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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Harder than an Infant

There were thoughts of a concise essay on the Republican Primaries.  Then there is the topic of legalizing drugs and same sex marriage. How about Roe v Wade and the continuing fight for women's rights?

All good topics and ones that never really leave the American spotlight.  Morality and faith as it pertains to legislation.  These are not the topics solved in a tiny blog post.

In fact, those items can be handled quite well by my colleague Doc S and other authors Nationwide.

Ok you got me.  It's near impossible to get anything done with a 3 month old puppy floating around.

There were sound reasons I protested a dog all this time.  This is hard work.

Cons:


1. Sleeping patterns are off more than usual.  Bad enough we fought for a solid 5/6 hours prior to the puppy.  Now, with him sharing our bed, 3 hours is deemed beyond worthy.  How did we get away with never having our daughter share our bed and now succumbing to a dog???

We are better than that.  It will have to stop.  But we do not want to crate him overnight.  Hmm.  What to do?

2.  Accidents in the house.  There have been few over the first month, but the overall opinion is 1 is to many.  Add to the mix an aging cat that cannot keep anything in and there are times I feel like a veterinarian orderly.  Did I mention the IV that I have to administer to the cat?  What the hell is going on here?  Should I go with a white coat or one of those patterned nurses shirts?  Do they make them with the MLB logos on them?  Where was I?  Sleep?

Oh yeah, you sleep when you're dead.

3.  Money.  Not a huge deal, but this little guy has 3 new sweaters in his closet.  The last time I had 3 new sweaters in my closet was when we went back to school shopping for Catholic school.  V Neck, school monogrammed poly sweaters does not a shopping spree make.  

4.  Engaging with people in public.  Now I'm the dbag that talks with people on the streets.  "Is that a whippet puppy?  How old?  What's his name?"  Ugh, I can't goof on dog people anymore!!  I have crossed over to the dark side.  Worse, I rather enjoy answering the questions.  Wait, so is this a con or pro?  TBD

5.  The love/hate relationship that has arisen with the 9 year old of the house.  At times she adores our new pet.  She smiles as they walk the neighborhood.  She laughs as the wrestle in the living room.  She peacefully sleeps next to him in her bed (not often enough!!)   Then, in an instant, he acts like a puppy. A harmless nip on her arm brings tears to her eyes.  She scolds the wild beast and storms up to her room.  She blames her parents for condoning the attack by suggesting he is only a puppy, only playing. "You love him more!  I wish we never got him!"  You know the drill.  Jan Brady syndrome.   Thankfully we are all too tired to take it personally.  At least that is what I am telling myself.

Pros:

1.  The unconditional love thing.  The daughter might get angry and throw a slap his way.  Makes no difference.  He will be looking for her affection soon thereafter.  If all the care givers are away four hours at a time he finds himself crated.  You can count on euphoria when we enter back in and releash the hound.  If everyone acted that way when I enter a room maybe my confidence wouldn't be so low.  Maybe we should all start that to boost our energies.  Next time your spouse walks in the door jump around and shower him or her with yelps, cheers and kisses.  How long before he/she has you committed or suspects you have been up to no good.

2.  Fitness takes an upturn with a puppy in tow.  It speaks to con # 2.  In order to avoid accidents I find myself walking the puppy at every possible moment.  And since he is trained to run there have even been some sprints worked into the mix.  Coincidence last night at basketball my back felt better than it has in months?  Don't think so.

Hmm, thought of other cons before pros...  harder to work.  The trouble with working from home!!  I am actually missing NJ Transit and the cruel streets of Manhattan.

Ok, enough.  The 2 pros outweigh all the cons.  It's just a whole bunch of work.  And that is no mystery!!  Tread lightly folks when looking into adopting a new pet.

Having now raised an infant and puppy my feeling is infants are easier.  After all they can't walk for about a year.  

Send in your thoughts, feelings, observations on how you raise(d) your pet.  This brother is looking for all the help her can get.

Fan us here to:  Facebook Page for GTS  Eventually I would like to run the blog here.  Your likes wil greatly help.  Thanks as always for reading, your support and spreading the word.

HankB



Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hollywood's Biggest Night (Recap)

Morgan Freeman opens the show. Shouldn't he be getting busy dying?

Chapter 11 theatre is good line from Crystal. He does seem at ease hosting this event.

Song and dance number has it's moments, but it may be time to retire it.

Hanks seat filler bit is officially the first superfluous bit.

Italy getting love in Hollywood is a good thing. Hooray for Hugo and it's Cinematography/Art Direction awards.

Why would anyone want to boycott JC Penney because of Ellen DeGeneres? Her commercials do more to harm the brand than help it.  Let her do the work of burying that company.  It's called being unfunny.

Let's go to movies segment is cut number that was not made. Who is this for exactly? We have all seem these moments countless times. "We are gonna need a bigger boat.". Ugh.

The costume design/makeup nominations were handled well. Good hearing the actors talk about the process adn those behind it.

Why JLo? What is her contribution to film? And don't say Out of Sight or Money Train!!!

The single camera interviews with the likes of Ben Stiller, Brad Pitt and especially Helen Mirren worked well. Although Adam Sandler's inclusion is mystifying. We don't need him talking about Sean Connery. Especially after Jack and Jill set movie making back decades. Check the inter web to verify Erroll Morris directed these vignettes.  It has his fingerprints and would explain why they are so good. Simple and compelling like all his work.

Sandra Bullock speaking German and giving Foreign Language award makes no sense. Then again, Sandra Bullock becoming a star is dumb founding.  Where is a runaway bus when you need one?

Leave it to liberal LA present an Oscar to an Iranian film. Johnny Depp and Sean Penn should have presented.  Good speech by the filmmaker though.

Hard to look at Christian Bale without thinking of his rant from Terminator. And what is with the feedback on the microphones???

Liked Octavia Spencer and The Help... but hard to single out one performance in that decidedly ensemble film. Bridesmaids however was Melissa McCarthy's coming out party. She was robbed. Emma Stone's weak starring turn made Spencer (and Viola Davis work) look stronger.

Wizard of Oz bit fell very flat. Makes me rethink my love of Christopher Guest and his work. As is the case every year way too much patting on back. Aren't the awards enough?..

Wife wondered if the sound editor winners could fix the microphones on stage. Agree!!!

Steve Martin onTwitter: comedy never wins. Dramatic poop scene wins over comedy poop scene.

The cirque du solei folks are crazy talented. But this plays far better to those in attendance. And the one reaction shot is George Clooney. Of course. Let the guy breath.

Robert Downey steals scenery wherever he is.

Emma Stone clearly drunk and having fun. Those are the moments that can liven up this bland and predictable event.  This stuffy affair can learn from the Grammys. Loosen up a bit folks you're making movies not curing cancer. Art has a soft side. Billy Crystal is trying his hardest but he is overmatched.

Christopher Plummer was amazing in the underrated and underseen Beginners. Good for him! What a wonderful career and a splendid speech. See this picture please.

Is anyone watching OWN? How long before Oprah has a daytime network show again?

