Sunday, October 28, 2007
so, this has happened to me a few times over the past several months, and i wanted to see if anyone else has had a similar experience. it only happens on nights when i've been drinking, so i thought some of my lushy friends could help.
it's a little disconcerting, and a little embarrassing, but what happens is i distinctly remember going to bed -- i even attempted to read a few pages, but the book was all wobbly for some reason -- but i wake up in the morning on the couch.
i have no recollection of getting up, i don't think i woke up in the night even to go to the bathroom -- i mean, i was passed the fuck out. but somehow, somewhere in my brain, it seemed like a good idea to get up and go lie down on the couch. the tv wasn't on, so i don't think i was watching, and even if i was, i was unconscious while i was watching it.
also, if it was a sort of sleepwalking decision to go watch tv, i would have gotten dressed (i woke up naked on the couch).
luckily i live alone.
unlike the people in england who work at budget motels and have been seeing an increase in nekkid sleepwalkers.
i don't mean to bring nakidity into it, it's just that that shows that it wasn't like i was awake at some point, made a conscious decision to get up (which would imply getting dressed) and go watch tv, and then just forgot about it by morning, right?
anyway, does anyone else have any sleepwalking -- or 'drunkwalking' -- stories?
here's my column from yesterday.
CARPE DIEM 10-27
There was no joy in Rockville today.
Well, there was joy for a few, but there were a lot more potential Rockies World Series ticket buyers who were joyless. Not only joyless, but disappointed, upset, furious, frustrated, livid, enraged, infuriated and incensed.
For not one but two days, people trying to score a ticket to see the Rocks play in their first World Series sat in front of computers that gave them the message that is burned into thousands of pairs of eyeballs across the state: “Our servers are experiencing extremely heavy loads right now. Do not refresh this page or you will be dropped to the end of the line.” The main difference between Monday’s aborted ticket sale and Tuesday’s was that the countdown timer on that screen was changed from 60 seconds to 120.
Of course, there’s no real good way to sell the 17,000 to 18,000 tickets that were available for each game to a potential pool of millions of buyers. Systems like lotteries, or standing in line for days favor those who live close to the stadium—and don’t have anything better to do for a couple of days. These old-fashioned systems are also easily gamed by scalpers and ticket brokers.
So computers are the answer, right? Not that I or anyone else should really have assumed that it would be easy to get tickets—although news reports are filled with photos of sad-eyed, disappointed fans who seemed to be working under the delusion that just because they wanted tickets they should have been able to get them.
The real problem was in the Rockies’ computer system allowing potential buyers a glimmer of hope, then washing those dreams away in the form of a frozen web page.
I’m one of what sounds like many would-be World Series attendees who somehow, miraculously got past the “sit there and wait, you putz” screen and onto the actual ticket sales server at one point. I actually had four tickets selected for Sunday’s game, right field lower level, and had all my information entered into the system. I imagine myself telling the seeming tall tale in bars as I edge into my senile years, spouting off to anyone who will listen about the day I nearly scored World Series tickets:
“The computer even called me by name! I tell you, it’s true! The screen said, ‘Welcome, Kurt Brighton!’ with a little exclamation point and everything, as if to say, ‘Oh happy day for you! For you are one of the elect—you are one of us, part of Rockies Nation. Welcome!’ Imagine my elation…”
Alas, it wasn’t to be. Once I got past entering my credit card information, a screen—a painfully, brutally slow screen came up asking me to confirm the info—and promptly locked up before it actually finished loading. So, I’m looking at a screen that says to confirm, but the buttons that allow you to confirm never loaded.
Confirm?? How?!? What do I do? Yell at the screen? (I did.) Punch the screen? (I almost did.) And since the computer geniuses who set up the Rockies’ system arranged it so that buyers timed out after five minutes to prevent—what, exactly?—it was all over by then anyway. The Post reported on a Denver attorney who was so angry about a similar situation that he made screen captures of the seats he “had” and faxed them to the Rockies ticket office, claiming they had a legal contract. He may sue the organization.
I do wish him luck. And I understand where he is coming from. To be that close, thinking it was a done deal, and then be denied—well.
I’ll be the weird old guy at the end of the bar if you ever want to hear the story.
The Mighty K has struck out.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
here's an excerpt from a story i'm working on.
AFTER THE FLOOD
By Kurt Brighton
The flood came and went. And so did the mercy the country showed New Orleans. Mercy was already in short supply in those days.
