Sunday, 24 October 2010

Taking The Wall Apart To See What It Says

I'm looking at making a video for my Writer's Craft class which explores how Roger Waters made art of things he'd experienced or felt.  Like an exercise in recycling, he took a bin of stuff that bothered him, and explored, depicted, de-constructed and expressed it in the form of a show that had to be a movie and needed cartoons and animation for full impact.

In the process of planning this, I guess I ended up outlining a whole lot of ideas presented by The Wall.  Here they are:

Huge rock concerts do not really connect fans to the artist who is expressing him/herself (the artist feels very walled off and isolated, but exposed to the view of thousands)

Tell me is something eluding you, sunshine?
Is this not what you expected to see?
If you wanna find out what's behind these cold eyes
You'll just have to claw your way through this disguise.

But The Wall is an attempt to expose the artist’s real inner self by expressing it.  He’ll have to start at birth.  At birth you are connected to father and mother and you don’t know about the loneliness and isolation that awaits you: 
Momma loves her baby
And daddy loves you too.
And the sea may look warm to you babe
And the sky may look blue
But ooooh Baby
Ooooh baby blue
Oooooh babe.

War separates fathers permanently from their families (and governments try to stop people expressing their negative feelings about it):
And no one survived
From the Royal Fusiliers Company C.
They were all left behind,
Most of them dead,
The rest of them dying.
And that's how the High Command
Took my daddy from me.
Daddy's flown across the ocean
Leaving just a memory
Snapshot in the family album
Daddy what else did you leave for me?  
Daddy, what'd'ja leave behind for me?!?
Bring the boys back home.
Bring the boys back home.
Don't leave the children on their own, no, no.
Bring the boys back home.
(Only in a song has Roger Waters ever been able to talk to his father)

School can viciously punish self-expression and reward mediocrity and conformity (which isolates the kids):
When we grew up and went to school
There were certain teachers who would
Hurt the children in any way they could
By pouring their derision
Upon anything we did
And exposing every weakness
However carefully hidden by the kids
"Wro-ong, Do it again!"
We don't need no education
We dont need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it's just another brick in the wall.
All in all you're just another brick in the wall.
Mothers can raise sheltered, isolated children who are afraid of everything and connected to no one
Mother do you think they'll drop the bomb? Fear
Mother do you think they'll like this song? Fear
Mother do you think they'll try to break my balls? Fear (of getting caned at school)
Mother should I build the wall? Isolation = reponse to fear
Mother should I run for president?
Mother should I trust the government? Fear and Obey
Mother will they put me in the firing line? Fear and Obey during War
Mother am I really dying? War casualties

Hush now baby, baby, dont you cry.
Mother's gonna make all your nightmares come true.
Mother's gonna put all her fears into you.
Mother's gonna keep you right here under her wing.  
Mother gets to comfort child she put Fear into (assuring importance of her role)
She wont let you fly, but she might let you sing. (maybe a little bit of self-expression?)
Mama will keep baby cozy and warm.
Ooooh baby ooooh baby oooooh baby,
Of course mama'll help to build the wall.
Mother do you think she's good enough -- to me? Fear (of connecting with the opposite sex)
Mother do you think she's dangerous -- to me?
Mother will she tear your little boy apart?
Mother will she break my heart?

Hush now baby, baby dont you cry.
Mama's gonna check out all your girlfriends for you.
Mama wont let anyone dirty get through.
Mama's gonna wait up until you get in.
Mama will always find out where you've been. Fear and Obey Mother
Mama's gonna keep baby healthy and clean.
Ooooh baby oooh baby oooh baby,
You'll always be baby to me.

Mother/Government: the world is full of dangers.  Fear it and Obey us.  Fear us too.

What Governments do affects children
"Look mummy, there's an aeroplane up in the sky" (children with mothers witness bombers sent by governments)
Did you see the frightened ones?
Did you hear the falling bombs?
Did you ever wonder why we had to run for shelter

Isolation (cutting one’s self off from others and not expressing oneself) makes one feel empty. What can be used to fill in the emptiness?
What shall we use
To fill the empty spaces
Where we used to talk?
How shall I fill
The final places?
How should I complete the wall (feel empty, also the wall of isolation needs a few last bricks)

 Shall I buy a new guitar?  Shall I drive a more powerful car?

