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Unask the Question

A friend of mine in Buffalo wrote to me recently, lamenting Cobain's demise. I lamented back. Told him I haven't listened to any Nirvana since 1994. Then a few hours later I'm channel surfing and I stop on Nirvana's "Unplugged in New York." I keep it there. The Boyfriend hears this and asks me from the next room, "Do you still like Nirvana?" And......I can't answer that question with a simple "yes" or "no." I launch into a diatribe about Kurt, the spirit of this age, meat-eating orchids, absurdity and surrealism in art and half way into this I'm shaking and crying. That's not a question that can be answered with a simple yes or no.

Tori Amos singing Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
This haunts me.


( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 22nd, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
But isn't it a simple question? I mean, that's a Yes. Always a Yes. If you have any doubts, get in your car and play Aneurysm as loud as possible.

Nov. 22nd, 2007 08:10 pm (UTC)
It's a deep yes, man and there's no word for that.

Except for maybe fuckin' a. But that's a word and a letter. So clearly THERE IS NO ANSWER!

Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:39 am (UTC)
I think they word for "deep yes" is to drop a slow, 2 syllable "du-ude"
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 22nd, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC)
Re: Gah, fucking Nirvana. :|
The lyrics for Breed are so haunting....just like most everything he wrote.

I have a lot of mixed emotions, too, because he had a daughter and he left her in the biggest most fucked up way possible and that's so not cool.

I go back and forth from feeling profoundly empathetic for what his lyrics reveal of his world-view (because that's hell, plain and simple and I've been there too and so have you and when you're there, there's no way out and it's insane and you think it will never end but what you don't realize is that something bigger than you will save you imperceptibly if you'll just fucking hang on and then one day you'll realize you're not in hell anymore).

So this pendulum swings between anger and empathy and never settles in the middle, it just goes back and forth and makes me feel motion sickness when I hear his music or when somebody asks if I "still like Nirvana."

Yeah, he was a fucking addict, yeah, cry me a river, too. Just file me and everyone else under "forgiven."

Edited at 2007-11-23 03:53 am (UTC)
Nov. 23rd, 2007 04:03 am (UTC)
Re: Gah, fucking Nirvana. :|
"In a certain sense what he did was a horrible abuse of power and position, no better than what government or corporate leaders do, and in some ways worse because he was an artist"

I don't think Cobain being famous should have meant he was no longer allowed to be human. And worse because he was an artist? Being an 'artist' means he's held to some other standard?

(Deleted comment)
Nov. 23rd, 2007 10:02 am (UTC)
Re: Gah, fucking Nirvana. :|
You're going off on a tangent. I'm not talking about his responsibility to his kid, I'm talking about what you claim is a responsibility to millions of fans.

"But the moment you stick a loaded gun in your mouth with intent to pull the trigger is the moment you cease being human"

I think you're full of shit with that statement.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 23rd, 2007 05:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Gah, fucking Nirvana. :|
My saying that a person does not cease to be human when they decide to commit suicide is not the same as me saying that I uphold "self-loathing and self-destruction and escapism as the human virtues". It simply means that I have some empathy towards people that find themselves unable to continue.

And then you're spinning off on some kind of ranting tangent again.

You have this tendency to take one small thing a person says or does and go off into fantasyland regarding their motives and thoughts.

How in the world you go from me saying choosing suicide does not make someone inhuman to that meaning I want to lower the bar for everyone and 'fuck ideals' and the rest of that is really messed up. It's like I say that little bit, you respond in your head and then your brain makes up responses for me (which you don't write down) and then your respond to the things you imagine I said, or something like that.

Really bizarre.
Nov. 22nd, 2007 09:22 pm (UTC)
i've always loved that cover. i love nirvana, too, but not for such noble artistic reasons. ♥
Nov. 22nd, 2007 11:15 pm (UTC)
Interesting timing, because Unplugged in New York has just been released on DVD for the first time. For $12 there is absolutely no reason not to own it.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 02:52 am (UTC)
On April 5, 1994, I was delivering my first ever national conference presentation at the annual Popular Culture Association Conference in Chicago. It was on apocalyptic themes in punk rock from 1977-1982. The presentation went over very well. I'd ended it with a nod to the commercial rise of punk-inflected music and mentioned Nirvana specifically. I made the point that I could see, beneath the punk nihilistic pose of the contemporary leaders of the movement, a sense of optimism and fortitude that was lacking in the first wave or two of punk music. Then I went back to my hotel room to unwind a bit and flipped on the tv to learn that Kurt, the fucker, had proved that final point of my presentation so horribly, irrevocably wrong in an act of personal apocalypse. I'm still haunted by that moment.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 03:50 am (UTC)
Man, what an incredible blow that must have been. God.

