cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (book)
Just Finished: A Rope of Thorns by Gemma Files ([livejournal.com profile] handful_ofdust). As I said in a previous entry, reading this book was 'bout the only thing making me happy, so I stalled to avoid the ending. It turned out, I needn't have worried, because the ending of this, the second book in the Hexslinger trilogy, was pretty happy-making in itself. There's such a density of detail in these books, delivered at such breakneck speed, that one might imagine Gemma writing in a mad-dash to get it all down. But this isn't (only?) a helter-skelter stream-of-consciousness adventure. There's a magnificent level of craftsmanship at work. For example, I had no idea Chess's mother would assume so much importance when she was first introduced, and being surprised like that gives me goosebumps: what other pivot points have I missed? what revelations await in the final book?

Perhaps my favorite line of the book: "Gods sleep within us all, waiting to be prayed alive. And gods can kill other gods."

Currently Reading: Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. Tweetie and I are almost finished with this novel in verse about a young girl whose family immigrates from war-torn South Vietnam to America. The girl has a sweet neighbor who is a retired teacher, who agrees to tutor the girl and soon becomes her champion, helping her deal with bullies and her clueless teacher, who presents a very one-sided picture of Vietnam that further alienates the poor kid. Honestly, the neighbor reminds me of my own neighbors, both of whom are retired teachers and unfailingly kind.

For my nonfiction research, I'm still plugging away at The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working-Class Music by Manuel Peña. The author gives mini bios of some key artists in the conjunto tradition, and it's interesting to see my hometown region from their point of view. In the 1930s, there were Anglo and "Mexican" schools. Like my grandparents, the musicians who Peña profiles grew up with little formal education. He shares a quote from a (white) school superintendent back then:

"Most of our Mexicans are of the lower class. They transplant onions, harvest them, etc. The less they know about everything else, the better contented they are. You have doubtless heard that ignorance is bliss; it seems that it is so when one has to transplant onions...If a man has very much sense or education either, he is not going to stick to this kind of work. So you see, it is up to the white population to keep the Mexican on his knees in an onion patch...This does not mix well with education."

I think what bothers me--I mean, aside from the paterrnalism, racism, and hypocrisy (he starts by claiming ignorance is best for the "Mexicans", then admits it's really best for the white population to keep the Mexicans in servitude)--is that this attitude comes from someone who made it his life's work to foster education and enlightenment...but only for certain people, which seems anathema to the very notion of enlightenment.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dolores del rio)
All the books in this edition are history oriented nonfic or historical fiction. Not intentional, just happened that way.

Just finished: Border Boom Town: Ciudad Juárez since 1848 by Oscar J. Martínez. I was so excited about this book when I started it. My full review is at Goodreads, but, in short, I came to feel the author minimized certain acts of violence by US "authorities" and thus I lost faith in the accuracy of his account of events.

Currently reading: My read-aloud with Tweetie is Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai. As [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume suggested, I probably enjoy it more than Tweetie does. I think she could take or leave it, but she perked up some when the young Vietnamese narrator and her family arrived in the US, with all the culture shock that entails.

For my own pleasure reading, I continue with A Rope of Thorns by [livejournal.com profile] handful_ofdust. I should've finished it by now, but for a while there, Gemma's book was the only thing making me happy, so I (stupidly) stopped reading in an effort to make it last. Brain, get your shit together, yes?

My current research read is The Texas-Mexican Conjunto: History of a Working Class Music by Manuel H. Peña. The topic is only slantwise related to my novel, so I won't read the whole book, but it's pretty interesting in itself. The thesis is that the conjunto musical style developed among Tejanos post WW2 because of the socioeconomic, racial, and asssimilation pressures particular to that era.

Next up: The university library books I borrowed for novel research are due June 1, so I've got to hustle through Where North Meets South: Cities, Space, and Politics on the United States-Mexico Border by Lawrence A. Herzog (the author's name is familiar to me from my days of polisci copyediting). If I finish A Rope of Thorns, I may start Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, ed. Sheree R. Thomas.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (neon sign)
Music is magic, as any teen could tell you. In SIGNAL TO NOISE, the teen is Meche, who discovers she can work spells with her friends using vinyl records. Of course, the teens seek to change their miserable social lot through magic, with dubious results.

