please stop tickling me

In which we laugh and laugh and laugh. And love. And drink.

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Location: Portland, Oregon

Otium cum Dignitatae

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Another One From The Vaults

(This is another piece from The Antagonist, my old 'zine. Yes folks, in the world shortly before the 'blog, there were several of us weirdoes out there in the world who spent a lot of our time at Kinko's, obsessively cutting-and-pasting for the benefit of almost no readership, and...Well...
(So, there was this bunch of pictures of Jackie O set up near the food court of a mall in downtown Portland. It was being promoted as an art exhibit, and I decided to review it as if it actually were.)

(First, I include a quotation:)
"For what has any consumer ever wanted but to purchase time's defeat and raise yesterday's dead?" -Richard Powers

"Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: The Making of a First Lady"- photos by Jacques Lowe, main floor atrium, Pioneer Place, through September 24, 1998

This isn't art photography. It sort of seems like an exhibit, but is actually about, or a celebration of...A fashion goddess? That's why it was in Pioneer Place, and not a gallery.
About the pictures themselves: pretty good work. They range from carefully staged, posed shots to large shots of crowds (where everyone is at least somewhat candid), to slice-of-life type shots. You shall know which each one is by their title cards.

The title cards are the real story, and they are what I'm actually reviewing. They're nice pictures, but the text is what's really remarkable.
I mean, this isn't here for Art, but has some of art's pretensions (Lowe is referred to as being "recognized as internationally as one of the most renowned photographers of our time" -which strikes me as both redundant and untrue).

It also is not about history, really, so I guess it's all about Jackie, and what made her a fashion goddess. Why? Because she was the first First Lady in modern memory that didn't look like Mom, that's why.
Then again, Jack was the first president in modern memory that didn't look like Grampa. He had an awful lot of Fuck You in his attitude. One of the photos shows he and Jackie at the opera, or some society function that requires balconies anyway, and the title card quotes Jack as saying, "I think this is an ideal way to spend an evening; you looking up at us and we looking down at you."
A lady near me noted this lack of humility out loud, and I noted to myself: yeah, he said that a couple of times. Most famously, there was the time whe somebody called him on the fact that he was rich as hell, and had pretty much had his whole life handed to him. He responded, "Life is not fair."

Heh heh, nooo it's not...There are pictures of early campaign rallies where maybe three or four people show up. Yeah- let history never forget- at first it was like that, until they made a deal with the southern Demos and started spreading the wealth around. They literally had people in West Virginia walking around handing out ten dollar bills.
(In retrospect, there was a lot more to it than that, and the West Virginia story might be entirely bullshit. Just sayin'.)

We see the happy couple at another campaign stop in Coos Bay, Or. The title card notes, "Chatting with a longshoreman; was there anyone she could not charm?" Well, God knows longshoremen usually ignore beautiful women.

It's just too easy to Monday Morning Quarterback history. But- of course Nikita Krushchev is going to smile when he's being photographed talking to the First Lady of the United States. It's what They, The Mighty do, if I'm not mistaken: I've seen all these pictures of 'em.
So the card says, "Krushchev adored Jackie instantly." Well yes, I can see the big smile, and he would have been smiling even still had she looked like a fire hydrant. He had no idea that he'd be proving some faux-historian's point for him, 30-some odd down the road.

Another 'well-that's-hard-to-say' moment for me came later with a picture of the inauguration. The tile card refers to it as "the most memorable inauguration speech in history." I don't remember any of the details from any of the other ones for that matter, and I think that's no accident.
( Of course, thinking about it now, I can recall plenty of other inauguration speeches, and would posit that the above lazy didactic has more to do with that particular speech being watched by so many on television.)
If you ask me, he said all the brave-sounding things new presidents say when they've just stepped off the train from Mere Politiciansville. It's just that he died young, you see.

A good half of the title cards contain some permutation of the phrase, 'this was the last time they would ever...': last time the whole family would be in one room without one of them being in a coffin, last time Jack and Jackie leave their little flat in Georgetown, and my fave; Jackie in a great dress, and it says, "From this day forward, she would be imitated in everything she did." Yup. Suddenly everybody had that stupid accent.
(Oddly, even the popular stage show about the Kennedys - The First Family starring Vaughn Meader- which was a pretty gentle piece of satire, couldn't help making fun of it a little.)

I just can't take it. Here is a picture from the inauguration again. The title card, in some desperate attempt to make Jackie other-than-human, says, "Somehow Jackie, wearing a white pillow-box (sic) hat and white coat" (manages to stand out in an enormous crowd of men wearing black).

