already have a gig, and especially not if the real reason is that you've blocked out time to get out of public view and hone your craft. Suffice it to say that I speak from experience on this point. It is a phenomenon which, again, speaks to many larger human concerns which ought not be dredged up in too much detail right this minute. Even if you're not a professional artist, you can probably relate an analogous situation that you've faced, and if so, then perhaps you've also caught yourself thinking that privilege is a more complicated concept than the lowest common denominator of armchair theorists is capable of giving it credit for.


Time has a strong existential claim to being the most valuable personal resource, but I for one, millenial that I am, find focus per se to be the scarcest of all, which conventionally and practically speaking makes it the most valuable too. Hence the focus here on what I am calling the even keel. The advent of leisure time has an unimpeachable place in the study of history whereas the subset focused time remains incomprehensibly decadent even to some career academics. Hence the external social pressure to self-flagellate at the altars of myriad political interest groups is thrown into higher relief by the question of focus than by that of time even though the latter speaks to more basic political issues.

For the artist, this pressure creates palpable tension with an outside world which in spite of its boggling diversity of political orientation and worldview is seemingly quite unified in its intent to define art and artists relatively rather than absolutely. I have to think that anyone reading this can readily conjure the vastly different versions of infinite regress that, say, Bernie People and Trump People can be counted upon to summon in this respect. The region along this spectrum where inhabitants risk being accused of harboring an unseemly "relativism" is rather small and remote, yet there is, at the minimum, relativistic thinking in evidence both in the soft-Marxist critique of bourgeois art and in the contemporary red-state contempt for Artsy-Fartsies as against red-blooded, mammal-eating Americans. Both rhetorics cherrypick small differences and explode them into full-blown deviance. There is as well a characteristic distrust of the abstract and the unmeasurable which is a defining feature of the era of sclerotic institutions. (Hey arts non-profit people, can you say "measurable outcomes?") I would love to convince myself that these are essential mechanisms of social accountability upon which artists can profitably draw both in the content of their work and the living of their lives. What I actually stand convinced of is that this relativistic streak is merely a low-stakes commission of several deadly sins with which we are all familiar no matter what we do for a living.

That is to say that those who would accuse me of "following my passion" seem to be saying as much about themselves as about me. If they were merely expressing support or admiration, I suspect the wording of choice would be rather different; and of course if they knew what I actually have done for money over the years and how much of it has had nothing to do with music, they might have bitten their tongues altogether. It is just as easy for me to lapse into idealizing the many other fields I could have gone into; but alas, whereas enabling a select group of artists to live as solid middle-class earners has been an enduring project of the actual institutional bourgeoisie, the rise of the gig economy perversely relegates a great many others to live as only artists used to. Here as always, then, the term "professional" is used literally, reluctantly, and advisedly. Nihilism is the ultimate even keel, especially as human suffering becomes ever more visible; hence no "professional" milieu will ever lack for nihilists. As in most every other respect, The Arts are neither immune from nor especially exemplary of this reality.

20 December 2017

On The Seasons Needing Me More Than I Need Them

If Southern California is a love-it-or-hate-it proposition for newcomers, it is hated-until-proven-loved for those who have never actually been here, the latter condition being both cause and effect of some curious and uniquely wayward folk wisdom. To wit, both immediately before and immediately after my relocation, a few ostensibly thoughtful Minneapolitans raised the possibility that I would “miss the seasons” living in a place which, as far as they were concerned, didn't have any.

Given that the only Minnesota season anyone could miss is the fall (and that Minnesotans spend pretty much the entire year missing it), I was not particularly strongly inclined to heed this warning. In fact it was unclear whether it was indeed to be parsed as a warning or just a theory; ergo, I parse it as a projection. The implication that seasons give requisite shape to life and that the quadripartite structure peculiar to the North is somehow inherently salutary in this way certainly betokens a degree of exceptionalism worthy of a much larger city.

Since moving to California I have given thought to the season question every year around this time; that is, when the weather changes. If we are lucky enough to be rained on in any significant amount over the next several months, that will likely cue more of the same thoughts. And certainly whenever the next bonafide heat wave strikes, exaggerating as it surely will the endtimes vibe one often detects here during times of duress and sometimes just because, I will surely be given yet further occasion to ponder the contour that these changes in the weather do give to my year, subtle as that contour is to the point being undetectable by the freshly uprooted Midwestern soma. Because I am imperfect and petty, I will probably also have a private chuckle vis-a-vis the combination of clouded judgment and reliance on outsider mythmaking through which projected jealousy is most facilely projected. But above all, I will most definitely give thanks for the way a subtler seasonal profile works it’s magic without being so damn disruptive.

In cold-weather locales of the post-Christian world, the disruptions tend to come in waves this time of year, so much so that their long-awaited clearing up itself becomes disruptive whenever it finally takes hold. As perhaps you could have guessed from the tone here, this is a roller coaster ride that I never tolerated well or willingly. The just-noticeable contours of Southern California living are far better suited to the purposes of those of us who prefer (nay, require) the open-endedness of slow, steady, incremental, but always-ongoing progress in our life’s work. Think gentle undulations rather than jagged, disorienting tremors, the climatological analog of the work profile you've never stopped thanking your music teachers for instilling in you.

Among those slower-idling Midwesterners who have ventured far enough afield to speak with some empirical authority, terms like "intense," "incessant," and "rat race" are customarily applied to the bigger fish bowls. Somehow I have still never been to New York City and hence know it only the way so many outsiders know Los Angeles, but through many friends' anecdotes communicated to me over the years I have indeed formed an image of it not only as the music capital of the world but also as the world capital of disruptions. As the folk wisdom would have it, some people thrive in such an environment and others wilt, and this is part and parcel of that famous New York exceptionalism that both Midwesterners and Californians know well whether or not they've visited: The City as crucible. Of course New York also has both its cold weather and its holidays, and more (in)famous conflagrations of the two than most anywhere else, but the master narrative I've been lead to construct would simply fold those more parochial concerns into one giant disruption, the proverbial jackhammer at 3am that I might literally have heard about a dozen times at this point.

A hundred years ago Southern California was declared "enervating" by faster-idling newcomers from the east. Out here, that which is incessant is thought to have quite the opposite effect of an early morning construction crew: sunshine, warmth, beaches, scantily clad young things, and so on, a panoply of luxuries thought perfectly designed to numb even the most ambitious among us into complacency. Hence a former colleague of my father's is said to have once turned down a job offer from an institution in San Diego on the grounds that he would never get anything done there. One can only hope, for his sake, that this gentleman was speaking from a place of great self-knowledge and not from the same place of ignorance that so many other outsiders do. For my part I must confess skepticism that the particular diversions San Diego of all places offers up could keep someone who is just that committed to scholarship entertained for more than a day or two. In any case, that is about the longest I ever need to be entertained before going back down the rabbit hole; hence all such questions of how to take a vacation when you already live in a vacation spot, of the ongoing temptation of such amenities on a day-to-day basis, all those questions are moot to me. More importantly, the longer, more comprehensive interruptions occasioned by Seasonal Affective Disorder, Spring Fever, and the like are no longer acceptable to me simply as the cost of doing business.

I for one have found Los Angeles to provide a healthy balance of ass-kicking mishaps and creature comforts. It periodically reminds you that you're alive while actually permitting you to enjoy it on occasion. If there is indeed some hard-wired need for seasonal contour, I have to think that we acclimate to the scale of change just as we acclimate to more obvious swings in temperature. Taken together, those two things solve the imagined problem quite parsimoniously indeed.