I’m pretty tired.

We’re all pretty tired — at least, those who are paying attention. But I’m a bit extra tired, for a lot of reasons, some of which are personal reasons and some of which are societal reasons and some of which are just that I need to get out of town for a few days. This is not a vaguebook post; this is not a cry for sympathy. This is just an excuse. I have nothing to write about this month.

September 2023: Poptimism

  • “Earvin Magic Johnson” — Nas
  • “KETCHUP POTATO CHIPS” — Mato Wayuhi & Black Belt Eagle Scout
  • “Seem So Tired” — Jack Drag
  • ”Definitely Infrared Radiation Sickness” — Uranium Club
  • “Growing Up” — Any Trouble
  • “Superbike” — Jay Som
  • “Bone Machine” — Pixies
  • “Raw Shit” — Jaylib (w/ Talib Kweli)
  • “get him back!” — Olivia Rodrigo
  • “Whirlpool” — Meat Puppets
  • “Queen of the Rodeo” — Orville Peck
  • “Faraway Skies” — Dean Johnson
  • “You’re Not An Airplane” — Guided By Voices
  • “Opening Night” — Scowl
  • “3000” — Dr. Octagon
  • “Wordless Ballad” — Thought Patrol
  • “Hold On, Hold On” — Neko Case
  • “Blue” — Shannon Lay
  • “Vampire Empire” — Big Thief

Listen on Spotify. Listen on Apple Music.

Yet, that’s maybe not true. I could talk about poptimism.

In 2004, Kelefa Sanneh coined the term “poptimism.” A counter to the decades-long insistence by mainstream rock criticism that rock was the only thing worth reviewing (“rockism”), poptimism insists that pop music is worthy and urgently important in the realm of music journalism. It insists that, for those of us who pride ourselves on our taste in music, there’s no shame in recognizing that the new Olivia Rodrigo album is chock full of bangers. That our record collections can include something beyond the same 10 Beatles records. That there’s room for pop — the realization that writing catchy and popular music takes the same amount of critical skill and acumen as anything from the Radiohead camp.

But I get the push against poptimism – I get that it’s hard to accept and embrace escape. We’re all on watch, monitoring the serious, big-kid stuff, and to look away in distraction is to take our eye off something important.

As a director at Blend, I participate in several weekly company status meetings — a company director meeting, a departmental meeting, and a sales meeting. Our standard meeting structure insists that every meeting starts with “good news.” Diving directly into work, ironically, is actually less productive than taking time at the start to chat — as social animals, we want to talk to each other. We want to chat. We want to stall a bit.

“Good news” lets us stall. It sounds cheesy as hell — it actually probably is! — but it’s also a wonderful reminder that, in these times, when we’re all pretty tired (again, at least, those who are paying attention) there are still moments of wonder. There are still glimpses of blue sky. There are still instances of whatever cursive wall script you want to put above your stove — live, laugh, love, lounge, etc.

It’s not always easy to come up with good news. For me, with three meetings each week, “good news” becomes a marathon. On Tuesday, the good news is easy: “Something happened this weekend!” By Thursday, I’m looking at my calendar to find the good news. “Well, I guess I get my teeth cleaned tomorrow, so I’m thankful to have dental insurance.” But weirdly enough, that’s kind of the point. Those little things — those things we take for granted, those things that we wish everyone could have, those moments of privilege: having healthy children, living outside of poverty, working just one job instead of multiple — they’re worth remembering.

I tend to be deeply cynical of this open thankfulness, because it can often manifest as out-of-touch. I have little patience in discussions of silver linings and “it could have been worse” and “it was all meant to happen this way” platitudes. Life is real and bad things happen and they suck and we try to stop what we can and support each other when we can’t. Toxic positivity is as harmful as anything.

But there is good. There is something out there, each day. I recognize my privilege, and I understand if you’re going through something, and any insistence on things “happening for a reason” or “looking on the bright side” is actually making you angry. This is valid. You are valid. And those moments of good — they don’t need to be big. They just need to be recognized. They need to be sussed out. Optimistic, for just a moment, even if you need to get back to fighting.

The blue sky will come again — knowing it never left. Until then, it’s okay to be tired — after all, we’re all pretty tired.

Call it poptimism. Call it a bit of good news. But I’m telling you —  this new Olivia Rodrigo album actually is chock full of bangers.

This was lovingly handwritten on September 30th, 2023