Friday, February 12, 2016

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

don't let me down

And we are put on earth a little space
That we may learn to bear the beams of love

- William Blake

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Michael Azerrad vs. Jonathan Meiburg on Jet Plane and Oxbow

MA: Of all these songs, “Quiet Americans” sounds most like a hit to me, or your version of a hit, more than any other Shearwater song I’ve heard.  It’s hard for me to get it out of my head.  And I think I know what it means, but what does it mean to you?
JM: My idea for Jet Plane and Oxbow was to try to make a protest record that wasn’t dumb or preachy.  Which was sometimes hard to reconcile with how much fun it was to do!  But the more grand or triumphant the songs sounded, the more conflicted the lyrics became, which I really liked. I listened to it the other day for the first time since we mastered it and it reminded me of a breakup letter—the kind that’s furious and tender at the same time, because it’s written with love.
MA: Wow, who are you breaking up with?
JM:  Good question…the United States, I guess, though that sounds ridiculous when I say it out loud.  Maybe the idea of the United States.  Some of the things we like to tell ourselves about ourselves.  I’m as guilty of that as the next person, by the way; I’m not saying I’m the guy who sees it all clearly.  I don’t know if anybody really can.
MA [in his best Bowie]:  “I’m afraid of Americans!” But it can’t really be a breakup, can it?  Because in a breakup you walk away, and you’re not leaving… are you?
JM:  That’s the thing.  I can’t stop being an American, even when it makes my skin crawl.  I also can’t help loving it here, even though I hate it sometimes, too. And I don’t think I’m the only one here who feels like this.  So in the end, I guess, the record felt like a way for me to send out a little beacon that just says “You’re not alone.”  In the tense, polarized, tech-addled—but still very beautiful—world we’re in, I don’t think anyone can hear that enough.
- via

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Orpheus in reverse

Then one day Nina is playing a Bach sonata on the piano, one that she and Jamie used to play together. A note from a cello sounds, and slowly the camera moves to show you that Jamie is there, playing his old instrument. At first it’s hard to tell whether the camera is showing us Nina’s daydream. And then she turns, and together with Nina you realize, no. He’s there.

The Siren often dreams about the people she’s lost. In these dreams, she always knows that her father and mother are dead, yet somehow they are back, and she accepts it in the way a dream makes you accept everything. There’s no big reunion, seldom even any discussion. The emotions come when the dream is over. When Nina turns and sees Jamie, she embraces him, weeping so hard she can scarcely see, clutching to make sure this is him, this is his body. That moment has everything the Siren would feel if she found her parents when she awoke, if she could say, “You’ve come back to me.” She would weep and clutch at them the same way. We all would.

Nina’s love has returned, and the movie traces the goofy joy that has come back with him. They play music, sing off-key serenades, talk, even make love. He stays for days, then weeks. Jamie is amusing, attentive, he’s always around. But he complains ceaselessly of feeling cold. He eats strange food. He fills the flat with pale, badly dressed friends from the afterlife who lounge around the TV, argue about whether to watch Annie Hall or Fitzcarraldo, and scatter crumbs all over everywhere. ''I don't know who these people are,'' Nina protests, to no avail. ''I don't even know what period they're from.''

And so Nina gradually recalls the things she pushed out of her memory when Jamie was still gone. He has a snobbish streak and a tendency to drone on about the Tories. He’s controlling, too. Even on loan from the hereafter, Jamie nags his girlfriend about how she brushes her teeth. He maxes out the thermostat and rearranges the furniture without asking. It isn’t that Jamie is secretly a jerk; he’s artistic and loving, and besides, all his rebukes and suggestions are uttered in that sinuous Rickman voice. But soon we realize that this scenario is wrong, that no matter how badly she wanted him back, Nina can’t be with Jamie anymore.

What isn’t as apparent, at least at first, is that Jamie hasn’t returned to comfort Nina. He’s here to show her how to do that herself. And then, he will leave.

