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busy, busy, busy

Friday, June 11, 2004

Volvo: Your Best Defense Against A Thermonuclear Attack, or
When I Was A Kid...




My wife, Maggie, is so very sweet; she surprised me this afternoon by getting me "The Day After" on DVD. I repaid her kindness by forcing her to immediately watch it with me.

She should have known.

Watching it again, after seeing only a small bit of it since its original broadcast in 1983 a year or so ago, reminded me how utterly terrifying that entire period of my life had been. One of my clearest childhood memories is of my father having a serious man-to-seven-year-old-boy conversation about the unpleasantries of thermonuclear combat (too much too soon, some might say, but I also wouldn't stop asking about it so I guess I had it coming). He wasn't very optimistic about our future--this was before Gorbachev and glasnost, so while most people didn't know when they were going to die, everybody was pretty certain their time would come under a blossoming mushroom cloud. I had nightmares galore, as well as a constant waking fear that my next minute, or second, would be my last. I started reading books about nuclear war, which only fed my fears. Watching this goddamn made-for-television movie sure didn't help either; neither did the fact that the apocalypse was set in my hometown. I no longer needed my imagination to foresee my imminent doom. I should have been in therapy.

After watching the film today, I had to wonder just what in the hell do kids today have to be terrified about? Poor schools? Crime? Economic depression? Global warming? There is nothing that even compares. Terrorism? Possibly, but even that is so random and remote as to be largely insignificant. How many fears will today's youth take with them into adulthood? My heart still skips a beat when I hear the local emergency sirens carry out their tests (even though tornadoes should be foremost on my mind, considering I live in Kansas); when the television or radio emits the emergency signal, though significantly altered from the old Emergency Broadcast System test, I still freeze with fear; even when I hear jets racing through the sky, or see their contrails, the child in me still wants to run and hide.

I'm sure being a kid today sucks as much as when I went through it, if not more; surely, however, it has got to be better without the baggage of instant and absolute anihillation hanging over everyone's heads. My generation had "The Day After," which was an admittedly gross understatement. Today's generation has "The Day After Tomorrow," which is ridiculously over-the-top. If only my nightmares had involved diminishing polar ice caps and rising sea levels...

First the Dixie Chicks, now the Moz
Bigmouth Strikes Again: Morrissey Slams Bush!
Fans throwing up all over the place, universe descends into blackness

Jonah Flicker reports:
In an apparent homage to Charles Bronson, Morrissey has gone all Death Wish on our crazy President's ass. Fully removing his hand from glove, everyone's favorite (and only) former Smiths frontman reportedly remarked at a recent Dublin concert that he wished that Bush had died instead of former President Ronald Reagan, who, as you are surely aware, passed away earlier this week. Unfortunately, no actual recording of the gig has surfaced at this point, so we can't pinpoint Morrissey exact words, but our ace forensic re-enactment team here at Pitchfork went over every scenario and algorithm, and presented us with their professional approximation: "Ronald Reagan died. I wish it had been President Bush instead." Is this what we're paying you for, guys?

As is to be expected, reactions from fans and media have been mixed, provoking both ire and glee, but so far, it doesn't seem that the Secret Service have taken Morrissey's words too seriously. The fans are another matter entirely. Webboard comments have ranged from anti-European ("More tastelessness and idiocy from across the Atlantic") to mildly amused ("Somebody had to say it") to vehement agreement ("George W. Bush should die in a hotel fire in Birmingham, wrapped in sheets gritty with Mr Kipling crumbs") since the incident.

Sanctuary Records Group, whose Attack Records subsidiary is Morrissey's current label, issued the following statement: "We do not have a recording of the gig, but as far as we can tell, Morrissey was just alerting the audience to the fact that Ronald Reagan had died. He then simply followed that up with his comment about George Bush, which was his own opinion. He is no stranger to controversy." Reports that Tom Ridge had raised the terrorist threat level to red were unconfirmed at press time.

Monday, June 07, 2004

I've been thinking quite a bit today about my favorite books, films, and music. I'm not sure why, but I think it might be an unconscious effort to block out any trace of Reaganmania that has somehow slipped through my mental anything-that-has-to-do-with-Reagan iron curtain. So, while it's all still on my mind, here are some assorted "top ten" lists of my favorite things. The lists are in no particular order, and only reflect my feelings as of today. Enjoy.

Favorite Books (Fiction)
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
White Noise by Don Delillo
1984 by George Orwell
Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack
The Lord of the Rings & The Simarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
Slaughterhouse-5 & Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
The Brothers Karamazov by Feodor Dostoyevsky

Favorite Books (Non-Fiction)
A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
An Empire Wilderness: Travels into America's Future by Robert D. Kaplan
The Triumph of Conservatism by Gabriel Kolko
Red Star Over China by Edgar Snow
Reconstruction, 1863-1877: America's Unfinished Revolution by Eric Foner
No Logo by Naomi Klein
The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan
The Strange Career of Jim Crow by C. Vann Woodward
Africa Solo by Kevin Kertscher
Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

Favorite Films
Donnie Darko
Requiem For A Dream
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
This is Spinal Tap
Fight Club
A Clockwork Orange
American Psycho
Dr. Strangelove
Focus

Favorite Music
Point by Cornelius
Loveless by My Bloody Valentine
Repeater by Fugazi
Downward is Heavenward by Hum
Wowee Zowee & Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement
This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About by Modest Mouse
Marquee Moon by Television
London Calling & Sandinista! by The Clash
Nowhere by Ride
Perfect From Now On by Built to Spill

And there you have it. I do have two "honorable mentions:"
Echoes by The Rapture - I just got this today after having downloaded most of it over the past year. It is absolutely wicked. Jesus.
Cosmonaut Keep by Ken MacLeod - I've had this book for a long time, but just started reading it yesterday. Wow. Once again, Mac knows his shit.

