Monthly Archives: June 2010

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Negotiating “Alejandro”

To call Lady Gaga’s new video for “Alejandro” ambitious is an understatement. Clocking in at just under 9 minutes, it feels more like an experimental German propaganda film mixed with a Calvin Cliein ad than it does a music video. As I have found myself saying about Lady Gaga More and more lately, the Madonna influence becomes clearer and clear every outing.

Not necessarily in the music, except in that, the music is pretty arbitrary. The song “Alejandro” isn’t bad. It’s pretty much a ripoff of Ace Of Bace, but it serves the images well.

And folks, with Lady Gaga, that’s what its really about. The images on this video strike me representing one of two things:

1) A complex pop culture puzzle that re-augments gender politics and sexuality while fetishizing instruments of opression such as Religion and Government.

2) An overambitious pastiche of the 30 Year Career of Madonna condensed into an 8 minute “best of” reel.

3.) A calculated piece of provocation that combines aethetic button pushing with a Male Burlesque of the German SS.

I feel certain that it can’t be all three.

The first theory is the easiest to tackle because it implies some artistic statement on the part of Lady Gaga. Let’s take what we are given.

At the beginning of the video we see a starkly lit shot of two legs in fishnets sitting in a chair. The camera dollys around to reveal the identity of these legs. Hot girls? Surprise! It’s a Man! In Fishnets! Clever Gaga! You tricked me! And he’s got really toned chest muscles and he’s sleeping next to a machine gun. Quick Cuts to German text translating to “Lady Gaga In Alejandro”

At this point, we’re only 15 seconds into the video and Gaga has already managed to fetishize fishnets, leather chairs, machine guns, and the German language. And the song hasn’t even started yet!

Then we see the glorous bodies of several fit dancers (All male, of course) backlit doing drill. Crane over a topless man hanging from marionette strings that appears to be wearing some kind of chastity devise.

Its about at the 6:54 mark of the video that things start to fall apart when shots of  Madonna Lady Gaga fondling a crusifix intercut with what appears to be actual riot footage. (Anyone have any idea what this means, because I’m at a loss for that one) Granted by this point we’ve already seen her deepthroat a rosary, so its not a big deal. However, by this point we’re inundated with so many different fetishized scenerios that are cut between so fast it becomes difficult to glean any meaning from what’s going on anymore. There’s Gaga backlit by fire (A la “Like A Prayer”). There are some more men dancing in SS Uniforms. There’s more pseudo-Bondage stuff on the bed while Gaga mounts a man from behind. More gratuitously topless men wrestling with each other in time to the music .  Lady Gaga turns her back to the camera and walks away while Snapping. More riot footage (seriously what the hell is this about.)

The Wedding Toast I Never Got To Make

The Following is the toast that I wrote for my lovely sister Erin’s wedding to Daniel Velazquez. It was cut due to time. But I think it might show up as a deleted scene on the wedding video:


I was watching TV this morning and came across an interview on ESPN about the passing of former UCLA coach John Wooden. I forget who it was they were interviewing but the person said of Wooden “He was one of those people that everyone who met them, not a single one of them wasn’t better for having met them. When you get the pleasure to be in the same room with someone like this it is a pleasure.”

This is pretty much how I feel about my sister. I can’t exactly describe why, but I feel that she’s just about my favorite person on the face of this earth. I’ve had the good fortune to be surrounded with her presence, and this isn’t something I take lightly.

With the possible exception of Leah, I think I love my sister more than anyone else in the world. She is the most talented, most charismatic artistic soul I know. Everything she touches brings joy to all around it. Be it her painting, her brilliant cartoons, her singing, her writing. I honestly think my sister is one of the most talented short story writers alive, and I will force anyone who challenges me on this to read her work. (Go ahead. Try me. I dare you.)

But none of this even begins to compare to her best trait: her heart. It’s just so big. You’ll never find a person alive that doesn’t adore my sister. She makes friends of everyone she meets. She never has a mean word to say about anyone and she is so giving of her love support, and humor to the whole world.

I honestly never thought my sister would marry. I just thought that it would be difficult for any man to be interesting enough to be worth challenging Erin’s Independence. I was going to say Fierce independence, but I don’t think Erin has a fierce bone in her body.So imagine my surprise when she found someone just as talented and loving as her.Daniel truly is that person. Daniel is just as brilliant, funny, and warm-hearted as Erin, and he can do math, which is incredibly useful.

Daniel is one of only 3 people I know that I would consider geniuses. The other two are sandwich artists at Subway. Daniel is clearly the most talented of the three. I have often referenced him in my class this fall as “My Brilliant Physicist Brother In Law” .

The point of this is to say is that if my future niece or nephew isn’t the next Leonardo Di Vinci, I’m going to be sorely dissapointed.

