June 16th, 2004



So, that was interesting.

While riding into work, the iPod spit out one of the songs that was a particularly proud "find" of mine, one "Nessun dorma" as sung by Aretha Franklin, live at the Grammys. For reasons I can not explain, it makes me cry every single time I hear it. There's just something about it that touches me, and has since I first heard a few seconds of it on some "year in review" type show that same year (no, I don't really watch the Grammy's, or many other award shows. Too much fluff...).

Some time later, when I try to explain the song to people who haven't heard it, I referred to the stories I had pieced together from a multitude of suspect sources, namely that she was a last minute replacement for Luciano Pavarotti, and thus had to sing the song in HIS key... with only 45 minutes rehearsal.

It turns out (thanks to this yahoo article) that it was actually 45 minutes into the SHOW when the Tenor abruptly cancelled.... Aretha only had thirty minutes.

I have run into many postings about the web completely dismissing her performance, sometimes violently illustrating every perceived flaw, as if it were there god given right mission to save us all from imperfection... imperfection as they see it, at least. All other opinions are irrelevant.

What these cultural lobotomy cases seem (or choose) to forget is that their world is an artifice with absolutely no universal constant upon which to anchor itself; a frail attempt to control what is beauty, a fascist rebirth of solipsistic sophists -- Beauty is what we tell you it is.

The danger in that thought is it's self-referential nature: Once one realizes that beauty is relative, the thesis shatters. If it is real to you, it is your truth, and a part of reality.

I listen to that song and I imagine the moment, the chutzpah, the shock of the crowd. Those who would see their little clique invaded by people, like myself, who could honestly say we actively despised opera, only to be blown away by her performance, moved (as I said) to tears.

Maybe my ears are somehow aurally illiterate, little acoustic retards incapable of grasping the fine nuances that those who can toss around incredibly long words designs to label things as Bad, Good, or (most damnably) Adequate. I would prefer to think that it's more a case of allowing myself to be swept up by a moment captured by the magic of technology, taken on a brief trip to a place that makes my very soul quaver almost in sympathetic vibration, a secret chord that stirs you deeply.

I pity you who can not... WILL not... see what is beauty here. For those of you so crass as to attempt to sully my appreciation of the moment, I can but wonder why. Is it simple eagerness to show off your hard earned knowledge? Insecurity that what you judge to be the acme will be dismissed, just as you are so quick to dispose of?

The arbitrage of culture may never be completely eliminated -- the best we can hope for is that larger numbers realize that they can like what they like, and that others will have there own thing... and leave it the fuck alone.
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative
Yo Maniacal Tang

Bloomsday Is Nigh

Back in college we had a professor, a Richard Stack who was raised in Dublin and got his chops from Trinity College. So of course he was the go to guy for learning anything Joyce.

He had a course on Ulysses, as in the one book. I still have the companion book I bought for the course, "Allusions in Ulysses", a reminder of just how dense prose can truly be if one were to put one's mind to it. As one pundit has recently written, "It took Joyce 7 years to write the book, and some would say it takes that long to read it".

It's a classic example of how writers use their lives as a template for their work: The date of the book (June 16, 1904) is a commemoration of the day Joyce met the love of his life. One hell of a Valentine, don't you think?

Listening to Richard (yeah, he was THAT sort of professor) talk about the book was one of the high points of my higher education -- He had a bushy red beard and big toothy smile restraining (but only barely) that booming Irish voice. I still recall when one of the continuing education (read: retired) students wondered if the book was dirty hearing him laugh, proclaiming "Oh YES! It's a WONDERFULLY dirty book!"

I marveled when I realized that Mr. Bloom was clearly enamored of well rounded women, his fascination as he watched "two great hams" walking down the street away from him a clear mirror for my own feelings... and the felt shock at the thought that another human being had captured my thoughts as a young man years before I was born.

I won't argue whether this indeed was the pinnacle of 20th century literature: Frankly it may be centuries before we figure out what that was. I think the very fact that his influence keeps coming up, even if it's only to argue his validity all these years later, the fact that allusions TO Ulysses are rampant (you'll find it through out Firesign Theater and Monty Python's works) will keep the work alive for at least that long. I haven't read the book since that class, and am considering giving it another go, perhaps to see it two decades of life experience will make it any easier to digest.

And while I will raise a glass to author and his creation, I refuse to eat gorgonzola and mustard sandwiches. Oh, and to Richard Stack, where ever he is... hopefully still smiling, laughing, and exploring worlds of literature, the same guide into murky forbidding territory he was for me.

Oh, and to ditto the comment made elsewhere... be sure to say "Yes!" to someone you love tonight.
  • Current Music
    Roundabout - Yes*