Meow Mix – Random Gum of January 2018 soundtrack

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Meow Mix – Random Gum of January 2018

Follow me on Spotify.

https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/comraderadmila/playlist/2k0qZu0AIqoePAqcBYeepW

01 Grace Lightman – Halloween is Over
Because Halloween really is over
02 Inspiral Carpets – This is How It Feels
Lonely and nostalgic
03 Robyn Hitchcock – Raining Twilight Coast
“Just one thing, baby, you forgot my heart”. Glasgow in May
04 Soccer Mommy – Switzerland
“i trace and memorize your curves and lines until my fingers start to bleed
we could go some place alone
don’t you see
we could go somewhere it snows
just you and me
we could go to switzerland
never come back home again “
05 Calypso Valois – Amoureuse
06 Luwten – Double for Me …You don’t want to need but need to know what you want/You think that if you need too much you’ll end up with none…
“What you said is not what you meant
You haven’t quite figured it out yet”
07 Lykke Li – Love Me Like I’m Not Made of Stone
Sweden
08 Nap Eyes – Alaskan Shake
Nova Scotia
09 Moonface, Siinai – The Nightclub Artiste
Pretty prolific Canadian from delightful British Columbia
10 Elvis Perkins – While You Were Sleeping
11 Niobe – Hawaii Duet
12 Summer Aviation – Thrust
Old friends
13 Nana – Gato é Crime, Denuncie
meow… meow…
14 DRINKS – Hermits on Holiday
For beloved grumpy would-be hermits and mugwumps
15 The Amazing – Perfect Day for Shrimp
Why, Swedish, of course…
16 Black Marble – Iron Lung
17 Vashti Bunyan – If I Were
A name-dropping opportunity
18 Lily & Madeleine – Devil We Know …Come the memories, come the shivering cold, let the rain fall…
Better the liar you know…
19 Fats Domino – Every Night About This Time
RIP – 2017
20 Al-Masrieen – Asef Gedan
Egypt. Cheers to Aurélien and Cat
21 Moon Palace – Shapeshifter
Is a person a liar or just a shapeshifter? …Seattle
22 Sylvia Striplin – You Can’t Turn Me Away
23 The Third Bardo – I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time
24 Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – The Pilot …A tough-love motherfucker, who was born a clown…
“What could I say? What was I after?
I forgot, but you figured it out for me again with your radio silence”
25 Sevdaliza – The Language of Limbo
Iranian-Dutch
26 Over the Rhine – Faithfully Dangerous
Memories of the 1990s. “I wonder which part of this will leave a scar”. Ohio.
27 LCD Soundsystem – Emotional Haircut
Glasgow in May?
28 Anchorsong – Butterflies
29 David Cassidy – I Think I Love You
RIP – 2017
30 Cults – Right Words
31 An Luu – Pourquoi tu me fous plus des coups?
32 Christopher Owens – Heroine (Got Nothing on You)
33 St Vincent – Sugarboy
34 Sébastien Tellier – Drunk on the Radio
35 Luwten – Indifference
Netherlands
36 Maggie Rogers – Alaska (acoustic)
“And I walked off you
And I walked off an old me”
37 Kyu Sakamoto – Sukiyaki
The old days: Japan
38 Laibach – Drzava
Slovenia
39 Otis Redding – That’s How Strong My Love Is
You can’t not love Otis
40 Eivør – Salt
Much love to very music-loving colleague, Eva
“langt burtur úr landi
hómi eg gráan av minnum
lati aldurnar taka meg
føli djúphavið darra
havið er í mær
er saltið í tárunum”
41 Tropic of Cancer – The Dull Age
42 Helado Negro – Lengua Larga
Ecuador-USA
“Abre tu boca que quiero conocer
Adentro
Y hay un gran vacío
Conocido”
43 Sound of Ceres – Gemini Scenic
For twins of all kinds: birthday twins, astrological twins, lost twins
44 Patio Furniture – Please, Please, Please Let me get what I want
A song for the hardy, sturdy patio furniture
45 Neşe Alkan – Kaçma Güzel
Turkiye
46 Acetone – Shaker
47 Aimee Mann – Knock It Off …You had your chances but now they’re gone…
“Seattle finally couldn’t hold her”
48 Summer Aviation – Angle of Attack
Old friends, lovely sounds
49 Coparck – A Dog and Pony Show
Netherlands
Martina! Here’s to, if not the end of dog and pony shows, at least new and exciting ones
50 Shura – Nothing’s Real
“I’m a dead girl walking
I need medicine”
51 Salma Agha – Barish Men Main Khari
52 Natalia Lafourcade – No Más Llorar
Mexico
“No más llorar
Sé que ya lo nuestro no tiene remedio
Pero no más llorar”
53 Anna Burch – Tea-Soaked Letter
Detroit
“I forgot to fake
The way that I was feeling
I guess it’s too late
Now all my cards are showing”
54 Malena Zavala – Should I Try (acoustic)
Argentina
55 Mdou Moctar – Iblis Amghar
Tuareg/Niger
56 Softer Still – 1993
England, of course
57 Ages and Ages – How It Feels
Portland, Oregon
58 Jaws of Love – Love Me Like I’m Gone
Thanks, with love, to Andreas
59 Heartless Bastards – Marathon
Cincinnati (why are people always surprised that Ohio has not only a bunch of cities but a ton of bands?). Not my kind of marathon, but okay…
60 Marta Kubišová – Cesta
Requisite Czech. Love to Martina, dearest Anne and Mr MI
61 P.P. Arnold – Medicated Goo
Good goo of random gum and love and life
62 Hatchie – Sure
Australia
63 Mattiel – Not Today
“Everything’s okay – but maybe not today”
64 Cinnamon Tapes – Cinnamon Sea
São Paulo.
65 France Gall – Les sucettes
RIP – 2018
66 Xenoula – Tororoi
South Africa/Wales
67 Essaie Pas – Futur Parlé
Montréal, bien sûr
68 Jonathan Bree, Clara Viñals – Say You Love Me Too
Thanks to Tom
69 Julia Holter – Don’t Make Me Over
The simplicity of this song makes me overly emotional
“Don’t make me over
Now that I can’t make it without you”
70 Angel Olsen – Fly On Your Wall
“I found a feeling inside
Or should I say it found me
I turned into someone I
Never imagined I’d be”

Japanorama & penis power

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Back in the early part of the year I was contemplating an April return to Japan. Mostly because I thought I would like to see The Stone Roses again but also because April is the best time of year to go to Japan. I didn’t go for a handful of reasons but now I wish I had: I just found out there is a penis festival in April, which … seriously, who wouldn’t go to Japan just for that? (Well, and a side of ほうとう.)

I had been doing a lot of research into different things in Japan that might not have registered with me before – side trips and tours one could make to focus in on more niche things like Japan’s amazing pens, paper and denim obsession rather than just tourist traps, noodles and whatever.

