"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Reading for the Revolution

I've been reading more lately, which is good. In addition to dumping my Netflix subscription in favor of The New Yorker and Harper's, I've digested a few books, which I'll talk about briefly and (ahah!) interconnectedly.

Air Guitar
A collection of short pieces by Dave Hickey, subtitled "Essays on Art & Democracy," this book is just fantastic reading if you like $5 and even $10 words, distrust academia and other elite discourses, and enjoy thinking about art and culture with a political bent. The text occasionally diverges into minutia of fine art that lost me (I don't know from painting) but in almost all cases the thread returned to terra firma, and I didn't really feel like I missed out on the true meaning of Hickey's prose because I have no idea what Cézanne was really all about.

Harper's recently had a great excerpt from an upcoming book by Slavoj Zizek in which the Slovenian guru (who I encountered because a really pretty girl making a documentary wanted to talk to me about Music For America once) chides various leftist tactics around the world, in particular the "retreat into criticism" and the "politics of infinite demands." It made me wonder if Zizek has ever read Hickey, who's an art critic and not a "Critical Theorist," but whose writings as such contain, to me, some of the most insightful and generalizable observations about politics I've ever read.

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Inspired by TV? Why not...

One of the shows I've been enjoying over the past couple months (thanks eztv!) is AMC's Mad Men, a stylish serial drama full of moral ambiguity set in the NYC advertising industry (Madison Avenue, hence the title) circa 1960. Aside from just generally being smart and well-executed, I'm occasionally actually inspired by the marketing presentations that the protagonist Don Draper gives.

They remind me of the best of Larry Lessig's powerpoints, but because the whole point is that Draper is being brutally emotionally manipulative -- both in the context of presenting a modern marketing strategy, and also in the sense that he's closing the deal with a client -- they resonate with my artistic side even more. Truly the greatest performance work I've done has been essentially along the same lines: stacking up rhetoric with music and stage-imagery to seduce the audience in one way or another.

There's something you can definitely feel as a performer when this is working, when the crowd is in your pocket. I've felt the same thing in business meetings and selling vacuum cleaners door to door, the energy of control when another human will folds itself into your own. It's probably the rawest power I've ever experienced, and mostly since I've used it for good, it's been a good thing. Lot of responsibility though.

Anyway, the season finale of the show had a particularly great sequence like this, and it's got me mentally cutting up the music I listen to, looking for theme-clips, thinking of images, ways of explaining. Explaining what exactly is an open question. Hopefully we'll find out.

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Better Culture, Better Future?

Well, I've been stewing, and now I'll be spewing.

We of Cinema
City of MenA while back I got this great DVD from Brazil called City of Men, something of a follow-on to the brilliant film City of God, which delves into the lives of children in a particularly infamous favela.

The series is significantly more positive than the movie. It doesn't shy away from grit or violentce, but it does manage to pull out a lot of beauty by taking a wider angle and showing the holistic culture and community. It's really fantastic. You can buy it from Amazon if you like.

One of my favorite aspects of the series is the way in which many episodes include "live" camcorder shots of/by the kids, archival footage (which may or may not be real), and also documentary-style interviews. This form represents next-gen postmodernism at it's best: a reconstructive narrative. One of the more humorous moments comes in an episode where the two protagonists take a trip to Brazillia to hand-deliver a letter to President Lula, under the auspices of an NGO who's director has the kids film things in the favela. They're riding on the bus with the camcorder, talking about how important it is to get on tape so the director can "make her gringo bosses happy."

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I took yesterday mostly off of work. My bestest friend who is a girl Julia is visiting our household for a couple days, and so we made Hungarian Goulash and then abducted Mark to see 300, which is awesome.

I'll have more to say about other things, but I want to put one thing out there. Anyone who sees that movie and doesn't want to grow a beard is a pussy.

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Idiocracy: Mike Judge Preaches a Dumb Future

Haulin' Ass' / Gettin' Paid'

While I'm dishing about movies I watch, here's another: Idiocracy, by Mike Judge (Office Space), starring Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph. It's totally great, and totally you've never heard of it because Fox Studios and Judge are alleged to have had some kind of feud over the movie's content.

