Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Live Experience of a Show

One thing I've never understood is the need to document every aspect of our lives for posterity.  This becomes especially difficult if you attend a show. 

What I love most about going to a show is the freedom to turn off from our every day lives and experience something real and in the moment.  However, without fail, there is always someone insists on recording the entire experience.  Now, I can accept that they want to record it for themselves, but they continually insist that somehow their act of preservation through filming supersedes my action of first hand experience.

At the Pietasters show I attended on Friday night, there was a woman right in front, who insisted on moving up and down the front row to film the show at the oddest angles. At one point, she was trying to film inside of a saxophone with a camera phone.  While I've never witnessed a show from the perspective of the saxophone, I'm fairly certain that it is an experience that no one needs, since the video would not be capturing anything of interest and the sound is almost certainly all saxophone, as it will drown out the remainder of the music.

It actually became so bad, the poor woman was oblivious to the crowd swelling behind her and pushing forward to scream into Steve Jackson's microphone, which managed to push her to the ground and cause her to lose her glasses.  She did find her glasses and she certainly broke no bones, but she was so focused in her act of cultural preservation, she let her self-preservation go. 

I think this speaks louder to our general need to record everything, destroying the concept of shared memory and human experience, because the machine recording becomes the maker of the actual record, even though I've watched videos from shows I've attended and the sound is completely different once you watch it filtered through a phone and loaded to the internet.  I think these actions destroy part of our human experience and we end up choosing to believe our machines over our memories.

As for the Pietasters, they were excellent as always, providing a high-energy show packed with their classics and a strong selection of their newer songs, which are far better than the average ska band from the 1990s recording new material.  If they are playing in your area, I would strongly recommend going to see them, though I do ask that you try to enjoy the experience live, while you are there, rather than distill it for future generations.  

Saturday, March 18, 2017

T2 Trainspotting, Who Is It For?

The upside of working in  New York City is that you get certain cultural opportunities that other people miss out on.  It is priced into your area rent, so you should make the most of it while you can.  While most people would think this would be the fine arts, such as museums and musicals, this extends to additional access to films and concerts that you would not consider fine arts, but are still a cultural opportunity.

Last night, after attending an early Pietasters show at Webster Hall, I was only three blocks away from the Regal Cinema in Union Square showing T2 Trainspotting.  After waiting for two release dates to come and go, I was determined to see the movie as soon as possible.  My original assumption was that I would see it in New Jersey, but it was playing at exactly zero theaters in the state  So, with that out of the way, I sucked it up and paid $16.35 to see the movie.

Assuming there were only ten or so minutes of previews, I hustled my way up two sets of escalators, determined not to be late.  Of course, there were more than twenty minutes of previews, so I was in fact early, despite my horrified belief that I was late and was missing the opening of the film, something I've only done once, during the third time I saw Chasing Amy in a theater back in 1997 at a $2.50 movie house in South Jersey.

That being said, I was still excited, as was most of the audience, because Trainspotting is a cultural touchstone for many people, including those who didn't fill their veins with heroin, but found the movie intoxicating nonetheless.  The sequel is loosely based on Porno, Irvine Welsh's follow up to the same characters from the Trainspotting world, cutting the plot down significantly to focus on a limited number of events and characters.

As to the film, it was truly filmed for people who loved the original movie.  It was full of callbacks for people that the loved the original, small and large.  The movie doesn't struggle despite being slavish about remixing every beat from the original, changed to reflect what 20 years added would feel like.  The cinematography was outstanding, mixing a variety of styles and film types to depict different eras and thoughts.  The story, stripped down, was very much a going home story.

Going home stories always remind us that the world moves forward, despite our constant yearning to go back to simpler times or times when our futures were before us instead of slowly moving into the rear view mirror, as we ask ourselves where did we go wrong.  And the movie brilliantly spells this out in the Choose Life speech, which looks at our decisions and our world 20 years later, giving us pause to examine our failures.  The story also has a slant about neoliberalism and the people left behind, which I find rare in art at the moment, but will likely blow up in the next ten years as the pool of people left behind by society's breakneck pace will no longer just be people who work with their hands, but also those who work with their minds.

That being said, if you saw the original, you should see the sequel, but seeing the movie without the original would make large parts make no sense, since the context of the sequel is solely the original movie, so the movie is for people, who love Trainspotting, but at the same time saw their lives not move forward as expected, but move slowly behind, as their lives are slowly bleeding out of them, with no way to cauterize their slow, impending death. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

New Form of Hell

Hell can be many things to many people.  We all have our fears and our pain, but I recently learned that all my years laughing at back pain has come back, as if it was capable of vengeance.

I'm certain I slipped a disc at the base of my spine.  It hurt with an intensity I was unprepared for.  Simple tasks, like getting in and out of a car or putting on socks became physical and spiritual challenges, as the pain settled not only in my lower spine, but in my right leg.  I could tell you that for the first 38 years of my life, my right leg was about one quarter inch shorter than my left leg, but with each step, the jabbing pain reminded me how large that difference was.  But I went to the doctor, took some ibuprofen, stretched my spine and kept walking and moving, which for the most part led to decent healing and a return to full life activities.  My back made a small clicking sound, or more correctly, the sensation of a clicking sound that I couldn't hear, but could easily feel.  But it felt like everything moved back into place and I was set to build some core strength and make sure nothing happened like that again.

Of course, as the snow and ice storm descended on New York City, the possibilities of re-injury were high, but I carefully navigated the poorly dug out cliffs and icy patches which dominated my commute and made it to work safe and sound.  Unfortunately, I needed lunch.

So, full of confidence, I walked to La Esquina, with safe cutouts and only a slightly slippery path.  Picking up some delicious lamb, I began walking back to the office, nary a care in the world, other than the safety of the lamb torta in my left hand.  At this point, it all went bad.

Just walking along, minding my own business, it happened  A woman weighing about 120 pounds was running on the ice and snow, losing control of her limbs, sending her careening into me.  Not just anywhere, like above or below where my spine hurt, but a dead center hit, like Luke blowing up the Death Star.  She went to the ground like a ton of bricks, but I still stood...which was good, because there was no way on Earth I was standing up again if I went down. 

Shooting pain went through my spine as I lamented that I was safely walking to lunch when a lunatic running in Creepers on the ice launched into me.  Seriously, what kind of monster still wears Creepers, let alone on a wintery day, since we all know Creepers have some incredibly slick soles, which offer no grip on sidewalks alternating between wet and icy.  And who still wears Creepers.  I mean, that's a very specific shoe statement.

Being gentlemanly, I ask if she is OK.  She was perfectly fine, because as a trained skater, she knows how to fall by making herself into a ball.  In fact, she bounded up and sprinted along as if she was capable of maintaining safe speed and upright stature in the weather and didn't go sprawling seconds beforehand.  She also lacked the compassion to say sorry or ask if she injured me while trying to plow me over.  But I expect no less in New York City life.

So, once again, I am reduced to standing in stages, the first wear you insist your body will work as designed, until you spine locks and the stage where you use your arms to convince your body that everything will be OK as you slowly lock your spine once again.  So, I sit here, as gingerly as possible, wondering how long will it take to fix my back this which the answer is never.