February 8th, 2005

flavored with age

The Sweet Smell of Fake Justice!

Hey, how about that Shanley verdict, eh? It's about time this country got serious about sexual abuse by priests. At last, justice is served! Cold! And possibly in error! Yeah, sure, we'd all feel a lot better if recovered memory syndrome wasn't pretty much bullshit, and if there had been an iota of physical evidence upon which to base the verdict or at least something other than one guy's 30-year-old recollection, and if the media wasn't always playing clips of other people who had been raped by men of the cloth saying things along the lines of "Well, I was raped too, and this guy seems really super guilty, so now I have closure". BUT YOU CAN'T HAVE EVERYTHING, RIGHT?

Now, naturally, the ideal solution would have been for the Catholic Church not to have spent the last, oh, say, hundred years systematically denying that sexual abuse by priests ever took place, or maybe not covering it up when it happened so that it was likely to happen time and time again, or perhaps being more vigilant and open in investigating claims of abuse at the time they happened so as to maybe allow for the possibility of actual evidence. But if wishes were horses, ten generations of psychologically scarred children would ride, am I right folks?

So, hooray for justice! Hooray for a legal system that is always happy to provide leeway for respectable institutions to duck their responsibilities! And hip-hip-hooray for the knowledge that, if someone ruins your innocence, even though decades may pass, someone who is perhaps also innocent but nonetheless extremely valuable symbolically will eventually pay for the crime!
flavored with age

Lileks today...

...is pretty fun. You can ignore the second part of the entry (it's another of his interminable screeds about how Hollywood is afraid to tell it like it is with regard to the sinister Muslims who want to cut our childrens' throats); suffice to say that this morning's USA Today notes that Hollywood has embraced Iraq II and the War On Terror as subject matter for popular entertainment in a bigger way than it has any war short of WWII, but Lileks is still sounding the "P.C. thugs have cowed the entertainment industry into silence about the Islamofascists" gong every week or so.

No, the part you should focus on is the first part, the part that proves my pal hipsterdetritus's point that, despite his reputation as a comic writer resting on his keen observations of pop culture, the man should not be allowed within a hundred yards of the subject. What's his beef today? It's that he could never get into R. Crumb, because he hates hippies:

After I finish this I’ll finish “American Splendor,” which is a great little movie about an uninteresting fellow who couldn’t draw.

I wouldn't call Harvey Pekar uninteresting, really. If he was uninteresting, no one would have wanted to see a movie about him. But, okay.

I first encountered Harvey Pekar on the wall of a comic book shop, but since the comic was drawn by Robert Crumb I didn’t pick it up. Never liked Crumb – his work always gave off that foreign 60s vibe that was so beloved by a certain demographic of the Stoner-American community, the Loser Whom Time Passed By.

I'm also not sure how you can characterize Crumb, who despite his alienation from the hippie/stoner culture, embodied it in the comics medium more than anyone, as giving off a "foreign 60s vibe". Also note that as per Lileks' normal razor-keen critical acumen, he says nothing about Crumb's art or writing, but judges his work by the people who liked it. So much easier than having to read it yourself, hein?

By the mid-70s there was nothing so pathetic as someone who held on to 1968 as the ne plus ultra of civilization, and felt content to ride out the subsequent decade in a haze of genial aimlessness.

By the mid-2000s, there was nothing so pathetic as someone who held on to 1953 as the ne plus ultra of civilization, and...well, you get the idea.

I used to wait on these guys every night – they’d get off work at the U, order up a pitcher of 3.2 beer, and wander over to the jukebox to play Janis Fargin’ Joplin tunes, A sides AND B sides, with a little Marley to show off their spiritual side. Urgh. One of them drew Mr. Natural on the wall of the men’s room.

Once again: the thing that makes Robert Crumb's work uninteresting is that it attracted the interest of people who shared different musical tastes than our Jimmy. One wonders, since he has so often expressed hatred of all things '70s, why he would criticize people who, in the '70s, preferred to listen to the music of the '60s; you don't often hear him championing the work of the Bee Gees or Black Oak Arkansas. But why quibble? He's about to break out into full hippie-sneer, and nothing can stop him now.

They were distinct from the other Stoner demographic, the guys who would play old Stones tunes and play pool and smoke the strongest cigarettes allowed by law and give you an Elvis sneer if you came back to empty the ashtrays.

They weren't like the COOL stoners, with their black leather jackets and their billianrds and their contempt for the help! Who listened to GOOD songs, from the early '60s, instead of all that crap from the late '60s.

They hated, on sight, the other college stoner clique, the Sensitive Types who listened to complex progressive rock and ordered tea with six packets of honey. (Dude, pack the bong. This cut has 7/8 time AND a Mellotron!)

Only the fatuous, simple-minded cultural stereotyping of James Lileks in full the-sixties-ruined-everything mode could make me feel guilty about my own dislike of hippies and prog rock.

But somehow, if you were a stoner, you were supposed to appreciate Crumb. I never got it. Weird thick chicks with hobnailed boots were his muse, not mine.

No, your muse isn't female at all, James. It's a bizarre, wordless golem made up of grocery store advertisments, flyers for church socials, and matchbooks from places that went out of business before you were born. It's a great muse to have, because it allows you to simultaneously fetishize the distant past and sneer at those who fetishize the recent past. And best of all, it's totally inhuman, and therefore can't possibly let you down the way real human beings do.