Archive for August, 2010

On: The Problem With All My Children

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 18, 2010 by thenewserials
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As 2 Dimensional as Mario on the SNES

If you ever watched a dying animal you know what the height of pathetic life is. It’s not something you can really help (other than to kill it) and it’s not something you’d feel comfortable walking away from because it demands your attention.

And thus is the story of All My Children. The soap has been on for decades, winding its way through a cultural maelstrom. From race to aids to terrorism to gay marriage All My Children has always stayed on top of the issues and provided unique and sympathetic stories to the current situations at hand.

Being the most “plain” of the soap operas (no regular super cops, or super criminals or spies and whatever) All My Children has always been propelled by characters. Money grubbers, crooks, murderers, fathers, sons, daughters, drunks, junkies, mothers, philanthropist, moguls, psychotic, storytellers and even a couple of bears here and there. These characters are what have kept All My children unique and interesting.

We’ve watched Erica Kane go from young dreamer, to broken rape victim, to high end model, to addicted fiend, to indignant mother, wife, single, wife, single, wife, single and wife again and in each change we’ve learned something about a woman many of us have know for over thirty years.

But recently the soap has seemed to lose its way. It still has its characters (arguably maybe now they have the best roster of characters) From the sultry and possibly psychotic Annie Novak (Lavery, Chandler) to the plotting and cunning Dr. David Hayward, All My Children has a lot to work with and even could pull from older characters to spice it up a bit.

But when Charles Pratt Jr. took over as head writer audiences cried foul. The most frequent argument being that the female characters had all be degraded to shells of people, subservient and not as clever as their male counterpart.

The end of the Pratt Jr. reign followed the death of long time character Stuart Chandler and a sordid Baby’s Father drama involving nearly every character but, primarily: David Hayward, Jake Martin and Amanda Dillion. Admittedly it was some of the same stuff we had seen before but, it was still intriguing.

After Pratt was released from his duties writing the drama of Pine Valley, many fans thought that a fresh perspective would bring about a new and improved look and feel to Pine Valley (couple with a move to L.A. to shoot what could go wrong?)

Sadly it hasn’t turned out to be what most expected and hoped it to be. The characters of Pine Valley have been reduced to mere talking points, a brief look into a common thought from the character followed by some uncharacteristic actions and then onto the next set of characters before repeating the process for 45 of the 60 minutes.

Characters many of us have known for ten, twenty years are suddenly reacting to similar situations in totally different manners. A painful look at writers testing the waters to see what sounds nice on paper doesn’t always apply when acted on a continuous scale.

A great example of character trampling came with the character Aiden Devane. A private detective/spy like character who at the very core of him was benign. Only in Pine Valley because he cared about some of the women, Devane was written as a raving lunatic at the end of his run.

For weeks audience were subjected to him sitting in a padded room attempting to help (or extort?) a mental ill patient that he was (or wasn’t) in love with. Varying with the day Devane was either trying to uncover evidence against Annie Lavery or uncover a way for her to escape. For the first week it offered us some intrigue not being sure but, then after a little while it became very clear that the writers weren’t sure as to what they wanted to present with the character.

And in the end a character who hadn’t lifted a finger to do anything against the women of his life ever, except to protect them from themselves occasionally, kidnaps his ex-girlfriend and holds her hostage against her husband (whom he had a good relationship with too) before being sent to jail.

The end result served as a slap in the face to viewers who like to be treated more than just cardboard cut-outs sitting in front of a television screen. And as bad as that was, we weren’t expecting what was going to come next after Pratt’s leave.

The show as of late has been reduced to watching one story-line repeated endlessly. It’s not as if there’s multiple components to the story, literally the same thing happens over and over again. In one story Adam Chandler Jr. struggles with a lust (and possible love) for his father’s ex-wife (and cousin’s current fiancée) even though he’s married already. Normally this kind of thing is fair-grounds for a soap opera but, it’s been months of the same dialogue being used over and over again.

The guilt he feels in his heart, the burning he feels in his loins. Every episode serves for Him to say to his mistress: “We can’t be together but, I want to”, week after week we hear him say “We can’t be together but, I want to” without and real clarification of the issue. 3 months ago the show was in the same position as it is now.

The writers have forgotten what drives the story FORWARD. Instead they pick one talking point and talk about it at until the viewer is ripping their hair-out or mindlessly speaking the dialogue of the show along with the broadcast.