In the end, I talked to my brother about going together, but it ended up being bad timing. I went on shorter trips – stuff like the PoPos and Czechia – will anyone ever get used to calling it that? And (little licks of – a term used just for London-based friend Karly!) London, which is never a delight, but sometimes necessary.

Mind clouded by Japan and penises now, I always forget that they have these strange fixations. Forgot checking out the VHS of In the Realm of the Senses from the public library as a teenager – probably not something they should have let a teenager have, but I don’t think the library staff was particularly familiar with the foreign language films. If I am not mistaken, the maniacal main character of the film cuts off the other main character’s penis; this is considerably more artful than, say, the made-for-tabloid-TV saga of John and Lorena Bobbitt.

Random Gum: Spring into Action 2017

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I never intended for this springtime playlist to grow to such massive proportions. It’s just that I was exposed to so much music – so much sound – so much joy – so much pain in the last few months, and this is the result. My experience and memory filtered into an auditory blueprint. Effortlessly. It’s long – so long – but I did not feel like censoring or making choices because I do that all the rest of the time in my life. You don’t have to listen or like this compilation of 110 bloody songs (although on the burned discs I’ve mailed by post, it looks like maybe only 109 of them actually worked – sorry)… but I am sharing all of it anyway because it’s just what I do.

I never imagine that very much happens or changes in my life, but then when I have an opportunity to reflect, I realize that major things have happened almost weekly over the course of the last six months…. I won’t go into the minutiae of that. I will only say that, as ever, nothing is settled. I am spending a lot of time thinking, reading and writing… and it’s all I feel like doing. It makes for a bit of an insular life that yields very little to tell/share (other than ‘insights’ or takeaways from the things I read and listen to…).

The postal versions (to those for whom I have postal addresses) are going out in the mail this week.

To move on you must move through… Love to all of you.

Random Gum: Moving on Again – How to live with a phantom: Spring into action 2017
(Almost) complete playlist on Spotify.

01. Ed Harcourt – Born in the 70s
Thanks to MP & chats on generational issues. “But can you count on me?/I might let you down/In a world that is so sensational/No you can count on me/I’m living for the now/Up against the older generation’s wall”

02. The Shacks – This Strange Effect …and I like the way you kiss me, don’t know if I should/but this feeling is love and I know that’s why I feel good…

03. The Associates – Love Hangover …I don’t need no cure…
Thanks to William

04. Psychic Twin – Hopeless …And I remain hopelessly alone in the heart/Like I’ve always been from the start…

05. Bubblegum Lemonade – As Dead as Disco …I’m San Francisco; you are New York…
Thanks to some random Glaswegian Twitter guy

06. Girl Ray – Trouble …I don’t want to win anymore, Cause honey, winning it just make me feel sore…
Trouble always finds me. Slight 70s sound; good lead-in tone and theme wise to “The Lonely Man”

07. The Incredible Hulk TV theme song – The Lonely Man
For SD

08. Howard Jones – Things Can Only Get Better
Planned to include this (thinking 2017 could only be better after 2016 – wrong so far!) and then realized dear Bethany also put it on a recent mix she sent – and even gave the mix this title.

09. Bill Ryder-Jones – You Can’t Hide a Light with the Dark …The way you fall apart/I still adore it…
“The light’s on in your backroom/Are you with him/Are you with him/The lights off and it’s darkness/You’re so heartless”

10. Maud Lübeck – Mon amourenboîte
Thanks to Laurent

11. Palehound – Cinnamon …Mellow, cringing ugly fellows/Mixing water into gin/And chasing it with cinnamon…

12. Minor Victories – Breaking My Light …Will these shadows lift/They’ve been breaking my light…
Thanks and love to MP, who once or twice helped lift some shadows

13. Rabbit is Rich – Kick Your Ass
More thanks to the incomparable William, king of Christmas cards and cool music mixes

14. Andrew Bird – Tin Foil …What is moving will be still/What has gathered will disperse…
“Evil Knievel shot up from dead grass/And I loved him better each time that he crashed”

15. Maria Andersson – The Girl Who Loved Islands
Probably just because I am nothing if not an island girl at heart

16. Bill Pritchard – Mother Tongue …They lived in separate countries, as we watched their future unfurl…
“What’s that you mean?/I don’t think I caught your tone/Say that again in your mother tongue”

17. Max Shrager – Thoughts of You …to hold onto my thoughts of you…

18. The War on Drugs – Red Eyes
Always a driving song… don’t drive as much as I used to but still need songs for the road

19. Boy & Bear – Southern Sun …You see I’m not gonna wait till the end of me/’Cause I got the burning fire in bed of my soul…

20. Crystal Stilts – The Dazzled …It can’t be saved. It’s already lost, it thrives on my resistance/We are bound and marching to an ever static distance…

21. Vetiver – Can’t You Tell …Look ahead where our future hides/But the world waits wide-eyed…

22. Trailer Trash Tracys – You Wish You Were Red …Oh my darling, you’re a dying red star…

23. Steve Mason – The Letter …could it be that you don’t know me any more?…
Was supposed to see this dude twice within a week (Gothenburg and Oslo). Canceled. It was not how I had imagined anyway, so just as well that none of it happened.

24. Cass McCombs – There Can Be Only One
“Like a master’s baptism of fire/I know you have your ways/And two masters at once, no man can acquire/You set my heart ablaze”

25. Japanese Breakfast – The Woman that Loves You …You should try to do as little harm as you can to the woman that loves you…

26. Neko Case, kd lang, Laura Veirs – Down I-5 …Driving down I-5/I don’t ever want to die/Cause I’d no more get to see/All this beauty passing by me…
How many fruitless trips down I-5 have I taken? “You know you’re living if you’ve sinned”

27. Thelma – If You Let It …lines are crossed of will and fear/it is ringing loud and clear…
“Feel the limits you put/on yourself and those around you/you deserve more, you deserve more”. Here’s to seizing more.

