Tuesday, November 22, 2016

148. Dumb jokes from } the Upper Cutz.

I don’t like to be the choir, sung to by entertainers. I can’t listen to post-election, political commentary by comics. Trevor Noah, John Oliver, et al—toothless, broadcasting in an echo-chamber.

# # #

Taught “Kin & Kind” by Jonah Lehrer (“self-plagiarizer”); it’s about E. O. Wilson’s recent (2012) reconsideration of “inclusive fitness.” When Wilson declared he was wrong about inclusive fitness—that it was too simple an explanation for altruism, he “set off a scientific furor.” Protest, that is: “denunciations in the press and signed group letters in prestigious journals; some have hinted that Wilson, who is eighty-two, should retire.” When Wilson argued in support of inclusive fitness, in 1975, he “sparked a bitter controversy.” Protest: “Wilson was attacked by eminent scientists…. There was a group letter in The New York Review of Books.”

Lehrer is clearly convinced Wilson is right, which means Lehrer is convinced Wilson was wrong. Don’t be fooled. Wilson is either right, or he’s wrong, or he’s neither.

# # #

A map of protests appeared in The New York Times. “Thousands of people have turned out to protest….” Thousands? The map does not inspire.

I’ve noticed something else in the Times, and maybe it just stands out because it seems so weird: photos of protests show lots of white people; photos of Trump supporters are of black Trump supporters. See the photo essay, “Scenes From Five Days of Anti-Trump Protests Across a Divided Nation”; the last photo shows a young, black, Trump supporter arguing with a young, white, protester. See the photo accompanying the Times article “Many in Milwaukee Neighborhood Didn’t Vote — and Don’t Regret It” (Nov. 20): a barber shop, where “Four barbers and a firefighter were pondering their future under a Trump presidency at the Upper Cutz barbershop last week.” All in the barbershop are African-American. The photo caption reads, “Justin Babar, seated at center, said he voted for Donald J. Trump as a protest against Hillary Clinton.” Are these photos deliberate commentary, meant to complicate the idea that Trump was elected by uneducated whites?

# # #

If half the registered voters in the U.S. didn’t vote, we can stop saying that half the country voted for Trump or Clinton. Half of half the country voted for Trump or Clinton. And, as votes continue to be counted, it appears that more than half of those who voted voted for Clinton.

[ Photos, by me, of a bus shelter in Providence, R. I. That's my bag on the bench. ]

Friday, November 18, 2016

147. “…then we have problems” & } “the night.”

To my students: Music matters. To write matters. Art matters—and not just art that’s overtly political or confrontational: art requires us—artists and audience—to see. To see what actually is. What good practice that is.

Barak Obama in Berlin: “If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, and particularly in an age of social media when so many people are getting their information in sound bites and off their phones, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems.”

Jay-Z, from Deconstructed: “The problem isn’t in the rap or the rapper or the culture. The problem is that so many people don’t even know how to listen to the music.” and “…the Fox News dummies. They wouldn’t know art if it fell on them.”

On election day, early in the morning, I read from the new SHARKPACK Annual, “the night.” Editor Joseph Spece writes, “We believe strongly in the duties of high art; the ‘intimate revolt’; the simultaneously inscrutable and substantive spirit of the avant-garde; and the Sublime that exceeds us.”

1 – 6 of my OUTLAND begins the issue (if a digital publication “begins”). [The image above is a working draft of OUTLAND 7.]

Except for OUTLAND 1 – 6, the poems can both be read and listened to; do both. Check out Nels Hanson’s retelling of Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle,” written in triplets with muted rhymes throughout—the second stanza: “children, said I was a shiftless / simpleton, idiot who couldn’t  / tell sun from rain. She swung”—“children” and “simpleton”—and the alliteration of “shiftless / simpleton idiot… couldn’t.” I was struck by the last couplet of Katie Howes’ “Have you been found?”: “She then climbed to the top / of the yellow shed and waited.” Brought to mind The Epic of Gilgamesh, when Sidhuri escapes to the roof of her tavern as the ragged Gilgamesh breaks down her gate, and saw correspondence with C. D. Wright's “What Do You Think’s In the Shed?” Struck, too, by Peter Longford’s line, “Lullabies, tender. Hoodwinks, loverly.” from “Majuscule.” He reads well, too. By Sue Robert’s “Meat”: “forgive me, I would say to them, / long dead, sourced and distal, even their beautiful long / bones useful.”

“In addition to letters,” editor Spece writes, “this issue features a mixtape of experimental music from Onga and the Italian alt-label Boring Machines”—he suggests we set aside an hour and “a spliff” and listen. I hit exhaustion instead. I like the mix—Everest Magma and, Mai Mai Mai: check out Mai Mai Mai's version of the soundtrack from Fulci's Sette Note In Nero (“The Psychic”)—AWESOME.

Penultimate, a pair of drawings by Colleen Maynard—graphite and charcoal; presumably close-ups, as in her Fossil Collection series. The way getting close can make an object hard to see. No, hard to know. The universe, as seen from Earth.

Friday, November 11, 2016

146. Protest } no. 2.

Police—lights and sirens—raced up College Hill to the corner of Angell and Brown; there they sat, visible through the tall windows of the Granoff, where Steve Stern related his Arkansas days with Caroline (C. D.) Wright, of the poets who gravitated toward C. D., of other friends—Hillary and Bill Clinton, in fact. (A detail from Stern’s account: Hillary’s thick glasses, ever-smudged.) Stern whispered, “Poor Hillary.”

