Friday, 4 February 2011

Where is she?!

Hey guys. I know there hasn't been a post in a few days. That's because I've been too busy filling kleenexes to fill out posts. That's right. I'm sick. It's not a big deal, but it does mean that I really haven't felt up to doing anything more academic than emailing my professors my apologies.

If you made a radio-week request: don't worry about it. I'm postponing the rest until next week...and because of the delay, I'll fill request for the entire week. This means that you will have two bonus song analyses.

So, anyway....sorry about the delay and confusion. I'm going to rest up and finish guzzling this orange juice until I'm ship-shape again.

Until next week!
~The Rabid Lit Major

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Radio Week - Wine Red

Good Evening this is Rabid Radio! I hope my fellow midwesterners are huddling in their homes instead of struggling in the snow. Staying cosy and warm indoors? I know I am. I am, in fact, so cozy that I succumbed to the soporific snow and lazed about all day instead of working on your radio requests. Much apologies, my good listeners. I will endeavor to do better in the future.

So here we are, music lovers. An indie rock selection by Hush Sound...requested by the Sensational Sarah. As before, I'll let you familiarize yourself with the song before I start mutilating it.

I actually really liked breaking this one down because it involved one of my favorite things: Greek mythology references. Specifically Homer's The Iliad and The Odyssey. These are combined with a bit of Christian Mythology to paint a nice little picture of the treacherous waters of love...Hey, it's old ground for the music industry

Who shot that arrow in your throat?
Who missed the crimson apple?
It hung heavy on the tree above your head

This chaos, this calamity, this garden once was perfect
Give your immortality to me; I'll set you up against the stars

See what I mean? This is a great combination of Greek and Christian mythology right here...a mix of symbols all leading to the same general theme. Now "Who shot that arrow in your throat?" could mean all kinds of things...but combined with the later references to lying lovers as well as the other Homerian links I'm going to go with it being a reference to Antinous. Antinous is a character in The Odyssey. While Odysseus is struggling to get home, Penelope is beset by suitors who break the codes of hospitality as they court her and ravage his lands. One of the more prominent of the suitors is Antinous, who went the furthest in breaking the Grecian codes of hospitality when he refuses to help a beggar (Odysseus in disguise). He is the first to die at Odysseus's hand guessed arrow in the throat.

A crimson apple in a tree? Old-school symbol of innocence and virginity in the poetry world. This, of course, comes from the Genesis story of Adam and Eve's fall from Eden. It doesn't really matter that the fruit wasn't necessarily an apple, let alone a crimson one. Over time, it has come to stand for innocence and the loss of it.

We then jump from the Christian Tree-of-Knowledge apple to Eris's Apple of Discord. In The Iliad, the Trojan War is started when Eris offers up the Golden apple of discord to the fairest of all. This starts a major cat-fight between the goddesses Hera, Athena and Aphrodite as to who should win the apple. They each attempt to bribe the judge, the Trojan prince Paris, but Aphrodite wins when she offers him the love of the most beautiful woman in the world. The only problem was that Helen was married already, and her defection to Troy started the invasion. Since then, the apple of discord has come to mean a point of contention and a classic symbol of chaos and the dangers of love.

Then we go back to the story of the fall with the "perfect garden" and the giving of immortality. The perfect garden could easily represent Eden and the loss of innocence that came from taking the apple prompts Adam and Eve's ejection from the garden and immortality. However, there is a dual meaning to the perfect garden that I will come back to with the final verse.

We lied, we can't go on
This is the time and this is the place to be alive

Who shot that arrow in your throat?
Who missed the crimson apple?
And there is discord in the garden tonight

I wanted to find a deeper meaning for the name Gloria...but I honestly couldn't find anything beyond its Latin meaning of "glory". Boring. It's used in Christian songs a lot, but I really can't see this as being any more significant than a simple girl's name.

This part is mostly a repetition of earlier themes, but it does clear up what the story behind the references is. We have two characters, the speaker and "Gloria". "Welied, we can't go on" implies that they both lied about their ability to move on...most likely to themselves.

Gloria is the person whose throat has been pierced, so she is whom the Antinous reference is supposed to be attached to. I highly doubt this has something to do with the Greek concept of hospitality. The more likely conclusion is that Gloria attempted to woo someone who was already taken. The missed apple means she tried to give herself to this person and failed. Discord in the garden either refers to a question of beauty (in which case Gloria is likely unsure if she's pretty enough for this person she attempted to seduce) or it is indicating that the attempted seduction is the crux of the issue. Most likely it is a combination of the two.

The sea is wine red
This is the death of beauty
The doves have died
The lovers have lied

The symbols here are pretty straightforward. We have the sensuousness of the red wine and the innocence of the doves. This just clarifies the story further. Gloria loved someone and attempted to seduce him. He (assumption based on the fact that the song is sung by a man and a woman) was already involved with another, very beautiful woman. However, she was unaware of this due to a deception on his part (The lovers have lied) and she lost a bit of her innocence in the pursuit of his love.

