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January 23, 2013 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2013-01-23

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 5A

Contemplating the
inaugural poem

Richard Blanco's
piece gets rare
national spotlight
Daily Fine Arts Editor
It may be that I just voted for
the first time this year and I'm
still too young to really under-
stand, but I never realized that
politics was such a party: inau-
gural balls, galas, parades, mix-
ers and performances by hip-hop
stars? It sounds amazing. And
somewhere in all of that, Richard
Blanco read a poem.
I can't think of another event
in which poetry has a bigger
audience and could have a poten-
tially greater impact. On the
other hand, there's something to
be said about the fact that, even
when this was the case, the poet-
ry was still overshadowed by the
many aspects of the celebration:
Beyoned, Kelly Clarkson, James
Taylor - and I even heard the
president was there. Of course,
who's going to argue that these
things, which are.so much more
outwardly pertinent to everyday
life, should everbe overshadowed
by something so seemingly small
as a poem? Perhaps Blanco's "One
Today" fit in right where it should
have. And for that matter, I'm
grateful that poetry still has any
sort of place in the inauguration,
because it easily could not have.
After all, there is no estab-
lished tradition for having a poet
read at presidential inauguration

ceremonies; there were only four
(Robert Frost, Elizabeth Alex-
ander, Maya Angelou and Miller
Williams) invited to do so before
Blanco. Very few would have
been asking, "Hey, where's our
poem?" had he or she been left
out. But Obama is a smart enough
guy to understand how beneficial
asking a poet to read can be to
enriching such a ceremony and,
in turn, the literary community.
He actually seemed to be one of
the few people enjoying Blanco's
reading, too.
My fear that Blanco's homo-
sexuality and ethnicity would
become more important than
the poem itself was only partly
realized. There's no denying that
inviting Blanco to read comes
off as a political move. While he
is certainly worthy of the honor
(he won a PEN Open Book Award
in 2006 for "Directions to the
Beach of the Dead," among other
accolades), why not have Natasha
Trethewey (named the Poet Lau-
reate this past June - the United
States's official poet by occupa-
tion) read at the ceremony? The
simple answer is that it wouldn't
have caused quite as much of a
stir in the media. It's irrelevant
whether you love Obama's poli-
tics or you don't; the main con-
cern comes closer to asking, was
Blanco there as a political tool or
a poet? Or, maybe, was he there as
Blanco and "One Today" stood
out for themselves during the
ceremony, with all of that back-
ground information seemingly
falling away as he read. The only

one who continued to put the per-
son before the poem was ABC,
whose "Inaugural Notes" about
Blanco's history and background
were more than distracting. ABC
also had a stream of tweets about
the poem running onscreen while
Blanco read - which really just
meant that those people weren't
listening at all.
My evaluation of the poem is
that it was enjoyable and it did
its job. I was put off by the way
he said, "breathe" (come on Rich,
you're not at a poetry slam), but I
didn't hate it like a lot of people
seemed to. Though I didn't love
it, either. In art, especially when
contextualized by the divisive-
ness of politics, it's easy to want
to pick a definitive stance on
whether something is good or
bad, and I've seen a lot of people
taking this approach with Blanco.
To make such a declaration is to
feel that you have a strong under-
standing of the work, which is
often not the case.
To be honest, I don't under-
stand the whole poem, and how
could I? I'd have to read it 20
more times and play with the
words and how they sound, think
about it, come back to it, etc. I
know that its expansiveness, its
image of the hardworking Ameri-
can in its many forms ("Hear: the
doors we open /for each other all
day, saying: hello, shalom, / buon
giorno, howdy, namaste, or bue-
nos dias") reminds me of Whit-
man. But that's really all I've got.
The bottom line is that it got
me thinking, it had me reflecting
and it stood for the day.

