August, 2006

Obtacled People

Labour of love- Is that what they call it?  Things of this nature- labours of love.  I suppose that is what it turns into…easier to look back upon that way.  While you are in it, it seems like anything but.  For the most part, its a labour of pains, labour of frustration, labour of resilience…well, I won’t go on.  Bitching never got anything done.

And dont get me wrong- things are moving along.  But we have had some setbacks, and we are now looking at a release date for the EP sometime in November.  For right now, we are in a period of very necessary limbo, and the most important thing for me and everyone else close to the album is to be there for my close and wonderful friend.  The challenges of making this album are piddly compared to the obstacles he has overcome.  I’ll explain all that to you someday.

But it will get done, eventually…it will get done.  So I’ll leave that topic for now…

Why don’t we try something totally, or at least semi, off-topic?  I hate Top Ten Lists- they are every bit as inane as all of Letterman’s other jokes…but High Fidelity made top 5 lists kind of cool I think.

But ranking things is so stupid, so Here are 5 people, in no particular order- and they are non-musicians, as that list would be far too easy, not to mention long- who I’ve been quite inspired by for their commitment to what they did and what they believed in.  Ill just list them and give you a brief discourse on why I think they are cool:

Andy Kaufman – Andy Kaufman was one of those people that anyone who “got” him could just go about and call him “andy”, as if they knew him on a personal basis.  There is a beautiful childishness about him, that made him completely captivating to those he touched.  It got so, you just couldnt take your eyes of him, anticipating what might happen next, even if he was doing absolutely nothing.  In a business built on the safe approach, and reaking of banality, Andy was the unpredictable genius.

I like that he wasnt funny to everybody.  I like that he wasnt funny to me all the time.  There are many times that I didnt find what he did outright funny.  But he was completely and totally uncomprimising.  He made his life in the business of comedy, and approached it with a renaissance painter’s commitment to art.

Just watch the old clip of him and Jerry “King” Lawler feigning bloody battle on Letterman.  It’s quite a storyline that he engineered in high secrecy with his wrestling counterpart.  He knew how to take the whole world for a ride- and it didnt matter if anyone ever got the joke.  He always stuck with his comedic sensibilities- even if no one was laughing… so even if you weren’t laughing, you were inevitably left mesmerized.

Ed Wood- Here was a guy whose story can break your heart.  But at the same time, could also lift it.  He is unarguably the worst film director of all time.  Which of course makes him one of the best, evidenced by his massive cult following.  He had no basic sensibilities on how to properly make a movie, consisting of appropriate camera shots and a properly flowing plot.  Check out Glen or Glenda (my favorite), Bride of the Monster, or his magnum opus, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and you’ll see what I mean.
Poor Bela Lugosi died in the making of Plan 9, and Ed Wood thoughtfully replaced him in the movie with his own dentist, ensuring that the man cover his face with his own arm in the rest of the scenes of the film, so as to not give away the switch.

But his passion for film-making was largely unparalleled. There is a beautful scene in the Tim Burton movie about his life (played by Johnny Depp), where he meets his hero, Orson Welles.  In that scene you can see this unwavering faith in himself that is validated upon this chance meeting with his biggest inspiration.  It’s like at that moment, he realizes exactly who he is, who he was, and who he will always be- a film director! The faith is totally real- the belief is unshakeable.  And yet the talent was completely non-existent!  It’s quite moving- shows you even the most incapable of people can achieve their dreams if you want it badly enough.

Steve Nash- I just have to put this guy on this list.  Why do we not celebrate this guy more in Canada?  Why is he not a true National hero?  Why dont we care enough about what he has done?  He is a Lilliputian in a world of Gullivers, and he is recognized two years in a row to be the Most Valuable Player of the greatest basketball league in the world, consisting of the greatest basketball players in the world.  Skinny Canadian kid from British Columbia takes lone scholarship opportunity to 2nd Tier American College program, makes the NBA, and becomes the 2-time MVP of the league???!!!!  Are you kidding me???  I think it stands as the single greatest athletic achievement by any Canadian in history, OUTSIDE of HOCKEY, to date- more than Donovan Bailey, more than more than…well i dont know what else is there? More than any of those skiiers, or figure skaters, or curlers, or whatever else we do (no disrespect to those guys and gals).  Now I know Im probably really starting to sound like Bill Simmons but Steve Nash should have a Canadian city named after him.  I’d move there.

I just love how hard he worked to get to where he is.  And I love how balanced and intelligent his approach is to his sport, and more importantly to life.  A remarkable athlete, a remarkable Canadian, and a remarkable person.

(I could have almost as easily put another athlete on this list, Roger Federer, but Nash won out…barely…for now anyway.)

Voltaire – I think this guy was the first true modern celebrity.  He was a great thinker, writer, activist, etc., but most importantly, he really did it all with style.  He had that aura about him that people wouldnt see for another 200 years…not till Winston Churchill opened his mouth, I think.  It’s one thing to do what you do well.  But it’s another thing to share it with the world in a way that combines class, wit, and a free spirit.  It inspires people.  So, he’s my favorite of the many free thinkers and philosphers of the Enlightenment.

Vito Corleone – Ok, I know he is fictional.  But I just saw Parts 1 and 2 the other day (for the 20th time) and I was reminded of just how cool a character he is.  He is the man.  Whether being played by Brando (Part 1) or De Niro (Part 2), two of the absolute greatest screen actors of all time, he is the ultimate person in control.  He is decisive but not rash, deliberate but not slow, clear-minded but not lacking depth, and above all he knows who he is.  This is the part Michael Corleone wrestles with so much through his own development.  This is where Michael fails- and where his father succeeds.  Vito knows the reason he does everything, and he executes his decisions with precision and clarity.  He may not be a good person in many ways, but he is crystal clear on what his values are and where his loyalties lie.  He does not waver.

Michael, in contrast takes on too much.  To his credit, he experiences much more of the world.  He takes a roundabout path to get to his calling (education, serving in the army, before taking over the business) as well as starting a family (his first wife in Sicily is accidentally murdered).  Vito’s path is much simpler, but I think he makes it so.  There is a scene in Part II where Vito’s friend describes the beautiful girl on stage, and Vito says “She may be beautiful to you but all I see is my wife and son”.  He is crystal clear on where he stands and lets nothing interfere with that clarity.

Michael is presented with many challenges, more difficult than what his father had to deal with you could argue.  But I think that he brings many of them upon himself.  His definitions of family, business, and lines in the sand, are obscured and clouded.  He shows some of his weaknesses in the way he plays the Hyman Roth situation.  These prove to hurt him later.  He does not protect his brother, Fredo, the way he should have.  He should have kept him close and not out on his own in Vegas.  He also does not protect Frank Pentangeli, when he should have, I think. There is no doubt that he is equally decisive as Vito.  But he is vengeful in a way that Vito is not.  He is vengeful to a point where he partially comprises who he is or who he wants to be.  This leaves him lost at times (in Part II he asks his mother, “Is it possible to lose your family?”), and ultimately broken (this is revealed to us in a conversation he has with Kay in Part III).

But Vito is unshakeable.  He is a rock.  He mayb not be a good person in many ways.  But he knows exactly what is important to him, and on that he never comprimises.  Incidentally, I also like that he doesnt talk much.  It’s amazing to see the way both players (Brando and De Niro) express so much more with their faces (Brando when he sees Sonny’s body, and De Niro when Signor Roberto comes to beg forgiveness) than they would ever need to with words.  Anyway, I have no idea how I got this deep into Godfather analysis, it is surely time to end this ramble, but there you have it- Vito Corleone is the picture of cool.