In which I talk about things that are not beautiful, as well as some things that are. And other stuff.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A Query

Tell me if you believe this: Live Free or Die.

Monday, July 10, 2006

So What?

There is a song out now that troubles me greatly. It is called "So What," and it is by Ciara and Field Mob. Here are the lyrics (with thanks to

Hey girl Ilike yo' flavor,
wish I could be yo' neighbor, must caught up by the way you
Ladies and gentleman,
Jazzy Fay, Field Mob, Ciara Superstar DJ...hear we go
and they say
he do a little this
he do a little that
he always in drama,
and i heard
he aint nothin but a pimp
hes done alotta chicks
hes always in the club
and they say he think hes slick,
hes got alotta chips
he sellin dem drugs,
and i heard
hes been locked up
find somebody else
he aint nuttin but a thug
so what{x4}
[[verse 1]]
hey, hey
and they say
im a slut
im a hoe
im a freak
i got a different girl
everyday of the week
you too smart
you'd be a dummy to believe
that stuff that you heard
that they say about me
they say that im
this they say that im that
but all of its fiction
none of its facts
but you dont be hearin it about your love
you let it go in one ear and out the other
now he say she say they say i heard
if be fake we cant let it get on our nerves
she miserable
she just want you to be like her
misery needs company
so dont listen to that vine of grapes
they're nuthin but liars hatin
and i bet
they wouldnt mind tradin places
with you by my side in my mercedes
they say
he do a little this
he do a little that
he always in drama{and i heard}
hes nuthin but a pimp
hes got a lot of chicks
hes always in the club(and they say)
he think he slick
hes got a lot of chips
he sellin dem drugs,(and i heard)
hes been locked up
find somebody else
he aint nuthin but a thug
so what(x4)
tell em C.C.
[[verse 2]]
mo' money mo' problems
life of a legend
haters throw salt like rice at a weddin
so what
thats your cousin
that dont mean nuthin
her like missin is a type of affection you get
you just blind to the facts
see the lies just as obvious as cries for attention
yield to the blindness to apply your suspicion
but listen
say you love me
gotta trust me
why you stress this high school mess
break up never
they just jealous
drama for your mother
mean mug from your brother
im that author of the book
they can judge by the cover
(yes)i been to jail
(yes)im grindin for real
im positive at talkin negative pimp
they hate to see you doin better than them so
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ciara
[[verse 3]]
some people dont like it
cuz you hang out in the streets
but you my boyfriend
you've always been here for me
this love is serious
no matter what people think
im gon be here for ya
and i don't care what they say
some people dont like it
cuz you hang out in the streets
but you my boyfriend
youve always been here for me
i love the thug in ya
no matter what people think
im gon be here for ya
and i don't care what they say
What bothers me is not so much the spelling, grammar, and punctuation, but the kind of relationship that's being lauded. Doesn't Ciara sound like an abused girlfriend in denial? Poor thing--what a long way from "My Goodies."
-But he does it because he loves me,

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Independence Day

Oh my America! My new found land! My kingdom, safest when with one man manned.

So says Donne, in Elegy XX, one of my favorite love poems. America has a birthday again today; she is 230, still so very young, yet she is growing wrinkled and tired some say. Ah, but think of her once-luscious loins fruitful with men and women of courage, enterprise, love. Dear old savage America, choosing always excess over deficiency, raising sometimes a giant middle finger to the world, nearly incapable of introspection, but born of a fire so EAGER! It was eagerness, my dear mother, father, spiritual guide, that set you out and made you spread your arms that sometimes suffocated but sought to protect. How you were always ready to say, it was for the betterment of their souls. And indeed, now how your eyelids are almost closed with fat, how complacent and cruel you can be. But you still sing, or listen to recordings of, songs of golden streets and new days but NO promises, only a way to learn how to stand unaided. Thou beautiful Babel, thou art a tower made tall by immigrants, but now thou art jealous of thy borders. Why is this, dear mother? Irony is beyond you, but greatness is not--not in the past, and I hope not in the future. Dear Native Land, I love you but I do not worship you. I hope for a relationship of mutual respect; I hope I can earn yours and I must work to make you worthy of mine. I do not believe that patriotism is like the hormone-driven ecstasy of sporting events. I do not believe that patriotism is equivalent to blind acceptance of all of the machinations of government--those who are in your payroll are not you, no not at all. They are your servants and mine, America. Patriotism, I think, should be demanding of you what you have always demanded of your own children: honesty, vigor, self-respecting integrity. I must believe that thou art not Her of Babylon, dear one. When you are ugly you are hideous, crass, vile; but when you are beautiful you make movements on mountains and music redounds in my heart, poured with the happy generosity of my better nature. Happy Birthday, America, and may we all ever be true.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It's all such a Croc

