samedi, décembre 19, 2009

Coming Out Party

In this day and age, it simply won't do to hide who we are. In the past, perhaps, we could justify cowering in the shadows of Society's closet. "For the good of Civilization" we might say. But no longer. We have to stand tall. We have to fight the closed--indeed, the bigoted minds--that marginalize and belittle us. Merely admitting it will not suffice. We must proclaim it.

I'm coming out.

As a grown, educated, married, heterosexual man, who loves sports and drives a truck, I stand and say to the world: YES, I LOVE THE TWILIGHT SERIES.

I swam through a turbulent sea of dismissive critics and superior literati looking down their noses to see the movies. I fought past my own pre-judgements and my own well laid plan to mock, deride, and despise this teenage fantasy machine. And I ended up in love. Certainly not with the obsessive mobs of fans. Certainly not with the nuclear powered product mongering corporate interests. Certainly not with the books, which are so far down my reading list--I'm scheduled to read them, honestly, but--I just can't get to them until two years after I'm dead.
No, I'm taken with the concepts, the ideas, the mythos that beats at the heart of the Saga.

Much as you should accept, even embrace, what may very well have been born in me--thereby rendering any justification on my part superfluous--I think perhaps a brief treatise on why these movies are beautiful, and OK to love, will help you feel more at ease with me living the Twilight life.

1) Finally, I get why vampires are interesting. All my life, I've thought: So they suck blood, so they haunt the night, and have supernatural powers. Who cares? And, since Anne Rice made them dead sexy, I've been sort of turned off by their super hot sexlessness. I guess you could say I couldn't attribute any humanity to them. Somehow, until Twilight I missed the point: These are people, and they are bored. How horrible it must be to live forever on this earth. To pass through era after era of human history and never change. And see how nothing ever changes. After a few hundred years it must be a desperate and daily challenge to find something interesting on this planet. Through Edward Cullen, and through the Vulteri, this dilemma is explored with subtlety that borders on delicate. It gives one pause, as one translates the idea to the concept of living forever ANYWHERE. If you believe in God, or gods, you start to wonder how an eternal being makes life interesting once omnipotence and omniscience are achieved. You start to see why people cooked up this reincarnation idea. If all the series did was make vampires interesting to me, really for the first time, it may be enough. And there's more on that front . . .

2) While I hate updates to the vampire myth (the part about their skin sparkling in the sun was a groaner, almost a deal breaker), I kind of love the idea that there are vampires trying to do good in the world. Trying, against all odds, to live in peace and help people. I'm sure some lesser known work has more effectively explored the idea of Vampires actually using their powers to non-evil ends, but the idea of the Cullen family remains compelling to me. Why wouldn't a group of vampires evolve who refuse to drink human blood? Come to think of it, why couldn't a group of vampires evolve, after millions of years, for whom the sun is not lethal? (Maybe I don't hate this sparkling thing as much as I thought. Oh well. I still hated the baseball scene.) But you don't have to appreciate the vampires, because . . .

3) You can buy into the Twilight portrayal of what it means to have a soul mate. Believe me, I wish I could simply debunk the whole idea. And I think for a vast majority of the population, the idea IS the purest bunk. But for an unfortunate few, such a thing exists. And it isn't pretty. Every major work of art that attempts to legitimately explore the idea of "star crossed lovers," from Romeo & Juliette to Wuthering Heights, ends up revealing how destructive and dangerous the very idea is. And for all that, the reality of it is even worse. Living that intensely for a single other being is more often than not contrary to the needs and stipulations of Civilization at large. It makes you a freak. And it is beyond the will. You cannot choose your way out of it. It is misery of separation or the world's daily assault against the perfection it cannot permit to exist. Imagine having that load hoisted upon your shoulders as a teenager. I love that Twilight makes its lovers suffer through at least two books' worth of pain, inconvenience, destruction, chaos, separation, despair, societal alienation, family machinations, etc. I can't conceive of anything so miserably dangerous as finding out, at any age, but especially at a young age, that there is another person upon whom your happiness, perhaps your very existence, depends. Because of this, I don't mind the sullen behavior, nor the morose portrayals of the main characters. It thrills me in the same way (though certainly not to the same degree) as the above mentioned works of literary genius. And thankfully, Twilight doesn't stop there. The author wasn't afraid to show that there is a glorious side to that kind of love. If the people involved are willing to wager all and accept no substitutes.

