Monday, July 25, 2005

punkered out?

Pop quiz (by request): Can anyone identify the following two people? First to answer correctly gets um, free hints in how to curse in Dutch.

Punk is academic now. Better than hippies, yes they were, but only barely. Dunno really, I guess it's lingering in Britain. Definitely over in this country. Just like the hippies are over. Seriously, what's the use in fighting hippies these days? They're basically beyond repair. Course I used to be one, in my own way, but that's another story best forgotten. Punks though, they really do seem to take themselves with a childish seriousness, don't they? Like hippies in denial. Honestly, some of my friends are punks. But they take themselves too seriously. Be this as it may something of a prerequisite for being interesting. From the second issue of Red China Magazine:
A reaction to the social developments of the 1960’s, punk recognized that as an alternative to corporate, capitalist America, the hippies were almost a complete failure. There are basic beliefs that tie the punk and hippie movements together -- celebration of creativity, humanism over greed, and a basic mistrust of authoritarian institutions, primarily the church and the government -- but while the 60’s spawned a moral code difficult to argue with (“love, man”), it failed to construct a feasible social structure to support it. The faults in this worldview lie in its collective fantasy, the idea that anti-establishment sentiment alone could serve as the foundation for a society. The flaws in this assumption were made apparent during the Rolling Stones’ concert at the Altamont Speedway...

The shallow goodwill of the hippie culture was eventually directed into a commercial surge that drove corporate, materialist America to new heights. One of the primary goals of the punk backlash was to turn back the tide of the sort of escapist cool personified by Henry Fonda and instead force the public to face the mess they and their leaders were making. People involved with the punk movement ingested the results of corrupt institutions of power, a destroyed environment, and the threat of mass annihilation as legitimate political policy, and they became a living byproduct -- filthy, disillusioned and angry. This is perhaps why the common misconception about punk was that its aims were destructive; punks were honestly facing a destructive social structure. As a result, many of their stances were developed by reaction, anti-escapism, anti-authoritarianism, anti-consumerism, but as with every cultural ideology that has posed a threat to hegemony in the last half a century, it was ultimately dealt with through appropriation.
When punk became palatable in the mid to late 1970’s, educated individualism was replaced by fashion and an honest approach to social realities was replaced with an aimless bad attitude. When Repo Man was made in 1984, punk had long been established as a cultural movement, and it had already largely betrayed its own suspicion of conformity. By the time of its release, Repo Man acted as little more than a death rattle for a movement that already had its teeth pulled.

Update: Part two of an interview with an aging Richard Hell comes courtesy of Buzzwords Deux:
But I've often had some kind of encounter with a trace of my mid '70s self and been really repulsed. On recorded interviews, I can hear myself slurring with narcotics in my system. I just seem pathetic and maddening. Mostly, I don't like that world, the world I inhabited then. I got out of it because I didn't like it. There was about eighteen months that were kind of ecstatic, but then it turned into the whole pop music thing, and being a public figure in that way, no matter what scale, where you're expected to stay current, and somehow speak for your constituency as some kind of representative of youth... And it's really competitive, everyone is always chewing each other up, and I found it hard to take. It had me turned around a lot. I'm just not interested in that. I don't go to any clubs. I basically think I wouldn't be interested in the mid '70s me. Punk is all water under the bridge. Frankly the only meaning of that to me is exploiting it. It's something people are excited by so I can take advantage of that in certain ways to make it possible for me to do the things that interest me now. Which I don't mean to be saying is cheesy or sleazy -- I was there, I earned it, I did what I did, and god knows the payoff whatever it is is smaller than what a half-competent sleazebag "Christian" evangelist gets or even an average insurance salesman.


3AM: Paul's point of view is that "all poetry is translation" (P 84), because each reader apprehends a poem in a personal way. But then he takes this idea one step further when he argues that translated poetry is more poetic because it is the most allusive (and therefore, from a Parnassian point of view, the most poetic) of all: it alludes to the original ("What does a translation do but allude? . . . In the future, all poetry will be translation," p 87). The idea is repeated again later on ("All poetry is translation!" p 122), but this time as an injunction to write your own poetry. This idea that translated poetry is more poetic than the original is fascinating, but could perhaps be reinterpreted in the light of the title: Godlike. Paul refers to the Parnassians (the original "godlike philosopher poets," p 101) who transformed art into a religion, as well as to Mallarmé in whose poetry the subversive dislocation of the signifier and the signified begins (in a nutshell: God creates and then names what He has created; if the signifier is arbitrary then there is no God). Maybe "all poetry is translation" because humans are incapable of genuine creation: we can simply translate what is already there -- or destroy it (self-destruction being another Rimbaldian legacy).

RH: There's a chapter in the book, which is an essay by one of the characters, Paul, and it proposes that translations are more interesting than "original" writing and that in the future all poetry will be translation. Now, that is a kind of provocation, although he does make a case for it, and I could make a case for it too, and I kinda like the idea. It's food for thought. It's not as if it's meant in any more dogmatic way than that -- though your interpretation, or extension of the idea, that only God creates, human beings translate, is really cool. Maybe I'll use that in the second edition… That essay in the book refers a lot to Mallarmé, a poet who is notorious for being untranslatable. The essay was stimulated by doing some translation myself, that was meant for the book. I was trying to translate from the French and... I don't speak French. So, I would use French dictionaries and look at other translations, and do my best to make my idea of a good poem using all the info I could gather. I felt a little bit daunted: can this possibly be legitimate? It was interesting and fulfilling, but it still seemed a little shady. Then it occurred to me that when two people read a given poem that is in their own language, they're reading two different poems: They're translating it into their own personal spheres, with their own connotations. Reading it in itself is an act of translation. And furthermore, nothing written is original anyway -- everything is just shifts in emphases. I don't make any great claims for this idea. Doubtless it's been proposed and destroyed in academia forever. I just went with it in my own way and took it places.

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