“Once more into the breach, dear friends…” Henry V (by the Bard)
I’m a little ticked off here, so forgive me if I start ranting.
And you may disagree with me completely.
If you do, good — I want to hear your rebuttal.
Here’s what this is about:
Do you watch TMZ?
What do you think of it?
It’s addictive, I’ll tell you that much. I was just walking by the boob-tube last night, minding my own biz, when I caught sight of a single clip on some train-wreck celeb being bad.
Man, I think we’re hard-wired for gossip and shit like this. I just stood there, mesmerized, for half an hour.
I escaped, finally, during a long commerical break (hah!).
But just barely.
The show — if you’re mercifully unaware of it — is an hour, each Sunday evening, of a “behind the scenes” meeting of a typical tabloid/papparazzi staff of idiots. They talk smack about celebrities, while airing the nastiest video they can buy, steal or swindle.
It’s red meat for our celeb-obsessed culture.
And you watch it, mouth agape, the way you might watch an actual train wreck in progress.
If you’re lucky, after watching all this dirty-laundry crap, you just shrug off any larger meta-implications about our civilization and go to sleep.
If, like me, you’re not lucky that way…
… you start to wonder about when — not if — the hammer of history is coming down on us.
For me, last night, the epiphany came while the smarmy producers were ragging on two musical heroes of mine.
These two guys were doing nothing but being themselves. Weird, outlandish, and abnormal, yes. But they’ve never pretended to be anything else.
1. George Clinton — the Godfather of Funk, founder of the group Funkadelic, and all-around rhythmic bad ass.
2. And Sly Stone, of Sly and the Family Stone.
If you’ve never seen the Family’s live version of “Take You Higher” from the Woodstock (1969 edition) movie, your soul is just a little bit poorer for the lack.
And, for those of you paying attention, I’ve been asking the sound guys at seminars to use Funkadelic’s “We Got The Funk” as my intro music when I hit the stage for a lecture.
Gets the crowd in the right mood.
My own life would have been infinitely more dismal without these two greats contributing to the soundtrack of the last half of the twentieth century. They’re both in the Rock Hall of Fame, and deserve to be there.
Back to TMZ…
The rat-bastards on this show pretend to be hipper than thou. “Oh, look at Suzy Starlet, puking in the alley behind Spago’s, she’s such a loser tee hee hee…”
Sure, there are no lack of celebrities out there dying to have their sex tape, or their latest brush with the law, or their inside story of rehab prominently displayed on TMZ and the other trashy shows and magazines feeding the mob.
But you go too far when you spit on the reputation of folks just being themselves.
Who the hell are you to giggle at dudes like Sly and George Freaking Clinton?
The TMZ doofus producers have no talent. And they seriously confuse real “coolness” with the false bravado of sarcasm.
They pretend to a hipness they do not possess. They are clueless about the actual “value” of the beauty around them, and obsess on the ugliness they can laugh at.
This is the kind of attitude that made so many of my generation eager to drop out of society, and go try something else.
Yes, George Clinton is a startling sight at age sixty, in his day-glo wig and flowing robes. So what?
And Sly may or may not be cross-dressing a bit these days. Again — the cat’s a frigging genius. And he’s not hurting anybody being weird.
In fact, we are better off as a civilization with artists like this challenging our smug certainties and zombie stupification.
At some point in my lifetime, the whole concept of what is “cool” slipped from describing your attitude about life — your mindset and philosophy and willingness to engage with gusto, even if it entailed risk — and morphed into being about fashion.
So let’s get straight: You are not “cool” because you dress well, or look good.
“Cool” is in your head and your heart. It requires a functioning brain and a feeling heart — attributes the yo-yo’s at TMZ have never brushed up against.
It’s been twelve hours since I accidentally saw that show last night… and I’m still seething.
None of those tittering TMZ nabobs have produced anything of value in their entire lives.
If life plays out the way it should, all of them are headed for karmic blow-outs designed to force-feed a little humility and respect into their jaded skulls.
Man, I’m steaming.
I gotta go listen to some funk, and mellow out…
Love to hear what you think about all this.
P.S. In case you’re wondering about the title here, “bread and circus” was the way The Man kept control in ancient Rome — by feeding the mob with free bread, and entertaining them at the Coliseum with gladiator fights and lions eating Christians.
Funny to think our modern “high tech circus” is a direct descendant of killing people. It includes the Olympics (as well as every organized sporting event, at every level), Vegas, rock shows, and every single second of television ever transmitted.
It’s all mob control.