I’ve never done this before, but I figure now is as good a time as any to start. Frank O’Hara, as many of you know, is my favorite poet. I don’t know what I’d do without O’Hara’s words and works in my life. Artistically, I am indebted to him; he opened my mind and helped me grow as a poet and a person. Furthermore, I’ve always been able to find an O’Hara poem for my current state of mind and being. Right now, no poem speaks to me more potently than the one I am about to post here, entitled “Mayakovsky.” It’s a work of sheer poetic genius, as far as I’m concerned, and it even makes my bottom lip quiver a little. It’s brilliant. Behold:
My heart’s aflutter!
I am standing in the bath tub
crying. Mother, mother
who am I? If he
will just come back once
and kiss me on the face
his coarse hair brush
my temple, it’s throbbing!
then I can put on my clothes
I guess, and walk the streets.
I love you. I love you,
but I’m turning to my verses
and my heart is closing
like a fist.
sick as I am sick, swoon,
roll back your eyes, a pool,
and I’ll stare down
at my wounded beauty
which at best is only a talent
Cannot please, cannot charm or win
what a poet!
and the clear water is thick
with bloody blows on its head.
I embraced a cloud,
but when I soared
That’s funny! there’s blood on my chest
oh yes, I’ve been carrying bricks
what a funny place to rupture!
and now it is raining on the ailanthus
as I step out onto the window ledge
the tracks below me are smoky and
glistening with a passion for running
I leap into the leaves, green like the sea
Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.
The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.
It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.
That poem, to me, is perfect. Everything about it is brilliant. The voice is compelling and tragic, but with a dash of humor within. This is the kind of thing I hope to one day write. Anyways, I post it now for two reasons: one is the fact that I have read it almost every day for three weeks. Every day I read it, a different stanza strikes me. Hell, today I read it twice, and each time I was hit differently. The second time compelled me to type it up and post it here (and made my lip quiver, as mentioned previously). It’s so…everything. This poem is life, in a nutshell, and I hope someone reads it and is as affected as I always am, or at least takes away something meaningful. It’s also beautifully worded and written. A masterpiece, to be sure.
The Eagle is my campus newspaper here at American University, though henceforth it has lost the ability to be considered a “newspaper” on the grounds that what it prints is just contemptible, condescending tripe. I read this article, “Sex-perimentation Defines Welcome Week,” and quite frankly I’m livid. This is beyond reproach. The fact that a newspaper would print something so snide, so self-important, so sexist is just beyond me. I’ve written the following letter to the editor and sent it in to ‘em (and reprinted it here in the very likely case that my fiery prose never makes it past the editor’s inbox). So, without further ado, my letter to the editor of The Eagle:
I am writing in response to “Sex-perimentation defines Welcome Week,” an article printed in the August 30th issue of the Eagle. This article is absolutely offensive, and not just because of how “edgy” it is in style and content. It is, quite simply, horrible in every way, from the actual advice being given to the writing of the piece itself. First and foremost, this reads not like a piece in a paper (as one might expect it to) but like a high-school blog. It’s glib and self-important, condescending toward the reader, taking them by the hand and leading them through the wasteland of collegiate relationship drama with the rather offensive pretense of having been there and done that. This is outrageous. At best, it’s a manifestation of sexism; “flirt with them, step in a little bit closer, laugh at all his jokes, flip your hair, basically everything you see in the movies,” reads the article’s advice for girls seeking to grow closer to guys, going on to say “without the sex.” This is scarily similar to those horror-story 50’s textbooks for how to be a good wife we’re shown in high school that we laugh at but know aren’t because they’re serious. The advice given, of course, perpetuates the awful archetypes of a stereotypical “good” relationship, ostensibly extending those trite high school preconceptions we all had that made us all miserable as we watched TV and wondered why real life wasn’t like that. Even when it says that it’s OK for girls to ask guys out, it does so with so condescending a tone that one wonders if it isn’t bullying the girls who might be so bold to ask guys out into playing it shy…like in the movies. What of being yourself? Is that not the best way to form a meaningful connection? On the whole, though, the piece is an unintentional farce, assuming that there is one true way to find happiness in a coupling. Worse yet, the only redeeming quality of the piece—that it cautions against treating a sexual encounter with someone under the influence as a springboard for a relationship—is completely undermined by the fact that at the end, it places the reasoning on a superficial level: “1. How intoxicated were you when you met? 2. If you were sober, would you find this person attractive? 