Thursday, May 29, 2014

Growing Old But Not Up With King Arthur: Hanging out at The World's End

There are very few things that most people can agree upon, but one of those things is that growing older generally sucks big old deep-fried grizzly balls.  The inevitable ebb and flow of time causes us to drift towards that final unimaginable expanse of ocean until we are finally swept out into the unknown by the tide or, if we're really lucky, a tsunami that lets us take a lot of innocent people with us.  One of the most commonly occurring and overarching themes in human culture is the tension between youth and old age.  That dichotomy between childhood and maturity is pretty readily accessible by almost everyone because, unless you're Cher, aging is a pretty universal human experience.  It's an easy way to mark our progress through life, and that sort of temporal delineation has become a common trope to draw upon when constructing one's identity.

In Stephen King's introduction to the latest edition of his seminal Dark Tower series (which I've recently delved into with the gusto of a fiend desperate for his next fix of devil grass), he taps into what I think is a pretty fundamental cultural sentiment regarding the temporal forces at play in the very bowels of our collective souls:

"Another thing about being nineteen, do it please ya: it is the age, I think, where  a lot of us somehow get stuck (mentally and emotionally, if not physically).  The years slide by and on day you find yourself looking into the mirror with real puzzlement.  Why are those lines on my face? you wonder.  Where did that stupid potbelly come from?  Hell, I'm only nineteen!  This is hardly an original concept, but that in no way subtracts from one's amazement"

What King's insight illustrates is that Cusp between childhood and maturity, a sort of balance that we struggle to attain between the shit-kicking, conquer-the-world mentality of youth and the world-weary pragmatism of experience that alludes so many of us. I think that sometimes we tend to fall into the derogatory with the denunciation of middle-aged men or women "acting like they were teenagers," but I think what's at issue in that case is an imbalance, with youthful exuberance and its accompanying stupidity winning out completely over the tempered wisdom that comes only with age. Of course, this may be small comfort when the subject in question ends up fucking a coworker or spending Junior's college fund on some shitty American sports car, but the point remains that the goal is neither the eradication of youth nor the total denial of one's ever-accumulating chronology but a balance between the two.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Speak Softly and Wail on a Big Guitar. Treadlightly into the Future

An old friend of mine, Andy, recently informed me that he had joined a band.  At first, knowing Andy, I had assumed that it was a euphemism either for going on yet another of his famous heroin binges, drinking the menstrual blood of a Bengal tigress, or getting a pop rock blowjob from a French Canadian drag queen.  Considering his propensity for strange code words, drugs, and bizarre sexual fetishes and the look of pure, unbridled ecstasy bursting from the depraved depths of his eye sockets, none of these would have surprised me.  It took some explaining on his part, but I was finally made to understand that in this particular instance "joining a band" actually meant "joining a band."

Andy had recently beat a bad rap and a long jail sentence by instead agreeing to direct his energies into an amateur musical endeavor as part of a Work Release Program for the Criminally Disenfranchised.  In yet another "misunderstanding" after a series of unfortunate circumstances in which Andy's propensity for going out in public wearing nothing but a bath robe and public urination coupled with his relative inattention to his geographical location--in this case, in front of an elementary school full of young, impressionable youth--served as that Perfect Storm of probable cause that whip police into a killing frenzy as they are all but guaranteed to arrest and/or beat the living shit out of various levels of miscreants and scoundrels.  Somehow, Andy had talked himself out of serious jail time in one of only two cases in recorded history where playing a bass solo in the courtroom was accepted as a closing argument for the defense.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ben Affleck was the Bomb in Phantoms

"Batman?"  Oh yeah, he sounds like a real badass.  He
dresses like a flying rodent; I've modelled my persona
on the Prince of Darkness.
I never realized how much people seem to completely despise Ben Affleck until it was announced a while back that he would be the next actor to don the mantle of Batman on the silver screen in the upcoming and as-yet untitled sequel to MAN OF STEEL.  The Internet exploded in a veritable orgy of insults, inflammatory comments, and libelous denunciations that made it seem like Affleck had committed some terrible atrocity or defiled people's mothers en masse.  It seems as though there was a good old fashioned feeding frenzy, and all it took was announcing that  an award-winning, commercially successful actor who had tapped asses most mortal men could only dream of would be taking on the role of a fictional billionaire who dresses up in a bat costume and uses his ninja skills to beat the shit out of killer clowns and alligator men.

