Why some shows are different from others

The last few weeks they’ve been playing a couple of episodes a night of Californication from series one on. I’ve sat on the couch watching. Though I’ve watched it all before – and some episodes several times – it’s been a favourite daily activity. I love the show, and Hank Moody. It has great entertainment value, but I also find much in it I can relate to, as I’ve written here before.

In my mind there are TV shows you’re indifferent too – the great majority; TV shows you like or even love, but purely as entertainment; and the TV shows you love because they are entertaining AND because they transcend entertainment. These shows are few, but stick with you because somehow they react directly with the person you are.

There are plenty of shows I like plenty like Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, The Walking Dead, and so on. I’ve just started watching an excellent Oz program called The Devil’s Playground that I find both fascinating and entertaining. I relish watching these programs each week. They’re a part of my schedule. They divert me for the allotted period, and will often leave me thinking about them afterwards. They aren’t personal though. I can relate in general terms perhaps – for example I’m fascinated watching the Australian period detail in The Devil’s Playground because I lived in that environment – but they don’t touch directly upon one of those tender spots inside. Seinfeld, perhaps was similar – a show that I utterly related to because we lived and talked like that back in the day (it’s a show that created its own eco-system), but most of it is surface.

Then there are the shows you watch and feel as you do as if something is unravelling inside of you. What you see on screen in some way feels like you, or your life, or your felt experience. You can laugh, say, at what you see in screen, but at the same time and on a deeper level feel some kind of relationship to the events portrayed or, more often, the characters portrayed.

I’ve written many a time about Mad Men in the past. There’s a show – and a character – that get’s to me. On the surface it maybe shouldn’t. Much of the show is set in a time before I was born, and in a very different milieu. Culturally it is different, though there are cultural signposts throughout I have some historical relationship to (as we all do), such as the assassination of JFK, or the landing on the moon. Perhaps I can imagine a little of my parents in this program, particularly my dad, who I think worked his way up the corporate ladder in a similar sort of environment.

End of the day though I relate to Don and his perpetual travails. They may be set within an epoch, but they are universal, free of time and place. Ultimately Don’s journey is informed by his environment, but spring from deep inside him. The things that spring from him might be common to anyone because they are but one variation of human experience. They feel common to me specifically because, as I’ve described ad infinitum, because I’ve asked the same questions, sought the same answers, made the same mistakes, been driven by the same demons and desires. I’m not Don Draper – we are different people – but I understand his experiences, which is why watching Mad Men seems always such a personal experience.

It’s not quite the same with Californication and Hank Moody – who is a very different character from Don Draper. Line me up against Hank and we might be happy to sit down and have a drinking session together, but I’m a much more responsible, adult, and organised character. I share aspects of behaviour and attitude with Hank, but am in general a very different person. Still, I find whenever I watch the program something tugging at me.

When I think about it what Don and Hank share is a vulnerability. That’s a condition of human nature, but it is their brand of vulnerability I find myself responding to. They share a self-destructive streak, the hard-drinking, hard fucking sense of nihilism. Hard drinking and hard fucking are both generally enjoyable activities, but I also think there is an aspect of self-abnegation in the act.

Why do we fuck (and let’s forget about the orgasm)? Desire is the obvious reason, and though it’s true it’s also awfully simplistic. Often we fuck for the same reason that Mallory climbed Everest – because it’s there (or because we can). It’s awful fun, not just the act but the lead-up to it, but so much of it is habitual. Speaking for myself, I’m pretty well always on. It goes beyond that though. It becomes a validation of the man we present to the world. If a pretty woman deigns to have sex with us then we must possess something of value. She accepts the narrative we spin, not just to her, but to ourself. It’s affirmation in those moments that we are desirable, even loveable, and certainly fuckable. We can go away re-assured of our self-nominated place in the world.

