Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sleaze and Mourning in Las Vegas

Little Earl: So here's a city in the middle of the desert and there's a bar that's emitting mist from the ceiling. God bless America.

Zrbo: I saw Michael Jackson perform "Man in the Mirror" in front of hundreds of people today in the casino lobby. True story. And the worst part? I didn't have a camera, not even my cell phone. The city is going crazy here for Michael - his music is piping in through all available means, whether you're walking down the street or eating at a buffet. Giant megatrons display his picture with slogans such as "We remember you". I even saw some folks already sporting Michael RIP t-shirts. It's nuts.

Little Earl: So we're sitting here in the Imperial Palace Hotel watching Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. At one point during the monologue he starts a joke, grabs the cue card, says the joke is too dirty, and starts another joke. He and Cameron Diaz are screaming at each other about Mexican food. Also on TV are ads for Harry Reid's re-election and 1-800 numbers for debt reduction.

Zrbo: It's true. According to the commercial, Nevada has the highest foreclosure rate in the nation. Meanwhile, Fallon continues to amuse with his knack for coming up with strange situations to put his guests in. Right now he's trying to go for a world record by having Cameron Diaz sit in a hammock and loading it up with as many bunny rabbits as possible.

Little Earl: I don't understand why people bring their kids to Vegas. Where do the kids go when the parents sit down at the slot machines? Do they just walk around and dream about being old enough to gamble?

Zrbo: Last night Little Earl and I took Big Earl out for his bachelor party. At one point I had the pleasure of meeting a quite unattractive stripper from Serbia. I instantly had thoughts of the second season of The Wire, with all those Eastern European girls being smuggled in large shipping containers. I felt like I was contributing to human trafficking. I politely asked her to leave. Big Earl had a great time though. Little Earl didn't.

Little Earl: Well, it wasn't exactly my scene, but how many bachelor parties is my brother going to have anyway? Might as well indulge him this once. So - there's a casino that's a giant replica of an Egyptian pyramid, a casino that's a giant replica of the Eiffel Tower, a casino that's a giant replica of New York City. The only thing missing is a casino that's a giant replica of Las Vegas.

Zrbo: Well folks, I think that's it. It's pretty late, we're both exhausted from the constant heat and sensory onslaught of the constant BING BING BING of all the slot machines. Now we know we've hit rock bottom as we've been reduced to watching Last Call with Carson Daly. Well, peace out. Pray for Jacko.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Zrbo's New Favorite AMG Guy

in which the author finds validation for liking his favorite band

I was all set to write a review of VNV Nation's latest album Of Faith, Power, and Glory when I saw that AMG had already posted a review. I found this astounding, as not only has AMG typically waited at least a year to post reviews for VNV's albums, but have pretty much neglected the band as a whole - the biography hasn't been updated since 2001, there's no band pic when plenty are available (see above), and AMG's reviews have generally been lacking or just plain incorrect -one reviewer doesn't seem to even know who's in the band - there's only two members, c'mon it can't be that hard to keep track of.

As taken aback as I was, I was even more delighted when I saw that the reviewer seemed to hit the nail on the head, providing excellent reviews of the new album and Reformation 01. So impressed was I that I've had trouble writing a review of my own for the new album, because I feel that this reviewer said everything that needed to be said. But who is this reviewer, who has Zrbo found to validate his feelings for this band?

Enter - the Raggett! That's Ned Raggett, who, according to wikipedia has written over 4000 reviews for AMG (seriously?!). Browsing around a bit online I ran across Ned's blog, and boy oh boy, does this guy like his VNV Nation! Browsing through his entries I've found reviews, concert impressions, an article from the Village Voice and an interesting presentation he took part in where presenters talked and discussed a song as the song played in the background. His observations are great too, take this impression from his first VNV concert:

Their iconographic approach is a logical descendant of things like Nitzer Ebb... all cleaned up and post-rave to boot. It’s further reflected in the stage projections and the general design and instrumental set-up, lots of striking poses in the back and all. Jarring moments result — they play the beginning of one song which has an extensive sample from some guy about war’s destruction, and then all of a sudden the imagery is a CGI black/white cityscape that’s part Fritz Lang, part Speer/Riefenstahl with the band logo dominating the top of the tallest building while searchlights play up and down it or otherwise reach into the sky.

