Baby, It’s Cold Inside


[snow job]
Have you seen this video of Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt?  It purports to involve a seduction.

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a duet written in 1944 and has all the sexual baggage you might assume from that era.  Especially when interpreted in ours.  The “mouse” (as written in the score) or “prey” (as some might interpret the situation today) wants to go home but the “wolf” (then) or “predator” (now) tries to get the mouse to stay.  And it’s pretty obvious why the wolf is a concern troll about the weather outside.

You can have a lot of fun at your next holiday party by asking whether this song is about a coy mouse that really wants to play or a predator that is about to commit date rape.

But that’s not what is at issue here.  Let’s assume that any singer who performs the song is not trying to enable or justify bad behavior.  After all, we humans don’t always say exactly what’s on our minds (did he really just write that?) since we are really social animals constantly trying to balance our own desires with what we think the herd expects from us (oh my God, he did just write that!).  So when you can corral feminists like Miss Piggy to sing this tune (albeit as the wolf), it’s safe to claim that for many, even the highly sensitive, the song’s charms are about examining us humans as odd creatures whose words – despite being literal – cannot always be taken literally.

Which brings us to the hammy performance above (Lady Gaga, not Miss Piggy).  It’s cute to reverse the traditional gender roles and place Lady Gaga in the role of the wolf.  This gives the song a bit of an update.  If we went further and made Lady Gaga’s duet partner the très féminin Miss Piggy (remember, this is a “Muppet Holiday Spectacular”), you’d update things even more.  And convince the righteous religious that Hollywood really is pushing the idea of inter-species matrimony.  (Another light topic for your next holiday party.)

Playing it safe, however, the producers hired Joseph Gordon-Levitt for the role of the mouse.  To be fair, he isn’t known as a singer, but I’ll give Gordon-Levitt (and the producers) a pass here.  To make the song work, it’s more important for us to believe that Lady Gaga wants to make beautiful music with him rather than actually have Lady Gaga make beautiful music with him.  I can even make allowances for Gordon-Levitt singing the line “my father will be pacing the floor” – which should have been rewritten to have any hope of dramatic credibility.  (Mothers will worry regardless.)

So what is the problem with the video?  It’s that our divine Miss Gaga is racing through the song.  Trying to swing, rather than sway, Gordon-Levitt.  In short (she’s only 5 feet 1 inch), Lady Gaga isn’t seducing like a man.  More like a teenaged boy.

Some things, like ketchup and the DMV, simply can’t be rushed.

Yes, I know this is a broadcast television holiday special tied to the Muppets.  Sure, the viewers represent a wide demographic but isn’t it possible to talk to two audiences at the same time?  Gentle subtlety is, after all, the point of the song.  Besides, since the children are already hearing the lyric “say, what’s in this drink?” we might as well hint that no one is trying to poison anyone to death.

Which is a more appropriate topic for the Brothers Grimm anyway.

So let’s recouple the andante back with the pantie.  Uptempo is not the rhythm of seduction.  Here’s an example of one slow wolf, who could easily swing with the groove of Ray Charles, demonstrating this exact point.  Enjoy the cochlear cleansing:

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Meryl Streep wins Best Actress at 84th Academy Awards

Meryl Streep and the Oscar – By the Numbers

Meryl Streep wins Best Actress at 84th Academy Awards

The Iron Lady loves her Golden Man (Source: Reuters / Mike Blake)

[how do I love thee?]
Okay, time to fess up.

How many of you saw The Iron Lady?  You know, the movie where Meryl Streep plays Margaret Thatcher.  The part that just earned her an Oscar. (Meryl, not Margaret.)

Before you answer, let’s do some math:

At the time of the Oscar broadcast, The Iron Lady made $25.7M domestically.  Average ticket prices for films are presently just under $8.  (This seems a bit low to me because I wish I could find a theater that showed screenings at that price!  But let’s go with the assumption that numbers don’t lie – especially since I’m about to make an argument based on numbers.)