I was practically in the fetal position suffering from my own existential crisis when I heard the news.

But what were we supposed to believe? He said holding his baby was the best drug ever. He said, "And I don't have a gun." I believed him. I saw something positive in his music too, underneath. I experienced his music as something honest in it's rawness---honest in the same way rotting produce in the dumpster behind the big, bright Supermarket is actually more real than the slick-packaged, perfectly preserved items on the shelves inside. Honest in the way when somebody asks how you're doing you don't say, "Fine, how are you?" but you tell them you're falling apart and it really fucking sucks.

Edited at 2007-11-23 03:51 am (UTC)
Nov. 23rd, 2007 06:34 am (UTC)
I have a lot of compassion for people who commit suicide- it's not something anyone does when they are well enough to think about it, or to think there is anything worse than the hell they are in. That is why it is dangerous to have a gun, because there are a lot of people who will kill themselves before they have time to move past their mental state if they have a gun in their house. I personally never want to know where a gun is accessible.

I used to secretly collect names as a monastic of suicides and pray for them during liturgies- i wish i still had that list- there is one behind the altar in KC and one in Alaska- it had like 50 people on it- a few were friends.

I never got into Kurt Cobain until after he died and i was praying for him as a nun because I was still mad at Nirvana for selling out punk, but that is another story and argument for another time.
Nov. 23rd, 2007 10:11 am (UTC)
Well, if absolute proof surfaced that somebody had murdered Kurt, would that change your feelings towards your memories of Nirvana?
Nov. 23rd, 2007 02:44 pm (UTC)
For me, yes. It would absolutely change my feelings toward my memories of Nirvana.
Nov. 24th, 2007 12:38 am (UTC)
I just listened to Nirvana for the first time in years yesterday. It wasn't as good as I remember it being.
Nov. 24th, 2007 02:26 am (UTC)
That's happened for me with a few bands but not with Nirvana.
Nov. 24th, 2007 04:18 am (UTC)
I came very late to Nirvana, like maybe in the last year or so. But I'm much older than the age bracket that Nirvana was/is popular with, so what can I say - always a day late and a dollar short.
So the answer has to be "yes" if you had such trouble answering it. But it's a much more complicated "yes" now with all the time passage.

As for his death (suicide? even from what little I knew about him at the time of his death, I doubted suicide), it's a terrible tragedy. I used to believe that suicide was an awful thing, the "sin of despair". I still think it's awful and does irrepairable damage to those left behind, but the person who does it must be in such horrific pain that he/she sees no way out. And for that, those people_deserve_ compassion. In their head, there is no "tomorrow will be a better day" or "this will hurt my loved ones". It's just mind numbing soul sucking pain and torture. When you're in that frame of mind....
well, for what it's worth, that's my opinion. I'm no expert. But yeah, I would have liked to see Nirvana still making music now...
Nov. 25th, 2007 03:35 pm (UTC)
your ghosts
Haunting, indeed.
Nov. 27th, 2007 12:03 am (UTC)
I don't think I could summarize my feelings on Nirvana in a short way, and certainly not as eloquent as you, but I want to try.

My family is really strict and religious, so I had to pass off bands as being Christian in order to listen to them. Luckily, my parents were kinda stupid, and didn't insist on reading the lyrics to songs, so as long as I could pass the band as "Christian", I could take them home.

