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Carl’s Tuesday Musics: “Book of Saints” by Veda Hille (2008)

by Carl Wilson

I had a hell of a time deciding what of Veda Hille‘s to share with you today. Though she hails (and rains and sleets and mists) from Vancouver, Veda is in Toronto right now, because she’s about to open a new version of her (and Bill Richardson’s) musical, Do You Want What I Have Got? A Craigslist Cantata, at the Factory Theatre. She’s also, though this is a highly contested title, probably the least-known of the very best songwriters in North America. You won’t guess that from this one song, though it will help if you listen to it more than once. But it does show off the quizzical sideways leaps of her mind and the wonder-laden shelves of her musical imaginarium. This is from her last studio album, This Riot Life, which mobilizes a lot of fragments of religious language, though it’s not religious, to talk about other matters – the proximity of death to life in the region it’s working, for instance.

It’s only as these songs and their strategies gradually assemble, into a body or constellation or archipelago, that you start to sense their range of silliness and scariness, and get accustomed to their peculiar volatility and spirality, their literally geological wisdom, and feel them becoming indispensable.

So if you’re in Toronto this month, go see Do You Want What I Have Got, and come to see Veda at the Music Gallery on Feb 25. The rest of you maybe go do a little more exploring.

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Tea with Chris: ‘Is Your Hate Pure?’

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Thursday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Margaux: Uugh. James Cameron, director of faux-moral movies, buys a lot of land in another country. This seems so real-wrong. Are people really still allowed to buy land?

A video of how your environment can affect you!

This is such a weirdly entertaining article on the Occupy Wall Street Summer Camp by Alan Feuer.  When there is not an intoxicating swell of action, patience and humour prove nourishing .

The teenagers of the Torontonians and the art company Mammalian Diving Reflex (with Darren O’Donnell in the mix) are having a sleepover at Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel on the night of August 10th. The event is called Dare Night: Lockdown, sleepover with one eye open – An all-night horrifying sleepover dare-filled lockdown night. These aren’t the boring old-fashioned art days where the artists on stage challenge the bourgeois audience with difficult ideas about how culture should be and send that audience home so they can think about that. These are the new days, when the artists simply change all the rules for one night (or in this case 17 hours) and the audience job is to endure a new world. I can assure you, as someone who sometimes hesitates to “participate” in art, other than probably being completely delighted, you’d also probably be completely safe here. Sort of. Maybe. Begins August 10 at 7 pm, ends August 11, 12:00pm (17 HORRIFYING HOURS!). Free.

“This is the way the world ends” – A thoughtful article from Terrence Rafferty on the new crop of unheroic apocalyptic movies. My favourite: “Humanity is about to expire, but this time it’s personal.”

Carl: I don’t know why but my teacup is overflowing this week.

This account of the “increasingly bizarre and beyond logic” trial of the Pussy Riot art-activists in Moscow is at once entertaining and appalling. Another perspective on the case comes from Natalie Zina Walschots, who writes about other cases of prosecution of heavy-metal musicians who “stand in the sacred heart of things and scream.”

Here is Jacob Wren doing his own screaming as he generously blogs his novel in progress, Rich and Poor. The kinds of issues Jacob likes to masticate – class, violence, money, art, complicity – are also the meat of this conversation between art critic Martha Buskirk and Alexis Clements of the “Hyperallergic” website, titled “Art’s Corrosive Success.” And another angle on the art world’s insular economy comes from Allx Rule and David Levine in this satirical attack on “International Art English.”

