Sunday, July 08, 2007

Dead Earth

I’ve never been much for music festivals or benefits: too much shit to deal with. I have a hard enough time spending three hours at a regular show. The thought of spending all day and/or night seeing multiple bands in a genuinely uncomfortable setting, being treated like cattle, and paying extortionate prices for basic food and services makes no sense to me. When those kids at Woodstock II rioted, pillaged and burned shit down, over issues like $6.00 bottles of water being sold on a 90+ degree day, I really didn’t think they were all that wrong. The general media consensus was “these kids are a bunch of amoral animals, as expressed in their mediocre music, so unlike their superior parents.” My consensus was these kids were smarter than their parents, which wasn’t saying much; I did agree that their music sucked for the most part.

The only big benefit from my youth was Live Aid, and I vaguely recall tuning in and out most of that day. Again, no urge to be there. If there’s a band you like, they’ll be on for 20 minutes. Most bands you won’t like, and all you do is sit or stand in the sun for upwards of 10 hours, unable to move around, and after five hours, that shit must get old. That’s all I could think watching snippets of this Live Earth concert yesterday. It depressed me for a number of reasons, which is why I would tune in for 30-second snippets here and there, then immediately tune out.

Above all, I couldn’t stand the sanctimonious pandering, a real bad trait too many “committed” people have. When some carbon-spewing star lectures me about global warming, all I can think is the isolation of stardom has got to be a horrible thing to create such a shameless hypocrite. Think about the amount of energy that went into putting on these shows: the lighting and sound systems, the cameras, the backstage areas, the thousands of cars that the fans drove to the shows, the TV cable systems showing the concerts, the computer cable systems broadcasting the show on the web, the satellite radio stations broadcasting the shows. The stars themselves, in terms of air travel, private or not, are regularly responsible for turning out much more globally destructive emissions than I could ever hope to by riding a subway train every day.

These pricks are lecturing me about “carbon footprints” when theirs are like Shaquille O’Neal’s sneakers compared to my baby boots? Sheryl Crow didn’t appear to be at any of the concerts yesterday (shockingly … the bitch hits every environmental PR opportunity), but she made the asinine (pun intended) statement a few months ago about only using one sheet of toilet paper to wipe her ass. No more annilingus fantasies involving Sheryl Crow!

I wouldn’t mind if these people would cop to the enormous amounts of energy they burn up in pursuit of their ambitions, and then have sense enough to not lecture regular people about such a topic. (The televised concert appeared to be a nonstop “green” propaganda event more than anything: a constant loop of awful, PBS-pledge style short films that were smarmy in the worst way. I have a hard time watching the Sundance Channel anymore as a result of the same partisan stumping Robert Redford uses his channel for, just as bad as Fox.)

I understand that in the course of running this economy on a daily basis, there will be tons of fuel used with accompanying emissions. Trucks and airplanes are still used en masse to transport goods and supplies, as they must be, unless we want a society in collapse. Public transportation is such, at least in New York where it’s actually very good, that it’s already crowded, and I’m not quite sure where all these people driving to work are supposed to go if they abandon their cars. Mayor Bloomberg is pushing real hard to impose an $8.00 fee for vehicles entering Manhattan (but only in the lucrative “white folk” areas south of 96th Street); he’s doing so with some truly revolting ads suggesting that small black children living near bridges will have even worse asthma if we don’t stop cars from coming into Manhattan.

I got news for you: every neighborhood around these $8.00 zones will become a gigantic parking lot, including Astoria, where I live. Idling cars stuck in gridlock around these areas as they try to find parking spaces to avoid a Boston Tea Party-style $8.00 surcharge are going to create more asthma-inducing emissions than there are now. You better believe I think Bloomberg is a douche bag for employing this kind of propaganda. (Rhetorically, it also flies in the face of his previous push to build a sports stadium on the west side of Manhattan, which would have greatly increased vehicular traffic into the city. He was trying to woo the 2012 Olympic folks at that time … not sure who he’s trying to woo now with this foul travel tax bullshit. But he’s directly contradicting himself.)

