Monday, August 20, 2012

In Defense of the Octopus in the Olympics' Garden

There is something to be said about a subject matter getting a girl so fired up that, before she's even had her coffee, she's decided to blow off MOPPING DAY to write a post.  Admittedly, I'm hoping to be done in time to get to the cleaning...let's see...

The day started with finding the clean laundry strewn about the floor and mixed in with the dirty laundry because Kermit just HAD to have his black Servo shirt, and at 0530 in the morning.  Really.  Of all the things for him to go the "age appropriate" route - it had to be the OCD obsession with clothes. 

Back in bed, but not able to fall back asleep, I start toodling around on my phone.

And now we have to back up.

My running (as in repetitive) joke about the Olympics is that while it's a celebration of the amazing things the human body can achieve - it turns the rest of the world into couch potatoes for the ~2 week duration.  Despite my lack of athletic anything, I love watching the Games.  Media/culture geek that I am, I always pay special attention to the opening and closing ceremonies.

This year, I missed the opening ceremony.  Apparently, I missed an extremely interesting one and need to hop onto a You Tube bus ASAP.  I was also unable to watch the closing ceremony, but Marshal had my back and DVRed it for me.

I finally watched it Friday night - it was taking up a lot of space and I was itching to delete it.

It was so amazing, I kept it for Crikey and Marshal.  We watched it last night (well, Crikey and I did; Marshal looked up from his computer when I elbowed him).  For my part, I wanted to make sure Crikey understood what was going on - and I hoped that, a second time through, the one part that bemused me would make more sense.

I am still at sea with regard to the octopus (the pun may be unintended, but I like it).

5:30 a.m. - search engine:  closing ceremony octopus.  I wanted to keep it simple to avoid coloring the selection of results.  Turns out, the results were as murky as the Wile E. Coyote-esque dust (ink) cloud left by a startled octopus.

To summarize:  While the overwhelming majority went with "WTF!?!", the prioritized reactions were: Illuminati conspiracy in the British government, tacky, tacky British stupidity, and devil worship/paganism.

Oh sweet Lord.  So much bullshit, so little time.  I hardly know where to start.  Other than coffee, of course.

In all fairness, as my own reaction to the octopus was also "WTF?!", I can't really heckle that one - though I will say that my reaction was one of delighted fascination.  I do, however, understand why others were (and are) way more confused by it than interested in having it explained.  To those people, I say "Peace - and if you're even mildly interested in an opinion that doesn't involve paranoia, British-bashing and religious ignorance, welcome to my rant, er, blog post."

Let's get the Illuminati stuff out of the way.  Either it's a figment of a massive, collective, paranoid imagination, an organization that has been secretly controlling the cultures of the world for its own diabolical ends, or it's something in between (as in, it exists, but doesn't function quite like Dan Brown would have us believe).

I'll admit, I'm inclined to believe it exists and does so in the "in-between" way.  However, to address the panic-driven squawking, let's consider the alternative.  So, it's a group that is either over-hyped or evil.  If it's nothing more than a self-important club, then let's leave them to their secret handshakes and midnight gin rummy games.  If it's an evil empire controlling the world, and has been doing so for as long as it (allegedly) has, then we're done.  I'm not a "lay down and die" type - but worrying about something like that is like worrying about the Apocalypse.  All we can do is keep on with what has been entrusted to each of us in our own little corners of the world.  That, my friends, is how to counter the darkness.  You can't fight darkness by pushing at it with your hands (or with Chicken-Little-Sky-Is-Falling alarmist tantrums).  Just turn on a damn light.  If that's too metaphoric, then try repeating after me:

"Good game, Illuminati.  Enjoy your secret handshakes and midnight gin rummy games.  I have housework to do, kids to raise, blogs and books to write, friendships to enjoy, sunsets to watch...in short, a LIFE to live, also known as 'better things to do than be worried about locating and fighting a secret society that may or may not be evil.'"

In other words, quit hyperventilating about the dark and BE THE LIGHT THAT GETS TURNED ON. 

Deep breath.

Tacky, tacky, British stupidity.