One thing I've always enjoyed about VNV is their use of imagery and phrases from the past, reworking them into a modern context showing how they're still applicable today. From the use of iconic imagery in the band's logo and stage production, to quotes from FDR, Orwell, Shakespeare, the song 'Chosen' which is practically lifted entirely from a Guy de Maupassant poem, to the latest album featuring a song with lyrics entirely from Sun Tzu, the band is excellent in using these to remind us of our humanity, that we're all in this together on some random rock flying through space, except they express it much more elegantly than I can. They play this Monday at the Grand Ballroom in San Francisco.

And just a reminder that Little Earl and me will be coming to you live from Las Vegas this coming weekend. Expect tales of coke and strippers, and long quotes from Hunter S. Thompson.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

More Fun With LA Weekly: "Cannes You Believe It" Edition

Sometimes I feel like I'm missing out on a memorable cinematic experience by not attending the Cannes Film Festival. But then again, according to Scott Foundas, perhaps not so much:
“It’s very intense, some of the films are very long, and some of them are very weird,” observed the British screenwriter and novelist Hanif Kureshi of his experience serving on the 2009 Cannes Film Festival competition jury. “I saw things I’ve never seen in my life in some of these films,” he added during the annual closing-night press conference, perhaps flashing back on Best Actress winner Charlotte Gainsbourg’s act of clitoral mutilation midway through Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, or the large CGI penis that penetrates an equally photorealistic vaginal canal in the final minutes of Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void, the penultimate competition title to screen for the press and the one that symbolically brought Cannes 2009 — if not cinema itself — to an apocalyptic close.
Pity I couldn't attend. I don't mean to post the entire article here but I'm not really sure what to leave out. It's all quite noteworthy:
The grandest folly of a festival in which it was often difficult to parse the radical from the ridiculous, Noé’s self-proclaimed “psychedelic melodrama” arrived 15 minutes longer than the published 150-minute running time, leading to widespread speculation that the Cannes version was in fact “unfinished” — a generous designation for a film that should never have been started in the first place. Set in a neon-drenched, nocturnal Tokyo that one British critic aptly likened to a very expensive screen saver, Noé’s film opens with an extended hallucinogenic trip experienced by Oscar (monosyllabic nonprofessional actor Nathaniel Brown), an American ex-pat drug dealer who, like most of the film’s thoroughly repellent characters, harbors no higher ambition in life than to get high. (“Everyone who has a real job is a slave,” he assures us, speaking, one suspects, for the director himself.) Tweaking the subjective camera gimmick of the 1947 film noir Lady in the Lake, Noé literally shows us things through Oscar’s eyes, with intermittent frames of black meant to represent the blinking of the character’s eyelids. Then, around the 25-minute mark, Oscar takes a bullet to the chest, watches his entire stultifying life flash before his eyes like an acid-laced version of A Christmas Carol, and spends the rest of the movie as a disembodied spirit floating through the Tokyo skies, where he serves as a sort of guardian angel to the slutty, go-go dancer sister (Pax De La Huerta) with whom, in life, he enjoyed a pseudo-incestuous bond.
Oh, so it's one of those movies. I don't know, it sounds too much like a rip-off of Sleepless In Seattle.
No invented horrors, however, could compare with the real ones of Filipino director Brillante Mendoza, whose family-porn-theater escapade Serbis upset the delicate sensibilities of more than a few festivalgoers during last year’s edition. This year, Mendoza was back with Kinatay, a considerably darker and more upsetting descent into the underbelly of Manila, set mostly over the course of one long night in which a young police cadet becomes an accomplice to the murder and mutilation of a debt-addled prostitute. In something like real time, Mendoza shows the woman’s abduction, killing and the hacking up of her corpse, interspersed with many long scenes of the cadet riding around in a darkened van going to and from the scene of the crime.
Guess it's better to be a slutty Tokyo go-go dancer than a debt-addled Manila prostitute, huh?
Singled out by no less a Cannes veteran than Roger Ebert as the worst film ever to screen at the festival, Kinatay (the title is Tagalog for “slaughter”) isn’t pleasant to watch, nor is it intended to be...Mendoza, who was one of the only directors present at Cannes this year to use such explicit violence for a discernible artistic purpose rather than for superficial titillation, seems aghast at the potential brutality of his fellow man, and how those men can wash away their sins with a shower and a change of shirt — sometimes even a police shirt. To that end, he has made a duly aghast film that cannot easily be shaken — a feeling evidently shared by Huppert’s jury, which awarded Mendoza the Best Director prize to the lusty boos of the international press corps. (Defending the decision afterward, jury member Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the winner of last year’s directing prize for Three Monkeys, praised Mendoza’s film as “one of the most powerful, original films in the competition,” while Kureshi acerbically added, “This is not a dating film.”)
Well, depends on what kind of date.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fun With LA Weekly

