Most everyone does "Jabberwocky" wrong

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:

Jabberwocky
Lewis Carroll
(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:

Edna St. Vincent Millay “If I should learn, in some quite casual way”

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.

Sonnet V

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:

Joan Didion mourning a middle-aged child

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.

Joan Didion, from an interview on NPR's Fresh Air. Click on the photo to listen.

Joan Didion, from an interview on NPR's Fresh Air. Click on the photo to listen.

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:

Vanish.

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.

Immortality via PowerPoint slides

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.

Ozymandias
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.

PowerPoint slide that I have made, just for you (and future cyber-archaeologists).

To my daughter, a new teenager

Today you turn 13, though you have been a teenager in spirit for a while now. Tall, smart, increasingly savvy, curious, reflective, sensing your awareness of the world and of yourself is changing and growing. Unsure what form your mind will eventually take, which can be frustrating, as many changes in your mind and feelings are not in ways you can choose.

Sometimes your parents and brother are on the ball, other times none of us seem to get you.

I like seeing the glimpses of the different personas you try on like hats to see what suits you, or makes you laugh, or might make your friends laugh. I know as you grow more independent, and the natural shift happens where your friends' thoughts matter more than your parents' thoughts, that you will be less and less my toddling daughter of many years ago. You don't need me to refill a sippy cup or fetch a snack. You are less dependent on me the more time goes on.

But that's why, my increasingly grown-up daughter, when you choose to hangout with me, with so many other choices before you, it matters all the more. And you're good company. I delight in seeing and hearing you joke, experimenting. Some jokes are misses, but when they hit the target they THUNK like an arrow hitting a bullseye. High-fives all around, fully amused as all of us in the room laugh.

You are clever. I delight in seeing you find new outlets of expression, and build on the ones you have had for years. I delight in thinking of the baby you were, the child you were not too long ago, and marveling at the impressive human being you are now. Happy birthday, my darling daughter.

Love always, Papa.

Daughter taking a photo of "Untitled (To Donna) II" by Dan Flavin.

On Bootyliciousness, jelly, jealousy

This came on the iPod, and I wondered whether the chorus goes: "I don't think you're ready for this jelly" (I have jelly you may not be prepared for) or "I don't think you're ready for this. Jeally?" (You lack preparation for "this", and are jealous of it).

A typical contemplation for me during a long drive. Don't look up the answer on any CD booklet lyrics you have, or, heaven forfend, any of those sloppy song lyrics websites. Ponder this as a koan.

David Bowie: head, heart, girls loving horsies

As a teenager, many of the girls around me who had a rabid (libidinous?) fetish for horses later had a rabid, libidinous fetish for David Bowie. It seemed best to not intrude between girls and their horses or their David Bowie. So I mostly ignored him.

David Bowie favors the U.S. flag and milk.

At age 18, on the sly, I bought The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Marvelous stuff, of course. But at age 20 I bought probably the best bunch of CDs in my life: David Bowie Sound + Vision.

The packaging was marvelous. For 1989, it contained three great CDs that ran a gamut of his career up to Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) including familiar tracks and alternate takes. It had a video CD with the video for "Ashes to Ashes" saying goodbye to his pre-1980 personas when hardly anyone had a player to do anything with it.

Bowie described himself as "synthetic". Before I closely listened, when I was a teenager he came across as always viewing his own work from a distance. Never fully engaged, but pulling a trick of some kind and watching to see everyone's reactions rather than being in the moment.

What is easy to miss, for all the hairstyles and colors and external trappings, is his voracious curiosity for music. He put a great deal of heart into his work, often getting far further in than trying on genres, but studying and expressing himself from the genre's center.

Over time I bought all his albums up through Never Let Me Down. His recordings at the BBC. For all this intense time of catching up, all his changes and playfulness had the safety of the past. It didn't offend or challenge me in the way it would have had I caught it at the first. The daring stuff struck me as wonderfully funny and clever. I could see things as they were meant and did not have to deal with the contemporary "What is he doing?"

Sound + Vision. Terrific packaging. Great music.

When strapped for cash at various times, I ended up selling a few of his albums I didn't listen to very often (Farewell, Never Let Me Down). I haven't purchased every album he released after 1987. I did like Tin Machine. Yes, really. And Black Tie, White Noise. And I especially liked Outside. And like much of his mid-level fans I had heard whispers about his ailing health in recent years, and was delightfully surprised when The Next Day came out, viewing it in 2013 as a final album emerging after ten years of retirement.

In 2016, with Bowie dead, I now drum my fingers, awaiting delivery of his final album Blackstar. I saw the video for his song "Lazarus" when it was released and knew he was near death. Not only tipped-off by the title of the song, and the prolonged shots on a sick bed, but most especially the black and silver-striped harlequin going into the chest/coffin at the end. This was goodbye.

And three days after the video's release, he was dead.

