by Luke Bloomfield
Factory Hollow Press, 2014
Unlike the archetypal Russian Novel, Luke Bloomfield’s Russian Novels is little more than a centimeter or so thick, 60-some pages of poems with names like “The Duffel Bag” and “Fisticuffs.” Most of the poetry inside the book feels as flat as the book, a sort of day-old-seltzer meets #normcore poetics. The first poem, for example, begins “When I go 2 Paris / it is like Paris,” and goes on to blanket classically French France in stereotypical American stereotype: “Voila, Paris France! / All the cigarettes everywhere / are pronounced cigarette.” In this trick, Bloomfield spells cigarette cigarette and, abracadabra, we the audience mind-mold the word like Play-Doh. The point seems to be that language is as wild and plastic as a “bird” that appears, disappears, and reappears throughout Russian Novels, always cast as simply “bird”—and yet each of these birds, conjured in Bloomfield’s magic, manages to manifest a somewhat unique form. The limitation of such simple syntax is clear however, when, in certain poems like “The Affair I Had With Sweden,” the author tries to reveal some semi-complicated personal gunk: “It sent me over the edge. / I don’t leave the kitchen ever. / All day I hack food into Swedish shapes. / And you know what else I do.” I don’t know, do you? What are we supposed to know? I know Russian Novels is not a novel; the MARC code on the back of the book says Poetry and the Very Poetic Word “flotsam” appears in the title of a poem on page 47. I know that the cover of Russian Novels presents a blurry photograph of a nose, but I don’t know whether or not this is Bloomfield’s schnoz? And I just don’t know what Bloomfield thinks he knows that I know.
Flat affect tends to belie emotional content, and in lines like “Pity me. I have nowhere to walk,” Bloomfield has incanted a dissociative poetics reminiscent of Nintendo sidescroller. The action is pretty fun but Russian Novels, like video games, lacks a third dimension. The book’s tender moment of intimacy (MOI), imo, comes in the author’s dedication, “for my sister.” A close second: Bloomfield’s confession that he sleeps in astronaut-themed bed-sheets.
Manual for Extinction
by Caroline Manring
The National Poetry Review Press, 2014
The earth in Manual for Extinction is a dour place where to be “alive was as good as dead.” The manual doubles as a field guide for understanding this wilderness-less mess, a contemporary big-boxed landscape that, lucky for us, Caroline Manring has surveyed with her poetic binoculars. Fans of “flotsam” will be pleased to find the word has survived End Times (hi flotsam!) and can be found in this book alongside lots of titles that start with the word how, as in “How to Go Extinct” and “How to Write a Debut Novel.” There are a few outliers, such as “The Cartographer’s Children Go Without Shoes,” an evolutionary meditation that invokes the proto-winged avian-ancestor, Archaeopteryx, in which “A fossil is deciding / whether to save us.” Manring demonstrates a cool familiarity with Biology while at the same time grappling with the paradox that Borges called exactitude in science. “A copy of a wolf & the wolf itself / are the same if you draw them both.”
A world of illustrated (aka dead) dodo birds, lost turkeys, and dilapidated human remains sounds shitty and scary but it is also quite literally what we’ve got. In place of live starlings and spring robins we might increasingly encounter the complexity of nature only in the complexity of research finding that predict diminishing populations of red-winged blackbirds, ruby-throated hummingbirds, and buffleheads alike. Manring writes in sympathy with these vanishing species, “I want less & less to be in present use.” Would that we were all to follow such a guide.
by Jane Gregory
The Song Cave, 2013
We’ve a lot to learn from My Enemies. As the title suggests, many things are often as much what they are as what they are not. Take, for example, Jane Gregory’s sonic yin and yang, “Cymbals / when washed up or out to sea are silent.” Much like the potential for both mute and crash held in tempered bell bronze, Gregory has set temporality in opposition to intuition, and by that I mean . . . listen to her ring like an animated slomotion gif of a Zildjian: “I recognize the tongue of the wolf / before it is in the wolf’s mouth.”