The shot of Alan Rickman as Jamie, watching Nina through a window as she walks into what will be the rest of her life, is the Siren’s favorite in all his films. (And brother, the Siren has seen a lot of Rickman. That crush is still with her, and always will be). Rickman was never maudlin. He isn’t prompting the audience to pity Jamie or marvel at his sacrifice. In his face, and his wave, and when he turns back to his ghostly friends, Rickman plays the truth of this supernatural, impossible moment: Jamie still loves Nina, and from wherever he will spend eternity, he wants to know she is fully living while she’s alive.

Most of us believe art isn’t didactic, much less therapeutic. And yet there are movies like Truly, Madly, Deeply that tell us things, or perhaps affirm truths that we already know. That whatever plane the dead move to, no matter how cruelly or how soon, that is where they have to stay. That even if we could call them back, in a deeper sense, we couldn’t.

- the Self-Styled Siren on Alan Rickman

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

just for one day

What was being negated by Bowie was all the nonsense, the falsity, the accrued social meanings, traditions and morass of identity that shackled us, especially in relation to gender identity and class. His songs revealed how fragile all these meanings were and gave us the capacity for reinvention. They gave us the belief that our capacity for changes, was, like his, seemingly limitless.
Of course, there are limits, obviously mortal limits, to who we are how far we can reshape ourselves — even for Bowie, who seemed eternal. But when I listen to Bowie’s songs I hear an extraordinary hope for transformation. And I don’t think I am alone in this.
The core of this hope, which gives it a visceral register that touches the deepest level of our desire is the sense that, as he sings in “Rock and Roll Suicide,” “On no, love, you’re not alone,” the sense that we can be heroes, just for a day, and that we can be us just for a day, with some new sense of what it means to be us.
- Simon Critchley

Monday, January 11, 2016

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

this is what a totally useless liberal arts education gets you

T: //is watching a truly terrible skiffy series

MOI: //is surfing the web aimlessly

SOME DUDE IN THE SKIFFY SERIES: //types in "R O C I N A N T E" as a ship name

MOI: Hunh.

T: What?

MOI: That's the name of Don Quixote's horse. Rocinante.*

T: Hunh. The guy said it meant "workhorse."

MOI: //pained Not really.

OTHER DUDE IN THE SKIFFY SERIES: I like it. I knew a woman named Rocinante.


T: //sighs

*I remembered this because the WHOLE BOOK is the first thing you read junior year at SJC. You spend all summer reading it before classes start -- the seniors do the same thing with War and Peace. I beavered away at the Tobias Smollett translation for weeks in the un-air-conditioned top floor of a lovely house which belonged to the grandmother of a friend of mine. I've had far worse summers.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

movies seen in 2016 (Jesus Christ that year still seems unreal)

The Force Awakens (2015)
Star Wars (1977)
The Big Short (2015) (wow, HORRIBLY overrated. Watch The Flaw instead)
The Fast and the Furious (2001) (surprisingly good!)

TV shows:

Agent Carter S2
Person of Interest

Friday, December 18, 2015

books read in December 2015

112. Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, Stephen Puleo (2003)
113. Charlotte Brontë: A Life, Claire Harman (2015)
114. Fall to Pieces: A Memoir of Drugs, Rock 'n' Roll, and Mental Illness, Mary Forsberg Weiland (2009)

all 2015 booklist posts

Thursday, December 17, 2015

this just made me really happy

Kings Hall niter, Stoke-on-Trent on 18.7.15 - Clip 2274 by Jud

Gene Chandler - There Was a Time

Beethoven Flashmob Mensa Heidelberg #HDFlashmob

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - Road of Broken Hearted Men (Live at SXSW)

That is pure amazing full-throttle joy, right there.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Stone Temple Pilots, "Pretty Penny" (live at the 1994 VMAs)

(I gotta love how at the height of the grunge era, Scott is wearing boots, jeans and I think a thermal underwear top, but his bleached hair is neatly styled and he's got a sparkly unbuttoned shirt draped over the top. Was this before or after their Unplugged? the set's remarkably similar.)