Brace yourself for Scott Foundas' description of Woody Allen's new film, Whatever Works, which may really take you by surprise:
... a light comic burlesque — a minor key but eminently pleasurable Allen confection — starring Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm mastermind Larry David as Boris Yellnikoff, an atheistic, egotistical, misanthropic physics professor whose contempt for the entire human race is lessened by his chance meeting with (and eventual marriage to) the ditzy Southern belle (Evan Rachel Wood) he finds squatting underneath his backstairs.
This is a Woody Allen film? My goodness, what a departure. In the interview Allen hits a familiar nihilistic note:
The same obsessions I had when I first started, I have now. I’ve been in psychoanalysis, I’ve been successful, I’ve had ups, I’ve had downs. I’ve had some hit movies, movies that failed. But with everything that’s happened to me, all of my experiences, I’ve never been able to solve the real problems of life that have plagued every playwright since Euripides and Aristophanes. No progress has been made on the existential themes and the subject of interpersonal relations, which are still brutal and painful and fragile and very hard to make work, and which cause everybody an enormous amount of suffering and grief. Why are we here? What is the point of it all?

Take Camus’ question [in The Myth of Sisyphus] of whether or not to commit suicide. Now, even the most grim people come to rationalizations where, in Camus’ case, he feels that pushing the rock up the hill, the doing of it, is worth it and you don’t have to succeed. But I feel — in answer to the question of why should we not kill ourselves given a meaningless, godless existence — that it’s a pre-intellectual question, and that your body answers it for you. Your mind will never be able to give you a convincing justification for living your life, because from a logical point of view, if your life is indeed meaningless — which it is — and there’s nothing out there, what is the point of it? Well, the point of it is only that you’re too scared to terminate it because you’re hard-wired, it’s in your blood, to live and to want to live and to want to protect yourself. So, while I’m home babbling about how meaningless life is and how cruel and brutal and without any purpose, if there’s a fire in my house, I’ll go to extreme measures to save my life. And then when I’ve saved my life, I’ll say to myself, “Why did you bother to do that?”
I think this is a bunch of slightly dishonest hoo-ha. Woody obviously enjoys his life and finds meaning in it. Personally, I think that people don't kill themselves because ultimately that's not what they really want. Forget their bodies; their minds don't want it. You know what, Woody? Euripedes and Aristophanes didn't know shit. Drop that Western crap and read some Buddhism already. I agree with his comments on acting, though:
People who can act are naturals. Over the years, I’ve met and worked with people who studied all over the place, and if they had natural talent, it was great. If they didn’t, the fact that they had studied didn’t mean anything. I’ve gotten guys off the street — literally off the street — who come in here and, when they speak, they’re un–self-conscious and authentic. Whereas, with a lot of professional actors, they come in to meet for a part and we’ll be chatting like we’re chatting now, and they’re just fine. Then, they read the part and they go into their acting mode, and everything about them suddenly becomes inauthentic. They feel they have to do something to the material or they’re not justifying their paycheck. So they start acting it, and you don’t want them to act it; you want them to just say it. If they’re supposed to be a salesman, you want them to be a salesman like you’d experience a salesman. But they don’t. They start playing a salesman.
Meanwhile, Francis Ford Coppola seems pretty in touch with himself at this stage of his career:
A lot of works of art are not appreciated in their moment, and later on, they grow in prestige. I always chuckle when people say, “You probably won’t be able to make the kind of successes you made when you were younger. How do you feel about that?” I just shrug. Shy of The Godfather, most of my films were not really, in their day, successful.


In the summer, you have a choice to see the Tom Hanks movie, or Wolverine, or God knows — whatever the big movie is, and for that percentage that might want to see a more personal film, hopefully they’ll come. It’s funny, when you [release] a movie, it’s like turning the shower on in a hotel you haven’t stayed at. The water either comes out with all this pressure, or just dribble, dribble, dribble.


