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Archive for July, 2012

What’s better than one dog tag? TWO DOG TAGS.

A GREAT SONG WITH A MESSAGE is “Whatever You Like” by T.I. This is my favourite part:

My chick can have what she want

And go in any store for any bag she want

The message of the song is basically this: “I will buy you handbags if you have sex with me.” T.I. explains:

Yeah I want’cho body, I need yo body

Long as you got me you won’t need nobody

You want it I got it, go get it I buy it

Tell ’em other broke niggas be quiet

I like this message because it courts controversy. T.I. is basically saying that deep down, gender relations are still based on the ability of a man to provide resource advantages to a woman. The relationship, for all our talk, is simple: sex in exchange for consumer goods, in particular handbags. In the end, T.I. is suggesting, we are all animals, built with evolutionarily programmed imperatives. It’s like Lord of the Flies, but in four minutes.

Bitches love handbags

The music video should show T.I. buying hundreds, no thousands, of handbags, and just throwing them out onto the street and boning bitches left right and centre. But it’s still a good video. In the opening, T.I. establishes himself as an individual of wealth and class, placing an exorbitant order in a fast food restaurant: hot wings and fries. He hits on the cashier, deploying Cary Grant charm: “She like pickles.”

The music video reinforces the idea that a relationship is about women surrendering their bodies in exchange for riches. That night, the awed cashier calls T.I., whereupon he buys her shoes, a diamond necklace and a car. . . . But it was all a dream. She snaps out of her reverie and finds herself still serving chicken wings. The message is clear: without T.I., we cannot have shoes, diamond necklaces, or cars. We will have to serve chicken wings for the rest of our lives. He is our only hope.

Even though a lot has changed, it is still a man’s world. More specifically, T.I.’s world.

My favourite line is this: “Brain so good (good) / School you went to college”. This has helped me in my conversations with women. “You brain good. School, you go college?”

Keep it simple, stupid.

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Unbearable lightness

“The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum! What does this mad myth signify?

. . .

“If every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity as Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. It is a terrifying prospect. In the world of eternal return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every move we make. That is why Nietzsche called the idea of eternal return the heaviest of burdens (das schwerste Gewicht).

“If eternal return is the heaviest of burdens, then our lives can stand out against it in all their splendid lightness.

. . .

“The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.

“Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.

“What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?”

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I LOVE SONGS that make you think.

I hate it when girls arrive at a social outing without glitter. “UM. Aren’t you forgetting something?”

Take Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R”. In this song Ke$ha has her “hot pants on enough”. It seems puzzling until you think about it. You wouldn’t want to have hot pants on insufficiently. For example, just one leg. That would lead to tripping. The chorus: “I’ve got that glitter on my eyes / Stockings ripped up the side / Looking sick and sexified / So let’s go.” There are two things to admire here. First, Ke$ha had time to put glitter on her face but not to write out the words in her title. This suggests a meticulous attention to appearance that I appreciate. Second, Ke$ha is telling a story. This narrative becomes obvious in the line: “We’re selling our clothes, sleeping in cars.” Ke$ha’s song appears to be about young teenage girls letting go of inhibitions during a wild night of exuberant drinking. But at a deeper level, it’s really about young women living on the streets. Women who are forced to sell their clothes and sleep in cars. The glitter and torn stockings suggest that these women have been forced to do whatever it takes in order to sustain themselves. In another song with similar themes, they can’t even afford a toothbrush: they must brush their teeth with whatever is around, such as empty bottles of Jack Daniels. In this messed up world, everyone is playing the same game: “we’re dancing like we’re dumb.” The dumb-dancing game. Ke$ha doesn’t mean it literally. It’s a metaphor: we dance through life, closing our eyes to social and political realities, such as strippers and prostitutes sleeping in our cars. Ke$ha’s song, far from being a trivial pop song, asks an important question. Yes, we are who we are . . . But who are we?

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Nada y pues nada

“Good night,” said the younger waiter.