Wallace Stevens sez “Poems must resist the intelligence / almost successfully,” and My Enemies outmaneuvers the brain’s insistent cognition, which just cannot compute Jane Gregory. The many poems entitled “Book I Will Not Write” are, as announced, books never really written. But in the poetic summation of these non-books, the author has penned a must read.
Though unable to locate a single instance of “flotsam” inside this text, I found plenty of poetic words like “guncotton,” “ecdysis,” and “Proust.”
Peter Nowogrodzki lives in Hudson, NY
April 11th, 2014 / 10:00 am
Dylan Little, Manager at the Providence Community Library, is clearly lying to us.
Many writers are excited to sit on a train, shit in a moving closet, and eat microwavable food. I can understand the appeal of having quiet-time for consecutive days, looking through a window at a flashing landscape. We want to escape our daily physical space so badly, but also remain in a chair, so the Amtrak residency seems ideal for many. Here are eight other writer residencies if you’re not down with Amtrak but are looking for something different:
“Poets are the physicians of the soul.”—Irving Layton, Canadian Nobel nominee for literature.
“She wouldn’t react that way to rape—you bet your life she wouldn’t. Along with the rest of her sex she’d lie back and enjoy it”—Irving Layton in private correspondence. Wild Gooseberries: The Selected Letters of Irving Layton (Toronto: Macmillan, 1989), 53.
Canadian Lit likes to think it’s known for being boring, or multicultural, or for surviving in the wilderness. It is hardly known at all, besides by a certain charming Scandinavian institute for Canadian Studies, and those non-Canucks who do know it exists prefer not to think about it. We have heard dull battle cries from other bookish people: “Can Lit isn’t literature”; “Or you could read an actual book” & “Don’t waste your time with that shit”. The Stephen Leacocks, Michael Ondaatjes, Margaret Atwoods, Alice Munros, Anne Carsons, Robertston Davies and Irving Laytons be damned; there’s nothing particularly Canadian about them, they just live north of the 49th. I don’t care to address those suckers of canonization’s long, evil phallus. “Tell us what to read!” they say. “Tell us what set of pseudo-conflicting opinions to harbor,” they murmur through their facile, troubled dreams of greatness. This letter is also not to the children of Canlit, those ‘iconoclasts’ who treat famous poets like demigods, and who worship in a side-chapel of the same institution of thinly-veiled brain-death. Keep your precious feelings, everybody, but leave discussions of taste to snobs who read.
“I’ve been learning about and drawing dinosaurs since I was a kid,” explains Herschel Hoffmeyer, creator of the Apex Theropod Deck-Building Game, now on Kickstarter. “I even won a dinosaur art contest at a local library when I was very little. I was made to create these guys and bring them to life.”
Apex Theropod looks like a dinosaur-lover’s nocturnal emission…and Herschel himself might be the biggest dino-enthusiast you’ll ever meet. “I have National Geographic’s The Ultimate Dinopedia and the super-sized book Dinosaurs by David James. I really love what the indie company Lukewarm Media has done with their game Primal Carnage,” he gushes, adding as an afterthought that he hasn’t actually been able to play said game yet.
According to his Kickstarter bio, Herschel is an 8-year Army veteran and Game Art and Design student at the Arts Institute International in Kansas City. Intrigued about how his Army life segued into his current saurian pursuits, I contacted Herschel for an interview. “Apex started as a simple prototype dinosaur-themed game used for an assignment in one of my game design classes at the Arts Institute International of Kansas City,” he explained. “After seeing my game concepts compared to others, I knew I had a knack for game design. Shortly after, I worked on many different prototype games under the same dinosaur theme, game goals, and playable class ideas.”
“The dinosaur theme was definitely the theme from the beginning, just because I thought it would be really fun to play.” As for the mechanics, they were inspired by the Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game, published by Upper Deck Entertainment. Like other deck-building games, Legendary starts each player with a small deck of relatively weak cards (in this case, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents). However, over the course of the game, they can use these cards to “recruit” more powerful, iconic Marvel heroes into their deck, and the winner will be the player who builds the cleverest deck in the shortest time. This evolution from humble beginnings is a potently addictive formula, which explains the explosion of popularity deck-builders have experienced since they were popularized by Donald X. Vaccarino’s Dominion in 2008. Herschel isn’t naive to the economics of the situation: one reason he selected the deck-building format is that, since the bulk of their contents are composed of duplicate cards, deck-builders are relatively inexpensive to manufacture.
