Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This Week's Cultural Obesessions

"I ain't no monkey but I know what I like."
Bob Dylan, "Buckets of Rain"
True enough. Here are a few of this past week's likes.

I'll go out on a limb here. My favorite Bruce Springsteen album is 1987's "Tunnel of Love." It is the most soul searchingly personal collection of songs in the whole Boss canon. At times '80's production values interfere, but the tunes are deeply moving. Written as his marriage to starlet Julianne Phillips began to unravel, Bruce goes deep. "Brilliant Disguise, "Two Faces" and "Walk Like a Man" give a glimpse into the Springsteen psyche in a way that his more popular works never do. I always thought that he was emotionally spent after this LP, and that explained the weakness of the next decade - "Lucky Town," "Human Touch," "Ghost of Tom Joad" - were all subpar efforts. Once you've spilled your guts on "Valentine's Day," there's no where to go but "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)."

Getting back to the Dylan quote, those who have read KatzKomments from the beginning know from back in November ("Two of My Favorite Things") I have a predilection for apes. Planet of the Apes is at the top of my list of favorite movies and one that I always watch to the end if caught on TV. As my son said, "There's something enjoyable watching you watching Planet of the Apes." Fox Movie Channel, in the mid-100's on my digital dial, seems to show PotA every day. A couple of moments have surged to the fore. Now, the best scene is unequivocally the trial, when the orang judges do a "Monkey-See, Monkey-Do" while sustaining all Zaius' objections. Lately, I have been revelling in a priceless bit of thespian skill as Roddy McDowell's Cornelius sucks in air when Charlton Heston kisses his wife. Pretty hard to evoke multiple emotions behind layers of latex, but Roddy pulls off shock, anger and jealously with one inhalation. Even better is a tiny mistake that follows. Heston and his girl Nova are riding off on horseback, pursued by gorillas. Dr. Zaius yells for the gorillas to stop, and of course they do. In the distance you can see Heston's horse stops as well. It's the ultimate in fairness. If the hunters have to quit, then the hunted should stop too.

Ha Jin's A Free Life, is the story of a Chinese immigrant who gives up his intellectual pursuits to make money in America. He becomes disgruntled with his position as his true love, writing poetry, has been submerged by material pursuits. I'm not done with the novel yet - about 100 pages or so to go- but it looks like the protagonist, Nan, will begin writing again. It's an unlikely jump from a Chinese ex-pat to me, but my story is the same. After 20 years of trading options I was completely resentful of what my life had become, how empty a life it was screaming and yelling over a series of meaningless numbers and I needed a change, quickly. Like Nan, I too am trying to figure out how to become successful in something I love doing, writing. I can't wait to see how both of our stories turn out.

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