Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Some very weird shit going on

It's like cuz, see I was like, there's this coffee I was trying to drink, and the coffee's like, "UH", and I'm like, "yah", and the coffee's like, "BLUH", and I'm like, "aaah," and

and it's like I can't get any coffee and I'm like come on. And the coffee's like

So I'm like, when am I going to get my FUCKING COFFEE??

This is just some kind of weird shit.

Post-blog note. In case you think my entire blog has been taken over by bizarre reversing gifs, you'd be right. Mine are just so-jesusly-much better than the ones you steal off of Google Images. I ought to sell these, except that they aren't really mine.


Silent night (at the opera)

Mark Twain once said about Wagner's Gotterdammerung:  "Some music is  better than it sounds."

To illustrate his statement, let's NOT hear some of the world's greatest tenors.

You can dress 'em up, but you can't take 'em out.

The resemblance to Al Jolson is purely coincidental.

I'm not sure, but I think he likes her.

Keep practicing, maybe you'll get it right. . . 

What can I say but. . . Bravo!

Monday, April 29, 2013

More degrees of separation

You shouldn't ought-a start looking at pictures of people like Caruso. . .

(Were we looking at Caruso?)

. . . cuz as soon as we start to look at pictures of people like Caruso, it reminds us of somebody else. . .

. . . who wasn't really a tough guy, but was pretty good at playing one. . .

Like-a-da so.

But then, there was this guy who really WAS a tough guy. . .

(but of course we all know he was framed)

. . . and den dis other guy who looks suspiciously like someone else we know. . .

one Charlie The Gent:

"Wow, Charlie."

. . .and then this really strange one, but the pinstripes match. . . he rode in a cab once. . . and as for social deviation, his penmanship is lousy. . .

. . . but the resemblance to Satan is indisputable. . .

This is it (so you'd better listen!)

Well, this is it. I promised myself I wouldn't post 29 versions of Vesti la Giubba, so I had to choose one. So many of them have things to recommend them. Bjoerling even had tears streaming down my face from his tender pronunciation of  "Columbina" (the wounded core of the aria) and the tiny, bewildered, hopeless head-shake that went with it. Kudos also to Placido Domingo for staging it "properly", not IN costume but looking at his costume (and himself) in utter contempt.

Most of these don't have a visual, which meant I wasn't as distracted, and most also have shitty sound quality, which is too bad. I try to imagine this one with pristine modern acoustics. More than that, I try to imagine being in the room with him. I've never experienced it, but I have heard the power and beauty of being close to a superb singer is unbelievable.

There are many versions of Lanza singing this, since it's kind of the old nag of opera, and he sounds different in each one. I think "classical" singers scorned him because he "went Hollywood", made a whole lot of highly sentimental films (still worth watching for the singing) and record albums of popular music that sold like mad.

I don't know what I think of him as a person, and he died awfully young, his health destroyed mostly by booze and food. Some of the singers I heard today had better (smoother, more melodious, or even more powerful) vocal equipment, and a few were better actors (Domingo!), but this version has a nearly-crazed quality, a sense he is about to break loose and do something absolutely terrible. Which is what Pagliaccio is all about. He just sings it, letting the music produce the drama. Bravo, bravissimo.

Laugh, laugh, I thought I'd die

Recitar! Mentre preso dal delirio,                                
non so più quel che dico,                                              
e quel che faccio!                                                        
Eppur è d'uopo, sforzati!
Bah! sei tu forse un uom?                                            
Tu se' Pagliaccio!                                                      

Vesti la giubba,
e la faccia in farina.
La gente paga, e rider vuole qua.  

E se Arlecchin t'invola Colombina,                            
ridi, Pagliaccio, e ognun applaudirà!
Tramuta in lazzi lo spasmo ed il                                
in una smorfia il singhiozzo                                        
il dolor, Ah!
Ridi, Pagliaccio,                                                      
sul tuo amore infranto!                                            
Ridi del duol, che t'avvelena il cor!                            

To recite! While taken with delirium,
I no longer know what it is that I say,
or what it is that I am doing!
And yet it is necessary, force yourself! 
Bah! Can't you be a man? 
You are "Pagliaccio"! 

Put on the costume,
and the face in white powder.
The people pay, and laugh when they please. 
And if Harlequin invites away Colombina 
laugh, Pagliaccio, and everyone will

Change into laughs the spasms of pain;
into a grimace the tears of pain, Ah!
Laugh, Pagliaccio,
for your love is broken!
Laugh of the pain, that poisons your

POST-POST. This is a strange one, a discovery that happened late at night. I
NEVER used to stay up so late, so I'm not sure what's happening to me. I get a
little delirious.

Clowns obsess me, and most of them creep me out. His Milks, Milky the Clown, has to be the creepiest, in part because he wears a traditional Pagliaccio white ruffled costume with a pointy hat that reminds me of nothing more than a KKK uniform.

