Tag Archives: Art

Phil Anselmo

There has been a lot of comment about the actions of this singer in the past few days.  He made a Nazi salute and mouthed the words “white power” while exiting the stage at a recent concert held in memorial for Darrel Abbot.  For those of you who were not aware, Phil Anselmo is the singer of the 90’s metal band Pantera.  He then got addicted to H and pain pills due to a back injury that resulted in Pantera splitting up just before their guitar player, Abbot, was gunned down on stage.  There are many reports that the shooter blamed Abbot for the band’s break up and took Phil’s side, not that any of that matters because he obviously had a lot of problems.  As much as I loved Phil in Pantera, his post addiction self was beyond interesting and inspiring.  He manned up to his mistakes, got sober, and quietly toured college campuses to talk about what he learned about substance abuse and addiction.  Phil had recently been honored by the president for his contribution to the arts.

And this he did what he did.  There have been rumors for years that Phil was a racist.  He has worn shirts that have had symbols that represented white supremacy.  He has tackled race in his music from a very meritocracy point of view which was frequently galvanizing.  He also wrote some of the best lyrics ever talking about racial harmony and brotherhood among races.  It is hard for me to look at the many things that this person has done and think that he is a racist.  There is plenty of evidence out there to support my belief, but there is also plenty of evidence out there to support that he is a racist.  I would go so far as to say that most of the people reading this will never really know.  I say that about almost all celebrity or media coverage of things.  We don’t know nearly as much as we think that we do.  It is not my place to judge someone, though if what he did offends you to the point that never want to look past what he did, then it is your right to feel that way. There are a lot of things we can interpret, but he did what he did.

The first thing I am going to say is that I have been a fan of this man’s art for a long time and because of this, I admit that I have a very biased point of view.  I look at the lyrics to his music and I have a hard time believing that he is hateful of any group of people.  I honestly don’t believe that he intended for the crowd to see him doing what he ultimately got caught doing, as the gesture was recorded as he was walking backstage.  I can believe that he was gesturing towards a friend and not intended to publicly support any hate group or ideology.  I also don’t know if that is good enough.  I won’t pretend to know what a celebrity believes or is thinking from one moment to the next.  I have the same belief when it comes many of the legal allegations that the media makes way too public and often skews public perception, but Phil isn’t being accused of anything here, it is merely a report of a stupid thing that he did and has to be viewed as that.  Maybe part of the reason that people are defending him is because he knows that he is an addict and that he goes to far when on any drug to include alcohol.  I’m not saying that to defend the action, but to say that I know this event was a heavy trigger for him.  I’m sure that it offended plenty of people and helped to reinforce a racist perception surrounding hard rock and metal music that covers the people listening to it.  If you listen to Pantera publicly now, people might assume that you are a racist or that you are trying to convey hate by your musical choice, even if the lyrical content are saying the exact opposite.  That is the kind of burden that has always been a part of the metal community that we have been dealing with for a long time that will be worse now.

Part of me wants to say that this is all being taken out of context.  There are plenty of examples that Phil’s friends, family, and fans have posted online recently in his defense.  How after he got over drug addiction that he quietly toured college campuses and tried to get the word out about drugs and addiction and their glorification in media.  How he would bring disabled people on stage at his shows or the things he would donate to his community that is largely an African American community in New Orleans.  The question that a lot of people are asking now is if it were someone else that had made the gesture, would anyone be defending it.  I think that there is a weird answer to that in that because Anselmo has always asked for a meritocratic approach to race and people and that he was one of the only members of Pantera that was trying to disassociate the band from the rebel flag.  On the other hand, this isn’t the first time that Phil has been accused of being a racist or a white supremacist.  In the past, it was easy for me to dismiss this as him talking openly about race rattled a bunch of feathers and made him a target.