More difficult is my wife, because she has many ambitions and talents, but who’s going to be my wife? Who’s going to fix the house up and make it nice? It’s more difficult with a wife because there becomes a job vacancy if your wife is going to go off and become an artist. Who’s going to be the wife? We both need one. I’ll do the cooking, but who’s going to worry about the household and stuff? That’s been a very big, frustrating aspect. I’ve been married 46 years, and it’s never been resolved.
Have you tried a maid? Finally, Foundas really lets Dave Eggers have it in his review of Away We Go. His feelings toward the film's director, Sam Mendes, are harder to decipher, although I have to say that when I was reading this paragraph in a restaurant I laughed out loud:
Mendes, too, seems to have trouble getting onboard with the underachieving set. His direction here is looser and less starchy than usual, less honorific and Oscar-worthy but still somehow on the outside looking in. When Mendes takes his camera off the tripod and puts a suite of Nick Drake sound-alike alt-rock ballads on the soundtrack, it’s a bit like watching someone’s dad dive into a mosh pit, or a Mumblecore movie made by David Lean.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Classic Alternative

That's right I'm fucking blogging, I'm on vacation dammit. So I'm barbecuing with friends tonight in Salem, Oregon - the capital of your 33rd state (the only state which has a dual-sided flag, state symbol on the front, beaver on the back). We decided to turn on some music, flipping to the music channel stations on the TV. These channels include all sorts of different genres of music, everything from the "Big Band" channel, 70s/80s/90s channels, to the reggae and hip hop channels. I then noticed that they had a "modern alternative" channel and a "classic alternative" channel.

"Classic alternative?" we thought.

Lo and behold, a new label of music has been born. "Classic Alternative" is where it's all at for all you old X-geners. Honestly, I'm not sure how I think about this. In one way it makes me feel old and that my identity has fallen into some new prescribed demographic, in another way, I just don't give a shit. Any thoughts?

Friday, June 12, 2009

In Case You Missed It

Ladies and Gentlemen, your latest internet meme, may I present to you "Cool Cat".

Mark-Paul Gosselaar went on Jimmy Fallon completely in character as Zach Morris from Saved by the Bell. I gotta say, I usually can't stand Jimmy Fallon, but maybe his sense of comedy is closer to mine than I think, because he keeps coming up with the weirdest guests.

Combining internet memes with current events, here's aging Poison frontman Brett Michael's slight mishap at the Tony awards, presented to you by Cool Cat!

This will be my last post for awhile as I'm off to Portland next week to go camping and visit old college friends. But stay tuned as in just a few weeks from now Little Earl and me will be coming to you live (-blogging?) from the beautiful Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

No One Knows Me Better Than the Onion

But If We Started Dating It Would Ruin Our Friendship Where I Ask You To Do Things And You Do Them

It's funny because it's horribly, painfully true.

An Amusement That Is Truly For The Birds

So the other day I'm on my lunch break, making my way towards a fine eating establishment (Chevy's), and I'm waiting at a traffic light. A man stands behind me, chuckles to himself, and then walks off. OK, that's cool, I sometimes chuckle to myself out loud in public every now and then. As I'm waiting for the light to change, I notice a larger-than-usual crowd standing on the corner directly diagonal from me. This crowd appears to be looking across the street, toward the block I am about to walk past, but I see nothing unusual myself so I ignore this information.

The light changes and I walk down this block. There isn't anyone else walking near me, but I think nothing of this. Suddenly, I feel a couple of brief stings on my head. Is someone dropping something onto me from above? The crowd across the street, as well as a smaller crowd right in front of me, bursts into laughter. I turn around and see a bird flying away. So apparently I have been pecked on the head by a bird. Ha ha. Very funny.

A slightly homeless-looking black man with a cane seems to be willing to explain to me what's going on. "There's a blackbird's nest right over there, they been attacking everybody who's walkin' by!"

"It was a bird?"

"There's a whole bunch of birds! They been attacking everybody who's walkin' by for three weeks!"

"So I'm not the only one who's been attacked?"

"Naw, there's people walkin' by all the time!"

So. This is what humanity has come to. People standing around on a street corner during their lunch breaks, laughing at people who are unwittingly being attacked by birds. Had anyone thought of calling a city service so that, you know, people would stop being attacked by birds? Had anyone thought to say, "Wait! Don't walk over there, birds will attack you?" Apparently that would have been expecting too much of our species. Instead, the office conversation on that block must go something like this: "Hey Frank, you wanna come down and laugh at people walking by that bird's nest?" "Sure Bill, just a minute."

