I entered my room at nine thirty in the morning, pulling the window shades extra down, feeding Michel, and shakily shedding my sweater and pants before slumping onto my bed, praying for a full system shutdown. Having no class until three that afternoon, I slept a miraculous sleep of five hours. I got into bed mindful of the risk that I might not get out until sunset, but my rest was of the comatose, time-traveling kind, and I woke up at two thirty fully energized and wondering where the hours had so quickly gone. A brief, dreamless hibernation.
Today in class I learned about the gender dynamics of Japanese hostess bars and the ethical ramifications of intercultural moral judgments. I still think female genital mutilation is utterly repugnant (even, perhaps, maybe, wrong) and I have no sympathy for a cultural practice, no matter how deeply embedded into society no matter how ancient, that inflicts grievous and potentially mortal wounds upon children. Cultures shift, cultures change – when they aren’t stagnating, shifting and changing is about all they do. If this comes down to a matter of cultural imperialism, so be it. Not all exports of value are destructive, and not all impositions of will are cruel. Of course, I lack the capacity to change the habitual practices of the Sudanese, and I am hardly recommending a military intervention to halt the practice (and others like it), but a gradual infiltration and undermining of particular social structures would be beneficial to a lot of people, prepubescent girls in particular. May as well begin at home, though, I suppose. When I am king.
How’d I get onto all that?
Today the peepers began peeping. I heard them through the windows of Olin during the female circumcision discussion. The frogs have got it made.
Today after class I learned a lot about art and music and images and how far a loud voice will carry. I’m not quite sure yet what those lessons are, but notes have been made in the softer parts of my brain and I’ll be paying attention for them again.
It began with a film screening for my Japanese culture class. The film is called Tokyo Godfathers. It was directed by Satoshi Kon, and though I am not quite sure how one directs an animated film, Satoshi Kon has done a marvelous job. The simple summary is that three Tokyo bums find an abandoned infant girl in a trash heap on Christmas. What other words I could put to it would do as little justice to the film as the previous sentence, so all I will do is recommend that you obtain a copy and watch it. If you think you might be averse to a very serious animated film, then you are clearly not familiar with the Japanese art form and therefore need a proper introduction, so I again implore you to see it. The fact that the characters are rendered in pen and ink means only that the world they occupy is as rich as the one in your mind, and their realness becomes so apparent as to become unconscious. It is about love and worth and coincidence and family, and about sorting through the world to find the trace elements which compose all poetry. Wo dein sanfter Flugel weilt.
As soon as the screening was over I left Preston theater and fled downhill toward Bard Hall. The gothic windows revealed a dim interior and I could barely make out a mass of heads and shoulders in the room. There was a voice, only so audible from outside. I walked through the door an a hundred people turned to me and shouted “Welcome!” Thomas from my Violence and Suffering class stood up and hugged me like an old friend. All apparently by instruction from Jason Webley, but the audience may just as well have devised its greeting from cheer and good will alone.
Jason Webley is mostly a musician from Seattle, though he is also partly a comedian, storyteller, poet, performance artist and, I suspect, demon. You know, the good kind. He plays instruments such as the accordion, the guitar, the piano, the larynx, the audience, and a plastic vodka bottle full of quarters. He won’t eat your soul, but you will eat his, and he is pleased to share. I had heard about Mr. Webley last year, when he made acolytes of my friends at a concert in the fall. He has returned this semester, and he’s given his word that he will return next. I don’t think he would turn his back on such love.
I am no classifier of music so I cannot place Webley’s sounds on any sort of graph, but it might be helpful to imagine a young Tom Waits with a chemical imbalance toward a sort of apocalyptic joy. The chords he most commonly strikes are primal and the rhythms can be met with the stamping of your feet. His loud songs will make you loud, and his quiet songs will turn you into a choir. Jason Webley is a man of presence and charisma, a Carolina rattlesnake preacher reborn into an amiable, happy-go-lucky, earth-moving shaker of souls and diaphragms. Had he produced, at some point during his concert, a nalgene bottle full of strychnine, I suspect a sizable portion of his audience would have drank up (drank up). Instead the hundred sweaty of us danced around him, stomping our feet and pointing to the sky while spinning like palsy dervishes, shouting what could only have been curses to God in pidgin Russian and laughing, laughing. We grabbed at each other and swayed and swung around, singing ancient drinking songs at the top of our lungs, drunk on song alone (most of us, anyway). A full glass on a full evening. May the devil play for you all.