Gioachino Rossini’s (1792 – 1868) William Tell Overture has been seared into my memory thanks to the Lone Ranger & Bugs Bunny. Of course little of music in that overture actually appears in the opera. Imagine some soprano galloping to the galloping bit 🙂 I have that tucked away somewhere.
On an mp3 collection I have his String Sonatas, various Overtures, Piano Music, Barber of Seville Highlights, La Boutique Fantastique, Matinees & Soirees Musical & the Stabat Mater. At one time I wanted to hear behind the big hit so I added these to broaden my knowledge base. This is all pleasant orchestral, the paint music is romantic, I love the Stabat Mater. But the string sonatas are my particular favourite.
The version here is my lp to mp3 transfer from an MHS edition which I really loved loved loved. This is sweet, playful, happy music. Music I loved so much that I have two other versions of it as stand-alone double cds. All three are different but the same, different tempos, sound quality but great. I’d say by whom but that doesn’t matter. These sonatas would be fine by any string quartet. Get them.
Near Rossini on the shelf is Spain’s Pablo de Sarasate (1844 – 1908). I have two stand-alones of his Spanish Dances on violin one & the other on piano. The dances are fiery, romantic & energizing. Some of them are immediately recognizable even if you don’t know who the composer is. I have various versions of some of them on classical guitar, by string quartets, orchestras, harp, mariachi bands, worked into progrock noodling, jazz guitar, flute, sax. Music for the ages.
“The delay at the Bloor-Yonge station is static stacic static.”
Jan pulled her ear buds out to hear the announcement. Another delay! Oh, well, there never was a good time for the daily delay. Just what she needed. Keeping the subway running, people happy and people safe were a constant battle. Keeping them safe sometimes meant they would be unhappy. Delays made them very unhappy.
She wondered what was it this time. Hopefully not another jumper. No, the delay wasn’t long enough for that. She listened closely to the dispatch numbers. They weren’t calling for the track clean up crew.
The train started up. As it passed through bloor she saw police gathered around the men’s room door. Not worth getting off for. Crime on the subway wasn’t her beat. It wasn’t anybody’s beat.
There was this code of silence around so much public petty crime. If they reported it all, the paper would be twice a large and there weren’t enough advertisers to pay for the rainforest it would take to keep up on all the pick-pockets, purse snatching that went on.
They saved that valuable resource for real crime. Murder or assault. Stealing candy bars from the Gateway wasn’t real enough, anymore. Plus the more of that petty stuff that made the press the less people felt safe. Everyone wants to feel safe in a city this size. Especially when they were crammed together on public transit.
Though she never understood how some people found these things were so startling. It wasn’t as if assault was just invented. That this was the first time someone had been robbed.
Skin & Bones
taken for granted
all things fall
in place or out
but they fall
all the same
stumbling slowly through thick sunshine air
sky blue like an Egyptian ceiling painting
of a smiling, dying bull-crocodile god
trying to retain
in words or out
all the same
into more intensely abrasive catacomb
descriptions of finely stretched skin
over the most delicately carved bones
skin & bones
all one owns
to to the best
skin & bones
skin & bones
plain folk homes
beating & tearing
at sound-blistered ears
hunting & hiding
from forest fire fears;
confused by understanding
mother figures teaching fingers
how to phone home
every time that feeling
of being lost creeps in
to sooth these tired ears
that cannot bear to hear
of home or phones
rattling up & down
this old box of
skin & bones
all one owns
to to the best
skin & bones
skin & bones
plain folk homes
Another piece built on repetition, structure, & conflicting sensations – ‘abrasive’ ‘finely’. Echoes with no source or resolution. Verses start simple then stumble into complex syllables, allusions & confusing images so that ‘simplicity’ becomes ‘complexity’ so rapidly one never fully grasps the simple – it gets yanked out of your hands.
