Category Archives: You’ve Got to Check This Out

Bobcat Goldthwaite (YGtCTO #198)

Comedian, actor, director

Apparently you can do that on stage.

I mean really.

Yes, my generation is what you get when your entertainment includes Sam Kinison and Bobcat Goldthwaite to Emo Philips and Steven Wright. I’d call it a net positive, but we definitely make jokes that are a little odd at the strangest possible times.

What I most remember is straggling home one New Year’s Eve and discovering that HBO was broadcasting a string of comedy stand-up specials overnight. The sofa was inviting and Bobcat Goldthwaite came on the screen.

Now, I was working, but doing that whole twenty-something deal where you struggle to find your way. Goldthwaite did this bit where he talked about whether or not doing a Police Academy movie was selling out.

I had seen some of the innumerable Police Academy movies. I won’t apologize. For that matter, I watched some of the Porky‘s franchise. I laughed and kissed those brain cells good-bye. I must have, because I remember next to nothing about them other than that I laughed.

Goldthwaite went on to argue that he did not feel bad accepting his first gig in one of the PA flicks. It was signing the contract for the next one and the one after that where he admitted that you really had to question his motives. It had stopped being about the art.

My exhausted brain managed to turn this into a little bit of wisdom. There is nothing so proud as a youth with all his principles in place and nothing so devastating as watching those principles fly smack into life’s realities.

Bobcat Goldthwaite

It is hard to argue

that Goldthwaite and Wright, let alone Kinison and Philips, espoused philosophies for modeling one’s life. I suspect they would not make such a claim. But they offered an interpretation of their own experience. Yes, their art was humor-driven- often leading to a warping of their experience to an extreme degree. But it also exposed their humanity, somehow inviting us into a community.

Really, that looks to me like what happened to public lectures. We stopped needing them as a means for sharing information, so they had to evolve. They brought out the artists and went where Twain and Dickens led. The most popular “talkers” became those who could monologue about those matters which made us go- “that’s happened to me- maybe not like that, but it’s good to know that I’m not alone” or “I too have wondered about that and it helps to know that those thoughts do not brand me as a psychotic.” All right, the psychotic thing might be a reach with some of these guys, but they were walking around in public, free as you and me.

Wright and Philips continue to perform brilliantly. Kinison died tragically. Goldthwaite performs occasionally, but has also spent time making some fantastic films. I like to think we all learned something from his Police Academy days.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 102 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.

David Falkner (YGtCTO Words #66)

Nine Sides of the Diamond: Baseballs Greatest Glove Men on the Fine Art of Defense

Book written by David Falkner

I have this memory of the local newspaper, the Youngstown Vindicator, making the great leap to include the standings for the NBA or the NHL buried among the baseball spring training box scores. This could be apocryphal, but I have little doubt that I grew up in a two sport milieu: baseball and football. We knew other sports existed. because we saw them on Wide World of Sports.

Canton, where professional football started and where the Hall of Fame is located, was just down the road. We played football in the street and in our yards, while alternating with basketball in our driveways as soon as our parents started hanging hoops.

But baseball was life from the first warm day until winter made your hands cold enough to break even inside a mitt. I was a mediocre player, but I played for a while into adulthood. As the games began to accommodate adults with varying skills, I fared better.

Like everything else in my life, no matter how small a part, I had to invest baseball with some thought. I devoured Bill James’ baseball abstracts (contemporary and historical). I perused sports pages and magazines. Really, I behaved like many semi-obsessed fans. However, I was not a fount of statistics, much to the relief of friends. I did know how many career home runs Babe Ruth hit and… yep, still do.

Not surprisingly, my interest turned to books about baseball, but they needed to be interesting in some way. I’d read juvenile biographies of favorite players as a child and didn’t want any more of that. Nor was I particularly interested in the destruction of players previously placed on pedestals. Though Jim Bouton’s Ball Four and Joe Garagiola’s Baseball Is a Funny Game both served to humanize the stars.

David Falkner

About the same time

that I discovered Falkner’s book, George Will came out with Men At Work. Even then, Will was a well-known face among political commentators. His take on baseball, in retrospect, was likely driven by his political views, but I liked his book. Ultimately, I learned two things from it: illuminating an interesting aspect of anything with quality prose makes for a good book and don’t discount someone just because you don’t agree about everything.

Falkner followed that former dictum. While learning to play baseball, we all learned the importance of catching the ball and throwing the ball and tagging players and bases, but no one had written with quite the same verve about it. The other thing about baseball fans is this incessant need to argue- who was better? which statistics matter? Falkner’s book played right into that without the reams of data that filled abstracts and annual reviews.

I’ve written about the artistry of athletes and about artists who use older art as inspiration for new art. Falkner’s book, as well as those by Will, Bouton, and Garagiola, accomplished something similar. I mention them in order of abstraction to anecdote (and the latter does obscure the artistry the most), but turning experience and observation into prose that communicates feeling and information does illuminate our lives.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 103 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.

Peter Gabriel (YGtCTO Music #66)

Biko


Song written and performed by Peter Gabriel

Worlds collide. That’s the way it feels growing up on our planet with the remarkable amount of information flowing at us from all corners. We progress from insulated youth to an onslaught of news about people and situations so removed from our daily lives. We seek connections to these individuals as we search their faces on our screens. Then we move to an almost inoculated resistance to all responsibility after being informed of connections that feel attenuated.

The fine line between carrying the weight of the world and denying all responsibility is constantly re-calibrated as we move through life and develop new responsibilities closer to home. But it is that first shock of recognition that can determine a lifetime with eyes open or closed. The truth is that in our art-saturated world, many of our first impressions of situations far from home are interpreted through the viewpoints of artists of all stripes.

Apartheid was the cause of the day that brought everyone together when I was just raising my head and peering out from home. Other causes mattered, but abolishing this heinous system was a clear goal that broached no argument. Read a little history if you want the details on how that played out.

Here, I want to talk about the framing of the discussion by one artist in particular. I’m pretty sure that the first time that I heard about the situation in South Africa, my reaction was, “What? Are you shitting me?” Living in a country with a long and difficult history with race relations, it raised too many specters to even know where to begin.

Peter Gabriel

Make no mistake,
this was one situation where the intellectual discussion was often simple. (No one I knew came anywhere near any responsibility for the actual change. We were living in southern Ohio. We just knew it was wrong and had to change. That was a message we could state clearly.)

But emotionally, this was a complex problem that also needed expression at a more fundamental level. For me, Peter Gabriel captured the anger and shock in a story that personalized the tragedy. This was a song about a writer and activist whom the regime had killed. Gabriel created a monument to life and the value of the fight against that which would crush us all.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a discussion to be had about the place of art in allowing us to forgive ourselves our turning away, especially by adding additional layers of distance between us and the people that suffer around the world.

Yet, there is a need to process our experience of that pain (also a luxury granted to those not having the experience firsthand) which is a result of our modern world. Our world has become so large and so fraught that sometimes we do need great art to help us stand strong and keep our eyes open, our brains working and our hearts feeling.

What’s it all about?

You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 104 more to go.

New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.

Images may be subject to copyright.