Road trip songs

On the drive back Danny played me some of a new Pet Shop Boys album in which they sing about social media (rhymed with Wikipedia, and greedier). They were so bad that we started making up new lyrics like “Get off my lawn” and “I used to be in a disco, now I’m on the city council”, “It’s so irritating when people don’t use their turn signals on these horseless carriages” and “Just let me sing another didactic bad internet song”.

“I was hoping for something more dreamy and poetic,” I complained.

Danny explained that Britain is too upset for that right now. Makes sense I guess.

We then played “It’s a Sin” to get back into the proper Pet Shop Boys loving frame of mind.

Mommy, What’s a Funkadelic?

Reading George Clinton’s book Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?: A Memoir & it’s so entertaining. Of course Clinton can tell a great story, just a fantastic writer. I’m listening to Funkadelic as I read.

I spent the afternoon working from Noisebridge & then stayed a little to work on my game. Wrestling with the rules for rideable vehicles and elevators that are also vehicles (ironically, FIXING AN ELEVATOR in a game partially set in Noisebridge where I can only get in when the elevator is fixed, which it was, which I hoped would be good mojo for my game-elevator conumdrum) Wandered around answering the door, taking pictures of the walls, of signs, finding old things in new places and new things several layers deep, admiring the projects and wondering what everyone is into these days. It got so I could tell looking someone over whether they were there for the whiteboarding practice workshop group (fresher faced, in sweaters), Noisebridge regulars of one sort (scruffy with bikes and several duffle bages – to the consoles and beanbags!) or another (sinking deep into their laptops, muttering about Electron) or some intersection, and also I clocked (silently but to my entire satisfaction) the European hacker tourists (As if fresh off the mothership, straight out of CCC). The giant laser cutter hummed in its lair, there is most definitely a tiled, fire-shielded welding corner, the NGALAC hulked in its corner by the window, a crapton of nice looking musical equipment set up by what used to be the kitchen and a Virtual Reality tent of some sort in the back classroom. Everyone was nice. It even smelled ok.

I have a cold and worked kinda long hours and feel a bit… muted…. head splitting … so tired. So that’s all I have to say for now. Hope I feel better for Friday as I want to go to the Internet Archive celebration of free culture, the Grand Re-opening of the Public Domain.

The circle of life on the bus

So I was waiting for the 51A bus in the rain in the dark with some other folks and was super happy when the bus pulled up and it was near empty and the driver let down the ramp without any weirdness or fuss. There was another guy in the front of the bus sitting on the other side. The bus driver got out some big old straps. I thanked her and said I would rather not, and didn’t need them. She said she would have to call her supervisor because it was policy that she had to restrain my wheelchair, or I would have to get off the bus. She was nice about it and I just kind of nodded like, OK…. and said I had been riding buses in wheelchairs for many years and go ahead and call.

The guy across started yelling at me during this exchange, from almost the first moment, that I was a bitch, an asshole, a cocksucker, a goddamned bitch and he hopes I die young.

At that point I stared back at him and said it was too late for that since I’m already 50. (OK, well, 49 and a half.) The driver told him to shut up a few times and told him he should not call me out of my name. By that time we had driven off because her supervisor told her to tell me that, should I be injured because of not being restrained on the bus, they could not assume any liability. Thanks. OK. I agree! We drove down Broadway towards downtown.

Then the guy said someone should kill me. Staring right into my eyes he said “I’ll kill you myself you bitch!” Driver finally told him to shut up or she would make him get off but that just made him madder. At some point he started just mouthing or whispering his threats while flipping me off.

I felt very glad I was not strapped to the bus while I was a couple of feet away from this horrible man.

Was I married? He bet I was not. I’m too nasty! Too much of a bitch! He’s been married 4 times! He was in Vietnam! Also, he’ll kill me! I need to die! BITCH!!! You’re a BITCH!

It was amazing how much venom he got into the word “Bitch”!!!!