It’s even rarer now.
Mercy is not a quality that travels well. It has to be consumed on the spot, no questions asked, or it immediately begins to decay. Like when a stranger offers to buy you a shot: you’d better suck it down quick. There are no rain checks on mercy.
It was an especially tricky tight-wire act, feeling compassion for a place like New Orleans. Within weeks of images of human bodies floating face-down in the murky water being beamed into their homes, people in other parts of the country began to mutter things like, ‘Well, it’s kind of their fault, for living in a bowl ten feet below sea level.’
Which was true, in a monstrous, dimwitted sort of way. But a deeper truth underlying that short-sighted sentiment was a sense of moral superiority, a self-righteous schadenfreude that remained mostly unspoken. In parts of the country, certainly in the fish-belly white, Bible-thumping beer-gut that spread across the middle regions there was a tacit feeling that New Orleans had gotten what she deserved: Old Testament-style retribution for her sinful ways. There was a lascivious smacking of lips at the thought of all those hedonists getting flooded out of their filthy, debauched homes, their sex toys and drug stashes ruined. The nation’s diffident response to the disaster reflected that simmering acrimony.
But no matter where they’re from, no matter who is in trouble, politicians can’t resist a good disaster. They’re drawn to human misery like moths to a flame. Or like flies to shit. They came ready with big talk and teary-eyed sentimentalism, cued up and delivered on-camera for a briefly fascinated nation. They cried out against the injustice of it all, and rolled up their sleeves as if they might actually do some work.
They didn’t, actually. And they didn’t stick around for long, either. In the days that followed the disaster—which was not entirely man-made—after the cameras had recorded their sound bites, after carefully measured doses of garment-rending had been doled out for the focus group-tested masses, the politicians quickly dried their eyes.
Then they reapplied their make-up, rolled their sleeves back down, hopped into air-conditioned limousines and fled.
Some of them stopped for dinner in Baton Rouge before flying back to Washington.
By and large, what they left behind in the restaurants’ toilets would be their final contribution of any tangible kind to the residents of Louisiana.
Most of the politicians were gone before the water even began to recede. The mud it left behind dried into a caked-on gray brick that skittered to dust when subjected to stress. When it was crushed underfoot or broken with shovels it released a sickly, greenish-gray powder that was laden with dried sewage, household cleansers, motor oil, industrial chemicals from downstream plants—gods knew what else. People picked through the sodden remains of their lives, wept, and developed chronic coughs.
The press stayed a little longer than the politicians, but they too trickled away soon enough. There were always a few die-hard weirdoes clutching notebooks, walking the empty battlefield streets of the Ninth Ward trying to look poetic. But the big boys were long gone. Their blow-dryers and wardrobe racks had long since been packed up and shipped off to more arid climes.
After all, there was always some missing 18-year-old white girl with model good looks and a skeevy 28-year-old boyfriend whose story needed to be reported, even when nothing was happening. And when the spotlight turned away, so did the fickle attention of America.
New Orleans had long been the outcast cousin of American cities, perched on a backwater strip of rich black river mud. She was the slightly seedy one who always smelled of trouble—and liquor—but who always got away without having anything serious pinned on her. She was the black sheep of the American family who showed up every other Christmas, or randomly called to see if she could crash on your couch—a call which invariably came in the middle of the night. She was “the fun one” when you were kids, the older cousin who secretly smoked out back at family reunions, the cousin who bought you booze when you were underage, the cousin who always had rolling papers for some reason.
She had a great laugh and endless stories to tell, all of them bawdy and hilarious, all of them pushing just past the edges of what was considered decent, causing the more staid aunts and uncles to get flustered and to try to talk over her before they eventually gave up and left the room. She wasn’t the type who got invited to formal events. You wouldn’t want her to meet your fiancé’s parents, for instance. In fact, it was likely that your new spouse would only tolerate your wild cousin New Orleans while you were still dating, and only just. Grimly smiling and watching her through narrowed eyes, your wife-to-be would allow you to hang out with her occasionally, under strict supervision, but only until the day you heard those wedding bells. Once the honeymoon was over, the campaign would begin in earnest to detach you from cousin New Orleans for good.
At least she was tolerated—barely—back when she was a free-spirited party girl. But as soon as she was struck down by the hurricanes and the floods, as soon as she was helpless, all that changed.
