Category Archives: The Beach Boys

Hot Air

Head Sounds

I don’t know if I’ve ever made a movie recommendation in these precincts. If not, here’s the first: Go see the Brian Wilson biopic, Love & Mercy.

Both Paul Dano and John Cusack portray Wilson’s descent into and return from debilitating craziness about as well as any actor could. A lot of people have been saying that Cusack’s take on Wilson is inferior to Dano’s. I don’t buy it. Cusack, who plays Wilson from the 1980s, has all the tics and quirks down. (Dano plays Wilson as he records the Pet Sounds album in 1966.) You might watch Cusack-as-Wilson and say the actor’s rendition is sort of…, oh, I don’t know, empty. Well, that’s only because Brian Wilson — post-LSD, post-breakdown, under the thumb of a mad shrink — was nothing more than a shell of a human being.

Wilson

Brian Douglas Wilson

Even today, supposedly back to normal and “cured” of his own madness, Wilson has the look of a man who’s witnessed the atomic blast that destroyed his hometown and is now trance-walking through life, waiting for the next airburst. Panic disorder, auditory hallucinations, paranoia — they’re as devastating to an individual as the explosion of a W88 warhead is to a population.

As a dramatic study of psychiatric illness, L&M is superb. It’s even better as the reimagined tableau of a genius turning his entire existence into a musical instrument in the service of producing “the greatest album ever made.”

That’s what Brian Wilson was trying to do when he was conjuring Pet Sounds. You can make the argument that he succeeded and I wouldn’t object.

God Only Knows

That said, here’s the last in my series of songs dedicated to The Loved One during her birthday week. If you do go to see Love & Mercy, you’ll learn who once said this was, “[T]he greatest song ever written.” You’ll be surprised.

One more thing: If you love music and want a glimpse into the making of a classic, watch this two-part vid [Part 1, Part 2] on the making of GOK in the studio. Then watch/listen to the final cut below.

Hot Air Today

Believe Me

When I was a kid back in the mid-1960s, a woman named Madalyn Murray O’Hair was often in the news.

See, she didn’t believe in god and, rather than do the right thing and keep her mouth shut about it, she traipsed all over the country telling people she was an atheist. In fact, she even founded a group called American Atheists, a moniker about as contradictory as, say, Obese Marathoners.

O'Hair

Madalyn Murray O’Hair

How she ever found more than one or two other like-minded spawn of Satan in the year 1963 in this holy land is beyond me.

At the time I was a second grader at St. Giles, a Catholic school, under the tutelage of a pack of the sternest nuns this side of the cast of a John Waters movie. The principal was Sister James Mary. When she’d taken her Holy Orders, she assumed the name of a male saint known as a “perpetual virgin” and that of the Virgin Mother of Christ, a double-whammy of the Catholic church’s bizarre sexual value system. Sister James Mary — or, as we referred to her, JM — was the toughest, scariest, most brutish, deep-voiced, flinty-eyed bully I ever knew until I was introduced to a gang tough named Little Willie in 1973. Little Willie once beat a guy in the side aisle of the Mercury Theater simply for liking the same girl he did. The poor guy was hospitalized for several weeks, having suffered a concussion, a broken jaw, broken ribs, and a broken arm. Yeah, Little Willie was tough, although I’d hedge my bet on him were he to be matched against JM.

Sisters

Sisters

Anyway, Sister James Mary visited our classroom one day in the winter of 1964 wearing her meanest look. We knew she was deadly serious. Even the class clowns, Albert DiPrima and I, refrained from making goofy faces at each other while JM visited that day. She had a message of great import for us. She looked around the room when she spoke and I swear that when her eyes landed on me, the radiant energy emanating from them raised my body temperature a degree and a half.

She told us that a horde of people in this dangerous, dangerous world were trying to rob from us the right to worship our Holy Father. We were to resist them at all costs.

A little background. A couple of years earlier, the US Supreme Court had ruled against school prayer. And then the next year, that same Court had outlawed the reading of the Bible in classrooms. (Never mind that these decisions affected public schools only.) The Court, clearly, was under the thumb of the pagans. At the forefront of this assault on all things godly and good, JM warned, was Madalyn Murray O’Hair. Sister James Mary grimaced when she mentioned O’Hair’s name, as if she was about to retch.

