First post in many months, but suitably about poetry and imagination for National Poetry Month (April). A section from a long form work by Wallace Stevens. I've got a rough draft finished to a 18 or 19 chapter novel project long simmering (sometimes left on the stove for months) and am currently going through hundreds of pages of notes and adding that clay to the 18 or 19 linear piles of clay to start from the start and shape the first chapter then produce a draft ready to shop around.
Excerpt from "An Ordinary Evening in New Haven"
by Wallace Stevens
The poem is the cry of its occasion,
Part of the res itself and not about it.
The poet speaks the poem as it is,
Not as it was: part of the reverberation
Of a windy night as it is, when the marble statues
Are like newspapers blown by the wind. He speaks
By sight and insight as they are. There is no
Tomorrow for him. The wind will have passed by,
The statues will have gone back to be things about.
The mobile and immobile flickering
In the area between is and was are leaves,
Leaves burnished in autumnal burnished trees
And leaves in whirlings in the gutters, whirlings
Around and away, resembling the presence of thought
Resembling the presences of thoughts, as if,
In the end, in the whole psychology, the self,
the town, the weather, in a casual litter,
Together, said words of the world are the life of the world.
Donald Trump is a bullshitter and decades-long con man, and much (but not most) of the country fell for it. How to bring people who voted for him around? "Expose and educate." Create a place for them to go when they realize Trump and his Administration doesn't give a shit about them, and never did.
The press takes [Donald Trump] literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.
- Salena Zito, The Atlantic, September 23, 2016
I feel as if this is a vote against the future, and the future is going to happen anyway.
- Gloria Steinem, WNYC Interview, November 9, 2016
Trump's mindset can change at a whim, but he's already telling people in his "Thank you" post-election rallies that he was never serious about jailing Clinton, or "draining the swamp". He was bullshitting them. The Daily Show covered this well.
Trump's brief political career has been based on racism, sexism, and claiming to be anti-Establishment. His team is almost entirely Establishment people, even worse, C and D-listers in the Establishment. Scrubs so low-rent that even the George W. Bush Administration would likely ignore them.
Not all Trump voters are sexist or racist, but all sexists and racists voted for Trump. What about reaching out to the other people? People who have some amount of sense, but got tricked or are "low-info" or ignorant about national matters?
Sam Harris had a good discussion with Paul Bloom, Psychology Professor at Yale. Among the many good points worth listening to, Bloom said that people may support "Building a wall" or "Lock her up" or a Muslim registry not as a serious point, but as a values signifier. Meaning they don't think of it with any depth, it's a quick statement they can make that shows they are "Boo... to Obama" or "Boo... to Hillary". In short, people may be irrational on national or international matters, but more sensible on local matters, or on a personal level. Say, at a town meeting having to do with funding roads they may find more in common with other people along the political spectrum, that they have given the local matter more thought, than when they yell or smile at chants of "Lock her up!"
Longtime Bill Clinton campaign strategist James Carville had a mantra at a recent event shown on BookTV. (He opened by asking the crowd: "How many people are scared? How many people are very scared? Well, you're not scared enough! It's a disaster! Our President-Elect doesn't know the first thing about the first thing.") His mantra: "Expose and educate."
Carville points out that the Trump/Pence Administration will have a lot of power, and will run roughshod, but do not have the power of the will of the people. And that is what we need to build up.
There will likely be times when we don't have the ability to talk things out first, we need to fight first to protect people. Maybe we need to sign ourselves up for the Muslim registry, along with Muslims. Maybe we need to tell an empowered racist to shut the fuck up in person at the J.C. Penny store when she yells at Latinas (or better still, ignore the racist and express support to the people being picked on).
But realize that George W. Bush left office the least popular President in the 70 years it had been measured (22% approval rating). And that came after he won the popular vote in 2004 (maybe, Ohio votes were a scandal). Many Bush voters came to dislike the person they voted for. Expose & educate. Many Trump voters will be slow, but may come around to disliking the bullshitter con man they voted for. Expose the public to what is happening. Educate them on what to do with that knowledge to raise hell to effect needed changes. Do more than post on Facebook. That will build more people power, people power needed to balance & battle against the Establishment elites running the Trump White House.
