Monthly Archives: May 2016

The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered (YGtCTO Words #2)

Poem written by Clive James

Clive James has opinions, well-considered opinions written entertainingly. Cultural Amnesia is a fascinating review of the movers and shakers of the twentieth century. He calls the villains on their crimes and surfaces brilliance in places that beg further research. In the UK, he is memoirist, poet, novelist, and television personality (I will have more to say about Peter Cook some other time, but enjoy the sight of Dame Edna Everage sans drag in the person of Barry Humphries enjoying the story). Most of James’ activities have not translated across the pond, so we make do with limited offerings.

Here however, I want to talk about his poetry, which is an art that James has practiced at a high level for a long time, though it took most of his life to get a collection published here. Of all the literary forms, poetry seems very heavily influenced by the personal taste of the reader/listener. Shakespeare and the Book of Psalms have had significant staying power with wide appeal. After that, Chaucer, Keats, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Merwin, Longfellow, and so very many more are names honored more in the high school classroom than elsewhere. Every poet is an acquired taste, which is probably the dirty little secret. Ask anyone who has run screaming from the room when their uncle starts quoting Ogden Nash.

On the other hand, who does not love a good rivalry, a biting comment? Jack Benny and Fred Allen did it for laughs. Every single radio talk host seems to have multiple arch-enemies. We all enjoy that negative pithy review; unless it is directed our way (although time may heal even those wounds).

Through meter, page arrangement, and word choice, The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered raises the pithy comment to the level of great art. Something in James’ braggadaccio feels modern. That schadenfreude he describes is universal and, once acknowledged, we feel almost as clever as the poem. When I say that the poem accomplishes much, I mean that it operates at another level beyond the surface condemnation of the enemy, but rather it touches on the reasons why that person is the enemy. They are our competitor for scarce resources- in this case, readers. Like comics backstage at the comedy club, they share much in common, but still fight for the perfect time slot.

How do we make our peace with the enemy?

We write about them with pithy remarks. If we are blessed and the writing goes well, then we might consider a world in which we continue to live with them. Perhaps we see ourselves looking back through their eyes. Maybe they are a risible jackass. Maybe we have a bit of the jackass in us which is where understanding comes. Shakespeare, Keats, Browning, Angelou, and all the rest transcend meter and word choice to illuminate the human condition. Clive James, for a few lines, holds up a mirror to our insecurities, gives us a laugh, and a nod of recognition.

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 295 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out are released regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry are posted irregularly. Notifications are posted on Facebook which you can receive by friending or following Craig.

Lost in the Supermarket (YGtCTO Music #2)

Song performed by The Clash
Written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones

Punk Music was no more the antithesis of music than Jazz, Romanticism, or Rap. Like Dogme 95 and Fauvism, it was an aesthetic adopted by artists in order to facilitate their creative drive. The real questions for every dogmatic artistic movement arise when the world takes notice. How many young artists have sat around a bar or coffee shop, half-pissed and fully pissed off, scribbling down their list of demands? And they will never, ever compromise. Religions are created from these half-formed doctrines, let alone artistic movements.

Then somebody, maybe multiple somebodies, actually go out and create. And someone pays them for their art. Time passes and the art gets repeatedly bought, maybe even praised by the establishment. Maybe some of the original drafters of the doctrine start to admit that everything about the world does not suck, like food and drink. Where does the compromise go too far? When do the shillelaghs come out?

London Calling is a tremendous, angry album, an attitude that the Clash had pretty much mastered by the time they arrived in the studio. The spittle practically drips into your ears from the headphones. They are rooting for the rude boys, ticked about the clamp down, dismayed by consumer culture, hate war and love reggae. Also, somewhere along the way, that punk aesthetic of thrashing on your instrument… not so much. (Bear in mind, from fireHose through the Sex Pistols, you find an awful lot of people who always said they made music, just maybe not the kind you like. And they were right.) The members of the Clash were musicians before the band, just with a lot of issues to work through.

I hear London Calling as an album about that eternal argument over dogma. The tension is over compromise. How far is too far to go? Should Train in Vain even be listed among the songs if the record company wants it to be a pop hit? Are we pissed if we can dance without the slam? Isn’t reggae music by people even more disenfranchised than us? Is punk outsider art and what happens to outsider art once you sign with a big record company? What would Woody Guthrie do?

