Sunday, February 20, 2005

Mind Your Ps and Js

If you make a nothing into everything, you just might squeeze the big nothings out.

What do I mean, you ask? Well, get obsessed trying to become the lunch critic for a local website, when whoever "wins" the job will mostly be decided by which reviewer has the most friends vote for him or her (one more lesson, alas, in the ways democracy and meritocracy are antonyms). Not that the job is anything truly prime, just fun, and of course the pay is negligible as that's the only kind of thing I can ever do (I was a teacher once, for what I at least liked to call a living).

The granddaddy of these mountanious molehills, for me, is the Village Voice Pazz & Jop. P&J is a poll of the nation's rock critics, and I've been lucky enough to get to be a voter off and on for 15 years. But voting is one thing, getting quoted is absolutely another. For in addition to listing your favorite CDs and singles, you get to write comments about the year that was. And then you wait, and hope. This year 793 critics sent in their Top Tens, and only the poor music interns at the Voice know how many of us include jots and scribbles (bytes and bauds just doesn't have the same ring) that get sorted through.

Of course it becomes crucial for me to get quoted. It's not much more than a letter to the editor (and they do edit--rarely does a written comment make it unscathed to print), but it has to happen. Does it help me get a job, get access to bands, get CDs? Naw. But my feeble ego NEEDS.

Living out here in CA, I actually subscribe to the Voice, despite feeling bitter I pay for what is a free newspaper. Somehow like The Nation--and so I assume it's some inabilty for lefties to get their subscriptions to run on time, or maybe an insistence they morally can't, for that would be borderline fascist--the Voice arrives irregularly, despite being published weekly. I might get two issues within four days, then nothing for 8 days, then an issue arrives, cover torn, that is dated before the previous two that got shipped. It's Feb. 20, but this year's P&J, published in New York on Feb. 7, has yet to arrive.

But the check came yesterday. The Voice is kind enough to pay a minimal fee ($10--it's been $10 since 1989) per quote. My check was for $30. So I instantly hit the web and hunted myself down. (That I couldn't have done that beforehand attests to my weirdnesses and fears.) Not only do I get three quotes that you can go read in a section they entitled "Alien Nation," they even took a phrase from one of them to subhead the section. I am humbled and honored and not humble at all.

There's a kicker, of course, as I actually get quoted a fourth time. There's a section that appears only on the web, not in the print Voice, called "Personals" and my quickie Robert Quine eulogy is there. And I wonder--the Voice can't spring the bucks to pay for web-content, too?

If I were grateful I might someday be content.


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