The teens' story is solidly set in 1980s Mexico City, expertly interspersed with chapters recounting adult Meche's return to Mexico City for a family funeral. The back and forth in time feels flawless, as deftly handled as the changes in point-of-view, which allow readers into all the characters' heads (teen and adult alike) without ever being confusing. While the teens' story ramps up to disaster, adult Meche's story is more about internal change. This is not to say the adult story is any less magical--even more so, perhaps. After all, it's easy to believe in magic when you're young. As we age, that faith gets kicked out of most of us.

Some readers will resist sympathizing with Meche, who has a prickly personality and tends to abuse her few faithful friends, even as an adult. But I enjoyed her strong identity and the fact that she is who she is. She grows and improves, but she remains fundamentally herself, which is an admirable feat for anyone, but especially for a female coming-of-age heroine. Her prickliness makes her moments of tenderness even more touching. For example, I loved her relationship with her grandmother, which was gentle but not sappy.

A subplot involving Meche's friend Daniela and a teacher, though completely believable, felt a bit pat to me. I would've preferred more focus on Daniela's self-perception as a person with chronic illness, especially when that illness seems cured, at least temporarily, by magic. But that's less a complaint than a desire for more of this world Moreno-Garcia has conjured. (Luckily, the author has provided a playlist to let us live there a little longer.)

SIGNAL TO NOISE conveys the raw emotions of the teenage years without slipping too far into nostalgia or downplaying the emotional struggles of adulthood. It's a marvelous balancing act. I can't wait to see what Moreno-Garcia does next!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dancing bones)
Yesterday I knew I wouldn't get any writing done, but I was having a premenstrual power surge, so I continued The Culling. Basically, JJ and I have finally discovered our housepride, and we've been getting rid of a ton of stuff (books, movies, electronics, old toys and crafting supplies, etc). So much so, that Tweetie asked me the other day, "Are we just going to keep cleaning for three months?" (Not sure where she got the three months idea)

We sorted out our DVDs, some we'd never even opened, and I decided to finally watch Stop Making Sense, the concert movie by Talking Heads. Before long, I realized how much bands like OK Go have been influenced by David Byrne's concert-as-performance art. I don't feel the need to keep the DVD, so off it goes to be sold for the women's retreat fund. But in the special features was a "David Byrne interviews David Byrne" skit and two things he said really struck me.

First, discussing the big suit, he said he wanted to make his head look smaller (I guess because of the "stop making sense" theme?) and one way to do that was to make his body bigger, which was apropos because, in art and music, the body often understands before the head does. I sat up and paid more attention.

Later, he asked himself how he could be a singer when he didn't have a good voice, and he replied, "The better the singer's voice, the harder it is to believe what they're saying." Which I loved for being the EXACT OPPOSITE of the received wisdom, and for the matter-of-fact way he delivered this countercultural truth without a trace of cynicism.
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (scheming)
Honestly, every issue is amazing, but now is the time to celebrate Issue 8 of the Magazine of Boundary Crossing Poetry. Alongside poems by Sofia Samatar, [livejournal.com profile] shadesong , [livejournal.com profile] alankria, [livejournal.com profile] sovay[livejournal.com profile] ajodassotithenaiand other marvelously talented folks, you will find my article "A Crack in its Speak: Fantastic Birds in the Gothic Country Lyrics of Jay Munly." Be sure to check out the roundtable interview conducted by [livejournal.com profile] skogkatt, as well. Participating in the roundtable is always a thrill for me, because I get delicious teasers for the poems before the issue comes out.

st8-cover

Woodstock

Aug. 17th, 2012 01:41 pm
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (sugar in my coffee)
Tomorrow is the 44th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" at Woodstock.



Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] silk_noir, I just listened to this again the other day with Tweetie. I think it is the most beautiful, patriotic version of our national anthem, ever. Tribute and interrogation and commentary and elegy and challenge, all in one. If this song is to be our anthem, why not take ownership of it, as Hendrix has done? We didn't choose it; might as well make the most of it.

