Monthly Archives: July 2015

TV Eye mirrors society’s veiled misogyny through Bravo’s Real Housewives shows

In waxing philosophical and anthropological about one of my main mainliners–my addiction with Bravo’s Real Housewives of All Perdition shows– I take an Imax view into the darkness that the TV Eye reveals as it dispassionately prods beneath the frothy upper layers of my beloved shows. Here’s what I see.

The part about misogyny is something that is always bubbling just a tad beneath surface level for me. But that, in a grander scheme that we know to be far greater than the strange microcosm of the Real Housewives shows, is made all the more tangible by the invasive gaze of the TV Eye trained on these women. TV Eye. I’m going to blatantly use the Iggy Pop song that brought a merciless end to the sixties with its raging roar, to refer to the camera. I credit the brilliantly reckless and timeless Iggy Pop with putting an end to the “Love” decade with the beginning of that song’s defiant roar.

I’ve found myself using the words TV Eye in a few of my posts this week because I can hear the roar that heralds a wake up call. Here’s what I see when I use those two words in my own words from an article about the end of an era and the beginning of another:

“I wasn’t there but wish I could have been–without cowering under the table of music history.. Have you seen the footage, grey and grainy, on YouTube? Iggy Pop and The Stooges at some hippie dippy festival in–was it 1969? There he is, in all his sinewy shirtless glory, with his garage band scowling at a dumbstruck audience that still clung to the wilted, post-Altamont, trampled hope of peace, flower power and all you need is love, love, love. The hippies looked scared, but above all, their doom was heralded by the unleashed whirring raw power of the first chords in “I Wanna be Your Dog”, then sealed with the deeper, primal roar of “LOOOOOVE” that started the jittery roller coaster ride of “TV Eye.

“Love”—that catch word that they so embraced, was brutally hurled at them as a rhetorical defiant question, or insult. A reminder of their utopian bubble being burst by the merciless new Proto-Punk sounds raging from the amps. Poor hippies were clearly under siege by this nihilistic new reality bulldozing their dream, condemning it to the realm of all short lived and unfulfilled promises that time would not allow a generation to keep. And so came the love decade to its screeching end.”

There’s more, but you get the jest. I adore music and have been–and above all, still am (ridiculously enough) a two-bit music writer while I’m doing stranger things I never could have imagined. Still, I think in music, if you will. Dunno if it’s a crazy and convoluted way to say that Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes are all around us and altering what we know as the sum of our experiences as never before. Are we ready for this next paradigm shift? It’s here with or without us.

I happen to think that Iggy is a genius and although he first scared me (as even Bowie did), I recognized the raw power of genius and someone that is credited– with Bowie–to have steam rolled another era in music–or in Bowie’s case, “to have forced the world into my scheme of things.”

I think the TV Eye is now part of our altered shared experience. I think Warhol’s 15 minutes have changed television. I think reality shows can’t help but pick up what’s already there and shine its blinding mirror glare back at us so we have no choice but to see it. I think no one remains the same while that TV Eye is silently trained on this new Su-Reality. And it coldly mirrors a society that has always devalued us in it. Only now, we have to rubber neck at the train wreck that we’ve been helpless to prevent.

Please read me with a Bill Murray inflection, because that’s how I truly sound in my head and try to picture the defiance and insurmountable perseverance of Joan Rivers so it sounds funny while it screams.

Why are we surprised? About the world we live in and how it really sees us? Not just us as women, but men, too, as human beings with preassigned roles like well tailored straight jackets. Let’s go back to Bowie and how just visually he stuck his finger down his throat at it way back!

Anyway, I always say that my go-to hair fix for a bad hair day is a burqa…but, think about it. So what if it’s PI? I also say there’s no room for PC in comedy. I’ve learned to say what I want and I’ve had to say it louder–sometimes with a roar. Especially in that silly little boy’s club that music was and still is. I did resort to using just my initials for a first name–and while at it, threw in another for my MN–cause I didn’t have one–back in the day. Dunno if it was to gain that foot in the back door of music, or to watch the expressions when I entered for an interview. So Phuket!

Why are we shocked that it’s all darker than we expected? It’s been just as dark without the TV Eye. It’s just that now that thingie is making us uncomfortable by flaunting it. Everybody wants it to stop. But Reality TV is running rampant. And I like it, ’cause it’s making us remember things we want to forget. How strange that we’ve come here for escape or guilty pleasure–but bigger still, how wide awake now!

Confessions of a Writer and Avowed TV Addict on the Verge of

Let’s admit to the passage of time, begrudgingly, albeit truthfully while at times unbeknownst to us—because, let’s face it, as seniors (or those yet on the verge) a handful of you might have actually been at Woodstock or places where the love and smoke might have fogged the memories a bit more than just the dreaded menopause alone, so what more can be said or recollected? Yours truly, was too young to have been there, but I’ve lived long enough on the planet to have heard stories.