I was, still am, fascinating by the Egypt of the Kush. I watch endless documentaries on royal tombs, mummies, lost cities. On the east coast I read books on the Egyptian pantheon of god & goddesses. The story of Osiris was as compelling as the Christian beliefs that over-turned them. Sobek is the crocodile god, while Apis is the bull god. Why I put them together is lost to my memory 🙂
The chorus is a return to the simple. ‘catacomb’ contrasts with ‘plain folks homes.’ Also the realization that mummies, regardless of who they were, how old they were, how desiccated they were, they are still skin & bones. The same skin & bones we have today. The human body hasn’t undone any major structural change in the recorded history of mankind.
The second section steps away from simple to embrace busy images that flow in a dream like logic – blistered ears, to forest fires. Music has always played a big part in my life – I can remember coming back from hearing a live band with sound-blistered ears. As a drunk I sometimes suffered from telephonites – calling friends to maintain, create some contact, context – that I may have found but never really felt. In the end I was doing the best I could to feel at home in my own skin & bones.
I watch a fair number of movies on TV – mostly from TCM, some from my DVD collection. The routine in our house a movie from 5 – 6 Mon-Thurs. Friday’s we were watching Buffy episodes but have finished all 7 seasons! Now we’re working through Broadchurch – an hour of that a week is all I can take – too depressing. Almost at the end of season one, so no spoilers please.
Saturday is usual my 4 p.m. movie date with a friend. Saturday is the only day I usually see a movie all at once – he & I have watched classic queer films: i.e. Cabaret, Rocky Horror Picture Show, he has never seen & sprawling epics: Lord of The Ring, The Hobbit – those took two weeks per film. Also the Indiana Jones films. Here are some films I watched over the past summer.
Starting with some challenging French cinema. Most recent was ‘Pickpocket’. I loved the voice-over – every French film voice over makes me think of Last Year At Marienbad (which is a good thing as Marienbad is one of my all time favorite films). Pickpocket is low key, almost film noir, with terse dialogue that force the viewer to fill in the story. The same is true for ‘Paris Belongs To Us’ – even more so as one is never sure where this one is going as our heroine is on the trail of a political force that causes people who trail it to commit suicide – at least I think that’s what it is.
Out of Britain is ‘Girl With Green Eyes’ with the wide-eyed Rita Tushingham falling for an older man. Set in Dublin, or was it Belfast? It a curious coming of age story about a young girl & a writer (shades of Lolita). Not as grim as I expected & an interesting look at life at that time. Oi reminded me of ‘Loves of a Blonde’ a Czech film where a young girl who falls for an older man but with a more mordant tone. It was never easy being a young female.
Out of Asia came ‘YiYi’ (China) – fascinating, epic family drama set in modern times. Sprawling cast, fine performances, some amazing party arguments & young girls falling in & out of love. From Japan is ‘The Warped Ones’ (Japan) – set in late 50’s with an amazing jazz score your men, for a change, struggle for identity & meaning in a world they find meaningless. Amazing performances & a plot that takes illogical turns but I was willing to go there. From Korea is ‘The Maid’ – young girls fallen love with older men, again. She becomes his maid while his wife is pregnant. Odd plot twists & an ending out of the blue. Apparently this was inspiration for ‘Parasite.’
In the Italian ‘Seduced and Abandoned’ a young girl is seduced by her older sister’s fiancé & mayhem results. Funny, sad, & more proof of the difficulty of being a young female anywhere in the world.
I did watch some American films – Birdman which was the best film Robert Altman never made – done in Altman’s talk over, rapid fire, busy camera style this was a fun, if overly long, ride. I do love the behind the stage movie – a Hollywood cliche for decades. But I wanted to tell almost every character to shut the fuck up. Nearly everyone was irritating. The flying sequences were exactly out of my dreams.