This sort of twaddle continues: "The quintessential Jackie: Regal. Serene. Astonishingly beautiful. Exuding inner strength and a certainty of purpose." And a tremendous need to marry Up. To find someone rich enough to sustain her in the lifestyle to which she had become accustomed, as her own family fortune was no longer as strong as could be...
(Even for the writing style of Me, Ten Years Ago, this seems unnecessarily harsh. It would have been funnier too if I'd maybe gone on with the ridiculous hyperbole of the sentence I'm parodying and said, for instance, "With the strength of ten cows. Able to melt lampposts with her gaze." Oh well.)

So she became a political asset to a young, rich person on the rise, and they had children. Jackie is quoted as saying that if one bungles the raising of kids, one has bungled the biggest job in the world. "She didn't bungle," the title card reassures us.

So, no disrespect to Jackie really. On one hand because everybody knows that Dead People Are A-ngels and also because none of this shit is her fault. It's yet another dash of lazy history, mixed with so-called Populist Art, and finally it's just another way to sell clothes.
(As evidenced by the Jackie-inspired Chanel showcase nearby.)

A young lady next to me, truly in awe, said, "She was so beautiful. So, so beautiful...Like Natalie Wood or something. Really beautiful."
I didn't know what to say except, "Yer supposed to say she looked like Audrey Hepburn."

(Natalie Wood is the better comparison though, I now think.)


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When A Man Loves A Book Premise

Whenever I find myself reading Anthony Bourdain, I think the same thing that plenty of other people have clearly already thought and have acted on: if I were to write a tell-all about the profession I work in, how would I deal with the question of "names changed to protect the innocent/guilty"?
Having crammed much of my ouvre into the writing of blogs for the last three years, I'm operating under a guideline of my own. To wit:
The circumstances under which I will use actual names of people is when a) they are dead, b) they are crooks, and deserve infamy, c) they already use their actual name on the internet [ala George], and d) they are famous.

So that being said, I would still want to reward to the good and humiliate the bad, were I to write a Backstage Confidential, but I probably wouldn't. There's such thing as lawsuits.
And uh, 'Backstage Confidential'? Too many books use this construction in their titles. Were I to write a confessional about being a stagehand, so many titles suggest themselves from the highly ritualized argot used by the hands themselves:

What, are ya' New?
A Day at Dimmer Beach
Heavy Things in High Places
Subs, Socas and Cheeseboroughs
You vs. Gravity
Breaking A Leg
Show Blacks
When A Roadie and A Stagehand Love Each Other Very Much...
Yer Killin' Me

Actually, all the above strike me as decent chapter names, not book titles. I'm tempted, as usual, to use Gore Vidal's To Do Well What Should Not Be Done At All, but I don't know about that. I could use Wheels to Jesus, which as I've noted before is a MySpace page for a guy who -it turns out- lives here and was my boss for much of this last summer. Perhaps my own There's Plenty of Businesses Like Show Business (which I think I got off of a bathroom wall, actually), would suffice.
The fun thing is that really, I could just copy much of what I have already written here. The last three years mark my transition from guy-who-occasionally-does-stagehanding-shit to year-round stagehand, and it's an intoxicating saga: a journey into one man's soul.

It'd make a great reality show too, I've always thought.

Or 'unscripted series', to use a description I prefer for reality shows that are actually documentaries. You know, as opposed to The Hills or something, where all that's happening is a bunch of idiots who are aware that they're on teevee sit there and live out their not-especially-interesting lives whilst being manipulated by producers.
Shows like Axe Men, The Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers and...(Whatever the one about oil field workers is) are my favorites because despite the obvious presence of cameras, the subjects are all too busy doing their jobs (and trying not to get killed) to dissemble.

Oddly, all of those are about industries that are directly affecting the health of our planet in terrible, terrible ways. Hmm.

So I was standing stage right -'dimmer beach'- at the Carrie Underwood show the other night, and found myself wondering yet again why the Guns n' Roses song "Paradise City" has become everyone's property, somehow. I did note that the song, like Pat Benatar's immortal "Hit Me With Your Best Shot", is on the top ten list of Drunk Girl's Karaoke Greatest Hits, generally performed by a lineup of shamefully smashed women just prior to bar close.
I couldn't keep her name straight, with my mind heading to 'Carrie Bradshaw' or 'Kelly Clarkson' every time I tried to utter it that day. She's really boring, but again, the place was packed to the rafters.

