Happy Birthday, Mr. Stevens

As the Mad Hatter says, we all have 364 un-birthdays. But for Wallace Stevens, the greatest American poet who ever lived–epic like Whitman, possessed of Dickinson’s lyric intricacies, fleshier than Bishop, more national than Eliot, beautiful unlike Pound–October 2 isn’t one of those. This year he would have been 136. It’s too bad cryogenics haven’t advanced as much as sci-fi movies suggest.

I am lucky that during the 1990s and 2000s my home state, Virginia, had a superb public education system from K to college. In 1999, when I was seventeen, I spent a summer in the state Arts and Humanities Governor’s School at the University of Richmond, where I took strange, exhilarating classes on things like Critical Imagination and hung out with dancers, poets, painters, photographers, actors, and other weirdos.

In one of those classes we read poets like Yeats, Rimbaud (whom I was really getting into at the time, having discovered Enid Starkie’s biography of him), and Stevens. I remember reading the poem below, “Disillusionment of Ten O’Clock,” and feeling immediately, before I understood a word, that it was otherwordly, like Pedro Martinez’s change-up, a text uninterested in anything like philosophical or ideological Content and yet scenically intelligible and eager to show me something pleasingly, oddly beautiful. It wobbled and reverberated with magic Yeats and mad Rimbaud:

The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches tigers
In red weather.

In 2005 a dear friend gave me a hardcover copy of Stevens’s Collected Poems (the 1954 Knopf edition, still the standard). I’ve read the shit out of it ever since, that husky, taped-up, note-tattooed volume. My favorite poem is still, I think, at least in most moods, “Peter Quince at the Clavier,” which just vaporizes the century’s poetic competition. By turns soulful, satirical, straight-faced, erotic, and cinematic, long but brisk, with a continuous lyric intelligence underlying everything, “Peter Quince” was first published a century ago, in 1915, but it remains strikingly contemporary. You can imagine the guy in jeans, taking a selfie of the pool where Susanna . . . well, you’ll see. Full text here; final amazing stanza below. Happy weekend, y’all.

Beauty is momentary in the mind —
The fitful tracing of a portal;
But in the flesh it is immortal.
The body dies; the body’s beauty lives.
So evenings die, in their green going,
A wave, interminably flowing.
So gardens die, their meek breath scenting
The cowl of winter, done repenting.
So maidens die, to the auroral
Celebration of a maiden’s choral.
Susanna’s music touched the bawdy strings
Of those white elders; but, escaping,
Left only Death’s ironic scraping.
Now, in its immortality, it plays
On the clear viol of her memory,
And makes a constant sacrament of praise.
And let us remember: Stevens was an insurance executive at the company now known as The Hartford. An insurance exec!

Topical Verse: Roethke’s Greenhouse Fraus

For a poet whose work is a major bridge from prewar Modernism to the martinis-and-visiting-professorships circuit of the Fifties and Sixties, Theodore Roethke does not deserve to have faded from view so much. He has fans here and there, squirreling away used paperbacks, but dude definitely doesn’t have the cultural tonnage of William Carlos Williams or Elizabeth Bishop (two poets in his extended family), and Dame Plath’s estate probably moves more books in a week than Roethke’s does in a year. Until graduate school I pronounced his name Roth-co, like the painter. He lingers in the Norton anthologies, but in actual conversation I hadn’t met anyone to correct me.

It’s a shame. Roethke isn’t a great, but he’s still pretty great, the poetry equivalent of an awesome singles band.

Coming from a line of gardeners and builders, I’m wired to love the greenhouse lyrics that make up the first section of his best book, The Lost Son (1948). Autobiographical resonance aside, I like how these poems form a DMZ between tendencies that sometimes weaken his writing.

On one side of the field, you’ve got his “confessional” impulse, the need to establish versions of one’s wounded self as the ultimate poetic reality, which can easily tip into self-mythologizing frenzy. As “Open House” (lame pun) has it, “My secrets cry aloud,” and thus often “Rage warps my clearest cry / To witless agony” (AWFUL rhyme). You get the sense he might not be the most fun person to hang out with some days.

On the other side of the field is a much more pervasive flaw, Roethke’s persistent desire to be a visionary like Yeats or Blake, with an attendant mimicry of the song-/chant-like prosody they often use. Even the wonderful “Epidermal Macabre” is like a B-side of Yeats’s “A Coat.” Gorgeous. I carry a handwritten copy in my wallet. But still a B-side. In his massive, intermittently luminous Lives of the Poets (1998), the critic Michael Schmidt calls it “partial ventriloquism.”

