Saturday, May 30, 2015

Saturday morning videos 3

Guitar strapped around her shoulders like a forever-young Jewel. Abbey with her infectious smile and mounds of blond hair that can never grow old and the repertoire of standards. "Oh, You Beautiful Doll," "Alexander's Ragtime Band." "A Bicycle Built For Two." She channeled the spirit of tenor Billy Murray yelling upwards into an archaic microphone circa 1906. There was a woman in the audience at Still Waters Nursing Home not even born in. She was born in 1909, making her 106. Abbey went to the slumber-esque piano. "School Days, school days, good old golden rule days..."

I first saw Scissor Sisters on Late Night with Conan O'Brien singing that outing yourself song, "Take Your Mama Out Tonight." My God! Early '70s Elton and honky cat Southern Rock. I heard it all in that song. I want to see neon, jewel encrusted glasses. (How did we never guess they were gay in the 70s) and hot Roxy Music-Tops of the Pops rebellion. Scissor Sisters -- they're now. Contemporary as we say in 2015 versus '70s lingo. One way or another, gay marriage will be legal. And does this song not remind you of Leo Sayer's "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing"?

Meaghan Trainor's novelty hit, that irresistible, somewhat retro-pop ear candy known as "All About That Bass" was all over the place for awhile. Consequently, it was ripe for parody. A lot of those parodies you find on You Tube are forgettable. At least I hope they are. But this one is clever. An accentuated, Meaghan Trainor look-a-like battling writer's block, stringing out ridiculous rhyming words until she hits on gold by singing about her big butt -- it's appealing. The digs at the pop industry and references to obesity and diabetes add to the fun.

Here's my good friend -- musician, singer and actress Nyssa Duchow. From Dubuque, Iowa, Nyssa has never lost her Midwestern values. She has natural effervescence, an affable quality that comes across in her stage performances or just when you're hanging out, talking to her. Don't think she's not tough, though. Nyssa had the guts to strike out on her own in New York where audition after audition, regardless of whether she gets chosen, she perseveres. She also plays a badass violin.

Walking in the dreary coolness this morning. I was thinking of the life of Brian Wilson & wishing there there was one small space in the sky for a bit of sun. And thinkin' 'bout California CALIFORNIA dream of Californication ...California. The tortured genius of Brian Wilson as I walk on such a fall-like day in May. The chewing sound in this song is Paul McCartney eating celery. This song makes me never want to eat a cheeseburger again.

The hairs on the back of your neck will stand erect and there will be screaming and rocks through windows and...the Fire next Time. Don't think about the young rioting blacks called thugs. For this minute, see the mass of white men, women & children gathered around a black body swinging from a tree by a rope. It was a long damn time ago. Why you gotta make everything about race? If you don't do what a cop says, don't be surprised if you get killed. Has nothing to do with race. Why can't they fix their communities? Why keep themselves down? Merry Clayton is an unsung hero of the music of our time. Listen to her stirring cover of Neil Young's "Southern Man." She sang background on the Rolling Stones' "Gimmie Shelter." Here her cover here.

One of my favorite record albums is Sonny and Cher's 1972 All I Ever Need is You chartbuster. I love their cover of this song, which was part of a great soundtrack to the 1991 film, My Girl, set in the early 1970s and staring then child-star Anna Chlumsky. Who cannot love the early '70s? Who cannot love CBS's The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour? Corny jokes. Guests like California Gov. Ronald Reagan, Flip Wilson and Tom Jones? Sonny and Cher are a huge part of what made the '70s great.

1927. Two men. One cock teasin' woman married to another man. Shots rang out at the old sawmill that night. Then it was all dead man blues, I'm telling you. Young Richard Morris Guy worked at the store owned by the man. Fella' got killed one day. Next day, Ol' Rich Guy got a job at the store across the street. Rich Guy taking his girl to see Marshalls and the rest on a hot Saturday night when the Marshallville Municipal Band would "march from the band shelter to the graveyard." I wonder if he was always yappin' even back then. I like to think of him as naive and so, so sprightly. Late nights the real parties started, shooting dice & Poker games on the Negro side of town where the dixieland band played music the Marshallville Municipal Band never touched. 1922. Trixie Smith records "My Man Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll) for Harlem based Black Swan records.

Such a perfect song for the scrawny, poetic punk rocker who yelled, "Jesus died for our sins, but he didn't die for mine," who sang the Springsteen-penned "Because the Night." Here she sings an old standard, a buxom heartbreaker that made the rounds -- sung by the likes of Julie London and Peggy Lee. Patti Smith. I listen. I know she's known heartbreak.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Guardians of purity

We can all conjecture about whether homosexuality and fornication are sins. But it’s universally recognized by reasonable people that violating a child is a sick thing to do. Josh didn’t give a shit. He and his fame whore family would rather prevent gays from getting married, tell you what to do in your sex life and while they’re at it, how to worship.