I’m inclined to cop to having lived long enough to mourn the absence from my TV screen of the dearly missed—but never forgotten! (despite the memory-erasing effects of estrogen dominance, as I type this)—Patsy and Edina from my TV screen. How am I to face the world of what troubled these ne’er do wells, ne’er grow-up, laughably-hip, coked-out, Stollied-out, Not-Ready-For-Desilu-Production heroines of mine without them? The brilliant originator and writer of Absolutely Fabulous, creator of these two floozies we loved to laugh at, Jennifer Saunders, tackled this dreaded encroachment of time onto our senses that universally unites us chicks as we stumble about on the planet—at the end of the day—in one of Patsy’s and Eddie’s more memorable and hysterical episodes titled, “Menopause.” As you can imagine, our heroines went fiercely kicking and screaming all the way into that night.

I drown my sorrow not in a bottle nor with a toke—because I’m frankly just a social drinker that can get deathly pukey and spew out overly sentimental recollections of Bowie and can further assure you that my two pale attempts at smoking hashish (more the rage in my native environs) made me paranoid and timid–the latter, remaining a character trait that some of my past editors wished had actually stuck.

What possible perks may be found in teetering on the verge of seniority—a fate that is dreaded and refuted most, perhaps, in our Real Housewives of All Delusions And Perdition Shows as evidenced on Bravo TV? Well, unlike some of you, it seems safe to conclude that none of these chicks were actually at Woodstock. Also, most of you might have self-awareness enough to resist succumbing to the needle and scalpel only to come out at the other end of the ether looking like a duck billed platipus with cat eyes and a perpetually fixed Joker grin.

Yes, Kit Kats, even my recollections of something as complexly mysterious and achingly poignant as time and its inevitable passing—the stuff that consumes some of my more laudable heroes like Steven Hawking and Michio Kaku—brings me back to my addiction with TV shows and faded memories of glam concerts washed up on a shore where all things ephemeral inevitably end up—much like bottles with faded, unread letters in them.

A Bridge Between Beach Boys’ Great Brian Wilson and Noah Lennox, aka, Panda Bear

I came of age listening to Bowie, the Velvet Underground, T. Rex, Iggy and The Stooges and The New York Dolls. Easy to predict that I would go on to loiter about in art school with my ears finely tuned to what was then referred to as underground music, so predictably enough, very little that was “commercial” seemed to register on my radar. It all sounded like “the shrieking of nothing” as Bowie so aptly and tauntingly sang in “Ashes to Ashes.” The Beatles, as you can imagine, were everywhere else but on my turntable—and, sadly, so was one of my now favorites: Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. It took a lot longer to find him amongst what I had so erroneously dismissed as commercial, though beautifully harmonious, beach drivel. “Fun, Fun, Fun” and “Barbara Ann”, I thought, were annoying or—get this!—dismissible. They are commercial, but they clearly were not what they seemed.

On a ski trip to New York’s Bear Mountain, with all the conjurable images of pristine snow blanketing the world as we ascended, my friend John was playing a Beach Boys compilation when “The Warmth Of The Sun” finally hit me. I told him—not in so many words—to pull the car over! It was momentous! I wanted to slap myself for having been so obtuse as I was reduced to tears for never had I heard such achingly beautiful longing in modern music before. Did it take having to hear the greatness of Brian Wilson literally and geographically out of context? Yes, at least that’s what needed to happen for me. I had to hear it in winter, going up a mountain surrounded by snow with no beach in sight, to shake off all my ill informed and vastly erroneous prejudiced.

Needless to say, from that moment on, I had to rewind back in time to listen to the Beach Boys with a new awareness. I proceeded to go on and become a voice in the wilderness, touting the genius of Brian Wilson as greater than the Beatles’. My argument persists beyond this facile conclusion: is it fair to pit three geniuses against one? Beyond that, stands the fact that Brian’s music is simply symphonic. Furthering this incontestable side of the argument, is the heartbreaking realization that Brian Wilson had to go against his own band, who weighted him down like dead albatrosses when it came to backing him into the unmapped urgency of his artistic expression, while equally running up against the suffocating confines of an ominously and commercially driven stage father. Reminds me of a modern day Mozart tragedy waiting to happen. And it did. As we all might well know, Brian Wilson’s brilliant foray of coercing music into yet unexplored places, came to a screeching halt following a series of nervous breakdowns. That’s where all the longing in and out of music for this genius began and never ends. As an aside—don’t get me started with telling you how I feel about the Beach Boys going on about business as usual without Brian, as this little ditty will then devolve into pulp fiction—falling ever so short of invoking haplessly competent goons .