28. Chelsea Wolfe – Appalachia …like black diamonds, ash and light/like the mines and anthracite…

29. Timber Timbre – Velvet Gloves & Spit

30. Totally Mild – Christa …It doesn’t matter what you do/It only matters who you do it with…

31. Childish Gambino – Me and Your Mama
For Naomi, who did not realize Donald Glover was Childish Gambino.

32. Houndstooth – Canary Island …it’s never been quite right/always taking things to dark inside/a restless mind is hard please/most of the time…
“Oh to be the dust that covers/everything”

33. Hefner – Half a Life …Life without my sweetheart is only half a life…

34. Stereolab – Ping Pong
Socialism in song… hitting the musical ball back and forth with MP

35. Beachbuggy – Japanese Radio Ad
More Japanese noise and more love to MP
36. AdriAnne Lenker – Jonathan …listen up, I’m a wreck I’m a mess, this is not the effect/Of a loss or a vex, this is you…
“Let me be the honest home where you can rest/Your tired mind”

37. Tinariwen – Cler Achel
A very Al Jazeera documentary-loving, Henry-Rollins-style travels kind of music

38. Chelsea Wolfe – Flatlands …I want flatlands/will you go there with me…
“When it’s said in the dark and you know it’s always there/when it’s dead in our heart but your mind is unafraid/when it’s said in the dark and you know it’s never coming back/when it’s there in your heart in your mind you set it free”

39. Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker – I Never Learned French
Where have all my French connections gone?
40. Cats on Fire – It’s Clear Your Former Lover
Funnish Finns. “Now, it’s possible he may have been the one who loved you the most/I don’t want to compete and I don’t like the smell of his ghost”

41. The Horrors – Still Life (Connan Mockasin remix) …Slow down/give it time…
Preferred this remix to the original; sitting in a shopping mall parking lot waiting for a friend, listening and absorbing the message: “Don’t hurry, give it time. Things are the way they have to be.”

42. Baxter Dury – Other Men’s Girls

43.Morgan Delt – Some Sunsick Day …After the blast levels our town/We can relax and watch it come down…
“After we start over again/We’ll start to feel safe in our skin/Maybe we’ll be wrinkled and grey/Or maybe we’ll get new plastic faces/We’ll finally find what we need”

44. Vashti Bunyan – Love Song
Thanks to, love for MP

45. Space Needle – Before I Lose My Style …I tried to be it all/when I left you behind…

46. Galaxie 500 – Snowstorm
Thoughts of MP and an almost-snowless winter

47. Itasca – No Consequence
With love for Annette – plenty of consequences.

48. The Limiñanas – Down Underground

49. Jenny Hval – Conceptual Romance …I want to give up but I can tell/My heartbreak is too sentimental for you…
This song is everything. ”A sexual holding pattern/Stuck in erotic self-oscillation/This landmine of a heart/The only one I’ve ever had/I’ve ever had”; “So I lose my gaze to keep you/Creating a curve for the eyes/A rejected body/And losing it is constant, but such a lonely place/What can I say?/I don’t know who I am, but/I’m working on it…”

50. Psychic Ills – Mind Daze …I’m doing fine/when I’m out of my mind…

51. Suuns – 2020

52. Minor Victories – Give Up the Ghost …When you act like I’m nothing to you/Make me feel like I’ve been replaced/I could tear you apart/Leave a brand-new scar…
53. Amber Arcades – Constant’s Dream …It’s not different we’re just getting used to it/But we’ve always known what to expect…
“Our bodies are full and nobody is trying/It’s not like we don’t want to, we’re just not desiring”

54. Still Parade – Walk in the Park
Poetry, Wanstead Park and Denise Levertov’s ark-of-the-ache-of-it connection: “Wanstead drew me over and over into its basic poetry”. For MP

55. Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker – Something Familiar

56. Twin Limb – Don’t Even Think

57. Nice as Fuck – Door …All the shit that we talk is a smokescreen/It’s a waste of your time/A waste of my being…

58. Family Friends – Look the Other Way …I think there’s some things you forgot from when we used to talk a lot…

59. Chastity Belt – Seattle Party …Your life is so raw/You’ve been through so much…

60. Pixie Geldof – Wild Things Grow
Not anything I ever anticipated including despite lifelong weird obsession with Bob Geldof; thanks to Travis, this finds its way here
61. Lee Hazlewood – Hey Cowboy
Love to Naomi

62. Matt Duncan – 1000 Boys …This record’s skipping on a sigh… (but not an Eliot sigh…)
“That I’m smitten with my worries and my doubts/No lovelorn prince would ever dare to sing about”
63. Shintaro Sakamoto – In a Phantom Mood
Japan time!

64. Allo Darlin’ – Kiss Your Lips …Then I kissed your lips and for a moment it was heavenly/Because you found me, baby/Baby I found you…

65. Weyes Blood – Seven Words …I want you mostly in the morning/when my soul is weak from dreaming…

66. Julia Jacklin – Pool Party …Said you’re sorry you were drinking through the day then/Only stopped to let your lungs take the hit/Said I won’t blame you now but you lost my love somehow/Then you jumped right in…
I sort of misjudged this song when I first heard it – kinda fitting when I really listened

67. The Innocence Mission – Bright as Yellow …And I do not want to be a rose/I do not wish to be pale pink/But flower scarlet, flower gold/And have no thorns to distance me…

68. I Break Horses – Winter Beats …When your heart in winter beats/Don’t let that cold blood freeze/Cause frozen love will bleed…
Represent the home team (Sweden!) and other people’s Spotify playlists

69. Kim Jung Mi – Haenim
I read about “Korean folk” music, which is like 60s folk rock and nothing to do with traditional Korean music. And you can hear that when you listen to this interesting, if odd, song.

70. Vivian Girls – Where Do You Run To …It’s alright just leave the light on, I will never ask you why/Once you’ve gone remains the question baby/Where do you go? Where do you go? Why do you leave me all alone?…

71. Sam Patch – St. Sebastian
Another one of those whose sound I like…

72. Amber Arcades – Right Now …But we could go right now/We could have another life…
“I made my mind up long ago/The road is long and slow/So many things to leave behind/But everyone can live their lie/I’m not even sure that I don’t like mine”

73. “J’ai perdu mon Eurydice” – from Orphee et Eurydice, Gluck, Donald Runnicles & Orchestra of San Francisco; Dawn Upshaw, Alison Hagley, Jennifer Larmore

74. Wasuremono – Cuddling
As the dear Scots say, to mean ‘cuddling’, “coorie in”
75. Spain – Nobody Has to Know …Girl we’ve fallen so in love/It was just a year ago/And you’ve kept it to yourself…

76. Blake Mills – Don’t Tell Our Friends About Me …I was wrong to turn honesty against you/And sure, some of them could use a good talk…
Seems like a timely kind of song, with thoughts of trying to keep secrets about people “fucking up”

77. King Creosote – And the Racket They Made …And your words chased round and round in my head/Last night…
To the peaceful days that started the year and the endless discography of King Creosote, which droned on all morning and throughout our entire absence when wandering through the cold countryside. “And the tide shrinks back into its womb/And I hope the empty shells and bones of your stories/Will litter and clutter the shores/And I hope that when I find them/I’ll remember how they danced/And the racket they made/When they were alive”

78. William Onyeabor – Ride on Baby …You don’t know why you love me so much, baby…
RIP William, king of Nigerian funk… reminds me of a weird time in my professional career working with insufferable hipsters who spent much of their lives in downward facing dog pose (since they had to be posing somehow…)

79. Glen Campbell – Guess I’m Dumb …The way I act don’t seem like me/I’m not on top like I used to be…
Acknowledging when you’re not on your A-game…

80. Nick Garrie – Can I Stay With You
Calm in the eye of the storm; love for MP

81. Cigarettes After Sex – K. …I remember when I first noticed that you liked me back/We were sitting down in a restaurant waiting for the check/We had made love earlier that day with no strings attached/But I could tell that something had changed how you looked at me then…
What a beautiful song… its combination of beauty and hope kinda makes me feel melancholy.