You better not be one of those United Church of Christ people or you aren’t a true Christian. Wrong interpretation. Hell, you’re probably a secret Muslim.

Sure you expect these kinds of things to happen. It’s only a matter of time before Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum get caught sending erotic text messages to a mistress or in the black book of some gay male hustler. I know I’ll laugh when the other shoe drops on them, but I feel no sense of schadenfreude at the Duggar revelations.

If one of the 19 kids were found to be gay or it were revealed that one or two had marital relations before the wedding (did you see the picture of Jenna Duggar and Josh Dillard's "first kiss"? Looked like Christian porn.) 

But children were hurt by Josh Duggar’s “mistakes” made “when he was a teenager.” I wish it would’ve never happened. Let ‘em hang themselves some other way. Not at the high expense of a child’s emotional life.

I’m not going to going to cast aspersions on Duggar or the wickedness of his act. I’m afraid I’d sound like them. We all agree. You don’t have to believe in a Supreme Being to see that as sin. Let’s leave it at that.

But I feel perfectly comfortable talking about the hypocrisy going around. I’ve never watched a full episode of 19 and Counting, but I’ve seen videos of it on YouTube. The kids appear pleasant and refreshingly polite. The parents seem nice too. Although it looked creepy (or at least 19th century) when the young guy asked Jim Bob if he could marry his daughter.

That’s all good and well, but I feel the parents, behind all the smiles and congeniality, stand for – and promote – cruelty, crucible-like Puritanism and dangerous, un-democratic theocracy. They hang out with Mike Huckabee. Every day that guy is saying something new and nasty about people who don’t share his limited worldview. “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy.” Even the title of his book sounds gross.

                                          Henson Cargill -- "Skip a Rope"

Do the Duggars care that Huckabee’s son tortured an animal – a dog, a poor old domesticated dog, man’s best friend – and Rev. Huckabee abused the power of his office (as Arkansas governor) to keep the heat off his murdering sadist of a son? Is that mitigated by the fact that he’s vehemently against same sex-marriage, that he thinks it will lead God to go Sodom and Gomorrah on the United States, that his friends think Pres. Obama will bring on the Second Coming? Armageddon, or Christ’s return, can be a good or bad thing, depending on how they’re framing their arguments this week.

Before his resignation, amid the allegations, Josh Duggar worked for the Family Resource Council. Does that Christo-political organization’s self-professed Christianity and opposition to homosexuality and any other “impure” sexual acts and/or relations assuage its origins? FRC President Tony Perkins got his mailing list in 1992 from former KKK wizard David Duke. Does pre-marital intercourse between a man and woman trump racism, you know, that hateful feeling that’s inspired lynchings, bombing churches, burning flesh and rape?

Is hating your neighbor for the shade of his skin a worse crime than, say, seeing a rated R movie? Is racism one of the lesser sins, equivalent to driving past the speed limit? Is that why they all collectively shit their pants when Obama was elected? Barrack Husein Obama doesn’t play by the rules, not like that “good negro,” Ben Carson who compared the “troublemakers in Ferguson” to “Islamic fighters.”

To be fair, the good Christians on The Right recognize the egregiousness of Duggar’s sin. Forgiving people that they are, they recognize we are all imperfect, but there is repentance.

“I believe that everyone makes mistakes,” a woman wrote on Facebook. “I think a lot of siblings do things like this because of maybe what they saw their parents doing…I truly do not believe he meant to hurt anyone…but kids are curious…It was a long time ago, you were just a kid.

 Christ paid for our sins on the cross. So stop throwing stones. It’s like Huckabee said. The Duggars are victims of “insensitivebloodthirst.”

They’re not like the Obamas, letting their kids listen to Beyonce’.

                                                Beyonce' -- "Single Ladies"

It's a good song. Figure this is a good excuse to play it. When my daughter, Gabby, was 5 or 6, she used to dance around and sing it, but then we're a sinful family.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

The universe is indifferent

Late spring 2007. The buzz was about The Sopranos, one of the greatest shows in television history, ending. Would Tony Soprano finally bring on his own destruction? Would there be redemption?

It sounds archaic now, but I belonged to this AOL chat group dedicated to discussing The Sopranos, to analyzing the hidden clues, meanings and symbols. One of the group leaders was an English teacher at some community college, I think, in California. Her user name was Greenlight – after The Great Gatsby, I surmised. Real name was Jill. (Nobody ever knew my real name.)