Stone Temple Pilots - Pretty Penny (Recording Session 1994)

sickness unto death

I also hear a fascinating and affecting theme of mortality and human frailty throughout your records, specifically on songs like “The Sickness Unto Death” and “Summer Home” that seem to explore your struggle with Lyme disease and the bug that bit you. What are some ways that struggle has informed, or not informed, your songwriting?
I wrote that song “The Sickness Unto Death” not only about me, and my “death,” but I’d also been reading the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, and he wrote his book The Sickness Unto Death, which I plagiarized the title from. And maybe songs aren’t the right …form for those kinds of ponderings, but that’s the only thing I’m interested in writing about. With music, it’s a very interesting synthesis for me – especially trying to make the themes in the instrumentals reflect the themes in the words. It’s difficult.
Even going back to Greek philosophy, and this idea that as you get older, you start to lose your desires, which can be a good thing and a bad thing, this losing of desires for sex, or for food, because all those things are causing you pain. But I imagine, because on the other hand I see a lot of bad coming from people’s desires, and desire itself being kind of an interesting point. So that’s why I have an album called Hunger and Thirst, meditations on why we want to be anything.
When I started realizing all the things I wanted to do with my life, I didn’t want them, I just imagined wanting to be this person who was doing those things. And then I got sick [with Lyme disease], and it kind of ruined all those plans I had and I had to adapt, and it caused a lot of bitterness in me for a long time. It still does. I never grew tall, I never had the childhood that you’re supposed to have, without pain. But then maybe you don’t –maybe no one has that.
Letting go of the idea of what we thought we were promised?
Yeah. All these promises, they’re tenuous. On this last record, on the song “Summer Home,” and in lots of songs, you will see that reference to a bug that bit me, which is just –this beast, you know? This thing that affects your life, and never even seeing it. It’s almost not even the tick itself. It’s the implications of it. It becomes a symbol. It’s when you first realize that some of these promises you have, assume or take for granted that you deserve it, and that’s a pretty sobering moment.
I think “The Sickness Unto Death” does feel, at the end, like a quiet and dark place of death, but then there is also definitely, as a listener, this feeling of rebirth as it swells and explodes into “The Honest Truth,” which is like the next step – at least in my mind.
Yeah, I’ve been trying to research this for a long time, but music — I imagine its early roots being tied and intertwined with early religion. And nowadays, the world is such a secular place, but we still have music, and it still has something sacred about it. There’s glimmers out there.

Friday, December 4, 2015

please, mother of mercy, take me from this place

Scott Weiland and the Doors - "Break On Through, One in Five" (live)

I remember sitting through this whole dumb special when it came out (I was bored, it was pre-web-two-dot-oh, what do you want from me) and Weiland was the only one who seemed to be at all channeling Morrison, despite not having That Voice.

Which, in hindsight, might not actually have been a good thing.

Scott Weiland October 27, 1967 – December 3, 2015

Monday, November 30, 2015

I can’t be on Facebook because of my desire to humiliate myself. Were you ever on Myspace or Facebook or Twitter? Or did you never go there?
I love that you own the desire to humiliate yourself, even if you eventually had to back away from it. You know I never did those things that you mention, those online things, nor have I ever been tempted to, not even for a nanosecond. These days it seems like one is making a big statement by saying that, but since I barely know what they are or how they work — they’ve just kind of passed me by — it isn’t something I think about very often. And since there’s so much built-in obsolescence, I often feel like it all comes out in the wash — i.e., I never knew what Myspace was, and now it seems no one else knows either.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

epigraph to Penelope Fitzgerald's letters

Will dich im Traum nicht stören,
Wär schad’ um deine Ruh’,
Sollst meinen Tritt nicht hören –
Sacht, sacht die Türe zu!
Ich schreibe nur im Gehen
An’s Tor noch gute Nacht,
Damit du mögest sehen,
An dich hab’ ich gedacht.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

