Wednesday, October 24, 2012

...It's Human Nature...

Round 2 looked like the Battle Challenge on The Voice

At the risk of sounding completely shallow I will admit to being mad that the Voice lost an hour to the presidential debate on Monday night.

I officially have election fatigue and so I wasn’t as attentive to the final debate as I had been with the others.  (Although you have to admit the V.P.  debate was good comedy; like the end of a dinner party where people did more drinking than eating.)

There was one moment on Monday night that caught my attention for sure.  It was Romney’s response to President Obama’s answer to the Libya- what happened/why/what next –question.

Well, my strategy's pretty straightforward, which is to go after the bad guys, to make sure we do our very best to interrupt them, to — to kill them, to take them out of the picture. But my strategy is broader than — than that. That's — that's important, of course, but the key that we're going to have to pursue is a — is a pathway to — to get the Muslim world to be able to reject extremism on its own. …

Maybe I misinterpreted, but it sounded to me that he said, “we have to get everyone to think alike for the greater, common good.”

Sounds like a cult to me.

He elaborates a little and refers to “Jihadists.”

The thing is “Jihadists” are acting on religious beliefs, not necessarily “anti-American” beliefs.  So I guess he’s suggesting proselytism, or possibly brainwashing, but these things almost never start or end well.

The reason all of this struck a chord with me was because I had moments earlier ended a conversation with my mom on the subject of personal change.

My mom is sure that if a person is unhappy or bothered enough, they will make changes. If they don’t make changes, then they’re not that unhappy or bothered.

I disagree and can never get her to understand that the “ability” can’t always keep pace with the “will.”

There are a lot of disturbed and anxiety ridden folks out there struggling with what feels like the worst of all weaknesses: an inability to change, especially if failure to change could be a danger to yourself.

No one enjoys their self-destructive habits.

Even drug addicts or alcoholics want to change once they become cognizant of what they’re doing to themselves. There’s rehab for that, but nothing for bad habits of the heart.

So I’m back to wondering if a person can ever really change, and if so, how?

When people do seem to change, is it natural progression or a special effort at personal growth?

Are they just becoming who they were always meant to be?

Or are they revealing who they’ve always been?

I feel myself changing all the time in little ways, but not in ways I could clearly articulate or for reasons I’m sure about.  I would probably be a lot less stressed if I could figure that out.

Or if I could learn to relax and let it be whatever it is.

Anyway, I thought it was a strange thing for Romney to say.

Even if you somehow got everyone to completely give up the deeply religious beliefs and rituals that they hold so dear and had everyone believe in one world religion, people would just find something else to fight about and rebel against.

That seems to be the overall problem with public policy: It usually has very little to do with human nature.
Sing along to my earworm… Tragedy! Minnum-minna-minna-minna-minna Tragedy! Still don’t know what he’s saying. Bee Gees- Tragedy,

They did a really good job with this. Boyz II Men – Human Nature

He did a really good job with this. Michael Jackson – Come Together

Still there?…

I wrote a review of Pharrell’s new book but a friend of mine read it and reacted with, “what did he ever do to you?”

I don’t think it’s negative, but it was suggested that I not bother posting this to Amazon unless there’s a horde of those false positive reviews. I hate those.

Anyway, if you have the time then have a read and judge for yourself. ...

I try not to be that person at the bookstore looking too comfortable and reading a whole pile of books cover to cover.  I might read the first chapter, I might even read the end chapter, but I try not to read the whole thing.

Until today.

Driving miles to nowhere for a meeting, I decided to stop in a nearby bookstore – a rare find since Borders closed- to get a sneak peek at Pharrell’s Places and Spaces I’ve Been.

I love biographies. I love Pharrell. And yet I didn’t pre-order. Good for me.

I heard one too many comparisons to Jay-Z’s Decoded, which I liked but didn’t love and was actually a little disappointed by. If I had it to do over again, I would have waited for it to hit the library or bought a cheap used one sold by some other disappointed fan.

Decoded wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t a really a biography which is what I wanted.  It was about the inspiration behind his songs, and his songs are about and inspired by his life so it sort of hit the mark but it took the really long way around and you have to squint really hard to see it.

