Monday, January 27, 2014

Junot Díaz at Yale

I haven't been able to confirm this text, but it has been popping up all over the internets (I think I first saw it here and here, among other places.)  It certainly reads right.

Life is going to present to you a series of transformations. And the point of education should be to transform you. To teach you how to be transformed so you can ride the waves as they come. But today, the point of education is not education. It’s accreditation. The more accreditation you have, the more money you make. That’s the instrumental logic of neoliberalism. And this instrumental logic comes wrapped in an envelope of fear. And my Ivy League, my MIT students are the same. All I feel coming off of my students is fear. That if you slip up in school, if you get one bad grade, if you make one fucking mistake, the great train of wealth will leave you behind. And that’s the logic of accreditation. If you’re at Yale, you’re in the smartest 1% in the world. […] And the brightest students in the world are learning in fear. I feel it rolling off of you in waves. But you can’t learn when you’re afraid. You cannot be transformed when you are afraid.

This appears to be part of an address Junot Diaz gave at Yale on November 12, 2013.  At first glance, I'm not finding a complete transcript, or any 'official' source for that quotation, but it does mesh with the articles I was able to find.

And even if it's a little off, it's a damn good quote.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Serpentine Perspectives

In the wake of this weekends' amazing Neutral Milk Hotel show at BAM, and the fantastic Visual Aids Postcards from the Edge exhibition, which Cory has gone to the last few years, and which I experienced for the first time yesterday - really interesting, a combination of work that is moving, fun, poignant, provocative, and timely - here are a few shots from the Serpentine Sackler Gallery, new edition, circa All Saints Day, 2013.

Another day, I'll post some photos from the very good Adrián Villar Rojas show we saw in the gallery, but for now, these images of the Zaha Hadid structure.

And this, from the interior.

Hope you had a good weekend.  Enjoy the Grammys, if that's your thing.  [I may find a way to write the thousands of words warranted by the NMH and PfTE shows, but that won't happen tonight.]

Saturday, January 11, 2014

As Essential as Groceries

The title of this post is paraphrased from Dr. Fowler's paraphrasing of Amiri Bakara in the opening moments of this clip (with thanks to Poets and Writers Inc. for drawing attention to that video).

The clip has about 7 minutes of interview footage, and includes great perspective from Baraka on the importance of speaking and hearing poetry, as well as simply reading it off a page.  Early on, it also has this pearl of Truth:

The reason they cut the arts always is because the people that run the world don't want you to be conscious, because otherwise you'd resist. You couldn't possibly be living like we live if you understood what they were doing, you know, you'd fight them.  So the arts is always expendable.  Anything that makes people conscious of what the world is, and what it could be, is always expendable.

Baraka goes on in this interview to discuss how an artist needs to live and work on this earth, in this actual world, the physical universe of people and things, rather than retreating into an imaginary, idealized, self-constructed cave or tower, of ivory or any other color.

This world has plenty that is nearly uncontrovertibly craptastic in it [which, in case it's not obvious by now, is one of the most important reasons why art and poetry out loud are as essential as food].  But one of the things I'd argue is good about these internets is that, in addition to the cat videos and endless rants, you can find a trove of material at a moment's notice about Amiri Baraka, the Black Arts Movement, and delve into a rabbit hole of your own devising.

For now, I'm leaving you with a couple clips of Baraka reading his work.  One, a relatively recent live performance video with Rob Brown, courtesy of The Sanctuary for Independent Media.

And this other, even more powerful and controversial (if that's possible) earlier poem - audio only, with a still photo - Black Art, with Albert Ayler, Don Cherry, Sonny Murray, Henry Grimes, and Louis Worrell.  Required listening.

Rest in Power.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Ave Atque Vale Phil Everly

I've found that it's fairly typical for people not to recognize the vast importance of the Everly Brothers to the history of 20th Century music.

It's reductive, but it might be useful to think of it this way: without the Everly Brothers, there would be no Beatles.  And without the Beatles... well, you can finish that sentence on your own.

Bye Bye Phil.

Sunday, January 05, 2014


Just a few words to ring in the New Year/celebrate this numerically rare date.

This Holiday Season was up and down, to say the least.  To cut to the most important chase, my Grandmother died last Sunday at the age of 91.  It wasn't what you'd call unexpected, but the grief has been nonetheless profound.  At the same time, there is a lot of life there for all of us to celebrate, and as my dad put it: "By now, she'll be directing the choir up there."

That said, there was a lot to celebrate in general too.  A fantastic T-Day in the Catskills; wonderful Thanksgiving and Chanukkah celebration with Joe and Andrew in L.I.C.; great music from Lucius at Bowery Ballroom and Yo La Tengo at the Bell House (though of course those shows gave me more than a few pangs of a different kind of grief over Maxwell's and the YLT benefit shows); stunning Shaw from the Bedlam company; impressive original work (again) from the Representatives; brilliant poetic theater from Dominique Morriseau and the LAByrinth in Sunset Baby; another moving musical from the Public with Fun Home; Mark Rylance's Richard III to bookend the Twelfth Night we caught last Thanksgiving week in London.  Good movies and friends and New Year's Eve with Les & Megan in the Village.  And the warmth of the Christmas celebration in New Jersey cut through both my and Cory's colds.  (Well, kind of.  We're still struggling to shake those off a week and a half later...)

Speaking of London I haven't even gotten into this year's (well, last year's, at this point) trip!

So, just a little on that now - a few shots from early in the trip, and one from the end of it.

The Saturday after we arrived, we took a walk over Tower Bridge to visit the Maltby Street Market, where we enjoyed, among other things, some food and libation.

Little Bird gin bloody mary.

And on the last day of the trip, we took a trip to the National Portrait Gallery.  Here's a shot Cory snapped of me and my rally beard with a picture of Will Ferrell.

Miss you, Grandma.