So I’m driving to Best Buy tonight, racing down the highway with the windows down, aerodynamic drag be damned. Hang the drag, lads! The music is . . . loud; it was “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2, a great song, one of those moments when hype, reputation, pop-culture importance and talent all collided and everyone lived up to the limits of their ability. The only U2 album I ever bought was the first one; after that it just seemed unnecessary, since they were in the air all the time. Then came “Take On Me,” winsome little earnest synth-pop piffle you can’t help but like if you were around back then. It’s like “Flock of Seagulls” with a college education. (Although Flock, derided as they were, managed to get Be-Bop Deluxe guitar ace and songwriter to produce one song, which says something.) The video was one of those Important Milestones, back in the days when every big video promised some sort of revolution in FX or video magic. We actually asked how did they do that?, a question you don’t hear much anymore. Now we just accept that they can do anything. Anyway: there’s a point in the video where the hero, being chased by the Mechanics from an old British comic book, throws a wrench into a plate of glass, and it makes the appropriate sound.
All these years later, I still hear the sound in the song, even though it’s not there. I expect it. Sometimes I’ll even make a slight throwing gesture. Really.
So I pulled into the parking lot and noted that deathless fact on twitter, and later I get a reply about the girl in the video: she’s still around, doing commercials, and she has a name. It fits. It’s perky and English, no? Bunty Bailey.
The crash is at 2:16. But perhaps you knew that.
I thought the video for “Brothers in Arms” was done by the same director; it had a hand-drawn style. Turns out the director did do a Dire Straits vid – but it was the “Money for Nothing” video, the one that really made everyone who had cable feel as if they were living in the future. Computer graphics and lyrics that referenced the medium itself: Marshall McLuhan would have approved.
Wonderful things were done in the few years between the rise of videos and the rule of computers; “Money for Nothing” was the Steamboat Willie of its time, I suppose.
Wikipedia says it best:
"The song's lyrics are written from the point of view of a blue-collar worker watching music videos and commenting on what he sees. To achieve the effect of such a layman making such casual everyday commentary, Dire Straits' lead singer and songwriter Mark Knopfler used a vocal style known as Sprechstimme."
By which I mean, Wikipedia’s anal tone and self-serious community has managed to suck the juice out of that plum, too.
Has it been a while? It’s almost been a quarter century.
Just gaze upon it, O Ye Boomers, and Despair: there are 24 year-olds out there right now drinking Starbucks and texting friends and using iPhone GPS to arrange dinner plans who were zygotes when this video came out. This video was an oldie on MTV when next month’s Playboy centerfold was born. To them this looks like a 1935 movie looks to someone born in '59.
Or does it? Has the last quarter-century melted and congealed to form a primordial sea of media in which everything older than last week is somehow made equal?
I’ll make a strange assertion here, floated with no supporting evidence: if you’re in my demographic, and you were alive & and “hip” and “with-it” during the hullabaloo of the 80s, the culture of the 90s left very little impression on you, but the culture of the Aughts seemed more interesting and relevant. It’s as if we take a decade off after the bloom of youth has faded.
Did a video for the Startribune TV channel today; much fun, as usual. It’s the Fringe Festival, an annual theater-around-town event I’ve managed to avoid for all the years it’s been going on. We made stuff up, as usual, and found some actual actors in Rarig center doing a reading; I challenged them to make our own Fringe Festival play on the spot, improv style, and they were more than game. “Gentlemen, I call this meeting of the Elks to order, and I for one am tired of this group being a tool of the patriarchy.” Go! And they did.
We’d intended to shoot earlier, but there was blessed rain in the morn, so that pushed it back. Just as well. I was in no mood this morning for anything, since I was suffused with horrible dread. Took about five hours to shake off a nightmare.
It had been a good party, what with Stan Brubeck and Woody Miller and all the other slightly-wrong jazz greats, but it was time to go. I tried to get people to accompany me to the apartment building where the coats were kept, but no one would go; there was something very wrong about the place. A few were almost violent in their reaction, and seemed insulted that I would even ask. Eventually I found my wife, and she being the practical sort who would have none of this nonsense, she accompanied me back.
There was something strange about the apartment; everything was furnished in a pinkish-brown color, and there seemed to be some presence, as though someone was always around the corner down the hall out of sight. My wife felt it too, but shook it off – until she found a shallow box containing 20 or so neatly wrapped square boxes, each of which with the name of someone we knew written in blue ball-point. In grade-school script. With “Mr.” Or “Mrs.” By their name.
Then we heard the voices.
That’s when we ran.
It wasn’t until we were clear of the building that I turned to her and asked: where’s Natalie? Neither of us knew. I woke, heart pounding, and for a minute or two I was unable to get up, because I knew the voices would be down the hall around the corner.
I know what they said, because I wrote it down, and I when I found the paper on my desk that said there are two sides to the world it is our job to keep them apart but sometimes we must take from one and give to the other I got the most horrible chill. I typed it and played it back using the Mac’s spookier and more useless voices, layered them in Garageband and listened to see if that was right. Oh, that was it. That was them.
There are two sides to the world: this could be an expression of Manichean rigidity, a simple assertion of the fact of the diurnal cycle, or, more likely, a paraphrase of the “Tales from the Darkside” ad that comes on after “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” which I’d seen before bed. It is our job to keep them apart. This suggests some shadowy figures responsible for border patrol. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a virtual fence between the land of the living and the undead? You could hop back and forth as you chose.
But sometimes we must take from one to give to the other. Somehow I knew that’s what the names on the boxes meant; these were people that would be taken to balance out . . . something. Later I considered the strange sickly color of the apartment, and I knew where it came from: the other day Natalie had made a lanyard at camp out of flat plastic rope, the same material I’d used almost 40 years before at camp. I remember making mine, and I remember the color – the same pinkish-brown hue, very much a mid-60s tint. It reminds you how you probably remember everything, and there’s a large part of your brain devoted to keeping you from remembering the useless stuff. But it’s all there in the props department, and when your brain is scrambling to dress the set, it uses everything.
That’s it for this week. Hope the work justified your visits. I’d intended so much more – a Diner, a look at the Old Scout, some ruminations on this election everyone’s talking about – but it was one of those weeks where things just rolled on and rolled over, and I just never found the time or the mood. Ah well: buzz to do now, and a column for Sunday’s paper. Heaven knows what that will be about. Gah. But! The week will end as they always do, at piano class with Natalie and the kids with whom she’s studied the ivories for years . . . but.
It’s the last class. This will be hard. More on that come Monday. In the meantime, have a grand weekend. August! The noblest of months. More thoughts on that at buzz.mn; see you there.