Two great foes of corrosive success (whatever other corrosions they succumbed to) died in the past week or so, Gore Vidal and Alexander Cockburn. Neither produced a masterpiece, except for their lives. Vidal, that terrible-wonderful patrician-queen walking paradox, is being feted everywhere. But Cockburn, who was a columnist for The Nation when I worked there (Vidal also had a long association with the magazine), is less widely remembered today. My favourite comment about him this week came from a friend: “He was the real Christopher Hitchens” – that is, the fearless and unkowtowing political critic and scourge that Hitchens set himself up to be but too often let down (as his former friend Cockburn lamented). Michael Tomasky’s appreciation is ambivalent but does get at what was important about Alex; his former editor (and a former mentor of mine) JoAnn Wypijewski’s more personal tribute gets at what was beautiful about him:

“Is your hate pure?” he would ask a new Nation intern, one eyebrow raised, in merriment or inquisition the intern was unsure. It was a startling question, but then this was—it still is—a startling time. For what the ancients called avarice and iniquity Alex’s hate was pure, and across the years no writer had a deadlier sting against the cruelties and dangerous illusions, the corruptions of empire. But, oh, how much more he was the sum of all he loved.

So let us celebrate our surviving scourges: Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury nailed one of the most neglected scandals of the current U.S. election season, vote-suppression legislation, with his historically acute series this month, “Jimmy Crow’s Comeback Tour.” And few have been paying heed while Canadian doctors stand up against similarly prejudicial bullshit on our side of the border, the Harper government’s cutoff of health care services to refugee applicants.

All right, enough. Now I have to go decide whether to make snack chips out of prosciutto or kale. Maybe I’ll mix them up together. Like a pussy riot! Like a pussy galore!

Chris: Terrible-wonderful patrician-queen and a gourmand-vulture too. When news of Vidal’s death emerged the first thing I thought of was Suddenly, Last Summer, the gloriously overwrought melodrama he worked on with frenemy Tennessee Williams (who once said of Vidal and Truman Capote, sounded both appalled and impressed, that “you would think they were running neck-and-neck for some fabulous gold prize”). Being a member of the cohort that learned about queerness from John Waters’ Simpsons cameo, this was the second thing: “Friends? Ha! These are my only friends: Grown-up nerds like Gore Vidal. And even he’s kissed more boys than I ever will.”

Dan Bejar explains a fair number of Dan Bejar songs: “I always loved music, but listening to rock seemed kind of gauche. It was not something that a human actually does; it was like some other world. The idea of it seemed very exotic.”

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Scud Mountain Boys at Lee’s Palace in Toronto, Sat. Feb. 25, 2012

by Carl Wilson

Memory, as everybody knows, is an odd, perverse thing. When I first saw the reunited Scud Mountain Boys’ stage setup at Lee’s Palace last weekend, I said, “Oh, that’s funny, it’s just like the photo on the back of one of their albums where they’re sitting in somebody’s apartment around a kitchen table, playing and drinking.” Then I came across the above 1990s-era photo online, clearly not a candid home snapshot but one that includes microphones and at least a bar booth if not an actual stage. Was this the album shot, or a publicity picture I got with the Sub Pop CD reissue of their first two albums, when I worked at an alt-weekly in Montreal in the mid-90s, which is how I first heard of the band? Or another picture altogether? I wanted to dig out my copy of the CD to check, but almost all my CDs are walled in with a bunch of boxes in a nook off my kitchen and retrieving it would be basically a home-renovation project.

What a more exhausting and error-fraught sort of excavation it must be to dig up three people with whom you were once intimate, but haven’t spoken to in 14 years, and propose that you do the thing you used to do together, before you stopped talking. But now-Toronto-based songwriter Joe Pernice (better known for his subsequent and current band, the Pernice Brothers) did that after a close mutual friend of the group’s unexpectedly died. The deceased had been a fan and the idea was to honour his memory. Not right after, though. As Pernice explained on stage, it took him a year to make the phone calls. But whatever he was afraid of happening didn’t happen, maybe because “nobody really remembers what caused all the shit any more.”

What I hadn’t known was that the kitchen-table-on-stage was a standard live Scuds motif in their initial run, around the Boston area, not a cute reunion gimmick. You could argue that now it has become a cute reunion gimmick. I think it is more apt to say that it is a technique, one of those stage-magic tricks you discover and maintain because it works, makes the show the way you need it to be. Now I find it virtually impossible to picture them standing in standard band configuration, rather than drinking beers off the table (Americans visiting Toronto always love Keiths), bending over in the uncomfortably expressive angles around their instruments that people do in a home song-swap session (not a “jam,” as Pernice admonished), mumbling in each other’s ears, telling tales between tunes.

