Archive for Philip Larkin

On Anti-Fascism, Veganism, Church-Going

Posted in Rant/ Rave, real life with tags , , , , , , , on April 2, 2017 by sethdellinger
1.
 
There are certainly plenty of words out there in the world right now about the current state of our country, and our president, and protesting, and on and on. I realize there’s not a whole lot of original thought I can add to the mix, especially since I am far from an expert on these matters. But I feel as though I should at least take a brief moment here to elucidate exactly where I stand. So here is my elucidation: free speech is an awesome thing. It is one of the truly great things about America. An open and fair exchange of ideas is crucial to maintaining an evolving culture free of dictatorship. However, many folks have pinned this down as the absolute unchangeable linchpin of America, and believe it to be boundless and without exception. And, to the letter of the law, they’re mostly right. The Westboro Baptist assholes have the right to their hate-mongering, and Free Speech lovers like to say things like, “I hate what they’re saying, but I’d fight to the death for their right to say it.”
See, the thing is, some ideas don’t need room to breathe. I grant you that these ideas must be limited to very few, otherwise “free speech” as we know it ends. But ideas that espouse the denial of basic human rights to other citizens DO NOT NEED PROTECTION. Your precious “free exchange of ideas” does not have to extend to Nazism, white nationalism, or other hate rhetoric which, once given any sort of official platform, becomes normalized. The word “Nazi” is getting thrown around a lot in the media today, but only with the pallor of the Holocaust implied. It’s time we said it out loud: we need to take every pain we can to prevent anything even CLOSE to the wholesale murder of citizens from happening again. And it starts with labeling groups, sanctioning hate, rounding people up. This sort of activity has begun in this country. And we can no longer sanction speech that furthers these ideas. I’m not suggesting we outlaw it—that would be tricky—but the citizen policing of this vile threat is perfectly fine by me. Well beyond “punching Nazis”—WHATEVER IT TAKES.
We have seen how these kinds of things end.
2.
On a similar but totally separate topic, allow me to wax whimsical for a little while on the topic of veganism.  I’ve addressed it a little bit previously in the blog but on the whole, not nearly as much as I’d like.  I’ll try to be really gentle about this.
See, I totally get why you non-vegans get really touchy about us vegans.  Veganism–and animal activism–is really the only philosophy I can think of where, by virtue of subscribing to it, you thereby indict literally everyone else who isn’t following it.  Non-vegans sense this (usually unspoken) friction just by someone announcing they are a vegan and become defensive despite a vegan not even directly addressing them on the topic.  This is understandable; as I said, the non-vegan (henceforth referred to in this blog as carnists) senses that their very status as a meat eater means they are at odds with my worldview.  This is not incorrect.
Like any group of people, vegans come with many nuanced views and philosophies.  Many believe that we should be gentle, encouraging, non-confrontational, educational.  Some believe we should work as hard as we can to disrupt the status quo and that by causing loud friction within the world, we do the most to help animals.  Still others just want to be vegan–eat no animal products–and leave it at that.  Obviously, I mostly adhere to the disruption school, but on the whole, I say if you’re a vegan, I’m not overthinking how YOU want to do it.  But my belief that animals are our moral and ethical equals forces me to try to change their plight as quickly as possible.
If you’re a carnist, you have to understand that I don’t think you’re a bad person or an idiot.  How could I? I ate meat until I was 38 years old!  And I fully understand the ways in which our modern culture raises all of us to have blinders on when it comes to the misery the meat, dairy, and egg industry causes, but even more than that, the way our society ingrains in us the belief that we are superior to animals–so superior that we can actually create FACTORY FARMS of them.  The mechanism that can make us all blind to this is powerful.  It isn’t your fault that you don’t see it.
But see, it’s my job to try to wake you up.  And this is where I fail.  On social media, in “real life” interactions with friends and family, I still care more about your comfort and “keeping the peace” than the animal who suffers so terribly so that you don’t have to change.  Many, many people think that since I’ve become a vegan, I’ve changed, become “smug” or “judgmental”–but the problem is, I’m not even doing nearly enough.
For fuck’s sake, they’re out there right now–in the damp cold, in tiny stalls, being force fed, they can’t even turn around, they’re covered in their shit, and they know–those poor, poor animals, they know.  
And I’m not saying or doing enough to help them, just so I don’t rock the boat.  What monsters we are!
3.  Check out this masterpiece Philip Larkin poem:
“Church Going”
by Philip Larkin

