Monday, August 20, 2007

M.I.A. and Rockism

I get the myopia of Rockism, I do. I think Jim Derogatis is the epitome of blinders-on, DIY-or-die arch rockism. That said, if anyone says to me that M.I.A. does Roadrunner one better than the Modern Lovers, I will fucking club them.

Her voice makes me stabby.

Friday, August 10, 2007

I am totally not fucking kidding

"We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don't see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do."

-Rudolph W. Giuliani, from a 1994 speech

From the New York Times via Boing Boing via Wonkette

Some very well said stuff

It's not like I'm widening their audience any or granting them more exposure than they have, but I thought these two posts about vastly different things were so well-put that I had to quote them here:

Glenn Greenwald on our country's torture policies:

"Acknowledging America's crimes in the world remain strictly off-limits in mainstream political discourse, the hallmarks of America-haters and fringe leftists. But the gap between (a) how Americans perceive of themselves and their country and (b) the reality of what we do in the world is vast, fundamental and still growing.

While American citizens inside of the U.S. still enjoy robust civil liberties as compared to most other countries around the world -- certainly nobody rational would compare the tyranny of a country like Libya to the state of domestic political affairs inside the U.S. -- one cannot say the same for our behavior as a world actor. In that regard, such comparisons are not only plausible but indisputably valid. And to prove that, try to imagine anything more ridiculous or laughable than George Bush standing up today and condemning the Libyan Government for its treatment of detainees in its custody."

Very well said. My only request would be to stop using that silly epithet "serious" as in the Brookings Inst. is "Very very serious" - I get the implication: Anyone who suggests, like Obama, that we go into Pakistan to take out Al Qaeda targets if Pakistan is unable or unwilling is "unserious" - they're supposedly playing a political parlor game made entirely of those dreaded hypotheticals that Hillary Clinton dislikes so much. To deride this way of thinking is not only valid, it's necessary.

Accusing Obama of not being serious about our foreign policy, that his statements are "naive," is kind of like those people who say things like global warming was definitely behind the devastation in New Orleans, and anyone who disagrees is naive or dishonest. It infantilizes the issue by ignoring all of the infrastructural incompetence that preceded and followed the disaster. And don't mistake me for being a man-made- global-warming denier. What many hurricane experts would say is that we must broaden the discussion; all you see is the satellite photo of the disaster, not that season's hurricane predictions, not the headlines in the past about NO's susceptibility to a disaster, and not the bylines of years of infrastructural neglect.

The point is, using silly pejoratives like "serious" or "unserious" distracts (at least it does me) the reader from some very salient points. It's shorthand, I understand, but it's not well-utilized.

Second, from Fire Joe Morgan:

"The larger point here, though, is that if you choose to employ "innocent until proven guilty!" to refer to people who totally definitely cheated, like Barry Bonds: please realize that I completely agree with you that Barry Bonds should not be thrown in jail unless he is actually convicted of a crime in a court of law. But there is no Bill of Rights of Baseball. In fact, the rules governing almost all MLB awards and honors are incredibly vague, and are voted on by either dummy journalists or even dummier fans, and so if I want to use my brain, and mathematical probability -- I wholeheartedly recommend this article at Kermit the Blog, which calculates the odds of Barry hitting 73 at age 37 at one in 53 million -- and the actual sworn testimony of the actual man, and just motherfletching common sense, and I decide that Barry Bonds used PEDs and that because of that he shouldn't be in the HOF, and I have a HOF vote, then sorry, people, but that's fine, and you can't use "innocent until proven guilty" to shame me because it has nothing to do with HOF voting."

My stance has always been utterly inconsistent: If I think a guy's an asshole and I don't like him, I root against him and I hope he fails miserably. If he doesn't fail on the field, I root for other bad things to happen to him: Being tossed in the clink for tax evasion, for instance.

Why is this stance inconsistent, and how do I justify it? Because Albert Pujols has been known to be kind of a dick at times, and I love him for it. Mike the Mad Dog douche bag whatever his name is can say feeble-minded shit like El Hombre is a joke who would never last in a big market, but I love the fact that the man can make withering statements to sports writers and swat dingers like that career-shatterer off Lidge. It just adds to his persona. How is his irascible personality any different from Bonds'? Well, Bonds is singularly unpleasant, for one. Pujols never told a teammate's kid that the kid's dad is a benchwarmer. And, he never did to Hank Aaron whatever it was Bonds did that pissed the old man off so much. Pujols' attitude is on par with everything I ever heard about Bob Gibson - he's a fierce competitor who gets enraged when he doesn't play to his potential. Pujols is the kind of guy who would cold-cock a guy who cut him off in traffic. Bonds is just an asshole.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Rick Ankiel Made Grown Men Cry

Hits a home run in his first game back since, what, 2001?