I cut the arrow from your neck
Stretched you beneath the tree
Among the roots and baby's breath
I covered us with silver leaves

Now the speaker makes his case to Gloria. He heals her wounds and lays her in the baby's breath under a tree with silver leaves. Baby's breath, in flower symbolism, means innocence and purity. I looked up several trees with silver leaves and the most likely candidate was the Pyrus salicifolia, a silver-leaved variety of pear tree. Why did I choose this one? It also appears in The Odyssey. Pears grow in Alcinous' "sublime garden" in the story. In this garden, the fruit never falls or perishes. Pears also have a symbolic meaning of immortality, which links to the previous reference to trees in a garden.

So, to put it all together, we have the story of Gloria. She loved a man, who likely encouraged her attentions, and to whom she wished to give herself. However, he was already in a relationship. I would even go so far as to guess that Gloria was friends with this person, because the line "the lovers lied" implies that both were involved and it makes sense that she knew the lover. The speaker sees her in her state of betrayal and is attempting to restore her innocence, not by moving on and forgetting the circumstances, but by remaining where she is and gathering her previous innocence back to herself.

I did a bit more guessing in this one, but I like putting together a coherent story. There are many ways this song could have been interpreted, but this one seems to flow the best for me.

Until tomorrow, sleep well. And if you live in the Midwestern United States...stay safe and off the roads. Goodnight.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Radio Week - Oxford Comma

Good afternoon! You're listening to Rabid Radio. I'm L.M. Rabid and I'm delving deeply into the devious ditties you deigned to delegate to my dubious dealings. We're taking your requests and putting them through my tests. I'm taking my absurdly expensive college education in literary analysis to take apart the songs you've sacrificed at my altar. What better use could there be? Our first request comes from the Lovely Lora, who would love to hear some Vampire Weekend. Now I either live to serve Lora or I live to serve, Lora. Either way you're going to be treated to analysis of a song about the non-importance of commas.

First let's take a look at the music video and get as much information as we can.

That done, let's get started.

Who gives a fuck about an Oxford comma?
Oxford commas are an obscure grammar rule also known as "serial commas". They are an optional comma right before the "and" in a list...mostly useful to clarify when a list is over if it uses groups. For example, it helps clarify the meaning in the sentence. "There are many famous pairs in literature such as Romeo and Juliet, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, Beezus and Ramona, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In this, the comma before the final group help clarify when the and is a sign of the list ending and when the and is just tying together the groups.

The salient point, in regards to the song, is that it is a fiddly rule of the English language that most don't bother with. It is usually only used by the most proper of grammaticians. In fact, it is called an "Oxford Comma" because it is primarily used by Oxford Press publications, which is British-based.

I've seen those English dramas too
They're cruel

Once more we have a reference to English, although the implication is "British English" rather than the language "English". Vampire Weekend is an American band, so the distinction could be indicative of something.

So if there's any other way
To spell the word
It's fine with me, with me

The song has already referenced a grammar rule used primarily by the Oxford press and made a reference to British English. This leads me to believe that these lines are a reference to how words are spelt differently between American English and British English...such as "favorite" and "favourite". Both are technically correct, but the word has a different spelling depending on where you are.

So why rant about how unimportant the distinctions between British and American English are? The next verse reveals the issue.

Why would you speak to me that way
Especially when I always said that I
Haven't got the words for you

Now, I'm going to introduce you to another RULE OF LITERATURE. The first one came from inimitable Dr. Walters, who taught my Creative Writing Fiction class. This second one is a favorite of the astounding Dr. Morrison...who appropriately taught the class that covered Poetry Analysis, as well as several others.

Second Rule of Literature
When analyzing a text, be careful not to confuse the speaker with the author.

To break it down for you non-lit majors: The "speaker" in a work is the character whose point of view you're seeing. It is important not to assume that the views expressed by the speaker are the same as the views of the author. Take Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal" in which the speaker presents a case that it would be practical for the poor to sell their surplus children to the rich to eat. You should not come away from that story thinking "Jonathan Swift was pro-cannabalism". It's an extreme example but it gets the point across.

I present this rule to you for a reason. I am going to make some assumptions about the "character" speaking these lines based on the band. You should not do this as a rule, but it does help to take the author's experience into account when analyzing a work. You just have to remain aware that it might not be literal. Not every song about breakups is about a specific breakup that the writer experienced, as with Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" or 90% of Taylor Swift's songs.

I am therefore going to assume, given that the first verse designates British-English as a different dialect to the speaker's own, and because Vampire Weekend is an American band, that the speaker is American. Given the context I'll draw the conclusion that the song is told from the point of view of an American boy (again, taking my assumption from the band members) speaking to a British person. I feel that I can make these assumptions about the speaker because the music video does feature the lead singer of Vampire Weekend delivering the lines.