Consumerism = the rich feeding off the poor of the world
because the poor lost the wars that made them The Poor
and their conquerors The Rich

Technology + Brutality = Victory!

Casual sex allows pleasure without actually connecting meaningfully to another human being
I am just a new boy,
Stranger in this town.
Where are all the good times?
Who's gonna show this stranger around?
Ooooh, I need a dirty woman.
Ooooh, I need a dirty girl.

Travelling for your job (including rock tours) cuts you off from your friends and family back home
Got thirteen channels of shit on the T.V. to choose from.
I've got electric light.
And I've got second sight.
And amazing powers of observation.
And that is how I know
When I try to get through
On the telephone to you
There'll be nobody home.
"Oh, He hung up! That's your residence, right? I wonder why he hung up?
Is there supposed to be someone else there besides your wife there to answer?"

Day after day, love turns grey
Like the skin of a dying man.
Night after night, we pretend its all right
But I have grown older and
You have grown colder and
Nothing is very much fun any more.

When you can’t connect to another person, you don’t know what to say to them
“Wanna take a bath? Are you feelin' OK?”

People who are isolated and can’t express themselves go crazy inside
Sitting in a bunker here behind my wall
Waiting for the worms to come.
In perfect isolation here behind my wall
Waiting for the worms to come. (insanity represented by brain-eating worms)
When we have severe emotional problems, we drive away everyone with our craziness, despair and rage
Run to the bedroom,
In the suitcase on the left
You'll find my favorite axe.
Don't look so frightened
This is just a passing phase,
One of my bad days.
Would you like to watch T.V.?
Or get between the sheets?
Or contemplate the silent freeway?
Would you like something to eat?
Would you like to learn to fly?
Would you like to see me try?

Would you like to call the cops?
Do you think it's time I stopped?
Why are you running away?
Ooooh, babe
Don't leave me now.
Don't say it's the end of the road.
Remember the flowers I sent.
I need you, babe
To put through the shredder
In front of my friends
Ooooh Babe.
Dont leave me now.
How could you go?
When you know how I need you
To beat to a pulp on a Saturday night
Ooooh Babe.
How could you treat me this way?
Running away.

And we go into denial and say it’s ok and we don’t need anyone or anything anyway
I don't need no arms around me
And I don’t need no drugs to calm me.
I have seen the writing on the wall.
Don't think I need anything at all.
No! Don't think I'll need anything at all.

And we are tempted to turn our backs on the world entirely, through substance abuse or through suicide
Goodbye cruel world,
I'm leaving you today.

Goodbye, all you people,
There's nothing you can say
To make me change my mind.

But we keep trying “one last time” to connect to another person
Is there anybody out there?
Is there anybody out there?
Is there anybody out there?
Hey you, out there on your own
Sitting naked by the phone
Would you touch me?
Hey you, with you ear against the wall
Waiting for someone to call out
Would you touch me?
Hey you, would you help me to carry the stone?
Open your heart, I'm coming home.
Vera! Vera! What has become of you?
Does anybody else here
Feel the way I do?
But it was only fantasy. And failing and giving up
The wall was too high,
As you can see.
No matter how he tried,
He could not break free.
And the worms ate into his brain.

And being trapped in a life filled with obligations to others
I wanna go home
Take off this uniform (war or job uniform?)
And leave the show.
Ooooh, Ma, Oooh Pa
Must the show go on?
Ooooh, Pa. Take me home
Ooooh, Ma. Let me go

Legal and Illegal drugs are often used to keep people "producing"
Just a little pinprick.
There'll be no more aaaaaaaaah!
But you may feel a little sick.
Can you stand up?
I do believe it's working, good.
That'll keep you going through the show
Come on it's time to go.
There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying. There must be some mistake I didnt mean to let them
Take away my soul.  How many celebrities died in this state?
Am I too old, is it too late?
Ooooh, Ma, Ooooh Pa,
Where has the feeling gone?
Ooooh, Ma, Ooooh Pa,
Will I remember the songs?
The show must go on.