In what now seems like an eerily prophetic turn in JAY AN SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK, Affleck, reprising his role as Holden from CHASING AMY, aptly boils down the seeming triviality of our use of new digital media: "The Internet is a communication tool used the world over where people can come together to bitch about movies and share pornography with one another."  And in one sense, it is trivial to complain about which overpaid Hollywood actor best fits within the confines of preconceived notions about what a fictional character would actually be like.  It seems people tend to get caught up in the futile pastime of trying to prove themselves right on the Internet - a medium that by its very nature seems to thrive on dissent - and forget the fact that "These are fictional characters. Fic-tion-al char-ac-ters. Am I getting through to you at all?"

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

In Space No One Can Hear You Scream, but on Earth Everyone Can Tweet Your Death

I had never heard the name H.R. Giger until watching the special features on my ALIEN DVD a few years back.  He was the man most directly responsible for the iconic design of ALIEN's titled antagonist, which, like life itself, was equal parts horrifying and beautiful.  I suspect that most people who don't have time for DVD special features (you know who you fucking are) might not have even been aware of his existence until it ended on May 12, 2014 and his name made the news in connection to his most famous creation.  He was a visual artist, though I can't personally speak to his success in those circles as I don't typically follow the "art world" to any meaningful degree (read: at all).  All I know about H.R. Giger is that he created one of the most innovative and memorable character designs to come out of Hollywood from a time when film makers were still allowed to do cool shit, and that his name itself sounded like it came straight out of a sci-fi movie.

I'm not sure what H.R. Giger was like in real life or even in a workplace environment, but for me his alien design represents a fundamental shift in the way Hollywood and raconteurs in general approach their material now and common audience expectations. Back in 1979 when ALIEN was first released, there was a different ethos that existed around narrative art forms than exists today. With the modern propensity for sequels and franchises, the current trend it toward mythology-building instead of storytelling. The mythology-building tendency is perhaps best exemplified by the recent onslaught of Marvel movies chronicling the (mis)adventures of everybody's favourite (and not-so-favourite) Avenging super heroes.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

May the 4th Be With Us All

Suck my balls Episode II can.
May 4, 2014, marked the annual unofficial celebration of an indelible part of pop culture history that has - for better or worse - contributed to the psychological development of countless grown men and women including, perhaps most notably, the proliferation of the "slave girl" sexual fantasy. May 4th has proliferated as an international day to recognize anything and everything related to the STAR WARS property (as if it needed any more recognition) due in large part to the date's name being easy fodder for geeky punsters ("May the Force/4th be with you.") who don't mind taking the chance of sounding like an offensive homosexual stereotype and the ability of the Internet to propagate information faster than people can effectively evaluate its relative worth.

In honour of the occasion, I decided to watch the originator and slapped STAR WARS (no fucking Episode IV bullshit) into my Blu-Ray player.  As I watched what had undoubtedly been a formative text in my own personal psychological library and recited entire scenes word for word (much to the chagrin of my wife), it dawned on me what imperfect movies STAR WARS and all of its sequels and (even more so) its prequels actually were.  In fact, even as a huge fan of the series, there is still a lot of stuff, even in the original trilogy that I had grown up loving, that is either really laughably bad or patently ridiculous or some combination thereof.  

Despite the fact that STAR WARS was (aside from the special effects) quantifiably a B movie, it was - and still is - pretty fucking awesome.  It wasn't because of the originality of the plot, which is filled to the brim with cliches, convenient coincidences, and (perhaps unsurprisingly frequent) lapses in logic.  Let's face it, STAR WARS is not exactly the epitome of storytelling genius.  It wasn't because of the acting, because even Sir Alec Guinness and Harrison Ford, the arguable acting heavyweights of the film, could only elevate the dialogue only so far.  As a moral tale, it didn't really say anything that hadn't been said before or present the nuances of morality.  In fact, it does the exact opposite, simplifying morality down to a really basic good versus evil dichotomy exemplified, of course, by the Light Side/Dark Side of the Force.