MALCOLM X IN THE 'NUTHOUSE'
Fascinating discussion around the groaning Thanksgiving table (sometimes the cliches work the best) about public art. It was a table of actors and artists, so it got quite vehement. My father is opposed to public art. His reasons are quite good. But Hunter said, "You're against public art?? Why??"
I said, "Dad, tell the story about the library."
My father is a librarian at a large university library. The library commissioned a local stone-engraver to design and execute a new facade to the building's entrance. Actually, "local" stone-engraver is not the correct term at all. This man happens to live in the state, but he is the premier engraver in the country. He has done monuments in the capitol, etc. He is a big big deal.
So his idea for the library was quite wonderful, actually. He would engrave on the walls and on the front of the building quotes from various (unattributed) sources, quotes having to do with learning, knowledge, books. Dante is up there, Wordsworth, a ton of great people.
Hunter said, "Did he work with an editorial board in choosing the quotes, or...?"
Dad said, "No. He had someone proofread the quotes, but no. It's public art, you see? It's his artistic expression."
I have seen the facade of the building, of course. And it is gorgeous work. Truly. But a couple of things went wrong. Very wrong.
One of the prominent quotes in the front was from Malcolm X. In order to be a good blogger, I should probably have the exact quote to share with you, but I don't. Here's the jist of the quote: "I love learning and knowledge. If I could, I'd spend all my time in the library." That is a ridiculous over-simplification. My apologies to the literate and expressive Malcolm X. But that is the idea behind the quote. I will provide the actual quote as soon as I am able, I promise!!
So the building facade is revealed when it is completed, it is highly admired, all is well.
A couple of years later, a black man (who was not a student at the school, but basically a person who hung out all the time on the campus) notices something odd. Something that makes him sit up and take notice. There is something wrong with that Malcolm X quote up on the wall.
This man looks through The Autobiography of Malcolm X, searching for the quote. Clearly, the man had to scour the text with a fine-toothed comb in order to locate it. But find it he did. Good for him! Integrity personified! And here is what he discovered:
The actual unedited quote in the text was along the lines of (and again, I apologize...I will get the real quote): "I love learning. If I could take some time out from fighting whitey, I would spend all my time in the library."
A couple of things: there are no ellipses in the engraved quote, indicating that something was omitted. The stone engraver just liked the quote, but knew that he couldn't put the whole "whitey" section on the library walls. So he took it upon himself, because it is HIS artistic expression, to edit Malcolm X, to EDIT MALCOLM X, and use the quote anyway. I find this disgusting. You just don't do that. Malcolm X said what he said for a reason. I may not like it, I may not agree with it, but he is allowed to say what he wants however he wants. To take the quote, chop out the offending words, and not acknowledge that you have done this by at LEAST putting in an ellipses, is vile. Stupid. Unintellectual. (Not exactly the vibe you want to have as you enter a university library.)
It reminds me of the recent furor about the edited texts in the regional tests for high school students. Taking existant work, by well-known authors, and smoothing out anything that might offend anybody at any time. Even words like "fat", or words like "Hispanic". Even (and this one pissed me off the most): editing "California wine and seafood" down to "California seafood." Prudes!! Unintellectual scaredy-cats! My GOD, what a debacle.
I am sure that Malcolm X said other things about education which could have been completely appropriate. Use that! But you sure aren't going to put anything like "I wish I could use the library, but whitey won't let me through the door" over the main entrance at a university building! So why even use the abbreviated quote at all? Malcolm X was saying exactly what he meant with that unedited quote. "If I didn't have to spend all my time fighting whitey, then I might be able to spend more time in the library." That is EXACTLY what he meant to say. It's gross to have some stone-engraver snip out the essence of the quote (however racist or offensive it might be), and put it up on the wall, as though that was all that Malcolm X said or meant.
So this black man, after having found out the truth, (God bless him) creates an enormous controversy about the edited quote on the library facade. My father told me that he got a bunch of other pissed-off people, and they marched around the campus, they called the media, they made a ton of noise about what was done to Malcolm X's words.
But since this facade was "public art" ... he was commissioned to create the library facade, but after that, it was his own personal expression ... nothing could be done. The controversy raged, and now everybody in the state knows the truth: that the quote by the main door at the university library is actually an inflammatory racist statement by Malcolm X, edited by the artist to make it palatable for all. This is enough to turn me off public art as well!
The second issue with all of these engravings is that the artist chose to put directly over the front door the Latin word which had presided over the library in Alexandria before the fire destroyed it, lo, those many millennia ago. Again, I don't know the exact word, but the context in ancient Greece was clear. It meant: "a healing place for the soul". Lovely. A lovely way to think of a library. But of course, in modern times, the same Latin word (and the stone-engraver would have KNOWN this if he had ASKED somebody who was an AUTHORITY) means "nuthouse."
The Latin word for "nuthouse" sails above the main entrance to the university library. And right inside, is a lovely and beautiful quote about learning by Malcolm X, which left out the words: "If whitey would get off my case, I'd love to come to the library..."
What a mess.
But hey. It was only the expression of the ARTIST. Nobody is responsible for it. It is what HE felt like saying, what HE felt like creating.
Actually, we all were crying with laughter as my father and my sister Jean told this story in tag-team fashion.
