Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tupac Shakur Explains Himself

I realized I haven't "blogged" in quite a while--haven't really been able to find the time. However, I feel like I have something worth sharing now.

I was given an assignment in my poetry workshop to write a poem in the voice of a well known persona. Naturally, I chose Tupac; but I tried to take on the subject in a different manner than most people would. I always have seen him as a Romantic--lost in the ideal of his artistic persona and dangerous desires. That being said, hopefully you will see the meaning behind the epigraph from Byron.

This is by no means my best work, and I normally do not venture outside of the confessional lyric mode. Nonetheless, I was pretty happy with the results of this exercise--perhaps because I've always felt a kinship with 'Pac (Romantic nut that I am!), so I could simply use his complex character as a vessel to address the same contradictions I find within myself.

Hope you get some enjoyment out of it. I'd also be interested in any comments, criticisms or suggestions. (Technical note: ignore the dim strings of carat symbols on indented lines--that's the only way this stupid website would stop justifying it back to the left.)


Tupac Shakur Explains Himself

Thomas D. Heard

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^…[T]here is a fire
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^and motion of the soul which will not dwell
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^In its own narrow being, but aspire
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Beyond the fitting medium of desire;
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^And, once but kindled, quenchless evermore,
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Preys upon high adventure, nor can tire
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Of aught but rest; a fever at the core,
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^Fatal to him who bears it, to all who ever bore.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^-Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

I was always the realest,
though never real.
The Byronic hero introducing
melodrama to the streets
and the FM dial.

I boasted, “I packed a 9 and my nigga packed a 45,” and
threatened, “You’re ‘bout to feel the wrath of a menace.”
Yet I danced ballet, wrote poetry,
lunched with the supposed foes that my lyrics assaulted.

I could never quite decipher
the nature of women—
they were all Janus figures to me:
tramp one moment, angel the next.
Yet I loved.
The fiancée I left behind is evidence
of the hyperbole in such statements as,
“I ain’t got time for bitches, gotta keep my mind on

my motherfuckin’ riches.”
The riches were nice, sure—
a pretty penny did I spend on suits, cars,
diamonds to adorn my nostril—
the influx of extravagant sums of money is
to a project-raised youth what irrigation
is to a long-thirsting plot of earth.
But the luxuries were never as important to me as
they seem now to those who fancy themselves
my torch carriers.

My true torch was nothing tangible—it was
fire itself, or rather fire’s potential for
the scope variously narrow and vast.
Some might call it passion or romance.
I could only call it “the game”:
the constant, desperate, futile
struggle to beat the odds,
to transcend the world’s inherent monotony
and oppression.

was a word I often used sardonically.
To allay my immense
rage and desire,
I embraced cynicism,
justifying the absence of the ideal.
More than once did I quote, “We ain’t ready
to see a black president.”
Little did I know the speed
with which my dream of equality impended.
I confess, patience
was never a great virtue of mine.
And, indeed, denial
proved an insufficient tranquilizer.

That torch of consumption consumed
me. Plagued by self-consciousness
(woe, that fretful mind of twenty-five!),
no longer could I suffer the gap
between corporeal stasis and aesthetic
infinity. Intent
on a seraphic metamorphosis, I feasted
on fame, aggression, glory and guns,
taking for granted
the common mortality
of lyrical-hero-me.

Finally in the end,
bullets beatified me.
A rhyming gospel,
fervent in its exploding consonants,
was left behind for fellow seekers of
violently lovely dreams and patrons of rhythm.
Its message:
^^^^^^^hope beyond hope, rage beyond rage,
^^^^^^^desperately pursue the unreachable stars!—
^^^^^^^though all efforts are in vain,
^^^^^^^“the game” is more real and more alive
^^^^^^^than you are,
^^^^^^^I was.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The PenIs Mightier than the Mind

Last night my friend Jennifer sent me an amusing story she wrote. It was a true-life account of an obnoxious redneck incessantly hitting on her. Of course, because I posses an overly analytical mind incapable of taking anything at face value, this simple humorous anecdote provoked me to dwell on a few of the crippling conundrums with which human nature is infected.

