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11.22: Flash Flood Warning

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11.20.05: We Lose Chris Whitley

The video opens, of course, with Chris lighting up a cigarette. He died at 45 from lung cancer. You can hear his voice get softer, more whispery, when you spend a day listening only to CW albums, starting with 1991’s Living with the Law and going all the way through 2005’s Soft Dangerous Shores. When you make that journey, you go from Americana to grunge to acoustic balladry to jazz-inflected covers to sample-driven rock to atmospheric smoothness. He won a Grammy for that first album and then proceeded to never make another one that sounded anything like it. What he did, he did for himself, to satisfy his own musical imperative. But it wasn’t just his  own artistry that drove him: he was burned from the inside out by the fire of the angels who channeled their music straight through him, ruthlessly and relentlessly, until he just burned right up.

How profoundly blessed we were to have him. He blended sexuality and spirituality with a deft hand, making it clear that the two are inseparable and fully blossom when in each other’s presence.

Just as deftly he blended all the sounds he liked into chunks of sorrow or epiphany or adoration or wonderment. Or joy, as he does here, mixing banjo, trip-hop beats, and turntable scratching into a middle-Eastern-sounding ode to the hard-won happiness he’d carved out for himself, celebrating even the rough road he took to get there. “All that which ain’t all good is yet all god,” he sings. What a blessing that we had him to remind us of this. RIP, Chris Whitley.

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It Takes 19 Lines to Build a Villanelle

Today is the 19th, which is another wonderful opportunity to post a villanelle. This one’s pretty famous, as the biographical note accompanying The Bell Jar often includes it. I’m a big fan of Plath’s work and of villanelles, and this one’s a doozy, so here we go:

Mad Girl’s Love Song

I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
I lift my lids and all is born again.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

I fancied you’d return the way you said,
But I grow old and I forget your name.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
At least when spring comes they roar back again.
I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
(I think I made you up inside my head.)

If you’d like to hear a surprisingly rollicking musical version, check this out:

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18 Words to Describe Today

Uh, seriously, how about some nutmeg? That's the WHOLE POINT. Also, low fat? Why? WHYYYYY?

Uh, seriously, how about some nutmeg? That’s the WHOLE POINT. Also, low fat? Why? WHYYYYY?

Productive, sunny, incompetently spiced eggnog, confidence from confidant, ran 3 miles in the dark, proud of daughter’s nomination

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17-Year-Old Gets Into 1st AT&T Contract

That's some stunningly sculptured hair for a 17-year-old. Damn.

That’s some stunningly sculptured hair for a 17-year-old. Damn.

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$16 and change gets us to the front of the line

Yay, Austin!

Yay, Austin!

I love the winter holiday time. I love my carefully curated holiday songlist, the two weeks off from work (my workplace shuts down between Xmas and New Years), the general air of festivity, and colored lights. I love colored lights! I don’t like crowds much, though, and truly hate standing in line, so I’ve only been to Austin’s Trail of Lights one year. Trail of Lights is the Godzilla of holiday light displays, winding through Zilker Park. There’s also a big tree of lights (shown below) constructed out of a pole and long, long strings of light that you can see for miles. 

We tried to go last year, but gave up when we realized JUST how long that line was. This year I’m not fooling around: I found out there’s such a thing called a ZiP  Fast Pass, which allows entry to the Trail of Lights 45 minutes before the main gate opens and front-of-the-line gate entry privileges at any time. (Plus: access to the ZiP Hospitality Lounge featuring heaters and private restrooms.) It’s $15 each (plus a $1.50 online ticketing fee) so me and my kiddo can kick off winter break in major festivity withOUT standing in line.

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15 Minutes of Undivided Attention to Kim Kardashian (Sort of)

Now here's a fun nude.

Now here’s a fun nude. (Source)

I’ve never given Kim Kardashian much thought, or any of the Kardashians, for that matter. But I’m going to give her my full attention for the next 15 minutes while I free-write some thoughts in  response to her photos released this week.

When someone strikes me as an attention whore, my brain automatically shuts off when they are mentioned. I can’t believe that anyone who so desperately asks for my attention actually deserves it. But the other day, I found myself asking my daughter (who is fascinated by the Kardashian reality show and is allowed to watch it when I’m not home or within earshot) why Kim K took a set of nude shots, including a ¾ full frontal. Even as the question was coming out of my mouth, I was asking myself “why not?” I’m a big fan of nudism. I love a weekend at Star Ranch (a nudist retreat outside Austin) and have run in their Bare Buns 5k. In theory, I have no problem with getting naked and feel everyone would benefit from a weekend with nudists. Really, it’s a relief to see how real human bodies look: we are so inundated with fictional human bodies—images that begin as photographs but then have all flaws removed, all humanity smoothed out—that facing actual human bodies, with their sags and wrinkles and slackness and puckers, is a revelation and a comfort. So why am I judging harshly Kim K’s decision to go nude, front and back? Partially it’s because she’s a mother now and her child will be growing up in an age when all these photos of her mother will be available for anyone else to see, and I feel like maybe the kid’s peers will give her crap about it. “Everyone’s seen your mom naked.” That doesn’t seem fair to her kid.

But then, isn’t that also tied up with mothers not being sexual, or at least not supposed to be sexual, which is a bogus point? (As you can only be a virgin OR a whore, not a fully developed human person who loves sex and also procreates.) I don’t want to buy into that bullshit, I don’t want my daughter to, and I don’t want North to, or anyone’s child. I think what bugs me about these photos is that the desperation in them muddies the waters of a good discussion about how women in general and mothers in particular should be allowed to fully claim their sexuality, their nudity, their humanity. Kim K’s photos are attention mongering, not freeing or celebratory, despite their staging. And that desperation for attention makes me sad and uncomfortable, and I feel like it makes all women look bad, because we DON’T want to be judged just on how our bodies look artificially greased and lit, and then here’s this person whose whole career is based on that. And that’s what bothers me about them, now that I’ve given Kim K the 15 minutes she never got from me before.


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