When I left, a little before 10pm, the police were gone to different destinations.

Not gone. Police were visible everywhere I went.

Nov. 10,
4am, as I drove 6 west, past the house with a wooden “Trump Proud” sign nailed to a tree, I saw police all over, anonymous in their S.U.V.s. On those early AM drives, I drive paranoid. Interior lights low as they’ll go, cruise control at the speed limit—I’ve been pulled over too often for no good reason (“Do you know why I pulled you over?” “No.”—that officer practically apologized when he gave me a ticket: “It’s only a hundred bucks,” he said.) My paranoia was heightened. Who, to protect and serve, in the name of “law and order,” voted Trump?

Oct. 18,
sometime after 3pm, John and I walked through Norwich, CT., and spotted a house with a Trump/Pence sign. John, impulsive and theatrical, spat on it—just as I called attention to the police cruiser parked in the driveway.

Nov. 10,
2:18pm, at the Granoff for second tribute to C. D. Wright: I find comfort in the company of poets.

Nov. 9,
1:43pm: txt from my sister: “…it is so horrible. Everyone here is so sad. It is like being at a funeral.” Later, my wife forwarded to me a photo of my sister’s family—my brother-in-law and my niece and nephew in the streets with two signs—“We will fight for what’s right” and “Fuck Trump”—the latter held by my niece, and with the shadow of my sister’s arm and phone an “L” across it. My sister wrote, “The mood was consoling and angry but also sad. Many people saying how they felt better to be together and in the street.”

Nov. 10,
1:43pm, John asked how I answered Zet’s question [re. what to say to the girls about Trump’s election]. My txt: That Obama is still president. That we should learn about local politics and thus affect change. That we can’t panic even if we are upset and don’t see easy solutions. That I love them. ”

4:03pm, txt sent to myself: “Young people kissing, dog leashed at their feet.”

Sometime after 8pm, I watched another drone descend, hover before me, lift away.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

145. Protest } no. 1.

Nov. 9,
5:50am, at the bus stop, txt from Zet: “So I’ve been crying off and on all night. I don’t know how to tell the girls that trump won without scaring them. Because I am scared. I’m sad. What should I say?”
8:30am, to my class: I don’t usually discuss my politics with students, but I am horrified by the result of the election. I assume many of you are exhausted and may be worried, too. We must not succumb to anxiety, but figure out what’s next. I can point to a value we all share: education. We need people to be educated. Not told what is true, but educated so as to be able to read the world. For that, we need context: that’s why we study—not to accept what we’re told without question, but so we can question all with intelligence.
[I then attempted to transition into a discussion about the assigned reading—Hua Hsu’s essay “White Plight?” (published as “Pale Fire”). Assigned in August, but entirely relevant—Hsu writes, “as whiteness becomes a badge of dispossession, earned or not, it’s likely that future elections will only grow more hostile, each one a referendum on our constantly shifting triangulations of identity and power.” The essay is flawed—Hsu makes generalizations, is patronizing—but he identifies ideas he’s come across that I value. For instance, he summarizes a point Carol Anderson makes about “…our tendency to characterize moments of racial crisis as expressions of solely black anger…. The issue… was not just ‘black rage’… [but] the direct consequence of ‘white rage’”—which I usually hear characterized as, simply, anger.]
2:37pm, a txt to my sister: “Doing ok? I found myself weeping in my office & barely got through class—I kept choking up & one of my students burst into tears. I feel better now, but fucked up.”
[I went home early. Spent the afternoon with my family. When my eldest went out with Zet, I made a huge pile of leaves for my youngest to jump into and dealt with her scraped knee and blew bubbles for her to chase. I told my daughters that, whenever I am upset, I remind myself that I get to go home to them, and what a comfort that is.]

7:20pm, at Trump protest. I stood on the steps on the capitol in downtown Providence and listened to a man with a megaphone. Sent txt to myself: Men doing the shouting. A woman speaking is drowned out by the crowd & corrected by male leader. As I walked down the steps a drone buzzed above the crowd. The man with the megaphone shouted that I must reject my whiteness. A white teenager nodded his head enthusiastically. I stood beside a young woman and said I was frustrated that the men's voices drowned out the women's. She said, Thats society. Channel 10 news had a camera just behind me; I wanted to be seen there. I asked the woman if she was a student. She said no, she worked as a corporate adviser. She was an elementary school teacher, but was dismayed by the corruption she saw first hand. She introduced me to a student with a retainer and a Yarmulke. A man to my left introduced himselfanother professor. A professor of music. I was recognized by a woman who taught my daughter art at the RISD Museum. I overheard a woman say she has a pussy with teeth. Another woman explained to a girl that pussy wasn't profanity. Some people came to shout at us, that we knew nothing, but quickly lost interest. A band began a woeful tuneI'm pretty sure the same band that led the Halloween parade through my neighborhood. I turned to the music professor: "Would you call that a dirge?" He laughed, said, "It sounds like the blues to me." And then he caught it"It's 'When the Saints,' but messed up."

8pm, at Granoff Center for “Come Shining: In Tribute to C.D. Wright. Someone—a student, I presume—led me to a chair. The man to my left asked if I was a professor. I confirmed, and then recognized him. “Our paths have crossed before,” I said. Peter Gizzi. “I saw you interview Clark Coolidge at Flying Saucer.” We talked until the tribute began. Forrest Gander, C.D.’s husband, sat a row ahead of me, beside his son. We listened to a recording of C.D. read. To tributes and regrets. I mourned.