Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Eddy Arnold: "Cattle Call"

Sometimes at work I feel a little crazy and neurotic and I can't stand to hear the noises my coworkers make. The constant wheezing sound of the perpetual nose-blower (she "requires" an air filter, apparently being highly allergic to normal air, and seems to fixate on her nose, even though from all indications, there's never anything in it. The sound, you see. It's not a "productive" sound. Like a productive cough, as you're getting over a cold or what have you—yes, I hate it that I've formed opinions about my neighbor's health and her vital signs. It's weird. But that's what happens when someone's blowing their nose all day), and the clickety-clacks of the mad-typer who's always composing lengthy emails to other coworkers comprised of poignant and clever observations, and the constant hacking cough of the smoker (sometimes I'll begin a sweet doze and the smoker will hack and cough out of nowhere, with no warning whatsoever, startling me from my peaceful lucid dreams. It's frustrating, and then I think of Pride and Prejudice when Mrs. Bennet gets mad at Kitty for not timing her coughs well and how the coughs wear on Mrs. Bennet's nerves. My nerves too!).

And today is one of those days. I was suddenly feeling very claustrophobic, and HOT (I think my company believes we'll freeze to death if they don't run the heat at 90 degrees). I can't stand it. So I was melting at my desk and feeling like if I had to listen to the clickety-clack of my neighbor I would explode (or gurgle to death in a pile of ooze, because it's so hot, you see), and that's when I remembered last night.

Last night Stoker was researching the history of the Nashville music scene and he played this one song by a musician everyone but me has probably always known about: Eddy Arnold.

Holy moley. It devastates me in a good way to find out there's always been some awesome musician or singer around being great and I've never known about them. That's the benefit of arriving to the scene late. Like being born in the late 70s and only reaching full maturation (really) the day I hear the artist (because it's like I've never arrived until the day I hear that music). Basically I have everything pre-80s to look forward to discovering over the course of my life.

Last night Stoker played "Cattle Call" and I couldn't believe it. Some people might hear it and scoff. Others probably love it and have a long tradition of hearing it—beautiful traditions of going out to the farm with dad or grandpa and having them sing "Cattle Call" or being forced to listen to it on the 8-track. But I haven't got those experiences.

I have others. But not the "Cattle Call" ones.

How can a guy sing that well? That's my main question. It's absolutely insane to me to hear the recording and know that when he recorded it (he recorded three different versions over a period of about fourteen years....or something. Stoker can tell you. Don't quote me), they didn't have auto-tune. I listened to two versions last night and both were amazing. I guess you'd say it's yodeling, but yodeling has always been awful to listen to, for me. And it's always been like, "Yo-del-eh-eh-hoooooo," which is just about terrible to endure. And I don't think that's exactly what Arnold is saying in the song. He's saying, "Ooooh doooo doooo dooo oooooh oh delo, oh doooo dooo, dwip, deee ooooh, ohhh delop, dooo dee dee." That's an actual transcription. I just sat here and transcribed it, vowel for vowel.

And each . . . cattle call . . . is clear and perfect. It's like clear mountain streams. Unblemished blankets of snow. Something like that. John Denver would be able to describe it better than I can, because it's like "Rocky Mountain High," or "Annie's Song," only it's a guy with a flawless voice and it was recorded in the 50s or something. Take that all you modern singers....

Anyway, so I remembered that I didn't have to listen to my coworkers and all their standard noises because I had this Eddy Arnold album to listen to. I got it last night. After I was slain by "Cattle Call." Thank goodness.

This is a televised version. I have the studio version from Eddy Arnold: The Hits on Island Def Jam.

p.s. Note the angel-choir. Sadly, it's not in the studio version.

Monday, February 07, 2011

How to Sing the National Anthem

During high school, I read Maggie: a Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane for an English class. For some reason I picked this book out of a bunch of other choices. I think I was high or something and thought I'd really show my class that I could take the worst possible option and make it rock. I have no idea. There were better options, I remember that. Babbit (ha ha), As I Lay Dying, Slaughterhouse-Five. I really should have picked the Vonnegut book. Maybe I figured I was saving my innocent classmates from having to read a book about prostitution. I was taking one for the team, so to speak. That's how great and unselfish I am. Always thinking of others. Yep.

In any case, I can't remember anything about the story except for one scene. Someone's in a bar with a stage, it seems like, and a performer starts singing the national anthem, and the crowd goes wild. I think they get emotional, take off their hats, and stand up. The song arouses all sorts of patriotism and sentiment, even though, if I remember correctly, the bar is mostly full of what would be considered low-class citizens who were poverty-stricken and of humble means. The point is, the national anthem moved them.