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11/30/2002 10:32:00 AM
Saturday, November 30, 2002
Okay, so a funny story: On Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving, I sat at the bar at HoofFinFeathers (otherwise known as The Carriage Inn) where my sister was bartending. It was quite busy, so I didn't get as much time to speak with her as I would have liked. But there were some pretty funny snippets, in between Jean concocting cocktails.
During my whole time there, Larry King Live was on. The sound was down. He was interviewing Carol Channing. Who apparently has a new book out.
Who knows. Sometimes I look at Carol Channing and I just want her to lie down. For like a YEAR.
I glanced up at the TV periodically. At the bottom of the screen was always a teaser, of some kind beside the constant: "Carol Channing". So that people tuning in at different times would know what was going on. Someone at "Larry King Live" had read Carol Channing's new book, and pulled out different topics, which then were rotated as teasers. So every time I looked at the TV, the teaser had changed, and there was absolutely no continuity between one teaser and the next. It would be like if I pulled out 4 completely random facts about my life, and then offered them up on this blog as the definition of who I am.
Here were the 4 facts in rotation about Carol Channing.
1. Carol Channing reveals she has cancer of the uterus
2. Carol Channing reveals her father was part black
3. Carol Channing, 81, reveals she has no plan to retire
(and the last, the coup de grace)
4. Carol Channing reveals she has claustrophobia
How to boil an 81 year old woman down into 4 facts .... how completely absurd. It was that last one that did me in. I grabbed a cocktail napkin and scribbled it down feverishly.
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11/30/2002 10:08:00 AM
Today is my birthday, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and I am now sitting in my parents kitchen, with the snow falling outside (the SNOW IS FALLING! I am 10 years old!) Later this evening, all of my siblings (and their girlfriends and friends and roommates) will arrive from New York. It will be a real "orphan" Thanksgiving, taking in the poor, the hungry, the tired.
I want to wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving! Peace, and God bless!
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11/27/2002 08:04:00 AM
Wednesday, November 27, 2002
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"I don't pretend to be immaculate, I don't pretend that I have not had my moments of trial and temptation, but I do claim that never in thought, in word or deed have I been false to the trust that Irishmen have confided in me."
--Charles Stewart Parnell, 1890
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11/27/2002 07:48:00 AM
Beautiful and heartfelt piece today, by James Lileks, on anti-Semitism.
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11/26/2002 08:39:00 AM
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
CHARLOTTE BRONTE QUOTE #2
This is from a long letter to a dear friend:
"You ask me to recommend you some books for your perusal. I will do so in as few words as I can. If you like poetry, let it be first-rate; Milton, Shakespeare, Thomson, Goldsmith, Pope (if you will, though I don't admire him), Scott, Byron, Campbell, Wordsworth, and Southey. Now don't be startled at the names of Shakespeare and Byron. Both these were great men, and their works are like themselves. You will know how to choose the good, and to avoid the evil; the finest passages are always the purest, the bad are invariably revolting; you will never wish to read them over twice. Omit the comedies of Shakespeare and the Don Juan, perhaps the Cain, of Byron, though the latter is a magnificent poem, and read the rest fearlessly; that must indeed be a depraved mind which can gather evil from Henry VIII, from Richard III, from Macbeth, and Hamlet, and Julius Caesar. Scott's sweet, wild, romantic poetry can do you no harm. Nor can Wordsworth's, nor Campbell's, nor Southey's -- the greatest part at least of his; some is certainly objectionable. For history, read Hume, Rollin, and the Universal History, if you can; I never did. For fiction, read Scott alone; all novels after his are worthless. For biography, read Johnson's Lives of the Poets, Boswell's Life of Johnson, Southey's Life of Nelson, Lockhart's Life of Burns, Moore's Life of Sheridan, Moore's Life of Byron, Wolfe's Remains. For natural history, read Bewick and Audobon, and Goldsmith, and White's History of Selborne. For divinity, your brother will advise you there. I can only say, adhere to standard authors, and avoid novelty."
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11/26/2002 07:53:00 AM
AN "UGLY INCIDENT"
I'm sorry, I know it's trite, but the whole damn world is losing its mind. Nigerian Information Minister, Jerry Gana, says: "I salute the courage of the [Miss World] contestants. They came all the way here despite the conspiracy of the international press... particularly the British press ... There's an international conspiracy just to show that an African country like Nigeria cannot host this thing. I think Nigerians should be really angry with the international press." Way to pass the buck, dude. "CONSPIRACY?" Listen, man, I know the white-hot light of the spotlights have been on Nigeria lately, because you were going to stone a woman for having a child out of wedlock. That must have sucked for you. But that is the job of the "international press". To call stuff out. And now it's Nigeria's turn. Because stoning a woman is medieval. And if you want people to come to Nigeria, and be curious about Nigeria, then you can't go around being all medieval. So the "international press" has a "conspiracy" to show that "an African country" can't host something like a beauty pageant, huh? NO. Stop the pity party. It's nobody's fault but your own.
Secondly: "I salute the courage of the contestants." Well, that is lovely but I, personally, salute the courage of all the Nigerian women who have to live in your tyrannical country.
And thirdly: Unfortunately, the riots and mayhem DO prove that Nigeria is NOT up to the task of hosting a beauty pageant. (Okay, that is a ridiculous sentence. As though hosting a beauty pageant is a highly specialized activity, requiring years of experience and expertise.)
