I expect most of my readers have already seen Amanda Gorman’s performance of her poem ‘The Hill We Climb’ at Joe Biden’s inauguration as President of the USA earlier this week. (And even though of course President Biden won’t be the answer to all our prayers, it’s still a thrill to write those words in that sequence: (President Joe Biden.)
Amanda Gorman was an inspired choice. She’s youth poet laureate, and even if she’d read something trite, and read it badly, the symbolism of a 22-year-old African-American woman reading a poem she had written from that platform would have been amazing. But it’s a terrific poem, and her performance was/is thrilling. Confession: I could hardly listen to the words the first time, because I was enthralled by her brilliantly eloquent hands. As my regular readers will know, I’m a bit attached to rhyme. The rhyming in ‘The Hill We Climb’ is really something. For just one example, I love:
It's because being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it
Yesterday afternoon I was planning to spend an hour or so at our nearest railway station handing out leaflets for Friday’s Global Climate Strike, but the weather was terrible and I’m trying to shake off a virus so I stayed warm and dry instead.
Please accept this terrific video, words by the Peace Poets, in lieu of a leaflet, and consider responding to the students’ invitation.
The Sydney strike is at midday at the Domain. It’s politely out of the way and non-disruptive but the students are hoping to fill the vast space with people trying to inspire out governments to face reality. Details are at schoolstrike4climate.com/sept20.
In case you missed it, Karl Kruszelnicki has gone public with his views of the Intergenerational Report: ‘It should have acknowledged that climate change is real, and that we cause it, and that it’s going to be messy.’
The US politician Anthony Weiner outdid even Shane Warne or Peter Slipper in having sexting behaviour exposed to the harsh glare of public scrutiny. A recent issue of New York City newspaper The Villager has an article by K Webster, ‘Wounded Weiner just a symptom of society’s isolation‘, that looks past the scandalousness of it all to what it means about men in our societies. Given that very few of my readers are likely to read The Villager, I thought I’d point you to it:
Men are set up to be isolated. Thus they are often plagued by a seemingly endless quest to staunch insecurity and loneliness through some version of sexual contact. Too often, the search winds up landing them in the arena of the sexual exploitation of women. Lots of guys are derailed by the billion-dollar sex industry (or by self-driven intrigues) while seeking the very real human need for touch. Usually it ends in settling for the illusion of contact — a numbing or briefly satisfying relief.
Anthony Weiner got busted for his oddly disconnected effort at connection. Although self-driven, it happened in the context of a highly sexualized society that keeps men manipulated and preoccupied.
Profit seekers deliberately and increasingly entwine sex with the hardwired need for closeness. It sells. It tantalizes. It promises excitement in a seemingly dreary landscape. But despite the ads, commerce really doesn’t belong in between two people’s liking/loving/wanting each other. And trying to use the act itself or hints of it to avoid loneliness is a bit of a dodge. In a better world, the use of sex as a weapon of mass distraction would be seen for the aberration it is. Sex can give us back our sense of closeness, the goodness of life and passion. But really, when the sex is good, it almost wasn’t the point.
(Footnote: I accidentally uploaded this from my iPad when it was just a title. That minimal post provoked a comment about Syria: which makes me think that K Webster’s description of the porn industry as a weapon of mass distraction has profound implications. Imagine if the time and attention currently soaked up by porn was directed to, say, creating world peace, preserving the environment, ending racism … !)
Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlanticreflects on what he was thinking ten years ago:
Back then I was seized with a deep feeling that what I thought did not matter much. …
I was skeptical of war, but if the U.S. was going to take out a mad tyrant, who was I to object? And more, who were you to object? I remember being out during one of the big anti-war protests and watching the crowds stream down Broadway. I remember thinking, ‘You fools believe that you matter? You think what you’re saying means anything?’
In fact it meant a lot. It meant that you got to firmly and loudly say, ‘No. Not in my name.’ It meant being on the side of those who warned against the seductive properties of power, and opposing those who would bask in it. It also meant pragmatism. …
And finally it meant the election of the country’s first black president whose ascent began at an anti-war rally in Chicago.