Let’s take a moment to quote the beautiful words of the immortal JOREEN,

Bitches must form together in a movement to deal with their problems in a political manner. They must organize for their own liberation as all women must organize for theirs. We must be strong, we must be militant, we must be dangerous. We must realize that Bitch is Beautiful and that we have nothing to lose. Nothing whatsoever.

Thank you Joreen!!! You give me strength!

At one point I said, You know what, we all have the right to ride this public bus, me, everyone, and you too even though you’re a sad and crazy old guy yelling at me, you get to ride the bus. That’s it. I was shaking with rage and fear but that’s what I said!

So that went on for a little while and I mostly didn’t say anything more, and I kept my camera on and pointed at him in case things heated up and my other hand on my folded up cane that I was half sitting on, which is quite sharp on the folded ends, carbon fiber edges, and which honestly I was ready to drive into a motherfucker’s throat if he came at me, and then he got off the bus while humbly thanking the bus driver and apologizing to her and everyone else on the bus FOR WHAT A BITCH I WAS SORRY TO EVERYONE EXCEPT HER THAT BITCH and now he was gonna go to Grocery Outlet. Bitch.

Wild!

Then, like, all the women on the bus came up to me and patted me and were sweet and concerned to check in that I was ok and say they were so sorry I had to go through that. And stuff. They were very nice but I was so mad I found it hard to talk any more. I actually thought then, Oh, they were more scared than I was. Until he got off. Huh.

My BART ride and extra bus ride home were peaceful. I then twittered cathartically about my experience all the way home, at some point realizing I should put on headphones and listen to the loudest possible riot grrrl and punk music. Thank you 7 Year Bitch, L7, Tribe 8, Crashprez, The Soviettes, MDC, Black Flag, and J Church. Very healing to the soul.

So, I am still super mad, and I so wished I could yell at that guy (more than the little bit of pissy backtalk that slipped out from me in the moment ) And also I had the thought that actually he did cross a line legally and it was all recorded on the bus camera which is easily obtainable through FOIA request. Like, he did threaten me and stuff but… Actually I just wanted to go home and recognized that my truly obscene amounts of privilege did not need to be whipped out just here. I disagreed with how the bus driver handled it but also figured that she probably saw this guy every day and she had a notion of whether he was really going to be violent or not. And I still had a part of me that didn’t want to agitate to kick an old guy out in the drizzling rain any more than I didn’t want to get off the bus myself and wait another 25 minutes for the next one. Anyway so I did not escalate and didn’t ask the bus driver to kick him off. She really was super calm and chill about the whole thing and I admire de-escalating in general. But, she could have – should have maybe – protected me a little more, I think. I’m going to be thinking about how I could have tried to set a boundary myself with the guy that I would have felt better with than what I went with which was “me shutting up while he yelled insults at me”.

I’m not so fragile! I’m mnot going to like, be fucked up that some asshole yelled at me! Assholes have been yelling at me on buses since I was 10 years old! They called me a faggot and a bitch and spit in my face and I cherish the memory of some guy who told me on Facebook 35 years later that he cherishes the memory of tiny 11 year old me double flipping off everyone on the bus clutching my bookbag to my chest and screaming shrilly, “FUCK YOUUUUUUUU!!!!!!!” I cherish my fierceness! I am a little badass inside! I don’t like being yelled at! It freaks me the fuck out! I would never tolerate it in my everyday life, not for a moment from anyone at all! Obviously, I’m fucking bothered or I wouldn’t be writing this hours later. But you know what….. WHATEVER. You know what is the best fierceness – it is maintaining your vulnerability. I don’t have to not be bothered, it is right to be upset, inside, it lets me defend my vulnerable self, which I assert to the world.