* (My Internet is so slow, I cannot download images, you will have to google the two Durer images, compare and contrast. My above neighbors got Optimum to come by because their Internet is so slow too. Oh mine is too, it's really slow, I tell my neighbor, a Goldin-esque photographer who wears in the late fall this striped poncho I always vocally admire.  You should get it fixed, she tells me. But I realize that I like the slow, I am liking the slow, I am liking not knowing everything, not reading everything, not being able to link to everything. The link Sheila sends me today, the article everyone is circling, I don't want to read it, I don't want to respond to everything, I don't want to read responses to responses to responses. This blog is fast, I worry over how unmediated these words are. Yet these are notes towards notes, this is not anything yet. Is it fast because I know it will be read? The slower is to write for invisible readers, the slower is to write for ghosts? For that is always who I want to write for, I want to write for ghosts, for the already dead, for those on the margins, the outsiders, the losers and the suicides, and then my living elective affinities. Lately I write for David Wojnarowicz and Nella Larsen and  Herve Guibert and Robert Walser and WG Sebald and Bolano and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha and Clarice Lispector and Ludwig Wittgenstein and Enrique Villa-Matas and Louise Brooks, I write for the quitters and the Bartlebys and the queer bachelors and the feminine monsters, I write for Bhanu Kapil and Sofia Samatar and Danielle Dutton and Clutch Fleischmann and Sheila Heti and Douglas Martin and Jenny Zhang and Azareen van der Vliet and Suzanne Scanlon and Amina Cain and Pam Lu, and out of  love and envy for the work of Renee Gladman and Claudia Rankine and Valeria Luiselli and Lydia Davis,  I would never write for Jonathan Franzen or Philip Roth. We must be able to elect our elective affinities and not have them elected for us - I am so tired of reviews or essays naming the same group of white women writers, sometimes that writer whose name uncannily resembles mine cringingly included, as the ones breaking boundaries or being applauded for subverting autobiography, even though I of course intensely admire many of these writers often named. However, I could  write an essay over the terrible specter of Susan Sontag, who I do feel I pander towards, I so want her to write an essay about me, my eventual and hoped for luminous opacity, why in every book I'm reading does Sontag or William Gass write the introduction? I am in constant conversation with them, it's oppressive,but I cannot help but think almost everything they say feels right, they are my professors, I who had none, no writing mentors, no workshop environments. I also feel every time I discover a writer, say in translation, Sontag has always discovered them. Another point to explore later on: Why does almost every straight white male writer always bring up Susan Sontag to me? They always want to know what I think of her, or talk about me with her, or reference her constantly, maybe they just bring up Sontag to everyone, I don't know. There are some people I have no desire to discuss Susan Sontag with.) 

I Am the Daughter of Winfried Georg Sebald
There is no reward for being the good girl. There is no moment when the universe sends you a note saying, "Because you are thin and quiet and helpful and don't take up space, here is your solid gold house." There is just you, waiting for this and, when it doesn't come, deciding that it's because you won't deserve your reward until you're even thinner, or until you stop ever asking for what you want, because you did that like three times in the last year and clearly need to be punished for your appalling selfishness. The good-girl reward never shows up. (In the case of things like raises, the reward will only show up if you ask for it, which is why silent martyrdom is self-sabotaging.) People far more selfish and thoughtless than you will always seem to be doing better, and no, it's not fair, but you have to stop doing anything that you are only doing in the hopes of getting a gold star or you will drive yourself insane. If you do something stereotypically good-girl-ish because it's genuinely something you like to do, rock on. But pay enough attention to your own motivations to know the difference.

Speaking of differences, telling yourself, "The house needs to be clean," versus telling yourself, "I want the house to be cleaner," can change entirely your attitude about housework. At least it did for me, this morning. Also helpful: thinking about standing in front of Anubis' scales with various other women and having him say, "Okay, the only thing I'm putting in this scale is whether you kept your house spotless, and anyone who didn't gets eaten by the crocodile demon," and even the crocodile demon saying OH COME ON.