82. Bubblegum Lemonade – This is the New Normal
Hoping that the world we live in right now is not the new normal…

83. Tenniscoats – Hikoki
Thinking of back when my mom expanded her vocabulary to include the Japanese neko and hikooki

84. Spinning Coin – Albany …When the weather comes/It comes in measures/When the pain comes/Instead of pleasure…
“I don’t know I thought I knew you but I was wrong/I was impressed by your love for complexity”

85. Wolf Alice – Bros …Are you wild like me/Raised by wolves and other beasts…

86. The Duke Spirit – Serenade …slow you remind me/how to be silent/and your story leaves me wanting/and the way I feel is changing…

87. Desperate Journalist – Distance …oh your heart/a hurricane…
How much I want to create distance. “I’ve lost you” – yes, you have.
88. Surface to Air Missive – Time Being …I don’t know where you are now/but it’s someone else for all I know…
The guilt of unanswered/unreciprocated missives. Bigger than surface

89. Billy Bragg – Upfield
“I’ve got a socialism of the heart.” Nothing describes me better at this stage in life

90. Los Campesinos! – You! Me! Dancing!
Thanks to MP and his mad, made-up music ‘game’/DJing a Friday night from afar, as ever

91. Slowdive – Star Roving
To made-up middle-of-night games pitting songs against each other and admissions of never cottoning to Slowdive back in the old days

92. Minor Victories – Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)

93. Cat’s Eyes – Drag …Oh you’ve been dragging me down…

94. Grouper – Headache …why does love keep letting me down?…

95. Antonio Carlos & Jocafi – Você Abusou
Something from the Cerys on 6 BBC Sunday radio, listened at someone’s suggestion

96. Dirty Projectors – Up in Hudson
Love and thanks to Andreas. The sound here is not mine, but the lyrics… dear, dear heavens

97. Tasseomancy – Dead Can Dance & Neil Young …fade into folk song…
Enjoyed getting lost in the sound…

98. Valerie June – Astral Plane
Thanks to Travis

99. Princess Chelsea – The Cigarette Duet
Thanks to dear Gabe and of course love for New Zealand

100. Super Furry Animals – Hermann Loves Pauline
Gute Nacht, mein Liebling, Roscoe

101. The Proper Ornaments – Memories …memories will go/slowly float away/but I can see your face/from here…

102. The Saxophones – New Tradition
“But I haven’t shown you my best part; it’s too hard, and I’m quick to judge”

103. Sibelius – In the Stream of Life (Rautavaara)
104. Robyn Hitchcock – Goodnight Oslo

105. Spell – Stone is Very Very Cold …my hand may tremble now and then/but my heart can never break again…

106. Julie Byrne – Follow My Voice …To me, this city’s hell/But I know you call it home/I was made for the green/Made to be alone…
“I’ve been called heartbreaker/For doing justice to my own/I, too, been a fault-finder/But that life is broke/How I love you/You’re the one my heart chose/And so I will be here”

107. Ultra Vivid Scene with Kim Deal – Special One
Watching the video on a hotel room bed in Oslo, nearing the end of the five-day bubble, memories of high school for me, an intro to something new for him

108. Sheryl Crow – The Book …I didn’t know by giving my hand/that I would be written down, sliced around, passed down, among strangers’ hands…
A mainstream thing you won’t know, a lot like Friends, but still has its place in pop culture. And this song has always struck me – writers as “voyeur, the worst kind of thief” of such personal details; always be on the defensive. “I read your book/and I find it strange/that I know that girl, I know her world/a little too well”

109. Steve Mason – Hardly Go Through …I’ve never cried over someone I hardly know/But I can feel it/Can you feel it?…
“In my head I hear a voice, they say/You made the wrong choice/And you don’t need me, you’ll never need me”

110. Blondie – Fade Away and Radiate …Electric faces seem to merge/Hidden voices mock your words…
The musical definition of my earliest childhood, still resonating as I burnish in middle age. Isn’t that what memory, intellect, age and living do? Haha. One can hope. “Ooh baby I hear you spend night time/Wrapped like candy in a blue, blue neon glow”

Off the chain – no training wheels

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Time for Japan

Yes, as usual, the Japanese have their priorities straight. Standardizing toilet controls and weaving and dyeing denim properly while the country more or less dies out … sounds like a plan.

Is this the same philosophy that drives Mexicans to make beautiful, time-consuming piñatas only to destroy them by beating the shit out of them? Because this is life: beautiful and so full of promise – but it too beats the shit out of you?

You enjoy beauty or love or quality only because they are so ephemeral? (Quality may imply that something is built to last, but the worn quality of something, its imperfection, may be part of its beauty. Is this the Japanese thinking, as was recently proposed to me?)

As an aside, I have lived and acquired weight in my soul and body, I have scars all over me from the things I have lived through. These imperfections too should tell a story that no one tells.

‘Love, like fire, can only reveal its brightness
on the failure and the beauty of burnt wood.’

« Comme le feu, l’amour n’établit sa clarté
que sur la faute et la beauté des bois en cendres… »

Philippe Jaccottet, ‘L’ignorant’

It’s time to plan a trip to Japan, as I have not been for almost 20 years.

Everything is imperfect and constantly in flux, changing: Japan, love, me.

Photo (c) Stephen Donaghy

Spontaneity

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One of the biggest reasons I live the life I do and have cultivated the lifestyle I have is its flexibility and the ability to be spontaneous. Do I often do anything with that? Not in my opinion. From other people’s regimented perspectives, maybe it seems like it, but to me, spontaneous is buying a ticket to Japan in the morning and leaving in the afternoon.

The other night, Sunday, the internet connection in my house stopped working. I was already half-asleep and it was 2 a.m. so this should not have mattered to me in the least. But somehow it made me irritated, and thus wide awake. And suddenly, after speaking for some time about the film La La Land earlier in the evening, and getting excited to see it (even if it had not registered in my head before this conversation), I thought at 2 a.m., randomly, “This would be a good time to jump in the car, drive to Oslo airport and fly to some city where the film IS playing!” (I had already checked to see that it’s not been released in Sweden or Norway yet.)

Exercising freedom and flexibility is always in my reach and I never take advantage, certainly not fully. This seemed like the right opportunity. Of course, is it rational to jump out of bed, where you’re already half asleep and dressed for sleep, get your things together, buy a ticket and go to Berlin (city of choice) just to see a movie that, even a day earlier, you would not even have given a second thought to?

