Thursday, December 31, 2009
Last post of 2009. Sorry it has to be such a bummer.
I suspect I was not alone in being somewhat depressed just prior to Christmas. The period between Halloween and Christmas always seems to be a down time for me.
But I suppose what is truly surprising is not that I found myself depressed during that time, but that I was surprised that I was depressed. Every year when the days get so ridiculously short, and the weather gets nasty cold, my body and mind rebel. I love the sun and warmth and I hate it when it’s dark at 4:30 and the day is over before it’s really begun.
And every year I experience this, but it seems like this is the first year that I finally realized that it is a cyclical occurrence. Huh. I guess we really can continue to learn, even as we grow grizzled and decrepit and ornery, set in our ways.
I bring up depression because I read about Vic Chesnutt’s death on Christmas morning, the day I was flying out to Pennsylvania. Following what reports say was a deliberate overdose of muscle relaxants, the singer/songwriter spent two days in a coma before he finally passed away on Christmas Day.
Since I was doing family stuff for the past several days I decided to put off writing about Chesnutt, who is one of my favorite artists of all time. Other people can give you better details on his biography, but the gist is that he was essentially a paraplegic, having survived a drunken car accident when he was 18. He taught himself to play guitar, gradually getting some use of his hands back--for years and maybe even up until his death, he attached a Velcro cuff with a guitar pick embedded in it to his strumming hand, because he was incapable of the finer precision needed to grip it.
So, the narrative now predictably turns from ‘what a brave soldier! Overcoming such odds!’ to what a tragic, doomed figure he must actually have been. Headlines like ‘Tragedy Foretold in Song’ blare out the news that, because he wrote about mortality and dark subjects Chesnutt was somehow destined to die by suicide.
I hate this Monday morning quarterbacking bullshit. The man was depressed, sure. And he wrote about dark topics. Plus he had some $70,000 in medical bills hanging over his head and, as much as we love them, cult musicians make cult money, unfortunately.
And as Jem Cohen, producer of Chesnutt’s “North Star Deserter” said, “Vic's death, just so you all know, did not come at the end of some cliché downward spiral. He was battling deep depression but also at the peak of his powers, and with the help of friends and family he was in the middle of a desperate search for help.”
I don’t want to make political hay of the man’s passing, and frankly, he has admitted to attempting suicide on at least three previous occasions, so it seems likely that there were other underlying problems besides debt and a lawsuit from the hospital. But it must be said that the health care system in America failed him. Leave it at that.
No, I would rather talk about the impact he made on my life, and what a unique character he was. His songs were indeed often dark, but laced with a self-deprecating humor, a gentle, wry irony that I think is unique to the South, at least in its purest form.
I interviewed him for a Westword profile in 2003, and what I took away from that conversation was the sense that, despite his having done several interviews that day in preparation for his tour (a rare occurrence) he seemed like he would have been happy to chat with me the rest of the afternoon.
Of course, there is a gift that some public figures have, the ability to make you feel like you are the only person in the universe, and that you super-duper-important to them. But Chesnutt was so ingenuous, so regular-guy and down to earth that there is simply no way it was act. Despite the photos I got later on of him and me at the Fox, during that conversation I transitioned from fanboy to a person simply talking with another person.
Which is what I had been all along, of course. Until we talk with these people we only approached from their art, it’s difficult to remember that they are just people, broken, flawed and limited--despite the pains some take to elevate themselves above the rest of us.
But it was always a rare thing for me as a music journalist to encounter someone who was that open and friendly and unpretentious. Another example that stands out is Echo and the Bunnymen guitarist Will Sergeant--we talked for nearly an hour, getting into the technical details of his guitar set-up, chatting about my own music, and even his love of the original “The Prisoner.”
But going back a bit, Chesnutt had a quality that I think of as uniquely American, uniquely Southern, a quality he wrote into his songs and also wove into conversation, and it is a kind of wry humility. It is an acknowledgment of one’s own limitations, one’s own ridiculousness, and the ridiculousness of not only our silly individual lives, but also on a species level--it is a non-bitter chuckle at the absurdity of the human animal and the society he has created.
Yes, there is sadness there. How could a man who saw his entire life change in a flash before he was even truly an adult--who came so very close to death--not feel regret and loss? But within that pain Chesnutt gave us a canon that is unique, and which, I would argue, would have been unachievable without his having been put through that trauma.
Listen to “Free of Hope.”
He says ‘Big brother’s at Columbia University/Quote unquote he’s tanning beaver pelts.’ Now ponder on that line a moment, not only for its clever crudity (which he immediately disowns as coming from someone else in the next line: ‘Subtle as a billboard/Oh so refined.’) But imagine also a healthy and whole Chesnutt, a happy-go-lucky southern boy given to drink and chasing tail, and imagine that guy writing these haunting, beautiful and terrifying songs.
It couldn’t happen.
So, it seems cruel, but I thank the universe for giving us the Vic Chesnutt he actually was, faults and all, and therefore giving him the emotional and physical pain that drove him to create. We are poorer for having lost him, but we are rich for having had him at all.
Rest in peace, brother. No more pain now.
Some pics from the Fox in 2003.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Is disillusionment a pre-existing condition?
As the healthcare debate grinds on, it is becoming increasingly apparent even to people who haven’t been paying close attention that those on the right who are strongly anti-reform are not engaged in serious discussion of the merits of the Senate bill. They are motivated by a desire to simply stop the bill from passing--no matter what, no matter who it might hurt or who it might help.
Some oppose the bill simply out of spite--or to put it in politer terms, to prevent Obama from succeeding at anything, and thus neuter his presidency. Others are clearly in opposition due to their financial and political ties to the healthcare industry. Others are both spiteful and financially rewarded.