The characteristic of the characters have been twisted into mere stereotypes, the blending of unique and intricate qualities of characters have been replaced for blatant moments of characters stressing “I AM THE HERO” and “I AM THE VILLAIN!”. There’s little wiggle room to understand the motives for characters other than: He’s the bad guy, he’s supposed to be that way.

In the past characters of pure evil were introduced, with no motive other than to wreak havoc but, they weren’t trying to live in the society, they attempted to use it and control it. Like Dr. Kinder but, the real joy came in characters like Vanessa aka Proteus who was clearly doing wrong but, had an overbearing love for her sons that lead to the death of one of them.

On one hand you hate Vanessa on the other hand you can’t wait for her to be on screen again to see her rationale. Gone is that feeling once you hear a character admit something it stays that way. Black and white is how the lines are drawn in, no one in Pine Valley is complicated, they’re either: simply good or simply bad.

Some characters don’t even have conflicts. Amanda and Jake stand around having sex whenever they can and helping friends but, neither of the characters have anything to do individually. Sometimes they’re asked to participate in unethical actions but, they show absolutely NO conflict, they just go along with it because it’s against  ‘the bad guy’ and that’s what ‘the good guys’  do.

And so before you watch an episode you know what’s going to happen and for what reason and you can’t relate because surely YOU as an actual human being are more complicated than “I do the right thing all the time and hate everything wrong”.

All My Children is a medium in what many consider to be a ‘dying art’. The characters are treated like Adjectives: “loyal” “evil” “righteous” “confused” but, never as a mixture of one and another. So we as viewers get stuck watching the equivalent of literary stick figures but, we know there’s more. We’ve been with most of these character for ten or more years, we’ve seen them grow up, we’ve seen them do bad and good and we’ve seen them wrestle with which was more appealing to them.

That’s why we still watch because anyone who’s watched All My Children knows that the show was founded in greatness and can still achieve that goal if someone would take some time to think of stories that encompass more than one character and present more than one view-point as ‘right’.

But maybe this is the end, maybe the animal is really beyond saving and we loyal fans are just unable to look away because we love it so much still.

Or maybe someone will go to L.A. and whip some of these ‘writers’ into shape!

Facebook.com/raganork8

Twitter.com/KeithBCovington

On: Long Periods Without Writing

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2010 by thenewserials

You would think that having two personalities in my mind would make me more prolific with writing that’s not the case however. For weeks at a time (sometimes months) I will have nothing of any interest to say about anything. Sure something will happen in that time but, no one really comments on this blog anyway so there’s no reason to share with the world if the world isn’t looking.

Don’t take that as a guilt trip, it’s simple logic.

However on occasion I will think of something I think is important enough to share with the people who do come across my blog, and then I blog. My last blog post are some of the easiest to put down. I love music so sharing my experience with new and/or live music is something that comes easily.

What doesn’t come easily is a way to make the banal routines of my life come alive for you all in this blog.   Writing isn’t a challenge per se but more of a required discipline that I  haven’t totally gotten down. It comes to me in waves, sometimes as small as a tide and sometimes as large as a tsunami.

This doesn’t only apply to my blog  but, also to writing a book or short story, I have to be in a very specific mood in order to get anything down. And even then I tend not to write a whole lot in one day, sometimes I’ll pull our a page or two and be content with that because when the feeling goes…it’s gone.

The frightening thing about writing a blog is that everyone who reads it seems to expect some sort of consistency, I have friends who blog once a month on the same day every month, or vow to blog twice a week or some schedule but, I’m not able to stick to that sort of thing. As soon as writing becomes a ‘job’ so to speak, where I have to worry about getting it down in a certain amount of time or fear the deadline, I lose a boatload of interest.

I know, that’s real life, right? Sure it is and I didn’t say I wasn’t able to do it but, I just said it’s no longer as fun for me. I like to take my time and even be lazy. I spend every waking minute thinking about writing, how I want something to look and how I want it to be presented on the page and whatnot and when I get to the execution I get there.

This blog is more of a twisted therapeutic sort of engine for me to work with, I get to write whenever I want to and share it out to the world. Sure the lack of comments and viewers sometime annoy me but, that’s not really the big issue. The issue is filtering through the packing peanuts in my mind to find the really fragile things and bringing them into some sort of like in reality.

