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The Poetry of Hafiz

I'm reading a book of (mostly) love poems, called The Gift, by the great Sufi mystic Hafiz, from the 14th century. His poetry is really beautiful and the translation I'm reading makes it very easy and modern, which I have no problem with. A lot of the poems are these amazing odes to the spiritual nature of Love, and are just very pleasureable to read. Often he easily moves from that sort of serious and profound depiction of the divine to a really light, humorous, and witty line. Or sometimes an entire poem is really whimisical, like this one:

Everything is clapping today,

Light,
Sound,
Motion,
All movement.

A rabbit I pass pulls a cymbal
From a hidden pocket
Then winks.

This causes a few planets and I
To go nuts
And start grabbing each other.

Someone sees this,
Calls a
Shrink,

Tries to get me
Committed
for
Being too
Happy.

Listen: this world is the lunatic's sphere,
Don't always agree it's real,

Even with my feet upon it
And the postman knowing my door

My address is somewhere else.

Here's a fragment from one that's more on the serious/beautiful side:

We are like two cups of water
That God poured in a vase.
I am one with you beyond
Recognition.

Of course I should mention that that kind of love is pretty rare. It hasn't happened to me in many years. I just realized that it happened at all, reading my old journals last week. Reading those I understood, that more recent interactions were almost meaningless in comparison.

Cake

I keep stumbling on these songs i've been listening to for months but suddenly their lyrics just are clear and almost perfectly apropro for me right now, like this one by Cake:

To me, coming from you,
Friend is a four letter word.
End is the only part of the word
That I heard.
Call me morbid or absurd.
But to me, coming from you,
Friend is a four letter word.

When I go fishing for the words
I am wishing you would say to me,
I'm really only praying
That the words you'll soon be saying
Might betray the way you feel about me.

But to me, coming from you,
Friend is a four letter word.

Novel Done!!

novel
Well, I hacked out the final, gory, climactic chapter of my novel this morning, so now it is done, not only conforming to the word count goal but it is a complete story. I'm pretty happy with it.

I printed it out and am now in the process of actually reading it for the first time. it's 177 pages, at least as it is currently formatted. 53,900 words. Obviously it's very rough and I will now be revising it fixing stuff that i find wrong with it, and responding to comments on it.

I just hope that the person that a lot of it is based on will read it soon so that i can let the rest of the world read it soon after.

Jello Strikes Out

I went to see Jello Biafra live last night. I've been wanting to see him for like 15 years, and it ended up being an almost total disappointment.

He was so boring! I couldn't believe it. And he just sounded like any other activist wingnut ranter. If it wasn't for his history as god of punk rawk, he'd be a homeless guy in Oakland yelling at pigeons at the BART station. There was just nothing unique or compelling, much less remotely entertaining. I was falling asleep after about 30 minutes, left after another 10. oh man.

Off And Running

Well, National Novel Writing Month is off and running, 11 hours old, and I've already got over 2000 words done. I had some character sketches and some settings and a sort of general "situation outline" beforehand. I guess it's sort of going to be a weird mix of near-future science fiction, trippy burroughsian stream of conciousness weirdness, gonzo espionage political thriller, activism adventure, parody, romance and autobiography. I registered it under "literary ficition," whatever that means, I guess because I don't want to pigeonhole it under any other more well-defined genre.

I've got an excerpt up on my nanowrimo page. The nanowrimo site seems slow. Makes sense, there's tens of thousands of writers leaving the starting gate and logging in right now... I actually have 4 settings and 2 or 3 major characters introduced. The excerpt is focusing on just one major character and subplot, the one that contributes the espionage thriller part of the genre mix. The character is sort of an evolution of a character from a series of short stories I used to write when I was in high school/college and still did a lot of fiction writing.

Parentheses

I have a new favorite song, "Parentheses," by the Portland band The Blow. alert: that link is to a myspace page. again, let me say one more time, myspace fucking sucks. i've tried firefox and explorer and with both, clicking on the 'lyrics' links for songs doesn't do anything. do i have to use a windoze box just to read the lyrics to my new favorite song? goddammit. would someone else try it and if it works for you, cut and paste the lyrics into a comment here, or email them to me?

"When you're holding me, we make a pair of parentheses" is the key line. what an incredible lyric.

National Novel Writing Month

I'm going to write a novel next month. Every year when it comes around I want to do it. This time I'm going to. I was just reminded of it about 36 hours ago and decided pretty soon after that I'm going to go for it.

As soon as I decided, a flood of ideas have been bursting through my brain of what to write and how. I'm really excited.

You may think, wait, Steev, you're crazy, you keep complaining about how busy you are and you're going insane with stress from all the different things you're trying to do! What the hell?! Stop!

Well, yeah, but I've made an informal pledge to do semi-crazy things that I wouldn't normally do. Plus, I need some creative project that I'm excited about to get myself out of a hole I'm in, a hole named "only one thing makes me happy these days and that thing is getting scarcer and scarcer." Plus, I figure, if I spend about the same amount of time every day writing the novel that I spend blogging and journalling, that would probably be enough words to get it done. It shouldn't be that hard. 50,000 words in 30 days = about 1700 words a day. Piece of cake. It won't be a good novel, but as my friend mykle said, you have to commit yourself to finishing, not writing the best thing ever, and that's how to have fun with it.