I don’t have major problems with people who “go green.” Sure, they can be annoying at times, especially the ones who ride bikes everywhere and don’t use deodorant. You’ll find that plenty of educated folks in New York put themselves on a pedestal regarding green issues … because they can. Because you can live here without a car (I do), and find markets that sell over-priced organic produce, and ride your bike to and fro, and surround yourself with people who agree with you 100% on all these environmental and political issues. Best of all, you can have someone pick up your garbage every week on schedule and have them deposit it in holes in the ground in red states (or blue states with red-state areas) courtesy of shady local politicians and land owners in those places with no concern for their communities. (Sorry to employ the red state/blue state nonsense. But isn't it refreshing to read it in a way where "I despise working-class white people who aren't Democrats" isn't implied?)

But I do basically agree with these people, as much as I’d like to beat them like red-haired step children for their occasional arrogance. I can see that their intentions are good, that they’re committed to their way of life, that they recognize a larger world spinning outside their own little world. It’s only when this way of seeing the world is fed to me as doctrine that I chafe, and shit like this awful Live Earth concert is the usual celebrity-based bully pulpit. I don’t know how these people get so far into these issues. I understand actors and musicians have a lot of down time on sets and tour buses, so I’m guessing that after you’ve done your weight in blow, after you’ve fucked a thousand beautiful strangers who’ve offered their services for free, after you’ve spoiled yourself and turned so far away from the possibly nice person you were once upon a studio apartment in a bad neighborhood, you feel some burning need to be a good person. And this is how it comes out. Not quite realizing that the average person, give him credit, knows bullshit when he smells it, and doesn’t like being lectured by self-absorbed, pampered twats.

How did I feel catching snippets of Live Earth? I felt like buying an SUV, a vehicle I truly loathe for a number of very good reasons. One that gets about five miles per gallon, and runs on a hybrid of gasoline and blood. Putting a machine-gun turret on top of it. And riding that gas-guzzling piece of shit from here to the Arctic Circle, shooting every hippie, polar bear and baby seal along the way, using their blood to fuel my demonic SUV. I’d also want a gigantic selection of plastic shopping bags to throw out the window when not firing the machine gun. After reaching the Arctic Circle, I’d want to open up an oil pipeline, light it on fire, and find some way to melt the polar ice cap, as if I were The Joker in Batman gone totally berserk, with no Batman to stop me. When I’m done, build a gigantic floating Walmart that you’d need jet skis to shop at – sort of like the ones used in Kevin Costner’s hit movie Waterworld. Take a vacation afterwards, to the beach at Pittsburgh, and dip my toes in the Atlantic Ocean.

The overall message I always pull from these events: we aren’t the world, although we like to see ourselves as such. I was never much for pep rallies.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Andrew McCarthy Blues

VH-1 Classic recently broadcast Pretty in Pink, the 1986 John Hughes teen flick featuring Molly Ringwald, Andrew McCarthy, and the always-fun James Spader as the evil yuppie, a role he typecast with great zest through the early 90s. Those John Hughes movies from the 80s have not aged well. They weren’t that hot to begin with, Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off being the best of the bunch because they were innocuous concepts to begin with, but stuff like Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club are just bad melodrama with a teen 80s sheen (that worked at the time). If you’re pining for a John Hughes flick these days, or buying the DVDs, chances are you were a child or early teen circa 1985.

Watching Pretty in Pink reminded me what a pussy Andrew McCarthy was often asked to portray in these 80s flicks. He played roughly the same role in St. Elmo’s Fire: an intelligent, good-looking young guy who was awkward with the ladies, and some may have surmised that he was in the nascent stages of sexual discovery that would lead him to the other side of the plate. He had the same role in Less than Zero, save this time he actually got laid, albeit the sex scene he shares with Jami Gertz has to be one of the most unerotic ever filmed. (Considering how hot Gertz looked at the time, this is the cinematic equivalent of whiffing with two outs and the bases loaded … then again, she must have had a “no nudity” clause in her contract which only added to the fake dry-hump quality of the scene.)

The problem with popular movies that are very much of their time: if you resemble one of the characters in the movie, not so much physically but as an archetype, people will often associate the traits of that character with you. In other words, back in the 80s, I had the Andrew McCarthy Blues. I was a smart kid, reasonably attractive, well kept, sincere and just as awkward as McCarthy was in these movies. McCarthy’s only saving grace in Pretty in Pink was that there was a character who was an even bigger pussy than he was: Jon Cryer as Molly Ringwald’s wacky, new-wave sidekick, who was madly in love with her while she treated him like a eunuch. I guess the Jon Cryer Blues would have been worse to have, save he only played that role once and didn’t get typecast as a potential polesmoker.