I have never seen Tony La Russa look that excited and just plain happy during a game ever. That was probably the best moment of the season, and in a season like this, it might as well be. I can guarantee that every Cards fan who saw that was grinning like a doofus for the first time since last October.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I promised myself I wouldn't do it again...

...But I just had to see what global warming agnostic Camille Paglia had to say this month. To the tape!

About the deaths of Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antoniono, she says, that nothing of equal philosophical weight equal to "The Seventh Seal" or "Blowup". In fact,

"Perhaps only George Lucas' multilayered, six-film "Star Wars" epic can genuinely claim classic status."

I was scrounging for some kind of cultural analog to Paglia contra-intuitive pop cultural observations, and what comes closest, in my mind, is the dean in Michael Chabon's Wonder Boys who writes "a critical exploration of the union of Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe and its function in American poetics, tentatively titled 'The Last American Marriage'."

Leave it to academia to fetishize utter trash. But I do have to say, at least Paglia transcends poor taste; hers is spectacularly, unbelievably shitty. Remember, she referred to Anna Nicole Smith as someone on par with one of Warhol's superstars.

Then, there was this: "Rock will be spectacularly reborn by a faithful return to roots."

Because lately we've completely ignored '60s rock. And anyways, isn't this what Elvis impersonators and Beatles tribute bands are supposed to do?

And then... well, just read, if you must.

In general, aspiring young performers emerging from the bland white middle class in America seem to be having trouble expressing or controlling emotion, with its myriad of subtle gradations. Unless they hail from the gospel-rich South, they lack direct experience of the vocal authority and operatic dynamics that most young African-Americans automatically absorb from church.

Another nice thing I can say about Paglia, she's made an art form of the vast, sweeping generalization. I remember saying to myself when I first heard "Staring at the Sun" by TV on the Radio, these guys have trouble expressing themselves. There's just no subtle emotional gradation I tell you, none!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

I don't think it was revolutionary or even blatantly counter-cultural in any way, and my feelings on this may have been swayed by the circumstances in which I watched it, but I think that parts of the Simpsons Movie are admirably subversive.

My analysis starts with the realities of movie-going today. The Simpsons is rated PG, which means ostensible "family fare" will be featured during the previews. I've previously written about the head-slappingly awful looking kid's movie about the Rock who finds out he's the father of a girl he's never met before. Leave it to the Disney corporation to reveal to America's children the consequences of capricious bachelorhood and wayward semen. Previews from children's movies are endlessly cringe-worthy. Take, for instance, the new Daddy Daycare movie, which cast the (shockingly) available Cuba Gooding Jr. in the Eddie Murphy role and, in all seriousness, just found some schlub off the street who most resembled Jeff Garlin. It appears to feature a young girl who speaks like an adult and apparently understands the nuances of contract law (and in this regard, maybe she can give Cuba a few pointers for his next film), a creepy February-March romance, and a kid who gets nauseous on a bus trip and throws up on Cuba (and they didn't even bother hiding the fact that they ripped off the Simpsons - the kid even looks like the human equivalent of the character). Then, there was a preview for the continuing bastardization of Dr. Seuss' legacy and misuse of Steve Carell (I gave up on Jim Carrey long ago), a CGI version of Horton Hears a Who.

Add to this that a number of people brought some pretty young kids to the movie, which then reminded me of how revolutionary the Simpsons was when it debuted in the late-'80s. People came in expecting family-friendly fare and were shocked to the point of labeling the show "immoral". The movie, needless to say, does not and could not have this effect. It comes reasonably close in some cases, though.

If you haven't seen the movie, you may want to lay off the following and go see it. It's funny.

Totally obliterating the gooey sentimentality and cringe-worthy plot elements of the previews, the movie starts with in space with an Itchy and Scratchy cartoon with typical Itchy and Scratchy results - the cat gets impaled a number of times before having his glass helmet cracked, which pops one of his eyes out. I couldn't help imagining the writers of the movie extending a giant "fuck you" to those previews and to lowest-common-denominator frills in general.

One of the other parts that I thought was most subversive was when Bart, on a dare, rides naked on his skateboard through Springfield and passes Ralph Wiggum who suddenly says, "I like boys now." This perfectly anticipates those moral crusaders who think the sheerest hint of nudity or sexuality will make boundary-less, craven hedonists of those impressionable minds who nonetheless laugh at the bare yellow ass in front of them.