At the time I was still trying to be a good sport about all this Catholicism and god business. It would be another five or so years before I finally quit the Church. As an obedient Soldier of Christ at the time, I immediately counted Madalyn Murray O’Hair among the most vile humans on Earth. She, Castro, Kruschev, Lee Harvey Oswald, and the Boston Strangler constituted my personal Axis of Evil in 1964.

O'Hair/Castro/Kruschev/Oswald/DeSalvo

Rogues Gallery

I was not alone. Madalyn Murray O’Hair was, according to Life magazine that year, “the most hated woman in America.”

That was then.

In the year 2013, it would be an oddity to find a nun who is the principal of a Catholic school. If you do find one, it’s a sure bet she’s wearing a pantsuit as opposed to a habit and a wimple. And she sure as hell hasn’t named herself after a fellow whose claim to fame was his steadfast refusal to have sex.

And, although the world’s most famous atheist is still reviled among backwoods fundamentalists and politico-Christianists, he is not ranked among the likes of Bashar al-Assad, whoever the boss of al Qaeda is today, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and — oh, I don’t know, Miley Cyrus? — among the general populace.

As a matter of fact, Richard Dawkins, the world’s most famous atheist today, is one of the most respected thinkers on this crazy, mixed-up planet.

From "The O'Reilly Factor"

Hey, the place has changed a lot in 50 years.

I bring this all up because I just learned that Dawkins’ memoir is due to hit the streets in a couple of weeks. The book is An Appetite for Wonder. One of the things I like best about Dawkins is his obvious impatience with theists. He’s about as tolerant of believers as he is of the object of their adoration. From his book, The God Delusion:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infantificidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Dear god, I can’t wait to read his new book.

God Only Knows

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“Don’t threaten me with love, baby. Let’s just go walking in the rain.” — Billie Holiday

WHITE HEAT

This is truly evil, isn’t it?

It’s a screenshot from the National Weather Service page Saturday at about 4:55pm.

And dig that humidity: 19 percent! Honestly, those are oven conditions.

AND THEN, THE HEAVENS OPENED UP

Some folks around town got a little rain Saturday evening, just before sunset. Facebook pals of ours were gushing about the downpour while the ground surrounding Chez Big Mike remained rock dry.

But yesterday afternoon we all got our treat. The rain fell, well, in buckets. When the torrent wasn’t so severe as to knock one off his or her feet, local citizens were actually walking around courthouse square in the rain like little kids, simply enjoying the experience of being wet.

HERE’S THE STORY OF A LOVELY LADY…

Laura Grover’s Bloomington Storytelling Project is having a big do Saturday, 7:00pm, at the Waldron Center.

The Groovy Grover is looking for more storytellers to tell their tales, so if you want to regale the citizenry, email her.

This month’s theme will be “Shocks and Surprises” but, really, every BSP event is chock full of S&Ss. If you haven’t caught a night with the BSPers yet, you’re in for a riot. It’s amazing how many raconteurs, fabulists, and flat-out bullshitters live in this burgh.

You know, it’d be a great date destination. Even if your date should bore you to tears, the evening wouldn’t be a total loss. Try it.

THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS

So, 9th District Rep. Todd Young (R) is hitching his wagon to Mitt Romney, natch.

This area’s first-term congressboy crashed Washington in the 2010 elections on the coattails of the Tea Party revolution (and how revolting it was.) The Tea Party-ists have been lukewarm on the former moderate Massachusetts guv so far this election year.

All Aboard!

But the GOP gang is noted for its ability to fall into line, so the side of Right is standing by their man even if they are holding their noses.

Young last week was named honorary co-chair of Mitt’s Veterans and Military Families for Romney club, which actually boasts some three bazillion co-chairs.

They’re all fine and patriotic souls whose fondest wish is that a Republican — any Republican — evicts Barack Obama from the White House come November. Of course, in order for them to realize that goal, the economy has to tank even further than it is already.

Such a quandary: loving, loving, loving this holy land while at the same time hoping, hoping, hoping more people lose their jobs and see their retirement investments shrink.

Neat strategy, guys.

LO-TECH POLS

Meanwhile, Shelli Yoder, the Dem candidate for Young’s seat, issued a press release recently decrying the incumbent’s use of the mails to tell the voters of Indiana’s 9th District what a wonderful guy he is.