Part of me wants to change this discussion to racism as a general concept and context.  The context here is that you have a 50 something year old man that is at a memorial for a friend of his that he grew up with.  The people that he was with all had known the friend that had died, and I can only imagine that being around these people is similar as when I congregate with some of my old Army buddies.  We all love each other, but whenever we are together, all we can think about are the friends that are no longer with us.  It is like being caked in depression and there is a lot of drinking.  There is a tension there that longs for release.  I know that we tell a lot of “inappropriate” jokes among each other, some racial, but mostly not.  I am a big fan of the taboo and honestly do believe when it comes to jokes that involve race are some of the most healthy because they acknowledge difference in a society that seems to take these things too seriously.  I know that some of those jokes can go very wrong and especially when you have been drinking and are in front of a large group of people, this can make a person appear a certain way.  I also don’t see the joke about Nazi’s or white supremacy, though the one Dave Chapel told about the blind Africa American joining the KKK was hysterical.  The reality might be that Phil really is a racist and how we come to term with our heroes being less than we hoped them to be shouldn’t change their ideals.

Celebrities and artists are almost all hypocrites.  The Cosby Show was still a great show and still great for what it had to say about race relations, even if Bill is a rapist.  The show still holds up the way that it always has.  The lyrics and outward message that Phil wrote about isn’t any less poignant because he failed to live up to them.  In fact, there are a lot of great people that had sides to them that we often overlook because it tarnishes the image that we have of them.  Gandhi was a white supremacist.  I know that might be a little weird to think about considering that he was from India, who are kind of brown, but the term Caucasian comes from the Caucus of Asia which is kind of where India is.  Same is true of Persians.  Martin Luther King had a lot of misogynist beliefs and was a known womanizer.  Jefferson talked about freedom and owned slaves.  I think as people we sometimes have to look at the ideas and thoughts of these men and possibly take their work and their art away from who they were as people, because if we were so cautious to pick through history to only listen to the men that don’t have a few skeletons hiding in the closet, there are a lot of great thoughts and thinkers that would need to be discarded and we would be a lot worse off as a species.

Update: I finally got around to listening to the Rob Flynn recording.  I didn’t want to give it a view at first, because if there is one thing worse than what Phil did, it is bands that are not very good or popular trying to get publicity for these situations.  I tend to think Rob says a lot of things to try to get attention and don’t have much respect for him.  After watching the video, it first came off to me as someone with a personal grudge.  He goes out of his way to point out there was no wine, when Dime’s widow stood up for Phil and said that there was and that she believes, like I had, that Rob posted his video as a response to an unrelated argument they had earlier in the day.  The one thing that stood out to me in the video was that Rob claims that Phil had and has always said “white power” in the line from New Level.  I called his bullshit and googled live recordings of the song.  The ones that are more professional don’t have it, but when you get to the fan recordings that Phil didn’t think he was being recorded on, they are definitely there and so are the Nazi salutes.  It changed the whole way I view that and him.  I still stand by his songs being powerful, meaningful, and even forward thinking on race, but not sure if knowing that in his mind he is singing about Nazis changes those songs for me like knowing that Mathew Broderick killed a guy right about the time that he shot Ferris Bueller’s Day Off changes that film.  You read into them differently.

With all that being said, much like how there were a lot more people that contributed to that movie, there have been a lot of different artists that are part of the songs that he has made, and ultimately they do stand up, I just have to think about what I’m supporting.  I saw Pantera back in 2000 and didn’t catch any of that racial stuff, probably because I was too busy in the pit.  I’ve seen Down and Superjoint several times each and love those bands.  I heard Phil talking about asking those bands to go forward without him and just feel in a weird place about giving this man my money knowing that he not only is part of the band but that he releases those records.  He owns them and gets an owner’s cut.  There is a part of me that is ok if someone has a private opinion or feeling that is racist.  We all are a bit racist whether we think we are or not, but to blatantly try and signal and recruit skinheads during your shows is overt racism and it makes me ashamed to have supported it.  I don’t want to feel like a hypocrite but at the same time, I’m not sure if Phil and Down can ever go back to business as usual and the last thing I want to hear is some lame apology track or to try and speak with any kind of authority on racism like he has in the past.

I’m rather selfish as a fan.  Down used to be a Super group that made an album once in a blue moon and it was amazing.  Then they started being the main band for all those guys and Kirk left because he didn’t have time to do Down and Crowbar.  He has called on for Down to get a new singer and go on without him, but at this point, the only “super” part of the band is Pepper and Bower.  Down should be something that he earns after a lot of time off. In a lot of ways I want to hear more from the Illegals, the small band that almost no one likes that tours the really small clubs, because I actually did the music but it allows Phil to talk about his own struggles.  The first album was mostly about his injury and how that affects him and his motivation from day to day.  As someone that has a debilitating injury and knowing that struggle every day when you get up, I Love that record.  What I really want to hear is some really struggling personal recovery about his feelings on race.  I don’t want to hear about how he isn’t racist, but about why he is now.  After a career of him talking about hypocrisy I really want him to own this.

