Sunday, July 27, 2008

Grandpa chuckling laments

Back to the personal narrative. I don’t think I mentioned that my wife Lola and son John Bob have been out of the country for awhile. Lola returns in a few days. John Bob is gone till September. There was an article in yesterday’s New York Times about how parents have become so insanely controlling that they can’t even send their kids off to camp without harassing the camp counselors pretty much every day. Poor little John Bob is all alone half way around the world with people he doesn’t know speaking languages he doesn’t speak. Most days we can’t even get through by telephone. The article said that one of the purposes of summer camp is to allow kids to deal with the world on their own. My guess is that this will help make him real smart. We’ll see.

So I’ve been alone with my teenage daughter Jane Bob. I know that sounds like a recipe for trauma, but we actually get along well. For the most part we don’t even see each other. I’m on an early schedule. She’s on a late. But the other night we went to see Powaqqatsi, the film by Godfrey Reggio with a score by Phillip Glass. Jane Bob is an interesting filmmaker and I thought she might be interested in the visuals. Me? I always like to see ambitious photography and I like Phillip Glass. Reggio's "quatsi" trilogy is very ambitious, and very well done photography.

Glass was there with an ensemble, the Brooklyn Children’s choir and a Muslim man who sang the Adhan with an incredible voice. An unexpected bonus: Glass and Reggio had a little conversation before the performance. I thought it was good for Jane Bob to hear how two very successful artists talked about collaboration. Reggio made the point that of course most serious artists have huge egos or they wouldn’t be taking on ambitious projects, but that for a collaboration to work it had to be done by people without superficial vanity. He said that Glass was constantly asking for criticism while they were producing the film.

But other than that little outing I’ve been more or less dead. It was a big deal getting the night shot of the elusive Totoro, but other than that I’ve just been photographing my windows and chairs. And to be honest, I haven’t actually been doing much of that.

With Lola gone I’ve been watching more tv than normal. Now I get to bitch about 100 + channels and nothing on just like everybody else. Ain’t life grand? I now realize that having her around is what makes me want to get out of the house. Don’t worry. I don’t want to get away from her in a bad, unhappy marriage or sexist way. It’s more that her presence makes me embarrassed to sit around on my ass doing nothing constructive. If I don’t produce art, she gets cranky. And she likes to be alone for long stretches as well. We are both hermits.

Anyway, I’ve mentioned before that I discover most of the television shows I like by walking through the living room and making fun of whatever Lola is watching. After doing that for a awhile, often a year or two, I eventually start liking the show and watch it religiously from there on out. The first one was Friday the 13th, the Series. Not the horror movies but the TV show about cursed objects. Then it was Star Trek the Next Generation. I had a good run of making jokes about how wimpy Picard is compared to Kirk. Usually something like, if that were Kirk, he'd just punch him in the face. Or if that were Kirk, he'd have fucked her five ways to Sunday by now. But eventually I got sucked in. Every two or three years I discover another show that way.

The newest entry in the pantheon is Avatar: The Last Airbender. It took awhile for that one to get to me. Kids' cartoons are such dreck these days that only John Bob pays attention to them so Lola and I didn’t really notice that he had been watching Avatar. It was Jane Bob who first played the chuckling role of walking through the living room and making fun of what John Bob was watching, then getting hooked. Eventually Lola sat down with the kids. Then it was like, all of a sudden, after at least a year, I noticed that all three of them were watching this stupid cartoon. So I thought I’d have a little sport. Now here we are. Again.

But other than Avatar, it’s been 100 + channels with nothing on. My fear was that I’d watch too much sports and, horror of horrors, start watching the cable news channels. I’ve done pretty well, though I have started watching MSNBC some. It’s mildly interesting to see the emergence of a liberal propaganda channel. Personally, I wish they would bring back the equal time law, do away with all these shallow, endlessly pontificating morons and return towards the ideal that journalists should report the news and, if they must analyze, do so with a real effort to be honest and objective. Not gonna happen. I know.

The only other hopes I had for cable were Public Access television and the music channels. I thought that Brooklyn would have interesting Public Access, but such has rarely been the case. It’s almost all religious crap or music videos, mostly from Caribbean people or very urban Americans. The music oriented shows are sometimes interesting at 2 or 3 am on a Saturday night, but I’m not awake during those hours as much as I used to be. Occasionally people try to produce arts oriented shows, but I have yet to see anything compelling.

And it appears I’m either too old or too cool for the music channels. Occasionally I see something I like on VH1 classic, but for the most part it’s crap like Kiss, Poison, or Motely Crue. With all the concert videos out there, you’d think they could do better. And I just no longer relate to the young kids and their videos. It was bound to happen some day. That plus it seems they don’t make them like they used to. From what I can tell, Lilly Allen is the only performer who gets MTV airtime and has consistently creative videos.

Yesterday, however, I was shocked to come across a great singer while flitting upon MTV. I couldn’t imagine how she got on a music channel singing the blues with that voice. Had I heard it on the IPod, I would have thought I was listening to an old recording by someone like Billie Holiday. Turned out it was Amy Winehouse. I occasionally read about her travails in the gossip pages, but had no idea she could actually sing.

Thus wraps up this installment of grandpa chuckling laments. I know, I know. Feel free to drop by and shoot me. On the positive side, there is a fire on the horizon. I can almost feel it.