Monday, May 23, 2016

mamalita leftovers

(a follow-up to

This is the first time as a writer that i've wished even a tiny bit to unring a bell. The first time i've posted something, that i'm almost in a rush to put behind me. I normally wait four or more days after a piece this meaty, before replacing it at the top of the site.
Notice how quickly this subsequent piece arrives? Even sooner, was tempting.
I've dealt with taboo topics before...indeed, it's one of the cornerstones of my work. Perhaps the only difference now is that i'm so much more emotionally open, and unprotected from any blowback that might come my way. Just a few weeks ago, someone i once loved deeply called me grotesque. When you take the path of the provocateur/iconoclast/revolutionary, don't bring thin skin. For every person who loves you, there will be many who go the other way, including people you know and care about.
In many ways, "Mamalita" isn't even the story i wanted to write. It feels so dusty to offer a love story involving an older man and younger woman. I tried reversing the genders, but the segment where rosario tests max just didn't work at all. For what it's worth, it occurs to me that the next "great american novel" (if i may use such a suspect term) may well involve a love story between an underage man and adult woman. I may even try to write it myself.
Nor am i under any illusions about the greatness of "Mamalita". In conception and execution, it's at best good. I suppose i'm open to disagreement on that point, but there was no rush of beauty and pride when i finished it. I was just following a storyteller's instinct. In a million ways, we all spend far too much of our lives censoring ourselves.
And i realize of course that to a truly intelligent human being, there will be absolutely nothing scandalous about this piece - quite the opposite. But intelligent human beings are so very rare (although they're NOT getting rarer - it just feels that way). Any serious attempt to strip away some of the layers of horrific dysfunction our society carries over everything to do with sex, is a good thing. Desperately needed. So i didn't censor my random thought that became this story. To what extent should a creator's work be a product of impulse, as opposed to carefully-considered agenda and argument?
The fact that we live in a time when thousands of years of exploitation, rape, and murder of women (and children) are finally coming to light however, makes us hyper-conscious of any sort of "impropriety". An attitude of witchhunting arises. It's regrettable, but understandable. In seeking to undo damage, we rush in the other direction and only later figure out the damage that that causes. For the most part, you can't even hold a child on your lap any more...and the definitions of hot-button words like "pedophilia" get abused - people become so uptight and confused they can't even acknowledge that sexuality involving a pre-adolescent, adolescent, or post-adolescent, are all very different things. In our rush to protect the innocent, we sometimes deny them their very humanity, crippling them for life. Judith levine has written about this far better than i (
I chose my life path partly because i seemed well-situated to withstand scrutiny and moral outrage. I've lived a life of gentleness. I've never harassed, raped, murdered, or assaulted. I may have made some people confused or uncomfortable, but is there anyone who imagines the world doesn't need that? In my darkest moments of paranoia over this piece, i've imagined being jailed for thoughtcrime. Yet while there's a part of me that would rather send this piece straight into the future, to a century or two from now when humanity will be infinitely more understanding and humane, we're never going to actually get there unless individuals keep doing the hard, perilous work.
The title is a nabokov homage. Writing this story (and coming close to not doing so at all) has given me a different kind of respect for vladimir. Walking in his footsteps, even just a little, makes me wonder whether he wasn't perhaps the bravest human who ever lived...with number two perhaps not even worth a mention. I must find a good book about him.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

"Buffalo Bill"

-created by bernie brillstein, tom patchett, and jay tarses
One might wonder why i'm writing this review, as this is a sitcom i urge absolutely no one to watch. My reason is twofold: genuine fascination, and to refute those who call this a genius, cult-worthy effort bungled by the studio. It isn't. Not even a tiny bit. It's so uneven and unexcellent that the studio actually showed more support than was warranted. Yet it was fascinating...some call it a proto-LARRY SANDERS SHOW, and in the sense that it tried to tell much more truth than TV usually offered, the comparison is valid. But at its very best, it's barely mildly funny, and at its average it may strike you as the most reprehensible show ever. It's simply the story of a thoroughly putrid human being, with no redeeming value. But that IS the value, say the advocates? Maybe. But what cannot be argued is that it utterly failed to find its voice. Its creators brought a fine pedigree - brillstein (IT'S GARRY SHANDLING'S SHOW, NEWSRADIO), patchett (THE BOB NEWHART SHOW, ALF), and tarses (THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW, THE TONY RANDALL SHOW) were obviously shooting for fearless and ground-breaking. They devoted episodes to abortion, broken families, and beauty pageants, and those moments almost worked, but...
BUFFALO BILL is the story of bill bittinger (dabney coleman - TOOTSIE, 9 TO 5), small-city talk show host who knows he'll never be anything more. He's also an egotistical, racist, misogynist bully. The staff of the show all kowtow to bill, which is understandable. What's not understandable is the genuine devotion he's shown. It's the fatal flaw - the writers succeed in making him so abhorrent, that the support of the good people around him just tosses everything into a state of constant irreconcilability. And it's frustrating to watch the show flail - most of the episodes are just dull nothingness, but they also flirted with whimsy, and trippy non-realism...perhaps the solution would have been to show bill continually getting some sort of comeuppance. The handful of times they went in that direction, are the best of the batch.
The primary reason the show is fascinating however, is the cast. In TV terms, it's a murderer's row - every single regular either had a substantial film career, or starring role on another series. That's a distinction i'm not sure any other show has ever been able to claim. Joanna cassidy (BLADE RUNNER, WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT), max wright (ALF, NORM), john fiedler (12 ANGRY MEN, WINNIE THE POOH), meshach taylor (DESIGNING WOMEN, DAVE'S WORLD), charles robinson (NIGHT COURT, PEE-WEE'S BIG HOLIDAY), and geena davis (THELMA & LOUISE, COMMANDER IN CHIEF), who also wrote the beauty pageant episode...the potential was clearly bursting. There's also an uncredited, unforgettable guest appearance by jim carrey.