The obverse of that – with which it happily co-exists – is the sense of oblivion in sex. As a man, and as a woman for all I know, there is that sense of burying yourself in the act. The world outside ceases to exist for a period of time, or to be important anyway. In the brute and physical act of lovemaking we express ourselves in ways that go beyond the everyday conventional. Our bodies cry out in the synchronised act of satisfying act of satisfying another. Much of our conscious mind slumbers. Those sensual, primitive parts of ourselves come to the fore. We are body that knows without knowing, a primal thing that responds on an instinctual level. For a little while we leave our busy mind behind, and escape from ourselves.

Now I’ve used sex as the best example of that, and relevant as it is a theme in both Mad Men and Californication. Men are what they do, much more than women are. We are driven to do because that’s how we find out who we are. We fill in the blanks by acting. Evidence Don Draper and his identification with his work, and his ambition – supplementary to, or substitutes for, a bereft childhood. All men are greater or lesser degrees of that. For me it is great, similar to Don, and for all I know for similar reasons. We seek our worth in the life we live and the projects we embark upon.

So I’ve been watching Californication and feeling it resonate in me, more obliquely than in Mad Men, but nearly as deep. Hank is the good-hearted hedonist, the muck-up with a heart of gold – and talent. What is it that touches me in him? I see myself in elements of his behaviour, that fuck it attitude and willingness to plunge in. I believe in so many things about him, even if I could never be him. I’d be glad to party with him, and in my memory find much I see him doing that I have done, or similar. It brings a wry smile to my face. It’s been a while though, and I think it would be no bad thing to get back to come of that. My life is unbalanced, by my standards anyway, and it’s time I indulged the pleasure-seeking sensualist inside me.

I suspect each of us have a different set of TV shows that somehow define who we think ourselves to be.

The morning after

This is from Californication, one of Hank Moody’s characteristic soliloquies:

It’s my purgatory, really, inner drinks, whatever. I’m never really all that interested, but I find myself telling her how beautiful she is anyway. ‘Cause it’s true, all women are, in one way or another. You know, there’s always something about every damn one of you, it’s a smile, a curve, a secret. You ladies really are the most amazing creatures, my life’s work. But then there’s the morning after, a hangover, and the realization that I’m not quite as available as I thought I was the night before. And then she’s gone, and I’m haunted by yet another road not taken.

This pretty well accords with my feelings and my story, more often than not. Just thought I’d put it on record.



The getting of wisdom?

fuck complexity

fuck complexity (Photo credit: the|G|™)

A bit over a week ago, while I was still in KL, I sat down and watched an episode of Californication. Now people who follow me here will know that Californication is one of my favourite shows and that for some reason I identify with Hank Moody pretty strongly.

On the face of it, Hank and I are pretty different. I love Hank, but I’m nowhere near as juvenile as he can be, and generally – generally – I’m nowhere near as irresponsible and haphazard as he is prone. Or so I think. My identification with Hank goes deeper than that, maybe in part because he is a writer and does what I would love to do. Certainly, because I understand the lust that fuels so much of his lifestyle. And because a lot of the crazy stuff he does is stuff that I’ve done, or would do, stuff that may be crazy but is dead fun too. There is that laissez-faire, kicked back, cruising aspect of my personality that matches up pretty well with Hank – we could easily be drinking buddies, if not each other’s wingman. Bottom line, he’s one of my personas.

So, I’m watching and there’s a scene where his wife Karen is going off at him for the umpteenth time and he realises that he’s fucked up again with the thing that he holds most precious, his family. For all his foibles Hank has a mighty heart and a generous spirit. You can understand how he annoys the shit out of people sometimes, but you can also understand their devotion. He’s like a kid you can’t help loving, even as he stuffs up again. Such was this scene when the cost of all that hit home with him. Watching it I found tears in my eyes.

The tears were not for Hank, they were for me. I realised watching how much I’d fucked up. I saw something in his situation something of mine. I don’t think I’ve disappointed anyone, though others might argue that. The person I’ve let down is myself, through my own stupid, occasionally arrogant, machinations. I watched as the truth dawned on him, and it dawned on me at the same time – and it was such a shock that I choked on it.

