Monday, January 09, 2006

Excercising the Mind, Wasting Away Talent

"Do the Senses make Sense?" asked John Ray, Jr., Ph.D. in the foreward of Lolita, and Dr. Bookfraud, in his examination of the disturbed patient in question -- who has no attraction to nyphets or likewise, I might add -- must ask, "Does altering song lyrics into disgusting poems that could be interpreted as celebrating copraphagia and the like the sign of creative genius or disturbed mind?"

Don't know what I'm talking about? An example will suffice. Picture a large-screen TV in a corporate break room blasting out CNN as this fair writer held his cup out for A.M. manna. Cut from Anderson Cooper to a commercial for a prescription Medicare drug plan, the new, Bush-installed regime which is harder to figure out than the appeal of Jonathan Safron Foer. But it was not the images on the screen nor its underlying message that suddenly made my blood run cold. It was not the happy seniors cavorting around a pharmacy like they'd won a full set of Matlock DVDs. It was none of these things. It was the song.

The seniors were dancing around the drug store to the sounds of "You're Still the One." Although this tune is not as brain-deadening as another song I loathe, it eats at me, hard. This was the song that has been used in at least 100,000 other commercials, particularly for small-town TV newscast teams.

Such as the one in which Arnold, Paula, Harvey, Nutty Ned the Weatherman are seen walking down a hall together, chatting and laughing, or meeting groups of schoolchildren, or sitting around the news set, having an off-camera conversation sotto voce about the Important News Decisions they'll be making tonight. At least one of them will look straight into the camera and give a hearty "Thumbs Up." The entire time, "You're Still the One" plays in the background, vibrating one's eardrums to the point of mental illness. We're still having fun, and Channel 6 SuperNews Team is Still the One!

You're making me crazy

So instead of planting my fist through the television, some chamber clicks in my brain, and I think of lyrics so grotesque that I will paraphrase them here: "[We're still doing something profoundly disgusting]/And you're still the one."

Then there is the song's evil twin sister. "This Is It." I hearken back to childhood, being forced by the babysitter to watch the 1975 Junior Miss Teen America pageant or some similiarly titled abomonation. As the shiny, happy 16-year-olds twirled around the stage in low-decolletage dresses like jailbait, Kenny "Drop a" Loggins proclaimed "This is it!" in song. The Junior Miss Teen America Pageant 1975! Yeah, this is it! What a thing to behold! The ne plus ultra of all competition! No more waiting -- this is it!

Instead of the lyrics that go with Mr. Loggins' masterpiece, I think of this: "[Something disgusting about] shit/Make no mistake who you are/[Something disgusting about] shit!" etc. as I envision the high-school uber-princesses of my adolescence in a swimsuit competition.

What, if anything, this rant has to do with the creative process is unclear to me. I have often likened the fact that these rotten songs have driven me to extremes, for which I must construct an alternate reality to maintain sanity.

I am curious, however, if such scatological wordplay enhances or dulls the creative process. You see, these are but two of myriad examples -- I have written alternate lyrics for many a pop tune or commercial jingle, which I will not share with my children once we have some. In fact, I have never shared this tendency with Wife, who would certainly see me as the disturbed psychotic, a febrile corvine man with an MFA and the ability to type 80 wpm.

Reconfiguring tunes into my own personal verson of dirty limricks started when I was in high school, when all my sexual energy had to go someplace. I would even do this with songs I truly enjoy. I turned the Zombies' "She's Not There" into "She Eats Hair." "Taxman" into a meditation on shagging. "YMCA" into something so unrecognizable that to understand it requires a strong stomach, a truly warped sensibility, and a thorough knowlege of the Chicago suburbs.

I am truly torn about this -- am I just wasting my creative muscle away on profanity, which usually happens spontaneously, or is this just the sign of a brilliant and disturbed mind?

I await your diagnosis.