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'In the Air Tonight' ... stuck between hope and doubt

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, which — as anyone who knows me would tell you — is never a good thing.

It usually starts in the morning; though, sometimes, if I haven’t quite shaken loose the cobwebs, I don’t start thinking until I’m halfway through my morning fruit and feebray.

But once it kicks in, try as I might, the thinking just can’t slow down. Just once, I’d like to spend a day, a week, a month gliding along on cruise control or impulse power.

Know what I mean?

Well, of course not... I’ve yet to explain what’s uneased my troublin’ mind. Hold on, let me take another swig of feebray here and I’ll explain.

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot lately about what these smartypants types (or, at least those more smartypantsier than I ... me ... the rest of us) see as a sea change in the course of entertainment.

Cursed as we are to live in interesting times, our lives are refracted through the prisms of the coronavirus, of the swelling call for social justice, of the fracture of a clearly divisible nation whose elected leader stands defiantly, golf club extended, in the midst of a thunderstorm of unrest all but taunting Zeus to try to hit a 2-iron.

And, as wearily expected, our popular forms of diversion are carried by the prevailing winds.

“blackish” — the clever, pointed and necessary family comedy about a family you’d never find living next door to the Cleavers — recently aired an episode that initially had been postponed/pulled/censored by ABC when originally scheduled.

The episode’s apparent crime? Touching on issues such as kneeling football players and the state of disunion under President Trump.

If ABC were truly interested in quashing socially or culturally insensitive material, shouldn’t the network have canceled “The Bachelor/ette” franchise about a gazillion dead roses ago?

Meanwhile, debate rages — for, these days, it cannot be conducted otherwise — over the storylines that will take place on the filler between commercials, once television series and movies go back into production.

How many under-developed secondary characters can be killed by COVID-19 before a show, a book, a movie becomes unseemly? Should police procedurals — with their oddball crimes and family dynamics — tack slightly toward the headwinds of reality and enter the murky waters of the debate over profiling and excessive force?

How many movies/books/plays/miniseries about the controversies surrounding Trump can be produced before we reach the tipping point where such efforts no longer gather eyeballs or garner awards consideration?

And this is just about when my brain starts percolating on overload and I starting wondering where my spirit animal, Todd Snider, is when I need him.

Oh, here he is, sliding through with the chorus to Statistician’s Blues”:

Too much to think about

Too much to figure out

Stuck between hope and doubt

It’s too much to think about ... uh-huh

Earlier this week, a viral video showed a pair of 22-year-old twins from Gary Indiana (Gary, Indiana/Gary, Indiana) being introduced to “In the Air Tonight,” the nearly 40-year-old song by the nearly 70-year-old Phil Collins, grooving along until the famed mid-tune drum fill ... at which point the young men start reacting as though they witnessed Benjamin Franklin’s 2-iron get struck by lightning.

When you see the video (for that’s expected of you now) perhaps you’ll have the same reaction I did at first: “‘In the Air Tonight’ came out in 1981? ... Damn, I’m getting old.”

But after that, your heart might just launch into a momentary drum solo of its own at the sight of something that’s been missing from our daily treadmill for far too long ... unadulterated joy.

Seeing the video sent me down the long, strange trip of such moments that I’d felt over the years — as something new or unexpected, or both, flashed across the horizon.

As a preteen, I remember being mesmerized by The Monkees ... first the TV show, and eventually the music.

Nothing made me smile more as a young, overthinking tyke than watching “The Monkees” each week — unless it was watching “Get Smart” but, then again, 86 and 99 didn’t sing.

Say what you will about the behind-the-scenes machinations behind the Prefab Four’s music — and the debate has been raging for more than 50 years — but those are damn catchy tunes written by those who knew how to write hits.

A week doesn’t go by that, at least once, I don’t find myself singing “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round?” while driving home from work.

A pair of other, more recent, musical moments filled with kitsch, and exuberance, and just plain ol’ fashioned joy have been know to find themselves in rotation of my YouTube playlist.

Speaking of catchy kitsch, the first of these is the post-credits performance of ABBA’s “Waterloo” which closes out the 2008 film version of “Mamma Mia!”

There’s no real reason for the song in the film — the stage version’s encore is more in keeping with the theater — but to see Streep, Brosnan, Firth, Baranski and Co. strutting their stuff with no concern about musical ability or damage to reputation is a joy ... particularly for those of us in the same age-range as Streep, Brosnan, Firth, Baranski and Co.

The other is “Bigger,” the opening number to the 2013 Tony Awards — co-written by a pre-“Hamilton” Lin-Manuel Miranda and performed by host Neil Patrick Harris and a cast of, well, the casts of just about every musical on Broadway that year.

The video of the number runs longer than eight minutes, the final 2-3 of which are for the standing ovation alone.

So, as those of us behind The Fourth Wall head into our vacation, that’s our suggestion for you. Find these videos, or your own moments of joy, and let your heart doing the driving while giving your brain a rest.

For as Dan Quayle once reminded us, while he mangled beyond recognition the slogan of the United Negro College Fund:

“What a waste it is to lose one’s mind,” then the vice president of the United States said, “or not to have a mind is being very wasteful. How true that is.”

Considering how “true that is” 30 years later, he was a regular Nostradamus.

The staff at rgalvin@rosebudmedia.com is giving readers a well-deserved rest by taking a week off.

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