Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"The Cookies Turned Out Pretty Well, by the Way"


'Twas holiday time.

There, in a quiet, domestic scene, I baked molasses cookies, and my husband folded sheets of paper into gift boxes that would hold the treats.

The Ipod shuffled, and a new song, low and mellow, poured into the kitchen:  "I search myself and everyone/To see where we went wrong..."

"AHHHH, CRACK-ADDICTED MOTHER OF KEE-RIST," I screeched, tailoring my curse to the season.  "How come I hate Sarah McLachlan so much at this minute?  If I holler the words 'shut up,' do you think she will? And also, as long as I'm at it, I thought I liked Sarah McLachlan.  I mean, who the hell do you think bought this CD originally?  It wasn't Great Aunt Ethel, that's for sure.  I can admit it:  I was possessed of McLachlan Fever in my twenties.  She was breathy; she was earnest.  But right now, I find I am passionately annoyed by her breathy earnestness here in the kitchen.  Would my good friend Debbie Harry from Blondie please shuffle up to Sarah, there inside the Ipod, and bitch slap some sense into her Lilith Fair self?"

In his mild way, Groom chimed in, "This song is a bit like opening a time capsule to the '90s."

Energized from the scorching heat of his condemnation, I blustered, "GAWWD.  Doesn't she lead with her uterus, though?  It's all whine, drop an egg, moan, pat an ovary..."

"Yes," His Groomishness agreed, safely, "her vibe doesn't suit our here and now.  She seems dated."

Dated.  That was right.  To my surprise, Sarah McLachlan's pretty, dulcet 1990's tones seemed like they'd benefit from a tour of duty in Iraq, if they hoped to find a place in the '10s.  Without some broadening, well, her work seems like something whose time has passed.

Interestingly, later that same night, when I was out for a run, I listened to a podcast wherein television critic David Bianculli was interviewed about his new book on The Smothers Brothers, Dangerously Funny.  As he recapped the careers of Tom and Dick Smothers, particularly their too-soon-cancelled program The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Bianculli took me back in time, back through the McLachlan '90s, past the Leona Helmsley '80s, before the Bruce Jenner '70s, to the late 1960's.  Just a niblet back then, I do remember watching The Smothers Brothers.  I liked the banjo.

Bianculli's interview gave me the broader context of this anti-authoritarian, groundbreaking program that sought out fresh talent, fought with the network, confounded censors, and provided a solidly anti-war message.  In an era where sex, drugs, religion, and politics were hugely topical yet still avoided on public broadcasts, Tom and Dick Smothers set their focus firmly upon challenging existing mores. Because of its willingness to be provocative, to be rebellious, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was cancelled in a swirl of controversy.  In many ways, the story of this show is the story of the 1960's.

But for me, listening to the podcast that night, the trajectory of The Smothers Brothers is still relevant.  Unlike that breathy McLachlan in her floaty dresses, Tom and Dick's work continues to hold my interest--as Bianculli notes, they continue to have an impact on “today’s TV troublemakers and iconoclasts.”  Maybe I'm just an individual who is disposed towards appreciating agitators and subversion.  Maybe, though, the principles that guided The Smothers Brothers remain fresh even today, in a time of corruption and destruction.  I'm going to argue they're still relevant because their example was to question, challenge, push for change.

And that never goes out of style.

-------------------------------
How about you?  Have you been struck by things that suddenly seem passe or unnecessary...or surprisingly appurtenant to the moment?

Outside of the McLachlan/Smothers experiences, I've also recently realized I'm pretty much over clementines this year, preferring instead good, old-fashioned oranges or--the new kid on my butcher block--Cara Caras.  2010 is SOOOO Cara Cara.




But not Irene Cara.

She's out there, on her own.

19 comments:

Amy said...

Heh. I was never a fan of McLachlan, although you and I appear to be part of the same generation. I did attend the last Lilith Fair, but that's because I was then enamored of Sheryl Crow--who now falls in that "huh?" moment you speak of. In fact, I left Lilith Fair when Sarah came on, but got lost in the parking lot, and was forced to hear most of her set as I wandered about, looking for my car.

That said, on The Current today I heard her cover of the song Dear God, and I think that might surprise you if you haven't heard it. It surprised me. Brought me darn close to ordering it on i-Tunes.

Middle Aged Woman said...

Sarah and I have the same vocal range, and since I LIVE to sing, I'll listen to her anytime "Listen as the wind blows/from across the great divide"

diane said...

I was into Angela Bofill for a while, now SHE'S dated.
Orange juice sounds good. I like to cut mine 1/2 & 1/2 with seltzer.

jess said...

I always felt like I should like Sarah M. yet I never really did. I vaguely remember watching The Smothers Brothers growing up.

What is this strange orange you speak of? And tired of Clementines? How does one get that way!?!? I'm working on a whole box all by myself and it's almost gone...

[Ha ha, my word verification is ovilemi. I don't know why that's funny except you were writing about ovaries. Oh and the first one, which I apparently misspelled, was datin, like even blogger's mocking me!]

