frog's blog

Anuran, n. an amphibian of the order Salientia (formerly Anura or Batrachia), which includes the frogs and toads

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Cheated at the Chocolate Factory

Of all the remakes and remixes at the multiplex in recent years, none (for me) had the hope and hype of Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory featuring Johnny Depp. Like many of my friends and Nashville film critic Jim Ridley, I looked forward to enjoying the “lava-lamp ride down the river of goo” and seeing what impact current techniques would have on the film’s psychedelic qualities.

And since I knew the flick would push some boundaries, I didn’t flinch when my Dad suggested we check it out in IMAX as part of my visit to Detroit last month. Heck, if we want to go over the top, why go not go way over.

Despite the story’s universal appeal and its simplistic (and at times muted) critique of upper class creeps, after the initial dazzle faded, I must say I agree with Ridley’s conclusion that the film “may deliver a bigger bonbon, but it has an empty center.”

Perhaps the tastiest candy in this movie is the “eye candy” of a fey and fluffed up freakazoid version of Johnny Depp or maybe the movie’s redemption can be found in the sanguine and universally maternal vibes emanating from Helena Bonham Carter. But even with David Kelly’s dynamic Grandpa Joe, the film still lacks a memorable center of gravity.

But something else about this film is even more disturbing than its ultimately drab soul. By the time we were home from the theater, my Mom and I were discussing the crude racism and cultural imperialism implicit in Wonka’s happy slaves, the Oompa Loompas.

In an excellent (and mixed in its reception of the film) review, Elyce Helford reminds us that Dahl’s novel featured white Oompa Loompas. But of course, even light skinned indigenous persons don’t necessarily, as Helford writes, seek “servitude (arguably enslavement) because Big Rich King Wonka can whisk them away to live in a factory (do they not miss the SUN, for heaven's sake?) and eat all the chocolate their obsessed childlike little hearts' desire.”

Maybe in the next revision of this film, the Loompas will organize a liberation front, take control of the factory, and kick the Wonka wanker’s rich white ass into the neighborhoods of the (possibly unionized?) workers he fired, like Charlie Bucket’s Dad.

Even if this were just a load of politically-correct bickering, it would still be a valid critique. But according to Global Exchange, as Nestle sells their pitiful version of the Wonka bar, child slavery and massive exploitation still exists to bring us our chocolate buzz.

Since most Americans refuse to give up their cocoa and coffee fixes (myself included, I confess), even to reduce global misery, we should at least check out the excellent products offered by the fair trade movement. For my cup of French Roast in the morning and my morsel of chocolate in the evening, I turn to Equal Exchange. I think it’s the least I can do.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Keeping the Beat

I'll never forget when my elementary school music teacher told my parents that I had no rhythm. I've been working on that ever since. But even then, my homework was playful, dancing around the living room, moving my feet in time to the Commodores "Brick House."

Through Shaun & Ruby, I may have been redeeemed. I've seen Shaun keep the beat during drum circles at Pumpkin Hollow and with the Love Drums. Then, Friday afternoon, I saw Shaun march in the drumline with the John Overton High School Band. He definitely has it going on.

Then Saturday I got to see the showcase at Tucker Theater. The spirit of Pat Benatar rattled my ears as did most of the sparkling goth/punk/rock/pop ensembles of rock campers. Did the matrons of riot grrrl ever realize it would turn out like this? The Most Fun Part had the hundreds in Tucker Theater out of their seats, hands in the air. Of course I am biased, but Ruby's band was one of the best of the night. I've posted some snapshots from the evening here.

Having seen my daughter and "stepson" (I hate that word!) rock out over two consecutive days, I'm only sad that I can't be in Denver this Friday to see my other "stepson" Rockwave and his partner in musical crime Starla take the stage with The New Waveforms. But hopefully I will see them soon.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Still Rocking

Tuesday was a great day for music; after hearing the Indigo Girls Tuesday morning, I saw Ben Harper at the Ryman in Nashville (I hope to post more on that later).

I'm still learning this new blog and haven't conquered pictures yet. But I have posted some pictures from my super Tuesday at rock camp here.

The camper showcase is tomorrow night and tickets are only $5. Ruby's band is called The Most Fun Part, and they're covering a Weezer song called Beverly Hills.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Dad's Day at the Girls Rock & Roll Camp

Dad joined daughter at summer camp today-- and it was way cooler than I could have ever expected.

When I first heard the Indigo Girls "Closer to Fine," I was instantly moved. That was 1989, and I was 21. But I never thought I'd hear the song quite like I heard it this morning--with a small crowd of truly unique teenagers & college students.

Back then, I never imagined being the father of a dedicated 11-year-old artist. And I certainly could not fathom that young person--already so interested in reading, drawing, & dance--being an aspiring drummer at the Southern Girls Rock & Roll Camp (on the campus of MTSU in Murfreesboro, Tennessee).

Always passionate for the kind of politically & spiritually-charged folk ballads that the Indigo Girls have made their living from, the chills, goosebumps, & tears still took me by surprise this morning.

But what moved me even more than the four song-set by Amy Ray & Emily Saliers were their words without guitars, the passion in their eyes, their obviously sincere & strong commitment to inspiring & empowering the next generation of grrrl warriors. And they inspired--not just with music, but with their independence from corporate clone music culture & their queer, feminist, youth, environmental, & peace activism.

That Ruby wasn't a drummer or a rocker--until yesterday--and is now filled with energy & enthusiasm--testifies to the down-to-earth, supportive community cultivated at rock camp. The volunteers & campers combine in creating the scene with a full day of learning & fun grounded in fierce DIY ethics--to make it the kind of place one camper has described as her "tribe."

On the campus where I've been a graduate student in English, adjunct professor in gender/Women's Studies, & an anti-war activist, dozens of creative & rebellious young women are converging to change the world one song, one riff, one patch, & one 'zine at a time. And this makes my now permanent southern home--at times alienating to this now middle-aged motor-city boy--feel much more like home.

All props to the many visionary organizers & volunteers I know & admire, some as former students & all as fellow revolutionaries. Thanks! Courtney, Kelley, Anna, Sean, Sarah, Liz, Kelly for all you are doing this week for Ruby & the other rockers.