Posts Tagged ‘I Remember….’

Three for me

March 4, 2014

Lately I find myself applauding and searching for competence. What sounds like resignation and a lowering of standards is in fact the exact opposite–I am in awe of someone who is getting it right without any fuss, every time, without fail, because it is so bloody rare. This might seem like an ode to journeymen the world over (and maybe it is that as well), but the older I get the more often I declare “Talent ain’t worth shit”.  The world is flooded with talented people (I find it hard to not put the word in quotation marks) , but it is work that makes the artist.  I might concede that one carries the germ of artistry during the long years of artisan apprenticeship [aka: getting the shit knocked out of you and growing a thick skin], but behind the awe & beauty of a masterpiece lies years and years of work, thought, revision, deliberation, and conscious effort to achieve or approach an artistic ideal.

I didn’t know Philip Seymour Hoffman, but his death affected me about as much as an artist can, which is to say it was a mild shock to the system but a damn sight more frustrating than that.  “Sad”, “Untimely”, “Tragic”–that goes without saying, as vapid as those words can seem at times, but now that a bit of the shock has settled and the initial outpouring of grief has passed I wanted to make my own small sad circle of flowers and remember him for the craftsman and artist he was.  The world lost a great actor, and I don’t use either term lightly.  I don’t know shit about acting, but I think I know enough to realize that he was an actor whom his peers thought highly of.  That means something in my book. I don’t go to the doctor and tell him what I think, and I don’t think art in any form should be exempt from the same standards. Know your instrument, know your craft, work harder, fail better, do it again.

With that in mind I wanted to share three of his performances that remain my favourites and are the images I will most likely see whenever someone mentions his name.

This one always hits me hard. Like, personally hard. I won’t tell you which character I relate to most in that sad relationship, but damn if my heart don’t break when Scotty collapses in the car and beats himself up.  Unrequited love is brutal.

I’ve been shocked that in all of the press surrounding his death I’ve yet to see a single mention of Love Liza, which is even more surprising given the circumstances of his death. The movie is one long awkward unraveling in suburbia, filled with the banal minutiae of human existence that continue even as the world collapses around you. Tragedy strikes, but the phone bill is still due.

The last is not a clip, but a personal anecdote, which I will try and keep as brief as possible.  In my former life [read: before I arrived in Australia], I always seemed to be surrounded by people involved with film & theatre. When Hoffman and John C. Reilly performed Sam Shepard’s True West in 2000, they alternated roles every night, resulting in a long run of sold-out shows along with both critical & popular acclaim. The awe and respect amongst the theatre world was unlike anything that I had ever heard before or since, and as I sat and listened to their excited chatter (saying nothing except to ask a question, coz what the #$@! do I now about acting?) it made me glad to know that even though I couldn’t truly appreciate the breadth & depth of their achievement they were at least being recognized by those that could.

That’s what I’ll remember, and what inspires me in my own endeavors as I play supporting roles on the big stages and my leading roles on the fringe. Thank you, Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  For everything.

6 years and a day

January 20, 2012

Last night as I was packing up my gear I realized the date: January 19th, 2012.  I stopped for a moment before it sank in: today is my 6 year anniversary of arriving in Australia.  Maybe I should have come straight home and done an elaborate post in true commemoration, but instead you get one with a day of thought, (or non-thought) behind it, plus a title that nearly oozes with über-cool nonchalance.  Nearly.

So here I am, 6 years on after landing on a very hot Summer day that seems exactly like yesterday.  Exactly like today as well.  Tomorrow is projected to look eerily similar.  Although I did leave for about 11 months or so to hop back on a cruise ship to earn money and continue traveling the globe, overall I consider myself to have “lived” in Oz for 6 years.  The fictitious biographers waiting in the wings of posterity can squabble over the dates and details.

I briefly tried to reflect, really reflect, on what my time here has meant, but I’m not coming up with much.  One sad fact that I have to admit is that 6 years represents quite a sum of my legally adult life, and now I can say that I have spent an equal number of years being happy as I spent unhappy.  That oversimplifies things quite a bit, because while I’m not saying that all my time in America was rubbish and all my time down under has been grand, it’s rather handy to summarize it in exactly such a fashion, and far more true than not. As in, 99% true.

A few random things, in no particular order, illustrated in a clumsy manner with bad punctuation….

–Summer here doesn’t really, really start until mid-January.  We had a fairly cool November and December, and I remember thinking, “Hey, it’s gonna be a mild Summer.”  Bollocks to that.  I’m pretty sure I still have some Northern Hemisphere hard wiring going on, so to me the idea of January will always require a bit of translation, and since I’m bloody slow at that I suffer from yearly amnesia.  There is no such thing as a mild Summer here in Australia, and certainly not in Port Macquarie.  They are all the same.  Hot.  One day I shall remember this.