The summer after I graduated from high school, there was Woodstock '94. I was as excited as any of my buddies--I mean, NIN, Metallica, and Green Day? But I was also confused. I was the only person my age I knew who could identify a Crosby, Stills, and Nash song in 30 seconds, or differentiate it from a Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young one. (Thanks, Dad. You were a lousy, fucked-up father and a shitty husband and role model, but I'll keep the music.) Before age 14, I'd seen the Woodstock documentary, listened to recordings, and written papers about the music festival. By senior year, I'd moved on to more contemporary music and I loved grunge and metal. But I could still see the Woodstock reboot for what it was: a cynical way to cash in on faux-nostalgia among concert-goers who'd never experienced the original--I mean, NIN, Metallica, and Green Day?!


 
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (skull gloves)
Naked Flea Woodstock 99

In retrospect, we should've known this guy would be an awesome dad. I mean, when he wore pants, they were covered in stuffed animals.

redhotchilipeppers1989

Flea was definitely the highlight of The Other F Word, a documentary I watched last night about punk rockers turned fathers. Why focus on fathers? Because there are no women punk rockers, of course. /snark  Actually Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 provided a good explanation when he laughed about how low the bar is set for him as father. To paraphrase, it's awesome, because nobody expects anything good from him; they're ready for him to attend kindergarten graduation with a cigarette and a hooker. I suppose the corollary assumption is that if a woman punk rocker becomes a mother, she sheds her anti-authoritarian pose (because it was only ever an act) and intrinsic mothering skills kick in. If not, she's a monster (paging Courtney Love); no one's ready to wave the dysfunction away with a "what do you expect, boys will be boys" shrug.

ANYWAY...

It's a good movie. A little too long because it works too hard to explain how hard it is to tour 200+ days of the year when you have small kids. Maybe because I have a kid, I understood pretty quickly. A better angle on the dilemma is the fact that nobody chooses punk because it's a money-maker or comes with dental and 401(k). So the skills these artists have developed, their talents and philosophies, do not make them good providers--not in the sense of financial stability.

But the men featured in this doc are, by and large, incredibly supportive fathers. They are gentle. They encourage exploration and creativity. They work hard not to crush their kids' spirits. A lot of these guys had jackass fathers, bad stepfathers, no fathers... Several of the guys ran away from home in their teens (Flea when he was 12). Flea tears up when he explains that when he became a parent, he stopped drinking, he stopped using drugs, he committed to being fully present for his daughter, whether he was tucking her in at night or halfway around the world on tour. He explains, with heart-rending specificity, that while some parents say, "I brought you into this world..." (and I can take you out is implied), his children gave him life, gave him purpose and a reason to live. Sometimes having an awful childhood gives you more clarity on what's important for families than any number of happy memories.

I would've appreciated more detail about dealing with specific child-rearing difficulties. What if your child has a disability? What if you choose not to be monogamous? What roles do in-laws and extended family members serve? What exactly did Ron Reyes's daughter find out when she looked up her dad (former member of Black Flag) on Wikipedia? Maybe the tight focus on the fathers is the director's choice, or maybe it was a result of the fathers' protectiveness of their families. The exceptions are heartbreaking. One dad talks about a stillborn child, another talks about his son dying in a car accident. I didn't cry, but my husband did.

Like I said, a good movie, although feel free to fast-forward when you get bored. You won't miss much.


cafenowhere: close-up photo of gray cat with big yellow eyes (claire)
"Watchful and Alert" by Molly Keenan (retrofutures.etsy.com):




I bought this 3 x 3 inch collage on canvas because it captures a feeling I sometimes have, of "How did I end up in charge of a small child and these cats and a house and....!" I can't believe I'm being trusted with such treasures, so, although I'm terrified, I'm also committed to being "watchful and alert".

"Lulu was a Gold Digger" Killhouette by John Fair



John Fair makes delightfully creepy Victorian-style cut silhouettes. The one I purchased doesn't seem to be on his website right now, but it's shown on his Facebook page. I chose "Gold Digger" because it looks like a scene from a Munly song.

"Terence" the aging skateboarder by GrrMonsters



I had the pleasure of sitting beside the artist when I attended a panel, and I watched one of her creatures go from a bald blue monster to one with a nice head of blue hair. One of the things I love about these monsters is that they each come with a story. Terence's is here. I couldn't buy Terence (this time!) but I may swap the funds allotted to my booze and art budgets for next WisCon.