Michele, at Small Victory, tears the whole thing up. She even goes to the Miss World website to see if there is ANY acknowledgement AT ALL of the trail of bodies this pageant has left in its wake, and there is nothing. Just one small message on a buried page: "The pageant will go on, as planned, in London."
I guess I find every single person in this entire story to be despicable. The vapid contestants, the hairdresser who described (as though he thought it was endearing and funny) how all the girls wanted to crowd into the bathroom on the flight from Nigeria to London so that they could make sure they looked "their best" (as Nigeria was in FLAMES beneath them), the rioters and murderers who basically have no sense of reality and are too "sensitive" to live on this planet, the newspaper editor who caved in to pressure and resigned (after writing kiss-ass apology letters for all the PAIN she has caused), the organizers of the pageant who referred to over 200 deaths as an "ugly incident", the point-the-finger-at-others Nigerian officials ...
The only person who is walking out of this with any sense of dignity and humanity is Miss Canada (Lynsey Bennett), who came home rather than move on to London with the rest of the contestants.
Bennett said, "As soon as I found out that 105 people had already died due to the triggers of the Miss World, I said, 'You know what? This is not why I'm here. This isn't right. I'm going home.'"
Phew! Now there's something I can actually relate to in all this mess.
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11/25/2002 05:51:00 PM
Monday, November 25, 2002
THAT IS THE QUESTION. WHICH?
An excellent piece on "that vs. which". As a grammar freak, and someone who consistently complains about things like authors using the passive voice, I appreciate the level of obsession it takes to care so much about this issue.
Also, I'm not quite sure I understood it until now.
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11/25/2002 04:05:00 PM
Read his latest on the unreported revolution that is happening in Iran. Last Friday, half a million people marched for democracy in Iran, holding up signs like: DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN. The protest began in Teheran, and quickly spread across the entire country. It was not clear who was in charge. It was a popular uprising. The police tried to batter the crowds back and harass them into disbanding. Half a million people! The police were no match for these crowds. Men and women mixed. Division in the government: should we crack down? Should we give in?
This is it. Iran is collapsing.
And so far: only Michael Ledeen is talking about it.
Dammit, I wish that my voice were louder.
People of Iran ... there are those of us out here who hear your screams for justice and liberty! I would have NO idea what was going on over there if it weren't for Ledeen.
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11/25/2002 03:00:00 PM
MISS WORLD ON THE RUN
"These girls will be wearing swimwear dripping with blood."
An actual quote. From a crazed Nigerian Muslim? From a one-eyed cleric in Riyadh? Actually, no.
Writer Muriel Gray said this, protesting the Miss World pageant moving to London after wreaking havoc in Nigeria, after causing 175+ deaths from riots. I can see her point, I guess. Basically: STOP this doomed pageant! Unfortunately, (at least from the way it is being reported) it seems as though feminist writers are teaming up and agreeing with fanatical Muslims. (The word "feminist" is increasingly meaningless to me, but I am merely quoting The Washington Post here.)
This whole situation is out of control. The pageant should just be canceled at this point. Very bad karma. (Well ... when do pageants ever have really excellent karma? Regardless: Beauty pageants are innocuous, retro, harmless. But this one has left a trail of death. Forget about it. No Miss World for 2002-2003.) Enough death over such a stupid thing. ENOUGH.
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11/25/2002 02:42:00 PM
Another moving piece from the RossiRant, in response to the Miss World nightmare which started in Nigeria, and is spreading like a virus. She's being honest. Listen up.
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11/25/2002 12:17:00 PM
A BROOKLYN AFTERNOON
So yesterday after spending about three hours writing on this blog, re-capping my weekend, I wended my way out to Brooklyn to visit my nephew Cashel. I was going to my ex-sister-in-law's apartment in Park Slope. Long story, and actually it's none of your business! It was an absolutely beautiful day. It's winter now! But the trees are still fighting with the season: "Dammit, we're not ready yet. It's still autumn! LOOK AT US. The yellows, the oranges....aren't we spectacular?" Meanwhile, everyone is wearing winter coats, and the babies in the strollers literally cannot move their limbs at all, and sit frozen, like mummified papooses in their massive snow suits. Their wide eyeballs staring out. So cute.
I arrived, rang the doorbell, and nobody answered. Hmmm. I called, left a message. Then I went across the street into Prospect Park. There's a playground right there and I thought that maybe Maria, Steve (her new boyfriend) and Cashel might be over there. They were not. Curiouser and curiouser. I left another message saying, "Okay, so clearly I have the time wrong ... I will be sitting in the park across the street, if you just stepped out for a second and come home and get this message." I sat at a picnic table and wrote in my journal for a while. About Crazy Erik. Another long story which is none of your business.
There was a slope of hill behind me covered in flaming yellow leaves. There was not one spot of brown ground to be seen. The sun was low in the sky now, the rays long and mellow. Shining through the bare trees on the top of the slope, washing over the carpet of yellow. One of those images that pierce your heart.
It was cold enough that my fingers felt like little stiff carrot sticks. But I enjoyed my time with myself. Writing, listening to the screams of kids at the playground.
