Monday, January 26, 2009

we are interlocking

What do I like about the song I've posted this week? What do I not like about the song this week?

I like this about it:
well, the sidewalk's shady, I fully expect
a piano to fall on my head

And I like that the song is really two songs.

And I like this about the second half of the song:
And 'hello, how are you?'
it's simple, but it's true,
I'm curious

I like that the name of the band is Brazos, which also happens to be the name of my cousins' favorite bookstore in Houston- they used to always take me there when I visited them.

I haven't seen them for a while now, and it makes me think of the line above. I've been admittedly horrible about properly corresponding with people since starting school. It sounds pathetic, but I am often just too drained to talk, to catch up. That's what makes me think of the above line. The second half of this song has a weary affect- the song slows down and seems tired, jet-lagged really. Sometimes I wish life was as simple as songs- like I could just email someone with that line from the song, like that would be enough to mend it all, like that would be enough to elicit the desired response.

What else do I like about this song? How about the vocals? How about the music? The first half of the song drew me in immediately because there's a pleasant, fiesta-like cadence to the music. I don't know what it is about Martin Crane's vocals either. It's not like the voice is refined or pitch perfect. In fact, there's something charmingly off about it. The second half of the song slows down and it seems as though it will be a down-shifting lament, but it builds, crescendoes into a bluesy jam instead.

It's not meant to be some deeply meaningful masterpiece, probably. Yet for some reason, I find it to be. I'm too tired to articulate it at the moment. Maybe even if I had the energy, I wouldn't be able to do it though. I will say this- I've written an entire email about it, and I could write an entire post on the deceptive simplicity of this one lyric:
Sleep when you're tired and sleep when you're done

That pretty much sums it up for me. I forget it all the time, of course. I forget to let myself off the hook for being tired. I forget the difference between being tired and being done. Either way you take a rest, but it's important to know whether you have miles to go still or not. Come to think of it, it's important to remember that you always have miles to go still. Because if you didn't, well, then, you'd be done.

Anyway, enjoy, if you like. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a poundcake that very much wishes to be liberated from my oven.

Monday, January 19, 2009

now the colors convene

This week’s song isn’t quite as much of a fossil as the previous ones.

This week’s song can be filed under the Isn’t it pretty to think so? category of tunes. If yesterday, I was overly concerned with reality, today I’m acknowledging that love is blindness or, more importantly, blind spots and hazy vision are necessary in the business of living.

Last night, I had a little tussle with insomnia. It was stupid really- bedtime reading is generally not thought to involve someone getting stabbed 22 times in the chest. Every time I closed my eyes, my imagination went a little crazy.

I started with honesty. I turned the light back on and started writing something, but it was filled with too much truth. It was so frightening that I had even more trouble going to sleep after that. It was time for oblivion. Time for lies. 2:30 is time for lies.

Life is better now that I’ve found you. I erased the bad parts. Edited out the ugly pasts or the hopeless futures. I found the window. When I imagined it that way, I realized I have a knack for windows. Life has a knack with windows. If you let it, life can lull you into some real highs- the only condition is that you cannot ask for it to sustain, cannot expect it to fix everything that came before.

It was easy once I was down with poetic license. It took me less than 20 minutes to fall asleep, and it only took that long because I was starting to enjoy thinking of all the perfect memories. Some were just beautiful places, some were people I loved in all sorts of different ways, and many were different laughs. The laughs are for another post, maybe tomorrow.

If, however, I had spent even an extra minute lingering on any one of those images, any one of those memories, the illusion would have surely been shattered.

Set all of that aside, though, and note that Norah Jones sounds weirdly like she has some soul in this song. Maybe not weirdly, because Q-Tip is at work here. And Q-Tip is in prime form. Even if you correct for my ridiculous bias (I have a serious thing for his voice, regardless of whether he’s spewing nonsense), Q-Tip is staying in the moment here. He’s celebrating what he can, both what came before him and what followed, without getting weighed down in the complexities. But it’s Q-Tip- it’s not like he’s unaware. He’s making a choice, he states it up front:

one step at a time, a man walked on the moon

You can’t always think about things in their entirety or you’d never get much accomplished. If you think about 2009 and everything that has gone wrong, the idea that anything will improve is nearly impossible to imagine. If, however, you think of 2009 as a window, cut it free of the bonds of the past and the future, who knows?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

still haven't found what I'm looking for

On the plane ride home from Argentina, I started reading What is the What, an account of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan. You can have your issues with Dave Eggers, but it's interesting to me that he more or less submerges his entire writing style and voice in order to recount the tale of Valentino Achak Deng. There are none of his usual clever tricks or wisecracks. And yet, there's still something rather Eggers-ly about it.