Many of the things I read complained that the closing ceremonies were a missed (or botched) opportunity to showcase all that British culture has given to the world.  There was even something from a BBC affiliated post about how making the closing ceremony a celebration of Great Britain was akin to inviting people to your home and talking about yourself.

*pinches bridge of nose and breathes deeply*

I could go through it, piece by piece, explaining things in excruciating detail, but...

Oh good grief, who has time for that?  So, instead, some broad statements.

Admittedly, reserved modesty is a cornerstone of British sensibility - and it has been said that "BBC" stands for "Better Be Clean". So it's not that crazy for there to be elements of the British populace that are genuinely appalled that t'was one of the other cornerstones that ran this production.  Other cornerstones?  Read on.


First of all, in any Olympics, the opening and closing ceremonies are supposed to be a showcase of the hosting city's culture.  That's the POINT.  Instead of criticizing it as culture narcissism, look at it as a guided tour of a beautiful, famous home that's been opened to the public for a limited time. It's an opportunity for the citizens of the world to take a peek at how a people sees itself, and how it wants to be seen.  These performances represent what a city, a country, wishes the world to know.

Ironically enough, or maybe not so much with the irony, the world is not ready to give up its dearly held stereotypes for Great Britain and its people, its world view, its life.  Some have even said that the British people should be a "wee bit embarrassed" by the spectacle.

Well, I grew up in Georgia.  I understand being embarrassed by the Olympics' host city's performance.  Really, Atlanta?  You want the world to think  "monster trucks and cheerleaders" when they picture southern living?  REALLY? 

But I digress.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about London's closing ceremony was the self-deprecating humor mingled with self-awareness that laced the entire production together.  It wasn't ironic for a choir to perform "Because" while others drummed a heartbeat on the iconic landmarks of London.  Nor was it chaotic for the Massed Bands of the Household Division to march through a street party.

It was an eloquent theatrical performance showcasing the complexity and the richness of London's Life, of British Personality.

Yes, there were serious moments - "Imagine" was done so beautifully, John Lennon incorporated so elegantly, it brought tears to my eyes.  Naturally, this part was universally (as far as I could read, anyway) praised.

It tallied with the world view of Great Britain as serious and reserved.  Thoughtful and wise.

However, like almost every other culture that has made a positive difference in this world, another cultural cornerstone is a sense of humor.  The British are famous for their reserved humor (though often for how hard it is to understand), but those who laud that while criticizing this production have apparently forgotten...

...that the British also have a wonderfully honed sense of the silly and the absurd.

As I explained to Crikey, when a person refers to a comedy as being "very British" - it will, invariably, mean one of two things.  Reserved, deadpan delivery of dry wit (Oscar Wilde being the definitive personification of this) or over the top, wild, slapstick physical comedy (everything Monty Python has ever done, anywhere). 

I am not British.  The closest I come to a connection is being of British Isles' descent.  However, I'm going to make a reach and say that I get the humor, if only to the degree that I get it better than many of my (American) peers.  I base this on the consistency with which I find myself giddy with giggles and wiping my eyes at things that make most of my nearest and dearest blink and stare at me, waiting for the explanation...and still not get it when I tell them.  (seriously, how does someone NOT laugh when a chipper voice blithely sings "a pal said, 'cheer up, you'll soon be dead'"?!?)

Granted, I prefer the dry to the slapstick - but even I can appreciate (if not fully enjoy) the absurdity of a bunch of men, whilst hanging on crosses, bouncingly singing "always look on the briiiiight si-ide of life!!"  Though, now that I think about it, it seems that my favorite part of any Monty Python I've ever seen was a part that went dry...

In short, if you didn't like the performance, that's fine.  Opinion and all that.  If, however, you thought it was chaotic, disorganized, inappropriate and confusing - you just didn't get the joke.  Which is also fine - but not Great Britain's fault.

Finally, the double whammy of assuming that the giant octopus was a Satanic (and therefore simultaneously Pagan) symbol - well, anyone who knows me at all can probably guess (accurately) that THAT was the last straw that broke Mopping Day's back.

