This is ourselves

12 01 2016

I was never a huge fan of David Bowie’s.

I mean, I liked his music, had a few records, and generally enjoyed his work, but I was never a super-fan, and never had a full-on Bowie fever.

So why am I so sad today? And why can’t I stop reading about him?

~~~

David Bowie is actually associated with one of my worst memories from high school.

I wanted to be the yearbook editor my senior year. I’d started working on the yearbook staff when I was a freshman (which frosh usually didn’t do), was generally acknowledged to be ‘the writer’ in my class (not that hard, really, in a class of 150), and fully expected that the adviser, Ms. G., would appoint me.

She did not.*

L. and T. were appointed instead, and I’d be pissed about it to this today had they not a) put together a kick-ass yearbook; and b) treated me really, really well, allowing me to contribute in all kinds of way. They were champs.

Anyway, my idea was to create a yearbook around the lyrics to “Changes”—which is how Bowie gets dragged into this bad memory.

I have no idea whether or not this would have worked: it could have been amazing, it could have sucked, it could have been Eh.

Woulda liked the chance to have found out.

(*She had her reasons, which were legit. Still. . . .)

~~~

I’ve said “Under Pressure” is one of my favorite guilty pleasures, but today I’ve read all kinds of pieces holding that song out as some kind of genius.

I don’t think it’s genius, but yeah, it is a good pop song, undeserving of the guilty-pleasure label.

~~~

One good thing that’s come from all this reading today is that I found, courtesy of the Huffington Post, a couple of videos of Bowie playing with Arcade Fire.

First I saw this one, one of Bowie’s songs:

Then one of Arcade Fire’s:

I like Arcade Fire’s cds just fine, but watching them live, man, I realllly want to see them live.

What it would have been like to see them live with Bowie.

~~~

I think the main reason I considered “Under Pressure” a guilty pleasure is that every time I hear it I tear up.

I cannot handle my own tears, cannot handle that I am moved to tears.

~~~

It’s kind of astonishing how amazing a singer Bowie was, given that he didn’t have much of a voice.

He’s not like Leonard Cohen, who can’t sing at all, but if I were asked for the best straight-up voices in pop, I wouldn’t name Bowie.

But oh, could he sing, so many different types of songs, with so many different types of singers. Some of these collaborations (Arcade Fire) work better than others (Mick Jagger), it wasn’t down to him.

Something about that thin reed, stretched across the universe.

~~~

“Space Oddity” reminds me of John Lennon. I don’t know why. Maybe I heard it while thinking about Lennon’s death.

Or maybe it just reminds me of high school.

It’s not every time I hear the song I’m reeled back, but sometimes, sometimes I’m in the parking lot at Sheboygan Falls High School, Bowie on the car radio, singing And I’m sitting in my tin can. . . .

~~~

“Under Pressure” is about love, after all.

And love, I don’t know what to do with love.

Thus my chagrin over my tears, my chagrin over love.

~~~

And all of the work he’s done, all of the chances he took, all he gave and all he withheld, all he hid and all he revealed.

David Bowie, 1947-2016, was a Starman, a man who fell to earth, an alien, an artist, but most of all, most of all, David Bowie was a human being.





Bless the beasts and the children

30 10 2013

These folks are unclear on the concept:

“Larry and Carri Williams are two of the truest and purest people on this earth,” said Ruth Dueck.

“I have known Larry and Carri to be loving parents with the ability to raise children appropriately,” said the family pastor, Richard Long. “I also firmly believe they have the ability to be healthy, contributing members of society.”

Really? ‘Cause Larry and Carri were convicted

of denying their children Hana and Immanuel food, beating them and making them sleep in closets or washrooms. They were fed a diet of sandwiches that had been soaked in water and vegetables that were still frozen. Some of the couple’s seven biological children sometimes took part in the abuse.

The judge, however, seems to have a better grasp of just what kind of people the Williamses are, and it ain’t loving, true, or pure:

“What I see is one child dead, one child with PTSD, and seven biological children who apparently believe that degrading and dehumanizing another person is completely acceptable,” said Judge Cook.

