September 22, 2005

I love soda can pipes, and life


poem/painting by norman bluhm and frank o'hara

* from a letter written by poet sharon olds to laura bush declining an invitation to this weekend's National Book Festival in Washington D.C., published in the the nation. excerpt:

"In one way, it's a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, and in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents--all of us who need the pleasure, and the inner and outer news, it delivers.

"And the concept of a community of readers and writers has long been dear to my heart. As a professor of creative writing in the graduate school of a major university, I have had the chance to be a part of some magnificent outreach writing workshops in which our students have become teachers. Over the years, they have taught in a variety of settings: a women's prison, several New York City public high schools, an oncology ward for children. Our initial program, at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely physically challenged, has been running now for twenty years, creating along the way lasting friendships between young MFA candidates and their students--long-term residents at the hospital who, in their humor, courage and wisdom, become our teachers.
...
"I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness--as an American who loves her country and its principles and its writing--against this undeclared and devastating war.

"But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Administration.

"What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Administration that unleashed this war and that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting 'extraordinary rendition': flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us.

"So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it."

* Part two of soi disantra's Tanglewood Numbers review. excerpt:

"Anyway, the second half of the album kicks off with 'How Can I Love You? (If You Won’t Lie Down),' which is indeed the best Magnetic Fields song so far this millennium. One gets the impression this song wouldn’t work quite as well if Malkmus was the vocal foil on the record and not Cassie. Or, one would get the impression that the Berman/Malkmus relationship was a lot different than we had suspected. But we’re getting off subject, and that’s obviously frowned upon here at SD. Back to the song, who else besides Berman or Merritt could get away with a line like 'Fast cars/fine ass/these things will pass?' Exactly. Which leads me to another point – as great a lyricist as DCB has always been, he really has some doozies for opening lines on this album."
...
"Next up is 'The Poor, The Fair and The Good,' which gets my vote for the 'secret' best song on the album. What does that mean? Well, I’m not really sure. I guess it means that it’s not really better than 'Punks in the Beerlight,' but after I listen to 'PITB' 14 times in a row, then play that little riff for 45 minutes or so and need to listen to another song, this is one that gets the nod. It’s got the best staying power since it’s not really gimmicky, it’s just a really great well-rounded song. To me, it’s this album’s 'Blue Arrangements,' because it’s got Berman taking a backseat vocally and it’s got nimble fretwork from SM. Or maybe just the first minute of this song reminds me of the last minute of 'Blue Arrangements.' Plus the vocal thing. There’s really a lot to listen to here; you can focus in on Cassie, on DCB, on the guitar, the Scarlet Rivera-esque fiddle."
...
[Talking about 'there is a place']"Halfway through the song, it abruptly changes course, leading to a completely unrelated second movement. This is a tactic that I’m a complete sucker for almost all of the time – 'Cary Grant’s Wedding,' 'Fight This Generation,' 'The Bad Arts,' just to name a few. Anyway, the song turns into a primal chant complete with a very Velvets drumbeat – 'I saw God’s shadow on this world!' It’s the Tanglewood Growl, and he saves the best for last. They need to tour because this song needs to be performed live. I can see DCB – sporting a full beard, of course (this song cannot be sung unless there is a full beard) – holding the microphone in one hand while smashing the mic stand down with the other each time it gets to the first syllable of 'shadow.' 'I saw God’s SHAD-ow on this world … I saw God’s SHAD-ow on this world!' The drums let up a bit as the song – which by this point has taken on an energy force of its own – gathers itself for one final push. 'I took a hammer to it all,' DCB sings before the frenzied finale. All hell breaks loose – not in a 'Country Diary' sort of way, but in a flat-out fucking rocking sort of way. You can hear the shaking in DCB’s voice, delivering the repeated 'I saw God’s shadow on this world!' with remarkable gusto. I have an interpretive dance ready for when they play this song. Well, it’s not so much a dance as it is a sort of combination twirling/hopping, perhaps a violent variation on what some hippie might do during 'Wharf Rat.' Basically something that will get me very dizzy, because that’s what the last two minutes is, dizzying. It’s the greatest two minutes in Silver Jews history, I’m thinking. But it’s still just the third best song on the album. But what a way to go out.

"And there it is. Let’s just all hope that they fuckin’ get on the road behind this thing. Go to your local Wishing Well and Such and throw a few dollars down the well while asking for a Joos tour."

* Letter to the editor in the Globe and Mail by Robert Melamede, associate professor and chair, Biology Department, University of Colorado:

"I hope Canadians have the intelligence and courage not to be mindless slaves to the oppressive stupidity of America's drug war. This war has its roots in racism, ignorance and greed. Sadly, the U.S. is run by religious zealots who deny science and are incapable of understanding that marijuana is a miracle medicine for many because it is the only plant that mimics the way our bodies try to maintain balance.

"We all produce marijuana-like compounds known as endocannabinoids. And cannabinoids, among their many functions, regulate open-mindedness. I trust the Canadian government and judicial system are not as biologically defective as found in the United States. Protect Marc Emery; he is a Canadian asset." [stolen from]

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