Friday, May 22, 2009

iQuality

My teenage son is home from his first college year and told me last night that every single parent of every single person he knows has acknowledged I am a loser and a lowlife pathetic failure of an excuse for a parent. This was just the prologue. The meltdown went on and on to dis my religion, my total 3 loser dysfunctional friends, the fact that I have never paid for one single thing in his life (translation: I have paid for EVERY single thing in his life except his iphone), and that all of his friends hate me. Three of them were witnessing this tirade, the same three that seem to endure sleeping in my loser apartment every night because they don’t dare go home. One of them even lives in a mansion on Fifth Avenue and is not allowed to have friends over but chimed in for the chorus.

So was this just a decoy to make his horrid report card seem less heinous? A belated Mother’s Day gift? The effect of his self-medication or failure to medicate or overmedicate? Bad sports-gambling debts which are mounting geometrically? He is the drama queen of the house, but this endless speech made 50 lashes seem quaint.

I went out for a margarita with friends who egged me on to throw the ungrateful wretch out. I came home slightly ‘tempered’ only to face accusations of being a drunk, and a belligerent drunk. Trust me, not only is my annual alcohol consumption less than one average teenage weekend binge, but I no longer have the passion for anger. I am anesthetized by not just the toxic fumes from voluminous media product- garbage, but from the slow ooze of cultural mediocrity. Has anyone else noticed this? Is it a Starbucks conspiracy? Our caffeine consumption has risen to offset the malaise, but it will take a high-magnitude earthquake to wake us up to our own sloth. I summon all my genetic bitchery, order all kids out, and no one moves. Even wrath is diluted... impotent.

Tonight I had dinner with a former rockstar who has the musical genius to compose a shattering soundtrack, but lacks the technology and equipment. Instead we are forced to turn on our sets to inadequate shows with not just derivative but inferior music by craftsmen who have all the technology but no creative depth or maturity. Is it their fault? Maybe not.

Wednesday I turned down an invite to attend the annual induction ceremony at the Academy of Arts and Letters. It seems they are running out of eligible people, because the list was as exciting as summer reality-TV reruns. Even the notion of sitting through these speeches was painful. Dull pain.

Last week an elderly former fashion designer complained to me that he attended an Anna Wintour lecture and all the women looked the same. Everyone has the same flowing hair, the same botoxed face, the same makeup and colors, the same shoes and gestures. Come to one of my shows, I teased him… you will at least see the marginally and mainstream hideous. He laughed. Said my soul was showing unfashionably. Sticking out.

As if I hadn't had enough abuse, the edgy indie director for whom I am writing film music kicked my lagging butt. He also threatened to put my unfinished music up on a myspace site, one by one, as punishment for my personal brand of sloppy perfectionism. Forget your brilliant NYTimes cd review and your poetry. The only books we will soon see in Barnes and Noble are Dan Brown, Harry Potter, and endless teenage vampire chronicles. Aside from that, publishers will take a risk on Paris Hilton's cookbook and Michelle Obama's workout routine. No more literature. Put that in the Academy pipe and smoke it.

Then the Chinese Restaurant we play at on Saturdays cancelled us. Apparently no one is eating this holiday weekend and if they are, they are doing it in front of their TV and saving the service charge. So they certainly do not require musical accompaniment.

My son got an ‘A’ in Business Law. Mostly because one of his teammates loaned him the assignments. He managed a mediocrity ‘B’ in Writing for the Media for which an ‘A’ might not be marketable. Ditto World Politics. But he never showed up for Psychology (surprise!), and had an ‘F’ in a course called ‘Equality’. I queried…perhaps you thought they meant ‘e-Quality’? Secretly I gave him a point.

This morning I emailed one of the young but wise songwriter-poets I consider my spritual offspring. He has lost everything in a fire, the blessing of which he is remarkably able to appreciate. The rest of us have simply lost everything but are still encumbered with rent and storage fees, dustmites and debris, molted skin and unusable lyrics. I told him how depressing the Academy list was, and that I was beginning to crust and crinkle at the edges with the smolder of blackened nasty. So just now, coming in from a Manhattan summer-doldrums-preview night out, I received his 4-word post-conflagration reply which soothed a few stinging maternal wounds and stilled the ache of mediocrity like Amazing Grace: ‘I see a light’, he said. Full stop.