You get a lot of crap about vision and transcendence in Roethke, and all the time you also get the sense that he would be happier talking about daily activities and relationships. Google “The Geranium.” It is a fantastic friendship poem written by a frazzled loner. It exemplifies what Roethke was capable of when he wasn’t spinning out oracular stuff like the lines in this rogue’s gallery:

A pearl within the brain, / Secretion of the sense; / Around a central grain / New meaning grows immense. (“Genesis”)

The stones sang, / The little ones did, / And flowers jumped / Like small goats.
(“The Waking”—the other one, not the justly famous villanelle)

All’s known, all, all around: / The shape of things to be; / A green thing loves the green / And loves the living ground. / The deep shade gathers night; / She changed with changing light.
(“Light Listened”)

Oh, and from the “Love Poems” section of his 1953 volume The Waking, here is “The Dream.” This how it ends:

She held her body steady in the wind;
Our shadows met, and slowly swung around;
She turned the field into a glittering sea;
I played in flame and water like a boy [editorial note: !!!]
And I swayed out beyond the white seafoam;
Like a wet log, I sang within a flame.
In that last while, eternity’s confine,
I came to love, I came into my own.

That’s an attempted bang that ends up being a whimper. In all of these you see Roethke elbowing his way toward the numinous through nature and women and his own psychodrama, forcing the stuff of consciousness into Very Significant existential patterns. This in turn produces some painfully simple-minded rhymes.

A cooler Roethke appears in his notebooks, which David Wagoner has edited for the Copper Canyon Press under the name Straw For the Fire (1974, 2006). “We need more barnyard poets,” Roethke declares on page 12, perhaps after several whiskies, “poets who depart from the patio, the penthouse, the palladium.” Modified roughnecks, of the kind Whitman admired. “What was the greenhouse?” asks a later entry, which then answers itself: “It was a jungle, and it was paradise; it was order and disorder: Was it an escape? No, for it was a reality harsher than reality” (page 145). “I wish I could photosynthesize,” he admits on the following page.

The same earthbound mensch shows up in the greenhouse poems from The Lost Son. Here, horticulture serves as a figuration of the poet act, being a partial re-engineering and attempted management of nature’s fecund otherness. The texts are personally rooted but not sutured to a biographical persona; they are self-oriented but not self-contained. Conversational but not slack, intimate without becoming maudlin, they employ free verse that is cut with patterned rhymes and unobtrusive meters in places.

These poems posit a dialectic between vision and the visual, between the fundamental arrogance of a poet’s imagination and the rank solidity of dirt, watering cans, and chlorophyll. A poet’s gotta dream. But then the real, grubby, frustrating, material universe will push back.

So this weekend’s poem is “Frau Bauman, Frau Schmidt, and Frau Schwartze.” Roethe’s dad owned some greenhouses in Michigan; and apparently Roethke senior’s pop was an official forester for Kaiser Wilhelm. Roethke worked in the greenhouses some summers, alongside the older women who maintained the sites year-round.

Refusing visionary leaps can be a feminist act. That is, refusing to twist actual humans from one’s past into a mythology that motivates one’s present is a gesture of respect for actual lives that, in this instance, are women’s lives. The three women in this poem are people, not a transcendentalist conduit or visionary metaphor. They chew tobacco, they sweat when they work. They aren’t pretty maidens, fertile mothers, or geriatric saints.

The poem does not pity the fraus for being childless “nurses of no one else.” It avoids the easy edginess of playing up a weird Freudian sexual angle. It likens the women to birds and witches (one detects a reference to Macbeth in there), but it nonetheless views them as earthbound, fascinating, actual Others, not symbols of Mother Nature or bit players in Roethke’s personal archives. Their flesh is working flesh, the stuff of labor: gardening in this case, the work of “Keeping creation at ease.” These three German ex-pats have a permanently reserved table in the poet’s memory, but they aren’t contractually bound to occupy it every night. After an initial feint at mythology (“three ancient ladies”) the text settles into a respect for their autonomy, their lives as material beings. We know them a little bit, through one remarkable, writing person’s fallible memory. This is it. We should all be so lucky.