Young: “I’m Swell.”

According to the Yoder camp, Young spent nearly $300,000 sending out junk mail to voters in the District in the year April 1, 2011, to March 31, 2012. Yoder says Young is “one of the top senders of mailings in the House.”

The 87 Republicans who gained seats for the first time in 2010 spent some $9.8M on mailers during their first year in office. These are the folks who sold themselves by saying Congressional spending was out of control.

21st Century Communication?

According to House records, eight of the ten top 2011 mailers in the US House were freshman.

Franking privileges, which is the official term for taxpayers footing the bill for Congressbeings to send mail to their constituents, supposedly are limited to communications on the issues as opposed to campaign literature. But those of us who aren’t as adept at lying as politicians are understand that when we receive a glossy card or pamphlet from our senator or representative, he or she’s really only looking for our vote.

So Todd Young isn’t alone in using our money to convince us he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to us. Nor are Republicans alone in charging us for their PR postage —  two of the top ten frosh were Dems.

Still, in this Internet age how much sense does it make for our elected representatives to be sending us junk mail? And is any of their self-aggrandizing material actually effective?

Search me. I do know this — if Shelli Yoder wins her race against Todd Young, I’ll be watching her to make sure she’s not on the top ten list in 2013.

THE RAIN, THE PARK, AND OTHER THINGS

The Cowsills were the bargain-basement kids-and-mom of 60s-era Sunshine Pop. The sub-genre’s artistes included the Beach Boys and the Mamas & the Papas.

The sunshine sound began to die with the 1969 release of the Archies’ “Sugar, Sugar.” Even though it was that year’s top selling 45, it’s hyperglycemic lyrics and vocals forced much of the listening public to turn to more morose singer-songwriters for something akin to balance.

Me? I’m still not averse to naked optimism and head-in-the-sand joy in my music. After all, you can only listen to the Cowboy Junkies for so long before you begin to lose your will to live.

The story goes that Screen Gems wanted to do a weekly show about the Cowsills but thought the mom, Barbara, too homely for TV stardom. Screen Gems hired Shirley Jones to play the mom with the rest of the Cowsills playing themselves but when the kids found out about the plan, the family pulled out of the project.

I Hate To Say It But….

Screen Gems went ahead with Shirley Jones and even hired her stepson, David Cassidy, to play her kid in a sitcom based on a similar idea, “The Partridge Family.”

Anyway, in honor of yesterday’s rain:

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, games, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

St. Mark’s United Methodist ChurchThe Generations Project: “What’s Working, What’s Not?”, discussion of brain injury for victims and family; 10am-noon

◗ IU Kinsey Institute GalleryNew exhibit, “Ephemeral Ink: Selections of Tattoo Art from the Kinsey Institute Collection”; 1:30pm-close, through September 21st

◗ IU Neal-Marshall Black Culture CenterSummer Arts Festival: Michael Spiro & IU Summer World Percussion Ensemble; 7pm

Third Street ParkCuba Friendship Caravan, pitch-in meal, music, and discussion with caravanistas traveling to Santa Clara, Cuba, with aid packages; 7-8:45pm

The BishopDJs Mr. & Mrs. Resur; 8pm

◗ IU Auer HallSummer Arts Festival: Kevork Mardirossian on violin and Lee Phillips on piano play Prokofiev, DeBussy, & Franck; 8pm

◗ IU Auer HallSummer Music Series: Zoe Martin-Doike on violin, Nathan Vickery on cello, and Chih-Yi Chen on piano; 8pm

The Player’s PubSongwriter Showcase; 8pm

◗ IU HPER, room 107 — Ballroom dance lessons; 8:30pm

Ongoing:

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron CenterExhibit, “I’m Too Young For This  @#!%” by John D. Shearer; through July 30th

◗ IU Art MuseumExhibit, “Urban Landscape: A Selection of Papercuts by Qiao Xiaoguang; through August 12th — Exhibit, wildlife artist William Zimmerman; through September 9th — Exhibit, David Hockney, new acquisitions; through October 21st

◗ IU SoFA Grunwald GalleryKinsey Institute Juried Art Show; through July 21st, 11am

Monroe County History CenterPhoto exhibit, “Bloomington: Then and Now” by Bloomington Fading; through October 27th

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