The Fall of the Anti-hero

After doing some reading to expand my previous article, I am remembering an article I read a while ago about how all television shows are becoming the same and generally fall into very specific categories for each generation and become the plight of that generation.  when I think about what we have to say about ourselves, it is that we don’t really want to grow up and we all think that we are all doing it wrong.  We, as a culture, feel so abandoned by the system, society, the media, and all the bigger forces in our lives, that we have lost faith in ourselves.  The anti hero didn’t used to fail.  The Man With No Name didn’t get his come upons at the end of the movie because that is how it is supposed to end.  We are the generation that can’t be told anything, has to figure it out the hard way, and we are just waiting for the other shoe to drop and end it all.

I just read about read the finale review for SOA, and the idealistic outlaw finally got put down for following his heart, but on his own terms.  Is there a more nihilistic concept than that?  That you don’t get a say in what happens, and you might as well start working towards your own destruction.  Don Draper is doomed, Dexter can’t have a family, though probably should have died,Walter White was put down, but still went down in a fantasy.

It has equally been said that there is no place for women on modern television because they only serve to burst the bubble and substitute for the establishment, holding them back from man’s outlaw nature.

The one exception to this is Weeds, that shows a woman all but abandon her family over the course of the show so that she can get in ridiculously over her head with unhealthy relationships in the criminal underworld  The entire show could be one large warning to getting involved with partners that are bad for you and only going to seek out their own interests, much like is the case with her well meaning brother in law that is in love with her from the very beginning.  Much like the men in her life, we the audience are suckered in year after year with the promise that the show initially held, only to be tricked by the vixen.

I was listening to Bill Mahr talk in his ill researched documentary religulous about how we need to realize that we are going to be around on this earth for a long time in order to realize that we need to plan for the future.  He is convinced that religion has convinced all the rest of us that because of the looming apocalypse that we don’t really care about the wars or environment because GOD and stuff.  I am not sure that I share such a view, but one thing that I do believe is that we all see our own deaths and we all see a new world of consequence in this country that seems all but obsessed with punishment.  We all seem to becoming more focused on futility of the individual and therefore we don’t really care if there is a world for anyone else.  We don’t believe that we can achieve.

I like to think that I have overcome some of the most challenging circumstances that a person can overcome. I don’t say that to mock others or to try and one up anyone, so please avoid trying to tell me about this one time…, but to say that I am still here.  I have faced death, mental illness, child abuse, and a slew of other problems, and I am still here, and all that I can think back to is that I could have done more and that all of those things are really nothing more than excuses as to why I didn’t do more with my life.

Funny enough, and I promise in good faith that I actually had started writing this well before I got the news, but there is a chance that I might actually be writing a TV series in the near future.  I am getting ready to do a pilot for a company that is looking to show it to a bunch of online service subscription sites (Netflix, Yahoo, Hulu, Amazon, etc..) and while I never really gave thought to it, mostly because I thought that funding two hours of product was hard enough without trying to fund 12, I am not going to pass on my opportunity.  I think that if there is one idea that I want to get across, it is the one where my grandmother rides roller coasters.  I used to love them.  When I was a kid I would ride them all the time.  It was the only real reason that I would go to the parks.  I remember one summer my cousin came up and had me try a new ride.  She promised me that I would like it.  I wasn’t so sure so she told me that if I got sick or didn’t like it she would pay me 10 bucks.  From that moment on I was committed to making myself sick, because I wanted that money more than I wanted to be happy, and so I was.  As I got older, all rides started to make me sick.  I would think that it was just one more trick that your body pulled on you on your way to the grave.  But my grandmother, 91, loves them.  Sometimes life is a mindset.

