Monday, February 25, 2008

The Hollywood Prom
The ratings are in and this year's Oscars viewing audience was abysmal. Did Americans tune out when the foreign actors began racking up awards? Did the thought of yet another year of Jack Nicholson sitting there in the front row, sun-glassed and hipped-out, encourage further tune out? Do people just not care about award shows?

Clearly Hollywood no longer occupies a revered position in the broader culture. Hollywood used to typify the utmost of American style and glamour. But then again decades ago the general culture never ventured outdoors unless adorned in coat/tie or dress. Hollywood stars and starlets merely exemplified the very heights of class and style. It wasn't that Cary Grant looked good in a suit, it was that he looked better than all suit wearers. He was the gold standard that suit wearers wished to achieve. Compare this with the stars of today. With so many Star Magazine covers showing Hollywood stars in all their cellulitic and unshaven loveliness, can't the public be forgiven for not essentially "buying" the faux glamour of seeing stars all Versace'd up on the red carpet? Seeing all these guys on the stage wearing tuxes while we know they'd much rather be in jeans and t-shirt is the reason that Tinseltown no longer matters. With these stars up on the stage giving their high-and-mighty acceptance speeches blovating on the importance of their craft seems just a tad too much fakery worth paying attention to.

The Oscars has essentially become Hollywood's high school prom - where everyone gets together all dressed up under the pretenses of style and class - only that we the audience know that the tux and dress charade doesn't cover up for the essential vulgarity of the participants. Hollywood glamour a la The Oscars comes but once a year. In comparison you are more apt to see Star Magazine's less than flattering covers each week when buying the groceries. The whole Oscars exercise has grown all too anachronistic to an audience democratized by casual fashions and used to seeing stars more human than human. With no change in these trends in sight, expect Hollywood to continue its decline in the culture into the future.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

For Whom We Are About to Nominate...
"That we have to compromise and sacrifice for one another in order to get things done - that is why I am here, because Barack Obama is the only person in this race who understands that. That before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls - our souls are broken in this nation."

"So I am here right now because I am married to the only person in this race who has a chance at healing this nation."

"And Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism, that you put down your division, that you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones, that you push yourselves to be better, and that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual - uninvolved, uninformed...

-Michelle Obama speaking at UCLA.

Scary scary stuff this soul-fixing liberal fascism. The Nuremburg style chanting of Yes We Can over and over. Forget John Ashcroft or Dubya. The coming Obama presidency will be very threatening to individual liberty if this kind of talk is what animates the Obamas. Scary scary

Saturday, February 23, 2008


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Baby Whine-house
They tried to put me in the bouncer.

I said no, no, no

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Before Obama: The insurance company denies the patient treatment.
After Obama: The doctor denies the patient treatment.

Same as it ever was.

The End of History
This article regarding the composer Schoenberg dovetails somewhat with my earlier post about the lack of progress in getting beyond rock & roll. The article discusses how the classical composer Arnold Schoenberg effectively ended classical music composition by composing music of pure atonality and "wrong notes". The author suggests that what we have had since Schoenberg is a century of atonal classical music with no possibility ahead of a new musical innovation to discover.

I've thought of this idea of historical progression. There is one notion of history that believes its course of events is circular. That there is nothing done now that has not been done before. For instance, this thought is best encapsulated in the phrase Nothing new under the sun. There is also the view that history is one continuous linear evolution of improvement and progress. Think of Santayana's maxim "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.". Sometimes these two views of history can be clumsily merged. An example of this can be observed when someone expresses criticism of today's popular music. Usually this kind of criticism is waved away with a response such as "Elvis shocked people in his day". The idea being that Elvis' expressed sexuality was no different than what Christina Aguilera does today in terms of confronting sexual mores, etc. Such a response contends that: A) what shocks today shocked us yesterday and is no different (circular view of history) and B) our view of sex today is more liberated than the view held by previous generations (progressive view of history).

I am sympathetic towards both views of history, but the idea that history moves forward as progress does not always hold true for me. In fact, one might argue that history can regress even as it moves forward. Going back to the Schoenberg article, I think there is something there to the idea that progress in music is essentially dead given the fact that Schoenberg's use, overuse, and subsequent only use of dissonant atonal wrong notes effectively culminated the body of music by composing what can be thought of as the opposite of music. If after Schoenberg one can compose static (see John Cage) and call it music, where does music go after this? Can music progress beyond such a point? The same for the painted arts. Does painting have anywhere else to go beyond Jackson Pollack's splattered canvases? Essentially the essence of Pollack is that after centuries of artists painting the outside world, Pollack painted the innerworld of the subconscious. With both external and internal space revealed through art where can the painted arts go after that? Everything else will seem retrograde.

