Friday, December 7, 2012

Kate, the pregnancy, the prank. . . the disaster

I'm just like anybody.  I have no interest in the Royals at all and at best find Harry's exploits - dressing like a Nazi, getting drunk and flailing around like a veritable Prince Phillip - juvenile and boring. (At least we know now that he wasn't sired by Diana's "riding instructor": his eyes are too close together, like all the rest of them). And the things they wear on their heads, the women I mean, look like those weapons the Klingons throw on Star Trek.

So I'm not really a Royal watcher, but I honestly did like the Royal wedding, the excitement and magic of it, such a departure from the suffocating,  elephantine bumph of Charles and Diana and the train that went all the way to Bristol. I like Kate, like her self-assurance and her dimples and her way of wearing clothes: stylish, but with none of the narcissistic preening and fluttering of Diana at her worst. Kate seems like the real deal to me.

And then she's pregnant - more excitement - but things aren't going the way they are supposed to, she's throwing up all the time (and do I know what that is like). So the rather overly-slender Kate has to be hospitalized before she dehydrates completely.

Then it happens: the "punk" that "punk'd" the world.

These idiot Australian radio people, whoever they are, I can't even be bothered to look up their glutinous little names, decide to try to get through to the nursing staff at the hospital. And what they do is so patently ludicrous that I can barely describe it.

Putting on the worst phony accent since - since - I don't know! I can't remember ANYONE else with an accent that bad! - the she-part of this poisonous duo called the hospital assuming the identity of some drunken drag queen who likes to impersonate Her Majesty at gay biker orgies. In other words, she was trying to sound like the Queen.

She used the word "please" twice in one sentence, for one thing. She sounded more "Strayne" than anyone I've ever heard. And the poor nurse, the naive nurse, put her through! If she says she's the Queen, she must BE the Queen. The nurse who actually reported on Kate's bouts of retching must have been equally taken in - perhaps more so, to give out so many details we really needn't have heard about.

But no one could predict what happened next. I was in the car with my husband driving home from Staples or something, he had been away for a while, and I started recounting the stupid "punk'd" story in case he hadn't heard it.

He had.  "She died, you know."


"No, the nurse. She was found dead."

"What - the Royals hired a hit man? That's insane!"

""No, they think it was suicide."

It was one of those odd the-world-slips-sideways moments. It just didn't add up. This woman didn't even give out those medical details that should have been kept confidential. She just handed the phone over. What happened?

Nobody is sure what happened. But someone died. So with its usual crystalline logic, the entire human race decided to MURDER those two Australian DJs for plotting to deliberately assassinate a poor innocent nurse. Looking at it backwards, the insane logic is: they punk'd her, she died, they killed her!

I have a few points to make. Maybe I've already made them, but I'm so sick of Twit, Tweet and Twat and the Gospel of Facebook screaming "those murderers should be hanged!" and stuff like that,  I'll make them again.

One. Those punksters NEVER thought they would get through. It was one of those sleepover gigglefest type-things where little girls call someone at random and say, "Is your refrigerator running?" The worst that could happen, they probably thought, was, "Get off the phone, you wretched impostor!", or perhaps (even better!) the threat of arrest.

Two. If there had been ANY level of security at all in that hospital, the "punk" never would have happened. It would've been shot down before any information could have been given out at all.

Three. It's only one small step from freely giving out confidential medical information on the phone to carelessly letting some drag queen dressed as Liz in the door for a nice little visit. The hospital administration made a grave, even horrific mistake, far worse than mere carelessness, in maintaining such a lax system.

What the fuck were they thinking? Did they have their heads shoved up their blowholes? But though there obviously was no special policy in place to protect Kate, meaning that anyone in the world could just phone and ask  for information and get it,  the whole shameful episode got shunted on to this poor nurse. Even though nothing really bad came of her actions, she must have had such agonizing pangs of conscience that she decided she should not exist any more.

The nurse no longer exists, but someone still has to be blamed. Someone's head has to be paraded around town impaled on a stick. The villagers with flaming torches are about to close in. So it has to be those two heartless, murderous, bloodthirsty, demonic Aussie DJs!

To be honest, I feel sorry for them. I think they're just idiotic assholes who were seeing how far they could push it. Pretty far, as it turns out. Whole Facebook pages are being set up even as we speak to bring them to justice, i. e. life imprisonment, if not the gallows.

This whole thing was completely bizarre, one of the strangest stories I've ever heard, but where does the blame ultimately lie? Isn't it obvious? If the Royals trusted this place enough to put one of the most admired and influential women in the world in it, shouldn't they have known a little something about their security system, if indeed they had one? (As it turned out, they didn't.)

This isn't B-list royalty: Prince Edward's dumpy wife Whatsername, or Sarah Ferguson and her horrific fanged daughters. THIS IS KATE MIDDLETON. She is far too valuable to be trusted to a place where they might allow an IRA member dressed as Prince Phillip in for a nice little visit.

(A very sad postscript: I just had the thought that a lot of good might have come from this asinine prank. Policies might have been changed, security tightened, awareness of danger increased.  Maybe Kate might have been a lot safer next time, i. e. when she gives birth. But instead, the whole thing tumbled down into disaster.)