Finally is Canada’s ‘Edge of the Knife’ Sgaawaay K’uuna. This is a masterpiece. Visually stunning. Beautifully performed & one everyone should see. I watched many more but these are ones I surprised by the emotional pull they achieved, some by disregarding narrative logic, some by singleness of creative vision, all worth seeing.
section six section seize
‘seize the moment in section six
you have to seize the moment
Jim starts a new song
‘you have to seize the moment
in section six’
I can hear him shout
through stage fog strobe lights
teeny bopper girls rush the stage
police men push them away
as he taunts flaunts
hurt lost shaman
like those silly little girls
I lust after that idol
I wonder what they saw
that day in Miami
if he did flash the iconic cock
I make my way though a light rain
everything is a line in a Saint Jim song
‘making my way
through cemetery rain’
I know he‘s here somewhere
I see mystic marks sprayed
momentos of worship
‘the blue bus stops near here’
the rain stops
and I am there
it’s not a monument
a flat grey space with a tombstone
his name wrong
James isn’t Jim
his bones beneath my feet
unless they’ve been stolen
relics in sacred altars
for those who think
they can petition this saint
a bunch of flower
some used condom lizard skins
‘lizard skins drying in the sun
show we have seized the moment’
I hear birds
then dozens of people
hiss of cameras
posers smile lean over the tombstone
stoke his name then gone
I seize my moment
shrug at the security camera
unzip my fly
to flash my cock
the only gesture of his I can duplicate
I love creating mp3 cds of mixed styles, generations & voices. On this one there is Carmen McRea, Anita Baker & Marianne Faithful. Can you imagine them doing an album together? Neither can I. I picked up a couple of 2nd Carmen’s lps decades ago & enjoyed them enough to transfer them to cd, then to mp3. I like her take on Alfie. The songs are jazz/pop standards & her style bridges jazz & pop nicely without becoming lounge. Not a mellow voice but pleasant enough. She’s in the Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson mold. Here I have: Sings The Great American Songwriters, Alfie, Portrait of Carmen.
I enjoy Anita Baker. She has a warm, sensual voice than could wring emotion out the phonebook (do they still publish phonebooks?). A female Barry White. She sings about love, unrequited, betrayed, lost, fulfilled & unexpected. The songs tend to merge into one another though – unless one is a real fan it is hard to tell them apart or even to tell which lp any one song is from. Comfortable, non-demanding easy-listening adult music. Psalms to codependency. Here I have Compositions, Rhythm of Love, My Everything. Copied from a friend’s collection.
Finally, as a real contrast to the other two, is Marianne Faithful’s Strange Weather. This is a stunning lp filled with songs like Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Her voice is astounding, her world-weary lived-in interpretation of these songs is dour but not defeated. I love this lp & the emotional depth & history she brings without making the work maudlin or depressing. As she sings ‘As Tears Go By’ you sense that she doesn’t regret crying but that she’s not crying anymore. She’s a survivor. A must have.
Jim had to piss. Badly. He cursed the extra large coffee in his hand. If he didn’t have this so called important meeting at work, he would have stuck to the usual medium but felt he needed that extra zip of caffeine to get through it. Now here he was in transit and needing to take a pee so bad he was tempted to find a corner on the subway car to do it. He’d had to take this leak for the last two stops. He had another dozen or so to go and knew he couldn’t hold it.
So against his better instinct he stepped off at the Bloor/Yonge station. He knew there were public washrooms there. The thought of going in there filled him with dread. Thousands of men a day went into this bathroom and the place had to be a cess pool of filth, stink & germs.
The washroom was tidier than he expect though, but busy. Men of various heights at all the urinals. It looked like the last toilet stall was unoccupied. Even if all the urinals had been free he would have headed for a stall. Privacy was the key in public places.
He could smell shit. The smell got stronger as he neared the stall. Just what he needed. Some people couldn’t flush. Was that why this one was unoccupied. He nudged it open with his elbow. His hands touched nothing. His foot slid a bit on the damp floor and he nudged the door with more force that he intended. Something stopped it from inside.
There was someone in there. The door bumped whomever it was on the head. The whomever slumped forward off the toilet pushing the door shut again. One arm slid into the next booth. The head protruded from under the door. It lay at a weird angle to the rest of the body.
Jim dropped his coffee and stepped back.
“There’s a body there.” He said to the man he bumped into.
The next stall emptied. Jim stepped in over the arm. Body or not he had to take a piss. Damned if he was going to wet his pants and then have to talk to the police.