Anyway, I got off the bus pretty near my house and went across the street to see if this guy who lives on the corner was there because, he got all his stuff stolen again, and I got him some warm things but the shoes the VA gave him were two sizes too small, he took them because, half way on they kept his feet warmer and drier. He has a wheelchair but cannot push himself in it very well as his hands are also messed up but he gets along pretty ok. Whatever I asked him his shoe size the other day and realized it is the same size as my brother in law, and i was at him and my sister’s house all today, so I had these shoes to give him. He was happy about the shoes but he was also drinking and a bit messed up. I realized suddenly that between the bus stop and his niche on the corner I had seen a blanket and some bags and a backpack. Bob do you have your backpack. Was that your backpack over there on the other block? Oh no does it have an american flag on it? I went to see. Yes…. so… I brought him all his stuff. I think it just fell off the back of his chair as he was going along and he was too messed up to notice. No one had even gone through it. He kissed my hand drunkenly and invited me to sit with him. I went home but felt like so much more human because I took all the meanness and transmuted it into kindness and being decent to other people which is literally JUST WHAT HAS TO BE DONE. What is to be done? Do the work in front of you and be decent about it people. Like I said on the twitters Kindness is punk as fuck, and this bitch will bring you a boot party where it’s a present of boots that fit your feet and keep them warm and dry. Motherfucker, you will take these social services and this transformative justice and this example of nontoxic masculinity, OR ELSE. P.S. Fuck you, asshole!

How weird is it that I went from hating on one old guy to helping out another one. It is really true, that helping someone out is something to be grateful for, because they trusted you enough to let you do it.

I’d like to thank this cat, this nice loud riot grrrl music, this feminist manifesto from the year I was born, this soothing mint tea, and this excellent marijuana for the massive improvement of my evening.

Also my nice spouse who spent all weekend and all day since 5am trying to like save Europe from Article 13 and Article 11 and thus save the entire fucking Internet. And then who brought me the soothing mint tea.

The rest of the day was super nice, I spent it working while my sister worked on her stuff, and we showed each other physical therapy exercises and had tacos. When I stopped working I got to show my nephew how to write a little Inform7 and then I left him playing Zork.

Good night all.

Funked up with the mothership

I had a fabulous time at the George Clinton/ Parliament Funkadelic show last night! The club had a wheelchair seating area right up at the front which made it easier for me to be there (and I could also get to the bathroom, which I really appreciated). FABULOUS show, as you would expect!
george clinton on stage
It was great hearing classics, where everyone would get very excited screaming Shit, Goddamn, get off your ass and jam, or One nation under a groove, but also was in the perfect frame of mind for Maggotbrain (a religious experience for your ears) and then lots of stuff from their most recent album. It is just great to see how they all jam together so well & in so many different styles highlighting the skills of different people. I wish I knew all their names but I don’t… the amazing singer and dancer who kept changing outfits (it was the pink fuzzy pajamas with silver stars, and a hood, and silver platform shoes that killed me finally, and then she took off the PJs and was dancing in striped knee high socks and sexy underwear.)

singer for p-funk

The incredible saxophone solos (he also did a scat performance that got more and more complicated and went on forever till he just sort of BECAME an instrument ! Trumpet player also great! At least two guitarists of truly amazing caliber, the shorter guy who was an absolute badass, and the tall guy with the long braids wearing a long silver coat which he finally removed to show his fishnets and thong and tshirt that said “God’s Weapon”. Both were fucking great! And, George Clinton himself who I was happy to see had the good sense to sit down now and then. The young (?) guy in the hat who was an excellent rapper! So many talented musicians. And when they would really go off it wasn’t for like 20 seconds, they weren’t fucking around, they were playing giant long extended riffs for like 10 minutes. Serious jazz! Also some extremely metal moments! Also psychedelic geologic eras laid down for future generations and time travelers!

Crowd fairly nice! We ran into Brian Zisk and I remember being high as hell while trying to explain to him (why? just enthusiasm i guess) that Venezuelan joropo is the best kind of music (because, counterpoint, great structure, complex & awesome) & he should give it a listen. He was telling me about the sort of cultural shift of deadheads to follow George Clinton & the P-funk collective in general, which maybe he had something to do with. That was very interesting and I’m still thinking about that.

Anyway, I loved the show so much!

Thank you intergalactic brothers and sisters!