While dredging through old files to see what might be worth resurrecting, I came across a strange thing: the Italian words to Vesti la Giubba (perhaps the
best-known operatic aria, sometimes known erroneously as Laugh, Clown, Laugh) down the left side of the page, with a line-by-line English translation
on the right.

I was struck by the symmetry of it, and the startling nature of the literal
translation. "Recitar!" literally means "recite", or in a broader sense, "tell
it" or "perform it" (a "recital" isn't reciting, after all, but a public
performance). Put it out there, not just the clown show, but - tell them, or
perhaps (I don't know enough Italian) "tell them your story, you cowardly
bastard (referring to himself). I may be way off in all this, of course, in
which case "recitar!" says it all.

I decided to dig up some old footage of Caruso, if it existed, and hit pay dirt
right away, with an eerie clip of him performing Vesti in full Milky the Clown
garb. This footage has a dreamlike quality that I played around with, reversing
the video in places to make a sort of loop. Then I thought of the heartbreaking
performance of Placido Domingo, who stages it the RIGHT way for once.

Instead of coming onstage already wearing his "motley", he picks up the limp rag of costume and looks at it in loathing, nearly tearing it apart at the end before dragging it offstage behind him like chains. While he sings, he looks at himself in the mirror and smears white greasepaint on his face in despair. Though my Italian is limited to three words (amore, Lamborgini and Chef Boy-Ar-Dee), even Ican tell that "vesti la giubba" is in the imperative: "put on the costume, you idiot, it's time to get out there again even if your heart is falling out of your chest". This betrays, heartbreakingly, Pagliaccio's 
self-loathing and despair.

This is a slightly different version of Vesti. It's silent. Well, why not? Why
can't we have a silent aria? Because it's idiotic, no doubt. The music is

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A bad idea whose time has come

By now you might have guessed that I like making "giffs", as they're called by us tekkies. Until I was sternly reprimanded by Sheldon of The Big Bang Theory, I always used to called them G. I. F.'s, sort of like T. H. E. Cat (my favorite show ever). At any rate, I have a tendency to make these late at night, losing track of time until I am too tired to even feel it any more. On my giffinator site, it says I can now "reverse and append", and this worked out nicely with my homage to my favorite automobile (next to the one in My Mother the Car). . .


The Edsel, while plug-ugly, expensive and prone to breaking down, was pushed as the Next Great Thing in lugg-zhurry cars, in 1956 or whenever it was. It had that stretched-out powerboat look that stayed around until well into the '70s, vestigial fins, and something like a toilet seat stuck on the front (also described by critics as a horsecollar, a sewer drain and a metallic cunt). Never mind! The Ford company was sure this was going to be "it", the best thing to chug along the turnpike since the Model T.


Didn't happen.

Yes. This is about as far as the Edsel got.

If you just wanted to drive it up and down your driveway and never go anywhere, it might work out OK, but if you got halfway down the street, the neighbors might start to talk.

- Oh Lor', what IS that plug-ugly thing?

- Is that a - no, is that a - a -

- A metallic - 

However, this clip demonstrates the Edsel would probably be pretty efficient at running over your neighbor if you didn't like him.

What I love most about the Edsel is that it's self-aware. It knows where it's going. It knows its own future, in fact. How many of us can say that of ourselves? Can we look into the mists of the unknown and realize what Fate has in store for us?

The Edsel knows. Uh-uh.

A Little Bitty Tear (and/or: a special guest appearance by Matt Paust!)

Sylvania (found poem: I must have written this sometime)


I have dwelled in the land of     don’t want to
Very long, and find now I can trudge sunwards
If I try real hard

(But I must try real hard)

I had the wrong heroes when I was a girl, the
Joplin curse,
the Sexton disaster,
and Plath most of all. That Sylvan creature: a spirit that lives in or frequents the woods
and surely, her best bursting blackberrying poems glistened with the slippery reality of nature.



I always thought in terms of an Autoplatt, an Automat, some autocratic near-Nazi standing at the blackboard with glistening blue eyes. Well, what did she know about his intellect anyway? Only that his foot rotted off, had to be lopped, but it was too late,

Because Autoplatt had decided to die.

To die, to die, to die

Because Plath had decided to die.

Death ripples along, unfortunately, vibrates sympathetically like a guitar string,
While the rest of the family clutches itself and can’t breathe.
No, no, not another suicide, this one I can’t bear,
Not Assia, that bitch, we knew she was evil,
And the villagers never liked her
Surely even the weirdest witch wouldn’t take a toddler with her

What if that girl had grown up? But she didn’t.

Sylvia, she of Sylvania, vain and full of mania
Was called “Sivvy” as a child, and maybe it’s more appropriate,
Since she was something of a sieve: all affection drained away.
Hey, how does this shit happen anyway? Is it a defective switch, some faulty wiring that can be fixed with a drug, a plug, electric slug?
Does it run in the blood, worm through the spiral of DNA, scream through the genes?
The circular path is a dizzy one, and it’s easy to get lost.
And look at the cost.

