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Friday, March 16, 2007

Bad Poetry, Oh Noetry!

These profound observations come from the prolix pen of England's Alfred Austin (1835-1913) who is not only responsible for a lot more poetry but also some plays and an autobiography.

from "The Wind Speaks"

The flocks of the wandering waves I hold
In the hollows of my hand,
And I let them loose, like a huddled fold,
And with them I flood the land.

Till they swirl round villages, hamlets, thorpes,
As the cottagers flee for life:
Then I fling the fisherman's flaccid corpse
At the feet of the fisherman's wife.

And now we go from crappy and sad to flat out wrong. Next we have E.E. Bradford standing firmly against women's rights. Wow. I don't even know what to say. I'll let him speak for himself.

from "The Tree of Knowledge"

Canto XI "Equality"

In a sense a bee may be
Equal to an elephant,
Seeing she can certainly
Do a score of things he can't:
All the same the fact remains
She has not his force or brains.

That evening when the girls and Ray
Resumed their regulated play,
The lusty lad, more lightly dressed
Rolled up his sleeves and bared his chest.
A sister served: the boy returned.
A ball came bounding back and burned,
As if red-hot, her dainty cheek
She cried and raved. Ray did not speak,
But let the girls, like angry bees,
Swarm round and sting them at their ease
And when they all had said their say,
He simply bowed, and stolled away.

'I can sting; you can't,'
The bee said, 'and I'll do it.'
She stung the elephant.
He never knew it!

But soon by chance the burly brute
In passing crushed her with his foot.


I know a guy who has a degree in zoology. I think Bradford has an inaccurate understanding of swarming.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Intertext and the mouths of babes

Sometimes drafting an essay can really make you ponder the profound things of God. Well, not usually, but sometimes.

In his award winning film The Sweet Hereafter, Atom Egoyan parallels aspects of his narrative with text from Robert Browning's The Pied Piper of Hamelin. One scene depicts the character Nicole Burnell (Sarah Polly) reading the Browning poem to two children that is babysitting. The story goes like this: The town of Hamelin becomes infested with vermin. They hire the piper to rid the town of the vermin with his charming pipe music. He does the job splendidly. When he asks for the payment he was promised, the mayor refuses and begins to insult him. The saddend piper turns and walks out to the street and begins to play his pipe. As he plays, all of the towns children come out and begin to follow him. He leads them up the side of a mountain and

A wonderous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern was suddenly hollowed,
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.

So, I am writing a paper on the intertextuality in the The Sweet Hereafter. (I'm also commenting on Egoyan's heavy use of Tragically Hip songs. Cool.) I was watching clips from the movie (that I've seen a million times) when a line really surprised me. As Nicole (Polly) is reading the poem to the children, the boy interupts and asks, "Nicole, did the Piper take the children because he was mad the town didn't pay him?" Nicole answers, "Yes." The boy continues, "If the Piper knew magic, why couldn't he use his magic to make the people pay him?"

The Sweet Hereafter is a story that is centered on a school bus accident in which the boy above and his sister and many of the towns children die.

I am not saying that God is just like the Pied Piper. One of the interesting things Egoyan does in the film is constantly transition between scenes by having the camera pan up into the sky as if it is looking for God. The boy's question really gets to the heart of the pain we feel when life really hurts and absolutely unexplainable things happen. In a strange sort of way, Mason's question (that's the boys name in the film) really made me think about how much I really believe and even more how much I live like I believe that God is completely in control.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Thinking about some recent tunes

Lydia recently posted her initial thoughts on the new Arcade Fire release, Neon Bible. I spent some time reading the lyrics and listening to the songs today. I didn't find that the album was as full of jabs as it was full of complele disallusionment stemming from the void of any place to look for direction. Who is going to reset the bone? The sarcasm and cynicism is often directed at the emptiness and failure of all of the things that still claim to offer meaning and truth.

It is not a very hopeful record. You’re still a soldier in your minds but nothing's on the line." "Hear the soldier groan we’ll go at it alone.

I guess you could read into the lyrics a conversion to atheism. They say, You’re working for the church while your life falls apart. Hear the soldier groan we'll go at it alone. The airy female vocals on "Black Waves/Bad Vibrations" cry, Ce sera un long voyage sur les vagues de l'oubli. A long voyage into nothingness, oblivion, the forgotten.

This album expresses sentiments very similar to those of the recent Of Montreal disc. The most catchy track by far, "Gronlandic Edit," starts with the poetic voice talking about shutting himself up in a friends apartment because all he knows are "absent minded" days and anxious nights. He then says,

I guess it would be nice to give my heart to a god
But which one which one do I choose?
All the churches fill with losers, psycho or confused
I just want to hold the divine in mine
And forget all of the beauty's wasted

I don't think I need to comment on those lines. A few lines later,

All the party people dancing for the indie star

but he's the worst faker by far but in the set,
I forget all of the beauty's wasted

He seems to speak of himself and admits his impotence in directing anyone towards meaning and true joy. In the song "A Sentence of Sorts In Kongsvinger" he says, you turn the dial, I'll try and smile. The lines of another song on the disc say,

Throw it all in my face, I don't care

Let's just have some fun, let's tear this s*** apart
Let's tear the f***ing house apart
Let's tear our f***ing bodies apart
But let's just have some fun

This is the nonexistence of meaningful action.

The best question I think I have heard in a while is: Who is going to reset the bone?

Who is answering this question?


After thinking about these songs some more I've thought a few more things. I am a little more inclined to see the hope that Justin pointed out. It is just that line, Who's gonna reset the bone? Musically, the line stands out because of his change in pitch. The "bone" line seems to rise above the rest at that point in the song. His soldier imagery also shows a move from meaningless action, in the words nothing is on the line, to a kind of progress. Though this progress is lonely and expressed with a "groan," it still suggests movement.

Cool. Good music.

Hissing Fauna (Of Montreal) takes an interesting turn about half way through the album; it is sometime after the song "The Past is a Grotesque Animal." The second half of the album seems to pick up where they left off in the first where they suggest that we've got to keep it physical. This is followed by these lines,

We've got to keep our little click clicking at 130 b.p.m.
It's not too slow
If we've got to burn out, let's do it together
Let's all melt down together

This sounds like Edna St. Vincent Millay. Actually, after the middle part of the album which talks about crisis, drepression in Norway, disallusionment over religion, and a cry to the death of beauty, the album takes on very Millaysian (is that a word?) tone. What I mean by Millaysian is language with highly sexual metaphore and allusion. This doesn't surprise me because in an earlier song they make an allusion to Ulysses (a nearly unintelligible James Joyce novel).