Posts Tagged ‘jazz’

Rock the vote

November 6, 2012


via.

E.E. Cummings Month: A dribbling moan of jazz

August 21, 2010


god pity me whom(god distinctly has)
the weightless svelte drifting sexual feather
of your shall i say body?follows
truly through a dribbling moan of jazz


whose arched occasional stepped youth swallows
curvingly the keeness of my hips;
or,your first twitch of crisp boy flesh dips
my height in a firm fragile stinging weather,

(breathless with sharp necessary lips)kid



female cracksman of the nifty,ruffian-rogue,
laughing body with wise breasts half-grown,
lisping flesh quick to thread the fattish drone
of I Want a Doll,



                              wispish-agile feet with slid
steps parting the tousle of saxophonic brogue.

(E.E. Cummings, “god pity me whom(god distinctly has),” Tulips and Chimneys, 1923.)

One of his “jazz poems,” “god pity me(whom god distinctly has)” is included in a lot of anthologies. As an example, Cummings’ poem was printed in Sascha Feinstein and Yusef Komunyakaa’s The Second Set: The Jazz Poetry Anthology Volume 2 (Indiana: University Press, 1996).

The concept of jazz as a language not only evokes analogies between musical and linguistic structures but also the idea that instruments can, in fact, speak to us. … In jazz clubs you hear people call out, “Talk to me!” or say, “This music speaks to me.” In addition to the pulse of jazz, they hear cadences and inflections that correspond to words, sentences, whole stories.

(Ibid.)


If jazz strives to attain the syntactic logic of … “a developmental language” of its own, then poetry, without question, strives that much harder to achieve the emotional complexity and rhythmic drive of music. In conjunction with The Jazz Poetry Anthology (1991), this book presents a selection of jazz poems that, we hope, will offer “ongoing implications for thought.” …

We have chosen poems by Hart Crane, e.e. cummings [sic], DuBose Heyward, Vachel Lindsay, and Muriel Rukeyser because of their literary prescence in the poetry circles of the time.

(Ibid.)


Many of the poets in both anthologies have written extensively about jazz, so much that jazz seems to have influenced their work as much as literary sources. Sometimes poems have been written as series, which might be seen as being parallel to jazz musicians who improvise several choruses.

(Ibid.)

I hope to have time to come back to that similarly-themed-pieces-as-jazz-variations, you know, kind of a bebop, exploratory improv concept as it plays out in a jazz form of literature: I found some other Cummings prostitution poems that deal in parallels and complements to the “kitty” one from earlier this month, and I think that fits with the idea of a series of riffs on the same idea. I will try to get to that. Promise.

All photographs by Ellen von Unwerth.

The Girls of Summer: Carrie Enwright, Miss July 1963

June 21, 2010


Photographed by Ron Vogel.

I’d like to juxtapose the original text that accompanied Ms. Enwright’s Playboy gatefold appearance with some excerpts from a review of The Playmate Book (Taschen, 2006) by Joan Acocella, a writer whose work I like and find thought-provoking.


Hugh Hefner, the founder and editor-in-chief of Playboy, always said that his ideal for the magazine’s famous Playmate of the Month, the woman in the centerfold photo, was “the girl next door with her clothes off.”

(Acocella, Joan. “The Girls Next Door: Life in the centerfold.” Review of Gretchen Edgren’s The Playmate Book. The New Yorker. March 20, 2006.)

Okay: agree.


In other words, he was trying to take his readers back to a time before their first sexual experience, a time when they still liked their stuffed bear and thought that a naked woman might be something like that.

(Ibid.)

Mm. Mainly disagree.

It’s my opinion that the prose and pictures, especially in the early years, treated the reader as a fellow experienced swinging single dude, talking man-to-man. We have talked before about how the pictures are composed to have an implicit male presence, like the reader is the model’s partner and has only just stepped out of frame, maybe to take the picture he’s looking at. Take the following as an example:


Picnic laid out with thermos and two cups. Hello.

Like the best of mid-July days, Carrie seems to be destined expressly for the informal, easygoing pleasures of life, and is, as a consequence, a refreshingly unaffected companion.

“I am,” says [Ms. Enwright] in thoughtful self-summation, “a very healthy, well-adjusted, fun-loving kind of girl.”

(“Summer Idyl.” Playboy, July 1963.)

A non-threatening introduction, yes, but pretty come-hither. Not exactly teddy bear fare — and neither is the pose particularly “cuddly.”


There is one basic model. On top is the face of Shirley Temple; below is the body of Jayne Mansfield.

