Tuesday, May 26, 2015

What I do for the Joke

I have a favorite scene from the movie "Who Framed Roger Rabbit."

In it (and I approximate and paraphrase dialogue), Roger is handcuffed to Eddie Valiant (a wonderful Bob Hoskins) and is being tossed around as Eddie looks for some way to remove the cuffs. Finally, Eddie finds a saw and begins hacking through the links. However, because of the angle, Roger keeps getting in the way. So Roger moves his hand out of the cuffs and asks, "Is this better?" Eddie, focused on sawing, grunts in the affirmative and thanks Roger. Wait a beat. Eddie looks up and realizes Roger is out of the cuffs. Roger notices Eddie's anger and slips his hand back in. Eddie snarls, "Are you telling me that you could have gotten out at any time?" Roger responds, "Not ANY time -- only when it was funny!" I do it disservice -- here, watch it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5mU0HfI2jQ

The thing is, I believe in that. Timing makes the apparently ridiculous, dumb or otherwise annoying, funny. It's like fire. Sure, it can burn down a house but it can also turn raw meat into something edible. And don't tell me about carpaccio. That's just gross. And I believe, that for the sake of the funny, there are very few boundaries and rules. I would jump in front of a charging rhino if I thought I could raise a chortle. Chortles are gold. And rhinos are rare on my block.

So on Saturday afternoon, I decided to do something "funny." It was a beautiful day. The sun beat down. My host placed some chairs on the front lawn so we could all enjoy the day. Then, he and everyone else went back inside. No doubt, they had something important to do but they committed a terrible crime -- they left me alone with my thoughts. So I did what I do best: I had a bad idea.

What if, I thought, they came back and found me, still besuited and proper, sitting in a chair, on the lawn, but on my back? HA! That'd be AWESOME. Imagine their confusion and, eventually, their joy at seeing something as ridiculous as that! But I recognized that I was on the clock and had to move fast. So before they could re-emerge and put the kibosh on my brilliance, I pushed myself back so that I would float gently to my eventual repose. I forgot two things: 1, no one had mentioned to gravity that I ordered the "float gently" and 2, that I needed to brace myself and catch myself before I hit the ground. So gravity, in his standard, unmerciless fashion, had me hit terminal velocity in short order and my arms, which could have resolved this all, stayed firmly at my side. Fortunately, I had something with which to break my fall. My head.

And to top it all off, when people came out, the result was "No." Not a laugh, but a sigh of resignation. Apparently, I have tried this one gag too often for it to be funny anymore. So much for the classics. I made it through the day with a slight headache and a bruised ego.

But then I did not sleep. By the middle of the night, nausea and a worse headache set in. Now, many people would take this as a sign that one should go to the doctor. I stopped going to the doctor when he insisted on reminding me, no matter why I went to visit, that I was overweight. I'd ask about my TMJ and he'd say, "you also could use to drop a few pounds." Questions about my plantar fascitis? "It doesn't help that, according to this chart I got from a pharmaceutical rep, you are obese." So yeah, I stopped going. Now don't get me wrong. I have the utmost respect for doctors and the proud western medical tradition which they represent. I grew up under the care of a doctor so I know the value of a timely diagnosis of gout, dropsy or the ague. We had all the necessary medicine in the house for treating what ails me: red, yellow, green and clear. I have become a big fan of clear since then. Note, by the way, that I specify the colors beginning with small letters. That's because we had the generic versions of brand names like "Red, Yellow, Green and Clear."

So instead of seeing a doctor so I could hear how my stomach isn't supposed to look like that, I did the next best thing and spoke to people who had taken others to the doctor. I was told that the official, medical position is (and this is in Latin, so bear with me), "If you didn't lose consciousness, you aren't bleeding from some holes in your head and aren't projectile vomiting with alarming speed and accuracy, then there isn't much anyone can do." This is what might be called (for lack of imaging or testing) a "mild concussion." On one hand, I am relieved. On the other hand, hold on.

The following things can be mild: salsa, the weather resulting from a weather front coming in from the south west, a mannered reporter, maybe a cheddar cheese to go with that salsa, and, if you pronounce it wrong, how far I have to go before I sleep. The words "concussion" and "mild" cannot coexist in a sentence unless they are protected by quotation marks, as I just did. A concussion is a bruise of the brain. There is no "mild" when it comes to bruising your brain. Sure, there are gradations of concussion, but I believe that they begin with "holy crap, I bruised my brain" and move all the way to, "is that your brain on the sidewalk? It looks mighty bruised!"

