Friday, September 22, 2006

Fun with the Internet

Here's a curiosity for you rock-fans: The dissertation abstract of Sterling Morrison, the founding Velvet Underground guitarist who died eleven years ago last month. He earned a doctorate in medieval English literature from the University of Texas-Austin in 1986. The dissertation is called Historiographical Perspectives in the Signed Poems of Cynewulf. Did you know he was also a tugboat captain? Not Cynewulf, Sterling Morrison.

Hagiography: It's my life, and it's my wife.
The modern appreciation of Cynewulf's four signed hagiographical poems--Fates of the Apostles, Juliana, Elene, and Christ II--benefits considerably from an awareness of medieval historiographical ideas (classical and Christian) in addition to a familiarity with the unique characteristics of hagiography. Unlike the modern view that hagiography is to be rigorously differentiated from historiography, the medieval conception of both treats hagiography as a species of historiography. The historiographical ideas expressed in the signed poems derive from the classical tradition which begins with Herodotus and ends with Tacitus, and which provides literary forms, emphasizes style and moral purpose in historiography, and supplants entirely the undeveloped Anglo-Saxon conception of history (as exemplified in Beowulf). The Christian tradition then subsumes these classical concepts, and the apparent incongruity of historical 'fact' on the one hand and hagiographical marvel on the other is eliminated in the four levels of medieval exegesis. In most respects, Cynewulf's signed poems are clearly the work of a traditional Anglo-Saxon poet. Cynewulf departs significantly from tradition, however, when he manipulates the hagiographical forms within which he is writing in accordance with Christian historiographical theories. Consequently, one finds that the Fates is so intensely anagogical in its orientation that it steps beyond the temporal confines of the historical Martyrology: this preoccupation with the Hereafter thus explains Cynewulf's supposed 'double ending' to the poem. In Juliana an Augustinian view of history prevails, and the schematized events depicted illustrate the conflict between the City of God and the City of Man. Elene, on the other hand, exhibits the Eusebian/Orosian view that God's governance of history is manifest in the rise of Rome and in the conversion of Constantine: the poem illustrates God's direct intrusions into history--in this case, through human agents (Constantine, Helena, and Judas Cyriacus) in search of the True Cross. And finally, Christ II reveals the tight knitting of the Christian historiographical scheme whose principal events are the Creation, the Incarnation, and the Day of Judgment: in describing the Ascension Cynewulf is thus led to consider the other parts of the structure as well (which results in a non-linear presentation of events in the poem).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Tin can

I know it started life as a propaganda tool, and it still is that (though it is a weirdly ambiguous propaganda tool). I know it costs taxpayers zillions of dollars that could be spent on -- well, you name it.

But I still am awed and captivated by human spaceflight in general, and by the space shuttle in particular. I would go up in that thing in a heartbeat.

Welcome home, sailors.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

They don't bake

I pass this on without comment.

American idol

Here's the latest amusing Google search that brought someone to this Web site:

kelly clarkson thorough biography

Isn't that what we're all searching for?
No one said musicians aren't petty

Having blogged moments ago about the musicians' curse that is the mocking request for "Free Bird," I just thought of what will be, for me, the perfect response: To play Little Jimmy Dickens' 1965 smash hit "May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose." It's a wonderful, strange song, eminently recognizable, and it will fit well in my oeuvre. How is it that I've never made a habit of playing at least one Little Jimmy Dickens song per appearance? Sorry, Jimmy.

Best of all, the tune will be, in its cheerfully hostile way, an enjoyable, passive-aggressive Fuck You to whoever yelled "'Free Bird.'" I know my bandmates will appreciate it, if no one else does -- and the best in-jokes for musicians on stage are the ones that only the musicians even notice.
And often the food is good

My friend Walter -- with whom I played in my first band, 20 years ago -- recently lamented that sometimes, playing music, he feels like so much furniture.
As a friend of mine advised me a long time ago: "Play pretty." That's what i wanna do these days. It seems the result of "playing pretty," however, is not only becoming a seamless part of the music, but also of becoming a seamless part of whatever is behind you--like a wall. You don't get noticed.

And that's been okay. I've adjusted accordingly and started enjoing being in the background. Like i said, I really hadn't thought all that much about it...until the other night...

I had finished a gig with a friend of mine (who actually is entertaining and interesting and stuff) and we were loading the gear out. As i was carrying my guitar case toward the door , this rather attractive and charmingly intoxicated chick put her arm out on the wall and cut me off. She looked at me as she swayed every so slightly and cooed:

"sooooo....i was wondering what musicians like to do after they finish playing at night..."
For me, part of being a working musician is accepting that I must on occasion blend into the walls. The consolation, in my recent experience at least, is that the more in the background I am, the better the gig pays. I've played a lot of weddings, for example, and weddings guests generally don't care who I am or how seriously I take the music. They just want to dance to "Mustang Sally" -- or, more likely, to talk while over yonder someone is singing "Mustang Sally." If they pay any attention to me, it often is in the form of a mocking request for "Free Bird," which is worse than no attention, period, but never mind.

Anyway, all this is fine, because wedding gigs are lucrative -- as opposed to club gigs, which generally don't pay well (though they pay much better in Madison than in music capitals like New York or Nashville). But club gigs have their own rewards: I generally am playing my own songs at them, and if people come, they are there -- hopefully -- to listen.

And perhaps, later, to flirt with me. I don't discourage this. It's good for my self-esteem.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The frequency

Sorry to be a laggard blogger! I am working on a story that has taken me far and wide. It will run in Isthmus soon.

Have in your thoughts Dawud Bracey, who struggled with addiction and was killed Saturday in a shootout with the police. I knew Dawud and liked him, and I was sad and surprised to see his picture on the front page of this morning's paper. It is a terrible waste. What makes someone shoot at cops?

Here's to clean living.