Monday, May 26, 2014

"Occidental Mythology"

The Masks of God: Occidental Mythology
-by Joseph Campbell
The intellectual fare swirling around george lucas' mind when he penned STAR WARS.
In scholarly terms, admittedly a dubious distinction. But campbell is a towering thinker, in the best sense. There being no dearth of critical review available, i'll make this brief.
If you wish to adhere to the notion that abraham, jesus, mohammed, or joe smith were the agents of allah, jahweh, god, or the stay-puft marshmallow man, THIS IS THE BOOK you should assiduously avoid. Instead of presenting a psychological refutation of the religious impulse, or diagram of the disasters such thought leads to (a la russell or hitchens), campbell simply takes the robes off world religions, to show where their ideas came from and what they actually have under there, substance-wise. He also shows how all religions, even those from East and West, have fed each other in global streams of shabby derivation. You're ready to get into the guts of understanding an immanent god compared to a transcendent one, and what you can expect from cultures founded on either? You're ready to understand why your own birthplace is exclusivist and intolerant, or syncretic and welcoming? Then you're ready for campbell.
And - are all those people with crucifixes on their neck showing their allegiance to jesus...or THOR?
This and more.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

sid caesar

By coincidence, i'd just begun reading the autobiography "Caesar's Hours" when he died. I'd never seen any of his classic TV shows, because i always suspected i mightn't love them. For a youth whose sense of funny was shaped by M*A*S*H, marx, burnett, brooks, ZAZ, and above all Python, i thought caesar's shows might hit me like THE HONEYMOONERS - quality, but too dated and socially regressive to be really enjoyable. His autobiography is a fine read. Once in a while he comes off as a bit of a tightass...but let's not crucify him for that, as the average man of his generation was an ENORMOUS tightass. And yet...there were direct links from sid to two of those childhood favorites (M*A*S*H, brooks), and others (burnett, ZAZ) who were simply following where he had pointed. And his writers? Neil simon, larry gelbart, woody allen, mel brooks, carl reiner?? So i jumped into something long overdue - THE SID CAESAR COLLECTION, a 3-dvd set showing the best of his work on YOUR SHOW OF SHOWS and CAESAR'S HOUR. The between-sketch commentary is worth the price of admission alone. Otherwise, my instincts had been pretty much right, but the exceptions are as funny as funny gets. Grab disc 1 and watch "The 3 Haircuts (You Are So Rare & Flippin' Over You)" and "This Is Your Story" - the first almost a spoof of the Beatles a decade before they arrived, and the second a spoof of THIS IS YOUR LIFE. Both will have you laughing out loud for days, if not weeks (Uncle Goopy!). Thank you, sid. And happily, we'll now ever have a more resonant response each time we hear Commissioner gordon exclaim "Great caesar's ghost!"

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

lakota leijon

The further from us i get
the more you fill my dreams
A vision of carnal perfection
Your gentle spirit gleams

Was i fool or was i wise
to run from mother and child
Lying on my deathbed
i'll think of you and smile