As usual, the mainstream media is the last to get the memo. They persist in fawning over the tea-partiers every time these troglodytes scrabble out into the sunlight from their bunkers and panic rooms, ignoring the glaring, obvious lies the shock troops have swallowed whole, simply because shouting idiots make for good television. (See “Jersey Shore,” “For the Love of Ray J,” ad infinitum.)
Plus, inside the Beltway it is considered impolite to openly discuss the legalized system of bribery that actually runs this country. It’s easier to focus on the focus-grouped gibberish that the wealthy insiders pass along to the rubes who carry their water as if these words had any truth or even actual meaning.
They almost certainly don’t mean anything to the pundits and politicians who invent them--aside from lining their own pockets. As Peggy Noonan demonstrated so plainly during the 2008 campaign, these Terribly Smart People will spew out utter bullshit that they don’t believe at all, simply because they know they are expected to perpetuate the accepted narrative (i.e. the narrative that best avoids uncomfortable questions of who is really running things. Preferably a narrative with a very narrow focus and simple horse-race numbers.)
To paraphrase Chomsky, the MSM says: Which do you prefer--Coke or Pepsi? As if those are the only two possible choices. How about some juice instead? Or a beer maybe?
And of course it’s to be expected that the media, a wholly-owned subsidiary of big business and the current system as it (dys)functions today would play its usual dishonest games. It isn’t at all surprising that they grant frothing morons who spew disinformation (see Bachmann, Michelle; Grassley, Charles) the same weight as thoughtful, earnest people on both the left and right who are trying to get at the parts of the healthcare debate that exist in reality and what the real-world consequences might be if they were enacted into law.
So, these are the things we knew. These are perhaps the things that are not so shocking. What I think the real problem today is for many on the left who supported Obama is that what is new, what has been revealed in recent weeks is that Obama and his people are also a part of that same machine.
Whoa, big surprise, O starry-eyed idealist, O dumb-ass worshipper of Obama, O Obamamaniac. Right?
But no, I am none of the above. I am aware that the same political system that created Obama also created Joe Lieberman. Both are beholden to interests outside of the ones they talk about publicly.
But what I think pragmatic people hoped for with the election of Obama was that grown-ups would be in charge again, finally. That there would be some swing of the pendulum back toward sanity, and responsibility, and reality in the way that our government ran things. That is, sure, things swing rightward--deregulation, chest-pounding idiotic wars, tax cuts for the wealthy--that’s just the way politics works, if you take the long view. But then someday, the pendulum usually swings back, or at least that’s how it usually works.
That hasn’t happened this time around. What I am saying is that what we have seen this administration do every time it has been confronted with an entrenched power is to go along with what that power wanted. And I am saying that perhaps this isn’t the result of weakness, or indecision, or even dithering, but rather just a calculated capitulation to the status quo (read: big money) that was planned all along.
What if Obama never seriously intended to fight? To wit:
-- in the way the administration bailed out Wall Street with virtually no restrictions and certainly no strong reform of the catastrophic ways in which they do business.
-- in granting General McChrystal (he of Pat Tillman cover-up infamy) virtual carte blanche to run Afghanistan for the next decade or more.
-- by quietly working behind the scenes to ensure that Big Pharma wasn’t threatened, killing legislation that would have made it easier to buy pharmaceuticals abroad.
-- and finally, perhaps most telling, by taking himself and the bully pulpit of the White House and his formerly massive store of political capital virtually out of the healthcare debate.
When people say, Where O Where has Obama been? Why hasn’t he been working harder to twist arms? Why didn’t he fight for the public option? Etc., etc., perhaps it’s because there never was any serious intention to challenge any of these powerful entities, despite stirring, bold campaign rhetoric. Perhaps, after all, this is a sort of Waterloo--not for Obama, but for American democracy.
The plutocrats are firmly at the helm. In every important debate the will of the people doesn’t mean shit--unless those people happen to be bank presidents or major stockholders of defense companies or pharmaceuticals.
Much as it was when the last guy was president. It just seems a lot more disturbing now.
Sunday, December 6, 2009
I have had a life-long abhorrence for attention-seeking behavior. Or to be more specific, attention-whore behavior.
Now, as an actor and musician, I clearly engage in some attention-seeking behavior of my own, admittedly. But I don’t think I am being hypocritical if I specify that the type of behavior I am talking about is unwarranted attention. (See ‘The Hills.’ See Balloon Boy. See virtually any so-called reality show.)
Perhaps it is the humble Midwestern roots, but ever since I was a kid, I have always found myself annoyed by whiny, tantrum-throwing, graspingly spotlight-grabbing people. There is, to me, a clear desperation of a certain type of person who is not sincere in what they are trying to say, but rather simply seeking to be the center of attention. And--this is the important part--for no good reason.
If someone is playing music on a stage, or acting in a show, or even telling a story in a bar, it makes perfect sense to me to pay attention to them. What I’m talking about is people vying for attention that they do not deserve.
So, to borrow a concept from Bill Maher, I have a new rule for us to ponder. It is a direct result of the White House gate-crasher story, the latest attempt by talentless assholes to grab the spotlight in an attempt to secure themselves a place on a reality show (I mean, really?!? That’s the big goal for these human fart-bubbles? To achieve the fame of a Kardashian or a Ray J or a Tila Tequila?? How…utterly…depressingly…sad.)
My new rule is this: anytime news people refer to someone who is an ‘aspiring reality show participant,’ or whatever phrase they use for these alleged humans, they should be required to use this phrase instead: ‘douchebag.’
Here’s an example: “The Salahis, who are aspiring reality TV stars, made news when they showed up at Tuesday's state dinner.” (CNN)
Would instead read: “The Salahis, who are douchebags, made news when they showed up at Tuesday's state dinner.”
