January 27th, 2003

flavored with age

Blueglass

Last night, we were over at Lara and Jeff's place, and we had brought various axes with the intention of making some honking squalling noises. Of course, I brought my cheesy Casio keyboard, and as it happened, Jeff camped out behind it and we barraged the poor lad with request for arcane song-scenarios.

Anyway, at one point I gave him the following command: play me a piece that Philip Glass would have written if he grew up in rural Tennessee instead of in New York City. So he sets the Casio for its terrible-sounding 'banjo' tone and lets rip an amusing variant on "Glassworks"-era Phil, to everyone's enjoyment. Well, to mine at least, since I was the only other one in the room at the time.

But afterwards, I got to thinking: if someone did an album of bluegrass covers of Philip Glass compositions, I WOULD TOTALLY BUY IT! Oh my God! Am I right? Isn't this a brilliant idea? Christ almighty! SOMEBODY DO THIS RIGHT AWAY! My $20 is waiting!
flavored with age

Tommy Vercetti! Remember the name!

So, I bought "PlayStation Gamer" magazine on Friday, because it had a disc in it with a demo of "The Getaway". (Which, by the way, looks absolutely incredible, but doesn't play very intuitively.) And one of their dopey little featurettes was this thing where they ask the staff 'If you could live inside a video game, which one would you pick?'

The answers ranged from the amusing ('Lara Croft's Naked Trampoline Party') to the bewildering ('Medal of Honor' -- who would want to live the rest of their life in the middle of a war?). But I asked myself the question, and my answer was clear:

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Here's why:

1. I would live in a giant mansion.
2. I would have piles and piles of money, and I could get more on a moment's notice.
3. I would get laid constantly.
4. I could kill people who pissed me off, and all I would have to do to get the cops off my ass would be to drive around for five minutes.
5. I'd have a much better car than I do now.
6. Mr. Magic on the radio 24/7.
7. No snow.
8. I would look and sound like Ray Liotta.
9. I wouldn't have to have a job.
10. I would have a bunch of festively dressed hired goons named Mario at my beck and call.

The downside is, I would have to live through the Reagan administration again, and there would be no internet. But I'm willing to trade that for being able to cut up yuppies with a chainsaw and impunity.
flavored with age

Kulturkampfstadt

On one of the message boards where I hang out, we started to discuss political events that had effected us very profoundly, and memories that we carried forward from that time. And it got me thinking about the last time America went to war.

I was alive during the Viet Nam war; I was born smack in the middle of it, and was a child during its ugly tail end. But I was far too young to have any notion of it whatsoever. So I can't really speak to the incredibly divisive effect that it had on America except in an abstact sense, having read about it fifteen or twenty years later. However, I can remember the Gulf War quite clearly; I was a college student at the time, and had set well down the road of what will hopefully prove to be a lifetime of political crankdom. I was hardly a passive observer of Gulf War 1.0; I ran with a black bloc crew at the time, protested avidly, took part in a public debate at my college (acting as the second to my philosophy professor), and circulated a greensheet of which I am still proud.

Readers of any of my scribblings anywhere are no doubt aware of my fascination -- some would call it obsession -- with America's right-wing punditocracy. From the chattering heads of the FOX News Network to touchy Americana-booster James Lileks to the high-blood-pressure crew at Town Hall, I can't seem to get enough of their daily ravings. Aside from the cheap amusement value (which wears thin pretty fast) and the 'know thy enemy' axiom (do I really want to know my enemy THIS bad?), I don't really have a rational explanation for this compulsion. In fact, it's often a source of great dismay in my life; reading these columns makes me, in turn, depressed, angry, disappointed, offended, and infuriated. So why do I read them?

One of the big reasons, I've recently come to think, is that it gives me a sense of how much more venomous the rhetoric of the right has gotten. Perhaps I'm seeing things through nostalgic eyes, and if I'm wrong about what I'm about to say, I'd love to be told so, with examples. But it seems to me that there is much more hatred, much more rage, and much less tolerance directed at those who oppose this war than at those who opposed the last one. Of course, the last Gulf War was popular; and of course, those who opposed it were a small and generally disregarded minority; but they were thought of more as misguided fools in the cultural shorthand of the time than vile, traitorous terrorist-collaborators they are so often labeled today. It seems to me that the tenor of the times resembles that of the Viet Nam War than it does the first attempt by the Bush family to get Saddam Hussein out of office.

Of course, there are a number of reasons for this. First, the right wing in America has been hugely emboldened. Unlike in 1990, they are in a position of strength in the media; they have scored a number of huge election victories, they have a compliant congress that they numerically dominate, and they have been given courage by these things; and the general cultural meme has swung far to the right in recent times. The terror attacks of September 11th has a lot to do with it as well; it provides a convenient symbol for those wishing to prosecute the war to unveil in the face of opposition, suggesting despite all evidence to the contrary that a disinclination to war with Iraq equates to a disregard for the victims of that horrible day. And, of course, this has not worked particularly well; the left (as well as a goodly portion of the American public) has been unwilling to let the equation of 9/11 with Iraq stand unchallenged. From Europe to Asia to the heart of America, many people are unconvinced that war with Iraq will to anything to retard terror. This is no doubt irritating to the opinion engineers of the right, and they have certainly cranked up the heat on their rhetorical machines in light of their frustrating failure.

But in the end, it's still frightening and confusing to me. I was in the streets, shouting slogans, confronting policemen and accusing the government of murder the last time around; this time, I'm just sitting quietly at home, writing my opinions in an electronic journal read by no one, and hoping that no one blows me up. So why is it that I feel a lot more like an enemy of truth and goodness and freedom today than I did 12 years ago?
flavored with age

Rental bin, here I come

I have a feeling that "Daredevil" is going to suck. And not suck in an amusing, hysterical, over-the-top way. It's going to suck in a very boring, pedestrian, uninspiring way. It's going to suck in such a way that all involved will look back on it as an entry on their resume they can barely remember except in a very negative way. It's going to be neither enjoyable sucky or mind-bendingly sucky; it's just going to be dull and tired and predictable and it's going to suck.

It's not just the fact that Elektra seems to have been transplanted from Greece to southern California. It's not just that Bullseye appears to be played by Perry Saturn. It's not just that the trailer is yawn-inducingly dull. It's not just that the c.v. of the writer/director includes 'Jack Frost' and 'Grumpier Old Men'. It's not just that the most way-cool action hero line they could come up with for the preview is "I'm going to get some air".

It's that the movie stars Kevin Smith as Jack Kirby.

This is so wrong on so many levels that nothing good can possible come of it.