Thursday, September 19, 2013

We laugh...because it's true

Jimmy Kimmel says & does a few things that I can't endorse.  However he does us a GREAT service in the segment where he shows how some people will say anything they think they're supposed to when a camera is in their face, in those fake "man-on-the-street" interviews. It's a little disheartening how many will lie through their teeth, but it demonstrates why we should be skeptical of what we see on TV, even (or especially) when it's presented as "real."  I also love the "Why Is This News" feature, and the one where he shows how a phrase from a press release will echo around the world among the parrot-like TV commentators we watch daily. Kudos, JK!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Window with view for sale

Once I finished it, I decided this rustic window was not quite right for my apt.  Was going to hang it up at work.  Now, I'm taking bids! I think it's worth at least a hundred bucks, but will consider lesser offers.  It's 28" x 47.5" x 1.5".  Original glass included.  Poster also included but can easily be removed.  I can even help replace it with a picture of your own, if you want. (Reply with a comment and I'll be notified by e-mail.  Make sure to include your contact info).

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The People vs. George Lucas, or Revenge of the Fans

Ran across this doc in the library.  An excellent and lighthearted exploration of the Star Wars phenomenon, specifically the fans' love-hate relationship with its creator, George Lucas.  More than just a “those crazy fans” kind of story, this film touches on enough cultural and even spiritual issues to fuel many long discussions.
The central theme is how Lucas’ brainchild grew to be such an important presence in so many people’s lives that it came to dominate his own.  The film covers how Lucas has dealt with the backlash of his own success.  How an artist’s work can be embraced so completely by the public that it becomes questionable who owns it.  How his subsequent decisions about storylines, characters (Jar-Jar Binks!) and alterations to the original work (Han shot first!) have created controversy, stirred passionate debate and even inspired resentment toward the creator.
Musicians deal with the same issues of ownership and revision when it comes to their recordings.  Some professional songwriters never feel their work is finished, even after it’s a radio hit.  Some music artists feel the need to put out remaster after remix after re-recording.  In some cases, it’s simply a means to capitalize on previous success, but sometimes it’s because the typical artist is never quite satisfied with his own work.  Someone in the film quotes the old saying, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”  The question the doc pursues is “at what point is an artist allowed to change his work, when it means so much to his audience?”
Another point the film brings up is how Star Wars is so much more than an artistic and marketing triumph; it has endowed countless viewers with a vital underlying philosophy by which to live.  It has become their religion.  This is not an understatement (at least for some), and it is not altogether accidental.  Lucas stated early on that one of his intentions was to create a new myth; one that replaces the religions that had been discarded (to a great extent) by modern man.
I am a Christian believer, a creative person, and though I’m nowhere close to being one of THOSE fans, I did enjoy the films (the original three, anyway; the prequels were prime examples of the law of diminishing returns).  So I feel I understand the need for a guiding myth, and I can see how a film series could provide one.  I have to admire the effectiveness of Star War in this aim, even as I shudder to think how it replaces genuine faith in some people’s hearts and minds.
The word “myth,” by the way, does not necessarily mean “fantastic” or “made up.”  Stories, metaphors, and parables, which fill the Bible, are kinds of myth. As C.S. Lewis pointed out, Christianity is based on a myth, but it’s a myth that is true—the story that explains the meaning of our lives.
The Star Wars mythology does contain much truth that is part of my Christian worldview, as any good story does: the ongoing struggle of good vs. evil, how personal sacrifice is often necessary to achieve a larger goal, how “evil people” are fallen good people, how we can have a legacy and a destiny that define the path we are on even as we labor in our current mundane situation, how we can benefit from listening to those who have gone before us…the list is quite long.  I can affirm these truths even as I recognize that what is missing is the notion that a Person, not a faceless Force, is the central crucial element in the universe. Having (as I believe) the Key to the truth of life itself, I can unlock that truth to be found in everything around me, even (or especially) in other mythological attempts to explain the world. So as long as I view with discernment, I, too, can be enriched spiritually by these films.
Many people featured in the documentary, including Lucas himself, acknowledge the irony that Lucas, who started out as a rebel of sorts against the powerful industry types that would limit his creative output, has in fact become a bigwig himself (and not necessarily a popular one at that), and exerts a notable amount of control over the Star Wars legacy (the Expanded Universe).  Like Anakin became Vader, the very thing he would have resisted.  For this reason, some point out that the films have become semi-autographical.
Fans (including Francis Ford Coppola) who lament that Lucas has yet to get beyond the Star Wars world to make other films may take comfort in where the storyline leaves off in The Return of the Jedi.  Vader joins his son Luke in battling the evil emperor, and it ends in reconciliation and redemption.  There is a sequel in the works (Episode VII), but with Disney at the helm and Lucas serving as creative consultant, and given the astonishing level of financial and legal obligations at stake, I have my doubts that life will imitate art further in this case.  But by the time it comes out, I doubt there'll be many superfans left to care; at least, not as much as they did in the beginning, in a galaxy far, far away.