But this was not folksy-homey coffeehouse shtick. Pernice’s songs are too infused with rue for that, as much as classical pop craftsmanship ever has been, lying (their pretty white asses off) where the mouths of the George Jones, Jimmy Webb, Alex Chilton and Joe Strummer rivers meet. His persona now is laid back and salty-charming, but the songs make it easy to picture it when his back-in-the-day yarns tend to include heavy doses of anti-anxiety meds. Then you’re tempted to imagine “all the shit” wasn’t so much the bass player, the mandolinist/drummer or the lead guitarist’s faults – but maybe that’s just because they weren’t talking as much on stage. Second-guessing other people’s memories is an even less reliable thing.

Indeed, I wondered what the person in question would have had to say about the story Pernice told about writing one of his best-loved songs: A girlfriend at the time, he said, kept going on about what a romantic song “Hey Jealousy” by the Gin Blossoms was, and he exasperatedly responded that the guy in the song was just trying to get laid. To prove his point he wrote a seductive, early-70s-style, gorgeously hazy tune in which a guy tries to wheedle his way back into a girl’s bed (“I would give anything to make it with you, one more time/ I would give everything I own”), which builds up to chillingly menacing insinuations. He titled it, “Grudge Fuck.”

The crowd was full of pushing-middle-aged folks, no doubt with their own recollections to husband. There wasn’t a lot of dancing or swaying, as if everybody were still following the cool-rules of 1997, when they went to more shows, when audiences stood or sat nodding with their arms crossed whenever not moshing. But when they did express emotion, it was with surprisingly rowdy outbursts, of varying appropriateness: Why did people scream every time Boston was mentioned? Was the room really full of Mass. expats or were they just trying to bonafide their in-the-knowdom? Even on a Saturday in a bar, do you shout every time a song mentions drinking and drugging, when those are the things clearly killing the protagonists? Jeez, it wasn’t St. Patrick’s Day.

Unfair. But the intimacy made it tempting to rubberneck into people’s minds. Pernice suddenly did a double take at a woman holding up a homemade shirt in the front row: “Is that you?” He explained that she’d shown him the same shirt at a show in another town 15 years ago – when her parents brought her, and she was, “like, 13. … Wait, I don’t like the way that sounds.” The dysfunctional-neighbourhood feel was cemented when Sadies (and former Pernice Bros) drummer Mike Belitsky cracked the singer up so much from the back of the room with a text message (his iPhone was on the table, to watch the time) that Pernice had to take a few minutes’ break after corpsing on his first couple of tries at the Scuds’ somberly beautiful cover of Cher’s “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves.” He had to think of “nuns beating me” and other dark childhood images to regain composure.

After all, I’m not the boss of anybody else’s nostalgia. (Though I’m tempted to call Pernice on leaving out that he didn’t just “work in a bakery” when the band started, but was doing an MFA in creative writing.**) Hell, I’m not even the boss of mine. I was grateful finally to see a band that never played near me in their original lifespan. And to see them enjoying each other’s company. Even though there’s a part of me that selfishly hopes this slight return will be the sum of it. That even wishes they’d remained, as the slogan of Lubbock, Texas’s The Flatlanders had it, “More a Legend than a Band.” (Yet even they later reunited for a string of shows and new records.) That sympathizes with Darren Hayman’s title, “We Love the Bands that Don’t Re-form.”

It’s an adult pleasure to have memories that stay memories, memories you can’t recover, even ones you never got to attain in the first place. Perhaps we just confuse reality with rarity, essence with inaccessibility. We think there’s only so much room around a kitchen table. Or, whether superstitiously or maybe with real folk wisdom, we long for minor rites of sacrifice, destruction, some kind of preview of death and loss to gird us for the real thing, even fantasizing it can homeopathically prevent the real thing: “I’m going to burn the silo when you go,” a farmer whose wife is on the way out sings in one sterling Scuds song. “You’ll see the flames, and maybe know.”