Ifigenia in Aulide

Last weekend I saw another opera production by Ars Minerva, Ifigenia in Aulide. I saw Circe a while back and it blew my mind! Ifigenia did not disappoint as with minimal staging and what must have been a tiny budget (for an opera) Ars Minerva was absolutely brilliant. It was like a mindfuck gem of genderbent baroque. If you know me you know those words are like catnip to a cat! Lots of operas have some sort of Furious Woman number (what my friend Lisa called a “rage aria”) but this was like one giant long rage aria. Like Hothead Paisan from 1738 came to visit. (You realize if we have any call to be Hothead nowadays, some chick from Italy in 1738, or Greece in 408 B.C., has several orders of magnitude more reason.) The music was composed by Giovanni Porta and the libretto by Apostolo Zeno. (Of course, I read about them on Wikipedia from the program notes before the show. Thank you Wikipedia!) I am not going to perfectly remember things, but here is a stab at a synopsis.

First of all there was an ominous “chorus” of people on stage a lot of the time in purple satin hooded robes and creepy tragedy masks. They also made me think of the kodama from Spirited Away. They were characters, chorus, props, and sort of the zeitgeist, very well done. I’ll say more about them in a moment!

We encounter Elisena who has been captured by Achille in battle (in either Lesbos or Thessaly, but I never got that quite straight.) She is now enslaved and worried about her fate. If she ever finds out her real identity she will DIE. Teucro loves her and she loves Achille.

I enjoyed the costumes and makeup very much by the way – each character was dressed in a distinctive color combo of velvet, some with a sort of tinfoil (but much classier) hats with very lovely styling — the warriors Achille and Agamennone with helmets and the Queen and Princess with more Lothlorien style elegant crowns. Ifigenia in particular had a cool Isis/Hathor crescent moon on top of her Galadriel headdress, kinda giving the impression of Cretan horns or a Minoan statue. Very beautiful! Ulysses and Teucro strode around in combat boots. Elisena had a super sexy red dress and no crown. They had unusual & gorgeous cyberpunk style makeup that matched their outfits – big asymmetrical swoops and hash marks accentuating cheekbones or facial lines – and Elisena’s face smudged in red like she was both enraged and had been running around like a maenid in the woods drinking blood. OK, now you have the fashion picture!

Achilles shows up and sings to Elisena about how he loves Ifigenia and is going to marry her. Omg, awkward. Elisena then gets a damn good rage aria! She was going full tilt about how she would sacrifice herself on the altar in a blaze of bloody glory rather than watch her beloved Achille marry stuck up Ifigenia! Foreshadowing much?!

Actually, I wish I had the libretto and translation. By the middle of the opera I was picking up the Italian a lot better and thinking of how I would translate it myself. (I love to do songs and, with this sort of opera, half the words are going to be glory, sigh, lament, beloved, and weep, so you’re basically half done from the get-go.) The translation grew on me towards Act 3 and I thought it had some amazing moments so I’d like to read through it with more time and a dictionary and grammar at hand.

Ulyses then struts around explaining to Agamennone that they had to sacrifice Ifigenia their beloved daughter. The sacrifice for fair winds must be a princess of the blood of Helen! (GEE I WONDER WHAT ELISENA’S SECRET IDENTITY IS.) He is challenging Agamennone’s masculinity and leadership and sense of duty to the Greeks and (male) honor as he tries to amp him up and fails.

Ifigenia dances around like a modern dance music box ballerina sweetly singing of her innocent love and how being a dutiful daughter means her loving parents picked a good husband for her who is a hero and who she luckily came to fall in love with. Yay she is going to be a happy bride etc.

I forgot in my comments on the fashion and headdresses to mention the subtle brilliance of how Achille had her hair (up in a top-and-back ponytail, like the decoration on a greek helmet in itself!) There were lots of little details like this in the production that made me so happy. (ACHILLE WAS SO BRILLIANT OMG and you could tell she was running everything and the genius behind it all – from her mastery of the entire thing)

I think at this point Ifigenia has heard a rumor that Achille is actually going to marry Elisena instead of her. She has a rage aria and goes off in a huff. (Or maybe this was later?)