Sylvia, Sylvania, creature of the night, firefly, Tinkerbell,
Enchanted woodland sprite,
We saw you in your sweaters, all angora, and that lipstick like Lana Turner,
And the cinched-in belt, and the claim of biting Ted’s cheek until it bled
As if to say: Look how sexual I am, look what an animal.
Did she ever really have an orgasm?

When famous, poets take on a robe, become the thing they are painted to be.
This was just beginning to happen.
But by the time fame came, it was too late, her heart had been removed again
But this time not shoved back in upside-down.

“If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two,” she bragged in her manifesto of paternal hate: as if Ted Hughes had been rammed down her throat, as if she had no choice. She could have picked a faithful, more generous man. Could she? Would she? But she picked another poet. Was she mad, I wonder?

What is crazy? The categories bleed into each other. Plath was this, she was that. Today she’d be bipolar, because it’s the diagnosis du jour. And lithiumed, and Seroquelled, or even Lamotrigened. Purists would say this would kill her art for good.

Better to be walking around, so you can at least feed your kids grilled cheese sandwiches instead of leaving them there like some primitive beast rejecting your young?

Oh no, she had to live on her terms! But what terms? And do you call this living?

Make great art, kill yourself. Make great art, kill yourself. Then study biology and kill yourself, the same fault line cracking through the sweet little boy who knew nothing.

I hate this, I want it gone. I hate life too, I’ve tried to die, but it was sickening, embarrassing, I was no good at it. I have only spurts of joy in living, but I have them. I am happy “in” certain things. Not the rest.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

My God, my God: the falling Wallendas

I don't know what it is about me. Just me? Look at reality TV. We all have this instinctive inner urge to ogle, to goggle. Other people's disasters fascinate us.

I was tempted to (but didn't) post a horrific 15-second YouTube clip of the patriarch of the Wallenda family attempting to walk a wire stretched between two high-rise buildings. He lost his balance, slipped, fell and hit the pavement. But even that isn't the worst part. Two guys are just standing around talking. Obviously they saw what happened - wouldn't the whole world be watching this incredible stunt? - and it doesn't even occur to them to try to help.  In the next second, twenty people run frantically toward the now-expired body. But what was up with those two guys?

Just looking at a picture like this makes me queasy.

How could anybody find it enjoyable to watch this? For that matter, why did people used to (and still do, I hear) attend executions of death-row criminals? Why do we go to movies that scare the bejesus out of us, even pay good money for it?

Here are the Wallendas walking the wire at Detroit's Shrine Circus in 1962. They always worked without a net. Nets were for amateurs and sissies.  I never attended the Shrine Circus (I hated that smell of animal dung and the sweaty frightening clowns), but I could have. I lived close enough to Detroit that when the ground rumbled, our teacups began to rattle. In this photo, it's obvious already that things are going perilously wrong. The quivering symmetry of the first shot is coming undone.

What happened? Post-disaster, one of the Wallendas claimed it was the man at the top of the pyramid. Quite simply, he lost his grip. With all that weight on both sides, a deviation of a fraction of a centimeter meant doom. It must have happened that night.

Obviously a few reporters were there, smoking cigarettes, taking swigs from hip flasks as they covered the most boring public event of the year. But suddenly, the cameras couldn't snap fast enough.

An interjection. There's something funny about these two pictures. That banner behind the woman was supposed to be horizontal. Here it's wildly askew. Someone tilted their camera, obviously, to make the shot look more dramatic. Here (below) is the same shot, rotated to normal: obviously the woman wasn't careening down at an angle, but being carefully lowered on a wire. The position of her hands makes that obvious. Like anyone who parachutes, an aerialist would be prepared for an eventual/inevitable fall, and certainly would NOT fall feet-first!
The more I look at this, the more I see the essential phoniness and dishonesty of the press. If the woman were actually falling, she would not be looking down at the ground at this angle. The corrected shot is almost like another picture. Her legs are relaxed and dangling, whereas her arms are flexed as she holds on. For shame, Detroit News.

Call this the Day of the Jackal. The carnage was laid out for everyone to see. The Detroit News went on and on about it, pages and pages. Were there video clips? I think so, but not on YouTube. I've seen a couple seconds of it on documentaries about the Wallendas. It's horrendous.

This catastrophe put Detroit on the map and was the biggest thing to happen to the entertainment industry since Milky's Party Time.

But think of the audience.

Think of the sickening screams, the horror, the disbelief. the bizarre part of the mind that insists, "Oh, it's all part of the act" (like people today, caught in terrorist attacks, who without fail say afterwards, "I thought I was in a movie").

And the children. It wasn't common then to explain anything to them. (Still isn't, if you ask me.)  If we didn't talk about it, it just went away. Imagine the racing heart and overwhelming dread, that little spot of horror deep inside, never healed, just crouching there, while the adult wonders why he has heart disease, why he's so afraid of  heights.

Couldn't that buried trauma, like a tiny earthquake vibration gradually growing stronger and stronger, eventually crumble the core of a human being? Couldn't it? We call it "psychosomatic illness". I call it the human sickness, the thing that might just finish us after all.

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