OLDMAN CAT: HALLOWEEN!
SEK: Cats don’t wear costumes.
OLDMAN CAT: Do too.
SEK: That’s not a costume.
OLDMAN CAT: Is too.
SEK: That’s a shrimp shell on your neck.
OLDMAN CAT: CALL US BATTLE PRAWN.
SEK: That’s not a thing.
OLDMAN CAT: BATTLE PRAWN.
SEK: Do I even want to ask about the trash can?
OLDMAN CAT: IT IS DEFEATED.
OLDMAN CAT: I love you and want to cuddle with your face-hole.
SEK: I love you too but do you smell that?
OLDMAN CAT: Smell what I love you.
OLDMAN CAT: What is “trash” I love you.
SEK: It’s the thing that lives in the bucket downstairs.
OLDMAN CAT: What is “bucket” I love you.
SEK: If I go downstairs what am I going to find?
OLDMAN CAT: Nothing never leave me I love you.
SEK: I’m going to regret going downstairs aren’t I?
OLDMAN CAT: It was already broken I love you.
SEK: What was “already broken”?
OLDMAN CAT: What is “broken” I love you.
SEK: “Broken” is when a thing was once one thing and is now many.
OLDMAN CAT: Look into my purring eyes I love you.
SEK: God damn it.
OLDMAN CAT: Done.
You’re probably tired of hearing me on Hamilton, but too bad — my blog my rules.
I was thinking about the live performance Lin-Manuel Miranda did at the White House in 2009 that drew attention to the then-unfinished project, not because it’s spectacular — even though it is — but because of how it demonstrated the power of literary speech to upend utterly the mood of a room.
And not just any room, but one in which half of the people in it were side-long glancing at the president trying to figure out the appropriate response to this politically charged subject — Hamilton’s not an uncontroversial figure, after all, especially in a country in the midst of a series of banking crises like we were in 2009.
But initially it’s all a joke — the audience laughs along when it hears contemporary Democratic talking points about “self-starters” — until Miranda hits what appears to be the punchline at 2:16, “His name is Alexander Hamilton,” the camera cuts to the president and first lady getting the joke, and from there it should have been political theater.
But Miranda immediately undercuts it, barely even letting that laughter linger, with the next line, “There’s a million things he hasn’t done, just you wait, just you wait.” He turns that punchline — “Hello, this is me making a rap about the Founding Fathers, you know, for kids” — into what’s essentially a threat, “just you wait, just you wait.” The lyrics start to unwrite themselves, start to unravel, as it becomes clear that the lyric “His name is Alexander Hamilton” shares more with ODB declaring “I’m the original G-O-D” than Broadway fare.
And then the whole performance, at least from the audience’s perspective, goes sideways. Political calculus becomes impossible as Hamilton’s becomes a human story about a 10-year-old bastard and orphan, a self-made companion to a suicide becomes the quintessential story of the kind that — when not about Founding Fathers, of course — conservatives loathe.
The story of an autodidact, sans family, who earns a place in history on the strength of his flow, and as you watch Miranda’s performance you can feel the mood of the room shift. Of course there’s room for criticism — it certainly doesn’t hurt that Hamilton’s a white man who is, almost literally, the face of American capitalism — but there’s sympathy in those devils snapping along with something they’d otherwise revile.
By the time Miranda enjoins the audience that “the ship is in the harbor now, see if you can spot him/Another immigrant coming up from the bottom,” you get the feeling even Donald Trump would be on board.
The commentators just have the wrong Rorschach:
Idea by SEK — actual mash-up by David Moles. You’re welcome.
Apparently YouTube changed its search algorithm, allowing access to material previously available only in theory, and because it’s Saturday night, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve found that has an SEK twist to it.
First, when I went to find the video of Hamilton‘s first cabinet rap-battle, I found a slew of videos of cast members entertaining those in lottery line for tickets. I was watching this one when I realized that the woman they pulled out was my friend Kendra! (Who you may remember from this podcast.) If you’re wondering whether I freaked out when she appeared, wonder no more — I freaked the freaking fuck out. Also, the following is a testament to the show’s power, even when it’s being performed a capella on the streets of NYC:
The second item I stumbled into is truly TARDIS-worthy, given that it’s an Uncle Tupelo show from 1994 in which 1) Jay and Jeff weren’t actively engaged in fisticuffs and 2) I was in attendance. I’d never been to St. Louis before and didn’t know who Uncle Tupelo were, but after that night, I was a fan for life. Somewhere in that crowd of bobbing heads is an 18-year-old SEK who has no clue what life’s about to start offering him. It’s a strange form of nostalgia, watching a crowd you know you’re in and wishing the next 21 years doesn’t happen to him too.