Here’s another: “Like Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the socialites and Real Housewives of D.C. aspirants who swanned into the White House on Nov. 24, you do doughnuts on the lawn of notoriety and smack head-on into the tree of shamelessness.” (Time)
Would read: “Like Michaele and Tareq Salahi, the socialites and douchebags who swanned into the White House on Nov. 24...”
This, I think, might do something to discourage this douchy behavior, or perhaps even these douchy aspiriations. If we all acknowledged the truth--that reality show stars are themselves no-talent douches, and therefore that anyone who was striving, nay, burning with desire to become one of them must be an uber-douche--then we might steer some impressionable children away from this type of douchy lifestyle.
Here is an appropriately outraged article on the latest douchebag thing.
Friday, November 27, 2009
it may sound arrogant, but to all my actor/musician/artist friends, think about this: we are so lucky to be who we are. the truth is that there are a lot of people who have it a lot harder than i do, on so many levels, and who will never have the opportunities i have been given. it's good to remind myself now and then of just how lucky i really am.
however...bringing it back to a more concrete level. i do this every year, and it's probably tired and worn out for some of you, but below is william s. burroughs' 'thanksgiving prayer.' it is supercrazydepressing dark, but also honest. which is what i think i admire most about burroughs' writing: he was a twisted, freaky fucker with powerful addictions and bizarre lusts and completely insane dreams/thoughts/visions--as are we all. but he laid it all out there unflinchingly. and of course that's his secret: he was just saying shit we all imagine, in an incredibly ballsy way, especially when you think about the time period when he was at his peak.
anyway. food for thought follows:
Anyway, i believe it's an IFC channel production. Look for it if you have any interest in them. Lots (but not enough) backstage chat, old footage, and contemporary interviews.
At any rate, i happened to see this was posted on videosift, and thought i'd share it with you. it is the most fearless, honest, sweet, and horrible eulogy ever in history, delivered by john cleese. thank god someone had the poor taste and good sense to shake up the grim ceremony.
when i die, if you happen to attend a service for me (and frankly, i hope there isn't one--just a party and some umbrellas a la a new orleans jazz funeral) please please have the poor taste to say something equally awful. :)
and, now for something completely different. This still makes me laugh.
and a sketch that is underappreciated, the four yorkshiremen. reminds me of every family reunion i've ever been to. :)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Today my review of 'Ameriville' at Curious Theatre came out. Read it here--it's a 90-minute, spoken-word/hip hop melange of anecdotes with video accompaniment, with four actors playing a variety of roles all related to the Hurricane Katrina mess.
It was moving for me to see this, to hear some of the stories the group Universes tried to relate in the piece; it's been years since I've been back there, and I'm still a little scared to go visit, afraid that what i may find won't be the place i remember. (I mean, of course it won't be. 'You can't go home again' and all that. But I wonder how broken it is...)
Coincidentally, a ruling just came down from a federal court that found that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was indeed negligent in its upkeep of the city's levees and one canal in the Lower Ninth Ward in particular, for years prior to the storm.
The story is complicated, and there is much more to it than the paper of record reports here. (Go here to read Harry Shearer's latest on the ruling, but also go back and check out his earlier posts. He is a New Orleans resident and has been a forceful, relentless voice describing the myriad injustices that have taken place there since 2005.)
The gist of this latest ruling is that over the decades of obsession with cost-cutting and budget-trimming, infrastructure like the levees that is vital to the survival of American taxpayers has been critically neglected. And, paranoia aside, can anyone honestly say that they would not at least question whether a wealthier, whiter city would have been treated differently over the years?
These were Americans who drowned, who lost their homes, their history and their futures. They paid taxes and had a reasonable expectation that their government would do the work it is assigned in return.
As a character in 'Ameriville' says: 'Are we not citizens? Are we not you?'
Monday, November 16, 2009
(Does anyone else remember that? Or am I just that ancient?)
Even if you aren't a hardcore fan of baseball, you have to understand how insanely rare it is for a pitcher to throw a no-hitter. According to that Wiki thing, only 263 have ever occurred in over 130-plus years of record-keeping in the major leagues. It's not the same as a perfect game, which means no runners reaching base. (As Ellis tells the story, he pegged a couple of batters and maybe walked some as well.)
But still, it is an amazing accomplishment even for a sober, well-rested pitcher. For a guy who didn't know he was pitching that day until someone pointed out his name listed in the sports section as the starting pitcher, and who ate more than one hit of badass circa-1970 LSD to step out on the mound and pull this off is downright miraculous. Even the thought of taking the field in front of all those people under those conditions is terrifying, let alone performing.
Anyway. His recounting the story here is animated and hilarious.
Ellis died of cirrhosis complications in 2008, and RIP to a rare breed. The balls on this guy would make Hunter Thompson proud.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Sean Hannity Uses Glenn Beck's Protest Footage|
Now, of course it's not news that Fox lies. What's news is that, hell has frozen over. Sean Hannity has actually apologized. Er, sorta:
What's funny to me is that even in admitting his producers cut in footage of the much larger rally back in September, Hannity still can't say they deliberately misled people. He has to play this 'mistakes were made' canard, a mistake which would be really hard to do--taking old footage and running it as new. And as Chez Pazienza said on HuffPost, Hannity managed to come off as '...both contrite and a smarmy little prick.'
What's more striking to me is that he didn't really apologize to his viewers, at least not for what he should really be sorry for: assuming they are idiots. That should be the first thing he says, you would think: 'Folks, sorry we assumed you were all pathetic sheep with no will of your own or ability to think critically about anything you see here. We assumed you are so stupid you would swallow anything we dangle in front of you.'
Of course, you'll never hear that from Hannity and his ilk; they are getting rich off of that assumption, and it has served them well for a long time.
ADDENDUM: the hannity vid seems to have been nuked, but here's a link to another version, for however long it lasts.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
...but maybe not so random.