Fox seems to have tried to bury the film, slashing the post-production budget, giving it a very short/limited release, and failing to market it in any way.

The only reason I can think of for a movie studio to intentionally not try and make money is if there's beef:

Since the announcement about Idiocracy's very limited release, Judge has refused all interviews, so it's impossible to confirm any of this with him. However, I remember hearing him speak to a University of Texas class in February about his future filmmaking plans. He wanted to make inexpensive films that wouldn't be financed or produced through a studio, citing Christopher Guest's films as an example of what he'd like to do. He was working on a script but wouldn't divulge details.

"I'm only going to make a movie again if I own it or have final cut," Judge told the class, obviously unhappy with the Idiocracy experience.

Anyway, you should check it out, because it's quite a worthy comedy. The gist of the plot is that Wilson and Rudolph do a little Rip Van Winkle, and 500 years in the future, people have become much dumber. It's a simple but serviceable setup for the salvos of social satire that follow.

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Thanks to Frank for the recommendation of Brick, which takes an improbable melange of genres -- the high-school drama and film noir -- and hits it out of the part. It's just very well-done cinema. Recommended!

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Go Take Acid And See The Brian Jonestown Massacre Immediately

So, I saw this somewhat amusing documentary called Dig!, about the Dandy Warhols (old Portland band, made it big w/European ringtones) and The Brian Jonestown Massacre (junkies from California). It's an interesting time capsule of 1990s Americana, which we watched back on Vagabender in Tuscon. We're making fun of it in this audio dispatch with the "You're out of the band!" and "I can play 400 instruments!" lines.

In it, main ego-man from BJM comes off like a borderline messianic kook, which is by other accounts more or less accurate.

The thing you don't really get from the documentary is how fucking good his music is. Clearly overblown sense of self? Yes. Also a sonic genius. Since I don't have to deal with the personality, I enjoy the product.

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Home tattoo!

Home tattoos.

This is one of the oldest things we as people do: we cut our hair and draw on our body (and pierce things) and (eventually) wear specific clothing as a means of signaling our cultural identity and expressing ourselves.

Now that I've got one...

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Why People Hate Hollywood

People call for people to be fired because they use the word "faggot" in public.

There's a legitimate case to be made if, as is somewhat implied, there was a lot of on-set animosity -- that whole "hostile workplace environment" thing, which is legit -- but it seems to be the height of Political Correctness (and I use that term pejoratively here) to agitate for someone to lose their job as a result of a public statement they made, even if it was in the context of an awards show and thus semi-official.

Which is not to defend this guy's choice of language. Poor form, and all, but do we really want to start firing people on this kind of basis? Seems extreme to me.

Now, GLADD's position -- that it's not good language to promote and that he should apologize -- is far more moderate than those expressed by the entertainment press and a the VP of the Directors Guild, which seems to be that if you're homophobic, that's grounds for dismissal. This is why people fear and loathe the idea of Hollywood, even as they lap up the products.

Without defending homophobia, I think it's well within our individual rights as citizens to dislike whoever we dislike for whatever reasons, rational or otherwise. Acting on those feelings is different, but its a very dangerous thing to try and normatively shape ideas (e.g. creating thoughtcrime).

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Dirty Hippies

There's a lot of political talk about dirty hippies, the phantom which animates so much of our power elite. The reasons for this must be dark and deeply psychological, but I really don't care. This is a generational fight I have no interest in wasting cycles on.

On my Jetblue flight back, VH1 Classic had a bit about the 60s and drugs, and they had some old footage of Kesey, both the Paul Newman-looking Acid Test version and the more familiar Pleasant Hill farmer. That guy was the MF man, and it's a shame their whole scene got busted down on so hard.

So yeah, hippies are annoying I know. I don't want to talk about crystal healing either. But, on the other hand, Florida Gator fans are annoying too. So maybe it's just people and not just hippies who are annoying.

Anyway, I'm back in California. Just another freak in the freak kingdom.

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