In the end, the Clash crafted song after song that ultimately create that catharsis sought by all artwork since Aristotle named the experience. Through their own turmoil as a group and as individuals, they somehow captured all the anger that comes with being overwhelmed with ennui. They had accomplished so much more than envisioned and they could be satisfied with their place in the world, until they looked at the world around them. How do you maintain that dismay when you are no longer living on the streets? How do you carry the weight of the world without being crushed? Are you allowed happiness knowing that so much needs to change?

Like so many art strains, Punk music arose from diverse sources with varied agendas, but London Calling captures that common thread- never stop questioning everything. What more can we ask from our art?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 296 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out are released regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry are posted irregularly. Notifications are posted on Facebook which you can receive by friending or following Craig.

To All NW.L.L. Families

To all Northwest Little League Families and Boosters!

Welcome back for another great year of baseball and fun! As many of you have expressed concerns to me over the past few months, let me say right up front that we do plan to put last year far behind us. Still, let’s not forget the lessons learned! As they say, “objects in the mirror may be closer than they appear”! Bearing that in mind, let’s review some news and changes for this, our glorious 47th season! (For those expressing concern that last year was also our 47th season, let me remind you that the paint used on the fences last spring was donated by Mundy Hardware. According to the EPA, we should be able to celebrate our 50th season back in Bloomington Park in three short years!)

-The retirement of Coach Kennedy means we’re looking for a fresh face to manage our T-Ball team. As some of you know, Coach K’s wife gave birth to twins during the final game of last season, giving the Kennedy’s just enough to field a team of their own (and all under the age of eight!). Hurry back, Marc! We’ll miss those wild-haired tantrums and red-eye practices!

-This year’s opening Day ceremonies will feature Britney Spears and former President Bush!
Just kidding! Let’s remember to laugh together all season long! Hard and often!

-Seriously, Sheriff’s Deputy Malcolm “Dizzy” Cosgrove will be back to sing the national anthem, accompanied as always by his brother on accordion and his nephew on sousaphone. And Commissioner Bloomington may again have some “fireworks” in store if he can make it across the state border before the big day! Let’s hope for the best and get your Independence Day orders to Lou by mid-March.

-Our umpires this year will be coming from South Barton. For those of you unfamiliar with South Barton, it is 60 minutes due south on the interstate in light traffic. Let’s be sure to give these newcomers a traditional big Northwest welcome before every game. And keep in mind, we never double-park beside an umpire’s car!

-Reminder to all parents and players: athletic protection is not just for catchers. Be sure to wear your cups to every practice and game. Also, attend our pre-season training session: Dodging Hard One-Hop Ground Balls Is A Moral Imperative. This session is required for all coaches and infielders by our new insurance carrier. In a related matter, our best wishes go out to Tamla Bindle in his continuing recovery. We understand the remaining wounds are only psychological. So, if you see Tamla on the street, give him a big Northwest Little League pat on the back and tell him how much his voice has lowered.

-As usual, please review the revised list of words that should not be heard in the stands. This year, the entire list has been translated into Pig Latin due to the demonstrative efforts of Mrs. EnnedyKay and Mrs. LoomingtonBay. Our thanks go out to Kennedy Farm Products for providing the “Language Enforcers” to volunteers from Northwest Evangelical Lutheran Church who will be seated among our fans.

-As with the second half of last season, we’ll be playing behind Northwest Middle School on the soccer fields. Because of our need to coordinate with summer soccer, there will be no Saturday practices or games. The volunteers from Northwest Evangelical Lutheran Church have requested rest on Sundays, so all games and practices will be scheduled on weekday evenings. Through mid-May, please park near the sidelines and train your headlights on the base paths. If possible, practice catching fly balls at home during the day. The soccer league has requested that we watch out for divots and avoid hanging from the soccer goals. That means you, parents! Ha, ha! Really.

-Realizing that your humble commissioner may be from a different generation, let’s take this opportunity to remember that facial piercing and headfirst sliding do not mix, as we all learned from Dominic Kennedy last season. Once again, our gratitude goes out to Dr. Bindle for reattaching Dominic’s eyebrow. Who else knew that you could sterilize baseball stitching in Gatorade?

-The annual awards ceremony will be one week after the final game of the season. Golden Parent Awards will be given to every parent or guardian who attends every game. Since so many of you are using these in custody hearings, Family Court has informed us that attendance can only be credited for sitting in the stands or on the sidelines. Beer drinking in the parking lot no longer counts.

-Last, but not least, the Middle School will be closed during summer evenings. The fast food restaurants along West Macon Avenue have requested that our players and especially their parents be reminded to use the bathroom before leaving home for games.

Let’s make this our best season ever! At least, let’s make it our best 47th season yet!