Academy President speech deserved Crystal's mocking. More unnecessary self gratifying horse<|^*!

2 hours in and the sound is still not fixed. Crazy. Embarrassing. Mess.

Can a year go by that John Williams isn't nominated for Best Score?

Could the NBA All star game have more drama? Sad I am even asking.

Ferrell and Galifinakis unfunny... but seeing Bret McKenzie win is most rewarding. Big props for Flight of the Conchords!!

Plenty of leg from Ms Jolie Pitt. Too bad she tongues her brother and had Sling Blades blood around her neck.  And all the kids... And her skinny arms scare me a bit. Eating disorder?

Descendants writer goofing on Jolie's pose was a nice touch.

Love that Woody Allem won. Love that he never goes to the event. Hate the man all you want, and he has given you reason, I get it. But his work, and work ethic, cannot be ignored. Midnight in Paris was fun, smart, and entertaining. Most filmmakers these days settle for one of those formulas and pray for success. Allen does things his way and does not look back. Bravo.

The tech awards are always awkward. Milla Jovoich could not even spruce them up. But boy is she a looker. Do people still say that?

The presentation of short subject documentaries might be longer than the films themselves.

Is it Pakistan or Bokeestan?

Popcorn gals in the aisles and violins in balconies are odd at best.

Michael Douglas looks good. Here is hoping he will not parade himself out there post stroke a la his father... Or Dick Clark. Go out on a high note.

When the frog wins for directing that makes the night anti climatic. Artist will win Best Film... frog will win Best actor... Snore.

Most of what America pays money to view on big screens is loud comic book action. A silent black and white film has captured Hollwoods attention.  Weird indeed, but somehow encouraging. Maybe it is about time we turn down the volume. Michael Bay made his money. He can retire, right? And take Jerry Bruckheimer with you!

Oprah has an Oscar??? What kind of photos does she have of the Hollywood elite?

Classy piece on all those who died last year. Esperanza Spaldings live version of "It's a Wonderful World" was a nice touch (as was her fro!!) Liz Taylor and Whitney Houston stood out. Although Columbo is close behind. It's 11:10 and to this point the show is underwhelming to say the least. Overlong. Lacking energy. In other words it is playing like most of Hollywoods product. Where have all the editors gone??? It's a school night folks.

Interviews from Precious and Julia Roberts? Now we are reaching. Oh right, they either have Oscars or have been nominated.  Edit that line please.

Patton Oswalt spotting. Thanks Academy.

Best Actor award and sound is still flawed. Not that anyone cares to hear Natalie Portman wax poetic about the 5 nominees. Just show the clips and announce the winners!! "Brad, you're charisma alone...". Puke.

What will you remember from the Frenchman's acceptance speech? Electric violin from balcony, right?

Colin Firth makes the talk ups look seamless and does it with charm and wit.  Damn those Brits!!

Jersey Girl Streep takes home another one.  But it is a shame Glenn Close has never won an Oscar.  She didn't really kill the bunny ya know.

And that's it...  The Artist wins in a very diverse year.  Hugo got some trophies.  Descendants scored a bit.  All and all an equitable, predicatable, boring affair.

Why bother?

It's what we do.  Look at the spectacle then knock it down.  Like the many movies we have seen or will see.

Planning my next trip to the overpriced cinema now.  And make no mistake I will be tuned into to next years bloated telecast awarding everyone for their "work."

For now I get some sleep and think of the real work that has to get done.  Quotes.  Purchase Orders.  Trains. Automobiles.  Moneyball.  The Help.

Anyone buying a script loosely based on this "so called life?"  Seems like a pretty good way to make a living.
















Hollywood's Biggest Night Preshow

Want a good reason why the broadcast starts at 8:30, rather than 8. We all know it will go 3+ hours. The folks in
LA can afford to start early for us East Coast folk.

Love that Sasha Baron Cohen dumped ashes on Ryan Seacrest.

Can another accounting firm handle the envelopes??? What did Price Waterhouse do to get this gig? Why is Kelly Osborne's hair pinkish grey?

Explain America's love affair with Brad Pitt? Sandra Bullock? Angelina Jolie?

Cameron Diaz is the queen of butter face.

Does GCB look like the dumbest show ever??? Have you no shame Kriaten Chenowith? Wait, just saw a commercial for
Ashley Judd's Missing...

Weird seeing a grey bearded Tom Hanks. Bosom Buddies was last year, no?

Enjoy the show folks.




Friday, February 24, 2012

Ticket Brokers Be Damned

The old tickets go on sale Friday at noon routine.  Scrambling around to be near a smart phone or computer at noon Friday is challenge enough.  Then the Ticketmaster dance.  The 800 number is a good 5 minutes until human interaction occurs.  Too long.

And the website provides little relief.  Even with the website loaded you cannot move forward until noon.  Next we head to the encrypt word page which is always dicey.  Is that an R or M?  1 or I?  More minutes pass before you end up on the credit card page.  Then authorizations...  more passwords.  Before you know it 7 minutes have passed.  Oh, and guess what.  The show is sold out.

Wait, what?  1000 tickets for Alabama Shakes at Bowery in 5 minutes.  4000 tickets for Wilco at Wellmont in 3 minutes?  85,000 seats for Bruce at Met Life?

With the help of intricate hacking software and malicious intent ticket brokers buy the majority and then turn them around for juicy profits.

For instance, Alabama Shakes tix went on sale today (this author clearly did not get tickets!!)  Bowery is small so an hour or two sell out would be fair.  The moment I entered the system (12:03pm) the shows were finished.  No tickets available for both the Bowery show and Williamsburg, Brooklyn show the night after.  A coveted $20 concert ticket is paper gold for today's broker.  Take a look at Stubhub for this event a mere 3 hours later.  Brokers Suck Example 1  $90 is now the lowest ticket available.

That's real money.  That's half a Whole Foods order!!

For Wilco, and bands like them, sometimes a pre-arranged second date is added.  Those shows sell out soon after too.  Wilco, Radiohead and The Avett Brothers are getting wise to it.  They run their tickets through their own websites and include generous pre-sales to their fan base.

High time everyone else does that too.  The whole industry is so incestuous it is astounding.  Soon it will be a company like BiNLo from Pixar's billiant film Wall-E.  Assume Live Nation owns all the venues and Ticketmaster/Stubhub control the tickets.   It is plausible.  Eventually they will merge into a massive conglomerate without any regard for their clients.  Right now they are like that, just individually.

The biggest injustice is not that folks like me get shut out.  Rather, the bands see NONE of the money from the brokers mark up.  Don't you think if Alabama Shakes thought they could get $90 a ticket they would be playing MSG?  Not Bowery!!

But as is the case with any crime it appears the criminals are outwitting and outpacing law enforcement.  Brokers Suck Example 2

Surely I am not the only one with this gripe?  Take a peek at this thread from Alabama Shakes Facebook page:  Brokers Suck Example 3 Fans are angry and are being heard.   Look here as this author laments missing out on Fiona Apple tix yesterday: Brokers Suck Example 4 (Audra's blog).

