We’re dancing for the restless and the brokenhearted

25 07 2017

I’ve got such a weakness for the pop anthem.

And not just, y’know, the regular U-RAH-RAH anthem—not We Will Rock You—but the slow build/propulsive/rip-your-heart-out-only-the-music-can-save-us anthem.

U2 seems the obvious go-to band for this, and it’s true, those boys could be mighty anthemic, but they were always too eager, never desperate enough. And while David Gray can do both the build and the desperation, he tends to crash through too soon, breaking the wave rather than letting it break over him.

No, for the properly-calibrated desperation, you gotta go to the women.

Stevie Nicks knew how to do the propulsive/rip-your-heart out bit:

As did Heart:

Pat Benatar bridged both Heart and Nicks:

A little older, a little softer, but still that call:

Sinead switches it up: she starts at a pretty high level, then just levels this shit:

Here, she levels everything s l o o o w w w l l l y:

Okay, I will give this one to the boys:

This is our last dance, indeed.

Kate Bush is a force unto herself, and if you can’t find your way to liking even one of her songs, I don’t want to know you.

This one is pretty hard to ignore:

This one works, too:

The pièce de résistance, however, has got to be from the lovably dopey Streets of Fire, with Diane Lane lip-synching the combined voices of Laurie Sargent and Holly Sherwood. Big booms, big downs, big ups, big hair, and everything is demolished by the end:

God, I’ll stop and listen to that song every damned time.

Hell, I listened to them all: somewhere inside this middle-aged broad is that break-away-everything-and-nothing-matters girl, still.

All these years later, something more than a memory remains of her, still.





The chains are locked and tied across the door

21 07 2017

How does helplessness become resentment?

I’m in the midst of reading Robert Gellately’s edited transcripts of psychiatrist Leon Goldensohn’s interviews with Nazis at Nuremberg, Nuremberg Interviews; what is striking are the protestations that they could have done nothing other than what they did.

They were helpless.

They were helpless before Hitler’s charisma, helpless before his charm, helpless to do anything other than their sworn duty—to the military, to Germany, to their own high moral principles. And those who weren’t personally helpless emphasized Germany’s helplessness following WWI and the victors and their unjust Treaty of Versailles.

And as for the Jews, well, while these Nazis disclaimed any personal anti-Semitism, they did point to Jewish dominance of German cultural life and that so many Communists were Jews—so really, was it so wrong to want to free Germans from the yoke of such an alien people? Goldensohn paraphrased Alfred Rosenberg:

The cause of the Jewish question was, of course, the Jews themselves. The Jews are a nation, and like every nation, have a nationalist spirit. That’s all every well, but they should be in their own homeland. … Why couldn’t the Jews be allowed to remain where they were , in other lands? They would have been all right if they didn’t do bad things, but they did. What did the Jews do? They spat at German culture. How? They controlled the theater, publishing, the stores, and so on.

Similar sentiments were expressed by others: Jews provoked anti-Semitism by their involvement in German life. What else could Germans do? Of course they had to defend themselves.

There has been a great deal of discussion of the role of resentment in politics, but isn’t behind resentment some notion of victimhood, helplessness? How does despair over the inability to control one’s own life become politically virulent?

Propaganda, inarguably, but that can’t be the sole catalyst, can it? What makes it work?

And while it is supremely easy to dismiss the rationalizations of Nazi defendants, what cannot be dismissed is that some peoples have been victimized, are being victimized, and may justifiably feel helpless amidst the conditions of their oppression. Is it not just that they be freed?

Political mobilization draws in part on moving people from a sense of apathy or despair and toward action; when is this mobilization just, and when is it malignant?

One quick response might be that any mobilization which relies on or stokes resentment tends toward malignancy, but, honestly, that seems too quick: what, for example, distinguishes “righteous indignation” from “resentment”?

It could be that this distinction is too caught up in ideology to be of any analytical use, that is, that my good views will always be based in righteousness, while your bad views are riddled with resentment.

Again, there’s a ton of work, both scholarly and journalistic, on resentment in politics, so likely nothing I’m saying here is at all original—for originality, I recommend Nietzsche.

Still, Nietzsche disdained the ressentiment of the weak toward the strong; the resentment of the strong toward the weak, well, that would not even have occurred to them: to be strong was to be above it all.





