Ten Years in the USA

This week marks the tenth anniversary of my permanent arrival in the United States of America. What a long, strange journey it has been: like all of life, there have been ups and downs, highs and lows, and moments to remember in both directions. After the jump, you’ll find ten such memories, some personal and others global, to mark my decade as an American citizen…

1. November 2000: Arriving in the US.
The biggest leap in my life: quit my job, sell my house and pack up all my possessions to move over five thousand miles to live with a woman I’d only spent brief periods with. Was I insane? But on arrival, Chris told me that VNV Nation were playing in Phoenix the following day. It was not just one of the best concerts of my life, but in hindsight, a positive omen that my faith in true love would be rewarded.

2. September 2001: 9/11
This was the Kennedy assassination of our generation: everyone remembers where they were. We were hosting a film-maker whose movie we had screened at a local college the previous night. He and we watched as events unfolded through the day, but what sticks in my memory is going out for dinner that evening, to the appropriately-named Streets of New York. We were the only people in there. Phoenix and the restaurant were more deserted than I’ve ever seen them.

3. July 2002: Married Bliss
Having proposed to Chris after the Diamondbacks won the World Series the previous November, the wedding took place – by order of my parents – back in Scotland. The ceremony was in Aberdeen, at King’s College Chapel, with a busload of family having come through from Forres; we then took the bus back for the reception at Brodie Castle, and then honeymooned for two weeks in Europe. It was utterly unforgettable. But let’s not do it again, okay?

4. October 2004: Home Invasion
This was simply weird. Very late at night, we hear a banging down the corridor, as someone goes into our daughter’s room. At first, we thought it was one of her friends, but turns out to be some drunk woman, who had gone into the wrong house – we had left the front-door unlocked. And now she wouldn’t leave. We ended up having to call the police, who took her away to dry out. I guess, in the same category, there was my mid-night encounter with a Palo Verde beetle, which I saw on the floor of the kitchen and mistook for a bag of beads. The phrase “I can’t believe I picked the fucker up!” has now entered house legend.

5. April 2006: Life Begins at Forty
I turned forty and Chris decided to throw a comedy roast for me; we’d been putting on a lot of stand-up shows, and so she had easy access to a lot of comedians. You haven’t lived until you’ve been sat on a stage and been mercilessly ripped a new one, both live and “by satellite”, though I did get to fire back at the end, and think I gave as good as I got. The event also featured a set by The Strand, who supported VNV Nation for #1, who played a one-off cover of Trash City.

6. August 2006: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult
No, not the band (though we did see them at the Mason Jar in 2002).  I mean our association with convicted serial-killer Dale Hausner: admittedly, we knew his brother much better, but had actually done Dale’s website for him – I was working for Go Daddy at the time. And then Dale got arrested. The shock of the news was only exceeded by the speed with which my employer escorted me off the premises, subsequently dismissing me, after I came forward voluntarily, and told them what had happened. Fuck Bob Parsons.

7. March 2007: Up the Ying Yang
Trash City Entertainment has hosted many fabulous, highly-successful events. But who remembers those? The one that sticks in my mind was putting on The Ying Yang Twins at The Sets in Tempe: a monstrous fiasco which left us several thousand dollars out of pocket and, in hindsight, should have sent us running and screaming rather than taking it on. The first rule of event-planning is stick to what you know. And we don’t know crap, about rap. Lesson learned.

8. August 2008: Pheel the Phear
On the other hand, we do know about horror movies, which may be why this was a far greater success! It wasn’t our first Phoenix Fear Film Festival – but it was our first “proper” one, as the original took place in an art gallery, which required us to spent some hours taping garbage bags on the windows, to get it dark enough to show films! Tn contrast, the second took place at Chandler Cinemas, a “proper” venue, and so represented the fulfillment of a lifelong ambition.

9. June 2010: Getting Press Ganged.
The Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team have become an increasing  part of my life here, since the won the World Series in 2001. But I never thought I’d end up covering their games from the press-box at Chase Field. But that’s what happened, as I guested there, in an online chat for Fox Sports Arizona. The whole “You’re not supposed to cheer in the press-box” thing proved harder to do than I thought, but it’s amazing what a fit of coughing can cover up…

10. November 2010: Another Moving Experience.
I end my decade here much as it began – by moving. Chris and I have just taken occupancy of our first home. It’s not the first we’ve lived in together, but it is the first we have bought together, and it’s surprising what a significant difference that makes. This move was less stressful than last time – November rather than June, and also felt like a positive move, being to a bigger place we own, rather than a smaller rental.