This particular post is nothing more than a cry in the wilderness. There is a new fashion now that threatens to eclipse even gauchos in crass ugliness, and that is enveloping all age groups and areas of society: the Croc. Oh dear, they're hideous! And they come in ALL SORTS OF GHASTLY COLORS! So now people just wear any old color Croc with any outfit, which is not good. Now, you may say they're extremely comfortable, and that may be true. I wear awful-looking things in the privacy of my own home just because they're comfortable and I don't care, but in public I have a little pride and I will not wear what look like gaily colored gardening shoes. Now you may say, but surely...surely they're cheap and people wear them because that's all they can afford. Well, my friends, unfortunately that is not true. They run, yes, about thirty-five dollars. And honestly, I can find some very natty shoes at Bealls or even the thrift store for considerably less. When I saw a man at the store who had on, oh I guess jeans and a patterned tee-shirt, and PINK CROCS, I just couldn't believe it. People think these shoes give them a license to clash, but it's not true. Solution: if you must, get them and wear them in your private home or with intimate associates who will not judge you, and buy some gel shoe inserts to put in your cheap but nice shoes that you can wear in public without being ridiculous (or at least, in your strange shoes in which you are calculatedly ridiculous).
-Huffily yours,

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A Grail Quest

Pardon me, dear friends, for taking such an extended vacation from my blog. I KNOW how much you depend on my casually nuanced wisdom and vivacious wit. So what I think bears discussion is a certain phenomenon known as The Da Vinci Code. I have read the book and now seen the movie, and for almost the first time in my life, I thought the movie was better. Aside from any religious controversy (and it seems odd that there would be so much, because there have been other books and so on that, comparatively, were much more shocking, and yes there are some fallacies in the book that bear addressing, but that is beyond the scope of this blog--isn't it nice how I can get out of explaining things by claiming that they're out of the scope of the blog?), there are a couple of interesting forces at work in the consumption of this remarkably mediocre novel and its resulting somewhat exciting movie.

It is pretty much always my policy to read the book first, and almost without exception the book is better. Occasionally a movie might be so extraordinary that it reaches the level of the book (Gone with the Wind, for instance, and very possibly Lord of the Rings), but almost always the book provides a richer and deeper examination of persons and ideas than usually possible within the immediacy of a movie--plus it's difficult for a movie to incorporate brilliant and evocative wordplay that paints a scene rather than photographs it. Also, a book requires us to provide some material from our own imaginations, so it pulls us into a conversation with it, which makes the relationship usually more meaningful. Movies are USUALLY made for entertainment, and even when they are Art they are Art in a very different way. So. What up with Signor Da Vinci and his Code?

Ummm...well. I was primarily annoyed by the low level of general knowledge possessed by the intrepid but often clueless Robert Langdon. I may be an ingenue, but to me Harvard professors usually know stuff about subjects other than their own disciplines. When the "symbologist" is not narrowly evading being shot, he usually has a dumbfounded look on his face as someone attempts to explain things scientific (for instance) to him. It was particularly irking in Angels and Demons, in which Langdon had to have the Big Bang laboriously explained to him, as well as a pun on the word "Ionic." Such explanations are very tiring in writing, and the intelligent reader feels very much condescended to. At the very least Langdon could be reviewing facts in his head, which would be a vehicle for providing background knowledge without making me fear for the future of American academia (furthermore, students in his class had never heard of the Golden Ratio! That's ninth-grade stuff, and I didn't even get into Harvard!). However, in a movie, in which softly narrated thought processes are somewhat more awkward, the explication of rather general knowledge things is less taxing. That is to say, it's not any better, but it's far more bearable in movie form.

