Turn the Beat Around: It’s a Choice Between Fear & Love

Which will you choose?

No, seriously.

It’s a very serious question, though. Look at all the things that we have had happen this last year. The Occupy *fill in city/whatever* here.  The continued war issues. Unemployment hasn’t gotten much better. Ok, so we lost a few major nasty leaders like Kim Jong-il and Muammar Gaddafi, but still- on the whole- for folks like you and me? Where does that leave us?

Well, I’m pretty clear on where I am on a personal level. I had some big shake-ups during the holidays. Death, social restructuring, publishing rejections. It was a rough season! But each of those things has led me to discovering a more positive way to look at each one of the items for the new year (except for the death-that just plain sucked). To be honest, it has me very excited. It also taught me a new way to handle myself and my life.

For those of you who read this and know me personally, you know that I think Rod Serling is the man. Therefore, it should come as no big surprise to you that I spent the majority of yesterday watching Twilight Zone. Yep, 5-8 blissful hours in front of my television. Yeah, just me and my cat and my pajamas. I spoiled myself & had ginger ale & some pizza (semi-good pizza, of course- the kind with fresh stuff on it, like artichoke hearts, feta, garlic, that crap. Mmm!) and just wrapped myself in the glory that is that show. It was wonderful.

As many marathons as I’ve watched, there were a few episodes that I came across that I had never seen (SCORE!). One amazing one was called “The Prime Mover” and it was written by Charles Beaumont, one of my favorite TZ writers. The episode centers on two diner workers who don’t have much of a life until a car accident occurs outside their place of employ, and one discovers that the other has telekinetic powers. The remainder of the episode follows the two and what they do with those powers and the (eventual) ethical message that comes through as a result of that usage.

Dane Clark and Buddy Ebsen in "The Prime Mover" (orig. air date: March 24, 1961)

While I would rather not spoil the episode, one of the conclusions of the piece (and there are multiple, it is Twilight Zone, after all, a show that has more layers than a cat has lives!) and what I walked away with, is that perspective is crucial. Not only is perspective an important thing to possess, being able to appreciate one’s own skill set and own it is beyond measure. This episode reminded me of many things (as TZ episodes are wont to do). It reminded me that sometimes it is the simplest things that are the most important. Sometimes we forget even that.

I’m not a fan of resolutions. They are there to be broken. I also think that the very idea of 2011 having been a “bad” year and putting all sorts of pressure on 2012 to be a “good” year is about 8 steps beyond ridiculous. They are years, nothing more, nothing less. Merely aspects of a Gregorian system, decided upon a long time ago. We’re involved in this thing called life, and every day is going to be different. Some days are going to be good, some bad, and that’s just the way things are. Don’t think that just because it’s a new year things are going to change. You wake up every day and it’s a new day. C’mon! I think 365 is too many days and too much pressure. I think it’s just much damn easier to do it daily (maybe weekly, since I’m in school and have to deal with that fussy scheduling dilemma).

Be honest, be nice, be forgiving and try to make yourself a better person with the things you engage in and the people you interact with. If people make you feel poorly, kick ’em out. No matter how long they’ve been in your life or what kind of say that they think that they have. If you think you’ve gotten to a strong place without their help, chances are…you have. Basic rule: trust your gut. Your gut won’t lie. And rule 1b: stop ignoring your gut. We ignore our gut too much. It gets us in trouble and makes us filthy, stinking miserable.

I’ve made the choice to turn my bad things into good things. If I began to tell you all the things that I wanted right now that I knew that I was not going to get, we’d be sitting here until Kingdom Come. Instead, I’m going to take all of the things that occurred during the holiday season and use them towards my advantage. See, if you look at anything in the right way, it is to your advantage. You just may have to be hanging upside down by your ankles or underwater 50ft. If you don’t turn those things around, work them towards you, you will rot. That is something I can absolutely promise you. It’s your choice.

I guess I listen to the movies too much. I believe in a goddamn happy-ending, even if I live for film noir. So, yeah. That’s my take on 2012, and new year’s and all that mishegoss. Ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it, y’all.

And now, for a little Vicki Sue…

So This is Christmas…–#6

I figured that for Christmas Day I would do a potpourri of sorts. See, alongside all the seasonal-related films that I adore, there are a whole bunch of TV shows, specials and songs with music videos. So this one is a little different from the others.