Friday, May 24, 2013

I appreciate your appreciation

Nice to get a thank-you from a customer.  This one especially made me smile.  I did some editing on a new version of the late Bob Babbitt's Awareness Guide for Bass Players and All Fellow Musicians.  It's a self-published book, and in a literary sense it's rough around the edges (as well as in the center), even after my contributions (i.e., corrections and clarifications). Babbitt's genius was playing bass, not grammar and punctuation.  But it's a fun read, because his personality really shines through, and his stories and tips are fascinating to the music fan.  And he has some pretty impressive fans.

Babbitt was involved in some legendary recordings (I'm too lazy to summarize; get the gist here).  He passed away last year, and his widow (Ann) and daughter have continued to preserve his legacy, partly through the book.

Ann's choice of card art was so over-the-top cute, I had to laugh...especially because she wrote my name under one puppy and my boss's name under the other.  I mean, I like him and all, but we're not THAT close.  Although we are both known to be pretty adorable.

In what I found to be an interesting coincidence, I realized that a film called Standing In the Shadows of Motown, about the group Bob was part of, the Funk Brothers, was in my Netflix queue as I worked on the book!  I look forward to seeing it more than ever now.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"Mark's Remarks"

Below are links to some articles I wrote for my high school newspaper. As I read them now, I am alternately amused and taken aback by the partially-informed opinions and stilted style in which they were expressed. (I feel I'm regressing to that style even now).  I called a Neil Simon play "fairly well-written"! HA! And I labored under the assumption that Kerry Livgren played keyboards and not guitar for Kansas (hey, they didn't include credits on 8-tracks).

Here's one I didn't write.
I remember how, when that paper containing my first column was delivered in class, I was mortified to see how the typesetter had mangled my prose with the most egregious typos and misspellings which, I'd like to emphasize, were not my fault ("Clever, Hugh?"). I didn't write most of the headlines, either.  I think that duty fell to our faculty adviser, Dr. Clark Chism, who did this kind of thing for a living, and taught English and Journalism on the side.  Or vice-versa, it was hard to tell.

But I'm also pretty happy with some of the stuff.  I was named Features Editor after my predecessor was caught using his press privileges to leave campus for non-legitimate purposes.  I even won 2nd place in a state competition (that I don't recall entering). But because I rode the bus through senior year (one of many things I had in common with Napoleon Dynamite) and couldn't stay after school to work on the paper, I was an editor in title only (a masthead figurehead!). I did eventually start checking the copy after the girl typed up my articles and before they were sent to the printer. Live and learn.

If you read these, please make sure you also read some of my later work, and realize, as I have, that we all start somewhere, but usually we go on to bigger and better things!

"Mark's Remarks" April 15, 1981 debut column; album review

"Mark's Remarks" May 19, 1981 "Little Me" drama review

"Mark's Remarks" Sept. 30, 1981 Kerry Livgren "Seeds of Change" review

"Mark's Remarks" Nov. 25, 1981 Ranstrassy show choir review

"Mark's Remarks" Jan. 29, 1982 "Life on a G-string" personality profile

"Mark's Remarks" April 30, 1982 "Are You a Video Junkie?" self-help quiz parody