Saturday, October 30, 2010
I can't believe those pandering sacks of shit could flush their souls down the toilet with such ease by hiring a child molester like Andrew Breitbart to cover the elections.
Then again, I can't think of ANY reason I'd watch ANYTHING on ABC, anyway.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Goddamn it was cold.
We have been lucky this year, weather-wise. Last season, storms came up daily every game during the last two weeks of the season as winter edged its way over summer remainders of the season, as a test of parental endurance, hoods pulled tight, backs to the wind, stomping on decaying turf to our keep limbs alive, each of us wishing the ref would just call the game and let us get back into our warm vehicles. While children practiced their practiced chaos, chasing and kicking the parquet ball and sideliners showered each other with blades of grass, oblivious to the mayhem on the field.
Until today, the weather held and we've been blessed with frabjous skies, a blessing for the parent out on the soccer fields four days a week.
Three kids, three different age groups -- you do the math. Between conflicting games and gratuitous practices, I got much more fresh air than I require to pass the centurion mark. My curse, I suppose.
After we move into the house (the "special surprise" Jonboy asked about), we can return to some semblance of normality, even if I'm moving some 10 miles out of town. I'll get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour, we'll have time to interact before bed and everything will return to a regular schedule.
Until basketball season starts.
Monday, October 11, 2010
Maybe I'll finally get some time to write now that the season is almost over.
Sunday, October 10, 2010
I'm sure that fine video gives you an idea of where my column will go -- certainly, you'll read it here, in due time.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
No need to travel over the river and through the woods to get your obligatory Thanksgiving column, my friends; your heaping plateful of turkey is right here. No room for seconds, for which we’re all thankful, I assure you.
There’s scant music for a Thanksgiving mix, barely a handful of tunes even remotely associated with the holiday. In fact, I can think of only three songs directly related to Thanksgiving, only two of which are worth a serious listen. Adam Sandler’s “The Thanksgiving Song,” doesn’t warrant discussion here: The lyrics are infantile (much like Sandler) and his singing is cloying, annoying and mind-destroying. Not that I’d give Sandler the benefit of the doubt — I’d rather inhale a bucket of candied yams than sit through any of his movies. Adam Sandler has all the appeal of a head cold, massive amounts of mucus and the rest.
Much more appealing is Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” an 18-minute plus monologue”telling the story of Guthrie’s arrest — for littering — on a Thanksgiving Day in 1965, a song that became a classic of anti-war protest songs. “Alice’s Restaurant” is a Thanksgiving Day tradition in my household (and really, the only time I listen to the song). But the song is hilarious, almost a Guthrie stand-up routine.
Not associated with Thanksgiving in any way, I usually follow up the song with Jamie Brockett’s “The Legend of the U.S.S. Titanic” only because it is folky, long and very funny (and likewise gets heard but once a year).
It is the last song of the three that is the most powerful in its evocation of the holiday — and, by far, the most beautiful.
The final movement of “A Symphony: New England Holidays” by American composer Charles Ives, “Thanksgiving” captures not only the Puritan roots of the holiday but the sweetness arising from Thanksgiving’s place as a quasi-family reunion, its power residing in the ability to capture the emotional and psychological contradictions of the holiday — why bringing a family together for a feast can be joyous ... or tragic.
Not so much a symphony as a song cycle, the “Holiday Symphony” is probably Ives’s best known work (though, arguably, not his best work); it also shows Ives to be one of the most original and most challenging composers of the 20th century (at least, to my untutored ears). “Thanksgiving” is more conservative than the previous three movements of the symphony, more subdued, less dissonant. While the movement begins ominously, portentously suggesting the anxiety of being thrust into a situation where scabs are torn from old wounds, it eventually softens its tone, taking bits of inspirational and traditional music (Ives quotes liberally from American standards and hymns) in most of his music to weave in moments of joy and tenderness.
Like most music that matters to me, I recall the exact moment when “Thanksgiving” made it into my holiday repertoire. At the time, I was working towards an honors distinction in an undergraduate neuropsychology program, spending several hours every day administering stress hormones in rats and running them through several behavioral tasks. Since research doesn’t take the day off, I was in the lab on Thanksgiving, focused on the task while resentful that I had to be there.
I’d tuned the radio to the local classical music station for background noise, when Ives came on. I stopped everything that I was doing. Sitting down and listening, it occurred to me that it was like nothing I’d heard before. More than that, when the announcer said that the song was “Thanksgiving” from the “Holiday Symphony” by Charles Ives, it was as if the entire piece was perfect for that moment in time.
Those of you who have read this column from time-to-time will know that the ability of music to lock a moment in time is a common theme with me. Indeed, it is how I define most great music. Furthermore, I’ve written about how some music stands outside space and time, actually evokes a moment, through creating a tableau, one that ineffably brings to mind an atmosphere or feeling by its very essence. “Thanksgiving” manages, for me, to accomplish both.
Believe me, it’s probably not a piece you want to slap on to create the festive spirit you need for your Thanksgiving gathering: It’s far too disconcerting and there are moments in the movement that are far too reminiscent of drunk relatives releasing some long-held animus while unfortunate spouses huddle in the kitchen and weep. Nor is it something to play after the wine and tryptophan have kicked in for the inevitable post-gorge nap. You. Do. Not. Want. To go to sleep to it (bad dreams, I assure you).
However, after the guests have retired to their rooms or have driven off into the night, the symphony (or at least that movement) is something I highly recommend for your personal enjoyment, to see how it jibes with the gathering you’ve held, or attended.
