pariah

Until 3o Rock parodied Precious in the fictional film “Hard to Watch: based on the novel ‘Stone Cold Bummer’ by Manipulate” I never gave that film a second thought. When I did, I could not figure out its point.

Was it about AIDS in the 80s?

Was it about broken homes and child abuse among African-Americans in low-income areas?

Was it about hope?

I don’t think that a well-told story needs to end on a happy note or even needs to have an obvious point, but I think it needs to be sharing something in a human way. In retrospect, I’m not sure if Precious did that.

It made me uncomfortable, it made me feel bad, it assaulted my senses and showed me a terrible environment in which a girl could be illiterate, abused in the worst ways and trapped. It definitely outlined that well and while it seemed assaulting, it was probably necessary to show that conditions are that bad in places.

But the fact that it’s not set in present-day takes away from the setting, because it can make the viewer think that it happened then and doesn’t happen now, removing the urgency and the public-service-announcement feel of the film.

So, if it makes you feel bad, incites reflection on a past time, then what it is doing? Is it just manipulative?

I don’t ever plan on watching Precious again (and I will not be watching The Kid), so I can’t really answer that question or make any solid judgments about it but I just doubt its purpose…although, I clearly am doing exactly that. I just feel a little conned and maybe that means I should re-watch it, instead of letting parodies form the last impression of it in my mind.

Last week I heard about a film that I think will confront pertinent issues and lend a voice to a not-oft heard group. That film is the Spike Lee produced drama Pariah. It’s such a cheap excuse, but any explanation that I could write would just take away from this beautiful, beautiful trailer that I think you should watch.

“And I’m not running, I’m choosing.”

Saturday Night Live could solve all of our debt problems

There. Done. Let’s recess until September.

Okay, but really, let’s talk about this.

Don Pardo: And now the Not Incredible Adventures of the Down and Out Dollar.

American Dollar: Oh, boy oh boy. What a year, it sure does stink being a US dollar. Here it is, 2005, and I’m at an all-time low. I used to be on top of the world, now look at me – good for nothing. Who wants a measly old dollar?

Euro: Dollar? Is that you?

American Dollar: Oh. Hey Euro.

Euro: Oh my goodness Dollar, you look awful!

American Dollar: Oh jeez, here we go again.

Euro: Look at me, look at all my wonderful colors, aren’t they supercool? You like my hologram? Look at it this way, now look how it changes!

American Dollar: Oh boy it sure is nice. I wish I had a hologram.

Euro: Hey Dollar, do you want to hear a joke? Knock, knock.

American Dollar: Oh, who’s there?

Euro: Germany. And France. And Greece. And Italy. And Denmark. And Luxembourg. And Belgium. They’re all stronger than you, hahaha ha! Is that not funny?

American Dollar: Oh come on Euro! That ain’t a joke. Gimme a break.

 

Who is our in-house accountant at the White House?

I guess when they get to that level they’re called economists and the budgets they balance stop being about numbers and start being about parties, but maybe we’re missing out on something because of that.

I mean, shouldn’t there be a group of people sitting at wooden desks in corner offices keeping track of our budget anyway? Imagine them hunched over complicated calculators, reams of paper shooting out one end, pencils behind their ears and glasses perched on the end of their noses while they finally come to the end of one fiscal year and press the equal sign. Now imagine them shaking their heads in disbelief.

“Oh, no, no. This does not add up.”

Unless it’s an actual crisis, I usually let political dramas roll right on by while I focus on more important things like Katy Perry’s smurf dress or Ryan Gosling’s abs. But what I thought was just the dramatic flair of contemporary American politics actually turned out to be the dramatic flair of  contemporary American politics that could potentially create a crisis.  This was made even more interesting to me because I’m in the midst of managing my own budget.

Me and the United States government: twinsies!

Earlier this week, I was cruising Videogum when one of the comments led me to a summary of the debt ceiling debacle by Howard Marks, whoever that is (he works at a capital management firm, as indicated by the letterhead). It was all told in layman’s terms and except for a few digressions into Personal Opinion Time, or P.O.T., at the top of page nine and the bottom of page 10, it’s factually based and stays away from bias—even in P.O.T. he stays away from bias.

“For the last several years as I’ve visited with clients around the world, I’ve described the typical American as follows (exaggerating for effect, of course): He has $1000 in the bank, owes $10,000 on his credit card, makes $20,000 a year, and spends $22, 000. And what do lenders do about this? They mail him additional credit cards.”

He uses this as a jump-off to explain how the typical American’s fiscal health compares to that of our country as well as countries around the world.

