Tuesday, September 13, 2011


This morning at 8:30 I turned 25. Happy birthday to me! Seeing as how one of my students told me yesterday that he's 24, this is probably a good thing: I'm still officially older than all of my students. The prevailing trend from friends who've wished me happy birthday today is something along the lines of "I can't believe how young you are." I'll take that as a good thing--a sort of maturity for my age--rather than a "My god, you look so terrible I'd never believe you're only 25!" type of thing. How did I spend my birthday, you ask? Scrambling to finish reading for class and giving a presentation. About the usual, then. Birthdays are usually good for flushing out a few long lost friends and reestablishing lines of communication, though, and that's definitely been the case today.

A few thoughts to make this post not a total waste.

1. I can't believe that no one has used this song in the opening scene of an action or gangster movie. It seems like any director with a movie set in an urban space who wanted to introduce his/her protagonist as some kind of tough, gritty, impossibly cool figure would jump on this. I can see it now: various quick-cut establishing shots of the city, a pause and a black screen for an instant, then at 2:12, BAM!, shot of protagonist walking down the street. Perfect. If there's a movie that does this already, I need to see it yesterday.

2. Pitchfork did an interview with Alan Palomo (aka Neon Indian) in anticipation of the release of Era Extrana today. It's a good read and confirms my impression (based on a five minute or so conversation with Palomo after a show) that he's a genuinely nice guy. I was particularly struck by Palomo's statements that:

I can’t pretend that I don’t subscribe to Internet music culture in that I discover new music and old music simultaneously. In order to generate something that’s indicative of the future, we’re trudging around this cultural wasteland of the past and finding these little pieces to play around with and recontextualize. It can all feel like one big collage piece.
But it was important for me to not use any pre-existing material and completely self-generate this album on both the audio and visual sides. You can’t always just put color filters in 80s aerobic videos or take stuff from public-access and look at it in this very ironic, self-conscious way. That only takes you so far. . . .
[A]ll you can do is ignore the annoying hum of the machine and focus on making art that makes you excited to be alive.  


Well, Era Extraña translates into a couple of things, but the thing that I thought was really funny was that the word in Spanish for "strange" is also the word for "to miss something." It’s rooted in the same sensation. And I do have this eerie feeling of rapidly-approaching singularity, or the idea that by the time that I’m 33, reality will not exist in the same plane as it did before. It's cool, but also a little creepy.  
On the one hand, this seems like the legacy of life after postmodernism: irony is dead and tired, we've murdered the real, history is done, there's nothing left but to make pastiches until the sun goes nova. On the other hand, though, "making art that makes you excited to be alive" and considering the combination of "strangeness" and "miss[ing] something" that the album's title conjures up seems to underscore the connection of Neon Indian specifically--and chillwave in general--to hauntology. I've only had a chance to give the album one listen, but I'm very interested/excited to see what it reveals on deeper listens.

3. I had a great meeting with a professor yesterday that left me feeling a lot less panicked about, well, everything. Sometimes it's nice to hear someone say banal platitudes like "it's not a race," "everything will be fine," "don't worry," etc., etc. I floated a vague dissertation idea that was well received (and somewhat backfired when I mentioned that I'd written my MA thesis on a similar topic--now the professor wants to see my MA thesis and I'm mortified at what the response will be. I'm really proud of having done it, but the thinking and the writing [oh god, the writing] is kind of embarrassing at this point), and after lying awake the other night worrying that I have no direction or purpose in my academic life, I now feel like I have a path to follow, even if it's shaky and not really constructed yet. It's enough to let me sleep, though, which is all that matters at this point.


  1. From a reader, friend, and colleague, happy birthday, Ian!

  2. I just noticed this! I don't mean to seem ungrateful: thank you!