Today, nearly fifty years later, the story brings us to another musician. His name is Noah Lennox whose solo side project apart from Animal Collective, is known as Panda Bear. Aside from finding his music fiercely innovative and capable to transform the universe within and around me—not an easy feat—I also find him reminiscent of the great Brian Wilson. Often, we are left to wonder what music might have sounded like if Brian Wilson was not forced to exit it so long ago. Upon hearing Noah Lennox, aka Panda Bear, the thought invites further pondering. What may be the similarity between such greatness? Speculatively, it could be just the angelic voice. Yet upon closer listen, a certain strange element becomes not only more discernible but, thankfully, almost inescapable. That’s when you may realize the same achingly beautiful longing that is not only a trademark, but a bridge between time connecting both artists.

Bowie Pulls a Salinger, aka, Disappearing Act Under Our Very Eyes

Planet Earth is bluer— these days— and there’s nothing I can do, with Bowie nowhere to be seen. How did this all happen? Following his onstage heart attack during his 2004 Reality Tour in Germany, the Thin White Duke has made but a scant, highly select handful of appearances. A solid decade later, a whole wide world is realizing, in an inconsolably sobering way, that he’s pulled a J.D. Salinger. I ask myself, why does this keep happening with my truest of heroes?

Didn’t Bowie appear on a collective radar with “Space Oddity? And didn’t Salinger register most—particularly amongst the bookburners—with the iconic Catcher In The Rye? Sadly, didn’t the protagonist of either inescapably embraced phenomenon distinctly forewarn of this tendency—to pull their own plugs on society— within their own storyline? I’ve had to often explain that astronaut Major Tom chooses not to come back to Earth. What in the world does that mean? Well, it means, specifically, that he’s chosen to spin off into oblivion in his tin can. And whatever else could that mean but suicide amongst the stars? The unsettling image also conjures scenes of the film, My Life As A Dog, as its 12 year old protagonist admits that his life may be rough, but not nearly as horrible as the Russian cosmonaut dog, Laika, who was sent spinning into space without a return clause.

Alas, Holden Caufield, similarly and distinctly, describes wanting to go and live in a cabin in the woods. And so, his creator, did just that. For decades, I recall journalists’ plaintive cries that decreed landing a Salinger interview would be as newsworthy as establishing the existence of life on Mars. A Salinger interview was, arguably, the most sought-after coup on the planet, yet nobody was able to pull it off. There was the expose’ by Joyce Maynard, a young writer that admits to having shared his cabin in the woods in Cornish, New Hampshire, but I won’t go into the incendiary controversy that ensued, nor the chastising and blackballing that was unleashed upon her by the literary community as it struck out with vehemence in deference of Salinger’s reclusive integrity.

Both Bowie and Salinger, strangely, might have wanted to metaphorically go to Lhasa, so to speak. Stranger yet, there is anecdotal evidence that may hint that this hyperbole might not have been strictly metaphorical as these controversial and profoundly influential artists shared a definitive quest for Buddhist tenets inclusive of daily rituals of the most esoteric transcendental arts . That too, I sadly shared-in without fulfillment, ad infinitum. Last year, Bowie did produce an album that I’ve yet to fully explore. Don’t ask me why, for the answer may be as devastating as finding out, as a ten year old, that Tibet was under Chinese occupation and nobody could either get in nor out of it.

As Bowie remained a no-show at February’s Brit Awards, while Kate Moss claimed the coveted doohickey for Best British Male (artist) 2014 on his behalf, there has been rash and persistent speculation about the frailty of his body and mind. As for myself, the thought conjures what some of us can only speculate as being proof that Iman is keeping him in a dungeon—preferably a sex one—while sending her Ubermodel friend to the event on their behalf.

There continues to be a flurry of shrill speculation stirred by several photos that emerged wherein either the caption read something to the tune of: “Rare sighting of a frail Bowie in NYC shuffling about disoriented with lunch bag” or another such: “Unidentified woman seen with reclusive Bowie near his NYC residence”. I’m not going to play the game of outguessing anybody about the state of his hypothetical Alzheimer, possible strokes, nor the presumed maleficent intent in his looming absence. All I know is that I may be one of the few left who can laugh at the caption beneath the photo of the unidentified woman. So, I’ll ask in defiant jest, am I the only one who can identify Coco Schwab—his long time assistant and confidant—in and outside of a police lineup, if need be? Time wears bafflingly strange on us all, but I, more so, should have seen hints of this heart-wrenching disappearance as part of a plausible escape clause, laid out a long, long time ago.