I have said it before, and in greater detail, but if you're a first time reader, allow me to summarize:  PAGANISM AND SATANISM HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER. (for further detail, explanation, proof, etc., scroll down to the post "Paganism: Myths, Images and Reality")

I'm not a Satanist, so I have no earthly idea if octopuses (octopi?) have anything to do with their pictorial/symbolic culture.

However, as Paganism, at its very core, does revolve around the natural world and everything in it, it's quite easy for me to see octopus as a Pagan symbol (though no more or less than any other plant, mineral or animal).  Of course, Pagan symbolism permeates almost all cultural imagery and practices worldwide.  Christmas trees, Easter eggs (the name of the Easter holiday), stars on law enforcement badges, the wearing of any and all jewelery...

Seriously, that list goes on and on...until forever is over.  Which, of course, is why I giggle to myself every time someone starts panicking over the Pagan symbolism of this that or the other, but hangs wind chimes and brings flowers to sick people. 

But, again, I digress.

I actually do know a bit about the meaning of octopus as a symbol.  Totem work is an interest of mine (from before I learned about Paganism, or even Feng Shui).  Essentially, and very, very simplified, it's the concept that God (Spirit, one's Guardian Angel, etc.) can choose to communicate with us, teach us lessons through the animal kingdom.  The idea is that from each animal, there are lessons to be learned.  If God wants you to learn about freedom, you may be presented with dreams, gifts or even actual encounters with horses.  If He wants you to learn about conserving energy, or maternal nurturing, ditto for bears, and so on.  Therefore, (and I've learned this the hard way), I have found that it really is in my best interest to pay attention when an animal keeps popping up in my world and that I should learn as much as I can as soon as I can once I notice the critter in question.

Over the last couple weeks I have been inundated with octopus imagery and have therefore done a bit of research.  This morning's search engine escapade was to see if there was anything particularly and specifically British about octopus energy - I was looking to add to what I've recently learned.  Of course, what I learned this morning was the stuff from  which rants are born (see above). 

So, since it seems like the right time - and if you're a first time reader, you may have stumbled across this blog for the same reason I went googling this morning:

This is a synopsis of what I have recently learned:

Octopus energy is about approaching problems with intelligence, efficiency and an unorthodox approach.  As it lives in the water but is a bottom dweller, it teaches about staying grounded while handling emotional or spiritual endeavors.  Because it can detach an arm at will (and grow it back), octopus can teach us about letting go of what no longer serves our highest good, while regenerating our own health and well being if we've suffered a loss.  Because of the firm grip of its arms, it represents love.  It can help with the destruction of negative barriers in our lives and how to remove people who are deliberately harming or obstructing us - but as its message is one of strength through softness, gentleness and love,  the removal is not by destroying them, but by moving them to other places.  With its extraordinary ability to transform its appearance to blend in with any and all types of surroundings (plus its ability to shoot ink in order to make a getaway), it teaches us about subtlety, discretion and, if necessary, stealth and how to camouflage ourselves when we need to go unnoticed.  Since (almost all) female octopus die as their young hatch (they starve themselves to care for the eggs), it reminds us to take care of and nurture ourselves so we can be better able to serve those around us.

For the most part, I'm going to take my lead from the ceremony itself and leave it to you to decide how that applies to Great Britain.  I only add that upon my second viewing, I noticed the suckers on the arms were all "kissy" shaped lips.  I'm sure one could choose to take that down a sexual road - but to me it rang more to a "love" type of tune...and if "all you need is love"...

Hmmm....

"We would sing and dance around, because we know we can't be found...
 We would shout, and swim about, the coral that lies beneath the waves.
 Oh what joy, for every girl and boy, knowing they're happy and they're safe.
 We would be so happy, you and me, no one there to tell us what to do.
 I'd like to be under the sea, in an Octopus' garden, with you."

Oh, I do love Ringo.
















Thursday, July 5, 2012

Life, Liberty and the Right to De-Friend

(My compliments and thanks to Ms. D for the fantastically, cleverly, perfect title for this post!!)

Every once in a while, I think it healthy to double check one's reality.

Why do I do what I do?  For a living, with the children, my family, my friends?

Why do I think the way I think?  Vote the way I vote?

Just to be certain, am I crazy, or just joking about being crazy? 