Day in and day out it is a struggle to do stay ahead.  Toll increases.  Gas prices skyrocketing.  Property reassessment.  And this without talking about all the home repairs that cannot get done!

Is is so match to ask that my entertainment dollar stays relatively low?  What is it going to take for artists to grab hold of this mess and make some change?  After all their pockets are getting fleeced far more than yours.  Not like they make any money on record sales these days.  If they want to make any money isn't in their best interests?

Or is this all of matter of supply and demand?  Capitalism and the beauty therein?  To the victors...

Stop barking at the moon, huh?  Maybe this is not as important an issue as what?  Government debate over a women's reproductive system?  Men losing lives over oil supremacy?  The lunacy and idiocy of hype that occurs when Asians succeed at basketball?  George Clooney getting MORE attention for his pedestrian film?

No, this is vital folks!

There has to be a reason to put up with an unsatisfying career and the cost that comes with that.  For me, it is the reasonable expectation that the playing field should be even (only for concert sales.  I am not a madman!)

Who's with me???

GTS News:

Regular followers will note that their are now a few other contributors.  Doc S, Kevin, Jennifer and Lelica have all done a great job.  Thanks.  We would always like to here your voice.  Send in some comments, become a fan on Facebook Fan Us Already!! or follow on Twitter Twitter GTS.  Don't rule out a blog either.  Teacher struggling with your class?  Great blog topic.  Pharma sales who travels way too often?  Let's hear it.  Frustrated soccer mom?  Dad?  No judgements here.  No, wait, nothing but judgements here.

But whatever, do whatcha like and have fun doing it.

And no I will NOT practice what I preach.  Happy Weekend!!!







Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Weekend in NYC, Part 2, War Horse at Lincoln Center

What do you say about a play that has been at Lincoln Center for nearly a year?  A play that had critical acclaim from London's West End for years prior to its export to this fair land?

Are there superlatives left unsaid to describe this production?  Everyone knows it was a childrens book by Michael Morpurgo (circa 1982) before the play right?  It is common knowledge that Spielberg's Academy Award nominated film is based on both the book and this play?  Right?

After a discussion with some friends on Sunday it became obvious not everyone knows this play exists.

And everyone should.

The setting is Europe during the first World War.  A British family buys a young horse (they cannot afford it.)  The horse is not a farming horse in a time when a farming horse is needed.  Their young son (Albert) forms an unbreakable bond with the horse (training it as a thoroughbred.)

The father sells the horse to the British Army (breaking a promise he made to Albert.)  Albert joins the Army (at age 16) to find his beloved friend.

By no means is this an Earth shattering premise, nor does the narrative break any new ground.  Broadway plays, for the most part, follow this familiar pattern.

Protagonist is introduced (Albert- and Joey the horse.)  Trouble ensues (here the Great War.)  Resolution.

What separates War Horse from the ordinary is its magical and breathtaking production design.   More specifically, the Handspring Puppet Company's efforts bringing Joey (as well as other horses/birds/ducks) to life is reason alone to run to the Vivian Beaumont Theatre.  Not since John Cusack in Being John Malcovich has a puppeteer elevated the art.

From the moment the young foal, Joey, enters the stage you easily suspend disbelief and accept him as a real equine.  Each horse is handled by three humans and it is so effortless you can do nothing but drop your jaws.  And gasp.  Cry.  Smile.  And be forever changed.

If you have not seen how the horses are brought to life take a look here:  War Horse West End Trailer

This is far from a puppet show though.  Which is why the Lincoln Center run, expected to be a few months, has been extended to an infinite run.

The acting is exceptional.  Their are some traditional musical pieces, which act as an added narrative, that are performed/sung beautifully.  The lighting and sound (both Tony winners) are fantastic.

Right, the superlatives.  It is that good.

This space is usually reserved for avant garde music, childrens films, or other digressions on culture, politics, life in general.  In War Horse we are presented with most of that and more.  The human condition fully examined.

What is important to us all?  What will we do when crisis arises in our everyday life?  Can we take someone on his/her word alone?  Are we ever able to trust someone?  Can we love unconditionally?

This is the power of art.  Those questions, some answered, most not, are all presented over the plays 2 plus hours.  All the while we are transported into another World.  The imagination very much at work.

We all struggle in our day to day lives.  So too did those in World War 1.  We all try and put our best foot forward.  We all deserve a few hours to be reminded how far we have come.  Give yourself some time to avoid abortion debates, Iran/Israel talk, skyrocketing gas prices, homework, household chores, etc...

You will not be disappointed.

Go here now:  http://www.WarHorseOnBroadway.com/


PS:
There are far more moments that deserve acclaim, but again, nearly a year after it opened it seems trivial.

The play won 5 Tony Awards and countless others from its stint in London.  It is also starting a travel run this summer and will also be staged in LA and Toronto soon.  Yeah, it will be around a while.

Further resources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_Horse_(play)
http://www.handspringpuppet.co.za/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Morpurgo
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marianne_Elliott_(director)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Morris_(director)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toby_Sedgwick  Horse Choreographer
 


Monday, February 20, 2012

A Weekend in NYC, Part 1, Sleigh Bells

You would think a Friday evening show would be ideal for working folk.  Maybe not.

After fighting with clients, raising children and training puppies all week a Friday evening sinking into the couch watching Law and Order can be very inviting.

In any event Terminal 5 on Manhattan's Upper West Side was the site of NY's own Sleigh Bells' coming out/record release party.  OK, they are promoting their second album( Reign of Terror released 2.21)and appeared on Saturday Night Live this weekend too.  Coming out party is over stating it.  These guys have a following and packed the house Friday night.

Youth was served with a high energy, high octane dance/pop/club mix the kiddies ate up like so much Fun Dip.

Sleigh Bells is made up of Derek Edward Miller (guitar/production) and Alexis Krauss (vocals.)  They were joined by another guitarist and played in front of an enormous stack of Marshalls.

Keeping score?  2 guitars and a microphone.  Nothing else.

But a whole bunch of sound, or "noise pop" as it is classified.  Tons of percussion, with nary a drum to be found.  Synths and bass lines filled the air, from pedals and backstage, one must presume.

A spectacle.  Theatre.  Performance Art.

A medley of 4 to 5 minute tracks admirably performed and overall very entertaining.

Earth shattering and ground breaking rock and roll?  Um, no.  Having only formed 3 + years the group has a respectable setlist.  They play well as driving music and the soundtrack to household chores.  Ms Krauss' voice is strong, yet hardly unique.  Miller's value is clearly more in production than guitar work.   Together their live show is raucous, exhuberant, and overall somewhat lacking.

Take a look at their SNL performance from the other night as proof.  Over and over the refrain that seems most apt:  good, not great.  Why all the hate for Lana Del Rey on SNL and these folks get a pass?  Oh, right, they are not as glamorous so that means they are edgy.   Critics, and especially the Alt bloggers, hate a pretty face.  Better to sound average and look the part rather than look great and play average.  Or something like that.

The biggest disappointment of the evening occurred prior to Sleigh Bells taking stage.  Black Bananas, veteran indie girl Jennifer Herrema's latest vanity project, played a half hour set filled with more pretension than one of these blogs.

