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27 May 2012 to 23 June 2007 · tagged photo
( ) Eight Lines of Estrangement  

When she thinks she's alone, my daughter practices air guitar.

It is a small, powerful thing to rescue small truths hidden in seas of numbers. It is an even smaller and unfathomably deeper joy to hover, enraptured, in the countless endless instants between when some tiny thing happens to her for the first time, and when she shrieks with the joy of a universe expanding.

What Muybridge did for horses galloping, I will become famous by doing for tiny children sneezing.

My parents report, and I vaguely remember this myself, that for the first few years of my being allowed to go to movie theaters and see real (i.e., non-"family") movies, I would invariably come home after each one and deliver some epic panegyric insisting that whatever it was was the best movie I had ever seen. The only specific movies I recall thinking this of as an impressionable early movie-goer are The Eagle Has Landed, Capricorn One and Clash of the Titans, and I submit that it is not unreasonable to consider this an ascending order of quality, albeit in the last case maybe only if one was a 14-year-old boy in 1981 and hadn't seen pointedly naked movie-breasts in anything else yet.  

You will eventually get to the age where we begin worrying about how to stage your exposure to adult concepts, too, and before that the age where we start having to negotiate with your own loopily underinformed idea of your personal tastes. But for now your comprehension is blissfully abstract, and pretty much anything is likely to be the greatest thing ever, or close enough for us to amuse ourselves by inferring the nuances of your reactions from the gradually-less-random expressions that flicker across your face.  

I have been taking advantage of this state by attempting to give you a sweepingly unguarded pre-self-consciousness grounding in modern rock music. I realize this might sound suspiciously like me just listening to music while I'm holding you, but your reactions are both surprisingly organized and not what I claimed I thought they were going to be, so I feel like the experiments are at least marginally non-solipsistic. Later, no doubt, you will turn out to mostly like some new kind of music B and I fundamentally fail to grasp, but at least you'll have the benefit of some Manic Street Preachers b-sides buried deep in your psyche.  

One of my favorite dopey anticipatory theories, developed a while ago after reading an evocative article about the sonic harshness of the womb, was that babies are naturally intuitive fans of deeply textural black metal. The coursing blood all around you, the sudden tumbling motions, the frantic gnashing hum of your own brain growing. Might as well call it birth metal.  

This idea proves to have some limited sense to it, at least, in that churning noise at high volume has some undeniable visceral effect. There's a long stretch of the middle of Part II of Metal Machine Music that puts you to sleep approximately as effectively as the "ocean" loop on the sound-module that came with your pack-and-play. Likewise a few carefully-selected sections of Aube's Aqua Syndrome. The ocean noises also kind of work on Bethany, though, whereas Reed and Aube kind of make her want to encase her head in cement, so given the open format of our house, and our affection for her head, the ocean sounds usually seem like the better option in practice.  

Little Tiggers do not turn out to like death metal at all, to my mild surprise and pro-forma-ly brooding disappointment. Even the Leviathan and Xasthur pieces I holistically experience as most textural prove to have far too many dynamic and tonal shifts at the second-by-second scale, and you're perpetually either getting restless during a quiet part or being startled when the noise blasts in again. Sad. Statistically this was the most likely age at which you'd appreciate death metal, in that there's not even the outside danger of your accidentally figuring out any of the words. Later you'll realize it's another silly thing that only boys like, and thus yet another thing for which I might as well apologize in advance.  

What you like best, by far, is steady, propulsive, fast, opportunistically rock-inflected pop songs. Four minutes at most, three is better. No long intros or outros. Female singers more than men (but James Bradfield and Paul Smith are OK), and big bonus points for any break where everything drops out except the drums and vocals. B thinks this is all about how I dance with you during those kinds of songs, but you and I know it's more than that. Fefe Dobson's "Rock It Till You Drop It" is, after all, a very fine song about perseverance, or maybe equanimity, and I'm only dancing the way anybody should feel inspired to. The Go-Go's are cultural icons, and give us a way to understand how the Spice Girls embody the dangerous nominality of post-ironic identity. Shakira represents both the emotional vitality of culture and the insistent triumph over it of individuality and hair. Tommy heavenly6 is, I agree, universally charming, and by the time you're old enough to wonder what she's singing, maybe I'll again have enough spare time to translate it.  

But in case you're ever really curious, your favorite song for your first two months has been, unquestionably, "U & Ur Hand" by Pink. I don't remember how I discovered this. You like "Who Knew" and "Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely)" fairly well, too, but "U & Ur Hand" is clearly special. We have a special dance we've invented for it, you and I, and it has never, ever failed to please you. Once you went from beet-red squalling to fast asleep before it even got to the two-minute mark, but usually you just dance with me. Or, anyway, I dance, and you lie in my arms with your head nestled into my left armpit, gazing up at me with love. Or past me towards the nearest skylight, or lamp, or faint diagonal shadow, but I collect the love en passant.  

As you'll appreciate when you're considerably older, "U & Ur Hand" is not exactly intended for children. I usually sing along, anyway. It's a song of aggressive feminine self-affirmation, mostly, so even if its specific defiance and injunctions aren't really age-appropriate for you, or gender-appropriate for me, I think it's healthy for you to be exposed to its energy.  

And if B is right, and it's really only me you're responding to, then you're learning about how my goofy tastes in music and defiance become manifest in my body's movements and my heart's resonances, and although I don't need you to love exactly what I love, I want desperately for you to love what you love at least as jubilantly as I love what I love.  

I've long since seen a lot of movies I liked more than Capricorn One, but more than a few I liked less. "U & Ur Hand" probably won't always be your favorite song, and it'll probably save your mom and me some tense parent-teacher conferences along the way if it isn't. But not everything always has to change, and your first intuitions aren't necessarily wrong. I'll play this for you again someday, when you've forgotten, and we'll see what we think. And, maybe, remember what this felt like, when every next minute with you was so amazingly likely to be the best one yet.
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