If Rolling Stone aspired (after somewhat “underground” beginnings) to be the Rolls Royce of rock magazines, CREEM was by contrast the Volkwagen band-van: pungent with reefer, speed sweat, and last night’s groupie action. The hubris that had it self-dubbed “America’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine” was strictly of a working-class, sex-drugs-and-you-know-what variety that ridiculed all…

via SXSW Film Review: ‘Boy Howdy! The Story of CREEM Magazine’ — Variety

If you’re going to be Rock n’ Roll, be obnoxious about it or go home.

My Pynchon Problem

A recent viewing of the film Inherent Vice led me to try to finish The Crying of Lot 49, which I abandoned out of frustration some time ago. I’ve made a small amount of headway, but am bored again.

Action is not being built. The plot is not going anywhere. The woman with the ridiculous name is having conversations with other people with ridiculous names about random nonsense that’s supposed to be relevatory but is entirely unconnected with what she’s ostensibly doing. I struggle to care.

It’s baffling to me that I can be so close to the end of a book this short and feel no desire to continue. This seems to be a problem I have with literature from this era. The Beats, Burroughs, Joyce, Waiting for Godot, it all seems so enamored of itself for frustrating readers as to form a kind of anti-literature. It’s less like reading a book than joining a Hermetic cult.

Call it the need for status, for differentiation from the semi-literate masses, but the need to set up a hyper-literacy, from the New Criticism on down, strikes me as largely self-defeating. No wonder all our cultural battles are fought over popcorn movies.

Sri Lankan Author Finds Himself on Nebula Ballot, Completely Baffled By American Political Discourse

Book Awards are becoming increasingly ridiculous, an extension of Twitter rhetorical battlefields with some side-talk about literature.

You should read it in full, as it nicely encapsulates the descent into madness that has resulted from the beachhead politics has made into fandom and entertainment. But this in particular amused me:

I’ve tried understanding American politics before, and it’s a bizarre mutation. Their conservatives are, like ours, highly religious, but they also champion freedom of speech, like our liberals, and they want a minarchist state, preferring to let market economies work. Their liberals are, like ours, pro-equality, but unlike ours they seem to disfavor freedom of speech and prefer heavier government structures. This is interesting, because this markets bit at least comes from the economist Hayek, who championed free markets at all cost. Hayek’s views were considered liberal in his day and would be considered a liberal pretty much anywhere else; it was Keynes who was the conservative.

This is like driving on the left side. They take something normal and do it the other way around.

Well played, sir.

When Everything in the Machine is a Crisis, The Crisis is What Feeds the Machine

James Lileks finally found a way to inculcate his classic Screeds into his regular blog, calling it the Wednesday Review of Modern Thought. This past Wednesday, he groused about the overuse of “crisis”:

One of the manifestations of twitchy, sullen, self-righteous miserabilism is the desire to see every problem as a crisis, and every crisis as a justification for the expansion of the state, or the abandoned of old norms.

This is, of course, correct. Fear creates the longing for security, for Direct Action. So, as the old-school Commies knew, the Worse, The Better. And of course, having infected the Fears, as “ethical” stumbling blocks to performing an activity, we then use these to declare that the Poor Little Dears can’t possibly act on their own. We’ve all become the nerdy black guy from The Good Place who can’t choose a hat.

If you can’t make a meal because you’re paralyzed by whether the beans were ethically sourced, and you feel like you’re failing your kid because you let him have a hot dog, you’re probably unhappy about everything in the gott-damned world.

The answer for the food crisis includes nationalized day care and government-run health care, if you’re curious. That’s for starters.

We have problems. Not every problem is a crisis. You need to reserve words for other things.

That would be wise. But they won’t. Because the overuse of the word “crisis” by ethical scamsmen has inculcated us to its use. We see it on the Internet all the time, and like that stupid Grammarly app that keeps emitting itself in my YouTube and Hulu, we have allowed the Machine to tell us how to write.

“Crisis” isn’t even a word anymore, it’s just a meme. Or rather, a program:

  1. Notice unpleasant reality
  2. Declare Unpleasant Reality a Crisis
  3. Make Pious Noise About the Hardship of Dealing With the Crisis
  4. Demand that Big Daddy make all better
  5. Share, Like, and Smash that Subscribe Button
  6. Boom goes the Click Rate

Meanwhile, I go home and make Macaroni and Cheese for my kids. Because I’ve been voting Republican since I was 20; I’m already a monster.

Movies Have To Be Seen in a Movie Theater, Because Something Something Nostalgia Something Something

Owen Glieberman, pondering in Variety, avoiding the point like it carries Bubonic Plague.

And that’s why, more than not, I’m with Steven Spielberg on his likely proposed change to the Academy guidelines. He is not dissing what Netflix does. He is trying to isolate and hang onto the DNA of cinema — to preserve an essential definition of what movies are, as distinct from what we watch on television. The notion of an extended theatrical window, or something comparable to it, would be the updated version of the old requirement that a movie had to fulfill to be nominated for Oscars: the one-week qualifying run. That was before streaming, but it’s only natural that just as technology changes habits, it changes protocol and it changes rules. It’s the one-week qualifying run that’s become a relic, a trivial hoop that Netflix (or anyone else) can jump through.

But…

Why, though?

Consider film as a form of art. Consider the things that make a film a film. Ask yourself why a film ceases to be a film based on the location of it’s viewing audience. What is so essential about the public movie theater?

If I’m watching Citizen Kane in a theater, I am watching a movie. If I’m watching Citizen Kane on Blu-Ray in my house, I am still watching a movie. If I’m watching it on my tablet streaming from Amazon Prime, I am still watching a movie.

Are we prepared to argue that the only reason I can say “I am watching a movie” is the fact that, thirty-five years before I was born, it was shown in the only venue that was available to the viewing public at the time?

That’s absurd. A requirement that movies be shown in theaters is absurd. It’s not just that theaters are unnecessary; they’re actually sub-optimal. The expense and aggravation of seeing a movie in a theater is no longer worth the minor technical quality of the viewing experience, in an era when wide-screen TV’s and home audio technology is within most people’s grasp. There is no downside to watching Mad Max: Fury Road in my basement, with my own snacks.

The communal experience, you say? If I really want that, I can invite people to my basement. Movie Theaters have nothing to offer but nostalgia, a habit of thinking “this is what a movie is”.

A long-form cinema narrative can be shown on any device. This rear-guard action will not hold.

John C. Wright Brings Rousseau and Virgil into Conan

Robert E. Howard was, I am coming to understand, a master of his craft.

What is the difference between a real savage and a noble savage? Let us look into the iron shadows of the moonlight for an answer.

This story is well suited to the question, for it just so happens to have a lovely, half-clad and large-eyed  brunette in distress; a highly civilized oriental aristocrat bent on her dishonor; a rough and semi-civilized pirate chief who hates Conan with hot passion (and wants him hanged on a hook); eldritch monuments from a forgotten civilization, haunted perhaps with the ghosts of an accursed peoples; and an apelike monstrosity equally likely to originate from the darkness of prehistory as the darkness of the netherworld.

In other words, we have one antagonist from each season of the rise and fall of cultures from primitive to civilized to decadent to dark ages and back to prehistory again.

As they say, Read the Whole Thing. And I have further contrasts of Conan with more modern fiction here, if you’re into that sort of thing.