Overlapped synths, laser beam sounds, screeching/incoherent vocals, over and over again.  As my friend Phil H noted from the front row "They were trying way too hard to appear apathetic."

Bad sets happen.  Bad acts can (read:should) be avoided.  It would be nice to get a heads up about what the event really is before you arrive.  Truth in advertising please!!  Is that too much to ask?  Set the bands, give me times they will appear on stage, and end it!

Adding another act prior to the show is welcome and understood.  However, the unannounced/billed band MUST play first.  Don't get too literal either.  If Mick Jagger or Morrissey shows up they can do whatever the hell they want.

Black Bananas, without a record or, judging from the luke warm reception they received Friday, much of a following, had no business playing when and where they did.

They let the air out of the building.  They put Sleigh Bells at a distinct disadvantage.  Although Sleigh Bells would have had to defecate on stage or abuse children to offend more than did their supporting act.  In a way it helps the headliners having drek play before them.  Much like the overripe bananas that sit in your fruit bowl Black Bananas had no business sharing the venue with more polished acts.

The evening was not a total loss.  But it was far too close for comfort.


Note:

Bowery Presents streamed the entire show live and has some high quality clips on its website(http://www.youtube.com/user/bowerypresents/featured).  For a few of the highlights take a peek here.  Looks like this will be a trend so even if you cannot make a show there is a great way to see live music from home.  Also, should you want to take someone who is not a fan of the pit (children, lame friends, etc...) they can watch the feeds from the upstairs lounges and say they saw a great show.

Sleigh Bells, Infinity Guitars 2.17.12 Terminal 5
Sleigh Bells, Riot Rhythm 2.17.12 Terminal 5
Sleigh Bells, Kids 2.17.12 Terminal 5

Should you have a Hulu account you can see "Comeback Kid" from SNL:  Comeback Kid  Leather studded coat and white Keds.  Different, right?

Setlist from Terminal 5 2.17.12
Sleigh Bells Official Website


PS:

Caveman Band posted this full concert video from their first trip overseas.  Here, a show from France.  Good stuff and high quality as well.  Caveman Live in France!!!

Fan us here at Facebook:  GTS
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Stay tuned for Part 2 later this week where War Horse (the play) is discussed.  Hint, it's pretty freaking awesome!!!




Sunday, February 19, 2012

On Being a Smart Ass

"I would rather give vent to all human loves and disappointments, and take a chance on being corny, than die a smart ass..." - Jim Harrison*

"Smart-Ass: Someone who is sarcastic, in a cutting yet witty manner. A person capable of making a remark that could be interpreted as a insult or a joke depending on the sensitivity of the listener and the specific situation. A smart ass is not necessarily a bad person, just usually perceptive". - Urban Dictionary

Why be a Smart Ass?

I have read enough psychology, and taken a turn or two on the couch sufficient to realize that much of what I consider my personality, persona, psyche, soul or self is a result of the mysterious alchemical process by which I (and maybe you) weave fear, pain, regret, and need into a winding path cast before me to avoid being completely overwhelmed by those experiences.

And for me being a Smart Ass has certainly cut me off from having a full range of "human loves and disappointments".

My Smart Ass experience has been, for the most part, to sit passively as the world flows by, waiting for a comment or situation to lob me a straight line so I can smash it back...

As regular readers know I have been on a News Fast (See prior Doc S blogs) since November of last year. What started as cutting away the noise and the day to day babble of politics that had unhealthily captured my attention, has bled over into almost every area of my life.

Call it "Less is More", or a humility about what I can know. But the flip side of that humility is the view that, even if I don't know the right answer, I can tell if something is the wrong answer.

Being a Smart Ass may be a way to do that. People complain about criticizing proposed ideas without offering a solution ---  but why should I have to wait for a solution? Maybe there is no solution, no overarching theory or system that answers questions for all time. Maybe I need to experiment and just ask better questions, and maybe I will do less harm as a result.

So, if I am honest, behind my Smart Ass is an angry, frustrated moralist.  I am more often than not the selfish, childish moralist of "I am jealous because they have something I want and don't have so I will undermine it" or "they are getting more attention than me so let me fix that..."

But sometimes its a little more than that. Its the haunting, frustrating sense that things aren't right.
For me, it flows from a sense that perhaps everything I need is already here to live a richly fulfilling life, and the only thing stopping me (or maybe even you) is incessantly chasing after the wrong answers, rather than asking better questions.

Consider the Garden of Eden myth: Maybe we never were actually kicked out of the Garden of Eden, but rather got conked on the head, and now have blurred vision and see the Garden as a teeming mass of weeds that we have to cut through to get to the fruit.

But maybe the fruit is right there in front of me.

*Note: I posted the Harrison quote on Facebook recently and the comments from some of my friends got me thinking. Friends, thank you!

Friday, February 17, 2012

To Be Continued

The Suburban Guide intends to keep you all informed on what is new artistically.  That includes, but is not limited to, film and music.  This weekend we will be sending a correspondent to Lincoln Center for the critically acclaimed War Horse.  Not since Avenue Q have their been more popular puppets.
War Horse Montage Scenes
Official War Horse on Broadway Site


This same humble reporter starts the weekend on the Upper West Side for NY duo Sleigh Bells, tonight at Terminal 5.  
Click here to watch the show live tonight at 10:30  Bowery Presents has begun a streaming website that is worth a look.  Even if you cannot get to a show you can watch from the comfort of your home.  Good way to avoid the people that keep leaving and coming back in the pit.  Where are they going?  What are they doing?


If all goes well there may even be a Museum trip to discover the World of Lego.     The Morris Museum (http://www.morrismuseum.org/) in Morristown, NJ, is a great spot for an hour of learning and/or new experience.  Put a pin in any town within 20 miles of NJ and you can find a place like this.  Can you do the same in your hometown?  When is the last time you visited?  The Guide encourages, er, challenges you, to go get your Art on this weekend.


How would Washington and Lincoln feel if they knew there big Holiday had more to do with car and mattress sales than art and culture?  


This weekend try two hours doing something out of the ordinary.  Engage a part of your brain that has been stagnant for too long.


American Idol does not count.  Nor does The Vow or anything including Reese Witherspoon.  


Let Whitney rest in peace.  Look away from the spectacle that has become her death/coverage.


Football is over.  Baseball has yet to begin.  Hoops and Hockey will be playing into the summer.


Enjoy the long weekend folks and remember: 


If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.  John F Kennedy


Art is not a treasure in the past or an importation from another land, but part of the present life of all living and creating peoples.  Franklin D Roosevelt


Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. Pablo Picasso

Some good videos to jump start your creativity:

Mayer Hawthorne "The Walk"   Is this guy the male Adele?  Not even close.  But his influences are certainly the same.  Young folk singing the standards.  Get used to this trend.  It appears it is here for a while.
The Kooks "How'd You LIke That"  There is something very comfortable about these kids from the UK.  This is a live version from Abbey Road show, itself a very comfortable show.  No smoke and mirrors here.  Fun.  Guitar. Melody. Pop.
You may also want to try some of this:  Naive

Dr Dog "That Old Black Hole"  Philly boys reaching the masses with their latest LP.  Folk driven rock with some good twang.  Guys have roots with the Howard Stern Show too which gives some added cred in our opinion.  This is a live performance from Conan O Brien.