Three layers to Trump's winning Electoral College (not popular vote) campaign:
- "Flip the table"/"Change for change's sake"
None of these layers are exclusive. The people who were motivated by #3 either do not hear, or say they do not care, about factors #1 and #2.
Trump's campaign began on racism, and was sustained by it throughout. Trump decided to dip his toe into using politics to sell the Trump brand by pandering to racists by claiming Obama needed to show him, personally, papers to prove Obama was born in the United States. This had never been such a concern for the previous 43 white Presidents but hitching himself to the birther movement meant an easy way to get attention at a high level.
That was before Trump declared his candidacy. The candidacy that began with accusing Mexicans of being murderers and rapists and the absurd boast he would build a wall along the Mexico border and make Mexico pay for it. We have had little to no net migration from Mexico for years, and have had years when more U.S. citizens left to live in Mexico.
The few times Trump was near people of color was for a photo op, not to relate to them. Spending time in a black church that specifically told him to not talk about politics, and had to shush him when he did. Standing next to the President of Mexico and utterly wimping out on bringing up his core campaign issue, building a wall along Mexico, while in Mexico and speaking to its President.
Such moments weren't about not being a racist, but providing visual assurance that it would not be racist to vote for Trump because he had some people of color around him that one time. Trump is a racist in both word and deed, dating back to the 1970s, and his campaign was saturated and dripping with thick venomous hatred. Dog whistle phrases like repeating use of Nixon's "law and order", promising to investigate Black Lives Matter as a criminal enterprise, black people live in an inescapable "hell", millions of Mexicans would be deported within a week no matter that their family members and our economy needed them. On and on. Unmistakable hatred hissed at several races and groups. But his supporters say they are not racist despite the thousands gurgling and howling their approval at each morsel of race baiting thrown out to them. Despite Trump's courting (or coyly not not shunning) the KKK endorsement.
Now we have Latinos rightly terrified the new President will send them away, tearing them from their families for no good reason. Muslims rightly terrified they will be banned from the country, as Trump has promised. But Trump supporters say he is not racist or bigoted.
Trump treats women as objects, not people. Trump/Pence think women should not have control over their own bodies. When he had a competent woman, Hillary Clinton, pressing him on any issue he could not keep his shit together for more than a few minutes. The series of women accusing him of sexual assault is long. From Sam Harris:
We have now witnessed Donald Trump bragging about his sexual predations in terms that not even Satan himself could spin to his advantage. He has admitted to repeatedly groping women, kissing them on the mouth without their consent, and invading the dressing rooms of teenage pageant contestants to see them naked. Every day, more women come forward confirming the truth of these confessions. Trump has even said that he would have sex with his own daughter, were she the offspring of another man. He talks about his libido as only a malignant narcissist can: as though it were a wonder of nature, a riddle no mortal can solve, and a blessing to humanity.
And the list of insults Trump directs at women for their appearance and their gender and their inherent bodily functions is also long, insults blurted out time and again out of reflex. He cannot help himself. Hillary Clinton all but telling him directly during the debates: "I am going to press down on your sexist buttons and you will flip out and make sexist remarks" and Trump did not fail to respond in just that way. But Trump supporters say none of this is a problem and he is not sexist.
3.) "Flip the table"/"Change for change's sake"
When asked, Trump supporters often strangely tune out what their candidate has said and done. When they do track his stupid, horrible, racist, sexist ideas they say he does not mean those things. He's just trying to get elected, as all politicians do. This is among the mind-blowing elements for people who track information and history. Everyone can laugh and know better when Trump during a national debate claimed "No one respects women more than I do. No one." because we all know the contrary. Even Trump's supporters must know moments like that are outright lies. Yet they don't seem to care or take that as an alarming trait.
