As Sure As Kilimanjaro Rises Like Olympus Above the Serengeti

As sure as Kilimanjaro rises like Olympus above the Serengeti

—-Toto, Africa, the most awkward song lyrics

Yesterday, I wrote about three colossal, iconic works of art that I hope to see after they are finished. Today, I found out about a small work of art in a very remote location that I’m certain never to see.

 

German artist Max Siedentopf,  set up a sound installation in the remote Namib desert that will play Africa by Toto on a loop forever.

 

 

It seems pretty silly – but that oh-so-familiar music wafting around those dunes while the wind blows sand through the scene – it has a strange beauty.

My only complaint is the “forever” part. Those boxes, wiring, and speakers don’t look very indestructible. The first sandstorm roaring past will scatter everything.

If it were my installation I would put it in an armored canister buried in the sand with only the speakers and solar panels exposed. That might last at least a couple weeks, if not “forever.”

As a matter of fact, I would bury it, hide it, and add a sensitive motion detector that would turn off the sound if anyone approached. It would only make sound if nobody was there to hear it. I would call it “A Tree Falls In the Desert.

Mac Finds His Pride

“We immediately escalate everything to a ten… somebody comes in with some preposterous plan or idea, then all of a sudden everyone’s on the gas, nobody’s on the brakes, nobody’s thinking, everyone’s just talking over each other with one idiotic idea after another! Until, finally, we find ourselves in a situation where we’ve broken into somebody’s house – and the homeowner is home!

—- Dennis, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

For years I was aware of a television show called “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” but I didn’t watch it. No real reason – there is so much on… maybe I was turned off by the odd theme music.

One evening I was too tired to pick up the remote and actually saw a show. I enjoyed it. Basically it is the story of five people, related to each other in confusing ways, managing a shithole bar in Philadelphia. The actors are good, the jokes are funny, but mostly I liked it because the characters are such worthless, narcissistic, amoral, debauched, drug-addled, idiotic, lazy pieces of shit that it made me think better of myself. I may have my faults – but I am not as bad as these people.

Over the last year I’d watch it off and on. Mostly I’d scan the TV listings and DVR the episodes I hadn’t seen. That way I could binge watch them at odd times when I wasn’t missing anything important. With the DVR, I could fast-forward through the commercials or boring bits and see the whole episode in a few minutes.

There were a dozen seasons (It’s currently tied with Ozzie and Harriet as the longest running live-action sitcom – the only thing it shares with Ozzie and Harriet) so there was plenty to watch. I’m not sure how many episodes or seasons I’ve seen – more than a few. There isn’t much of a long-term arc, so there’s no reason to watch the shows in order.

It is fun to speculate about how dark each episode is capable of going. Usually the show doesn’t disappoint and ends up going darker than you thought possible.

And then came the thirteenth season and, especially the final, 10th episode (144th overall), Mac Finds His Pride.

And everything changes.

I was home, exhausted after work, and noticed the DVR was recording the show. I thought I would check it out and realized that there was something else on – some sort of a dance program. The stage was dark and covered in water and a muscular man and athletic woman were doing an amazing dance number to Sigur Rós music.

It was entrancing. As I watched, I suddenly realized, “Shit! That’s Mac dancing.” It was indeed It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I immediate rewound and watched the whole show. It started out like any episode – The gang was trying to get a float in the Philadelphia Gay Pride Parade to bring in business and wanted someone to dance on the float. Mac was the best candidate, but didn’t want to do it – having trouble relating to his imprisoned father and his sexuality.

One of the running “gags” of the series is the character Mac (full name – Ronald MacDonald) and his struggle to come to terms with being gay.  At the beginning of this episode Frank (Danny DeVito) had broken his nose and was constantly shoving nasty stuff up his nostrils to staunch the bleeding.

All well and good – then it happened. Mac and Frank went to Mac’s father’s prison and Mac put on a dance with a woman to try and explain how he felt.

It was transcendent.

I was gobsmacked. This piece of artistic beauty came so far out of left field and was so unexpected… yet it was so appropriate and inevitable. I some unexplainable way it summed up everything. It was the moment that thirteen seasons – 144 shows – of unmitigated nihilistic worthlessness is redeemed by one moment of excellence.

It was the most audacious, brilliant thing I’ve seen on television since Part 8 of the new Twin Peaks.

 

 

Check out this article about how much work went into this. The actor, Rob McElhenney, can’t dance – more accurately, he can only do one dance. He spent a year learning it. And you can’t help but love his incredible partner, professional ballerina Kylie Shea.

I have always loved Sigur Rós. They sponsored a series of films of their music – The Valteri Mystery Film Experiment. There are several videos of the song in the dance, Varúð. Here’s a particularly good one:

 

The Maestro’s Button

“My soul is a hidden orchestra; I know not what instruments, what fiddlestrings and harps, drums and tamboura I sound and clash inside myself. All I hear is the symphony.”
― Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

The button on the Maestro’s shirt – detail from “The Storm” a mural on Ace Parking Garage at 717 Leonard Street, Dallas, Texas

The full mural (previous photo center bottom) – Ace Parking, Dallas, “The Storm” Art Mural on Ace Parking Garage at 717 Leonard Street

Music Or the Misery

“What came first – the music or the misery? Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music? Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person?”
― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Kicken’ Brass Band, Arts District, Dallas, Texas

Beautiful And True

“Why do beautiful songs make you sad?’ ‘Because they aren’t true.’ ‘Never?’ ‘Nothing is beautiful and true.”
― Jonathan Safran Foer, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

The Lute Player, Enrique Alferez, New Orleans

On the right side of the entrance to the First Bank & Trust Tower on Poydras street, downtown New Orleans – is the huge statue of David, which I wrote about yesterday. On the other side, also done by Enrique Alferez is “The Lute Player” a softer sculpture, adding a little contrapoint.

Songs About Broken Hearts

“People worry about kids playing with guns, and teenagers watching violent videos; we are scared that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands – literally thousands – of songs about broken hearts and rejection and pain and misery and loss.”
― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity

Kickin Brass Band, Arts District, Dallas, Texas

Expressing the Inexpressible

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”
― Aldous Huxley, Music at Night and Other Essays

Kickin Brass Band, Arts District, Dallas, Texas

I remember, long ago, having an argument with someone over whether it would be worse to be blind or deaf. I said I would rather be blind and they couldn’t understand. Blindness would be a real pain, I’ll admit, but I can’t imagine living without music.