I remember thinking that there was something wrong with my generation back then, after I read that scene and saw how the national anthem could get a crowd going back during Stephen Crane's time—my generation seemed so spoiled that we could only ever think of ourselves and we had to almost be threatened to pay the proper respects to things like the American flag and the national anthem.

Well, maybe it was just that we were teenagers and didn't know any better. We'd never been tested and lots of us had never suffered much. That's what I thought then, and I thought we'd grow up and become good adults, full of understanding, wisdom, and respect.

The problem is that it seems like most of my generation hasn't changed. They're still selfish, egocentric, and ungrateful. Granted, I know lots of people in my age group who are great. They have good desires, they have their heads on straight, they're not totally focused on me, me, me, me (and by me, me, me, I mean, "Like, I'm totally the awesomest. How can I become even more cooler? Perhaps by purchasing these totally sweet jeans from American Apparel or Urban Outfitters and starting a band...etc.").

This is why it's so offensive when a modern singer decimates the national anthem in addition to performing it like they're trying to prove how awesome their vocal acrobatics are. It illustrates a particular selfishness, as though they've never even attempted to understand what happened during the war that inspired the anthem. They've never read how Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics. They've never tried imagine the historical moment and felt the impact of the battles waged for independence and freedom.

We don't have to lose everything in a war or nearly die in a battle to feel something about the value of our country and its symbols of sacrifice and liberty. All we have to do is have a bit of imagination. If we've lost our imaginations through lack of exercise, then we're truly lost. But I think the majority of us have retained some ability there, otherwise we'd have no emotional connection to any story we read, hear, or see (on TV, you know...yes, TV. I know it seems counter-intuitive because it does most of the work...but it does ask something of us).

What I mean is that Christina Aguilera, if she wants to find redemption from her horribly selfish performance, might decide to study the history of the song. She might read the account found here, and through some kind of inspiration—a muse, a dove, an angel (like a Dickensian ghost of Christmas past, only this one takes her spiritually back to the war of 1812)—she might suddenly realize,
My word, this song, this anthem, isn't about how loud I can screech into a microphone. It's not about those stupid Mariah Carey scales and high's—it's about fearing that all is lost, that our freedoms and ideals have been robbed during the night of a long battle, a veritable attack on our Capitol. It's about being carried emotionally to the brink of despair, knowing, just knowing our enemies had won, and seconds before caving into sorrow and hopelessness, we see, through the smoke of the cannons and sudden quiet of battle that the giant flag still flies over the fort, far away on land! It's about much more than me. It's about us. And when I sing it, I'm not me. I'm a vehicle for all the voices of all the Americans, their spirits united in me, praising God, or whatever higher power each individual might believe in, for giving us this land and our freedoms. Sort of like a prayer.

Maybe she'll get that. And maybe every singer selected to sing our national anthem can do that. So next time we don't have to listen to them mangle it as they forget the words because they're more focused on sounding know, as though how they sing the national anthem might influence us to buy more of their songs or watch their movies or something. I think about the worst that can happen is that if you suck at it, we'll boycott you to death. Because, for pete's sake, that's our NATIONAL ANTHEM. Don't mess with it.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Superhero Fatigue

 Am I the only one who's tired of superheroes?

Just a sampling of recent superhero stuff in the media: No Ordinary Family, The Cape, The Green Hornet (the movie), X-Men, Batman, Watchmen, Spiderman, Superman, and I just heard they're going to remake the TV show Wonder Woman. I guess the time is really right for that kind of move. We haven't had enough of ordinary people with extraordinary powers doing special things out of the sheer goodness of their hearts for humanity as a whole. Motives of pure gold, that's what they have. The rest of us just have to watch and stare in wonder.

I tried to watch The Cape. I think I missed the first fifteen minutes of the show or maybe it was the first half hour. It didn't matter because the last bit I saw was boring, even though it involved a lot of double-crossing and fight scenes and chase scenes and spectacular explosions. It even involved a little boy watching the news as his dad ran from some bad guys one morning, as the little boy ate breakfast in the kitchen with his mom. Then they watched as a cargo trailer exploded. It was being filmed live. And his dad was under that trailer.

I didn't feel a whit of sadness for the family as they hugged and wept. Maybe because I knew the dad was alive? Or maybe because I wasn't invested enough in the show? Perhaps I have a heart of stone. Or . . . it could be that the story just sucked.