What many Trump supporters say they voted for was a non-politician who has shown he doesn't give a shit about the system. The system isn't working for them. They need a change. He'll flip the table and maybe we'll build something "terrific" out of that mess.
They don't seem conscious of the constant whining of Trump's racist dog whistle, buy many respond to blaming non-whites for their problems along with the system. They aren't conscious of any sexism, but many had "bitch" signs about Hillary and demanded Hillary be put in jail despite her not committing any palpable crime. The subtext, or often overt text, was that she was uppity and needed to know her place.
Hillary Clinton was not my first choice for a Presidential candidate. I don't like dynasties and thought we needed someone with a new last name. She was an establishment candidate, and I could understand Republicans seeing that she did not represent needed change. But she was qualified. And a functioning adult. And lives for public service to the benefit of others. Trump is none of those things.
Three things that I kept chewing on, even before the surprising election results:
- There were many people during the primary who deliberated between voting for Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.
- The Tea Party and Occupy movements started as protests against Wall Street bailouts by the government, then went wildly different directions.
- Polls showed the leading reason people were voting for either Trump or Clinton was for NOT being the other candidate.
This was a campaign not driven primarily by hope, but by resentment. It is worth looking at the populist elements that motivated Trump voters? Are there lessons to learn about where they could be brought along in a broadened economic justice movement? I think so.
But while we consider the people and how to connect with them, to make them less scared and provide something to believe in and strive for instead of a "just stir shit up" attitude, we have disastrous years before us.
Trump has the makings of a dictator. A buffoon long-mocked because of his appearance. An initial ascension to power despite lack of support from the majority of people. Xenophobia. Zealous nationalism. Contempt for other countries. Fondness for despots. Sexual predator. Lack of friends or character witnesses. Mainstream figures in his party who know he is awful but are too scared to take a stand against him and will continue to yield to him. Lack of concern about contradicting himself. Tacky sense of style. With-me-or-against-me rhetoric. Tantrums. Proven fraud and swindler before entering politics.
His present calls to "come together" sound palliative compared to the past year of bile, but of course he means come together behind him or you'll get run over.
His party, and his supporters, will likely take a long time to turn on him when the inevitable overreach happens. But before then, once in office his party will move quickly to attack and put a priority on ravaging the planet for short-term gain. They wail about Big Government in public but in practice the size of government will swell as they abuse the system and people to their personal benefit and perverse satisfactions.
Build our defenses, get ready to fight. The white backlash cannot last forever. When the pendulum swings back our way make sure we can bring more mass, more people over, to keep it that way for a long time.
W.H. Auden wrote this poem about fellatio, foreplay, rimming in 1948, but denied authorship when it first came into public light in 1965, then admitted authorship to a magazine in 1968. It is dirty and often funny, describing a sex exchange between two men.
Let us imagine Auden composing this - journal book scribbled on as it rests and wobbles on a young man's head. Or maybe the journal book is set open on the bed, as Auden performs this, that, or the other thing and pauses from time to time to jot a note.
Does anyone else detect boasting in the poem? Would any rapper care to take on this braggadocio and turn this into a 10 or 11 minute rap epic?
The Platonic Blow
W. H. Auden
It was a spring day, a day for a lay, when the air
Smelled like a locker-room, a day to blow or get blown;
Returning from lunch I turned my corner and there
On a near-by stoop I saw him standing alone.
I glanced as I advanced. The clean white T-shirt outlined
A forceful torso, the light-blue denims divulged
Much. I observed the snug curves where they hugged the behind,
I watched the crotch where the cloth intriguingly bulged.
Our eyes met. I felt sick. My knees turned weak.
I couldn't move. I didn't know what to say.
In a blur I heard words, myself like a stranger speak
"Will you come to my room?" Then a husky voice, "O.K."
I produced some beer and we talked. Like a little boy
He told me his story. Present address: next door.
Half Polish, half Irish. The youngest. From Illinois.
Profession: mechanic. Name: Bud. Age: twenty-four.
He put down his glass and stretched his bare arms along
The back of my sofa. The afternoon sunlight struck
The blond hairs on the wrist near my head. His chin was strong.