It was a big moment. There I was sitting in someone else’s lounge room in another country far from home, and feeling absolutely bereft. The feeling went through me. I sat on the couch watching, my eyes wet, my mind going at a million miles an hour. What have you fucking done, H?

I’m a complex dude. I’m one of the more competent people walking around, and that’s just true. From day to day I function at a higher level than most. I’m switched on, perceptive, sensitive, and a lot of other pretty good things. And I fuck up and do more dumb things than most.

There’s some weird shit in me. There’s a long and enjoyable streak of irresponsibility running right down the middle of me. It doesn’t do as much damage as you might think because running the length of it is a streak of responsibility. What that means is that occasionally I might get crazy notions, but for the most part, they don’t get through the responsible filters and get aborted. Mostly, not always, but then it’s no fun being too responsible. What really fucks me up though is another part of me, the don’t give a fuck, pathologically independent, absurdly individual part of me. Somehow I’m wired that this part of me overrides the responsible inclinations and goes on its merry, often extravagant way.

The funny thing is that it works for me sometimes. Even a lot. I’ve achieved things I would never have without it. But it kills me too. On my worst days, it makes me Icarus and seems no matter how many times I crash to earth I don’t learn. That’s where I am now. I’ve had a lot of things happen to me in recent times that are beyond my control, and by and large, coped well with them. I’ve also made things much worse than they should be by giving the finger to the conservative way and being so perversely stubborn about it.

It was a revelation to me. I sat there considering my fucked-upedness. There was something amazing about it. For all my adult life I’ve believed I had it over the world, and often that’s how I acted. Now I understood: I was a person who fucked up, just like Hank. Like Hank, I was a serial fucker-upper. I could blame no-one for my situation but myself.

A funny thing happened then. I’d grasped this very unwelcome truth, and in doing so suddenly felt liberated by it. It was like, ok, I accept that. And in a strange way it gave me permission to fuck up – I’m only human after all – but knowingly. Funny how the truth works. When you find it, you know it. And, no matter what it tells you, it often releases you because it cuts through all the petty and meaningless lies and justifications you’ve built up over the years. Truth is a simple thing.

What then does it mean for me now? It’s another step on the road to self-knowledge. I’m not a great believer that we can change much of our fundamental nature, and excepting extreme cases, am doubtful that we should. I like myself mostly. This is who I am, and I have no desire to deny my self. This is what makes me, the person that people find and engage with. I said once that it’s: Easy to admire someone for their qualities, but end of day I think we love them for their frailties. It sounds grand, but think it’s true. It’s why we – or me at least – love Hank Moody, because he’s a glorious fuck-up we can ultimately relate to. And none of us are robots.

So rather than change the person I am the aim is to modify the behaviour of that person. I’ll still have these inclinations, and so I should. Difference now is that I know it, and can work with it. In truth I like that part of me, the arrogant death or glory bits, it’s just that when you put it that way it doesn’t seem terribly wise. So, here I am, hopefully smarter than I was, come late perhaps to the getting of wisdom.

I’ve never kissed a bloke*

Undercurrent (1946 film)

Undercurrent (1946 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Am I the only bloke never to have had a homosexual experience? Ok, sure, I guess there might be one or two others, but there seems an undercurrent in many conversations I’ve had over the years regarding some gay experimentation. Most, so it seems, happened young, almost innocently, a couple of lads being best friends getting curious and a tad closer than their parents would recommend. For the most part the experimentation pretty well stops there, and they grow up to be normal, heterosexual blokes. That’s the story, except none of that ever happened to me, not even once, not even close really.

I remember when I was about 11 being down the beach on holidays with the family and we caught up with close family friends. They had a son who must have been about 8 I guess who thought I was the bee’s knees. I remember we went to the beach one hot day and getting back and lining up to take a shower to wash the sand off of us and this kid pipes up and without any consultation asks if he can take a shower with me. I must have looked askance at that because his dad said no, you can take a shower with me instead. Later the kid told about the time he had touched some other kids little penii and had his little fella touched in return. I remember being non-plussed by that too. And that’s the sum of my gay experiences – if you could call them that – if you don’t count a few propositions over the years, and those fertile days in the boys changeroom when with great hilarity we would all flick wet, rolled up towels at each others genitalia. Oh, what fun!