Isolated, crazy people lash out and express themselves mainly in hate
teacher caning Difference is punished
TV out window
Cartoon head smashing

We all have what was in Hitler in us
I've got some bad news for you sunshine,
Pink isn't well, he stayed back at the hotel
And they sent us along as a surrogate band
We're gonna find out where you folks really stand.
Are there any queers in the theater tonight?
Get them up against the wall!
There's one in the spotlight, he don't look right to me,
Get him up against the wall!
That one looks Jewish!
And that one's a coon!
Who let all of this riff-raff into the room?
There's one smoking a joint,
And another with spots!
If I had my way,
I'd have all of you shot!
You better run all day
And run all night.
Keep your dirty feelings No self-expression
Deep inside.
And if you're taking your girlfriend
Out tonight
You'd better park the car
Well out of sight.
Cause if they catch you in the back seat
Trying to pick her locks,
They're gonna send you back to mother  Mother again
In a cardboard box.
You better run.

In war-time, whole countries get like this.
Fist turns to uniformed, marching hammers

If you can make citizens fear another country or group, you can start a war

And the individual is left wondering if s/he or the society is guilty.  So s/he allows someone else, often a professional or an authority figure to judge them.

Waters feels you have to be a messed-up, crazy, isolated control-freak with delusions of grandeur to want power.  That’s also what Plato said.
But I'm waiting in this cell
Because I have to know.
Have I been guilty all this time?

The Trial
Good morning, Worm your honor.
The crown will plainly show
The prisoner who now stands before you
Was caught red-handed showing feelings
Showing feelings of an almost human nature;
This will not do.

Witnesses are called
I always said he'd come to no good
In the end your honor.
If they'd let me have my way I could
Have flayed him into shape.
But my hands were tied,
You little shit you're in it now,
I hope they throw away the key.
You should have talked to me more often
Than you did, but no! You had to go
Your own way, have you broken any
Homes up lately?
Come to mother baby, let me hold you
In my arms.
M'lud I never wanted him to
Get in any trouble.
Why'd he ever have to leave me?
Worm, your honor, let me take him home.

Why can’t you decide your own worth for yourself?  Because you’re “crazy”
Toys in the attic I am crazy,
Truly gone fishing.
They must have taken my marbles away.
Crazy, toys in the attic he is crazy.

The evidence before the court is
Incontrovertible, there's no need for
The jury to retire.
In all my years of judging
I have never heard before
Of someone more deserving
Of the full penalty of law.
The way you made them suffer,
Your exquisite wife and mother,
Fills me with the urge to defecate!
  Since, my friend, you have revealed your
Deepest fear,
I sentence you to be exposed before
Your peers.  
(this is what bad teachers, parents and other authority figures do when they’re angry.  Expose us.  Humiliate us publicly.  No mercy, no forgiveness.)
Tear down the wall!

Your worst nightmare has come true.  Everyone has seen the hidden, "bad" side of you.  The Hitler, the worm, the weak, frightened child.  Is there any hope? 
(Friends.  People who love us enough to forgive us our craziness)
All alone, or in two's,
The ones who really love you
Walk up and down outside the wall.
Some hand in hand
And some gathered together in bands.
The bleeding hearts and artists
Make their stand.

And when they've given you their all
Some stagger and fall, after all it's not easy
Banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Roger Waters

Went and saw Roger Waters perform The Wall live in Ottawa.  Giant forboding string puppets with lightup eyes coming down from the ceiling, a floating pig/blimp, a model Stuka WW2 airplane flying in over the audience on a wire to "smash into" the giant stadium-filling wall with flames and fireworks going off.  Did I mention The Wall has long been my favourite album of all time, if only for the personal, the nasty, the theatrical, the neurotic and the complicated qualities of it?  It was so amazing.  To have Roger Waters come out for The Trial sequence and sing all the voices and accents by himself, appearing to be having the time of his life being a bit of a ham, but also (the material) being upsetting and messed up too.  a lot of modernized images like the one seen in the lower picture were used to great effect. (it was part of a series of Apple commercial parodies, including iKill and iPay (on a picture of a cemetery for dead soldiers).  The one below is scary dogs with iPod headphones in, and it says iProtect)

