Weekly Rochester Events #419: Toulouse or Not To Lose
Thursday, January 18, 2007
I guess I'm turning into a real movie junkie ... it was movies all last week. Starting on Thursday, I headed to George Eastman House (900 East Ave.) to catch Black Moon. I was drawn to it as a strange Alice-in-Wonderland tale ... with a unicorn. Well, I couldn't make any sense of it. I guess something about the confusion of coming to adulthood told as a strange fantasy — nearly abstract or surrealist at times. It's like someone tells you they made this perfect picture of adolescence and show you a bunch of a jigsaw puzzle pieces with a big proud grin.
Friday same thing: I went back to see Fanfan La Tulipe. This one was much more traditional ... a whimsical adventure tale of a wide-eyed, flirtatious swashbuckler. It so well predicted the modern action movie that it even lost steam about two-thirds of the way through to set up the fantastic conclusion. Afterward I headed to Solera Wine Bar (647 South Ave) and Lux Lounge (666 South Ave.) and ran into some old friends, met some new friends, drank too much, and got in really really late.
Saturday I'd be meeting Ali later and, since she's not a sushi fan, I thought I'd take the opportunity to sneak in a little at California Rollin' at Village Gate Square (274 N. Goodman St.) I got out of there easy, having a moderate collection of rolls and some sake for just over $20. I met up with her and her friend Stacie at Lux Lounge (666 South Ave.) Earlier in the day I bought a dog puppet at the The Vietnam Veteran's of America (VVA) Thrift Store (1199 E. Main St.) I had worried it closed a few months ago but they were just resetting the store so the entrance is on the side. Anyway, I brought the puppet along and we dubbed it Watson. We ended up meeting these guys Rich and Boris who decided to challenge "puppet-versus-man" and Boris sent Rich and I to go meet new people — Rich by himself and me with Watson. Man-and-puppet gets off to a great start but you've got to get out quick. I talked with this couple (and probably seeded a weird post-bar conversation) where the guy admitted a slight puppet fetish and the girl a slight puppet phobia. Joke-telling went about as well.
Sunday I was once again heading to the Dryden Theatre this time to see La Moustache. It really disturbed me because I try to make sense of the movie and end up falling into the same traps as the character, Marc, who's also trying to make sense of it. Basically, nobody notices when he shaves off his moustache but then they deny he ever had one. And this despite photographic evidence to the contrary. In the end, I theorized that maybe his whole life was a fantasy and it was unraveling day-by-day. As the film goes on, events gradually become less plausible but because the process is so gentle, I failed to notice it's probably more likely delusional.
So Monday everything slowed to a crawl as someone sprayed ice all over everything. I was frustrated at it — the first real winter-weather event of the season — because I was supposed to meet with Ali as she had the day off. I guess we're lucky to not be attempting to drive back from visiting her brother in Pennsylvania that day as would have happened if we followed our plans from several weeks back. Nonetheless, it set me off in a foul mood all day. Sondra has this theory about the universe that if one gives in to its whims, one can experience a flow of life and a certain security ... not unlike certain religious beliefs. On days like this I wonder what it is that I'm doing so incredibly incorrectly to deserve such needling. I even slept a lot in the afternoon, having some really weird dreams — several that involved cars being used threateningly as weapons against people.
That evening I watched American Beauty once again. I think I really got the aspect that Sondra had pointed out in 1999 when we saw it for the first time: that it's the way an artist looks at the world. It's a way to look at the world in terms of "is" rather than being good or bad; worthwhile or worthless. Everything in the world just "is." It's there to be seen, and in the process of seeing it that way, it's intricate, perfect, and beautiful. All of it. I guess that's why I thought of Ali after I watched it.
On Tuesday it was movie night at her place. We watched Lost in Translation over dinner with her friend Stacie (who owns the film.) I remember reading about it and thinking I might like it and I did. I was a bit distracted watching it, and through that I thought it was a very sweet movie. Very melancholic — what with time, age, and wisdom driving a wedge between two people who could have been together otherwise — but also very true.
On Wednesday morning I got up really early and once again got to WITR 89.7 FM at RIT (One Lomb Memorial Dr., campus map) to participate in the radio show The Coalition of the Shrill. I had been thinking about our "producer" and engineer Geoff's offer: to take over for him when he moves away in March for [paying] work [in his field]. I was rather flustered over it in my 4:30 a.m. anxiety attack — if I wake up around then, I just know it's coming. This time I was considering taking over but decided I couldn't be party to censorship.
Ok, so consider this. You want to create censorship in the popular media so how do you do it? If you set up a censorship board that approves content would blatantly violate the Bill of Rights. So what do you have to work with?: a consumer-driven society where every member is afraid of losing their job, a society where lawbreakers are considered part of "them" even if everyone is breaking some law, and The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) whose charter includes the ability to impose fines for presenting content that violates the vaguely defined "community standards of decency." That last part, by the way, means that complaints from a vocal minority constitutes a violation — at the discretion of a ruling body. From there it's just a matter of a few trials and censorship takes care of itself.
Stations like WITR cannot afford to be sued for a "decency" violation, and they would simply be shut down. The station manager would have responsibility to ensure this doesn't happen — and therefore they would be in the firing line of an expensive fine, so they pass the buck to the on-air DJ who's now responsible for all content going on the air. There is an electronic 10-second delay between what's heard in the studio and what goes on the air so, in a case where someone says something that might cause a "decency" investigation, they hit the "dump" button and the on-air broadcast simply skips over the "indecent" outburst. Corporate stations have the same kinds of policies, even if they could afford the lawsuits — it's simply the most efficient way to ensure what goes on the air is free from potentially fineable offenses.
What you have is systemic censorship. I mean, let's say there's a "decency" violation about someone saying they think the President is stupid. All of a sudden you will hear nothing of the sort. Every paid DJ is barely making a living, and anyone volunteering doesn't have enough money to cover a several hundred-thousand dollar fine, so they tell people they can't say that on the air. In-studio or call-in guests may cry censorship, but against whom? What is the policy that causes this to exist? What law should change to be in compliance with the Bill of Rights?
The guts of the matter is that idea of "decency." Taken at face value, we're talking about sounds emanating from a radio speaker. Under these sounds are words and under them ideas. But what is "indecent" in speech or ideas? I mean, if you can't deal with uncomfortable concepts, you're ill-equipped to handle reality. This is the basis for the argument about children and, what?: things that parents are embarrassed to explain? If you can't deal with explaining the world to a child — and by that all of it, including sex, violence, and death — that you are ill-equipped to be a parent, and I don't think even qualify as an adult.
Thus, I told Geoff about it and said I would simply never hit the "dump" button out of principle. That's where the anxiety stuff started early in the day: what would happen? I'd lose the gig, get fined, be in way over my head, lose everything, end up on the street, and probably just die out there.
But then Geoff said that I couldn't work for the station if I refused to hit the "dump" button so I guess things will be okay for a while.
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About the title ... Toulouse (now in France) became the capital of the Visigoths in 419.
This page is Jason Olshefsky's list of things to do in Rochester, NY and the surrounding region (including nearby towns Irondequoit, Webster, Penfield, Pittsford, Victor, Henrietta, Gates, Chili, Greece, and Charlotte, and occasionally other places in Monroe County and the Western New York region.) It is updated every week with daily listings for entertainment, activities, performances, movies, music, bands, comedy, improv, poetry, storytelling, lectures, discussions, debates, theater, plays, and generally fun things to do.
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