What I took away from this article was that we need to balance the budget (OBVIOUSLY) and that in order to get any real, effective and lasting change in America with our budget, we are going to have to hurt for a while.

Real talk. I have been wistfully staring at the large, neon metro tote on MZ Wallace’s summer pop-up shop and quietly sighing to myself because even though I loved it at the beginning of summer, I never actually saved any money so I could buy it without guilt at the end of summer.

“In addition to balancing the budget and growing the economy, I think we have to accept that the coming decades are likely to see US standards of living decline relative to the rest of the world. Unless our goods offer a better cost/benefit bargain, there’s no reason American workers should continue to enjoy the same lifestyle advantage over workers in other countries.”

If you want to read more on the debt ceiling debacle before the August 2nd solution deadline, Pro Publica is constantly updating a reading list here that I am constantly not reading because one really great article is enough for me but maybe you’re interested in more. Kudos, you, people who click on that link!

my milkshakes

When Oprah decided to introduce The Secret into the world in 2008, I was a little annoyed because a book like that already existed and it was called Excuse Me, Your Life is Waiting. There are probably plenty of other books that have the same premise, but I don’t know about them. Both books endorse lifestyle changes based on the power of positive thinking and both books are a little uncomfortable to talk about in public, because it’s a little hippie-hippie-alternative-shake. They both encourage taking ownership of your life though, which is kind of Oprah’s whole thing–and should probably be everyone’s thing.

After the Fleet Foxes concert Monday and finding a remote writing job through Media Bistro (it involves Yahoo!, their “omg!” entertainment site and getting assignments about balding celebrities and Shannen Doherty – it’s a long story), I am a full-blown hippie-hippie-alternative-shake believer. It’s not surprising though, it’s not like I haven’t been there before.

You know who’s a really good example of positive thinking without actually intending to be a really great example for positive thinking? Tina Fey. In Bossypants, she recounts work stories and admits that she had never written a full length screen play before Mean Girls and had never written a book before Bossypants, but just did it because she knew she could. Both times it worked out well for her.

And look what one of her creations has spawned: an Internet meme!

Was this a fad? Why are there so many variations of this on the Internet? Can we get more of them?

I can’t remember what led me to these videos, but once you watch one you have to watch another. I’ve been watching since Monday.

They’re just all so special and unique and hilarious and ENTERTAINING.

I like the way she butchers that last line.

This guy is actually pretty good? My favorite part is the Buffalo Wild Wings “Winging Beauty” hat behind him as he plays Cady Heron. Plus, his username is Headgaymes. HeadGAYmes.

“Don’t a-stomp your little last season Prada shoes at me, honey.” Anybody else get that vibe? I mean, right?! She was a lesbian!

BONUS VIDEO:

If you’re not impressed by that dude, I hope you’re at least jealous.

Happy Friday! Let me know if you practice (and master) that Puerto Rican booty shake.

And I’m not high, I’m just always like this

There’s a live recording of Joan Baez performing “Silver Dagger” in 1972 and while she’s warming up/trying to remember the song, she rambles. Right before she actually begins to sing she issues the quote above to the audience and it’s just such a wonderful introduction to … anything, really. People should have that put on their business cards.

Don’t sing love songs you’ll wake my mother.

On Monday night I drove up to Kansas City to sit, stand, sway and experience Fleet Foxes at the Uptown Theater before they moved on to St. Louis then my hometown–accidentally—on their way out to Denver. But that Monday night singing and swaying almost didn’t happen.

Fleet Foxes has been around for a couple of years but I only discovered them this year, thanks to Stereogum and the music video for their song “Grown Ocean.” I looked up more info on them and found out that their lead singer, Robin Pecknold, was not against fans downloading their music for free. So, download I did.

Before the album’s release, Spin Magazine gave Robin the front cover and called Helplessness Blues the “Most Beautiful Album of the Year.” They were not lying.

It starts with the lines “So now I am older…” which somehow—and maybe I’m being dramatic here (I’m probably being dramatic here)—captures everything. Like, everything. EVER. If you stop at any time and think about your life how can you not think that line and then not immediately be struck by how true and sometimes scary that is? It’s so simple that it might make you want to scoff at it if you weren’t too busy reflecting on your life – like trying to keep your eyes open when you sneeze: it ain’t gonna happen.

The line finishes with Robin singing “…than my mother and father when they had their daughter, now what does that say about me? How could I dream of such a selfless and true love? Could I wash my hands of just looking out for me?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve laid on my bed and let this song—hell, this album—play on repeat as I think about all the milestones I’ve passed/am passing/will pass. I can’t tell you because you would probably come find me, slap me in the face and never let me complain about being tired again because CLEARLY I had enough time to listen to this goddamn album a lot. Wait, I’m sorry, you probably wouldn’t curse.

