roll me up

that flag looks familiar

a little flavor from home

Carmel is a weird place to see Willie Nelson, which we did last night. Then again, his show was sold out, so maybe the disconnect isn’t that great. Plenty of rich people like weed and songs about weed and seeing artists who smoke weed and who recently released a song called Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die featuring Snoop Dogg singing about being smoked like weed postmortem.

I bought our tickets months ago, before we moved, somehow knowing we’d be ready for a little Texas flavor one month into our California residency. Sure enough, during Willie’s first song, the Texas flag came rolling out. And I felt…recognition. Not state pride, exactly. More like:

Hey. I know them. I should say hi. But what if they don’t remember me. Eh, fuck it. Let’s go.

If that makes any sense.

Willie’s son’s band opened. Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. The audience didn’t really get into it (even though the band is great) until the third song, which Lukas sang just like his father. Then they started listening. The old ladies sitting behind us, who had a conversation going the entire show, were getting flustered about this cute young version of Willie. “Is he BAREFOOT?” they wondered aloud, the expensive Chardonnay fumes wafting from their Chanel-painted mouths. “He’s SOOOOO CUTE!”

Bless their hearts.

At intermission, we briefly chatted with an older cat who ended up having to take a call. He got off the phone and said, “(Woman’s name) can’t meet us. Said she’s been drinking wine for three days straight.”

Yeah.

Willie is 81 and still puts on a helluva show, though it did feel a little like an amusement park ride. One hit after another without a breath in between and very little banter. Like they needed to barrel through in order to get to the end. I get it. Life’s like that sometimes.

Come ride “WILLIE’S GREATEST HITS,” which ends in you coming to in a cloud of OG Kush wearing nothing but a red bandana.

I gotcher flow right here, buddy

each of us is unique, like a snowflake or grain of sand (though most of us aren't as cool as fat little beach dogs)

each of us is unique, like a snowflake or grain of sand (though most of us aren’t as cool as fat little beach dogs)

The recommendation came from someone I know or someone whose blog I read. I don’t remember. The book is called Finding Flow, The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life.  I had a bit of a buzz when I ordered it. You know, holding a glass of wine in one hand, scrolling around on the internet with the other, reading about what a great book this is for getting shit done. “Hey! I need to get shit done,” I thought. “Maybe this book is just what I need.”

Two things.

One, here’s an excerpt from the book. You’re gonna love it.

Leaving aside those still relatively few career women whose primary identification is with their jobs, most women who work at clerical, service and even managerial occupations tend to think of their outside job as something they want to do rather than something they have to do. Work is more voluntary for many women; it is more like play, something that they could take or leave. Many of them feel that whatever happens on the job is not that important–and thus, paradoxically, they can enjoy it more. Even if things go wrong and they are laid off it will not hurt their self esteem. As opposed to men, their self image depends more heavily on what happens to their families.

I know what you’re thinking, that this book was written shortly after WWII. Nope. Copyright is 1997. Dude teaches psychology and education at University of Chicago and, presumably, works with a few women who don’t spend all their time clutching their pearls hoping they set the crock pot at the right temperature before venturing out into the big, scary world in their sweater set and pumps.

That excerpt came more than a third of the way in, so I wasn’t suprised by it. There had been earlier warning signs that my brain tripped over (and not in a good way), but I rarely ever abandon a book. Even if it’s shitty, I keep reading. Because maybe the good part happens later. Sometimes you have to give a thing some time to develop. But I should have known this was wasted effort when, early on, Mr. Flow compares the uniqueness of human beings to snowflakes. It was the equivalent of a stale fart coming off the page. And the fart lingered, my friend. It lingered.

I finally stopped reading the book shortly after the passage above. Not because I’m angry or insulted. Just because this cat obviously isn’t talking to me.

Two, and most important, the book reminded me of something I already knew but evidently needed to be reminded of: if you’re reading books about creating or being artistic or getting shit done, you’re doing none of the above. Period. So maybe it was worth $11 to get a little knock upside the head.