In her story Jennifer expressed amazement at the fact that this unlikely suitor could be so intent on initiating a relationship with her despite the immense and obvious differences between them. The irony of the situation and the antecedent to her bewilderment were summed up with the sarcastic quip, "Apparently my having tits makes us magically compatible as human beings."

This could not really be the first instance of her realizing this fact, could it? Indeed her statement perfectly explains the curse of male perception! And I’m sure that most females do not realize that we suffer much greater consequences as a result of this than they do. We are battered all too often by embarrassment, rejection, and feelings of worthlessness do to the fact that we cannot abate the weight of physical attraction on our desires. But of course the preoccupation with sexual attraction does not only apply to males. People try to marginalize Freud these days, but the fact is that our primal sexual instincts play such an enormous (often limiting) role in everything we do.

I’ve been thinking about how profoundly strange it is that people’s thoughts and behaviors are dictated so strongly by the desire for the penis and the vagina to merge. It's absurd when you think about it!: the formulated iambic friction of a flesh-pole and an anatomical cavity is the primary goal of our existence?...the facile bumping of pelvises is the foremost determinant of our contentment? Whether it is for the purpose of procreation, pleasure, companionship, security, love, the innate need to connect, etc., this simple act is certainly the most powerful driving force in our lives. Have you ever considered how advanced the world would be and how prosperous our mental efforts would prove if everyone weren’t preoccupied in that manner? Of course, even as I am aware of the constraining nature of this preoccupation, I am just as much a slave to it as anyone. And it makes me feel like such a fool. We are cursed to be petty and foolish by the mere occurrence of our births.

I implore you, readers, the next time you are watching a filmed sex scene, and even more importantly the next time you are actually engaged in intercourse, try to take a mental step back and look at it from an objective perspective. It's disturbing. This desperate grinding-in-place is supposed to be the pinnacle of our life's fulfillment? If an intelligent being from an alternative universe with no knowledge of mammalian biology were to observe this practice, it would doubtlessly conclude that we are absolutely asinine. It's exasperating how flawed the design of life is.

To relate all of this back to Jennifer’s story, I would simply contend that one should never be surprised by the power of libido. We humans constitute the peak of the evolutionary ladder on our planet; yet while we are crowned with a unique understanding of the utility of logic, we continue to be governed far more rigidly by primitive natural instincts. And of course you all know by now which is the most powerful of those instincts. From a scientific viewpoint, what astonishes me more is not that Jen’s redneck so easily marginalized societal norms and intellectual/emotional barriers in order to inflate the prospect of sexual gratification, but the fact that she gave no credence to the possibility of coupling with him and was able to remain completely steadfast in her refusal. I do not understand how each of us composes a rigid but seemingly arbitrary set of criteria for potential mates, and even more so for potential "loves.” What goes into that composition? It certainly is not as simple as having a “type.” But how specific do the criteria get—and does that vary from person to person? And what about people whose standards have proven faulty—how do they determine what adjustment to make—is it even possible to make adjustments? Why do so many people satisfy one another’s criteria for friendship, but not for sex or love (or vice versa)? Where do the fine lines divide and cross in one’s criteria for friendship, sex, and love? Why is it not possible even to decipher my own formulas for these things? (Insert any of the other thousands of questions that pertain to this topic here.)

Thoughts just lead to questions, questions generate ideas, and ideas lead to more questions. That’s how I roll. If I may impart some quotable words of wisdom on that note: The supreme answer to every question about life will always be a question itself.


*credit where credit is due: 1. Thanks to Jennifer Morgan for facilitating these ideas with her story., 2. Penis-vagina tree photo: "How Trees Make Babies" by Chip @ bushcraftliving.com.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Blogga What?

What about blogs? What about this blog?

My experience with and appreciation of the blogger universe is rather limited. I am not one to devote my attention to the callow, unsubstantiated scribblings of amateurs. However, as I myself sadly dwell in that undignified company and share with them the same inflated sense of self-importance, I arrived at the conclusion that I have not only the right, but the plausible responsibility to pronounce that which I deem important and true.