3. Do you really want a relationship this early in the year anyway?” These three points could be rewritten as followed: “1. Would you have slept with them if you were sober? 2. Are they pretty enough to date? 3. If the answer to 2 is ‘no,’ then how much homework do you have?” This is the height of arrogance and ignorance, but more importantly, it’s unfit to print. This was obviously designed to be funny, but it wasn’t. Instead, it was sexist and condescending. It made a mockery of the ways in which people form connections (one of which is drunken hookups, whether you like it or not) in order to say, “this is a better way to make a connection. Do it this way.” It was the Barbie doll and GI Joe of relationships, in a sense, telling people how to look and how to do it the right way. The fact that this even made it to print is beyond absurd. The issues with this are far greater than my simple disagreement. This perpetuates sexism and conformity to the greatest extent, and the fact that it’s being used to talk to freshmen like they were incapable of thinking for themselves and is generally just full of self-important rhetoric makes it seem like the Eagle was less concerned with what its articles were saying and more concerned with the “edgy” subject matter. This is deplorable and depraved and unfit for publication in any journal. It’s not just offensive, but it’s also poorly written. I hope in the future the Eagle is able to get over its self-indulgent tendencies and show a little discretion, perhaps some quality control, in its selection processes.
This sort of “journalism” offends me as a student and as a human being who, with some capability for free, rational thought, should not be subjected to such insipid ramblings about sex and relationships by people who are clearly imposing their own personal views on others in a way that perpetuates status quo inanity and demeans women as implicitly and subtly as possible (the fact that it wasn’t even intentional is more offensive; it means the authors are not only propagating the hurtfulness of this machine, but that they’re not aware of the extent of their own offensiveness). I’ve never been a big fan of the Eagle to begin with, but this is outright. No paper of any credibility (or desired credibility, as it were) should be printing things like this. It’s offensive, it’s repressive, and it’s ignorant. Oh, and as a writer, I must point out that it’s just not funny. The jokes are contrived; the humor itself stems from the tone, which is “there, there, little freshman; let me tell you how to succeed.” All in all, this is a colossal failure on the part of the Eagle, and I can’t see them recovering from this in my eyes anytime soon. The article doesn’t deserve the light of day and the readership it’s currently got, and hopefully I can at least let a few people know that this isn’t how everyone thinks about sex in college. Some of us, you know, care about things more than how pretty someone is. We also don’t think in absolutes; relationships are nuanced, whereas this article is full of dreadful false dichotomies. Ah, but enough prating on about it. Please, try to let the powers that be know about this and try to make a little clamor for some journalistic integrity and standards over at the Eagle.
This comes as a blade in my breast, digging deep to strike me in my very heart. Oh! how we’ve whittled such hours away together, cursing and cackling and condemning one another! But alas, all that is now gone, as this, a public airing of grievances, takes what was once an entrancingly amusing enmity and transforms it into an ugly, odious spectre, a beast the likes of which I cannot fathom further indulging. Thus, I must sadly relay this news to you in your own thread, the news of my own demise.
Well, demise is perhaps a strong word. Upon typing the final period of this post, I will not cease to exist as a living being; this is nonsense. However, I see no reason to continue contributing to society after so thorough a deflowering of my essence. Hopefully, this news will allow for the world to rebuild itself from the ashes. Where once stood pillars of slander and disdain, disparaging remarks, and an a rebours mentality, there will be order again. From this waste land of elite-wreaked havoc will emerge a newer, better society. Discussion can recommence; discussions of physical appearance, who was where with whom, and other such ephemera can supersede once again talk of meaning and truth. I relent! Shallow culture-clingers can once more assert that Shakespeare is overrated without fear of harsh rebuttal. The hegemony of the elite, the beasts whose quips, interjections, and idiocies once plagued this forum, has been overthrown! People of the world, unite and rejoice!