The news bummed me out, intermittently, for a couple of days. And I still shake my head a few times at the news. I don't associate a wide range of his songs with emotionally laden relationships or memories. But playing random tracks from the 25 albums of his that I still own evokes specific times in my life when listening and getting engrossed in his music was an experience distinctly (this is absurd) mine, even listening a decade or two behind others. His hunger to try things, his love of music and bending of forms all generated an impressive body of work. Yet, it feels like a chill has settled on all of those accomplishments for now. Once Blackstar arrives, his space on my CD shelves will not get much wider.

When thinking of an example of Bowie deploying both a sense of play and a clear drive to get into the center of a song, his cover of "Wild is the Wind" came immediately to mind.

Many of us will take solace in the work he left behind, even though listening to it for a while will be hard because we will sorely miss him.

I got sad writing this. Headed up the stairs. Then I started thinking of "TVC15" and Bowie's performance on Saturday Night Live with Klaus Nomi and started laughing. Had I seen this in 1978, at age 9, I would have wondered what was going on. Seeing it much later, it is so wonderfully fucking funny. Pink poodle with a t.v. screen. Stick around for the second number in the video of David Bowie acting like a puppet for "Boys Keep Swinging". Yes, that is Martin Sheen introducing him.

"Ready for Hillary"? No.

We are 200 years overdue for a woman U.S. President. But Hillary, at best, would be a mediocre start. What does she stand for? Similar to 2008, when her supporters are questioned the response is often conceptual like "It's her turn." The argument is based on proximity (she bade her time as First Lady for eight years in the White House, was a U.S. Senator for years, took a Secretary of State position as a consolation prize for losing in 2008, her last name is Clinton so it's only fair she should inherit the position after her husband).

"It's her turn" responses are often based on projection. A woman should be President. Women we know (or are) have been unfairly treated for centuries, and women should have their due. It doesn't so much matter which woman, so much as a woman becomes President. Of course candidates typically are screens on which we can project whatever we want onto, but the blankness around Clinton seems more pronounced.

Ad in my Facebook feed. No, lazybones, I won't link to the "instant poll" for you.

And the "it's her turn" rationale is often based on name recognition or that the entire nation owes both parties in the Clinton marriage a go at being U.S. President. That's a dynasty, and our nation was largely founded to get away from that stuff. Can we at least all agree to take a break from Bush and Clinton dynasties? We have another 300 million people to draw from. Sure, we're a plutocracy and republic, but at least plutocrats alternate the family names of those in charge. It's a courtesy they grant to us in the craven throng below.

Bolstering the theory that support for her is based on the concept, not reality, there's polling (yeah, yeah, I know) that shows that Clinton is more popular in times when she is not running for office compared to in the public spotlight as an active candidate. This may be why the Clinton's supporters in Democratic National Committee are trying to reduce the number of presidential candidate debates. Note Clinton's numbers in 2008 and Spring 2015 as her new campaign was starting:

Has Clinton taken stances on important issues that were ahead of the crowd? The only one I can think of is trying to move the nation to single-payer healthcare way back as First Lady in 1993. Good on her for that. She tends to be years, even decades behind the right place to be. Alert people knew marriage equality was the just stance, yet the Clintons supported the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) ensuring decades of misery and shame for thousands of families. Many of us were howling that the case for the Iraq invasion was based on bullshit, yet Clinton voted for that due to expediency and posturing. I don't trust her to do the thing that's right, I do expect her to take public moral stances based on Dick Morris-style cynical "triangulation", though.

There is no doubt that she has been subjected to decades of frothing attacks by the verifiable "vast right-wing conspiracy". David Brock's Blinded by the Right laid this out in great detail, as he was one of the lead right-wing conspirators. And the expensive, vapid circuses continue. Trying to make Benghazi a thing, private email servers a thing, on and on.

I see that women in politics have a more difficult balancing act when it comes to a public persona. Too assertive and behaviors that would label a man "daring" or "ballsy" get a woman labeled a "bitch". Too soft and behaviors described as "empathetic" in a man get a woman labeled "emotional". Women have to worry about triggering responses to however people feel about their own mothers. Men in politics don't seem to have to deal with people's father issues so overtly.

But Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, even Olympia Snowe (yeah, she's a Republican - there are sane, moderate ones out there - by the way take your party back you guys!) would make for more appealing candidates. How about Cecile Richards?

Heck, if Hillary Clinton ditched her married name and ran under her birth name as Hillary Rodham that would make me feel a little better. Actually, wouldn't that be marvelous?

Rhetoric v. poetry. Rhetoric + poetry.

Not Bernie Sanders, but W.B. Yeats

"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry. Unlike the rhetoricians, who get a confident voice from remembering the crowd they have won or may win, we sing amid our uncertainty; and, smitten even in the presence of the most high beauty by the knowledge of our solitude, our rhythm shudders." - William Butler Yeats, "Anima Hominus"

Goddamn, I have got to get away from dunking my head in the politics bucket, and from the politics commentary bucket, then commenting on the politics commentary bucket, and put pen to paper on wrapping up the dirty book project.

Writing is progressing, but done in isolation. Commenting on political rhetoric is in the open and full of commiseration and wit and friends amusing each other. Maybe misanthropy would lead to more spans of time to tune things out and focus?