Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Take a walk on the wild side.

"Events with odds against so astronomical they're effectively impossible, like oxygen spontaneously becoming gold. I long to observe such a thing. And yet, in each human coupling, a thousand million sperm vie for a single egg. Multiply those odds by countless generations, against the odds of your ancestors being alive; meeting; siring this precise son; that exact daughter... Until your mother loves a man she has every reason to hate, and of that union, of the thousand million children competing for fertilization, it was you, only you, that emerged. To distill so specific a form from that chaos of improbability, like turning air to gold..." -Dr. Manhattan

When I was in 5th or 6th grade I was given a class project to depict a truthful event from my life with some sort of illustration. I can’t recall the other sorts of philistine delineations the other kids in the class came up with and got “A’s” for but what I do specifically remember was being faced with a school district psychologist.

He held up the light brown eco-friendly (which is ironically expensive) paper on which I’d made my manifesto of artistic statement asked me if I was bad. “Do you feel threatened?” he said. A parent/teacher conference occurred slightly afterwards. My mom of course was incredulous as anyone as to why I’d depict a team of zombified surgeons beating a cartoonish doppleganger of myself to pieces for my class project. I'd tried to calmly explain that the year prior I'd fallen and broken my arm and had my first traumatic trip to the hospital. Sister Marie Christine, the high priestess at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy, who had slightly too much facial hair seemed concerned enough to make her aware and then to my horror, open up my desk and go through the contents at an ignominious after-school meeting.

I remember she dropped some of the papers on the floor out of shock. I knew I’d been creating contraband a mile a minute but it was pretty amusing to see the degree to which I’d offended the censors at a young age. Drawings of the killer from scream with a bloody knife. Ironic stick figure cartoons depicting wanton violence. Pretty childish material, but even she couldn’t deny I’d put more detail into my work than the standard issue student. I was pretty proud of myself; and I kept repeating how “good” the drawings were the whole ride home to calm my mother’s tirade. Naturally the nuns came to fear me as a violent psychopath and a pariah until my dad re-framed a crudely painted portrait of Jesus Christ which I assume had gotten bored from the lectures on contraception and leapt from the wall. I don’t think I ever related to the ways of Christ more at my time spent in Catholic School than when I was carrying the enormous, cheaply painted visage of Jesus over my back and bringing it before the overseer of nuns.

Without realizing it, at a young age, I was starting to see art as an expression of pain. In a broader sense; art is a product of affliction and I think I’ve realized how beautiful it is that people are really coming to terms with this more and more in mainstream culture.

Kanye West offended everyone with his infamous “Imma let you finish” bit, but it wasn’t until I saw his frantic, jaunty tweets on an almost daily basis raging about the nature of true fans and his depths of depression that it was possible for me to see why he did it. The man is troubled. Perhaps insane even; but like a phoenix his music takes off from that with a life of its own and gives the world a chance to love him. And he's not the only person out there crying out his ramblings in fancy packaging just so he can get a hug.

Back in the 90’s, the term “the struggle” was often used for the narrative messages depicted in hip hop music. This referred to getting paid and hustling your way through the projects to earn your stripes as a man of true grit. I feel like in the modern scope of creativity now, we’ve reached an appreciation for depression. We come to expect it so that in the quietest corners of our mind, we’re watching tiny movies of ourselves in the shoes of the weary and the famous. It’s leading to something of a renaissance of depression. Releasing the pain through individualistic expression is easing the pain.

I swore when I finished poetry class after my junior year of high school, and three agonizing years of churning out poems with no thought in them that I would never write a poem again. I’d been forced for years to string together words with no meaning to further develop myself as an artist for the censors. I don’t think a single poem I ever created in that span of time really meant something that was original or had any sort of lasting merit that contributed to the creative collective or that could be read in with pride at any sort of hipster coffee and literature gathering. The point is you can’t rush art and you’re usually better at things when you simply give yourself and no one else. This metamorphic process continues to happen spontaneously and beautifully of it’s own accord. Songs and poems and films are full of flaws, but like people they’re flaws that we can appreciate and we can get a better sense of appreciation of the artist behind the screen reading too much into the psychosis. I’m reminded suddenly of a desperate boy holding up a boombox blasting Jefferson Airplane out the window of his sweetheart because he doesn’t know how else to tell her what he’s feeling. These “crazy artists” will gain a sense of worth when the rest of us feed off their depression and relate to it. In celebration of feeling sad, there’s comfort. And this will continue. Good music will continue to be produced. People will sing songs about how they lost each other, or attempt to articulate how much they want to be with each other but they’re too fucking stupid to say it in spoken English. Amazing portraits of amazing people will continue to be created in the wrong color schemes with all the flaws and inaccuracies of the people they represent. Violence will be shown on screens for our amusement and distill the grandeur of real war and the intensity of sliding .44 caliber bullets into a clip in the heat of the moment that ends or begins your life as you know it. I’ve spent my life in worry. Every action that I make is a function of nervosa. Self re-assurance. Self defiance. Self-depreciation. As a child I had to sleep with rubber gloves because when I found out about the concept of germs I washed my hands until they bled anytime I clenched them into a fist. When you're sad, draw me a picture of a house on fire. I'll know what it means and I'll know it's the right time to put my arm around you. Right now taking solace in the artistic movement and the promise of good sights and sounds to come, for a brief moment in my life, however, I’m not worried at all.

Take a walk on the wild side.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

a love letter to Nightmare Before Christmas

This isn't my best work blogging. I'm a big disgruntled today.

I kind of pulled this one out of my ass. When you’re stuck with an unproductive day, what better to fill your time with than blogging? I’ve been deliberating for a while now with changing the title of the blog yet again. I simply haven’t been doing much that celebrates the 90’s (hence 90s rocks). Not that I care much about keeping form (variety is the spice of life after all) but while pouring over pointless google searches trying to wrestle myself from the depths of depression I got in the mood to verbally caress an old childhood favorite. That came out a lot dirtier than I anticipated.

Tim Burton has done a healthy mixture of good and bad, though perhaps my favorite “Burton” film growing up was a little “claymation” movie called The Nightmare Before Christmas. I put Burton’s name in quotes because he didn’t actually direct this movie, Henry Selick did. With the same amount of visual style and pizzazz and the inspiration from a Gaiman book, Selick went on years later to make Coraline, which I loved. Sadly, if Nightmare was made now, the charm and novelty of the stop motion would be lost to a total CGI outing that pixar would never touch and it would most likely fall into the hands of Dreamworks or something. But why even discuss it? This movie would NEVER be made now. Studios have some form of control over Burton at this point when shit piles like Alice in Wonderland rake in the big box office gold. This is something actually for its time, NEW and inspired. There will never be another like it. Anyways, why am I wasting time talking about studios stifling creativity and getting technical about it? This is a movie filled with childlike wonder and creativity that should be given more affectionate terms.

Like every other kid who wasn’t a loser in the 90’s apparently, I grew up with a VHS tape of Nightmare Before Christmas distributed by Touchstone pictures. I’m sure we all remember too well the touch stone animated logo that preceded the opening musical number after the “and now our feature presentation” that most Disney VHS tapes had back in the day. I watched this on a regular basis and sought out toys, Halloween costumes and the assorted, as Jack Skellington calls it, “Brick A brack” to celebrate my undying passion for this movie. Later in life, I realized that I WASN’T the only only person who gave a shit about this movie. Around age 13 or 14 I saw all kinds of goths wearing nightmare crap ranging from tote bags to socks. It had become a cult classic. The cult followers and target audience were kids ranging from age 12 to 18. As we get older, so does Nightmare, and I have a hard time seeing how it can be continued to be spread to future generations with the advent of total CGI films. It’s there for our appreciation. Much like the Toy Story series and Harry Potter…which I feel a personal connection with growing up with them. The main difference is EVERYONE knows Toy Story and Harry Potter. This was MY shit growing up. It was only later that I befriended a bunch of hipsters that I realized a lot of people cared about Nightmare.

So what’s so good about it? If you don’t already know what’s good about Nightmare or if you haven’t found some kind of personal appeal by now, you’re probably not going to. The premise is stupid and I’ll admit that off the bat. It’s pulled off marvelously though, to a point where a child wouldn’t question it for a second. Basically Jack Skellington is an organizer of the holiday of Halloween and he gets bored of doing his job and decides to attempt to recreate Christmas. He fucks it up horribly and the lesson learned is that we should leave Christmas to the professionals, aka Sandy Claws. There’s a lot to love here, from iconic characters to a fantastic musical score provided by Danny Elfman.

Elfman is one of the prime reasons to love Nightmare. The frontman of Oingo Boingo, the 80’s alternative band (and BECAUSE of this film I sought the band out and it became one of my favorite bands of all time) and one of the most well prominent composers of film scores today. The score for this movie is really good, and it’s got some really memorable musical numbers ranging from “This is Halloween” to “What’s This” to the sort of bluesy “Oogie Boogie’s song”. In recent years I’ve come to appreciate two of the less popular tracks in particular, “Poor Jack” and “Jack’s Obsession”. Elfman actually sings the voice of Jack, even though he’s not the speaking voice. If you want something similar to this outside of Oingo Boingo, he uses a similar voice for his character in Corpse Bride for the song “Remains of the Day”.
Nightmare is really a feat in stop motion, and probably the most well known foray into the sub genre of filmmaking. It’s a shame we don’t see too much like this in recent movies, but when we do we’ll complain about it and call it hipster trash. For these reasons, it’s irreplaceable. Now I just need that rubber oogie boogie figure from my childhood that I never got that you can stuff with bugs…
To finish up the entry and prove how passionate I am about the subject I’ll just show off some pics of my Nightmare Merch. Yeah that’s an autograph from the recently passed-away Glenn Shadix, who voiced the mayor.