I could go on. But the above points suffice. Hopefully. Look, I'm just asking you to give the movie, and the people who can't help but love it, a chance. Don't look down your nose at it just because bazillions of ditzy teenage girls are screaming themselves hoarse over it. Don't give up on it just because the whole thing seems, on the surface, to revolve around a buffed up teenage werewolf and a skinny, mopey vampire taking their shirts off.

Open your mind and heart to the possibility that people like me exist. And we just might be right.

samedi, décembre 12, 2009

Unearthed Musicana

How does Peter Gabriel's album So escape people's "Best Albums of all Time" lists? Give it a listen. I don't care if several of the songs reached self parody status because of over exposure in the 80's. Even a 5 song EP with Mercy Street, Your Eyes, Red Rain, Don't Give Up, and Sledgehammer would merit consideration for All Time Greatness. If this were all he ever did, it suffices for immortality.

Speaking of which, a friend of mine and I recently performed at a local bar. When she wanted to do a Courtney Love song, I balked, having always found the former Mrs. Cobain loathsome, and believing that she was absolutely responsible in some way for her late, great, husband's death. But upon hearing the song Malibu, I forgave her everything. I remembered watching Immortal Beloved, wherein the woman Beethoven had terrorized (and loved) says: "I forgave him because of the Ode to Joy." I remembered reading an interview with Morrissey wherein he stated that David Bowie is pardoned of all sins because of Drive-In Saturday. Courtney Love is certainly no Beethoven or Bowie, but Malibu is that kind of achievement. If it were her only accomplishment, she could still be called great. And even Love haters would have to admit the greatness of at least that song.
It occurred to us, that every performer/band has their very own Malibu. The song that even detractors must accept. The song that makes you forgive them. Even non Smiths fans cannot dismiss There is a Light That Never Goes Out. It is too beautiful. Even non Bowie fans have to love The Man Who Sold the World, and/or Drive In Saturday. And for the greatness of these offerings you forgive his fop-pop in the 80's, and his hair in Labyrinth, and the fact that he made himself a publicly traded commodity (you see why he needs at least two). You might hate Metallica, but you can't help but rock out to Enter Sandman. ETC.

It isn't just picking the ear candy out of some one's catalogue. Think of every great band you like. They have to have at least one song that grabs the world and says: "judge me by this." Really great songwriters have several, in many cases because they need that much forgiveness. Often you discover these songs because bands you actually like cover them, and you realize, "I was never really into Michael Jackson, but that version of Smooth Criminal is coolness."

Can you think of any more examples?

What's your Malibu?

samedi, décembre 05, 2009


[Editor's note - The ostensible plan was to allow the author to let his mind wander, stream of conscious style, and record each thought as it occurred, to the delight of a wide range of consumer demographics. However, the initial result was slightly darker than this space usually exhibits. In point of fact that composition, consisting of a question about the ever decreasing life in the battery of his lap top, which led to a bleak meditation on decaying love and lifelong dreams being deferred until the soul itself is a dry husk, which then actually became an immense black hole sucking all life and light into a dark core of nothingness, the location of which in the cosmos can be inferred by its gravitational effect on nearby stars and planets. With that boil lanced and deleted, the author was free to let his mind wander into strawberry fields. It is hoped that the reader will delight therein, though the fate of the cosmos (vis-a-vis the aforementioned black hole) remains, at best, questionable.]

*For my money, John Hodgeman's The Areas of My Expertise is the funniest book ever written. Every page is purest gold. Even the outside cover is delicious. It even contains a chapter entitled Those 500 Hobo Names You Requested. Need I say more? Find it. Buy it. You will thank me. And you'll owe me for a thousand and one smiles and delightful conversations.

Speaking of smiles . . .

