As much as I love Carnival, I’m always glad when it’s over. We live inside the parade box, which means we have to be cognizant of what’s going on even when the parade sucks. In short, we cannot monkey around even if it *is* the year of the monkey.
Chinese New Year was February, 8th this year, which was Lundi Gras in New Orleans. My father had many Chinese friends and business associates, which made him honorary Chinese as far as they were concerned. Dr. A’s best friend is Chinese so she has the same status. Me, I’m just a guy who loves Chinese cuisine and has never been involved in anything that remotely resembles the title of this song:
That obviously was not this week’s theme song. It was just more monkeyshines on my part. I suspect you’re used to that by now, especially on Saturdays.
This week’s theme song comes from one of my favorite records of all-time, the White Album. I was obsessed with it when I was a tadpole and Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey is one of my favorite tracks. It beats the hell out of Revolution #9, which is also a Lennon-centric track but Monkey works. Hmm, I wonder if the monkey in question is a capuchin helper monkey?
Since we ‘re talking monkey tunes, this early Boz Scaggs song was the runner-up as title song. It’s got a good beat, you can dance to it, but the title isn’t as good even if it’s more concise:
Now that I’ve made the odd monkey joke and posted the odd monkey tune, it’s time to get on with it and brachiate to our next segment. That’s a fancy way of saying see you after the break.
We begin with a Kurt Vonnegut book cover. Why? I want you to feel welcome and this is my weird way of doing so, that’s why.
Speaking of monkey houses:
The Dandy Warhols (one of the punniest band names ever) tune mentions Michael Jackson so let’s pay a visit to Bubbles the Chimp at his new home near Miami:
Florida Chimp: That’s right, like all oddities, Bubbles the Chimp has found a home in Florida. As an almost native Californian, I would like to thank Florida for bypassing the Golden State as the nuttiest place in the union. Here’s a taste of Dyllan Furness’ bubbly-n-chimpy piece:
Bubbles plows a big blue bucket along the border of his enclosure, tracing an invisible line. His fleshy feet thud against the concrete path. “He’s just letting us know he’s here,” one of his caretakers says. Bubbles is behind a steel-wire fence with the rest of the apes. “He’s big,” she adds, “but he’s a sweetie.” The 4.5-foot-tall, 185-pound chimpanzee is built like a high school wrestling coach, with a gray beard and a small bald spot just above his brow. Keepers have called him ugly, but he doesn’t care. He’s come a long way since hanging on Michael Jackson’s hip. Bubbles’ moonwalking days are over. He’s an alpha male now, and he marks his territory with that big, blue bucket.
The King of Pop was too busy having plastic surgery to write a song about Bubbles, but I think he’d agree with the sentiments expressed by Warren Zevon in this tune:
Now that we’ve seen Warren Zevon dance with George Clinton, let’s change the subject to the history of comedy:
The Fog Of Comedic History: The 100 Jokes That Shaped Modern Comedy is a long, daunting, and ultimately successful attempt by Vulture’s Jesse David Fox and a panel of experts to boil down the essence of our comedic heritage. I considered complaining about some omissions but I chose not to because so much effort was put into this article.
Fox and krewe certainly had a good time writing and researching the piece, which is presented in chronological order. Good job, y’all, even if you missed Preston Sturges. Uh oh, I said I wouldn’t cavil about the list, he said looking over his shoulder, worried that the cavilry will arrive…
Vulture Ranks Every Coen Brothers Movie: I’m still in a Coen Brothers frame of mind after seeing Hail, Caesar the other day. I enjoyed reading Bilge Ebiri’s list even though some of it is, uh, bilge. He has O Brother, Where Art Thou too low at #14 and The Big Lebowski too high at #3. Additionally, Fargo is only the fifth best Coen flick? Oy just oy.
I’ve never met a Coen Brothers film I didn’t like; one reason is that they’ve only made 17 pictures in a 32 year career, which assures quality control. Here are my Top Five Coen flicks:
- Fargo: A genuinely iconic movie with one of the best female characters ever at its center. You betcha.
- O Brother, Where Art Thou: I told you I thought Ebiri got this one wrong. It’s one of the funniest films of all-time and chock-full-O-nutty characters and wonderful moments. Additionally, T. Bone Burnett’s score is bona fide and good enough for any Dapper Dan user.
- No Country for Old Men: Oscar got this one right after blowing it with Fargo. It features one of the greatest villains in film history. He also has one of the worst haircuts. Javier Bardem took one for the team in that regard.
- Raising Arizona: Ebiri made this his top Coen flick and he’s not far wrong. It harkens back to the day when Nicolas Cage’s presence in a movie was an indicator of quality. Those days are as long gone as Cage’s liver.
- Miller’s Crossing: Another one Vulture gets wrong: it’s #13 on the list. I love this intricately plotted gangster film with great performances from John Tuturro and Albert Finney. It was also one of the first movies shot in New Orleans that wasn’t set here. That has become a thing in the 21st Century.
Now that I’ve reduced Vulture’s list to carrion, it’s time to Shock The Monkey:
One thing I like about the official video is that PG dons makeup in a bow to his past as the costumed front man of Genesis.
Meanwhile, Gabriel’s successor as lead singer of Genesis is mounting a tentative comeback after his 2011 retirement:
Phil Collins Agonistes: I’ve always had mixed feelings about Phil Collins. I prefer PG era Genesis but they still made some excellent records with Phil as the lead singer. Btw, he was never the leader: that role went to Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford after Gabriel’s departure.
