Saturday, May 8, 2010

My Introduction

Greetings, world. I’ve never been very good at keeping a journal. Something in me lacks the daily discipline required for it, or perhaps I simply resist telling myself my own thoughts in writing. My head usually feels like an ongoing journal anyway, so why write down everything?

Earlier, I took a stroll through my neighborhood in the middle of the night, between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. I live in a wonderful area called Cambridge, just across the river from Boston, and the beauty of the place is heightened for me when everybody else is asleep. I love the stillness and the quietude, the dim glow in windows of the silent houses that I pass. Even on a Friday night (or early Saturday morning), I saw only three other people on foot in over half an hour, and only five cars driving along in the dark. My mind can wander wherever it wants, listening to my iPod on shuffle. It’s like a form of walking meditation. And so, despite my failed attempts at writing journals in the past, I decided at some point during my walk to start this blog.

For a number of years now, I’ve written pop culture reviews of various kinds for a few different publications. It was always just freelance work, something I’ve enjoyed doing on the side. I wrote a pop music review column for a newspaper for a while, and I still write some book reviews on occasion. A good portion of my life so far has been devoted to reading books, listening to music, watching movies, going to the theater. In some ways, art has been a companion; in other ways, it’s kept me alive.

Rather than let my thoughts about art stay in my own head, where I’m sure they’re quite happy, I thought I’d begin to assemble some of them more cohesively for a change. Writing reviews for editors can be a useful experience, but it’s also usually somewhat limiting. The advent of blogging, and the gradual acceptance of it as a legitimate venue for journalistic expression, has begun to eliminate the need for more formal print journalism, and by extension the need for editors. It’s a liberating feeling, of course, and I want to embrace that.

(I’m also far from being an avid technology buff. To this day I’ve still never owned a cell phone, and I bought my very first laptop less than a year ago. Yet another change that I’m trying to embrace.)

As the blog title “popsublime” suggests, the reviews that I post here will be all about praise, with some commentary of cultural value, hopefully. I considered the possibility of trashing some things, too, or being very critical of stuff that I don’t like. Trust me, there’s plenty of art that bothers me, especially when it’s more in service of commerce or image or attitude or politics or social networking than aesthetics. Those who know me also know that I’m not at all shy when expressing my opinions about that. But in a public, online forum, a level of decorum is key. Part of what distanced me from blogging until now is the kind of sniping that goes on routinely in the blogosphere. People often don’t seem to realize that their posts and comments are public and permanently visible, or maybe they just don’t care?

In his preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde writes, “The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.” Praise can be a worthwhile goal in itself. This is even truer if the critic seeks to situate the work of art in a place of posterity, a way of helping the art to find those who might encounter it sometime in the near or distant future.

Over the coming weeks, I’ll start posting some reviews, hopefully at frequent intervals. I currently teach college for a living, so the summer months give me lots of leisure, thankfully. The art and popular culture that I’ll critique will be from any point in time — the past century, last decade, a year ago, yesterday. My taste has always been a bit left of center, but with a clear notion of where the center is, as well as a sense of affection for it. I’ll focus on movies (mostly independent, along with some mainstream fare), music (mostly pop, and all that it entails), books (especially poetry, since that’s what I studied and write myself), and theater (shows that I’ve seen either in New York or London). Art that’s moved me, inspired me, haunted me, perplexed me, and most importantly, stayed with me for some reason, even if the rest of the world barely took notice of it: the memorable, ephemeral, euphoric, and sublime.

Maybe I’ll also hear from some of you who share my feelings about the pop culture that I’ll be critiquing? If so, then I’ll have achieved something else that I’m trying to embrace. Thanks for reading.


  1. Looking forward to your reviews!

  2. Thank you, Alex, for my very first comment! I'm working on my first review right now (of an obscure pop album from the mid-1980s). I'll be posting it within the next week or so. Your reviews on your blog are great, and our tastes seem to overlap quite a bit. Cheers!