We’re damn fools, the thing is. Can’t we be allowed sometimes to forget that? The sugar-lick torture of the Scud Mountain Boys was to remind us and make us like it.


** Joe informs me that there was a significant time lag between the bakery and the grad-school period – sorry for presuming on my own in-the-knowness!

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Tea With Chris: New Job

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Chris: Thought Catalog is the worst website and the best punching bag: “Can You Believe I Was Born in 1992?”

It’s not like superhero comics are generally progressive where gender and sexuality are concerned, but the stiffly written attempts at “sexy” that Laura Hudson decimates here look even more awful than usual.

Via Jami Attenberg, an outer-borough enigma: “It is possible there is some larger lesson for ailing newspaper sales in the sudden good fortune of The Suffolk Times and The Riverhead News-Review, two modest Long Island weeklies that saw an unprecedented sales spike last week as mysterious buyers swooped in to buy every copy they could.

Or more likely, newspaper officials guess, the lesson is very local: Either someone really, really wanted people to be able to read that week’s newspaper, or someone really, really did not.

The papers, which originally printed a combined 8,620 copies for newsstand sales, had to print 5,500 more to keep up with the demand, which seemed to come almost entirely from two customers buying up every available copy at $1.50 each from 7-Eleven stores and bagel shops from Calverton to Shelter Island…”

New Tune-Yards song! I was at this Pop Montreal show (and the one she played in Toronto a few days later), but the packed Ukranian Federation was hot enough to melt stamps off hands, so it’s nice to hear the track in a state of repose.

Margaux: I haven’t looked into the programming for Nuit Blanche yet, but I know a few of my favourite Toronto artists have projects happening. Ulysses Castellanos is doing something with fellow artists Malgorzata Nowacka and Margaret Krawecka called Hansel and Gretel at 99 Sudburry St. And the always hilarious and dead-on Life of Craphead (Amy C Lam and Jon McCurley) is doing something across from the Xbox store.

This seems important. Movie brains. (thanks to Matt Smif)

Whippersnapper Gallery, an interesting Toronto art space for young artists (under 30),  is currently accepting “project proposals” for exhibitions in their street level project gallery, as well as project proposals for a special summer series of curated public installations.

I turned on the Canadian radio at lunch and Don McKellar was hosting the Q program. Happy day.

It’s Toronto’s (unofficial) mayor’s birthday today – happy birthday Maggie MacDonald! Let’s listen to her song “New Job” (just like the old one) or watch her sing “El Dorado”.

Maggie MacDonald. Photo by Peter Mohideen

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Tea With Chris: A Secular Hymn to Atoms

Tea With Chris is a roundup of recommended links, posted every Friday. Here are a few of our favourite things from the Internet this week:

Chris: This clip has already gone viral, but that doesn’t make it any less charming. Who knew that Waka Flocka’s bitterly reflective line about saying “Fuck school” could be repurposed for kindergarten adorableness? (Okay, different songs, but still.)

The Singles Jukebox righteously tears apart Katy Perry’s “E.T.” in the process of giving it a 2.45: “Then you start singing lyrics about wanting to be with an alien, a time-tested metaphor for race even if you hadn’t clarified that he was ‘foreign.’ And then you sing about wanting to be a victim and being abducted. In other words, you’re spouting some really fucking racist bullshit, Katy Perry.”

Margaux: Toronto’s best friend Becky Johnson has launched a kickstarter campaign to raise money for her 2011 summer tour. There are rewards. The campaign closes April 27, 2011. Here is the link if you would like to know how Becky usually makes money.