I even could have written a pretty good book about restaurants, having worked in all aspects of that industry (and some time in catering, as well) for roughly ten years. But so many people have, and well...
Besides, we already have M. Bourdain, who is above all else a good writer. Even his crime novels certainly have their moments, and his monograph on Typhoid Mary is fascinating.
Could I do the same, with historical overview, for my profession? Yes, yes I think I could.

But I gotta finish those other three books I'm writing first.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Six Degrees of Chuck

Wow. Mitch Mitchell, the little tiny degenerate-looking drummer from The Jimi Hendrix Experience, has chosen a room in the Benson Hotel in Portland as the place to die. He was here as part of what is called the Experience Hendrix Tour, I believe: a show lots of folks were looking forward to working/seeing, but I didn't get called to.

His drumming on the song 'Fire' was the first time I ever consciously noticed that there was something more to rhythm than good ol' boom-chick. Imagine if they ever played 'Manic Depression' on classic rock radio.
And he was the last member of the Experience to die. I note, via a quick check on that Noel Redding died, quite without my notice, five years ago.

This follows closely on the heels of Miriam Makeba and Yma Sumac dying, of course. I am not sure what the Law of Threes would say on this one, since those two would seem to paired with Studs Terkel -who was not a musician- and Mitch Mitchell who didn't sing. Perhaps Levi Stubbs (of The Temptations) was an early number one of three, and the cycle is over.

But Yma Sumac, I learned from the New York Times crossword puzzle, was in a movie called "Secret of the Incas" with Charlton Heston. I can sort of imagine it (well, the movie isn't obtainable on DVD, so I have to imagine it): Chuck looking like Indiana Jones, replete with whip, stumbles into a clearing high in the mountains of Peru, only to find Yma Sumac, no doubt fronting a sizable band, already deep into the mambo.

Actually, what IMDB has to say about it is that Heston's character, an adventurer named Harry Steele,
"...teams up with Elena Antonescu (Nicole Maurey), an Iron Curtain refugee fleeing from the MKVD. Is there a chance they will end up in a bickering love-hate relationship?...Is there a chance that Yma Sumac (billed third on the posters and ads and special billed in the film), who can't act but can sing, will sing a few songs?...Is there a chance that these trite-sounding questions will develop into a film that is far from trite and vastly entertaining? Dang right, there is."

The fact that Chuck's character is named a short, simple, blunt & decisive homophone for 'hairy steel' is no accident. He seems to have spent his entire career inhabiting characters similarly named. Indeed, his first film, a 1941 adaptation of "Peer Gynt" had him in the lead role. And after that we have him as:
Boake Tackman in "Ruby Gentry" (1952)
The same year, he appears as Brad Braden (someone was working overtime on that one), circus manager extraordinaire, in "The Greatest Show on Earth", which was an Oscar winner for best picture and best writing. It's still a fucking hilarious movie in all the ways that were not intended. Any time Chuck opens his mouth, it's funny, in the same way that Walter Brennan, Andy Devine and Gabby Hayes always are, except they never told themselves they were Great Actors, I suspect.
(Oh, and every stagehand should see this, if only for the extensive rigging-with-nothin'-but-lotsa-ropes sequences.)

Ed Bannon in "Arrowhead" (1953)

In the Netflix description for "The Naked Jungle" (1954), he isn't named, but is described as 'a rugged, self-made man'. The title is hilarious because I believe it to be a conflation of both "The Naked City" and "The Asphalt Jungle", which had both done pretty well right before this.

Capt. Colt Saunders in the imaginatively named "Three Violent People" (1957)
Steve Leech in "The Big Country" (1958)
Hank O'Hara in "Skyjacked" (1972)
Detective Robert Thorn in "Soylent Green" (1973)
Alan Murdock in "Airport 1975" (1974)
Sam Burgard in "The Last Hard Men" (1976)
Lee Cahill in "The Nairobi Affair" (1984)
and 'Good Actor' in "Wayne's World Two" (1993).

At various points in his life, Chuck got to portray Moses, God, Andrew Jackson, Marc Antony (on at least two occasions), Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII, Michealangelo, John the Baptist, Thomas Jefferson (on several occasions), El Cid, Lt. William Clark (of, you know, 'Lewis and...' fame), Buffalo Bill Cody, and MacBeth (on television, as is the case with most of these roles).