–I have been fortunate enough to either be put in or carve out a situation where my entire existence is based on and derived from music.  I might not be making a lot, I will grant you that, but I’m not starving either.  Since I have an ever-growing fascination now with US politics (survivor’s guilt of sorts?), and keep in touch with my family, I understand how bad things are for a number of people and their families in the US.  I remember struggling against the forces of economic reality, and only yesterday realized that, had I stayed where I was, it’s almost certain that I would have wound up as either a manager (or former manager) of a failing Ruby Tuesday restaurant, drinking too much and hating the world, or else just completely burned out and living on the streets or with my parents in some sort of court-ordered supervised care.

Reading about grown men and women who spent years of hard work in good employment now looking for any sort of job, no matter how lowly or underpaid, certainly made me think, whether rightly or wrongly: I got out.  Call in cowardice, call it fate, call it treasonous, call it self-romanticizing myth-making; I don’t care.  It feels true.

–Since I do get to spend a fair amount of time on the road (last week was a particular example of me at my finest ; ), I get to come across a few bands that I like and feel the need to share.  Keep in mind that whenever I try and hype up other bands nobody gives a flip, because my own band is largely out of fashion, and thus my tastes and top picks.  Whatever, I’m learning to live with that fact.  We are so far out of step that all we can do is keep marching until the world is in step with us, if only for a moment.  To close, I give you a new fav that I’ve encountered live.

CHERRY DOVE: We met this band when we were playing in Brisbane.  I developed a man/musician crush on their guitarist coz of the way he played (and looked, I’ll be honest), but he is listed on their bio as “Duckboi” and I can’t really remember his name.  It might be Chris.  It might be James.  Anyway, he plays much better than me, in a way that I wish I could play.  The weird thing is that he was really only the teaser to the band, because they are fronted by a very capable singer/guitarist named Logan, who is everything a front-woman should be.  They also have a bass player, Mel, that our roadie/driver developed a massive crush on, but that’s understandable.  Live, they kind of reminded me of the old riot grrrl sound, but that almost damns by association, so instead I’ll just say that I liked them a lot and would actually leave my house to go see them.  Hopefully our paths will cross again soon.  They have their new Wanted EP out now, and it’s available for free on bandcamp.

As a closing aside, I will say that it is great for the consumer that there’s so much free music out there, but it also points to a very sad and depressing trajectory for music.  Like a kid who’s never known anything other than a digital photo, or a blue whale that will roam the oceans its entire life without ever meeting another of its kind, there are more and more bands who will never know anything other than giving their music away for free and hope that somehow, some way, that will translate into success.  There’s more to be said, a lot more, but I just don’t have the heart to go into it now.  You know that whole 99% vs 1 % thing happening right now?  The very same could be said for music and the music industry.  There are fewer and fewer bands and artists making money off fewer and fewer revenue streams, and the rest of us keep accepting less and less while making bigger and more far-fetched gambles.  The middle class of music is shrinking, and now there are only millionaires or those who want to be millionaires.  That’s why we all have real jobs that pay the bills and keep us with almost-but-not-quite-enough dosh to keep recording and releasing music….for free.

Happy New Year’s.  I know it’s late, but it’s from me.  I’m sure you understand.  Write back if it’s been a while.  Stop by and say hi.  I might do a review of the Cherry Dove EP, God knows they deserve it, but for now I will say good night.


May 5, 2011

The Iron Man Triathlon has come and gone, which means that slantrhyme just celebrated it’s second birthday. I didn’t even remember until this evening.

I guess it’s far too late for a cupcake and a solitary sparkler, but I will try and make it up this week. (Why have I personified my blog and given he/she feelings? Don’t I have enough guilt without concocting an imaginary guilt-creating friend/source?)

It’s just Elliot & I in the house tonight. Earlier today, we worked on his three tricks–sit, down, & fetch. It’s a kitten, for crying out loud, so try and act impressed. Right now we’re playing fetch the tin foil, and despite well over 1,000 successful retrievals he continues to slide across the floor like a proper clay court tennis champion. Good kitty.

There is more to say, but not just now.

A Cupcake, A Sparkler, A Song…

April 13, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me….

[repeat ad infinitum]

slantrhyme is one year old.  Actually, I’m pretty sure I forgot the actual birthday, but do recall making my first post the last time the Iron Man Triathlon was on here in Port Macquarie, and since that calender event has come and gone once again I guess it’s time to have ourselves a champagne jam, albeit a belated one.  Sorry old girl, I won’t forget next year.

I leave you with this….as usual, it’s not much.

New Myth

King of myself, impoverished & feeble
without an heir, kingdom, or public
an empty table, lined with empty seats
before empty plates of an empty feast.

Raising my glass, in sincere tribute & thanks,
praise I humbly accept, and drowning my drink
my words come rushing back from the depths
in a thundering echo. I pause.

These same ears that can still recall
forgotten melodies & forgotten lovers’ meetings
I should weep, but cannot, too long since now
I am king of myself, alone.

I remember….Part I

August 7, 2009

I Remember….

…the night I met John Hughes.

