Lyle Lovett (YGtCTO Music #91)

Step Inside This House


Song written by Guy Clark and performed by Lyle Lovett

Lyle Lovett is an enigma to me. This isn’t a problem. In fact, it may be what keeps me interested. I’m not talking about the occasional acting job or the high-profile marriage that ended a while ago. This isn’t about the song choices or subject matter (maybe a little bit about those things). I’m not confused by however he has been described in various pieces of celebrity journalism (which have pretty much come across as benign).

I mean that the music is an enigma to me because I can’t entirely appreciate my own response to it. The first time I heard one of Lovett’s recordings, I had to buy it. I wore out that tape. I acquired everything else that I could find. What’s so weird about that you might wonder? Anyone who has written this many blog entries about music has to be a little obsessive.

Other than some Johnny Cash and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, I didn’t really own any country. I liked it well enough, but it just didn’t fit with my self-perception. I wanted to be the person who listened to hard rock all the time and didn’t get a headache. My style choices ran very far away from cowboy boots. The best thing you could say about it was that I was never going to have the big-hat-no-cattle problem. (Let’s not discuss the Indiana Jones hat. I do have a big-hat-no-holy-grail problem.)

Lyle Lovett

Sometimes,
I think I understand why I have latched onto his music so intensely. The songs that he writes capture a view of the world that fits fairly well with mine- wry, appreciative. I get joy from it all, but I think that may be the connection that any art allows with something bigger than ourselves. Perhaps it’s also the promise that I can keep on enjoying music when I have to moderate my intake of AC/DC.

When Lovett recorded an album of covers of his favorite songwriters, I was apprehensive. I assumed that he had good taste, but I liked the songs that he had written and it didn’t feel like there were enough of them. I was mistaken in my worrying.

Step Inside This House is on that short list of most beautiful songs that I have ever heard. Hell, it’s probably the top, especially Lovett’s performance. I mean, how absolutely magnificent is the entire set of covers.

Now, it’s twenty years on and an incredible amount has happened since I first heard this song. I must have felt like an old man then, in some tiny way, but I had no idea. Probably, we’re never too young to think about the past. We all want to wear our lives half so light with twice the meaning.

In retrospect, I should have stolen the name of this song for this blog series. Truth be told, these are my treasures that I have put on display. They don’t count for any more than the stories that they tell.

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. 29 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.

Ken Finkleman (YGtCTO #270)

The Newsroom

Television series created by Ken Finkleman

This is not the HBO show that seems to keep spitting out clips on social media (with confusing political appeal) despite the show’s cancellation a little while ago. This is a Canadian series that no one seems to sample on social media, probably because it was cancelled some time ago. Also, it was really funny, as opposed to that other show.

A weird spell passed through our lives a long while ago and we were suddenly hit with a bunch of Canadian television shows that we rather enjoyed. That may have been proximity-based. Quite probably, regular visits to Ontario played a role. Those visits were also proximity-based. Those trips slowed down after we noticed that it gets warmer if you head south rather than north. Still, we can be found floundering around Toronto on occasion.

The best of the Canadian shows had to be Slings & Arrows and The Newsroom, which remain some of the most enjoyable and brilliant television that I have seen. They both provided that same thrill as watching the top tier episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and All in the Family. If that means nothing to you, then we’re unlikely to understand one another anyway.

Ken Finkleman

For that matter,

most description of The Newsroom are bound to make it sound remarkably like The Mary Tyler Moore Show. As I’ve said, that’s great as far as it goes, but Finkleman takes his show well beyond expectations. The format and experiences of the characters appears to start from places that we expect from a lifetime of television viewing. Even so, he consistently twists and turns, pulling in ideas that should not belong.

I do wonder what the first audiences thought of the show. It’s not early to the concept of the unlikable protagonist, but it is willing to take that places that only Dabney Coleman seemed to explore previously. How do you succeed at television while seemingly trying to fail?

No one can claim to understand what people will watch on television after Seinfeld. I’m not saying that it didn’t deserve success-only that it feels truly unpredictable. Moreover, how do you know what will attach enough to the psyche that people will want to keep a show alive (or return it to life) after all indications are that it should go away?

Finkleman brought his show back after about a decade’s hiatus. It was a weird show the first time around and it got weirder. I think that’s great. What I also think is fantastic is that the show was brought back at all.

Popular taste is strange and it may seem wrong-headed to use this as a barometer. Yet, I can’t but gaze in wonder at a show that still managed such popularity. We spend so much time complaining when this show or that show feels like they are playing to our baser selves that I wonder why we never look a little higher with our critiques.

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. 30 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.

Woody Allen (YGtCTO Words #90)

Getting Even
Book written by Woody Allen

Depending on what happens between my writing of this and when it goes live, I may regret this post. Of course, you could argue that, in this moment six weeks in the past, I should never have sat down and proceeded to write this. I don’t feel quite like I’m writing about Bill Cosby, but you might. For that matter, I want to include Cosby here, but I just could not make my fingers do the typing.

And Woody Allen is a more difficult case. I’d like to say that it’s because he has not been convicted of anything in a criminal court, but the reality is that he is more difficult because he continues to work. That’s it. That’s all there ever is. Either you’re contributing or you’re not. Maybe you should be punished for things that you have done, but that never prohibits you from trying to contribute, working to make amends. That probably requires a willing heart and an acknowledgement of pain caused.

And don’t buy the book. My copy was purchased decades ago used. That may not make for clean hands, but it’s close enough.

In retrospect, sadly, I learned an awful lot about humor from Cosby and Allen. I memorized To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With, learning about comic timing and building a joke. Cosby taught a master class in how to build a story with humor. And he made me laugh and think of him as someone who understood me.

Woody Allen

From Woody Allen, I discovered that personality might matter more than appearance. That seemed like a good message at the time, especially to someone who felt lost in adolescent self-loathing. And I learned how to write a joke so that it could sit on a page and await finding by an unknown reader. In many ways, that still feels like one of the great miracles of art. You can actually create something that can can communicate with someone far away in a distant time. Intentional humor is perhaps the most transparent art form, but, when it works, we may be speaking with the dead.

So, I spent years feeling kinship with Cosby and Allen. Part of their presentation was meant to create that bond, as they connected over what makes us the same. That’s what makes all of this not be an emperor-has-no-clothes scenario. This was never about looking at them from the audience.

Now, I realize that there are aspects of both these men that I will never comprehend. I wish that made me feel superior. All it does is make me sad because our paths looked to be so close and it turns out that they were so far apart. Somehow, I missed that underlying message in their art.

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. 31 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.