Monday, December 7, 2009

Praying for Those Departed [January 25, 2007]

A few months back, while celebrating my own inability to suffer fools, it occured to me that he who’s proudest of such an incapacity is almost invariably the biggest fool of all. It's kept me underemployed through most of my adult life, dependent on the generosity of family and the kindness of strangers. In very large part because of my perennial lack of an income, I’ve suffered enough depression for half a dozen lifetimes. At one point in my life, of course, I thought the (self-) tortured syndrome was pretty chic and groovy. The last 25 years, though, as it’s grown ever more life-threatening, I’ve come to see the hopelessness and self-loathing at which I’ve always been so good as simply ugly and boring.

Now, as I approach 60, I’m desperate to be rid of them at last. As I write this, I’m going through one of my rare buoyant periods, during which I can not only recognise the wisdom of such advice as Try to see the glass as half full, but actually act on it. I need look no farther than the missus to know that I have been generously blessed. Even in my darkest moments I like to think that I will feel a duty to remain alive to praise the memory of those I have failed most egregiously. Every night I pray for my dad, my aunt and uncle, assuring them that their memory is a blessing to me. I like to imagine it would please them to know that they’re ovingly remembered. I like to imagine that, especially in the cases of my uncle, who killed himself at 35, and his elder sister, my aunt, who I believe to have been euthanised a year or two before that, it does please them, in a way that’s no less genuine because of my inability to conceive them. As that physicist mused on TV the other night, why is it so hard for us to imagine time going backward as well as "forward"?

We’ve just subscribed to yet another DVD-by-mail service, imagining that, because they’re in cahoots with my favourite daily newspaper, the unusually beautifully designed and left-leaning The Guardian (which, like the rest of the United Kingdom's newspapers, would prefer that I not contribute, thanks so much), they might be slightly less devious than the competition. Fat chance. Just like all the others, [Name Withheld] sends you all the most sought-after, recent stuff during your honeymoon period. Then, when they’ve got your credit card details, all you get is obscurities you can barely remember having added to your wish list -- and then only because [Name Withheld] sent you a succession of shrill emails reminding you to keep at least 350 films on your wish list, just in case they happened to be out of the stuff you really wanted to see. The Johnny Cash biopic, for instance, has been out on disk now for what…six months, and we still haven’t seen it.

Speaking of Cash, I’ve had it pretty much up to here with his posthumous deification. Mumble a Nine Inch Nails song in your mid-60s and the next thing you know, you’re looming large in the legend of a whole generation that had never heard of you before. I have reason to believe The Man in Black's heart was in the right place, and I revere Ring of Fire as much as the next fellow (not until I recorded the Mistress Chloe album with the missus in 2001 would such sublime backing vocals be heard again), but the whole Live at Folsom Prison business really annoys me. The whole event was meant to be an affirmation of the indomitable spirit of The Revolution or something -- we’re meant to believe, I think, that he was performing for political prisoners – victims of racism and Nixonian fascism – and the odd kid who’d been busted for dealing something spirtitually elevating, like pot or peyote. How about the rapists and murderers and arsonists and thieves and meth dealers and sociopaths — they were all asked to stay in their cells that night? And that roar of delight at the line about shooting someone just to watch him die! How not to find that very disconcerting indeed? One word to those who would romanticise sociopathy: Altamont.

Getting back to DVDs, ore and more of them seem to start with 15 minutes of commercials for upcoming, uh, releases, and very often there’s no skipping through them. And here the whole idea of renting movies, at least in my mind, was that they offered a more exalted experience than ordinary broadcast TV, with its relentless advertising.

I propose that, on a designated day, every subscriber to a DVD-by-mail service take a nail file to any rented DVD that starts off with unskippable advertising, and then send it back complainingt that the disk was defective. The [Name Withheld]s of the world then receive a flood of anonymous emails pointing out that the disks that lack or let you skip the advertising seem to be less prone to defect.

You want a revolution? I got some revolution for you right here.

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