His mouth sucky. I could hardly believe my luck.
And here he was sitting beside me, legs apart.
I could bear it no longer. I touched the inside of his thigh.
His reply was to move closer. I trembled, my heart
Thumped and jumped as my fingers went to his fly.
I opened a gap in the flap. I went in there.
I sought for a slit in the gripper shorts that had charge
Of the basket I asked for. I came to warm flesh then to hair.
I went on. I found what I hoped. I groped. It was large.
He responded to my fondling in a charming, disarming way:
Without a word he unbuckled his belt while I felt.
And lolled back, stretching his legs. His pants fell away.
Carefully drawing it out, I beheld what I held.
The circumcised head was a work of mastercraft
With perfectly beveled rim of unusual weight
And the friendliest red. Even relaxed, the shaft
Was of noble dimensions with the wrinkles that indicate
Singular powers of extension. For a second or two,
It lay there inert, then suddenly stirred in my hand,
Then paused as if frightened or doubtful of what to do.
And then with a violent jerk began to expand.
By soundless bounds it extended and distended, by quick
Great leaps it rose, it flushed, it rushed to its full size.
Nearly nine inches long and three inches thick,
A royal column, ineffably solemn and wise.
I tested its length and strength with a manual squeeze.
I bunched my fingers and twirled them about the knob.
I stroked it from top to bottom. I got on my knees.
I lowered my head. I opened my mouth for the job.
But he pushed me gently away. He bent down. He unlaced
His shoes. He removed his socks. Stood up. Shed
His pants altogether. Muscles in arms and waist
Rippled as he whipped his T-shirt over his head.
I scanned his tan, enjoyed the contrast of brown
Trunk against white shorts taut around small
Hips. With a dig and a wriggle he peeled them down.
I tore off my clothes. He faced me, smiling. I saw all.
The gorgeous organ stood stiffly and straightly out
With a slight flare upwards. At each beat of his heart it threw
An odd little nod my way. From the slot of the spout
Exuded a drop of transparent viscous goo.
The lair of hair was fair, the grove of a young man,
A tangle of curls and whorls, luxuriant but couth.
Except for a spur of golden hairs that fan
To the neat navel, the rest of the belly was smooth.
Well hung, slung from the fork of the muscular legs,
The firm vase of his sperm, like a bulging pear,
Cradling its handsome glands, two herculean eggs,
Swung as he came towards me, shameless, bare.
We aligned mouths. We entwined. All act was clutch,
All fact contact, the attack and the interlock
Of tongues, the charms of arms. I shook at the touch
Of his fresh flesh, I rocked at the shock of his cock.
Straddling my legs a little I inserted his divine
Person between and closed on it tight as I could.
The upright warmth of his belly lay all along mine.
Nude, glued together for a minute, we stood.
I stroked the lobes of his ears, the back of his head
And the broad shoulders. I took bold hold of the compact
Globes of his bottom. We tottered. He fell on the bed.
Lips parted, eyes closed, he lay there, ripe for the act.
Mad to be had, to be felt and smelled. My lips
Explored the adorable masculine tits. My eyes
Assessed the chest. I caressed the athletic hips
And the slim limbs. I approved the grooves of the thighs.
I hugged, I snuggled into an armpit. I sniffed
The subtle whiff of its tuft. I lapped up the taste
Of its hot hollow. My fingers began to drift
On a trek of inspection, a leisurely tour of the waist.
Downward in narrowing circles they playfully strayed.
Encroached on his privates like poachers, approached the prick,
But teasingly swerved, retreated from meeting. It betrayed
Its pleading need by a pretty imploring kick.
"Shall I rim you?" I whispered. He shifted his limbs in assent.
Turned on his side and opened his legs, let me pass
To the dark parts behind. I kissed as I went
The great thick cord that ran back from his balls to his arse.
Prying the buttocks aside, I nosed my way in
Down the shaggy slopes. I came to the puckered goal.
It was quick to my licking. He pressed his crotch to my chin.