Once I am sure there’s nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,

Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new-
Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don’t.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
“Here endeth” much more loudly than I’d meant.
The echoes snigger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognizable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation – marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these – for whom was built
This special shell? For, though I’ve no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

Favorites, 2016

Posted in Rant/ Rave with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2016 by sethdellinger

Back in the old days of the Notes, I used to write a lot more about music, movies, and books, and I would every so often post updated lists of my absolute favorites of things.  Not due to any pressing interest from the public, of course–mostly just because it’s fun for me, and also because having such a blog post can be quite handy during discussions online; I can just link someone to the entry to aid in a discussion of favorites.

Of course this is not to be confused with my annual “Favorite Music” list, where I detail my favorite music released in the previous calendar year; these lists detail my current all-time favorites, which are (like yours, of course) constantly changing.

Looking back at my entries, it appears as though I haven’t done a big posting of lists since 2012, so I’ll make this one fairly comprehensive.  All of these lists have changed since 2012–some very little, some quite dramatically:

My top ten favorite poets

10.  Jane Kenyon
9.   Robert Creeley
8.  William Carlos Williams
7.   Sylvia Plath
6.  Billy Collins
5.  Denise Levertov
4.  E.E. Cummings
3.  Philip Levine
2.  John Updike
1.  Philip Larkin

My top 10 favorite film directors

10.  Federico Fellini
9.  Sidney Lumet
8.  Alejandro Inarritu
7.  Christopher Nolan
6.  Paul Thomas Anderson
5.  Alfonso Cuaron
4.  Stanley Kubrick
3.  Werner Herzog
2.  Alfred Hitchcock
1.  Terrence Malick

My top ten bands

10. This Will Destroy You
9.  My Morning Jacket
8.  Godspeed You! Black Emperor
7.  Radiohead
6.  Seven Mary Three
5.  Hey Rosetta!
4.   The National
3.  Band of Horses
2.  Modest Mouse
1.  Arcade Fire

 

My top ten music solo artists

10.  Tracy Chapman
9.  Ray LaMontagne
8.  Father John Misty
7.  Leonard Cohen
6.  Jim James
5.  Nina Simone
4.  Willis Earl Beal
3.  Emily Wells
2.  Paul Simon
1.  Neil Young

My top ten favorite (non-documentary) movies

10.  Citizen Kane
9.  Night of the Hunter
8.  Fitzcarraldo
7.  Magnolia
6.  The Trouble with Harry
5.  Children of Men
4.  Where the Wild Things Are
3.  The Thin Red Line
2.  I’m Still Here
1.  The Tree of Life

My ten favorite novelists

10.  Malcolm Lowry
9.  John Steinbeck
8.  Isaac Asimov
7.  Ernest Hemingway
6. Oscar Wilde
5.  Kurt Vonnegut
4.  Mark Twain
3.  David Mitchell
2.  Don DeLillo
1.  Dave Eggers

My top twenty favorite books (any genre, fiction or nonfiction)

20.  “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole
19.  “Slade House” by David Mitchell
18.  “The Terror” by Dan Simmons
17.  “You Shall Know Our Velocity” by Dave Eggers
16.  “Point Omega” by Don DeLillo
15.  “Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell
14.  “Fallen Founder” by Nancy Isenberg
13.  “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
12.  “Lord of the Flies” by William Golding
11.  “Under the Volcano” by Malcolm Lowry
10.  “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius” by Dave Eggers
9.  “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway
8.  “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut
7.  “Dubliners” by James Joyce
6.  “Letters From the Earth” by Mark Twain
5.  “White Noise” by Don DeLillo
4.  “Endurance” by Alfred Lansing
3.  “Your Fathers, Where Are They?  And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?” by Dave Eggers
2.  “Into the Wild” by John Krakauer
1.  “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck

