Thursday, August 28, 2008
The Steps to the Dance are Best Left Up to Chance
And I'll pull your crooked teeth You'll be perfect just like me You'll be a lover in my bed And a gun to my head We must never be apart We must never be apart --Smashing Pumpkins, "Ava Adore" So I read Watchmen. First off, I'm no longer worried that Zach Snyder is incapable of making a good movie out of it. I'm now convinced that everyone is incapable of making a good movie out of it. Some things just belong in the medium that originally brought them to life and I think Watchmen may well be one of those things. But that's not really my point. I find the character of Dr. Manhattan fascinating. He's more than a superhero. In Dr. Manhattan we literally find god as a character. The world of Watchmen has many things that are familiar to us, but it's a very different world because, as the book says at one point, everyone realized that god actually existed. And he was an American. God arrives on the scene. And all anyone could think to do was turn him in to a costumed superhero and use him to fight the Commies. It's a brilliant bit of subtext, especially since they draw attention to the whole Dr. Manhattan = god = American thing pretty quickly, then leave it alone for long enough that when the difference becomes apparent it's a revelation. It's an excellent example of objectification on a grand scale. Dr. Manhattan comes to prefer Mars to Earth, which seems insane to us but makes perfect sense to him. And it's his prerogative to prefer Mars to Earth, since we're the ones who made him a costumed superhero, not him. The rest of the world thought of Dr. Manhattan as being exactly the same as he'd always been, just with this crazy glowing blue thing and really cool powers. They didn't realize that he'd grown completely beyond what any mere human could comprehend. They didn't let him, they didn't want him to. I got… Toys in the attic Monsters under the bed Ghosts in the cupboard I got curtains made 'o lead Bats in the belfry Goblins out in the shed… Well I was cryin' for a vision, I got static instead Boy, oh boy, I got a noisy head --Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers, "Noisy Head" Apparently the Peacemakers' No More Beautiful World was released to a bit of controversy from the fan base. It was overproduced came the complaint. It didn't stick to the desert highways of Arizona and the windswept beaches of Mexico like the rest of the Peacemakers and Refreshments library. It wasn't, I guess, Americano II. Now, I fully admit that Americano was a better album than No More Beautiful World. For me it's because No More Beautiful World suffers from the same basic problem as most Oasis albums and Idlewild's 100 Broken Windows and Warnings/Promises. Everything is good, but nothing is great. There's no go-to track. You pretty much need to be in the mood for the album if you want to listen to it. An album, at least in my book, needs that go-to track. Idlewild's The Remote Part has "American English," Americano has, well, "Americano." But by the same token, No More Beautiful World is, by far, the more profound, deeper album. And I believe it's because the band has grown since Americano. They lifted their vision above the desert highways and dusty cantinas and in doing so saw a much larger world and found the voice to try to explain it. We live in a world that encourages mediocrity and discourages growth. I realized a long time ago that the admonition, "Don't bite off more than you can chew," is the exact wrong idea. Always bite off more than you can chew. You'll never know what you're made of if you don't. I understand, though, why we reward mediocrity. We're afraid of change on some level, but we're hopelessly selfish on another. If we let Dr. Manhattan go to Mars and stop being a costumed American hero, we're always safe. If we keep following Roger Clyne down the Arizona blacktop we can hold on to the way we were the first time we heard "Banditos" in high school. If the people around us don't grow, we don't have to grow. Without Dr. Manhattan the world is a scary place. The Russians can actually hurt us if they launch a nuclear war. No one wants that. Of course, we all know what happened without having Dr. Manhattan around in real life, but that's kind of the point. The perpetual adolescence and rigid ideologies that were given reign under the watchful eye of the god in the machine allowed all hell to break loose when that control was lost and the solution to that problem was as drastic as it was disturbing. Hello love, hello fear Hello loneliness, join us all here Hello funeral and ice-cold beer Hello new day! Hello baby teeth, hello grey hair We try to grow grass now there's weeds everywhere Hello whale, hello bum, hello just and unfair Hello new day! --RCPM, "Hello New Day" One of the things that caused me -- probably more than any other factor in the final analysis -- to leave Christianity behind was the fact that it never allowed me to grow up. I got tired of asking questions, getting unsatisfactory answers, saying the answers were unsatisfactory and being told that was because I wasn't getting spiritually mentored or reading the Bible enough. On some level it sounded like I didn't like the answers because I hadn't done a good enough job of not thinking. I wanted out of the perpetual adolescence brought on by living under the god in the machine. I think I know that I'm making that move, and I think I know because I suddenly find myself terrified. The entire point of my A Day in the Life post, I now realize, was that I suddenly realized that I'm growing, changing, and have come upon what I guess is the cusp of actual maturity completely unexpectedly. I've taken to calling myself a child lately, which is not something I've ever done in the past. I always wanted everyone to think I was older than I actually was, completely capable of making my way in the world. Now I want people to think that I'm a child? When did that happen? Why the switch? I ended up spending a surprising amount of time dancing at my friend's wedding that weekend. This was kind of odd, since I don't really dance. But it was the right time, the right place, and at the end of the night the music stopped too soon. The next morning I remembered any number of conversations I'd had with "Rita." She'd say she wanted to learn how to dance. I'd say, "So let's take some classes." Then she'd find reasons not to do it or suggest getting some sort of learn to dance at home thingy (I'm not entirely certain they even make those, I think she was making that up). She was afraid of looking a fool. And I'm not reading anything in to that. It always came down to, "I want to learn, but I want to do it where people can't see me mess up." There's this thing out there that I randomly decided to call "The Bible Church Schedule." If you go to a wedding with a lot of anti-dancing evangelicals and/or fundies at which there is dancing, pay attention to the room's occupancy. Right about the time the music starts the room will suddenly seem much emptier. That's because all the fundies just got up and left en masse. I've decided that any number of life's questions can be answered by looking at the people around the dance floor. I've also decided that the really important answers can only be found on the dance floor.