What happened to those blues? Well, two things. One, after the deplorable Weekend at Bernie’s flicks, McCarthy faded from A-level view. A quick perusal over at shows that he has worked steadily since then with bit roles on TV series and such, but the guy faded from the cultural limelight. Thus, it wouldn’t occur to anyone to identify a person in their life with a character he played in a movie.

Two, I grew up. That certain kind of “is he/isn’t he” dilemma that haunts so many guys in their teens and early 20s disappeared, save for those wondrous seers who claim to have “gadar” yet could be in a room full of gay guys and not know it. Understand that if you don’t get married, people are always going to waste too much time pondering your sexuality – I think that’s just the herd mentality of our culture.

I honestly think there are a lot of people out there who would have been much happier staying single and not forcing themselves into these machine-like reproductive roles that go along with their predictable game plans. Obviously, with divorce rates well over 50%, and plenty of the still-married minority percentage fucking around regularly, you’ll have to forgive me if I’m not sold on the concept of marriage. I think you should do it only if you want kids and are committed to the relationship. I also think if you want to have multiple sex partners, you should, and not make a mess of your family’s lives when the spouse you’ve made a vow to discovers this unfortunate penchant. Then again, after 20 years in New York offices, I can see that the money generated by some folks is such that a guy’s wandering dick is a delicate, tolerated and open secret, lest the financial empire a man and wife have built gets rocked.

People may be amoral, but that doesn’t make them stupid. We live in an age where people want everything and are spoiled enough to think they can have it. That’s the exact kind of thing Andrew McCarthy’s character would have said in one of those John Hughes flicks, muttering the line cynically in a soda shop, while a pretty girl with a symmetrical 80s hair cut and parachute pants nods knowingly and wonders why he hasn’t tried to tear off her blouse yet. The way the Rob Lowe character did at the beer blast last Saturday night.

For me, the Andrew McCarthy Blues have turned into the realization that I’m just in no hurry and feel no pressure in terms of forcing myself into relationships. I surely felt that way for a long time – well into my 30s – but after awhile, I can tell you, if you don’t play the game, you get used to and appreciate the freedom to live your life any way you choose. To the extent that it’s going to be harder for me now to start a relationship for the simple reason that I feel fine without one. (Maintaining one would be no problem – talking myself into one, there’s the rub.) I remember that gnawing suspicion that something had to happen, fast, before “it was too late” or something melodramatic like that. With women, I can see that there is a time factor in terms of fertility, but guys don’t have that biological clock, no matter what shitty articles in self-help and women’s magazines put forth. We have biological cocks that go off with alarming regularity.

According to that page on McCarthy, in 1999 he married his college sweetheart after 20 years (presumably apart and rediscovered?), and they’re still married and have one kid. That seems to be exactly the kind of thing his character in one of those 80s flicks would do.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned about life, it’s that however fucked up you think you are, you are rarely that fucked up. Sure, some people are, but they’re usually so far gone that they’re not pausing to ponder their plight. If you’re pausing to ponder, that should be a sign to you that the time and sanity you’re spending to do so are an indication that you’re doing fine. Think you should be married? Or even getting laid more? Maybe you should. Maybe you shouldn’t. Ultimately, it’s not that burning an issue, unless you make it one. And to make it one is to go outside yourself and adopt the stance of a judgmental outsider looking to find fault as a sort of affirmation. People want to believe you’re as fucked up as they are as a form of solidarity: falling back with the Joneses.

Does that make any sense? I know it sounds a bit convoluted, but I’ll let it sit like that as indication of how tangled your thoughts can get when you waste your time on useless things. I guess the root of the Andrew McCarthy Blues, the worthwhile part of the blues, is an odd form of self assurance. You may be a bit of a pussy, but you’re a self-assured pussy. Whatever the world holds in store, you’ll deal with it, and still go on being a bit of a pussy. I recognize a sort of moral toughness in the Andrew McCarthy Blues, a refusal to act how people think you should act to avoid being thought of as somehow unusual. A toughness born of blue balls and Electric Light Orchestra albums, if such a thing is possible.