My top twenty favorite albums

20.  “Funeral” by Arcade Fire
19.  “Nobody Knows” by Willis Earl Beal
18.  “High Violet” by The National
17.  “The Battle of Los Angeles” by Rage Against the Machine
16.  “Swamp Ophelia” by Indigo Girls
15.  “Mirrorball” by Neil Young
14.  “Dis/Location” by Seven Mary Three
13.  “Abbey Road” by The Beatles
12.  “Graceland” by Paul Simon
11.  “Bitches Brew” by Miles Davis
10.  “‘Allelujah!  Don’t Bend!  Ascend!” by Godspeed You! Black Emperor
9.    “Kid A” by Radiohead
8.   “Strangers to Ourselves” by Modest Mouse
7.   “This Will Destroy You” by This Will Destroy You
6.   “Time Out” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet
5.   “Secret Samadhi” by LIVE
4.   “Infinite Arms” by Band of Horses
3.   “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire
2.   “RockCrown” by Seven Mary Three
1.  “Into Your Lungs (and Around in Your Heart and On Through Your Blood)” by Hey Rosetta!

 

My top five composers

5.  Philip Glass
4.  Cliff Martinez
3.  Hans Zimmer
2.  Felix Mendelssohn
1.  Carl Nielsen

My top ten painters

10.  Edgar Degas
9.  George Bellows
8.  Mark Rothko
7.  Johannes Vermeer
6.  Mary Cassatt
5.  Maurice Prendergast
4.  Thomas Eakins
3.  Henri Rousseau
2.  Andrew Wyeth
1.  John Sloan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some Stuff I Want

Posted in Snippet with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2015 by sethdellinger

It is lately the generally accepted wisdom of the masses that one should not covet material items too much and you should spend your excess money on having experiences.  At least, this seems to be the generally accepted wisdom of my Facebook feed.  And I think I do fairly well with that; while there are certainly items I not only want but crave, I also spend a lot of my life having pretty great experiences.

All that being said, there remain some persistent bigger-ticket items that just call my name like a siren at sea, and I won’t deny it!  Perhaps it is an illness of our consumerist society, but dammit, there’s some stuff I want!  I thought it might be fun to put them here in a blog.  Please note this is just a fun exercise for me and not a veiled Christmas list.  As an adult I have never taken any joy in making out a list of things for people to buy me.  Some of these things have been bouncing around in my head as items I want for YEARS; I thought it might be therapeutic to get them out in the open.

In no particular order:

–OK, maybe in a SLIGHT order, just because this is definitely number one: Neil Young’s Mirrorball on vinyl.  It’s not my favorite album but it contains my favorite song.  Used would be fine but what I salivate over is the idea of a new, factory-sealed copy.  New copies on eBay generally go for about $100.

–I’m dying for a high-quality Philadelphia Flyers zip hoodie that goes light on the orange (but still has orange) and is heavy enough to wear for all but the coldest winter months.  Turns out all those criterion result in an expensive item.  Basically, I’m talking about this.  This would give me hoodies for all four Philly sports teams, but I don’t want to rush it and get a cheap version.  Hence, I’ve been sitting on this desire for almost two years.  I mean, who has $70 bucks for a hoodie?

–OK, I admit I have some fairly expensive interests.  I’ve been dying to get my hands on some first printings of collections of Philip Larkin poetry.  Now, this is a pretty specific area to deal in.  I am in no way talking about books actually called Collected Poems.  I am talking about the individual collections of poems AS THEY WERE PUBLISHED.  I would only be interested in them if they were FIRST PRINTINGS, which would mean they are hardcovers, usually being shipped from the UK somewhere, published in the 50s, 60s, and 70s.  These titles would be:   The Less Deceived (1955, generally sell on eBay for $60-$150), The Whitsun Weddings (1964, goes for about $150), High Windows (1974, $90-$180.  This is the most desirable one).  There are some lesser collections: The North Ship being the most notable.  I do have a second printing copy of The North Ship, for which I paid $55 in a moment of weakness some years ago.