Not finding this the most hysterical thing ever, though, I walk on. The homeless man starts shouting at me. "Hey sir, how 'bout a quarter? I did you a favor sir, explained to you what was goin' on, ain't that worth a quarter? Sir! Sir!"

So let me get this straight: not only are people standing around laughing at other people getting pecked on the head by birds, but there's a homeless guy who has concocted his own little "racket" where he stands around amongst the crowd that is watching people get pecked by birds, and then he pretends to care about the victims by explaining to these people why everybody's laughing, and then he asks for compensation for his "services"?

Well, my friends. I thought I had seen them all, but that is really a new one.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Nice Try, Slate Guy

How about instead of trying to define "post-disco" and complaining about how VH1 rockumentaries misrepresent '80s underground rock, why don't you actually try to write about what all this music has meant to you in your own life and what it said to you about the nature of your own measly human existence when you were a young man? I would have much rather read that than declarations such as: "Pop music history is biased toward 'the right place and the right time.'" It is? I never knew. Or:
Just like its respectable elder relative, rock history, with its decisive battles and seismic elections, pop history fixates on origins and breakthroughs, magic years of transformation, cusp points when undergrounds go overground. It gives far less attention to those stretches of time between the upheavals—years of drift and diaspora, periods without an easily discernible "vibe," zeits devoid of geist.
I'll give him points for that last one. But what's the difference between "pop history" and "its respectable elder relative, rock history"? Are they not the same thing?

"It rankles a bit that the late '80s are now treated as a mere prequel to grunge." Well, as many of my loyal readers know, I don't think grunge was that big of a deal in the first place. You think you're being original, eh Simon? Try taking the viewpoint that grunge was merely a prequel to Britpop. Now that's original!
The recently aired Seven Ages of Rock on VH1 Classic was a marked improvement on earlier TV histories of rock, which tended to jump straight from Sex Pistols to Nirvana. But its episode on U.S. alternative rock nonetheless presented groups like the Pixies, Dinosaur Jr., and Sonic Youth as preparing the ground for Nirvana. That's not how it felt at the time: Sonic Youth and the rest seemed fully formed significances in their own right, creative forces of monstrous power, time-defining in their own way (albeit through their refusal of the mainstream). My Melody Maker comrade David Stubbs wrote an end-of-year oration proclaiming 1988—annum of Surfer Rosa, Daydream Nation, My Bloody Valentine's Isn't Anything—to be the greatest year for rock music. Ever!
If you're talking to Yoggoth, he might agree with you. I for one have always admired those '80s alternative rock bands more than I've actually liked them. My favorite album on SST Records is Meat Puppets II, so go figure. As good as the Pixies, Husker Du, The Replacements, etc. were, I still feel like they were a 4.2 on the Richter scale compared to the late '60s' 9.3. Nirvana were about a 4.6. Punk was at least a 6.8 perhaps. I'm kind of liking this Richter scale system; what do you guys think?
We actually believed this, and our fervor was infectious, striking an inspirational, Obama-like chord with young readers heartily sick of the idea that rock's capacity for renewal had been exhausted in the '60s or the punk mid-'70s. Yet that period will never truly be written into conventional history (despite efforts like Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life) because it doesn't have a name. It's too diverse, and it's not easily characterized. For instance, the groups were "underground," except that by 1988 most of them—Husker Du, Throwing Muses, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers—had already signed, or soon were to sign, to majors. Finally, it'll never get fairly written into history because, damn it, grunge did happen.
But by placing such importance on grunge you're buying into VH1's predictable view of rock history anyway! And that period truly has been written into conventional history. For example, by Michael Azerrad, in his book Our Band Could Be Your Life. You want a VH1 special to acknowledge a bunch of groups that were almost completely commercially unsuccessful? Good luck.
Reclaiming one such period of "fallout" was the polemical drive behind my post-punk history Rip It Up and Start Again and its new companion volume Totally Wired. It was an attempt to challenge the perennial fixation on punk as the Big Bang and the corresponding tendency to see what came next as a scattered diminuendo, an entropic dissipation of focus and energy. Instead, I wanted to recover my own lived sense of the period not as a dwindle into disparateness but as the true fruition of punk's ideals. The after-zones of rock history are hard to grasp precisely because they're so various. This rich muddle demands identifying labels that are umbrella-broad and open-ended. Hence post-punk, not a genre so much as a space of possibility, out of which new genres formed: Goth, industrial, synthpop, mutant disco, and many more.
Oh, come on. Just write about the music you like, and why. Your description of "post-disco" is also not selling me on the idea of this period as some kind of way to "usefully redraw the map of pop music history":
Instead, the genre mutated while the movement itself fragmented into a panoply of subscenes that appealed to specific tribes of the once-united disco nation, styles like hi-NRG (a tautly sequenced, butt-bumping sound big in the hard-core gay clubs), freestyle (beloved by Hispanic youth in New York and Miami), Italodisco (the bastard bambino of Giorgio Moroder), and electrofunk (a sound associated with New York labels like West End and Prelude, artists like Peech Boys, and producers like Arthur Baker).
Let me tell you something, I have heard Giorgio Moroder, and if Giorgio Moroder didn't cause me to "redraw the map of pop music history," then "the bastard bambino of Giorgio Moroder" is certainly not going to do it. Some of this music certainly does sound interesting. But don't overplay your hand.
The sharp critical view to take on Sgt. Pepper's has long been that it's a pretentious mess compared with its predecessor Revolver; sharper still is the claim that Rubber Soul is better than the already-getting-quite-psychedelic Revolver...But just as disco never died in a lot of hearts, there were plenty of people active at the end of the '60s and into the early '70s who kept faith with the visions of 1967. They kept on making music that, while not always blatantly trippy, nonetheless took its bearing from landmark psychedelic records like Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and A Saucerful of Secrets, the Incredible String Band's The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter, Traffic's Dear Mr. Fantasy, Donovan's A Gift From a Flower to a Garden, Soft Machine's self-titled debut.
But not Sgt. Pepper. Is that the point he's trying to make? Or is he saying that although it's trendy to bash Sgt. Pepper these days it was actually still quite influential? Or is he saying that these "post-psychedelic" bands didn't take their bearings from music that people actually heard, but rather from these critical cult favorites? My head is going to explode!
Even certain artists we normally file under "glam" were indelibly marked by psychedelia: Roxy Music's personnel included Brian Eno, a Syd Barrett admirer and believer in using the recording studio to create sonic phantasms, and the obviously Hendrix-damaged Phil Manzanera.
Oh come on. Were Roxy Music any more "psychedelic" than David Bowie or T.Rex? Were David Bowie and T.Rex even psychedelic? You know what? "We" don't "normally file" anything under anything, Mr. Reynolds.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Crazy Rant #4: "Eco-Friendly"

