Wednesday, September 29, 2010

great hair and bone harp

hello, my little tenders!  we haven't been intimate for some time now.  it's time.

given my propensity to get distracted for lengths of time by great top-20 hits like your love is my drug, i thought it would be prudent to temper my love for ke$ha with my love for murder ballads.

murder ballads originate from the old countries of england, scotland and scandinavia.   typical themes are jealousy, adultery or evil-plain-and-pure. they are written/sung in the traditional ballad form, telling a sympathetic story of either a murtherer or the murther'd.   the murder is often true, but sometimes mythic - although i choose to believe they are all true because legitimate musicians [and all other artists] are soothsayers and they tell cogent stories about all things real and honest and true.

in the old world versions, supernatural retribution often occurs in the form of hauntings or animals. an example of this would be "the bonny swans"[here performed by loreena mckennitt, who is awesome],  where the murthering sister is brought to justice by a harp that is fashioned from the drowned sister's hair and bone [a miller mistook the drowned woman for a swan]. the harp - haunted by the spirit of the drowned sister - sings the song of her unfortunate dispatch for all to hear and thusly gives up the ghost to her jealous sister.  another version of this would be "the twa sisters" [this version done by the  always illustrious tom waits].  every version is so haunting and desperately sad.

the murder ballad often ends with a moral or a plea to not follow in the footsteps of said murderer or unwitting victim.  although this is not a murder ballad, the house of the rising sun is an american folk song and exemplifies the moralistic code at the end of the song that most murder ballads possess: "oh mother tell your children / not to do what i have done / spend your lives in sin and misery / in the house of the rising sun"  [also, eric burdon, lead singer for the animals, is a phenomenal and i love him].

the rocket reminded me today that there are new murder ballads being written.  for example, there is a breathtaking murder balled entitled "molten light" by a remarkably gifted canadian musician/artist chad vangaalen.  written and animated by vangaalen himself, this song tells the chilling tale of a woman who returns from neverwhere to avenge her murder, committed by two bastard brothers [they ripped out her heart and ate it by candlelight].  there is some serious supernatural retribution going on here.  it's really important to watch this video for full effect. both the song and the animation feel reminiscent of scandinavian mythology, but i have nothing to back that up other than my own projections.

so, here are some murder ballads to get you started, my little tenders.

lead belly's version of "where did you sleep last night?" is one of my personal favourites.

nick cave and pj harvey do a remarkable arrangement of "henry lee".  this is also one of the sexiest videos i've ever seen. so very libidinous.  provocative.

the carter family [i love maybelle] always wins my heart here with "john hardy was a desperate little man".

molly o'day does a great "poor ellen smith".  i love an old-timey hillbilly tune.

Monday, September 27, 2010

one person dance party

so.  when it is 11.30pm on a saturday night and you have barricaded yourself in a small room with no windows and you are struggling to complete a manuscript that has a deadline burning holes in the back of your head, and you have just cleared the worst of that terrible head cold that's been going around, and you have a wild load of energy just aching to be expended - what do you do?

you have a one person dance party.
with headphones on.
in the dark.
to this song.

and it will bring you great joy.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

great silence

silence. the absence of sound or noise. the state of silentness.  muteness.  absence or omission of mention, comment or expressed concern.  the state of being forgotten.  to hush, to quell, to muzzle, to gag. fear the silence. enjoy the silence. silencio [this is among my top-whatever remarkable moments in film - from david lynch's mulholland drive]

there are times that require - above all else - silence.  silence is a great bringer of epiphany.  silence also carries with it the capacity to find peace, forgiveness, answers, and beautiful nothing.  sometimes it brings us divine inspiration, while at other times it may bring unspeakable sadness.

and also - in silence, we can look at photographs of beautiful, majestic, proud animals.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

great cop out

hello my little tenders. your dear narrator has been busy in real life and i haven't had the time to find great things for you.  so i thought i'd do an undeserved "best-of" post - also known as a total cop out.  here are my favourite posts thus far. that is to say, the posts i had the most fun writing. and there you have it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

great rain

when you work in a building that is, in essence, made of clapboard, siding, garage doors and the dreams of an older brother and your shared father - the sound of the rain on the rooftop is like that of the hammering, impatient finger-drums of the gods.

we are here!
the world is alive, even while we die within it!
give up your ghosts, my little tenders, there is much still to do!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

great dance craze

while listening to patti smith's 1975 epic length poem-song horses on my way to work, i found myself wondering, what is this watusi she keeps referring to?  well now i know.

the watusi was the penultimate of dance crazes in the 60s.  by penultimate i mean second-most popular.  the most popular was the *yawn* twist. and what can i tell you about the watusi?

the watusi derives its name from the batutsi tribe of rwanda.  i don't know why.

what else can i tell you?  this dance is awesome!

do the watusi, little tenders!  i know i will be doing it from hereon in.