Why take months off at a time when, clearly, writing is one of the major things I should be doing ?

The last one is pretty easy (rationalization for procrastination is a gift of mine).  My aim with this blog is to be entertaining, funny whenever possible and educational when I'm super lucky (and am given the opportunity to share information that may be helpful for others).

Above all, I really want to stay upbeat.  So many people use the internet to vent their diseased spleens - I don't want to fall into that habit.  The last few things I've written have been happy, I guess, in the cosmic sense of Circle of Life - but not in the here and now.  These last few months have been eventful, to say the least, but literally none of the comedy that ensued (as always, there certainly was some) was fit to share.

So I've had nothing to say.  Sort of.

Why do I do what I do? 

I do Readings because I'm good at it, and it genuinely seems to help people.  I otherwise stay home because Kermit still needs me to be able to drop whatever I'm doing at a moment's notice and for an indefinite time period.  That doesn't fly well on a resume (or with my ethics in applying for a job).  So, no real paycheck, but I feel fairly certain that I'm not wasting my life.

My family and friends have always been my highest priorities.  I think everyone, whether s/he realizes it or not, has a central focus in life.  "Relationships" is mine.

Ironic, I know, considering the degree to which I avoid people, but it's still true.

In this way, Facebook has been a godsend.  While it's largely a frightening example of embraced Big Brother, I am genuinely grateful for the ability to have real time contact with people who are dear as blood to me, but far away.

Facebook also gives me the ability to sift through lots and lots of opinions - of almost every political and religious flavor. 

Why do I think what I think?  Vote how I vote?

"When you're stupid, surround yourself with smart people and when you're smart, surround yourself with smart people who disagree with you."  - paraphrased from SportsNight

Personally, I think that is bloody brilliant.  It is for this reason that I engage in political stuff.  I hate politics - but I feel that civic responsibilty to vote.  In order to vote, I feel the obligation to know what the hell is going on.  I never want to be the person who thinks something or votes for someone out of habit, or blind loyalty to a party.

I live in New England.  I don't know if it is simply a very political area of the world, of if we, as a culture, are just to the point where we don't want to talk of much else.  Either way, when I meet new people, invariably it will come up pretty quickly that I'm a rat-fink Republican.

Actually, I have to admit there's a little part of me that enjoys the surprise reaction I consistently get.  Strong willed, vocal, pink hair, tattoos, tied-dyed shirt with a pentacle and "Got Magic" written across the front, purple sunglasses and a used car sporting a Gay Pride sticker... 

I can see how I don't fit the stereotype.

My favorite example of this:  I met a person who, upon finding out about my unfortunate and grossly inhumane political leanings, gasped, and in a horrified whisper, asked "how did that HAPPEN?" (Seriously, that's EXACTLY how it was said)

Deep, deep breath.  Skipping over how I hate how Clinton dicked over the homosexual community by signing DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), or how the collective intelligence of women is literally bitch-slapped by the ideology of the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment).  Or how, if I followed the government's lead on how I should be raising Kermit, he'd still be sitting in a corner, drooling.

Another deep breath.  Scouring my brain for something that won't start a donnybrook.

"I believe in small government."

S/he looked away.  Thought for a moment or two, nodded, and said "okay, I guess I can accept that."

I smiled, nodded an acknowledgement and changed the subject.

(I am awaiting my nomination notice for the fucking Nobel Peace Prize.  Seriously.  They should have been informed of this.)

**Consider this a note added months later - have since gotten to know this person better.  Skipping the details (to preserve confidentiality), I will say that s/he did recently acknowledge the gaffe and apologized beautifully for it.  As far as I'm concerned, that mends all fences.**

But that's what you get when you prefer a lower material quality of life that is your own over a (possibly but in no way guaranteed) higher one that belongs to the government.  Whatever.

Besides, there's a certain amount of unrepentant glee in knowing that I am on the side that's fighting the establishment. 

Finally, am I esoterically eccentric, or batshit insane?