Finally Maria called. 45 minutes later. She had thought I was coming over in the evening. I was sure I had said, "So I'll be there at 3." She said, "Are you FREEZING?" "Yes. I am freezing." "Come over right now. Do you want tea or hot chocolate?" "Tea would be great." "Putting the kettle on right now."
In 2 minutes, I was ensconced in her warm and cozy apartment. Her living room now looks like an old-fashioned Victorian living room. The piano, the oriental rug, the dark walls. It is so cozy that I never want to leave. Steve was slicing up a pomegranate, Maria was at the stove ... and Cashel and Brendan were apparently on their way over, after seeing Attack of the Clones at the IMAX.
I warmed up eventually. We sat around her table, eating, drinking tea, talking, laughing. Cashel eventually arrived. Or, perhaps, to be more accurate, I should say Obi Wan Kenobi arrived. Cashel was completely in the fantasy world. Leaping about with his invisible light saber, running by us manically, making light-saber sounds, checking himself out in the mirror.
Maria said to me at one point, "I guess I have been wondering lately: .... Is there such a thing as too much Star Wars?"
This brought up a memory for me. When I was 9 and 10 years old, I became so obsessed with the movie Oliver that I was actually experiencing a semi-psychotic break with reality. I would sit in our den at the Paul Avenue house, listen to the whole thing through, pick up the needle, and place it back at the beginning again. Over and over and over and over. It bordered on being an unpleasant experience, to be quite honest. I ACHED. My heart ACHED. I would sit with my ear right next to the speaker, literally pressed up against the speaker, dreaming myself into the world of the musical. I couldn't even really have a conversation about it. Nobody could touch my level of obsession. Well, nobody except my friend Betsy Hall. We would dress up, and act it out. She was Nancy, I was the Artful Dodger. We were CRAZY.
This was the ushering in, for me, of my dream-world, my fantasy-world, which I still live with today. I am truly the greatest "fan" you will ever meet. I am as loyal as a battered wife. I don't care if the object of my desire makes a bad film, puts out a crappy album, whatever. I will wait, loyal, faithful, for them to return to greatness. But Oliver was the first. And, again, it was almost a painful experience. No matter what I did, no matter how close I sat to the speakers, I couldn't get inside. I couldn't FULLY express how that musical made me feel.
And here is a vivid memory: I was in the den, sitting with my ear pressed up against the speakers, staring at the album cover, lost to the world, listening to the musical for probably the tenth time through, and suddenly the door opened, and my mother peeked her head inside. Her face was very kind, a bit tentative, and apologetic. And she said, with utmost gentleness: "I don't think we're gonna be able to listen to Oliver anymore, okay?" She said it as NICELY as she could. Now, as an adult, I imagine her and my father sitting in the other room, and they hear the first strains of the overture start up for the tenth time in a row, and the two of them saying, "Oh my GOD, I can't take it anymore!!!"
My whole head got red. So red I felt like it would explode spontaneously off of my neck. Reality crashed into my perfect dream-world. Silently, embarrassed, I took the needle off the record. And sat there, blankly, wondering what the HELL I was going to do with myself NOW.
Ha ha ha ha.
Anyway. Cashel's obsession with Star Wars has been raging on unabated for a couple of years now, and it shows no sign of stopping. Funny: I saw the damn movie in its original release, and I have to say that MY obsession with that film pretty much continues on to this day.
I hung out with Cashel in his room for a long time. He was playing feverishly with his Star Wars action figures, letting me know what was going on, informing me of things bluntly: "This is the assassin droid." "Anakin has the dark side in him, but then he goes back to the light side." I would ask him questions and he would answer me forthrightly, after giving the matter some thought.
"Cashel, which one of the Star Wars movies is your favorite?"
Brief moment of contemplation, then matter-of-fact statement: "Attack of the Clones--" (Of course, because he just saw it!!) "And then Phantom Menace."
I nodded. "I think my favorite is Empire Strikes Back."
He glanced at me briefly, took this in, kind of couldn't deal with it, and then went back to playing.
He was singing the Star Wars theme, as he played. I joined in at one point. But I guess I got TOO into it, because he said to me, "Stop." I said, "You don't want me to sing?" He said, "Well ... no ... because ... I am trying to concentrate."
Aha. Good to know. I backed off.
Then would come the random questions. "Why did the Senator turn the cameras off in her room?"
I said, "Well, I think she is so used to being stared at, and watched, that she just got sick of it. She wanted some privacy so that she could sleep. I mean, how would you feel if your whole life, people were looking at you like this --" I shoved my face right up against his face, with big staring googly eyes. Cashel burst into laughter. I love how he laughs, because he literally shakes his whole body. Like that moment in "The Night Before Christmas" where Santa laughs like a bowlful of jelly. Cashel is definitely a bowlful of jelly.
I was then put through rigorous Jedi training. Obi Wan Kenobi was quite a stern taskmaster, I must say. I had a light saber, and I was practicing my moves. I was going in a very Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon direction. Obi Wan Kenobi then froze me like a statue. Told me sternly to not move, because he had to go have an important conference with another Jedi master. Cashel then walked away, leaving me there. Frozen. He was outside the room and I could hear him having a pretend conversation about important galaxy matters. Which was hysterical.
He also said to me, in a tone of huge generosity and open-mindedness, "Girls can be Jedi Knights."
"Phew! Glad to hear it!"
