Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Ewgrossorcist

One of the fascinating things about the same-sex marriage cases before the SCOTUS this week is that the anti-gay marriage crew isn't using the old-school arguments of "Ewww, gross" and "As it is written in The Book of Hezekiah, Chapter Seven, Verses Eighteen to Twenty..."  I guess those arguments don't have as much currency as they once did.

"Ew, gross" has, at various times, struck me as a robust argument regarding such topics as homosexuality, girls, and vegetables, so it's time to declare disgust and revulsion to be unreliable moral guides.

I don't want to wade into religious arguments, but I would note that the story of Sodom and Gommorah, often cited as an anti-gay narrative, is a deeply weird and difficult story that doesn't leave anyone except maybe Abram looking good.  It's kind of like a Golan-Globus movie, an overwrought caricature of the big bad city, with abject, comically demonized villains   Homosexuality sure doesn't get a clean bill of health in it, but the residents of the Twin Cities are also rapists and murderers who have ceased worshiping God.  It's disingenuous, or just stoopid, to say (as so many do) that it's the homosexuality that forced God's hand.

 So what kind of arguments are they making, there at SCOTUS?  Arguments that may seem to have that New Talking Point Smell, but if you look up any article by Maggie Gallagher from 2005 or so, you'll see the current anti-gay marriage case has been copied and pasted wholesale from there, or from wherever she got it.  Still, the fixation on procreation as the be-all and end-all of marriage makes me think the Maggie Gallagher argument on this subject may be like The Exorcist or stuff about nuns... If you're not Catholic, and I'm not, it's hard to see the point.  I think this is gonna be a win for same-sex marriage, and I'm pleased, both for the right reasons (people I care about will be able to formalize their relationships) and the wrong ones (apoplexy looks delightful on my ideological opponents).

Speaking of The Exorcist, I finally saw it, but (as I've suggested) I couldn't give myself over to it.  I can accept pretty much any narrative premise, no matter how goony, as long as the storyteller doesn't go bananas trying to persuade me that it isn't goony.  The filmmakers practically grabbed me by the lapels, screaming "No, the demon possession isn't a narrative device gesturing towards parental anxiety about their children's' pubertal misbehavior... it's about REAL DEMON POSSESSION, which is a real thing that happens!"  C'mon.  I saw a recently redone cut of the film; I understand the original release was more ambiguous.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Outside the Cage, Outside the Stage

I used to get The Actor's Nightmare all the time, as I've posted about before.  Then I quit acting, and I started to get a variant: I'd dream that I was in a theatrical production, and I wanted to get out.  I'd be desperate, not to remember my lines, but to quit the show without getting into some ill-defined trouble.

So why did I quit?  Not in the dream, but in real life?

There's many answers to that question, as there are many facets of the problem.

Recently, though, I read something that gave me a fresh perspective on the matter.  I finally bought a copy of Genesis's album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, and I was eager to learn anything I could about the backstory of the album's creation.

Sidenote:  My official position is that, post-college, I'd rather listen to Coltrane go to the toilet than waste time on english art-school boys of the 70s as they churn out maximum arpeggios per square inch and lyrics that play like Tennyson freestyling; but it's all a lie, a horrible lie.  I heart Progressive Rock.  Readers may remember Genesis for Invisible Touch, but long before they crafted slick pop songs with Phil Collins on vocals, they crafted ornate fantasy ballads with Peter Gabriel on vocals and Phil on drums.

I'd resisted getting Lamb even though it's reputed to be their finest hour (or 80 minutes) since I already own a few albums by the band, and one's pretty much interchangeable with the other for a non-fanatic. This one, though, really was different.  It starts in a gritty-ish urban setting, and while it eventually gets around to the usual fantasy material, the band manages some tasty atonal free-jazz, along with some stripped-down revisions of their prior lush sound.  It reminds me more than a bit of Abacab, a later album on which they made a clean break with Ye Olde Genesis and surfed a New Wave.  And while the Puerto Rican street tough who figures as their protagonist probably wouldn't listen to the synth-heavy Anglo plunkings of this band, that's not necessarily a fault.  Pynchon's characters mostly wouldn't read Pynchon's books.

Oh yeah but anyway, when they played this stuff live Gabriel put on a big theatrical show, with costume changes and stuff.  So poking around for info on this stuff, I found this website.  It's got a quote from Gabriel's wife at the time, pilfered from an authorized bio of Peter by one Spence Bright.  Take it a way, Peter Gabriel's ex-wife!

"He was angry, and it was a very powerful performance. He totally opened himself and put himself on the line to the world, but he wasn't in his relationship with me. I would say to him, 'Why can't you be like that for me?' I remember sitting in the audience and feeling completely turned on by this guy who I was married to. But he was not able to be that person outside the stage. And that is what has slowly broken down over the years, being able to take that part of himself into his everyday life."

So.  Back in 2000 or so, I was in a play which included a bit of flirting between my character and another.  The stage manager mentioned to me that I became a different person in that scene; "Your whole demeanor is different," she said, and she was right.  I became utterly free and open and flirtatious, in a way that was barred to me in offstage life.  The stage was a safe place to play at such experimental things as "flirting".  It would be years before I decided to take that onstage demeanor into my real life.

I few years ago I concluded that I couldn't sustain that energy, that power, in real life while bringing it onstage at the same time.  In performance situations (including auditions) I became enervated, lacking the will to give my first fruits to the 25-year-old white boys who handle the casting-call scut work in most regional theatres.  I had somewhere better to put my energy, my openness, my Eros.  I put it into my marriage.

Not long ago I dreamt of attending the theatre.  I was a cheerful audience member, enjoying a mysterious pageant upon the stage.  The actor's nightmare has been replaced by the audience member's sweet dream.

*  *  *

And speaking of sweet dreams, here's an old Yes song (more prog rock, I know) featuring Peter Banks on guitar.  Peter was the first of many people to leave/get fired from Yes, and is now the first former Yes member to die.  His death is more melancholy than the death of many other Yes people will be, because he never got to taste much success.  I've read a few interviews with him, and he seemed painfully aware of the missed opportunities in his career.  He made some interesting recordings, though.  Sweet Dreams.