- Burning My Study

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

'Might Boredom Be My Form of Hysteria?'

It seems correct I think that having not logged into Blogger for something like 2 years I have either forgotten how to use it or the medium itself has forgotten how to be used - it seems only right to attempt to write in such an ephemeral and outmoded form, since that is the only thing that holds my interest nowadays - is it a failure, is it going to drift away, has it gotten so small to be on the verge of disappearance... To blog is seemingly not at ALL like riding a bike - I have completely forgotten how this works. This sense of the private in public. I have forgotten what it's like to have readers. Have I been asleep for two years? Have I written anything? How am I somehow still here?


I think I have clung so much to Bartleby lately because it is a story of antagonism to professionalism and New York, it is the New York no, the refusal of concepts of success and industriousness, of participating. And that Bartleby refuses to tell anything about himself, which is a desire of mine, (the dream to write a book about nothing, as Sofia writes me). And that Melville, I read online, wrote it after the failure of his most recent book, its dismissal in the press, and so I like to think of it as a portrait of a failed writer as well. Last week there was the big reading of Melville's Moby Dick at the Whitney, I was asked once to do it when I moved here, and I said no, because I said, I have never read the book, which I'd like to, perhaps when I retire soon to a farmhouse in Massachusetts, since moving here I am asked often to do events, of some character or another, usually interviewing authors, usually involving my gender and its various discontents, and my strategy is usually to say no to everything, and then occasionally, say yes, and for the ones I say yes to I dread and drag my feet and usually cancel at the last minute, but sometimes show up and am quite competent and professional, although sometimes like Barthes bored and paralyzed at the panel, while the next day I wilt all day to attempt to restore any semblance of my self. Luckily since I say no to everything I'm usually not asked to do much anymore, even though I live in Brooklyn I've never been asked to do the festival, here, I found myself complaining to Sheila about this this summer and she responded, quite rightly, that if I was asked I would say no, and would be irritated. But as I was waiting for my daily identical bagel order at the cafe just now, jittery from a morning of too much coffee and a surprising burst of writing, I mused to myself that there should be some sort of alternate public reading of Melville's shorter, other work, only nobodies should be asked to do it, it will be sponsored by no one, everyone will cancel at the last minute or not show up because of nerves, we will not be able to locate a space except at the back of a bookstore that doesn't carry our books, we will all refuse to read or somehow sabotage the performance, there will be no one in the audience.  Really, since no one will read, and no one will attend, it's best, really, at this point and time, to just indefinitely cancel it.


I love how outmoded the blog has become, how nostalgic and quixotic this meandering long-form. I like that this is so long that no one will read it. The same conversation where John asked me if I had read Bartleby, I told him my favorite discovery of yesterday, was writing the word "digressions," and thinking instead "depressions," and I wonder how that would look as a form - a "depression," a kind of digression, sinking deeper and deeper, would I have found then, the ultimate melancholy form.

- I am the Daughter of Winfried Georg Sebald

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sunday, November 22, 2015

“Here I am!” shouted the desert, loud with life, for there was still life in it, waiting, stored like seed. “Here I am. Did you forget me? Forget me despite your dreams of the sun and the rain and the antique tribes who roamed me one with their herds and their weird ways? You, who moaned and whined, covering metal-tape with cries and yearning, you, you effete thalldrap. Now’s your chance to prove you can do more than sit on your tail complaining and drinking sapphire wine with your tears of self-pity. Come, come and do battle with me, come and fight me. I’m more than a match for you. I’ll devour you if I can, but I’ll do it cleanly and openly, not with words and dark little tanks in Limbo. Don’t be afraid of human death and human age. I’ve see it all, and I know it. It’s just dust blown over the rocks. Look at me, how dead and old I seem, and yet, watch me grow, watch me live. Come on. Come and find me. I’m waiting.”

- Tanith Lee