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11/25/2002 08:36:00 AM
REDHEADED RAMBLINGS PSA
There will be no Country of the Week feature this week. It's Thanksgiving, it's my birthday, I'm going home, I just can't do it. Originally I had thought: well, I'll just pick a country which, although I DO have an index card in my pile for it, I don't know THAT much about ...and I'll just write about it on Monday and Tuesday, and then take time off for the holiday. I actually spent time thinking about this. Trying to pick a country which I know a BIT about, but not TOO much about. Something that would warrant only two days. This is horrible! Of course I don't mean to say that certain countries are more worthy of consideration than others, but I could never do Uzbekistan or Armenia or Kazakhstan in two days. These countries are my passion (well, there are others), these countries fill my head with facts, dates, ideas, opinions. However, I could probably do Liberia in two days. Or...Estonia. Fascinating places. Interesting histories. But they aren't in my blood like the others.
But then I thought: F*** it. I'm taking a couple of days off.
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11/25/2002 08:14:00 AM
QUOTE OF THE DAY
The following quote is extremely depressing (especially the image of the loud clicking clock). Forgive. It is an excerpt from a letter of Charlotte Bronte to a dear friend. Last year I read The Life of Charlotte Bronte, by Elizabeth Gaskell, a classic in the genre. It was written 2 centuries ago, so it has a flowery sentimental style, but I absolutely ate it up. First of all, 3/4 of it are quotes from Charlotte's letters, and they are phenomenal. Okay, so this just came to me: this week every daily quote will be from Charlotte Bronte's letters.
The letter today was written on July 14, 1849 during a very dark time in Charlotte's life. (Uh...Sheila...was there ever a light time in Charlotte's life? In any of the Bronte's lives??) Her sister Anne had just died. Charlotte feels very alone. She writes:
"My life is what I expected it to be. Sometimes when I wake in the morning, and know that Solitude, Remembrance, and Longing are to be almost my sole companions all day through -- that at night I shall go to bed with them, that they will long keep me sleepless -- that next morning I shall wake to them again, -- sometimes, Nell, I have a heavy heart of it. But crushed I am not, yet; nor robbed of elasticity, nor of hope, nor quite of endeavor. I have some strengths to fight the battle of life. I am aware, and can acknowledge, I have many comforts, many mercies. Still I can get on. But I do hope and pray, that never may you, or any one I love, be placed as I am. To sit in a lonely room -- the clock ticking loud through a still house -- and have open before the mind's eye the record of the last year, with its shocks, sufferings, losses -- is a trial.
I write to you freely, because I believe you will hear me with moderation -- that you will not take alarm or think me in any way worse off than I am."
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11/25/2002 07:50:00 AM
Just for kicks, herewith are the lyrics to Eminem's "Lose Yourself". Reading it certainly does not compare to actually hearing and experiencing the song, but the words themselves are exhilarating. If you listen to rap at all, you will recognize immediately the sophistication of the rhyming, his facility with language. I can't even count all of the internal rhymes. He's a tough man, he's an angry man, no doubt about it, but he is a perfect example of putting your life into your art. He is fearless in this respect.
Look, if you had one shot, one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted
In one moment
Would you capture it or just let it slip?
His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy
There's vomit on his sweater already, mom's spaghetti --
He's nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready
To drop bombs, but he keeps on forgetting
What he wrote down, the whole crowd goes so loud.
He opens his mouth, but the words won't come out -
He's chokin, how everybody's jokin now.
The clocks run out, time's up. Over! bloah!
Snap back to reality, Oh - there goes gravity
Oh, there goes Rabbit, he choked.
He's so mad, but he won't give up that
He won't have it, he knows his whole back city's ropes.
It don't matter he's dope.
He knows that, but he's broke.
It's so stagnant. He knows
When he goes back to his mobile home, that's when it's
Back to the lab again, yo.
This whole rap sh** -
He better go capture this moment and hope it don't pass him.
You better lose yourself in the music, the moment -
You own it, you better never let it go
You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow
This opportunity comes once in a lifetime
The soul's escaping through this hole that is gaping.
This world is mine for the taking.
Make me king, as we move toward a new world order.
A normal life is boring, but superstardom's close to post mortem.
It only grows harder, homie grows hotter.
He blows us all over, these hoes is all on him -
Coast to coast shows, he's known as the globetrotter -
Lonely roads, God only knows -
He's grown farther from home, he's no father.
He goes home and barely knows his own daughter.
But hold your nose cuz here goes the cold water:
These hoes don't want him no more, he's cold product.
They moved on to the next schmoe who flows.
He nosedove and sold nada.
So the soap opera is told and unfolds.
I suppose it's old, partner, but the beat goes on
Da da dum da dum da da
No more games, Ima change what you call rage.
Tear this mothaf***in roof off like 2 dogs caged.
I was playin in the beginnin, the mood all changed
I been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage.
But I kept rhymin and stepwritin the next cipher.
Best believe somebody's payin the pied piper
All the pain inside amplified by the fact
That I can't get by with my 9 to 5
And I can't provide the right type of life for my family
Cuz man, these goddam food stamps don't buy diapers
And it's no movie, there's no Mekhi Phifer, this is my life
And these times are so hard and it's getting even harder
Tryin to feed and water my seed, plus
the teeter-totter, caught up between bein a father and a prima donna
Baby mama drama screamin' on and
Too much for me to wanna
Stay in one spot, another jam or not
Has gotten me to the point I'm like a snail.