Back when I was still clinging to the foolish notion of earning a living by writing, I attempted to contribute as a freelancer to a website which specialized in generating daily "eco-friendly tips" for local citizens who were interested in that sort of thing. As you might have guessed, this dalliance did not last long. The more I learned about this concept of "eco-friendly," the more I realized that I did not agree with its philosophical implications. Eventually I realized that "eco-friendly" was upper-middle class code for "guilt-free." As in, "Oh no, honey, did you realize that when we buy these things and we do these things, we're actually destroying the 'environment?' Well we can't do that because it's going to hurt our children, and our children's children, and we want our children to last forever, don't we honey?" Well guess what "honey," buying organic cat food isn't quite going to do it. Sure, you can pat yourself on the back and think that you're sparing yourself from your children's children's wrath, but let's get real here.

Almost every single aspect of human life is bad for "the environment," if by "environment" you mean "everything on Earth other than humans." I would almost venture to say that "human life" and "the environment" are diametrically opposed. Altering the "environment" is simply what humans do - and how. To me this does not merit some sort of negative judgement. I think people have set up a false dichotomy. Environmentalists believe there are things that are "bad for the environment" and "good for the environment." Like there was a point in time where the earth was perfect and then humans came along and "altered" everything from its "natural" course. Well wait a second. Everything in our world today is "natural," in the sense that it is here in our world. Human life and all of its chemical creations are part of the "environment." Every little pocket of car exhaust floating into our atmosphere is part of the "environment." What about when the earth was just a ball of hot, molten lava? That probably wasn't very "eco-friendly," was it?