America was not used to seeing her cry. That wasn’t the New Orleans we knew, and we turned our backs on her. She died just as gracefully, just as charmingly as she had lived, but she died alone. All the beauty and favors she had blessed us with over the years were forgotten. We abandoned her when it came time for her to depart.
But, hell, New Orleans had always been dying, even from her earliest days when she was little more than a series of planks set across the muck leading to shacks where travelers could buy liquor and sex. There was a Gallic sense of resignation embedded deep within her spirit:
Of course the sea would come, she shrugged. How could it not?
And of course, even fatalism didn’t help, not really. There was a sense of brutalization, of loss, a sense of betrayal after the flood, a sense that this oddly empty place that had been left behind after the waters had gone was not entirely real. What had been wrenched away could never come back. A certain magic was gone forever, destroyed by short-sighted, greedy men who did not give a good goddamn about magic.
Despite her reputation as a slattern, New Orleans had always had a certain innocence about her. She and her residents had been child-like in a way, in their unabashed desire to play, to feel good always, to be forever young.
That brightness was gone, after the flood. There was a hard edge to the faces that returned to their saturated, moldy homes after the exodus, a sharp-eyed suspicion that hadn’t been there before. They had been robbed of that innocence by a country that, in the final analysis, didn’t want to be bothered.
New Orleans slipped away under the waves, sad-eyed, weary, but smiling, while we watched from the safety of higher ground.
Of course the sea would come, we whispered. You knew that, darling.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
what? is there a game going on? is elway playing?
here's my column from today's paper. go to fortcollinsnow.com for other stories i've written.
CARPE DIEM 10-20-07
The Rockies are going to the World Series.
Who would have thought that those words could ever come true? With the club’s short, inauspicious history, a history of chewing up great pitchers in the rarified mile-high air before sending them elsewhere to nurse their wounded confidence and multi-million dollar contracts (hello, Mike Hampton) a history of many, many home runs sailing over the wall in Coors Field—not all of them for the right team—this day seemed like a pipe dream to many die-hard fans.
But who would ever have guessed just how many die-hard fans the good ol’ Rocks actually have? As entertaining as it has been to watch these unlikely, nameless heroes of Blake Street shred their way through the Phillies and the Diamondbacks as if their opponents were troops of girl scouts who mistakenly put on baseball uniforms, just as entertaining is watching all of these new fans cheer on their home team.
Er, did I say “new” fans? I meant, all these die-hards who have been way, way into cheering for the Rockies forever, since before they were even born, or at least since 1958 when their grandparents went to see their first Rockies games. The folks I saw cheering on the Rockies at Lucky Joe’s on Sunday night may have been fans since the late 1930s, back when the Black Rocks, as they were formerly known, played at Pike’s Field, that rickety old baseball stadium that was torn down in ’47. They’ve been fans since 1872, the year when Black Rocks organization first started, under the watchful gaze of owner Tiberius Monfort, the venerable old scion of the Monfort family fortune, first built on timber and silver, later moving into newspapers and railroads after the silver crash in 1893.
Okay, none of that happened. But if you watched the game in a bar the other night, you wouldn’t know it. You would have encountered “ancient die-hards,” and perhaps witnessed some proud boasting. Guys in Rockies jerseys that still held the creases of their original packaging and guys wearing Rockies hats so new they still had their “genuine MLB product” stickers on the bill argued about who had been a fan for longer. One screechy girl was so happy—though about what exactly, it was hard to tell—she couldn’t even form words. These folks were clearly die-hard fans, even if they didn’t know a Tulowitski from a garden tool.
But I’m here to help. Just some reminders to all those new—er, really, really old fans—who might not be entirely clear on how the game works. Here’s some helpful pointers to help you retain your die-hard cred:
· it isn’t necessarily going to be a good thing every time the batter makes contact. There are these things called “fly balls” that, when batted into the air, are often caught by the opposing team’s outfielders (those are the guys who stand around way out in the field.) Screaming wildly on a pop-out is a dead giveaway that you’ve never watched baseball before.
· throwing to first base when a runner is there- is a way to prevent him from getting too much of a lead (that’s the distance he stands away from the base). It’s part of the game, as are substitutions. Booing when the opposing team does either of these things makes no sense. In fact, booing a television set really, really makes no sense. I won’t get into how the whole electronics thing works, but suffice it to say they can’t hear you.