(Acocella.)

Somewhat disagree. I believe there was slightly more variety in the Sixties and Seventies than Ms. Acocella sugests, but I admit I am omitting the portion where she talks about some of the noteworthy veers from the norm (Joni Mattis, yay!) and I don’t want you to think she didn’t acknowledge that in her review. Please be aware that she did. Don’t want to look all biased.


[Playboy draws] simultaneously, on two opposing trends that have … come to dominate American mass culture: on the one hand, our country’s idea of its Huck Finn innocence; on the other, the enthusiastic lewdness of our advertising and entertainment.

(Acocella.)

Agree. Yes. 100%. That is its appeal, that the magazine attracts that dichotomy in American consumerism and in our own idea of beauty, sex, and ourselves.


Hence the surprise and the popularity of Playboy. The magazine proposed that … sex for sex’s sake, was wholesome, good for you: a novel idea in the nineteen-fifties.

(Acocella.)

Agree. This also undermines the beginning sentence with its teddy-bear going-for-innocent-investigative-interest suggestion, but I’m okay with undoing that assertion because I disagreed with it.


“I don’t much care whether I eventually live in a mansion or in a tree house, so long as the man I’m married to is fun to be with.”

(“Summer Idyl.”)


[As the pin-ups progressed] We get the great outdoors: Playmates taking sunbaths, unpacking picnics, hoisting their innocent bottoms into hammocks. Above all, we get youth.

(Acocella.)


Most of them have chubby cheeks, and flash us sweet smiles. At the same time, many of these nice little girls are fantastically large-breasted. Strange to say, this top-loading often makes them appear more childlike. The breasts are smooth and round and pink; they look like balloons or beach balls. The girl seems delighted to have them, as if they had just been delivered by Santa Claus.

(Acocella.)

Ha! Somewhat agree. That Santa. He always knows. But this shoot and Cheryl Kubert are both good examples, just as recent citation on this journal, of gatefolds that featured a model mainly not smiling. Ms. Enwright even keeps her mouth closed.


What is so bewildering about [modern vs. old-school] Playboy centerfolds is their [the modern ones’] utter texturelessness: their lack of any question, any traction, any grain of sand from which the sexual imagination could make a pearl.

(Acocella)

Very Strongly AGREE.


[Hef’s] father was an accountant, his mother a Methodist disciplinarian. He has said that there was never any show of affection in his house. One suspects that there was likewise little evidence of jazz or hors d’oeuvres -— pleasure for its own sake. This is what he set out to sell: an upscale hedonism, promoted by the magazine’s articles and ads as well as by its nudes.

(Acocella.)

Agree, but not sure that it matters.

“For a while I was cashier at the Hollywood Paramount, which was my closest fling with the movie business. Then I worked as a salesgirl in a candy store. Trouble was, I have this terrible sweet tooth and pretty soon I was eating more candy than I sold.”

(“Summer Idyl.”)


“Right now I’m living with my mother and studying like mad to take my state boards in cosmetology. My most active hobby involves artwork, from making seed mosaics of Siamese cats to painting wild, wild oils. I get excited over my finished products — but then, I’m not critically minded.”

(Ibid.)


“I’m crazy about progressive jazz, lasagna, and playing practical jokes on people I like.”

Hell, yeah, lasagna and jazz! This girl is all kinds of easygoing and wonderful. Practical jokes, eh? such as what?


“I have been known to secretly put in cold mashed potatoes as the bottom scoop of someone’s root-beer float, which is a terrible thing to do, but fun!”

(Ibid.)

I have never done that nor even thought of it. Holy god, I can’t wait to do this. She is a comic genius and I am trying this, stickety-stat!


Bookworms are hottttt … even when they are only pretending for a photoshoot.

“I am not the type who always has a book going. I rarely read novels, but occasionally I get on a self-improvement kick, the most recent of which was plowing through Hayakawa’s Language in Thought and Action.”

(Ibid.)

I don’t know why, but I feel like the editors forced her to say she read it all when maybe the truth was that she only started it. Just a feeling. I’m about to talk about why they might’ve done that in a second.


“I love Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Frank Sinatra … — oh, so many more. I’m very congenial toward most performers, and I enjoy nearly all.”

(Ibid.)