I admit I have been watching Mad Men lately and that may have been a jumping-off point for my brain on this. But more so I was thinking about the little notes scrawled in old books, who they meant something to. And I remembered how it was so utterly sad to me being in my mom's house after she died and seeing little notes she had jotted down to herself, lists of tasks that would go undone, people she would never call, etc.
At any rate, I woke up the other day and started spewing this. Enjoy:
The sadness of junk. It is in the lost hopes and dreams in the things we sell or give away or leave behind. This is perhaps a newish phenomenon, one birthed of the unholy post-war marriage of unprecedented wealth and unprecedented free time, combined with the ascendancy of advertising and consumer culture. But it’s a place in history to which we can point and say, ‘Here.’ Here is a moment where the record skipped, where things went off-track, where our promise and potential got stripped, hijacked, and sold off piece by piece.
The moment where we began to transition from mostly rural to the weird netherworld of suburban is also the place where things, objects began to be invested with something other than their intrinsic, utilitarian value.
It’s actually hard to imagine a world in which things might be just things--useful, nothing more. A world in which the fetishization of objects isn’t ubiquitous. But I suspect that that was the world before I was born, before the post-war boom. If you bought a new car or a new stove or a new tie, you did so because the old one no longer worked properly or was worn out. Simple. Not because you secretly held a hidden emptiness inside and suspected--albeit on a subconscious level--that owning this new thing would fulfill it.
What seems to have happened after the post-war boom had been rolling merrily along for a decade or so, is people began wondering: where is MY happiness? Why, if we have won, if we have so much, if we are able to do and have and be anything we want, why am I still not happy? Or even satisfied for any length of time? There must be more.
And the flip side of that, the place where the sadness of objects comes from is the lie we told ourselves when we bought that thing, the one thing that was going to make us happy. The new car, the new refrigerator, the new outfit--walking out of the store, everything was golden, we could see a perfectible if not a perfect world, one in which everything could be ours and we could be happy. A world where the hole inside was filled.
The sadness of junk in pawn shops and especially older stuff--estate sales, objects in the homes of grandparents who have died, scrawled notes in the flyleaf of a yellowing book--is in seeing these things as they were once seen when they were new. These things that would once save us from the gaping maw of loneliness inside, now tossed away, scorned with rueful little smiles: how could I have ever liked that?
There is a giant crack in humanity. We have pretended for decades to have the ability to fill it with things, with work, with noise, but it only grows more petulant and demanding.
The other day, an assault of news stories: here is a man who hanged his girlfriend’s kitten and videotaped himself tormenting the animal in an act of revenge against her.
Here, a story on abusive practices at Vermont feed-lots--workers tormenting animals deliberately, a shot of a calf with its front hooves cut off left to squirm and suffer in the muck, a forklift driven through living cattle to move them while workers laugh.
Here, a Colorado fourteen-year-old suspected of murdering his parents.
Now, here is a story on a crack in Africa that may someday be a new ocean, as the continental shelves slowly pull apart.
But that ocean will take millions of years to form. The gulf that is much more urgent and immediately dangerous to our species is the one inside us. One begins to suspect that the fetishization of objects--which is the very medium in which we live our daily lives--has a darker side: the concurrent objectification of living things around us, including other people.
The crack begins to spread and the lies shine through.
The sadness of junk, of things discarded is that it is in these things that we have invested our humanity.
And now we find it too is as worn-out as the sad, dusty objects we once loved.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Go now to buy tickets for a debate between GW Bush and Bill Clinton, taking place on Feb 25.
Er, what? Really. Isn't that a bit like staging a fight between Mike Tyson and Cicely Tyson? Between Jack the Ripper and Jackie O? Between the New Orleans Saints and Saint Francis of Assisi?
Oh and the best part: the title of the series is "Minds That Move The World"
So...many...things...wrong with that statement. Head smashing onto keyboard--commence.
(full article below)
Clinton and Bush Set Debate
Run, don't walk, to grab tickets for what's being billed as "The Hottest Ticket in Political History." Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush will face off at Radio City Music Hall on February 25, as part of a "Minds That Move The World" speakers series. The program brings together liberal and conservative thinkers, such as Karl Rove, James Carville, Al Gore, Bill Maher, and Mike Huckabee. The tickets, which go on sale Sunday, are being hawked for $60 to $1,250.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Friday, October 23, 2009
I don't think it's NSFW...some bleeped words and animated gore is about it.
I would worry more about the damage it will do to your psyche, lol.
g4 via metafilter
happy friday! (oh, and fuck you. :)
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Now, even as hippie-dippie as that title sounds, I was still intrigued enough to order a free sample, simply because of this article. In it he cites the recent appearance of Richard Dawkins on Bill O'Reilly's screamapalooza:
The video, as with anything from The Falafel Man's show is difficult to watch, not only due to his inability to listen or respond to new information (as with most people who fear/hate/deny evolution, O'Reilly presents an astounding ignorance of how it works) but also because of his sputtering as Dawkins points out why and how moralistic behavior must have come along long before religion. As De Waal says in his article:
'Perhaps it is just me, but I'd be wary of anyone whose belief system is the only thing standing between them and repulsive behavior.'
And as Dawkins pointed out in "The God Delusion," (paraphrasing) it is an incredibly anti-semitic, rude and ridiculous proposal to suggest that in the thousands of years the tribe of Israelites existed prior to Moses handing down the commandments, their people would routinely murder, rape, and rob each other, all the while dishonoring mother and father. The proof that morals existed prior to the Ten Commandments lies in the fact that the Israelites still existed. They would most certainly have killed each other off long before, had they lacked moralistic behavior to such a degree throughout their existence.
Sidebar: And if you were a religious person, would you really want to claim to have descended from such an amoral, lascivious, murderous clan of people? And to have the totality of your religious thought stemming from their understanding of the world? Feckin' yikes.
