Monday, June 14, 2010

It's True We Make a Better Day, Just You and I

Watching Bravo’s new reality show Work of Art: The Next Great Artist, I am most amused by its being virtually identical in all key ways to everything from Rock of Love to I Know My Kid’s a Star. A bunch of people who want to win a Fabulous Prize (not Bret Michaels’ heart, in this case, or child stardom, but a big bag of gold and a solo show in Brooklyn) are confronted with a weekly series of challenges. When not working on their art, they are seen biting one another’s backs. They are wide-eyed with wonder when a Glamorous Celebrity — in this case the unspeakable Sarah Jessica Parker — daring to show her face even after Sex and the City 2 — drops in to mumble platitudes of encouragement. They speak to the cameras with brimming eyes about How Much This Means to them. Each week, a panel of putative experts then sends home the one who’s met the challenge with the least panache.

I think it’s time the stakes in reality shows got raised. I would promise to watch, and buy all the products advertised on, a show in which the prize is getting to reproduce. Over the course of such a show, contestants would be judged on the basis of, for instance, their ability to retain their composure while infants howl implacably at them at 3:30 in the morning. Later, they would be required to turn their actual cars over to spoiled American teenagers, who would first damage the cars, and then, when confronted, assert with the utmost contempt and rancor that the real fault was somehow the contestant’s, rather than their own. God! As each contestant was eliminated, he or she would be sterilized.

Speaking of sterilization, how about a show inspired by the classic Saturday Night Live sketch Quien Es Mas Macho? Each week, contestants (and these could obviously include butch lesbians) would try to demonstrate themselves — via home repair, knot-tying, ability to find a particular address without asking directions, and chugalugging — more manly than one another. Each week's losser would be put on a regular schedule of injections of cyproterone or a comparable anti-androgen.

In other news, we spoke yesterday, or whenever it was, about Lionel Ritchie and the late Michael Jackson’s anthem of altruism “We Are the World,” which, in its latest incarnation, has grown a parenthetical appendage to become “We Are the World (Cup).” I will here admit that something about the song has always driven me crazy, made me feel as though locked in a room full of people removing Styrofoam-encased electronics gadgets from boxes. (I could listen all day to fingernails on a blackboard, but the mere thought of the screech of Styrofoam makes me shudder.)

I know it’s foolish to expect the lyrics of pop songs to be grammatical, and sometimes their ungrammaticality sort of works, as in The Doors’ classic "Touch Me," the last line of whose chorus just wouldn’t have worked if it had been “…”til the stars fall from the sky for you and me.” The ungrammaticality of "We Are the World," though, shoots the song in its own foot. I speak, of course, of the last line of the chorus:

There's a choice we're making
We're saving our own lives.
It's true we make a better day
Just you and me.


If they’d sung I at the end, it not only would have been grammatical, but would have rhymed, sort of, with lives! What could Quincy Jones have been thinking?

I am reminded of a little song I made up for the amusement of the 7-year-old daughter of my second major girlfriend, Marie, who’d nicknamed me Nutso Futso in recognition of my deficient mental hygiene. Went something like this here — and do keep in mind that this was at the height of Steve Martin’s popularity, and thus of the ubiquity of the wild-'n'-crazy guy meme:

My name is Nutso Futso and I’m a crazy guy
But if you were to ask me, I could not tell you how come.


[Many of my books are now available for download from Amazon. They include The Total Babe & Other Wine Country Yarns, Lentils on the Moon (aka A Message From Jesus in Braille, aka A History of the Jews in the Hudson Valley), Self-Loathing: An Owner's Manual, Third World USA, The Mona Lisa's Brother, and, for baseball nuts, Foul Balls and Alpha Males. You need neither a Kindle nor an iPad to enjoy 'em; simply download (free) Kindle software for either Mac or Windows, and enjoy them on your laptop or other computer!

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