I've got to formulate a plot 'fore I end up in jail or shot
Success is my only mothaf***in option, failure's not!
Mom, I love you, but this trailer's got to go.
I cannot grow old in Salem's lot.
So here I go. This is my shot.
Feet fail me not. This may be the only opportunity that I got
You can do anything you set your mind to, man.
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11/24/2002 12:30:00 PM
Sunday, November 24, 2002
AND NOW A SEGUE
Hawk Girl, one of my favorite bloggers out there, has a lethal post on NOW's criticism of sit-com programming in America today. Hawk Girl hits the nail on the head. Could not have said it better myself. (The permanent link to this post appears to be leading to the wrong section, so I am just linking to her main page. As of now, it is the first post on the page.)
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11/24/2002 10:25:00 AM
ONCE MORE WITH FEELING:
I'll walk where my own nature would be leading:
It vexes me to choose another guide
This is the Song of the Sagittarian. I have been living those words ever since I was two feet tall. Years before I ever read "Often Rebuked". I will walk where my own nature would be leading. It vexes me to choose another guide.
It's like Kipling's cat. Again, that is another tale (or tail...sorry. Bad joke) which feels like it is coming directly FROM me, although Kipling wrote the damn thing.
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11/24/2002 08:55:00 AM
MY FAVORITE POEM
For some reason, this morning, along with the sensation of lightness and well-being, I found myself reciting, in my head, Emily Bronte's poem "Often Rebuked". It possibly is my favorite poem. Not in terms of its literary value, or its lasting power, or anything like that. It is my favorite poem in a very narcisstic sense. I read it, and feel that it is coming FROM me. It is IN me. She is speaking ME to me. I sound like a lunatic. It's not even 9 a.m.
"Often Rebuked" is one of those poems which, regardless of the poet's talent with language, image, metaphor, provides a shock of recognition. "I know that...I know that...that is me..." Here's the poem (I know it by heart):
Often rebuked, yet always back returning
To those first feelings that were born with me,
And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning
For idle dreams of things which cannot be:
Today, I will not seek the shadowy region:
Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear;
And visions rising, legion after legion,
Bring the unreal world too strangely near.
I'll walk, but not in old heroic traces,
And not in paths of high morality,
And not among the half-distinguished faces,
The clouded forms of long-past history.
I'll walk where my own nature would be leading:
It vexes me to choose another guide:
Where the gray flocks in ferny glens are feeding;
Where the wild wind blows on the mountain-side.
What have those lonely mountains worth revealing?
More glory and more grief than I can tell:
The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling
Can center both the worlds of Heaven and Hell.
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11/24/2002 08:47:00 AM
YAK YAK YAK
My entire week has been filled with vigorous and interesting conversations:
1. With my mother, about what happened in her painting class. She had spent one class, kind of standing next to who she thinks is the "best painter in the class", and instead of going right ahead and painting what SHE wanted to paint, she semi-copied what the other woman was doing. They were all painting the same building, but of course, every single painter will see different aspects, focus on different things, use different colors. Mum didn't trust, yet, that her view, her vision, is okay. And not just okay, but GREAT. Essential to her becoming an artist. She said, "And my painting STUNK." I love Mum. So she learned a beautiful lesson through that experience. I love people's self-awareness. Being able to see what might be missing.
It's like that AWESOME story about Michael Jordan. (Well, one of the many awesome stories about Michael Jordan.) After every single game, he watches a playback of the whole thing. Not to glory in his talent, not to curse himself for errors he might have made ... No. He watches it to see what might be missing. The greatest basketball player the world has ever seen still knows that there is much to learn about his game. Still knows that there is probably stuff he is "missing".
That's the lesson Mum learnt, and I loved that she shared it with me.
2. With Jen, yesterday morning, on our brisk FREEZING walk. We vigorously re-hashed the entire party of the night before, telling stories, filling each other in ("Well, Rich said to me..." "I loved watching David and Joey..." And also: we had to discuss in exquisite detail Brooke's fabulous and radical new haircut...) Then, for some reason, I regaled her with the tale of my frightening experience on an L platform in Chicago, one cold winter night, years ago. Jen and I have lived together for EIGHT YEARS. It is the longest most successful relationship I have ever had. It is literally like we are married. But Jen had never heard that story. Maybe I'll tell it, later on.
3. With Hunter, last night. We sat in Dempseys. (My God, it's pathetic...We practically live there now. We don't even have to say, "Let's meet at Dempsey's tonight". We just show up and there we both are. Siobhan works there, so it is a way to see my sister almost on a daily basis as well.) I ended up talking Hunter's ear off and I told him "the story of ---". (Cannot say his name. Must protect his identity.) This is not something I talk about in any normal way. I was saying stuff like, "I do believe in invisible forces of good in the universe ... and that is who --- is for me..." Or "Being his muse, it is probably best that we never see each other ... " It, so far, was the most important love affair of my life, but I never talk about it. Why bother? However, re-living it, and trying to find a way to DESCRIBE it to Hunter, was so therapetuic for me. It's good for me, as a writer, to try to express the ineffable. And how amazing, too: after all these years, and all the work I have done, there were certain sections of the story that still brought tears to my eyes. There is a reason why I never speak of ---. It's best to just let it go. Like the tide going out.