Environmentalists seem to act as though something has gone terribly "wrong" with the path of history, and we have to try as fast as we can now to "fix" it. It's funny but, although environmentalism is usually considered a liberal issue, from a philosophical standpoint I find it an intrinsically conservative one. This may sound obvious, but "conservative" means "to conserve," and environmentalists want to conserve the earth exactly as it is. But from a Buddhist point of view, the world is constantly changing and any attempt to "conserve" things as they are is doomed to fail. The way of the universe is change. The human race is not going to last forever. Planet Earth will not last forever. The way I see it, the destruction of the "environment" is neither a good nor bad thing in and of itself. It is just something that is happening. We are the ones who are placing a judgement on it. Sure, it may be bad for Planet Earth, but Planet Earth isn't necessarily the center of the freaking universe, is it?

I mean, if you really wanted to save "the environment," you know what you should do? Don't use electricity, don't buy clothes, don't flush the toilet. Or better yet: kill yourself. No, even better: become a mass murderer. Because otherwise, simply by consuming water and eating a bag of Cheetos, you are destroying "the environment." You may think you're off the hook by "recycling," but you know what? Even recycling takes energy. You're still destroying the "environment" by recycling. Sure, less destruction is better than more destruction, but don't call it "eco-friendly." How about "less eco-destroying"? Doesn't have quite the same ring to it, does it?

Which brings me to another point: the marketing has really gotten out of control. Companies suddenly realized that "Ooh, everybody's feeling really guilty all of a sudden about how obscenely materialistic their lives are, so why don't we put a little picture of nature our shitty little box, make the font green, and stamp 'eco-friendly' on the label even though that term doesn't really mean anything in particular, and then people can buy our shitty little product and not feel so horribly guilty about it, even though it's almost just as bad for the 'environment' as our regular product?" Gimme a break. I picked up the newspaper the other day and it said "Printed with soy ink on recycled paper." Oh thank God, otherwise I was going to feel completely disgusted with myself.

I mean, how is this supposed to work? Are we someday supposed to reach a point where everything that isn't "eco-friendly" is suddenly gone, and then we can just go on with our perfectly"sustainable" lives? Here's what I see happening: 90% of the world, including every Third World country, not giving a crap about the environment until we reach some kind of "tipping point," and the human race will slowly just sort of die out, leaving the cockroachs and microbes to have their way. Maybe it's my impulse toward perfection that kills any environmental concern within me. The whole thing is just too half-assed. You either do something properly or you don't do it at all. It's like if there are about 50 large cracks in the Hoover Dam, and you're trying to repair one tiny little crack at the bottom. The dam is going to blow. Sure, you can try to repair that one little crack if you think it's going to make you feel better, but I wouldn't blame you if you didn't.

Monday, June 1, 2009

E3: The Beatles do the Rock Band thing/Minority Report is for realz yo

Today was the opening day of E3 in Los Angeles, the annual big electronics/video game expo. Among some of the highlights:

- Paul and Ringo came out to (somewhat awkwardly) announce/hype The Beatles: Rock Band (trailer here), which looks like it could be the most interesting iteration of the music instrument genre since it looks like you'll be living the career of the Beatles, from humble beginnings to the famous rooftop. I noticed that Yoko Ono was on stage for a moment at the beginning, except she conveniently disappeared a second before Paul and Ringo came out.

- Confirming all the rumors, near the end of the show Hideo Kojima showed up and announced that the Metal Gear series was coming to the Xbox in the form of a new game (not MGS4 as people predicted). Another huge blow for Sony, who now have lost all of their major franchises to MS the last few years (Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, Tekken).

- Microsoft managed to get Steven Spielberg on stage to help unveil a brand new motion-style interface currently still in production egregiously titled "Natal" (which only makes me think of fetuses). It's obviously Microsoft's response to the Nintendo Wii, but what they showed looked truly amazing. They've gotten away from controllers completely, allowing you to use your body as the controls. This was shown in an almost Minority Report style way, where you not only control the menus with your hands, but the system uses facial recognition so that when it sees your face it logs you in. Watch here.

- Yoggoth's arch-nemesis, game developer Peter Molyneux, was there, showing off some insanely futuristic (and probably insanely ambitious/will never get off the ground) application where you interact with a virtual boy named Milo on the screen, who looks incredibly life-like, and he recognizes you and has regular conversations, almost like a whole fictional person that you interact with. Watch the video to fully understand.

Sony and Nintendo better step up their game tomorrow and Wednesday if they're to beat what MS had today.