Enjoy the read. Happy weekends, y’all.

Gone the three ancient ladies
Who creaked on the greenhouse ladders,
Reaching up white strings
To wind, to wind
The sweet-pea tendrils, the smilax,
Nasturtiums, the climbing
Roses, to straighten
Carnations, red
Chrysanthemums; the stiff
Stems jointed like corn,
They tied and tucked,—
These nurses of nobody else.
Quicker than birds, they dipped
Up and sifted the dirt;
They sprinkled and shook;
They stood astride pipes,
Their skirts billowing out wide into tents,
Their hands twinkling with wet;
Like witches they flew along rows
Keeping creation at ease;
With a tendril for needle
They sewed up the air with a stem;
They teased out the seed that the cold kept asleep,—
All the coils, loops, and whorls.
They trellised the sun; they plotted for more than themselves.

I remember how they picked me up, a spindly kid,
Pinching and poking my thin ribs
Till I lay in their laps, laughing,
Weak as a whiffet;
Now, when I’m alone and cold in my bed,
They still hover over me,
These ancient leathery crones,
With their bandannas stiffened with sweat,
And their thorn-bitten wrists,
And their snuff-laden breath blowing lightly over me in my first sleep.

Los Angeles Country: Dwight Yoakam’s “Guitars, Cadillacs”

Country music has a split heritage: rural Protestantism on the one hand, hillbilly hedonism on the other. All those mean little nondenominational churches in the South can’t change the fact that music is great, partying is fun, and getting drunk is restorative and beneficial until it becomes terrible. Sin and forbearance and all that—it’s how you get George Jones’s music and George Jones’s life. And in its purest form, the genre is workers’ music, poor man’s music, jams out of coal hollers and county highways, every song shadowed by poverty and boring, ordinary disappointment.

Like many cultural phenomena, country flourished when it spread beyond its geographical roots, like how the Brits invented the Anglophone novel but Americans perfected it (1). When the Dust Bowl and then World War II drew poor whites (primarily Appalachians and the Okies) out west, country music got California all over it. Despite its financial capital and production heft, Nashville doesn’t have shit on Bakersfield. In turn, Bakersfield needed Los Angeles, the urban hub just over the mountains through which country’s best tendencies were distributed. When the genius who is the subject of today’s post went to Nashville at the dawn of the Reagan era, saw a bunch of New South rhinestone schlock, said “Fuck it,” and moved out west, he was copying dudes like Merle Haggard and Gram Parsons, pursuing his own version of the n’er-do-well proto-punk aesthetic that Johnny Cash and Hank Williams (two artists who never really fit in the South even though they were Southern boys, as JC emphasized by stomping out the floor lights at the Grand Ole Opry in 1965) had articulated.

Dwight Yoakam settled in LA in the 1980s, developing his style in shitty punk clubs and similar dives, and dropping his first album, Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc., toward the dismal end of the Reagan years (1986). One of the best country debuts ever? Survey says YES. It’s the creation of an Appalachian transplant who liked tight jeans as much as he dug Neil Young, Gram Parsons, Creedence, AOR pop singles, and the Carter Family. Country music? Grimy at heart. (See above.) Los Angeles? Grimy at heart and in all the other ways.

But he wasn’t some subaltern master that America didn’t ever appreciate: Yoakam was huge in the late 1980s and 1990s, selling out stadiums and hogging the airwaves. Indeed, he was a Boyd family staple in our blue Ford Ranger. His videos dominated the limited space MTV gave to country artists, and while I wouldn’t call them cool (some of them are downright terrible), compared to what Garth Brooks and his headset were subjecting America to, Yoakam’s grunge-hunk look is tight enough to redeem all but the worst media rollouts (2). In general, these pleasant visual adjuncts underscore his ability to write fantastic pop songs (3), much like his physical doppelganger and stylistic cousin Tom Petty.

His first five albums did serious Billboard-chart damage, and they are all great, but the one I keep bumpin’ in my jalopy is Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. My own dear favorite track is “South of Cincinnati,” but the title-ish song “Guitars, Cadillacs” offers a better idea of what makes Yoakam’s best work so fascinating and inventive. The song is fun with a sad edge. In other words, it is like the better parties you’ve been to lately. Have a weekend, LA and beyond.