Ducktails "Killin the Vibe"  If you have followed this blog from its inception this songs inclusion will not surprise you.  Easy grooves reminiscent of surf wax America.  Mellow, easy going cruise rock of the Real Estate/Caveman variety.  Have a cool one and relax.  And for the record Ducktails Ducktails is the solo project of Matt Mondanile (Real Estate.)  

Battles "My Machines"  Interesting for a few reasons, the song actually among them.  Techno pop from Battles with guest vocalist Gary Numan (yes, the guy who sings "Cars.")  Take a look and listen.  The video is smart and imaginative, as many today are.

Best Coast "Our Deal"  Distinctly left coast stuff from Best Coast and video director Drew Barrymore.  Yes, Gertie from ET.  Another take on West Side Story which is itself a take on Romeo and Juliet.  It's LA, no original thought, right?

Smith Westerns "All Die Young"  Live from Seattle's KEXP.  Proof that 1) FM radio is still relevant.  This station constantly provides a platform fro up and coming artists.  Then it puts them on YouTube/the interweb.  2)  This band can play rock and roll.  Similar to Portugal, the Man.  Clean and efficient.

WU LYF "Spitting Blood"  What you need to know: WU LYF (pronounced "Woo Life", stands for "World Unite Lucifer Youth Foundation") are a band from Manchester, England that originally became known for creating a mystery about themselves by declining requests for interviews and not releasing much information to the press. ]The band describes their music as "heavy pop"  Pretentious for sure.  Compelling nonetheless.

Holy Ghost! "Wait and See"  If Danny Elfman and Harold Faltemeyer got drunk and hung with Thomas Dolby and the boys from Weird Science they might want this to act as the score.  Brooklyn synths poised to make an impact.

Cloud Control "There's Nothing in the Water We Can't Fight"  Australian pop.  Released an LP in 2010 that has now made its way stateside.  Soft and melodic beats and a nice way to settle into your easy chair.

For more:  Like us here!!!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Movie Review: "The Artist"

I know enough about movies to know that that I am supposed to like The Artist. But not enough to know exactly why.

Am I supposed to like it because it is Oscar-nominated? I have no respect for the Oscars, especially Best Picture. For example:

Rocky beat Taxi Driver
Kramer v. Kramer beat Apocalypse Now
Ordinary People beat Raging Bull
Dances With Wolves beat Goodfellas
Forrest Gump beat Pulp Fiction
Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan
Gladiator beat Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Need I say more?

So why is The Artist worthy of notice? I guess maybe because the "art" of silent film, the communication of thought and emotion through expression and gesture rather than words, has traveled the well-worn route from brute necessity to nuanced accessory, like the salting and smoking of meat and fish.

And arrived just in time, perhaps, because many movies today have dialogue that is contrived, banal, and cliched, its sole purpose to propel a threadbare plot from one visual spectacle to another (e.g. Titantic, Avatar, Star Wars: Episodes I through III , and Transformers 1 through 20) With such dependably expendable dialogue, they might as well be silent films.

French actor Jean Dujardin plays George Valentin, a Rudolf Valentino/Douglas Fairbanks- esque silent screen star at the top of his game in 1927, as exemplified in a crisp opening sequence that takes place at the premiere of his latest film. This is followed in quick succession by his flowing through his Hollywood mansion with his wife (Penelope Ann Miller, looking like Lovee Howell from Gilligan's Island), and his stroll through the studio lot as the undisputed crown prince, much to the chagrin of studio boss Al Zimmer (the ever-dependable John Goodman, who can be comically bombastic even in a silent film).

Soon George's smooth path is fatefully jarred by his encounter with Peppy Miller, an innocently ambitious yet sweet up-and-coming actress who sweeps him off his feet during amusing multiple takes of a ballroom dance scene.  George is jarred even more with the advent of talking pictures, upon which Peppy becomes a rising star and George, in egomaniacal denial of the impending sound-filled future, relentlessly immerses himself in producing, directing and starring in his own silent epic. His marriage crumbles in a Citizen Kane-inspired montage of increasingly chilly breakfasts. His opus debuts the same night as Peppy's first starring role, and a path to redemption is paved for him...

Dujardin is charming as George, a dashing and handsome cross between Gene Kelly and a young Sean Connery. His resemblance to Connery previously served him well in The Artist director Michael Hazanavicius's clever spy movie satires OSS 117: Nest of Spies  and OSS 117: Lost in Rio.

Berenice Bejo, another favorite actor of Hazanavicius (and his wife), is entrancing and funny as Peppy, her stunning and exotic Argentinian looks a sharp, if anachronistic, contrast to her ingenue role. 

The leads are ably supported by familiar faces like Goodman, Miller, and the great character actor James Cromwell as George's faithful and wise chauffeur.

Am I supposed to like The Artist because it is daring in being a (mostly) silent film, with title cards and mood setting music? Much as I love movies, I have never been a fan of silent films. Like Peppy, I wrote them off as just too much exaggerated mugging. With the exception of some of Chaplin's classic routines, they could never hold my attention.

But now, re-imagined, this silent film reminds me of how behind our constant chatter, volumes are shared between us by a mere widening or narrowing of the eyes, a furrowed brow, a crooked smile, a wave of the hand, or a sudden quickening or slowing of our walking pace.

Or simply by not doing, or saying, anything at all.


Music's Biggest Night

A funny thing happened on the way to Los Angeles Staples Center.  Saturday evening Whitney Houston completed the epic meltdown we had all feared was inevitable.

48 years old and arguably the finest voice pop music ever heard is now silent.  Many will say it is no shock.  She had been dead for a while as far as her music was concerned.  She was an irrelevant side note.

But when you take a look at the Grammy Awards last night things appear even sadder.

Bruce Springsteen, in his early 60s, led off the broadcast with his tepid and familiar new track "We Take Care of Our Own."  Say what you want about The Boss and his work, you cannot ignore his fitness, longevity and unbridled passion for his craft.

The same can be said for Sir Paul McCartney (who will turn 70! this year.)  His rocking "Golden Slumbers" finale (not so much his sappy Valentine song) was further evidence that rock/pop know no age.  They also re-emphasized that indeed the "love you take, is equal to the love you make."

Even Glen Campbell (age 74), crippled with Alzheimers Disease, sounded solid and looked spry performing his signature hit "Rhinestone Cowboy."

Much has, and will be said of Houston and her untimely passing.  Many will blame Bobby Brown.  Others will look at a young woman who rose to such heights far too soon.  How could she have been prepared for all that her voice would bring her?  Grammy statues. Starring roles in blockbuster films. Songs that would define a decade.  Her rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and "I Will Always Love You" are the benchmark every singer tries to match.  Pity Jennifer Hudson last night put in the impossible task of paying tribute singing the latter song.  Much like Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson's number 42 maybe it is high time we retire "I Will Always Love You" too.  Will anyone ever do it better?  Why try?