I Wanna Be Your Stooge: Iggy Pop Brought a Merciless End to the Sixties

I wasn’t there but wish I could have been—without cowering under the table of music history. Have you seen the footage, grey and grainy, on YouTube? Iggy Pop and The Stooges at some hippie dippy festival in—was it 1969? There he is, in all his sinewy shirtless glory, with his garage band scowling at a dumbstruck audience that still clung to the wilted, post-Altamont, trampled hope of peace, flower power and all you need is love, love, love. The hippies looked scared, but above all, their doom was heralded by the unleashed whirring, raw power of the first chords in “I Wanna be Your Dog”, then sealed with the deeper, primal roar of “LOOOOOVE” that started the jarring roller coaster ride of “TV Eye”.

“Love”—that catch word that they so embraced, was brutally hurled at them as a rhetorical defiant question, or insult. A reminder of their utopian bubble being burst by the merciless new Proto-Punk sounds raging from the amps. Poor hippies were clearly under siege by this nihilistic new reality bulldozing their dream, condemning it to the realm of all short lived and unfulfilled promises that time would not allow a generation to keep. And so came the love decade to its screeching end.

Decades into this new reality, with the world in and outside of music forever changed by such moments, just a couple of weeks ago, I played my favorite version of “TV Eye” for a friend who, while having an impeccable ear for music, had never heard it. Had she not ever seen Iggy as well? Negative to either. As I turned up the volume to a 2007 live performance of a still perennially shirtless Iggy reunited with his original Stooges, the video was aptly captured by a handheld, jittery phone camera in Brazil, complete with idle nervous chatter before the powerful roar that caused the recorders and my friend to scream and laugh as if on a steep plunge of a roller coaster.

Although I abstained from punk music as it crashed and burned itself out in just a few frenzied years in the late seventies, what remained was Iggy, still standing in the ashes of what could not have been without him. And yet, he emerged much more universally raw and strangely relatable than the McLaren/Westwood manufactured punks after their demise. Didn’t Malcolm McLaren and Vivianne Westwood sort of conspire to inspire a more virulent strain of Monkees? Didn’t McLaren take what was happening in New York—more precisely with the Ramones in the underbelly of CBGB’s—rewire it and import it back into the US as the snotty nosed Sex Pistols? None could have been without Iggy. As I was more a fan of Ziggy—and all of Bowie’s more demanding incarnations to follow, I was on board with Iggy—without giving a fig about the punks on their aggressive, snarling, whirlwind crash-tour. History proves that, arguably, I didn’t miss much, because after putting an end to the hippies and after the self mutilation of the punks, thankfully, there was and will continue to be the irreverently brilliant and timeless Iggy Pop.

A Rather Low World: Fallout from Bowie’s Low Album Continues to Impact Today’s Music

If you scored a copy of David Bowie’s Low back on its original release in early January 1977 and chose to hear it in its entirety, you need to be congratulated for partaking in an unapologetic feat of both grandeur and audacity because you got to experience then a future that is happening now in music. One that could have easily alienated you into a serious fear of music for the rest of your days. Or, you could have been a hapless geek, like yours truly, that gleefully sustained all the intentional weeding-out of ill-fitting fans that followed each of Bowie’s post-Ziggy releases. Bring it on! was my motto and Bowie did.

I am and have been an avowed Bowie nerd. These days, when I look back onto the nearly four decades that have passed so swiftly without my consent, I can see a landscape of forever changed music that lays waste in Low’s wake. Looking back, I can clearly hear the rumblings in that first startled listen of all the exultantly electronically driven beats of Skillex’s truimphant techno. I can watch Panda Bear’s (aka Noah Lennox) flawless rendition of “You Can Count On Me” live at the Electric Ballroom in London, circa 2011 on Youtube— or anywhere else in the more imminent present—-take me back to the night where Bowie first imposed the sparse yet mesmerizingly alien, new sound of synthesizers onto a mass audience at Madison Square Garden during his Stage tour, also dubbed the “Low” tour, of 1978. I can tell you, unequivocally, that it was a moment in music history and being there was its own reward.

This purely otherworldly masterpiece, with its still unapologetically avant guard sound, pushed all existent standards in music into the unknown—into a future. From its hauntingly instrumental, sparse, classical B side, to its fragmented yet more relatable intro, Low was released to critically mixed reviews and to the dismay of RCA, that considered it the final nail in the coffin, fearing it to be a suicidal move by its reckless maker, particularly as it related to their bottom line. Was it any wonder that it proved to be the hardest album to buy back then? I had to walk two miles in the snows of NYC as a hapless teen. Record stores were returning it in droves—only to fuel RCA’s paranoia.

Bowie, however, was steadfast, not giving a damn, reassuring me that all these factors combined, heralded the mark of genius. And he was right. Suffice it to say, RCA was wrong, not in the fact that the world wasn’t ready, but in their premature prediction that Low was the final nail in the coffin—because Bowie went on to crank out two more albums much like it, known as the “Berlin Trilogy”, that would further change all landscapes in music. Never underestimate a genius driven by no other motive than that of discovering where his art fits into the grandest and most expansive scheme of things.