This evolutionary gameplay is also the perfect complement to the theme of becoming the world’s top saurian predator. Herschel explains, “Most of the game’s mechanics are shaped around the theme, and three are really unique to the game. The first is the territory-based decks. With the environmental deck affecting those territories, that drives a sense of environment immersion. The second is that each player has a nest. The nest is separate from your playing deck and unique to whatever dinosaur you’re playing as. In the nest, you hatch cards that consist of just your dinosaur, and you also bring any prey hunted back to your nest to eat later. The third unique mechanic is the unforgiving boss battles. To dominate each territory, you have to fight off the other competing apex predator of that territory, and that is the boss. In a 5-player game, you have eight total bosses, and in a single-player game, you have three bosses and one ultimate boss.”
It’s amazing how many times I’ve received this email, usually from a sane, diligent, intelligent and widely-published poet. Have your received it too? Have you done it?
I’m totes pro this sort of thing, cuz, whatever, it’s sweethearted and anyway I’m against more important things like reality TV, but when I first received it (from Mike Young—I told him it was going down on his permanent record), I thought for a minute about what poem I would send.
Then I realized if I did this, I could potentially receive a poem from ~20 people.
Who started this?
Some friends started a collective, constructive, and hopefully uplifting exchange, a form of email art exchange. It’s a one-time thing and we hope you will participate. We have picked those we think would be faithful, and make it fun. Please take just a few minutes to send an encouraging quote or verse to the person whose name is in position 1 below (even if you don’t know him or her). It should be a favorite text verse/poem/meditation/recipe that has lifted you when you were experiencing challenging times. Don’t agonize over it–it is one you reach for when you need it or the one that you always turn to.
After you’ve sent the short poem/verse/meditation/quote/etc. to the person in position 1, and only that person, copy this letter into a new email, move my name to position 1. and put your name in position 2. Only my name and your name should show when you email. Send to ~20 friends BCC (blind copy). If you cannot do this in five days, let us know so it will be fair to those participating. It’s fun to see where they come from. Seldom does anyone drop out because we all need new ideas and inspiration. The turnaround is fast, as there are only two names on the list, and you only have to do it once.
One of the first “essays” I ever wrote in elementary school was in response to the heavy question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I am not sure this translates correctly in English, but there was a clear indication in the teacher’s inquiry this was about our professional aspirations. I correctly predicted at the age of six that I would move to “California, Beverly Hills” (which is one place) and inevitably be added to the cast of the epic tele-universe “Beverly Hills 90210″ Aaron Spelling produced. Without irony, I consider my watching of this show about bratty teenagers dealing with their brattiness as a key paragon in my successful and organic learning of the English language.
Hauser, Chomsky and Fitch 2002 (HC&F hereafter) incited a flurry of discussion in response to its distinction between the faculty of language in the broad sense (FLB) and the faculty of language in the narrow sense (FLN): “FLB includes a sensory-motor system, a conceptual-intentional system, and the computational mechanisms for recursion, providing the capacity to generate an infinite range of expressions from a finite set of elements. We hypothesize that FLN only includes recursion and is the only uniquely human component of the faculty of language.” (HC&F, 1569). The implication is that the observable structural differences between human language and other forms of animal communication can be explained by the exclusivity of recursion to human language. This statement also operates on the assumption that recursion is a universal trait of human language.
Image courtesy of this site.
