Things I Think When I Listen to Jack Johnson

Is that his real name?  How many white male singer songwriter guitarists think they are him?  Why does he get the position that he does, the visibility that he does?  It is good songwriting in its simplicity, they do simple things well.  The band plays simple things well, and it is recorded well.  The ways that I listen are probably influenced by studying music through school and my experiences as a musician and around musicians afterwards.  Am I a musician?  God I hate those kinds of thoughts, self doubt and spiralling inwards attacks.  It’s funny that he can seem insipid or is used as wallpaper music in cafes, because if you listen to *some* of the lyrics they are very anti-consumerism and status quo.  Not shockingly anti though.  I don’t think in asterixs though.  How do you spell asterixs?  I like his percussionist, again very simple.  Sometimes the mid-tempo simple tonality simple 4/4 seems so goddamn safe though.  His voice is smooth.  I wonder if it is possible to think about music free of the cultural connections and identity performance of normalised male voice as central, surfer stoner association, hippie consumption of this, what the kids think of it, all that.  —-moment feeling listening breathing — interesting to listen to this while my partner, baby and dog are out for a walk and this is ‘me’ time, like the pressure to make use of ‘me’ time can have me doubting myself.  Doubts and perfectionism can grab onto anything.  Probably caffeine is in cahoots with those doubting thoughts.  Ok, now I am finding him a bit boring.  I think it’s around the beginning of the songs, a few songs in, and it’s the same tonality and tempo … oh, so the same again.  But they are good melodies.  What’s good?  Familiar, simple, they ‘work’.  Still, the first time I saw him way back when at Byron supporting Ben Harper I wasn’t that impressed.  Funny how that can happen, and then other times someone really grabs you and you really hear it.  Makes me think about Ben Harper and the experiences with him/his music/his narratives.  And whatever happened to the actual writing I did about Michael Franti and this idea of him and my narratives and where is that goddamn story?  My partner doesn’t believe it exists.  It does, or it did.  Music as soundtrack to break ups, healing, self-exploration, getting through depression.  Funnily enough Jack Johnson worked that way once, as a balm, the simple balm.  Because someone can put their heart into music and recording and sometimes in a cafe context it can seem background but sometimes if you listen closely your heart resonates.  Not that I would talk about heart in an academic context.  And why not?  And why the concern with separating my interests, passions, fields?  Well there is a pragmatic need to sometimes, but really, my thoughts clearly dart from heart to identity performativity to the wash on the guitar to personal association to goddamn motherfucking rage at male as central Jesus Christ sometimes it is so infuriating to even be ‘talking back’ to it, or ‘screaming back’ to it, or ‘silently screaming back in a bloggy kind of way’ to it.  Always, straight away, the worry that I will be attacked for being feminist or going on about it or being too sensitive or having a THING about it.  Fuck goddamn.  I hope my daughter has an easier time with it all.  Such a headfuck.  Here comes the family.  I love them.

Drafty-thoughts about a spoken word gig I went to.

Soil featured.  Also blood, breath, and human skin.  Guts.  On walls and lamp posts.  Hands on chests.  A couple of hijabs.  Dark denim.  Small stage.  On-the-pocket-spot drummer.

I went out last night, as in out in Sydney, to a venue.  A venue where there were poets.  Who got up and slammed.  Or read and were scored.  The competitive aspect seemed like an undertow that was not, in fact, strong.  Snaps happened, to appreciate the killer lines.  These can, as the organiser and MC said, seem naff, and the first time she whooshed by me doing it it was strange.

I felt again that this is it.  For me: words, expression, performance, body, stage, beats do it.  Do that thing that goes: yes, I am alive and I love this and I have been waiting for it.  Waiting for the hearing of the phrase.  The phrase from a body on the stage who is living their life.  On the street at their job on the train.  They write a thing and practice it then it comes through the microphone.  Speakers and mixing desk and people sitting on uncomfortable seats.  A volunteer-run space and Marrickville cold wet.  Hearts thrumming with their words from the mind of a person whose voices comes through electric wires and out speakers.  And I forget that I have been waiting for this.  I circle back and back to it and remember these things give me the thrill.  My poet self artist self academic self gets all double-shot without the caffeine.  Chat chat chat to other academic folks about gender and patriarchy and multiculturalism and generations in the break before the main act.

It’s a valve for the thoughts about the crazy.  Inane world hell-bent on violent ignorance.  War war war and the media.  The poets help a hiss of air escape.  Shout it.  The hip hop rocks us.

I been going down the road of thinking how these moments of protest and discontent are in fact a part of The System: they are allowed to exist because they are a distraction from where real power is, because they don’t lead to anything.  But, you know, I don’t know how it works – but this shit, the spoken word shit, the expression, critique, human voice – it does work.  It does do some work.  I don’t know how.  Peace work.  The hardest kind.

