The Perfect Break Up Song

A couple of Sundays ago, I was on my way to pick up a friend when a story on NPR caught my attention.  It was a piece about a girl trying to write the perfect break up song, after being dumped by the guy she loved so much.  Not able to find just the right song to make her own, she thought she would write one.  She’d never written a song before, so she needed some help.  Through some loose connections, she was able to enlist the help of one of the finest writers of not-cheesy love songs, Phil Collins.  Phil very openly shared his own story of love lost. Talk about a classy, classy guy to indulge this girl in such a pure, open-hearted way.

I ended up sitting in my car, in front of my friend’s place, listening to about 45 minutes of the show, nearly coming to tears a few times.  I know I can be an emotional black hole at times, but I still feel.

The entire segment is available to listen to here.

In Defense of Kanye West

I take a fair amount of heat for liking Kanye.  I have no issues with his ranting.  His all caps.  Or his impromptu award show stage visits.  As a matter of fact, I wish there were more Kanye Wests and I have a theory as to why he is such a problem for so many people here in the nice round year of 2010.   Let’s look at the environment that Kanye inhabits vs the environment some of his predecessors inhabited.  Please indulge me and read on 🙂

First, let’s look at the history books.  John Lennon, one of the most revered musicians ever.   ‘Bigger than Jesus’ was his famous larger-than-life quote that demonstrated total disregard for a billion or so Christians.   He may as well have said the Beatles are bigger, more important and certainly more relevant than an entire religion.   Yeah, so people freaked, took it out of context, got highly pissed, likely talked shit about him over dinner and yet look how the world regards him today.  He acted out, had strong opinions, and is pretty much still bigger than Jesus.

Led Zeppelin.  These guys thought so much of themselves, how could they ‘just order room service’?   With blatant disregard for authority and appropriateness, they destroyed hotel rooms, fucked groupies with mud sharks in those hotel rooms, and showed large degrees of disrespect for the rules we common people had to play by.  They were above the rules and defined debauchery.   And now, Jimmy Page is considered one of the best guitar players of all time, the band routinely tops lists of best rock bands of all time, Robert Plant still sounds pretty amazing, and Stairway to Heaven is… enough said.

So why are things different for Kanye?  I am going to cross my fingers and pray to John Lennon that it has nothing to do with race.    Here is what I am thinking…

  1. Reality TV Nation. We live in a world where somewhere along the way, likely coinciding with the rise of The Real World, Survivor, American Idol and The Bachelor, the playing field was leveled.  Famous people no longer required talent, which put most famous people  about one-good-audition-at-the-mall above the regular people.  Celebrities became far more accessible.  These days, I could name 20 friends that have been to some party that Jay-Z was at.   If it was 1984, could I say the same thing about Michael Jackson?  Hell no!   Now we live in a world where we think famous people are just like us, or we are just like them.    It is totally feasible that you could walk into a bar and MGMT will be sitting there having a drink just like you.   This changes the whole dynamic.  Now our rockstars are not allowed to be the rockstars of old.  We cannot trash hotel rooms, so why can they?    We cannot be bigger than Jesus, so why can they?   Three weeks ago, the celebrity may have lived in a trailer park.  Shit, we are better than they are! Kanye and his extreme personality is forced to suffer in the post Reality TV world.
  2. Brand Intervention. This one is definitely close to home for me.   When you can no longer make money making music, you have to resort to endorsements, brand partnerships, or simply some sort of brand involvement.  This requires a nice polished image that looks absolutely nothing like Led Zeppelin or even John Lennon.  Impressively (in 2010), it does not look like Kanye either.   Unlike many musicians of a certain stature, he makes the majority of his money from the act of making music.  And like John Lennon and Led Zeppelin who also made money from music not brands, that gives him the ability, and perhaps even the right, to be a douche bag, to talk shit, and to be a real rock star.  Since most of his peers require brand dollars to maintain their lifestyles, Kanye also suffers in a world full of well-behaved musicians.
  3. Age Discrimination. I will keep this one short.   I would imagine there is a distinct division in the Kanye / Anti-Kanye camps.   Young vs. Old.   People my age harbor the cynicism of Gen X and what rubbed off on Gen Y.  We are older and more established and have spent the last 10 years watching the real superstars of our youth replaced by completely disposable talent generated by reality television.   The only problem… Kanye is not a product of reality television, yet we are guilty of looking at him through that lens.  We are the problem.