Weeds

Weeds is one of those shows that has a special place in my heart, at least for the first three seasons.  They were almost perfect and then things started to change.  I didn’t even pay that close of attention at first, and I could find things that I like here and there, but then it just got to a place where I was watching more because I had been watching for some time and had invested a lot of time in these characters and I wanted to know how they all ended up only to feel more cheated by knowing than if I had assumed.  Like so many great shows that ended “too soon” that we remember for their amazing openings, this show took that and beat all the life out of it, replacing a stellar supporting cast with guest stars, celebrity appearances, and people that aren’t any good.  There are so many actors that I wish they had been able to bring back for the final season to really wrap things up, but the show wasn’t about the group of people.  It was about Nancy, and that, if for no other reason makes me hate her.  It is as if the entire point of the show was that you were supposed to fall in love with a girl that is bad for you and doesn’t really care about you.  She gets rid of all of your friends and then just up and leaves you, long after you cared anything about the relationship.  Sure, you can think back to when it was amazing, because beginnings always are, but in retrospect it is mostly just a shame.

Frontier(s)

This is one of those films that I have a love/hate relationship with.  I absolutely love the new wave of underground French Horror films.  I would argue that the wave actually started with the Spanish film Them (2001), though it really started to take shape with the grossly overrated Inside (2004).  By that time you start to see many of the new tropes start to take shape, with homages to the home invasion films of the 70’s and creating a genre around them with the kind of gristly anticipation of Rami’s original Evil Dead.  One of the kind of weird tropes has been that of a pregnant female protagonist.  This film is not original in any of the devices that it uses, but it is one of the more prominent and popular films to come out of this film movement, probably because it is a hodgepodge of so many other famous and better films, and often tries to say so much that any meaning often gets lost to the audience.  One of the biggest reasons for this has to be the frantic editing pace that seems to be taken from a bad Michael Bay rip off.

One of the first things to note is just how much this film looks up to and tries to be The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1973).  Unlike many other home invasion movies, this film is not about people breaking into the victims home, but more about trespassers in a strange world.  Unlike TCSM, or the much lesser House of Wax remake, these victims have been invited to the property under the guise of it being an inn so that they can be exploited.  To fully understand that this inn acts as a new state, as the victims are literally fleeing the city and the state, which has become a fascist police state that has come down hard on muslims/those of Middle Eastern decent.  While I do kind of shutter at that stereotype, the film is rarely if ever subtle and painting in the widest strokes imaginable.  The allusion here is to refugees that have been invited to a new host country only to be further exploited.  Since they are already refugees in France, the real message is that France, and as the obtuse Nazi references strongly imply, all of Europe has exploited immigrants.

The normal trope of chastity and sinful behavior causing death have a new place here, with the Muslim characters refusing vice at the hands of the Nazi inn keepers, as this now references to cultural assimilation and giving up more traditional values, though it is hardly only the inn keepers that are assimilating them, as the female protagonist is already pregnant.  Also interesting here is that the female is French and it is the traditional male that has succumbed.  I can only speculate that the reason for this has to do with avoiding controversy if the roles were reversed and a traditional Muslim girl were impregnated by a sympathetic French man.  This is an attempt to show that there is some solidarity with citizens against the state that resides with minorities, thought the film’s ending rather roughly contradicts this message.  The woman, after having killed all of the Nazi’s that have conversely killed all of the Arabs that she was running with, she then quite solemnly turns herself back into French authorities, maybe to protect the child that she was contemplating aborting at the beginning of the film.  To me this could only mean that at some level she is both accepting her place in the fascist regime, though I can appreciate the argument that because she is going to be in prison that she is actually sacrificing her own freedom in order to honor her friends that have fallen.

As with many of these types of films, there is a heavy emphasis on what one has to do to survive, and that violence is actually the lowest common denominator of what makes society and civilization tick.  Non violence, while preferable to violence, is always going to not withstand those that choose to enact violence on the nonviolent, and that as much as we may try to remove ourselves from that message, we always have to harden ourselves for the potential of defending ourselves.  She literally escapes death through a puddle of pig shit and blood, arising free yet changed from the experience.  Her turning herself in is in a way admitting to herself that even though she survived, that there are more out there like the Nazi family and that she is incapable of protecting herself and her child indefinitely, and that she does in fact need the state’s violence to protect her, though submitting to those terms is also submitting to their selection of suppressing the immigrants, to which her child has a heritage.

Ultimately the film suffers from being too literal and confused, much like the editing style that does keep the audience from emersion in the film, though with some many contradicting ideas and possible meanings, you can say that you will not have a hard time at least getting in the mindset the film wants you to get in, even if you can’t agree on a concussion.  Then again, that sounds very French to me.

