Fucker I Dance

This song was released a few years ago, but I just saw the video for it today.

The song is a scintillating piece of dance pop to be sure, but the video is just stunning. It’s premise is honest and perfect: put Robyn in an empty sound stage, set up some lighting effects, let her wear that weird cut-off feather blouse, and let that bad bitch dance. The video is shot from the vantage point of a single camera that glides graciously around her. All of the action is captured in a single shot, suggesting that the performance was done all in a single take.

Robyn is a great dancer but not in the way that dancers are usually great. She isn’t exceedingly athletic, nor is she particularly sexual. Anybody could do these moves and it wouldn’t seem out of place if a man where to do them in place of her. But the truth is nobody else could execute this the way she does it. It isn’t at all about communicating technical mastery or sexual allure. It’s just a human body moving in a way that’s completely natural to it and appropriate for the emotionality of the music within which it’s immersed. The dance is free, but it’s also disciplined and expertly done. It looks ex temporal and spontaneous but has undoubtedly been rehearsed fully and discovered by the performer to be beautiful. It’s exactly what dancing ought to be but almost never is.

Like pretty much everything, I have only a cursory understanding of how music and dance work, but I have seen this ‘dancing distinctly’ routine done successfully elsewhere. Best example is David Byrne dancing to Talking Heads music. Obviously Byrne isn’t the dancer that Robyn is, but he’s the absolute best at dancing the way David Byrne dances.

This is the way David Byrne dances:

Strays I Have Known

This is a list of the strays I have known.
Some I have befriended, some I have only encountered.
Some are still with me, others are gone.
All stray…

There’s the manic depressive who always asks for second chances,
the former salutatorian who had to give up on it all,
the drug-beaten hermit,
a bevy of gay waiters,
a leather jacket
a black cat who wants so desperately to talk to me,
a woman who when she sleeps speaks in two languages at once and thus makes a new language that is only for her, that can only be spoken by her and that can only be understood by her.

There are three weird sisters with complementary magics,
and a Southern lady abandoned by her beau in deepest darkest Chicago,
a self-built robot,
a happy cook,
4 or 5 video game addicts,
a light blue 1991 Chevy Lumina which I called Owen, after my dower but attractive high school Spanish teacher, and which acted as a divining rod for traffic accidents.

There are the cab drivers with learned degrees,
cab drivers who are dodging child support,
cab drivers with criminal convictions,
cab drivers driving along the margins of the city, alone in the late night.

There’s the world’s most talented squanderer of talent: he was a friend.
A one-eyed astronomer, also a friend.
There was the deputy high priest of this cult I started when I was in 5th grade.
There was the trash bag of pornography magazines I found in the woods.

All the strays.
All coming and going.
Some I have known,
some I have not known.

The Lives of Pederasts

I was surprised to find that someone uploaded their somewhat janky vhs copy of the documentary Chicken Hawk to YouTube. The film offers a decidedly rosy introduction to the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA). It was shot in the early 90’s, when the group was at its most public, and was trying to glom on to the ascendant gay rights movement. It opens with interviews with several of the members taken at gay pride parade in Washington DC where the group is kind of skulking around at the periphery. It’s interesting to see how queer civil rights activists react to them with this really aggressive ambivalence. No one’s telling them they have to leave, but they certainly aren’t letting them join the party. Some years later, the LGBT community would see what a liability it is to let the NAMBLA guys hang around and would come to openly condemn them, but back then no one really knew what to do when they would just show up out of nowhere with their unconscionable agenda—that society should let them have sex with children.

Chicken Hawk is fascinating, but it could have been even more so if it hadn’t committed itself to fighting NAMBLA’s fights. We’re constantly shown footage of counter-protests in front of NAMBLA’s weird “office;” and goofy death threats recorded on answering machines, and decontextualized interview snippets with working-class types blustering about what they’d do if they caught one of ‘em. As for the pedophiles themselves, they’re mostly interested in talking about reforming age of consent laws. I have to say though, it is kind of amusing to see pederasts affirming the agency of young people by citing their own sexual encounters with them as evidence. I feel like the film overthrows its whole position when, at minute 22, one of the pedophiles starts flirting on camera with a boy outside of a deli. The kid is playing with a pay phone. The man approaches and tries to join him and his friends in the game. The interaction is superficial and awkward, as most interactions between adults and kids are, yet from this the pedophile thinks he is able to gain some kind of insight into the kid’s “psychological space” and that he has learned enough to evaluate the boy’s interest and desire for him. We hear the boy speak on camera; there are no messages being exchanged. He’s just nervous about getting caught messing with the phone company’s pay phone. The perceived interest, the playfulness: it’s all in the man’s desperate mind.