Examining further, perhaps the worst example of regress as "progress" has to do with the practice of sex. So much of the recent era has been marked by a cultural motivation to demystify sex. Everyone knows that we must talk about sex or risk being prudes or repressed individuals. Sex on ads, in the way clothes are designed, the push to make sure kids receive ample sex education. Unintended in this push to explain sex has been a failure to realize that there is really nothing new left to explain.

Certainly a good example of this comes from an report on the popularity of an online sex show aimed at teenage viewers. Produced by a single-mom (creepily obsessed with teen sex), the show holds back nothing in talking frankly to kids about sex. As a clearest indication that our culture has reached the end of the line regarding taboo boundaries, one video segment of the sex show gets into the mechanics and safe practices of proper Backdoor Business. Indeed, as a barometer of the present culture, if "backdoor business" has emerged as a commonplace staple of the teenage sexual experience, what does that about where else sex can go? With acts once out of bounds or certainly on the exotic side now becoming de rigeur, a wilder, risque, taboo and mystified side of sex essentially no longer exists.

Given such a state of events, a critic of such might employ the slipperly slope argument to try and express outrage over such cultural developments. Subsequently, such critics are then shouted down with argumentation along the lines of "Elvis swirled his hips and outraged parents in his day, and what goes on today is no different." But that argument is kind of sad really. Is "backdoor business" an indication of cultural progress with regards to sex and how it is practiced, that "backdoor business" is no more shocking today than how Elvis moved his pelvis back in his day? If "backdoor business" is routinized and no longer taboo, what is left over in the pantheon of sex and sexual acts for the next generation to liberate? Is sex demystified and de-tabooed an indication of sex's end? In essence, like the death of music and the death of art, has sex suffered the same fate? (Stylistic hat tips to Carrie Bradshaw with that last sentence.)

Indeed, maybe there is nothing new under the sun. History has been marked by progessions through the human arts and acts. At this point in our history, with everything known and everything been done or being done, does history proceed from here? Where would it go? What new new is out there to be discovered as new? What new music is possible, what new art revealed? What new exotica can be performed between two (or perhaps more) people?

Or are we at the point of history's death? The end of history?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

L19. Gypsum Board With Cashews

Mrs. Rants and I got Chinese takeout on Friday. On Saturday afternoon I helped myself to the leftovers. A few bites into the cashew chicken I noticed my teeth grinding through a strange chaulky gritty texture. I spit out some chunks into the sink and combed through the subgum like a CSI investigator. Embedded within the bean sprouts and water chestnuts was a few shards of some kind of mineral conglomerate. Mmmm tasty.

My wife said that the place downtown from which she picked up the takeout was going through some kind of building renovation. This made sense now. I can picture some waitor heading towards the kitchen with some drywall residue sticking to his shirt; falling into the pot of boiling oyster sauce during the course of his travels.

I called up the place, an unlucky hovel of chicken grease and faded tiki. They told me to come on in and bring in the offending matter for identification. I stored the few concrete rocks that I had in a ziplock baggie - like it was my last few bits of crack cocaine. I brought it to the restuarant and proceeded to show them what they served up to me for my culinary delight. I didn't rub their face into it. By my reckoning it was an honest mistake, though a part of me was waiting for my body to break out into hives. The owner told me some song and dance that the matter must have come from the can of cashews. He proceeded to show me the big can of nuts that they use, fingering through the nuts combing for treasure. Yes, of course, it must have been the can of cashews that was responsible. Never mind the sheets of drywall and building material hanging around the dining room.

They were going to give me another take out box of cashew chicken right then and there. I told them I'd take a rain check on the takeout. It was like three in the afternoon. What were they thinking? My plan is to call in sometime and order maybe $40 worth of stuff and then go in to pick it up and say, "Hey remember me? They guy you fed wainscotting to? I'll be taking this meal for free, thank you very much." We'll see. I'm not so sure I want to go back to that place again.

I walked out of there, but after a few steps I turned around and went back in there. I realized the owner and not given me back my little baggie of evidence. I asked him to give back the bag but his wife said she threw it away. I told her to get it from the garbage and she said she didn't know where it was. The owner asked me if I wanted just the baggie bag, or also the contents inside. I told him everything and he said that it was impossible, that the rocks were his property and could not be returned. God, you'd think after an ongoing span of tainted dog food and poisoned children's toys that the Chinese restaurant would want to make good. But clearly there was no way I was going to get back any incriminiating evidence. That was stupid on my part. I should of just told him that I'd like to keep one rock with me, just in case I wind up in the hospital and need them to test for what the hell it was that I ate.

I waited until night to see what illnesses or fevers would emerge from my body. I still have no idea what I ate. Maybe it was like a freaking MSG bullion cube that was left undissolved. Who knows. Anyways, I recommend to all Doverites that they should stay far away from the place downtown formerly known as the Lucky Garden. Who knows what else will turn up in the food.