–I really want a pair of high quality Bose earbuds.  Please note earbuds, not headphones.  I like the crazy colors, too.  Specifically these.  I will never have the cojones to shell out the money for these.

–You might not guess it to look at me, but I love shoes.  It’s just that the shoes I love, which are very specific stylistically, can usually be bought very cheaply at many local retailers.  But it turns out, there are expensive versions of the shoes I like (apparently they are Chukkas), and I will never, ever be paying for them.  But look at them. Look how pretty they are.

–I don’t often feel a need to add many DVDs to my collection nowadays, although I will still add one here and there as I see more movies I fall in love with or as classics become available.  However, there is only one movie that I feel is causing a gap in my collection by its absence.  That movie is They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? and it has been out of print on DVD for so long that new copies are very scarce.  Here look at this: a new copy of the DVD (not Blu Ray) on Amazon costs $100. You can see at that same Amazon page that used copies start at $20, but those are listed in acceptable condition.  I certainly do not mind used copies of DVDs but I balk at acceptable.  Some second-party sellers are offering New copies for $50.  Worth it but of course I can’t spend that on a single-disc, non-special edition DVD, no matter how badly I might want it.

–I love using the Roku to stream entertainment to my television.  In fact, we already own two of them.  However, in our new home, our wifi is terrible and it is a problem we don’t seem able to solve (we have been relegated to streaming Netflix via our Blu-Ray player, which is Ethernet cabled).  The thing is, I love Rokus, and the ROKU 3 has an Ethernet port.  Would this be an item of great excess?  Yes.  But I neeeeeeeeed it.

–My art book collection would basically be complete (for now) with the addition of a HIGH QUALITY, comprehensive, hardback book on Henri Rousseau.  I’m having trouble finding one to link to online, but the kind I’m thinking of is generally not cheaper than $60.  Failing that, I would settle for a framed print of The Dream (no smaller than 32×24) or The Snake Charmer (preferably 40×30).

See, I don’t ask for much!  I also like experiences!

You Can’t Buy Me Happiness, but You Can Buy Me Fraggle Rock

Posted in Philly Journal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2014 by sethdellinger

I sure am happy right now.  I’m going through an extended period of inner peace, tranquility, and contentment.  It rules!  I’m not trying to get all new-agey, or brag about my emotional state.  The fact is, I’m often pretty content, at least moreso than most people (with, as I have noted at length on my blog, a steady undercurrent of fear of death and general despair that has been with me always and always shall020 remain…but it’s usually a little out of sight…my main operating mode is usually “happy”).  I just note this extended happy period here because it seems so very unusual for most of humanity.  This is only based on my very unscientific casual observations.  But even folks who most would describe as happy are, frankly, pretty unhappy.  Or at least uncomfortable, or full of worry or self-doubt or fear.  Isn’t it strange how difficult it can be for us to 046be happy?  Oy vey.  I got tempted to go super-deep on the subject there, but I’ll resist it.  I think it is impossible to go deep on this subject without sounding like a douchebag.  I just want to note that I’m super happy.  Tranquil is an even better word.  I’m under no impression that my life is always going to be easy or that things will stay like they are now, but I’m tranquil with that notion.