His thighs squirmed as my tongue wormed in his hole.
His sensations yearned for consummation. He untucked
His legs and lay panting, hot as a teen-age boy.
Naked, enlarged, charged, aching to get sucked,
Clawing the sheet, all his pores open to joy.
I inspected his erection. I surveyed his parts with a stare
From scrotum level. Sighting along the underside
Of his cock, I looked through the forest of pubic hair
To the range of the chest beyond rising lofty and wide.
I admired the texture, the delicate wrinkles and the neat
Sutures of the capacious bag. I adored the grace
Of the male genitalia. I raised the delicious meat
Up to my mouth, brought the face of its hard-on to my face.
Slipping my lips round the Byzantine dome of the head,
With the tip of my tongue I caressed the sensitive groove.
He thrilled to the trill. "That's lovely!" he hoarsely said.
"Go on! Go on!" Very slowly I started to move.
Gently, intently, I slid to the massive base
Of his tower of power, paused there a moment down
In the warm moist thicket, then began to retrace
Inch by inch the smooth way to the throbbing crown.
Indwelling excitements swelled at delights to come
As I descended and ascended those thick distended walls.
I grasped his root between left forefinger and thumb
And with my right hand tickled his heavy voluminous balls.
I plunged with a rhythmical lunge steady and slow,
And at every stroke made a corkscrew roll with my tongue.
His soul reeled in the feeling. He whimpered "Oh!"
As I tongued and squeezed and rolled and tickled and swung.
Then I pressed on the spot where the groin is joined to the cock,
Slipped a finger into his arse and massaged him from inside.
The secret sluices of his juices began to unlock.
He melted into what he felt. "O Jesus!" he cried.
Waves of immeasurable pleasures mounted his member in quick
Spasms. I lay still in the notch of his crotch inhaling his sweat.
His ring convulsed round my finger. Into me, rich and thick,
His hot spunk spouted in gouts, spurted in jet after jet.
Prince often came across as a kook, but mostly he worked and played and danced his ass off to help people get their heads straight.
When a contemporary artist dies, if we have carried that person's work along a span of our lives our reaction to that death is interwoven with our personal memories. The truncation of the artist's life cuts a hashmark into the branch of our own life. No new art will accompany our life as if the artist continues to compose with us in mind. There is past art to be reviewed, and perhaps art to be uncovered despite what may be the artist's intent to keep it hidden. But the living conversation with the artist stops. We engage the artist as a ghost, or pretend the ghost is there as we converse indirectly with ourselves.
1983 was a miracle year for me. Somehow, at the age of 14, I shifted from listening to Abba (dorky, but wonderfully crafted) and Air Supply (dorky, flat-out, though I try to make a case they are darker than you think) to Prince and The Police. As a pimply, gangly, 14 year-old with braces - being cool or, really, having any idea what the heck was going on anywhere remained far down the road. As a white kid in Eugene, Oregon chances I would be exposed to anything non-white or sophisticated were dim. I had a faint sense of Prince beforehand, mostly from an album cover that made him look like a Breck girl with a mustache.
I had heard the song "1999" and liked it. Then I saw the video and, well, rather than make 14 year-old-me seem more eloquent, my reaction was essentially: "What is going on? This is crazy! I think I like this. A lot." I got the album after latching on to "Little Red Corvette" and determining well, whatever this dude was doing, he did it two songs in a row and it was awesome and I should check it out more songs.
1999 was double album. Four sides of vinyl. His eye at the center of the platter where the spindle went. Music that was exuberant, horny, deep, wrenching, playful about lust and Armageddon and psychological complexes and visions of a better unified world that could come together even if it doesn't happen until the world's ending. I recorded the album onto a cassette tape, then listened to it over and over on my Walkman knock-off many nights when I should have been asleep. Soaked it in.
Then went backwards into his work and liked his albums Prince and For You, but really absorbed Dirty Mind and Controversy almost as deeply as 1999.