Daniel Everett’s work with the Pirahã tribe in the Amazon presents evidence contrary to HC&F’s claims. Everett found that the Pirahã language lacked embedding, at least representational recursion1: “Pirahã does not make use of CP-embedding or recursive possessors.” (Kinsella 2010: 188)2 Nonetheless, they can, through other linguistic and pragmatic means, express concepts which in other languages would be expressed recursively (ibid.). Everett says “..Pirahã most certainly has the communicative resources to expresses clauses that in other languages are embedded…” (Everett 2005: 631) Therefore, though Pirahã does not seem to have recursion, it is by no means restricted in its expressive capacity, countering the claims of Hauser, Chomsky and Finch 2002 regarding “the rich expressive and open-ended power of human language (based on humans’ capacity for recursion),” which capacity they claim animal communication lacks because it does not exhibit recursion (HC&F, 1570). If Pirahã’s expressive capacity is not hindered by its seeming lack of recursion, then perhaps recursion is not in fact a distinguishing feature of human language (Kinsella 188), or at least not the only one: perhaps it can be found in non-linguistic and non-human domains.
Image courtesy of HC&F 2002.
This may in fact the case. HC&F 2002 themselves speculate that recursion may be evident in animal navigation and kinship cognition, and songbirds have exhibited the capacity to comprehend recursive hierarchical syntactic structure (Abe & Watanabe 2011; Gentner et al 2006). Bengalese finches exposed to an artificially-constructed, center-embedded birdsong grammar “revealed a striking sensitivity to the recursive structure of the grammatical strings [they] were exposed to.” (Bloomfield et al 2011) The finches responded equally to familiar and novel grammatical strings, but decreased in response when presented with ungrammatical birdsong strings (ibid.). This indicates that recursion is not necessarily specific to humans, and that it is only sufficient, not necessary for human language, as Everett’s work with the Pirahã indicates. Therefore, since recursion as a unique feature of language is questionable, it would be fruitful to comparatively investigate the other possibly-distinguishing properties of language— the syntax-semantics interface particularly, as well as the lexicon and the nature of phrasal categories (Kinsella 2010).
*Tammy is a print publication that features poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and criticism from the esteemed fringes and unguarded egresses of American letters, international writing in translation, and forms of visual art and poetics that lend themselves to the printed page. The third issue has just arrived and the editors are now reading for the fourth issue. Visit www.tammyjournal.com for more information.
I think I sleep in a peel that fits me better than a collar
This poem came from my experience living as a banana in a Safeway for nine days before the produce people noticed me, and then they marked me down. An old woman with a pegleg bought me. This will appear soon in the ebook, The Wind Cannot Remove the Stench in My Bones, with art by Andrew Jurado.
note: I’ve started this feature up as a kind of homage and alternative (a companion series, if you will) to the incredible work Alex Dimitrov and the rest of the team at the The Academy of American Poets are doing. I mean it’s astonishing how they are able to get masterpieces of such stature out to the masses on an almost daily basis. But, some poems, though formidable in their own right, aren’t quite right for that pantheon. And, so I’m planning on bridging the gap. A kind of complementary series. Enjoy!
February 17th, 2014 / 11:26 pm
“Johnson sliced through South Africa the way a blade goes through a perfect fillet steak. He cut through the quivering hunk of meat, showing no mercy to the tendons and muscle fibres that once held it together and exposed sparsely cooked flesh.”
– Firdose Moonda, at espncricinfo.com, describing Australian Cricket fast bowler Mitchell Johnson.
(Cricket, fyi, is sometimes called “The Gentleman’s Game”)
We began with no fanfare:
We found our way:
We made promises we couldn’t keep:
We joined in:
We thought things over:
We were honest with ourselves:
We stood corrected:
We anticipated a trend:
Lisa Maria Basile, author of the chapbooks Triste (Dancing Girl Press) and Andalucia (The Poetry Society of New York), is one of the hardest working poets in New York. She is the Founding Editor and Publisher of Patasola Press, Assistant Editor of Fifth Wednesday Journal, and Editor-In-Chief of Luna Luna, my favorite online magazine.
On top of her editorial work, Basile works as a QA Assistant at MacMillan Publishers. She is a busy woman. Not too busy, it seems, to have written a third book, forthcoming this year on Hyacinth Girl Press.