And do not think I am going to let the irony pass me by. I feel thoroughly betrayed, dearest humanity, stabbed in the back by one of my own (or many, as it were). We were like brothers, you the Carl to my Peter, a body of few words but many things to say. We clashed and we clashed, and I constantly fled and returned, a mess of emotions and opinions far too great to be contained by a simple one-off slandering. And yet now, you come to me, my rule, a beast time and again resurrected like a phoenix from the floor of the River Styx, ever loyal to he who had come before me. I will concede that I am but a man, one who has but words, opinions, and sometimes a clever quip or two. Dear people, how it hurts me so to leave like this, knife in my back, blood on my brow, and tears in my eyes. That I have so created a beast that has allowed for us to so decadently traipse throughout this world means nothing, as you have seen the error in our ways and have, for better or for worse, become the Judas to my Christ, raising me up and making of me an example for all to see.
World, why have you forsaken me?
My libido as worthless as my liberty, I leave. Beaten beyond a shade of recognition, I am naught but an artless abortion, a victim of that which I have established. So falls my empire, and so too can the world rejoice in its freedom. Freedom to seek meaning in mirrors; freedom to contend that Nickelback is artistic and valid; freedom to exalt with ejaculate praise the excellence of Twilight; and the freedom to say things without thought to their quality or intelligence.
So, go! Go, be free, free of the rancorous stigma that is intelligence! No more shall I haunt this place, for I am slain!
“Video Killed The Radio Star” is one of those 80’s songs that everyone knows and thinks is fun to sing along to in a falsetto in the car on the way home from a party or something; however, it’s also got a point. Music videos represent a commercialization of music, an application of music to a new medium in order to further market it to consumers, that ultimately makes the music less about the artistry and more about the money; in other words, capitalism. In light of the recently released Matches compilation, I’ve done some thinking on the relationship between art and capitalism and come to the realization that capitalism has failed and is eating away at the very foundations of the artistic life.
I use the Matches as an example because they are very close to my heart and were eviscerated by capitalism. Decomposer and A Band In Hope fared poorly, and as a result the Matches were unable to continue as a band. As they, a group of talented artists who made interesting, thoughtful, and creative music, were forced to fold, All Time Low donned even brighter neon and took to the airwaves, the internet, and every other imaginable outlet and pimped their mediocre pop album that came out and actually moved units. This is an affront to all that is artistic. All Time Low are artists, yes, but they write generic, consumer-friendly drivel, and are objectively inferior to the Matches insofar as creative, songwriting, lyrical, and musical ability are concerned, and yet Nothing Personal has probably already outsold all of The Matches’ catalogue combined. This is egregious.
The problem is that All Time Low is more consumer-friendly, and appeals to the consumer, not to the discerning critic, the person who actively seeks the best art and appreciates quality and excellence. The consumer, the everyman, is the one with the power to arbitrarily decide which artists succeed or fail. Thus, art becomes a game of appealing to the consumer rather than a game of creating something. To succeed, an artist needs to play the game rather than being true to their art and themselves. This is not what art is about; however, it is what art is becoming. All Time Low will always outsell the Matches because they are a consumer-friendly outfit, and the Matches’ creative endeavors will always play second fiddle to ATL’s mediocre, same-sounding ones because of money.
I can’t stand this idea. For every ATL that succeeds, ten bands like The Matches fail. All Time Low killed The Matches the way the video killed the radio star: shallow consumer appeal. In this system of money and consumption, art is pushed to the back burner in favor of what is most immediately appealing. Appearances and instant appeal matter more than connecting to things. This is a failure of society and a failure of art, for as the artist opts more to appeal to his potential consumers rather than create something meaningful, he conforms to the society and simultaneously stifles lasting, powerful art and thereby impedes its creation.
All Time Low is killing art. They and every neon band like them are pushing good bands like The Matches out of the game, while more people know who empty-headed idiots like Jack Johnson are than they do Elliott Smith. It’s all about appealing to the masses; consumerism first, art second. Capitalism has failed the artist by making it harder to succeed with creative, insightful work that isn’t simultaneously easy to grasp and appealing to the masses. As an artist, this offends me, but I also understand the futility of clamoring for change or parading my socialist dogma about.