Also, De Waal's discussion of observed cooperative animal behaviors goes to the right's simplisitc notions extolling the virtues of the individual over the collective. The simple truth--based on observations of our closest relatives--is that humans would never have been able to descend from the trees in the first place without some level of cooperation. Cooperation implies empathy, which implies a moral view toward your neighbors--not seeing them as objects to be gotten around, but rather as partners in facing a challenging and often deadly world.
In other words, the argument could be made that the animal kingdom, simply by dint of our long-term survival, and the survival of other species of primates shows us a true moral character that is much greater and grander than anything humans have proposed since religion was invented, much less lived up to.
Frankly, I'd trust a monkey to share food with me more than I'd trust some preachers to share anything, despite Jesus saying they should do so.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
My review of the Miner's Alley production of 'A Picasso' came out today.
The link above is to the Post's edited version, but I'm pasting the original below--if you compare the lede sentences you'll see why. :)
Here's the Post's edited version (which is fine, by the way. It may be better than my original, simply because it isn't so wordy.)
'A hundred years before folks like Dane Cook and Tila Tequila used MySpace to build careers based on the collective idiocy and short attention span of America, there was another self-promoter extraordinaire, one who made them look like pikers.'
But here's the way I turned it in. I dunno--I just like the word 'odious,' I guess.
A hundred years before Dane Cook and the only slightly more odious Tila Tequila used MySpace to build careers based on the collective idiocy and short attention span of America, there was another self-promoter extraordinaire, one who made them look like pikers.
His name was Pablo Picasso--er, kind of.
Not only was he a master of recreating himself and his art every few years--including his very name, which was actually Ruiz--he also had an incredible talent for leaving behind a scorched-earth swath of broken friendships, betrayed wives, and suicidal mistresses.
Bastard or genius or both, his life and career have been exhaustively dissected. But playwright Jeffrey Hatcher has nonetheless found an interesting if hypothetical moment upon which to build a taut, two-character play, “A Picasso,” now showing at Miner’s Alley in Golden.
It’s 1941, and Picasso (Chris Kendall) is living in Nazi-occupied Paris. There, he is unable to show his “decadent” art, but as a Spanish expatriate, neither was he required to serve in the Spanish Civil War, nor compelled to fight for France.
These (non) loyalties are part and parcel of who the man is, the preservation of self being one of his prime motivators. But his tenuous equilibrium is about to be upset by a meeting with a Gestapo agent, Miss Fischer, played by Paige L. Larson. She has sought the artist because the Reich is in possession of three drawings that may or may not be genuine Picassos, and she asks him to authenticate them.
In short order we discover that the Nazis intend to throw an art opening that involves gasoline and matches, and one of Picasso’s works is invited.
Thus the stakes are raised, and the life-and-death struggle begins, for as Picasso says, “If you burn a Picasso, you burn Picasso!”
His clever retorts aside--according to Hatcher, the great man crammed a lifetime of memorable quotes into one 80-minute conversation--Kendall’s portrayal is utterly believable. From his first nervous moments before his interrogator arrives (sit? Or stand?) to slipping easily into the confident Picasso persona, all power and lust and child-like impulse, to his passionate, tearful explication on various pieces and how they relate to his life, we never doubt his authenticity.
As his antithesis, Larson’s Miss Fischer is every bit as genuine, her Teutonic crispness and position exuding an equal if opposite power. Immediately in command, she strides into the basement room where Picasso waits (standing, finally) along with dozens of confiscated paintings and drawings. Her purple woolen suit is itchy even from 20 feet away, and any trace of sexuality seems to have been scrubbed from her demeanor with the exactitude of an obsessive-compulsive with a Brillo pad and a guilty conscience.
But as opposite as the two characters seem to be--the wild, sex-mad artist devoid of conscience, and the precise, regimented agent, casually dismissive of “queers” and Jews--the reveals Hatcher has written into the play are impressive, as is the way the cast handles them. Little by little they show us the layers beneath the two-dimensional explanations for who these people might be, and our opinions of them must be refined again and again.
Under the direction of Robert Kramer, the tension builds nicely, keeping the audience guessing as to who will eventually win--if anyone can be said to win--the power struggle between these two fearsomely strong opponents.
There is a beautiful, telling anecdote in the play about artists using a mirror to paint portraits rather than using direct observation, in order to ensure that the subject doesn’t change upon being observed--a sort of Schrödinger's cat theory for art.
That is exactly what Kendall and Larson have done so well here, through the equally magnificent words of Hatcher: they have held up an oddly-angled mirror to an over-examined, larger-than-life, near-fictionalized Artiste with a capital A, and shown us the man as well as the artist from a different perspective.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
"A high-on-drugs Dutch trucker en route to Gothenburg, Sweden, was masturbating while driving and lost control, flipping the truck and blocking multiple lanes of traffic. While in the wreckage, he kept masturbating. Under police interrogation, he kept masturbating. That's determination."
masturbating while being interrogated by police? that's no way to go through life, son.
Friday, September 18, 2009
This is from a NYC Fox affiliate. The weather guy and anchor are in 'banter mode,' and the anchor is giving him shit about the forecast, I guess.
So then the anchor says...well, watch:
'All right. Keep on fucking that chicken.'
Someone help me--is that like, a phrase now? What does it signify? I've never heard it before, but i kinda like it.
P.S. the truly creepy part of this story is that the anchorman is 66 years old, according to this piece.
Holy hairpiece/botox/facelift batman!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Not only has science ruined everything fun we used to be able to consume--cigarettes, cheeseburgers, fried food, drinking to excess, heroin--not only have they ruined random sex with strangers, now scientists at CU are just fucking with us.