So he was already known as one of the biggest scenery-chewers in the bizness, and yet continued falling higher and higher (from Moses in "The Ten Commandments" to God in "The Greatest Story Ever Told"?). He was not a good actor at all, but I could watch the guy read a phone book. Of course, it figures that he'd spend his golden years making weird religious documentaries.

Among these are "Mysterious Origins of Man" (1999), which Netflix describes thusly: "Among its more provocative assertions is that humans actually lived with dinosaurs, a conclusion based on evidence recovered from Peruvian grave robbers and other evidence that has long been locked away in museum storage."
Um, so after Indiana Jones leaves Yma Sumac mambo-ing high atop Macchu Picchu, he enters into more or less open war with those damn bureaucrats and ivory tower pointy-headed intellectuals who want to take our guns and hide all the evidence of...Several different crackpot theories coming strangely together?
The synopsis also notes "The program originally aired on NBC amid a considerable cloud of controversy in 1996." NBC? Really? The Liberal Media?

After that, he tackles the hard facts on "The Garden of Eden" (2003), "Jonah and the Whale" (also 2003), "Samson and Delilah" (these are all from 2003), "Sodom and Gomorrah", "David and Goliath", "Joshua and the Battle of Jericho", "Joseph and the Coat of Many Colors", "Daniel and the Lion's Den" and "The Last Supper, Crucifixion and Resurrection". These are all described as "colorfully animated", although by the time we get to the crucifixion, it is demoted to "in an animated fashion (emphasis mine)".
So yeah; they're all for kids. Although I believe I've seen live-action Chuck in the Holy Land, explaining the Bible times, too. After this, he records a salute to Ed Sullivan and moves on to something called "America Home of the Brave" (2004), in which
"An all-star lineup of Hollywood celebrities -- including Charlton Heston, Chuck Norris and Tom Selleck -- pay tribute to the patriotic past of the United States with musings about the Old West, the Civil War and a trove of national treasures. Other stars of epic films... weigh in on the importance of honoring America's history."

Well, that sounds great...His last project was a Vietnam retrospective, which I've not seen...
Really though, there are just those people who on some level deep down -against all evidence to the contrary- you suspect will never die. Chuck Heston was one of them, as he seemed to spring from the Earth Itself, and was carved out of solid oak. Or granite. Mike Granite! Self made, grizzled, determined man!

And a full-on jackass, in so many ways. Another one of the many examples of how professional pains-in-the-ass just keep on keepin' on, largely because the rest of us believe that if we humor them long enough, maybe they'll go away. They never do, and ultimately leave the stage only when God (as portrayed by Charlton Heston?) commands them to do so.

So we bid farewell to Yma Sumac, who had a five-octave range, went out of her way to obscure her origins (including the strong possibility that she was really a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn named Amy Camus, not a Peruvian priestess at all), and seems to have lived by her own terms, which I think we'd all like.
Farewell also to Mitch Mitchell, a really good drummer who thrived, despite being only three feet tall. Nah, but really though: all the great ones are leaving the stage, as is the case, of course, with us all. It's just strange to note it.

Actually, that wasn't my point; I just wanted to write something about Charlton Heston because he amused me so much.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Where Music Comes From

I really try not to write too much about those albums where most of the critical community has already decided they are classic. As much as I agree that the Stones' Exile On Main Street is probably the best album rock n' roll has produced yet, I'm not in a big hurry to simply add my voice to that chorus. Same with Public Enemy's It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back; it was a game changer, both musically and politically. But do I want to be the millionth-and-one to say that?

However, there are those cases where everybody seems to have the same admiration for the album, but it'd take too long to examine why. Case in point; The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs, from 1999.
It merits inclusion in the canon of the truly great rock n' roll records -somewhere near The Who's Tommy, I'd wager- because it wants to be so many different things and actually pulls it off. It could be viewed as an attempt to write an entire new set of torch song standards, a basis for what could certainly be the greatest musical ever written, an earnest attempt to explore every aspect of both love and love songs, at times a celebration of music itself, and finally, one of the best musical in-jokes I've heard.

Trouble is, it really is sixty-nine songs long (they wanted it to be a hundred, and I believe they actually recorded that many), and takes up three CDs. To review it is like reviewing a David Lean epic motion picture. This may very well be why so many record reviewers at the time chose to more or less say "I like it! I really, really like it!", and move on.
Also, the damn thing comes with a pretty lengthy booklet that attempts to explain itself in the form of an interview with the sole songwriter, Stephen Meritt. Generally I would be against such things, but he's just so damn funny and smart, he gets a pass.