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (Default)
J and I went to see Murder by Death in Des Moines and It. Was. AH-MAZING. Along the way, I deployed poetry cards of stealth. I came home to find my story "The Pearl in the Oyster and the Oyster under Glass" sold to the Fungi anthology coming from Innsmouth Free Press. Last night I woke up to write three related moon ku. And now I am off to Effigy Mounds National Monument to do some research for a story. And probably deploy some more poetry cards.

ZOOOOOM!!!
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (studying)
Charlatan: America's Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock

Pope Brock's writing style is perfectly suited to this story of the heyday of American hucksterism. Ebullient and seemingly effortless, his account of "Doctor" J.R. Brinkley, who became a millionaire by performing goat-gland transplants in the 1920s, is wide-ranging and in-depth, replete with period slang and so many wonderful words that don't get used nearly often enough. Brock includes an extensive bibliography, endnotes, and an excellent index. I could've used more signposts indicating the exact timeline of events and more parallel conversions of past and current moneys (Brock might state the doctor's monthly salary but then refer to the modern equivalent as an annual salary), but I suspect the fault there is with me, being as numerically challenged as I am.

One of the reasons Brinkley was so successful was that he exploited radio like no one before or perhaps even after. In the 1920s, radio stations were such a new and marvelous medium, few folks could conceive of "polluting the airwaves" with advertising. But Brinkley was the most ambitious of those greedy few, and when the FCC kicked him off American airwaves, he established a border blaster in Mexico that, at one million watts, was the most powerful in the world. So powerful, it invaded phone lines and Canadian radio broadcasts. Brinkley could be heard in Alaska, Finland, and the Java Seas! While peddling his colored water and "rejuvenation" procedures, Brinkley inadvertently changed the music scene, introducing listeners worldwide to country music and Tejano.

Brinkley's bogus promises of endless rejuvenation, although entertaining in themselves, triggered provocative philosophical considerations. People worried about the fate of introspective poetry: What would become of the sonnet if poets weren't sublimating angst over their mortality? Insurance companies fretted over their soon-to-be-defunct actuarial tables: one company even told a client who had a monkey-gland transplant: "...you are younger today than you were when you signed the contract...In view of this fundamental change we find ourselves obliged to cancel the contract with you."

Brinkley's adversary was Morris Fishbein, quackbuster extraordinaire of the American Medical Association. Brock characterizes their decades-long game of cat 'n' rat with a term used by military strategists, "replication." The idea, new to me, is that over time, great opponents become more and more alike, though neither would ever admit it. I recognize this thesis-antithesis-synthesis process from the Cold War, and from Nietzsche's quote about looking into the abyss. I hope it's not happening to the characters in my WiP. *frets*

The last bit too good not to note is from Brock's epilogue, wherein he demonstrates the similarities between Brinkley and his clients' obsessions with current, equally desperate youth-pursuits:

"In 2001 a form of bovine collagen was blamed for an outbreak of Creutzfeldt-Jakob syndrome, a potentially lethal disorder linked to mad cow disease, yet this did nothing to slow the stampede for fuller lips and smoother skin. 'Most women find the prospect of dying wrinkled a lot worse than the prospect of dying of dementia from collagen.'"

Sticking goat and monkey nuts in *our* nuts? That's insane. But how about injecting our faces with botulism and sticking cow tissue in our wrinkles? 



 
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (chevy)

While our car is being repaired after a slip-slidey jaunt down the hill and into a curb, we have a big honking gas-guzzling blingy sedan that I hate. Granted, the interior warms up faster than our Honda, but it lacks an oh-shit handle over the shotgun seat and I can't wiggle in and out of the car without knocking my calf on the lower door jamb. The only part of this rental getting a smile out of me has been the satellite radio. Not even because I've enjoyed the music on said radio, but just because of the names of the stations.