As I said, this obligatory holiday column was not meant to build a mix; the options are far too thin to build a cohesive whole for the holiday. If you’ve insistent on creating some kind of themed collection for the party, you’re out of luck. Fix your food and don’t bother with Thanksgiving songs. Be thankful you have just enough time to plug in your shuffle or stack some CDs into the carousel.
However, if you’re driven, Sam and Dave’s “I Thank You” is about as good as it gets, Thanksgiving-wise. It has “Thank” in the title and, while it speaks to gratitude for something bigger than themselves (“You didn’t have to love me, but you did, but you did … and I thank you!”), there’s no mention of turkey or mashed potatoes or the Bears vs. Lions game. And a great companion piece to Sam and Dave would be “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca (with Dooley Wilson singing, as he did in the movie). Although it has nothing to do with Thanksgiving and nominally dealing with thanks, it speaks to memories which is, I think, a huge component of the season.
If indeed, “the fundamental things apply,” Dido’s wonderful one-hit wonder “Thank You” seems to capture the season’s zeitgeist: As things build up and everything appears hopeless, there’s someone to catch us, preparing us for the next time we’re overwhelmed (probably why Eminem sampled it for his scary-stalker cut “Stan”). At the end of the night, if the relatives are being far too judgmental, Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Again)” is a perfect side to let the chinless, soulless examiners of our lives know that we’re snubbing every snippet of gossip they’re holding onto like a slab of gut built with their own indulgence.
Really, that’s all I’ve got. You’re on your own as far as Turkey Day music. I assure you, you can’t go wrong with Arlo Guthrie (and the accompanying Jamie Brockett — it’s a good follow-up, really) as a Thanksgiving tradition. Sam and Dave, Dooley Wilson, Dido and Sly and the Family Stone (maybe toss in Led Zeppelin “Thank You” from II, Ben Folds’ “You to Thank” and Earth, Wind and Fire “Gratitude” (for, um, just something) and maybe you’ll have a mix.
For myself, I’m popping a turkey in the oven, putting on “The Wizard of Oz” and “Singing in the Rain” (a couple of traditions, hereabouts) and during dinner, probably listening to Phoenix, “Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix” (my favorite, recently) while my kids ask, “Do I have to finish the asparagus?” with an eye on the pecan pie and whipped cream.
Then, after they’ve been overwhelmed by tryptophan and too much fun, I’ll put on Charles Ives, pour myself a couple fingers of port and allow the music to transport me because, despite the inevitable battle over asparagus. There’s much to be thankful for and, in this economy, that says so much.
I sincerely hope that you likewise find a reason to be grateful. We’re a close community in Pagosa Country and there’s no reason anyone should go for want. There are many who have plenty and, in my experience, they’re willing to share. All one needs to do is ask.
Ask me, though, and you’ll eventually be subjected to Charles Ives.
Thursday, October 07, 2010
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
This was published here a couple weeks back and I'm just now getting around to posting it. Sue me.
While the calendar claims that summer has crawled off into memory, I’m not convinced nor am I letting go gladly, clawing desperately to warm, long days and frost-free mornings.
I can be stubborn that way.
The ostensible change of season brought a busy week for me: six soccer games, preparation for parent-teacher conferences and, two days after the autumnal equinox, the twelfth birthday of Eldest Daughter. And like my refusal to let go of summer, I cling to my daughter’s childhood like a dear plushy, cradling that idealized vision of her nine years ago, bare feet beneath her nightgown and tussled, golden hair falling over her eyes, her soft hands holding a stuffed Simba close to her chin.
There are a few things I own and cherish but their value is meaningless compared to the significance of those memories. Although all I have is today, ultimately, the here and now is never a clean slate and possessing the memories of my children makes my being in the moment all the more sweeter. It is the treasure of those memories that remind me how important it is to hold fast to present.
Eldest Daughter is my Golden Child, the one consumed with doing the right thing, devastated when she disappoints daddy. She’s been like that ever since she was born. Whereas her siblings cavil and cry at the injustice of me telling them there’s something they can’t do, willful and obstinate imps they are, Eldest Daughter cries because her deep, inbred sense of shame tortures her with the idea that she has not done the right thing. It troubles her to the core, knowing she has displeased me in some way.
Although twelve and at the threshold of adolescence, she retains the innocence of her earlier years as she explores (treading lightly) more adult themes and concerns. Last year, she replaced her tween obsessions (Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers, High School Musical, etc.) with everything “Twilight” — books, movies, soundtracks and merchandise.
I confess I haven’t read the books nor have I seen the movies. I’ve heard the books are innocuous, if inferior to the “Harry Potter” series and that the movies are definitely geared to specific, inchoate tastes. Nonetheless, she adores “Twilight” and I have no inclination to subvert her affection.
After all, my parents had no compunction against dropping me off in front of McNichols Arena, when I was about Eldest Daughter’s age, to watch Alice Cooper (my own preteen obsession) cause my ears to ring with his brand of nascent heavy metal and entertain his audience with mock executions and buckets of blood.
Indeed, if there is anything about the “Twilight Saga” that excites me, it’s the quality of the movie soundtracks. Populated with big names of the Indie Rock scene, it is not without undue alacrity that I’ve greeted her own pre-teen obsession given that she has been exposed to, and embraced, an entirely new brand of music in her preteen world.