If Kanye decided to build his own theme park, everyone on the planet over 28 years old would collectively vomit and ask for an apology from him.  But 30 years ago, it was cute when Michael Jackson did it.  He was a god and did god-like things.  He was on another monkey-having level than all of us, and we were cool with that.  If Michael Jackson said ‘George Bush hates black people’, the nation would have asked for impeachment and congress would have moonwalked.   Back then, you had to earn your stripes.  You had to earn the trust of the people to be a superstar and act like a rockstar.   Now we live in a world where we are all stars (or think we should be) and we reject those that act out because most of us cannot.

See the forest through the trees.  What if John Lennon acted a little more normal or grounded?   Or Led Zeppelin went back to the hotel and slept every night after reading a few verses of the Bible?    Or if Kurt Cobain lightened up?   That is what a huge portion of the population thinks Kanye should do.   Personally, I think he should keep being Kanye, and if anything, dial it up a bit.  Maybe he’ll inspire others to do the same.  If not, what are we left with?

Hollywood: Do the Right Thing for Pit Bulls

Remember Michael Vick’s fighting dogs?  When police raided his property, they took 51 dogs from the kennels.  In many ways, it may have been a blessing for pit bulls.  Vick and the his southern gangsta downlow hillbilly homeboys screwed them over and there was no reason to think the authorities would do the dogs any favors either.  Of the 51 mangled and ‘menacing’ dogs taken from the property, 47 were deemed worthy of yet another chance at having a decent life.  And they were more than just rehabilitated.  Most are in happy homes.  And a few have even become therapy dogs, which is harder than getting a high school diploma and proves they have a higher IQ than hillbilly Michael Vick.

But on to the subject of this post.   People seem to think that Vick’s dogs, Cesar Milan, and that LP with the show on Animal Planet are going to overhaul the reputation of these dogs.  But NOTHING could change the perception of these dogs on a significant scale like a glossy animated movie – Pixar or Dreamworks-style – out of Hollywood.  Imagine the cute animated pit bull puppy named Chromeo, voiced by Will Smith, confused about why everyone is scared of him.  Sitting at the pound, he wonders why all the families are adopting these seemingly dumb dogs he is surrounded by.  One progressive young family (likely from Park Slope) takes a chance on him.   They encounter danger of some sort. He uses his superior intelligence and Will Smith personality to save the family and win the love of the community. Kids and families across America are rescuing pit bulls by the minute and chihuahuahs become extinct.

If Hollywood can turn out the stars that they do on a regular basis, they can do something for more intelligent creatures.   Steven Speilberg has single-handedly ruined sharks, made people beg for squishy aliens to come back to earth, and somehow made the most boring profession on earth (archaeology) seem like the most adventurous.   He could work wonders for these deserving dudes.

This is an amazing update on the dogs from CBS.

Juxtaposition: On the Set of Planet of the Apes

For as long as I can remember, Planet of the Apes was a part of the Wells household.  Seeing apes talk and act so human-like was super intriguing as a young kid, as I am sure it was to anyone that saw it.  It was one part cool and one part scary as hell.   But even as a kid, I can remember understanding some of the underlying messages of the film.  They were universal and easy to grasp, even at a young age.

A few years back, I remember seeing an extensive documentary about the films that included some behind the scenes photos from the set – in particular, the crazy juxtaposition of these upright gorillas, chimps and orangutans chilling out in director’s chairs, smoking cigarettes and playing cards.  It was amazing.  I was recently reminded of that, and decided to go dig up some stills.  I love these.

Where is The Big Chill for My Generation?

I have very fond memories of The Big Chill.  Not really the movie itself, but my memories are actually of my parents’ love for the movie.  They loved it.  Their friends loved it.  Their brothers and sisters loved it.   There seemed to be something unifying about the movie for their generation and I somehow took great pleasure in seeing all these older people get excited about something. I was 8 or 9 years old.  It felt like a big deal.  Maybe it wasn’t, but it sure seemed like it to a young kid looking up.  And the soundtrack – even I loved the soundtrack.

It came out in 1983, the year my parents were the age I am today.   They seemed substantially more mature at age 34 than I am at 34, but that is the subject of a different blog post.  But I have to ask the question…  Where is the Big Chill for my generation? Don’t offer up Old School, Wedding Crashers, The Hangover or any of those as stand-ins.  They are not.   I am left thinking… Perhaps my generation doesn’t deserve a Big Chill the way my parents’ generation did.   What have we really suffered through?   What have we changed?  How have we changed?   What can we all agree upon anyways?    Are we getting what we deserve?  No-brainer remakes of The A-Team, Red Dawn, Clash of the Titans, GI Joe, blah, blah, and blah.?  I guess so.

Maybe I will ask the big boss’ wife.   She wrote the film.

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