Conformity was oppressive in the 1980s. The Reagan presidency was both a product of it and fostered it. The nation was moony-eyed over the illusion that the 1950s was a great time. Not a good time to be a minority. Not a good time to be homosexual. In the 1980s tens of thousands of people were dying from AIDS in the U.S. as the President remained silent. His braintrust and allies sniggered behind the scenes, and sometimes in front of cameras and microphones, about the "gay cancer" as something the victims deserved.
Prince's strangeness, "Am I black or white, am I straight or gay?" in the realm of his music and performances all came across as entirely normal. That realm was a better place to be.
There were scarcely any black people in Eugene. Gender lines generally were strongly marked and never broken openly. Yet here was this person in a confident mid-point. Mixed-race, if that phrase has much meaning. A short guy who played junior high and high school basketball. A man dressed in bikini briefs, high heels, eyeliner, in touch with his feminine side and primped to within an inch of his life, yet one of the most masculine forces ever to take the stage. Like a tornado or hurricane. He seemed to say: "You know nothing, kid. But that's okay. Be yourself. Let others be themselves. Let's all mingle, we're all we've got, and let's all be funky."
Taking in all of his music up to 1999 primed me for Purple Rain in 1984. I got the album right away. And... the movie that came out in July 1984...?
I was stuck in Boise that summer, and at age 15 had no ride to a movie theater who could accompany me to a rated-R movie. I didn't see the movie until EARLY SEPTEMBER. The world had moved on by then, and I was a huge fan struggling to catch up in an almost empty theater. My frustration remains palpable to this day. Though feeling sly about getting into a rated-R movie alone gave some solace.
The movie was exciting, but clearly bags full of dumb that even I could detect at 15. However, it was electric that the world was catching on to Prince. Roger Ebert listed Purple Rain among his top 10 films for that year. When it came out on VHS, I bought a copy at my beloved Earth River Records in Eugene and watched it over and over. Especially during two following summers in Boise. I kept count and viewed Purple Rain over 50 times. I had no illusions about it being a great film, or even a good one beyond the performance sequences, but I was fond of it and absorbed it with adolescent intensity. It takes little to trigger my memory and start reciting minutes of dialog.
Yesterday, driving in rush hour the day of Prince's death, I recalled that once when my house was empty of family as a teen I put a black light bulb in a lamp in the living room, turned off all other lights, and danced & pantomimed to the entire "Purple Rain" album. I might have been in a t-shirt and shorts. More likely it was just in tighty whities (we lived in the country so passers-by were unlikely). I smiled in modern-day rush hour at this nerdiness. Then I realized this was probably at some point after I had started dating, against the odds and perhaps in defiance of Nature, one of the coolest girls in the high school. That I did this after having at least gotten to third base, possibly all the way around the bases, made it even funnier and I started laughing out loud. Skinny kid in white briefs, miraculously a player.
I stuck with the following zillion albums devotedly. Around the World in a Day, Under the Cherry Moon (and its esoteric and weirdly charming movie), Sign o' the Times, The Black Album (unreleased for years, snatched a bootleg), Lovesexy, Batman, Graffiti Bridge, Diamonds and Pearls, O(+>, Come. His side projects and protegees as soon as I heard of them. Of course, the fun Jill Jones album. Yes, I can also defend Carmen Electra's album. Apollonia had charm, but didn't her thin singing sound like she was yawning all the time?
In 1988 (or was it 1990?) at a summer camp job at a college campus, I was a dorm counselor who was also the camp dance disk jockey. In a dormitory loading dock (Carson Hall) on the concrete upper deck that I had to myself I did a rehearsed dance to "Alphabet St.". White billowy shirt. Tight black pants. Even did a hurdler's stretch split on the ground and bounced back up. It was fun. The kids really liked it, as they often liked seeing grown-ups let down their guard. I think fellow staff liked it. I know that I loved it, got lost in the song and let Dionysus take over with an abandon I have rarely allowed since.
I would not hazard a split like that again, but I do practice the other moves in private from time to time. Don't ask me, though, I'll probably blush.
