My Review Of The Dinner Party Show

(This was originally posted on The Dinner Party Show’s Facebook page, and on iTunes. I actually blocked their page because I didn’t want to hear any snide comments from Christopher or the loyal gang of Party People. Despite the fact that Christopher and Eric would prefer that everyone who has something contrary to say [apart from themselves, of course] be taken to court and thrown in jail for saying it, I actually don’t care what they think of my review. It’s based on listening to their show for something like three years, and finally getting most of my thoughts about it out.)

 

TDPS
Not that it matters, but here’s my review of The Dinner Party Show.

I left the Dinner Party Show a while ago because I began to get annoyed at the insane level of self-promotion and first world problems discussed on the show. I came back recently, and have laughed my ass off having a good time listening to the show.

At first, I was aggravated by the INSANE level of self-promotion. In one hour of The Dinner Party Show with Christopher Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn, we hear about how it’s The Dinner Party Show with Christopher Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn about fifty times, from Christopher Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn, hosts of the Dinner Party Show, with Christopher Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn. I got further aggravated when Christopher and Eric started to blatantly talk about writing as a job and a marketing opportunity, and throwing the aspect of self-expression and the creation of art under the bus. It was cringe-worthy watching Christopher try and understand the concept of M/M or what a fanfic is show after show, as he interviewed self-published authors who write one-thousand word blog-post-length novellas and then charge fans for them, releasing them on a month by month basis and writing unoriginal ripoffs of concepts that were much better done by Anne Rice.

Then it was the quality of the interviews. There were fantastic guests like Alec Mapa, Dan Savage, Kristen Johnston, Patricia Nell Warren, and others, who all brought something valuable to the table. But at a certain point, Christopher and Eric began cow-towing to their guests so hard that you can hear the incinserity dripping from their voices as they speak constantly like they’re ad executives just DESPERATE to get you to buy products (through the Dinner Party Show dot com, by the way! That Dinner Party Show, the one with Christopher Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn. Have we said that enough times yet?)

Ultimately, it was Christopher’s narcissism that just pushed me overboard and made me quit the show, but I came back because I really did miss the good humour and communal aspect of the show. And I always loved Eric, he served as a perfect foil to Christopher’s endless self-promotion. But I finally lost it when I was browsing through episodes I missed and heard Eric’s not-report about Monica Lewinsky, who went on a speaking tour talking about her experiences being the most laughed at person in the world, whose entire identity is that of being a public punching bag, and who had the gall to call the “Presidential Cocksucker” instead of listening to the message she was trying to impart about bullying. This from people who spend the majority of their show bullying anyone whose opinions they don’t agree with.

I was genuinely never offended at ANY of the episodes of The Dinner Party Show I listened to until that Monica Lewinsky comment. There’s a difference between “everybody gets served,” and undermining the importance of anti-bullying that they were happy to express when your guest (and cash cows) Dan Savage or Chaz Bono were at the table, but when that wasn’t the case, they were happy to hop back on the bullying train.

Nobody’s perfect, and honestly, I know that Eric doesn’t care enough about reviews to bother reading mine, and that’s fine. I’ll probably still buy that Jonathan and David novel, and love it. But the Dinner Party Show began as a genuine creative enterprise and then slowly morphed into a vanity project so steeped in self-promotion and narcissism that it’s virtually become an hour a week of dinner-chimes, the words “Christopher Rice and Eric Shaw Quinn” and the name “Dinner Party Show” repeated a hundred times per episode, and two authors so DESPERATE to be relevant that they will sell out whatever principles they have about the creation of art to try and get popularity (see: the four hundred something episodes with Bryan Fuller where Chris and Eric beg for relevance from the Fannibals).