I may post excerpts here or just links to excerpts on my page on the NaNoWriMo site, which is really a great, well-done site with cool functionality.

Wish me luck.

timelapse

my friend joel has been making amazing timelapse photography videos. They're really beautiful.

Retired Weapons

On The Magnetic Fields

I've been meaning to blog about the band called The Magnetic Fields for about a year now. I'm finally getting to it.

The Magnetic Fields is basically one genius songwriter with an amazing baritone voice, Stephin Merritt. I spent a year being annoyed by them, I think mainly because my music-geek hipster housemate at the time was obsessed with them. But recently I've become enamoured with this music. I still have mixed feelings about it, but I can't stop listening.

I think ultimately that this music is unhealthy. In fact, The Magnetic Fields have taught me, once again, and finally, that listening obsessively to pop music, really good, catchy, clever, profound pop music, when you're struggling through a new relationship that may or may not progress past a couple weeks, is a bad idea.

Why? Because no pop song, unless you write it yourself (and I know, I used to do it), is going to perfectly express how you feel at any one time about any other person. It will perhaps be some close fascimile. OR it may be quite far from the truth. But the music will be so fucking cool, and you will enjoy it so much, that the lyrics will start to leach into your brain and make you belive they are describing your situation.

I remember when I was about 15 years younger than I am now, and I was in a new relationship, and I was really really really into this awesome local band from Ann Arbor called Wig. They had a song called "All The Love in the World." The lyrics were pretty much just repetitions of the following: "He MIGHT have HER but I OWN THE STREET and if I SEE THAT motherFUCKER he's DEAD!" This was sung by the insane stage presence of Preston Cleveland, a whiskey-swilling maniac who later got kicked out the band because everyone else in the band were potheads. Anyway, I am not a violent person. I have never been in a fight. I have never physically hurt another human intentionally. I barely know which end of my fist to use in a punch. But at the time, since I was competing with a trombone player in a ska band for the hand of his woman, I really wanted to believe that I OWNED THE STREET AND IF I saw that motherFUCKER he would be DEAD. Because the song was so godamned cool. Luckily I didn't kill anyone, but it's really fucking fun to sing that song.

I was singing that song tonite, unfortunately, as I rode up 4th avenue.

But anyway. Stephin Merritt's songs are like that. They are so infectious, so cool, so hip, so FUN to sing, at least if you have vocal chords that can reach that low, which I am relatively proud to say that I do, mostly.

The problem is, the mixed feelings are, that I believe that Stephin Merritt is fucking with us all. He is purposely writing ironic, post-modern, snarky, hipster lyrics that fuck with your head to some degree. He is so overly clever, and so... calculated, that it at first turned me off to listen to his songs. And then, somehow, I was drawn in. I was already really getting into them but what really hooked me was this new relationship which I have frequently said too much of on the pages of this blog. And this relationship is/was way too wise and postmodern and clever for something like The Beatles, too exuberant for Death Cab, too intellectual for Prince but too hot for Built to Spill. No, it seemed, at the time, that the Fields were perfect, or at least 1 in 10 of their songs. maybe.

In the end the Magnetic Fields are a bad idea for someone trying to decide how they feel about a new lover or potential lover. How does one sing along to the words of "Crazy For You (But Not That Crazy)" or "I don't Believe in the Sun" without getting a distorted picture of reality, not to mention "I wish I had an Evil Twin?"

Some of the songs I think hipsters love just for their pure transgressiveness. Is it homophobic or homoerotic to enjoy singing the words to "I thought you were my boyfriend?" Enjoy for the pure pleasure of singing it but also for the naughty fun of singing along with a very male voice that's singing about his boyfriend? Perhaps The Magnetic Fields could be some sort of ambassadors of gay love, because all these songs are as touching and romantic as any traditional love song, but Stephin Merrit is gay and for the most part is singing about men.

I like your twisted point of view, Mike
I like your questioning eyebrows
You've made it pretty clear what you like
It's only fair to tell you now
that I leave early in the morning
and I won't be back till next year
I see that kiss-me pucker forming
but maybe you should plug it with a beer, cause
Papa was a rodeo
Mama was a rock'n'roll band
(from "Papa Was a Rodeo")

Occasionally he goes too far with his snarky irony, and his deft manipulation of genres and styles to create atmospheres and points, like with the song "Punk Rock Love", which is so clearly making asinine fun of punk music as to be really annoying.

Anyway, I've had 2 mojitos and so this review is now over. I will just conclude with the promise that the next time I start a romance, I'm not going to listen to anything but instrumental music at all. Because as Frank Zappa once said, "music can really fuck you up," and as Aeschylus or however you spell it once said, "With music, any words are good."

cause I don't want to get over love
I could listen to my therapist,
pretend you don't exist,
and not have to dream of
what I dream of
I could listen to all my friends
and go out again
and pretend it's enough
or I could make a career of being blue
I could dress in black and read Camus
smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth
like I was 17
that would be a scream
but I don't want to get over you
(from I Don't Want To Get Over You)

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