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NPM: April 17, First Fight, Then Fiddle

Gwendolyn Brooks: First Fight, Then Fiddle, 1949

First fight. Then fiddle. Ply the slipping string
With feathery sorcery; muzzle the note
With hurting love; the music that they wrote
Bewitch, bewilder. Qualify to sing
Threadwise. Devise no salt, no hempen thing
For the dear instrument to bear. Devote
The bow to silks and honey. Be remote
A while from malice and from murdering,
But first to arms, to armor. Carry hate
In front of you and harmony behind.
Be deaf to music and to beauty blind.
Win war. Rise bloody, maybe not too late
For having first to civilize a space
Wherein to play your violin with grace

literaryreference:

maggie-stiefvater:

crookedindifference:

If Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin couldn’t leave the moon

The astronauts had no instructions in that situation, although Nixon’s staff did prepare a contingency plan. The President would phone each of the widows-to-be.

Then he would read this address to the nation:

i would like a book published of all contingency rhetoric, to be titled as such.

This gives me chills. It’s like a dispatch from an alternate universe where things didn’t work out quite so well.

chills is right. glad to see this cross my dash.

(via shinelikethunder)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier: grimdark is lazy, good is hard work and Jewish American superheroes

kerrypolka:

First I know nothing about Marvel comics: all my context I got from the films Thor (delightful) and Avengers Assemble (remember very little except it had good jokes and the final action scene was too long), and reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier last night because of this which I saw a few people reblog:

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(okay and also all the gifsets of Sebastian Stan crying. I WAS MIS-SOLD ON THIS FOR THE RECORD, THERE IS LITTLE TO NO CRYING AND ALSO HIS HAIR IS AWFUL.)

If Kavalier and Clay taught me anything it’s threesomes are the best solutions to love triangles Jewish-American cartoonists in the 1930s and early ’40s were all over inventing subversively American heroes to fight Hitler, and I was very unsurprised when I got home and looked it up to learn that Captain America was created by two Jewish guys too. (I know this is really basic comics history stuff and I’m sure fifty people have written dissertations on “He’s A Mensch: The Jewish Identities of Captain America and Superman” or whatever.) What really slotted everything into place was realising that Captain America was created and entered on a cover punching Hitler in the face before America had entered the war.

Basically (right?) Captain America was created by two Jewish-Americans to shame the US into properly fighting Hitler.

Like, I am Captain America, the America you say you want to be, and I challenge you to put your money where your mouth is and actually do something about it. And yes he’s over-the-top and tacky but that’s where the challenge is, right? The chest-thumping American patriotism says “We are good and spread liberty! And also freedom!” and Captain America is like “great! I am that, and I have to point out you are not actually doing that”.

AND I think this is Jewishly on purpose, and here’s why:

Judaism has this important phrase/concept/slogan/life motto from the third-century-ish text Pirkei Avot, which goes: Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor (it’s not to you to complete the work of repairing the world) v’lo atah ben chorin l’hivatel mimena (but neither may you desist from it). You won’t be able to fix the world by yourself, or in your lifetime, but that doesn’t absolve you of responsibility to work towards it.

I feel like grimdark/anti-heroes are a response to the fact that the world is neither good nor moral, like “well if the world isn’t like that, I won’t be either”. But they’re also excuses for not working towards fixing the world: I won’t bother because it’s all fucked anyway. Lo alecha and Captain America say, yes, it is fucked, but you still have to work towards fixing it anyway. And yes, it’s hard, that’s why it’s called work.

Which is why I think saying “Oh, if Captain America represents the US he should be a dick, because the US is a dick” or “Captain America is an imperialist symbol of US superiority and is therefore bad” are both off base and a dodge of having to do that hard work.  

"If Cap = America then Cap = dick because America = dick" is basically just throwing hands up and going "right but guys have you noticed that actually America is imperialist and horrible? DO YOU SEE?!” and implying “so what can you do about that, right?”. Captain America says, “Try to make it better! is what you can do!”

And about saying he’s a symbol of US imperial superiority, I mean, he is a symbol of America but aimed as a criticism at real America.  He’s the American ideal cranked up to five million - for the purpose of shaming America for not living up to what it says it wants to be. And he is aimed at Americans, so I can see a criticism for him being US-centric in that metanarrative sense, but he’s yelling at America to sort their shit out and I think him yelling at non-USAmericans to sort their shit out would be much worse? But I definitely don’t think Cap is supposed to be about how great America is, he’s about pointing out exactly in what ways and how much America is failing to be great. And then saying “but, that doesn’t mean you get out of trying harder!”

Also, how great is it that his ‘weapon’ is a shield.

so um that’s what I thought about when I saw The Winter Solder last night. that and biceps.

(via shinelikethunder)

NPM: April 16, Vivamus mea Lesbia

Gaius Valerius Catullus: Carmen 5 (Let’s live, my Lesbia, and love), c. 65 BCE?

Let’s live, my Lesbia, and love,
And reckon talk of stern old men
Not worth a dime. The sun above

May set, and soon come back again;
But you and I, when our brief light
Winks into dark past human ken,

Must sleep one neverending night.
A thousand kisses, then a score
(And when you’ve filled the order quite),

A thousand and a hundred more,
And then a thousand for the road;
Then when our lips are swollen and sore

From paying off the kisses owed,
We’ll muddle up the ledger-books
In which our kiss-accounts were stowed

In notes of credit, bonds, and stocks,
Till we ourselves forget the sum;
And so hold off the dirty looks

Of meddling eyes, and render dumb
Invidious tongues, lest they should learn
How rich in kisses we’ve become,
And how much wealth we’ve left to burn.

(translated by Stephen Blair)

NPM: April 15, Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

It’s been so nice out the past few days! (Today is cloudy and rainy and it’s going to get colder again in the next few days, but still. All the pink flowers are coming out!)

A. E. Housman: Loveliest of trees, the cherry now, 1896

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten,
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.