The Anorexic

I really haven’t given much of an update in a while as to what I’m up to.  My most recent project is a documentary that I was hired to do regarding the state of Maryland’s taking the child of a family because the child had anorexia and had complications resulting from the disorder.  The child had already been in treatment, prior to the state’s involvement.  Going into this, I knew that there were a lot of questions that would need to be asked, especially regarding why the state felt like they needed to take the child away, which can become a rather hairy subject when the person paying the bills is the person who is going to be under a great amount of scrutiny, hypothetically paying me thousands of dollars to make a two hour inditement of him being a bad parent, and yet he was steadfast in the truth that the government is overstepping their bounds and that other parents should be aware of what is going on, though his politics are a bit right of my own (proud centrist) I can definitely appreciate a parent that is upset and lashing out.

His reasoning is to give more red tape to the government before they are able to separate children from their parents with his case hopefully being heard by the supreme court in Maryland.  After a few interviews and background discussion with educators and people in the medical field, they have very mixed opinions, as they believe it to be already too difficult with so many children being abused at home or being neglected.  Some of the points I will be exploring is the way in which once the state takes custody of a child, the state then appoints a lawyer to represent the child to the state, when that lawyer does not take into account the wishes of the child.  The state giving out bonuses for children to be taken away from their homes to social workers.  Why the state has their doctor give the prognosis of children in question, even in cases that go beyond that doctor’s scope of practice, and more so that when other medical professionals regard that prognosis, that there are no repercussions?

I have to say that it is still too early to give my opinion.  There are many questions I want answered on both sides and totally understand why many people are so suspicious of his claims, and see how some could see the parent as bringing this situation on himself, but look forward to talking with the other side’s legal team soon and look forward to sharing my conclusions.

Dexter

I’m often asked, I think it stems mostly from stupid college entrance exam questions, what fictional character most represents me.  My answer has always been Dexter, from the TV show Dexter.  This seems to scare people, and I kind of get that.  I mean the whole purpose of the show is that you have a likable character that is moving to the dark side, which is kind of the modern television story arch that has been seen on many other popular television shows like Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy.  The supposed tragic path of the fallen hero.  These shows are designed so that the audience basically roots for the bad guy in a kind of wish fulfillment, though at the end of the day we all know that they are going to have to pay the piper for all of the bad deeds they have done.  We all wish that we could kill the annoying people in our lives at some people.  I think this kind of story thread is most evident in the first season, when Dexter’s girlfriend’s ex husband shows up and makes things difficult for everyone.  I get why it would be just so much easier to kill him than deal with him.  There are people in my life that I wish would just go away, but that isn’t what I am talking about.  I haven’t killed or planned to kill any of the such people in my life in a serious way.  The reason I identify with Dexter to the extent in which I do, is that he doesn’t fit into society.

There are lots of other characters that don’t fit in society in literature and film.  Salinger was ripe with such characters and while I do love Salinger, and think that he is a far better writer in many ways than the show runners of Dexter, especially in the latter seasons, Dexter is unique is that he doesn’t really have any desire to be a part or to be separate from society.  Dexter is an amalgamation of personal impulses and personal rules to govern them.  Because he is so different from society, he has to fake so much of his life so that he doesn’t freak people out.  I, as mentioned previously, have Asperger.  I also was horribly abused as a child, and have had a rather rough life since then.  I don’t say any of this to complain.  It is the only life that I know, and I’m sure that there are people in the third world that would laugh at my struggles.  I have also had a pretty amazing life, but when I talk about the dark parts of myself, there has only ever been one person that has ever listened to what I had to say and related to it.  Most people are instantly revolted or shocked.  Some are sympathetic and want to be a shoulder for you to cry on, but most just look dumbfounded, as if this new information does not compute within the framework of their existence.

