Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Monday, April 21, 2008

Arf, Arf! Art, Art!

Remember the elephant seals from our trip to Cambria? My daughter and her boyfriend went down to see them in mid-January. They got the same show we did (See my blog entry entitled Glittering Soirees and Bestial Orgies), with the added attraction of witnessing the actual birth of a pup. (This was followed by a seagull feeding frenzy over the placenta. Unlike Pamela Anderson, seals don't believe in burying theirs.) Anyway, my daughter was so inspired, she chose to do her painting thesis project based on the photographs she took. The thesis committee gave the paintings their "seal of approval"! Arf Arf! I'm so proud, it's making me blubber. So clap your flippers and give her a big round of applause.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

And Now, Live Off-Stage...

I'm not too old to rock, but I just may be getting too cranky for concerts.

Let's see. Sting and Natalie Merchant. Chattering yahoos behind us who refuse to shut up. Ever.

Tom Petty. Great show. Surprise appearance by Stevie Nicks. An outdoor venue that sells beer to underage young men who don't give a sample about Tom Petty and are so full of Heineken, the line at the men's room is longer - yes, girls, this is a seismic event in the history of mankind - longer than the line for the ladies' room. Some boys are soooo bursting with beer, they just cut to the chase in the bathroom sink.

And then there was our fourth and probably last Bob Dylan concert. My friend had scored four second row tickets. Having just met each other's spouses for the first time, we were chatting away, waiting for the concert to start, when the pack descended. Five tall, husky guys and one big, loud lady, all in their forties and fifties. Pathological Dylan fans who will go anywhere within a 500 mile radius to see him and spend anything to wangle first row seats. Which they don't need because they stand, the entire bloody time.

The pack blocked our view with astonishing effectiveness. I am a woman of average height and my friend's wife is petite. On the off chance that she might actually catch a glimpse of Dylan in his negative space, the obstructionist in front of her wore a broad brimmed black cowboy hat. If we wanted to see, our only option was to get up, thus passing down the inconvenience to the row behind us. We were all too polite to do so. Our mothers raised us right.

Now, I've gotten up and boogied at a concert from time to time, when the song is iconic and the beat irresistible and the whole crowd is on its feet. But these jerks even stood during the ballads. They simply stopped shaking their great hulks, swaying solemnly instead. At one point, the guy in front of Mike got tired and actually took his seat. Not surprising since he was pushing fifty, built like a refrigerator, and had just downed three or more stadium beers. So he plopped down, threw his arm over the chair and leaned his neck back until his head was practically in Mike's lap. Sensing the discontent behind her, the lady Dylan fanatic turned to me sympathetically and explained that this is what one does in the front row. Maybe, she helpfully suggested, we should sit on the side next time.

My husband was reminding me of our recent concert history as we sat in the IMAX theater, waiting for Shine a Light, Scorsese's Rolling Stones concert film, to begin. The current concert experience costs big bucks and sucks to such an extent, Mike remarked, movies like this are a better option. I was thinking he had a point when The Free Spirit sashayed up the aisle.

She was about forty, with butt-length, raven curls and a well kept figure. The kind of woman who can't outgrow the twenty year old girl's need to flash flesh regardless of the outside temperature, she wore black leather pants, a tall Russian fur hat and a white corset. Her hips swung like a pendulum as she walked, her straight-laced, whitebread boyfriend following right behind. They settled in three seats past me. Between us sat a lone Indian gentleman in a suit and tie.

The lights went down and the movie started. (Let me just say that in this film, the Stones are definitely larger than life. Cavernous closeups of Mick's mouth in IMAX make one feel like Jonah right before the whale gulped him down. The legendary Jagger tongue is the size of a three year old child. The stage lights shine through his front teeth when he sings and you can tell exactly which of his choppers have benefitted from the art of modern dentistry. Somebody please tell me why this is necessary.)

The movie introduces the Stones, pre-concert, photo-opping for Bill and Hillary Clinton and some of their relatives. Meanwhile, Scorsese is running around looking crazed because the song selection is not final and he needs to work out the camera placement (not suspenseful - you know he'll pull it together - he's Scorsese). Soon enough, the concert is on. And The Free Spirit is on too.