Oh–just thought of a third thing: I shouldn’t order shit off the internet when I’ve been drinking.

a thanksgiveaway

I’m giving away two tickets to see Louis CK in Austin next month. I bought them when the Houston show was sold out (because I wasn’t going to miss this tour). Then he added a second Houston show (to which I scored front row seats) (yes, it was fecking awesome), so I’m giving the Austin tickets away. Maybe to you.

Here’s the deal:

  • You must live in Austin (or somewhere in Texas, if you can convince me that you’ll be able to see a late show in Austin on a Thursday night)
  • You must agree to email me a picture from the venue, preferably from your seat, the night of the show
  • You must leave a comment on this blog post telling me what your favorite Louis CK bit is (from his stand up or his series) and why – I want these tickets to go to a fan

In exchange for the above, I will email you the link to print the tickets within a few days of the show (not sending earlier than that because I don’t want them to be resold).

Here are the specific details about the show:

And…go.

UPDATE: Thanks to the three people who’ve chimed in so far. I’ll be drawing a name from a hat (or maybe a bowl) some time tomorrow. Not sure if I’ll do it in the frenzy of the morning or the drunken stupor of the evening. Either way, I’ll email the winner and post the name here.

As for the rest of you – you have at least 24 hours left to enter. Be sure to follow the simple instructions above. (There are two reasons I’m giving away these tickets in this fashion: 1. I didn’t want to have to choose from among my friends and 2. this is a chance for us to share some funny shit with each other. It’s a small price to pay to see one of the greatest comics of our generation, even if they are balcony seats…)

FINAL UPDATE: And the winner is…

Thanks for playing!

ad astra per alas porci

My radio silence of late isn’t because I’ve been trapped under something heavy and unable to reach my keyboard. I’ve been right in front of my computer a lot, actually, working on a few long shot projects. Things that have only slightly better odds of coming to fruition than the mythical flying piglet in the sky. In addition to the pain of writing artistic statements (which are always entirely more difficult to create than the project you’re writing about), I’ve also been wrestling with this new play. This bastard, assface, frustrating piece of work. And it’s winning. For now.

As is usual when I’m stuck in my own head, I seek out things to stimulate my brain and, hopefully, help me work around the mental roadblock. One great source of unending interest is the ARTISAN VIDEOS section of Reddit. It’s a joyous thing to watch skilled artists do their thing, like:

There’s something wonderfully soothing about watching people work with their hands. And there are other distractions to be found, so many things to do other than the task(s) at hand. This isn’t a video, it’s an image. A very funny image that is now the background on my work computer. It was simply titled, “I was eating some bread, when suddenly…” And while we’re on the subject of dogs, here’s a lovely homage to the dog/human relationship.

Another item I ran across recently: Henry Miller on writing. (How awesome his daily routine sounds. Writing, going to museums, reading in cafes, painting, going on walks and bike rides through unknown areas, making charts and plans.) If you click the link, you’ll notice that his first commandment about writing is “Work on one thing at a time until finished.” I would do well to follow that one.

Going to go work in the yard. Perhaps I’ll find inspiration there.

PS – the title of this post = to the stars on the wings of a pig. John Steinbeck’s motto. Don’t fuck with the Pigasus.

Friday list

Slogan for this demo/remodeling company: "No job it's too small." Wonder how much work they get...

  • Hung out with friends last weekend. Well into the evening (and the wine), someone said to me, “Is it okay if I ask you a personal question?” I always have the same answer. “Of course.” In fact, please ask me a personal question. Because it generally means shit is about to get real. I like it when we move beyond the superficiality of the day-to-day to dig into the hidden recesses. I’d tell you what the question was, but it’s personal.
  • You may have seen links to the short film Caine’s Arcade on teh internets the past week or two. If you haven’t watched it yet, do. The film is ten minutes of fantastic. While you’re watching, imagine if the dreams of all children (big ones, too) were supported in such a loving and respectful way.
  • Here’s a new literary term that I may have made up (but there are no original ideas, so maybe someone else already did): vinfictive - writing presented as fiction that is really a thinly veiled attack on people who have wronged the author in the past. A distant cousin to vaguebooking. Not my kind of writing, but it’s out there. Perhaps I should add a definition to Urban Dictionary?
  • There are a couple of other people at work who love The Band, so in honor of Levon Helm’s passing we’re going to watch The Last Waltz and raise a glass at the end of the workday. That may be the best concert film ever made. Here’s a ridiculous blog post I wrote while watching it on cable a couple of years ago (even though I own the DVD). I claimed to not be drunk, but reading it now I have my doubts.