(Kudos too for trying to do something new with what is easily the most written-about topic in the entire history of music.)

"Don't fall in love with me," the first song begins, abruptly. Over a riot of music that on further listening turns out to be a ukelele backed with a loop of that testing tone that used to appear at the beginning and end of all cassette tapes, 'Absolutely Cuckoo' is sung as a round:

"Don't fall in love with me yet/ we only recently met/ true I'm in love with you/ but you might decide that I'm a nut/ give me a week or two/ to go absolutely cuckoo/ then, when you see your error/ then, you can flee in terror/ like everybody else does/ I'm only telling you this 'cause/ I'm easy to get rid of/ but not if you fall in love/ Know now that I'm on the make/ and if you make a mistake/ my heart will certainly break/ I'll have to jump in a lake/ and all my friends will blame you/ there's no telling what they'll do/ It's only fair to tell you/ I'm absolutely cuckoo"

Then it repeats. It's the kind of thing you wish that people would actually say to each other, and then you remember: sometimes they do. Also, the childlike rhyming makes it palatable and charming rather than menacing. Already the album establishes itself as being realistic, but arch and wry, able to laugh at itself.

That same ability comes in handy on the next one, 'I Don't Believe In The Sun'. It is every bit the adolescent, wayyy over dramatic, self-pitying song that the title suggests. But remember: you've felt this way too, and not just when you were a teenager.
In fact, since so many love songs are about the loss of love rather than just plain old love, it requires a certain touch to try to redefine the genre. This particular song is devastatingly plain about how bad the author feels, but also with that fantastic gallows humor that all of us develop, after a while:
"The only stars/ there really are/ were shining in your eyes
There is no sun/ except the one/ that never shone on other guys
The moon to whom/ the poets croon/ has given up/ and died
Astronomy/ will have to be/ revised"

A quick look over the track listings presents a classification system, for those seeking a taxonomy of the Sixty-Nine:

Tracks specifically making fun of other musical genres: 'Punk Love', 'Experimental Music Love', 'World Love' and 'Love Is Like Jazz'

Tracks either poking fun or offering homage to other genres or groups: 'Sweet Lovin' Man' could easily be a song by somebody like Sheryl Crow. 'Long Forgotten Fairytale' could be Human League. 'The Sun Goes Down and the World Goes Dancing' pretty much is a Depeche Mode song. 'Abigail, Belle of Kilronan' is a spot-on satire of that maudlin Irish folk song that insists on mixing love with warfare and suffering. 'Wi Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget' goes even deeper into Irish folk. 'Yeah! Oh Yeah!' sounds like something Phil Spector produced. 'For We Are the King of the Boudoir' has a harpsichord as its chief instrument, and could easily be a madrigal. 'Acoustic Guitar' sounds like someone's way too earnest effort at a coffeehouse open mike.

Tracks from the version of the album back when they were considering making it alphabetical (and presumably, shorter): 'Underwear', 'Xylophone Track', 'Zebra', others.

Tracks that could easily be turned into country songs: almost all of them, but especially 'The One You Really Love', which could be a Carter Family song, with very little alteration.

Again, if I sit here and break down each song piece by piece, we'll be here all month. I almost want to do it though, since Stephen Merritt is just that good, and raises so many feelings in so many ways. He's the Cole Porter of his generation, and I'm not just saying that because he's gay: He holds a title in my book that no one else is even in competition for.

Line by line? Is that the way to do it?
"You are a splendid butterfly/ it is your wings that make you beautiful
and I could make you fly away/ but I could never make you stay..."
-'All My Little Words'

"We don't have to be stars exploding in the night
or electric eels under the covers
we don't have to be anything quite so unreal
let's just be lovers"
-'A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off'

"Or I could make a career of being blue/ I could dress in black and read Camus
smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth/ like I was seventeen/ that would be a scream"
-'I Don't Want to Get Over You'

"When you betray me, betray me with a kiss/ Damn you, I've never stayed up as late as this"- 'Come Back from San Francisco'

"The book of love has music in it/ in fact that's where music comes from/ some of it is just transcendental/ some of it is just really dumb" -'The Book of Love'

And that's leaving out the songs that are so damn good as a whole that to take one line out of them simply won't do, like the insane wordplay of 'Reno Dakota', the out of control punning of 'Fido, Your Leash is Too Long', the overwhelming double entendres of 'Let's Pretend We're Bunny Rabbits', the spare bitterness accompanied by finger snapping of 'How Fucking Romantic', the tear-jerkingly beautiful imagery of 'Nothing Matters When We're Dancing'. It ends off with the spare banjo and piano of 'The Things We Did and Didn't Do', which might be the greatest song about regret I've ever heard. All I've just covered there is on Disc One alone.