Carl: Lots of tea from me to try to compensate for my lack of posting:

This beautiful and popular YouTube video, a Japanese ad for a wooden cellphone, glorifies nature not just in its cinematography but in its reversal of the abstraction of music – taking the mathematical mysticism of Bach’s praise cantata, and turning it back into one piece of matter striking another and producing a tone, over and over again. The materiality of the forest encounters the materiality of the ball rolling down the ramp and both are mediated by the materiality of vision, making it all a secular hymn to atoms. And yet there’s the underside: Seeing this enormous wooden ramp built in the middle of the woods, for an elaborate lark whose pleasure is ultimately comercially motivated, can’t help conjuring up the reality that forests are vanishing, that we’re wasting a shitload of wood all the time and emperiling the very natural beauty the ad celebrates. And it’s all for a wooden cellphone, an object that’s itself a punchline to a bad joke about technology and luxury and human (un)nature. It’s perfect, and also perfectly ridiculous.

Montreal journalist Eric Rumble has a newish site called LPWTF, where he looks into the story behind Canadian record covers. I like this entry about the above-reproduced cover of Colin Stetson’s amazing sax-barrage set New History Warfare Vol. 2: Judges, in particular, because all the little joints and bends in it articulate so much about the artistic process: how it often proceeds very haphazardly to the retrospectively inevitable. Stetson had one idea and the artist took it completely another way, then found out her idea had already been done, and so came up with another version, which she then realized by finding a company in China that made something she didn’t know existed… And the result was much better than anything anyone would have conceived in the absence of all the accidents. It’s a nice way to write about art, although artists aren’t always willing or able to be so transparent and helpful.

I read quite a few poems this week by Noah Eli Gordon. A few years ago he published a book called Inbox made up of emails he’d gotten, stripped of context, over a period of time. His latest book is called The Source, and it’s composed of texts he found in thousands of books in the Denver Public Library, always on page 26. The results are tender and philosophical while also, appropriately enough, a little bit stubborn and elusive-feeling. I like this conceptual-writing thing, but I wonder about its emotional limitations that way, and also whether the people who stump for it are concerned about those emotional limitations, and if not why not.

And then I become very glad that Ken Babstock has a new book of poems called Methodist Hatchet – I am glad both that it exists and that it’s called that. (Along the LPWTF lines, Bill Douglas explains how Methodist Hatchet‘s cover was designed).

Here, as part of a project by How Pedestrian of people reading poems in public places, someone named City T at the DMV in North Miami reads a poem from the book (text here) called “To Inflame the Civic Temper.” Its first line is, “Hey, Assface in the Hydroplane!” All the nouns in the poem are capitalized, a nice Victorian touch to balance out all the cursing.

And here is Ken himself reading in front of St. George subway station in October. His book launches as part of the annual Anansi Poetry Bash, Thursday, April 28, 8 p.m., upstairs at LeVack Block, 88 Ossington St., Toronto.

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The Social Network (2010) – Based on a book by Ben Mezrich, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin & Directed by David Fincher

By Margaux Williamson

(I went to this at a big movie house with Misha Glouberman and Jon Davies. I was pretty excited to see it. After the screening, we realized our friend Carl Wilson was sitting behind us. We all sat around talking as the credits rolled. Jon was surprised at how the movie didn’t stupidly go on and on explaining what Facebook is – like you often see in some movies about blogs or in that 1998 Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan vehicle that explains what email is. One of us suggested that maybe it was easier with Facebook to find the actual number of those in the know so that they could count the potential audience and see that they didn’t have to worry about it so much.)

The Social Network falls into one of my favourite genres: The nearly-present-just-recently-past historical drama – like Oliver Stone’s W. (about George W. Bush while he was still in office) or Stephen Frears’ The Queen (about The Queen). One of the good side effects of telling a story still so tied to the present is that it becomes less plausible to make the main protagonist a hero or a god with all the banal evidence still in plain view. But in any case, seeing the more life-size protagonists and daily banalities blown up as big as cinema screen is just as surreal as watching a bunch of gods portrayed in a realistic setting. We are not missing the “awe” factor. The Queen in The Queen is freakishly life-size while the story, both weirder and more familiar than normal, remains a healthy contender for a new kind of epicness.