42

There are two things I remember from the great Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: thanks for all the fish, and the meaning of life is 42. Because of this book, which I read in high school when the thought of being in my 40s was as real to me as time travel, I’ve always held my 42nd birthday (and the following year) in mind as a period when something special would occur. When I’d reach an epiphany of sorts. When I’d figure shit out. I will turn 42 on Thursday, good lord willin’, so I guess we’ll see.

Here’s a quote from Douglas Adams about his choice for the answer to the eternal question, which many people try to attribute deeper meaning to.

It was a joke. It had to be a number, an ordinary, smallish number, and I chose that one. Binary representations, base thirteen, Tibetan monks are all complete nonsense. I sat at my desk, stared into the garden and thought ’42 will do.’ I typed it out. End of story.

That’s actually a pretty apt description of writing in general. You stare off into space, something pops into your head and you write it down. If you’re lucky, it works. It’s both totally magical and completely mundane. One could argue that the subconscious is at work even when it seems like the writer is grabbing bullshit out of mid-air, so it’s possible that Adams had something deeper in mind when he came up with 42. But prolly not. Sometimes a banana…

FOLLOW THE BACON (photo courtesy of the maker)

My brother, father and I have birthdays during the same week in March, and we got together this weekend to celebrate. The bookend/piece of art above is what Tohner made me for my birthday. FOLLOW THE BACON has multiple meanings in our family, from a culinary modus operandi to a way of looking at life. Those meanings take this piece beyond being something useful and fun to look at and morph it into a bigger symbol of shared history, where we are now and hopes for the future.

Tohner said he wasn’t exactly sure what he was going to do with the tile when he bought it, but he knew he had to make something for me with it. And he had the faith to know that inspiration would come to him. That’s what separates artists from non-artists – trusting yourself enough to act on instinct, knowing that the rest will follow. Believing that maybe 42 is the answer to everything and that some day pigs will fly, despite all evidence to the contrary.

it even smells the same

Sadly, I'm still looking for a fuzzy pumper.

Last weekend was my nephew Rowan’s third birthday. Now that he’s getting a little older, buying presents for him is becoming more fun. Instead of ironic baby tee shirts that reference my youth and not his, I can now buy him fun toys (that also reference my youth). What I mean is, I’m now able to give him shit that I want to play with.

Case in point: for his birthday we gave him a bunch of Play-Doh (24 different colors, if you can imagine that) (even black, for the goth kids) and a collection of molds to make camping stuff (logs for the fire, hamburger, hot dog, fish, bugs, bear shitting in the woods, Unabomber). What started as an effort to engage Rowan in his new toys at his birthday party turned into me hoarding the cooler molds and colors and elbowing everyone else out of the way.

Who knew playing with Play-doh would still be so fun? And surprisingly gratifying? Tohner made a good point – with Play-Doh, you’re not really worried about the final product. It’s a temporary thing you’re creating just long enough to go, “Hey look! I made a purple spider with blue eyes!” before smashing it all together in your fist. I love doing stuff with my hands, but I’m usually working toward some end game. With the Play-doh, it is all about the experience. Would it be creepy if I bought a set for our house? I could always say it’s for when the kids visit.

Oh, and it still smells exactly the same. Even though it’s probably made in China from lead and asbestos now.

PS (unrelated) – Why is there a cartoon Napoleon Dynamite? That just seems like a bad idea all the way around.

Friday list

you don't know me but I'm your specter

James and I saw Michael McDonald a couple of months ago. Though we were close enough to easily see sweat beads on the various performers, I was unable to capture a good shot of MMcD. Everyone else would show up just fine, but he was all white. Like a ghost. Perhaps his deep, soulful voice comes from beyond?

In sort-of related news, did you know that the Doobie Brothers were on What’s Happening!!? Seems the Doobie Bros were playing at the local high school, and Raj was trying to bootleg their concert. Hijinks ensue. Episodes like this made me actually believe that might happen at my small town high school some day. If I recall, I think I sent a letter to ZZ Top asking them to play our prom. I probably don’t have to tell you–that didn’t happen. Instead, we had a Whitesnake song as our prom theme. Yeah.

