28 June 2017

Stumbling into a rapppost

Before I let this entry stumble into a rapppost, I'll share a picture of the back cover of the book that I'm currently reading, along with its bookmark. The handwritten note near the top was just to remind myself where I left off, because, the last time I checked this item out, I ended up having to return it before I could finish it.

Dear diary,

Do you have any big plans for the weekend? That's what hairdressers always ask me. I never have plans. I never "do" anything on the weekend OR the week.

I only like to think, to daydream.

I love conversation, it's the highest form of art, I'm thrilled by its spontaneousness: often I don't have a clue what I myself am saying while I'm talking, so part of me is always a curious listener, and this gets me in trouble: my lack of a self-censor. But there's never anyone here (in my hometown) to converse with anyway. People here dislike thinking, listening, talking. That's why loud music is always playing when you go to a diner or festival; it's there to bar the possibility of conversation.

But I shouldn't mind all this, because I've run out of things to say anyway. Who cares what movies I've watched recently, what books I've read, how I hate one hour and love the next of Twin Peaks? I'm just a devourer. What people say, write, film, I assimilate. For me, people are inherently important — every single soul is interesting. But there's something "secondhand" about all art (supposing we can distinguish between what IS and IS NOT art; say: anything framed, however metaphorically) — I mean, there is a difference between someone who reads an adventure and an actual adventurer herself.

What is it to sail
Upon the stormy sea,
To drive with naked spars
Before the roaring gale,
Hemmed round with ragged clouds,
Foaming & hissing & thumping waves
The reeling cabin is cold & wet,
The masts are strained, & the sail is torn,
The gale blows fiercer as the night sets in
Scarce can the seaman aloft master his struggling reef,
Even the stout captain in his coat of storms
Sighs as he glances astern at the white, white combs...

(That's from a poem by Emerson.) Would you rather attend to a soul who can articulate the splendors of sailing the seas, not from having experienced them personally but from having absorbed accounts of assorted swashbucklers; OR listen to an actual sailor who has braved every ocean under all conditions but who cannot spin a yarn?

And Moses said unto the LORD, O my LORD, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. (Exodus 4:10)

And then there is rap. What hath rap to do with eloquence? Maybe Moses would have made a good emcee. I love rap because it's like a steamroller: it just drives right over all the finicky "rules" of rhetoric, formal poetry (metered, rhyming verse), even grammar. It's about force, power. No, it's not about force or power: those are just the side-effects of its... It's more about wrongness, or alternate possible rightness; a sophisticated barbarianism. Sometimes it kind of feels like the glorification of stupid – I mean that in the best way possible. It's the reason my favorite movie is Wrong Cops (2013). Officer Duke IS rap, even though neither the character nor the film promote or overtly play any rap—the score is all rather experimental house-electronic-techno-whatever—but the essence of Duke is what I associate with rap: his mental stance (or lack thereof). Super·ego·less·ness: the state of being devoid of any "over-I". It's what Shakespeare achieves with Falstaff; what Nietzsche aspired to inspire his Zarathustra with; and it's what Alfred Jarry makes King Ubu. Not that all rap must be primitive or unhinged; but I prefer what takes place in the id. Where there's always static in the air, and no birds sing. I'm probably off in my own world when I say all this, because I hate modern rap, which everyone apparently loves; I favor noise over harmony (at least in this genre), I find klutziness more fascinating than craftsmanship, and I never have agreed with anyone's taste.

Here is the reason I say nothing in these journal pages about my own rap demo productions (of which I have hundreds): they're incommensurate with our current culture. Often my habit was to resolve my dislike of certain aspects of blank (music, philosophy, life) by aping those things: I mean, by taking on as a character the traits that I wish did not exist. My dad embraced right-wing conservative republican propaganda, and that culture's stance was anti-rap; so it amused me to create certain sonic agitations from that standpoint. Also the violence of so-called gangster rap was foreign to me, so it felt exhilarating to embrace it through reckless language. Saying bad words precisely because you know they shouldn't be said: it's freeing, it's a way to relieve the stress of a stiflingly correct suburban atmosphere: to press people's buttons for the sake of pressing people's buttons. The sophistication of being knowingly ignorant. Like antic-mad Hamlet. These are only a couple examples among many indiscretions I risked that will be misconstrued: I just know it. People will get the wrong idea, receive a false impression; you are barking up the wrong tree, you've missed the boat.

Irony: saying one thing while meaning another. This present age seems peculiarly incapable of understanding irony.

Yesterday I saw a TV interview with Slavoj Žižek, and the host of the show was taking Mr. Žižek to task about one or two provocative remarks that she had found in his book. Žižek was more than willing to elaborate, which he did: he articulated clearly his intention behind the remarks – but the host couldn't get beyond the surface shock of her initial, weak misreading. I cite this to note that I, too, am a great man who is often misunderstood. (More truly, the reason I cited it is that my thoughts are disorganized; but since I receive no compensation for writing this blog, I'll let my mind wander wherever it wants.)

Or take another example: Whenever I would listen to a rap track and recoil from its artist's attitude – for instance, if the rapper asserted anything homophobic, which stance I consider not only sad and weak but fearfully boring in the worst mechanical way – often to help me "digest" or "solve" or "negate" or "come to terms with" this ugliness, I would PUT ON the attitude myself—to wear it like an actor wears a costume—and then ramp up its offensiveness until it explodes. Isn't this just basic sarcasm and satire?

(Why am I writing like I'm on trial; crafting a defense before I've been accused of a crime!?)

Again, the problem is that this type of MESSY-CREATIVE response tends not to be welcome in the present age, which favors more clinical, prosaic, dogmatic, authoritarian, flatly binary-mathematical judgments: the type of prescribed behavior that can be codified into a LIST, a set of commandments to be policed, so that faultfinders can condemn rule-benders by staring down at a stony tablet and thus avoid looking up into the eyes of another human soul and maybe finding their own true love.

So what I'm trying to say is that I made a lot of rap music that I'm proud of but that is offensive. But you should love me for it. Don't invent a machine so that you can go back in time and slay me as an infant.

To be fair, however, I might not have done an adequate job of making my ironic stance apparent. I might have failed because I lacked sufficient abrasiveness; I might have failed because I acted far too abrasively. It's a tricky thing, which is why it's considered daring, for the fate of your reputation is put on the line: if you decide to ridicule a view by proclaiming it loudly (reasoning that its wrongness is so obvious that a simple reiteration delivered faithfully will prove the most effective refutation), how do you know when you've given it the right amount of volume?

Enough or too much
(—from Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell)

To throw the baby out with the bathwater. What does this mean, exactly? There is a container: a bathing basin, which in my case is a standard manger filled with vodka. People want all this gone? That's judging harshly, hatefully. For this basin contains something wanted and something unwanted: the babe being bathed, and the befouled residuum. After viewing the crux in true terms, I would rather save everything.

Gotta go now, bye!

No comments:

Archive

More from Bryan Ray