I love war/lock, and believe it will be among the most important books of poetry released this year. Basile’s candid portrayal of abuse and survival is confessional in the best possible way, in that it is never self-indulgent and is, in fact, an act of generosity. Stories like these remind us that we, as trapped as we may feel in our respective subjectivities, are not alone.
…but then got ran over by a bus and died. No im totally kidding! but you really did get the flu and couldn’t join me.
The talk was at Housing Works, and it included two other speakers: David Gordon and Michael Kunichika.Your expectations were unclear: talk about Russian writers who, though they left us long ago, remain potent presences for readers and writers today. From Dostoevsky and Tolstoy to Vasily Grossman and Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, we’ll learn about obsession, madness, realism, fables, and more, in an event with all the drama and pathos (well, at least some of the drama and pathos) of the great Russian novels themselves.
Here are all the texts I would have sent you, in chronological order and without clarifying who said what, because color-coordinating via SMS goes a step too far:
truth-seeking urgency intrinsic in russian lit
antithesis to beckett & writers who focused extensively on beauty of language
falling in love w/ english language, less plot driven urgency
dostoevsky similar to conrad in terms of truth-seeking urgency
multivocality of dostoevsky
there is no right, just different truths
dostoevsky threw the best literary parties (metaphorically speaking, as a creator)
proust s parties were too long, and maybe the guests were wearing better clothes
abstract psychological curiosity in motives, including abnormalities–>russian approach
going in depth for big questions, characters not being introverted
serialization of lengthy works, such as ‘war & peace,’ adds towards creating a broader debate. they become part of the broader debates occurring during their time
some compare the creation of microcosms of russian lit to ‘the wire’
comparing to british office, where they look at the camera at moments of despair but the viewer cannot do anything to help // to embarrasing dostoevsky characters
nabokov disliked dostoevsky for his “bad writing”
dostoevsky had a v diff approach to writing from nabokov: almost got executed literally, then was told he had another five years
that is also why dostoevsky did not pursue inanimate writing, unlike tolstoy (?)
nabokov didn t like music!
neither did dostoevsky !! (probably diff reasons)
saul bellow s ‘dean of december’–>similar urgency in truth-seeking (someone from the audience)
can reading a book be so vivid it appears like a different life?
if yes, it depends on willingness of writers to go to great lengths in creating characters who go too far, embarrass themselves/ are visceral
perhaps a key element that helps bring about the urgent truth-seeking: religion s role for the writers
religion, like their fiction, was trying to explain what goes on beyond the physical
nabokov s direct ancestor was dostoevsky s jailor. weird how he was not willing to cut him any slack, considering
dostoevsky was crowd-pleasing oriented bc he lived off writing
In case you missed it (I almost did), “On Smarm” is an important essay.
Speaking of the Believer, do you remember that Philip Seymour Hoffman interview? I will miss him. That seems strange though, even impossible, because that Philip Seymour Hoffman, the one I know, exists in images projecting from themselves. And those will go on sparkling, like prisms in post-loop pulse ad infinitum.
Honestly, I love books more than money, sex, or bourbon. But book readings are often a pretty lame way to spend an evening. They’re pompous, silly, poorly planned, and excruciatingly dull. They accomplish nothing. And the majority of people who come to book readings have already read the book so it’s not even like they’re good marketing ploys.
Reader-friends, it doesn’t have to be this way! Books are awesome, most authors are engaging, intelligent people, and bookstores are certainly the fun places we all love. Therefore, let’s bring our noggins together and think up a bunch of ways to turn these indomitably boring events into lively festivals of literary hoopla and excitement. Let me start us off with 8 suggestions:
#1. No introductions – This will cut down the pomp by a solid 50%. No blathering adulations or list of prizes. Just say the author’s name, a book title or two, and get the show on the road.
#2. Don’t let the author sit down – Get kinetic, Orhan Pamuk! Let’s move it, Lydia Davis! Shake that money-maker a tad Marilynn Robinson! Give us some energy and zest. Do a little hula and shimmy shimmy. No chair, no podium, no hammock or beanbag contraption to rest your writerly body on. Instead move around and hell, if the energy sags, do what the jazz musicians do and improvise a sentence or two.
