Friday, July 25, 2008

Karaokefanboy 101

Hello, my name is Russ, a.k.a. Karaokefanboy, and this is my blog's 101st post. What better way to commemorate that numeric accomplishment, and my feeble attempt to redefine my on-line identity, than by providing some "Karaokefanboy 101?" Though I've decided to allocate more personal writing to my LiveJournal, a concise autobiography seems equally appropriate for this forum, now more dedicated to creative writing and my brazen, often ignorant opinions of pop culture, religion, and politics. If this blog is unto an on-line zine, then consider this my "About the Author." The LiveJournal is . . . well, a journal -- a diary with a deliberately broken lock and spread open for anyone in the world-wide-web that cares.

So, how does one write an autobiography without sounding totally self-indulgent? I could easily recount a succinct chronology of the most important events of in my life, each of which would imply a milestone of philosophical and existential revelation, culminating in my general sense of what's right and wrong in life, but that would be too easy. Instead, I've decided to list these revelations outright, with a brief description of how I realized them. Thinking about them, I've discovered that listing them in order of significance actually reveals something of a chronology anyway, and in the case of the first and most important, a cyclical lifestyle or deeply ingrained modus operandi. Then again, perhaps assuming that these life lessons are so important that they must be listed and shared with the world is the most self-indulgent of all! I wouldn't have it any other way, either way.

So, without further ado, allow me to present the Autobiographical Philosophies of a Karaokefanboy!

1. Your inner child is and always should be the loudest voice in your head. Now, I could easily explain the obvious: I'm a huge geek that loves cartoons, comic books, and action figures, just as I did when I was a child, and further I believe everyone is a geek in that we're all secretly faithful to our childhood passions, i.e. sports, literature, music, movies, etc. "Geek" as we define it nowadays is more akin to "fanatic" than its classic carnival root (which, ironically, oft referred to a cape-wearing performer, hence the superhero connection -- Wikipedia it). Yes, by this standard, even "jocks" are really just "sports geeks." Get over it. ("Comic book jocks?" See, that just doesn't make any sense.)

Yet, I take this revelation a step further than the fact that my parents condoned and enabled my fanaticism for cartoons and comics, that they never had the yard sale everyone else's folks seemed to have where their treasured toys were peddled for pennies apiece. Even when we moved from my native Stratford, Connecticut to Peoria, Arizona, my Masters of the Universe and Super Powers action figures and my Monkees albums made it intact. (I did lose King Hiss's left snap-on arm, which totally blew his human disguise, but I digress.) No, I'm not talking about the props of a healthy childhood; I'm talking about the script.

Simply put, the emotions you experienced as a child, and the natural way you experienced them, are the best therapy for any seemingly adult trauma. Kids freakin' feel it, man. When they're happy, they dance; when they're pissed, they rant. The best part of the latter is, when it's over, it's over. Children don't suppress their rage, nor should they. Nor should anyone, ever, suppress any genuine feeling. "Regret" is born of suppressed love; "grudges" are born of suppressed anger. If emotions are allowed to live, breathe, and eventually die naturally, these grown-up words would become extinct. And, no, naysayers -- regret doesn't teach a valuable lesson. Love or desire fulfilled or denied does. See this little geek standing next to the He-Man birthday party table? He was never told not to make a wish when he blew out the cake's candles, yet he sometimes learned that those wishes don't come true. That never stopped him.

Where's the cyclical part come in? Well, I work with children now, in a nationally recognized after school/summer program. I actually have a whole blog about that (though currently dormant but intended for revival), but I mention it here to assert that my seemingly selfless career is a beloved, selfish reminder of this hard-learned life lesson -- a constant virtual portal to my own loud-mouthed inner child. I often tell the angry child that feeling mad isn't wrong; what they do with that anger betrays their intrinsic morality (which firmly establishes the "murder is wrong" clause in my "mad is okay" philosophy). Yes, nothing brings out my inner child more than being surrounded by them. Try it. Believe me, it'll make you want to go to your room -- your safe, New Kids on the Block-poster riddled room. If you were that kind of a geek, anyway.

2. Creative expression of any kind heals the soul. One of the defining days of my life was spent at the beige kitchen counter at our home in Stratford, when and where my father showed me show to properly sketch the human shape. Until then, I'd drawn He-Man as a square body with a circle head, apparently my dad had had enough; he modeled how to use the pencil lightly, to sketch the shapes before adding the details, and all of the stuff kids usually learn from those campy "How to Draw" books. Of course, it meant more coming from my father, and seeing the skills demonstrated live. I remember that afternoon as the definitive moment my feeble artistry began, and as the moment I realized I could create my own superhero adventures, like the ones I enjoyed in comics, on television, or even when I played with my Marvel Secret Wars action figures.

On another level, I don't quite remember the first time I heard the Monkees -- that's how long they've been a part of my life. (I do remember my mother buying me the Rhino Records "Then & Now" compilation album, the first record I ever consciously wanted!) Most importantly, the goofiness of their TV show, which reran on Nick at Nite and MTV, was overshadowed by the frequent "live" performances that followed every psychedelic misadventure, which instilled in me a natural desire to perform those songs myself. I remember using our staircase stoop as a stage and putting on concerts for my parents' friends -- my first karaoke performances, though I didn't realize it then. As far as I was concerned, those '60s pop tunes were poetry set to music, and it would've been a crime not to share them.

See the connection? As my appreciation for various media -- comics, television, and music -- developed, so did my desire to interact and contribute to them. In a very Jungian way, I think everybody shares this desire, from the random doodle whilst chatting on the phone to one's secret personal serenade in the car or the shower. Unfortunately, a certain shame in light of their beloved media's self-appointed perfection prevents many people from expressing themselves in public, from dragging their anthems from the car seat to the karaoke stage! "I could never sing as well as so-and-so," these people claim. "Oh, I don't know how to draw," others explain sheepishly. Since when does personal expression require talent? As the great Andy Kaufman believed, one's sense of entertainment often comes when the audience is perceived as the performers, exhibiting their natural reactions to whatever disturbing thing is unfolding before them. In other words, the tone deaf karaoke singer is as natural as the audience that winces to him, and both are perfectly synced to their inherent sense of self-expression.

Incidentally, when my family moved to Arizona and my parents divorced, the men that fulfilled a father figure role in my life all encouraged me to express myself creatively, from Mr. Burbridge's and Mr. Poslaiko's penchant for literary examination, to Mr. Martin's and Mr. Keene's mastery of public speech and the broadcast arts. Every time I learned something new at their proverbial knee, I was sitting with my father at the kitchen counter again, or shopping at the record store with my Davy Jones-lovin' mom. They all made me a believer . . . in myself.

This is getting pretty long, and I don't want to abbreviate my thoughts, so for your sake . . . to be continued . . .!

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