The whole point of the album boils down to one line in the title track.

“And now after some thinking
I’d say I’d rather be
A functioning cog in some great
Machinery, serving something beyond me
But I don’t, I don’t know what
That will be!
I’ll get back to you someday soon…”

I could write thousand word essays on this band, this album and what it all felt like and meant for me to be there, but I’ll spare you the details.

Last year I lost my set of keys and had them replaced with originals. For fourteen months now I’ve been meaning to get copies of my car keys made at the dealer but somehow I have yet to make it there.

On Monday, after the opener, after I had bought a drink and found a great spot in the pit I realized I didn’t have my keys. Cut to: me looking everywhere, asking the ticket-takers (who also served as the lost and found) and them informing me that if I left the venue I would not be able to get back in. The Uptown is in a pretty seedy area and because it’s summer, there was still plenty of light out even though it was near eight. I figured waiting for AAA in the light would be a lot smarter and easier to do while no one was busy leaving and while I wasn’t stranded in the dark. So, I left and figured I’d see them some other day.

Then by some miracle, one of the parking attendants was a locksmith (maybe they all are?), I got a free ticket to go back inside and one of the security guards upstairs had been watching my drink.

The song I made it back inside for, one of their opening songs, was “Grown Ocean.” My first Fleet Foxes song.

“In that dream I could hardly
Contain it.
All my life I will wait to
Attain it…”

Wide eyed walker, don’t betray me. I will wake one day don’t delay me.

What are you waiting for? Go download it and see if it will mean anything to you, too.

Oh, and don’t read too much into that Joan Baez quote, that is one very loose end that does not at all match up with the loose end I just dangled after that last quote. Though Robin Pecknold has been known to perform covers of Joan Baez’s “Silver Dagger”, he did not perform it Monday night.

you’re not obliged to swallow anything you despise

If I can…

  1. Set and a keep a budget for three months …then I can
  2.  Spend a quiet weekend at a bed and breakfast…in order to
  3. See The Shins perform live

These are goals #1, 13 and 9 on my ever-expanding life list.

I’ve written about The Shins a few times but never more succinctly than I did in this post:

I was first introduced to The Shins by myself (how congratulatory) while I wandered through the CD aisles of the (Salina Public) library.  Intuition, probably.  I was collecting CDs to check out when I saw this great album art, which ended up being The Shins’ Chutes too Narrow.  I burned the tracks to my computer and I was absolutely hooked.  Then, Garden State came out and Sam mentioned this “life changing” song by The Shins, which I assumed would be off my pirated album.  When the music began to play, I realized I was wrong and there was more glorious Shins music out there that I wasn’t listening to/letting change my life.  The shame!

Because to be honest, something clicked within me the first time I heard those opening chords to “Kissing the Lipless” and the melodic close to the album, “Those To Come,” which lulled me to sleep many a night and sometimes, still does.  I was never the same and just to be really dramatic, maybe I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the understanding I gained through James Mercer’s lyrics.  Yeah, let’s take it that far.

The next CD I pirated was Oh, Inverted World which proceeded to both up my fleeting indie cred and change my life.  What a great two-for!

I was a bona fide Shins fan; I downloaded songs from the Know Your Onion and Fighting in a Sack EPs and I waited in anticipation for their 2007 release of Wincing the Night Away.  At the time, I was convinced I would one day be a music journalist for The Rolling Stone so I subscribed to the magazine and took their album ratings as second only to God.  When they put the Wincing the Night Away review on the cover of the music section, complete with cartoon sketchings, I knew it was going to be another life changing album by The Shins.

I bought this album, which means a lot in the world of Bea.  I listened to it on repeat from beginning to end and I felt it and it was one of those divine moments I assume Taylor Swift fan feels when they claim that she “sings about their life.”  James Mercer was singing about everyone’s lives, ranging from the outcast high school girls in “Phantom Limb” to the lovers discovering their intertwined lives as destiny in “Sea Legs” to the other lover moving on in “Turn on Me.”

I will never, ever lose any of the love I feel for The Shins and for that album.  Seriously, “Girl Sailor” reflects my life more accurately than any Hannah Montana-Cyrus or Taylor Swift song could ever do for me, and it was written by a man twenty years my senior.  Which may be a weird testament to my personality, or, more likely, is a testament to the greatness of his lyrics.  Or, most likely both.

The Shins stopped touring as The Shins in 2009 and I assumed they never would again, especially when the lineup changed and James Mercer pulled a Jack White and formed his own (really awesome) band. But I never took that goal off my list.