Not having a 9-5 job gives a girl gobs of free time.  One of my passions is research.  When I'm not writing, I'm researching esoterics, energy work.  When one dives into energy work as far as I have, do and will continue to do, one's perception of reality changes noticably.  It leaves the mainstream, even if only by a little, and when one finds herself experiencing life on what feels like being on a parallel channel, double, triple and 400-ple checking becomes really, really important.

My technique of choice with this is getting third party confirmation.  Are the (mainstream) people around me also noticing the weird stuff happening around and to me? 

Thankfully, yes.  That's a comfort and no mistake - though I doubt I will ever stop double checking. 

But these are the things that run around in my mind on any given day.

Yesterday morning, I saw a politically alarmist thing on Facebook.  As middle of the road as I am (believe it or not), I get these things from both sides of the spectrum (and what a spectrum it is).  They all seem to have a couple of things in common:

1 - one and all of these groups apparently hire rabble-rousing douches to compile and compose these things and

2 - they are designed to make people turn on each other like feral dogs on bad acid trips.

As a Right Wing Hippie (I think that could be a call sign for me, but there HAS to be something cooler), it is usually easy for me to read them and see the flaws and gaping holes.

Yesterday morning, I saw something about ObamaCare.  Yes, it was alarmist.  No, it was not giving any kind of inch with regard to the chance, ever so slight, that ObamaCare won't fail horribly and take us all with it.  But, unlike most things I read - this one made a frightening amount of sense.

Enough sense, that I shared it to my page, with the comment (paraphrased) "Is there anyone who is not terrified by this?  Could someone explain to me why I shouldn't be terrified?"

I turned off my PC and set myself to the task of preparing for the cookout we were throwing.

A couple hours later, the phone calls started.  First was from Ms. J..  Murph to my Connor, Partner in Crime and sister in all but blood.  Granted, she is a smidge farther right than I am, and utterly passionate about her beliefs.  However, I've seen her in this kind of battle often enough, and she's a class act. 

However.

Pissing Her Off is a Major Mistake.

The woman who shall now be known as "Antagonist" had addressed Ms. J as "honey", informed her that she was intellectually inferior, and had no understanding of racism (at this point, it becomes an appropriate fact that Antagonist is Caucasian, and Ms. J is Korean.)

Foolishly, I let it be (being busy).  But I told Elle about it (she and my friend Grace, along with her family, were already at the house). 

When I state that Elle has beautiful manners, what I mean to say is that she could sit down at a moment's notice with the Queen of England and not miss a cue.  So when her response to my chit-chat was a raised (index) finger, and scrolling on her phone, she had my attention.

"Megan, you need to get on Facebook."

(Rolling eyes) "Really, I mean, look at me," I gestured with the hot cassarole I was pulling out of the oven.  "Can't it wait?"

"No.  It really can't.  And for the record, Ms. J is not the one at fault.  The lady she's arguing with is way out of line with the abuse."  (As horrid as this sounds, and as annoyed I am about the necessity of it, this is the part where I interject that Elle is politcially left of center.)

It went down hill from there.

I am not squeamish when it comes to language.  While I don't like fighting, I'm not afraid of confrontation.  As I read the thread, my left hand lightly covering my mouth, right hand scrolling down, all I could do was whisper, "ohhhhh fuuuuckkkk..."

I deleted the thread.  I apologized for my part.  Looking back, I can easily see how it could have been interpreted as though I agreed with the content, rather than simply frightened by it and looking for some solace.

After taking (heartfelt) full resposibility for the mess, I ended with:

"ps - as much as I ordinarily welcome feedback, let's honor this holiday celebrating freedom by remembering that we live in a country that can not only have such diversity, but do so freely."

And further down the hill we go. Rather than respecting my request for a cease fire, Antagonist had a couple extra things to say:

Ms. J had "pussed out" for not having responded by that point (she, too, had company to entertain).

I was not worthy of respect because I not only had "stupid friends", but I didn't have the balls to stand by my initial post.  I was informed that, when I finally "grow some ovaries", maybe she and I could be friends again.

End of drama.

Or would have been, had I been smarter.  Maybe she should have included me in that "stupid" catagory.  Oh wait...

See, this is how she and I "met".