Shooting up from her seat like a trick snake from its fake nut tin, she begins to dance. She waves her arms in the air, whooping and yelling "Yeah, Mick!". She claps her palms raw after every song. When the Stones play an obscure cover tune, The Free Spirit bops around enthusiastically. When they tear into the opening riff of Sympathy for the Devil, she doesn't recognize it and stops gyrating to adjust her corset. She ooohs and squeals constantly, like the soundtrack from some lost sex tape of Marilyn doing both Kennedy brothers at the same time. Nobody else in the theater is acting like this.

The Indian gentleman stares in open disbelief. The Free Spirit's date remains silent and impassive, perhaps wondering whether the ensuing lay will be worth the current embarrassment. Mike puts his elbow up by his face and hangs his sweater on it as a blinder to keep The Free Spirit out of his peripheral vision. In desperation, I call out "You don't have to shout. They can't hear you. It's a MOVIE." No reaction. From the first song to the final encore, every number is marred by The Free Spirit's exhibitionistic whooping. I keep wishing she would hold up her lighter and get ushered out by the fire marshall.

So much for being spared the indignities of the live concert experience. I hold my tongue as I walk out past The Free Spirit, still carrying on as the credits roll. I'm dying to ask why she didn't throw her panties at the screen.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Obama Drama

When I was in my early thirties, lo these many moons ago, I had just begun my advertising career. I remember boning up on demographic categories and realizing, to my chagrin, that I was a volvo, white wine and brie - and I was cool enough to know that wasn't cool. I haven't checked, but I'd be willing to bet that I've since graduated to the prius, red wine and goat cheese segment.

Lately, I've recognized myself on the popular blog "Things White People Like". The White People in question are upper middle class types with college degrees. (And if you look at their enthusiasms as depicted in this blog, these "white people" could in most cases just as well be African American or Asian - the real differentiator is income and education). These people like to travel, have gym memberships and know their arugula from their mache. They think of themselves as well-read and well-informed. Die hard, bleeding heart liberals. Environmentalists, secular humanists, internationalists and diversity lovers. Insufferable pompous bastards according to the White People blog. But damned if a lot of it doesn't reflect my tastes and values.

Which brings us to those outraged salt of the earth Pennsylvanians who are so offended, nay, so BITTER about Obama's recent comments. They feel they were glibly categorized as a gun-loving, illegal-hating, church-going herd. Well, folks, here's the deal. Elections nowadays employ sophisticated research and highly targeted messaging. Whether you like it or not, even if you're not Mr. or Ms. Guns, God and Go back to Mexico, many of your neighbors probably fit the bill. Obama was speaking in a strategic and analytical way about you as a group. It's a perspective one needs to occasionally adopt if one is to succeed politically. Remember the soccer moms? The disaffected white males? Even an elitist like yours truly (and believe me, I am not an elitist, I am just saving you the trouble of calling me one) is part of a target group. That's modern capitalism, baby.

Let's segue to your pocket book, the context of the offending remarks. Obama was talking about 20 years of hard times, disappearing jobs and cynicism bred of unfulfilled election promises from both parties. Of you and your neighbors, he says "They feel so betrayed by government that when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it." So if you've given up on voting the economy, what issues can you still "cling to"? Social issues like gun rights, prayer in school, creationism and of course illegal aliens. Guns, God and anti-immigration.

So now you have Hillary and McCain rushing to your defense. You really AREN'T bitter. You're "resilient, positive and optimistic". And Hillary is just like you. Why, her Pa taught her to shoot by the watering hole on her Grandpappy's Pennsylvania farm. (Sorry, Hil, even Dick Cheney would be more credible with that one). She enjoys a little shot with her beer. (I suspect the last time she did shots was when she found out Bill was doing Monica). And of course, God plays an essential part in her life.

If you don't think Hillary Clinton is playing to your demographic, you really are the Pollyanna she's depicting you as.

One way or another, we're all getting sold. I am sure there is pandering of a different sort going on at those tony San Francisco fundraisers. And how do you sell a bunch of upscale, advanced degreed San Franciscans whose funds you are trying to appropriate? You talk to them like they are political insiders. You discuss strategy. The day the bitterness controversy bubbled up, Obama was speaking from a back stage perspective and ended up in the spotlight. So to my friends and fellow democrats in Pennsylvania, I say get over it. You're a demographic and I am too. It's the process. Vote your conscience, not your pride.