I can't sing with an anguished yowl like Roger Waters, I can't really fingerpick guitar very well, and this particular song seems to be hard for me to follow all the chord progressions in, but I was so afterglowy from the concert that I decided to record a song from The Wall.  I made a point of using all my new music stuff.  A pair of SM57s on the rotating Leslie speaker cabinet, the B.C. Rich Warlock guitar, and a pair of thousand dollar microphones by AKG that I got for much less than that on eBay.  The newer, light-up LED mic in the little shockproof harness is really amazing.  Forgiving the obvious lacks in performance, I think the quality of the microphones can be heard nicely in this recording.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Donating Money to Blue Like Jazz: The Movie

There are a lot of different Christian churches and groups.  They meet for quite different reasons and their activities when meeting are just as varied.  Some churches are all about "traditional family values" and fight a war to keep abortion, gay marriage and Harry Potter out of their backyards.  Others are about prosperity, about offering you a package, a program, a system, a community of support for your financial, familial and life success.  Still others are about getting as high on Jesus as they can, and staying off anything that provides a more chemical high.  Others are about having, maintaining and enforcing the highest standards for correct religious doctrine (teaching) possible.  Still others are about charity work and feeding the poor and helping out the homeless, the addicts, the mentally ill.

These groups do not tend to get along.  They do not tend to play well together.  For example, a church will say "We're going to go feed homeless people on Bridge Street Saturday afternoon.  Who's with us?" and their cousin-churches will ask "Are you clear on the doctrine of Eternal Sonship?" or "Can we take forty minutes to teach them about the Power of the Holy Spirit and lay hands on them to cure their addictions?" or "Why are you bothering with them?  There are children starving in Africa right now!" or "Can we say how wrong homosexuality, drug abuse, extra-marital sex and abortion are, and how these are the root of the problems in America?"  or get told "We heard you don't vote Republican" or  "We heard your church isn't eco-friendly, nor does it have accessibility ramps for the handicapped" or "You look like a hippie beatnik commie.  You have piercings and tattoos.  We couldn't possibly associate ourselves with someone who is so clearly unspiritual and unchristian as you appear to be."  And no agreement will happen and no collaboration either.

I was raised in a "having, maintaining and enforcing the highest standards for correct religious doctrine (teaching) possible" group.  We didn't acknowledge the existence of others much at all.  In 2003, I discovered Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller.  Don is associated with the "charity work and feeding the poor and helping out the homeless, the addicts, the mentally ill" kind of Christians, and backs the Democratic party in America, despite many Americans doing this little formula:

If you support Democrats, you support abortion.  Killing babies isn't Christian, so if you support Democrats, neither are you.

Don Miller was asked to publicly pray at the Democratic Convention once Barak Obama was sworn in.  I guess no one told him about that formula.

As to his book, I found his honesty, his empathy, his depth and his reality refreshing.  In a sea of books painting unconvincing morality tales or quick fixes, in flailing, gesticulating, spastic, weepy, self-help prose that would make Anthony Robbins and Vince the SlapChop guy both blush, he just talked.  He just talked and didn't try to be a good example, and didn't automatically toe the line, support the status quo and not rock the boat.  He didn't repeatedly, self-consciously preface every statement with "Now, I realize this language might be a little different from that used by your youth pastor..."  Apparently no one told him he needed to do all that.  He just told stories that talked about what he liked, fun stuff he enjoyed, what worked for him and what he thought was good.  He did present himself as a good example of a bad example sometimes, but then didn't paint melodramatic morality plays of shafts of light from heaven making tears run down his face, and the blessed, anointed, transformed, empowered, energized difference in his life afterward.  His stories were more like:
I did this.  I didn't really think it was bad.  Then this happened and some guy said this.  I thought about that.  Then I tried this.  It kinda went like this.  I think I'll do that.  It wasn't perfect, but I'm into it.

It was obvious that Don Miller was going to really tell each story he wrote.  If he was writing about a road trip, he was going to share the experience in an artistic way that owed more to Jack Keroac than Chuck Swindoll.  He was going to describe and convey things that "didn't matter" in terms of a central moral message.  He wasn't going to "just tell the Christian parts," and he wasn't going to construct the entire story so that it functioned purely to make his points and did little else.  No, he actually wanted to make a functioning story that did all the things that stories do. Weird.