Maybe it will be okay.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Backlit

Having just returned from a crosstown bus trip during which I was the trapped audience of one end of a blaring cellphone conversationalist blogging aurally about her poor patients at Mt. Sinai and then via call waiting about her roommate’s boyfriend’s appalling personal hygiene, I was not exactly receptive to yet another email inviting me to become a Facebook friend.

Besides one’s virginity which doesn’t seem to have the ‘currency’ it once did, and will inevitably be the subject of an all-too-imminent reality show contest, perhaps the only thing once can give away and never get back is one’s privacy. The concept of privacy, in this tiny cyberworld, is virtually non-existent. What one chooses to withhold seems rather a game or dare for the paparazzi…and rather arbitrary when one posts nude photos indiscriminately but chooses not to discuss the location of the wedding. Besides, by the time the event actually takes place, there is a healthy chance that someone has already intruded on the marriage.

What is more debilitating and exhausting is the totally compulsive dissemination of information that is not only scarcely worthy of casual small talk, but begins to encroach upon obscenity as it occupies a larger and larger platform. We all remember how the man Gulliver, when he took on the proportions of a giant, was observed to have these large pores and bad smells. Ditto for the gargantualization of cyber trivia and froth.

Sifting through the trash has become a task which bogs modern culture to the point where it has become the very substance of not just friendship but culture itself. Television… scripted or unscripted, for the most part, has deteriorated to the calibre of an overheard cellphone conversation. Gossip is no longer a page six indulgence, but an industry. Perhaps a religion. Our gods and heroes are not Herculean but Warholean.

While we're on the subject of art, witness Jeff Koons and his toxic band of misled thieves. At least Mr. Woolworth and Mr. Penney had the restraint to charge coins for such goods. Perhaps the sheer size and the slick deluded genius of Koons' marketing team convince him he is entitled to add many zeroes. I guess he is unable, like Gulliver among the Lilliputians, to smell the stench of his own output. Does anyone note the irony of unprecedented recent perfume and scent branding? They rival fashion sales.

Which brings me to the spring art auctions. In my home, it has been a Mother’s Day tradition that I get the afternoon ‘off’ to wander unencumbered by strollers and whining adolescents through the wares of the auction houses. Something I looked forward to, indulged in. This year even the champagne/strawberry fest at Philips couldn’t entice me to taint my Sunday with the pretentious pedantics of the auction house staff and the blathering art consultants leading still-solvent hedge fund boys through the racks like Syms salesmen flogging cheap suits to make their pathetic quota.

This year there was something almost desperate about the shows. The goods were, for the most part, lacking in quality, although mercifully reduced in quantity. Still, let’s face it... when a rare bronze sculpture appears in simultaneous sales in the same city, same season, days apart… well, one begins to wonder about the whole damn game, and the fact that the archived body of work of so many artists does not come close to the numbers of claimed owners. My own teenager has questioned the Basquiats… and the Warhols… well, Andy himself signed many he swore he never painted. The signature and the work… not always one and the same. But once an artist has passed, works surface like memoirs and mementoes from dead rockstars’ ex-lovers.

Does it make a difference? Did anyone else notice how garishly ‘backlit’ the star lots at Sotheby's were? Like the diamonds in their jewelry department which do not quite have the same lustre at home, they seem to have employed the same bluish-halogen over-lighting which made each image coincidentally look just the way it does on one’s computer screen, which is undoubtedly the way most of the buyers know these images. So they are not disappointed by the reality of canvas and paint when they see them ‘in the flesh’ as it were. And why should they not employ ‘staging’ techniques…we use them to market expensive real estate, our own selves, these days…why not works of art?

So prices have begin to deflate. Unfortunately like a slow leak in a Koons balloon, there will be a slowish letting of hot air. The ‘stagers’ will see to this. Hopefully the detritus of this market will find a safe place in the dump among evaporating stock certificates and falsified bank statements and will not cause the death of any innocent turtles.