I don't believe that the book is a great one: there is no deep poetry or pathos or, ironically enough, symbolism (or the explicit refusal of all of the above, as in Nabokov), and so it reads like a narrated pamphlet for the Louvre. It's simply simply an adventure story for the general reader, the type who would say "Wow, Dan Brown is such a brilliant author!" This is apparent in the book, in which words are all that we have. But the movie is made for images, many of which are extremely impressive and fraught with tension and so on. So: my advice to those who have read the book and have been disappointed--give the movie a try. It's quite fun, and not as apparently puerile as the book. But it's still
-Yours ever,

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Local Anesthetic: My Stepfather

Now listen. I do love my stepfather, but his aesthetic choices are atrocious. Culinarily, he is rigidly set in his ways: He refuses to try any new food (except for the erratic quirk--last week he wanted Raspberry Jam when for his entire life he has eaten Grape Jam, and I was amazed), in fact be becomes OFFENDED if my mother serves something new. Once, more than once actually, he refused even to taste the macaroni and cheese because the pasta was, I think, rotini instead of elbow macaroni. More for my mother and me, which was good because it was delicious, but we were also forcefed a side of tension which, of course, makes all foods taste bland.

He says that he has never ever read a book for pleasure in his life (he calls books "fantasy world" and not worth his time, for he lives in the "real world," grim as it often is to him); he will not allow music audible to him to be played while he is at home (it is all "noise" to him--he dismisses it all indiscriminately). I believe this is because in order to become immersed in a book or in music, a certain portion of the ego must be sacrificed, at least temporarily; a psychical ear must be lent; a bit of the mind must be forced open. At any rate, this unfortunately limits an analysis of his artistic preferences to two media, television and movies.

My stepfather claims he does not enjoy television because it is not active enough and he is always "busy" and "making deals" and the like, but somehow he finds time for several hours of TV a day (plus the odd NASCAR race). This is roughly equally divided between news and game shows--Jeopardy!, which I enjoy, and Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, which I can hardly bear to watch (because of the smarmy Ms. Viera with her peculiar face that simply drives me crazy, I'm sorry I can't explain it; it's one of those irrational aversions I have), and, strangest of all, Deal or No Deal? (interesting that all his favorite game shows have punctuation marks in their names). The two former are fairly normal, but Deal or No Deal? is simply, oh I don't know, it's very bizarre. The contestants are obviously actors (they're TOO comfortable on stage and TOO quick with a joke and their personalities are TOO static) and the audience is composed of the type of people who, at the loony bin, are always yelling. They're so AMAZINGLY EXCITED about EVERYTHING! When the esteemed bald host (what is his name again, Howie something?) asks the question "Deal...OR NO DEAL?", oh my goodness chaos ensues. Everybody is shouting what they think, practically convulsed with the yearning suspense and thrill and the frenzy and the enormity of it all and the desperate weight of their certainty! The contestant usually spreads his/her arms like a priest about to make the sacrifice and drinking in the spiritual power of the worshippers, then lowers them pensively and quickly makes the decision. Then there is more yelling, and sudden bright lights flashing and a collective gasp. Other game show audiences are enthusiastic, but I'm telling you these Deal or No Deal? people are unhinged. My stepfather went from mocking the show to watching it every time it's on, which is the usual pattern. Conclusion: he wants stimulation.

My stepfather judges the value of a movie on three criteria:
1. The number of explosions/shootouts/car chases/large fancy vehicles.
2. The number of sex scenes.
3. The number of buffoonish black people whose only role is to tell ribald jokes.
He has been known to leave our living room when a rented movie did not supply enough "action" within the first two minutes. If it looks to have any sophistication, any goal whatsoever beyond titillation, he leaves it ("My brain ain't dead," he says). He walked out of Munich yesterday because, I guess, the sweet strains of "Hatikva" in the beginning seemed a bit too contemplative. He left Match Point because of the opera music in the background. He really likes the Rush Hour movies, the Triple X movies, and such.
I love him, I do, and he is not at all stupid--he has a keen analytical mind and great intuitive psychological acumen, plus a great deal of knowledge about things that I know nothing about--but he is an Anesthetic, and he is what movies are made for; he's a splendid average American consumer of art. This is destructive: As long as the majority of people demand the sort of thing he demands, and beg not to be made to think (witness the Da Vinci Code craze; why are people so excited about them? They're not well written! They're dumb! Arrrgh, Dan Brown is not a brilliant writer! Why is he even controversial?), American "art" (I enclose in quotes not to be dismissive, but because calling an entire category of output art seems dangerous to me) by and large (yes, a lot of good stuff does get made, just not much at the large scale, and an artistically discerning mass is an ornament and a powerful force in a society) will continue to languish. Alas.
-Your friend who loves you and wishes the best for you,