I heard an audible gasp and a disapproving aside made by a lady behind me when two cops show up in a scene at the motel presumably to arrest the Simpsons, but who instead slink off behind the place and start making out, heading into a motel room. Now, this isn't a particularly shocking or surprising Simpsons gag, which is why I think maybe the matinee-lite experience weighs too heavily on my analysis, but it still got a laugh out of me and produced another jab at those who think PG movies should be sanitized or Disney-approved. Though it's not a kids movie, kids can handle this stuff and then years later come back and appreciate the social commentary (which isn't groundbreaking, of course, but its funny given the unexpected detour and the subtext of our typically rigid police presence and that sub-strata's disapproval of deviation.). And Bart gets very drunk on whiskey. Fantastic.

I also loved how, once everyone thinks it's all over, the drunks go into the chapel, and the church-goers go into the bar.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's caricature is closer in reality to George W. Bush than it is to Schwarzenegger, and so the writers cleverly sidestep the problem with any caricature of Bush - it'll never top the real thing. The president here is a plasticine figure-head who is easily manipulated, has a leaden way of talking, and has a distinct inability to handle nuance or problem-solve. Works for me, and as a bonus, it won't run in on the ignominious territory of shows like Li'l Bush.

These are only some of the examples that I remember. At all times, I was entertained, and I laughed a lot more often than I thought I would. Just seeing all those characters on-screen warmed my heart.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

And so

Becoming Jane. This is how a generation of Americans will envision Jane Austen and her novels. Maybe I'm giving too much credit to the movie and the effect it will have, but there is no doubting that the recent adaptations of Austen's novels have led a number of people to assume that she was a romance writer. I can't imagine how she'd feel about this shit. In light of this, I have a few more suggestions for new non-biopic biopics.


Watch! this striking man's man sail the seven seas, seducing vixens from far-off lands! Laugh! as he humorously attempts to negotiate with the machinations of crude pygmy natives! Swoon! as he romances leggy smart-talking street urchin Elizabeth Shaw, as young Herman tries to transform her into a lady befitting literary royalty! Cry! when he dies at the height of his popularity, his legacy ensured!

Swift's Travels

Foppish dandy Jonathan Swift minces his way through young adulthood, laughing at the travails of the poor Irish savages he trips over in his drunken revels until one day, he watches a widowed Irish commoner struggle to carry two children and a satchel of potatoes home. Heroically, he relieves her of her carriage, and vows to make the causes of the native Irish his own by writing foppish, dandified satires that cause the British royalty to spit out their tea and grab onto their powdered their wigs as they shout, "Wha-wha-whaaaaa?!"

The Updike Chronicles

Follow hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, wife-beating John Updike as he terrorizes a small New England town, fucking his way through swinger's parties and gangbangs, feeling up waitresses, forcing his harried wives to get abortions, screwing his best friend's best girl. Not for the faint of heart.


Light-hearted Afro-American Ralph Ellison loves to poke fun at the man, play jazz, and write densely symbolic stories. Join us as he overcomes a troubled youth and learns to get that chip off his shoulder, because a sound mind is the source of all creativity. He taunts whitey, barges his way into the white canasta club and charms the locals with his whimsical sense of humor and wins the heart of the country club set. Why did he never publish another novel in his lifetime? He was brow-beaten by his cold-hearted wife, who never understood the pain underneath all the laughter. You'll laugh and you'll cry, and you'll likely never question what's on screen because you could give a shit about American literature.

Moving Day

Say a prayer, or whatever, for my friend Ashby. He and his wife moved out of his apartment completely - the lease is over. Today they were to move into their new place in the lovely Central West End of St. Louis, but of course, the people who were to have moved out had not yet moved out. I imagine the place to be filthy with grease-and-bong-resin stains and retro, gauche communist posters.

Anyway, to cheer you up, Ashby, and you, my loyal readers, I'll regale you with a story, a story I have heard secondhand, the way all great stories come and the way all great adventures begin. Uh, right.

My mom works as a sort of social worker for the local school district here. She helps screen pre-k kids and helps diagnose them with learning disabilities. All of them. She has to do home visits, as well. If you've seen the scene in Broken Flowers where Bill Murray visits Sharon Stone, think of that house and those people, only with a smaller, more mobile-based home, and real midwesterners.

One of her co-workers came in one day after a home visit, and said this:

I was talking to the father. Not the brightest guy, but a real sweet person who clearly delights in his kids. He lives in a double-wide trailer with his wife and three kids, the youngest of whom we were talking about. She has pretty severe learning disabilities and might have mild Down Syndrome. As we're talking, one of his neighbors comes in to ask him a question, interrupting us. The father says, "Can't you see I'm busy right now? We're having a real important conversation." He pointed down the room. "Get in the other room and close your ears so you don't hear what we're talking about."

His friend apologized and walked to the other end of the trailer, knelt, and got under the the couch. When we were finished talking, I walked to the door, which is by the couch. Three pairs of adult legs were sticking out the back of the couch.