Song With Coda
heard as echoes
over the windless
barren planes of speech
someday to find
the end of the sentence
before they die
of no one to listen
seen as mirrors
images of past mistakes
someday to find
the quiet surface
before they are blinded
by no one to see
used as tools
to wander aimlessly
over face & thighs
some day to find
some other warm body
before they wither
from no one to touch
felt as fears
repressing old guilts
in search of absolution
someday to find
the final tenderness
before they smother
from no way to express
as my voice cracks from calling
hands bleed from grabbing at straws
eyes are blinded in the search
emotions are blocked by futility
I will cry out
until I find a way of touching you
This is one of the earliest pieces in the collection & as such is the most revealing of young-man excess & emotional melodrama. Nicely over-written with more force than I possibly felt at the time. It’s difficult for me to see any specific influence beyond nameless prog-rock lyricists. It makes me think of the dance pose of reaching out to some imagined horizon for the unobtainable. Sound & fury signifying the need to impress readers with the use of language 🙂
I wanted to write a poem that would make someone fall in love with me. I wrote many variations with this subtext in mind, which knowing it was an impossibility. Language can lead to connection but isn’t a magic spell.
It is another of my imposed structure pieces ‘our noun verb noun etc’ that gives each verse a pattern of theme & variation. The theme being the search for something or someone & the inner obstacles that have to be dealt with to find it. Reading it now I cannot say what the object was then – other than sounding deep & philosophic about the plight of the love lorn. Another of the closet subtext pieces where gender is avoided.
It reflects my fears of ‘no one’ because at that time there was no person who was the focus of my affections. I had lusts, longings for some but the urge was physical not emotional. Then I still believed a relationship was the way to fulfillment. Today I know relationships can be fulfilling but real fulfillment is a spiritual journey 🙂
Heather Babcock’s Filthy Sugar is a noir window into a Wanda Wiggle’s life in the 30s – the writing is rich in hard-boiled dialogue, descriptions & situations. Set in the Toronto sex-trade of the time it is refreshingly non-judgemental, funny & at times sexy. Wanda does sort of wander through what we se of her life – an opportunity, & her overflowing bra, take her into the burlesque world.
At times Wanda reminded me of Playboy’s Little Annie Fanny – a buxom gal who innocently engages in sex & yet isn’t exploited or emotionally scarred by it. Matter-of-fact as opposed to unsavoury or shocking. Wanda has this same attitude & is aware & in control without being manipulative (unless pulling gun can be called manipulative) or deceitful. Heather builds a world that is true to the times but still has an element of fantasy that keeps it from feeling depressing or hopeless, which I suspect those times were. Characters are well-developed, situations are real & the emotion level is also real – no melodrama here. Check out her excellent blog https://meetmeatthesodafountain.home.blog .
From the 30s we move into the 40s – I was lead to Betty Bates: Lady at Law by The Stiletto Gumshoe‘s blog. I ordered the collection of complete stories from Amazon. It is full size pages but sadly in black & white. She is a kick-ass female lady, public defender at one point, district-attorney at another point. She battles gangsters, spies, mad scientists & the occasional unsavoury miscreant. There are enough great plots here for endless movies & I’m surprised she never made it to the screen.
Perhaps she was too independent for the male movie moguls to consider. Men are either villains or irrelevant, even her love interest goes undeveloped. No sidekick either. She gets into & out of jams mostly by her wiles & her martial arts skills. The drawings are classic comic book. The story writers & illustrators changed over the years. Some years she might have been naked except for a line drawn for hem & collar.
The collection is sweet though sadly the scans are not in colour, as the originals were, which results in more greys & blurred images. Also with her is Miss America: gifted with powers of the Statue Of Liberty she – fights criminals & spies. Fun rah-rah America propaganda. A collection worth checking out. The The Stiletto Gumshoe is another excellent blog.
