Sunday, March 30, 2008

honest man

I could have had your love had i been a liar too
and an honest man stands in the rain
Poetry aside...
Why is it safe to say "you're the first tall person i've been attracted to"?
Why is it safe, even playful, to say "you're the first old person i've been attracted to"?
Or the first thin person? The first young/short/bald/bearded/tattooed/female/male/skinny/happy/rich person? Basically safe, all of them?
Why, it can even be titillating to say, "you're the first white/yellow/black person i've been attracted to". Okay, i suppose "yellow" is not really safe to say. And okay, saying "you're the first male person i've been attracted to" could conceivably be unsafe.
But why, why, WHY is it safe to say those other things, but unsafe to say "you're the first overweight person i've been attracted to"?
Why is that? Even using PC language, why is it not safe?
I could have had your love had i been a liar too
and an honest man stands in the rain

Saturday, March 29, 2008

starry night

My favorite painting ever is by Van Gogh.
It's the only painting i have a framed print of.
A large part of the reason the painting is special to me is because of its prominence in the song "Vincent", by Don McLean. That song is one of the most beloved of my little life, in part because i see just a tiny bit of myself in Vincent. I think many do.
Wednesday afternoon, i saw the actual painting for the first time in my life.
Unexpectedly.
Which, i suppose, is the best way for that sort of thing to happen.
I had no idea the painting was even in New York. My mother and sister came to town for the day, and we went to the Museum of Modern Art. I had never gone before. And on the first floor we went to, i was innocently walking along, and then...well, the floor didn't drop out, but almost. A part of me still doesn't believe that it was real. My favorite view of it was when i knelt and looked up. The living textures were so beautiful.
I was taken by Rousseau's "Dream". And the work of Dali. Surprisingly, i was quite moved by the work of Pollock, when the other works on that floor left me flat. And most conspicuously, the thirty-foot water lilies by Monet. My jaw dropped as i took it in, the way it shimmered with a depth that seemed impossible.
The art wasn't behind protective glass walls, and for that i am quietly and deeply grateful to the good curators. I was also unsettled, though. As the afternoon went on, and i realized how many of the world's most famous paintings were in this building, something felt wrong. It seemed to embody the uglier aspects of our country, the self-importance and greed, that so much of the world's greatest art is not on display in the artists' native lands.
But it was a very beautiful day to be alive. We ended it with a Cinnabon and my first trip to the top of Rockefeller Center, which was in some ways more satisfying than the Empire State, in that you may go to the very toppermost part.
I love my mother and sister very much.

Monday, March 24, 2008

my only secret

I want to share my only secret with you. In sharing it, it won't be entirely a secret, but that's fun too.
I've been sexually attracted to someone i'm related to.
Now this is not the height of scandal, as this woman and i could be legally married in some states. But it is the sort of thing that is taboo, and revelations of such feelings, or of an actual liaison, can be very destructive to the fabric of a family. So let me say, if anyone from my father's side of the family is reading, the person in question is on my mother's side. And if anyone from my mother's side of the family is reading, the person in question is on my father's side. Isn't that nice?
I share this secret because i suspect that a large percentage of people have felt some kind of similar attraction in their lives. Some have acted on these feelings, though of course a far greater percentage swallow those feelings. Some even live their lives twisted forever by a little pocket of silent guilt. One of my actors told me once that he and his sister had been miserable for years, unable to act upon their attraction. How many of you could hear that, and not be judgemental? I was deeply humbled by his trust in me.
These feelings, in me or anyone, are in no way shameful or unhealthy. They are part of being human, and a mature society will not make people feel ashamed of biological responses. Every society must have mores. They glue a society together.
But we as a species have to do much better in terms of compassionate understanding.
We'll get there.
In the meantime, go hug somebody.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"The Muppets Take Manhattan"

1986
-directed by Frank Oz
Perhaps in thirty or forty years, just to feel Jim's final Muppet presence on the big screen, i'll watch this one again. But it was breathtakingly bad, just painful. It perhaps even deserves consideration for the "All-Time Worst Films" list. The human ingenue was, well, not horrible. And the actor who played Bert Buchman on MAD ABOUT YOU, it was nice to see him. And Gates McFadden plays a secretary, TREK fans. But i will not offer anyone a reason to see this, because oh lordy, it was just screamingly dull and void of magic. It was Frank Oz's first effort directing a big-screen movie all by himself, and perhaps he, like Jim before, wasn't quite ready. It would be hard to overstate the impact the Muppets had on my young life, starting with "Bein' Green". At the age of five i heard this song, and immediately knew i wasn't alone in the universe, as i had previously wondered. It was the first anything that made me feel that there was something or someone out there who knew who i was. To this day, "Imagine" is the only other song to have touched me so. A few years later, The Muppet Show came out, followed by THE MUPPET MOVIE. Later on, there was LABYRINTH. We all have our favorites. For me, it was maybe Statler and Waldorf. If you've not heard the collaborations with John Denver, get on it. FRAGGLE ROCK has always seemed quite inferior, but since some swear by it, i'll allow that my reaction may have just been bad timing. Maybe. But the characters and magic in Jim's creations (and of course he had much help...Frank Oz alone is worthy of an article or two)...well, they are simply an enormous part of who i am. Keep your laureates and statesmen: in terms of making the world a better place for having been alive, i don't imagine any human has ever done better. I've never been as stunned and saddened by the death of someone i'd never met.
I'll give the film one more star than it deserves, simply because it was the last time Jim would be that little green frog. Or the last time that little green frog would be him. "Thank you" will never be sufficient, Jim. But thank you.
1 star.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