Bob Dylan: here comes your worst Chrismas nightmare

To quote a well-known literary phrase: This is just WRONG.

I leafed through most of the tracks, now posted on YouTube, on this strange album/artifact. It sounds like an old man choking on Liquid Draino. I was hard-pressed to find the worst track, or even the most representative track, so I just took a stab. The religious ones might be worse, but the elevator-music/Walmart p.a. system arrangement in this one won by a Santa Claus whisker.

What's this Jew doing, anyway - what's this born-again, died-again, reborn, dead for a while, then all-of-a-sudden-gets-nominated-for the-Nobel-Prize fella doing recording a whole buncha Christmas carols with a backup chorus of chicks and someone playing one-o-dem little ting-a-lingie things?

I don't know, me and Bob Dylan. I will admit to a crush, nay, an obsession in my youth, back when he was the most enigmatic thing since Russian black bread and writing things like:

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Every once in a while Dylan moves himself, and in a recent interview he quoted the above lines and said something like, "I can hardly believe I wrote that, man. It's fantastic."

Well, it is. But how did he end up here, on the slippery slope to poor album sales and for-God's-sake-let's-hide-this-from-the-kids? How did he become a Christmas abomination, standing on a street corner bleating old carols strained through too many layers of cigarette phlegm?

I still look at Bob Dylan as an enigma, ever-changing, always leaving us guessing as to what he'll do next. I think I know him, then he'll turn around and reveal himself as much more intact and articulate than his current downtrodden-old-bum image would suggest. I saw him just last night on a rather dull documentary about Pete Seeger, who has the dubious distinction of having the worst teeth in folk music. The cuddly old Commie was praised to the skies by Springsteen, Baez, a totally adorable Arlo Guthrie (I want to take Arlo Guthrie home with me - he is a beautiful man), and - Bob Dylan.

When I see interviews with him, it startles me: he has a diamond-flash way of speaking, quick, ferociously articulate, and way ahead of the game, always - in fact, reinventing the game as he goes along so that no one can get ahead of him. And then there are those eyes: not "bluer than robin's eggs," as Joan Baez wrote in her tortured ballad Diamonds and Rust, but flourescent blue, lit from behind by - something - but it sure is something the rest of us don't have, and certainly never will.

So, fine, all this is in the positives, isn't it, and then there were all those early albums I listened to half-to-death (even though I had no idea who Medgar Evers was) until my parents were ready to scream. The last Dylan albums I truly enjoyed were Desire and Blood on the Tracks. Like Rubber Soul and Revolver (which I liked to call Rubber Revolver), these two would have made a nice double album, maybe called Desire on the Tracks. Here Dylan was still playful and soulful and sometimes heartbreaking, even in the simplest of songs (One More Cup of Coffee being my favorite: I always preface it in my mind with the mournful slow movement of the Rodrigo guitar concerto.)

Long before Desire on the Tracks and this Christmas thingie, Dylan got into beeeeeeg trobble  when he cut a very strange album called Self Portrait, which had a picture of a smeared cookie on the cover and virtually no original material. Almost all of them were "covers", and bad ones too, such as his version of Take a Message to Mary in which a female chorus intones, "These are the words of a frontier lad/Who lost his love when he turned bad. .  ."

As they say down in old Jerusalem town: oy vey.

Self Portrait, a (gulp) double album that would have made a nice no-album, inspired one of the best-known opening lines of any music review: "What is this shit?" The Rolling Stone guy didn't know what to make of it, and I didn't either. Sounded like something he recorded in the basement of Big Pink, whatever-the-fuck Big Pink is anyway, when the guys in the band were all drunk and falling down.

Bob tries, he really does, but the best Bob Dylan performance I have ever seen isn't by Bob Dylan. It isn't even by a man, but by Cate Blanchett, who nails His Bobness like no other actor ever could. I don't think anyone could play the older Bob because the older Bob sounds like he has shredded his vocal chords (cords? Either way looks wrong) with a StarFrit all-purpose flesh grater. Everyone complained about his singing THEN. They should hear his singing NOW. But the people who really objected back then, the teachers and parents and Great-Aunt Matilda, have all died of old age anyway.

The only thing I heard more often than "I don't mind long hair as long as it's clean" in the '60s was, "I like Bob Dylan's songs, but not when he sings them." They preferred somebody else, like Peter, Paul and Mary or The Byrds or Sonny and Cher.

Bob has apparently lifted all of Bing Crosby's arrangements in this album, and superimposed the vomitous horror of what is left of his voice. Somebody else has already sung these songs, Bob, in goopy syrupy voices and stuff, but still. They're a little more palatable to listen to than the garburator growl of an old man still trying to hang on to something, some sense of youthful glory.

The legacy of Dylan's earliest creations, that glittering Krypton ice palace that can still illuminate like a great spill of diamonds, slowly, somehow, turned back into coal (the thing you find in your stocking if you're bad). Or maybe it's rust, flakes of russet-colored, degenerated iron, the leavings of a man who couldn't stop singing even when his voice was gone.