"What did you say was in this coffee, man?"
FoXygen brings '60s
spirit to 21st Century'

of li
the I
les d
a by
to br
of '60
the n
ing f
has a

Daily Music Editor / I don
all," lin
xygen's 2012 EP, Take the free, if
Off Broadway, sounded sort 21st Ce
ke a mashup of every hit "San
the '60s, song w
it worked, be su
if it all France
somewhat We Are The "I left
before. 21st Century co," ac
beyond vocalis
Los Ange- AmbaSSadorS okay, I
uo's obvi- of Peace heartb
influences also pr
music of & MUSIC cutene<
gone era, Foxygen Sebasti
gen seems cisco a:
ing a bit lagjaguwar indiffe
)s spirit to album,
ow in which we have found tion." I
lves - a time of Spotify that ke
'Phone zombies and dub- ing me
ever. almost
is is a band that publicly the grc
es corporations, that will song a
nally email you its album pissed
load if yours isn't work- lost lov
or whatever reason, that respon
pologized via Facebook for need to

Half-baked Hudson' flops

even go to work that day - but, as anyone who has ever
't care if I'm in trouble at had a broken heart knows, you
es that embody the care- can only stay sad for so long, and
not naive, nature of The the song bursts into a sunshiney
ntury Ambassadors. refrain. "If you believe in your-
Francisco" is another self / You can free your soul,"
'hose attitude could best France sings without the least
smed up as "oh well." bit of sarcasm, his voice sudden-
dispassionately laments, ly rich, thick with vibrato and
my love in San Francis- newfound optimism.
companied by a female Speaking of France's vocals,
t who shrugs, "That's it's worth mentioning the extent
was bored anyway." It's to. which they. have matured
reaking and earnest but since Broadway. In the EP,
etty silly, with a level of France sounds like he's just
ss that rivals Belle and fucking around - his voice is
ian. Th mes of San Fran- careless, rough at times, almost
nd-the cruelty of feminine like a drunk karaoke of Lou
rence appear early in the Reed or Mick Jagger. But now
too, with "No Destruc- he has cleaned up a bit, polished
t's led by a mellow guitar his vocal chords, harnessing
eps the song from becom- the ability to sound cool and
lodramatic, but you can detached if he wants to - even
picture France kicking when his lyrics are tender and
ound in frustration. The vulnerable.
cknowledges that being In The 21st Century, Foxygen
off and bitter about a sounds like it's getting its shit
e is an acceptable human together. The album isn't nearly
se, but also "there's no as scatterbrained as Broadway,
be an asshole." which isn't a good nor a bad
thing but perhaps rather the dif-
ference between an LP and an
a eean Perhaps the most bizarre
Rado fight moment is the closing of the
album, during which France
e M an with sings deeply about believing in
love and God. It's difficult to
ace & ]M uic!j tell if the group is being sincere
or not; it just sounds too hokey
to be true. And yet, that is the
beauty of the members of Foxy-
so at this point Foxygen gen. They're not ironic. They're
like it's full of apathetic, not even cool - in fact, they're
s losers, but that could probably the warmest two dudes
further from the truth. in music right now. They're
ie" is another track that fiercely passionate about what
off brooding, with France they believe in, and more impor-
aloofly about yet another tantly, about their music - and
who loves him no more it shows.