Roadhouse Country plays tunes not heard in a roadhouse since maybe the sixties.
Outlaw Country would be released on its own recognizance due to the perp's advanced age and the victimless crimes.
Highway Country is indistinguishable to me from Prime Country.
Faction Rock is where they put all the rabblerousers, there being only one "faction" apparently, and that is "fuck the system."
Lithium is for 90s grunge and alternative--a label I find particularly insensitive.
The Joint plays reggae so "relaxing" I can't believe anyone drives to it. Better to pull off the road and climb into the backseat til the smoke clears.
The Bone Yard plays classic hard rock, and while I'd like to believe the name's a sexual innuendo, it more likely means the bands have a foot well in the grave.

I find the names especially amusing given my recent discovery of Gothic country music, this weird subgenre that falls somewhere in a complicated Venn diagram with Gothic Americana, dark cabaret, alt country, Southern Gothic, hellbilly, and maybe half a dozen other microgenres. I love labels, even when (especially when?) they fritz out and become meaningless.

Perhaps not unrelated: Last night my new phone arrived, and as I searched etsy for a protective phone case, I realized (again) that I love things that look like other things. I was drawn to the cases that looked like vintage cameras and cassettes and radios. I finally settled on this one, though:

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dancing bones)
So I finally discovered Munly (not unlike Columbus "discovered" America) and I am obsessed. Totally obsessed. I can't even pick a favorite song off his album with the Lee Lewis Harlots, because I've got three songs pretty much concurrently running through my head. Here's one: 



One label for this genre is Gothic Country, and I've been scouring youtube for more. I would like to download ALL THE SONGS directly to my brain. I've put together a playlist that's mostly Munly in various musical incarnations, and Devil Makes Three, and a couple from Those Poor Bastards. But this process is too slow!

So, my more musical friends, if you have any recommendations based on my unholy love for "River Forktine Tippecanoe" and all things Munly, please let me know! Or, you can listen to my playlist to determine what I'm on about.


cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (hola)

The other night I finished watching the first season of Sons of Anarchy. I near wept with happiness. Such good storytelling. My favorite character is Juice. (Are you surprised? Tell me you're not surprised.) Look at this cutie.

theo rossi times four 


And here's a strangely happy song I fell in love with yesterday... (It's strange I fell in love with something so happy, is what I mean.)


Heartless

Oct. 17th, 2011 10:25 am
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (bruised)
In the mood for a new horror movie, I checked out what was available on Netflix streaming (not a lot), and settled on Heartless, directed by Philip Ridley (who also did The Reflecting Skin) and starring Jim Sturgess. The movie was far better than the synopsis led me to believe, though it was less of a straight-up horror movie, too. More of an "Emo Thriller" I guess. And hey, that's no sillier than some of the other genre descrips Netflix provides.

The main character, Jamie, is a young man with a naevus flammeus (port-wine stain) on his face and upper body. In typical movie fashion, the birthmark is nowhere near as hideous as is implied, but it makes Jamie a bullied outsider who despairs of ever meeting someone who will love him. He's attempted suicide sometime in the past, and his family remains nervous that Jamie's going to lose it at any moment. This constant worried scrutiny is what sold me on the movie. It's so true. At the supermarket, you absentmindedly buy four rolls of Saran Wrap instead of what you went for, and your family gently, maddeningly asks, "Is everything okay? Is it...the thing...again?" Perhaps the only person who would understand, Jamie's sweetheart of a father, is dead.

Jamie slinks through the apocalyptic streets of London, hiding behind a "real" (not digital) camera. A hoodie-wearing, demon-masked gang is terrorizing the city, randomly setting people on fire with Molotov cocktails. Jamie discovers they're not wearing masks, they're actually demons. And then it gets weirder. And gruesome. Somebody's heart gets cut out while he's still alive, someone else's decapitated head gets chewed on, Jamie gets set on fire and later pulls off his charred skin like a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. I underscore these details because otherwise, I'd forget them, the way I tend to forget the horror elements of Donnie Darko.

The movie wears its heart on its sleeve. Jamie seems on the verge of tears most of the time, his tentative smile more of a grimace. (Again, details that ring true to me, well-remembered from my own suicidal phases.) The soundtrack is plainly, earnestly emo, with lyrics written by the director and many songs sung by Jim Sturgess. In fact, I bought the soundtrack largely on the basis of the lyrics to the theme song: "When I call your name out, it turns to shrapnel in my mouth / And the last time I looked up, the north star was south." The song is available on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBadC1O7x5g

Not exactly the movie I was looking for, but better.
 
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (so tired)

Whenever I think about summarizing this week's shitscape, my brain shrivels in its case and tries to hide. So instead, in the following spirit

Attention: Shit could be worse (you're not dead)


I shall post Happy-Making Things.

1. I watched The Lost Boys again last night. Hilarious as always. This time I noticed how handsy Michael is with his little brother Sammy while Grandpa's laying down the house rules, and I caught the pedo vibe from Max: just how did he end up with a pack of teenage boys in need of a mother...?

2. Feminist Ryan Gosling. And this one is my favorite so far:



3. Tis the season for pan de muerto. We're invited to a dinner for Dia de los Muertos, so I'm thinking I'll bake a practice loaf this weekend and a fresh one for the party.

Or maybe I'll just sit here staring at Ryan...

4. I wrote yesterday (about 1K). And I'll write today. 

5. And what the hell, this song always cheers me up: Caress Me Down, by Sublime (lyrics NSFW)

cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (skull gloves)
Part of an ongoing series that doesn't need to take up space in my brain meats.


PH 1: Def Leppard

Why I hate it:

The spelling, FFS!

Two words: Hair. Metal.

It's like my walk of shame for the entire 80s.

And it follows me around, station to station, like it KNOWS.

Why it's petty: Because, honestly? It's hypocritical. I will ALWAYS crank up "Pour Some Sugar on Me" and dance libidinously. And purely on the strength of that song, the band should get a lifetime free pass.

So I should stop the hate.

Maybe.

~
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (love)
 
Songs

Today I offer you a poem at the crossroads of many genres. It's a song in the sense of an ode or ballad, it's a set of lyrics, it's a poem, it's in Spanish, it's translated...

The sensuality of Song of Songs reminded me of "Burbujas de Amor," as did the surprising, refreshing choices of metaphor.


Burbujas de Amor

by Juan Luis Guerra (1990)

Tengo un corazón
Mutilado de esperanza y de razón
Tengo un corazón que madruga donde quiera
¡ay!
Y este corazón
Se desnuda de impaciencia
Ante tu voz,
Pobre corazón
Que no atrapa su cordura

Quisiera ser un pez
Para tocar mi nariz en tu pecera
Y hacer burbujas de amor por dondequiera
Pasar la noche en vela
Mojado en ti

Un pez
Para bordar de cayenas tu cintura
Y hacer burbujas de amor baja la luna
Saciar esta locura
Mojado en ti

Canta corazón
Con un ancla imprescindible de ilusión
Suena corazón
No te nubles de amargura

Y este corazón
Se desnuda de impaciencia
Ante tu voz,
Pobre corazón
Que no atrapa su cordura

Quisiera ser un pez
Para tocar mi nariz en tu pecera
Y hacer burbujas de amor por dondequiera
Pasar la noche en vela
Mojado en ti

Una noche
Para hundirnos hasta el fin
Cara a cara
Beso a beso
Y vivir
Por siempre
Mojado en ti  
 
 
pretty literal translation )
 
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (misunderstood)
 
Songs
 
A different kind of song today, not one of music and lyrics, but one more akin to an ode. The following poem discusses war and pinpoints money as the "nerve of war," so it has something in common with the protest poetry of the last few days. But this poem is relaxed and funny and has an endearing trickster quality to it.
 
 

Song of Money

by David Huerta
transl by Mark Schafer


I had to pay one thing and another taxes
and debts and the cable television bill
the city was always too spread out for me

I didn't have the time to pay it all if I were a millionaire
I would hire a delivery service with a courier
but I have to go in person to the banks and offices

I didn't make it to the teller on time and had to wait
until the following day the following days multiplying
exponentially I don't know what this could mean
 
Money money that dirty and obsessive thing or dirty
because it's obsessive and above all it's lacking
or lacking altogether or lacking in the desired amounts
 
There is an odd relationship between money and desire
and need I won't be the one to examine this in depth
these questions that should interest the Professors no end
 
A Peruvian writer used to say that money
does not produce happiness but rather produces
a state so similar it's hard to tell the difference
 
