Monday, June 25, 2012

Nothing Really Matters

Madonna's "Nothing Really Matters" was on heavy rotation on British Airways on-flight music programming during the summer of 1998 while he enjoyed his summer break from teaching in Japan. He repeatedly listened to this track for most of the flight from Dallas to London and from London to Tel Aviv. And on the return flights as well. He wasn't sleeping much those days; it was the beginnings of his insufferable insomnia from which he still suffers today. In those days before the poison, international flights offered complimentary alcohol. He drank and drank, listening to the songs cycle through for hours on end, across timezones. He understood the air as the only country to which he belonged, the only home that didn't reject. Years later he would teach this video in his Introduction to Humanities course; it featured prominently in the last class meeting of the semester, when the topic would be postmodernism and media culture. He would lecture about Butoh and rhizomic imagery: how Madonna presents herself as the Madonna in the opening sequence, holding not Christ but a bag of water--the elemental. He would call attention to the glitch-pop noises, reminding his students of Brian Eno's ambient music, Philip Glass's minimalism, and John Cage's questioning of music altogether. He would associate the Butoh dance--itself a questioning of dance altogether--with Anselm Keifer's "scorched earth" paintings--attempts to come to terms with art after the poison of war. The painted bodies' share in the iconography of Hiroshima and Nagasaki like Samuel Beckett's "Catastrophe," where the man is described as bird-like and the color of ash.

"Nothing really matters. Love is all we need."

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