With two people in my mind constantly trying to find a way to appease each other there’s often a lot of interesting stuff that gets cut on the editing room floor. I just can’t express EVERYTHING sometimes, mostly because I think a lot of what I say is common sense, but I’m not a common guy and this isn’t a common world and so maybe I ought to consider getting over my personal misgivings with my writing and just put it out there.

I often have this vendetta against artist, like painters and sculptures and cartoonist; maybe not a vendetta but a jealousy because for them the final product of the art is there and can be beheld with the eye. For me I have to then embark on a new journey to get people to read what has taken me a year to write and thats the hardest part of all.

You would think that people would be jumping for joy over the fantastic like: Dreams and the damaged infrastructure in the mind of a semi-psychotic but, people really aren’t. Maybe they think it’s silly or overly-dramatic but, no one cares that much and in some degrees neither do I. I’m still entertained by very simple things like Soap Operas. I watch All My Children everyday as if it were something that will feed my starving stomach. It’s one of the few things that both my personalities will agree to doing but, who wants to sit here and read about how much I dislike Ryan Lavery or think Marissa Tasker needs to buy a clue.

Maybe someone, I guess but, often I don’t feel like it’s a worthy subject to start ranting about in a blog.

I guess part of me still feels like I’ve stumbled into this writing thing, Like maybe I don’t deserve to even be doing it. I love it though, I just like taking my time as well, maybe if i had an actual job writing I would think differently about it but, as of now I don’t. And even when I worked for my school magazine I waited til submission day to do something and it was still pretty good.

What I need is for someone to take me seriously, seriously enough so that we can work together. I work fine alone but, I think ultimately I feel comfortable if I have someone to bounce ideas off of and craft together with. I’ve been alone all my life so maybe that’s why.

I should write a comic book and work with an artist (maybe that would ease some of the jealousy) and put it out one day. That sounds like it could be a barrel of monkeys!

Now let’s see if anyone’s interested…

Twitter.com/KeithBCovington

Facebook.com/raganork8

Review: Fidelity! (Live)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 11, 2010 by thenewserials

Love, Loss and Fidelity!

How does one begin something like this? A review of this magnitude ought to be taught as a college seminar. That’s not some overzealous view of my writing skills but, rather an understatement of what happens when two musical geniuses get lemons and make lemonade.

Fidelity!(Available August 24th)  is the newest project from Chrissie Hynde, this time she shares the stage with Welsh born singer/song writer JP Jones, along with a band, filled with talented Musicians, the Fairground Boys. The result is: Jp,Chrissie and the Fairground Boys.

Make no assumptions about this band and about this album. You may think you know Chrissie Hynde and some of you may think you know JP Jones but, this album will send you for a loop from it’s subject matter to its execution.

Monday night  I had the chance to see Jp, Chrissie and the Fairground Boy(s) at the Rockwood music Hall in NYC. To say the show was intimate would be a drastic understatement. Sitting less than 5 feet from Chrissie Hynde, JP Jones and their guitarist Patrick Murdoch, I found myself apart of the action going on onstage.

In a fine mood the three came out ready to play the ENTIRE album of Fidelity (previous shows had only showcased a maximum of 7 songs) JP Jones explained that this would be the first time they played some of these songs live at all and asked for our pardon in advance.

He wouldn’t need it.

Starting with their single “If You Let me” (Released August 10th) the band began to rock the acoustic set. Its in this song that the listener realizes that this isn’t just an album. This isn’t someone putting out music simply because they want to make money or because they like to. This is a story of why growing up is a hard thing to do sometimes.

The lyrics say: “I’m going to on this world/I’m going to make you love me/if you let me/if you let me/if you let me” sung in tandem it shows the like mind of the two songwriters. Every song is just as much felt by JP as it is Chrissie. There aren’t any petty disagreements or empathy for the other. On Fidelity! Jp and Chrissie are one and the same.

The two of them chatted with the audience adding a great deal of humor to the rather humorless chunk of music.

The set of live songs were all gorgeous and painfully honest. The whole of Fidelity! being a story in which two people are forced to understand that they cannot be together because of the age difference between them. The woman is painted as “Past her prime” (a line which sparked some surprised audience reaction and “she wrote it!” as a response from JP Jones) and the man described as a “perfect lover but, he’s only half my age”.