I ask now because I caught up with a Californication episode where the topic was discussed. I believe Hank was just as mystified as I was – these things go on? Hank Moody plays a decent role in these pages because I figure I see him as a kind of archetype who speaks for a good part of who I am. He can be incredibly irritating, like an adult juvenile, but shit, he has fun and he gets the girls and he don’t give a shit and, well, good on him. He appeals to that irresponsible, Dionysian (Bacchanalian?) side of me, which waxes and wanes, but is never entirely absent. I’m never quite as childish as he is – I have a strong sense of responsibility, and I don’t quite score as well with the girls as he does, but I have my moments.

Right now I reckon I’m about to enter into another one of those phases. I can feel it in my water, or elsewhere at least, like I want to cut loose, enjoy a libation or several and get conjugal with willing participants. It’s even fun just writing it. I think I’m guilty sometimes of attempting to repress that side of myself, thinking perhaps I’m too old for it now and that I should be more mature, yada, yada, yada… Fact is I reckon it’s kind of healthy just living what you feel. So many don’t. So many seem incapable of it. It’s healthy to slip the mooring occasionally and go with the hedonistic flow. In fact I reckon there should be group therapy along these lines, like gestalt, except it should be about releasing the inner Hank Moody. All of us blokes have him inside, even those who touched a playmates pee pee long ago. It’s just that some of us have more of him inside than others.

* Well I have, drunkenly, but never on the lips.

What H needs

The other thing I figured is that a need a woman to make an honest man of me. Right now I feel like I’m living a life straight out of Californication. It’s fun, but sort of wearying too. I’ve lived this way before and without much regret, but it has to be said that I don’t think I’m entirely made for it. It’s not so much the morality of it, more to do with who I am. I really do think myself to be a decent and kind human being, notwithstanding the occasional arrogance (generally inoffensive), aggression, and bluntness. It’s fucking hard to say no sometimes, as I’ve expressed, and often you’re led by you know what wanting to get it’s share of the action, but I don’t want to be simply using people for my pleasure. I may do that to some extent, but I’m always careful to give back, to listen and to be totally honest. Strangely enough I think that adds to my appeal – there’s no bullshit, it is or it isn’t, and given that stark choice many seem encouraged to go for the ‘is’ option.

Still, I’m not Hank Moody and that’s not the way I want to live my life. Problem is I’m a hard man to pin down. There are very few who inspire the desire for domesticity in me. I want it, I just can’t seem to find it. I’m a strong character, and that draws people too, but it seems to me many are quite happy to shelter in the lee of that. It might suit them, but it doesn’t suit me. That’s why I think I need a strong women with her own mind to conquer me. I need to be intrigued at the very least, challenged in some way; and ultimately need for someone to tame these ways of mine. Someone smart, strong, funny. That’s what H needs.

Stroking the furry wall

English comedian Russell Brand.Image via Wikipedia

All I wanted last night was a quiet night in. It was cold outside and I felt weary, but I had promised to do something I didn’t really want to do. 

It’s been a while since I caught up with the yoga teacher so when she suggested seeing a movie I felt obliged to accept. Fortunately the chosen venue – the Jam Factory – was out of the city so I could drive there and have a quick get away after. 

We met at 7.30. When I say we met I really mean I was there at 7.30 waiting for her and pacing up and down until she arrived at 7.45. We went for a quick dinner at the Oriental Tea House in Chapel Street. Both of us had dumplings of descriptions and very delicious. As far as I’m concerned dumplings are the in thing right now. If it’s not been officially declared then I’m willing to bite the bullet and announce that the coolest thing in eating trends is the rise of the humble dumpling. You get a good one and it’s an experience not far short of good sex, tender, slippery, and a lot of fun. This is the year of the dumpling. 