She sentenced the mother to 37 years and the father to 28 years in prison.

~~~

h/t Cienna Madrid, Slog





My crony, my mate

15 09 2013

G. is a pretty terrific person to hang out with. Probably because G. is a pretty terrific person.

G. is my friend C.’s friend, and a big part of the reason I think G is pretty terrific is because C. is the one who told me.

I’d met G. years ago, and the three of us stayed up very very late talking about. . . I don’t even remember what, but it was enough that we could stay up very very late and want to stay up even later, just to keep going.

G.’s visited C. a couple of times since then, but it wasn’t until last night that I got to hang out with her again. It was great, and it wasn’t enough: she had to get up early to catch her flight, so instead of very very late we talked while we could and called it, early. Too early; too bad.

C.’s a good friend of mine. Not the first I made in New York, but one of those who I know I would like to know for the rest of my life. Neither of us would ever be accused of cheerfulness—we do have a few things in common—but C., unlike me, is able to express her love for the people who make hanging out in this weird old world something not just to be endured, but savored.

G. is one of those people.

I probably would have figured this out on my own, but C.’s obvious delight in her friend, and the fact that she wanted to share this friend with me, allowed me to slip off my usual wariness when meeting new people and skip right to enjoying my friend’s friend.

Which, I think, makes C. one of those people, too.





And the wheel goes round and round

27 04 2013

Long ago my friend M. loved a man well and a little too hard, and he loved her testily and made her think it was her own fault he loved her so meanly.

They dated, they broke up, they dated, they broke up, they dated, they broke up, until, finally, the break-up took. Each time around she thought it might be better and each time around she learned it would not; each time around she knew a little bit more and each time around it wasn’t enough; each time around the chances grew longer and the payoffs got smaller until, finally, she turned out her empty pockets and him along with them and walked away for good.

At the time, her friends and I despaired of this relationship, thinking M. was throwing herself at a man who would only catch her when it suited him, at a man who called this occasional attention “love”. She was caught in his inattention, tripping from hurt to hurt until he would remember and hold out his hand and that would be enough.

We thought she couldn’t see this, but, with each round, she saw more and more, and with each round, she moved the lack a little bit away from her and a little bit toward him until, finally, she could see he would never be enough.

We wanted each ending to be the last, but M. needed those beginnings until, finally, she needed the ending more.

I think now she had to go around and around, that instead of spiraling down and down she was gathering momentum with each widening turn, stretching out her need and her love until, finally, instead of snapping her back it snapped and she was free.

~~~

This post was originally headed in another direction, but I got caught up and decided to follow M. Oh, and while her ex was a jerk, he was never anything worse than that.





Valentine’s day is over

14 02 2013

Valentine’s Day. Eh.

When I was a kid my dad would buy treats for all of us for Valentine’s Day, so I was WHOO! VALENTINE’S DAY.

Then I got older and hated everything, so VALENTINE’S DAY, BOO!

Then I got even older and skeptical of corporate interest and manufactured holidays, so Valentine’s Day, how gauche.

Then I got older still and said, yeah, it’s manufactured and commercial, but if it gets you chocolate and kisses, well, what the hell, have at it. And if not, eh.

Anyway, a coupla’ vids for whatever mood you’re in:

Oh, Billy. . .

Gotta love the fish-sticks.

I don’t know if they were a one-hit wonder or not, but this is a fine pop song—although I wonder how many might not know what a “cassette tape” is.

The desperation in this song is so. . . fetching.

Because if I ever think love might even be possible for me, this might be a nice way to experience it.

Kisses to all.

 





Love me, love me, say that you love me

2 12 2012

Not everything that can be measured matters; not everything that matters can be measured.

This is one of those tropes that I periodically repeat to my students. (It’s possible that I came up with this wording, but given that the sentiment has been around a lot longer than I have, I’d guess that I swiped the line from someone else. [Pause while I search.] Ah, stolen: A variation on Einstein.)

Anyway, it’s a good line, although a bit dangerous for the classroom: My students are already disinclined to take statistics (despite my admonitions to do so), so suggesting that measurement has its limits might lead them to translate this to mean measurement is bunk.

Measurement is not bunk, but there are some phenomenon which cannot be captured by a nifty formula. Money, money can be easily measured, but why it matters beyond its utility is a question which requires knowledge beyond that of currency itself. It’s not that you can’t get responses to the question, but that those responses are so embedded within history and culture and politics and psychology that in order to elicit good responses, the questions must be informed by history and culture and whatnot.

Then there are some phenomenon which are damned near impossible to capture with any precision, in large part because they lack clear definition.

Love is one of those things. The best you can do is to try to identify the elements which you’d want to include in the corral, but even then some of those bits may flee over the fence while others might tunnel in and by gum it’s worse than herding wet angry cats in the presence of puppies and raccoons.