There is a song -'My Only Friend'- that is a Billie Holliday tribute. Busby Berkeley turns up twice, in 'The Way You Say Goodnight' and 'Busby Berkeley Dreams'. The Brill Building makes an appearance in 'Epitaph for My Heart', and the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier shows up in 'The Death of Ferdinand DeSaussure'...Because it rhymes, and show-biz jokes abound here.

But there's a larger message at work in all of these songs. By being so abysmally depressed that someone else's singing is the only thing that can save your life, you take your place in a very long historical line, keeping company with many, many people. The same is true of being happy and content. Having a sense of humor about it too puts you in some fantastic company indeed.

And mixing pretentious in-jokes about obscure and long-dead Swiss linguists with Seussian word play at its finest makes you the kind of poet that people will actually listen to:
"I met Ferdinand DeSaussure/ on a night like this/ on love, he said I'm not so sure/ I even understand what it is/ No understanding, no closure/ it is a nemesis/ You don't use a bulldozer/ to study orchids, he said"

Musical cliches are turned nicely on their ear, like in the album-stopping 'Papa Was a Rodeo':
"Papa was a rodeo/ mama was a rock n' roll band/ I could play guitar and rope a steer/ before I learned to stand/ home was anywhere with diesel gas/ love was a trucker's hand/ never hung around long enough for a one-night stand..."

It could be any country song, but at first it sounds like a conversation between two men in a redneck bar who are discreetly discussing leaving together:
"I like your twisted point of view, Mike/ I like your questioning eyebrows/ you've made it pretty clear what you like/ it's only fair to tell you now/ that I leave early in the morning/ and I won't be back 'til next year/ I see that kiss-me pucker forming/ but maybe you should plug it/ with a beer"

And we can't resist the urge to go a little existential here, because we're not stupid people, and even when we're picking each other up in bars, we are still thinking about things:
"The light reflecting off the mirror ball/ looks like a thousand swirling eyes/ they make think I shouldn't be here at all/ you know, every minute someone dies/ what are we doing in this dive bar?/ How can you live in a place like this?/ Why don't you just get into my car/ and I'll take you away, I'll take that/ kiss now"

"And now it's fifty-five years later/ we've had the romance of a century/ after all these years wrestlin' gators/ I still feel like cryin' when I think of what you said to me:"
And then Claudia Gonson steps in and sings the chorus again. She is the one who has been the narrarator the entire time, not Stephen Merritt. This is exactly the kind of bait-and-switch that a country song writer would use: you thought they were gay, didn't you?

A Bo Diddley barnburner like 'I'm Sorry I Love You' still has, amidst its bluster, the weird sort of overthinking that you do when you're confused and in love-or-something:
"A simple rose in your garden dwells
like any rose, it's not itself
it is my love, in your garden grows
but let's pretend it's just a rose"

There's a couple of songs that more or less make their points while also really showcasing how much fun he's having just writing songs. 'Love Is Like A Bottle of Gin' is basically a riddle:
"It's very small, and made of glass/ and grossly over-advertised/ it turns a genius to an ass/ and makes a fool think he is wise"
that only gets around to explaining itself in the final verse:
"You just get out what they put in/ and they never put in enough/ love is like a bottle of gin/ but a bottle of gin is not like love"

And love is also like jazz (as in the song 'Love Is Like Jazz'):
"You make it up as you go along/ and you act as if you know the song
but you don't, and you ne-ver willl..."

"It's divine, it's asinine, it's depressing/ And it's almost entirely/ window dressing
(incredibly long pause) But it'll do"

From 'A Pretty Girl is Like...':
"A pretty girl is like a violent crime/ if you do it wrong, you could do time
but when you do it right, it is sublime/ I'm
So in love with you girl, it's like I'm on the moon
I can't really breathe, but I feel lighter..."

But ultimately he is forced to concede:
"A melody is like a pretty girl/ who cares if it's the dumbest in the world?
it's all about the way that it unfurls/ a pretty girl is like/ a pretty girl"

And like love, like life, there is not only an amazing undercurrent of bitterness but also a fair amount of open nastiness. In the oddly Stevie Nicks-esque song 'No One Will Ever Love You', the observation is made that, "No one will ever love you honestly/ no one will ever love you for your honesty". True.