A friend and I were talking about how unrelenting literature can be these days. But I'm in a mood of late, so I feel I'm getting assaulted from all sides. It's not just the books that are so bleak. In What is the What, the Lost Boys walk for miles and miles across Sudan, in circles at times, encountering all manner of danger, but they are propelled forward by both the instinct to survive and the promise of Ethiopia. They are told once they get to the border, there will be water, food, clothes, comfort. Maybe their families will be waiting for them. I'm probably not spoiling any story for you by telling you that it's not quite so pleasant.

The merciless BSG Season 4.5 premiere continues along the same theme. This ragtag group has been clinging to the hope that they will find Earth, and when they finally do, suddenly everyone's postures seem to relax. They think it is time now, time to lay down the burdens they have carried, and now they can begin to start anew. Of course, upon arriving on Earth, instead they find a radioactive wasteland.

I'll quote the poem, I've quoted before:

I have come far to have found nothing
or to have found that what was found
was only to be lost, lost finally
in that absence whose trace is silence.

It's a variation on a theme- all of this has happened before, all of this will happen again. Sisyphus rolls the rock up the hill every day, in vain. You come far to find nothing, or worse than nothing- what was found was only to be lost. You can only hang on to a perfect moment of contentment for a fleeting nanosecond, and then reality sets in.

It's a weird thing to write about, I know, when this is considered a time of hope for so many. But maybe that's exactly why I'm writing about it. What do you do when you recognize the pattern? When you see it's a futile cycle? Do you stop pushing against the tide and let the current take you out to sea?

People look to Barack Obama in that way, as if he will save us. He won't, and that's not a criticism of him.

But this is not necessarily a post about despair. This is not necessarily a time of despair. In Henderson the Rain King, Henderson is something of a farce. He is an exaggeration, but he wants. He can't stop wanting, and the resolution of his story is not that he is cured of his wanting. One can predict with great certainty that he will be making a mess of things sure enough. But that's not really the point. The point:

will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time.

The cycle will continue. It's not what you thought when you first began it. But it's enough, enough left to live by. Drifting out to sea is giving in, and giving in is shutting your eyes. Entropy, after all, should technically always win, and yet our entire existence is defined by fighting it as best as we can.

Monday, January 12, 2009

everyone's a winner, we're making our fame

First of all, one of my straight, male classmates proclaimed before class that he loves some new Taylor Swift song, and played it three times proudly before lecture started. Yes, I am sure I am doing much to strike fear into you all regarding the future of medicine.

Secondly, due to some (though not all) resurrection of my internet service, song of the week is back. Of course, for my first song of the week of the new year, I choose a song that is way past its expiration date. However, I wasted several hours of my life yesterday watching the Golden Globes, and I decided that it was only fitting to post this song in celebration of the several wins Slumdog Millionaire scored. Sure, it's a thin movie, not heavy on substance, and has its issues, but the same could be said about Juno and Little Miss Sunshine in previous years, and it's the Golden Globes- it's supposed to be light in substance.

Still, the one thing that, to me, was far beyond reproach in the movie was the soundtrack. And, as I previously mentioned, while Paper Planes was ubiquitously lifted left and right last year for various purposes, a lot of the song seemed to mesh well with the movie. If I'm not mistaken, both the original version and this DFA remix were featured in the film, and both worked, at least for me.

Now, I know the DFA remix takes an element of punk out of the original version. I figure most people already have their hands on the original version. I enjoy listening to that version too. The original is just the kind of f*** you that it seems only M.I.A can pull off these days. Perhaps other people are aware of music this lyrically incisive, and if so, please do share. But she's a tricky one, Maya, interlacing a catchy beat that lulls you into thinking you're listening to a slow jam, and then, hello, gunshots ring out. Even more subversive, a cash register rings out with it. There's nothing to write about it that hasn't already been written, to tell the truth.