I own a car that has a working radio, but no CD player. That means that unless I feel like driving in total silence, I have the radio on. I’ve only had the car for a few days, mind you, so I can’t say how long this comfortable relationship will last, but for now I don’t mind it. As I was puttering around this morning, fresh out of the water and rather cold, a news bulletin came on which included the announcement of the death of John Hughes, the American filmmaker. I was very sad to hear that, and turned the radio down after hearing the news. I had the pleasure of meeting him, and although he would not remember me from a flea on his dog I think of that night with fond thoughts during a very bitter and rough time in my life.

It was the Winter of 2005, which means that down under it would have been one of your glorious sun-kissed & beer-soaked summers, full of Big Days of Out, the beach, sunburns, and the general heat infused laziness that no one can fault. I, however, was in the Northern Hemisphere, and it was not any of those things. It was miserable. I was miserable. I will not elaborate on why, so you’ll just have to trust me on this.

The odd thing was that, for me, despite my personal shambolic state, that time also represents one of slight musical triumphs for me. I had the good fortune to be associated with an Atlanta musician by the name of Chris Case, and although we had worked together on a casual basis, I was shocked when he came into the bar where I was tending and asked me to drum for his group, Samadha. He had a previous association with Hefty Records in Chicago, and they had offered to put out the debut Samadha LP based on the strength of his talent, material, and vision. I had never been involved with anything that had any money behind it, and since I respected Chris and liked working with him I jumped at the chance to do something with meaning. Obviously my life had none.

I remember quite a few months of very intense rehearsals, getting the songs ready to record in the studio and all that jazz. We had the chance to play the Hefty Records showcase at SXSW, which was nice, I think. I was looking pretty worse for the wear by that point, so all I can recall is cracking open Bob Dylan’s Chronicles in the car, finishing it well before we got to Austin, and then staring out into space for the rest of the trip with nothing else to read. In the hotel lobby, I actually saw guys trying to look like rock stars, which was a real novelty for me. We played a showcase and then I passed out in the hotel room. I can’t recall the drive home, but I think we may have been feeling somewhat triumphant.

Sometime later, we took another road trip, this time to the offices of Hefty Records in Chicago. It was freezing. I was getting worse. We played a show at some trendy nightclub, which they recorded for a live release. I remember spending all the money I had on drinks, only to find out later that I should have been getting them for free. I don’t think I minded much, at the time I thought that was just how things went.

As I later found out, Hefty Records is owned and run by John Hughes III, who happens to be the son of John Hughes the filmmaker. At that point I became very excited, because I’ll be completely honest and say that I had very little interest in experimental electronica, etc., which is what Hefty Records mainly put out. I was, however, absolutely fascinated by the script of The Breakfast Club, thinking it brilliant in every way. For some strange reason, I had seen it about 10 times in the weeks before, and just kept putting the cassette in the VCR and watching it over and over, thinking about it and being fascinated by a story so simple.

It’s not Shakespeare, mind you, but there is something so vitally human about his characters that is very Shakespeare, if we are to believe Harold Bloom and his Shakespeare: Invention of the Human. I will leave it to others, and certainly my betters, to pontificate and articulate on his films, but for whatever it’s worth, I truly loved the way he represented youth. The kids were REAL, and so were the adults, for that matter. No one was any ONE thing, but rather, a collection of traits and contradictions. As in, HUMAN.

I remember thinking that it would make a great play, if adapted properly. In my head I saw it all without scene changes, just the kids at their desks, with the principal walking on for his occasional lines. I had the notion that the janitor was a metaphor for some omniscient being, and I wanted all of his lines spoken over a loudspeaker, as a character we couldn’t see but was definitely THERE. That was pretty much my brilliant idea.

All of this was simmering in my brain by the time I got to meet Mr. Hughes. I was probably drunk, or at least half-drunk, but not so much that I don’t recall spending perhaps half an hour with him near the entrance of the club, away from the music and the dancing. I was dumb enough to tell him my idea for doing The Breakfast Club as a play, and to my surprise he said that it was originally conceived as such. So much for that idea, but I had a small measure of pride in thinking I was not so much off target.

I recall his countenance, or at least my perception if it, and it seemed that he viewed this whole music endeavor (both our own and his son’s involvement in it), as something not that serious, but something to be humoured. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that his films bankrolled the label, but maybe that’s not how it was. I can’t be sure.

I’m not sure that I have any “heroes”, at least not in the storybook sense of the word. There are, however, a great many people whom I respect and who produce works which I admire for many reasons. John Hughes was one of them. He made some remarkable films, films that were subtle but still accessible, and were stamped with a sense of honesty (and the occasional flicker of absurdity) which reflected an intelligence and an actual sense of respect for the audience. There was no need to dumb it down, because he was just showing us life as it is lived. I’m glad I got to meet him and shake his hand, and tell him how much I enjoyed his work.

If there is a point to these recollections, I would not be the one to draw them for you, much less for myself. I’m just sad that he is gone, and I could not help but remember the night I got to meet John Hughes. It just happens that way.