To the credit of the movie’s producers, the soundtracks have included terrific cuts by some really exciting bands: Muse (providing songs on all three soundtracks), Perry Farrell, Iron & Wine, Death Cab for Cutie, Thom Yorke (wow), The Killers, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Sea Wolf, OK Go, Grizzly Bear, The Black Keys, Vampire Weekend (but, of course!), Unkle, The Dead Weather, Band of Horses — a veritable Who’s Who of College/Indie Rock.
Despite my desire to keep Eldest Daughter locked into the precious years of her childhood, I’ve learned to embrace the fact that she slowly, steadily marches towards adulthood, with baby steps (thankfully). Rocking all the way with a new found sophistication.
Thinking ahead to Eldest Daughter’s birthday and considering her new found affection for Indie Rock, I spent a few hours last week creating a new folder for her in iTunes. Somewhat inspired by the “Twilight” soundtracks but also filled with songs meant to say, “If you liked that, you might really like this!”
Boldly, I included a great deal of ’60s Motown, Soul, R&B, and Girl Groups in her folder, my rationale being that the pop tradition informing the type of Indie Rock that Eldest Daughter has grown to love. There would be no Death Cab for Cutie had there been no “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, “Baby Love” by The Supremes or “The Way You Do the Things You Do” by The Temptations.
Unabashedly romantic and celebratory, the Soul Music of the ’60s perfectly captured the urgency of the teenage heart, that desperation of adolescent longing and unrequited love. While The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, The Jefferson Airplane, et al edged more and more towards adult themes and psychedelic excess, African-American music of the era remained firmly entrenched in matters of the heart — the redemption of a first kiss, the security of intertwined fingers and the exhilaration of a love note.
Yet, that music was anything but formulaic: the performances alone made the music transcendent while some of the finest writers and composers endowed the songs with an emotional power and timelessness that endures today. I would have been tragically remiss had I failed to include Otis Redding, The Four Tops or Martha and The Vandellas in Eldest Daughter’s iTunes folder.
Naturally, I included some new music as well. Ratting myself out here — if I’m putting these artists into Eldest Daughter’s folder, it means that I necessarily have those songs on my iPod — Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Cee Lo Green, Aaliyah and Missy Elliot, artists that get her and her sister rocking and singing aloud as we blaze down the road, “Turn it up, daddy!” they shout over music that’s already overly loud.
A guilty pleasure of mine from this summer was Robyn, playing Swedish pop at its best. Probably a little too twisted for American radio, Robyn’s music combines techno/electro beats with pop rhythms that could only come from Sweden.
During the summer, Robyn released two EPs from her “Body Talk” trilogy, a cycle of songs so infinitely danceable and incredibly entertaining, I would have been a bad dad to exclude them from the Eldest Daughter folder. Songs such as “Dancing on My Own,” “Fembot,” “Hang With Me” and “U Should Know Better” (with Snoop Dog), I knew I couldn’t go wrong introducing Eldest Daughter and her sister to the most fun I had this past summer.
However, it was Robyn’s song, “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do” that was the essential inclusion into the folder. Full of bravado, attitude and adolescent snottiness, I may have stepped into something that I will regret somewhere down the road (although I somehow doubt that, given Eldest Daughter’s investment in being good). However, it is Robyn’s message that the pressure of society — and the expectations of being a woman in that society — that is both hilarious and compelling. Hoping to raise strong, self-sufficient women, ultimately, I hope both my girls carry that steel with them well into adulthood.
Robyn demanded a certain amount of Hip-hop in the mix and I was not shy including songs that will surely get Eldest Daughter censored if she’s blasting 50 Cent (“In Da Club,” of course) or Jay-Z (“99 Problems”) on the team bus.
Black-Eyed Peas and Outkast were easy selections to make — “Hey Ya” or “Pump It” are chaste enough to hear during an Aerobics session at the Senior Center — but I’ll confess to a brief pause (and sustained cringe) with songs such as Kenye West’s “Gold Digger” or Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop.”
Not one to censor what my kids listen to — if they don’t hear it from me, they’ll hear it somewhere else and with that will come a certain amount of subversive energy — I’ll nonetheless ask that the iPod stay home during sleepovers; not many parents understand my libertarian approach to music.
With well over 200 songs in the folder, Eldest Daughter has not had the chance to hear everything. And while the Hip-hop and old soul have been with some enthusiasm (“I love this song!” she cried when Stevie Wonder’s “Don’t You Worry Bout’ a Thing,” came on), most of those cuts were met with the resignation of, “Well, that’s just Daddy, he listens to all kinds of stuff!”
However, with the folder designated for her, she took new interest in the Indie Rock I had included, associating them with the music on her “Twilight” soundtracks. Thus, while “Beat Your Heartbeat,” by The Kissaway Trail or “Yellow Dress,” by Sore Eros might have slipped into the background of my pod set on random shuffle with Eldest Daughter’s attention turned elsewhere, the tunes took on a new significance as she listened intently to her special folder. Although “Actor Out of Work,” by St. Vincent, “Rill, Rill,” by Sleigh Bells and “Mexico,” by The Soft Pack had previously passed without her notice, suddenly she heard those songs anew, as if hearing them for the first time, placing them in proximity to everything she’d heard on her “Twilight” disks and suddenly deciding that she really, really liked those songs.
For the rest of my life, I will repay a debt (and never fully repay that gift) owed from the moment the delivery nurse pushed a bundle toward me, “Here’s your daughter, dad,” the nurse said as took Eldest daughter in my arms for the first time with a tremulous and uncertain embrace.