· The Rockies’ reputation of the past notwithstanding, high-scoring, multi-home run games are not the norm. Also, some of the greatest games are ones in which the final score is 1-0, or 2-1. Baseball is a battle of wits between managers, as well as a test of individual skills. The game has more in common with chess than with college football, so don’t expect scores like 21-3, and don’t think that home runs are the only exciting thing that ever happens in baseball.
And don’t ever, ever say “But nothing is happening!” or I will beat you with my tattered, forlorn, sweat-stained Braves hat, the one that reeks of shame and broken dreams.
Friday, October 19, 2007
here's what happened when we went a-shootin' a couple months ago. my friend sydney got to fire an AK-47 for the first time.
the video quality is for shit because i uploaded it to photobucket before publishing it here.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
do neil cavuto and john gibson remind anyone of statler and waldorf, the two old guys that used to sit in the balcony on the muppet show and hate on everything?
so, when did the party of Lincoln become the equivalent of the two old guys sitting in the balcony on the Muppet Show?
this might be pure fantasy, but it seems like there must have been a time when you could actually debate someone who didn't see things exactly the way you did, and you could have an exchange of ideas, listening to their points of view just as they listened to yours, hopefully coming to a better understanding of where the other person was coming from.
wow, that seems quaint.
today we get the utterly mindless gainsaying of anything that...well, of anything, really. it's a 24/7 "argument clinic," only it's not as funny as when monty python did it.
take al gore winning the nobel peace prize. no sooner had the ink dried on the press release from the nobel committee when BLAM! like a pack of bitter, curmudgeonly zombies, the right-wing attack drones are all over the news, putting down gore, the concept of global climate change, and even the nobel prize itself.
sweet. they're even angrier.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
and then there were people who were just happy to have a new radiohead album.
but here's a take on the idea of letting people pay what they want that i wouldn't have thought of: it's insane to pay more than zero dollars. or at least irrational.
eduardo porter of the new york times argues that in purely economic terms, paying anyone more than the asking price for anything is irrational. restaurant workers beware: what he is saying is that those who paid more than zero for the radiohead album were engaged in a form of tipping--and that that is irrational:
"This phenomenon is not new. It’s called tipping. We do it when we go to the restaurant or the barber, or when we ride in a taxi. Though one could argue there are real tangible reasons for this payment — like not losing an ear the next time we get a haircut — the practice of paying more money than we are legally bound to do is still mystifying in an economic sense. For instance, why tip a cabdriver you will probably never see again?“'Since we economists don’t understand tipping, we can’t really say whether this new scheme will work,'” Greg Mankiw, a Harvard professor of economics, said in an entry on his blog."
and, the argument makes sense, as far as it goes--but that's not very far.
of course economists don't understand tipping--theirs is a zero-sum game. the least amount one can pay in order to obtain the greatest value is all that matters, in the narrow world of the economist.
but what we are talking about here is art. is it rational to pay millions of dollars for a monet or a picasso? of course not. but, the ridiculousness of art prices and the cachet associated with owning rare pieces aside, that's not what it's about. despite status-seekers flooding the art market with nouveau riche dollars in a quest for a kind of rented class, the underlying reason for desiring art or even desiring to view it is an intangible change that takes place within us when we are exposed to it.
intangible = incomprehensible to economists.
porter goes on to posit that perhaps radiohead fans might simply be "altruistic beings who out of the goodness of their hearts would like to give some money to a spectacularly successful and probably stinking rich rock band." and he goes on to suggest that there is a "warm and fuzzy" effect fans might be seeking by paying for something they could get for free.
i would suggest that to pay an artist for his art it is neither irrational nor a cleverly-disguised, selfish pursuit of righteousness. paying an artist for his art--and i do mean paying the ARTIST, not his management, record company, public relations flacks, distributors, or other assorted hangers-on--is simply acknowledging that he has provided you with something you cannot get anywhere else, that he has touched your life in a unique way that has a personal value that only you can understand.
it may not have the hard-edged value of stocks and currency, but art is valuable. in fact, because its value cannot be measured in a ledger by those whose imaginations go only as far as the next column of ones and zeroes, art is invaluable, beyond valuation.
art transcends value, and thus it helps us to transcend as well.
Surprised to see my byline here, aren’t you? I would be too, if I read The New York Times. But I don’t. So I’ll just have to take your word that this was published. Frankly, I prefer emoticons to the written word, and if you disagree :(I’d like to thank Maureen Dowd for permitting/begging me to write her column today. As I type this, she’s watching from an overstuffed divan, petting her prize Abyssinian and sipping a Dirty Cosmotinijito.