*Armed with donated gift cards, I had the priviledge of taking a kid from the shelter to Pac Sun [super hip clothing store for tweeners, teens, and twentysomethings - ed.] and was impressed with their cutting edge set up. Problem: the young person in question has a 38 inch waist. There were only two pair of super hip jeans with a waist over 34, and they were 36's. Conundrum #1: On the one hand, I was absolutely sympathetic and supportive to the chubby teen, who is a really great guy who is in the process of overcoming a very difficult childhood. On the other, I was rejoicing inside that there was a retailer willing to bring the hammer down. How to put it diplomatically that you are secretly, and yes, uncharitably, glad that the fashion industry so blatantly marginalizes the more generously appointed? Conundrum #2: since when did skinny jeans become mandatory? I love a trim line, but I do not need jeans that grip tightly around my knees and ankles. I don't understand their range of cuts, which was "skinny" on the wide end, and "tighter than Billy Idol's leather pants from the 80's" on the other. Conundrum #3: PRICES. After shopping so long at second hand stores and bargain outlets, the idea of paying more than 20 dollars for a pair of pants sends my mind reeling. Some of the jeans in that place were $50. And that's a bargain to the fashion forward. I've seen jeans selling in the $80 -$200 range and thought: I am a country mile behind the world. If I won the lottery I wouldn't pay that. If George Soros paid me Al Gore money to tell America how stupid and evil it is, I still wouldn't pay half that. It is beyond my comprehension. Dang I'm poor.

Perhaps the dominance of the skinny jean paradigm is God's way of ending the bitter, loathsome scourge of sagging, baggy jeans. My prayers that he simply use the Smite App. on his Celestial i-phone have been long unheeded. But now I see. No lightning bolt, no foul disease, no earthquake or pestilence could make them see how disgusting they look. They will never see the folly of sagging their pants so low they cannot even run from the cops who should soon be arresting them. But soon, they will be marginalized along with fatty. They will wear sweat pants in public or they will step reluctantly into the light. The nightmare of boxer shorts and butt cracks will have an ending.

Speaking of endings . . .
*LOST is coming back. The YouTube promo almost rekindles some of the early enthusiasm I felt for that magical show. The fact is, we have to know. We have to know how it ends. And isn't it a relief to see a show that says: This is it. We are ending it. We will not compromise our artifact for profit. I wish more shows would know when to call it quits. Like Flight of the Conchords. Like Extras (and almost every other BBC show, including the original Office). Like Arrested Development (Please don't make the movie! People THINK they want it, but they will rue the day.)

Speaking of ruing the day . . .

*Christmas time rolls around once a year to remind us that Jim Carry will burn a thousand years in the ninth circle of Hell for his portrayal of the Grinch. Only his stint as the producer and narrator of Arrested Development has earned Ron Howard a provisional pardon. I heard that horrible "Where are you, Christmas?" song in the store the other day and went into convulsions. It's almost as bad as the torturous "Feliz Navidad." Here are the lyrics I hear every time it putrefies the airwaves:
Here's a Spanish phrase.
Which I'll blast in your face.
Let me say it again and again and again with a blah blah blah.
Now I'll sing the same thing in English.
Now let me sing the same thing in English.
One more time I'll say it in English from the bottom of my heart.
Here it comes again.
Do you wish you were dead?
This song never ends and prospero blah blow blah blah blah blah blah.

Try it, it matches up. [Addendum: In several states it is not considered murder if you kill the composer and/or performer of that song. I'm not saying; I'm just saying -ed.] If that song is now stuck in your head, you'll be wanting to kill ME, so we'd better close with a palette cleanser. Where does the mind wish to meander.

Still Christmas.

I was 7 years old when I figured it out. I got up in the middle of the night to pee and saw my parents wrapping gifts that were supposed to be from Santa. They didn't see me. For their sake I lied about believing in Santa for another year or two. I also continued to lie to my friends about believing. I didn't want to make waves. It was such a relief when the cat was out of the bag for everyone involved.

If you don't watch A Christmas Story and Dr. Seuss' ORIGINAL animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas sometime this month, you are inartistic, ignoble, uninspired, and unamerican.

Happy Holidays!