Sunday, July 29, 2012

Under Maintenance

For the next couple days or so, this blog will be under summer maintenance. Look forward to me coming back with all things inspired by our lovely city San Francisco.  Feel free to shoot me your links for posting.  I will visit the link and provide a brief summary, if none is provided, before posting here. Nothing too serious just blogging. Be well folks.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Not So Final, Final Project...feel free to remix it as you will.

Below you will find a track listing of the poems that we have read throughout the course by our beloved loafer Walt Whitman. After each poem, you will them find a song that I have selected that I believe connects to the central theme of each of the poems. I tried to remain as brief as possible regarding what I believed each of Whitman’s poems were hinting at and by no means provide them as a definitive description of what his poems are about. I hope that you all will enjoy and can gain a sense of how I have come to connect with Whitman through some of the poetry and music that I listen to frequently.

Whitman: The KenMix
I. Calamus Poems -- comradeship – reader/poet – future/present – bonds shared between “brothers.”

Gil Scott-Heron poem Brother this poem is directed at pseudo-revolutionaries who “talk the talk” and have the “look of a revolutionary,’ but pack no substance. As the poem concludes, the final lines represent the poetic turn where the speaker calls on his brother to “help that woman/help that man […].”

II. When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d -- an elegy written after the death of Abraham Lincoln

James Brown That’s Life -- following the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., James “The Godfather” Brown performed this song at the Boston Garden.  At the time, riots were breaking out in cities all over the United States. Most historians credit Brown’s performance with helping to stop any riots from breaking out in Boston. The title of the song suggests that the death of civil rights could be summed up no more simply than be stating: “That’s Life.”

** bonus link to site that provides a top-notch summary of “this date in history.”

III. Song of Myself  -- inclusivity -- bringing together people from all walks of life

Dance to the Music – Sly and the Family Stone – at the request of record executive Clive Davis, Sly Stone was asked to create a sound that was “more commercially viable.” The result of Stone’s creative genius resulted in the song Dance to the Music. From the creation process to the final product, I believe that this is one of the many songs that share similar characteristics as Whitman’s Song of Myself. I believe that Stone’s use of the entire band and all of the lead singers combined with the song’s message that urges the entire crowd to “dance to the music.” Ultimately, the make-up of the band members and audience represent, for me, an attempt by Stone to break down the binaries of black and white just as Whitman breaks down numerous binaries throughout his poem.

IV. Crossing the Brooklyn Ferry -- sharing spaces and places. Natural meets unnatural or man-made. When the speaker of Walt's poem says, "others will see [...] A hundred years hence, or ever so many hundred/ years hence, others will see them/ will enjoy the sunset, the pouring of the flood-/tide, the falling back to the sea of the ebb-tide" it captures a sense of shared time and space that I believe Walt was hinting at. 

San Francisco Anthem - San Quinn -- song was originally written by George Cory and Douglass Cross and was popularized by Tony Bennet as I Left my Heart in San Francisco. The remix version provided here by San Quinn captures some same sentiments regarding aspects of San Francisco that are shared: streets, public transit, bridges and neighborhoods to name a few. 

Song of Occupations --  as title suggests, this poem is about work: specifically, the notion of not being defined by an occupation. 

She Works Hard for Her Money -- Donna Summer -- while Summer "works hard for her momey," it is more important that you "treat her right." I believe this sentiment captures exactly the idea that Whitman is hinting at. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Guthrie Project

I absolutely love Folk Music! Dissatisfied with the status quo, both Woody and Walt decided to utilize the pen to vent their frustrations: Walt with his Leaves of Grass and Woody with what I would describe as his remix of Star Spangled Banner--This Land Is Your Land. I stumbled across this image of Woody that I felt captured the essence of what he is about, in my opinion:

In taking a stand against facists, I believe that Woody separated himself from our beloved Walt. I believe Walt was ambiguous and never really took a solid stand on anything except loafing. I have my issues with Woody also. While performing research for an Africana class, I stumbled across the story of Huddie William Ledbetter aka Lead Belly.  I couldn't help but the notice the discrepancies between his account of the relationship that was shared between these two musicians. Woody claims to have befriended Lead Belly and Lead Belly claims the same. Musically, in my opinion, Lead Belly was far more talented and this leads me to believe that maybe Woody stole some of Lead Belly's swagger.  This wouldn't be the first case of one musician stealing the style of another. In fact, I believe culture stealing defines America. Take Elvis the "king" for example. It's no secret that he stole his entire style from the African American tradition and rebranded it as Rock and Roll. Still I digress. As my one of mentors is quick to remind me, giving Rosa Parks credit for kindling the flame that led to the Civil Rights Movement would be an injustice to African Americans such as Mary Ellen Pleasant who had successfully sued OmniBus Corporation in California nearly 100 years before. What does it all mean? For me, the land that Guthrie proclaims "was made for you and me," really wasn't made for him and the amenities that he had access to were not created by him.   

