Friday, April 28, 2023
Nina , a 2016 production written and directed by Cynthia Mort and starring Zoe Saldaña as the brilliant and troubled pianist/vocalist/songwriter and civil rights activist Nina Simone. The main bit of controversy was the casting for the title role, emphasizing that Saldana is "too pretty" and too light skinned to portray the iconic Simone, a nearly forgotten artist who has had interest in her career revived due to a fine recent documentary, Nina Simone:What Happened? .The charges seem trivial, but the game Saldana underwent the indignity of having to appear, literally, in black face to have her resemble the dark-skinned Simone more closely. She looks ridiculous, as if she were showing up for a minstrel show audition. The film itself is an impressionist mess, going back and forth in time, rummaging distractedly through events in Simone's whirlwind life, never really finding a set of experiences a tangible, sympathetic character might emerge. No one really seems to believe in what they're doing, which is a shame. Simone deserved a much better telling of her story.
Monday, April 10, 2023
Last February, comedian Lauren Vinopal proposed in Slate that we lower the critical mass of stress and anxiety of our time by abolishing birthdays. You know the drill, I gather, that the ritualized marking of another year of life is a "trigger" for many, too many because it serves as a brutal reminder of how little we've accomplished in our time so far on the planet. And getting older and closer to your last birthday instead of your first one adds another burden to one's sense of the failure they think they've been in the time they've been allotted so far. Ah, triggers, nasty things to be avoided, lest our feelings get hurt, and psychic wounds drive us to further paranoid isolation. Avoiding stressful ideas, words, issues in daily affairs seems a dubious cure, though. Any one of a million things can be "triggers" for increased depression, anxiety and, yes, suicide.
Obsessed avoidance of triggers just appears to create more triggers, an odd self-fulfilling prophecy. Existence can be said as one sustained trigger, a never-ending stimulant on the nerves that alerts you to the need that there are matters in the world around you that need to be contended with. However, banning birthdays to alleviate these wretched conditions won't help anyone who truly suffers; life is one massive trigger, as such, for creating situations the emotionally fragile will react poorly to. Holidays, movies, comic books, 24 hour news channels, porn, drugs, alcohol, New Age sophistry, white supremacists, featherbedding politicians, fashion models, tall buildings, improperly set tableware, smooth jazz, raging bebop, classical music, anything on Nickelodeon…
Where do we start on this project to rid society of properties that make living inside our skins and inside our heads a riot of emotions, with all kinds of metaphorical chairs being thrown across the brain pan? Or better, when do we stop demanding that problematic elements within the consumer culture be banned, canceled or more severely chastised and repudiated and instead summon the political will to provide Americans with a substantially improved and easily accessible health care system that includes a range of mental health provisions that can help the psychologically troubled to live fuller lives? You would assume that the obvious answer is an easy one, though a difficult one and ongoing, to help fellow citizens live in society, not shield them from it.
Thursday, April 6, 2023
Legend has it that Mike Keneally was hired by Frank Zappa in 1988 as a “stunt guitarist,” because the eccentric composer realized he couldn’t do justice to the increasingly dense music he was writing at the time. He toured with Zappa that year as both guitarist and keyboardist to deserved acclaim. Keneally worked with Dweezil Zappa, Steve Vai, Henry Kaiser, and Andy West. A multi-instrumentalist of the highest fashion, his music has been far more than the Cuisinart virtuosity that makes so many rock pick-wielder studio efforts a test of one’s tolerance for relentless displays of technique. Keneally has broad musical literacy and has revealed his acumen as an electric and resourceful composer for his elevated guitar skills.