#3. Shout “BAM” before turning each page – “The instant her voice broke off, ceasing to compel my attention, my belief, I felt the basic insincerity of what she—BAM!!!—had said. It made me uneasy, as though the whole evening had been a trick of some sort to exact a contributory emotion from me.” That’s right, read it, Fitzgerald!
#5. Gesticulate rabidly, do 10 minutes of reading max, and if the reading gets boring accept the occasional heckle – “Hey Cheever, you suck tattersal cock!”
#6. End by telling us a local anecdote, good bookstore memory, or about your literary arch-nemesis – This will help personalize the event. A little showmanship goes a long way in creating a compelling public experience.
#7. Don’t let that person in the audience ask questions – This is BY FAR the most important suggestion because you know EXACTLY who I mean. We can’t let this person hijack the show. Have courage, bookstore employees! Even if the question-asker is a regular who always buys hardcover, tell them the gag order’s in effect for the common good of everyone else. We thank you greatly.
#8. Serve booze or juice and light snacks afterward – It’s why people love art events, the free wine and Triscuits. Somebody could take a dump on the floor of his sublet and so long as there was two-buck chuck, Cheese Nips, and a trendy promotional flyer loads of people would come to view it. Food equals turn out. Turn out equals energy and press. Also, free Ritz crackers and tiny paper cups of wine will get people to stick around and probably buy the author’s journeyman collection of short stories.
Now these suggestions are just Part 1. Part 2 involves more excitement and maybe violence. We need to take dramatic steps to invigorate today’s literary players so they’ll create engaging personae, which will outlive them. We need a new flock of writers to replace the likes of Norman Mailer, Lillian Hellman, Gore Vidal, and Hunter S. Thompson.
At AWP this year, the coordinators should host off-site events to keep everybody on their toes. Perhaps a charity boxing match between Colson Whitehead and Richard Ford. Or a street rumble between people who like prose poems and the rest of the world. Somebody can take a folding chair to Gary Shteyngart’s face WWF style. I’d pay money to see that. Violence and fiendishness are, weirdly enough, sometimes useful shortcuts to developing literary personae. Let’s make this thing memorable. BAM!!
Alex Kalamaroff is a 26-year-old writer living in Boston. He works on the administrative team of a Boston Public Schools high school. You can read his other writings here or follow him on twitter @alexkalamaroff.
I. Two Days After Whateverdaythegrammystookplacethisyear
I was taking about sex with a new person when I said I was annoyed choking is not on the table as an option. Then I said my ex’s name and remembered how she loved it.
“Oh, I know,” came his Freudian drip. I then punched him pretty hard on his arm, but without being violent. I was kind of upset, but I also knew he didn’t mean to hurt me, his tongue just worked faster than his brain in that moment.
The weird thing is, Billy was probably the victim in all of this. During a time we were trying to be over I surrounded myself with friends who weren’t shared, friends who didn’t let me respond to her manic pleas for reciprocity. So I saw the blocks of texts arrive, and I ignored them, but not because I wanted to ignore them. I was still forcing myself to not respond. That’s when it happened. I know because we eventually got back together and she never told me. But one day I went through her phone and saw her bragging texts about Billy and how he fucks like a rabbit and how the best part of it was that Billy was my good friend. She was bragging about it, but how unfortunate was that? She, who I successfully ignored, intentionally turned to someone else to hurt me for ignoring her. “Positional play is the maneuvering of opponents into the forced clarification of their (but not your) tactical lines of action,” and that was what she was doing. But we all got played in the end, thankfully including her.
Sometimes we do things for unclear reasons. Maybe because they feel good. Is that a reason? I think so, especially when I do the things. Is it worse when the sex is perfect with an idiot or when the sex is boring with a genius? I dunno, but I hope to have less of it and try to make it meaningful.