TDPS
It’s been a fun ride, guys. I really was with you since the first show, and I really and truly loved TDPS. I have listened to HOURS upon HOURS of the show, probably binge-listened to the first hundred ten times each. My comments, voicemails and such have been featured on the show, and I even got to have the wonderful experience of hearing Kristen Johnston call me sweet or just say my name out loud. But what began as perhaps the last bastion for the radio play format (TDPS is one of only TWO podcasts I know of on the whole internet that actually do the art of the radio play, and do it well), and a genuine look into topics that mattered, has become an endless tour of self-promotion for the writers of 1,001 Dark Nights, Bryan Fuller, and Christopher Rice. Eric I can forgive, at least he had the decency to come from a small town and become successful based on his own merit, and not being born the child of a celebrity. But at a certain point, the amount of pretentious and arrogant self-promotion becomes so transparent that it’s impossible to look past, even for the great laughs, and the (mostly) wonderful guests.
It was a fun party, but like parties tend to do, it got out of hand, and it was time to leave before someone got hurt or the police were called in.
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On “The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty”

A question was posted in a reading group about Anne Rice’s Sleeping Beauty trilogy, asking if the sexual activity between people of all different genders was unsettling to anyone, or if anyone found it to be exciting. The following is my response, which I feel kind of sums up my whole feeling on the Beauty series:

I’m the gayest person I’ve ever met and I thought everything involving vaginal intercourse was sexy as hell in those books, primarily because I felt as though I was in the body of Beauty when her body was being discussed. So even though I don’t enjoy sex with women in real life, and even though I don’t want to be tied up over a trash bin and have my balls covered with honey so that flies can gather around them, it’s certainly exciting to read about and imagine the way those characters feel.

The Beauty books are always a bit of a double-edged sword for me. On the one hand there is immense sexual pleasure, and on the other hand, bondage and BDSM, especially taken to the extremes it’s taken to in the Beauty series, can be very frightening because as Anne has said herself, it’s a rape fantasy, and obviously being coerced and raped is not always an enjoyable thing to imagine, even with the context of a fantasy kingdom where the slaves’ pleasure is the main focus.

There’s always a psychological element to what’s really happening: are we talking about a slave being tied down and forced to have sex, or are we really talking about what it is to be a “prince,” the master of your own world, and be brought to kneel before reality, or “the kingdom,” and to submit to it, or to choose not to submit. Are the masters and mistresses really sexual objects, or are they representative of sex as a whole, and it’s effect on the psyche, or is the entire series one long examination of the loss virginity, both sexually and emotionally, to the world?

Sparks by Imogen Heap: First Impressions

Sparks

I owe a lot to Imogen Heap. Among other things, this blog exists because of her. Imogen appeared in my life in 2010 when I heard her on a mix CD that strangely had only one song on it, playing five times in a row. I was so inspired by her music, her video blogs, her creative and unique energy, that I began to write music of my own, and I started this blog to write down my thoughts. I used to listen to Ellipse from beginning to end to inspire myself, and I still do that from time to time. Because of her music, I began to love music itself again when I was in the middle of an unhealthy relationship and I no longer felt like myself. Because of her I had the courage to love myself again, and to leave a bad situation. So, it’s safe to say Imogen has had a big impact on my life.

That being said, I’ve been looking forward to her fourth solo album for a while now. Before we were given the title, we referred to the album as “Heapsongs.” Every song on this album, to my knowledge, was a collaborative effort of some kind. The lights you see radiating from the spark on the center of the album art are actually the footprints of fans, the jumbled mess of sounds at the beginning of The Listening Chair are the voices of all the fans who contributed to that song compiled into one crescendo, and the background music of the opening track You Know Where To Find Me are the sounds of the pianos in various houses Imogen visited to record on. Every song on this album was immersive, special, and has a story behind it.

The “Heapsongs” were originally planned to be released once every three months over the course of three years, but after about six single releases, they stopped becoming available for purchase and we were informed about the songs through the revived video blogs on her Youtube channel, or through music videos. Finally the title of the album was announced, Sparks, and after three years, was finally released. It was bittersweet not to be completely surprised by every track on the album, since ten or so of the tracks had already been released online in some form, but what I am most surprised by, listening to this album which is a collection of very separate collaborative entities, is how extremely well these songs fit together. Even though they were made under different circumstances with different people at completely different times in their creator’s life, all fourteen of these songs still belong together on this album, and I think that is what the magic  of Immi’s music is all about. Those of us who follow her casually, religiously, or both, know her to be a positive influence, and her music is the stuff of dreams, a special kind of sound that is genuinely impossible to compare to anything else in it’s uniqueness, and her sometimes cryptic lyrics, always personal, always full of truth, and always seeming to have more to tell upon each repeat listen, remain uplifting and inspiring as the years pass.

