Monday, June 25, 2007

Get Away Blog

I hate that record. There. I’ve said it. I’m a RUBBER SOUL guy. Everything went downhill after that. I blame LSD.

The first time I heard “A Day in the Life,” my jaw dropped. I’d never heard anything like that before in my life. It stunned and amazed me. It no longer does so, but young people need that sort of thing. Yes. They do.

…there’s “When I’m 64.” Or “Lovely Rita Meter Maid,” or “Within You/Without You,” or the title track. THESE SONGS SUCK! Thank you for listening.

You’ve seen this tenor on YouTube, and if you haven’t, check it out before you read this.

Okay, so he’s this shlub from Wales, who looks like a cashier at Walgreens’s (not there’s anything wrong with that), who showed up on an AMERICAN IDOL type show, only on the sceptr’d isle. Simon Whathizname was one of the judges; he, the other panelists, and the audience, greeted his entrance with a weird mixture of boredom, anticipation, and bemusement. They were expecting this guy to fail! Little chubby guy with bad teeth. And he’s going to sing what? “Nessun dorma,” the tenor aria from Puccini’s TURANDOT, a song familiar to those familiar with it via Luciano Pavarotti’s signature version.

Anyway, Mr. Potts knocked it out of the park. The audience went nuts. There were tears in eyes. Simon Cowell bestirred himself from his innate assholitude, and said something nice and encouraging.

The tape of this song has made the YouTube rounds, and earned Mr. Potts millions of fans, overnight, more or less, whatever that means any more.

This month, the New York Times, in its newly-dual role as Grey Eminence and Hip Arbiter, wrote about Paul Potts. The article quoted Philip Hensher in The Independent of London: “Mr. Potts is the sort of bog-standard tenor to be found in any amateur opera company in any corner of the country. His tuning was all over the place; his voice sounded strained and uncontrolled; his phrasing was stubby and lumpy; he made a constipated approximation only of the fluid sound of the Italianate tenor.”

“Ouch,” responded the newly, easily-bemused New York Times. The article concluded: “…[T]he fact remains that mass media, like radio and TV, has enormous influence on the music people hear. For classical musicians, those realms have become deserts.

Well, I have seen Mr. Potts. I’m not a classical music expert, but I’d say he did all right. But the quality of the music is not what this story is all about, in my opinion.

Here’s what I think: people watch AMERICAN IDOL and the like (I’m not one of them, by the way), looking for a ROCKY moment to emerge from the competition. People are looking for a MOVIE, in other words, in what is actually a GAME SHOW. Yes, this proves – once again- that most of us are insane. (Full disclosure: I’m not insane in that way, but am insane in others.)

Even more insanely, these game shows DO provide movie moments. Paul Potts is one of them. Think about it: people gather around these show for a number of reasons.

1) To develop a crush on somebody you will never meet in real life, and even if you did s/he would not only ignore you, but make fun of you behind your back. Kind of a self-defeating proposition, isn’t it? But that’s America for you.
2) Discover a previously unknown talent. This has not yet occurred, near as I can tell. Though I understand that many previous winners now have mansions and lucrative recording contracts. That’s America for you.
3) Mock hideously untalented hideous people to make the aforementioned “previously unknown talent” look even better.
4) Hope against hope that (3) will be more fun to watch than (2).

So Paul Potts showed up, and by the simple fact that he didn’t suck, knew all the words, and was not sweating visibly- that alone guaranteed him fame. His viewers were expecting him to fail. His viewers were expecting him to leave the stage in tears, or almost. His viewers were expecting him to be a subject line for a joke e-mail they might or might not send. His viewers were expecting him to be so far off a note they would feel justified in pelting him with moldy tomatoes, which they didn’t have, but the visualization of which is certainly encouraged by producers.

Instead, they got a guy who didn’t suck. But looked like a guy who would! Wow! A superstar is born. That’s America for you.

The Wee Wife and I went to Sacramento this weekend for a long-anticipated getaway. (“What kind of people go to Sacrameno for a getaway,” you ask? Shut up.)

I won’t tell you what the Wee Wife purchased, but may later, but I can tell you some things that I purchased:

A painting by Lyle Helman (don’t ask, don’t know), at a Mormon thrift shop. It is a portrait of a man who looks like a cross between Daniel Boone, a squirrel, and a singer from THREE DOG NIGHT. My wife has dubbed the painting: “St. Emo.”

Fabulous! How much? Two bucks. Eat your heart out, America.

A magazine, called POPULAR HOBBIES, from 1949. The cover shows a guy with a bunch of doll heads. He’s placing eyeballs in the empty sockets of one of them. Creepy, yet oddly reassuring. Again: two bucks.

And, for a dollar, a little packet called TOYLAND TREASURES, which contained two identical plastic figures, their hands formed to hold objects (Tiny briefcases? Weapons?). They were dressed in trenchcoats, and their faces were expressionless. What were they? From what playset did they vanish? World O’ Stalin? Apparatchik Land?

The Budget Inn in Woodland, measures amenities by their subtraction:

--Two bedside lamps. Only one worked, leaving an atmospheric “noir” atmosphere.,

--The room was lined with cinder blocks, painted in what the WW termed “Duck Shit Brown.” We later discussed whether it could be called, with equal precision, “Baby Diarrhea, With Corn.’

--Several blobs of this paint have dripped onto the tile below the cinder blocks. In the bathroom.

--There is an unnecessary shelf in the bathroom, between the sink and the wall.

--All the shelves in the medicine cabinet have been helpfully removed. Though there still remains a razor disposal slot.

--Between the cinder block walls and the ceiling there is a six inch (or so) strip of patterned wallpaper. There is a half inch of white material between this wallpaper and the feces-colored wall.

--Yes, there is a motel room painting. I’ve forgotten its subject matter already, but it was a landscape of some sort. It was smeared with fingerprints and bolted to the wall.

--No Bible. The motel was run by Indians (who had an excellent vegetable garden in the back), which may explain this lack.

--The only clock in the room was on the microwave oven. We did not use the oven, but deeply appreciated the clock. .

--The towels were threadbare, and the flannel blanket was pilly.

--No wastebasket.

--Locks and knobs missing.

But they did have cable. We watched several movies about gargoyles on SciFi, with Joe Penny and Michael Pare, respectively. A small spider dangled between us and the television screen. Despite the fact that I’d forgotten to pack my swim suit (the motel had the world’s smallest pool), I would have to say that Budget Inn provided an unforgettable (by which I mean “memorable”) motel experience.


Blogger Liberal Seagull said...

There's an odd inverse relationship between price and available free media, in hotels, that science has yet to explore. To wit:

- In a cheap hotel, I get free local phone calls and more often than not a complete basic cable feed, allowing me to get my Daily Show fix.

- In an expensive hotel, local calls cost $1 each, and I get a crippled cable feed that's missing most cable networks. Internet service might be available, but it'll cost me $10 extra per night.

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happened to see the documentary "The Cats of Mirikitani" yesterday, about Jimmy Mirikitani, born in Sacramento (!), who was interned at Tule Lake during WWII. He was found by the filmmaker living on the streets of NYC doing drawings, especially of Japanese-style cats.

Fascinating, IMHO.


1:35 PM  

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