Here’s a solution to getting slow walkers out of your way. Would it work in Houston where there aren’t a whole lot of bike riders? I don’t know, but I like the fact that people in grocery stores and on escalators (presumably places without bike traffic, even in Japan) get out of the way too. Maybe everyone is trained to move when a bell is rung.

I adore this series of photos. NSFW, I guess, because there’s very slight nudity (tittays) in one. A photographer recreated decades-old photos using the same people. “It’s imagining how people would feel and look like if they were to reenact them today,” says the photographer. So wonderful to recognize the child in the adult. A good reminder to reconnect with our youthful selves. (By the way, the guy in the first photos looks like a different Michael McDonald–the one who was on MadTV.)

Mr. Mooney and the n-word

Conversation with James earlier today:

Crystal:   Hey. Mooney is at the Improv this weekend. Wanna go?
James:    Do you know if he’s using the n-word again?
Crystal:   That’s a good question. I don’t know.

Allow me to explain. I’m a big Paul Mooney fan. I didn’t get hip to his work until Chappelle’s Show. Or, I should say, I didn’t know his name until Chappelle’s show. I’ve been enjoying his work my entire life, starting with his collaborations with Richard Pryor, moving through In Living Color and then Chappelle’s Show. I recently read his memoir Black is the New White (which is partially Richard Pryor’s biography) and learned he’s had a hand in even more of the haha than I’d realized.

(side note: Did you know that, in addition to co-writing the script, Pryor was supposed to play the sheriff in Blazing Saddles? Only the producers considered him too controversial for the role and went with Cleavon Little instead? Maybe everyone knows that. I didn’t until reading Mooney’s book.)

I’ve seen Mooney perform quite a few times over the past seven or eight years. The first time I saw him was epic. It was his second set on a Saturday night. He was feeling his oats, I guess, because it was the longest I’ve ever seen a stand up comic perform. (Actually, Mooney tends to perch on the edge of a stool, so he’s more of a leaning comic than a stand up.) I can’t remember now how long he was up there – I think it approached (or maybe exceeded) two hours. We could see the red light from where we were sitting, and it was glowing for a good 30 minutes. Then the management of the club started fucking with the lights and his mic level trying to get him off stage. It was like, the more they were trying to tell him it was time to wrap it up, the more determined he was to keep going. So he kept going.

Regarding the conversation James and I had this morning: after Michael Richards (Kramer) went crazy with the n-word at a comedy club, Mooney decided he would quit saying the word completely. This might not be a big deal for some people, but Mooney used it liberally throughout his speech. Like salt on popcorn. Constant. The last time I saw him was the first time since his self-inflicted boycott, and, man, did it interrupt his flow. It seemed like he must have had a constant loop running in his brain reminding himself not to say it, and that was providing distraction from what he was doing on stage. It would be like me eradicating “fuck” from my repertoire. Doable, but at what cost to pacing?

That was a couple of years ago, so it’s probably better now. Anyway. It’s a funny thing to wonder about another human being.

UPDATE: Saw Mr. Mooney at the Improv last night. His flow, it is back.

in media res

Remember when I used to write in this blog regularly? I really liked doing that, and I miss it a lot. One reason for the low blogging output is because I changed jobs and haven’t been writing over my lunch break. I could do it, but I just haven’t felt moved to. One difference is location. Instead of being in the back corner of the building in my own office (which often featured a closed door and my bad attitude), I’m in the middle of a somewhat bustling office full of high energy people. I’m too busy interacting with them to sit quietly and write in this thing. And we’re pretty freaking busy, so it just doesn’t seem right to write some bullshit here when I could be working. I need to get back in the habit of blogging at night after a couple of glasses of wine. That’s when the good shit comes out anyway.

The hold up with that plan? The blogging at night? We recently got Uverse. All of the channels. Until getting Uverse, television was background noise while surfing the web or writing. I rarely actually watched anything, you know, with both eyeballs and my brain. Then came Uverse. Beyond the fact that we have access to a number of channels I’ve never had before (HBO, Showtime, etc.), the on demand selections are pretty spectacular. For instance, when I’m done writing this, I’m going to watch American: The Bill Hicks Story. And I will watch it with both eyeballs and my brain and will not have my laptop in my lap.