And that is the point.  Houston had long been forgotten in the world of contemporary music.  Looking at last night's broadcast it is clear their are several young women eager, and able to take her mantle.

The evening belonged to a 23 year old Brit, Adele, who seems destined for the type of rise Houston herself enjoyed 20 some years ago.  Katy Perry, Rhianna, and Kelly Clarkson have vocal abilities and added charisma that should sustain them for several years.  Let's not forget Lady Gaga either.  She may not have taken the stage last night, but her presence was felt.  Yes Nicki Minaj I am looking at you.  Enough of the over the top theatrics please.  Work on your songs please!!!  Minaj's performance last night nearly ruined an otherwise nice ceremony.

The Grammy's did a nice job paying tribute to Houston and her indelible voice.  They paid tribute to the woman that inspired us all.  The woman that gave us goosebumps when we heard her sing.  The woman we all fell in love with.  Long before her well chronicled problems she was the voice.  The voice that spoke to all of us.  Black and white.  Young and old.

We can choose to remember the train wreck who was taken away far too soon.  Or we can choose to remember that voice and how it spoke to us.  We can listen to the songs and remember simpler times.  We can appreciate and respect her talents and be grateful we are fortunate enough to have them at all.

Artists have died prematurely before and will do soon again.  The art they leave behind is timeless.

Thanks Whitney.  You have left us with quite a catalog.

Other Grammy Notes:


E! Television pre-show is cringe worthy, must see pre-event television.  Kelly Osborne is a fashion consultant with grey/purple hair.  Should we trust anyone on fashion when she herself is a walking nightmare?  Ryan Seacrest is a robot unable to convey any emotion (on a clearly emotional day.)  The producers had footage of Houston from Thursday and broke it down like John Madden used to break down a 3rd down blitz package.  They freeze framed Whitney handing Brandi a note!!  What are they expecting to uncover?  It was a shameless, embarrassing and pointless piece of video to air.   And don't get me started on super queen former Jay Leno intern Ross Mathews!!!  That topic could fill an entire column and I promised to not use profanity anymore.

LL Cool J did a fine job keeping the show moving along.  But just as Tim Tebow praising the lord for touchdowns is oft putting, so too is leading the Grammy's off with a prayer for Whitney Houston.  I will give you a moment of silence...  but a full on prayer??  Joe Walsh is in the crowd!!  And Skrillex!!!  And Houston began her career singing for her church in Newark, NJ.  Clearly that path led her down some shaky alleys.  Keep God and/or all other entities in yours music.  It need not be so overt.

Bruno Mars' performance was one of the highlights.  He is an engaging, talented, and gifted performer. More please.

Chris Brown should not be allowed on stage once, let alone twice.  He can dance don't get me wrong.  And his auto tune sampled songs conceived of by various producers and machines have their place for certain.  It just ain't here.  After watching his act last night it is more evident his primary talent is raising a fist to women.  Go away, and fast.  Oh, and shame on the countless clueless kids who tweeted "He could hit me any time."  What message is this sending???  25 extremely disappointing reactions to Chris Brown on Grammys

Kelly Clarkson is a force.  Jason Aldean is probably a pretty adequate country singer.  The two should never share the same stage, let alone the same song.  Did the producers cut his mic on purpose?  By far the biggest disaster of the night.

Rhianna's performance was a little flat and disappointing too.  Matters were made worse by Coldplay doing a particularly nice version of "Paradise."  Love them or hate them Mr Chris Paltrow can write songs.  I will not be one of the haters.

The Beach Boys medley/reunion was very sweet and musically rewarding.  Brian Wilson has looked better, but he can still bring it.  Foster the People and Maroon 5 handled some tough tracks quite nicely.    Those acts had such strong years it would have been nice to see them perform one of their songs too (my wife's astute point- she always bitches I steal her lines.)

Taylor Swift finally sounded good live!!!  Good song.  Good band.  Well done!!  She is an artist you can really root for.

The Civil Wars brief version of "Barton Hollow" was a standout.  Not an easy task to play in the middle of music royalty.  They did it effortlessly and with humor.  Their line "We would like to thank the opening acts so far" was the funniest of the night.  Paul McCartney played right before them.

Katy Perry has vocal abilities.  Her choice of "ET" and her new track "Part of Me" were as contrived as her blue hair and Blade Runner replicant outfit.  The more she protests being normal the less relevant she becomes.  OK, you are an oddball.  OK, you are getting divorced.  You need not shout it from the rooftops.  Try some subtly.  If you are as talented as we think you are we will still love you.  But we will stop short of marrying you.  No one wants to have a break up song written about them.

Never been a huge country fan but The Band Perry and Blake Shelton did a nice job with the Glen Campbell tribute.  Campbell too is an inspiration and it was good to see him in the spotlight one last time.

Many folks are scratching their heads asking who is this Bon Iver (real name Justin Vernon) character that walked away with Best New Artist.  Well, he has been around for a bit.  He is a midwesterner who gave many in the alt world their favorite album last year, the self titled Bon Iver.  It is a slow, melancholy piece of rhythmic ambien.  Not for everyone I readily admit.  His humble, aw shucks acceptance of the award was refreshing.  You can go back to not caring or listening.  But if you sat through Minaj's abject nonsense you might want to give these two tracks a shot.  Falsetto male voice and dreamy synth warning!!

Holocene
Calgary

The mash up of David Guetta, DeadMau5, Lil Wayne, Foo Fighters and woman beater was a complete failure.

Dub step, techno, Electronica and the like do NOT translate to the small screen.  You might argue they don't translate at all without sufficient amounts of Ecstasy and glow sticks.  Guetta can re-arrange all he wants and DeadMau5 cool helmet make me chuckle all the time.  But let Lil Wayne do his thing and Dave Grohl has had a nice run without any help, thank you very much.

And if you were going to include this element why not give Skrillex that spot???  Weird.

The night was as much an Adele coronation as it was remembrance of Whitney.  And her stirring performance of "Rolling in the Deep" was proof her voice is back.  She is so young, and as her 60 Minutes profile showed us, quite spunky.  Our hope is she does not flame out like Amy Winehouse, or Houston herself.

She has an unbelievable voice, and, gasp, writes her own material!  This type of talent comes around once in a lifetime.  She deserved all her awards and glory last night and seemed genuinely happy/overcome to receive it.

Here is hoping we can enjoy her gifts far longer than we enjoyed others like her.  Today we celebrate her.  We look forward and not back.

That's a wrap 2011.  Good stuff indeed, but as is the case with any good art...  we are wanting some more!!!







Thursday, February 9, 2012

Teaching an Old Dog



It took nearly 40 years before I shared a home with a dog.  Over the past week there were many times I was reminded why I had avoided it for so long.  

We have an aged cat who is barely hanging on.  In other words, picking up accidents throughout the house is nothing new.    She tends to wake us up with shrill cries at all hours.   So we were firmly entrenched in sleep deprivation to begin with.  