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Levine Project

Awesome idea with the icebreaker questions! Reminds me of my recent experience volunteering in middle and high schools these past few semesters. For what it's worth: that is also is one of more rememberable work experiences. Throughout the course of of my volunteer hours, I have gained a greater appreciation for building relationships through informal questions that aim to find out crucial details about people that are oftentimes overlooked. For me, when I need musical motivation, I can always turn to The Roots. Currently, my anthem of choice is Walk Alone. 

Regarding Question #4: After reading Levine's What Work Is, I would describe the image that the speaker conveys as distinctly Detroit and, as a result, Americana in all it's splendid glory. Whereas Whitman's Song of Myself delivers what I believe is the image of New York, I believe that Levine's poem illustrates America through the cultural eye of the heartland of the United States. 

After perusing through the suggested photos, the following two images stood out for me:  

For me, what these images represent is something that neither Walt or Levine has been able to convey to me in any of the poems that I have read thus far: the despair and sense of being a part of the history of a nation that continues to overlook and misrepresent you. Similar handwriting can been seen scribbled on the walls of buildings in images following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana. "God has left Detroit" is the poem that captures the essence of the images.  As of last year, during my last visit, I can only assume that whomever the god is that whomever the speaker was referring to still hasn't returned based strictly on my observations. So what does it all mean? Honestly, I don't know. Here is a link of one of my favorite poets lamenting on Detroit following a series of accidents at nuclear power plants in the heartland of the United States. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Sandburg Project

In the opening passages of his book titled Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, Carl Sandburg offers the following scenario regarding people who played a role in the Civil War: 

If those who are gone who had their parts and roles in it could be summoned back to tell of the gaps and discrepancies, they might give unexpected answers to questions.  And many witnesses on being dug up and given speech might again be as noncommittal as ever on this or that circumstance (vii).

Why was Carl so intrigued by “the Second American Revolution” when he “was born a little less than thirteen years after 1865?” Even after perusing through his poem The People, Yes and scanning through the first two volumes of Abraham Lincoln: The War Years, I am still uncertain as to why Carl, Whitman and many others were so enthralled by Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War as a whole (especially considering they didn't take part in the war nor were they influential in making changes to the legislation that followed the war). Along the same line I still cannot understand why some people are so fascinated and drawn to the presidency of Barack Obama. I’ll blame it on my density and lack of education. So, as I tried to articulate a question for our group project while watching The Boondocks (an animated television series based on the comic strip by Aaron McGruder) it just so happened that the episode that I was watching was a depicting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr coming back to life in present-day United States.

Here is a portion of this episode that I believed was relevant to the question that I will be offering shortly:

Question: How do you think Carl and Walt would feel about how their poems are interpreted, utilized and, often times, misread if they were somehow reincarnated and brought back to present-day United States?  Furthermore, do you feel their poems are relevant to the issues we are currently facing i.e Occupy Wall Street Movement, The Tea Party Movement and the Anti-War Movement? Sandburg and Obama both have ties to the heartland of the United States, if Sandburg were alive, do you think he write a poem for our current president?  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

9/11 poem #1

If Bin Laden read Dr. Suess by Mark Kuhar 2001 September 18

I found it appropriate that the poet chose to utilize a children’s political cartoonist to couch his venomous feelings towards Bin Laden. When the speaker if the poem implores Bin Laden to “fire up some Afghani red” and “go to a soccer game” he takes on a similar tune to that of a over-coddled latchkey kid whose latest crisis consists of being out of pop-tarts or Capri-Sun juice drinks.  The sense of entitlement held by poets continues to befuddle me. What gives a poet license to suggest, “the arab world needs a savior, not a fugitive killer” while explicitly stating that Bin Laden should “feed five thousand with loaves and fish.” Anger and feelings of hurt is one thing: stupidity and hypocrisy are another. Let me get this correct: “the arab world needs a savior” and the poet suggests that Bin Laden perform Christ-like miracles? Are you confused? I am. I’ll go back to my red-dot books and attempt to craft a critique of them. 

Final Project

I am hoping to revisit my initial tracking post regarding the things that Whitman takes in as he compiles his inventory in Song of Myself. I believe that I also see a good number of the things that Whitman saw from his perch in New Jersey here in San Francisco. I will attempt to gather images of San Francisco that capture the essence of Whitman's poem. For me, this is my stab at being creative. I took a couple photography classes in junior college and this project will attempt to fuse my knowledge of San Francisco with what I am learning about Mr. Whitman.

Whitman sees "himself" while still "see[ing] and hear[ing] the whole." I'll attempt to do the same with my camera and match pictures to the imagery that Whitman provides'.