There has been a rather strong division in me to do what is morally right for people that I care nothing about.  It takes a lot for me to find value in a person.  I generally don’t like people.  There are individuals that I care immensely for, but you have to earn that in my book.  Unlike Dexter in the initial seasons, I do long for the kind of lifelong romantic connection that he has with Hannah in the latter seasons.  While there was much more about big bads and getting away with things in the early seasons, it was really his trying to find himself in the latter seasons that I found to be the most interesting.  Season 5, for its flaws, was the first time that he found someone that he could relate to, after the most he had really hoped to achieve for himself was to be able to propperly fake it with a family, mirroring the Trinity killer from Season 4.  While I don’t love season 6, I really did enjoy the religious angle and how Dexter could relate to such things, and wish that many of those themes had carried over into the final seasons.  I think one of my favorite moments of the series was Batista talking to Dexter about faith and God.  The last seasons seemed to be in too much of a hurry, cutting out those little moments of awkwardness that let you know just who Dexter was, and that he was never really going to be normal, so he had to focus on the things that he could be in control of.

QT

Quintin Tarantino.  He is the shadow that all American independent film makers live in.  I loved Pulp Fiction.  I love his love of films, but I have to say that I love him more as a talking head than I do as a film maker, and it has been more and more this way for a long time.  I don’t mean to disrespect him.  I want to love him, but the 90’s version of him, the prefame scripts, it is long gone.  True Romance, Natural Born Killers, PF, Reservioir Dogs, all original.  Now he wants to put “his” spin on popularish genre movies.  It is like after PF he has had huge performance anxiety.  Everyone was doing Pulp Fiction knock offs. Some were really good.  I don’t blame him that his next film was Jackie Brown, and way different than PF.  It was a cool, unique one off.  Then the long break.  He did a lot of live theater and found himself.  He did Kill Bill.  I didn’t hate it.  Either part, though I thought it could have been one film.  I let him go on plot holes, cause it is a movie movie.  Not what we were used to, but it was fun.  Also, not the best revenge movie ever made.  People Talk about it being the film version of the television show that Mia had been on from PF and it is interesting, but not great.  Then we get Inglorious Bastards.

I loved the opening scene.  One of the single best scenes ever in a movie.  The scene in the basement is very similarly good.  The rest of the film is crap.  You can’t mix camp and real violence.  It worked in his early work because these were not from the narrative, but character driven.  Hitmen talking about sex before a kill.  It seems real.  Stranger than fiction.  Having a 70’s style cartoon introduction kills credibility for everything interesting you might want to say.  Similarly, killing Hitler is silly.  It is like trying to wish away bad things in the world rather than address them. That is what art is, is addressing the world to people.  Sure, escapism is great.  I love it  If his genre was truly the WWII adventure film it set out to be, then go for it.  But make it ridiculous.  Making a film go back and forth, with a silly story of the girl and her black lover.  Who cares.  The race card is not edgy anymore.  I feel like I am being beaten over the head rather than entertained.

By the time we get to Django, I mean any credit we might give him for bringing up slavery as a topic just seems so outdone by the superior 12 Years a Slave.  It is a silly idea of a Western, with a couple of great scnes that should have been tightened up.  I can’t tell if I am supposed to take any of the violence or the situations seriously which is a weird world to set such a serious subject, unless he wants us to escape from the reality of it as well.

The one plus side I’ll give him is Death Proof, which had the one great car wreck scene.  I love the idea of giving the audience so much of what they want from build up that they regret ever wanting it.  I love to punish the audience.  You want a car crash, well not the one I’m going to show you.  Again, great ideas, but poor construction.  I really want him to go back and make some old school stuff. Something set in the really real world.  I’d love if he handled Natural Born Killers 2.  He now wants to do another Western.  Then maybe another coule of genre films before he retires.  He wants to retire before he tarnishes his brand, but the sad fact is that I fear he already has.  Now the stories are about him as celebrity.  With the script being leaked, the lawsuit, on again off again.  Great publicity.  I wish I was in that position, but it isn’t honest.  It isn’t the man on the street.  I know that he has paved the way for so many.  The indie circut would not exist without him  All the stories I hear about him are of him being very helpful to artists, and I love that.  I want to be that.  But what upsets me is that so much talent will not be discovered.  So many better films will not be seen because he is the system now.  He is there to tell you what to think as much as everyone else is.  He is safe.  As much as he says he doesn’t want to talk about violence in movies, he pushes the issue.  It is his Golden Goose.  I really wish he would do a Rom Com.  No violence, no cursing.  Just all working on form and composition and story.  Somethign about him as a person.  Something personal and vulnerable.  I want him to evolve and come around to the potential we all wanted him to have.