It was as if I had been touched by an alien and the knowledge of another universe had been telepathically transmitted to me. In that moment I became immediately aware that my own life had no significance in relation to the tiny life I held in my arms, that my own safety and well-being, my own aspirations and desires, were all secondary to the needs and security of the tiny person in my arms.
It was at that moment that I became aware of authentic love was — unconditional and nurturing and compassionate and dedicated to a higher purpose, serving something else beyond my own selfish appetites. In that moment, I realized that my own life held a purpose that would light my way forever.
That way continues to unfold in tandem with the evolution of Eldest Daughter as she glides seamlessly from her infancy into adulthood, a process that has occurred in the blink of an eye, faster than I had anticipated and could have ever wanted.
My debt continues to grow, gifted as I am watching her evolve and become the person she is supposed to become. If I can provide that process with my own soundtrack, bringing her the gift of music, I am ecstatic that my own gift is well-received.
As summer eases its way into fall and Eldest Daughter grows from toddler to teenager, I can only cling to the memories of what she was and these present moments of what she’s becoming. There is nothing I would trade to pass up those transitions.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Ah, Sunday morning for the un-churched (as the local fundie fusspots like to call us), us great unwashed, unshaven, uninterested in anything other than a lazy bacon and egg breakfast, copious amounts of coffee and political blather on the box.
Every Sunday, watching the babbling rabble opine and pretty much get everything impeccably wrong and wondering why I allow those those fluffheads, zippernits and thimbledicks to chew up a few of my weekend hours, a testament to my ability to suffer fools gladly and spill a few drams of Bloody Mary.
Inside the Beltway, incompetence and a complete lack of perspicuity are rewarded with keys to lobbyist's security boxes and the Cadillac Escalade that broadcasts its OnStar like a CB radio, wheels in the ditch, forehead full on in an air bag.
In the midst of cleaning up kid detritus, Fareed Zakaria (the least odious and best informed of the Sunday chatter-monkeys) finished up his show, followed by the grinning boobs who spew the news. I usually allow the shining teeth crew about 15 minutes of mindless reporting (just in case an asteroid is heading straight for us and I have to pack an overnight bag) then crank up some tunes over a muted football game.
Today's leading (and incessant) story was some homophobic preacher from a Wal-Mart church denying he'd plied teenage boys with sports cars for some of the fun that turned Sodom and Gomorrah into sand and stone -- just like the surrounding landscape.
Normally, when some shitbag religious hypocrite/bigot gets caught with his pump still workin' cuz' the vandals still have their hands on the handle, I get the kind of hard on that would have have made Ted Haggard seek out man hands for his back -- and front.
However, CNN has been raping the corpse of this story as if it was still lactating. For fuck's sake, it's been a week and yes, homophobic preacher, boys with toys due to preacher's largess, doo-dah. Barely a footnote much less four days worth of reporting. CNN, however, made fag-hating fag preacher yet another top story and half hour of mindless
Just before I almost shut down the jabbering idiots, "Dad bloggers are increasing in popularity," teased me past the commercial break. CNN acting like Dad bloggers had just landed on the planet and asked for infants stuffed with kittens, then slow roasted with a red wine sauce.
I've been doing this "dad blogger" thing (off and on) for about five years and I've come to know several "dad bloggers" that warrant recognition; of course, none of them were mentioned in CNN's report. Instead, the focus was on several SAHDs (Stay at Home Dads), one who's wife was "A high powered attorney" and several others with way too much time on their hands (I assumed the wife cooks and does the laundry, despite their sad SAHD status, the bozos looked like pantie wastes).
Whoop-dee-fucking-doo. The dad blogger has been around for years and suddenly see, see, CNN walks in on the party with their borderline retardation and Pabst Blue Ribbon and grinning cluelessness to celebrate a few fat fucks with about as much parenting savvy as an Inernet connection and a nubile, nympho nanny.
Fuck those idiots and the whores they rode in on. If I was living at home while my "high powered attorney" spouse was bringing home the scratch, at the very least, I'd work on being a better writer, engineering a better site at best.
I await CNN to talk to a dad who raises his kids on his own but I assume they're working on the next story, a dog with two heads or the snake in John Boehner's pants.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I met these hotties while covering a chi-chi soirée on Friday night (a post on that, later. Their site is fun, an ultimate kick-ass road trip. Give em' a visit and say hello.
Happy travels, my dears... it was a distinct pleasure crossing your path!
Q: It is to be handled with special care! Bond: Everything you give me... Q: ...is treated with equal contempt. Yes, I know.
My girls came along first.
Initially, a whiny, crying difficult child who maintained her distance from the beginning but, through the years, became mellow and laid back, a jeans and t-shirt girl who skis like a fiend, flies down the mountain with aplomb, turns her skis into a stop and asks, “Are you planning on making your way down the hill?” A girl who has realized the role of leader of my brood and wrapped her younger siblings beneath her wings, chucked her beak skyward to accept what sunlight offered to warm her dark, amber eyes.
My Golden Girl, the one so invested in being “good” that, when things turn against her, she cries at the thought of being “bad,” puts down what I don’t want her to do and fills up her eyes with tears with shame, stricken by the sense that she has, in some way, done wrong.
