Sunday, February 22, 2009

Accettate carte di credito?

My old man and I are in Venice, finishing out the last days of Carnival. I haven't been to Italy since I lived in Sicily, from fifth to half of seventh grades. (A good movie set in Sicily, by the way, is Mafioso).  What embarrasses me is that I no longer speak Italian.  I also no longer speak French, which is what I spoke when my family lived in Belgium prior to Sicily. When I was little, my sister and I made quite the pair because one of us pronounced foreign words better than the other, who understood what was being said and told the first other what to say.  I know it wasn't that long ago, in the eternal time and space realm, but in those days some people wanted to talk to Americans, some people would tell us what they thought about the world.  In those days Contemporary American Fascism was in its infancy thanks to Ronald Reagan, who greased the wheels for the Bush I and II reign. (I'm surprised II allowed his 19% approval ratings to be published. I'm surprised I can still travel with books containing ideas). In those days my sister was still alive and those days are sadly gone, and I forget who was capable of what, but I am now surrounded by Italians again and find myself quietly immersed in the pasta, the lots of wine, the weird Catholic paintings in which Jesus suckles from Mary's breast which looks pulled off. I wish so badly that I could talk to people--really talk, not just request the dinner check, but find out what's happening in the poetry scene and the like. My old man and I stood outside a restaurant today, practicing how to ask if we can pay with a credit card, only to boldly enter the place, ask our question and receive a response that we totally couldn't understand. The waitress probably said something like, "We accept everything except American Express," and not "Why don't you know more than one language like the rest of the world you idiot American," but I was too dumbfounded to hear anything else.  Although I didn't recover my Italian like I did in my daydream during the flight over, many thanks to Venice for the fox mask and I think I get Fellini now.    

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Kool-Aid Kids Really Kick It

I’m really impressed by the youngins these days. ’80-86 were good years to have babies. The youngins have prevailed against the evil leaders that the youngins had no part electing. The youngins have read and reviewed more books than anyone ever will. The youngins lap laps. Were their parents playing The Smiths while they were asleep in their cribs? Were these kids raised on organic produce only? Are their parents skaters? The mind wonders.

The youngins are artful. They can accomplish what you can, but they will do it faster and sexier. My old man’s sister, born in ’81, is one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.
Claire Donato (’86) just released an incredible chapbook from Cannibal Books and she’s still in poetry school! Every poem that Julia Cohen ('81) writes is brilliant. She has published something like five to one hundred chapbooks, four of which came out before she finished poetry school and she has a book on the way. The poet Paige Taggart (’80) writes poems and also makes beautiful jewelry. Dan Magers (’80) let me read his mind-blowing epic sestina that follows the Snyder legacy on As the World Turns.  How do they do this? How did they come by their wisdom?

Two youngins’ voices of this bright, savvy, hip but not hipster generation:
Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn. Laura Marling is actually younger than the youngins, weighing in at nineteen years, but I will patiently wait for the day when she can come play music in Brooklyn. My old man and I heard her interviewed on NPR when she was less than nineteen. Johnny Flynn is located on my ipod between Johhny Cash and Joni Mitchell, so you know I’ll be writing more about him. I’m rather disgruntled that neither singer will be playing while I’m in London next week (because they are both playing tomorrow), so I guess I’ll have to continue listening to Johnny Flynn while I’m at the gym. Yes, I listen to British folk music while I’m at the gym.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fantasy Feature No. 25

If you were tall, you’d easily reach for things on high shelves. Your old man would ask you to do this on a daily basis, kissing you thanks afterwards. He’d feel so lucky for having such a tall bed partner. After all, you saved him the trouble of having to clear all the sweaters, coats, and pants hanging on the stepstool, from having to move the stepstool to another place, and from having to climb to the object in need—only to fall after missing a step. If you were tall, you’d swing higher than short people. (Evidence of this was witnessed firsthand in Santa Monica last Christmas.) If you were tall, you wouldn’t be invisible. If you walked your tall self up to microphones at poetry readings, you’d twist the little lever that makes the microphone stand stretch up to meet you. The audience admires that you do this. The next poet to use the microphone must use the lever to decrease the stand, for shame. Being tall is very sexual because you have more body to cover. Your old man would look up to you and he would stand on his tippy toes to peck your chin, which you lower. If you were tall, you wouldn’t have to wear heels, which is like foot binding anyway.

Monday, February 16, 2009

All We Had to Use Was a Brain

Can a product of art exist solely and separately, without any connection to its maker?  I wondered about this while watching Jandek on Corwood, a documentary about an obscure singer/songwriter/moaner/chanter who goes by Jandek.  He's put out many albums since 1978 and very little biographical information is known about him.  Jandek has worked very hard to have no public persona; he participated in one telephone interview with John Trubee for Spin. You can listen to it here.  You may contact him via the following address, printed on the back of his albums: Corwood Industries, Box 15375, Houston, TX 77020.  

It's surprising that the film was made in 2003, but not surprising when you realize the talking heads are all stuck in the early '80's.  I began to feel a nerd's affinity for them.  They think Jandek wrote his songs in a mental institution.  They think Jandek is on drugs.  They think Jandek sings in an damp, empty basement in a house he never leaves.  They are so cute.  They talk about obscure music magazines that actually reviewed music, not just stuff that sells.  My favorite talking head was the chubby one who said he alphabetizes Jandek under U, for Jandek's first album was released by The Units, a name he gave up for Jandek.  Come into my arms, you sweet music heads, and I will listen to your stories of shaking Lita Ford's hand in Scotland. 

Since the documentary had no footage to, well, document its subject matter, Chad Friedrichs and company used creepy, rustic, dilapidated Americana footage to fill up the film's visual space.  Among these images: a loose, bloody brain in the middle of an empty bed.  Second best is an overlay of a Jandek album cover, during which the moving photo makes the man blink his eyes.  Jandek blinks his eyes scarily.

After the geeks, after the images, what we have is a strange set of albums.  I have to admit that Jandek's sad, haunting music once forced me to pause the movie and close my half-open closet.  Also, my cat sat at the edge of the sofa, staring at the front door as though something were going to surely burst through the apartment and slaughter us both.    

Questions for Jandek: How many times have you Googled yourself?  What is your approach to things like compact discs and the return of the bearded musician?  Do you like the Fleet Foxes or The Devastations?  Would you care for a cello in your band?  (I too tune to my own needs.  Just kidding).  Do you like Buffy?

Comments, dear readers, are only open to the real Jandek.