There’s always a bit of complaining when turning a section of life into a bio-pic. Primarily the complaints involve accusations that elements of the truth were sacrificed for the romance of the story, but it’s not just Hollywood that turns things into big stories – our brains do it all the time too, even with our own boring lives. Personal media framing websites like Facebook and Youtube help to speed this up. Luckily, most of us know better than to completely trust the history books or our own memories. Now we just have to learn how not to always trust our own eyes.

The Social Network is framed by a typical boy-losses-girl-then-says-internally-I’ll-show-you!-then-becomes-important-though-never-forgets-the-girl kind of story. The boy is a Harvard undergrad, Mark Zuckerberg. He is the founder of Facebook. Most of the movie is set at Harvard. Harvard looks more excitingly foreboding than Hollywood here with all of its old-school and discreet power. The girl goes to a different university and we can’t quite remember her name. Because the movie is framed this way, the narrative tension and resolution rests on this simple arc and not on the other details of the complicated Facebook founding story. This is good news because it allows the Facebook story to be ever-complicated and truthfully unresolved while we still get the delicious full sandwich of a tidy story.

The untidy part is up for interpretation. There are the Winkevosses – handsome, gentlemanly identical twin brothers. They are Harvard elites who are only a touch sinister. They seem to represent not only each other, but many of their kind that we can’t see. They believe that they have gotten their idea of a Harvard-only networking site swiped from under their noses by Mark Zuckerberg. They probably have, but it’s hard to worry about them too much. Some of us are not accustomed to this much privilege and it seems more wondrous and strange than what they think they got cheated out of.

After Mark Zuckerberg gets Facebook up and running, we’re happy for him when he becomes friends with Sean Parker (founder of Napster). We imagine that it feels great to find a colleague who is just as obsessed by the same kind of creation as he is. We imagine that they have a lot to talk about. In this movie, this is when Mark Zuckerberg looks happiest, though the creators seem to credit the excitement to cheap glamour more than creative interest.

It is hard not to take pleasure here in a representation of the older generation’s frequent blindness over Internet matters, as though the kids are talking about a pretend world that doesn’t really matter. The freedom of not being seen feels thrilling here.

And it’s hard to get too upset with Mark Zuckerberg when he royally and legally cheats his best friend/ business partner, the sweetheart Eduardo Saverin, out of his fair share of the business. We’re not sure if this was one more move on top of a series of fights between the two friends, or if it was just a callous business decision. But we have known since the beginning of the movie that Mark Zuckerberg has always been a bit of a jerk, even when he was just a best friend that was a nobody. This last move should not have been too much of a surprise to Eduardo Saverin.

We feel for anyone who has been unpleasantly suprised by a friend even when they shouldn’t have been surprised (Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg included). It happens to the best of us – especially when we are young and patient and become friends with people who might not be such a good fit. Nevertheless, we have some optimism that these two may re-friend each other some day (in the imagined post-movie movie-life of this particular movie).

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My Own Private Idaho (1991) – Written and Directed by Gus Van Zant

By Margaux Williamson

(I saw “My Own Private Idaho” for the first time when I was 14. I had just moved to a new city and was invited to a popular girl’s birthday party. In the middle of the party, in a small room with a TV and a VCR, the adults put the video in, hit play and left the room. Pretty shortly after it started, the room cleared out and the party continued elsewhere. I moved to the side of the room where people couldn’t see me from the door and watched it, alone, to the end. I couldn’t believe what I was watching – how good it was, how big it seemed and how warm it felt. I wasn’t sure why people had left. The people I was watching in the movie, who would never see me, were the first in a long line of distant friends. I bet there were a lot of grateful 14 years old in 1992 – lone kids at the wrong birthday parties who were as grateful as I was that River Phoenix and Keanu Reeves gracefully delivered Gus van Zandt to the television nearest them.

I thought of the movie recently when I picked out a book I’ve had for a while but never read – a printing of the original screenplay for “My Own Private Idaho”. The book was so old or cheaply made that the pages fell out when I opened it. I tried to read it for a bit, but it only made me want to watch the movie again. Which I did.)