"The Great Muppet Caper"

1981
-directed by Jim Henson
As the first sequel to THE MUPPET MOVIE, this is a very crucial film in understanding the sequel-avoidance intuition i experienced as a young'n (i'd never seen a single moment of it during my youth).
The good news is that...it was almost a good movie, unlike much of the awfulness that is to come. There was frequent happy laughter. To be sure, some of that laughter is nervous relief, simply because the movie is recognizable and not horrible.
Stylistically, it's slightly different, more self-referential. The characters comment on the fact that it's all just a movie ("Shut up, you didn't even sing that last song, it was DUBBED"). This character-breaking is kinda strange, but works, in a limited way. Several of the human performances were fairly funny (Charles Grodin, Jack Warden, Joan Sanderson), and two (Peter Falk, John Cleese) were almost very funny. The cameo by Jim is a little time capsule of wonderment and delight. Some of the effects are amazing, particularly the Piggy/Kermit bike scene. I couldn't figure out how they were doing it, and then, as though to rub my astonished nose in it, suddenly ALL the muppets appear on bike. The scene where they scale a building is similarly delightful, and provides us a non-disappointing, first-ever view of Janice's, um, posterior. The funniest moment of the film is actually hers. In a scene where everybody is nervously shouting at each other, Kermit finally hollers the group into silence. Oblivious, Janice keeps talking, and it's obvious she's not concerned about the plot dilemma ("And I said, but Mom, it's my life, what does it matter if I live on a beach and walk around naked?"). I was surprised at the presence of the rats, i'd always assumed they were an underwhelming product of the Post-Jim years. Rowlf doesn't have much to do, sadly. But there are few annoying moments, and it all moves along pretty well. Despite the fun though, there's an overall feeling of flatness. I wonder whether it had something to do with Jim's directing; he hadn't helmed the first one, so maybe he was "finding his feet" in terms of directing a full-length muppet feature. It was quickly obvious that the movie wasn't going to reach the magic level of the first, but it could have come close if they had fixed the single most disappointing element - the music. Oh Paul Williams, wherefore goest thou? The music is just deeply forgettable. The least-hummable song from the first film ("Never Before") is a cut above the most-hummable song from this one ("Hey, a Movie").
I'll rate all the movies in this muppet quest on a 5-star scale. The original was a 5. With music that was on par with the first, CAPER might have been a 4. As it is...
2 stars.

Monday, March 17, 2008

zapruder

I watched a 1998 documentary on the Abraham Zapruder film of the Kennedy murder, entitled "Image of an Assassination". The footage was digitally restored, and seen publicly in its original clarity for the first time. It was disturbing, even horrific. No surprise there. I recommend it to everyone and anyone.
I've been wondering how much of this blog should be devoted to the minutiae of daily life, and how much of it should be more thought-out, article-like pieces. I'm not abandoning the minutiae idea, but i suspect it may be more article-centered than originally envisioned. In part because i have a hazy idea to collect these entries into some sort of book. Of course, as soon as i say that, i'll probably hit you with seven days in a row of "my moments today". Never did like to be pigeon-holed.
I audition tomorrow for a new play entitled "Genitalia", sort of a male version of "The Vagina Monologues". People who know me are sometimes quite surprised to find out that i've never done full nudity onstage. This play may change that. Yay!
There's no tooth fairy, and that man was not killed from behind.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