Friday, October 12, 2007
is it just me, or is tony gwynn the john madden of baseball?
don't get me wrong--the guy seems like a genuinely nice guy, and he knows his stuff, obviously. but his thought processes suggest he may have taken one too many pitches up and in. he sort of repeats the same thought several times in one sentence, and rambles off into these weird loops of pointing out the obvious, these tautologies that would make a Bush press secretary proud: "Well, he's leading off quite a ways, so that's pretty far out there, off the bag like that..."
it doesn't help that he has a voice that makes him sound like the unholy offspring of Mr. Rogers and Urkel...
and i met some really sweet people down there, people you could just walk up to and start a conversation with, no problem. very open and friendly people, for the most part. there were a couple of meatheads there, already too drunk hours before the show started, but that's to be expected anytime there is a gathering of more than ten people. idiots make up anywhere from 35 to 75 percent of the general population, based on my ongoing informal survey. add alcohol and that number can be even greater.
but back to the show: i mean, i get it guys. they're good. they write fun, happy songs that make you feel good. and i understand obsessiveness, believe me. i can latch onto something and overdo the hell out of it. (see: substances, all; sex, any; masturbation; alcohol)
but i can't think of any band i would go see fifty times. not one.
and, anyway, to this outside observer this is something different than the accumulation of raw numbers, or achieving volume--or even hearing every possible permutation of the band's catalog. this isn't even about having some compulsive need to hear this band play live, yet again. this isn't addiction to their music. hell, i would go so far as to say that it isn't even really about the music at all.
it seems to me that it's more about belonging to some tribe, feeling at home among a group of, as i said, very kind-hearted people--but it's still just a need to belong. it's a need to feel like a part of something bigger than oneself, even if it is a parking lot and a concert hall that will be empty again in a few hours.
i guess you can see similar concepts playing themselves out at punk shows or indie-rock shows or whatever other kind of show -- we all wear uniforms of a sort. but this is still different. it's a fanaticism that weirdly jumps from band to band over the years, as if utter devotion were something that was interchangeable, depending on if a band is still active or not. like you could unscrew that devotion as if it were a fuse when the Dead call it quits, and simply plug it into Phish. next up: widespread panic.
if there were an antichrist, all he would have to do is start a popular jam band. he'd instantly have a dread-locked army of slavishly devoted acolytes ready to do his bidding.
of course, it might be hard to get them motivated...
this makes me angry.
during the course of the play i have to write on a typewriter which features centrally in the plot, here's a few of the pages i saved after the show closed, most of which came from rehearsals, as the ones we used in the show ended up splattered with fake beer and all sorts of other substances during the big climactic fight scene.
the medication is working out nicely, thank you.
(click on pages to magnify. if they're TOO big when you do that, right-click and adjust zoom)
to read the rest of the paper, including other a&e articles i write each week, go to www.fortcollinsnow.com
this is my column on radiohead's new album 'in rainbows' from the paper coming out tomorrow.
CARPE DIEM 10.13.07
The headlines this week were awash with a pair of unrelated stories that, when taken together, nicely illustrate where the music business is going and where it’s been, a perfectly-crystallized moment in time in which we can see the bold future colliding with the craven past.
First the future: Radiohead, already one of the most musically innovative and forward-thinking bands to emerge in a long time, has applied that creativity to the methods by which they are getting their music out to people. The band, no longer under contract, has announced that it is offering its new album In Rainbows for sale in MP3 format for whatever price people choose to pay. Fans are directed to a website where they can enter an amount in British pounds, plus a 45p credit card handling fee. Beginning October 10 buyers were emailed an access code allowing them to download the record. Even amid fears of the band’s website crashing, or other cyber-snafus hindering the plan, I received my unique code Wednesday morning, (I paid around $10; the money is going to the artists after all, not the suits) and downloaded the zip file with no hassles. Minutes later, I was listening to the album at a reasonable bitrate of 160kbps. For comparison, Apple offers its iTunes at 128kbps.
The band is also offering an actual disc for sale, due to come out in a couple of months, along with a deluxe box set including the disc, two vinyl albums, artwork and extra tracks. The web has been buzzing with discussion of the move, and while the band’s management won’t say how much people are choosing to pay for the digital version of the record, they are pleased with the response, and have said that more people are paying than not.