Achille and Elisena have a scene. He beats her up and it is quite horrible. The production somehow makes it clear that the whole opera is about toxic masculinity! Achille somehow did the most Liquid Sky level authentically horrible lesbian rape scene I’ve ever seen while singing GLORIOUSLY at the top of her lungs, manhandling Elisena, throwing her around by the hair, and tracing down her body with swordpoint. (!!!!!!!!!!)

Containing myself with difficulty . . .

Elisena is now super, super pissed. Bloody rage is sung. Her face goes through another 50 levels of insane and vengeful. I have to suppress the urge to cheer for her beautiful rage. She orders Teucro to go disrupt the wedding. Teucro, throughout, gives the impression of a smirking, drippy, creepy harasser, basically in a virtual fedora, oozing “m’lady” at the Renaissance Festival right before he mansplains to you why you should totally enjoy him stalking you. It made Elisena’s rage even better.

Ulises comes back to infuse Agamennone with more toxic masculinity. He must show his wife and daughter what’s what! While singing, Ulises threatens the purple robed masked chorus, grabs one, and beats (her) up. Just to give Agamennone a little example of the proper manly warrior king way to behave.

Agamennone then abuses Klytemnestra, singing Obey me!

Klytemnestra then has like, infinite rage arias and reprises of her rage!!! Oh, she’s pissed!

Angstamennone has some more nail biting freakouts! I think he changes his mind like 3 times about whether to send his wife and daughter home, or what.

Ifigenia desperately hopes it is all a lie. SHe offers herself to Agamennone while Klytemnestra continues to rage and says in despair that only death is left to her. I can’t remember their exact works but the trio (what do you call it when it is a duet but 3 people singing at once in counterpoint?) was really beautiful and moving. Agamennon freaking out with guilt, Ifigenia saying she would kiss the beloved hand that killed her, Klytemnestra giving epic side eye to her abusive murderous husband who cares more for war and its honors and duties than for his family.

I kind of lose the thread here, but Elisena runs off to tell the troops in the camp about this horrible plan to sacrifice Ifigenia. Achille sits on a rock with Ifigenia for their romantic duet. Ulises and Achille face off with swords! “A armi!!!” Achille slayed me with her singing again.

At several points when there is tension – like with Ulises arguing with Agamennone – or Klytemnestra and Ifigenia singing about duty and love – The chorus in their fated robes grab onto someone in the throes of their dilemma & sway with them – making me think of all the forces of culture and custom and public opinion operating to fuel their moral decisions. It was done so perfectly! Holding them back, seemingly sympathetic or supportive at times, but then entangling them in terrible complexity!

Klytemnestra and Ifigenia get another amazing duet where as they reach towards each other singing of their mother and daughter love, they are torn apart by the chorus at this point!

Elisena sings of her sudden pity for Ifigenia who is actually very noble in her willingness to be sacrificed for the common good (well, for … for someone’s good)

I think Klytemnestra had like 5 more rage arias in here. I loved her singing so much. She could just keep going forever, a beautiful voice, and her acting was great, giving the impression of someone super delicate, fierce, and tough all at once.

Then something happens offstage. Ulises runs in reporting something about how fierce Death has arrived for Ifigenia. BUT as you may suspect Elisena’s secret identity is that she is Helen’s secret daughter from another marriage and was originally named Ifigenia too. And she has just bloodily driven a dagger into her heart on the altar as the sacrifice. We see her at center stage kneeling with her head swathed in red gauze by the purple-robed Fates. Ifigenia and Achille are happily married. Everyone (except Elisena) sings a happy love song but you can cherish the rage in your heart for all the despairing girls who cut themselves you have ever known, because you know Klytemnestra is going to stab SOMEONE whose name starts with an A some years later no matter what ironic syrup is pouring from her mouth.

I can’t really speak to the excellence of the singing or music but I loved it a lot. The musicians were fabulous, I loved the theorbo & cello, harpischord also, and several times (especially with Achille, Klytemnestra, and sometimes Agamennone — and with Ifigenia’s song to her mother — Madre delitta, abraccia mi!) I would get the head to toe shivers involuntarily from the beauty and inevitability of the singing, or how the music all came together.