No system, as a friend informed me, is ideal for art. Capitalism, at least, makes art culpable; however, it also breeds mediocrity. It favors All Time Low over the Matches. It takes Dan Brown over…well, it takes Dan Brown. The point is, capitalism perverts, pollutes, and dilutes art so it can sell it.
If you care about art, support good art. Stop spending money on awful art. I’m not going to sit here and say “GO STEAL FROM ALL TIME LOW” because that’s awful; however, I’m not going to tell you NOT to do so. Next time you’re in a Best Buy, pick up Decomposer instead of the latest ATL effort. Tell Alex and the gang that you did it for the art–it was nothing personal.
The following is what I consider to be an open letter to the frontman of what used to be my favorite band, Say Anything. They haven’t been a favorite for a LONG time now (about 6-7 months, I guess), and the reason is that Max’s antics have grown progressively more obnoxious and his behavior deplorable. Enough is enough. Max’s little diatribe about “nay nay” was too much for me. It was beyond ostentatious; it was priggish, childish, and self-indulgent. This man is not ostentatious; he’s a child. And that is why I have written the following, which is intended for any and all Say Anything fans, former fans, or potential fans, as well as–ideally–the man who has sparked such outrage, Max Bemis. Here it is, my open letter to Max Bemis of Say Anything:
My name is David, and I would like to address your recent update concerning Absolute Punk posts about your band and this alleged “nay nay.” Well, first, I would like to congratulate you on creating the most ridiculous term for ‘Other’ that I have ever had the misfortune of reading over and over again, and I’ve read some pretty ridiculous stuff. You should be commended for your brilliance as a wordsmith. It really is an excellent portmanteau. Sadly, this letter is not all about you and how great you are (which, if your recent update is to be understood correctly, is all you really want to read).
Max, I used to be a huge fan. Like, I used to go apeshit for Say Anything. You were my favorite singer in my favorite band. My Absolute Punk username is “ArtfullyAborted” as an homage to “The Futile,” which was for a long time one of my favorite songs. Your band ostensibly was my first year of college. You got my through a lot of crap, and I constantly turned to “Admit It!!!,” “The Futile,” “Belt,” and other Say Anything songs as something of a rallying cry, the drumbeat to which I marched to war with the hipster elite that is the college music world. You got me through the summer away from my then-girlfriend, and your set at Warped Tour was probably the highlight of said summer. Say Anything understood me in a way no other band did. It was me and Max against the Other, those fuckin’ college kids and their fuckin’ Neutral Milk Hotel. Yeah! Right on! Fight the good fight against hipster pretentious bullshit! Woo!
And then I grew up.
Max, here’s my problem: As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that your antics are being outstripped by your age and mine. We are both too old for your crap. I mean, you wrote…this:
I was casually visiting absolutepunk.net and i went to a thread about say anything, namely about the song titles for our next record. i do this once and a while but less than you’d think; i am just weary of “nay nay”.
for your information, “nay nay” is a say anything inner-band term we use for senseless b.s with very little foundation that assumes itself to be the end all be all truth (i.e when you’re at a party and someone says jay z is there and everyone starts to say that he’s 100% there or coming and by the end it just turns out it was a rumor.) nay nay can also apply to the crap puked up by people who think that they need to force their opinion on others. there’s a lot of nay nay in the world so, like i said, i try to avoid say anything threads so i don’t get butt-hurt; i am a sensitive dude (which many posters forget some creative people are and proceed to bash them or make rude comments about the loves of their lives JUST SAYIN’). i am always worried that if i start reading i won’t be able to stop and i’ll end up a self loathing bulimic who just sits in front of the computer whipping myself with a belt and weeping, shamelessly addicted to the endless train of nay nay.