I have only read four blogs in my life. I was first initiated into Tucker Max, who is the only individual I am aware of that has garnered fame and fortune solely through the medium of blogging (Perez Hilton also, perhaps?). I find his memoirs and musings humorous and I admire his unapologetic mode of opinion, but, as is my preconceived view of this entire medium, I do not consider his writing to be of any literary value or philosophical importance.

The next blog I became acquainted with was that of former NBA great Gilbert Arenas (I know he still plays, but I say "former" because his star has clearly fallen over the last couple of seasons). Gilbert's blog is actually the one that I followed the closest. His unguarded confessional style is rather captivating; it is extremely rare for a celebrity to speak so candidly about his exploits, pitfalls, and rivalries. Of course he is by no means an impressive writer, but his thoughts and opinions definitely smack of greater real-world weight than those of Tucker Max.

The other two blogs I am familiar with are those of close friends. First, Todd Spoth writes a photography blog which is primarily a professional endeavor. His musings intrigue me to the point that they are about art, a facet of life to which I attribute great importance. His concert reviews and accounts/critiques of photo shoots and conferences are interesting, but at the core they are standard journalistic/editorial reports about the processes and practicalities of art, falling short of my great interest which lies in a theoretical approach to art and beauty as it affects and reflects the living world. But still we both put great weight on the question of what constitutes good art. Secondly, Kevin Wood (an avid reader of self-improvement literature) writes a blog that attempts to lay out a paradigm for "success." It contains a lot of musings on financial/career issues, practical approaches to interpersonal relationships, and the continuous chase of life's standard goals. I really find no use for this type of reading. I think the ingredients for achieving success in the eyes of society are pretty obvious to any person of moderate intelligence. The reason that all people do not always follow the standard path is the result of broader issues: Does the macro definition of success laid out by society equate to my own definition of success? What then is more important, achieving the relative comfort and esteem that lies on the standardized path or maintaining a private sense of dignity by adhering to my own criteria? Is either the societal or personal definition of success more worthwhile, and how can that be determined? Kevin and I differ very much in our beliefs and our general approach toward life, but despite what you might have gathered our friendship is not a extraordinary instance of opposites attracting; the very fact of our mutual obstinacy and our penchants for debating crucial but ambiguous issues makes our fellowship a joyful one. Also I think we are mutually intrigued by the fact that two people of such similarly superior intelligence could be drawn to such different conclusions. He is in fact the only person whose argument for creationism I have ever respected on the basis of logic, despite how much I disagree with the conclusion. So I continue to give my attention and respect to his thoughts.


So what do I intend to do with this blog? As I'm sure you've discerned by now, I am much more interested in debatable theories than I am in clean-cut practicalities. I think the very fact that some issues inherently lend themselves to conflicting views and heated arguments is proof that those are the things in life which are most important and, therefore, most worthy of being discussed. I will give the reader the benefit of the doubt: I will assume you are not an idiot and you are completely aware of the superficial workings of the world. So now we can delve deeper into the subjective: the why's, the wherefore's, the what-if's.

First and foremost this will be a medium of philosophy, dealing with both contemporary issues and the nature of existence at large. Also, art theory will be a huge part of this blog. A lot will be discussed about the characteristics of good art vs. bad art and the why's of it. Moreover, critiques of the role of the mass media will probably play a central part in nearly every post here, as it is so crucial to the experience of our post-modern lives (especially when art is involved). I'm sure at some point I will also use this as a venue to exhibit and receive feedback about some of my own creative writing. Overall, I would really like this to be a conversation rather than a soliloquy--post comments and arguments and I will respond.

The name of this blog is Rigorous Pretense. Yes, that is an oxymoron. The point is that all opinions and all facts are equally pretentious {as is this statement [as is that one (etc.)]}. Ideas are transitory, though we insist on their composition of stone; and indeed I will insist such here. Despite all my steadfast convictions, if there is one message I hope to impart it is this: All blacks and whites are but varying shades of gray {and so is this [and so is that (etc.)]}.

*Credit where credit is due: "Blogga What?" was a subtitle borrowed from Bill Maher.