Her husband is the son of one my mother's old friends.  He looked me up on FB a while back and sent a friend request.  He and I had never been close, but I liked him just fine and accepted.  After a while, his statuses started talking about how badly Antagonist is being treated by the people in her world, and how awful it was that she pretty much had to defriend and block almost everyone she knew. 

What the hell.  I sent her a friend request, telling her who I am, and how I know her husband.  That it seemed like she was getting the sticky end of the lollipop and I cheekily added "I'll be your friend!"

Since then, she and I have gone back and forth about certain subjects.  We had (so she said, and so therefore I thought) certain esoteric interests in common - so I figured while we shouldn't talk too much about politics, we could talk about that.

This was, for my part, the extent of our relationship.  Therefore, my heart wasn't the least bit broken when she defriended me.

However, I've known her husband for over 25 years.  I sent him a private message explaining how much respect I had/have for Antagonist and how sorry I was about what had happened.  At the moment, that was absolute truth. 

I explained that I pulled the thread because it was about to turn into a blood bath, and repeated again how sorry I was about the situation.

He responded on my wall.  How good of him to publicly delcare that:

I'm a racist.  I'm intellectually inferior.  I should write to his wife instead of  trying to justify my actions to him. 

But my favorite part:

"If you are going to insult my wife, perhaps you should de-friend me before you do so, lest you get your backside handed to you by an intellectual superior. Happy 4th."

So, I'm thinking the apology didn't go so well.

This, however, doesn't beat how Antagonist responded, via private message.

She's prettier, smarter and more successful than I am.

Based on the esoterics we had discussed, I'm mentally ill with a side of Asberger's (her spelling).

She friended me because she I'm "obviously mentally ill and (she) thought (I) could use a friend."

She's ignored the fact that I can't write, that "(my) IQ is like 40 points lower than (hers) and humoring (me) has been like humoring a child."

We are never going to be friends until I "grow up, realize (my) own racist leanings, apologize for (my) mistake here today, and apologize for contacting (her) husband without (her) permission."

However, the crowning achievement was this:

"see, you were wrong about me. I'm NOT a nice person. but for a thin blue line, I'd cut your ugly old face off for $20. lucky for you I'm a law-abiding citizen, but DON'T fucking test me."


Now, while I can appreciate the tacit concession that she knows I think well of her (though, like everything else, I'm wrong about it)...

While I was absolutely ITCHING to reply with nothing more than a copy and paste definition of "irony"...

I chose to report and block her instead.  I also blocked Mr. Antagonist for good measure, which is a sad, but necessary, move.

I can say that, in a really weird way, I owe her a debt of gratitude.

I know quite well that my life is a successful one - but from what I know about her life (and lifestyle choices), I can say that the success of my life is apparent especially in comparison to hers. 

Having seen a picture of her, I have to admit, she's very, very pretty - realistically, she is prettier than I am.  And yet, despite my deformity, I'm married to an awesome man and miraculously co-created two ridiculously gorgeous babies.  So, I ain't that bad looking.  Either that or Marshal is hot enough to compensate for my bad genetics (definitely a possibility - anyone's who's seen him can testify to that).  I don't even break mirrors.

With regard to writing, I plead "gulity" to a LOVE of deliberately written sentence fragments.  Love them.

However, I seem to be good enough to have fooled all of my Writing, English and Literature teachers/professors, the AP exam, and several employers.  I also have a blog that while having only a few actual followers, gets many, many hits.  Not bad for being illiterate.

Now, the intelligence thing is a little tougher.  I'd say I'm pretty smart, but I did, once again, find my way into this backstreet neighborhood of Crazy Town. And I DID poo-poo the little voice in the back of my head that told me not to bother with my apology to Mr. Antagonist.  So, maybe I have some learning left to do.

The last one is toughest (not the permission nonsense, nor the apology nonsense - my intelligence isn't in THAT much question).

How the hell am I supposed to know if I'm a racist?  The complexities of that question really warrant their own post.  Should I make that question my status?  See what the responses are?  I could look around and see that many of the people I love are of a different race than me... Or would that last one put me in Chris Rock's "IF YOU KNOW HOW MANY BLACK PEOPLE HAVE BEEN IN YOUR LIVING ROOM, YOU ARE A RACIST" -schtick?

