Reporting, Recording and Relaying - But Always Telling It As I See It

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Greatest Music Video Of All Time - Deconstructed

MTV no more invented music videos than the movie Pretty Woman invented prostitutes. Both were merely vehicles for glamming up an already existing genre. So before Tawny Kitaen slathered about a Jaguar during Whitesnake's, Here I Go Again, record companies were pumping untold hundreds into music video production.

Possibly the grandest example of this is the infinitely compelling video for the classic Hall and Oates song, She’s Gone. After watching this video many times I have come up with two divergent views. First, it is possible that the video is as bland as it is because no one, not even the caterer, gave a rat’s ass about it. But I like to think otherwise. I like to think that the minimalistic but highly stylized video may be the greatest piece of short film work on record.

The video opens with a still shot of an abandoned luncheonette, possible THE abandoned luncheonette that spawned the album by the same name, and of which She’s Gone made its appearance. It’s at this point that the video makes a very hard left turn into the obscure. At 0:25 we are met with Hall and Oates, both seated in chairs from Goodwill. Hall, who looks like a sullen Dave Bowie is wearing high-heeled clogs with socks and Oates is wearing the front, and only the front, of a tuxedo shirt. The horrid lip synching begins. But, is it horrid or perfect? Everyone who has gone through a romantic pitfall has been off their game a bit, stumbling around. So, maybe from the very first line of the song, the fact that they appear to not be in synch with the track is really the ingenious manifestation of emotion.

At 0:57 the chorus starts, and at this point you may be thinking, “Okay, couple of stoned dudes in chairs. What’s the big deal?” Well, at 1:01, a brunette in a purple flowered dress, long-strides in front of Hall and Oates, obviously the woman who has cast the pall over the fortitude of our protagonists. She walks purposefully from left to right, followed briskly at 1:08 (and this is where things get really heady) by the devil. As they sing the line, “Oh, I’d pay the devil to replace her,” Hall and Oates both grab for money sitting on the table between them to throw at the devil. However, only Hall succeeds. Either Oates just mucked up his cue, or, this is done to demonstrate his reluctance to so easily give in to soul-sucking evil. (It’s interesting that immediately after this, Oates sings, “What went wrong.”)

When the chorus is sung for the second time, the devil again comes across the stage, at 1:52. This time, two different things happen. First, the devil looks squarely into the camera, perhaps signifying to us that he can tempt anyone, even us voyeurs. Secondly, Oates either gets his cue right and tosses money at the devil, or, it is symbolic that heartache is so incredibly porous, that the ability to withstand the temptation is only fleeting.

The most intimate and telling few seconds of the video happens between 2:45 and 3:10. The devil, after his third appearance circles back around behind John Oates and helps him on with his tuxedo jacket – except it has flippers. Oates picks up his Les Paul and plays the guitar solo. This appears to be emblematic of fighting through an obvious handicap - in this case, playing the guitar with no fingers. This seems an obvious metaphor that needs no further explanation.

As the song fades and Hall and Oates wonder off stage right and left respectively, the devil, who has been following them, sits decisively in Hall’s seat. Was this because Hall was the first to throw money at him? Was this because Hall did not possess the determination to overcome his fragile psychological state like Oates did when he played through the flippers? Whatever the reason, the devil looks very content to placidly resign himself with the knowledge that during our weaker moments, he is sure to find someone willing to wear high heeled clogs.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Youth Sports - It's All Apparel And Camp Chairs

We recently spent a cloudy and cold Sunday in Medina, Ohio at a lacrosse tournament. Besides some excellent middle school games I was struck by two things. One, youth sports is nothing if not a team-apparel rich environment. And two, what’s up with all the freaking camp chairs?

My Protagonists
Every kid (about 1,000 at this tournament) is dressed in the latest apparel couture of his or her school’s team -all worn with gang color fanaticism - and none of it cheap. My boys (along with about every other lacrosse player at their school) own the pièce de résistance - the Seneca Valley Boat Jacket. They retail for $85.00 – and that’s without having a clue what the hell the “boat” in boat jacket even is. According to the apparel tab on our association website, you can also order: four different types of tee-shirts (not including something called a “performance tee”), four different styles of hoodies (to be worn at your own peril), sweatpants, golf shirts, fleece jackets, etc. They even have something called an “unstructured hat.” Being fashion challenged, I have no idea what “unstructured” means. Maybe it’s a hat that refuses to stay on your head, or one with a bill that moves around depending on the mood it’s in.

And it’s not just the kids, it’s the fools like me – a grown man running around with a Seneca Valley Lacrosse tee-shirt. But it does match my boxers that have “lax dad” written across the ass.