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

bracelets leftovers

(a follow-up to

Often when i write a piece i have public reading hopes for, there are ideas or anecdotes that get cut, in the service of making it more succinct. A few such for "grey bracelets"...
The part about being less interested in non-nude movies goes deeper than sexual deprivation. As my mind ever absorbs the bigger picture of human existence and just how barbaric we've become, i grow less and less interested in our provincial fables and parables. You want me to sit through some Hollywood commercial for the status quo? Yeah? Well, STAR WARS was pretty morally degraded even before Disney got their slimy paws on it, so thanks, but i'll probably pass. Just show me some titties.
Another factor in my psyche is that i recently endured a relationship i'd devoted years to, and received far less love in return than others who showed far less kindness and selflessness. I know, i can't let one relationship affect your outlook. But it's an unfortunate swirl to add to no physical intimacy for over a year, fading youth (which in a healthy society would be an honor, not an indignity), and a relentless emotional awareness of how horribly we all treat each other.
Has unfucked loneliness made me as reckless as i feel? That woman i met the other day, the one who drinks and smokes and offers no obvious compatibility, is also a single mother. In my fantasies, i'm having unprotected sex with her tonight and tomorrow morning and afternoon and four times next Tuesday, and maybe she gets pregnant. Maybe a part of me wants that...the allure of children to hold every day and a woman to put my penis in every night. Never mind whether it's right for me (or them).
There's also a friend i have in China to whom i've playfully suggested i'm her ticket to being a U.S. citizen, and getting around that one-child policy.
Would i actually do these things? I do not know. But there is an ever-growing sense of danger in me...for myself, and maybe even others.
Degraded degraded degraded...
But that's how it works - if we lived in a society that had any kind of healthy understanding of sex or children's needs, monogamous two-parent homes would disappear overnight. The economics of our society are based on the single-family unit. So society makes marriage the only place where you can have free sex and babies. That's a juicy, whopping carrot. Society makes babies economically desirable (though that balance is tipping precariously, which is why more and more people are saying no...and one wonders whether that's accidental). Despite the ballooning costs however, children are still the most solid old-age insurance one can get.
Money money money, just follow the money...
Plus people are realizing (if excruciatingly slowly) that marriage is not the beginning of sex, but the beginning of the end of it.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Harry Pussies

-by Harry Nilsson
(produced by John Lennon)
A product of the "lost weekend", when chums Harry and John went on a year-long L.A. bender, this is a fascinating, often brilliant, and criminally-overlooked album for any Nilsson fan, Lennon completist, or rock lover. Many dismiss it as the end of Harry's three-octave range - the rupturing of his vocal chords is in full evidence (a condition perhaps partially caused by substance abuse, which he hid from John [um, the vocal damage, not the substance abuse]). Some of the vocals are downright whispery and cracky, which they tried (and sometimes succeeded) to use to their advantage. But what the album lacks in soaring vocals, it more than makes up in songwriting and production. The original title was allegedly HARRY PUSSIES, but unsurprisingly the record company rejected what would have been one of the greatest album titles ever. Lennon stayed true to his role as producer, giving only one brief vocal cameo, but the chemistry is wonderful, with appearances by Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, and a host of other usual suspects.
(1) Many Rivers to Cross
The Jimmy Cliff song that was the lead single and arguably the most brilliant track - you may never want to stop listening to it.
(2) Subterranean Homesick Blues
A Dylan number that might not stand well on its own, but in the context of the album is spot-on.
(3) Don't Forget Me
A sweet, poignant song about love lost, with occasional injections of gallows perspective (see the alimony and cancer lines). Brilliantly covered on Neil Diamond's DREAMS.
(4) All My Life
Okay, maybe this is the most brilliant track - an upbeat, irreverent look at a life well-wasted.
(5) Old Forgotten Soldier
A blues hall self-lamentation of a soldier put out to pasture.
(6) Save the Last Dance for Me
The Drifters gem, delivered with sweeping sweetness and sincerity.
(7) Mucho Mungo/Mt. Elga
The Lennon/Nilsson tune that originally appeared on WALLS AND BRIDGES. A semi-obligatory toss-off.
(8) Loop De Loop
A Ted Vann cheeser that loiters around "so bad it's good". Maybe it's just bad, but within the context of the album you can't hate it. Well, i can't anyway. British mums sang it to their babies. Aww.
(9) Black Sails
The most bizarre entry, with funereal nautical imagery and a Carly Simon reference.
(10) Rock Around the Clock
The Bill Haley classic rompingly rendered.
(11)* Down By the Sea
A bouncy head-swayer, superior to the more polished version that would appear on DUIT ON MON DEI.
(12)* The Flying Saucer Song
Loosey-goosey goodness, MUCH superior to the DUIT version.
(13)* Turn Out the Light
A fun kids bedtime tune (also better than the DUIT version).
(14)* Save the Last Dance for Me
A demo, before Harry lost his range.'ll spend hours trying to decide which version you like better.

*25th Anniversay bonus tracks