The second was, from almost day one, scooting across the floor to greet me after work, standing up in her crib, arms wide open, to send me off to work, the Daddy’s Girl. Unlike her sister, she became, through the years, the “girly girl,” playing soccer only because she could shine (yet, shining brightly) and, in her own way, attempting to usurp her sister’s “Golden Girl” status despite no investment in being “good” — she cried not because she was ashamed at being wrong, but because she wanted to continue whatever it was that I’d decided was not what she wanted to do.
Raising two girls, very different, I was convinced I was prepared to raise a son; I learned I, um, had a lot to learn.
Once, I read a feminist author who, under my same delusion, assumed that raising a child was a matter of socialization, that gender would not matter to any great degree. In her essay, she identified the “Q” gene — the sound a little boy makes when he points his finger at someone else and spouts out, “cue, cue, cue,” to sound like a gun firing — surmising that the Q gene was inborn and a boy would, lacking a toy gun, create his own.
Little girls don’t make those sounds, point their fingers thusly. Little girls rarely pretend they’re shooting anyone.
Little boys do.
I was unprepared for the “boy” energy – girls crying because a HotWheels car had been bounced off of someone’s head, a little girl had been rolled on the floor and rubbed down with Play-Dough, Barbies desecrated and tossed to the Lego fire that I was supposed to tamp or raise — I was used to little ladies who held a pinky out as they held their tea cup, not a monster chewing at the sides of the saucer and grinning like a fiend as he destroyed whatever stood as “sister” stuff.
Yet, my Little Man is hugely protective of his sisters and indeed, anyone female. He once took on three boys, all two years older, to protect the younger girl those boys picked on. He brought home a “pink slip” for punching, kicking, biting and spitting, earning a lecture from me — and silent approval.
He will be ten times the man I wanted to be; putting his coat down for his queen, taking up a challenge for a woman scorned. Converse to Stone Temple Pilots, not “half the man I used to be,” but so much more than I ever will be.
Given that, am compelled to make a mix for my little boy – and all little boys.
Of course, I used to be a little boy as well; not your typical little boy, but I think what it’s like to be young and wanting to be a hero. After all, there is nothing else a little boy aspires to be other than a hero, a hero to his mom, dad, siblings, society and everything else. So, here is my little boy mix, standing outside myself and wondering where our next generation will go. Given the example of my son, we’re going to do pretty damned well.
Lyle Lovett — If I Had a Boat; probably the best song about being a little boy, taking his pony out on a boat, knowing his sneakers are better than lightning and girls are icky. Few songs are better than this.
They Might Be Giants — Particle Man; ridiculous stuff but if you’re creating a mix for a little boy, why not? If Universe Man can degrade Person Man (beneath Degraded Man, of course), then anything is possible for a little boy.
Africando —Yah Boy; There’s no equivocation here; Yah Boy and nothing else.
Eminem — The Real Slim Shady; kind of creepy (listening to his entire story) but the kid should realize who should stand up and declare himself not so screwed up … Slim Shady won’t have enough to muscle (but enough spine) to shove his face forward and scream… God knows, better him than us.
Kanye West — Jesus Walks; it doesn’t matter if your kid is Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim or whatever, Kanye shakes ya’ll down, asks where you’re at and then demands you make a stand. Eminem is a clown; in comparison, Kanye is a prophet. “I want to talk to God but I’m afraid because we ain’t spoke in so long,” is, honestly, something Kanye ties us all into, between prostitutes, politicians and everyone else. The hate comes from fear and outdated thinking (look at Prop 8), the love apparently arising from music.
Gorillaz — Clint Eastwood; Little Man and I spend Saturdays watching Westerns, some Clint Eastwood, but mostly John Wayne. I wonder what the Duke would make of, “The essence the basics Without it you make it/Allow me to make this/Childlike in nature/Rhythm /You have it or you don’t that’s a fallacy/I’m in them/Every sprouting tree /Every child apiece/Every cloud you see /You see with your eyes/I see destruction and demise/Corruption in disguise/From this f*****’ enterprise/Now I’m sucking to your lies/Through Russ, though not his muscles but the percussion he provides/with me as a guide/But ya’ll can see me now cos you don’t see with your eye /You perceive with your mind.”
I assume Clint Eastwood would be appalled, but Little Man and I laugh both at him, the Duke, their thin, coffee shop philosophy and a code that never really existed but in a Hollywood script. Libertarianism is stupidity served up on a cracker, a trifle for tastes too unsophisticated for complexity.
Blur — Song #2; Really, why not? Whoo-Hoo!!! Although the song sounds celebratory, it’s actually a kick to our collective solar plexus (plexes?), the joy of wrecking things — something little boys are prone to do. Despite this song’s ubiquitous appearance in commercials and movies, I never tire of its idiotic glee with woo-hooing about wrecking stuff.
Suicidal Tendencies —Institutionalized; sent to a Nut House merely for asking for a Pepsi. We all suspect that Mike’s parents needed more drugs and Mike needed to own up for whatever weird stuff led his parents to come in his room and make a scene. More than that, we wonder why a Pepsi might be a metaphor for dope.
NOFX — Suits and Ladders; do I really need to say anything here? Fair warning for our sons, I suppose, the ladder entails wearing a suit and really, who wants to do that?
Descendents — Suburban Home; I used to have this as a ring tone for whenever my parents called. If this is the least of Little Man’s stabs at irony, I’ve done well.
Bad Brains — Pay to c***m; Little Man heard this song and asked me if music could be any harder; I told him, “No, not much.” Included here because the song makes my little man move (and I defy anyone to say they can understand any of the lyrics).
