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August 29, 2005

Off the Boulevard of Broken Dreams

I've checked out two of the winners of last night's award ceremonies. I'm not so sure who produces the 'VMAs', but I gather it's MTV Networks, that tremendously successful American multibillion dollar corporation. I put it that way because although they are peddlers of a sort, what they are selling is the culture between cultures. For us in the West, MTV and Hollywood provide a very valuable service, if only we know how to appreciate it.

Green Day's winning entry 'Boulevard of Broken Dreams' is a very good piece of the truth. Watching the protagonist walk through poses of anomie, every word of his lyrics rung true:

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone

I walk this empty street
On the boulevard of broken dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I'm the only one and I walk alone
I walk alone I walk alone
I walk alone I walk a-

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
'Till then I walk alone

Except that his band members are walking with him, it's actually a video, and last night confirms that it's the most popular video of all. How does one balance this contradiction? A generation ago, another great poseur of our age, Sting, sung about loneliness. In the resolution we found:

Walked out this morning
Don't believe what I saw
A hundred billion bottles
Washed up on the shore
Seems I'm not alone at being alone
A hundred billion casatways
Looking for a home

I've walked down Hollywood Boulevard in the wee hours of the morning feeling as alone as anyone possibly can. And I've looked at the torn pages of my little black book and narrowed the hundred names to seven and counted the reasons I am forever bound and yet lost to them. I have heaved the shudder with my back against the dumpster and watch the tears drop on my silk sweater. We all have. That's the point.

At some moment, it becomes clear, that we are all alone in this world together. But until you reach that moment of clarity, you are a danger to yourself and to others. Without the realization that your pain is the same, you black your own eyes, you muss your own hair. If you're an American man, you become an icon of yourself and you see yourself in the haggard faces of every video star. You keep it real.

The 'real' of MTV Networks, that hugely successful multibillion dollar American corporation, is the image of despair. The kind of world-weary pose of knowing it's all shit, and here I am a survivor, won't somebody send me somebody to love. It's done in every flavor, for every MTV sub-demographic. One of my favorite music groups, The Gorillaz, have done it in animated form. They won the other award - but the snagga-tooth alienation is there too, drenched in irony of 'Feel Good Inc.' That's who MTV is, Feel Good Inc, but only if you know how to properly use their product.

As I said, the product, has the bite of truth, and the truth is that the world can be a hideously destructive place. And people who walk those cold streets (me and you) grow souls that are as large as the stage of the Video Music Awards, and though they mumble and stumble, the 'real' that they know imprints itself on their hearts. But everybody gets that. Because everybody gets it, MTV gets rich selling it to everybody who thinks their pity party is the only one happening. But it's not. Everybody who watches this stuff on the regular is crying into their meth stash as well. The whole world is lonely, ugly, soulful, real. Everybody knows that things fall apart.

So how do babies get made?

Babies get made by accident for people who starve themselves so they can look 'real'. Men who hide under hoodies with their eyes like Jawas, women who pierce and tattoo themselves numb. They despair of the prospect of 'bringing a baby into this world' because they've only lived in the selfish part of the real. They've only lived in the self-pitying pain of it all. They haven't realized that us is all we've got and in that world where things fall apart on the regular and those who keep it together. And we go back to the Premature Autopsies:

But there is another truth and that truth passes through time in the very same way an irresistible force passes through an immovable object. That’s what I said: this truth is so irresistible that it passes through immoveable objects. It is the truth of a desire for a refined and impassioned portrait of the presence and the power and the possibilities of the human spirit.

That's the part where you throw your hands in the air and wave them like you actually care. Where you tell people don't shoot up the place because there's somebody here tonight who should be having your baby, baby. And inside of all that pain and suffering of a world constantly falling apart, and not in spite of, but because of your knowledge of all that, you wash your face extra clean and do everything to bring joy and honor and dignity and love.

You're not likely to see, anytime soon, any product sold by MTV Networks, that powerful and influential massive media conglomerate, that celebrates joy and honor and dignity and love. They can't sell that. The reason is because only human beings can generate that stuff and since we do it out of our souls, it's free, and no substitute can equal it. You cannot sell the joy spring - it's buried deep in the soul. You can sell tickets to a party and hope people infuse it with the right spirit but that's up to chance. What you can sell for sure are visions of despair.

When you recognize the power and the possibilities of the human spirit, you're ready to have babies. If you're still wallowing on the boulevard of broken dreams, stay away from mine. But if you're living on the dark side and you have an accident, try to keep in mind that life itself is the only miracle. You are not alone.

Posted by mbowen at August 29, 2005 10:18 AM

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