1) Unfortunately it also works the other way around, as when white people grow dreadlocks.
2) For a demonstration of how standards of taste and style are historically contingent, watch the video for Yoakam’s enormous (and still awesome) hit “A Thousand Miles From Nowhere.” Most of it is perfectly adequate cable-TV fare, but there’s a shot around 1:40 that is titanically, hilariously awful; I need someone to make me a GIF of it. The lady’s hair-toss!
3) The most beautiful musicians can make accessible music, even pop music, if they want to. Examples: Beethoven’s 9th symphony, Chopin’s piano bits, Tom Petty, the Beatles, the Pretenders, Brian Wilson, Jay Z. Something is missing if an artist’s work is always difficult, just like if it were constantly enjoyable only on an unreflective, immediate level. High art isn’t continually highbrow. Jane Eyre exemplifies this, as do the deft, sad lyrics below, which arrive near the end of “Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose,” one of DY’s singles from If There Was a Way [sic]:

If a tear should fall,
If I should whisper her name
To some stranger I’m holding
While we’re dancin to an old Buck Owens song,
I know she won’t mind
She won’t even know–
She’ll be dancing with a memory, crying teardrops of her own.

Weekend Beats: Kool Keith on “Drugs”

I wish I had a cooler origin story for my appreciation of Kool Keith, but to be honest I discovered him on the Office Space soundtrack. Don’t judge—it was 1999 and I was 17. Because I couldn’t find a free Web clip of wherever in the film “Get Off My Elevator,” with its mangy, peristaltic beat and pop-culture garbageman-poet lyrics, gets played, here is another scene from Mike Judge’s Clinton-era masterwork:

Later, when I got to college and, still a corny young white man (just like Michael Bolton above), began working at the school’s radio station (WCWM represent), people who actually knew about hip hop introduced me to gold like the Ultramagnetic MCs, the group Keith rapped with from the late 1980s till the mid 1990s, and Spankmaster, an album he dropped in 2001. That the latter cracked the Billboard Top 50 for rap albums (#48) in the early 2000s, or any era in which human beings have had the ability to record music, is shocking. You may remember Ja Rule and Crazy Town from the early aughts.

My favorite track on Spankmaster is “Drugs,” a profane, batshit tall tale of Keith’s supposed assignations with various narc-addled celebrities. In an odd way, though, the text controls itself. Sort of. Its ragout of cultural allusions and strange hypothetical scenarios is held within demanding rhyme and accent schemes. The beat is an eerie, growling, fenced-in space for the lyrics to roughhouse. It is pricked with empty-theater piano taps. It’s like a scene from Under the Volcano—simultaneously goofy and horrible. A sample:

Packed up my bag and met Darryl Strawberry in the mall
I told James Brown, “Stop smoking angel-dust in the piss stall”
He wanted to go up to the Olive Garden and start a restaurant brawl
Mary J. Blige, my son don’t accept them type of phone calls!

If you want to do a Harold Bloom-style tree of influence, then Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Tyler, the Creator (all very different MCs) aren’t possible without Kool Keith.

You could also have some dark fun imagining an updated roll call of celebrity drug disasters: Amy Winehouse, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Pimp C, Heath Ledger, Mitch Hedberg, Whitney Houston (still living when KK recorded this track, which mentions her and Bobby Brown). All men must die and all that.

Oh, also: the cover. Aesthetically, Spankmaster‘s packaging alludes to Eighties porno and Seventies blaxsploitation films (but mainly porno), and its ideological, uh, thrust amounts to a reeling parody of rap’s, uh, problematic sexual politics. That said, Keith does fervently endorse female backsides, which some people find quite fetching but which might not be universally palatable as presented here, KK’s prophylactic, partial irony notwithstanding. You can’t spell “Trigger Warning” without a T, a G, and an R.

To put it another way, there is a lady’s covered (but only just!) butt on the YouTube link, and no, there aren’t other freely accessible links without that tailfeather. But it is a remarkably un-erotic image anyway.

Good luck not cracking up six or seven times while you bump this. There’s a new kind of hero in the streets. Have a safe and fulfilling weekend, y’all.

Monday Beats: Straight Outta Gainesville

Tom Petty is a man. A man who draws deep water on this website. A man from Florida who made an album. An album that came out 25 years ago, when Tom Petty himself was a robust 39.* An album called Full Moon Fever. An album that you would almost certainly enjoy, general readers.