They are reporting that showerheads may contain a variety of bacteria that could lead to pulmonary problems--problems like tuberculosis:
Scientists removed the showerhead from the pipe, swabbed the inside, and extracted DNA from that swab.
"We found a fairly high number (of M. avium)," said Baumgartner. "It was surprising how consistent it was."
The risk of illness is lower for people who prefer baths to showers. That's because showers act like aerosol sprays, and the pathogen-filled droplets are easily inhaled into the deepest part of the lungs.
"Pathogen-filled droplets easily inhaled into the deepest part of the lungs?!?!?!?"
Great. So, not only do I have to give up smoking and Wendy's, and take up running just to break even. Now you're telling me I can't even enjoy a shower after I get home from sweating out globules of cholesterol and whiskey?
Thanks a lot, CU. I want my tuition back.
Monday, September 14, 2009
And then there is the kinghell badass to beat all badasses of signage. He cannot spell, he lost the thread of whatever it was he was trying to say about halfway through this magnum opus, and he looks like he might be on a sex offender registry somewhere.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Welp, another rally of wingnuts, another crop of poorly thought-out, poorly-spelled signs protesting they know not what.
When will the mainstream finally acknowledge--aloud--that this alleged protest, this so-called movement, this teabag bullshit has little if anything to do with health care and everything to do with the color of the man’s skin who is currently occupying the White House?
That's not to say that the healthcare execs and their lobbyists don't have an agenda, or that they don't stand to win or lose billions on this. But when it comes to the people out in the street, this is a clear attempt by those in power--the people at the top who are beholden to the system’s current winners--doing their best to use those at the bottom to further their agenda at the expense of thse people’s own best interests. Read a book called “What’s the Matter With Kansas” for much more on this phenomenon.
Anyway, here’s but a few pics from NineTwelvePhotos’ photostream on flickr. There’s lots and lots and lots more. Good for a laugh and a cringe.
I'm not sure if she forgot to write out the word 'lion' on the, er, punchline side of the sign, or if we are, a la diners at Denny's, meant to glean her meaning from the picture of the lion. Either way, stay classy, Cleveland!!
I guess I still don't quite understand what health care as to do with the Second Amendment. Am I missing something?
This might have to be my favorite. Not only for the clear teeth-grinding rage and paranoia of the man in the pic--you can bet that right after this was snapped he said, 'Get that camera away from me!!" But also because if you click on it, you can see that someone originally correctly spelled 'menopause,' and that some helpful wag came along and 'corrected' it, changing the o to an a.
Joe the Plumber's spellcheck is at work again.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Seems some peeps are fed up with the Blond Bloviator using the tired, tried and true technique from Fox News, in which anchors say something like, 'Some are saying...' or 'There is a rumor that...' and then spew out whatever bullshit talking points they were handed by the RNC.
Here's a taste:
"This site exists to try and help examine the vicious rumour that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990. We don't claim to know the truth -- only that the rumour floating around saying that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990 should be discussed. So we're going to do our part to try and help get to the bottom of this. Why won't Glenn Beck deny these allegations? We're not accusing Glenn Beck of raping and murdering a young girl in 1990 - in fact, we think he didn't! But we can't help but wonder, since he has failed to deny these horrible allegations. Why won't he deny that he raped and killed a young girl in 1990?"
Beck's response? Sue them for copyright infringement, thus drawing even more attention to the site.
These guys just keep on getting smarter.
ADDENDUM: and to paraphrase the originator of this joke (Gilbert Gottfried, who used it during a roast of Bob Saget): "We don't for sure that Glenn Beck raped and murdered a young girl in 1990. It's entirely possible that he murdered her first, and then raped her."
Here's the original, complete with some references that never had a chance in hell of making it into a Family Newspaper, lol. But I am always hopeful, and I always try anyway.
For your reading pleasure.
by Kurt Brighton
Like it or not, David Mamet’s 1988 play “Speed-the-Plow” will be forevermore associated with “Entourage” star Jeremy Piven. Not for what he did with the role of Bobby Gould, but for what he didn’t do: finish the run of a 2008 revival. Dropping out of the production after suffering from suspected mercury poisoning--with sushi as the dubious delivery system--was just too weird a story not to be covered extensively.
Mamet’s wry observations aside--he told Variety, “My understanding is that [Piven] is leaving show business to pursue a career as a thermometer,”--the show deserves better.
The “bitching-lamp,” indeed, is lit.
But the script also deserved better--from Mamet. More on that later.
Luckily, here in Denver we have Modern Muse. Their production of “Speed” hits all the right notes: Ari Gold has nothing on Len Matheo as Gould, a mid-level Hollywood sleaze-vendor who has been recently promoted. His buddy, the equally rapacious Charlie Fox is played by Erik Tieze, who also steps up superbly.
The tale is familiar by now, but with typical Mametian twists: soulless Hollywood jerks revel in selling America the dimmest of formulaic tripe, because it’s safe, and it makes them rich. Well, duh.
Bobby is full of the swagger of a newly-minted decider, suddenly having the freedom to green-light films up to $40 million without the approval of his boss, but Matheo also manages to slip in the layer of insecurity that lurks beneath any such promotion. Charlie seeks to take immediate advantage, having secured the rights, which expire in 24 hours, to a shoo-in box office hit.
Bobby and Charlie josh around with other like old fraternity brothers, and the chemistry between Matheo and Tieze is relaxed and genuine. Moreover, under the guidance of director A. Lee Massaro, the two have done a masterful job of interpreting “Mamet-speak,” that odd and oddly stiff, jolting speech that is meant to resemble the way people actually talk, but usually ends up seeming just a bit too precious. Matheo and Tieze manage to cut each other off, ignore each other, and overlap as naturally as is possible, given the style’s strictures.
