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A Few Thoughts on Time From Which Not Enough Has Been Removed
Screaming Females has been doing this for nearly twenty years. You don’t need me to tell you about Screaming Females, not only because you might already know, but because there is life and vibrancy and runaway can’t catch me flowers amongst the unsaid. You don’t need me to tell you because no one likes a bandwagon, and everyone loves a mystery train. Everyone loves listening to the mechanized wolf howl of that rumbling concoction of coal and passengers and ghosts of Harry McClintock making their way down some tracks into the night.
This is a review of a concert Screaming Females played in Richmond, Virginia on March 29th, 2023 at the Music Hall in pretty much the heart of downtown, except, well, no. That’s a lie. Sorry. This is a review of time, and how are we feeling about time these days?
I really appreciate Bill Simmons and The Ringer. For starters — like Bill, I’m a homer. I like hearing about the Red Sox, the Celtics, the Patriots, and the Bruins. I like hearing info pulled from Cleaning the Glass. I like hearing Benjamin Solak share his enthusiasm for football with a wide audience, who seems to understand that things can be inherently interesting and that that level of inherent interestingness doesn’t need a certain level of performative nastiness, the latter of which is something Kevin O’Connor has been seemingly leaning into a little bit more over the years.
Bill Simmons is wrong about the addition of the pitch clock to Major League Baseball. He also seemed oddly snippy about the way in which the World Baseball Classic was recently received, saying on a recent podcast, “If nobody I know can name the last three champions of something, it couldn’t have been that important.”
That’s a heck of a thing to say about something people were enjoying in the moment. Who cares about record store-styled snobbery when — for instance, in the video above — you’re watching Randy Arozarena showboat in a way that reminds you a little bit of Manny Ramirez?
It’s also an odd thing to say in response to someone rightfully flagging the pitch clock-free drama between Trout and Ohtani. Who is Bill to flag something as inauthentic that was clearly fun? Were all the people reacting to the catch in the video above lying to themselves?
Baseball is a game that seeks its own rhythm. It’s a game that seeks out its own sense of time. (Could you imagine the Mookie Betts at-bat happening now?) Baseball time is not the same thing as watching the game on television or listening to the game on the radio. This was true even before the addition of the pitch clock — going to a game was a wildly different experience than watching a game on television, and that was fine. To say that the pitch clock makes the game better because it’s easier to watch on television just means that you wanted to watch television, not that you wanted to watch baseball, a game which — we should point out — already moved/moves faster than cricket and the NFL.
Ernaux certainly isn’t a Marxist, but at the same time she sees history as sociological and the economy as determinative. She uses herself as a “case,” a person who has been conditioned by advertising and consumerism. She marvels at how quickly people have learned to use the mobile phone, computer, iPod and GPS — and she is unable to imagine the devices we’ll be using in 10 years’ time. People must keep up, acquire the latest gadgets; to fall behind would be to accept aging and dying. She remarks on how goods can freely circulate, unlike refugees, who are “turned away at the borders.” She knows that possessions can’t make people happy, but also acknowledges the popular belief that this “was no reason to abandon things.”
Is that what we want from time?
I sometimes feel that readers love it when a writer is nearly dead or recently dead. Frederick Seidel. John Ashbery. Ursula K. LeGuin. The rhythm of our criticism reflects that, too, bringing to mind a historical echo with how opera-goers used to react negatively when work by a living composer was performed.
One of the things about Screaming Females is that you could slide the radio dial of your imagination a little to the left or the right and you wouldn’t hear anything as comparably fluid. You can listen to the opening of Pearl Jam’s “Alive” or Black Flag’s “Rise Above” and appreciate them for what they are, but you won’t feel the race car-like ease with which Screaming Females not only change gears, but how they do so buoyed by Marissa Paternoster’s operatic voice.
And we haven’t even touched on Paternoster’s guitar playing, which — when I heard it last night, when people with long beards and tall trucker hats pushed past me to make their way to an emerging mosh-put — really reminded me of Prince. I never heard solos that were direct quotes of melody lines that had been sung. Instead, again, I heard a multi-referential fluidity that sometimes rendered the performance I saw onstage unexpectedly moving. That kind of fluidity wasn’t ‘supposed’ to emerge from that kind of style, but there it was, alive, again and again and again.
It’s Opening Day. The Yankees are currently beating the Giants. The Braves are currently beating the Nationals. The Orioles and Red Sox are currently tied 1-1, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the oddity of a sentence I just heard on WEEI — “He’s allowed to put his fingers into his mouth. The umpires are allowing it on this cold day.”
Baseball is a game that seeks its own time. Literature is a game of time. And, as Bob Dylan reminds us at the end of The Philosophy of Modern Song —
Though we seldom consider it, music is built in time as surely as a sculptor or welder works in physical space. Music transcends time by living within it, just as reincarnation allows us to transcend life by living it again and again.
It’s happening now.