There are some new things that make this transition more challenging.  First, there is a distinct dog smell.  Whippets, like ours, are a short haired and rather clean breed.  That does not mean they come without an aroma.  And no one can really prepare you for puppy flatulence.  Think methane factory meets Indian restaurant on a scorching summer day.  Then place that smell in a car.  Maybe even under the sheets.  Really?  Dutch oven from a dog??  

Then there is the subtle dynamic between 4th grade daughter and puppy.  Nevermind the cat...  she will either kill her new housemate or succumb to a poor ticker.  Having seen her in action over the past 17 years my money is on her.

The love/hate relationship between only child and new pet is one I expected to go swimmingly.  There are the wonderful moments when they play with a toy and laugh uncontrollably.  But in an instant the puppy gets a little too excited.  He takes to biting her hair, jumping and/or scratching her.  A puppy being a puppy would be my guess.  To a 9 year old it is a vicious assault from a hideous, selfish, and deranged he-beast.  Probably doesn't help matters when mom and dad side with the puppy (and laugh a little.)

Spaces have been invaded.  Trusts have been compromised.  Attentions have been shared.  Tragic.

They will all get over it.  There is plenty of affection to go around.

Because after only seven days it is clear this new addition is just perfect.

And maybe that is why I protested so long.

No doubt, it is hard work. Big deal.  What isn't these days?  

The beauty of your pets is they don't care if your quota wasn't met.  They are not concerned how bad your day was.  You will continue to be greeted with an animal who loves you unconditionally.  They will crawl into your lap and not judge.  They will look at you with adoring eyes.  

The protest was born of NOT wanting to care for something.  NOT wanting to feel for something.   NOT wanting to grow attached to something, to love something.

What kind of thinking is that?  Or living for that matter?

So the quest for ultimate sleeping patters continues.  Potty training will become a bigger priority as the weeks roll on.  And more and more our new pet will become part of the family.  We will want to do anything for him.  We will see he has all the best we can provide.  

And we will all benefit from him showing up in our lives.


Music:

As you can see the writing time has been hampered a bit with Mr. Attention Seeker (above.)

That has not prevented me from keeping my ears and eyes open.  Please take 15 minutes and sneak a peek at what is worth hearing these days (not playing over the airwaves of mainstream media.)  

It will be a nice distraction from Rick Santorum WINNING(!) primaries and the irrelevance of JFK's intern sex toys.  50 years later this story comes out!!  Ridiculous.

Lots of concerts for the Guide over the next few months.  Here are some notables:

Sleigh Bells.  2.17 @ Terminal 5  http://www.terminal5nyc.com/event/87909  

Young the Giant and Grouplove 3.9 @ Terminal 5.  http://www.bowerypresents.com/event/75463/

Gomez: 3.11 at Bowery Ballroom http://www.boweryballroom.com/event/81215/

Gotye: 3.25 at Terminal 5  http://www.bowerypresents.com/event/93539/

Naked and Famous: 4.4 at Terminal 5  http://www.terminal5nyc.com/event/74217/

White Rabbits:  4.12 at Webster Hall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCcUXEC5_eU&feature=related


Snow Patrol:  4.14 at Terminal 5 http://www.terminal5nyc.com/event/90085

Man that is a bunch of shows...  anyone want to dog sit???

BTW, most shows are sold out but tickets can be sourced here:  Stubhub

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Afternoon Quarterback

Congrats go out to the New York Football Giants.  They were the better team when it mattered and for whatever reason Eli Manning and his no nonsense coach (kudos Tom Coughlin for succeeding with good old fashioned discipline) are in Tom Bundchen and Gray Hoody's head.

The game itself was relatively well played and came down to a few plays.  If Wes Welker catches a 2nd and 11 pass maybe New England wins.  If Mario Manningham fails to keep both feet in on Eli's last drive...  If Bundchen had more arm on his interception throw...  If Gronkowski weren't hobbled....

Whatever.  Game over and the Giants reign supreme.  Case closed.  Season over.  Please bring on the baseball season.  Warm weather.  The sound of wood bats cracking on a sun soaked day.  Beach balls and Cracker Jacks.  Endless optimism that this can be our year.

Right.  The NFL has surpassed baseball as our pastime.  That's fine.  Football plays so wonderfully on television and requires half the thinking baseball does.  How can America not adore it?  And it does judging by the 1 bajillion people that watched last night.  And everyone has an opinion on the game, and halftime show, and ads.

New York City was a ghost town today.  Some 7 million people were expected to call off today before NY won.  That number had to be higher.  And tomorrow the City will host a ticker tape parade which surely means production stays down another day.

Don't want to be the one raining on the parade...  but can this objective, non partisan sports fan ask for some tweaks to America's Big Game?

1.  Let's give the team with the best record home field advantage.  As NY was driving to their anti-climatic winning score (a backward, stumbling touchdown given to them by New England) the Indianapolis crowd was eerily silent.  At $900 a seat just how many real fans were in attendance?  You know, the guys who show up at Met Life or Gillette Stadiums are 8am for a 4pm start.  The guys with buses outfitted in team colors.  The gang with grills and kegs used more in parking lots than their actual homes.  The fans who cause delay of games and offsides penalties.    Domes and turf should be off the table too...  but that has to start at the top.  

2.  Take away the bye week after the Championship games.  It is simply a money grab and excuse to build unnecessary hype.  We will all be watching regardless when it is played.  Keeping the teams on the same schedule makes sense for a few reasons.  It is what they do most of the year.  It makes the coaches, players and staff work harder to come up with an effective game plan.  They are fresher and more engaged when the first kickoff is handled.  My feeling is the 1st quarter, and rest of the game for that matter, would have more excitement/unpredictability with a week lay off than what we witnessed yesterday.

3.  Which is why the halftime show has to be omitted and/or shortened.  And I am one of the few who was actually entertained by Madonna.  This is an impossible task for someone like her.  Her entire image was built on simulated sex acts and lip synching to carefully produced/packaged pop songs.  Did any of us expect her to sing live and reinvent the wheel?  Kelly Clarkson handled the singing(wonderful job on our Anthem!!)  for the night.  Let's leave it at that.  The halftime show is spectacle and high production design (of which last night there was plenty.)  Oh, and there were bad acts and misplaced acts littering the stage.  Mash ups with M.I.A. and LMFAO.  Hastily thrown together medley's of a time gone by.  It was no different than the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, and The Black Eyed Peas.  Ask a superstar to condense a show they would charge $100 from 2 plus hours to 18 minutes and expect mediocre at best.  

Worst of all the Giants did not see the ball on offense for about an hour!!!  How is that fair?  Play a game one way all year and then on the biggest stage the rules change???  Patently ridiculous.

Let's make the home team award a local marching band the halftime stage.  Keep the game moving as it does during the regular year.  Then, after the final trophy is awarded bring on an act, like Madonna or the Stones, and let them play a full concert (live on the host network.)  I mean seriously, were we all anxious to see The Voice at 11pm last night?  But after a high calorie, high alcohol day and night a live hour or 2 hour concert might be more appealing.