The entire experiment can rightly be viewed as a warning shot aimed squarely at record companies, not only in terms of the “pay-what-you-will” scheme, but also because the MP3 tracks for In Rainbows were released without what the industry calls digital rights management, programming restrictions which variously prevents users from copying music to another device or platform, or listening to it on certain MP3 players.
Of course, having sold upwards of 20 million records, Radiohead is in a position to reach millions of fans without the publicity machine of an established record company, something most up-and-coming bands can’t easily do. But by taking the record companies biggest fear—that a digital version of an album will be leaked prior to release of the hard copy—and brazenly promoting it, the band has managed to turn established industry “principles” on their head. And, according to what many fans are writing on blogs around the world, owning a digital copy of the record now isn’t going to stop them from buying a hard copy in a couple of months, thus discrediting another canard the record companies like to throw out.
Now for the past of the music industry: the Recording Industry Association of America, a trade group representing companies that control about 90 percent of record sales in this country recently won a lawsuit against a Minnesota woman who was found by a jury to have illegally made 1700 music file available for download.
Read that again: she wasn’t found guilty of downloading songs; she had 1700 songs on her computer that were made available to peer-to-peer file-sharers. For each of the 24 songs the RIAA focused on, the woman was ordered to pay over $9,000 in damages. The single mom with an annual income of $36,000 plans to appeal.
Casting themselves squarely in the bogeyman role, the record companies’ hatchet men have once again demonstrated that hunting for mosquitoes with dynamite can indeed be effective, but has the potential for bit of blowback. Desperate to retain the control over music that they enjoyed for decades—and not incidentally, the freedom to pick the pockets of consumers and artists alike—the RIAA has done nothing but hasten their own demise.
To order a digital copy of Radiohead’s In Rainbows, go to www.inrainbows.com .
Thursday, October 11, 2007
at least i get to leave early--deadline at 10 pm.
no, i have great respect for those guys as musicians, they are certainly talented individuals. it's just that to me, that type of music is so played. it hasn't been remotely interesting for decades. when bands first started experimenting with longer form, improvisational styles, it was just that: experimental. now it all seems so calculated. so so so many bands noodling for hours in endless loops of forever unresolved chords. no wonder people get so high for these shows--that's the only way it would be remotely enjoyable.
will have more to report on my foray into the jungles of hippiedom tomorrow night after the show.
larry craig's favorite album.
...completely the same.
my column from the fort collins now of 10.6 on spamalot.
Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam. Try saying it aloud a few times—it’s fun!
But silly name aside, who would ever have thought that this odd, gelatinous, pink, spongy, meatish product, this humble, peculiarly American invention would one day be immortalized by a pack of too-educated, loopy Brits with a penchant for wearing women’s clothing and walking funnily? Somehow, an absurdist sketch on an obscure early 70s BBC program (or is that “programme”?) that no one thought would last beyond season one has spawned a multi-million dollar live theatre extravaganza called “Spamalot.” And it is a riotously funny and successful show—it’s still running on Broadway, and in London, Las Vegas and Melbourne.
The aforementioned loopy Brits are of course the troupe called Monty Python. And “Spamalot” is a triumph based loosely on their film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” but also borrows freely from other Python sketches and films, and includes new bits and songs penned by Python member Eric Idle. I was privileged to shell out way too much money to see the touring production of the show at the Temple Buell Theater last weekend, and highly recommend that you beg, borrow, steal, or sell body parts if need be in order to get tickets to see it before it leaves town on the 7th.
The original cast starred such luminaries as Tim Curry (of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” fame) David Hyde Pierce, Hank Azaria, and Sara Ramirez, and the show has continued to sell out houses all over the country. Original Pythonites (we call ourselves OPs; there are support groups, meetings, gang colors and whatnot--but we don’t get a lot done) were enthusiastic of course. But what was amazing was that the bizarre and deeply disturbed sense of humor that is the signature of the Pythons has translated so well to a broader audience.
There are kneeless knights, ravenous rabbits, flatulent Frenchmen, and not-quite-passed-on plague victims reluctant to be carted off, all of which won gales of laughter from the audience. But then it potentially gets a bit more touchy for some: there are monks referring to the bible’s little-known Book of Armaments, a bitchy God (voiced by John Cleese), and a song titled “You Won’t Succeed On Broadway If You Don’t Have Any Jews,” featuring snippets of various traditional Jewish songs and dances, and culminating with a giant, neon Star of David descending from the rigging.