Something you should watch with your eyeballs/brain is Louie. It’s the best thing on television. If you aren’t watching it already, get on that. It’s on FX, but if you don’t have cable (or if you don’t have a television, which you tell people as often as possible) you can also watch it for free on Hulu. If you don’t at least try Louie, I’m not sure we can continue our relationship. Come on. Give it a shot. If you don’t like it, I’ll give you your money back. (I realize I’m late to this game as the show is in the middle of its second season – if you’ve been watching from the get-go, well goody for you.)

Okay, I’m off to watch the Bill Hicks movie and fantasize that in another life, I was a stand up comic.

Oh – speaking of stand up comics – check out the Whiskey Brothers podcasts. They are four Houston-based comics who are equal opportunity offenders. While they are always funny as shit, I’ve actually found myself cringing at some of the things they say (no small feat – I’m not what you would call sensitive). A couple of weeks ago I started listening to their podcasts on the way to/from work instead of listening to music, and my already short commute flies by. Most of the time, they make me laugh at least five times on the way to work. I’m talking a for real, laugh out loud, hearty guffaw. It’s a great way to get the brain juiced up before having to interact with people. I do wonder if any of the other people on their way to work think I’m crazy to be driving down the road, alone, laughing. Perhaps they think I’m watching a DVD or masturbating.

The Whiskey Brothers purposely stay away from politics, but pretty much any other topic is fair game. They will go from talking about Britney Spears’ vajayjay in one segment to how it’s bullshit that a restaurant isn’t letting in children under six years old in another segment. What I’m saying is, if they’re going off on something (boxing, my god, the boxing) that you don’t find interesting, just give it a few minutes. They’re bound to engage/enrage/enthrall you with the next item on the list. And repeat visitors are rewarded with knowing the inside jokes that move from one podcast to the next.

But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

tribute to Stephen Adams this Friday

Picture Book is hosting a musical tribute to the life and legacy of Stephen Adams this Friday in the back yard of the Continental Club, starting around 8PM. Picture Book features a couple of guys who played with Stephen Adams in the Dreambreakers, and for this special show they will call on other local musicians to sit in with them.

If you love the Beatles, BeeGees, Who, Buffalo Springfield, CCR, Stones, Animals, Kinks, Troggs, Dave Clark Five, Strawberry Alarm Clark and more from the ’60s, come check out this show. And if you knew Stephen Adams, you should definitely be in attendance. I think there will be opportunities for people to share stories if they feel so moved.

This will be a fitting tribute as the only appropriate way to say goodbye to him is through music.

Wonder if anyone will be able to pull off this song? Stephen Adams would often close a show solo, singing this and strumming his guitar as people were heading to their cars and the bartender was closing out the register. It was heart breaking enough when he sang it…

(a quick) Friday list

yeah, you know you're jealous

Before getting to the Friday list, I wanted to share with you the awesomeness that entered my life just a few minutes ago. Today over lunch my department had its much-belated holiday party, which included a white elephant gift exchange. I was able to pass along the gaudy necklace I received at a white elephant earlier this month, and through some negotiating today am now going home with the item you see above. Yes, that is a knitted armadillo holding an old can (pull tab) of Lone Star Light. What is sad is that, while everyone at the table was remarking about how gaudy it was, all I could think was, “Man, that’ll go great in my house.” Draw your own conclusions.