Of course, like all new houses, it’s a work in progress – and, I suspect, one that will take well into the second decade to complete. What else will the next ten years provide? Looking at the list above,  I think it would be pointless to try and predict! But whatever it is, I’m ready…

The Rocky Horror Glee Show

First off, I have never watched an episode of Glee before this week. So for those of you as ignorant of the surprise hit Fox TV series as I am, let’s summarize. It’s about the members of a school choir in Lima, Ohio, as well as teacher Will Schuester, who runs the club (Matthew Morrison), and is about a 50/50 mix of high-school drama and musical numbers. The latter cover pretty much the gamut, from show tunes to Beyonce [sometimes even in the same number], and has become a cultural phenomenon. The show has sold 13 million digital downloads, and last year the cast had 25 songs reach the Billboard Top 100, the most by any act since the height of Beatlemania in 1964.

Still, you’ll probably also understand from that description why it wasn’t of much interest to me until last Tuesday, when the show delivered one of its themed episodes. Previous ones had included Madonna and Britney Spears (yawn…), but this one was themed on The Rocky Horror Show. Having seen more incarnations of that show than I care to think, dating back bordering on 25 years, this had to be seen. However, I had my pointy boots on, ready to administer an appropriate kicking, having accidentally stumbled open a scene where a fat black girl was playing the part of Frank N. Furter. Affirmative action at it’s most horrific? Lock and load, people.

Fortunately, it wasn’t that terrible. While I had not imagined the scene, it was at least provided with some justification – the original Frank having dropped out after his parents objected to the role, and the replacement choice fits in with the life-affirming messages for which the show is apparently renowned. But it also showed up the most obvious flaw in the endeavour: the need to water down the transgressive nature of the show (with its mantra, “Don’t dream it – be it!”) for network television. It’s not even allowed to use the word “transsexual”. When the aforementioned Ms. Furter was singing Sweet Transvestite, the lyric became “I’m a sweet transvestite, from sin-sational Transylvania.” Really. That wasn’t the worst moment of such TV censorship. Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me went from:

  • Original:
    I thought there’s no use getting into heavy petting
    It only leads to trouble and seat wetting…
  • TV Version:
    I thought there’s no use getting into heavy sweating
    It only leads to trouble and bad fretting

Really. If you’re going to have a sanitized version of Rocky Horror, what’s the point? It’s like doing a remake of She-Wolf of the SS and making Ilsa Jewish. Missing the point much? I did enjoy the cameos from original movie cast members, Meat Loaf and Barry Bostwick, as TV executives – I can only presume Susan Sarandon and Tim Curry were “otherwise engaged”, filing their taxes or something. That drove the main plot-thread, which had cheer-leading coach and part-time TV pundit Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) joining the cast of the upcoming school production of The Rocky Horror Show, so she can do an expose on the filth your tax dollars is paying for, etc. etc.

Hmm. Maybe this was actually more transgressive. Schoolgirl inter-racial lesbian canoodling alert!

Actually, she makes some interesting points, about how art whose only motive is to provoke, is usually bad art. But Will suddenly realizes that his motives for putting on the show are not even anything to do with ‘pushing the envelope’, being far more self-centred, and cancels the show. Damn. Just when a potentially-interesting confrontation was looming. Instead, the show closes with the cast performing The Time Warp for themselves, after some pseudo-philosophical justification that Rocky became a cult phenomenon due to the outcasts who embraced it. So they’re just like the glee club! [Only with significantly worse complexions and teeth].

Lob on the implausibility of, apparently, going from conception to near-finished show in about three days, and the show was on wobbly ground, plotwise. We were also unimpressed by its perpetuation of the myth that school is a place where people from all different social groups, races  and backgrounds get along, in a way actually only seen in seventies’ Coke adverts.  And teenage guys are just as insecure about their bodies as girls! Who knew? Which is why there are so many of the former getting plastic surgery before they can legally have sex. Oh, wait…

Still, as with any musical, it stands or falls on the strength of the songs [let’s face it, The Sound of Music? Totally implausible]  and while the songwriting ability of Richard O’Brien is undimmed here, the performances delivered are almost entirely forgettable. With the exception of Sweet Transvestite – which, whatever its flaws, did at least bring something new to the party – at their best, they were adequate re-stagings of the versions from the original play. However, much of the time, they felt more like a homage to High School Musical than Rocky Horror, bland karaoke versions that were a shadow of the original.

I have to say, I have my suspicions that the episode may perhaps have been connected to the 35th-anniversary release this week of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on BluRay. By Fox. I’m sure it’s just a coincidence. I don’t think I’ll ever watch Glee again – not unless they do a Front Line Assembly or VNV Nation-themed edition. Seems unlikely, shall we say…