Girls Against Boys — Rockets Are Red; boys know this. Applying that knowledge is another matter. A sneering playground taunt of the caliber little boys are know to make and a whole lot of fun.
A.C. Newman — Submarines of Stockholm; the best 60-ish psychedelic song of the last decade. If my son eats acid, I hope I’m there to catch him before he takes an irreparable leap.
The Beatles — Maxwell’s Silver Hammer; when we were heading to hand the kids off to my ex for the summer, Little Man kept asking to hear this song… should I be afraid?
R.E.M. — Superman; never an REM fan, I have to say that the fact they covered this obscure garage band tune elevated them in my estimation (see also, Golden Palominos, “Omaha”). An incredible little boy song as it captures the bravado of a cape made out of a bed sheet and socks stuffed up sleeves to make muscles.
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists — I’m a Ghost; another perfect little boy song, even if it’s about being in love, completely, unconditionally. If Little Man knew what this song was about, he’d ask what the hell was up with Scooby-Doo and Shaggy. Really.
TV on the Radio — Wolf Like Me; a song feeling like being shot out of a cannon and ripped through the tops of trees. More bravado and superhero posing which, well, what this mix is supposed to be about.
Rolling Stones — Can’t You Hear Me Knocking; ostensibly a song about a stalker but honestly, if Jagger and Richards came knocking at your window, you’d call the cops? That would be like Christ speaking at your church and saying, “Yeah, let’s nail this guy to some tree.”
Frank Zappa — Broken Hearts Are For A*****s; because an 8-year old boy should know better. And that little boy would completely agree with Zappa on this one.
Stevie Wonder — I Wish; I guess Little Man should appreciate that I don’t slap him around the way Stevie was, but then, will he be as successful as a blind African-American musician?
Radiohead — Go To Sleep (Little Man Being Erased); wow. Time to go to bed or… Sheesh. My whole, “Songs For a Little Man” idea seems to end on a bad note and,
Half-Japanese — Baby Wants Music; heh. Not like this.
Honest, these songs are for a little boy and he’ll appreciate you going to the trouble of making the mix. If he, in later years, blames his disposition on this mix, turn your finger towards me.
It wouldn’t be the first time. The Q sounds, I assume, will continue.
Little boys need their guns. No matter how much I try to turn him away from that nitwittery, I know he’ll somehow be bigger, more powerful with the Q satisfied.
For me… I make mixes, my noise, my Q.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
While the kids and I roasted wienies on a few blazing copies of the Koran ("Quran" if you're not wearing some fruity biker mustache and flimsy comb-over in a failed attempt to deny your parents weren't related, in any way, before they begot another Elmer Gantry), chatting about killing moozlim babies and merkin baby killers, it was remarked how all brown people are really the enemy. "Agreed," I said, looking for another Koran to stoke the fire and, not finding one, grabbed a Torah scroll (they make great Yule logs, BTW).
Wienies consumed and brown people hiding out and calling the cops (apparently I have a constitutional right to own a gun but not to actually point it at people and fire it. What fun is that?), we strapped bibles on the bottoms of our feet and stomped out the fire, singing "My god is an awesome god; your god is substandard, at best."
Swaying back and forth, with our arms in the air and our eyes closed, we stomped those cinders dead.
Unstrapping the bibles from our feet, my son asked why 9/11 was such an important day.
"Why did they fly planes into buildings?" he asked, "and isn't a few more than three thousand dead kind of, um, small potatoes?
"You mean like a few million dead in Sudan?"
“Yeah, that, but why fly airliners into skyscrapers? And why those buildings?”
Chickens coming home to roost, I told him.
Watching the metaphor in his mind (he’d just “metaphor” in school), his eyes tracked a chicken screaming across the sky to topple a tall building, while soldiers torched families in mud huts.
“2 million in Sudan?”
“Two, three, who’s counting? At least ten times that many die in Africa every year due to famine, disease and thug governments.”
“So when is Africa Day?”
Too many brown people, I told him. Not gonna’ happen.
His mind again tracked metaphors and seeking out chickens, counted the eggs, knowing that more than just a few would hatch.
“So what am I going to do with these?” he asked, waving the bibles from his feet, pages still smoking and stinking of burnt Koran and Torah.
“Toss em’ up in the air.”
And, as soon as he had done that, I peppered it with a burst of my AR-15, bits of paper and shards of leather sprayed across the horizon, shrapnel taking to the air like cabbage moths.
Blasting the next one similarly, we watched bits of Luke and Deuteronomy drift down on pine needles and leaves of scrub oak, snow in September so to speak.
Friday, September 10, 2010
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Apologies for having delved into the cream of the crop as far as Rock and Roll cinema — an admittedly mundane exercise in which my poison pen was set on “dull” and aimed in the worst fanboy direction. A nominally interesting column meant to steer the untutored towards some truly great movies but ultimately, my self-indulgence got the best of me; mea culpa.
This week, I steer my craft to the galaxy of stupid and, adjusting my poison pen to “obliterate,” I set my sights on the worst Rock and Roll movies, the ultimate losers, those films that aspired to nothing and inspired even less. The most worthless and meretricious pieces of trash exhibiting a feckless disregard for the music and the viewer, lame ideas germinated in the well-fertilized fields of corporate greedheads and then cultivated for no other reason to feed the fatted, golden calf. Films that didn’t just fall flat, but sagged so low their bellies displaced the detritus, taking their dubious position at the bottom of the barrel.