4. With Siobhan, on the phone, yesterday afternoon. My precious sister.
5. With Brendan, my precious brother, a couple of days ago. He called me at work to tell me he had just finished reading The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay , a book I had given to him. I cannot recommend the book highly enough. It gives me hope for the future of the American novel (sorry Jonathan Franzen!! I believe Michael Chabon beat you to the punch!) Michael Chabon creates characters who LIVE. They live on in my mind when the book is done. I forced myself to read the ending slowly, because I did not want it to end. It hurt to say goodbye to those people. It is an EXPERIENCE. So Brendan had to call me to talk about it. He was blown away, and actually kind of upset about it. I had the same experience when I finished the book, too. I was so moved by it all, that I didn't know what to do. Also: and here (for me) is the true beauty of that book: At the end, I had an overwhelming sense of: "Wow. People really are good at heart." (Thank you, Anne Frank...) I don't need literature to be uplifting, or to enlighten, or be positive. No. But the love that Michael Chabon has for his characters, the love he feels, actually, for EVERYBODY, pulsates on the page, and you MUST participate in it. You must fall in love with humanity, too. It is a rare rare book that can do THAT. Brendan and I talked and talked and talked about it. He said at one point, "I know that I am going to cry about it ... I just don't know when. I can feel it coming." Yes. I know that feeling.
6. With Nate, a good and old friend of my sister Siobhan. We met for drinks at The Triple Crown, and talked our heads off for 2 hours. I haven't seen him in a long time. There was a lot of territory to cover. We got talking about Eminem and 8 Mile. Oh my Lord, the DEPTHS we reached. We talked about Eminem as though we were talking about the situation in Nigeria. But we were in sync about it, enjoying ourselves. I said a very assholic thing with complete seriousness: "Eminem has tapped into the zeitgeist..." SHUT UP, SHEILA. All I know is is that at the end of 8 Mile, the credits start to roll, and "Lose Yourself" begins. The grating and thrilling hard-rock intro does something to you when you listen to it. It is one of THOSE songs. It is above and beyond pop culture, it soars above any other song of the moment, it makes trivial any other music you may hear currently on the radio. It is akin to what happened to people when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" debuted. Everyone realized: "Oh. My. God. THIS is what I have been waiting for. Huey Lewis?? The Go-Gos?? WHAT? No. THIS is music." In one moment, the entire decade of the 80s was trashed and forgotten. A new world began. We still live in that world. That Kurt Cobain created. Eminem stands alone, in that respect. It is his moment. Also, weirdly, when that song starts, at the end of the film, I felt like: Wow, this is actually just the BEGINNING of this movie. So anyway: Nate and I talked in this manner for two full hours. It was gloriously fun.
7. With Dave, Siobhan's new boyfriend, last night at Dempsey's. I don't know him that well, and I feel like we both walked away from that conversation not only knowing each other a little bit better, but also as better people. I'm not really describing it well, but in general, that was what it felt like. As I commuted home, I kept re-playing it in my mind. Nodding to myself, thinking: "Good. That was good."
8. With Ruben, my friend from Baltimore, in an Instant Messenger capacity, yesterday afternoon. The man is hilarious. He has a damn way with words. I have a date on Monday, and I want to buy some nice shoes for it. Girlie shoes. I said to Ruben, (or, I "typed" to Ruben), "All I have are combat boots and Converse sneakers. I need some PUMPS." Almost immediately, he starts sending me links with pictures of different shoes. The man is phenomenal. "How about this? Or this? I'm thinking this might look good." Shoe after shoe after shoe. We also were talking about the whole goth scene in Baltimore, or lack thereof. Ruben told me that yeah, there are goth clubs, but it's all just rich kids from the suburbs, trying to be radical, using their huge allowances from their parents to get another piercing, or whatever. It's phony goth. But here is how Ruben boiled it all down, and I just BURST into laughter: "Count Chocula is more goth than these frowning brats." Brilliant. The man should have a column. In my opinion.