In April of this year I was scrolling through their not-updated-with-actual-Shins-news-since-2007 website when I saw the announcement that they would be performing at Outside Lands in San Francisco this August.

I decided I was going almost immediately, before realizing that I somehow had already made unbreakable plans for that exact weekend.

Seriously.

Then I heard about Popped! in Philadelphia.

When I started on 43 Things two summers ago, I made attending a music festival one of my goals. I set a few rules, like festival duration, how far away it could be and the minimum amount of acts I would be seeing. Even though that goal was accomplished last year, those rules still stand and Popped! meets all of them.

I’ve got Bing travel alerts set on flights from Kansas City to Philly and I’m cruising Air B’n’B in my free time and just like James Murphy said (what is it with guys need James in indie bands that I love?): This is happening. LIVE.

that wonderful moment of suspense… Tip of the Hat!

When you wonder if Tyler Perry will actually come through the gym doors.

“The Kathy Griffin Award will be given each year to the person who is most likely to show up to receive their Kathy Griffin Award.”

*SPOILER ALERT*

Jaleel White is in that Judy Moody movie, which I’m happy to say I know nothing about, so Vanity Fair ran a profile on him this week.

Besides the fact that he’s 34 and has been working in TV for 31 years (wait…what?), I was most surprised that I still knew the theme song for Family Matters and least surprised by the fact that Tyler Perry makes four episodes a week of his television series House of Payne. Homeboy does not understand quality.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m dissing Tyler Perry, but making three or four episodes in one week is not the same in terms of production value of what we did, one a week. Technically, I guess he passed us. More power to him, but it might as well be YouTube videos.” – on being surpassed by Tyler Perry’s show as the second longest running African-American show in the history of television

Hat tips all around to Family Matters, Fresh Prince, Sanford and Son, Good Times and the Cosby’s for understanding quality.

ps, I was totally Bill Cosby for Halloween last year. Surprisingly, I’ve had the opportunity to casually recycle that costume as a regular outfit at least once. Second hat tip to hipsters!

photo via Dads are the Original Hipsters

and there you go

In May of last year Jody Rosen wrote a review of LCD Soundsystem’s “This is Happening,” commending James Murphy for “making his midlife crisis danceable.”

It’s true: the first time you hear “I Can Change” you will want to turn your speakers all the way to Spinal Tap eleven and pretend your living room is a dive bar in Brooklyn. Even at eleven, the music will not seem loud enough to accompany the steps of your exuberant dancing, seemingly matching Murphy’s tone.

The second time you listen to it, the music will seem quiet for a different reason. It will recede into the background and James Murphy’s voice will begin to sound lonely and desperate. You will hear the repeated chorus of “never change” and “I can change” and it will become uncomfortable.

If you are far enough away from the situation he sings about, the lines will just be uncomfortable because you don’t understand him. If you do understand him, you will want him to SHUT. THE. —-. UP.

But, also, keep singing?

Because it’s all so right and beautiful and if you change, then you change and if you don’t, you don’t need to yet.

At this point, you will have to move on to “Dance Yrself Clean” and do as instructed. It’s a process.

I need louder speakers.

And landslides.

And avalanches.

And floods that submerge the entire world then recede and reveal everything as cleaner and more beautiful than before. Aside from a few touch-ups, I wrote all of the above on February 25th for my creative nonfiction class. I was getting used to a slight change in lifestyle and saying goodbye to an old, sort-of neighbor who wouldn’t actually be leaving for months.

I’m weird with goodbyes. That is something that will never change.

And it’s weird and seems like almost too much to say that “Dance Yrself Clean” helped, but I really think it did. And now James Murphy is leaving music to do other things, focus on other aspects of his life that deserve to be developed and now I don’t need eight minute dance songs that make me whip my hair back and forth but I don’t want to say goodbye.

I don’t want to say goodbye to a band that is so able to link themselves to my memories. Like sneaking out for blueberry pancakes in the middle of the night and seeing sunrises from deserted parking lots with All My Friends.

And New York, I Love You and swearing I could hear the ending from my campsite. And even if I didn’t hear it then, getting that from Madison Square Garden at four in the afternoon from my living room while thinking about choosing sleep over delirious fans and synth beats in the early morning at Bonnaroo and knowing that no matter how many words I cram into this sentence I could never tell you how much that all means or what it all means or what it means to cry over a song or to pause it all before the big breakdown and write it all out because it might just be the goodbye or the change or something else that I haven’t quite figured out.

I wish I had more time to say thank you, but I’ll turn the music up and let it go.

I wouldn’t trade one stupid decision for another five years of life

It’s happening.