I was never a fan of much of Phil’s solo output. I still don’t know what Sussudio means but it was one of the songs that led to a great deal of snark and ridicule. Worse, Collins is an oversensitive man not built to take scathing criticism as you’ll discover from the Guardian’s Dorian Lynskey:
Some musicians are indelibly cool while others were never cool, but it must be disorientating to enjoy credibility for over a decade and then lose it. In the 1970s, Collins was the revered drummer of Genesis, and he still features in the top 10 of polls of rock’s greatest drummers. In his 30s, with 1981’s Face Value and its indelible hit single In the Air Tonight, Collins became an unlikely everyman megastar. Looking back, the scale of his imperial phase is mind-boggling: “A lot bigger than I remember it being,” he says. He had seven US No 1 singles, behind only Michael Jackson. He sold more than 100m solo albums, and about the same number with Genesis, who he fronted after Peter Gabriel’s departure in 1975. Grammys and Brits galore. Level-headed and approachable, Collins was pop’s Mr Nice Guy: not cool any more, but well-liked.
That changed in the 1990s, when Collins became known as the Tory tax exile who divorced his second wife by fax (we’ll get to that). His popularity waned. For younger musicians such as Noel Gallagher, he became the Great Satan: a symbol of everything that was rotten about the 1980s. Always sensitive to criticism, Collins was floored by the backlash and never really recovered. “I just wanted to get off the roundabout,” he says of his retirement. “I had had enough, frankly.”
As you’ll learn from the rest of the article, Collins’ real sin was overexposure. Speaking of overexposed superstars:
The Beyoncé Kool-Aid: There’s been much hue and cry about Beyoncé’s Super Bowl appearance and her latest video. The criticism has ranged from the moronic (Rudy Giuliani) to the acute as you’ll see in a moment. As always, any criticism of Beyoncé leads to a rabid overreaction by her rabid fans. One could even call them Beybots since they overreact to *any* slight in a completely OTT fashion not unlike the supporters of a certain Presidential candidate.
I considered making Beyoncé malaka of the week because of her misuse of Hurricane Katrina/Federal Flood imagery in her Formation video but decided not to because I’m not a masochist. It seems to have vanished from YouTube, but you can see it if you click on this link and scroll down.
I don’t have an issue with her pro #blacklivesmatter stance, but I quite agree with Maris Jones who wrote a piece for blackgirldangerous.org entitled Dear Beyonce, Katrina Is Not Your Story:
Yesterday, a friend of mine watched your new music video “Formation.” He—a card carrying member of the BeyHive—was so excited that the video was set in New Orleans, that he shot me a text: “Watch now! My queen is killing it in your hometown!!!”
You started out the video with a parental advisory for explicit language. And I was like, “Whatever, I’m grown.” Two seconds later, I had to pause the video. I was not grown, I was thirteen again. I had just lost my brother, my home, and my city. I was re-living my trauma.
Beyoncé, what you really needed at the beginning of “Formation” was a trigger warning for all of your fans who survived Hurricane Katrina. None of us were ready to see you crouched down on an NOPD squad car in the middle of a flooded New Orleans, with the voice of deceased New Orleans bounce rapper, Messy Mya narrating the eerie scene.
With that opening image, I was reminded of my “Post-Katrina Stress Disorder,” a condition akin to PTSD that many of us who lived through Katrina (and the aftermath) experience when it’s brought up nonchalantly in conversation. Of course, I told my friend this. He immediately texted me back: “Oh sorry I didn’t mean to trigger, I was just hype about Blue Ivy. You subtly just taught me a lesson in being more sensitive. I was so excited Bey was in your home I didn’t actually think about the way in which it was being portrayed.”
Yeah, you right. It activated my own PTSD, which has been in abeyance since the Katrinaversary. Thanks for messing with my abeyance, Bey…
There was also a very thoughtful piece along the same lines by Shantrelle Lewis at Slate:
In “Formation,” which invokes both Katrina and the Black Lives Matter movement, Beyoncé attempts to politicize black tragedy and black death by using them as props for popular consumption. That isn’t advocacy. While some people are gagging at the idea of Beyoncé atop a New Orleans Police Department squad car or sitting in a 19th-century living room in plaçage attire, I’m reliving trauma. I’m thinking about how the system failed us. I’m thinking about how the central government and the head of state left us to die. I could speak about the incompetence of some local leaders, the breakdown in communication of authorities, the lawlessness of police officers and troops. I could speak about the vicious racist vigilantes who hunted evacuees down like dogs for trying to secure safe ground for themselves and their families. But I don’t.
While some are made giddy by the metaphor of Beyoncé’s body being subsumed by the water, I am remembering images of bloated bodies of grandmothers and grandfathers, cousins, uncles, great aunts, and nieces that drifted through the floodwaters like discarded pieces of scrap wood. These were all images that ran across my television screen on repeat in the weeks and months after the levees broke. These were the horrifying tales relayed to me by survivors of the storm.
I have very little to add other than this: I’m glad some folks have stopped drinking the Beyoncé Kool-Aid. She’s a talented artist but she’s not Billie, Ella, Lena, Etta, Aretha, Diana, and Chaka rolled into one. She’s a pop star, not a sacred object for veneration and worship.
Speaking of pop stars, one more monkey song to lighten things up:
Saturday Classic: It’s time to move from monkeys to the Monkees. They were called the Pre-Fab Four back in the day but their music has stood the test of time. Their second album, More of the Monkees, is one I owned when I was a youngun. It’s still pretty damn good thanks to some wonderful songs, strong harmonies, and brilliant backing by the Wrecking Crew:
That’s it for this week. Hopefully, my Carnival hangover won’t hang on much longer; at least the hangers-on are gone baby gone. I’ve decided to branch out on my Batman villain closing meme and feature Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Clearly the coolest Joker ever and the only one who’s been booed at the Boston Garden: