Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Archives Project: STL #42

Title: Hitting to all fields
Date: 15 July 2004

I sign off of this July post with "Till next time," which turned out to be November.
[I had posted this as STL #41, but it was corrected to #42. The archives fo #42-44 add edition numbers that were missing in the original publication.

Last week I started and abandoned a defense of difficulty in literature (too hard). I had several things in mind this week, but since I couldn't pick just one I thought I'd do them all. In honor of the recent All-Star game, I'll call this "hitting to all fields" (if music, film, and literature make a totality, and for me they just about do), as if this installment of Simplest demonstrates my versatility. The fact is, I forgot to turn the game on until after 6 runs had been scored and fell asleep between the 6th and 7th innings, so expect this likewise to be sloppy and inattentive.

First, let me pull into right for two albums I downloaded from iTunes. Generally I still buy CDs and only download singles, but I was trying to win a contest, dad-gum, and thought the albums would give me a better chance. I bought Appetite for Destruction, Nothing's Shocking, and part the Cult's Electric, three albums released in 1987 (according to Top of my Head research) which defined that summer. I'm not sure why I cling to hard rock and metal: they're completely declasse, unimaginative, and a little offensive. Oh wait, that's why I've returned to this music--it's mine. I know every note on these three records, even though I probably haven't heard them for 10 years. Jane's Addiction, despite their alt-rock credentials, don't do much for me anymore. While unveiling hypocrisy with arty "poetic" lyrics once strongly appealed to me, "The news is just another show" is so obvious as to be embarrassing. The music alternates between RHCP slack funk and proto-grunge and also sounds played out. The Cult, in their invocations to hippie philosophy and arm whirling guitar heroics, made no claims to originality, and "Peace Dog" sounds just as good as ever. I was most worried about Guns N Roses. I'm sure I listened to Appetite every day for over a year, and I'm just as sure I made sophomoric claims like 'Axl Rose is a poet of the streets.' They became huge of course; Axl spouted nonsense on stage and the band produced some bloated music. But for a moment they towered above the abject LA metal scene--the riffs were tight, funky even, the attitude sharp and exactly right. And it turns out I still love the record--I've listened to it every day since I bought it.

Next, the mainstream smash Spider-Man II. We are, of course, living in the golden age of the super-hero movie. Many factors of brought this about, including the emergence of CG effects (which are fine in this movie, though I'm generally unimpressed), the rise of the geek as a culture hero (including the entrance of the comics fan into the film industry), and the content wars (I mean, what intellectual property isn't being turned into a movie?). But most important of all is the fact that Marvel Comics, the one-time "House of Ideas," finally figured out how to market their characters to the film industry. I mean, Batman's cool and all, but most DC comics characters are hold-overs from the WWII era. The nice thing about Marvel movies is that they import the basic mythos of the characters from the comics. The savvy viewer can have a deeper experience by meditating on the relationship between the film and the canonical comics, while the uninitiated viewer can just have a good time. The question of identity is central to most super-heroes, none more than Spidey (one long(ish) running title was actually "Peter Parker, the Spectacular Spider-Man"). It's carried over into the movies in his loss of powers, his repeated maskless appearance, and the relationship between not Peter but Spidey and the ever-dewy Mary Jane. Hopefully, I do another summer movie round up in a few weeks.

Finally: a blooper to left.* A few weeks ago I blurbed Gilbert Sorrentino's collected stories. It was fairly weak I know, and I think I referred to his "craft." I'm pretty embarrassed about this, seeing as how GS savages "fine writing" usually associated with that term (I just meant I liked the way he wrote sentences). In his great novel, Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things he proudly renders his characters as cardboard cutouts (from some Art World comic book maybe), saying at one point something like: 'If you want to know what kind of bag she carried ask John O'Hara.' IQAT (heh) far outpaces the short fiction and deserves to be read, not talked about in trite reviewer short hand.

*Hey, look at me dept: Notice, dear reader, the witty structure I've created. As a left-handed batter (an affectation I've abandoned actually) I 'pull' into the conservative, regressive 'field' of hard rock. The "mainstream smash" naturally resides in center, and my flair to left is a defensive swing to the off field. I'm so tickled with myself that I must be done. Till next time.

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