Monday, September 26, 2011

Goodbye REM

Last Wednesday afternoon my father sent me an email with a link to the REM homepage, with the news that the band was a band no more.

As I've already mentioned once, during my teens I was a big fan of their music. My very first own CD was Out of Time, and my second was Automatic for the People - I was 15 years old and worked crazy hours as a typist to save the u$s 20 each cost, and unlike the few other things I worked hard to pay for in those days, I still own them. During most of that decade their music was my soundtrack, and when I started browsing the web in the warm summer nights of January 1996, it was to look for their lyrics and news about them. I owe REM a lot... my early internet literacy skills, my enthusiasm to learn English, some (maybe a lot, maybe not so much) of my artistic sensibility, a good stack of CD's I don't plan to part ways with, ever.

In January 2001 they played in Buenos Aires and I jumped the pond with my then boyfriend to see them, and though the show was fantastic it marked the decline of both my fandom and relationship (how odd). When Reveal was issued later that year I bought it - with my hard earned money, yes, but at least I had a steady job and wasn't juggling lunch and bus fares money. I even put the show ticket inside the CD box (right over the song list). But that was the last of REM I heard in a long time.

Exactly why I stopped listening to REM is something I can't really explain. I admit I got a little irked with everything and everyone from the US with their troops going to Irak and Afghanistan (unfair, I know). My husband, who came into my life in 2002, doesn't really like their music. And... I don't know, they're not background music anymore, wafting from the speakers in the house at all hours of day and night.

Interestingly enough, that's a void no other band filled. Who knows, maybe I should unpack the box with CD's and give those a good listening. I'm sure they will all have passed the test of time, with honors.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Window to a windowless room

Very recently I found "the largest advertisement-free Blog in the world", PostSecret. It's a website publishing items (usually postcards but also letters and objects) created and sent anonymously by people.

There are all kinds of secrets, from banal and funny to deep and disturbing. I find most disconcerting... how someone could say or think or feel that, ever? The project is like a window open to a windowless place. I'm not sure if ones published every week are selected with one template (a certain amount of laughs, sex and death) but the ones where people tell about their loneliness, sadness and desperation really get to me.

I'm not depressive and never contemplated suicide, but I admit being a little wary every Sunday morning when I read the blogroll.

Yesterday this secret was published, and somehow made everything fall into place. It reads If PostSecret has taught me anything, it is that heartache (of any kind) is not personal. It is human.


Picture from PostSecret

Monday, September 12, 2011

Remembering the memory

Although I can pinpoint quite a few memorial sites and monuments I've visited in different parts of the world, my city even, those in the United States have impressed me the most.

There seems to be an attitude, a cultural trait, an inclination to the action of remembering the dead that I can't quite make my own. Some memorials somehow felt like an apology, sometimes like an explanation. Sometimes I felt the memorial created causality rather than remarking or celebrating it. Because there is a memorial that we (whatever "we" means) are what we are (free, happy, able to settle here, etc.). Sometimes it's only the circumstance of death, an inevitable fact of life, that makes a person deserving of having his or her name etched in stone - this person died because of a tragic event beyond her will or control.

Some tragedies beyond our will or control deserve a memorial, some don't. Probably the memorials are about the tragedies that lead us to reflect on our own mortality, that shake our deepest beliefs, I'm not sure really.

But what is really striking about memorials in the US is that always, without fail, the people remembered are a part of a whole. They left behind family - parents, siblings, spouses, children; friends; relations; probably a documented work of body of some kind. They can be remembered because the rest, humans or deeds, are still alive.

After I visited the Vietnam and Korea War Memorials in Washington DC and uploaded the pictures, a friend wrote back saying, "What about those killed by the soldiers in those faraway lands? If a person was killed and the whole village destroyed (documents proving existence included), there's nobody left to remember. It would be as if they had never existed".

I'm not sure I'd dare to utter these thoughts anywhere near DC, but it's a valid question. I suppose the answer is, beyond a particular event or person, memorials are memory in practice. And that's something that can be started at any point of history.