I don't know. But often, even when I know the opposite is true ("X is not dead, he's just buried under a pile of debris!" or "X is alive! She's just in a coma!"), I still manage to dredge up a few tears for the poor unsuspecting loved ones who feel the loss of their mother, father, or friend. I'm just following that wise admonishment to "weep with those who weep," and etc. And I'm a sap. Need I say more?

Ok, so I'm a sap. But I'm not mindless. And I'm trying to figure out what the crap is wrong with the networks and all their lame writers who think the public wants MORE superhero tripe. It wouldn't be so bad if the writing was actually good and the stories they were telling us were compelling. But so far I can hardly stand two minutes of No Ordinary Family. It's like the Invincibles. Only the Invincibles was cute and funny, and when it came out, there hadn't been a story about a family with superpowers.

To top it all off, why is it assumed that the public is enamored with the idea of heroes having special powers to assist them in their do-gooding? Can I say that? Do-gooding? Why do we want to celebrate heroes who are endowed with "special" powers and not a normal human who extends his or herself beyond the average and achieves something great, because that's the traditional definition of hero. And anyone can be a hero.

Currently, I suppose, there is this bubbling undercurrent of curiosity regarding the possibility that oh wow, humans have mutated and now all of us have the ability to fly! Or, suddenly I can see through walls! It was all those preservatives in the Twinkies. I ate a lot of Twinkies and it mutated my DNA. And now I'm superhuman. Yeah. It was the BPA. It toyed so much with my estrogen that now I have super-strength. Go figure.

That's what people are thinking. I know it. Sadly, the BPA and Twinkies are not going to mutate us into powerful creatures. And same with toxic waste and genetically enhanced spider bites. They'll just kill us, as bad things do.

For some reason, we'd apparently rather hear stories about morons who develop special powers through accidents that ought to destroy us (which, I guess you would argue, is how the superhero is born—because they're "no ordinary" human, they just become powerful, and not dead . . . ) and do awesome things rather than hear stories about real heroism.

Yesterday I deleted the Jack Handey quote in my Facebook information and put in a quote by James Talmage, and then I tried to fill in the "people who inspire you" section. I typed in "my mom, Stoker, my family," and hit save. Guess what? You can't put that sort of nonsense in (Facebook seems to say). It didn't work even when I typed their names in (so it could link to their pages).

Facebook will not have it. Facebook wants me to put in names of people so it can link my page to those pages of, I guess, people it deems appropriate for me to admire. It wants names like Thomas Jefferson, Ayn Rand, Galileo, and other sundry people who everyone can admire and link to.

I might admire those people, but this is the commercialization of hero-worship.

What bothers me is that I can't choose who I admire and for whom I wish to advertise my admiration. I would like the world to know and the people who know me to know that I'm not fooled by fame*, I'm not a member of some cult of personality, I have seen the reality of what a hero truly is: it is someone who does something very difficult, under the pressure of the possibility that if they fail, the people who matter to them will suffer, and yet they do it anyway. Even if they don't succeed, their sacrifice is noted, their attempt is recorded and the ramifications felt. Those ramifications might simply be the realization, "this person loves me very much," or "this person loves others more than him/herself."

And come to think of it, the only reason a hero ever does anything is because of that: love. But superheroes? I don't really know about them, having never known any personally.

All I know is that I'm done with superheroes. Green Hornet? Not going to see it. More iterations of Spiderman? Won't be seeing them. The new Wonder Woman? Ha. Fat chance. Her costume will probably be strips of tape and a bikini bottom and rather than using any skill, earned or inherent, she'll stop crime with her sluttiness. Bwah ha ha ha ha ha.

In the next few days, I'll be posting about being tired of the following: cop dramas, doctor/hospital dramas, firefighter dramas, law/courtroom dramas, crime scene dramas, serial killer/heinous crime dramas, and slutty housewife dramas. Does that encompass everything on prime time? Oh, dang.

*I really want everyone to admire me for not admiring moronic famous people. It's a defining characteristic of who I am.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

"Lie to Me" Almost Ruined Our Relationship

I really like the show Lie to Me. And I was one of the first. That's right. For once in my life, I can honestly say that I've been with the show since the pilot. Usually something happens in the hour-long drama shows to offend me by this point and I've jumped ship. And something almost DID happen Monday night, but it's not grievous enough for me to slam the door in its face, turn off the porch light, and close all the blinds. Yet.