Monday, September 13, 2010

great sad face

i might be late to the game, but nothing passes the evening like 18 pages of sad don draper.  and don't judge me too harshly for this one, little tenders.  your loving narrator is always looking for great things.  some things are less great than others.

i don't have cable, so i don't really know what has happened on mad men since the end of season two.  but apparently, don draper cries.  and now the sad don draper blog exists and has provided me with a few ha's.

also, christina hendricks [who plays the jane russell-esque sexually exploited secretary on the show] is wicked hot and her junk is perfectly proportioned.  i still can't figure out why i wasn't born in the 30s so i could have been an asshole in the 50s and 60s.  oh right, because i'm not a man with mother issues and an unwarranted sense of entitlement.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

they ne spared not her throtes

today is the day i talk about birdsong.  this is going to be an ongoing project, as there is much to be said about birdsong and i am certainly no expert.
arthur rackham's "the twa corbies" 1919

birdsong, also known as bird vocalization, includes both the calls and the songs of birds.  for the sake of poetry, i'll also include conversation and literary magic to that definition.

bird vocalizations are categorized into 5 different "voices". [i got this info from wikipedia] the first is song, simply.  the second is companion calling; a short vocalization made between mates, parent and young, or members of a flock to maintain contact when out of visual range.  juvenile begging is a strident, loud vocalization often made by young to a parent when begging for food. intraspecific aggression [warning: this link is of two birds fighting. not for sensitive eyes] can consist of loud, alarmed-sounding vocalizations or of energetic song, and may be heard when members of the same species behave aggressively toward each other. and lastly, alarm calls may be heard when birds are startled, frightened, or terrified for their lives, and can take many forms. mobbing is one example of alarm, while a high-pitched alarm call is another.

not to be mistaken for sirens, birds like the nightingale are known, poetically, to sing themselves to death. as quoted by our dear 14th century english maverick geoffrey chaucer in his dream vision poem the book of the duchess [this link contains the piece in its entirety, complete with middle english glossary! i highly recommend it], "they ne spared not her throtes" [they didn't spare their throats].  did you die a little at the lusty, desperate beauty of that?  i know i did.

kate bush recorded the sounds of a blackbird singing and then recorded herself imitating those very sounds with the throat of her own singing.  thus making both she and the blackbird remarkable creatures.  listen to the piece here.

there is also a gentleman by the name of jarbas agnelli who took a photograph of birds on a telephone wires and then composed music according to their placement on the wires.  please watch and listen to this beautiful thing here.

you should also read this lovely poem, the twa corbies.  this link shows several variations of the poem and all of them are beautiful and sad and eerie.  i really love the two carrion birds discussing what to eat.  i also love the illustration of the birds by arthur rackham. stunning-creepy.

i will be adding to this entry as i learn more about fantastical birds and their songs!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

great pre-preface

so i've just opened the glorious front cover of dave eggers' brilliant novel a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.  i've been itching to get at this book for quite some time now and today is the today.  here's how great it is. [it should be noted that i have barely made a dent in the preface].

the opening page says :
this was uncalled for.

next page pre-preface says:
first of all:
i am tired!
i am true of heart!
second of all:
you are tired! 
you are true of heart!

dave egger's is the mastermind behind the mcsweeney's publishing empire.  mcsweeney's is the quarterly that published one of the most beautiful and lovely short fiction's i've ever read: fox 8, by george saunders.  [aside: you cannot find this story anywhere online.  if you want to read it, please contact me and i'll scan you a copy].

dave eggers is also the lovely bugger who wrote you shall know our velocity! - an excellent work of postmodern fiction and i recommend it to anyone interested in dipping their toes into the postmodern pool.

that's all i've got for now, little tenders.  i do, however, plan to discuss the joys of birdsong to you in the very near future!

fox 8

Friday, September 3, 2010

great bildungsroman

1923 1st ed. english print, felix salten, bambi
oh hi, little tenders.  it's going to be a day full of rain and i just love it.  what sounds!