This new album, Sparks, is not only presented beautifully through visual means, both the wonderfully formatted physical album and the immersive and inspiring music videos, but the songs themselves, diverse as they are, all feel like part of a whole. There are so many stories to be told here, but the beauty is not just in the stories of the creation of the songs themselves, but the lyrics and the music therein, which seem to tell a story wholly unrelated to their conception. Lifeline may have began as a collection of words submitted by fans set to the sound of a baby’s heartbeat, but the song itself talks about life, death, creation, fear, loss, and hope. All of Imogen’s songs are like that, and this album delivers as well as any album Immi has released before, in that it does what all it’s predecessors have done: it creates an entirely new realm. No album will ever sound like Ellipse, nor will any album sound like Speak For Yourself, Details, or I Megaphone. And in the same way, Sparks is an entity all it’s own, with an infinite number of stories to tell, growing from the seeds of ideas, words, pianos and footprints of fans and friends into an entity full of immense mystery, immense pleasure, and ultimately leaving me with that same wonderful feeling every Immi album does: the desire to create something for myself, and to get out into the world and breathe it’s many mysterious and wonderful sights and sounds into myself.

I’m looking forward to spending time with this album, and to allow it to course through me and strengthen me as an artist and as a person, as Imogen’s music is prone to do, and as it has done in the past, and will continue to do in the future.

Memnoch the Devil by Anne Rice

Memnoch the Devil

Memnoch the Devil
by Anne Rice

The fifth book in the Vampire Chronicles was slow to start, but once it picked up, it was impossible to put down. To be honest, Lestat doesn’t even play the major role in this book, the title character of Memnoch does.

Lestat spends the first few chapters stalking a victim named Roger, and then spends a very long time listening to Roger’s life story, which somehow feels extraneous and doesn’t provide much payoff for the reader, as Roger is a ghost, and the side-plots about a series of books by a man named Wynken De Wilde and the story of Roger’s turbulent childhood and life of crime never develop into anything other than an introduction of his daughter.

Throughout the opening of the story, Lestat is being stalked by a creature that eventually reveals himself to be the devil, and is in fact the same devil that David Talbot saw in a vision, revealed back in Tale of the Body Thief. He asks Lestat to come and be his assistant and his partner, and it’s then that the story really begins.

This book is an explanation of the underlying mythology of the Vampire Chronicles, down to the very center: it explains the creation of the universe. Memnoch explains in fascinating detail the history of God and the angels, the creation and evolution of the universe, his personal story of being cast out of Heaven, his reaction to his beloved God becoming Christ, his revulsion at the tormented spirits of the Earth who cannot enter Heaven, and the ultimate truth that though he opposes God, he ultimately wishes to praise, serve and love God in a way different than God himself would choose, and allow all the spirits of the dead to experience the joy of Heaven and the warmth and light of God.

Memnoch’s adventure makes up the bulk of the story, and once it begins, the other details of the book are forgotten, and Lestat simply becomes an outsider listening to Memnoch’s fascinating tale. In the end, we’re left wondering how much of it was real or not, it’s implied that Memnoch may have genuinely been the devil or he may simply have been some other entity, and like in all spiritual matters, things are left open-ended and up to interpretation. The ending of the book sees Lestat finding himself at peace in his home, ready to fade away and end the Vampire Chronicles, though we all know that it was not at all the ending, but perhaps the ending of the first era.

Ultimately, I left Memnoch the Devil satisfied, but a little annoyed at how little Lestat’s story really had to do with the Memnoch’s, as much of Lestat’s narrative became inconsequential. As with all the other chronicles so far, Lestat had his meetup with Louis, with the normal observations about how beautiful he is and how much Lestat loves him, and David’s character is expanded to show that he now has some history with Armand, however Memnoch is the star here, and while Lestat’s story is interesting, there’s not really a lot of payoff for reading it.

Still, Rice’s extremely interesting take on Biblical history (from back in her atheist days, when he was looking at the Catholic spirituality as an outsider) is not to be missed, and I would recommend this book even to people who have never read any of the Vampire Chronicles, simply for Memnoch’s extremely interesting tale, weaving together the classic Christian narrative with new ideas, and actually showing the classic devil as a sympathetic character while questioning the motivations and stubborn childlike attitude of God.