the one area I feel empathy
for straight guys is
where are you supposed to look
when caught up
in a barrage of boob
focus on her eyes if you can
she doesn’t perceive
the wavering flickers
as you try not to get drawn down
it is easy to see how women
even when they object to it
how to pretend she isn’t pretty
that you find attractive
without being demonized
brow beaten by breasts
for being such a beast
there’s no way of making up for it
no affirmative action
removes the taint of having a dick
of having two competing heads to think with
of being faulted
for thinking with the wrong one
regardless of which one is being used
berated being opportunistic slaves
to base male instinct
all men are guilty
no way out no absolution
to be hormonally driven dick heads
is punishment enough
I have this simmering empathy
when I get caught
as they often do
try to make conversation
as subtle light shifts with each motion
as she pushes her hair behind her ear
try to focus on her words
try to ignore non-verbal communication
I’ve never heard a guy tell a woman
‘stop looking at my package
my eyes are up here’
yeah I know
eyes are the window to the soul
I don’t think either of us is
ready to go there
All of these, except the sunflower, are from my garden – most as I experimented with the camera’s close up function
Next on the shelf is a mp3 cd collection of radio fodder male singer/songwriters of the 70’s, with one exception. Here is Don McLean’s American Pie, Don McLean, Homeless Brother. Pie & Vincent are era defining songs that are used in countless movies for instant period ambiance – in fact all it takes is the ‘buy buy’ oops, I mean ‘bye bye’ & you know where your are in time. I loved that song. Vincent less so – too gentle & greeting card for me. McLean never matched this early success but continued to record. The self-named album sees him as a pop version of Noel Coward with fun songs two of which are worth tracking down: Narcisissma, On The Amazon. He’s sort of the US answer to Gordon Lightfoot 🙂
I loved Jim Croce. On this cd I have You Don’t Mess Around With Jim, I Got A Name, Life & Times. As a stand alone Photographs & Memories; Greatest Hits. His writing & music was emotionally accessible, unpretentious & catchy. He wrote about ordinary men & women with lived-in affection. Looking for the track listings for his lps I want to name check every song as they are each classics. The emotional directness of some of the songs can make me almost tearful. His unexpected death in 1973 at 30 ended an amazing career.
Also inescapable was Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky. The album is sweet folksy, slightly psychedelic & fun with of course his big hit. Canned Ham his second ‘hit’ was good. He recorded a few more stepped lps then back – the music industry wasn’t for him. The same is true for Scott McKenzie: The Voice Of … smash hit with If You’re Going – that road the crest of flower power sweetness – the album is a tad bit darker but those flowers lost their petals, as it were. Thanks to Papa John Phillips he (& Barry McGuire) fill blanks in the Mamas & Papas catalogue nicely. In fact Scott became a member of that group for awhile.
Lastly in this compilation is Elmore James: The Final Sessions. I wanted something to balance out the flower power weight of the other performers & this set. James is a true blues slide guitar magician. Only one album by him was released during his lifetime. This set collects his final two sessions from February 1963 in New York City, and he would be dead within three months of a heart attack at the age of 45. Timeless music.
The Kick Outside
On the subway the little girl kicked me in the ankle. She was about six but at that size and age who can really tell except a parent. I’m no parent. She was one of the prime reasons I wasn’t interested in being a parent.
I said, “Stop.”
She laughed and kicked me again.
I looked for a parent. Across the aisle was a woman beaming at her cute little girl, smiling at me to indulge the little sweet thing.
The little sweet thing had on patent leather shoes. Black shiny hard. As she was about to kick me again I gently pushed her back.
“Stop that.” I said.
The mother glared me.
‘“How dare you touch my child. Keep your hands to yourself.”
“Tell your child to keep her feet to herself.”
“You perverted slime ball.” The mother stood. “Touching my child. Don’t think you’re going to get away with that.”
Grinning, the child kicked me harder. People looked at us. The little girl began to cry.
‘“Look what you’ve done! Hold him there while I get the police.”
Two large men appeared and held me by the shoulders.
“The child was kicking me and I pushed her away.” I explained as they pulled me off at the next stop.
“She musta had a reason to kick you, you asshole. Your type makes me sick.” One of the men grunted.
They held me there for about ten minutes until the subway police showed up to see what the fuss was. The woman and child where gone. The guys holding me admitted they saw nothing.
When I got home there was a bruise on my ankle.