April 2009

*Author’s note: Click on the bolded words below for links to related video clips and images. Click on the song title and band’s name at the end of this post to listen to this song in its entirety and visit a Web site dedicated to the band. 

 dawnofdead_1  atm   diet-pill_22 

 by Bob Langham

In the song Funplex, the B-52s offer their own satirical musical commentary on the artificial consumer mecca known as the mall.

Remember the shopping mall in its heyday? It was the poor man’s Disney World for the superficial, materialistic, hordes of consumers who were still dreaming the American dream of being able to buy all of the components of “true happiness” under one sprawling roof. 

Nowhere was this trance-like out of control consumerism for all things bright and shiny portrayed so truthfully, than in George Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead. This film, on the surface is a zombie horror flick.  However, it is much more horrific if you look at the subtext to see the mirror of honesty held up to our empty consumer-based society.  This film reveals the awful truth about us in the form of roving mobs of zombies stumbling mindlessly through an American mall in the all too familiar habitat of piped in Muzak and inadequate fluorescent lighting, as they literally consume anything they can get their hands on in an effort to satisfy their insatiable appetite for more. 

The malls are still around today, but they have begun to die off and lose their once enticing luster as a result of an economy as empty as the dream on which it is based.  However, there will probably always be a significant segment of society that will still flock to the confines of their favorite mall. They will be the ones wandering in a trance toward what they believe will bring them happiness, oblivious to the piped in Muzak and the hypnotic humming of the fluorescent lights above.


I’m a pleasure seeker
Shoppin’ for a new distraction
I’m a pleasure seeker
Lookin’ for some platinum action
I’m a pleasure seeker
Movin’ to the muzak
I’m a pleasure seeker
Lookin’ for the real thing

Chandalabra’s in a wonder bra
Dress barn runway-a real draw
Faster Pussycat thrill thrill
I’m at the mall on a diet pill

Oh broke my heart
At the Funplex
Yes you did
Yes you did

The Taco Tiki Hut is where we’re all gonna meet
Underneath the chandelier at the ATM machine
Oh Honey –
Is it all about money?

Hey lady
What lady?
That lady?

Private property-hippie be quiet
Your peace sign t-shirt
Could cause a riot
Faster faster-can’t get enough
What the hell will I do with this stuff ?

I’m your daytime waitress
at the Taco Tiki Hut
I’m your daytime waitress
Here’s your stupid 7-Up
You kicked my heart
Goin’ up and down the escalator
You blew me off and
And now you’ve lost
The real thing

Oooh -broke my heart at the Funplex
Yes you did -yes you did
Oooh -broke my heart at the Funplex
Yes you did -yes you did

You know-fashion frenzy gets me higher and higher
No will power and my wallets on fire!
(Panic at the Funplex-Panic at the Funplex)

Oooh -broke my heart
Oooh -broke my heart
Panic at the Funplex

Faster faster thrill thrill
Too much to do
It’s time for a pill

Oooh -broke my heart
Panic at the Funplex

Misery at the Funplex!
And theres too much sex!
The world is goin’ to hell
And what is that horrible smell?

B-52s, Funplex

 *Author’s note:  Click on the song title and artist’s name at the end of this post to listen to this song in its entirety and to visit a Web site dedicated to the artist.

The political right wing  and by extension the so called main stream media  pundits who follow their lead, either out of fear or complicity, would have you believe that the working class and the middle class are made up of free loading lazy whiners who feel entitled to handouts and benefits without contributing anything to society.

Sadly, this myth gets repeated again and again in the media echo chamber until even people in the middle and working class, who from their own experience should know better, begin to  believe this big lie.  A lie designed and perpetuated by the wealthy and powerful to divide and conquer the majority, so the wealthy and the powerful can remain in power and continue to line their pockets.

The majority of the working class and middle class just ask for one thing. They want to live their lives with dignity.  They want a living wage, on which to raise a family and own a home. They want to be able to keep that home and live their life in it without the fear of  forclosure, due to the loss of  their job, or predatory lending practices. They want affordable health care that is not run as a for-profit business. They want to be able to work at a job or career that will not reward years of loyalty and hard work  by handing out pink slips and shipping these jobs to overseas workers who will work for next to nothing. They want to be able to retire at the end of a long career with the money they have saved for retirement.

Unlike those on political right and the media pundits who rail against them and promote the myth of the lazy free loader, the majority of the working class and middle class doesn’t want to be handed these things on a silver platter.  They are willing to work for it and earn it.  All they ask  for is a little dignity.

Bob Dylan musically explored this basic desire of being able to live life with dignity and he sang about it  “in a voice from you and me.”


 debts  vultures_1  angel  drinking-man


I went down to where the vultures feed
I would’ve gone deeper, but there wasn’t any need
Heard the tongues of angels and the tongues of men
Wasn’t any difference to me

Chilly wind sharp as a razor blade
House on fire, debts unpaid
Gonna stand at the window, gonna ask the maid
Have you seen dignity?