If you divide the average ticket price into the total sales made, you find that… um… carry the 1… hmm… 3.2 million people paid to see The Iron Lady.  This isn’t a movie aimed at teenage boys, so we don’t need to worry about any additional viewers from illegal streaming.  But, just to be generous, let’s also assume that everyone in the Motion Picture Academy – all 6000 of them – also saw the film because they get free movie screeners from the studios.  That’s a grand total of…  3.2 million people who saw Meryl Streep’s performance in The Iron Lady.  And that number is an upper limit estimate because I doubt many who saw the film in a theater only paid $8 for their ticket.

3.2 million people.  Let’s put that number into perspective.  This week 3.5 million people were watching a repeat of an animated series based on the film, Napoleon Dynamite – at the same time that the Oscars were being broadcast.  Last week, the television show, Pan Am, had 3.8 million people watching its finale – and it was a show cancelled because of low viewership. And these numbers are only the “prime demographic” of viewers ages 18-49; we haven’t restricted the demographics that saw The Iron Lady.

If The Iron Lady were a television show, it would have been canceled from lack of audience.

That The Iron Lady didn’t generate much of an audience isn’t surprising.  After all, neither critics nor audiences were impressed with the movie.  Rotten Tomatoes meters as of the Oscar broadcast gave it a 53% on the critics’ meter and a 55% on the audience meter.  These are not good numbers.  That kind of word-of-mouth producers can do without.

So what’s the point of all this higher mathematics?

Last night, both my Facebook and Twitter feeds lit up like proverbial pinball machines (remember those?) on the news Streep won the Oscar for Best Actress.  Today at work everyone is talking about how exciting it is that she won.  And many people are claiming she “deserved” this win.  Now, if I were a member of the Meryl Streep fan club (I’m not – I’m a fan but I have my limits), I might understand all of this.  I’d be surrounded by all things Meryl, after all.  But I’m just an average guy.  So the conclusion is inescapable: Most of the people so excited over Meryl Streep’s winning the Oscar last night didn’t see the performance for which she won.

This is a pretty odd phenomenon when you think about it.

People:  if you really support an artist, go and support their work!  Or as another artist once said:

The only reward one should offer an artist is to buy his work.
~ Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Note:  the Oscars didn’t exist in Renoir’s time.  But the same idea applies.

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On Beatles and Butterflies


[chaos is a friend of mine]
There are a lot of 50th anniversaries this year.  We’ve already seen the 50th anniversary of launching a man in orbit, later this year will be the 50th anniversary of detonating the largest nuclear bomb ever built.

Sandwiched between these monumental events is a tiny one that culturally was probably more significant. For 50 years ago today, June 22, 1961, the Beatles walked into a recording studio for the first time.

Now, this wasn’t their session, they were essentially a back up band for Tony Sheridan who was the up-and-coming star, at least according to the record company that signed him.  Today, Sheridan’s claim to fame is that he sang lead on the Beatles’ first recording sessions.

For like the proverbial butterfly wings in Brazil setting off a tornado in Texas, a single from those sessions, My Bonnie, sparked interest in the group, including a theatrically-trained, bored record shop owner, Brian Epstein, who became their first super-fan and decided to introduce them to the world.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

It may have looked like a little 45 rpm record, but it was so much more. All the events associated with the Beatles’ artistic journey: the massive sweep of popular taste, the revolutionary changes in music and the music industry itself, the use of commercial music to rally middle-class awareness of political issues, as well as all the conservative reaction to this spawned “counter-culture” – all of it! – starts 50 years ago today.  Little links that grow into a large chain which appears entirely improbable if one were to plan it. Thus is the nature of butterfly wings.

I am just an individual but I think I will flap my wings today.  And maybe create a few tornadoes.

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Foggy Vision

 

Max Beckmann, "Self-Portrait in Tuxedo"

Max Beckmann, "Self-Portrait in Tuxedo" (1927) (Courtesy Mark Harden, http://www.artchive.com)

[ars gratia artis]

On Saturday morning, I went to the Fogg

I saw a Max Beckmann, it left me agog

I went to the bathroom; what more can I blog?

On Saturday morning, I went to the Fogg

 

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