Again — wonderful taste. You find that so often in the Sixties write-ups, though, that the girls are prompted to talk about foodie foolery, jazz, politics, photography, and art. I’m not sure when that fizzled out, but it has. And I can totally admit that probably 30% of it was bullshit and only 7 out of 10 of these girls knew what they were talking about (if they even said it to begin with) or collected Bird and bebop on vinyl and the like, but I still feel good about the fact that it was important to the editorial staff for their vision of the ideal Playmate that these intriguing, intelligent statements seem true. Ms. Acocella addresses this:


That, in the end, is the most striking thing about Playboy’s centerfolds: how old-fashioned they seem. This whole “bachelor” world, with the brandy snifters and the attractive guest arriving for the night: did it ever exist? Yes, as a fantasy. Now, however, it is the property of homosexuals.

Today, if you try to present yourself as a suave middle-aged bachelor, people will assume you’re gay.

(Acocella.)

Ha! and again, I have to say agree, not in that groovy archaic pursuits are strictly the male provenance of neato gay guys (I like any man that goes for records and cares about dorky esoterica) but, yeah, society-wide, that would be the humorous judgment in the sense of stereotyping.

You know. Like when Bart and Millhouse tried to be Playdudes. That was hilarious. All pimped out in smoking jackets up in the treehouse.


“Too much of the time I use my heart and not my head. I’m really a very gullible girl. I wish on first stars and believe in miracles.”

(“Summer Idyl.”)

That is very sweet and touching. It is not full of trying-to-be-sexy artifice, nor is it overly cloying or disingenuous.

“Of course it’s a trite observation, but what I want most in life is happiness. What else is there?”

(Ibid.)

And who can improve on that desire? Well-wished, Ms. Enwright, and I hope she found her happiness. That’s not trite: it’s natural.

What Ms. Acocella observes in the unnaturally smooth, airbrushed featurelessness of the current crop of sexless-and-vaginally-shaved-for-maximum-Barbie-resemblance centerfolds mostly found on the newsstands today is resonantly true.

I guess what I’m saying is this: Yeah, there may have never really been a sophisticated scotch-sampling bachelor like the ones to whom Hef designed the magazine to appeal, and there may never have really been a girl next door with her clothes off that just happened to discourse freely on jazz LP’s and modern art while whipping up beef bourguignon in her skivvies, but isn’t the fantasy of that time period, quaint as it may seem now, so much more touching and oddly innocent than the weird highly-structured and false fantasy being sold today?

It is to me.

Just another Monocle Monday: Ms. Carolyn Wells edition

March 22, 2010

“A cynic is a man who looks at the world with a monocle in his mind’s eye.” — Carolyn Wells (1862-1942): librarian, mystery writer, poet, absurdist, Jersey girl, baseball aficionado; heroine.


Via timbravo on the tumblr. Hell and goddang if that is not just about the g’est picture of a little kid I have ever seen.

Ms. Well’s famous limerick abount canny canners:

A canner exceedingly canny
One morning remarked to his granny:
“A canner can can
Any thing that he can
But a canner can’t can a can, can he?”


Illustration from Such Nonsense.

The awesome Ms. Wells, who began her literary career as a librarian in Rahway, NJ, had a binary-brained love of both words and wordplay, resulting in the kind of mind that invents riddles and complex, skillful patterns out of what appears to be nonsense. She compiled and published an anthology of clever verses by herself, some friends, and great absurd poets of the past who she admired called Such nonsense! an Anthology through George H. Doran Company, New York, in 1918. Some of the authors included in the anthology are G. K. Chesterton, Rudyard Kipling, William Makepeace Thackeray, Carroll, and W. S. Gilbert. You can read the entirety of the volume on the googlebooks, one of the seemingly last bastions that values lit without lumping it alongside lattes and shitty cd samplers of some Juilliard sophomore covering Bessie Smith. You know the kind of horrible CD sampler I am talking about:


Via officineottiche on the tumblr.

All black and white picture of the skinny blonde singer playing piano on the cover with her eyes closed, all you push the button on the screen to hear a sample and it sounds immediately like she has grown up on at least a quarter acre with probably a pony that she rode in jodphurs until she decided she wanted to be a ballerina instead but she was never so vulgar or interesting as to imagine combining the two interests and she is presently dating a trust fund guy with dreads who was obsessively checking his iTouchPhonesALot thingy the entire time she was in the studio making what we are broadly defining as a “record,” the record apparently being a record of the time some flat chick from upstate New York saw a homeless guy pawing through the trash in front of the Dean and Deluca and decided that because she had Feelings about it, she now had the right to perform herself some blues and has now come at the undertaking metaphorically wearing goggles and carrying a graduated cyllinder. (“Blues, this is going to hurt you a lot more than it hurts me.”)