On to the short list (because my lunchtime is over):

  • If you want to do some traveling in the US or abroad but don’t have much money and aren’t weirded out by sleeping in a stranger’s house, check out couch surfing. You sign up on this site as a couch host or couch sleeper, and you can basically travel all over the place without paying for overnight accommodations. They expect that the sleeper will make dinner or chip in with chores in exchange for a free place to sleep, but nothing is mandatory. And if you sleep on some creep’s couch, you can leave a shitty review of the experience to save others from having to experience a host who walks around in his underwear and offers a “back rub” in the middle of the night.
  • Posted on facebook this morning, a TED performance of Bohemian Rhapsody on ukulele. Fantastic. Looks like Houston will have another TEDxHouston conference this summer. I really enjoyed it last year and hope this year’s list of speakers is just as varied and interesting.
  • Finally, for my theatre people, check out Arena Stage’s new play blog, which is chronicling what’s happening this week at From Scarcity to Abundance, a conference about new work for the theatre. Really interesting conversations are happening about the health of today’s theatre and possibilities for the future.

lions, tigers, bears? no thanks, but I will take those shoes

I’m not what you’d call a “flashy” dresser.  But since childhood, I’ve lusted after Dorothy’s ruby slippers (actually, since they have a heel, I’d consider them pumps). I saw them – the actual shoes, or at least a pair worn in the film – in a Smithsonian exhibit at the George R. Brown Convention Center (according to the internets, this was ’96/’97). The shoes looked surprisingly small in their big lucite box, in direct contrast to the panic-inducing jaw bones on the wall that belonged to a huge shark. Or maybe it was a whale. (Even out of commission and hanging by cables, the jaw was scary – it was too easy to picture the rest of the body materializing and the whole thing coming out of the wall to bite you.) (I’ve always had this thing about drinking too much coffee.)

The Wizard of Oz came on once a year during my childhood. This was back in the dark ages before it was easy to buy a copy or just download it online. We were all offline back then…and using a dial to enter phone numbers… It was a big deal when the film aired, as it was when the various Peanuts holiday-themed specials, the Burl Ives Christmas stuff and the once a year broadcast of Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory came on. If you missed one of those, you had to wait an entire year for the chance to see it again. I still try to catch the Peanuts specials each year, though Great Pumpkin is my least favorite.

I’m forty, so that means I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz at least, I don’t know, 30 times? It’s on more often than once per year now, so maybe that number is even higher. (Side note: I once watched Dark Side of the Rainbow at Alamo Drafthouse – you start Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon on the third roar of the lion in the opening credits of The Wizard of Oz, and there are supposed to be these amazing coincidences between album and movie. You could probably combine any album with any movie and have the same thing happen, but it was cool just the same.)

The The Wizard of Oz was on Friday night. After, as I lay in bed and couldn’t sleep, I kept thinking about the movie. And those shoes. Tried to imagine how I could wear sparkling ruby shoes and not look like a jackass. I didn’t come up with the solution, but I’m not giving up quite yet. Then I thought about the field of poppies, where Toto, Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion all fall asleep. And how the Tinman and Scarecrow don’t fall asleep. And I wondered why that was. Then I foggily recalled a history course in which the professor discussed the “true” meaning of The Wizard of Oz. You mean, it’s not just about a chick who travels via tornado to a magical world with midgets and flying monkeys? Huh.

You know, sometimes a banana is just a banana.

But I did wonder about that poppy field. So I looked around online. Here’s a chunk of information devoted to potential interpretations of the entire story. Though the poppy field is mentioned in virtually every discussion about the film/book, few sites address why the Scarecrow and Tinman don’t succumb. I guess it’s the obvious answer, then. Because they aren’t “living” creatures but instead creations of man. I don’t like that interpretation because, to the audience, to me, they’re as real as everyone else in the story. They’re as real as the flying monkeys are.

Last year was the film’s 70th anniversary, and in celebration some shoe designers presented updates of the ruby shoes. Evidently most of them think that, instead of being a simple farm girl, Dorothy is actually a hooker. I can’t imagine walking five steps in most of those shoes, much less following the yellow brick road in them.

I wrote about The Wizard of Oz last summer and said this:

If The Wizard of Oz were made today, instead of sweet little Judy Garland in the lead it would be someone like Miley Cyrus, and she’d be wearing short shorts and cowboy boots while nipping out a tube top (but would, of course, have a “heart of gold”). The Scarecrow would be JayZ, the Tinman would be Lady Gaga and the Cowardly Lion would be The Rock. I would not see this movie.

I stand by that statement.

