Warning: This post contains views and language that tasteful, discerning people will find offensive. Read at your own peril. Assholes.
I like it.
Scratch that. I fucking love it.
Everywhere else – home, work, politics – I value restraint, subtlety and nuance. I used to greatly value those same things in art and entertainment. I fancied myself an intellect, or at least I wanted to appear to be so. Back in university, there was no way in hell I was going to tell my fellow English majors that when I wasn’t trying to read James Joyce I was playing Super Mario Brothers and watching Wrestlemania.
Don’t get me wrong – I still enjoy nuanced art, but to a point. The thing about getting older is I have less time and interest in deconstructing the things that are meant to entertain me. And the other thing about getting older – the best thing – is caring less and less what others think.
So I would like to dedicate this post to a few of my favourite self-indulgent, excessive entertainments. Along the way, I will make declarations that will inspire warm feelings of smug superiority in folks who fancy themselves discriminating. To those folks I say “you’re welcome”.
To be clear: these are not “guilty pleasures”. There is no guilt.
I hereby drop the pretense of being an intellect.
Guns N’ Roses’ Use Your Illusion II
I think it’s well understood that Appetite for Destruction is Guns N’ Roses’ masterpiece. The people have spoken. So have the critics. History has made its choice. Appetite is in the canon.
But I will stand on Axl Rose’s grand piano and scream to all who hear me that Use Your Illusion – and specifically Use Your Illusion II – is hands down the Gunners greatest moment. Appetite has one speed – breakneck. Illusion II has about 20, often within the same song. Multi-movement epics, choirs, rants, chants, banjo, electronics, movie clips, angry phone messages, boxing announcers – not one gimmick isn’t used on this sprawling, elaborate mess of an album. I think at one point someone bangs a kitchen sink. The damn thing is absolutely dripping with excess.
And self-pitying rage! Axl can’t stop complaining. The pinnacle is “Get in the Ring”, in which he calls out the music critics who piss him off by name so he can tell them “suck my fucking dick.”
It’s beyond juvenile. And it’s insanely fun. Guns N’ Roses hadn’t matured one iota as human beings, but they sure as shit had matured as songwriters. “Breakdown” and “Estranged” are outrageous, and outrageously great. This is the sound of a band with more ideas than they know what to do with.
Pal, you put Illusion back on my radar screen during our debate about ego-produced music, and I thank you for it. I’d been away from this operatic shit show for nearly two decades. But I’m back with a vengeance. It’s been on a loop for the past month.
Over-produced? You bet. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The wrestling world was delivered a blow recently with the sudden death of the Ultimate Warrior just days after he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. That name means nothing to people who use their time wisely, but to those of us who slavishly followed the WWF/E back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, he’s a legend.
And if you were lucky enough, as were my sister (I believe you know her, Pal) and I, to be in Toronto’s Skydome for his shocker victory over Hulk Hogan to take the belt at Wrestlemania VI, you know the definition of excitement. The place blew up.
Of course professional wrestling is moronic. Everyone knows it is scripted, but that doesn’t it make it any less fun. It actually makes it more fun. When a good guy suddenly turns bad (Andre the Giant, how could you?!), or a grappler betrays his tag team partner, there’s great drama in that.
Bottom line – it’s a soap opera. But with crazy dudes hitting each other with chairs and performing flying leaps off the top rope. What more could you ask for?
KISS in concert
Lights go out.
A voice thunders into the darkness: “You wanted the best, you got the best! The greatest band in the world – KISS!”
Crowd goes ape shit.
And then, for the next two hours, enough lights, explosions, dry ice and lasers to give you seizures, along with costumes from the netherworld and a tongue to make Miley Cyrus quiver.
As if that weren’t enough, KISS are masters of crowd manipulation. You are in heavy metal church, and the gods demand to be worshipped. When they say scream, you scream. When they tell you to clap and sing, you clap and sing.
And when they tell stories, they are the greatest rock n’ roll stories you’ve ever heard. Case in point: when Paul Stanley told the adoring masses at Maple Leaf Gardens on April 8, 1986 that when he and the band were planning their latest tour they were getting all kinds of flack from lawyers and agents and other “corporate” types who said they shouldn’t bother with any Canadian stops.
You have to deal with the border crossing, they said.
It’s a logistical hassle, they said.
It isn’t financially worthwhile, they said.
And do you know what Paul and his bandmates told those corporate eggheads?
Well, do you?
I’ll tell you what they said.
“Fuck you, we’re going to Toronto!!!!!”
And that is how you work a crowd.
In recent years, some excellent films have emerged about slavery in America.
Lincoln was a thoughtful study into the political struggles to achieve emancipation.
12 Years a Slave was a gripping in-your-face drama that made you feel what life on a plantation would have been like, and was thoughtful enough to give insight into the slave owners’ motivations as well as the slaves’.
Profound films, both.
And I’ll never watch either of them again.
As always, Quentin Tarantino went pure pulp and trash in telling his version of the story, choosing to re-write history as a western/fantasy. Quentin makes no effort to understand why it happened, and has no interest in showing multiple sides of this complex and troubling chapter in American history. He has one message – slavery was fucking appalling and wouldn’t it be sweet to see slave-owning assholes get their come-uppance?
I think perhaps that’s the only message about slavery that needs to be made at this point. Regardless, the end result is a gonzo depiction of those atrocities that are more burned into my memory than anything in 12 Years a Slave.
So You Think You Can Dance
There has never been a subtle moment on this show. Not one.
It starts with the host. Just look at her. She’s 12 feet tall and still insists on wearing giant high heels every night because she wants to make sure all in her presence tremble at her magnificence.
The judges can’t contain themselves, frequently declaring how pleased they are to be part of a show that has “changed the course of television history” and redefined “how we think about human movement”.
The choreographers are regarded as the most important artists working today, and if they don’t hear that every week they pout and weep and need to take 3 weeks off.
And every week at least one dance number has everyone in the theatre weeping, and is declared a life-altering masterpiece.
This, my friends, is how you do a TV talent show. My whole life I never gave a second’s thought to dance as an art form, but when I am watching So You Think You Can Dance, I become convinced that dance – transcending language and political barriers – may actually be the one thing that can save humankind from itself.
And for the love of pete, would the Emmys please stop fucking around and give Cat her award for “Best Reality Show Host” already. I mean, seriously – it is NO CONTEST.
Well, Pal, there you have it – a little insight into my unapologetically bad taste. I wonder if you or our many reader have anything to add to the list? I’d love to hear about it.