6) Holiday Audio-visual Mixtape

The first in all of this madness is a song I cannot go without hearing at Christmas time. It’s by one of my favorite bands, The Pogues, and features vocalist Kirsty MacColl. I have a special memory around this song, actually, related to the holidays. Sad, but Christmas-and-song-specific. I was in Ireland in December of 2000, spending my holiday break there. I was at University in England at the time, but I figured, “Hey- Christmas in Ireland, New Year’s in Scotland, sounds good to me!”

As I was walking around (I believe I was in Kilkenny at this point although I may have been in Galway– when I relocate those journals, I will correct this part of the blog), I was hearing a goodly amount of Christmas music and every place I went to seemed to be playing this particular song. While I didn’t think much of it, when I went into Supermac’s (the Irish McDonald’s, essentially), it seemed a little odd that these places were all playing the same exact song at the same time. At first I shrugged it off, and then, upon passing a newsstand, I saw the front of the newspapers: Kirsty MacColl had been killed in a very tragic swimming/boat accident in Mexico. I was devastated. Thanks to a friend I’d had since an early teen, I’d been a fan of her solo work as well, so this was just awful news. But at least I understood why every place was playing this song at the same exact time.

On the other hand, it was December, it is a Christmas song, and it has always been pretty popular so…who knows? It may have been playing anyway. In any case, I love Fairytale of New York, and you should too.

Another piece of music that I am highly tied to is one that came out in 1984, at the very height of when I was buying most of these individuals’ albums. It was a collaborative effort put together to combat famine in Africa and it was released around Christmas time. I remember that they blasted the living hell out of it when it came out and, hilariously enough, they still do. I remember being insanely excited about the video primarily (burgeoning archivist that I was, even then) because I wanted to make sure that I could name every single person singing in the video, and if I couldn’t (ie I didn’t know who it was), I wanted to find out more about them. Aurally I could identify almost everyone when I first heard it on the radio. Then matching it up visually was so. Much. Fun! At that age, I’m not sure if I was overly concerned about the kids in Africa as much as the fact that I owned an album from almost everyone on the Band Aid team (except, strangely enough, U2).

So, if you haven’t seen it before, welcome to the video that started them all…

On the Band Aid tip, there was a video that one of my favorite bands did that, while not Christmas-themed, was meant to parody this, and I would be remiss in my efforts here if I did not include it. I listen to this song every year around the holidays due to the video and its relation to the Band Aid video and also because it’s just a damn good song. Warning: if you hear the recorded version, it will not sound at all like the version you are about to witness, due to the fact that the recorded version is done by the band, and this version?? Well, you’ll see. It’s pretty fabulous.

So aside from the music video stuff, there’s a whole televisual side of Christmas that I dig on, and no, it’s not the Star Wars Christmas Special. While I’ve seen that and it’s…got its points, there are much better things you could be watching. If you want a little bit of the kitsch, I personally think that Peewee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (Wayne Orr, Paul Reubens, 1988) is probably one of my favorites. Anything that involves the Del Rubio triplets, Annette Funicello, Peewee Herman, and Grace Jones singing “Little Drummer Boy” automatically has me, no questions asked.

I’ve always been a Peewee fan, so a Christmas special from the Playhouse will always get my vote, but this one is especially fun. When it came out on DVD, I was thrilled to my eyeteeth. If you haven’t seen it, and that taste of Grace Jones whet your appetite, I would highly recommend it. It really is all that and a bag of chips.

On a more serious note, my favorite television episode having to do with Christmas comes from the mind of Rod Serling. If that didn’t clue you in, it is a wonderful episode of The Twilight Zone starring Art Carney entitled, “Night of the Meek.” Carney plays a man named Henry Corwin who is, for all intents and purposes, a seemingly “bad Santa.” As we meet him, he has just gotten fired for his drunken lateness to his job (playing Santa), and he is at the end of the line.

But, surprisingly for The Twilight Zone, this is an episode that has more of a redemptive stroke than normal and much more optimism (although for Serling, his kind of optimism is not everyone’s optimism). This episode is about what the season is truly about: holiday spirit. And no matter how grim I may seem at times about the holidays, and no matter how Grinch-y I might get, The Night of the Meek renews my soul.

But Rod Serling is the man who truly makes me think. About many things. So, while I love many of the other Christmas specials and films, it is truly Night of the Meek, Season 2, episode 11 of The Twilight Zone that truly makes the holidays a holy and sacred occasion. If you haven’t seen it, I beg of you to give it a chance. It will air this holiday season. Watch out for it. It’s what it’s all about, at the heart and soul of it.