Wafting around the edges of the crude jokes and good-natured shoving is the unmistakable stench of the power differential that separates the two. In Charlie’s every word you can hear his lascivious hunger--a verbal tumescence, if you will--for The Big Money his friend already enjoys. Each buddy-hug is a near-smothering; each headlock is but one twitch away from becoming a strangulation.
Which brings up the cause of the friction between these two fast friends. This being Mamet, you can guess that it involves one of those people, that minority which makes up 50.1 percent of the human population: the testicularly-deficient. The ovarially-afflicted. The gynocratically-inclined.
Women being the source of all evil and strife in Mamet-land, Lisa DeCaro as the put-upon temporary secretary who is assigned to “courtesy-read” a post-apocalyptic novel written by an award-winning “Eastern fruit” is bound to run up against the sweaty, hairy chest of righteous uber-masculinity that is the beating heart of Mamet’s world.
DeCaro does great work as the wide-eyed secretary, but even as you decide she is devoid of original ideas, intelligence, or even basic common sense, you begin to suspect that she may be just as conniving and greedy as the boys, only not as good at it. Mamet’s done himself one better than usual: women are somehow not only stupid, naïve and childish, they may simultaneously be clever, evil tricksters.
While the performances and direction are spot-on--these guys have done all you can with these characters and more--ultimately you walk away from “Speed-the-Plow” dissatisfied. There’s an uneasy sense that Mamet the meta-con man has pulled one over on us, painting himself in shades of self-parody, then sitting back to see how much we’ll bite.
Ultimately the play reads as if it were a bilious, extended character study which someone convinced a reluctant author to stretch out to the bare minimum of 90 minutes.
Huh. Come to think of it, isn’t that exactly what routinely happens with those soulless, Hollywood film scripts?
There's something so adorable about her viciousness. It's as if Barbie did a bunch of blow and let all her inner bitterness out--but in a soft, pink, fuzzy-bunny way that spewed it at her targets without getting any on herself. :)
Happy Friday, and Fuck You Very Much!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Mac, not one to let anything slide, puts on some tennis shoes and heads down from the booth to the court to hit a few with the Djoker, much to the delight of the NYC crowd. And how fun for this 22 or 23 year old superstar getting to clown around with one of the all-time legends of tennis.
In an age of image control and paranoia from athletes who feel the need to appear only as perfect rock stars (the confiscated tape of LeBron getting dunked on at his camp, anyone?) it is really refreshing to see these two guys going out in front of a crowd of thousands, and on television or at least tape, and acting silly, and not giving a shit about how they look.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
"Family members say Atlantic School officials forced the girls to remove their clothes during an investigation into a theft on August 21st. Lawyers say the girls were forced to strip down to their underwear, and one girl took off all her clothes."
He claims, bizarrely, that this isn't technically a 'strip-search,' and therefore is allowable under the district rules.
But what amused me about this whole thing is the picture the website reporting it ran alongside the story:
Gosh, titillation much, fellas? What's the message here, 'Oh that's horrible! The way they humiliated those poor girls!' But...what? It's also kinda hot?
Sunday, September 6, 2009
oh god...oh jesus.
(sweat beading on forehead)
oh my lord...
(hands start to shake)
(mouth dry -- licking lips)
(reaching for it with shaking hand...)
OH GOD YES!!!
hell, i'll even bang the scottish lass with the butter-face, if i hafta. that, i think, is enough whisky to get me in the sack with phyllis diller.
or even kate gosselin.
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Ha! GQ published its first-ever (but hopefully not last) list of America's 25 douchiest colleges and universities. I was a bit disappointed that Penn State only got honorable mention behind Ohio State in the excessive school spirit category (we're ALWAYS losing to those guys!!)
But I felt a tiny, gold and black tear welling up in my eye when I saw that my alma mater, good ole Ski U was listed at number 10. We're number 10! We're number...uh, what where we talking about, dude? Pass the bong.
Here's a snippet:
Home of: The Kind-Bud Douche
Affectations: Prius; $400 Telemark skis you're not sure what to do with; bong made from recycled Nalgene bottles; white-guy dreads.
Friday, September 4, 2009
My phone company, the one I pay way too much money to every month, is stepping up and using its corporate voice to draw attention to the environmental debate.
Only problem is, they're sponsoring this 'Friends of America' rally this weekend, an anti-environment, pro-coal event featuring such heavyweight environmental intellects as Sean Hannity, Ted Nugent and John Rich. At the event, which is being held on a reclaimed mine in West Virginia (see! everything's just okey-dokey!) you will be given the opportunity to sign a petition put out by the National Mining Association opposing the Waxman-Markey bill, a clean energy bill that would address climate change, finally, in a real and hopefully useful way.
Goddamn commies, wanting to keep their stupid polar ice caps...
At any rate, when Becky Bond, the political director for a group called Credo Action contacted Verizon and asked why they were on the sponsor rolls along with dozens of mining companies and anti-environment front groups, they got this in response:
"This is how our response is going over with the activists. Becky once lived in a tree for a while. At least now I know where the emails are coming from."
— James Gerace, VP of Corporate Communications at Verizon Wireless
Nice to know that they care so much about what their customers think. Just send us the money, folks. We'll do the big-picture 'thinking' for ya.
So if you don't think Verizon should sponsor global warming deniers and mountain-top removal mining, go here to sign a petition. To send Verizon a direct email telling them what you think, go here.
Have a happy and fun Labor Day!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
my initial thoughts are: ex-con, serial killer, bubble boy, dead man walking.
oh, and i included the ghostly looking one where i moved the camera because i like it. so there.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Saturday, August 29, 2009
'Misanthropy is a general dislike, distrust, contempt, or hatred of the human species or a disposition to dislike and/or distrust other people's silent consensus about reality. The word comes from the Greek words μίσος (misos, "hatred") and άνθρωπος ( anthrōpos, "man, human being"). A misanthrope is a person who dislikes or distrusts humanity as a general rule.'