The wall-of-sound song 'Yeah! Oh Yeah!' features a duet between Claudia and Stephen, and concludes this way:
STEPHEN: I've enjoyed making you miserable for years. Found peace of mind in playing on your fears. How I loved to catch your gold and silver tears, but now my dear...

CLAUDIA: What a dark and dreary life. Are you reaching for a knife? Would you really kill your wife?

STEPHEN: Yeah! Oh yeah!

CLAUDIA: Oh I die, I die, I die. So it's over, you and I? Was my whole life just a lie?

STEPHEN: Yeah! Oh yeah!

And 'The One You Really Love', which is a pretty hard song anyway, ends off by reminding the unheard second party in the room that by pining for a dead lover, that means "you're dreaming of/ the corpse you really love"

The very to-the-point 'How Fucking Romantic' has the guest vocalist Dudley Klute admonishing his boyfriend about how stereotypically gay their relationship has become. But really the problem is the relationship itself:
"Love you obviously/ like you really care/ even though you treat me/ like a dancing bear/ toss your bear goldfish/ as it cycles by/ don't forget to feed your bear, or it'll die"

He does a later song that is about being in a relationship with a guy that beats you, and your associated self-delusions, called 'Long Forgotten Fairytale'.

In the song 'Meaningless', he is forced to admit that a recently ended thing was entirely without point, but at the same time, it is:
"deliciously meaningless/ effervescently meaningless/ beautifully meaningless/ profoundly meaningless/ definitively meaningless/ comprehensively meaningless/ magnificently meaningless/ incredibly meaningless/ unprecedentedly meaningless/ mind-blowingly meaningless/" With all of those being separated by a bunch of 'yes yes yes (es)'.

Finally, credit goes above all else to the songs that remind you that there is good things and fun to be had in this whole enterprise of lovin', livin' n' dyin':

"This too shall pass, so raise your glass to change and chance/ and freedom is the only law, shall we dance?"- 'World Love'

"Maybe it's you/ you know, your eyes are awful blue/ maybe it's more/ maybe you're all I ever waited for/ after all the sleepless nights/ when I wished I could still cry/"-'The Sun Goes Down and the World Goes Dancing'

"Washington, D.C./ it's the greatest place to be/ it's not the cherries everywhere in bloom/ it's not the way they put folks on the moon/ no no no/ it's not the spectacle and pageantry/ the thousand things you've got to see/ it's just that's where my baby waits for me"
- 'Washington, D.C.'

"My girl is the queen of the jungle folk/ you should see the things we see when we smoke/ we think all of life is a funny joke/ she's sharp as a tack/ I don't care if I never get back"- 'Queen of the Savages'

There are songs about the little pleasures of watching your lover asleep, and just appreciating how they say goodnight (as well as grudgingly appreciating how well they say goodbye), the pleasure of fucking, and of dancing, a song about the pleasures of anonymous sex, the mixed feelings generated by semi-anonymous sex that results in pregnancy:
"No rose conveyed your sentiments/ not even a petunia/ but you've got vague presentiments/ and I've got little junior"- 'The Night You Can't Remember'

They manage to get away with the line "I love it when you give me things" (in 'The Book of Love') because you know what they mean, and more importantly what they don't mean.

And again, the last song is called 'Zebra', because he thought the whole thing should end with a 'z'. It's a screamingly funny little song about a spoiled rich lady who already has everything asking her husband for, ultimately, another zebra, because, "Zelda looks lonely".

Like I said, trying to review the damn thing is like reviewing an encyclopedia: the wise do not attempt it. Or like critiquing a life; you can't, really. By my count, there's twenty-four songs that I didn't even get into, and a couple of them are my favorites. Really, just had to say this: I like it. I really, really like it.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Glenn McCoy is a fucking idiot

But on the other hand, someone on (responding to this comic) just said "Obama won, get over it," and you know how I feel about that.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Another Fantastic Idea

This morning I had a work dream. A gig of indeterminate nature located on the sunny acres of some large campus of some kind, somewhere. Bee came along just to hang out, kinda, and sit in the sun.

At some point, I was actually in the basement of some building, and after several lunches (this is a fairly realistic detail, actually), I was working with several others under the stewardship of a domineering woman with heels that clopped like horses' hooves.
That too is a pretty true-to-life tidbit: I was working for someone like that last week, except that she's tiny and never wears heels, I bet. The fun thing is, every time I've had a boss like that, the distant approach of hoofbeats, while no doubt filling their wearer with pride and a sense of great power, served mostly as a warning to the rest of us to go hide somewhere.

