Renewed warning: Book work continues, as does the smallish Bleat output. Oh, the things I'll have in March for you. Meanwhile: this.
On Valentine’s Day at the supermarket there were two cops in the lot directing traffic.
“If men had invented this holiday,” I said to one, “you’d be over at the liquor store.”
First time I ever made a policeman laugh. And with such a cheap joke. No more XM 150 Comedy Station for me.
Yeesh. You sail into the office in a grand mood, ready to add your shoulder to the wheel, and you check the Reader’s Rep log: two comments on recent columns, both brimming with Outrage. One’s made because I made fun of childhood obesity – what’s next? Childhood leukemia? Yes, ma’am. That’s scheduled for next Wednesday. I poke fun at leukemia. Actually, the column did not make fun of obesity per se; it discussed a program to install Dance Dance Revolution machines in every West Virginia school, noted that those cases of obesity that resulted from poor diet and lack of exercise could probably be best treated with better diet and more exercise, and noted my own experience as a fat kid. The second complaint was Outraged that I advocated animal torture in the piece about the Minnesota Youth Symphony. I likened the sound of bad orchestras to a sound a cat might make if sawed in half. Because as you know we have a big problem with caw-sawing, and it’s just not a joking matter. Sigh. The number of pinched, humorless, grim-biddy pishers out there is one of the big revelations you get when you work at a paper, but it’s always surprising to learn the lesson again. I had a lady yell at me because I’d written that something almost gave me a heart attack, and HER HUSBAND HAD JUST HAD A HEART ATTACK and THAT WASN’T FUNNY.
So I am at the office, looking out the old window. This would be a blog entry if I wrote a blog for the paper, I guess. Came here after I put in two columns, both of which will irritate someone beyond measure; in one I actually call for jail time for the people who destroyed two statues in a public park. Fascist.
In the course of a day I must read 5,000 words with which I disagree, including the punctuation, and the need to yell at the author rarely arises anymore.
I watched “Purple Rain” last night. Only took about 24 minutes, since I fast-forwarded through the non-musical segments. I’d forgotten how many of the exteriors were filmed elsewhere; the amount of Minneapolis footage is confined to the immediate area around First Avenue, the bus-station-turned-nightclub in which the musical numbers are set. Many people really, really dislike Prince, and for a variety of defensible reasons: after “Purple Rain” the music entered a difficult phase with diminished returns; he changed his name to a bird-splat; he was a silly little fellow, this smoldering Lothario with the physique of a tulip (watching him ride the motorcyle in “Purple Rain” is amusing and alarming; you worry it’ll fall over and crush him. And it’s a 65cc.) (Just kidding. And of course I’m no taller than he is, and since we’re about the same age, and I am neither a household name nor a millionaire, my criticisms should be taken as just more jeers from the groundlings.) (See first paragraph, above.) Then he went on that interminable “Slave” rant, put out more music no one really wanted, but had the usual quotient of maddening brilliance. Even if 10 percent of his stuff holds up, that sliver’s better than 100% of many artists’ output. It’s hard to see “Purple Rain” without laughing, now; no one in Minneapolis, let along First Av. C. 1984, looked like that. Silver jagged lightning bolts on the cheek, eyeliner on men, all those glam touches – it all looks very 80s now, but it was only the 80s of the movies, I think. You wanted to make an actor a “punk,” you put mascara on him, spiked up the hair, put him in a shirt with horizontal stripes, and made him pogo to something no “punk” would ever listen to. The idea of a “punk” as a spotty-faced git on the dole jumping up and down for three hours before throwing up an Imperial gallon of lager wasn’t too photogenic, of course.
“Purple Rain” has been, since late 1984, one of those songs I turn off the moment I hear the first chords, because it was played to death and I grew sick of it immediately; two weeks after the movie came out we were waving our arms back and forth, mocking the solemn New Wave Unitarianism of the movie’s emotional climax. The inscrutability of the song’s central image doesn’t help, either, but Prince could have been screeching about “Ochre Sleet” and he would still have been a star. It’s the performance, which is pretty damn impressive, pop-music wise. The song is a power ballad, a genre I can’t stand, but it’s as good as you’ll get, and he sells every second.
The other songs, however, are remarkable. “Let’s Go Crazy,” “I’m a Star” - that’s good squishy, and if you enjoy the electrical guitar preferred by troubadours of the era, Prince’s work is brilliant. Even the Time holds up well, at least as a comedy act that could pad a small idea out to nine minutes with sufficient mugging.
Links: This will mean nothing to 98% of the audience, I know. I’ll post the reason I linked at the bottom of this page.
Via Fark, a photographic tour of East St. Louis. (Link goes to a dead Modernist store, preserved by neglect; the tour starts here.) It led me somehow to this, an account of a mid-century St. Louis shopping mall abandoned and razed. Sad. Oh so sad. Why? It’s progress. Time marches on, etc. It’s more than that; if you infer from that style a certain set of ideas about progress, modernism, optimism, et cetera, the loss of the building is almost an argument against the ideas themselves. Which is ridiculous, of course. The ideas persist – the forms and palettes are different, that’s all. You can’t conflate the expression with the thing itself just because it was something you liked as a kid, rejected as a know-it-all twenty year old, then came to love again - from afar. You can’t, but you do, of course.
And then there's this. Wow. I have different impressions than the author's; I don't see Astaire and Crawford, because I don't reflexively reach for a Hollywood / "glamor" template. (No disrespect intended; it's just a sign of how the same thing produces different reactions. When I see places like this, I imagine ordinary people in the 30s, and wonder what a lift it gave them to travel through these extraordinary spaces. This was the first style without historical roots - well, aside from Sullivan and Wright. First popular style, then. It must have had the same impact as the late Modernist spaces of the 60s and early 70s, but without the chilly overtones of a future where everyone wears jumpsuits until the day when the bombs fall and the apes take over.
Okay: The reason the golfing article amused me? The kid’s a golfer, right? His dad, Mr. Antony Banks, golfs too. Nice family story. Perhaps it just goes without saying, and everyone knows who his dad is, but I don’t think so. Dad's a musician, as it turns out. That's a tough profession. I hope he makes an adequate living.
Cartoons I did not end up loving. It might be the ugly sub-kricfalusi character design of the elves, or the nuance of the second image: waistcoated plutocrats standing around tree stumps smoking cigars in front of oil wells and refineries. Boy, he’s really hit on something there. Loved the remark in the comments: "Can't wait for his short, 'Yellow Cake.'" Sigh.
But: Hats off to the cartoonist for doing this all on his own, and if it's your cup of tea, it's only $14.00.
Well, done for now; have to do some meetings, head home, get supper, finish the Diner, nap, and get back to work on the book. Two weeks, and counting. See you tomorrow!