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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

 

Harsh

"I write poetry because I suffer confusion
not knowing what other people think."

-Allen Ginsberg

So, I am apparently harsh for saying Dennis Hopper looked old at Sundance.

Did you know Hopper has voted Republican since Reagan? Another reminder that no matter how well you know someone's art, you really don't know anything about the person behind the art. Who would have thought that the stoner from Easy Rider, the creepy guy from Blue Velvet - the icon in many ways of counter-culture films - would vote for people who promote a whitewashed version of reality, who tell the story of America like it's in a children's storybook ("and the good people believed in family values...and the bad people tried to squash those values...").

I learned to separate art from artists back in college, when my hero at the time, Allen Ginsberg, came to speak at my school. I was so excited - I had discovered Howl in my junior year of high school and loved it, and then my favorite English teacher gave me a copy of Cosmopolitan Greetings and I loved that, too. From there, I was a goner - I had a full-on crush on beat poetry and everything it represented to me: authentic experience, and the lyricism of authentic experience; truth.

So there's Allen Ginsberg, onstage in an auditorium down the street from my dorm, and he gets up to read, and - he is sing-songy. He reads his poems like they're jokes. I might appreciate that, now - might be better able to appreciate the playfulness - but at the time I was devestated...he was turning art that mattered to me into a punch line. After the reading I stood in line for him to sign my copy of Cosmopolitan Greetings, and I - young, naive, thinking my ideas were at the center of the universe - gave him a copy of a paper I'd written about him, Walt Whitman and William Carlos Williams. I thought he'd be interested! Anyway, he looked at me, befuddled, and said, "I can't read this right now." Well, duh, Mr. Ginsberg - it's 30 pages and there's a long line of people behind me... it was the way he said it, like a confused old man, that just broke my heart.

Another example: I have loved Paul Simon for as long as I can remember. I truly believe the man is a genius - songs like "America" "Graceland," and "Darling Lorraine" alone are more powerful than what some artists create in a lifetime... the poetry of them, the way they reflect a life journey...the lyrics of "Darling Lorraine" alone tell a more impactful story than any movie I've seen since I can remember. Anyway, so I'm at a Paul Simon concert a few years ago, and he had the oddest demeanor - waving his arms about fancifully as he sang, sort of trance-like - and I thought, God forbid I'd meet this guy and he'd be a flake. I want to think that because he writes absolutely brilliant songs, he must be a fascinating person, but maybe the most interesting thing about him is his art.

Now, when people ask me, "If you could have dinner with one famous person, living or dead..." - I think of comedians...not because I think they'll be as funny in person as they are on TV/ in film/ etc, but because I instinctively feel like I'd have something in common with people who turn their observations about and experiences in this world into comedy. Tina Fey. Will Arnett, the guy who plays Gob on Arrested Development ("I've made a huge mistake"). I wouldn't want to sit around and talk about comedy, but I feel like they'd be fun to hang out with, and we'd have something in common.

Comments:
I don't know, I can certainly see Frank Booth voting Republican... :)
Also, I think your take on voting there is an overly dismissive POV... (Apologies, I'm reading into your writing a bit... :)
When you only have two choices, it ignores the grey areas where most of us choose to live. I'm a registered Independent because I disagree with just as much Democratic Rhetoric and I do with Republican Rhetoric.
I've met way too Republican environmentalists and Democratic Homophobes to feel confortable judging someone on a "Column A or Column B" choice.

PS. I saw some pictures, he really does look old... ;)
 
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