Parlez-Nous A Boire

One of my favorite songs in the world is “Parlez-Nous A Boire,” or “Let’s talk about drinking.” The title alone, which is also the first line in the song, is enough to get it on my list, but the next line is “and not about marriage.” A great old good-natured pessimistic Cajun song, lyrically speaking, and with all the whinnying fiddles, driving beat, and archaic harmonies to boot. The kind of song old enough to have no author, but rather seems to have accreted into reality long ago in a community and place that now seems very far away. My favorite version is Sweet Crude’s version here. They take this great up tempo folk song and turn it into a weirdly haunting barnburner.

Badass Women

It’s painfully obvious to anyone paying attention that history tends to be a little (a lot), well, skewed toward the male side of things. All the big decisions, we are taught, are made by men. Ditto for all the big innovations, and its always men that seem to be making the big differences in the course of nations and cultures. All bullshit, of course: women have been along for the ride every step of the way, insistently making their own difference, and the blatant interference of the patriarchy means that the women who fought hard enough to make a difference are unequivocally badass. Take Anita Brenner, for example, I doubt you’ve heard of her (I hadn’t). A Mexican-born, American Jew, disowned by pretty much all three adjectives in that label, finds herself up in the middle of the post-Mexican Revolution explosion of arts that included the likes of Diego Rivera, Clemente Orozco, and, of course, Frida Khalo. Brenner was convinced that art had a vital role to play in the establishment of Mexican identity post-revolution, and her steadfast efforts to nurture, connect, and promote Mexican art makes her one badass woman, and an absolute hero to me. Let’s face it: the world wouldn’t be worth half the nonsense we have to endure if it wasn’t for badass women like Anita Brenner.

Which makes me wonder: what other badass women am I totally unaware of? Not just Marie Curie or Hillary Clinton, who’s fame matches their accomplishments. Who do you feel hasn’t been recognized? Enlighten me in the comments! Let’s stop talking about outspoken men of weak intellect and self-image issues and talk more about badass women. Demand more badass women in the history books!!!

Against Argument

Because there’s no shortage of writing about politics (if thats still what we’re calling it these days), I’m especially refreshed when I read a new and well-considered viewpoint on what is, obviously enough to me and a few other people, more than an issue of ideology or personality. Our world is shaped by our decisions and behaviors, often in unexpected ways. Adam Thirlwell of the Paris Review does a great job here of relating ourselves to this world we’ve inadvertently created.

Mapping Above and Below the City

If you’re anything like me, its impossible to follow a set of stairs into any subway system without wondering how everything above ground interfaces with everything below ground. Even a rudimentary set of orientation instincts tells you that what is happening in these tunnels is not directly mirrored above ground. So, needless to say, I find these X-ray maps of NYC subway stations by Candy Chan absolutely fascinating. I love the approach to mapping and architecture shown in these drawings!

The Vulnerability of Sensitivity

It seems that the most sensitive souls are able to find the most beautiful things about the world, but that sensitivity is a tremendous vulnerability that many great writers have been unable to live with. Breece D’J Pancake was one of them. This story of his life from The Millions is both a sad and beautiful reminder of the terrible price of open eyes and an open heart. I can assure you, Pancake’s only book, The Stories of Breece D’J Pancake, pictured above, is worth a lifetime of re-readings.

Evidence

Can the cryptic, strange, and disparate contents of government agency photography archives be art? Of course they can! At least when assembled by artists with the vision to think beyond the more conventional forms of art to realize that everything human beings create carries with it some kind of inherent artistic statement. The book that Larry Sultan and Mike Mandel assembled in the 1970’s, Evidence, did something like this:

All the wealth of information the photographs in Evidence provide, disrupted from their original context and placed into an intuitive visual essay about the ridiculousness of vanity and the pathetic loss of power, makes the pictures themselves essentially unknowable and inscrutable, and more strange and potent for it.

The article does a great job of explaining this. Check it out.

Is is any wonder that art is the only thing that makes any sense to me any more?

– via The Paris Review

The Writer Can Xue

I just finished Frontier after reading about it and Can Xue in this article, which I can say is very accurate when it comes to the book. This is some of the most mysterious, difficult fiction I’ve ever read, and I adore it. Writing like this is a welcome reminder that not all books need to be nascent little movies, some books can be much better: they can be half-remembered, fading fast like the infuriating whisper of a dream just passed.

– via Numero Cinq