As in, literally, he wrote their tongue. David Patterson is legitimately brilliant, and yet he agreed to speak to me anyway. Sample:
As a former linguistics major, I’m very amenable to the idea that people who study language are more open-minded, but could you go into detail of what you mean by that?
As tiny little humans, we naturally assume everyone else is like us until reality shows us something different. If our parents speak one language, and the community we’re raised in speaks one language, we think that’s how language works period; we never imagine a language could work any other way than our own. It’s easy to dismiss or “otherize” someone who speaks a different language—one we don’t understand and which doesn’t work the way we feel language “should” work. The first second language one comes to learn is key. It’s the first time we see that language has the ability to work differently—that the logic can be different. Many in the world are fortunate to have their first exposure to a second language occur simultaneously with their first. For those that don’t, the earlier the exposure comes, the better. If someone who otherwise would not be interested in language at all becomes interested due to exposure to a created language, I can think of no higher compliment to the creator.
Each of the short vignettes that occupy the first half of “The Beast Side” attempt to dispel white stereotypes of inner city America via a give-and-take with bigotry, as in “Lessons of a Former Dope Dealer,” which openly acknowledges that while many black youths turn to the drug trade, they apply an “inner city work ethic” that, “had they been exposed to a different way of life [would have had them] running a Fortune 500 company today.” It’s not the mythical inherent laziness of the so-called “welfare queen” that keeps these communities of “grinding grandma[s]” from elevating themselves out of poverty — it’s simply a lack of opportunity. Theirs is no culture of dependence, as conservatives like to argue, and the drug trade is evidence of this. As Watkins notes, the “hardworking people like us…are forced to create our own industries as a direct result of being isolated by society,” which means the real question is why “employment inequality for African-Americans [is] always identified as laziness.”
Do yourself a favor and listen to this. Farley turned me onto it this morning, and I’m not sure I’m going to be listening to anything else anytime soon. It’s stunning as a history of both Alexander Hamilton’s life and ’90s era hip-hop.
I can’t recommend it highly enough, whatever that means. (Been working all day, I’m not sure words make sense anymore.)
Shared with permission from Siva Vaidhyanathan, this is what I’ve been wanting to write all day, but couldn’t do so quite so eloquently:
Many people are posting versions of “never forget.”
So let’s review, shall we?
1) The 9/11 hijackers were funded by rich people in Saudi Arabia, none of whom have been punished for it.
2) President Bush had ample and direct warnings that Al Queda was a threat yet failed to take them seriously.
3) One security technology could have prevented the hijackings — secure and solid cockpit doors. The airlines fought FAA proposals for them for decades.
4) Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks but more than 10 years later more than half of Republicans still believed it did.
5) For one brief moment almost the whole world was united in horror about the slaughter. Yet our government dissolved that unity within 18 months.
6) The mania that gripped the White House in the wake of 9/11 generated massive violations of US and international law, significant violations of human rights, and a squandering of the moral high ground.
7) If the Supreme Court had allowed the voters to choose the president in the 2000 election we would have had sober, moderate, law-abiding, knowledgeable adults running the country and things would be a lot better now.
8) President Bush not only failed to defend us against Al Queda before 9/11, he let Bin Laden escape from Tora Bora and ceased serious efforts to capture or kill him while he shifted U.S. resources to a country that had nothing to do with 9/11.
Yeah, I am still angry.
You should be, too.
..this would probably be it:
— Craig Ferguson (@CraigyFerg) September 7, 2015
Once upon a time, and for many, many years, Craig Ferguson was my best friend. The feeling wasn’t mutual, as that’s not how television works, but like hundreds of thousands of insomniacs, the Scottish comedian was a nightly companion, a reprieve from the crushing anxiety of insomnia. Instead of watching the minutes crawl across the clock, each one bringing you that much closer to the moment in which the charade of sleep would have to be abandoned, you’d hear the doorbell ring and watch a pantomime horse dance out of the wings while a gay robot skeleton wiggled his wrist to the beat.
Maybe you were awake, maybe you weren’t, it didn’t matter — you weren’t curled in a corner of your bed dreading the break of day. How could you not come to love the man who stayed your execution nightly? And how could not freak the fuck out when that man’s assistant calls you up and said, “Scott, I’ve got Craig on the line for you.”
Fortunately, there’s a bit in his new special about how flustered he was the first time he met Mick Jagger…