great muppet quest

K and i are embarking on a great muppet quest! Not long ago, we discovered that as children we experienced a shared intuition about the first muppet sequel, and indeed all the sequels that followed - we sensed that they were to be avoided. Understand the incredibly high esteem in which we held the original. It was one of the watershed movies of our lives, a piece of magic the likes of which we'd never known. I am profoundly loyal...if you were to have proposed to me that i would avoid the sequel to THE MUPPET MOVIE, that would have been akin to "EMPIRE STRIKES BACK? I'll pass." So how how HOW did we, mere children, decide sight unseen that the sequels were to be avoided? Children are not so fickle as adults. They know what they like. An adult might hear a bad review and stay away, but a devoted child will have none of such talk. I don't think it can be attributed to a poor ad campaign either; again, children know what they like.
It doesn't make sense on any level. Jim Henson was alive for the first two sequels.
So i don't know how to classify this phenomenon other than to theorize about some mystical intuition shared by children everywhere. The facts speak for themselves. The highest-grossing sequel did about half the business of the original. I've not seen the first sequel, CAPER, to this day. I repeat, i have not seen it. I saw the MANHATTAN film a couple years ago, and it was just staggeringly bad. I saw TREASURE ISLAND recently, and with the exception of one scene, it was painful.
But the time has come for an accounting. The time has come to face the demons of dashed expectations. If for no other reason than to understand these non-pieces of our past, K and i are going to see all the sequels, in order. I'm not sure what shape we'll be in when we come out the other side. K has already given herself a safety net, saying she may leave the room if it gets too bad, but i will gut out the full length of them all. I'm actually even a little enthusiastic about one, CHRISTMAS CAROL, because i've discovered that Paul Williams returned to the fold, to write the music. It would be hard to overstate how many sweet hours of my youth were spent listening to that MUPPET MOVIE album.
So wish me strength, reader. I'm doing this for you.

Monday, March 10, 2008

@#~%ing catholics!

At a very young age, it was ridiculously apparent that religion was the nexus of worldwide mass psychosis. And no religion had a greater insanity quotient than the Catholics. Whoo, boy. The luniest tenet of this looniest of religions was the idea that all you had to do to commit a sin was to THINK about doing it. Think about it, and you've already done it. To my humanity-loving mind, that was about as hideously oppressive and soul-destroying as tenets get.
So a rather frightening thought i've been rassling with over the past few years has been...what if them Catholics were actually, gulp, RIGHT on that one?
Take a deep breath, don't hyperventilate, i'm just speculating a little.
Now when i was younger, i was the pinnacle of the intellectual cynic. The rational empiricist. Champion of coincidence and enemy of superstition everywhere! But over the past decade i've been exploring the possibilty of a connectedness that runs through life, on a level beyond the five senses. A connective energy that could account for intuition, coincidence, maybe even ghosts. I've had seemingly sane friends who swear by sympathetic pains felt across a continent...i myself have had moments of bizarre connectedness like thinking of someone for the first time in years, only to get a phone call from them later that day. I've sometimes seemed able to shape events with my mind.
Somewhere i hear my younger mind screaming "Don't be a sappy sentimental simpleton! It's COINCIDENCE! Sigh, a once-promising mind embracing foofery..."
It's okay younger mind, i haven't gone over to the dark side yet.
But suppose that our thoughts do exist on an unseen, energetic, connected level? Wouldn't that mean that if we think a hateful thought, that thought is as real an "action" as any physical act? There are heavy ramifications, if so. I've always prided myself on my alert driving style, in which i imagine everything that could go wrong. But perhaps I'm helping to "create" such possibilities, by focusing on them? To be fair, i've never had any kind of accident under such circumstances. Or suppose i'm in love with someone, but issues of responsibility or fidelity require her and i to be apart? Might it not be destructive to the fabric of the universe, and to the people involved, to focus on my unrequited love?
Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! The Catholics right? Truly, dark would become light and day become...well, okay it wouldn't be as bad as all that. And i'm still undecided about all this...there's a compelling counter-argument that says that denying your feelings is one of the surest paths to psychological/spiritual despair.
End of post.
What, you thought i was going to take a cheap parting shot at the trinity or original sin?
Too easy, we have bigger fish to fry.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