“Good night,” the other said. Turning off the electric light he continued the conversation with himself. It was the light of course, but it is necessary that the place be clean and pleasant. You do not want music. Certainly you do not want music. Nor can you stand before a bar with dignity although that is all that is provided for these hours. What did he fear? It was not a fear or dread, It was a nothing that he knew too well. It was all a nothing and a man was a nothing too. It was only that and light was all it needed and a certain cleanness and order. Some lived in it and never felt it but he knew it all was nada y pues nada y nada y pues nada. Our nada who art in nada, nada be thy name thy kingdom nada thy will be nada in nada as it is in nada. Give us this nada our daily nada and nada us our nada as we nada our nadas and nada us not into nada but deliver us from nada; pues nada. Hail nothing full of nothing, nothing is with thee. He smiled and stood before a bar with a shining steam pressure coffee machine.

“What’s yours?” asked the barman.

“Nada.”

“Otro loco mas,” said the barman and turned away.

“A little cup,” said the waiter.

The barman poured it for him.

“The light is very bright and pleasant but the bar is unpolished,” the waiter said.

The barman looked at him but did not answer. It was too late at night for conversation.

“You want another copita?” the barman asked.

“No, thank you,” said the waiter and went out. He disliked bars and bodegas. A clean, well-lighted cafe was a very different thing. Now, without thinking further, he would go home to his room. He would lie in the bed and finally, with daylight, he would go to sleep. After all, he said to himself, it’s probably only insomnia. Many must have it.

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Ali G vs. English

Ali G: “What sort of things does you think the media should cover?”

Andy Rooney: “DO you think the media.”

Ali G: “Um. Yo. Do you think . . . I think it’s an English . . . American thing though.”

Andy Rooney: “. . . I can’t waste my time.”

Ali G: “Is it because I is black?”

It’s hard not to laugh with Ali G. There’s a willful rebellion there that makes us cheer for him. It’s a spirit of youthfulness, a revolt against established order. It’s in our nature, as old as Jupiter and Kronos. It’s built into us: the child rebelling against and surpassing the parents. Ali G is the mischievous iconoclast; Andy Rooney falls easily into the role of curmudgeonly grump.

Does you like English?

At the same time, I like language. I like grammar, the engine that makes it move. Language founds our representation of the world. It connects us and pushes us apart. You can commit your life to someone by speaking the words ‘I do’. People war over words. Our society is words. Words, words, words. Even in the age of cinema, words on a page can make us tremble and weep. I love words. So I feel for Andy Rooney. Words are important.

It seems a contradiction, to feel for both sides. But these urges, to challenge established authority, and to preserve it, are timeless and beyond even language.

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Mission Español

Q: Que hace Lucia en la piscina?

A: Nada.

Jajajajaja.

I dated a Colombian in Paris and we continued corresponding for a while. There was a lot of “jajajajaing” in her letters that confused the hell out of me.

I got it back.

How far I have come: “Ayuda! Una cabra ha comido mi pasaporte.”

Mission Español: to become competent in Spanish. To this end I travelled to South America last year, have had several Spanish tutors since, and have just completed a forty-five hour audio program (Pimsleur, which I highly recommend). Here is the next step in Mission Español: labelling my entire house in Spanish. Sorry, housemates. Actually, they were kind enough to give me the go ahead and seem to like the idea.

I say Mission Español, but the labelling is also part of Mission Français. Mission Français has has gone through many stops and starts. It originated in Paris and came to Montreal to die . . . But I am resurrecting it now. I will tell the story of this death and resurrection in another post.

Let us remain with Spanish. What will mark the completion of this project? The end is too nigh: I will not master it. But I can achieve a certain level of competency. This project will be called complete when I’m able to finish reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s short stories “Un señor muy viejo con unas alas enormes” and “El colonel no tiene quien le escriba”. I’ll post on this project again when it’s complete. For now, here is what some of my house looks like:

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Pale Blue Dot

I LIKE TO WATCH THIS at least once a year. There can be no better time than now, while we wait for the end. Just watch it.

“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.

“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. It underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the only home we’ve ever known.

“The pale blue dot.”

– Carl Sagan

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