I really don't know.  I have the distinct feeling, though, that Ms. J would have kicked my ass by now if I were.  While she's capable of subtlety, she has no love for it.

So I suppose I will rest tonight, assured and reassured with regard to my path in life.  If I can raise the ire of someone as virulently negative as Antagonist is - I'm probably doing something right.


(Okay - just as I shared this post on my FB page (where I had begged folks for a post title - I was stumped), I saw all of these other, AWESOME titles.  Still sticking with the one that goes with the holiday theme, but oh my, I can't not share!!)

"My Encounter with an Intellectual Superior"

"Like Thread Abortion"

"In Which the Left Left After Proving the Right Right"

"Exeunt Douchebags"

"Bam-Bam and the Unlettered Alter Ego", or just "Unlettered Alter Ego"

(I seriously have the best friends ever.)

















































Sunday, March 11, 2012

"Mom, What's Your Favorite Monkees' Song?"

It's a simple enough question.

With a surprisingly complicated answer.

Not that I'm ever opposed to giving exceptionally long, drawn out answers to any given question - no, indeed.  It's just that THIS one has so many complexities, I had to laugh.

Crikey tilted his head and squinted his eyes. "What's so funny?"

"Babe, that answer would take so long, even I'M afraid to just jump in.  Let me get back to you."

I could actually see the whites of his eyes completely around the irises as he laughed and backed away slowly...

I've mentioned before that my love of Nikki Sixx seems to be quite obvious to even the most casual of observers.  What's surprising to those who meet me and amusing to those who know me is my deep love and  respect for the Monkees.  That's right, as in "Hey, hey, we're the"...and yes, I said "respect".

To keep this post from becoming either a love letter to those gentlemen, or a raging diatribe against the haters (or hecklers) - the myth debunking part shall be quick, though lacking in elegance:

Myth: four wannabe Beatles whose talents extended no further than lip sync-ing, maraca shaking and slapstick comedy.

Truth:  a Greenwich Village folk guitarist/bassist/banjo(ist?), an accomplished songwriter/guitarist, a veteran television actor (who later learned to play the drums) and a second television veteran turn Tony-nominee who performed on both Broadway and the London Stage.

Other than the drum lessons (which came when they decided to form into an actual band), those were their credentials going into the auditions for the "roles" of  Peter, Mike, Micky and Davy.

Now, Crikey and I had already gone down the "how come the stuff on the show sounds so different from the songs on your iPod" road, so he knew about how they fought for (and won) the right to creative control over their own music. 

To pick a favorite?  The first problem is the issue of two exceptionally different bands with, eh hem, remarkably similar sounding vocalists.  Seriously, "Last Train to Clarksville" was not made by the same band that brought us "Daily Nightly" (a song written by Mike Nesmith about the Sunset Strip curfew riots of late 1966).

Heck, that point was driven home to me rather comically the night I hastily popped in my Monkees mix tape (ahhh....back in the day) to shake the heebie-jeebies I was fighting off from watching Night of the Living Dead.  Surely, a Monkees song is a quick fix - they are nothing if not upbeat, right?  Go ahead and listen to the beginning of "Daily Nightly".  The (awesome, but forboding) bass riff and the Moog Synthesizer, to say nothing of the lyrics:

"Dark and rolling figures move through prisms of no color;
Hand in hand they walk the night, but never know each other..."

In a word: YAAAAAAAAA!!!!!! (flipped tape as quickly as possible and regained proper breathing with a little "She Hangs Out")

Seriously, what were the odds?  Tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor. 

Anyway...

"So Mom, what your saying is that you need two favorites, one for each Monkees?"

"Yes.  Exactly.  So, for TV Monkees, it's "Saturday's Child", all the way.  Or Maybe "Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow".  Or "Laugh".  Hmmm....  Hold on....um...Crikey?"

Eyebrows raised, "Yeah?"

"Here's the thing - most bands are formed because they have similar interests, or backgrounds.  These guys were, I'd wager, selected for the differences from each others' styles.  So, really, once we start talking about (what I call "real" Monkees music), now we've even more distinct types of songs, so -"

"You need more favorites?  What, four now? Five?"