That being said, this winter sure does suck.  I know I know, someone wants to tell me It’s winter, what do you expect??? Well you see, here’s the thing: winter is uncomfortable.  Physically.  I do not like the sensation it creates upon my general 001physical being.  So yes, although I am certainly aware that winter is coming, and I know what it is going to be like, that foreknowledge does not lessen it’s wretched impact upon me.  I mean seriously, why does it keep snowing???  What kind of winter thinks it needs to snow this much??  Or be this consistently cold?  It’s all pretty lame.  Oh hey, also, look at this painting, “Chilly Observation”, by Charles Sidney Raleigh:

chilly

 

Another note on my happiness (and again, I’m not trying to get all zen on you here, I’m just thinking out loud.  Except not literally out loud.  I guess I’m thinking publicly), I’ve noticed lately I’m getting much less satisfaction from the acquisition of material goods.  Despite all my cultural philosophizing, I don’t think I’ve ever denied that I derive a lot of pleasure from buying or acquiring things.  Not big-ticket items, usually.  Most of my life I’ve just loved getting more and more books and music and movies and things like that.  And just random consumer goods.  Hats. 014 Backscratchers.  Wall art.  Random shit like that.  Well anyway, lately, I’m getting less and less pleasure from acquisition.  I suspect part of this is because of my natural tranquility right now, so I don’t have to supplement my happiness with the artificial high of stuff.  but I also think that I might just kind of have enough stuff, finally.  For one man, I have ALOT of books, records, DVDs, and the massive amount of random crapola that life in America will allow you to encircle yourself with.  I have so much stuff (note that I am passionate about most of it and find it delightful; I’m not knocking my actual stuff) that I can’t begin to properly enjoy most of it.  So I might need to chill on acquisition for a bit and start really paying attention to what I already have.

(although take note, I still really need some books by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, a vinyl copy of Neil Young’s “Mirrorball”, one of these, a really nice digital camera, the complete series of “Fraggle Rock” on DVD [I aint joking about that, and it’s getting pretty affordable], Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rope” on Blu-Ray, that really nice 027hardbound version of the collected “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” books that Barnes and Noble sells, an Ilya Bryzgalov Philadelphia Flyers jersey [even though he doesn’t play for the team anymore…oh and size Large], early editions of the individual collections of Philip Larkin’s poetry [specifically, I’m thinking about “The Whitsun Weddings” and “The North Ship”…first editions only, really, anything else is useless], a year-long membership to the Barnes Gallery…oh I guess there is still some stuff I need…)

Wherein I attempt to read you a poem, but am interrupted by Time, Death, the Cosmos, and Wailing Guitars

Posted in Seth's Favorite Poems (by other people) with tags , , on January 23, 2014 by sethdellinger

Watch this video, fearless reader:

 

This is a five stanza poem but for some reason today, WordPress is not listening to me when I tell it to put spaces in.  So this looks like one long unbroken poem.  Also, of you are a glutton for punishment and would like to see me read the entire poem (without the long intro) that is viewable by clicking here.

Aubade
by Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
—The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused—nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.
This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear—no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.
And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Some Things I Like

Posted in Snippet with tags , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2014 by sethdellinger

Some things I like include, but are not limited to:

Dreams about dinosaurs.  Gel pens.  When fog actually rolls.  Itches you can scratch.  Falsetto.  Twine.  Cheesy films about the struggle for civil rights.  Pepperoni pizza.  A Prairie Home Companion.  Long, slow things that almost hurt.  Pointillist paintings.  My own long shadow dancing in front of me on dying summer afternoons.  Loud guitars.  White-out.  Bobbleheads.  Bubble baths in the dark.  My own horrible Jimmy Stewart impression.  Musty smell of books and basements.  Gallagher smashing watermelons.  The pop and hiss of old vinyl records, and the absence of the pop and hiss on new vinyl records.  Things that just barely tickle.  American cheese.  Cheddar cheese.  New socks.  Neil Young.  When lightning strikes again and again and again really fast but far away.  Plays by Luigi Pirandello.  Socially brazen stray cats.  Funiculars.  Regional history.  Keith Olberman. Those Easter Island statues.  Pandora Radio.  Russian nesting dolls.  Cola.  When pimples pop themselves.  Early Streisand films.  O Canada.  Major League Baseball’s National League rules.  Women wearing fingerless gloves, or who put their thumbs through self-made holes in their hoodie sleeves.  Also women who wear shower caps.  The charming and endearing music of Henry Mancini.  Cheese crackers.  The moment when you know you’re dreaming, but you’re still dreaming.  Lightning bugs.  Unexpectedly making a roomful of people laugh.  Backscratchers.  Dave Eggers.  French kissing.  A good game of hide-and-seek.  Hanging things on walls.  Sporks.  The New York Times.  Lava lamps.  Peeing when you had to pee so bad.  Those pull-down ladders that let you into crawl-space attics.  Polaroids.  Campfires.  Q-tips.  Shoe horns, although I’ve never used one.  Snuggies.  Drum solos.  Red Bull.  Sweating.  Owls.  Notebooks.  The WWII poetry of Randall Jarrell.  Text messages.  Blistex medicated lip ointment.  Umpires who scream every single strike call, all game long, and point emphatically.  Secondhand clothing.  Airplanes.  The Revolutionary War.  Summer, as hot as possible.  The United States Postal Service.  Protein shakes.  Riding my bike.  Skylines.  What people in the past thought the future was going to be like.  Kate Winslet.  The Appalachians.  Discover magazine.  Recently stained wood.  Looking up television commercials from my childhood on YouTube.  Coffee.  Those station wagons with wood paneling.  Anderson Cooper.  Pictures of my parents when they were children.  The Beatles.  Salt.  The Philadelphia concert venue The Electric Factory.  Hotel rooms, and showers in hotel rooms.  Cleveland.  The moment when you know they are bringing your food to the table.  Multi-colored thumb tacks.  The Philadelphia 76ers.  Brita filtered water.  80s movies about small, strange monsters.  When you can see the clouds overhead moving so fast, so fast.  Pennsylvania.  The free purple-ink pens that Planet Fitness gives out.  President Obama.  Flannel.  Escalators.  24 (the TV show).  Yogurt-covered pretzels.  “Boyshorts”.  Dueling pianos.  Postcards, both current and vintage.  The Johnstown Flood.  Big League Chew.  Those moments when you understand life is just life and enjoy a slice of peace.  Aaron Burr. Skinnydipping.  Hiking.  The moment the lights go down in a movie theater.   Black and white photography.  The ACLU.  Advil.  Instant mashed potatoes.  People playing instruments on the street for money.  The Golden Girls.  Pistachio-flavored anything.  The film scores of Hans Zimmer. Craft stores.  Meatloaf.  Roku.  The Philadelphia Inquirer.  Vermeer.  Putting lotion on my feet.  My mother’s lasagna.  The Erie Seawolves.  The ocean.  I’ve never been to the Cape of Good Hope, but I like it.    Netflix.  Elephants.  The Fourth of July.  Kitchen-cut green beans.  Snapchat.  Early-to-mid-90s Marvel Comics.  The Christmas music of Mariah Carey.  Ten minute naps.  Deep dark secrets.  Mall food courts.  Actually just malls in general.  FORA.tv.  Stoppage time.  Planned Parenthood.  Post-its.  Mirror Balls.  Women wearing anklets or makeup with glitter in it.  Amusement parks, even though I don’t ride rides.  Sundae bars.  Waking up four hours before your alarm is set to go off and contentedly drifting back to sleep.  Stretching.  The best poem I’ve ever read and imagine I ever will read, “Aubade” by Philip Larkin.  Sugar plums.  Newville, Pennsylvania, and its “Fountain Festival”.  The Mullica Hill Amish Farmer’s Market, of South Jersey. Gremlins, one and two.  Moments when I think I might have it all figured out.

Wants

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2013 by sethdellinger

The pot of gold at the end of this blog entry is yet another of my “artsy-fartsy” videos; I like to warn you guys about them because I don’t want to dupe any reader into watching something they ultimately won’t enjoy.  But, while I normally just put these things out into the world with minimal explanation and hope for the best, I thought this time I’d talk about the video a little bit first.