There is this mix I was listening to recently and it is very good, but I have a problem with it: it closes with a juxtaposition of Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” and Britney Spears’ “Everytime.” Hopefully, I need not clarify why that poses a problem, but if I must let me say I have a problem with myself for feeling sorry for Britney, when she was the one doing things for unclear reasons because they felt good. ”This song is my sorry,” is a fucked up lyric to be used in a pop song when it is truly personal, and in Spears’ case at that time it was. 
You might remember my friend “Billy?” You probably don’t, so here. We grabbed lunch together last week, it was pretty fun. We got Ramen and talked about stuff on a broad scale: the things we are doing for money, the people we have been getting naked with and, naturally, cultural ephemera. An ephemeron we addressed for example was the Grammys ceremony and how we felt about some of the performances and awards. Of course neither of us was able to watch past the first half, or perhaps nothing of note happened in that half. We shall never know!
What we do know: Billy is dating someone seriously, and she is taking him a lot more seriously than he is her. She is “intense” and “confrontational.” She senses what they both know. Basically what he is saying is that he is not up for it. He likes her, but she feels for him in ways he doesn’t. I tell Billy to tell her that he knows her intuition is right. To stop playing along and pretending he doesn’t see what she is right to notice their “thing” is missing.
Must we pass over in silence what we cannot speak about?
THE *REAL* GRAMMYS, HAPPENING EONS BEFORE THE SUPERBOWL
I watched them with my friend who will not be told when she must cease thinking about Beyonce’s net shorts. (“i hate how everything moves so quickly. it’s like just because a few days have passed doesn’t mean i’m not still thinking about the grammys. sure, not MOST of the grammys. but i’ll be thinking about her netted costume for a WHILE. why does the internet want everyone’s brains on fast forward?”)
I could not believe how fortunate it was that I happened to be near a television! I was casually complaining about life to a dear friend on a Whateverdaythegrammystookplacethisyear when all of a sudden… Beyonce! I never fully get how award shows work, their purpose and how the selection process works for who gets nominated for what. But if they start with Beyonce, I am totally mesmerized and willing to watch with full attention and the occasional loud “OH MY BEYONCEEE!” There were multiple of those, and people on the receiving end of Beyonce’s electric chair were electrified, as expected, jumping up and down their couches everywhere, unless they lived on the West Coast, and thus were penalized for their decision .
The *Real* Grammys seem to be organized by a panel of Ladies… who Love Cool J. Why is he the presenter? Why do they keep Doin’ It (feat Leshaun)? The sartorial negligence of the Cool James was apparent as he momentarily shared a stage with an immaculately dressed First Husband of America. Let’s just say there were no ZZZs in Jay-Z’s perfect outfit, and even less ZZZs were there to be found in the way the Presidential couple looked like while performing together during the *Real* Grammys, intoxicating everyone with their intoxication.
The deep blue sea of sartorial hmmms deepened further when our favorite Neptune decided to hide his crown under a hat, and all of humanity wondered: “Pharrell. Why!” He was still perfect, and at least wasn’t being ridiculous like those dudes who must have been sweating balls in their anonymity protecting helmets.
But looks and looking supa dupa fly are not all that matters in music these days. The young musicians have set up the bar mad high, where only Lordes can fly, and your prepackaged Dark Unicorn won’t fly you there despite its hypnotic beat (gah, this hasn’t happened to my brain (?) since when Gwen Stefani was cheerleading) that encourages obsessive repeat-play.
If the producers of your album aren’t Illuminati, you might have to join a circus. In the words of pop-princess (does she keep being princess until Madonna dies?) Britney Spears: “There’s only two types of people in the world: the ones that entertain, and the ones that observe.” Pink misunderstood the distinction and thought being observed was synonymous to entertaining, but acrobatics are all the ZZZs Jay-Z was missing that night. Except for her thigh strength, which so wow, very anti-ZZZ!