Having been a teenager during the mid- to late-1990s stage of Petty’s fame, when MTV and M2 (long since renamed MTV2) were still actually curating videos by famous and sub-famous musicians alike, I got a heavy dose of the strange, intermittently brilliant visual complements to the Petty singles that were all over the radio, and kind of still are, if you limit your definition of “radio” to classic-rock stations in large American cities.

This video, for example, is fantastic. It gives you plenty of smirking, lowbrow meta-textuality, and besides Petty doing his stoned-Mad-Hatter thing at the front and back ends, you get the elaborate hair of Jeff Lynne and George Harrison, complex shirts all around, and Ringo Starr looking like a blind Muppet (I’ve been told this final association only makes sense to me). The camera goes all sorts of places, y’all. Fun. As a visual text it befits “I Won’t Back Down,” my favorite of the album’s ten songs (when my favorite isn’t “The Apartment Song” or “Yer So Bad”), all of which are near-perfect articulations of transatlantic (but still distinctly American) garage-pop.

Tom Petty with his flimsy hair and that dry suggestion of a twang, what a mensch. A man without a home country, having adopted LA after escaping north Florida, his audience is getting older. That’s a shame. Many people in their teens and 20s would dig Full Moon Fever. I bumped it in my Camry when I was seventeen; my dad and I both liked it. In aesthetic terms, its cover is pure bedroom-poster material. Young people, you need not relinquish your skateboards and body sprays to embrace Tom Petty!

The opening riff of “I Won’t Back Down” slices and lingers, establishing a basic sadness that persists beneath the song’s general catchiness and collaborative ethos. The lyrics, rigged as urgent couplets and more spacious choruses, mirror this tension. Like Petty’s incomparable voice they seem resigned to being optimistic.

* The 3/31 “Hollywood Prospectus” podcast on Grantland drew the date to my attention. I am indifferent to large swaths of the pop-culture landscape that Andy Greenwald and Chris Ryan have taken as their bailiwick, but they are thoughtful dudes, and they spend the last twenty minutes of this episode talking about why Tom Petty’s music is amazing.




Ante-Weekend Beats: Rare Gold

Beck’s Mellow Gold dropped twenty years ago next week. Your parents probably should have hated it, but even if they noticed that you were listening to it on your Discman (the one with the duct tape) or your friend’s bedroom speakers, they probably didn’t. The whole album exemplifies a seriously unwholesome, unprofitable, ingenuous obsession with American music, one so brilliant it doesn’t matter that Beck himself is a Scientologist.

Lemme tell you about this stoner incunabulum. It embodies titular excellence (“Whiskeyclone, Hotel City 1997”; “Truck-Drivin’ Neighbors Downstairs”). It can do a shambling impression of radio pop (“Loser”). Sometimes it’s like a classic-R&B listening party hosted by an affable sex maniac. Its version of avant-garde garage rap (“Soul-Suckin’ Jerk”) sounds sort of like the Beastie Boys, but it’s not imitative; and it foreshadows some of the big singles from Odelay a couple years later. As such, it’s also the scene of some great light verse, as in “Nitemare Hippie Girl,” a cogent warning about “mystical, tragical beaut[ies]” that all young heterosexual men in America should heed, especially if they are still in college or less than, say, three years past graduation and living in some expensive coastal city: “She’s a magical, sparkling tease, / She’s a rainbow choking the breeze; / She’s bustin out onto the scene /  With nightmare bogus poe-try. / She’s a melted avocado on the shelf, / She’s a science of herself.” (It goes on from there. Cf. the Manic Pixie Dream Girl narrative. Girls, the guy version of this might be this guy.) There is some lush, narco-ambient stuff (e.g. “Black Hole”) that points toward Beck’s downer classic Sea Change (2002) and groups like Animal Collective. (I keep thinking of Skip Spence, too. We are not worthy.) It includes the best Neil Young and Bob Dylan parodies you will ever find.

The weirdest thing about this album? It got to #13 on the US Billboard chart. For the whole America! Kinda doubt it would move that many units in 2014. You saw the Super Bowl halftime show, right? It would still be a goofy late-capitalist gem, though. Here’s “Fuckin’ With My Head (Mountain Dew Rock),” my favorite track on Mellow Gold. You might have to watch a stupid ad first. I’m sorry.

As a literature person who runs a blog and borrows large parts of his musical tastes from more knowledgeable friends, I feel confident making broad predictions about the media market while assessing various albums. I’m savin’ up my food stamps and burnin’ down the trailer park. Have a good weekend, y’all.