The main propulsion of the video is one of my favorite poems, “Wants”, by my absolute favorite poet, Philip Larkin.  Larkin was an extremely cynical, sad poet who tackled topics just about anyone else would be afraid to touch.  His poem “Wants” (which I have included in full after the video) is ultimately about this idea: everyone—everyone–to some degree, craves solitude and, ultimately, death.  That is putting it bluntly.  A more delicate way to put it is that, running underneath all of our everyday lives is a desire to experience absolutely nothing, to be completely alone, and to drink of what Larkin calls “oblivion”.  This is something I understand.  I am not suicidal (although I’ve certainly gone through suicidal phases in my life) and I am happy, but still, from time to time, an urge hits me: wouldn’t it be fine to not exist anymore?  Wouldn’t it be great to wake up to nothingness?  In Larkin, I’ve found a man who felt the same way (and who thought all of you did, too.  I’m not sure if I agree.  My video asks you the question of whether you agree).

So, I wanted to make a video highlighting “Wants”, but I wasn’t sure where to start.  I knew I wanted spend the time in the video thinking about other human beings, and what is going on in their private worlds, and whether they crave oblivion, like Larkin thought they do.  And so, as I was walking on the streets of Philadelphia a few days ago, I simply pulled out my camera and started filming people.  Just…filming people.

It is mostly just me passing people on the street.  Ultimately, by itself, very visually uninteresting stuff.  But when juxtaposed with the poem and the music (we’ll get to that soon), it is my intention to transport the viewer to a new way of seeing these people, force a more complicated or nuanced perspective of them, which would, in turn, ideally have the viewer look in upon themselves with new insight.  You know, the ultimate aim of all art (yes, I’m considering this to be art despite using someone else’s poetry and music, simply by my decision to bring these disparate pieces together).  Some of the shots of people are quite different than others: some suggest a subject for the viewer to follow or focus on, while other shots make no suggestions, leaving you to find your own focus, follow your own curiosity (after which you might ask yourself why you chose to watch the person you did).  Some shots shy away from having my subjects realize they are being filmed, while others acknowledge the subject, and they have clear moments of recognition that they are being filmed; for me, this moment of transition from voyeurism to an open exchange flipped the shot on its head and opened new layers of exploration.

The song I chose to accompany the video is, admittedly, not a song most of my readers would choose to listen to.  It is a long, dark, brooding instrumental by post-rock grandfathers Godspeed You! Black Emperor.  The song is called “Mladic”.  The title is a reference to Ratko Mladic, a Bosnian Serb ex-military leader accused of war crimes…including genocide (ie, bringing a massive amount of people to a state of oblivion).  It is also, no matter how you pronounce it, certainly a sideways play on the word “melodic”, which is not one of the first words you would use to describe the song.  The song ebbs and flows and contains many sections that elicit varying tones of emotion and levels of anxiety, which seemed perfect for the viewer to internally explore the depths of Larkin’s poem and its implications.  The song begins with a looped audio of people talking over a radio, “With his arms outstretched.”  “With his arms outstretched?”  “Do you see him?”  “Shoot.”  Although the band, being as media-unfriendly as ever, won’t tell anyone what it is, it is believed to be perhaps the words spoken by Serbian security forces upon Mladic’s arrest in  Serbia in 2011.  I must warn you, this song is not happy, and the video and the poem are of a dark bent.

The poem is two stanzas in length, the first stanza dealing more with the desire to be “alone”, the second more with the desire for “oblivion”.  I have a long pause between the readings of the stanzas in the video (I personally read the poem) in order to allow the theme to build as well as to keep the poem the center of the piece  throughout.

I hope you like it!

“Wants” by Philip Larkin

Beyond all this, the wish to be alone:
However the sky grows dark with invitation-cards
However we follow the printed directions of sex
However the family is photographed under the flag-staff –
Beyond all this, the wish to be alone.

Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs:
Despite the artful tensions of the calendar,
The life insurance, the tabled fertility rites,
The costly aversion of the eyes away from death –
Beneath it all, the desire for oblivion runs.

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