And then there’s Sir Lancelot, who, through the ministrations of his new friend Herbert, discovers that he is a “different kind of guy” in the course of a massive disco song and dance number featuring bits of “Y.M.C.A.” by the Village People.
In other words, the show pokes fun at just about everybody, and the audience seemed to understand that there was nothing malicious about it—although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend inviting your fundamentalist Uncle Fred to see it.
What’s most incredible though, is that in the course of offending nearly everyone, the musical also has written into it plenty of jokes aimed at musical theatre. Some critics have been harumphing that this ongoing cynical wink toward the ridiculous excesses of musical theatre is unnecessary and too precious. But swelling, over-the-top treacle like “This Is The Song That Goes Like This,” a dead-on parody of any song from any Andrew Lloyd Webber musical is exactly what musical theatre needs. The song features an earnest couple singing lines like, “I’ll sing it in your face/While we both embrace/And then we’ll change the key…”and thus points out that, indeed, musical theatre is an absurd artifice that takes itself far too seriously—exactly the type of thing the Pythons have always mocked.
For musical theatre snobs to be seriously offended by this gentle ridicule—and for there to even be such a thing as “musical theatre snobs”—is frankly hilarious in itself. It’s a show for everyone, that makes fun of everyone, including its writers and performers, and thus it’s universal.
Oh, and one last thing:
reading about the family that came out in support of the SCHIP legislation and was soundly thrashed by the right-wing attack dogs for it. a 12-year-old child recently out of a coma beaten up in the media for saying it was, oh, 'good' that his family had help to pay his medical bills. crazy left-wing nut.
i was thinking about how far we've come as a species--and also how far back we have reverted, or at least how far we could still go. and i thought of a dream i had a while back.
in the dream there are groups of ragged, frightened, and beaten-down people foraging in a world much like ours, only fallen even more to seed. vines snake their way around lamp posts, broken windows like blank eyes stare out of dead buildings, weeds sprout hopefully out of cracking pavement, seeking the light of a pale sun in a smudged sky. civilization survives, but just barely.
these foragers try to stay as hidden as possible, they scurry in packs from dark place to dark place. alleyways and empty lots are their home turf--unless they are on the hunt. mostly they squabble among themselves, fighting over scraps and bones. fits of violence periodically burst out, settling internal power struggles with thuddings of crushed bone and broken flesh. new leaders emerge, with blood on their hands, leading by fear and intimidation.
but although they are by nature fearful creatures that take cold comfort in the violent ethos of the group--hiding as best they can within the herd and hoping it doesn't turn on them--they regularly erupt en masse from the dark places and set upon unwary people who are not of their tribe. they sense weakness in others as they sense their own weakness, and they know that their only power lies in moving in a herd, a bloodthirsty pack lashing out away from itself so as to distract from its members' individual shame and aloneness. they sense when their beliefs are being challenged, and shown to be wrong, and it sends them into a rage. with bloodlust in their eyes and slathering jaws, they rend the unsuspecting who dare to speak out against their bleak and hopeless ways.
there are others, people who live in the light places as best they can, people who struggle upward, who try to hang onto the things that made us unique among animals--the books, the art, the words, the empathy and the community. they seek to uplift each other rather than beat each other down. but they are still unable to see. they at least are aware that there is something to be seen, they know something is changing, they can feel it in their bones. but there is a blind spot, a sense of something glimpsed out of the corner of the eye that disappears when you turn to fully face it.
and there is a child. the child is born without the blind spot--he can see what we can become, what we have the potential to be, if only we are able to take that path.
this is a new stage of evolution, the precipice upon which balances the future of the human race. we stand to move forward into a new kind of enlightenment, or sink ever-lower into the slime.
the dark, violent lizard part of our brain fights mightily against obsolescence. it is the part of the brain, the part of us as humans that allowed us to scrabble our way out and up, away from the rest of the animals to actually become human in the first place, and it won't easily be cowed or put aside. it is the hunter, and that which was once hunted and at some point stood up on hind legs and refused to be hunted any longer. it is the oldest part of us, and refuses to go gentle.
and for the unimaginative, that narrow mindset is the easiest to which to default. but it is on the verge of becoming obsolete, and that is why it fights so rabidly--all it knows is fighting for survival, and so that is what it does.
but the child, the child. he has seen what we can become, what we can choose. and certain people of the other group have caught glimpses of it too. and they will fight too, in their own way. they must persevere, or we will slowly, unerringly sink back into the killing muck from whence we came.