Daniel and Erin have created an amazing life for each other. Together, they are like megaphones, amplifying each other’s best traits. Their laughter, love, compassion, and brilliance is so contagious, that sometimes I will drop whatever I’m doing on a Saturday night just to be in the same room with them. That’s how cool they are.

And I was thinking about this today in the shower. Daniel is studying for his Phd in Physics, trying to unlock the secrets of the universe. In my class, I’ve famously described the Unified Field Theory Of Physics as “The thing that my Genius brother in law is going to discover some day.” I hope he does, because I see the hunger in him to unlock all the secrets of the universe. And in a way, isn’t that what we’re all trying to do? Find some greater meaning to life. Some do it through religion. Some through art. some through the pursuit of science. But Daniel, it occurred to me today, in the shower, that you may never find more meaning in the universe than you do now, in the arms of the woman you love, in the company of friends, in the warmth of those around you. As the poet Taylor Hanson once said:

There are so many relationships in life

Only one or two will last

You go through all the pain and strife

You turn your back and its gone so fast

So hold on to the ones who really care

Cause In The End They’ll be the only ones there

And When You Get Old And Start Losing Your Hair

Will You Tell Me Who Will Still Care


So here’s to Erin and Daniel, the most beautiful couple I know.

Regarding the Arts

I just got off the phone with Steve Fesenmaier, blogger for The Gazz and arguably the most knowledgeable person in the world regarding WV Film. Picking Fessemeier’s brain is like a Wikipedia of stories, films, and best of all, contacts. There is not an aspect of WV Film that Steve hasn’t been at least tangentially involved.

The reason of this call revolved around the upcoming WV Filmmaker’s Conference Jun 11-12 at the Landmark Studio For the Arts in Sutton WV. Its sponsored by the West Virginia Filmmakers Guild, and one of the workshops involves a roundtable with some of the state’s leading film exhibitors. Sadly, Steve will be unable to come to this year’s event. Of course he sends his best wishes.

While we were talking, we got on the subject of respect for WV Films. I’m a filmmaker by trade and the mountain state and its filmmakers mean a lot to me. In a weird way, I’d put a B.J. Gudmunson, Danny Boyd, or Robert Gates along side of a Jean Luke Goddard, Martin Scorsese or Francois Truffaut in terms of filmmakers of importance.

This is why I’m so consistently bothered by the fact that the West Virginia Arts community so frequently turns its back on local product. True, strides have been made in this direction, and I was particularly impressed by the product at the Mountaineer Video Festival earlier this year in Morgantown. However, multiple sources have told me that “WV Films aren’t good enough to screen.”

This simply isn’t true. All films are worthy of viewing, at least once. I firmly believe that. Any movie that is concieved as a work of art, no matter how horrible, no matter how slight, deserve their day. (This of course excludes crap like “Transformers” or “The Bounty Hunter” which are clearly concieved not as art, but as a consumable product. This is not to say that they aren’t art, only to say that their existence in art isn’t their primary purpose, and it would be fair to say that whether or not they get seen is not dependent on their worth.)

Still, All art deserves to be seen. Therefore, All films deserve to be seen. By at least one person. Hopefully more.

Last fall, I sat in an otherwise empty theater in Sutton WV watching BJ Gudmunson’s touching documentary “The Long Runway Home.” It does not matter that I was the only one in that theater. It was still seen. I communed with that film. That film and I had an experience.

That’s what’s required of film is for people to see it, and I worry that that is being lost in this state. We can be happy to support people who are making art, but it is just as important to consume art. I think a lot of this comes from the idea that art is an artist-based invention. I do not believe this. Good art is just as much about the audience’s response to the art than the art itself.

I would go further to say that since art is by definition subjective and non uniform, the object, play, film, song that we consider the work of art does not become art until someone consumes it. So the true work of art doesn’t exist as an object. It exists in our brains, in our hearts as an imprint of that object, a relationship with that object. We are communicating with an abstract idea that expresses something to us that we cannot articulate otherwise.

This is why it is so important to patronize the arts. Patronizing the arts creates the arts. Without audiences for a new theatrical work such as Kanawha Players laudable “Courting Disaster” or without viewers of Filmmaker Sun Jae Smith’s touching “Cashing Out” they can’t exist as pieces of art. They’re just things. Words are just tiny drawings until they are read. Songs are just soundwaves until they are heard by the human ear. Paintings are just blends of color on a canvas.

We have Festivall Charleston coming up soon, and while I think that it can sometimes border on elietist, the fact that so many artists in so many different fields are exposed to an audience they wouldn’t normally have makes it important. The juxtaposition of the artist against open-minded audience creates a whole new experience.

Think about this in deciding what you want to do this and every weekend.