I guess that's a pretty good joke but money
is the "nerve of war" the most bloodthirsty abstraction
the most powerful weapon the conclusive argument
 
I write poems so that among other reasons I don't have to
sing songs to money but as you all can see up there at the top
it says Song of Money it was bound to happen sooner or later
 
 
~~ 
I love the seemingly lazy line breaks, which are really rather ingenious. I love the verbal overflow in contrast to the empty bank account. I love that the speaker lets someone else have the really good line (which, I've noticed, is also something I like in stand-up comedians). I love the persona of the hapless stoner or genial laze-about that's really a cover for a keen cynic. I love the underlying resistance, like protesters who go limp when they're being hauled off to prison.
 
And just because I'm now in a good mood, here's Pink Floyd's "Money." Looks like the director of the Perfect Circle video for "Imagine" took notes. The end of this one does get repetitive, but I figure that's understandable for the early days of music vids. 
 
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (lightbulb)
 
Lyrics

It's no accident that the author of yesterday's lyrics has done a cover of today's lyrics. These lyrics function as a proper poem, in addition to being the words to a song. The song may be much better than the poem, but the text can stand alone.


Imagine

by John Lennon

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one 

#

I must admit that, as a natural atheist--never inclined to believe, always had to work at it--the song grabbed me the moment I first heard it. I felt such immense, sudden relief. Like I'd been holding my breath and not even realized it. What if, indeed!
 
The original Lennon version of the song is perfect. It needed nothing else, in my opinion. When A Perfect Circle covered it, however, it became something new. Dark and bitter and perfect in a new way. The video + song is devastating: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dunKAwRN3P8

ETA: Upon re-viewing, I must say the first minute of the video is excruciating, with graphic footage of war injuries and death. There's another video that only uses the music and a still of the band logo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ktv2C9vnRKU 
 
And now I'm thinking about other lyrics that function as poems. I'm thinking that "Hotel California" does, and probably most songs that tell a story do: Devil Went Down to Georgia, Jeremy, most Springsteen songs. Which is interesting, because poetry is not automatically associated with narrative, yet for a song (in English?) to work as a song and a story, it almost has to employ literary poetic devices.
 
Other examples? Counterexamples?
cafenowhere: coffee cup with sugar packets that read WTF (dancing bones)
Lyrics

Lyrics are somewhat connected to the playground rhymes, camp songs, and clapping/jumping games we talked about yesterday; lyrics don't often get credit for being poetry, either. And yet, the music on the radio (or Pandora or the iPod or youtube, etc) offers rhyme and meter, alliteration and simile, metaphor and synecdoche, and a host of other poetic devices that most people would not endure in written form. Most lyrics cannot be reduced to poetry, that is, they cannot stand on their own; they require the music to be complete. In my opinion, the following piece comes close.



Schism

lyrics by Maynard James Keenan, performed by Tool (2001)


I know the pieces fit cuz I watched them fall away
mildewed and smoldering, fundamental differing,
pure intention juxtaposed will set two lovers souls in motion
disintegrating as it goes testing our communication
the light that fueled our fire then has burned a hole between us so
we cannot see to reach an end crippling our communication.

I know the pieces fit cuz I watched them tumble down
no fault, none to blame it doesn't mean I don't desire to
point the finger, blame the other, watch the temple topple over.
To bring the pieces back together, rediscover communication.

The poetry that comes from the squaring off between,
And the circling is worth it.
Finding beauty in the dissonance.

There was a time that the pieces fit, but I watched them fall away.
Mildewed and smoldering, strangled by our coveting
I've done the the math enough to know the dangers of a second guessing
Doomed to crumble unless we grow, and strengthen our communication

cold silence has a tendency to atrophy any sense of compassion

between supposed lovers
between supposed brothers.

And I know the pieces fit.


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Were the lines broken differently, punctuated differently, grouped into proper stanzas, this would be a poem for sure. As it stands, it's "merely" poetic. I cannot get LJ to embed the video, or even link to it, but here's the addie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7fF1P3qwDE . 
 
Regarding the video, I offer a caveat for general creepiness. It's not NSFW per se, just...visceral and weird and disturbing in a way that's hard to explain. Like a lot of Tool's work. ;)
 
 
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