The key scene most people cite in Blue Like Jazz (illustrated in the graphic at the top of this blog entry) is when Don attended classes at a very liberal Arts college where being Christian is like being gay is in a Christian college, and during a yearly festival characterized by a week of students wearing surreal costumes and enjoying prolonged heavy drug use, Don and his friends dressed as monks, set up a "confessional", and when curious people came in at all hours of the night, Don and his friends confessed and asked forgiveness for televangelists, the Crusades, homophobia and a host of other sins of which they felt they the Christian community to be guilty.  The response from the majority of the revellers was tears and hugs and bonding, as well as changing how they felt about Christians, at least for a time.  He was trying to deal with the fact that Christianity is viewed nowadays as a hate group.

(Do you know what song is played while the Ku Klux Klan burn a cross?  "Amazing Grace."  Because they are trying to spread what they feel is a Christian message by making a huge cross of fire shine out in the night.  Their ceremonies are all shot through with bible verses and references to Christian values.)

Blue Like Jazz is second perhaps only to The Shack as a target for people wanting to crucify it and its author for letting down the Christian community for not being right about abortion, or gays or doctrine.  It has, like the work of Johnny Cash and C.S. Lewis, an odd thing where the artist is not talking the whole time always and only about "Christian Issues", but in the dialogue, Christian stuff definitely comes up frequently and meaningfully, and as a part of life as a whole, rather than pulled out as a "topic."  Like those two guys also, any number of nonchristian people will become huge fans, and will feel that the thing is about a genuine, believable, not-just-a-model-home human trying to live a life, and that the role of Christianity in that life is being seen in a way that makes sense, as integral, central and integrated, and not as a "key issue" brought out to discuss.  No one minds if Johnny Cash sings about God.  No one minds too much if Aslan is Jesus.  No one minds much that Don Miller is writing an artistic book of thoughts and experiences which include God.  Because Johnny Cash's songs are dark and intense and honest.  And C.S. Lewis' stories are magical and filled with wonder.  And Blue Like Jazz is funny, unpretentious, artistic, descriptive, warm and authentic.

When I heard that Blue Like Jazz was being made into a movie, I was a bit perturbed.  I thought "That won't make a movie.  It's too wandery and philosophical and everything.  It's like making Naked Lunch or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas or On The Road into movies.  Wait, I quite like some of those in movie form..."

Blue Like Jazz is a book that is partly very much about God, and which was rejected by much of the Christian community.  The Christian community certainly wasn't going to pay to have it made into a movie.  They were too busy getting Left Behind 6: Ressurection made. And a movie that dealt with what it's like to be raised Christian, and then to start to question and deconstruct and re-evaluate it all, and then to start living a life that reflects this, but which hasn't involved a rejection of Christ, but perhaps some fairly open questioning of modern Christian practice?  I wasn't too surprised to hear that the script was written, the movie was all planned, including casting, but the funding had fallen through.  Hollywood wasn't sure how they'd make a trailer for a movie like that.

So many of us, though, have lived lives that are like that.  A quarter of Christians have stopped going to churches.  What most church folk don't want to hear is that many of these have left, not due to having lost interest in Christianity, but in order to more effectively connect with God, as what was going on in the churches distracted, upset, confused or appalled genuine people trying to figure out what God wanted of them.  Churches can demand so much time, brainspace, social stuff and money.  Sometimes there's none left to give to God.

I was bemused to see that the Don Miller fan-base had decided that they would fund it themselves.  People all over the world are going online and chipping in $10, $25, $50, $100 or whatever to a movie that already has enough money to get made now that this has been going on, and which is supposed to start filming this month.  I pitched in a modest amount.  And I wrote this blog entry.  I don't even much care at this point if for some reason no one decides to distribute the movie or whatever.  It's an adventure I'm participating in.  Supporting something.  Not judging it.  Taking a gamble on people and trusting them.  Not asking "But will it be clear as to the Eternal Sonship of Christ and come down firmly in support of our brave Christian boys in Iraq and against socialized medicine?"