Daily Arts Writer
Watching "Hyde Park on
Hudson" is a bit like watching
actors who've been told to play
important his-
torical figures
in an impor-
tant period in Hyde park
history and
yet have been on Hudson
given nothing State Theater
to go on, save
for how they Focs
might imagine
these real-life characters to have
behaved and talked. In short,
we're given very little in the way
of structure, something to invest
us in these people's lives.
The story feels more suited
for cocktail party candor. "Did
you know that when the King
and Queen of England visited
the president in 1939 to ask for
America's aid in World War II,
FDR was sleeping with his sec-
retary and his distant cousin?"
Such is the story's overall thrust,
which ultimately doesn't delve
much deeper than the pages of
FDR's stamp collection, a hobby
he uses as an excuse for "alone .
time" during moments of stress.
There are, however, lovely
images of expansive green pas-
tures and meadows, the kinds
you might see in a travel bro-
chure for upstate New York,
the film's setting. There's also
a surprising moment of depth
between Franklin Roosevelt (an
always charming Bill Murray,
"Zombieland") and King George
VI, nicknamed "Bertie" (Sam-
uel West, "Van Helsing"), the
stuttering monarch portrayed
by Colin Firth in 2010's "The
King's Speech." Murray, clearly
relishing the opportunity to
show FDR's more manipulative
nature, presents himself as the
proud father Bertie has always
wanted, while the young king
confesses his terror about failing
his country in this time of great
need and, perhaps more point-
edly, failinghis wife.
Combining political savvy
with genuine warmth, FDR
gracefully takes Bertie under his
wing, while revealing a weak-
ness of his own: his reliance on
the strong women he surrounds
himself with. And yet, the facts
of the film would prove other-

its success for fear of "selling
out." You might consider Foxy-
gen's Sam France and Jonathan
Rado modern hippies, living in
a cynical, digital age, and that
wouldn't be too far from the
truth. Actually, they make their
purpose in the present quite
clear in the title of their first LP,
We Are The 21st Century Ambas-
sadors ofPeace it Music.
The album begins with "in
the Darkness," a warm track
that opens the album like a blin-
dingly optimistic sunrise (the
song name is misleading, OK).
It packs a whole lot of cheer in
a small amount of time, clinking
piano notes ringing out while
Sam France speculates, "Maybe

not be
starts c

I'll follow you until you love me."
wise, as the women in question is not, as the film belybors, the
- his mother (Elizabeth Wilson, president's only lover) is handled
"The Graduate"), his wife Elea- with the flippancy of casual con-
nor (Olivia Williams, "The Ghost versation, compelling the dreaded
Writer"), his secretary and mis- question: Why should we even
tress Missy (Elizabeth Mar- care?
vel, "Lincoln") and, the newest At times, "Hyde Park" wants
arrival, his' sixth-cousin Daisy to tell the delicate love story
(Laura Linney, "John Adams") - of a shy, timid woman and the
do little more than provide the powerful man who allowed her
occasional quip when the presi- to see his more vulnerable side.
dent's feeling playful, dote on Other times, it tries to insert
him and essentially act as moral bits of diplomatic strife as these
support. world leaders negotiate a strate-
gic alliance for the war they will
inevitably be forced to fight. But
Bill urrayfor the glue connecting these pieces
(some of which are admittedly
president. quite funny, filled with the occa-
sional jab at British elegance con-
trasted with American vulgarity)
consists of little more than slow-
The story partially belongs to moving shots of FDR; wheel-
Daisy, the star-struck relative chair-bound, imploring Daisy to
who lives with her aunt near the have a cup of tea with him or his
president's Hyde Park residence, mother scolding him for drinking
andwhose tediousvoice-over nar- brandy. It's a haphazard, direc-
ration hammers home her naivet6 tionless attempt at continuity,
followed by flashes of dull revela- which falls short.
tion. "I realized then that we had Although it's possible director
become very good friends," Daisy Roger Michell ("Notting Hill")
notes after she and the president set out to paint a portrait of the
have consummated their rela- intricacies and subtleties of the
tionship in his car amid a field of FDR you don't read about in his-
flowers. But Daisy's storyline, as tory books, complete with the
is the case with the other mean- scheming and conning for both
dering plot points, bobs and floats personal and tactical gain, what
along aimlessly like the hairs on we're left with in large part are
FDR's head as he chuckles at Ber- characters puttering about their
tie's hesitation to eat a hot dog. In business, as though rehearsing
other words, it doesn'tgo much of their parts for an interesting
anywhere. Even Daisy's discovery movie they have yet to make.
and acceptance of FDR's addi- Unfortunately, it's a movie we
tional extramarital affairs (she never get to see.

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