Hot Links to Hot Weekend Beats

This weekend’s jam was huge when I was in high school and college, so you best believe I spent lots of time trying to dance/dance up on girls while it played. (“Eww, you like rap?”) I speak of Ginuwine’s “Pony,” from his 1996 debut Ginuwine…the Bachelor. It’s big, stupid, corny American pop; by the time I got to college, it was a grotesquely overplayed single that almost everyone without a heart of stone still loved to hear, kind of like “Satisfaction” or “Beat It.” But the video! I saw this a few times back in the day, but I didn’t remember much until it came across my digital radar yesterday. The video! I like the song at least twice as much now.

To recap, through the power of jeans, dance, song, and a tectonically catchy Timbaland beat (Virginia represent), son turns a roadside honky tonk into a multiracial sex party. A lot is going on here. Historically loaded encounters between older white men and black bar patrons. Ginuwine’s hair. The hat situation. People who aren’t villains are smoking cigarettes!

Enjoy. Pop music that stays pop is a form of high art. I believe some people have said this.

End of the Week Links

Hello, everyone. This evening, as always, the Internet holds forth its treasures, and TGR is gathering some in a big net. May they stimulate you intensely.

  • Why did God systematically ruin a decent, faithful man’s life after someone dared him to? This is the inflammatory question raised by the Book of Job, and as Joan Acocella demonstrates in the New Yorker, Judeo-Christian commentators have spent millennia trying to explain how a benevolent deity could also have a sadistic streak. Spoiler alert: Nobody has done much better than David Hume’s common-sense observation that God sounds like an asshole. Makes sense. Guy did let his only kid get crucified.
  • Whether you’re talking kindergarten or college, teachers who are good at their jobs believe fervently in the existential importance of education for its own sake—whatever economic benefits it also carries. Teachers are some of the last real humanists. But can any occupation that exists in the actual world be considered a manifestation of a radiant, quasi-spiritual impulse? Many teachers would snort at that. In a post called “Hanging Up on a Calling,” Rebecca Schuman explains that the “joy of teaching/I’d do it for free!” narrative has long been a way to justify paying teachers as though their high-skill jobs weren’t extremely complicated and difficult. Teaching is an enjoyable, salutary occupation; I’m good at it; and I hope I can keep doing it until I’m old. But fuck any calling that doesn’t come with decent wages. Educators live right where everybody else does, and you can’t pay medical bills and student-loan invoices with a Love of Knowledge. The day I can’t earn middle-class money working full-time as a teacher is the day I stop being one.
  • The premise of Bad Lip Reading shouldn’t be funny for more than 15 seconds; the actual practice of BLR, in the right hands, is sometimes transcendent. The weirdly articulate quality of the nonsensical “readings” is what cracks this blogger so consistently up. Here, after another shitty whimsical GEICO ad, is a tour of the contemporary National Football League and its gladiators. “Kill Dracula at once, that’s what I would do immediately.”
  • About 90% of the content on Jezebel strikes me as lazy, tedious, and brittle (JUDGMENT BY MALE ALERT), but this anti-profile of the perpetually slim and greasy Adam Levine, whom the author compares to “an outspoken yoga enthusiast who won’t stop trying to talk you into anal,” is vital to our culture.
  • Every now and then, the novelist/blogger/sports pundit/pseudo-advice columnist Drew Magary guest-edits Jezebel for like a day, but usually (thankfully) he does most of his web work for Deadspin, and his weekly “NFL Dick Joke Jamboroo” is fantastic. This week’s edition, “On Softness,” offers a representative mix of half-ironic quippery about football, masculine panic, television, fecal matters, children, and Gregg Easterbrook’s undying pomposity. Hot takes, highly recommended.
  • As a cultural staph infection, the, uh, rapper Macklemore is making cold hard cash (from braindead teenagers and undergraduates) and some vicious enemies (among humans who have liked hip-hop for more than six months). Given the former, I’m not sure how much Macklemore cares about the latter, but Jack Hamilton’s cruel, brilliant assessment of Seattle’s most famous white MC is required reading. Some Alexander Pope-grade knife work going on here.

Shall we end with some music? Sort of. See the next post, y’all. A YouTube video link would look wonky on this page. Preview: This week’s jam involves sex-themed R&B.