Here was my elaborate scheme for getting secular CDs into my house: Go to record store with Mum. Spend a great deal of time in the Christian music section. So long, that she stops paying attention to what I'm doing and goes over and looks at jazz. Now is my time. I randomly pick up N (where N is a rational, whole integer) CDs, and then quickly walk through the Rock aisle on the way to the cash register. As I go through the alphebetically listed secular CDs, I would replace each Christian CD I'd randomly picked up with the one I really intended to buy. I'm sure this wreaked havoc on the record store, but PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT I WAS FULFILLING A SPIRITUAL NEED. The need for f*cking rock and roll. Out-of-stocks and disorganized CDs were my enemy. It's how I ended up with some REALLY SHITTY CDs, because I'd get to S for Stone Temple Pilots, and they'd be out of "Tiny Music for the Vatican Gift Shop", and I'd have to make my way to the cash register with a "Praizes 4 Him, Hip Hop Reinterpretations" of Hymns CD.


Then, I'd have to DEFEND my "Christian" CD purchases as "Christian enough". I thank Jesus every day for allowing Really Awesome Employees (tm) to be manning the cash register whenever I'd have to stand there with Mum and be like "No, Mum, Oasis is Christian. They're called Oasis, because Jesus Christ is an oasis of hope" and "Mum, I swear, 311 is Christian. It's from John 3:11, which says that 'Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness'"

Stone Temple Pilots got their name from some passage in the Old Testament about the Temple of Israel. Live got their name because we are dead to ourselves and alive in Jesus Christ. I have no idea how I passed off the bands Pulp, Silverchair, Cake...

Bands I could not pass off as "Christian": Smashing Pumpkins. Garbage. and Nirvana.

I had to rely on my cooler, "less Christian" friends that could listen to secular music. I had to convince them to come over to my house where I had a CD Player/Casette Recorder setup, and that they needed to bring their CD, and then I would copy the CD. Then on the outside, I would write something like "Michael W. Smith 'Go West Young Man'"


The point of all this... I had a dream of being able to be myself. Of being able to express myself. Of not having to hide who I was, or my dreams and my goals. Music was my outlet and my hope. It inspired me to do something with my life where I wouldn't have to hide myself forever.

When I heard about Kurt Cobain, I was so angry. I felt like I'd been left alone, and he wasn't going to give me any more music to live for. I couldn't understand, and I was just incredibly sad that he was gone. I suppose it's selfish that my perception of him as an artist revolved around the way he inspired me, but that's all I could comprehend at the time - the thing that I looked forward to most - new music - there'd never be any more from him. I don't think I got over it.
Nov. 27th, 2007 04:03 am (UTC)
Holy crap, girl! I can't imagine growing up with such repression. You grew up Russian Orthodox, no?

Nov. 30th, 2007 01:29 am (UTC)
I am a sad mix of Christian Theology. Educated about Predestination, Calvanism, Protestantism, Aposolism... and confused about them all too.

My Dad's side of the family is comprised of Dutch and German immigrants who settled in Russia in the 1700's, and then immigrated to Canada in the 1920(?)'s. My grandfather that immigrated from Russia was Orthodox, but there weren't any Russian Orthodox churches where he settled in Canada - just Mennonite ones. So he became Mennonite, and met my Grandmother, who was also Mennonite. The story fluctuates between whether or not they fled Russia because they owned land or because of religious persecution...

Mum's side... Her Dad was Irish, and Catholic. Her Mum was English, and Church of England. Her parents both immigrated to Canada as well, and I think Mum's Dad converted to Anglicanism whenever he married Grandmum. Again, they were pretty religious.

So Mum and Dad meet... They went to an Anglican church for quite some time, but ended up leaving the church when I was young... and then we went to a Dutch Reformed church for a while. And then when we moved here, we started going to a Baptist Church - which was the beginning of my own religious dissent (but my parents totally got on board with Southern Baptist theology). So I went back to the Church of England, I briefly flirted with Catholicism, and then eventually settled on Orthodoxy... there's not a Russian Orthodox church nearby, so I'm Antiochian Orthodox...

But following Dad's death, I've kinda been out of sorts with the Church. I have no idea what I believe right now, which I think is a mixture of grief and rebellion at my conservative/ultrareligious upbringing.

Uhhh... Did that answer your question?
Nov. 30th, 2007 02:49 pm (UTC)

I have my own problems with Christian theology but there are many beautiful things there too that I deeply believe in. I think Orthodox Christianity is the most beautiful expression of Christianity.
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )