Write a novel that's movie-proof these days and your chances of getting published are virtually nil. Excuse the hyperbole, but my point is that ours is a visually dominant culture. Images are what we thrive on.
Take the idiocy of what is referred to as music videos…. Can you imagine Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, Mahler, Brahms, or Bach composing their masterpieces for the sake of being bastardized by the contamination of superimposed, synchronized celluloid imagery?
Music, good music, should stand alone.
Beethoven's Fifth and Mahler's Ninth scarcely need the encumbrance of some jackass Hollywood adman's video images. But who can sit quiet and still long enough to appreciate the majesty of beautiful music?
In fact, music is no longer even meant to be listened to. It is meant to provoke wild gyrations of chaotic and thoughtless locomotion. Nobody listens because nobody is saying anything worth the effort. The lyrics of modern popular music, often abrasive and insulting, are anything but lyrical. They are certainly not the cajoling, sapient prose of Gershwin, Porter, and Kern.
Part of the problem is that solitude is viewed with an abhorrent dread. Beat me, whip me, call me worthless, but whatever you do, please don't leave me alone.
Most people seem willing to bear anything other than their own company. How many are there who could, with or without a bottle of Margaux Rouge, sit alone moored in the candle-lit darkness of a winter's evening and listen from start to finish to the gorgeous symphonic undulations of Mahler's Ninth?
If they lasted as long as the adagio they'd be removing their shoelaces and looking for an overhead beam.
Nevertheless, the masses of people who display an absolute dearth of refinement in their consumption of so-called culture are the fodder upon whom we, who consider ourselves to be the learned elite, feed our insatiable appetites for comparative superiority. We hoist our snouts to sneeze snotty rebukes. We relish occasions to exercise our talents for condescension.
Ironically, were it not for all the hoi polloi, whose inelegant vulgarity we are forever so elegantly maligning, our raison d'être would be diminished to the point where we might begin removing our own shoelaces to boot.
Furthermore, the horror of horrors would be if everybody were in tune to the same dimension of artistic perception as ourselves, for then we could no more cherish the dazzling hallucinations of those who consider themselves an elite. After all, if every untutored numbskull was prancing through the Prado or the Louvre humming Brahms' Double Concerto (assuming that's possible) then the cultural elite might just as well head for the bleachers of Wrigley Field. There they could sip Chablis, savor Brie, and--with luck--be pleasantly dumbfounded by the whimsical burlesque of the Chicago Cubs.
Wrigley Field has been a venue of marvelous entertainment for me. Hold the Chablis and Brie . . . pass me a can of Old Style beer and a hot dog with a mustard tail. Let me catch a falling star, be it fair or foul, and I'm in heaven. But damn it, that doesn't mean I'm pitching my tent in one of the world's cultural ghettos. Well . . . does it…?
No it does not, and I'll tell you why….
The locals refer to Wrigley Field as the "friendly confines" because it's got ivy on the walls, real green grass on the yard, and it's in a neighborhood where people live and work and walk to the ballpark.
Until recently, all the games were played in the light of the sun, and many of us who went to watch, forfeited half a day's pay to do so. Many who went had no jobs . . . and some rich businessmen, bankers, and brokers went, too. But, once past the turnstile we were all bums on the lam. And we all proceeded to revel in the picnic atmosphere where sleek young men bungled the promise of youth, much as we were doing or had already done.
The Chicago Cubs have a history and tradition second to none. However, when it comes to winning pennants and World Series', they are second, third, and last to all. No one is still alive who ever saw the Cubbies win the World Series. But we go to watch them, nevertheless, because they are Sisyphus, they are Don Quixote, they are Raymond Floyd hooking his ball into the water in front of Augusta's seventeenth green. They are us.
It's a bit of a dilemma to reconcile one's allegiance to the Chicago Cubs with one's cherished sense of rank amongst the cultural, artistic, and intellectual aristocracy. Is it the athleticism of virile young sportsmen that charms us…?
Anyone who has observed Arturo Rubenstein or Vladimir Horowitz in concert has observed more athletic talent in their ten fingers than has ever been on display at Wrigley Field--at least by the home team.
No, it's not the issue of greatness that lures us. We go to escape, to retreat from the rigorous austerity of our daily lives. Yes, in other words, for the same reason as those who surrender to the chaotic gyrations provoked by atonal music videos.
However, there is more than a slight difference. Music videos are contrived. They are rehearsed and manufactured; same as a commercial for a candy flavored laxative or a sweet smelling douche. The pageantry of Wrigley Field is pure improvisation, and thus reflects a more accurate mimicry of our own lives. For instance, the Cubs must hold the record for the number of times a team has had the bases loaded with no outs and still failed to score. Yet seldom have the foibles and frailties of man been crowned midst such splendid scenery, and crowned upon the noggins of such colorfully ingratiating lunatic dreamers.
Wrigley Field is halfway around the world from where I am now. An occasional glance at a newspaper reveals that the Cubbies continue to lose with the same regularity and panache as Andy Capp goes home drunk. The Prado, the Louvre, and Brahms' Double Concerto are just as far out of my orbit.
But damn it if television isn't everywhere, and an entire network is devoted to music videos. Even at the restaurant of this beach on an idyllic island in the Gulf of Siam.
Whatever the word is that defines the opposite meaning of "renaissance" is the proper word to categorize the past twenty-five years which have unleashed the bilge of what has been accepted as art. Be it music, painting, architecture, or literature, never mind. As for movies, they are, for the most part, no more than technological wizardry without a soul. Therefore, I have opted to abstract myself from the frivolous inanity of modern Western culture and "snivelization," as Melville called it, to embark upon a career of elitist snobbery.
"How do you cope with the loneliness?" a friend asked.
Well, there is no loneliness because there is only sweet solitude and an ever-changing cast of characters for amusement. The only real challenge is to come out on the side of humor instead of anger. That is the key. Otherwise rancor and bitterness will gnaw you to death.
So, all alone, I loll in a rattan chaise or in a cotton hammock that sways, pondering my superior ways, laughing at myself in every morning's golden haze.
And why not? Though I denounce the squalor of contemporary culture, I quietly revel in the glory of nobler artistic expressions. I remember when art strove to transcend the banality of existence, not descend into its muck. Art should manifest an appreciation of a dimension beyond the pettiness and vulgarity of our basest instincts.
Ah, but I am beginning to violate one of my golden rules--never write angry. So, those of you in Chicago, pay your fare and hop the Belmont "L" to Addison Street. A bit of heaven awaits you there. Think of "Peg Leg" Bill Veeck, Wrigley Field's beer-drinking philosopher. While you're at it, think of me. I'll never be there again, but whenever I take myself too seriously . . . I'll start thinking of you . . . you bunch of losers.
Article Source: http://www.abcarticledirectory.com
Morgan McFinn is from Chicago and currently resides in Cambodia with his wife. He has a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Georgetown University. Much of his work should be considered humorous and fictionalized memoirs. There are also satirical essays. Location settings include Thailand, Cambodia, India, Burma, Morocco and Greece. Excerpts and reviews are available at his website: www.morganmcfinn.com
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