No, pas du tout. But it was never about what is rational. Seems like lunacy, but it’s less about the movie and more about just doing something crazy and unexpected because I can. If I don’t have kids, complications, obligations (other than work, which I can do at any hour), should I not be taking full advantage of the freedom that that affords?

I didn’t do it when that middle-of-the-night urge struck – the internet connection started working, so my tiredness took over again, but I was halfway out the door and then spent the next day, Monday, debating whether I should go Tuesday instead. I was not as spontaneous as I might like to be – but now, sitting at the Oslo airport working for a few hours while waiting for a flight to Berlin, I can say that I was spontaneous enough at least to go for it the next day.

The last time I went to a cinema was in 2009; I had returned to Iceland to visit and saw whatever Star Trek movie was new that summer. And somehow have never returned. This seems like, if not a monumental way to break the dry spell, a novel and memorable one.

Random Gum: Raising the Bar 2017

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Getting late & losing track of time – December 2016/early 2017

For no real reason except that I’ve been abnormally into music for a few months (yes, I always am, but even more than usual these days), I have already collected a new mix that makes up the soundtrack of my life for the last three months or so (since my last mix went out). The songs are all listed below; almost the entire playlist (minus the songs not available at all on Spotify, such as track 01, from Vorderhaus) can be found among my Spotify playlists. Those people whose addresses I have can trust that a physical copy is on its way to you as I write.

01. Vorderhaus – “Faintly …future’s looming in the afterglow…
02. Big Search – “Love in Return …river, the warmth has gone/the trail’s not been cold for long…
03. The Passions – “I’m in Love with a German Film Star” …playing the part of a real troublemaker/but I didn’t care – it really moved me…
When you fall out of love with the dream

04. Steve Mason – “Planet Sizes” …the universe makes me cry…
It could have been a ‘date’ in Oslo… or not. The fates only know

05. Wand – “Fire on the Mountain (I-II-III)”

06. The Fat Tulips – “Where’s Clare Grogan Now?”
Courtesy of lovely William; reminders/mentions of Enumclaw & Scotland all in one

07. The Fall – “Lost in Music”
For Naomi, for S. Put the original on a recent Halloween mix after hearing it on the dreadful show Looking. Made fun of it (i.e. “Get a job, dancing, music-obsessed losers”). What can take it all up a notch? A version from The Fall, of course!

08. Alvvays – “Archie, Marry Me” …You’ve expressed explicitly your contempt for matrimony…
What started as a casual recommendation led eventually to a little heartbreak every time this song came on: “We spend our days locked in a room content inside a bubble
And in the night time we go out and scour the streets for trouble”

09. British India – “I Thought We Knew Each Other”
“Fifteen years of fighting in the dark/Empty hands the only thing I’ve got/All the times I’ve tried to walk away” – it’s the words, not the generic sound

10. Cats on Fire – “Poor Students Dream of Marx …Hated London nightlife, so I’ve heard…
“Go on, get out/I am sharing your doubts”; “last words are for fools who haven’t said enough” (Oh, and it may interest some to know, like Naomi, that these dudes are FUNNISH)

11. The Crayon Fields – “Mirror Ball” …You are still my-y mirror ball/I look at you/and suddenly I’m a virgin/In a dance hall…
“Would it flatter you to know/That mostly it’s you/That makes me so slow”

12. Courtney Marie Andrews – “How Quickly Your Heart Mends”
“The jukebox is playing a sad country song,/For all the ugly Americans,/Now I feel like one of them,/Dancing alone and broken by the freedom”

13. Maud Lübeck – “J’oublie”
With thanks to Laurent S. When music is a conduit to escape dark times

14. Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
Had been meaning to listen but didn’t until it got the “Travis seal of approval”. Love to Billy & Travis xox. And my god, is there anywhere that Donald Glover isn’t right now?

15. Junip – “Line of Fire” …No one else around you/No one to understand you/No one to hear your calls/Look through all your dark corners…
Gothenburg

16. The Church – “Under the Milky Way” …I think about the loveless fascination/
Under the Milky Way tonight…
I often forget how much I love the sound of The Church

17. Roosevelt – “Montreal”
Skåne del Sol adventures (no beheadings) w/ Kyle & musical influence of Mr Bridge

18. Dead or Alive – “You Spin Me Round” …I’ve got to have my way now, baby…
RIP Pete. If the losses of 2016 haven’t spun us all around, I don’t know what will

19. Margaret Glaspy – “You and I” …I think you might be harboring a heartache/I think you might be crying when I’m gone/You and I have been a mistake/I let it linger too long…
Endings that drag on; “I don’t want to see you cry/But it feels like a matter of time”

20. Foxygen – “Follow the Leader” …I know sometimes everyone wants to be someone else…

21. John Lennon – “Watching the Wheels” …when I say that I’m okay/well, they look at me kinda strange/surely you’re not happy now, you no longer play the game…

22. Lianne La Havas – “What You Don’t Do”
Thanks to Esteban and Ana

23. Kula Shaker – “Persephone”
Naming conventions, unconventions & the depth & meaning of a name. Not a Kula Shaker fan

24. Lia Ices – “After is Always Before” …I don’t know after and before’s almost gone…
Missing Jane

25. Grandaddy – “Clear Your History”

26. TV21 – “All Join Hands” …I feel so used or was I just your servant?…
Many thanks to William; thoughts racing while racing through Oslo outskirts

27. Leonard Cohen – “So Long, Marianne”
RIP Leonard Cohen. Generic Cohen to choose but has its reasons. Staple soundtrack of the Indian (why?!) place by my old office in Iceland where I spent so many lunches with old friends. And of course, the Norwegian namesake, Marianne, who preceded Cohen in death by only a few months

28. Diego Garcia – “You Were Never There” …Girl you never cared/You were never there…
“You hide yourself/behind a wall/and it shows”. Such truth

29. Cate le Bon – “Love is Not Love” …And the bars go/And it keeps me high/But I don’t know how to love you…
“I won’t let you, I won’t let you, sing my name again, love…”

30. Laura Marling – “Hope in the Air”
With manifold thanks to MP

31. Tomten – “Nothin’ Like Bein’ No One
Love for the little-known Seattle band. I will include them whenever I can
32. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings – “When the Other Foot Drops, Uncle…you better pack up & run…
RIP Sharon. “Every dog has his day, uncle, and it just can’t go on this way…”
33. The Boo Radleys – “Wish I Was Skinny”
Love to Naomi – only Boo Radleys fan I know/can think of!