As adulthood waxed, music became a less intense experience for a while. But I bought all the albums. Crystal Ball (a lot of past material from his vault), Emancipation, and The Rainbow Children remain favorites. 3121 and Musicology also stood out as albums I enjoyed but didn't absorb, though I couldn't tell definitively how much of this period was Prince phoning it in (he seemed to be conveying songs, not being within the song) or my not being as enthusiastic for music. Probably a little of both.
But Prince remained productive, even if his agon was not as strong, music was his essence.
The last couple of years were great ones for Prince. His heart was back into his music, and he was having fun and continued to challenge the forces of power. Art Official Age was playful. His 3rdEyeGirl project with three female musician partners was a blast. Hit 'n' Run Phase One and Phase Two had great spirit and social conscience. His song "Baltimore" last year to take on the beating death of Freddie Gray is among Prince's many career highlights. The energy behind it is strong.
His messiah moods irked me. Former bandmates are chock full of stories about him conferring blessings, pretending to have a pathway to higher existence he could confer to others. That he became a Jehovah's Witness was dorkily inevitable. But while listening to his music the day of his death, I realized that even his desire to be a conduit to magical experiences was driven to make things better for people. He wasn't trying to trick anyone for his material gain or terrestrial power as we see in so many others.
His songs on erotic matters were almost fully an interplay of equals. Perform for me, I'll perform for you. I like your mind, but let's not talk right now. Okay, I'll shut up, too, so you can do your thing to me.
After typing the last few sentences it may be fun to take one of his lust paeans and neuter it by translating the lyrics to be square:
Act ur age mama, not ur shoe size and maybe we can do the twirl.
U don't have 2 watch Dynasty 2 have an attitude.
Just leave it all up 2 me. My love will be, will be ur fool.
Behave at a level appropriate to your chronological attainment to assist our erotic compatibility.
To develop a sense of stylish self-possession does not require study of tony pop culture touchstones.
Delegate the burden to me, and I will engage you with respectful humility.
And, as autonomous as he was and often playing most or all of the instruments and many of his albums, he was a collaborator. He liked to share music, he liked cultivating other artists, and took joy in making music happen and fostering happiness.
Skimming over his 700+ songs of his that I have (all the studio albums, all the officially released live recordings, many Napster-era live bootlegs), it strikes me that Prince never mastered how to incorporate rap into his music. He tried as himself. He tried through male rappers. But tellingly he got the best flows from women. Two examples popped up while shuffle playing his tracks over the last day. Sheila E. in "It's Gonna Be a Beautiful Night" and Cat Glover in the album cut of "Alphabet St." Of the lyrics encountered in the first day following Prince's death these fun but still sincere lyrics sum up a lot of Prince's ethos:
Talk 2 me lover, come on tell me what u taste. / Didn't ur mama tell u life is 2 good 2 waste? / Did she tell u Lovesexy is the Glam of them all? / U can hang, u can trip on it, u surely won't fall. / No side effects, the feeling lasts 4 ever. / Straight up, it tastes good, it makes feel clever. / U kiss ur enemies like u know u should. / Then u jerk ur body like a Horny Pony would. / U jerk ur body like a Horny Pony would. / Now run and tell ur mama about that!
This bootleg recording of him playing "Superstition" with Stevie Wonder in 2010 shows so much delight in his face as he jams with one of the few humans capable of understanding what it's like to be so talented. That Prince also has his longtime friend Sheila E. onstage to assist is also is a delight. Even an initially disconnected guitar does not dissuade him. The groove is going. He will add to it soon enough. Then he gets there and it's loose and terrific.
Prince has left us many grooves. And the word for decades is that he has a vast vault of already recorded tracks, alternate takes, and other songs. Unless his will legally locks that material up, we will probably be exploring new music from him for years to come. I am down with that.
All those scattered thoughts and words, and I'm still staring at the screen feeling hollowed out. I will miss this talented, prodigious, Muse-driven, caring, mad, skinny, sexy motherfucker. My life would be much poorer without him.