I went over to another part of this (I'm now noticing) increasingly filthy basement, where I interrupted the guy making the food delivery for the day. In the middle of the floor, there are scattered, torn open boxes, and a small four-legged figure dancing about in the wreckage.
"You found a chihuahua in your shipment of beans?" I ask the delivery man.
He muttered something in Spanglish about 'ugly goat', and I wandered away.

Toward the end of the day, I'm sitting there with several other stagehands, and The Stagehand Who Is Actually Named Dan Fogelberg pulls out a Zune (as I recall from real life that he prefers them to Ipods) and starts playing us a recent live recording by what he said was his band.
It starts out with solemn, over-serious sounding guitar picking that fairly well announced that here is a song that must be listened to for its fantastic, life-changing content. This illusion was broken by the lead singer, who sang in a high falsetto, "FA-FFLES...I'M QUI-EEET...FA-FFLES...I'M HEEERE..."

When I awoke immediately after, I laid there thinking up more lyrics to "Faffles", and starting to scheme about possibly writing a musical. "Faffles! On Broadway!", I believe it would be called, and while you never actually meet the lead character ('Faffles' perhaps could be represented, like at many a Christmas paegent, by a light bulb), all the songs sung by each of the characters would be about the life of Faffles, different aspects of Faffles's personality, and finally, Faffles's end.

That's where Fogelberg's song comes in. The arrival of the person singing those lines would spell Faffles' doom. To Reader's Digest-ize it a bit, perhaps that song could be called "I Am Faffles's Multiple Myeloma". Or maybe -maybe- we go deeper than that, into the realm of Opera. This is Faffles's nemesis, and as Faffles is seemingly eternal, he/she/it has been ardently pursued throughout the ages by this unstoppable enemy, who finally catches up in the final act.

Ahh...Tomorrow: probably more writing about politics.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

...And another thing...

The last people to commit voter fraud in Oregon were You People as well. Remember 2004? Nice fella in downtown, supposedly registering voters. He was caught by a local teevee news crew throwing away all the Democratic registrations.
When confronted about this by the news team, he laughed and said it was okay; his boss told him to do this. They countered that it was not okay, but more like a felony. He looked a little shaken, and noted that there were many others working for his organization all over the tri-county area.

Oregon has been generally Democratic for so long, it might almost look like a conspiracy. In fact, it's just an urban/rural split, with the rurals being pretty decidedly GOP, so you could see why one might attempt election fraud in the middle of the big, bad city.

But You People also spend a lot of your time whining when you have everything you want: endless war on several fronts, big profits for our beloved corporations, unions in terrified retreat, keepin' the fags n' niggers in their place, Christianity at its blinkered, hateful worst on the march with encouragement from the Damn Gummint itself, civil liberties widely viewed as selfish bullshit at its best, the endless pandering to humanity's worst impulses- need I go on?

Having all this plus a majority on the Supreme Court, you nonetheless continued on with the rhetoric of an embattled minority, which is what you always, paradoxically, do. But let's remember: I have a hell of a lot more to be angry about than you do at this point, Slim, and let me just say that I handle it better than you ever have.

Enough with trying to push lying bastards who hate government into governmental jobs. I, nor any other thinking individual, would employ a plumber who earnestly believes that central plumbing is evil, and must be destroyed, either. Telling us all, with your best shiny-eyed ardor, that government doing things for people in need is inherently evil, and let's just let churches and charities take up the slack, shows you for the inexcusable liar you are, and you know it. Despite you repeated inistence on parroting back every talking point favored by some mouth-breather like Sean Hannity, deep down this thing isn't even ideological for you: just money and power, and I hope they fucking paid you well.

Your brightest thinkers are, these days, understanding that they've lost any sort of substantive debate as to whether or not there's such thing as catastrophic global temperature change going on, and have instead commenced whining about how unfair it is that their viewpoint isn't given equal time. This is also true of the anti-scientific belief system known as Intelligent Design.
Remember: you had your chance to make your case. You did, and it was found wanting. Now you're busy calling the rest of us Nazis for telling you to fuck off and leave the real thinkers alone. Good luck with that.

Again, if you could do us all a favor and stop undermining society for a few years, that'd be great. The rest of us have some serious cleaning to do here. Obviously, I'm not just talking about Reinhard anymore, but does it really matter? The liberal desire to view people on a case-by-case basis and not generalize just falls apart when it comes to carp like him.