Friday, June 12, 2009

A Babushka from Paris

Christiana Milian is in the desert in her pants. She appears to be feeling very passionate about something but I don’t know what, being too distracted by how she is managing so many wardrobe changes when she is surrounded by nothing but sand for miles around....admittedly, it is a small wardrobe, featuring only lingerie and swimming outfits (poor thing, when they said ‘sand’ she must have thought ‘beach’).

I am at the mines and I am watching television.

Now someone called Tamia is getting out of bed very slowly, singing about raindrops and trying on a few outfits before going to the shops in her hotpants...oh now I think she’s inviting me to have sex with her in a booth of some sort. someone called Something Knowles is singing about Tony and sitting on a toilet. Tony is sitting on some steps and looks a bit put out by the fact that he just got Beyonce’s sister pregnant.

Ne-Yo is looking for someone to chill with, although it looks like you have to be wearing a bikini to he’s even found a hot girl underground...that never happened when I went to the Marble Arch Caves.

David Beckham and Robbie Williams have just popped up to tell me that AIDS is a bad thing. They’re famous so now I know it’s true.

Jamie Fox is dazzling me with the fact that he has Jake Gyllenhal (Oh if you’re so clever why don’t you spell it without using imdb) and Forrest Whitaker in his video...although it’s just the usual, tedious guy-in-a-night-club deal, although this isn’t like anywhere the likes of us have ever been. Oh hold on, who is that old balding guy? Is that...yes it is...Happy’s Ron Howard! (That’s many of the kids watchin this video are gonna recognise Ron Howard? I mean they’ll have seen his films but his face?) And it’s almost redundant to mention the fact that Samuel L. Jackson is here too since he is in everything.

Okay enough of MTV my father always used to say when we were kids and something scantily clad appeared on screen, ‘There must be something better on...’ Well Dad you’d think that given the number of channels we’re talking about here, but I couldn’t find anything so I went to bed...

I have never seen Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip cus America cancelled it before it had had much of a chance to stretch its legs. But I did see the first scene of the first episode and in it an SNL-esque comedian goes on an on-air rant about how the television, and his programme in particular, is failing in its obligation to speak the truth and fight the power at the same time as sparking laughter and offering escape. Something along those lines anyway. Except the lines were written by Aaron Sorkin so they were somewhat better put together. There are perhaps few television formats that exemplify this failure more spectacularly than that epitomised by Big Brother/X-Factor/America’s Next Top Model. These are incredibly popular shows and I have to admit to being entertained by each of them on a number of cold Coventry type occasions. But this is empty calorie television and the shows mentioned must be blamed for spawning even worse variations on their get-significant-quick theme. What drove me to MTV Base was the worst I had seen yet...and so unsurprisingly involved Ms. Hilton...

Coincidentally I had just been reading C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves and had been feeling inspired and excited by his vision of friendship as two people in an embrace who, rather than staring in to each other’s eyes like lovers, have turned their gaze to a common interest or goal or belief. Then I watched TV and Paris Hilton turned up in a televised competition between young American girls vying to be her New BFF (That’s New Best Friend Forever for those of you privileged enough not to know). It was hard to know what to be most depressed about. By how the beauty of a thing like friendship was being demeaned? By how badly the contestants seemed to desire Paris’s friendship? By the fact that the idea for this show came because of the breakdown (so we are told) of an actual (so we are told) friendship between the Hilton girl and the Richie girl? [By the fact that I know that?] Or by the fact that people all over the world were watching a spoiled rich girl sit in a pink throne and tell a similar looking girl with a tear soaked face that she didn’t want to be pretend friends?

As time starts to force me to think about going home this kind of nonsense is something I am loathing. Strange as it might seem for a young man to suggest that he doesn’t want to see Christiana in her undies, I am just tired by the ridiculousness of it all. I often get struck by this feeling when I head out for the night with friends at home. Few nights go by when there isn’t at least one moment when I will look around the night club dance floor or up the bar and be utterly depressed by the game so many present seem to be playing. A friend, after a particularly, let’s use the word rampant and leave it at that, night on the town sighed and said, ‘It’s all mechanical boys’. It’s a shiny, mechanical, and thus by definition heartless, shell of a thing.

We are all desperate for affirmation, for attention, for significance, for love. So everyone dresses and dances and struts with an eye on everyone else. Like when my little brother wouldn’t climb to the top of the climbing frame unless he was sure that at least one of his parents was watching him. Creed have a song with the lyric, ‘Sex sells and the whole world is buying.’ We have bought in to the lie of the music video. We have bought in to the lie of Paris Hilton. We just went along with the fluffy flow but found ourselves downstream convinced that it matters whether or not you are a size 8 or a size 18. We are convinced that it really MATTERS whether or not other people tell us that we matter by dancing with us in the club or watching us as we sidle down the street, by laughing at our wit or agreeing with our argument. We have convinced one another that our social betters are our betters, that the beautiful people are the superior people, that the rich and famous are the happy, the loved, the SIGNIFICANT.

We don’t recognise, or know what to do with, this longing for significance and love which is leaving us empty. With no idea how to fill ourselves up we instead resort to covering ourselves up , layer after layer like Russian Dolls. We hope no-one lifts the lid we have hand painted to look like a head and tried to convince ourselves does not exist. We hide behind wooden shells of talent and beauty and intelligence and attraction and strength and success and power and virtue and the list goes on and on as we uncover doll after doll until finally we reach the smallest and the last. The ‘you’ you have hardly allowed yourself to know. This is what we find Solomon (so tradition has it anyway) telling us in Ecclesiastes. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. It’s all meaningless. It’s all empty. It’s all mechanical. Unless you fill that God-shaped hole your beauty will wither, your wisdom will turn to senility, your fame will be forgotton and your significance will cease to be because it never really was. Because you never really were. Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. What matters? What you see when you lift the lid of the last doll, the ‘you’ you really are, the work of quite a different artist.

“Is it real because I feel fake?”
According to Wikipedia, Babushka is the wrong name for Russian nested dolls...they are accurately called Matryoshka dolls. Just so I don't misled you in to a shameful mistake on your next juncket to Moscow...


fordi said...

your writing never fails to move me.. sometimes to laughter and sometimes to tears and sometimes to a pondering sort of silence..

(please tell me you'll keep writing when you come home..)

fordi x

Laura said...

Thank you, my dear Mark. You remind me of things I need reminding of -- this world is a harsh one.

Anonymous said...

I loved this article especially the picture :) Sometimes a picture really does paint a thousand words!

Brandon and Shannon Bleek said...

Mark, as I read this I'm listening to the late Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror". The lyric says, "I'm looking at the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to changes his ways." Hmmm? You and I are in much different "locations" but so many of us are in such similar "places".

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