Our House

 

There's an old trick to getting a song out of your head. I tried it this morning, but it didn't work. See, the problem was that The House I Live In by Frank Sinatra was going through my head all night. The trick is to sing God Bless America instead and that should knock the other song out. But it doesn't work to replace one song about America with another. So I still have it running.

It's a good song to have stuck in your head. Sinatra performed it in 1945, right after World War II. It battled racism and anti-semitism. Today, it seems like it can apply to a whole range of issues.

I used to think my grandmother was incredibly racist. Anytime I mentioned one of my friends, she'd say in her long Virginia drawl, "Now tell me Sean, what is his or her last name?" If it was a name she recognized, she then asked, "Is he one of the Burwells I know?" I now realize it wasn't about race or religion. I loved her immensely, but she was just snobby.

Ho in Hawaii

I was waiting with my nephew, Chance, outside the Haunted Mansion and asked him about his favorite bands. Of course I didn't expect to know any of the ones he said; he's a teenager. When he asked me, I told him I liked older music like Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney.

I'm sure this felt like talking to someone from ancient Mesopotamia to him, but he's always polite, and said, "I like them too." I didn't reveal the more embarrassingly uncool truth, that I like cheesy Hawaiian music. Sure I appreciate the authentic Hawaiian music, but I have a soft spot for the schlocky stuff.

I buy many of these records at Amoeba Records. They're always in the 99 cent bin, or left outside to be taken away free. Clearly there is low demand for Don Ho's Hawaii-Ho (which is not about prostitutes on Waikiki).

Yes, sometimes they are too bad, even for me. The Blackwood Brothers Quartet album cover reads as either a gay wedding or white party, but it turned out to be gospel music in a Hawaiian style. I don't know what happened to the actual record, but the cover for Hawaiian Polka Tour with Eddie Blazonczyck's Versatones is remarkable. You can't ignore the Jim Jones style portrait on the cover.

On the other end of the spectrum, some of the design is not half bad. Alfred Apaka's Hawaiian Favorites, the Ilikai Hotel'sMusic of Hawaii, and of course, Elvis Presley's Blue Hawaiiare classics. There's some good letterforms too. I assume the message with these is, "primitive, wacky, and carefree." That sounds like my normal weekend.

The Fall of Society

Grace Kelly's last film before she became Her Serene HighnessThe Princess of Monaco, was High Society. High Society is a remake of The Philadelphia Story, which is about waspy rich people who misbehave. Grace Kelly is the spoiled rich girl with an icy heart. Before her wedding to a fussy and uptight man, Frank Sinatra shows up as a writer for the trashy tabloid Spy magazine. Yes, Spy magazine, but not the 1980s one. Bing Crosby is Kelly's ex-husband and happens to be throwing a jazz festival with Louis Armstrong. It's wonderfully Hollywood. Everything in the house is brand spankin' new and big. I love the incredibly hip patio furniture that was obviously on a set in Culver City. The film looks fantastic. The songs, when not sung by Kelly, are swell.

But there is a giant elephant in the room. Bing Crosby is the true romantic interest for Grace Kelly, but he's older than her grandfather. It's creepy. And Frank Sinatra is lurking around the property leering at Kelly. The reality of a dusty old mansion with ancient broken lamps that shock you when turned on doesn't fit here.

I would like to remake High Society, but with realism, like Trainspotting. This is how it could work: The main character (played by Evan Rachel Wood) is divorced and bitter, with a filthy mouth. She lives with her hateful sister and alcoholic mother at the family estate with cat urine and a filthy kitchen. Her ancient, creepy ex-husband, who moved next door, (Harry Dean Stanton), stares at her through windows. "I liked it when you dried yourself with the pink towel," he could say. The tabloid reporter (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is an immoral opportunist, who spends a good deal of the film secretly playing with the family dachshund in both an abusive and almost sensual way. I'd drop the songs, they get in the way of the scenes with screaming followed by tense silences. Of course, the film cannot end with the heiress reuniting with the ex-husband. It will be left open for interpretation, with a final scene of the heiress standing on the verandah with broken rattan furniture and empty Mountain Dew cans, staring at herself in the reflection of a window.

Music for Sedation

In the last two weeks, several people who don’t know each other told me I should meditate. Perhaps it was my clenched fists or violent outbursts. I don’t know. It’s a nice idea, and I went online to learn how to do it. I learned that it takes time, and I don’t have enough to meditate. So, I went to Amoeba Music in Hollywood to buy easy listening records. You know you’re wound too tight when you think Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby are just a bit too raucous. There is no easy listening section at Amoeba. Obviously, people who shop there are very hip and buy vinyl to spin at their DJ gigs. This is good for me, because all the records I want are in the $1.00 Clearance section.

Within 15 minutes, I’d only made my way through the first four rows of records and I had to stop. At this point, I had 40 records. Clearly, this could go very wrong without some self-control. I hope that my love for easy listening doesn’t spark a trend. I seem to be the only person in Los Angeles looking for these records, probably for good reason. Now, you may say, “Sean, no, bad, stop.” I admit the music is remarkably schmaltzy. It’s amazing that someone could beat all the life out of every song on a record. But it is relaxing to me and takes less effort than meditation.

The covers all share the feeling of heavy sedative addiction. The women tend to look like they’ve been slipped a roofie, and the men tend to look neutered and stunned. There’s no room for excitement, passion, or anger in this world. Even the typography goes out of its way to be “nice”. And, of course, you knew that The Lawrence Welk Show was destined to end up here at Burning Settlers Cabin. If you can manage, you must watch this clip until the terrifying people in yellow sweaters pop into the screen and demand that you, the viewer, be happy and nice and pleasant. I mean it, be happy dammit! But not overly happy.

What did you put in that champagne? I can't get up.
Something is very wrong here
This family is terrified, and the kid in the middle has a black eye
Darling, just let the drug wash over you
And people say I'm too tan?
Be happy! Be happy! Now!
I have to admit this is pretty groovy, albeit druggy
Once again with the sedatives
The music is strangely bad, but the name is genius
Relax. Just relax. Stop struggling
And of course, Lawrence Welk
Life is so pleasant and predictable
Why is everything so slow, why can't I move my arms?
These are the real
If I let go, I'll fall down. My legs are like jello.
You have to admit, the type is pretty snappy