peanut DeCaro

Yesterday i worked the Peanut Butter & Company Peanut Buttery Dessert Contest, an all-day affair held at a culinary institute. For the past few years, i've worked a few events each year as their monkey mascot. Yesterday they had me working out of costume. I spent much of the day organizing and setting up, and the last few hours greeting the guests who came for the award ceremony party that capped the day. It was all pretty lovely, as most of the PB employees are sweet people to be with.
Randomly, the last two women i was sexual with had orgasms, while i did not. Come to think of it, there was a third one in the past two years.
I didn't get as much yummy food as one might expect working a culinary soiree. But i did meet Frank DeCaro, the beautifully flamboyant man who used to do movie reviews on The Daily Show. I told him that his segment had been brilliant. He disarmingly replied that the producers must not have agreed. I held back my reply that the segment lost some of its snappiness after he lost his female partner. Had i not been working, i wonder whether i'd have held that comment back? Gentleness and honesty are sometimes at odds. The other highlight of the day was meeting a young woman who assessed a stranger's character with almost no clues. I asked her how she knew about this stranger. She said, "I feel things. So do you". We talked about intuition and family. At one point she reached across me, and her wrist rested on my hand for a few moments. I was only mostly sure she was of legal age, but my fingers lifted so more of our skin was touching, and a jolt passed between us.
I'm listening to a demo version of "Let It Down", from Harrison's ALL THINGS MUST PASS. It's an amazingly beautiful song, a fact long-obscured by Phil Spector's overproduction. On the re-release a few years ago, it was rescued and recorded the way it was meant to be, just George and a guitar.
Randomly, at this precise moment the three women i think most about holding are, in no order, married, 18, and chronically in love with me but determined that we are not to meet. Life's little funny realities. I did have a sleepover guest last night, the first i've had since coming to Astoria six months ago. Quite a dry spell. Even though i've been known to go years between lovers, my open cuddling nature has often resulted in regular bed buddies, particularly in New York. I once slept with four different women in a span of five nights, and had sex with none of them. M and i became somewhat sexual last night, but we'll perhaps not return to such behavior until we have more clarity on what we are to each other. Like i've said, i'm trying to explore the possibility that strong physical attraction can grow in time, as opposed to being only an initial chemical fact. But i so very much don't want to steamroll M or anyone in the name of self-exploration. She's a big girl, she's not doing anything she isn't choosing, and i'm not hiding anything from her...but we still have an obligation to take care of each other in our fumbling need to be loved. Sometimes it's easy, very often it's not.
Today i had the thought...despite a raw loneliness that's been almost undisturbed in fifteen years, with a back and head that hurt from lack of human contact, this week three things happened. A friend told me he was nearly obsessing over these writings of mine (understand, i've had blog feedback from very few, so it still feels like i'm doing this mostly for myself). An acquaintance remembered a comment from a month ago, and told me he had a spare cd player if i still needed one. And someone slept with me.
That can't be called a bad week.

Monday, March 3, 2008

sad songs, funny movies

I'm listening to "Jesus Went to Birmingham". I have too much music. In terms of storage space, in terms of cds that sit in my collection unloved...i have too much, so i'm weeding. This Mellencamp is on the chopping block, and the cleaver is falling. I love music. If i were to have one addictive behavior, i think that would be it. I suspect i could spend thousands of dollars a year. Fortunately I know how to be patient. There are only a teensy handful of artists whose new releases i'll pay full price for. I'll wait years and years to find what i want at thrift store/garage sale prices.
I realized something...curious, a year or two ago. I love funny movies and sad songs.
Well, who wouldn't? But i mean disproportionately. An overly conspicuous percentage of the movies i have loved most have been funny. A conspicuously high percentage of the songs that have touched me most deeply have been sad.
Isn't there something inconsistent there? I'd say that i've always been happier than most. Maybe even profoundly so. Yet always, and i mean always, sad songs have resonated deeply in my spirit. And i do believe in Gibran's words...that the greater joy has filled your spirit, the greater your capacity for sorrow, and vice versa. So it's not a ridiculous proposition, it's just...curious. It makes me wonder whether there's a reason. I'm pretty self-aware, and i can't think of one. Any psychoanalysts among us? It makes me wonder whether there are others like me, or whether there is someone reading who has always been drawn to happy songs and sad movies.
Now don't get me wrong, we're not talking absolutes. There are sad movies (DAS BOOT, PLANET OF THE APES, FIGHT CLUB) and happy songs ("Alice's Restaurant", anything by FRED, "Mmmmbop") that i adore. But over the past couple years, i've made lists of my favorite movies and songs, and it hits you in the face, the near-total absence of sad movies or funny songs (well, it didn't hit me in the face until i thought of it in a street-wandering moment...i'm so accepting that i usually wouldn't think to psychoanalyze a list i'd made).
But there it is. Funny movies make me happy. Sensible. But on some level, must it not also be true that sad songs make me...happy? Or perhaps the recognition of sadness is just a central part of me? Does it have something to do with the different contexts in which one experiences songs and movies? Dunno...well, as Popeye might say, it is what it is, and i like what it is.
Some funny...
Monty Python, THE PRINCESS BRIDE, THE NAKED GUN, THE FULL MONTY, AIRPLANE, TOOTSIE, MAVERICK, BORAT, YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, ISHTAR, BEST IN SHOW, GALAXY QUEST, THE JUNGLE BOOK, MST3K, Marx Brothers, VICTOR/VICTORIA, THIS IS SPINAL TAP
And some sad...
"The Impossible Dream", "Vincent", "The Sad Café", "Dust in the Wind", "Here’s That Rainy Day", "The Way It Is", "Hard Habit to Break", "Lost Soul", "The Frozen Man", "Love on the Rocks", "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", "What’s Going On?", "Empty Garden", "Piece of Clay"
May your sorrow be deep, and your joy brimming.