Like so many times with me, that got way out of hand. I’m not sorry, but I am a little disappointed in myself. Seriously, though, dudes. Fuck the megabookstores: save the libraries.


Seen in several places. I choose not to credit until I can find an original source.

That last shot reminds me — PSA: I have pretty eyes. In fact, I have the prettiest brown eyes. Did You Know? Established fact, suckas. [citation needed]

Music Moment: Stevie Wonder, “Sir Duke”

March 8, 2010


From his album Songs in the Key of Life, Motown Records, 1976.

Stevie Wonder – Sir Duke



Music is a world within itself
With a language we all understand
With an equal opportunity
For all to sing, dance and clap their hands


The king of all, Sir Duke (Ellington).

But just because a record has a groove
Don’t make it in the groove
But you can tell right away at letter A
When the people start to move


Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong LP sleeve.

They can feel it all over
They can feel it all over people
They can feel it all over
They can feel it all over people


Glenn Miller.

Music knows it is and always will
Be one of the things that life just won’t quit
But here are some of music’s pioneers
That time will not allow us to forget


Count Basie and Duke Ellington, recording circa 1950.

There’s Basie, Miller, Satchmo
And the king of all, Sir Duke
And with a voice like Ella’s ringing out
There’s no way the band can lose


Miles Davis and John Coltrane are not named in this song, but they still belong.

You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people
You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people


Just Ella.

You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people
You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people


Count Basie performing “Ain’t Misbehavin’.”

You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people
You can feel it all over
You can feel it all over people


Louis blows.

Can’t you feel it all over?
Come on let’s feel it all over people
You can feel it all over
Everybody — all over people


Original caption: “A number of the greatest jazz musicians in the world gathered last night 1/8/1971 at the Tropicana Htel in Las Vegas to pay tribute to the “grandaddy” of jazz, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. Seventy years old and still going strong, Armstrong received a trophy topped by a silver trumpet mouthpiece from two other all-time greats, Ella Fitzgerald (L) and Duke Ellington (R).” (source)

Rolling Stone magazine ranked Stevie’s Songs in the Key of Life at no. 56 out of 500 on their Greatest Albums list in 2003. “Sir Duke” was released as a single for radio play in March of 77 and reached number one on the Billboard charts in May, where it stayed for three weeks.

Music Moment: Laura Marling

October 13, 2009

Laura Marling – New Romantic
This song was my introduction to Miss Laura Marling, a charming little singer-songwriter from the UK who, like a brownie, uses her adorable pixie looks to fool you in to thinking the sprightly tune you’re listening to doesn’t have some of the darkest, wittiest lyrics you’ll ever hear from someone so young.

I know I said I loved you
but I’m thinking I was wrong,
I’m the first to admit that I’m still pretty young,
and I never meant to hurt you
when I wrote you ten love songs
About a guy that I could never get
’cause his girlfriend was pretty fit
and everyone who knew her loved her so.
And I made you leave her for me
and now I’m feeling pretty mean,
but my mind has fucked me over more times
than any man could ever know.


The track came out a bit ago, but I still predict that song will get more famous pretty soon here, rather than less so. Even though it is the likelier in my opinion for regular radio airplay, it seems the label has put more time in to marketing the next tune here, “My Manic and I.”

Laura Marling – My Manic and I
“My Manic and I” has the sultry minor key bluesiness of Dusty Springfield, a very “If You Go Away” mood with this kind of waltzy-pirate dirge beneath, but then the purity of the vocals and the subject matter make you switch gears and draw comparisons to Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.” (Miss Marling, I am totally picking up what you are putting down and I do believe there are also clouds in my coffee now and again.)

I get the feeling that whoever this song is about, it’s the same jerk who inspired “The Man Sings” and some of the lines in “New Romantic.”

Oh, the gods that he believes never fail to amaze me.
He believes in the love of his god of all things, but I find him wrapped up in all manner of sins;
the drugs that deceive him and the girls that believe him.
I can’t control you, I don’t know you well, but these are the reasons I think that you’re ill.
I can’t control you, I don’t know you well, but these are the reasons I think that you’re ill.


Here is the very creative video for the track.


I realized these Music Moment posts tend to run really long because I like music way too much, and can’t bear to only give you half the story on someone I think is really special, so click here to keep reading about marvelous and devilishly witty little pixie Laura Marling, hear more streaming mp3s and see more adorable pictures. Continue reading, hear more music, see cute tiny blondeness, and maybe even get your world a little rocked by some revolutionary ideas about teenagers these days!