"Well, yeah.  I think that will do.  Except, well, Peter didn't really do a lot of lead vocal work, but is a major part of two of my favorite songs, and - Crikey?"

He was walking down the hall, calling over his shoulder "You gotta get back to me, right?"

It's like he knows me, or something.

This is the moment where the boy learned about just HOW much of a geek his mom is with music.

I've always loved Mike's music - country, twangy and very earthy.  It's almost as if you could reach out and grab the notes as they float around - that's just how solid he is.  If I really have to pick one of his, it's "Papa Gene's Blues".

Peter?  Well, as I mentioned, he didn't do much front vocal work, but he is ever-present as a warm, nourishing foundation.  It may sound like an odd way of putting it, but it's as if removing his vocals would leave a song hungry.  He does figure prominently in two of my favorites, the first being "Shades of Gray".

The second is one of the best songs Micky ever fronted for them - as earthy and solid as Mike's voice is, as dependable a foundation as Peter's is, Micky's voice is, in contrast, ethereal and flowy - reach out and try to grab those notes?  They'd slip like wisps of cloud and reform before you.  Absolutely perfect for the psychedelic sound so often featured in their later work.  However, for me, nothing touches how he sings "Words". 

In this telling, I leave Davy for last. 

There has been an "all-Monkees, all the time" atmosphere in our home these past few days. It's interesting to see how one's taste in music changes over the years - what stands the test of time, what doesn't.  It wasn't until this week that I fully appreciated that my two great musical loves in this world are the Monkees and Motley Crue (and a whole different level of appreciation when you consider the odds of how often those two bands are mentioned in the same sentence).  Two bands who fought for control over their musical destinies; two bands who won that battle, though in different ways. 

Motley stands the test of time by keeping itself new. They do reinvention quite well.

The Monkees are no longer creating music together, though they occasionally collaborate on projects and tours.  The longevity of their music is of a different nature.

I've always liked the name of their album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, Ltd., though at age 11, I gave little thought to the meaning.  I got into astrology about a decade ago, and the significance of the title now rings out each time I see it - Micky's a Pisces, Peter's an Aquarius, and Mike's a Capricorn...the sign that also claims Davy Jones as one of its own.

About a week ago I watched the rerun Biography special on Davy.  In it, he talks about how he was all over the covers of Tiger Beat, he was the "heartthrob" of the group, but that he was what girls wanted to have as a poster on the wall, rather than in their beds (I'm paraphrasing, but those are fairly his words).  I think that he must have been frustrated by that - to be perpetually cast and perceived as "the cute one" (since men in general just LOVE to be described as "cute").  Sure, there was that element (though I have to protest - the man was anything but cute.  "Safe" and "non threatening" indeed.  Good grief, the irony).

I think there was something more.

Cary Grant is another Capricorn man whose talent I cherish.  In The Bishop's Wife, he gives a beautiful speech about the two only things in this world that remain constant - youth and beauty.  When Loretta Young objects, pointing out that people grow old, he shakes his head.  He declares that the only people who grow old were those who were born old to begin with, and that she was born young.

Davy was born young, and he stayed young.  But not in the heartthrob, poster on the teen girls' walls way.

His voice has the directness of youth.  It's clean and clear like a bright, crisp spring morning.  Spring is youth and strength. Energy, verve and virility.  And it's as old as Time.

Davy was born young; he did stay young - but young like Spring.

So much for not making this a love letter.  Sheesh.

The longevity of the Monkees comes from a combination of (many) excellent writers, richly diverse music, nostalgia, the joy that comes with laughter - and from the ever present promise and exhilaration of Spring. 

Last night, there was an online candlelight vigil to honor Davy Jones.  At first I thought it was quaint.  Then I thought, "what the heck, I'm sure I've got a candle somewhere".  When I opened the closet and grabbed the first candle - I laughed when I read the name - "Early Sunrise".

My favorite song of Davy's, the one that I now realize epitomizes how I see him, is called "Early Morning Blues and Greens".





The following is a fan-made video for "Early Morning Blues and Greens" - it was never released as a single, so no official video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8QrWpdFMyg