Stupido Eso

Well, you know, I been doing-doing-doing, but not at the speed of the internet.  Responding to the gurgle of the world flow doesn’t always sit with baby-mothering and domestic scrubbing.  However.  I wrote this in response to some questions from a student about my thoughts on the Eso and Rihanna photo.  So in the interests of getting things out there even though they’re not like really out there, and not really edited or anything, here’s thoughts:

Yes, hip hop has a history of rappers talking about violence against women. The early nineties gangsta genre in particular was part of what was really widely distributed around the globe, so the thug, gangsta MC stands out as a stereotypical masculine character of an African American man for many. Feminists, womanists (Black feminists) and others have critiqued this. Of course, like any stereotype, there are many exceptions, and it depends where you look: there have been vocal, strong female MCs who have ‘rapped back’ to men and added their insights and experiences, and encouraged other women to be independent financially, which is part of trying to break free of domestic violence. In Australia, you can find some examples of male MCs who have urged women to break out of domestic violence (TZU, The Tongue), and how much it upsets them, although this also can make the focus and the blame on women, rather than on the men who do it. The Tongue also wrote an opinion piece/response/‘open letter’ to Eso.  Yeah, of course, not laughing at abuse it is “basic human decency”, but I’ll say it is “feminism”, ‘cos things aren’t basically-humanly-decent for women so: fuck yeah feminism.

So, yes, I am aware of Eso’s photo. My first thought was that he is incredibly stupid: of course this would blow up. My second was to wonder what Rihanna was thinking. Did she think it was funny? Next I felt embarrassed that this will be seen as a representation of Australian hip hop to an international/internet audience. Also, you could see it as a ploy by Eso to be controversial and get all of those extra hits. Hip hop (often called ‘conscious hip hop’) does have a history of exhorting it’s MCs to be role models, which often generally means to encourage others to live a life of positivity and to chase their dreams, often of being a performer rather than a drug dealer. So some of the response to whether Eso is a role model can fall along these lines. I also felt disappointed, which surprised me, because I didn’t realise I had higher expectations of Eso, but I must have. The classic thing about ‘it was just a joke’ degrades and trivialises those who don’t find it funny. Who finds it funny, and who doesn’t?

Urgh, here it is:

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Clem Ford, of course, nailed it, and I’ll say it like this: privilege.  It’s a privileged position to be sick of people not finding you funny.  It’s a privileged position to decry the world as too politically correct.  It’s a privileged position to want women to shut up.  It’s a privileged position to want the world to get over Ferguson.  Because you can.  So why doesn’t everyone else?  But, think about it: that’s the MO FO POINT.

 

List living

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List living revolves inside my skull,

bouncing around the perimeter, jack box, a

tetris looking to have all of my blocks in place, all of the

 

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snarky judge sits in my background static

always looking for more to sweep,

draft, practice, compose, theorise

 

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quarks even collide, though, the

atoms and neutrinos and whatever-their-names

collapse and meld, explode and fuse

 

The life wire is here, these fierce creatures

in flesh squirm, full of impulse, our bodies

roll through rooms with their breath even as

the furrow in the forehead indicates the ever-loving

 

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the feeds and dash, home and news tubes

 

swipe swipe-dismembered child

swipe swipe-cartoon

swipe swipe-make up

swipe swipe-static … scroll

the glass won’t take a punch – the

retina display doesn’t yield to the –

fullness of –

 

blood blood breath breath, lymph, skin

blood blood breath breath, lymph, skin

 

blood blood breath breath, lymph, skin

blood blood breath breath, lymph, skin

Spiral away

And what will happen when the automated vehicles for everyone’s commentary implode and the opinions have nowhere to go but the white air? Who will lol and likey if our book is taken away? If our faceys and self-pages no longer load and the networks have no neural pathways to let the juice run?

Volts back up and hot breath expires from the lips. Sighs come back. Just sighs that escape through the pores as the distress cannot be contained in the looping thoughts that rattle along in words. Daisy chains of argument spiral away into the great exhalation in answer to this destructive experiment. A species overrun with violence. When I can sigh fully from the core to the edges I will know how to meet the sorrow.

Very important lists

Ongoing doing and the never ending next.  Still, if it’s unplanned and urgent I better do it.  Work from the bottom up.  Cut through these thoughts about domestic motherhood and housework and trying to figure out how much I am choosing to clean and how much it’s a gender thing and where that comes from and if I should have done more on the business and thesis by now and arggghhh.

Write the goddamn poems.image

Picky

Lint. Dog hair. Lint. Fluff.
Picking with oval shaped nails, sharp and precise.
Pointed subtext and body language.
The grandmother wars, the judgement, picking at her subtext.
Lint. Dog hair. Lint. Fluff.

Always more to do, always another speck of fluff.
Grandmothers bending down with their sharp nails to peck at the spot.
Missing the one left to do, always more to do.
A female curse, to be judged, always more judgement and more dirt.

Even when their memory goes they still pick.
I watch their body language and subtext as they spot the dog hair along with making small talk.
Then I can’t rest because I have the picking in my body.

More, more, always more dirt. Try and relax, try not to let the feeling of the dog hair crowd the thoughts. All the hairs, grey white black.

The list never shortens. The eye for spots never let’s up. I just have to step away from it.

Rest. Come back.

Then I can notice the overall clean. That the hairs are small.

So small that they can bug me …

But, rest. Rest the thoughts in amongst the dog hair. This female curse of cleaning martyrdom, resentful, ferocious vacuuming has to ease up. Ease it up.

Bismillah

And maybe that’s it, birth into this one is death of the next
And the womb of Allah knows the peace we crave
And smack is another valley of oblivion
And Death is, and meditation gets there
And silence, numbing, addictions want it but
We are born here and
We can remember the tomb, arms crossed
Like a swaddled baby
We can drop all away like the plunge of sleep
And it terrifies, the free fall
But even babies can learn to let themselves sink into the cot
Like the womb of Allah surrounds, warm, dark, a nothing
We can pretend to be a nothing
And know we are a nothing
While we feel all that we are