before i get started, i wanted to let you know that there is a new theme for the art of the letter - animals!  join the group, get addresses of friends and strangers and send them something in the mail!  art, craft, photo, cd's, tapes, presents, letters!

so, the other day i discovered my father's 1928 first edition english print [!] of felix salten's bambi: a life in the woods [Bambi. Eine Lebensgeschichte aus dem Walde].  being the animal lover that i am, i could have burst with joy.  this first edition has beautiful original prints in it [they look more like stamps than woodcuts, but i'll never complain].

as a young narrator, my favourite movie was disney's bambi.  i know that you hipsters and smart folks are probably sitting several soap boxes high [alliteration!] ready to poo poo me.  but bambi is a classic and i defy you to find any fault in the story of the beautiful young roe buck.  bambi is the definition of bildungsroman.

now, the movie is one thing. but the book.  o the book!  it's just so lovely.  so beautiful.  i can hardly explain to you the bliss one feels when reading about wild forest creatures and the passing of seasons.

before beginning this book, however, i had already become wildly misanthropic. like dian fossey. serious stuff. i've always felt rather loathsome about animal killers.  but this novel is making me think very vile things about we humans and our capacity to injure innocent animals.  why do they do it?  stop it!  animals are beautiful and just because they don't need our gentle touches doesn't mean they don't deserve our honour and respect.

but less about badness and more about joy! read this book!  i will run the risk of copyright infringement and offer you a tasty little snippet of the easy-to-read story.  this is chapter VIII, where a conversation between two leaves takes place on the cusp of a new season:

the leaves were falling from the great oak at the meadow's edge.  they were falling from all the trees.
one branch of the oak reached high above the others and stretched far out over the meadow.  two leaves clung to its very tip.
"it isn't the way it used to be," said one leaf to the other.
"no," the other leaf answered.  "so many of us have fallen off to-night we're almost the only ones left on our branch."
"you never know who's going to go next," said the first leaf.  "even when it was warm and the sun shone, a storm or a cloudburst would come sometimes, and many leaves were torn off, though they were still young.  you never know who's going to go next."
"the sun seldom shines now," sighed the second leaf, "and when it does it gives no warmth.  we must have warmth again."
"can it be true," said the first leaf, "can it really be true, that others come to take our places when we're gone and after them still others, and more and more?"
"it is really true," whispered the second leaf.  "we can't even begin to imagine it, it's beyond our powers."
"it makes me very sad," added the first leaf.
they were silent a while. then the first leaf said quietly to herself,  "why must we fall?..."
the second leaf asked, "what happens to us when we have fallen?"
"we sink down....."
"what is under us?"
the first leaf answered, "i don't know, some say one thing, some another, but nobody knows."
the second leaf asked, "do we feel anything, do we know anything about ourselves when we're down there?"
the first leaf answered, "who knows? not one of all those down there has ever come back to tell us about it."
they were silent again.  then the first leaf said tenderly to the other, "don't worry so much about it, you're trembling."
"that's nothing," the second leaf answered, "i tremble at the least thing now.  i don't feel so sure of my hold as i used to."
"let's not talk any more about such things." said the first leaf.
the other replied, "no, we'll let be.  but - what else shall we talk about?"  she was silent, but when on after a little while, "which of us will go first?"
"there's still plenty of time to worry about that," the other leaf assured her.  "let's remember how beautiful it was, how wonderful, when the sun came out and shone so warmly that we thought we'd burst with life.  do you remember?  and the morning dew, and the mild and splendid nights..."
"now the nights are dreadful," the second leaf complained, "and there is no end to them."
"we shouldn't complain," said the first leaf gently.  "we've outlived many, many others."
"have i changed much?" asked the second leaf shyly but determinedly.
"not in the least," the first leaf assured her. "you only think so because i've got to be so yellow and ugly.  but it's different in your case."
"you're fooling me,"  the second leaf said.
"no, really," the first leaf exclaimed eagerly, "believe me, you're as lovely as the day you were born.  here and there may be a little yellow spot but it's hardly noticeable and only makes you handsomer, believe me.:
"thanks," whispered the second leaf, quite touched.  "i don't believe you, not altogether, but i think you because you're so kind, you've always been so kind to me.  i'm just beginning to understand how kind you are."
"hush," said the other leaf, and kept silent herself for she was too troubled to talk any more.
then they were both silent.  hours passed.
a moist wind blew, cold and hostile, through the tree-tops.
"ah, now," said the second leaf, "i...." then her voice broke off. she was torn from her place and spun down.
winter had come.