Usually it's the non-lesbian straight-hot-girl kiss that does it. Why? Because it's b.s. It's never in there because it adds to the story. It's deliberately contrived to be in there to titillate a male audience, which is offensive to me. It's like saying, "Hello, I know you're my girlfriend, but want to go to the strip club with me?" I know there are women who do that and that's fine, for them (of course I tend to think they're weak and insecure, but that's just me), but it's not ok for me. I demand civility and gentility and a bunch of other -ilities from the men in my life and if I don't get it, then . . . [fill in the blank].

Many of these shows know the largest part of their viewership is women, and what they end up counting on is the fact that women are not offended by seeing the non-lesbian straight-hot-girl kiss. So they throw it in to garner favor in their male audience, which is small, and which they hope to increase by the tantalizing chance of seeing such forbidden actions on prime-time TV.

If more women were as tough as me, they'd boycott the shows after such gratuitous, pointless, crap and teach the networks a lesson. Because it's not just offensive to me. It's offensive to real lesbians who have real relationships and not flings with women while actually being into men, just to be exhibitionists for men. It's reducing real lesbian partnerships into something that exists only for men, which is, as I understand it, what so many feminists (who often happen to be lesbians) want to escape.

So anyway. I haven't seen any of my pet peeves on Lie to Me. Yet.

But Monday night the show crossed a line. A faint line. Upon further reflection later on, it snowballed into something that could squash my enthusiasm for Tim Roth's character and the intriguing relationships he has with the rest of the characters.

What was it? What could it have been? you ask, holding your breath, sitting on the edge of your office chair.

At the very end, Cal Lightman's adorable daughter has broken up with her too-perfect boyfriend because . . . why? "He doesn't believe in sex before marriage." Tim Roth's character laughs. All this time he's been worried about what his daughter's getting into with the boyfriend and it turns out, the kid won't have sex before marriage. Not even a "is that so bad? Sounds perfect to me," from Tim Roth. Just laughter.

Am I insane that I think most decent fathers are going to be thrilled to find out their daughter has a boyfriend with standards like that? Am I insane to believe that most dads don't want their high school daughter sleeping around? Even in a culture that has determined that lots of sex before marriage—to see if you're compatible, of course—is a great idea, aren't dads a little more protective of their daughters than an "I give you my blessing" to a guy who wants to live with daddy's little girl before they get married?

What bothers me, really, is that this show I love has suddenly decided to twist what a girl wants into what men really want and not what women want. Sex in the City did enough of that. They've lied to women about what we want and a lot of women have bought it. It's not female empowerment to try to be what men are. We're not men. It doesn't empower women to sleep around and not demand commitment. It only serves men when women live like that.

So I don't need Lie to Me, to be trying to sell me some stupid Sex in the City ideology about what teenage girls want. GIRLS DON'T BREAK UP WITH GUYS BECAUSE A GUY DOESN'T WANT TO HAVE SEX BEFORE HE'S MARRIED. And if she does, her problem isn't the guy. It's the commitment. She's got commitment problems.

Ok. And that may be all me and me alone, because I'm not an idiot and lots of other people tend to be when it comes to logic and reason, nevertheless, it's really irritating. It's irritating that Cal (Tim Roth) didn't say anything, because in my opinion, his daughter was looking for fatherly advice, not laughter and best friend sort of crap. No kid in their right mind wants mom and dad to be their buddy. They want mom and dad to be their guide. They want dad to set them straight and show how important they are by pulling them away from the fire, not letting them get burned to a crisp. They want mom to establish rules and stick to the rules, because it makes them feel safe in a dangerous world.

Sure, teenagers pretend to hate it and they push against the boundaries, but until the kid is 18 or not living at home, they deserve to have the guidance of their parents. And even after they're 18 and have moved away, kids go back to their parents for guidance. Advice. Sound reasoning. Etc.

So it bugs me that Cal Lightman just laughed and didn't tell his daughter that a man like Liam (the boyfriend) is decent. That he respects her and sexual relationships if that's what his standards are, and that she shouldn't be breaking up with a guy over that, and oh yeah, she'll have sex before she's married over his dead body, etc. If a show is going to be trying to teach me standards, then it better be decent standards. And not Sex in the City standards, because that's no standards at all. And if I wanted that, I'd watch that show.

I hope Lie to Me straightens up after this and that if they want to do something about Cal Lightman's daughter having sex as a teenager, for pete's sake, show us that the consequences are detrimental. Because that's the reality more often than not. Sex complicates everything. And everyone knows it; if they think otherwise, they're lying to themselves.