We start out on the road with Mike (River Phoenix). Mike looks down the road both directions and talks to himself. He is not sure what’s forward or what’s backward so he thinks about the road. Mike thinks maybe it’s a special road, not just any old road, but his road. Maybe even a road he’s been on before. Maybe he’s trapped in a really old story – as old as roads are. But maybe, also, it’s a new story that might be as new as Mike is. We’re not sure.

Then he passes out. He has narcolepsy and passes out in stressful situations and we go with him, missing the big moments of tension but also the boring moments of getting to places. Mike wakes up while receiving a blow job from a John, Mike wakes up in the suburbs, Mike wakes up in Rome, cradled in an unsentimental pieta by his best friend Scott (Keanu Reeves).

Scott is like Prince Hal from Shakespeare’s “Henry IV”. Prince Hal leaves the court and his father (the King Henry IV) in order to partake of unrefined pleasures in taverns with low companions. He takes up with Falstaff, a charismatic and corrupt fat man. Prince Hal’s idea from the very beginning of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV” is that his eventual but surprising return to respectability will win him more respect than even if his character had been consistently respectable. He is banking on the old biblical story of the return of the prodigal son and the gratitude of a relieved father.

Here in the 20th century, Scott takes up with Fat Bob, a charismatic and corrupt man who lords over the young hustlers like a father. Scott calls Bob his psychedelic father, a truer father than his real father – but he does tease and play around with Bob mercilessly. Here, Scott’s true and best friend is Mike.

Mike and Scott laugh, journey and kill time together. We see the pleasure they have in each other’s company, how it is most fun and free when they are together – how seductive their small world is. We see Mike’s adoration and deep love for Scott. We see Scott’s small but kind gestures of protection towards Mike – Mike being someone whose physical and emotional vulnerabilities call for a bit of protecting. These gestures often happen when Mike is passed out or about to pass out– Scott covers him in his coat, Scott holds him so he doesn’t have to lie on the concrete fountain, Scott discreetly ends a performance from an avant-garde dancing John when he sees that the stress of the performance is starting to send Mike into a narcoleptic fit.

Like in Henry IV, Scott’s plan to forsake this low companion life and return to respectability is not a secret. But somehow people don’t listen to him or believe him, or believe that he could really leave them behind. But he never promises otherwise.

And Scott does indeed return to respectability. He abandons completely his low companions – returning home with a haircut and a woman, stepping into his father’s footsteps as a political elite and doesn’t look back.

Abandoning Fat Bob is one thing, but here, in the 20th century, to leave Mike behind seems incomprehensible.

But instead of betrayal, it feels like something else. It only feels like the romance, love and light has been drained from the landscape of the world we have just been shown, from Mike’s road and from Mike. Instead of the pain of betrayal, we feel the pain of the same world with different feelings – a world without the clever and kind Scott. Now we remember that Scott had nothing but choices (wealth or poverty, men or women, a heart or no heart). We remember that Mike had no choice in those matters. What is left of the world without Scott is literally a life not chosen, whereas before it had felt occasionally like a lucky day.

So we are left, strangely, not judging the authenticity of this friendship, this love or these kind acts – but only appreciating it immensely, seeing suddenly how rare these things are and how they can make everything look and feel different, how they can make everything feel so much better.

Near the end, two funerals take place in the cemetery. The Fat Bob has died from a broken heart after Scott’s final rejection of him. The low companions slump around the cheap casket, drinking. Mike is there, glaring off across the expanse to the funeral of Scott’s father who has also died – this death occurring just in time for Scott to take over the family business. Here in the cemetery, Scott sits quietly with the respectable people. They are all dressed in black and are observing the ceremony.

Back across the field at Fat Bob’s funeral, which is becoming louder and rowdier – we see Mike and the low companions start to scream Bob’s name in celebratory mourning as they jump around and jump on the cheap casket lying above ground. We are reminded that Mike and his low companions have something Scott has recently lost in his new life – total reckless freedom to properly mourn the passing of a friend.

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