Donnie Darko Returns! A Chat with Writer/Director Richard Kelly

"Part of what I'm also excited about regarding the Director's Cut is ... well, in the theatrical cut, I was never really able to fully investigate the time travel aspects. I had written all this content regarding the time travel, but wasn't fully able to implement it all in the original cut. How it really applies. It has these very specific applications in the narrative, in a way that I think really delves into what I hope are some really interesting metaphysical ideas about free will and the manipulation of ... Are you in control of your body or is a higher power controlling you? What is the nature of what I like to call this 'Tangent Universe'? And what would happen if the space-time continuum was disrupted? What would be the response to that disruption?

I tried to implement the time travel motif in a challenging, clear way, with a few nods to Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan and my favorite scientists, philosophers, writers of science-fiction ... Hopefully this film can be sort of examined on a more scientific level ... a more philosophical level? What excites me about that is the viewers may end up talking more about the science of it, the actual "data", and maybe a little less of "Well was it all a dream or wasn't it?" I figured if I was going to be allowed to do this Director's Cut, I wanted to give people a bit more ... logical of a journey. I mean, I still think there's a big level of mystery to the movie. I just tried to incorporate what fascinates me into a film that will challenge people, but that it's also fun and sort of a roller-coaster ride of a journey. I mean, I think it's pretty exciting if you can somehow get a kid turned on to a Stephen Hawking ... as opposed to a Freddie Prinze."
If I don't get to see this in a theater I'm going to be one goddamned sad little boy.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Ronald Reagan is dead. I will take this opportunity to politely excuse myself from the international circle-jerk that will be the "celebration" of his life.

If you find yourself craving a respite from what is sure to be a very long Gipperpalooza, please track down a copy of "The Clothes Have No Emperor: A Chronicle of the American '80s," by Paul Slansky. If you're in the neighbrhood, drop by my place for some dramatic readings of select excerpts.

What I was doing while Reagan was dying

I finally saw "The Ring" this weekend. I hesitated viewing it until now because I assumed it was just another cheesy, standard, slash-'em-up sort of movie, chock full of half-naked teenagers getting chopped to bits by someone with an ill-formed grudge to a soundtrack featuring Limp Bizkit and Ludacris.

I'm pleased to say I was almost wholly mistaken. There are some eye-rolling moments (particularly the dreaded telephone calls and deformed-for-no-apparent-reason corpses), but for the most part it is a very engaging mystery, with very little "horror." The visuals are excellent and the videotape viewed in the film is one of the creepiest things I have ever seen. I generally enjoyed it. I would like to see the Japanese film on which it was based, and I'll even see the sequel that's supposedly coming out in November.

Unfortunately, I also had the misfortune of seeing "Slaughterhouse-5" yesterday. Let's just say that I am now going to re-read the novel to wipe away all memory of the film. What a mess. What a shame.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Wow.

First, read this review of the Dismemberment Plan's "Emergency & I," for the sake of context.

Done? Okay. Now, check out this review by the same reviewer of the new song by Travis Morrison, formerly of the D Plan:
Travis Morrison: "What's Your Fantasy"
Ironically, this makes me want to go back to college. Despite my firm belief that college radio keeps awful, gimmicky music like this alive in both art-school-steps Camel klatches and the rooms of weird engineering kids who listen to "Weird" Al. Hell, that drunk Delta Gamma guy flossing a toilet seat around his neck like bling singing "Big Pimpin'" in a kiddie pool of PBR has more musical integrity than this atrocity. No, I want to go back to college to learn about worms. Computer virus worms. Wormholes. Genetically breeding worms that gnaw through guitar strings. PK Dick my reality and pop me a pill that downloads instant hacking ability into my brain. Fingers don't move fast enough for a virus to be written out RIGHT NOW to dig into the Pitchfork database and delete everything I ever said about The Dismemberment Plan. Yeah, this is that fucking embarassing.

I'll drive a Delorean through a wormhole, park in front of the Pick Me Up Cafe, 2002, and doppleganger myself on the night Travis and I last ate pancakes together. I'll just flat tell him, "Look, T, we go back. I flew to another continent for you. But don't fucking cover a Ludacris song. Especially don't hyperventilate the lyrics over a broken toy guitar like a bush league Batman villian selling Micromachines." Speaking of bush, this headnail was recorded for a political Anti-Bush compilation. Way to stick it to W when you say "hurt" like "haourt" and "three" like "tree" like those funny black people on 106 & Park.

Fortunately, the powers that be at the Anti-Bush Comp Headquarters 86'd this track, saying they "didn't want to pay usage for a cover," which is the polite industry way of saying, "Holy fucking shit, dude, we can't even associate this with RX Bandits and Pennywise." The soundtrack coordinators at the Garfield movie would know better than release this to the public. Travis instead uploaded this Audio Ghraib on his website for whatever remaining fans have made it through the gauntlet of solo material to date. He pokes his broken guitar strings like POW genitals. If the terrorists hate our freedom, just wait until they hear our independent "rock." Imagine a CGI talkin' cat in a trucker cap throwing up gang signs in Other Music asking where the Sung Tongs be at, then imagine how much you want to just kill that thing. Travis, it hurts me more than it hurts you.