If you know me or read this, you probably already know that I have a tendency towards misanthropy. I wouldn't say I HATE humanity, but 'distrust, contempt,' and 'a disposition to distrust other people's silent consensus about reality' pretty much hits the nail right on the old head there.
This blog especially is where much of it comes out. I hope that I am generally a more cheerful person in real life than these rantings would lead you to believe. Sometimes it seems to turn into my own personal 'rants and raves' section, a place for me to dump all the negativity and express my frustrations with the thick soup of teh stoopid in which we all swim.
And if you know anything about me, you can probably guess that I am not a huge fan of weddings.
I was at both yesterday, and the interesting thing, the take-away I got from it--aside from a skull that weighs about 400 pounds and is filled with lead--is just how lovely and beautiful people are. Yes, they are stupid, and selfish and all the other things I rant about. But when people of so many diverse backgrounds and upbringings and lives and belief systems can come together and meet each other and be happy together, celebrating this weird, archaic ritual, it really does me some good.
I met a lot of really good-hearted people yesterday, and despite my disdain for the rituals of the church, the value that I can grok from this event is that community, in the sense of bringing people together to 'commune' with one another is a very important cultural device we have invented for ourselves. I value my alone time, and I am very comfortable being alone. And I think that lots and lots of people are unable to feel okay about themselves unless they are constantly around other people. Whatever; to each his own.
But for a loner like me, I am discovering that maybe every now and then I have a need to come down off the mountain and rub shoulders with my fellow humans. It sounds cheesy as hell as I write it, but the real challenge is to find a way to love people, even for all their faults and stupidity.
We are horrible, clumsy, murderous, sweet, vicious, cruel, adorable buffoons, every one of us.
I walk away, and today I see people in a different light. They are just like me, doing the best they can.
Just read a really cool piece by Charles Stross on the quality of mercy, coincidentally just after i was working on some revisions of this chapter. Enjoy.
The floods came and went.
And then they came back again. And again.
The water and the winds returned. But even the tardy, begrudging mercy the country showed New Orleans after the first flood did not. Mercy was already in short supply in those days.
It’s even rarer now.
Mercy does not age well. It must be consumed on the spot or it immediately begins to decay. Like when a stranger offers to buy you a shot: drink it down, lad, drink it down. The offer may not come back around. There are no rain checks on mercy.
Even just after Katrina, some found it a tricky tight-wire act, feeling compassion for the residents of New Orleans. Within days of the first flood, even while the bodies of grandmothers still floated in the brackish water, people began to mutter things like, ‘Well, it’s kind of their fault, for living in a bowl ten feet below sea level. Why should our tax dollars go toward reconstructing the city if it’s doomed anyway?’
Which was true, in a way.
But another truth: cruelly short-sighted sentiment like that was a poor disguise for an unspoken sense of moral superiority, a self-righteous schadenfreude. In parts of the country, certainly in the fish-belly white, Bible-thumping beer-gut of the nation, there was a tacit feeling that New Orleans had gotten what she deserved. The floods and the destruction and the misery and the deaths--these could be viewed as Old Testament-style retribution for her sinful ways. There was a secretive smacking of lips at the thought of all those hedonists getting flooded out of their debauched homes, their porn collections and drug stashes ruined. The nation’s diffident response to the catastrophe reflected that hidden acrimony.
But politicians can’t resist a disaster. They’re drawn to human misery like flies to shit.
Some say it’s difficult to tell which is which.
The politicians came ready with bluster and promises and teary-eyed sentimentalism, sleeves rolled up as if they might actually do some actual work.
Actually, they didn’t. In the days following the first calamity--which, granted, was not entirely man-made--after the cameras had recorded the sound bites, after poll-tested doses of garment-rending had been doled out for the masses, the politicians quickly dried their eyes.
Then they reapplied their make-up, and they rolled their sleeves back down, and fled in their air-conditioned limousines.
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 afterward 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 press stayed a little longer, but they too trickled away soon enough. Their blow-dryers and wardrobe racks were soon packed up and shipped to more arid climes.
After all, there was always some 16-year-old girl--preferably wealthy and white--who had gone missing, one with model good looks and a skeevy 24-year-old boyfriend. And when the media turned away from New Orleans, so did the fickle attention of America.
Among American cities, New Orleans had long been the outcast cousin. She was the slightly seedy one who smelled of trouble--and liquor--but who always got away without having anything serious pinned on her. She was the exotic one, the pariah of the American family who showed up every other Christmas. Or she might randomly call to see if she could crash on your couch--a call that invariably came in the middle of the night. When you were kids, New Orleans was the older cousin who secretly smoked out back at family reunions, the cousin who bought you booze when you were underage, and who always had rolling papers for some reason.
She had a great laugh and endless stories to tell, all of them bawdy and hilarious, and which got her uninvited to most formal events. You wouldn’t want her to meet your new bride’s parents.
So, we tolerated her, 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, quietly succumbing to the water, the relentless water.
The water is patient. The water is a leisurely rapist that has all the time in the world.
She died alone. As much as she loved us, and as much as we loved her, we abandoned her when it came time for her to succumb.
We are all guilty.
But, hell. On the other hand, New Orleans has always been dying. Even from her earliest days when there was little more than a string of shacks where travelers could buy liquor and sex, connected by planks set across the mud, there was a sense of resignation embedded deep within her spirit, a Gallic shrug of the soul.
Of course the sea would come, she said, lifting the bottle to her lips then passing it on.
How could it not?
They rebuilt, eventually. But they didn’t bother much with the levees or the ancient, low-lying structures, the water-logged history rotting beneath.
Instead they built high. They ignored the squalid mess below and looked skyward.
They built New New Orleans.