So, we have an American male speaker using confrontational language when speaking to a British character about the way the British characters talks to him.

All your diction dripping with disdain
Through the pain
I always tell the truth

The accusation being made by the speaker seems to be that the British person talks down to him. There is an implication that whatever was said, it was hurtful towards the speaker. The line "I always tell the truth" holds the subtext that the British "you" does not. This is confirmed later when the speaker asks "Why would you lie about anything at all?"

(If this seems random so far, don't worry. At the end, I'm going to put all of these pieces together in a nice, neat conclusion.)

Who gives a fuck about an Oxford climber?
I climbed to Dharamsala too
I did

Again, we see a repeat of "Oxford" as an adjective...this time modifying "climber" instead of "comma". Unlike "Oxford comma", an "Oxford climber" doesn't refer to any definable phrase. We must therefore assume that Oxford modifies "climber" in the same way that it modified "comma". Given the conclusions that we already have drawn about Oxford commas and the British language in regards to the speaker, we can draw the conclusion that an Oxford climber is a sort of elite climber. The British person puts a lot of stock in the "proper" British way of doing things and is derisive of the speaker's American ways. (We see this in the phrase "All your diction dripping with derision")

However, the speaker asserts that his abilities are the same and just as valid. He is as capable of climbing the Dharamsala as an Oxford climber would be in the same way that his way of speaking is just as correct as the British way.

I met the highest lama
His accent sounded fine
To me, to me

Dharamsala is a city in India located in a valley. Notably, it is where the current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, lives. Like America and England, much of India is English-speaking due to having once been a part of the English Empire. This is the speaker once again asserting that you don't need to speak proper "Oxford English" in order to be correct. The Dalai Lama is a highly respected figure. Presumably, his English would be an Indian dialect of the language and not "proper" by the British "you"'s terms. The speaker is making the point that the Brit. has unreasonable standards.

Now I'm going to give you the rest of the lyrics at once before breaking it down into its salient points...partially because it's kind of repetitive and partially because I'm running out of time.

Check your handbook
It's no trick
Take the chapstick
Put it on your lips
Crack a smile
Adjust my tie
Know your boyfriend, unlike other guys

Why would you lie about how much coal you have?
Why would you lie about something dumb like that?
Why would you lie about anything at all?
First the window, then it's to the wall
Lil' Jon, he always tells the truth

Check your passport
It's no trick
Take the chapstick
Put it on your lips
Crack a smile
Adjust my tie
Know your butler, unlike other guys
Why would you lie about how much coal you have?
Why would you lie about something dumb like that?
Why would you lie about anything at all?
First the window, then it's through the wall
Why would you tape my conversations?
Show your paintings
At the United Nations
Lil' Jon, he always tells the truth

There are several references and symbols in here. First, I'll handle the vaguely absurd reference to Lil Jon. I'll give you a link to the song its referring to, but honestly you don't need to know much more than this: Lil Jon is known for very vulgar lyrics put to fun dance music. The reference puts together the accusations that the Brit. is lying with the rambling about the "properness" of his or her speech. Put together, the speaker's assertion is that "you" may look down on the speaker for his less-than-perfect English, but even the most vulgar of English-speakers is capable of the truth while "you" are a liar.

"Get Low" lyrics - NSFW...or Grandmothers who read my blog.

The lines about the chapstick as well as the line "Why would you lie about how much coal you have?" are both evocative of coldness. The implication is that the British "you" is a cold person, who presented themselves as warmer to the speaker. The request that they put on chapstick and "crack a smile" seems to be a plea for the person to stop being so "cold". Taking into account the line "Know your boyfriend, unlike other guys", the implication seems to be that whoever "you" is, the speaker is their boyfriend. Since the line changes to "butler" upon repetition, it seems that until this point he or she has treated the speaker as inferior...which seems to fit with the derision assigned to him or her already in the song. "Unlike other guys" I believe is referring to the other words "Your boyfriend is unlike other guys"...which is another reference to the couple being multi-cultural....British and American.

Finally, I'll add the lines about the United Nations and taping of conversations to create a full picture of the analysis.

The speaker is an American dating a British person. The British person has treated the American coldly, making fun of him in front of others (That's the United Nations bit...implying that the American has been "painted" by the British person in a cruel way and put on display in front of the world). Throughout their relationship, the British person has been derisive of the American as well as deceitful. The American speaker is retaliating by pointing out that all the "proper" speech in the world can't cover up a lie and no amount of dressing things up (adjusting ties) will hide the flaws of something.

There you are. Sorry if it's a little rushed and incoherent...but I have to go to work now.

That's all for today. More music tomorrow. I'm L.M. Rabid...stay tuned to Rabid Radio!