4.  Do not leak the commercials online a week before, a month before, a day before the big event.   Keep a secret Madison Ave!!!  And keep some clothes on David Beckham!!!  We get it...  women make up half the audience.  Madonna plus a half naked soccer star??  This isn't Glee!!  The Ferris spot was more depressing than uplifting too.  And Vampires are boring.  And what the hell are Hunger Games?

5.   Finally, tighten up the pre-game show.  It need not start at 1pm.  We can assume a player from each team has had to deal with adversity.  Perhaps a family member had an insufferable illness...  or was homeless...  or both.

Show me the game and make it a good one.  And for the love of God make it easier for the Seahawks to win one, just one!!!!



 




Saturday, February 4, 2012

Against Theology


“Socrates thought and so do I that the wisest theory about the gods is no theory at all”- Michel de Montaigne

Like Montaigne, I’m against theology.

Like Montaigne, I am not an atheist.  I am a practicing member of an organized religion, which gives me profound meaning and satisfaction.  But this is as much as you will hear about it from me in this blog.

Here are a few assumptions and thoughts I bring to this perspective:

1.
I don't necessarily think everything happens for a "reason", but I do think ultimately everything is connected to everything else and in some way affects and influences everything else.

2. I think we all have certain powerful subjective experiences where we understand # 1 intuitively; these are variously called flow, being in "the zone", spiritual, or religious experiences.

3. These experiences have a neuronal correlate, in that the part of our brain that defines the boundaries of our body becomes inactive, or less active, during our experience of same.

4. Some practices and behaviors can assist us in creating these experiences - yoga, prayer, chanting, great art, service to others, sex, alcohol, drugs, mindfulness -based meditation, a really good conversation, love, etc.

5. The experiences in #2 tend to increase our wellbeing, make us more compassionate, more open to new experiences, and more accepting of our own emotions and thoughts, though in some cases - (like alcohol and drugs... and sometimes love of the unrequited type)- the side effects counteract this positive effect.

6. I think religions start as an attempt to create the experiences in #2, and then recreate them via rituals and communal experience. Eventually some people assign themselves as “clergy”.  An organization soon forms which is always at risk of becoming more about perpetuating itself, the clergy, and the dogmas, to the exclusion of creating the experiences in #2, which, of course, results in less #5.

7. If practicing a religion (note I said practice, not belief) or any other of the practices in #4 results in more #2 experiences, then it’s (most of the time) a good thing.


8. I think that “theology” is largely competitive philosophical defensiveness, developed to either a) convince someone of your position or b) defend your own position, by showing its similarity to that of your attacker.

9. Metaphor is the best we can do to offer an image of our own experience to another, which we can do via speech and art, or by our own actions as example.  Metaphor is ultimately the child of our embodied experience, not our rationalism or intellect.

10. Therefore, for me, religion is about making a commitment to practicing certain actions and rituals, developing certain subjective experiences, and loyalty to a community, and not the promulgation of, or defense of, a certain dogma or creed.

Express your metaphors poetically and with passion. Exemplify those metaphors through your actions.

As they said in the 1970s; "You do your thing, I'll do my thing, and if we meet, its beautiful".

Otherwise, keep your theology to yourself.

Peace.












Friday, February 3, 2012

We Know Drama

Television is probably the finest barometer of America's current norms and mores.  Hits like Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother have a decent amount of truths within their fictional story lines.  There are several same sex couples raising children, trophy wives and oxycotin addicts within a 3 iron from my front door.  Law and Order and Homeland play to our more dramatic tendencies.  Somewhere in the blurred middle (of America) lies Reality TV.  You get the point. 

But what of the dramas that consume us daily.  The ones that don't play on your living room Sony?  Where are they best represented?

Like the 4th grade basketball game Tuesday night that ended with several in tears.  The home team was comprised of mostly meek, but wonderful, polite and well mannered 10 year olds.

The away team played skewed toward high school gals equipped with an urban intimidation which provided a distinct advantage.  Skill wise this game was a toss up that could have gone either way.  Sports, we were remidned,  are played with more than skill.    You will probably witness this during Sunday's Super Bowl.    Count how many touches Wes Welker or Danny Woodhead get.  Then take a look at their real heights and weights.  Skill sometimes takes a backseat.  Aggression.  Competitiveness.  Anger.  Force of Will.  

Give me a team with 100% will and desire versus 75% skill all day long.  

As the home team shook hands after a particularly tough loss the victors taunted them and signaled they were losers (as the Smash Mouth song goes.)

Nevermind most of the girls had to then travel a half hour away to play indoor soccer...  which saw them lose 2-0 (they are now 0-4 with 0 goals scored.)  Naturally the victorious soccer team taunted the losing team in the hand shake line.  You remember the old stick your hand out and then pull it back game, right?

More tears.  More life lessons.

Did I hear my wife say "Just remember you are going be prettier and smarter always!  He who laughs last!!!"

That might be hyperbole.   But this moment, at age 10, was a huge event.  Will your child want to separate him or herself from the sport?  From sport altogether?  "If this is how kids are going to act why put myself through it?"

Will he or she rise above it?  Use it as incentive to excel?  

Will body image problems arrive?  Should we sign that anti-bullying measure?  When should you remove the bedroom door?  Install anti virus software?  Purchase a breath-a-lizer?  

For roughly 24 hours this house was made of egg shells.   And it seemed like it was in the middle of an egg toss from LA to NY.  One bad move, or bad sentence, could cause it to fall, shattering to pieces.  Household scrambled.

That was then.  Really.  3 days ago.  

You have to move on and be ready for the next challenge.  There will be no tidy resolution at the end of the half hour.  This lesson will be taught over time.  Months, probably years to figure it all out.  And as we all know there is no guarantee of closure.

We try to keep our kids out of the bell tower and ourselves away from the mental ward.  The delicate balance.  The forbidden dance.  Oh, wait, that's this:  Seriously... this is it   

Time for some slapstick (what the hell is this dog doing living in our house!!!)  Then more hoops.  Then America's absurdist spectacle on Sunday.  Millions will tune in to watch a 60 minute game over 12 hours,  A sedentary National event celebrating soda and chips, cars and babies talking about the stock market, aged pop stars, and Indianapolis (!), Bob Costas, Belichick, Eli, Giselle Bundchen.  Did I miss anything?  Everything?

Exotic bets will be placed.  National Anthems will be butchered.  Military fly overs will occur.

We pat ourselves on the back and pretend all is good for this moment.  Eat.  Drink.  Be Merry!!

And take the Giants with the points.

There will be cries to make the Monday after the Super Bowl a Holiday.  Safest bet this weekend is the winning City will VERY unproductive next week.

It is that very reason this column endorses the New York Giants as Champions of Football.

Might give the staff a legitimate reason to be unproductive.  To date, there are 39 years and counting of unexcused ineffectiveness.

Could a Giants win possibly help?  Couldn't hurt.  And can this thing at my feet really be a good idea?  There are far worse.

View from above:



Have a great weekend and enjoy the Big Game!!!