The entire album is of this sort of thing, the realization that it isn’t going to work between this two characters (are they Hynde and Jones?…probably) but, what sets this apart from a normal ‘I wish I could have you but, I can’t’ story is that the two decide to take their love in a different direction.

The word “Son” and “Lover” comes up so much, it’s PAINFULLY clear that they came
to a choice when they said “Hey we can’t be lovers, let me take you under my wing son”

In words like my feeble minded vernacular it sounds somewhat perverse but, when you hear this album, start to finish and hear Hynde’s cooing versus JP ranting, you’ll know.

While JP Jones seems still somewhat embarrassed to admit that this is of any truth to his life Hynde seemed casually open about the failed relationship. Whilst introducing a song named “Never Drink Again” (A quote Hynde has used before) Hynde explained the original name of the song was going to be: “Never drink again, until the pub opens up” a sentiment apparently shared by the other two and much of the audience.

It was then that Hynde does what she does. There aren’t any words to describe it, it’s either some sort of fearless truth and insight of herself or some kind of over-the-top form of bullshit but, Hynde says that she’s stopped drinking because when she does she becomes a “Cunt”.

At the sheer utterance of the ‘C’ word the entire audience gasped and moaned in disapproval but, Hynde got defensive of the choice of words. “No it’s true, he knows it. When I drink I go to the dark side”

It’s that kind of honesty (?) that fills the album, listeners will be treated to an unabashed version of their view on this tragic situation and the audience can decide if their even doing the write thing. Sure the two of  them can write a song but, what will this love affair yield at the very end? Is Fidelity! the ultimate love story or a musical tribute to the mistakes we make when we fall in love and can’t climb our way out?

Whatever it is, Rockwood Musical hall was able to get a glimpse of it. Filled with humor, fun and the passionately played out lyrics, it was hard not to get totally sucked into Fidelity!’s world. A wave of uneasy apprehension filled the room as the words: “I wish I could have met you in a former life, or seen you in a future time” Heartbreak plainly laid onto our laps with no real solution in sight.

Fidelity! is everything and nothing at the same time. Its what you WANT from an artist and yet it has no solution to its story, we’re told from the first lyric how this game is going to be played before our eyes and in the very end we still see they had not lied.

The concept of their love not being able to grow the way they want is complicated but, they treat it as a simple inconvenience. The human mind will baffle at it and enjoyed being toyed with.

Fidelity! is a complicated, perplexing view of simplicity and common sense.

As harsh as an acid and soothing as a base.

Tuesday August 10th New York City, SoHo.

After the events at the Rockwood musical hall the night before, I couldn’t pass up the chance to see the band again at the Apple store in SoHo. A free event that was set up for the store.

There’s not much to say here, they did 5 planned songs and revealed that management or Apple or some other power that be wouldn’t be allowing them to do anymore. But after some coaxing from the audience they unveiled an even NEWER song in a catalogue of new songs. Hynde explained the song is going to be released as a Christmas EP and the band had to take some time to remember how to play it but, when it was all over, the song was a beautiful christmas ballad.

Restricted by time and the store the SoHo appearance wasn’t the same glimpse into life ala Jones/Hynde but, a showcase of good songs.

I shouldn’t have to type this but, if you aren’t convinced that you should rush out and find the nearest performance by Jp/Chrissie and the Fairground Boys at this point of the review then simply don’t go. You’re not alive probably.

Fidelity! is NOT a Pretenders album and one shouldn’t convince themselves that the band will play Pretenders songs or have any Pretenders sentiments whatever. This is all new, and as real as it gets. Hynde hasn’t ever really let her audience down and Fidelity! is among the best music she’s ever put out.

Walk don’t run.

The Setlist for August 9th was:

If You Let Me

Fairground Luck

Meanwhile

Your Fairground

Leave Me If You Must

Misty Valleys

Australia

Never Drink Again

Skinny Love (not performed)

You’re The One (not on the album)

Perfect Lover

Fidelity

Portobello Road

Murder in My Heart

an encore included

If You Were My Age.

The Setlist for August 10th was:

If You Let Me

Fairground Luck

Never Drink Again

You’re The One

Your Fairground

An Encore included:

It Must Be Christmas

JP. Chrissie and the Fairground Boys will be back in NYC on September 25th 2010 at Irving Plaza. Tickets on sale now