9. With the cab driver from Bangladesh who took me home to Hoboken at 5 in the morning after my birthday party. Here's how that happened: We began talking about the upcoming fare hikes. WHERE WILL IT END? Then I asked him where he was from, and he said, "Bangladesh." I began interrogating him about his country. Eventually, Bangladesh will be my "Country of the Week", so this was the start of that inquiry. His whole family is in Bangladesh. He is here alone. But he is going home in a couple of months to meet the woman his mom picked out to be his wife. He has never met her. He is very excited to meet her and also very excited to be a husband. He's 28. "I am ready to get married." I said, "And you trust your mom to pick out a good person for you?" He said, "Oh, yes. Oh, yes. My mom knows me so well. She knows what I like." I said, "Wow. That is so terrific. Good luck!" He will go back to Bangladesh, and then return to America with his brand-new wife. He has one day off a week, and goes to the movies, and has a couple of beers at a local pub. This makes him happy. He told me that Bangladesh is a democracy, a new democracy, and on its way to be a functioning one. "We are not like Pakistan." "What's different between you guys and Pakistan?" I asked. He said, "Well, Pakistan is HARD Muslim. We are not HARD Muslim." "What do you mean by hard?" "Well ... they are illiterate. They only are interested in religion. They don't care about anything else. They don't believe women should be educated. We aren't like that. We are soft Muslim. Also, in Pakistan, the military is in everything. The military controls everything." I said, "Well, yes. I mean, Musharraf is an army guy!" "Yes! Musharraf took over the country, backed up by the military. Bangladesh isn't like that." "So ... what is going to happen with Pakistan, do you think? Is this just going to go from bad to worse, you think?" He said, "Miss, it is not a good situation. They do not know what they are doing. They have no qualifications to run a country. It is a country full of lunatics." I said, "It's interesting to me that when Pakistan was formed ... people thought that religion would solve everything. Like: as long as everyone here is Muslim, then all else will follow. But it hasn't worked out there." "No. It is a very bad situation." By this point, we were turning onto my block. I said (also, by this point, I was sitting on the edge of the back seat, leaning over the front seat, with my head through the little glass window.) "So can you tell me why Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan in 1971?" At that moment, the absurdity occurred to me, and I started laughing. "Can you boil the entire situation between Bangladesh and Pakistan down in ONE BLOCK?" Ha ha ha. We both laughed. And then, we actually sat in the parked taxi outside of my apartment for 15 minutes, and he told me what had happened. The Cliff Notes version, but it was good enough. It was a beautiful connection. After I paid him, he turned around and held his hand out for me to shake. We shook hands. I said, "God bless you, my friend. And good LUCK with getting married!" He said, "God bless you too, miss." It was like we were cultural ambassadors. There is an enormous cultural divide between us, but we communicated very very well. I'm Irish-American Catholic. He is a Muslim from Bangladesh. It was 5 in the morning. And he told me all about the relationship between Bangladesh and Pakistan. Beauty!!
10. With Rachel, the night of my birthday party. She told me about her theory of "love and fear". Every interaction in our lives, every single time we run into anybody, stranger or friend, we are faced with a choice: Love or Fear. She lives her life that way. I found it completely thrilling. "See, when I sit down and talk with so-and-so ... it's Love. Clearly." It's as simple as that. Love or Fear. Choose.
It has been a week of talk. A week of connection. I am blessed.
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11/24/2002 08:38:00 AM
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS ...
I woke up early this morning, 6:30 or so, and lay in bed for a long time, watching the sky get light, feeling ... there is no other word for it ... happy. The only way I can describe "happy" which seems way too nebulous a word with way too many unconnected connotations attached to it ... is a feeling of lightness. I felt light. There was not a heaviness in my heart, or clouds in my head. There have been months at a time when I greet the day with a deep sigh. Literally. Like Olympia Dukakis in "Moonstruck". Deep sighs are extremely therapeutic, but I only need to do them on the heavy heavy days.
It has been a wonderful fulfilling week.
I am going out to Brooklyn a bit later, to hang with my nephew Cashel. I had a great party on Friday night, I have been writing for 4 hours a day, I started up my "writing group" again (only this time with an expanded membership) and we had our first meeting Wednesday night where we set our goals as a group and as individuals, I went to a PAJAMA PARTY at a tavern in Jersey City mid-week with my roommate (the whole thing was so amusing, calling a cab on the sidewalk, wearing our pajamas, drinking martinis, in our pajamas), I reconnected with my old friend Eileen on Monday night which was a blast ... we talked each other's ears off.
So yes. This morning I feel light.
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11/24/2002 07:54:00 AM
I'M BACK ...
I threw a birthday party for myself on Friday night and got home at 5 in the morning. I woke up at 10 am the next morning, very hung over, had 2 Advils, 2 cups of coffee, took a long brisk walk in the freezing morning with my dear roommate Jen, and felt completely fine and normal again by 11 am. It is not good to "lose" days, to being hungover, whatever. Time is too precious.
But still, despite all of that, I just did not feel like pulling out the stack of "Georgia" index cards, and sitting down, rifling through them for ideas. This was not the space I was in yesterday.
The party, held at Dempsey's Pub, was incredible. I would look around at times, and see people from every different section of my life (actually, no high school friends...they were the only representatives missing) talking with each other, getting to know each other, saying, "Oh...YOU'RE Lesley? I have heard so much about you!" I was the common denominator between many of them. An odd feeling...to be confronted with how much you are loved. I was overwhelmed by it at times. All of these people, coming out on their Friday nights, to celebrate with me. It was beautiful.
I had been going to lay real low for this birthday. My actual birth date is November 27, the day before Thanksgiving this year. I will be home, with my family, so I thought: "Nah. No bash. Just hide out." I tend to start stressing out and battling the blues come the beginning of every November, due to the approach of my birthday. I am not all that wacky about anniversaries like that, moments where you can mark the passing of time. It freaks me out, to be honest. But anyway, I suddenly got OVER all of that, and decided, at the last minute, to invite everyone in my address book to join me for a beer, and celebrate my birthday.
There is no need for me to be haunted and bizarre and stressed-out every November. I can choose to change that pattern. And despite the last-minute-ness, despite the fact that most of them have spouses and kids, despite the fact that it was Friday night and every New Yorker always has his/her Friday nights booked months in advance ... everybody came out.
I was given Hostess cupcakes with 2 candles in them. So damn funny.
I am a very lucky woman.
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11/24/2002 07:42:00 AM