34. Mitski – “Your Best American Girl”
“If I could, I’d be your little spoon/And kiss your fingers forevermore/But, big spoon, you have so much to do/And I have nothing ahead of me”

35. U.S. Girls – “Island Song”

36. George Michael – “Freedom! ’90”
Holy shit – could 2016 be more brutal? RIP George. I was not a huge fan but what a piece of the 80s landscape and the collective memory of my generation

37. Os Mutantes – “Baby”
For R, always the wrong things to say at wrong times; on occasion knows the right things to do

38. Shonen Knife – “Elephant Pao Pao” とても悪いこと
Totemo warui koto/Japanese-language camp and those old days and ways

39. Low – “Just Like Christmas” …by the time we got to Oslo, the snow was gone/and we got lost, the beds were small, but we felt so young
Conjuring an unfathomably lovely future or a cocoon-like bubble? (Nevertheless, can’t go to Oslo without getting lost and finding an endless array of hi-fi stores)

40. The Verve – “History”
Poetry and history, with gratitude on many fronts to M

41. Nirvana – “Pennyroyal Tea” …Give me Leonard Cohen afterworld…
RIP Leonard Cohen – again

42. Martha Wainwright – “Take the Reins …if you take the reins, I will never look back…
43. Cowboy Junkies – “To Lay Me Down” …To lie with you/Once more to lie with you/With our dreams close together/To wake beside you…
Revival from illness in the cocoon of an illusory under-the-covers world “with our bodies entwined together”

44. Bess Atwell – “Cobbled Streets” …Should it be this hard?/Should it feel like disconnecting?…
“Well I’m afraid I’ve led you to believe I’m not what I am”

45. Steve Mason – “Run Away” …I know you’ll run away/But when I find this I don’t mind anyway…
“Will the love I think, I think I felt/Run away in a day or two?” O, to be pierced through the heart

46. Tori Amos – “Toast” …With a toast he’s telling me it’s time/To let you go…
Losing a brother, stories of toast. For Mom, RIP Paul, ML toastmonster and MP

The end of 2016 particularly was fraught with pain and fear. I can only do what I can: continue on my own path, offer sanctuary to those who have reasons to be fearful of what their current country may become, offer love and sympathy to my remaining family members (whose numbers are dwindling) and love unconditionally. The end also offered a glimpse of light and understanding, which remains unclear. The pain, uncertainty and momentum of all of it inexplicably motivates me as we stumble into 2017.

Photo by the incomparable late, great Paul Costanich.

It’s not what we thought…

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Everything turns out, in time, not to be what we thought it was.

Women’s fertility, thought to hit a precipitous slide downward from the age of 27 – or 35 – or some other number conjured up by dubious science, may decline in general/on average. But then it turns out fertility is not quite that simple.

“But it’s no wonder we’re so easily panicked. The fearful narrative around women’s fertility fits with a broader theme that’s become all too common as women have gained economic independence over the last several decades: we’re going to pay for our equality. Mothers going to work in the 1980’s were told they were subjecting their kids to an epidemic of sexual abuse at daycare centers. In 1986, Newsweek reported that 40-year-old single women were “more likely to be killed by a terrorist” than find a husband. These stories and many more like them, of course, are completely false. Perhaps the best way to fight the panic is to question those who’ve made a business of selling it.”

Pregnancy after 40 is becoming quite common. In fact, in the UK at least, the number of over-40 pregnancies outnumbers the under-30 pregnancies for the first time in 70 years.

I lived for years in Iceland, where it is quite common to have children (many, in fact) when you’re quite young (late teens/early 20s). This is seen as the norm. When a non-Icelandic friend lived in Iceland, everyone around her hounded her about having a baby before she was an “old hag” (meaning mid-20s, I guess???). She did not have a child until she moved to Denmark, and by then she was in her late 20s. The Danes, though, insisted that she was “so young” to be having a child, and all the other women in her maternity ward had at least ten years on her.

And this very pressing issue – fertility – reminds me not only that life goes on but also that, as it does, there are so many other things we don’t know shit about but pretend to (or to trust experts about them): Addiction, aging, the brain, radiation, education, the powerhouse Japan was supposed to be… or even pasta. Nothing is definitive – it keeps changing as the environment around it changes. We really don’t know anything – even what consciousness means.

The same can be said of people, but that’s another and different challenge.

Big in Japan: “Neither a commodity nor human”

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In high school in the late 1980s, we still thought Japan was going to take over the world. Yeah, that really was a worry. Japanese money was flooding into the US and snapping up US landmarks… and this really freaked people out. The response, on the West Coast at least, was a resounding, “If you can’t beat them, join them”. Many of us enrolled in Japanese-language classes (and Japanese was introduced in schools all over the West Coast – if not elsewhere in the US). It made sense – Washington state, for example, had a huge trade relationship with/dependency on Japan and a very large Japanese-descended population. In the heyday of the “Japan-is-taking-over frenzy”, not only were language classes offered but Japanese-language camps (yes, camps!), competitions and exchanges (and scholarships/sponsorships for said exchanges) were everywhere. I myself attended two of these language immersion camps in two successive summers. And I hate camp(s). I went on an exchange. I bought into the whole thing! 頑張ってください!

The trouble was… Japan was already on the decline. Its economy basically started sinking and has never done much since (other than stay afloat).

とても 悪い こと/Totemo warui koto (Very bad thing)

Add to this the dueling challenges of prolonged economic stagnation and a rapidly aging population that is coming nowhere near to being replaced, Japan is a society that is facing unusual problems (unusual both for Japan, culturally, and for the first society/test case to step into this world of the potentially catastrophic consequences of negative population growth).

Almost every day I read something about Japan that seems very un-Japanese… or something that makes the country feel like a dying entity (e.g., traditional Japanese inn (ryokan) that had been owned and operated by a single family since the year 718 or something (actually there is a documentary about it) faces its demise), mirroring its greying population.

Getting away with it

Despite the cultural/traditional mandate to revere one’s elders, which is especially prevalent in a country like Japan, being old in modern Japan reflects anything but reverence. Not because reverence and respect is in short supply but because the elderly demographic is growing at a breakneck pace and has not reproduced enough to create a social safety net that cares for the oldest, and possibly most vulnerable, in today’s Japan.

Similarly, the tradition of taking care of your parents has fallen by the wayside as working-age adult Japanese people are busy and feeling tremendous pressure. Younger working-age adult Japanese face the uncertain work environment and unemployment that the rest of the industrialized world has long lived with. (Japan used to be the pinnacle of “lifelong employment”.) The introduction of uncertainty has added to the pressure at both ends – middle-aged Japanese people who struggle to care for both parents and children, often opting out of having children at all because of the economic and social uncertainty.

And where has this whirlwind of conditions led?