I will say, where the film succeeds and manages to show us something really unique that we can learn from and empathize with, is when it shows us the lives of the pedophiles and what they’re like as people. These are peculiar people that we meet. They live their lives alone, in dingy little apartments, watching children from afar and feeling what they feel but being more or less powerless to do anything about it. We see one man leaving messages in young adult books in the public library. Others draw pictures for themselves of pre-adolescent bodies because owning and exchanging photographic imagery would be impossible. In the handful of times in their lives when they actually do get the opportunity to be intimate with a young person, it’s such an utter breakthrough for them that they talk about it in terms of spiritual transcendence. They carry the memory with them, clear and vivid, wherever the go for the rest of their days. Of course it isn’t beautiful, but it’s genuine, and it’s sad: The grim and ghastly respite of a mangled soul.

Dispatches from the Boulder Flood

Sorrow Pile

Check out this heap of damaged private property that’s completely inundated the dumpsters in my apartment community. At first it was just rolls and rolls of soaking wet carpet, but now the pile is bigger and it has more interesting things in it. Someone added this great face canvas on to the end of it. I think it’s supposed to look like a caterpillar or a worm now. I don’t know if anyone is ever going to come take all of this stuff away. I don’t see how they could. At this point it’s just grown into an enormous and beautiful collaborative sculpture.

Milton on Divorce

libertin-divorcer

Although he is known today as a poet and the author of Paradise Lost, John Milton spent most of his life working as a public official in Britain’s nascent civil sector. Peerless in his command of Latin and Greek, a master of law and rhetoric, and conversant in all of the vernacular languages of Europe, Milton’s contemporaries esteemed him to be a man of tremendous genius and one of the best minds in England. And during his most productive years, Milton gave that mind over to public discourse and political debate. During and before the English Civil War, he wrote a number of treatises and pamphlets espousing what we would identify today as plain liberal thought. He wrote about reforming the prelaty and reorganizing the university curriculum. His most famous work of prose, Areopagitica, is one of the greatest and most influential defenses of freedom of expression anyone has ever written.

My favorite of Milton’s prose works is The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, wherein he argues that church doctrine should make allowances to grant divorce between individuals for whom marriage has failed but who nevertheless must remain wed in obedience to the dispensation of the church. This defense of divorce probably provoked more scorn and controversy among his contemporaries than any of his political writings. It was a challenge to one of the most basic and unquestioned moral tenants of the common church, that marriage was a sacred and irreversible bond created by God, which man had no license to dissolve. But Milton saw that it was possible that the conjugal union could in certain cases interfere with an individual’s covenant God and so should not be given precedence over moral freedom that is necessary for a soul to realize its own salvation. He writes, “Yet thus much I shall now insist on, that what ever the institution were, it could not be so enormous, nor so rebellious against both nature and reason as to exalt it selfe above the end and person for whom it was instituted.” Milton argues that marriage is not an avenue of salvation in and of itself but rather an aid which God has granted to men and women to help them endure the world and live righteous lives. Should the torment of an unhappy marriage actually weaken one’s moral resolve, causing him or her to despair over life, it stands to reason that an individual should be permitted to escape the arrangement for the sake of his or her own salvation. Here he describes how if a marriage, which is devised by God to allay human loneliness, should actually cause greater loneliness and function counter to its intended purpose, then it is no marriage at all and more harmful to one’s standing as a christian not to withdraw from it:

“And the solitarines of man, which God had namely and principally orderd to prevent by mariage, hath no remedy, but lies under a worse condition then the loneliest single life; for in single life the absence and remotenes of a helper might inure him to expect his own comforts out of himselfe, or to seek with hope; but here the continuall sight of his deluded thoughts without cure, must needs be to him, if especially his complexion incline him to melancholy, a daily trouble and paine of losse in som degree like that which Reprobats feel.”

Milton addressed The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce to the Long Parliament of the 1640s which had just asserted its autonomy as a representative government by rejecting the king’s order to dissolve. His hope was that this new order that was fast emerging would reorganize not only the civil but also the spiritual life of the people of Britain. Parliament at this time was populated by puritans of all stripes who were aggressive in their reform of church practices and religious law; however, it appears that Milton failed to persuade them to revise the marriage tradition. Most were of the belief that the liturgy simply did not support his view. It also is notable that Milton neglects the subject of children and parenting altogether in his discussion of marriage. This is likely why even modern liberal society, which aligns itself around the primacy of the family and the cultivation of children into good citizens, ultimately rejected this thesis as well. It has only been in this new and most recent age of our own, which elevates self-interested happiness and individual prosperity above all other concerns, that Milton’s views on marriage even begin to make sense. Because central to what Milton is saying is that one must be happy and one must love, and if there is anything in one’s life which dispels happiness and which prevents one from experiencing love fully and properly, then one has a moral responsiblity to push this impediment aside and progress in life.

“When therfore this originall and sinles Penury or Lonelines of the soul cannot lay it selfe down by the side of such a meet and acceptable union as God ordain’d in marriage, at least in some proportion, it cannot conceive and bring forth Love, but remains utterly unmarried under a formall wedlock, and still burnes in the proper meaning of S.Paul. Then enters Hate, not that Hate that sins, but that which onely is naturall dissatisfaction, and the turning aside from a mistaken object: if that mistake have done injury, it fails not to dismisse with recompence; for to retain still, and not be able to love, is to heap up more injury.”

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