Dave Chappelle, I miss you

I don't have a picture of Chappelle, so here's my autographed Paul Mooney DVD - I didn't have cash to buy the DVD, so he let me write him a check - I made a copy of the cancelled check he endorsed (because I'm a dork)

My Thanksgiving-related chores are done (casserole = made, pie = cooling), so I’m watching a bit of the boob tube and slipping into my four-day weekend. Chappelle’s Show is on Comedy Central right now. Even though I own both seasons on DVD and have watched each episode almost to the point of being able to recite sketches from memory, I’m always excited to see the show. It’s the best sketch comedy that’s been on TV in years. Decades. Ever? Possibly.

I thank Dave Chappelle for introducing me to Paul Mooney and for repeatedly showing how you can talk about relevent social issues in a meaningful way while still being funny as shit. I wrote for a sketch comedy troupe a long time ago, and I remember during that experience trying to balance writing about something other than sex and drugs while still being funny to a drunk, often male, audience. Not the easiest thing in the world.

According to legend, part of the downfall of Chappelle’s Show was the fact that sketches such as the one featuring the line, “I’m Rick James, bitch,” hounded Chappelle, even when he was doing stand up and not shooting the show. Drunk frat boys in the audience would repeatedly yell the line at him, hoping to get a glimpse of the character they’d seen on TV instead of understanding that Chappelle is a comedian and not an actor who just repeats catchphrases. It’s like a band that’s made 20 albums being heckled to play their radio hit from the first album, something they don’t even relate to as artists anymore. The Rick James shit was funny, sure, but it was just part of a larger body of work and not necessarily related to his stand up at all. So Chappelle began to feel like the audience he’d respected enough to get his point were, in fact, too fucking stupid to understand what he was saying. So he walked away.

The walking away only adds to my respect for him. Sure, it wasn’t the most professional way to handle the situation. Sure, it led people to suggest he had a drug problem. I mean, who could walk away from fifty million dollars, right? Only a crazy person. Because money is the most important thing in the world. But he said fuck it. He said he wasn’t going to create corporatized comedy to make the frat boys laugh, and he’s stayed true to his word. He still does comedy clubs occasionally. I’m waiting for him to come to Houston so I can go see him. If anyone yells “I’m Rick James, bitch,” I will silence them with my death glare.

Anyway. If I had to name artists who have impacted my writing, Chappelle is close to the top of the list. Which would mean little to him, but it means a lot to me.

paranoia, waltzing

I STILL want to believe

Watching the tail end of an X-Files rerun on Chiller tonight. I was crazy about that show back in the day. In fact, in an embarrassing admission of my (continued) nerddom, I have an I Want to Believe poster behind my desk at home (see above). That’s not an old picture. I took it tonight. I’ll spare you the fangirl gushing. I only mention it because it seems the series’ constant paranoia is much more suited to today’s reality than when it originally aired. Or maybe my perspective has changed. Actually, I’m sure it has.

Wow, banner night on the old cable TV this evening. Now The Last Waltz is on. One of my favorite films. Top 5 for sure. Levon Helm is the coolest cat. Robbie Robertson is hot. Richard Manuel is kooky, bless his heart. Rick Danko is charming. The music is fucking awesome. Best concert film ever? Yes. Dude, Scorsese directed it. Ridiculous guest artists – Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison in a jumpsuit. Wish I’d been there – Thanksgiving night at Winterland in San Francisco in 1976. What I mean is, I wish I could have been there at this age – not when I was only 6 years old. Though I might have enjoyed it then, too.

Joni Mitchell is on stage now. A lot of her songs (most of them?) are about distant men who don’t want to be tied down and have other women in their lives. Wonder if she sings about the men she’s encountered or if she’s singing about herself?

Sorry. I’ll spare you the The Last Waltz blow-by-blow. Back to whatever you were doing.

Mannish Boy. I’m a rolling stone. Man. I’m a hoochie coochie man.

Sorry. Really, I’m done now.

UPDATE: Not done yet, evidently. Van Morrison is on now – he’s not wearing a jumpsuit as I reported earlier. He’s in a purple pantsuit with rhinestones. You can imagine how, even after seeing this film at least 30 times, I could confuse a jumpsuit with a pantsuit in my memory. Both are not made of natural fibers, and both are too tight. Turn up your radio. Your RAD-E-OH.

PS – I’ve had some wine, but I am not drunk. Just for the record.