I say all this to say that if I regret anything it is my pose of powerlessness — my lack of faith in American democracy, my belief that the war didn’t deserve my hard thinking or hard acting … I am not a radical. But more than anything the Iraq War taught me the folly of mocking radicalism. It seemed, back then, that every ‘sensible’ and ‘serious’ person you knew – left or right – was for the war. And they were all wrong. Never forget that they were all wrong. And never forget that the radicals with their drum circles and their wild hair were right.
I’ve been helping the Art Student upload some video taken at ArtRage, a recent gathering of ‘prominent’ artists to express concern over the NSW government’s attack on art education in TAFE. Although some press representatives were there, and others had said they would be, the mainstream media ignored the event. So much for the media power of prominent visual artists in New South Wales.
All of that gives added poignancy to this YouTube clip showing an encounter between rapper Jay-Z and a ‘sweet little old lady’, via the Rachel Maddow blog (the shorter clip may have been removed from YouTube, so I’m linking to the whole short documentary, Where I’m From; the bit I mean starts at about the 16:50 mark and goes for just a minute or so):
The little old lady is artist Ellen Grossman, evidently well-known on the art scene. It wouldn’t be too hard to imagine a similar encounter between one of ArtRage’s participants, say Elisabeth Cummings, and, um, Guy Sebastian.
The New York encounter has a further resonance with current events in New South Wales. Ellen Grossman did her undergraduate studies at Cooper Union in New York City, where there is currently a fight going on over the imposition of student fees. The video at that last link is fun, if you’ve got a 4 minutes and 50 seconds to spare.
Just in case you haven’t been following the fabulous response to Alan Jones’s colourful pronouncement that women are destroying the joint, I recommend you have a look at the Twitter hashtags #destroythejoint and #destroyingthejoint. Oh how much better exuberant sarcasm and just plain fun and celebration is than outraged defensiveness!
There’s a great photo gallery at Daily Life. I particularly like the images of Marie Bashir, Eva Cox and Penny Wong.
It seems appropriate when writing about her to move into too-much-information mode, so let me say that I first heard her music after a sexual embarrassment. My companion got out of bed, turned on the light, put an LP on the stereo and played ‘Don’t Put Him Down’ from Mary C. Brown and the Hollywood Sign.
I can’t say that it relieved my chagrin, but it did make me a fan.
There’s an obituary in today’s Sydney Morning Herald, truncated from the Guardian, and a much more comprehensive and better informed one in the New York Times. Both the Herald and the Times mention Joby Baker, her husband since 1986, but neither tell us anything she did since she married him. The full Guardian obituary does mention Planet Blue (a musical protest against the invasion of Iraq, which you can download from the link) and her two volumes of autobiography. Astonishingly, one of the bits that the Herald omitted was her collaboration with Andre Previn in 1996, surely something that gives shape to a story that otherwise is a parable about the dangers of psychiatric drugs.
She did a long interview with Bernadette Cahill in 2005, in which she comes across as a bit scattered, but very much alive. It’s in two parts here and here.
A weirdly lit, weirdly shot, weirdly constructed showcase for Bob Dylan doing some weird revisionist versions of some mostly-early songs. Not a pleasant experience, more like a deliberately alienating one.
This 15 part documentary series looks fabulous. Interesting tidbit from the second episode: the early Hollywood industry was woman dominated – most of the scripts were written by women. Only when it came to be seen as a huge money-maker did the men with money move in and take charge. The perspective is global, deliberately not US-centric.
Though written and directed by other people, this is a Seth Rogan project. He plays Herschel Greenbaum, a Polish-Jew immigrant to the US who falls into a pickle vat in 1919 to emerge unchanged in 2019. He also plays Ben Greenbaum, Herschel's app-developing great grandson. It's a comedy that has one or two laughs, and plunges unconvincingly into que […]