And just to clarify, there was no comic amnesia. Total rip-off.

Now, I know, it could have been worse. I could have fallen backwards onto the concrete walkway instead of the relatively soft dry ground, but I prefer not to look at the glass half full. These days, I see two glasses and I am sick to my stomach so can we please not discuss anything in them? My symptoms continue and here's where I get confused. Sure, I have a headache, both a dull throbbing one in the back of my head and occasionally, a more stabbing sensation behind my eyes (no doubt, due to my affinity for "Othello." Look it up). I understand headaches. I get them, I medicate them, I complain about them...repeat. But I also have the nausea. Nausea? Why would I even have that? Since when is the urge to throw up connected to my brain? When I stub my toe, I don't suddenly develop hemorrhoids! And dizziness? Did I fall onto my inner ear? I think not. I mean, I'm not sure, but I think not.

Anyway, the bottom line is that other people who have done something dumb like this (or gotten their concussion type situations through less comical means...slackers) have to wait it out and after a week or two, things get better. I hope that is true because in my pain, I have had to spend a lot of time alone and I have gotten to thinking. I bet it would be funnier if I fell backwards while holding a porcupine!

Please excuse the typos. I am using one hand to keep my brain in.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Schmuck! That's how you write a blog post!

Today I will deconstruct the creation of a blog post so you all can see how the magic happens.

First, I will devise a topic which will appeal to a small number of people but will do so by asserting my expertise over something you never thought of so even those not intended will be suckered into reading it. Notice, I already started with a reference that most people won't get.

"Artists whose music is better performed by others"

Then, in order to establish my expertise, I will start with a broad statement about history that might be true, but I say it with such confidence that you will not question me.

"Back in the day, a song existed in various forms, as performed by any number of bands. When you liked a song, you prefered a version over another -- the notion of a song belonging to one particular writer/performer was alien."

Then I will move to a transitional sentence, inevitably tying it to some specific example/fact that you wouldn't dare question.

"Now, songs are closely associated with the specific performer of that song, a trend which finds as its source, the Beatles."

Next up, my thesis -- revolutionary and revelatory, and controversial, but because I'm an expert, you are wrong.

"Some bands, though, should leave the performance of their songs to others as the ostensible cover versions are unequivocally better than the writers' performances of the music."

Now, the examples, cherry picked to support my contention. I will ignore counter-claims, others' subjective responses or anything which doesn't conform to what I will establish as the truth. I might throw in some smarm so as to deflate any other opinions before they happen. I will also put in details you didn't know so you will feel dumb.

"Springsteen. Come on, you know this is true. His forced delivery and amateurish band butcher his work while others, rescuing diamonds from coal make songs like Blinded by the Light, Light of Day and Fire into genius. The fact that no one important has tried to get famous covering Tunnel of Love should show you that even Bruce's writing skill is a crap shoot.

Bob Dylan. The Byrds made an entire career out of being better Dylans than Dylan. My Back Pages and Mr. Tambourine Man turn into real songs. Even Manfred Mann made Quinn the Eskimo sound good...Dylan is just that bad. Except when he covered Band of the Hand. That song was so good that even he couldn't ruin it.

Johnny Cash. Here is a list of songs of his that others covered. I haven't heard of most them, but because I am citing an authority and I'm never wrong, you should assume that this list is great. Thing is, I actually like some covers of his songs (Like Social Distortion's Ring of Fire) but he didn't actually write all the songs he is known for, or even perform them first, and he has covered so many others' songs that it is a wash.

I'm not even discussing Kris Kristofferson.

A few artists are on the bubble because they have some songs of their own that are brilliant and some that others do better:

Stevie Wonder. Yes, he's lovely and wonderful on many songs, but don't look me in the eye and say that his version of Superstition or Higher Ground is the best one out there.

Some artists write stuff made popular by others but whose "original" version, even if recorded after the famous version, is superior, such as Mellencamp's I need a Lover and Palmer's You're Gonna Get What's Coming."

Throw in some gratuitous links to things unrelated but which I like and show the authority of my judgment.

"If you appreciate the subtleties in music which I have pointed out, you should also read this book and this one."

Finally, solicit feedback which I will never read.

"If you have other artists which you think should go on this list, please leave a comment."


And there you have it. Condescending and arrogant, irrelevant and irreverent, useless. A perfect blog post.