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Starred items are forever

Since I switched to Google Reader, I've gotten into the habit, as I'm blasting through all the blogs I subscribe to via RSS, of starring items that I want to think about more later, and perhaps even write about. Of course, I almost never refer back to these starred items, because there is a nonstop flow of new items in my Reader I'm always trying to keep pace with. Instead they linger there, with my act of starring them standing in for the promised deeper thought that never occurs. Before Google Reader, I'd tag items in del.icio.us and send them to bookmark purgatory. And I'd do a lot of thinking about what I was calling the bookmark effect, which I first noticed when studying for exams. I became aware of how underlining something or scrawling a note in the margin of a book was very gratifying, and how if I wasn't doing that, I felt like I wasn't really studying or learning anything. This was true even though the underlining was replacing thought -- it was as if I were acknowledging that someone else thought something perceptive, and it was sufficient for me to let that person be a proxy for my own thinking. The underlining was an act of appropriation, a way of buying and consuming the perceptive thought without having to think through it or extend it or integrate -- that work was left for some time later. (That time has not yet come, and I still have many of the annotated tomes to prove it.) The decision to underline was akin to a purchasing decision -- did I "buy" that idea? And this process commodified my reading for me, which gave me an elusive feeling of mastery over it, even as the reading lists continued to extend themselves.

Now, as technology has advanced, bookmarking an interesting post or article (or starring it) has supplanted underlining, etc. It's still a way for me to dispatch interesting ideas without having to deal with them any more deeply -- I just add them to the collection, and take comfort that it is there, forever fresh in my starred items list. It's not all that different from buying books in lieu of reading them. The bookmarking/starring gesture allows me to consume in the present moment the thinking I pretend I'll do later, which is an extremely gratifying feeling, particularly if I wisely avoid ever consulting my bookmarks later on. If I make that mistake, though, I feel nothing but shame for my laziness, and despair when the deferred overwhelmingness of it all hits me like a furnace blast.

At some point I'll need to do a link dump of all that stuff, sort through it and see if still recognize the potential I once saw there. But still the urge to avoid is strong; the ideas seem more potent as unrealized potential. Sorting through them would be like cleaning out my closet; I'd be forced to get rid of stuff that I may never use but that still somehow comforts me to possess.

In Americana music the present is female. Two-thirds of our year-end list is comprised of albums by women. Here, then, are the women (and a few men) who represented the best in Americana in 2017.

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60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Artist biographies written for a popular audience necessarily involve compromise. On the one hand, we are only interested in the lives of artists because we are intrigued, engaged, and moved by their work. The confrontation with a work of art is an uncanny experience. We are drawn to, enraptured and entranced by, absorbed in the contemplation of an object. Even the performative arts (music, theater, dance) have an objective quality to them. In watching a play, we are not simply watching people do things; we are attending to the play as a thing that is more than the collection of actions performed. The play seems to have an existence beyond the human endeavor that instantiates it. It is simultaneously more and less than human: more because it's superordinate to human action and less because it's a mere object, lacking the evident subjectivity we prize in the human being.

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Gabin's Maigret lets everyone else emote, sometimes hysterically, until he vents his own anger in the final revelations.

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