Monday, June 05, 2006

The OG debate

There are two rappers of great appeal who have built their image on their battle scars (actually there are plenty I'm sure, but I'm going to be talking about just these two--it's my blog, I make the rules) and in general on their gangsta cred. They both have the pedigrees and the, so to speak, rap sheets to prove it, but only one of them has the musical qualities of that elusive and glorious figure, the OG. The said rappers are 50 Cent, affectionately known as Fitty, and Snoop Dogg, formerly Snoop Doggy Dogg, affectionately known as Snoop. Both rappers are of the same family (in that they are both the issue, although of different generations, of the esteemed Dr. Dre). Both are kind of weird looking. But only one, my friends, is an Original Gangsta.

Snoop, of the West Coast heritage, has been around for quite some time (though age alone is an unfair criterion), and boasts a laid-back and rhythmically interesting style. He is known to carry women around on leashes, wear large fur coats, smoke a great deal of weed, and get accused of murder. He is, my friends, a TRUE OG. Snoop does not have to shout to be intimidating. Usually he raps very calmly, but somehow the calm is menacing. Take the recent hit "Drop it Like it's Hot." In one verse, Snoop almost gently and sweetly, certainly with a slightly humorous tone, tells us to "turn it up a little," rhyming "little" with many an "izzle," his signature phrase. Then later, with equal sangfroid, he promises to those who play him close and dare to challenge him just because they have a gun, the following:

C mid shoes, now I'm on the move
You're family's crying, now you on the news
They can't find you, and now they miss you
Must I remind you I'm only here to twist you
Pistol whip you, dip you then flip you

etc. When I heard that, I was frightened. He's all business. When Mr. Dogg threatens to torture and kill me, I believe him. He has, as Castiglione would say, a certain sprezzatura. Snoop is a real OG, as well as a pimp who can make a woman feel as though it's a high honor to be treated like a pet puppy.

Now, 50, a New Yorker (generationally one after Snoop--50 is Eminem's protege, while both Eminem and Snoop are Dre's) has been shot nine times. Yet he continues to be a productive (?) member of society and have enviable muscles. There is no doubt he is hardcore. But this is about art, not life, and his art does not imitate his life, or else the imitation is incredibly shoddy. A lifeless, yea robotic, delivery is substituted for Snoop's terrifying cool. Although we can't make fun of Fitty's looks, for Heaven knows he's had some hard knocks, his face carries a constant expression of dullness and idiocy. That would be fine if he rapped well, but unfortunately he doesn't. I liked "In Da Club" as much as the next person, but that was the high point, after which his songs have gotten progressively worse. I simply can't take him seriously after "Candy Shop," in which he (very fruitily, and by fruitily I mean squirellily) begins, after a few "uh-huhs," with "SO seductive." SO SEDUCTIVE??? Fitty dear, I'm afraid that's not gangsta. That's lame. Later he rhymes "ironic" (in an incorrect usage of the word) with "erotic." Dear me. And then there's that abominable "Jus' a Lil' Bit," which video is a ridiculous fantasy enjoyed, I'm sure, by sad, nerdy white men, not self-respecting G's like 50 Cent should be. It just seems ALL to be one silly fantasy romp, including that silly album cover in which Cent looks like a postapocalyptic video game character. Ridiculous. If you're going to make silly pop songs that don't make sense (and that's okay), be straight with us, 50, and don't play it like a gangsta.

In fine, if a rapper walks the crip walk, he or she needs to talk the crip talk as well. Snoop may have done some silly things, but he can pull it off because one senses a cloud of--well, that too, but I was going to say irony, around him. Plus who'd dare call him on it? However, take everything I've just said with a grain of sizzalt, because I am, after all, a genuine cracker living in the suburbs who usually doesn't know what she's talking about, and has not been shot even once. OR accused of a felony.

-Keeping it real, or trying to,
Rizzle Jizzle

P.S. I keep a blue flag hanging out my backside
But only on the left side, yeah that's the Crip side