This is ridiculous, Max, and we both know it. First off, you don’t need an “inner band” term to refer to something that has a pretty ubiquitous term for it already: a hater. Why not use that instead of trying to be cutesy and get more attention for your “edgy” and “different” behavior? Similarly, your caricature of people who spread “nay nay” is the same one you attempt to use in “Admit It!!!” You seem to think that those of us with dissenting opinions, us “arbitrary hipster judges,” are merely dictating tastes rather than…simply not liking your band. The irony, of course–and this is something you should understand fairly well because you seem to only know how to be either ironic or “edgy” when you write, something else that I’ve generally grown out of–is that you are being an arbitrary hipster judge in saying we can’t complain about your band. Further, your fascism of taste is only undermined by the fact that you try to defend yourself as being a “sensitive dude” who can’t take criticism because it breaks his wittle heawt. Oh, Max. Max, Max, Max, Max, Max. You arrogant, arrogant human being. I, too, am a “creative type” who writes heartfelt things. I would call myself a sensitive dude, too. But I would definitely NOT avoid reading criticisms of my work in order to avoid being butt-hurt. In fact, when I am butt-hurt, I try to see the good in it; if someone doesn’t like my poetry, I want to know why, not tell them they’re wrong. You need to separate the emotional urgency of your work (which I would say is about 98% of it) from its actual value to the artistic world (I’ll admit, a few of your lines are clever and/or well-written, so 2% for trying), because otherwise you will spend your entire life in a perpetual state of butt-hurtness. Just because something I write has emotional weight with me–for instance, the most recent poem I’ve posted on this blog–doesn’t mean it’s necessarily any good. I happen to be proud and confident enough in it to post it, but that doesn’t mean it’s good. Similarly, just because you put a lyric or a song on a CD does not make it good. It doesn’t mean you are automatically validated in the eyes of those around you. If that were the case, The Millionaires would technically be your artistic peer, as they have certainly put out material for consumption. Recording it doesn’t make it good. But your point is that we’re trying to force our opinions on people, right?
Wrong. I am 100% positive I am one of the people you are criticizing for this alleged “nay nay,” and I am 99% positive I have never tried to FORCE my opinion on someone. I will admit, I criticize and argue a lot; however, I don’t go for the testicles every time I type. The reason I am on Absolute Punk was because I wanted to defend your band, and I did so quite well back in the day, I must say. In fact, I bought into your act. It was us against the world of Them, Max. We were winners. But then I realized that by sticking up for you, I was a flagrant hypocrite. I was ostentatious about it, yeah, but I was a hypocrite. I was defending freedom to enjoy what you enjoyed regardless of what the Other tells you…by telling the Other what to enjoy. My point is, Max, that by writing this little screed of yours, you have put forth perhaps the most malignant “nay nay” one could put forth in this day and age.
You have created an atmosphere of “ME VERSUS THE BIG BAD SCENE.” You are cultivating a divisive sentiment of black-and-white taste criteria. If someone dislikes Say Anything, they dislike the scene. That is patently false, by the way, because I hate your band nowadays but I love Relient K, Motion City Soundtrack, and several other scene bands who are, well, more genuine and more honest about their music than you are. I get no cred for saying this, but I do realize that I can have my scene cake and eat it too…as dessert to my indie music T-bone steak. That’s your problem: tastes are not an all or nothing venture. If you think this is the case–which you do, unless you are a master of massive self-misrepresentation, in which case I am completely wrong–then you are a fool and you know nothing of art, taste, standards, opinions, and, well, music. You write (wrote, actually) solid, complex, catchy pop-punk. It’s a damn shame that you taint what potential you may have by running your mouth.
Like I said, I did once love Say Anything. I thought “Admit It!!!” was ME, and that I was the good guy in a sea of evildoing scene haters. But I have moved beyond that point in my life, Max. I have grown up and now I understand that polarizing and divisive rhetoric is nothing but hurtful and stupid. You, Max, are hurtful and stupid, transitively. I don’t need to like your band to be open-minded; I don’t need to hate your band to be cool. In fact, I can be quite cool without hating your band. I contend that I was before, and I’d love for you to point out what changed so drastically that makes me a reprehensible human being because I no longer like Say Anything. Until then, I will spread “nay nay” by disagreeing with you and your attempts to create a hegemony of opinion.
But enough of this. I had a really caustic closing paragraph, in particular a really caustic sendoff of a last line, but upon reflection feel that needed to go because it was undermining my point. I would, however, like to point out the irony of you calling out Kinsella for being the kind of guy that only listens to his own band and then bragging on the internet about how much you like the sound of your new album. That is all.