Still, the damned-near-impossibility of drawing any kind of definitive line around love does not mean it does not exist. I admit to my own agita regarding its role (or lack thereof) in my life, but that I can’t see it for myself does not mean it is not a real thing for other people.

Not only is it a real thing, it’s a real and powerful thing, and it drives people in all kinds of directions, including ’round the bend and over the cliff and up a wall. It matters, in other words.

Deidre McCloskey also thinks it matters, and, furthermore, that it ought to matter to economists that they have no good way of comprehending love or incorporating it into their theories.

I am, of course, not an economist, and I get just a bit too much pleasure bashing (in particular freshwater) economists for their oft-ridiculous assumptions regarding rationality and the maximization of utility. Nonetheless, McCloskey has peeled back a lid my fellow political scientists would also prefer kept securely in place:

The great Gary Becker of the University of Chicago, for example, thinks in this fashion, as do his numerous followers. He realizes that love — or as he usually styles it, with embarrassed male scare quotes, “love” — entails more than “caring” in his restricted sense: “If M cares about F, M’s utility would depend on the commodity consumption of F as well as on his own.

” But treating others as “inputs into a self’s utility function,” as Becker puts it, is to treat the others as means, not as ends. Immanuel Kant said two centuries ago in effect that your mother, if she is truly and fully loving, loves you as an end, for your own sweet sake. You may be a rotten kid, an ax-murderer on death row in Texas. You’re not even a high-school graduate. You give her “nothing but grief,” as we say. In all the indirect, derivative ways you are a catastrophe. And yet she goes on loving you, and stands wailing in front of the prison on the night of your execution. Economists need to understand what everyone else already understands, and what the economists themselves understood before they went to graduate school, that such love is of course commonplace. [emph added]

Political scientists don’t do love or humor—that’s another line I toss at my students—which is particularly unfortunate because politics is full of love and humor and every other kind of emotion. To the extent that we ignore the role of love in politics, we miss something crucial about the subject which we, for some reason or another, have decided to study.

~~~~~

One last bit: I was (and to some extent, still am) like Becker in that I put “love” and “caring” in those scary quotes, but Joan Tronto’s Moral Boundaries forced me to reckon with an “ethic of care” as a morally serious (as opposed to frivolous) concept. I’d borrowed the book about a decade ago on a recommendation from a friend, but recently managed to snag a used copy. I’ll write about it when I re-read it.

She’s now at the University of Minnesota. I wonder if I would have been smart enough to have engaged with her when I was there. As McCloskey notes, we unlearn so many things while in grad school.

(h/t: Andrew Sullivan, Daily Dish)





Mayan campaign mashup 2012: It was sad, so sad

9 11 2012

I am so enjoying the wailing and gnashing of teeth among celebrity conservatives.

Oh no, we lost America! America died! The makers have taken over! Alas and alack, we are ruined! No marriage, no babies, just guns and ammo and hunkering down for the coming doom!

Et cetera.

TNC has a post up on the denialism of such reactions, and many, many others have corralled the increasing number of howls into lists of lamentations and these are all so. . . incredibly. . . amusing.

I have zero sympathy for the pundits and professional liars, so my joy in their sorrow is pure.

Regular folks, though, the people who make no money spinning bullshit into gold but who honestly believe that Republicans have the best ideas and that the country will now be worse off under Obama than it would have been under Romney, I do sympathize with them.

I’ve been there. It hurts. It hurt to care and believe and work and lose. It always hurts to lose.

There’s a tumblr called White People Mourning Romney that, yeah, I clicked through, but I felt bad for doing so (and am thus not linking to it). There are a few screenshots of the Fox-Cons, but most of the pictures were of ordinary Republicans looking sad.

I didn’t enjoy that. People shouldn’t be mocked for caring about their country or hooted at because they wanted to win and are crying because they lost.

Politics is about a lot of things, but at the center of it is love. Karl Rove might believe the crap he spews, but he’s also paid to spew; the volunteers and voters just believe, and they do the work because they love their country and believe that their ideas and politicians are the best for the country.

Yes, some of them hate—politics is also about hate—and motives regardless are almost always mixed. But let’s give the ordinary losers the dignity of their love and hope and dreams.

As for the rest of them—Krauthammer and O’Reilly and Coulter and Lopez and that whole lot—-do not let pity interfere with your enjoyment of their dismay.








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