"Fire is motion / Work is repetition / This is my document / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all we've done / We are all all defenses."

- Cap'N Jazz, "Oh Messy Life," Analphabetapolothology

Thursday, November 25, 2010

thankful for this

i'm extremely thankful this moment exists.
i'm thankful for Bruce and for Jon and for what they've done for my generation and for our country.

and of course, i'm extremely thankful for my family and friends and for music and laughter and all the good trappings of life.

it's been a hard year for a lot of people. speaking for myself, i lost my job and my sense of attachment and belonging to a community, lost track of who i was and what made me joyful and inspired. this was the year i got really into Bruce Springsteen. i mean, really into Bruce. i moved from California to Kentucky to New York, and on that 11-hour drive from the midwest, my home, to Central New York, where i was going to make a new home for myself with little more than hope and a determination not to fail, i listened to nothing but Bruce the entire time, and for the first time, i felt like those lyrics were speaking for me, rescuing me from a despair i didn't know i was in. there was a desperate hope i could identify with, and as i was driving through that region of America i could feel Bruce there on the road and in those dusty bleak industrial towns, felt him present in my situation, supplying evidence for hope and joy in darkness that makes it capable for people like me, people like us, to survive these dark and trying winters.

it's been a hard year for a lot of people, and it may only get harder. but there are sources of joy and beauty and strength that we need to remember. and for that, i'm thankful.

abridged transcript:
"I am not a music critic, nor historian, nor archivist. I cannot tell you where Bruce Springsteen falls in the pantheon of the American songbook. I cannot illuminate the context of his work, or its roots in the folk and oral history traditions of our great nation. But I am from New Jersey. So I can tell you what I believe. And what I believe is that Bob Dylan and James Brown had a baby. And they abandoned this child, as you can imagine at the time...interracial, same sex relationships being what they were...they abandoned this baby by the side of the road between the exit interchanges 8A and 9 on the Jersey Turnpike...that child was Bruce Springsteen...

I cannot tell you where Bruce Springsteen falls in the pantheon of the American songbook. ...But I didn't understand his music for a long time, until I began to yearn. Until I began to question the things that I was making and doing in my own life. Until I realized that it wasn’t just about the joyful parade on stage and the theatrics. It was about stories of lives that could be changed. And that the only status that you could fail to achieve is the status quo. The only thing, the only failure in life was not to make the effort to change our station.

And it resonated with me because, and I say this truly to him... I would not be here, God knows, not even in this business, if it were not for the inspirational words and music of Bruce Springsteen."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

heed heed, ladies!

“Women themselves have come to believe that their ideas and emotions aren’t enough in themselves, aren’t worth giving time to. [...] It is as if we have to justify our existence by always thinking of and providing for others. [...] It is incredibly hard for women to be psychically singular, to be ‘selfish’.”

-Charlotte Keatley, “Art Form or Platform? On Women and Playwrighting”


i had a really nice dream last night. the kind of dream that makes getting thru today a lot easier, just the thing i needed. in my dream i was at some dismal party and i wasn't having any fun, so my friend K asked me to sing a song (for karaoke, no less!) called "Escape from Murderville" or something like that by the Smashing Pumpkins (though the song itself sounded more like it was by the Talking Heads) and it was all about casting off the expectations for a (financially) successful mediocre suburban life, and starting to live with excitement and vigor and daring. we were singing and dancing to it and i actually felt some sense of relief.

i woke up still singing the song and googled "Murderville" but nothing useful came up. now i want to write this song and perform it in real life.

"buy a big house and forget who we were? fuck that, let's go dancing."

Thursday, November 11, 2010

'nuff said

i wrote this little poem today:

i have more to say
than can fit inside seven
syllables of a hai(ku).

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

intergalactic dust

huzzah, readers! a friend of mine pointed out to me just an hour after my last post that today is Carl Sagan day. so, in honor of our galactic dreamer, i'm posting his famous "Pale Blue Dot" quote about the in/significance of Earth in the broader context of our universe.

to the stars, friends.

a photograph of Earth from the Voyager spacecraft, taken on its way out of the solar system. Earth is the tiny dot located halfway down inside the brown beam on the right.

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of particular interest. But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here, that's home, that's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

per aspera ad astra

i decided today that if i ever get a tattoo i'd want it to be of the phrase per aspera ad astra - a Latin phrase meaning "from hardships to the stars." there are so many beautiful reasons i would want this on my body, that i'm tempted to rescind my prejudice that tattoos are tacky and have it inked into my inner arm.

first, i'd like to think that when i die, i'll be borne into the stars. and the idea of my body bearing this phrase, this philosophy, through life until death is exactly what i want my tattoo to be, a comment on im/permanence.

furthermore, this phrase was one of a few audio messages selected to be cast off into space aboard the Voyager, to represent peaceful intentions from humanity. this message was encoded into morse code and recorded on the Voyager Golden Record, along with samples of music, greetings in 55 different languages, animal and nature sounds, and a meditative message from Carl Sagan's wife.

i've never been terribly interested in astronomy nor fascinated with the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life. and yet, i find myself regretting the lack of this kind of fantasy and curiosity in our modern collective imagination. it seems my generation was the last to experience the height of the american space program, and current youth are perhaps untouched by the influence of these ideas and the accompanying sense of infinite exploration, as well as unquantifiable humility in the impossibility of ever being certain in the great big galactic scope of things.

i think that humility, that unknowingness, accompanies a healthy sense of imagination that in turn keeps people from being too ... material in their living. what i feel like we have now is lots of kids growing up and becoming bankers and not enough dreaming of being astronauts.

today's Voyager research (i got lost in a research loop on wikipedia today that started with me trying to sort out my tracklisting for the Dark Was The Night compilation, which led me to read about Blind Willie Johnson and his wailing gospel-blues slide guitar and how it was included as an example of loneliness on the Voyager record to be, potentially, discovered by future extraterrestrial lifeforms) also led me to consider the absurd task of writing and communicating messages to infinite space. in the Voyager capsule, Carl Sagan et al. included a letter from then-president Jimmy Carter:
We cast this message into the cosmos... Of the 200 billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy, some — perhaps many — may have inhabited planets and space faring civilizations. If one such civilization intercepts Voyager and can understand these recorded contents, here is our message: We are trying to survive our time so we may live into yours. We hope some day, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of Galactic Civilizations. This record represents our hope and our determination and our goodwill in a vast and awesome universe.
i think it's somewhat indicative of the zeitgeist of the 1970s that our president took time out of his schedule to write a letter to the cosmos. imagine what that conversation must have been like, "uh, hey jimmy, we want you to write a letter to the future. to be read by aliens. state our intent as a galaxy. btw, humanity may be completely gone by the time this is picked up by anyone. kthxbye." but that's what i'm talking about, you know? we're missing a little galactic humility and imagination in our present-day thinking.