What binds these turkeys together is their unabashed cynicism; all over-preening big studio releases basted in bombast and barfed upon the movie-going public with no other reach than to the bottom line. More than that, the music — Rock and Roll — takes a back seat to the sludge that the studios, producers, director and everyone else involved dumped on our doorstep like a flaming sack of dog crap.
Last week, I mentioned the gawdawful schmaltz from the late ’50s/early ’60s, a class of dreck unto itself. Doubtlessly, the studio heads responsible for those abortions were due the bad acid trips they inevitably suffered (a twisted karmic retribution where the infantile were reduced to wearing diapers ala David Vitter) but they achieved a level of Technicolor camp, harmless (and mindless) B-movies meant as nothing more than 90 minutes of cotton-candy piffle. They can only be viewed as quaint, in retrospect, like walking down into your grandmother’s basement and finding a washboard and an old ringer dryer — with sufficient imagination and psychotropic adjuncts, the entertainment value is immeasurable (if not perverse).
Conversely, nothing redeems the mangy curs on this list and the only a masochist, strapped down and forced to watch a few minutes of these, would appreciate a single frame of these monstrosities.
Working backwards, from the least worst to the absolute wretched, behold the power of Hollywood to walk the strip in fishnet stockings, stiletto heels and a faux latex miniskirt and ask, “Wanna’ suck on a sewage pipe?”
It has always been my considered opinion that Karaoke is one of the signs of the Apocalypse and “The Rose” (bound to be sung several thousand times a night across the country by tipsy account executives) arose from one of the most overwrought and maudlin cinematic murder scenes ever produced. Why, in 1979, Hollywood felt we needed an extended allegory on the life of Janis Joplin is beyond me; it reminded me of the Monty Python sketch where a slimy movie producer promises Marilyn Monroe to star (her corpse falling out of cupboards or standing in as a footrest).
Bette Midler’s histrionic performance as the drugged-out Rose (“Pearl” — get it?) is all emoting and no emotion, endowing her character with all the psychological depth of a junebug banging against a light bulb. Worse yet, Middler and the music make a travesty of Joplin’s legacy. Whereas Joplin could command her corner of the universe with her boozy, bluesy ferocity and move mountains, the performances in “The Rose” are flat and flatulent, moving little more than my feet to the exit.
The fact that the Academy granted this stinker four nominations merely proves that, with enough powdered sugar, waste products can look like a cruller.
Never a fan of Oliver Stone — “Salvador” and “Wall Street” were OK — I’ve found most of his work pedagogic and preachy. However, as bulimic as his worst excesses are (tons of junk thrown in, followed by the inevitable purge of a movie), “The Doors” (1991) presses the gag reflex beyond human endurance. Between the trippy sequences and the pseudo-spiritual palaver, Val Kilmer’s portrayal of Jim Morrison, while probably accurate, amounts to a movie that (in the words of Roger Ebert) “is like being in a bar with an obnoxious drunk while you’re not drinking.”
Apparently uninterested in endowing his characters with any depth or sympathy (like the incidental cartoons of Mickey and Mallory in “Natural Born Killers”), Stone seems torn between trying to reproduce the high of a peyote trip as well as the gut bomb and somnolent agony of a hangover. He succeeds on the latter; on the former, well, only someone who’s ingested a fistful of buttons knows where that goes.
Neither a fan of Stone’s movies nor much of a fan of The Doors music (though I’ll concede they made several truly great songs, however), I can say that no animals were harmed as I decided this garbage was about as endurable as a BB-sized hole in a molar.
I really, really should have enjoyed “Streets of Fire” (1984). With direction by Walter Hill (“The Warriors,” “48 Hours”), Ry Cooder’s musical direction and the pulp/comic book attempt to tell a “Rock and Roll fable,” the movie should have achieved greatness. Unfortunately, this seven-car pile up amounted to little more than art-house pretention and some truly awful Springsteen mock-ups (compositions courtesy of Jim Steinman, the creator of Meatloaf… nuff’ said) via Eddie and the Cruisers, the band for which “Bruuuuuuuuuce” really is “Booooooooooo!”
I won’t even go into the absurd plot except to say that it merely confirms Willem Dafoe has, by far, the worst actor’s instincts for choosing roles. Michael Paré (with a face looking like silly putty wrapped around the head of a G.I. Joe doll) and Diane Lane (um, actually at her hottie-est) round out a cast babbling out dialog that Raymond Carver would have ascribed to a night of bad whiskey.
The harder this movie attempts to achieve its “fable” status, the more it comes across as an episode of “Robot Chicken” after the writers had huffed gold-speckled spray paint.
Breaking out the Miller’s Analogy Test booklet, “Streets of Fire” is to inhalants as “Tommy” (1975) is to horse tranquilizers and self-induced oxygen deprivation — an interminably bad trip with all the joy of landing face-first on the floor.
With performances by Tina Turner as The Acid Queen, Eric Clapton as The Preacher and Elton John as The Pinball Champ, one wonders how the movie could go so horribly wrong but it does to an extent surpassing “so bad it’s good” territory to “Anyone associated with this road kill of a movie should be sentenced to a year in rehab.”
The blame has, I’ve always believed, largely rested with the confused direction of Ken Russell. Many of his films (“Altered States,” “Gothic,” “The Lair of the White Worm,” among others) have been almost rococo in their surrealistic and hallucinatory elements; in “Tommy,” Russell outdoes himself, splattering the screen with images both sickening and scatological (the scene with Ann-Margret writhing around in a sea of baked beans had all the erotic impact of Don Knotts in a speedo). The more Russell assaults us with fetishist imagery and dumbed-down Dadaism, the more our skin crawls with the distinct sense that we’re watching something filthy (in a John Waters “Pink Flamingos” sense of the word). The result is a execrable piece of cinematic excess that should only be viewed under severe restraints with a ball-gag firmly in place.