Like many annoying people, I memorized "Jabberwocky" at a young age and am precious about it. Such as, well, now. Imagine me typing this with a shrewish self-righteous face that looks eminently punchable. Few things send me into a rage so quickly as when someone pronounces "borogoves" as "boro-groves", inserting a second "r". Not news about genocides, insults to those I love, nor essays on how the Star Wars prequels are okay movies.
Rationally, I know the story takes place in a forest and so it's liable to trick minds into thinking of a "grove". However, if a person recites a poem, and gets a word wrong, then stands there like he/she actually got the whole thing right, it's an aesthetic crime. You don't have it memorized. Get the fuck off the stage. Though I have never a read anything he wrote, I have read & listened to many Neil Gaiman interviews and find him charming. But even Gaiman fucks it up:
He messes up on another word, too, but I'll forgive him that. The full poem:
(from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There)
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought --
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.
And, as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
"And, has thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!'
He chortled in his joy.
`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.
Kate Burton starred in Alice in Wonderland in a fun production on PBS' Great Performances in the early 1980s that I watched many times as a kid. It features famous (and soon-to-be-famous) actors in sets and costumes drawn from John Tenniel's illustrations. She even has a scene with her father, Richard Burton, who plays the White Knight.
Kate Burton, to her eternal credit, gets "Jabberwocky" right. If you ever catch someone fucking it up, bring this up on your smartphone and play it to the person with your most pointed pointy finger:
How do you hear poems in your head? In a voice, or as silent words? A variety of women's readings of this poem, from serious to torch song to taunting, lent a lot of fun in a few short minutes.
Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote the following sonnet as part of a larger set, "Renascence" which was written when she was 20 (if I understand her biography) and published when she was 25.
If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again—
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man—who happened to be you—
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud—I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place—
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.
The reading below is a little thin and more world-weary than how I imagine the poem. A good start for contrast.
I'll link to the torch song version here, but want to make sure you watch the following informal recital below, which I thought was charming. It gets to the playfulness and blitheness the poem brings to my mind. Maybe 1/3 the first reading and 2/3 this reading:
My kids are old enough, I mentioned in a conversation with a friend, that increasingly I see my job as just getting out of their way. Each generation rides roughshod over the bones of the dead. Let's hope this won't happen for several more decades, but eventually I'll be among the peat caught in a younger generation's tank treads.
And with the deaths of acquaintances, family, friends, and celebrities — reaching the midpoint of life will mean that more people I know of will have died than are still living. Cheery? No. But practical, and helps keep the ego in check that maybe a late order in a restaurant isn't the hugest matter in the world.
Flipping that, what's it like to outlive your child? Joan Didion in The Year of Magical Thinking writes about the death of her spouse. Just a few weeks before the publication of that book, Didion's daughter died at the age of 39. She wrote about the experience in Blue Nights. A poem excerpt from the book:
Pass into nothingness: the Keats line that frightened her.
Fade as the blue nights fade, go as the brightness goes.
Go back into the blue.
I myself placed her ashes in the wall.
I myself saw the cathedral doors locked at six.
I know what it is I am now experiencing.
I know what the frailty is, I know what the fear is.
The fear is not for what is lost.
What is lost is already in the wall.
What is lost is already behind the locked doors.
The fear is for what is still to be lost.
You may see nothing still to be lost.
Yet there is no day in her life on which I do not see her.
The election year has me thinking of rampant egos, hubris, and whether the comedy of today will become tragedy tomorrow then become comedy again where it will stay as we fade into history. Do you think historians will scrutinize our PowerPoint slides and other tedious artifacts to judge what was important to us, as they do a desiccated bill of sale found on papyrus? Imagine the future graduate teaching assistants click-click-clicking through our memos proving their mettle in order to progress in academic esteem.
Please, everyone. Out of courtesy to the people of the future, let us aspire to make all our memos vibrant and worthy of posterity. Whether a book report, or an explanation to others about how to do that thing that we find so easy, make it profound and beautiful. Or at least add something funny.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.