And these camp chairs. What’s up with their proliferation? You wouldn’t dare go to a game without a camp chair. Or in most cases, a trunk full of them. If for some reason we forget to take our camp chairs to a game, my wife and I become flabbergasted as one of us says, “Shit, we forgot the chairs!” But a lot of this is born out of necessity, since schools will spend tens of thousands on a Kentucky Bluegrass-turf -hybrid playing surface, but will not shell out a grand for a decent set of bleachers. These chairs sprout like dandelions all along the fringes of every field. Just once I’d like to go to my parent’s house and grab one of their old aluminum folding chairs with the plaid and frayed webbing and the bent arm rest and show up with that. That would be like showing up at the gym with a Walkman cassette player with the foam headset instead of an MP3 player. Old school or old fart?

Somehow I can’t picture my dad wearing a North Catholic High School Trojans tee-shirt to my basketball game decades ago, and I think if I told him to bring a camp chair he would show up with a stump. Not me, I’m the guy with the team tee-shirt and my camp chair – with netted cup holder, of course. Oh, and the boxers. (Maybe.)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Because Sometimes The Ass Is Your Own Bad Self

I chuckled to myself at the woman emptying six creamers into her small coffee before I chuckled out loud at myself for emptying my sugar packet into the garbage can instead of my cup. It was the closing chapter of a tumultuous ten minutes.

(Warning: The following is going to seem shallow and bitchy – some may even say elitist. To you I say – I couldn’t agree more.)

There are few things I enjoy more in the morning than some semblance of routine. On the few mornings a week I begrudgingly convince myself that it is in my best interest to go the gym, I look forward to the following post work-out treat; a low-fat chocolate milk (the best recovery drink in the world) and a coffee. Not only that, I want to get it from the convenience store that is, logically, convenient. It is where I stop most mornings for coffee, where I stop on the way home for milk and where my kids walk to spend $70 on a 324oz Slurpee and eight hotdogs. It is like my offsite kitchen and pantry – I know where everything is.

But lately they have disappointed me by refusing to stock low-fat chocolate milk. Sure, they have whole-fat (is that right?) chocolate milk, and a tractor trailer’s worth of energy drinks, but dammit, no low-fat chocolate milk. For the last few weeks I have joined that sliver of the demographic that have walked out of a convenience store empty handed (and disgusted).

Because I am intent on my chocolate milk AND coffee, (and out of spite) I drive to another convenience store a mile away. It’s still on my way, but on the wrong side of road, and out here in suburbia avoiding an extra traffic light takes on the tactical significance of a SEAL Team 6 raid. (By this time, my coveted routine has been busted like a Santorum coffee mug at an #occupywallstreet teach-in.)

So, not only am I out of my routine, I feel like a jackass because I am hovering around this foreign coffee station searching desperately for the sugar like a senior citizen looking for the prunes at an Atlantic City buffet. When I finally tracked them down (hidden right in front of me) I caught the lady next to me with a fistful of creamers, six to be exact, and watched her empty one after another into her small coffee. I thought of two things; 1) maybe coffee shouldn’t be her drink, and 2) she was making what amounted to a poor person’s latte. That’s what made me laugh to myself. (I thought it was funny, at least.) It was also at this point I grabbed a packet of sugar, ripped off the top and proceeded to pour it right into the garbage can – sweetening the empty wrappers and coffee stirrers.

Yeah, my routine was broken, I just poured sugar into a garbage can, and a woman with a very creamy coffee (who was most likely very secure in her morning routine) got a good (outward, fully outward) laugh at the elitist stranger in her offsite kitchen.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Kids Swear, Okay?

Sitting at my kitchen table last week, I heard my son say, “Dammit” while he thumbed his iPhone in the family room.

“Dylan,” I spoke up, “I’m right here.”

“Oh geez, Dad, sorry,” he said.

And that was it. No yelling. No taking away his iPhone. No lectures.

There are some parents who would have gone ballistic at this point - maybe even cursing at their child to not curse. This isn’t to say that the boys are allowed to swear in the house, it’s just not a capital offense.

I do not possess some higher parental knowledge that allows me to lead with zen-like platitudes. Its just means that to think that my kids are above swearing is foolhardy. Getting overly engaged in the policing of language is like picking low hanging fruit.

And really, how much of a hypocrite could I be? I have been practicing swearing since I was their age (about 13.) Since then, I have become so skilled in cursing that I can deliver a sentence with up to 75% swear words. There are days when I don’t tell the people in my life that I love them, but never a day when I don’t say the word “fuck.” So be it.

A year ago, when the boys got their first iPod, they had asked about downloading a song that had the “Parental Warning” graphic attached because of the word “fuck.” (At the behest of my wife, I was going to try and avoid swearing in my blog, but I would’ve had to type, “the ‘f’ word” or something like that. So silly!) I said, “Listen boys, I really don’t care about you hearing a bad word. I care a lot about you hearing songs that talk about drugs or hurting people. So yeah, you can get it.”

OM effing G! What kind of parent does that? Well, I guess one that knows boys will be boys, one who realizes that teenagers like to swear the way that Fox News likes leggy blondes, and one who is glad his kids recognize that coming to me to ask about downloading a song is being responsible. Thats the high fruit, dammit.