Along with casting non-singers like Ann-Margaret and Oliver Reed in principal roles — Ann-Margaret has a two key range (both flat) and Reed moans like a man with a bad hernia — Russell certainly deserves his share of the blame for the 30-car pileup that is “Tommy.” However, the real culprit is producer Robert Stigwood, the same producer of the Gehenna Toilet of bad Rock and Roll movies, by far, the worst of the worst.
Having produced one of the best Rock and Roll movies ever made (“Saturday Night Fever” — see last week’s column) and a passable piece of pop pabulum (“Grease”) back to back, Stigwood decided to embark on an ambitious (if ill-conceived) project in 1978, a cinematic version of The Beatles’ classic “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
As careful as The Beatles had been up to that point with their catalog, largely due to their entrenched mutual acrimony, I’m surprised this clunker even made it out of the scrapyard. Unfortunately, the laws of physics and the dictates of good taste were shamelessly violated as this lemon wheezed its way into theaters everywhere, fouling the air wherever it appeared.
With the BeeGees and Peter Frampton starring as the Fab Four (I. Kid. You. Not.), the movie strings together performances by a few late-’70s headliners (Steve Martin, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper and Earth, Wind and Fire) and a cast of thousands who, for all intents and purposes, wander in and out of scenes as if they’ve lost their way to the buffet table.
The venerable George Burns was enlisted to provide the film’s narration — I guess after playing God it was felt he could raise Lazarus and make him dance like a frog on a hot plate — citing a tale, told by an idiot, full of ear-splitting sound and moronic fury, signifying nothing.
Whatever plot existed in pre-production was subsumed by the musical-revue construction of the film that took over, with bands taking the stage and then shuffled off to make room for the next act, with the ruthless efficiency of a subway turnstile.
As for the performances of Frampton and the BeeGees, to describe it “wooden” would be to deny the organic quality of timber. Their acting repertoire amounts to raising one eyebrow to express pleasure, both to express dismay. Otherwise, “deadpan” takes on an entirely new meaning as they sleepwalk through their roles and even their musical performances exhibit all the animated glee of half-filled water glasses shimmying with the vibration of a passing city bus. Apparently, the shame with which they obviously felt in butchering perfectly good Beatles’ songs held them in some sort of catatonic paralysis.
There was no reason to make this film and even less reason to watch it. The original Beatles’ album was already cinematic in its ambition and effect; putting on the headphones and closing the eyes is more than enough to produce an infinite number of mind movies.
As far as watching Stigwood’s atrocity exhibition: Imagine yourself trapped in a flea-bag hotel room with an hysteric, coked-out drag queen while you watch paint peel. While you have a raging hangover. And your wallet is gone.
That would be heaven compared to watching this movie.
Maybe I’ve been overly cruel in applying my poison pen to these horrible movies. I think not. What was cruel was taking the time to commit these to celluloid and expecting us to be entertained by them. Sometimes, I concede that sociopaths are born and not made, that the extent of sadism knows no bounds.
Watch these movies (this is not a recommendation) and see if I’m right.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Not in a partisan, us-against-them kind of way; I’m far too realistic and jaded to concern myself with party politics. Ideas excite me, political parties both amuse me and bore me.
No, I’m depressed because I fear our system is so broken that a fix only distracts the voters from the real condition. Politicians and a complicit, duplicitous media (more interested in the stench of celebrity than in honoring the spirit of the First Amendment) are merely morticians applying makeup to a corpse.
There’s a lot that needs to be done in this country but we won’t get there under the current system. Short of creating a Parliamentary system (my preferred solution, giving rise to a multi-party system, one among many advantages), the House and Senate need to :
- Restrict races to six weeks; if a candidate can’t articulate a clear vision in that amount of time, they’re just more muddle for the game. The endless media circus we call political campaigns is an essentially endless process. Allow the electorate catch its collective breath and force the media to pursue real news.
- Pass The Fair Elections Now Act to get the mega-rich and large corporations out of the business of buying politicians. Influence peddling has become the primary purpose of politicians and our representatives too often side with paid interests rather than voting in the interests of their constituents. Legislators are so busy rounding up favors to fund their next campaign that they forget why they’re in office.
- Pass filibuster reform. It’s silly that the Senate requires 60 votes to pass critical legislation and the only argument in favor of the filibuster is that it protects the rights of the minority party. What drivel. The only purpose of the filibuster is to create gridlock, preventing the Senate from getting any work done, and creating a tyranny of the minority.
- Enact Legislative reform. Rules for legislation in the House demand that amendments are germane to a bill and no riders are allowed. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t apply to the Senate and too often, good bills are killed by bad amendments or riders. Conversely, bad legislation often gets passed riding on the coat tails of a good bill.
Look, if your pet legislation is so crappy that no one will vote for it, get a clue. And if you oppose a bill, be honest and lobby against it, round up votes or get over the fact that things don’t always go your way. Defeating a bill with a poison pill amendment or grabbing some pork through the use of a rider is puerile.
Call me a dangerous radical (or depressed idealist) but until our government can pass the four reforms above, we have a 1974 Ford Pinto of a government.