Anyway, time to get serious-y. Let’s address the thing that agitated most of us about the *Real* Grammys: Kendrick Lamar—who was, is and will always be objectively the best in everything for which he was nominated—didn’t win anything. Then the band (is Macklemore a band? or just that dude with the two-year old Freeman’s Alley barbershop hair a solo thing?) made the crass, gross error of trying to recognized their (his?) inferiority by sharing the thought with all their fans. This literally felt like a violent slap to everyone: (1) the people who might have thought Mackleduders deserved to win stuff, (2) the people who wanted Kendrick to win stuff and were frustrated he didn’t, and (3) let’s not even think about all the other very sensitive and insecure artists who were both nominated and lost and not even publicly recognized by the true winner of stuff they lost as the ones worthy of winning.
To think this band (or dude? I really have to find out at this point!) would even consider considering publicly sharing a private message he sent which should have been private, because eww band or dude, get a publicist! The negative criticism they (or “he,” whichever is correct!) have received is totally deserved. Bad apologies are in poorer taste than not apologizing at all, and this one was a very selfish and self-aggrandizing one. The reason this “apology” really sucked was the way it was portrayed and whored out via social media. There is a Kendrick song called “Real.” It is greatly introspective and reflective, further showing where in the “real nigga” doctrine Kendrick falls: he is not obsessed with appearances in a way consuming his music’s production.
The song stresses the importance of showing up, of being “real” in a way that is vulnerable:
The reason why I know you very well/ cause we have the same eyes can’t you tell?/ the days I tried to cover up and conceal/ my pride, it only made it harder for me to deal
[*end of serious-y chunk*]
Speaking of #Unapologetic, sources close to the Barbadian queen of pop Rihanna have revealed to TMZ the star watched the show at the comfort of a new planet she recently purchased. While she is considering Stay-ing there a while, TMZ has learned that Rihanna used telepathy to support her bestie (hmm. Cara?) close friend Katy Perry during her Grammys performance. “Where have you been?” thought Katy in the secret illuminati witchlanguage she shared with Rih, and then she felt the transcendental high-five from afar.
Then everyone bought things and companies were so, so happy! Well, almost everyone bought things. Mostly women who wanted to wear all the beauty products that made their stars look like stars. Men would have to wait for a sports event, like last year’s Beyonce performance at the sports thing which made Janet Jackson a star.
In conclusion, the *Real* Grammys didn’t really change anything, but that’s okay. Because the Grammys rarely do that. It is mostly public opinion that shapes who the big figures are in culture, and all the individuals who are nominated for these awards have acquired a level of respect as artists significant enough to see Taylor Swift going hard to Kendrick live, which is fine and great and super, but remains besides the point. When our cultural curators shift our attention to something silly, even if this silly something is endearing and well-intentioned, they (the curators) have taken our attention away from something else.
Who chose the direction to focus on Swift—and more extensively—before showing us an enthusiastic Hova? Probably the same exact person who gave Macklemore the award. It wasn’t me. But if it were me directing, I would have focused on the performance exclusively, out of respect to the person on stage. If a majority of the population only likes stuff because other people like it, then please save the stuff I like from getting Grammys!
III Nine Days After Whateverdaythegrammystookplacethisyear
He felt sad, he said. It was the morning after he stopped hating himself for being kinda in the gray area for so long in private. The night before he had send me a text: “It’s over. A little back and forth but we both agreed it was checkmate. Broke up in Central Park, lol. It went so well/ was our first real convo. Probably the best convo we ve ever had. I feel surprisingly sad.”
I was really proud of him. And of me, for challenging him to be upfront about his lack of genuine want in his relationship. But I also felt meaningless. I wasn’t even able to arise in my person the decency Billy was finally able to come up with for his new ex.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent, I guess.
 I know this with certainty, because this was the first song Spears wrote. She wrote it with a woman named Artani, who then went on a Greek reality-talent show, called “Fame Story,” which everyone in Greece watched at the time because we were trying to not focus on our faltering institutions as a nation.
Artani was dealing with a breakup while Britney was trying to face the new Justin Timberlake as an ex, who had released “Cry Me A River.” The song was personal, and “Everytime” was a vulnerable response to it, but how vulnerable was it really, when it was a pop song and it was created for everyone? Doesn’t that take away from it in serving a purpose as being a meaningful apology? I think it did/ does/ forever will.