Cradle-to-grave poverty

As a teenager, attending my Japanese immersion camps and later wandering the streets of affluent districts of Tokyo, I never would have associated words like “poverty” with Japan. It may not score high in individualism or personal space, but Japan did not just seem “safe” to me in every sense of the word – it exemplified and was the bedrock of “civilized behavior” and “social safety” – or so it seemed. That is, if you left your umbrella behind or lost something, you would probably get it back. And if you fell on hard times, you would probably find a way out (although this latter point is, admittedly, not something I know a lot about – I do not think the Japanese system was ever a “generous social welfare” state in the Scandinavian model; I do think, though, that it was less likely to let large swathes of the population fall through the cracks, largely due to corporate paternalism. What happened, then, when corporations cracked as the entire economy went into recession? Japan had to deal with something that most industrialized countries had experienced many times, but Japan did not have a culture for or contingency plan to weather). Yet, this all-around safety seems to have been an illusion – or at least an illusion whose grains of truth only applied when the machinery of the economy was functioning at full performance. The effects are not insignificant.

Been caught stealin’… once or twice or 40 times

My first introduction to Japanese poverty came in the form of several articles appearing that chronicled the growing problem of geriatric shoplifters. Apparently “hungry pensioners” account for 35% of Japan’s shoplifting and have a high rate of re-offense, landing them in prison repeatedly, which – on balance – might make more economic sense to a pensioner who is living on the annual USD 6,900 state pension. This falls at least 25% below the subsistence level.

Add to this end-of-life poverty the revelation that early-life/childhood poverty in Japan is a growing problem:

“Official figures on child poverty were not even published until 2009. They show that the rate of (relative) child poverty—defined as the proportion of children in households with income after tax and transfers of less than half the national median household income—rose from 11% in 1985 to 16% in 2012, one of the highest rates among OECD countries. The gap between well-off and poor children is more pronounced in Japan than in America, and not far off levels in Mexico and Bulgaria, said Unicef last month.”

In my wildest nightmares, I’d never have pegged productive-yet-tranquil Japan, once envied for its model-society credentials, as having the “highest rates of child poverty among the world’s developed nations, according to a UNICEF report unveiled Thursday, which ranked the nation 34th out of 41“. Not only, then, are the elderly suffering, but many of the youngest members of society are not getting a good start, which is bad in any case but all the more dire considering Japan’s population crisis. With nowhere near enough babies being born to replace the generation that is dying out now, the society can ill-afford creating a “lost generation” from the babies who are born.

I Pity the Poor Immigrant

By the same token, Japanese society can ill-afford the burdens of its rapid, collective aging without examining finding adequate solutions. They may just be temporary, Band-Aid style fixes – it took a long time for the foundations of Japan’s stability to crumble to this level, and it will take time to fix (should the problems be fully acknowledged and addressed) – but at least something’s got to give.

After all, Japan is facing a crisis that combines a whirlwind of immediate, physical problems and long-term public policy issues. An immediate shortage of people/workers, particularly critical in terms of caretakers, nurses and others who will largely care for the elderly, is high atop that list. But the country faces both the aforementioned problem of overtaxed family members who are unable to care for parents, and has a closed and difficult (dare I say racist/xenophobic/exclusionist?) immigration policy that makes it challenging to bring immigrants to Japan to pick up the slack. Even if the Japanese were willing to bring in skilled workers to manage this shortfall, who really wants to go to Japan to work in these capacities? Japan is a difficult and unwelcoming society to live in as a foreigner, the language can be difficult and working with the older part of the population could magnify the language gap even more – on top of which, the yen isn’t the strongest or most attractive currency. None of this dangles the carrot of opportunity for potential employees and much-needed caretakers.

Doomo arigatoo, Mr Roboto

If people refuse to come, then, the Japanese will do what they have always done best: automate. In an article that questions “Immigrant or robot?”, it sounds like robots are Japan’s answer. (I’m terrified of robots, but that’s another story.)

Seniors are dying alone. Japan is out of workers and uncomfortable with foreigners. But there is one last option — robots.”

But the coming robot army of carers is still not practical and not enough. They’ve been trying to make a useful robot for years but do not come up with something that really replaces a human. A robot may be able to lift a person, but it cannot combat one of the most pressing issues: loneliness.

I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry

The elderly in Japan are committing suicide or in some cases succumbing to dementia (and accidentally killing themselves, as was the case for a man struck and killed by a train whose family was almost held liable for the costs related to the fatal accident). Or worse yet:

“There is also a growing number of households where one elderly person is looking after another in need of nursing care.

Just last month, a 71-year-old husband was arrested for killing his wife who had dementia. “I got too tired from looking after her,” he confessed, according to local media. “I wanted to take my own life, too.”

It was not a one-off tragedy. And they are the real people behind some staggering statistics about Japan’s ageing and shrinking population.”

Stuck in the middle with you

And the middle generation – the stressed-out, economically insecure, middle-aged children of the poorly-cared-for elderly and parents of the decreasing number of children? Pulled apart, stretched too thin, hopeless, and experiencing greater income disparities and job insecurity than ever before.

What a drag it is getting old: The inhuman question

I wonder, as I reread the poem, “My Imperialism” from Japanese poet Ryuichi Tamura, what he might have said about all of this. He introduced a sharp, cynical tone to Japanese poetry, and his focus on capturing the harshness of life, of aging, of generational gaps in understanding, all feel fresh again, if they were ever dated. It’s just that the struggle goes on, and grows more acute.

In “My Imperialism”, he wrote (emphasis in italics mine):

“We must enslave the natives with our poems
all the ignorant savages under sixty
plagued by a surplus of clothes and food
when you’re past sixty
you’re neither a commodity
nor human”

He seems to mock and be resigned to the idea of aging and the nostalgia that accompanies it, but what would he say to the growing trend of “kodokushi” (lonely death) that awaits a Japan that will, by 2060, be populated at a full 40% by over-65s?

 

Nostalgia, sentimentality, old age and Japanese language camp

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“even N, who founded the modernist magazine Luna
while Japan prepared to invade China
got sentimental after he went on his pension

…when he was young N wrote “I say strange things”
was it the monster that pumped tears from his older eyes?

-From “My Imperialism” (Ryuichi Tamura)

I started yet another conversation with a reference to attending Japanese language camp. This never ceases to amuse others, some thinking it sounds like the height (or depth) of total geekery, some thinking it sounds too similar to something like a forced death march or a Japanese internment camp. But alas, no, I studied almost all the languages my high school had to offer (German was the only exception, which made the Frau teaching German feel quite left out). Back in those fearful days of American decline (ongoing), when Bush senior caused an international incident by vomiting at the Japanese prime minister’s residence, and we all thought Japan was going to take over the world, we on the American west coast were hedging our bets, picking up our hashi and “nihongo o benkyooshimashita日本語を勉強しました. The Japanese were in fact helping us – subsidizing us – giving us money and camps and all the rest so we could immerse ourselves in Japanese language and culture for weeks at a time in the rural woods of western Washington. Never mind that I was never a “camp going”, group activity kind of girl – I tried to tell my teachers that I did not have the money for such a thing, but the school district had money to burn, I guess, and had never had a student like me (not that I was remarkable – it is just that I was the only one who ever willingly took so much language study at once). They paid for the camp.