“There’s this new show coming out that’s supposed to be really good,” she wrote. “Mad Men about ad executives in the early ‘60s.” 

I was skeptical. Did I really trust television to get a period drama right the way a well crafted movie would, say George Lucas’s American Graffiti or Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused?

What was a TV period drama for me? Not like I was watching Upstairs Downstairs when I was a kid. It was Pinky Tuscadaro wearing bell bottoms on Happy Days. Not exactly Eisenhower-era authenticity. Even my beloved That ‘70s Show looked less and less like the ‘70s as the sitcom wore on.
I had to check this new show out.

                              "One for the Road" -- Frank Sinatra

Now it’s the end. You binge watch all seasons and the wild ride is like an acid trip. The cars, fashions, architecture and music have all been historically accurate, but they have unraveled so gradually you barely notice. Like life, like people, they have changed so gradually over the seasons you’ve barely noticed.

I couldn’t take the show seriously if it was blighted by anachronisms, but it’s the unraveling of characters, more than the culture their stories coincide with, that has kept me hypnotized by the story. We see all the characters struggle with demons, but no one more than Sterling Cooper ad agency Creative Director Don Draper.

The house where you live

Over the episodes, the plot unfolds like a book. We find out the man isn’t who he says he is. His character is the closest television has ever come to a Jay Gatsby – someone who escapes a poor background, assumes a new identity in a place where nobody knows him and achieves the American Dream.

He thinks he can obliterate the past as if it never existed. But does anyone honestly believe we can do that? Can we live forever in denial? Never feeling conflicted and without peace? Can we erase all the shame, guilt, pain and scars of our lives? Completely change the story?

People do it every day. Or try, at least.

Maybe you’ll cruise by for awhile. Don has the perfect job, a beautiful wife, adoring children and a nice house. “We have it all,” a neighbor tells him in an early episode. “Yep, this is it,” Don answers, an undertone of dissatisfaction in his voice.

One of my favorite moments in Mad Men is when he’s in bed with his lover (extramarital), Rachel Menken, and reveals that his mother was a prostitute who died giving birth to him. His wife and kids know nothing about his early life.

I love the way prostitution is a recurring theme in Mad Men, how it parallels the advertising business. Selling out one’s creativity, the beatniks – later hippies on the show might say. But Don doesn't buy into that view. I guess I’m most fascinated by the unique philosophy of life Don brings to his job.

You are the product. You feeling something. That’s what sells. Not them. Not sex. They can’t do what we do, and they hate us for it.

Advertising is based one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.

(That quote was from the first episode, set in 1960 when Don and Roger Sterling are nearing their pinnacle. Think of this quote and think of the scene from the recent episode, “Time and Life,” set in 1970. Both men are washed up. They’re in a hotel bar, drunk, and Roger, pretty much Don’s father figure, kisses him on the cheek and says, “You’re okay.”)

Don Draper is the most existential character in television history, and I love it. He’s this guy who dropped out of high school, stole a dead man’s life, went to night school at city college (Pete Campbell went to Princeton) and he reads book’s like Dante’s Inferno.

hate to break it to you, but there is no big lie, there is no system, the universe is indifferent.

We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.

People tell you who they are, but we ignore it because we want them to be who we want them to be.

I love the complications of this character. He was raised in a whorehouse by a woman who never let him forget who his mother really was. He was verbally, emotionally and physically abused. Is it not completely correct that writer Matthew Weiner made Don a guy who cheats on his wives? Of course he does. You don’t come out of a background like that without problems. It goes with the whole idea of a man who has secrets and lives a double life. Yet, he has this moral code – loyalty to clients, respect and compassion for people others ridicule, propriety when other guys are talking crudely around women, manners.

As you can probably tell it’s the writing that most intrigues me. Of course that’s the kind of thing that’s going to give a guy like me a hard-on; what do you expect. Mad Men is one of the key works marking the TV Renaissance.  When I was a kid I’d watch The Brady Bunch or My Three Sons and lie to myself about it being real life because I wished it was, but Weiner – he cut his teeth writing for The Sopranos – has given us the truth. To say he has influenced me would be an understatement.

I’m going to go outside and play with my kids now. I don’t use time wisely and I’m afraid of being a failure as a father. I haven’t even probed the other Mad Men aspects – that lovable rougue
 Roger Sterling (don’t we all need a friend like him), Salvotore’s closeted life; Peggy Olson and the glass ceiling; birth, death and suicide; tripping on acid... 

I could write some other damn thing later, but maybe this is all that there is.

                                          California" -- Joni Mitchell