Drinkin’ man listens to the voice he hears
In a crowded room full of covered up mirrors
Lookin’ into the lost forgotten years
for dignity

Bob Dylan, Dignity

*Author’s note: Click on the bolded words below for links to related video clips.

All I really need to know, I learned from the Godfather and Godfather II.

godfather1    godfather2    godfather_fredo_boat

The most important of these cinema taught lessons was that you don’t side against your family with people outside of your family. You can disagree and argue with family all you want in private, but not in public and no matter how much you feel short-changed or mistreated by a family member, you don’t align yourself with a non-family member or entity to try and right a perceived wrong by your family.  Nothing good can come out of it if you do. This opens the door of opportunity for the non-family member to take advantage of this lack of family solidarity for his or her own nefarious gain.  This was nothing that my parents had not already impressed on me through the normal upbringing process.  However, it obviously had more of a lasting effect seeing it portrayed large on the screen than anything my parents could have taught me by example.

In the Godfather, Vito Corleone and his inner circle meet with Sollozzo, the head off another organized crime family, who wants to the Corleone family to get into the narcotics business so that this other crime family can leverage the Corleone’s political influence to their own advantage. Vito Corleone turns him down.  However, his son Santino (Sonny) opens his mouth during the meeting showing a division between what he thinks and what his father thinks. Vito Corleone abruptly cuts him off before he can say too much, but the damage is done. Sollozo has noticed this subtle division.

After the meeting, Vito Corleone reprimands his son:

“Santino! Come here. What’s the matter with you? I think your brain’s going soft with all that comedy you’re playing with that young girl. Never tell anyone outside the Family what you’re thinking again! Go on.”

Shortly afterwards, Vito Corleone is gunned down by the Sollozo family in an attempt to eliminate what stands between them and their desire to capitalize on the Corleone political influence by taking advantage of the subtle disagreement in philosophy between Vito and Sonny Corleone.

Fredo Corleone, the older brother of Michael Corleone, feels slighted and passed over all of his life.  Having been a sick and weak child throughout life, he has been passed over and neglected by his parents in favor of his younger brother Michael who steps up to fill Vito Corleone ‘s shoes as head of the family when his father is incapacitated after the attempt on his life by the Sollozo family.

In Godfather II, Fredo betrays Michael and the family in attempt to finally get something for himself.  Tired of getting short changed, Fredo makes a deal with forces outside the family, which almost results in Michael being assassinated by rival families.

Once again, the cost of going against the family with outside forces or individuals, regardless of the motivations or intentions carries a heavy price.  Michael disowns Fredo and cuts him off from the family. He forbids Fredo from visiting their mother, unless he gives Michael a day’s notice so he can be gone when Fredo comes.

Michael delivers instructions that nothing is to happen to Fredo as long as their mother is alive.  However, we all know, that their mother will not live forever. When their mother dies, Fredo must pay for his disloyalty to the family.  He is shot and killed on orders from Michael while fishing.

Of course these outcomes are cinematic hyperbole.  In life, family betrayal is usually handled with a strongly worded e-mail or a heated exchange of words that makes all subsequent family gathering a little uncomfortable.

But dramatic effect aside, most families have a Fredo – One member who just never can be in sync with the rest of the family. Sometimes, the reasons may be apparent. Maybe he was raised by different parents due to divorce, or he had a harder upbringing compared to later siblings because the economics of the family improved over time, or he had less parental interaction, because by the time he came around, the parents were more hands-off, or too exhausted from working multiple jobs to keep the family together and supplied with the essentials.

Other times, the causes may not be so obvious. What about the child who is raised by the same parents, and given the same amount of love and affection and necessities in life? Yet, he turns out to be a Fredo. He bites the hand that feeds him, never grateful for the sacrifices made on his behalf by both parents and siblings. He grows up with the idea that he is entitled to receive more from life than he has contributed, sneering down at the work ethic by which he and the rest of the family were raised, as if it were a hideous blemish that may expose his humble beginnings. So this Fredo goes through life trying to run from his own history in the hopes of changing it to something more deserving in his eyes. He marches through life to the beat of a different drummer, but tragically, this drummer has no rhythm. As a result, this journey is an never ending escape, filled with poor judgments, and decisions fueled by a desire to prove something to a family that never required this elusive validation in the first place.

Just as my parents impressed upon me the importance of family sticking together and being there for each other, I have tried to teach my kids the same value. Sadly, I have to admit that this is a challenging work in progress. I may just have to sit them down and have a family screening of the Godfather and Godfather II and hope that even in this day of wall to wall violence and carnage on TV along with the hate filled, backstabbing, Fredo like characters that permeate the monstrosity known as “reality” TV that it will have the same moral teaching effect that it had on me when I first viewed it so many years ago. If not, maybe I will take them fishing, for added dramatic emphasis and to encourage their appreciation of family unity.

An Ode to Fredo for all of those Fredos and potential Fredos that still have time to do the right thing.