We saw Get Him To The Greek, the new Russell Brand movie (which sounds grand when you consider that this is only his second movie I think, but it is apt – he’s an above the title performer). I like Russell Brand heaps, but I wasn’t dead keen on seeing this. For whatever reason I half-suspected a poorly written and directed production and a waste of Brand’s pretty unique talents. I was very pleasantly surprised.

I have to say I cacked myself many times through the movie. It was a LOL movie, or, as I prefer to say, laugh out loud. Brand was great, just naturally dissipated while remaining a warm-hearted, sympathetic character. He pretty well played himself I think. P Diddy was great as Sergio. What’s his name as Aaron was better than I expected – I’ve only ever seen him as the second banana. 

Great scenes and moments, from stroking the furry wall to the mind-fucking to having heroin shoved up your arse to the fabulous Jeffery.

I’d happily spend an evening at the pub with Russell Brand. He knows how to party, and is good company to boot. For all his excesses there is something endearingly childish about him. I’m sure part of it is act, but I’m sure it comes from reality.

Watching the movie and laughing riotously I couldn’t help but feel a little wistful. For some reason I was reminded of Hank from Californication. There is a part of me that feels a strong bond with Hank, and it was that part of me that itched last night. Fuck it all I thought, why do I even try to conform? It’s nice to do just as you feel and if no-one is hurt what’s the harm? Trying to be sensible and responsible is admirable (and all those other –ble words), but it’s not always a lot of fun. I need my fun. And fun for me often is that wild at heart stuff – not always, but sometimes. 

I figured as I drove home is that in terms of career that’s my Achilles heel. I’ve got the goods to get to the top, I look the part and occasionally play the part, I’ve got the smarts, the competitive instinctive, the single minded drive to get things right – right as I see it anyway. Ultimately though for all that and all my ambivalent ambition I can’t take it terribly seriously. There’s a lot of other stuff out there, and a lot of fun to be had besides. I can’t be po faced and serious minded with all that, and just can’t really see myself as the CEO of a big organisation when there’s a part of me that imagines floating along on a lilo, cocktail in hand and pretty girls in skimpy bikinis abounding.  

Sure, there’s the side of me that wants to write the great Australian novel and do some awfully worthy stuff – but equally there is the sensual narcissist just bursting to be expressed. Hell, I’d be a groovy CEO, but the market may not approve.
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The age of the recidivists

Hank MoodyImage by LiGado em Série via Flickr

Spent half the week in Sydney and got back last night. Back in the office today running around and looking forward to a quiet night tonight. Bought a couple of pizzas and settled down in front of the teev to catch up with a couple of episodes of Californication.

I love that show. I feel a deep connection to it. For all Hank's misbehaving I feel a kinship to him. He likes to fuck – well, who doesn't? He just gets it on following his instincts and desires in a way that is deeply impressive. I've had Hank Moody periods in my life, sometimes extensive periods, but what for me are phases that I pass into and out of are for him a lifestyle. He's immature, wilful, competitive, rude and charming.He lives life without any apologies, just as it ought to be.

You know there are times I just want to bust loose like that again. Strong temptation, and maybe I should just for old times sake. In any case I can't help but applaud such a happily non-pc person in the antiseptic world we now live in. That's definitely one of my things. My general attitude to the do-gooders telling me what to do or think is triumphantly give them the finger, up yours buster, and give it a twist. Hank then becomes a kind standard bearer, strange as that may seem, the recidivist from another more open, more fun, age. I'm with you Hank.

Just out of interest,Kathleen Turner looks like she's halfway through a gender re-assignment. I like her plenty, she has sass, but she's not the woman I leered at in Body Heat anymore. These days she looks like Micky Rourke's brother, but also looks like she's having genuine fun. You have to admire people like her – Alec Baldwin is another – who are shamelessly, boldly, themselves. I'm guessing they have lived such a life that they have now passed into a state of being where much of what passes for celebrity seems puerile, and their ego well beyond petty conventions. Another recidivist methinks, good on her.

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