Places and Spaces on the other hand was apparently aiming at something entirely different. When I asked at the counter where to find it after having checked “biography,” “music,” “photography” and even “travel,” I was told  to check “art” and that the computer included “fashion” as a description.

Uh oh. A red flag waves.

The cover is neat. It’s an old fashion fabric hard cover with the title and image of Pharrell’s eyes and forehead imprinted. I love the texture of older books with no dust jacket.

Now to be fair, I didn’t pull this from the shelf myself. The sales clerk did and I wonder if she pulled the dust jacket off because it was actually on hold for someone else and I had to be careful with it, but I’m almost positive that this is the way it comes.

Flipping through there are lots of nice pictures. Pictures that I’ve seen a gazillion times before and that you would be hard pressed to find a Neptunes superfan who hasn’t already seen them.  Nothing so fascinating or astonishing to warrant going without captions,  but darn if they weren’t missing. 

Also, there are a lot of pictures of logos from the clothing line. Yes, I’d love to pay 55 bucks for a book of logos from your expensive clothing line. (And why on earth was it $55 in store? She told me if I ordered from them online it would only be $33, but she couldn’t explain why.) To be fair, the logo pictures might be interesting to look at in ten years. Like when you find an old issue of Vibe magazine and see ads for CDs and clothes that have changed or aren’t around anymore.

So, no personal pics or candid shots, just a repeat of stuff you could find it you searched his name on Tumblr.

The text when I could find it was almost always a tiny pinkish color font on a yellow page. I could only guess that the intended audience for this book was children with excellent eyesight because it was kind of hard for me to read and even the sales chick frowned and commented on the color combo.

Not that it mattered because there wasn’t much to read. Just a few pages at a time of him interviewing other people. He asks a question, they give a long answer, he comments, more long answer and it goes on.

 I like that it’s a transcript of the conversation, and it’s nice to be privy to the conversation he has with someone he admires or that has influenced him, but there is very, very, extremely little commentary from him at all. Everyone else does almost all the talking and you just get to picture him do that half sleepy/ half goofy smile and nod thing he sometimes does.

So, not really much in understanding more of what’s going on in his head outside of again, what any superfan probably has already heard a million times.

So therein lies the problem.  There’s not a stitch of anything new in here for anyone that already loves Pharrell.  And I don’t think a non- fan would be all that interested in taking a peek or be impressed if they did.

I understand it’s a “coffee table book.” I enjoy those and own them in large numbers including Uwe Ommer’s Black Ladies, Lloyd Boston’s Men of Color, Marc Baptiste’s Beautiful Nudes, but even as a coffee table book, it’s kind of skimpy.

I’ve heard there’s a deluxe edition so I hopeful that one has something worth the money that the one I previewed didn’t. Maybe if I had sat with it and read the whole thing (200 or so pages) flipping page by page, I might have found something more. Unfortunately flipping through first for pictures and getting a general idea of how much text there was, second for a closer look at the written material, third for another overview, and a fourth and final time to convince myself to buy it, I was disappointed.

Not disappointed like the time I ate chicken only to be told later it was rabbit, but disappointed like, “Oh man, he shrunk t-shirts and called it a woman’s line” 

The rabbit was actually really good. The t-shirts were a rip off attempt to expand an over tapped market in the cheapest, least imaginative way possible. Same idea with the t-shirts applies to the book.

I almost had the feeling that it was put together by an intern or someone else who just grabbed a bunch of stuff online and stuck it together  and Tada! … a book.

So even though I love, love, love the man and his music, I did not love, love, love the book.

 I don’t feel like I got any kind of glimpse into the mind of a gifted musician.  Not even a weird peek into the head of a simultaneously eccentric and silly down to earth guy.

 No idea about what inspired some of the most unique and beautiful music I’ve ever experienced, because you don’t hear this man’s music, you experience it.

Maybe the book like the last N*E*R*D  CD should have been titled “Nothing” because unlike the CD, that pretty much sums it up.

That sounds harsh so I should clarify by saying, it’s probably not a horrible book, but it just wasn’t up to my expectations. It definitely is not a biography and frankly it’s not much else.

Janet Jackson’s book that came out just over a year ago is already at Dollar Tree.

I think I’ll wait this Pharrell book out.

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