The DFA remix robs the song of all of the sneaky slaps in the face. What it gets in return is a pace that's frenetic. I'll admit, one of the reasons I like this version so much is that it is the top of my playlist when I am on the treadmill. No matter how lazy I am feeling, regardless of how much the idea of moving my feet seems distasteful, this song comes on and it's autopilot time. I think that's why the remix worked in Slumdog. It's been a long time since I have visited Mumbai, but the thing that cities like Mumbai and New York and probably London (I've never been there so I'm speculating) have is this pulse, this drive. It's what I have always loved about visiting such cities. It's pure insanity sometimes, but there is such a beat, such force propelling you forward in such. You have no worries of stasis in such places. These are not the suburbs. There is a current, and it doesn't take much to get swept up into it.

So, there you have it. In other news, there is a very entertaining (to me) discussion about Slumdog, Anil Kapoor, and SRK going on at Ultrabrown. Reading my own comments on it, it's hard for me to believe that I once offered up Anil Kapoor to my mother as an example of why so many Indian women do not end up with Indian men. I said to my mom, "According to these movies, if you look like Madhuri Dixit, you're lucky if you end up with Anil Kapoor." She half-heartedly tried to argue with me for all of 15 seconds.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I'm just standing in a doorway

The whir, whir of the blade rotating in its circles and the warmth of the cup of water and olive oil as it slowly drizzled into the mixture. All so simple, so elemental. Why does it matter, why does it matter, but it does. It forms a ball, the ball goes in a bowl, it is covered. Let it be; it rises. One firm push, and then let it rest. The technical word is, in fact, resting. It's a living thing, this.

It's not a good use of time, but it's the owning of time. It's the making of time. It's the claiming of time. Let it rise, let it rest.

I remarked, oh so many months ago, "I want to learn to bake bread."

He said, "It's pretty hard."

And that's when I knew we didn't know each other anymore.

Someone else said. "It's been a long time. I'd love to hear what you've been up to."

Would you really, I thought? I don't think you would. And how to explain? How to explain that I am sometimes most at peace when I have my fingers in the airy, risen dough? How to explain that I live like this now- I make some effort, and then I pause. I let it rest, see what happens. And if it seems to have worked, I proceed. And if it hasn't, there are new experiments ahead. Why does it mater, why does it matter, but it does. Life takes a form. You let it be. It rises or it fails to rise, and you adjust accordingly. Is there really any point in explaining this?

Monday, January 05, 2009

all the days are counting backwards

Happy New Year and all that. I'm still trying to figure out how I want to post songs of the week, but I want to try to be better about it this year- this guy is putting me to shame, for one thing. But call it a resolution and I'll gag a bit- I'm not good with those. During my recent trip, one of my traveling companions was able to provide a nearly bullet-pointed list of resolutions, and it made me tired just listening to it. Anyway, here's a tune that helped me close out 2008. Next week, maybe I'll join 2009. Since I was in some kind of alternate universe in South America, or at least I felt I was, I'm easing into 2009 all slow-like.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

all of the moments you didn't notice gone in the blink of an eye

You could stand there all day if it weren't for the beating down sun this time of year. You could stand there, leaning on a railing, marveling at how water, rocks, and gravity can combine together to form such miracles. And as you stand there, you feel smaller and smaller, so small and so light that you very nearly feel that you could lose your footing and fall into the rushing gush. It would not be violent, bloody, mangling. You would just be swallowed whole, dissolve away, disappear into the enormity of it all. A mist kicks up. The sun switches its rays and a double rainbow appears. How can you be so arrested? And yet, how can you not? May you never think of this as a box to check. You silently wish you'll never find such a thing a photo op. You can't take a picture of this anyway. You can't take a picture of the feeling of the spray in your face. You can't take a picture of the crash of the falls against the rocks, or the rhythm with which the swallows tease themselves, soaring into and out of the spray as if on a dare. It's been said a million times before, no doubt, but no camera can capture this. Even your brain, your eyes have trouble.

Then a teenager spits a wad of gum into the falls and the trance is a bit jostled. And my, aren't beauty and miracles wasted on the young.