The point of this – although I am not terribly nostalgic about those days, some characters from Japanese language camp come to mind sometimes. I only keep in touch with one guy – and got a letter from him yesterday. He shared some rather alarming news after a long (an entire adulthood) correspondence of mostly mundane stuff between us – sure, each of us moved back and forth between countries and had things happen, but nothing that does not happen to everyone. And suddenly, almost like a postscript, he added something rather serious, even stating that he “did not want to make a big deal out of it” – which I completely understand – but still I had to stop and catch my breath and suddenly reflect on… the deceptive, wicked nature of time. Even if time is just a manmade construct and has no inherent evil whatsoever. All that is truly deceptive about it is our human caprice and wont to waste time, playing games – or rather waste feelings, being petty and not doing what our heart really desires in life. Time and our perception of it imbues us with false confidence, with fear, with nostalgic sentimentality.

I am sitting in my car hanging out in a parking lot, reflecting on the way time has passed since meeting this Japanese language camp friend – we met each other in 1991, which still feels a lot like yesterday except that it was almost 25 years ago. This is how even the unsentimental start to feel the pull of nostalgia.

I wish nostalgia had a body so that I could push it out of the window! To smash what cannot be!” –Odysseus Elytis -Οδυσσέας Ελύτης

It starts to weigh them down when they can talk about how a quarter-century has passed and it felt a lot like the blink of an eye. I may not be overly sentimental myself, but this is how I have lost myself in poetry. The words I feel have been captured somewhere else. It’s a Ryuichi Tamura-田村隆一 kind of morning.

My Imperialism
by Ryuichi Tamura

I sink into bed
on the first Monday after Pentecost
and bless myself
since I’m not a Christian

Yet my ears still wander the sky
my eyes keep hunting for underground water
and my hands hold a small book
describing the grotesqueness of modern white society

when looked down at from the nonwhite world
in my fingers there’s a thin cigarette-
I wish it were hallucinogenic
though I’m tired of indiscriminate ecstasy

Through a window in the northern hemisphere
the light moves slowly past morning to afternoon
before I can place the red flare, it’s gone:
darkness

Was it this morning that my acupuncturist came?
a graduate student in Marxist economics, he says he changed
to medicine to help humanity, the animal of animals, drag itself peacefully to its deathbed
forty years of Scotch whisky’s roasted my liver and put me
into the hands of a Marxist economist
I want to ask him about Imperialism, A Study
what Hobson saw in South Africa at the end of the nineteenth century
may yet push me out of bed
even if you wanted to praise imperialism
there aren’t enough kings and natives left
the overproduced slaves had to become white

Only the nails grow
the nails of the dead grow too
so, like cats, we must constantly
sharpen ours to stay alive
Only The Nails Grow-not a bad epitaph
when K died his wife buried him in Fuji Cemetery
and had To One Woman carved on his gravestone
true, it was the title of one of his books
but the way she tried to have him only
to herself almost made me cry
even N, who founded the modernist magazine Luna
while Japan prepared to invade China
got sentimental after he went on his pension;
F, depressed
S, manic, builds house after house
A has abdominal imperialism: his stomach’s colonized his legs
M’s deaf, he can endure the loudest sounds;
some people have only their shadows grow
others become smaller than they really are
our old manifesto had it wrong: we only looked upward
if we’d really wanted to write poems
we should have crawled on the ground on all fours-
when William Irish, who wrote Phantom Lady, died
the only mourners were stock brokers
Mozart’s wife was not at his funeral

My feet grow warmer as I read
Kotoku Shusui’s Imperialism, Monster of the Twentieth Century, written back in 1901
when he was young N wrote “I say strange things”
was it the monster that pumped tears from his older eyes?

Poems are commodities without exchange value
but we’re forced to invade new territory
by crises of poetic overproduction

We must enslave the natives with our poems
all the ignorant savages under sixty
plagued by a surplus of clothes and food-
when you’re past sixty
you’re neither a commodity
nor human

But it is so much more than just Tamura lamenting the sentimentality of old age. It is also the nostalgia – looking back at people, events – what has deeply affected and wounded us, things we carry for years, imprinted on us even when the person or event is long ago and the deep impression we have belies the brevity of these memorable encounters.

“With the incomparable feeling of rising and of being like a banner
Twenty seconds worth twenty-five years” (from “To Marina” by Kenneth Koch)

That sudden sense that one second you were an awkward and completely artistically inept kid fumbling imprecisely with the Japanese art form katazome. And the next you are shaking your head, remembering the details of that time so clearly, wondering, “Could that really have been twenty-five years ago?” (The twenty-five year mark comes up a few times in Kenneth Koch’s masterpiece, “To Marina” – possibly my favorite poem of all time.)

“We walk through the park in the sun. It is the end.
You phone me. I send you a telegram. It
Is the end. I keep
Thinking about you, grieving about you. It is the end. I write
Poems about you, to you. They
Are no longer simple. No longer
Are you there to see every day or
Every other or every third or fourth warm day
And now it has been twenty-five years
But those feelings kept orchestrating I mean rehearsing
Rehearsing in my and tuning up
While I was doing a thousand other things, the band
Is ready, I am over fifty years old and there’s no you—
And no me, either, not as I was then,
When it was the Renaissance
Filtered through my nerves and weakness
Of nineteen fifty-four or fifty-three,
When I had you to write to, when I could see you
And it could change.”

Erudite Google Doodles

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In high school I was one of those nerds who enthusiastically volunteered to take part in stuff like Academic Decathlon and Knowledge Bowl. One year we had to study Dian Fossey and her work with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda. My friends and I actually found a plastic toy gorilla on the ground in one of the schools where one of our competitions took place, and we named him “Digit” after one of the gorillas in Fossey’s group at Karisoke Research Center and who figured prominently in the film, Gorillas in the Mist. We took that toy gorilla everywhere (from places near, such as all over the state for our competitions, to places far, such as Japan and Germany) until one of those in our group irresponsibly lost him. I somehow hope he is still traveling and having adventures as we had always hoped for him, wherever he is. (Assigning human traits and adventures to inanimate objects is nothing new to me.)

Google Doodle for Dian Fossey

Google Doodle for Dian Fossey

I was thrilled when I opened Google today and say this creative, evocative Google Doodle on the screen, celebrating Dian Fossey’s 82nd birthday. (She was murdered in 1985.) Lately the Doodles have been fabulous – with one recently marking the 123rd birthday of Zora Neale Hurston, the difficult writer who was a star of the Harlem Renaissance movement and whose work, particularly the seminal Their Eyes Were Watching God, is a staple of American high school and college reading lists.

The same can be said for the recent Google Doodle of French writer Simone de Beauvoir. Much cooler than my words can convey.

I don’t know if these semi-obscure Google Doodles raise awareness or not – but I love that they exist and maybe make a few people dig into things they would not otherwise have been exposed to.