Drifting this way and that

17 07 2017

These days I’m floating, a bit askew, a few inches from the ground.

I can touch down when I need to—when I have to teach or work my second job—but other than that, I’m untethered from the world.

This has been going on for awhile. It’s not unpleasant, but it’s not, well, it’s not much of anything. Better than bone-crushing anxiety or quaking depression, a slow dissolve ends in sorrow, nonetheless.

I noted a coupla’ posts ago that I don’t know if I’ll remain in New York, if I can afford to stay here, but as real as the financial questions are, the really real issue is that I don’t feel really real. I’m not quite here.

Brooklyn, Chicago, if I’m not, here, I won’t be, there.

Again, not an emergency; the lack of urgency, perhaps, is part of the problem. I’m not drowning beneath, so am not fighting for air. I’m low in the air, not fighting at all.





He’s a real nowhere man

10 07 2017

Donald J. Trump is a man without qualities.

He has no character, no public virtues, no apparent principles. He demonstrates no consideration for this country, for the Republican party, or for his followers; they matter not in and of themselves, but only insofar as they are of use to him.

He focuses on transactions, not relationships. He cares for others only to the extent they reflect him back to himself; if he doesn’t like what he sees, he blames the mirror.

In business and politics, yes, he wants to win, but even more important is that you lose; he is the exemplar of the sore winner.

Donald J. Trump cares not one whit for governance, and in that, is the perfect complement of the contemporary Republican Party, which has made a virtue of being sore losers. This is the party which has ejected all concern for constructive policy in its transformation into an election dreadnought, with the result that all its (admittedly many) victories are hollow. Their priorities are cutting spending, cutting taxes, and punishing those who get out of line; they are interested in building nothing.

And the Republicans in Congress will do nothing to stop Trump, because he is too useful to them. Because he cares about nothing beyond himself, they can sell him anything with his name on it. The Grifter-in-Chief is himself an easy mark.

Things will get worse. Trump will lose interest or lash out or retreat ever further into the Mar-A-Lago of his mind, and nothing will matter, because this is a man utterly without qualities, and he would destroy us all to save himself.





Polka, tango everyone

5 07 2017

Niece #2 got married in June, to a rather nice gent.

They live in the Twin Cities area, so, of course, got married in Green Bay (where none of us lives). It was lovely.

My sister, who is very organized, was a bit frazzled on Friday morning: the Saturday forecast called for rain, and—did I mention this was an outdoor ceremony?—she (and N2) needed to decide whether or not to put up the tent.

Ugh, she said, that tent is so ugly. But we have to do it.

Saturday was hot and bright, and no one noticed the condition of the tent under which we so gladly sheltered from the sun.

The bride was emotional. The groom was emotional. The ceremony was short, and they both said I do.

At the reception, the maid of honor, Niece1, offered a funny, heartfelt speech, as did the best man (Niece1’s husband—why yes, the bride and groom met through the sister and the best friend), and my brother-in-law, witty and charming, welcomed the groom into the family with an unabashed I love you.

I danced with cousins I hadn’t seen in decades, and relaxed with my sisters’ friends, who I see every few years when we all gather for celebration.

No one talked politics.

Oh, and I met my grand-nephew, who is the chillest baby in the Midwest. He was handed from stranger to stranger to stranger and reacted with, at most, raised eyebrows. My habibi.

It was strange to be back in Wisconsin, as it’s always strange to be back. I remember when I moved to NY and how the buildings pushed up next to the sidewalks took some getting used to; now, it’s normal to me, and it is the wide lawns and low buildings which startle.

Still, some things reassured: the (oh-my-god-how-incredibly-cheap) beer and the cheese curds. Some like the breaded kind, while I prefer the batter-fried: salty and super hot. The accompanying conversation with friends was also a bit salty, although a bit more relaxed.

I’m not certain of my future in NY—it is a costly and hard place to live—but it felt good to see the lights as the plane turned over Manhattan and we glided into Queens.

LaGuardia may be a shit airport, but for as many times as I’ve flown into and out of it, it is mine. And after a weekend in a place which is no longer mine, it felt good to be home.





Mexican kids are shootin’ fireworks below

4 07 2017

No great reason for being gone—work, travel—but now I’m back.

In the meantime, something for our time.