Pam said...

O.K...I hope it's because I'm from the other side of the world,but the only words I recognize in the post are Debbie Harry,Blondie,Groom, ovaries and uterus, oh and Sheryl Crow in the comments.Maybe Great Aunt Ethel and I could bond over a cup of tea, and discuss the music of yesteryear and the decline of our uteruses or is that uteri, and ponder over "who exactly is Angela Botox,er Bowlfull, er..Bofill.?..no not "Bowie" Ethel that was David,remember? You DO???? Pass the molasses biscuit dearie and dunk it - it's easier on the teeth."

Pam said...

..Jocelyn remember I ribbed you about houseswapping for a dug-out in Coober Pedy? When you look at the photos on my recent post I know you'll be saying "You must be joking!" I am. You'll see Paco wouldn't be able to lop the heads off the vegies in the patch.There is no vegie patch...there is no..anything, and his Lego pieces could get so easily lost in ..well, you'll see.Maybe stick with Germany.

Jeni said...

Although I do -or at least I DID -have a cd by Sarah McLaughlin here someplace that Mandy got me for my birthday (I think it was for that) some years back, I've never been one to really follow musicians and such since the 60s. (Some of the music I recall fondly even dates back to, I think, the 50s. Yes, I am truly an old, VERY OLD, fart ya know.

But the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour -now there was a program and a damned good one too! If the networks ever want someone as a judge of new programs and which to keep, which to dump early-on, they should maybe have used me -or hire me now for that. It seems now, as back then, every show I like early-on in the season is one the networks decide to put in the crapper as soon as possible too. (Like the police show that came out this past fall on NBC -Southland. I really liked that show and as soon as I must have voiced to someone -or to the air, or some such, that I liked it, they canceled it! Figures, huh?

Wonder if there are any dvds available anyplace of the old Smothers Brothers Shows? Boy, I'd love to have that in my DVD repertoire!

furiousBall said...

one day i will record the entire Queen anthology in handfarts and you can fill your iPod with joy

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I'm still into clementines. I think miniskirts, bikinis and U2 have seen their time with me. I sill like old U2, but they're trying too hard now ever since Rattle & Hum. Shame. I think Lady GaGa has out-madonna-ed Madonna.

suzicate said...

As I love clemetines,I must check out cara caras.

Shieldmaiden96 said...

Edie Brickell and New Bohemians.
I can't listen to them without flashing back to an interminable car ride to an Allan Ginsberg poetry reading (I know, right?) with a smug, irritating upperclassman that I think my now husband had the then hots for. That, and the vague sense that I've wasted all my opportunities. And that someone other than me married Paul Simon.
Also?

VHS Tapes. We bought a dual player because 'we have so many tapes, its silly to replace all these movies'. Lately I want to chuck them all and replace none of them. Except maybe Little Women. My collection of Trini Alvarado films must remain constant.

Michelle Wells Grant said...

Sometimes we hate the pot-stirrers Smothers Bros.) but we don't realize how much we need them.

And speaking of Sarah McLachlan, what do we think about Mary Chapin Carpenter? I used to know every word to every song but ... where did she go???

secret agent woman said...

I was watching Seinfeld and they made some crack you'd only understand if you'd lived at that time. My kids think it's a stupid show.

Blood oranges for me.

lime said...

you do realize your psychic sister was weaned on the smothers brothers and laugh-in, don't you?

yoyo man lives.

Fragrant Liar said...

I loved Tommy and Dick. I'm totally into avocadoes and blueberries now. (No, there's not connection . . . or IS there?)

And I'll keep my McLachlan tunes. Right behind my Bonnie Raitt stuff.

Patois said...

I soveryalmost remember the Smothers Brothers. In the here and now. Or at least the remembrance of the here and now in my withered brain.

chelle said...

Interesting. Being Canadian, Sarah has been a go to gal in the past, but every since her song was used on the Foster Child commercials I was Sarah'd out ...

How is it Alice Cooper never gets passe?

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I love Cara Caras. They are a cross between navel oranges and red grapefruit, I think. And blood oranges are heavenly, too.

It's amazing how passionately one can dislike a singer. In the 70's, I couldn't stomach Donna Summer or the BG's and I cannot abide Sheryl Crow - she makes me want to smack her while imitating her style in falsetto. I haven't heard Angela Bofill mentioned since the 70's - she had a great voice and perfect control and should have become more of a name than she did. Dakota Staton (Late Late Show) was another underrated diva of the 60's who seems to have vanished as well.

But play me some Edith Piaf and I am instantly transported to Paris and my own youth.

Pearl said...

Yes, yes, yes; you and I are in agreement. I'm sorry to say that I have the same feelings about Ani DeFranco...

As for the Smothers Brothers, I absolutely loved them -- between that and Laugh-In, I know exactly where some of my sense of humor comes from.

And yours as well.

:-)

Pearl