I also don’t know how the opera was originally intended to be performed but figured some of the parts played by women were meant to be sung by castrati. It really came out well. I wish this opera were running much longer so I could persuade everyone I know in town to go see it! Or that there were a video of it! Also, I have a total crush on CĂ©line Ricci now as I picture her poking around in dusty music library basements (or the equivalent — like i like to do with poetry anthologies) and finding this stuff, seeing the potential in it, and making it real!

Morning of amazing dance

Sleepily flicking through Instagram this morning I got a glimpse of an amazing looking dance and had to look up the full video. I saw Loyalty Dance Team at the International Hip Hop Dance Fest in San Francisco a couple of years ago (doing their stunning 101 Dalmations number). This is their Black Panther – 6 and a half minutes of pure shining talent – Fantastic choreography!

Here’s their Instagram if you want to follow!

I am now feeling very energized!!

Bonus video because I LOVE BIG FREEDIA SO MUCH

Specificity in poems and songs

Rambling a bit about songs. The other day someone giggled when I referred to a “mix tape” and I barely even meant “mix CD”, I believe it was a constructed playlist that I’d made. But in my mind and language a personally edited collection of music will always be a mix tape, probably made clunkily from breathless moments trying to catch the beginning of a song from the radio to cassette tape (on a modern gramophone or victrola) without getting a DJ talking, and maybe going from that tape to a second tape for even worse quality sound.

I was thinking about how it is disconcerting in songs when there is a very specific reference clearly personal to the singer. I’ll be happily singing along, or adding the song to a MIX TAPE meant to convey a mood, and then I get jarred by the singer’s reference to their friends or girlfriend or some private joke of the band’s. Sometimes I just edit it out mentally, bracketing the specifics that I will never know about and trying to see it as a charming instance of the mood of the song.

It is a bit like the iconic quality of comics or images that Scott McCloud describes in Understanding Comics. The more generic the image of a person, the easier it is for us to imagine ourselves into that artwork, in some ways. We might encounter the specifics as alienating or difficult as readers or listeners.

Sometimes I like the specifics and sometimes I edit them out when reading or listening. Or when writing.

Other times these details are the entire point especially if that point is the unknowability of the details of another person’s experience. Or, if part of the point is to make you wonder and work to figure those details out, to find them out.

This year I am aiming to put my old poetry books and anthologies from 10-20 years ago up as ebooks or reprint them in paperback. A few of them are up already. The one that led me down this path of thought is Woodbird Jazzophone, which is basically me from 2003 or so rambling in a notebook about lying in a forest meadow watching the birds at a sort of poets’ retreat in a beautiful redwood cabin somewhere probably in Marin. I re-printed it without re-reading it closely, but it does have some obscure specifics that will never merit footnotes – about the history of the cabin that one of the neighbors in the woods explained. Even when I can’t remember those details, I remember the mood of that time.

Echoes in the poem that would not be immediately apparent – I spent long hours wrapped up in blankets on the front porch, in a lot of pain, watching the fog come off the redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains some years before that, and watching acorn woodpeckers fly around putting acorns into holes in the trees. They share their caches of acorns, pretty cool cooperative birds. I couldn’t get around very well, and the sound of the neighborhood, birds waking up in the grey morning, people in cars leaving for school and commute, acorns and jays and hawks doing their thing, then cars coming back as people came home. It was an entertaining part of the day, a soundscape to go with the lightscape. I was thinking of those times and the good but bitter memories that can come from physical impairments and pain. Another echo from the woodpeckers goes back to my happy years in cooperative housing. I don’t think any of that would be apparent in the poem, which comes off like someone rambling free form about an afternoon in the woods.

The song earworming me as I write this is Always Give Your Love Away by Twang Twang Shock-a-Boom, an Austin band from the late 80s/early 90s that does that specificity trick pretty well. Though I think that song stays general.