26 August 2014

On Kate Bush

Watching this delightful BBC documentary on Kate Bush today, Running Up that Hill, I heard many people talk about her music, her output--many of them you've heard of--Annie Clark (of/is St Vincent), Neil Gaiman, Tori Amos, Peter Gabriel, Tricky, David Gilmour, Big Boi (of Outkast)--speaking very personally about their relationship to this music, these albums, these songs. She is, in fact, a musician's musician. Artists we--you and I--are fans of, are fans of hers: example, Prince. The thing about this woman is that we all, each of us, who are beguiled by her, are so beguiled individually and alone. We listen to these songs, over and over, for hours, for years, for ourselves, and it seals a certain place within us, that is only for us, as we puzzle over the words and become lost and found and lost in these sounds. It is only for us; it is only for me; I have dreamed some of these songs, quite literally. Sometimes, I can't tell whether I'm dreaming or not, listening to her. Reality becomes less real, unreal. It's very personal, and it's work, too. She doesn't let you in easily; she doesn't let you in at all. You have to find your own way in, and that makes every entry hard-won and personal and so, so very, very worth it. The thing about Kate Bush is that you don't have to like her; you don't have to like what she does, what she makes. She's going to do it anyway, and you can follow where she goes but never leads. It's up to you. And that is why, when you meet a fellow-traveller, they are like family, in this very queer way. Because you have taken this journey alone, and when you meet someone else who has also made this difficult trek, that moment of recognition is instantaneous and exciting, because you can share what you've learned with each other, and close a circuit here and here in these extraordinary songs. When someone reveals to me that they have a relationship to this music, it feels very much to me like what we're saying to each other is--as if, in a line never written, never uttered, never read, in The Velveteen Rabbit--"Oh, you're real, too!"

Oh. You're real, too.

13 August 2014

What's So Bad About Late Capitalism?

When a well-respected, French economist publishes a heavily-researched, closely-argued book showing the accelerating trajectory of income disparity across the major democracies, he's dismissed as a radical and a Marxist (and, in America, we are nagged, ad nauseam, with a childish, hysterical insistence that Marxism is nothing less than the most unpatriotic, preposterous, yet seductively treacherous Evil since the invention of Satan), but when research economists working for the S & P--the godlike index of that stupid, misunderstood, overesteemed, high-stakes casino game called the stock market, in whose thrall we have remained far too long--release a study exploring the intuitively-correct notion that increasing economic (and by extension, if you have a brain, political) inequality between the infinitesimally small few and every-fucking-body else, is demonstrably bad for the economy, the 99.9%, and the aforementioned, heroic celebrities--the protagonists--of Late Capitalism, suddenly it becomes possible for the mainstream and, much more deliciously, the super-rich, to fathom that the runaway train being driven/not-driven by our wealthiest citizens and corporations--they who are the true constituency of "our," at best, surreally-representative government--that the runaway train we are all riding on, whether we want to or not, is headed directly for a cliff; a cliff which, perhaps, once featured the extended metaphor of an indispensable, infrastructural bridge, a neglected bridge, long-forgotten in the fanatical, ecstatic, free-market pursuit of a bottom-line profit-margin that benefits almost no one, a bridge now-collapsed; a no-bridge, a cliff, an abyss. 

What would be hilarious, if it weren't so tragically, mind-numbingly, willfully, embarrassingly stupid, is that the condition and direction of our economy--whose unregulated, pathetically-mismanaged fate is now so dangerously and inextricably submerged within, subsumed by, symbiotically enmeshed with a global market economy, gloriously stripped of inconvenient-yet-beneficial buffers, boundaries, and brakes guaranteeing that where falls America falls the world--was portended by that paradoxical boogeyman, the disdainfully dismissible, disproven, and ineffectual, yet superstitiously warded-off, Herr Marx, over a century ago. 

The New York Times:
Economists at Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services are the authors of the straightforwardly titled “How Increasing Inequality is Dampening U.S. Economic Growth, and Possible Ways to Change the Tide.” The fact that S.&P., an apolitical organization that aims to produce reliable research for bond investors and others, is raising alarms about the risks that emerge from income inequality is a small but important sign of how a debate that has been largely confined to the academic world and left-of-center political circles is becoming more mainstream.
Yes, a specter is haunting the world--it has never ceased haunting us, even if we believed, or wanted to believe, we had forgotten it. Insubstantial and unreal; both absent and present; here, not-here, and everywhere; a phantasm, an irrationality, an illogic; a naive ghost-tale ghost, suitable only for frightening anxious children and the weak-minded, and which the wise "adults"--to their own, condescending amusement--explain away to me, you, and themselves, as only an absurd misapprehension, a night-terror, a trick of the light, a trick of the night, a trick of the fog, nothing but the old pine tree looming indistinctly in the corner of the yard; unscientific, an illusion, a derangement, a disease, a deviation; a heresy; a dangerous dream; this uncanny thing we sometimes almost catch out of the corner of our eyes, only seems to murmur hair-raising, disturbing, fantastic threats and predictions, which we can only try to forget to remember. It is the specter of Capitalism.

Read the whole NYT piece here.

12 August 2014

SUSPICION: Warhol-Hopper-Lynchian Series of Garage, Driveway, and Grass

Reader. This is a true story.

It was around 1:30 am last Tuesday night, and as I was walking an empty bottle to the recycling bin at the end of my parents' driveway, I was struck by the light on the garage, so I had a smoke and snapped a few pictures over the course of 10 to 15 minutes. I had to lie down on the driveway to get some shots of the grass and some low angle pics of the garage. When I was done, it was time for bed, so I turned off the lights as I went through the house, ending up in my bedroom, which faces the front yard, where I stripped to my underwear, got into bed, and turned out the light.

Lying in the darkness, I scrolled through the pictures on my phone to see if I'd gotten anything interesting, when I heard an odd sound of voices, almost as though over a walkie talkie, and suddenly a bright light shone in the window behind my right shoulder, and a voice from right on the other side of the screen forcefully asked, "SIR, WERE YOU JUST OUTSIDE NOW?" I said something like, "HOLY SHIT!" as I jumped out of bed, where I stood, face-to-face, in my underwear, with two police officers standing in my mother's flower bed on the other side of the window. "Could you come to the door, please?" one asked. "REALLY? I'm, um, just in my, uh, underwear," I said. "Can you put some clothes on and meet us at the front door, sir?" "I guess so."

I pulled on my shorts and walked past my parents' bedroom door, expecting to see my mom standing there--my mom usually wakes up if a fly sneezes--but the door stayed closed. Shirtless and barefoot, I opened the front door to see about five police officers arrayed on or near the porch. "Sir, WHO ARE you?" "I'm L--------, this is my parents' house, I'm visiting from New York, and, yes, I was just lying in the driveway taking pictures of the garage."

They did not seem amused.

"If you'd like to speak to my folks, I can wake them up, but I'd really rather not over something like this." They decided that wasn't necessary, but they did copy down info from my driver's license. I thanked them profusely for responding so quickly and taking the safety of the citizens of Winesburg, Ohio so seriously.

This neither amused nor pleased them, either. Nevertheless, they slinked off into the night, disappointedly.

The next morning, I told my astonished parents the whole story. My mother's only real comment was, "I hope this doesn't make the police blotter...."