I'm not going to beat around the bush on this one, kids. I'm just going to tell you outright that Nine Inch Nails auteur Trent Reznor has a permanent place in this girl's heart.
There was a time, some 10 years ago, when I was seriously on pins and needles as to what might next emerge from Reznor's New Orleans funeral home batcave; a time when I was filled with the kind of worry and apprehension that he would falter that accompanies an emotional investment in an artist's output which could be considered a little obsessive. (Go ahead, Matt. Laugh it up.) Could Reznor match the genius of The Downward Spiral in future work? I was HANGING on the answer to that question, as if all my hopes for the transcendency of mankind hinged on it. People, I was a big fan of Nine Inch Nails.
At the time, I was up to my neck in politicized postmodern and feminist aesthetic theories, and also, experiencing a full-on existential crisis (a story for another day). Suffice it to say that The Downward Spiral was my #1 soundtrack for awhile, and Trent Reznor was my favorite kinky, rubberized angel. I was riveted by the astounding effectiveness of his feral animal schtick, and the way his work was obssessed with objectivity and control, all the while distancing his squeamish narrative "i" from the archetypal powers of his Ultimate Object (all you out there who've ever read any postmodern feminist theory will know the object of which I speak). I was rapt at the way he framed his broken-hearted wretchedness and masochistic sexual stylings in so much raw competence and aggression as to manufacture a positively riveting relationship between himself and his audience, because as much as his literal and figurative sense rejected The Object and it's Powers, he was so clearly and impressively the master of them that his performances were a veritable exercize in penetration. I positively adored the way that heady mixture of over-intended, pure, dominating egotism, and totally Julia Kristeva Powers of Horror-worthy abjection and shame fueled Reznor's stage persona, producing slavish armies of sweaty little dominatrixes and boys in fishnets and eyeliner, feeling all naughty and conflicted, except in their desire to make sweet love to their cornstarch-coated rock and roll fetish doll; a reaction which rightfully intensified Reznor's reasons for nuclear weapons grade angst. Good shit, people.
That last paragraph sounded good (and hilarious) to me while I was writing it, give or take a run-on sentence or two, but it throws into laughable relief my disingenuous desire to make it seem as if all my reasons for obsession with the Prince of Darkness were aesthetically scientific and held at a safe intellectual distance. In fact, I was powerless against his pale, waxen beauty in photographs, and undone by his soft-spoken intelligence in interviews. I had nothing but admiration for his complete mastery of the pregnant heavy metal pause, and the way he geekily tinkered away on works of metal madness that featured 75 separate guitar parts on one song, very likely in a darkened basement with his computer. Most importantly, I enviously loved his ability to express his full-throttle rage at volumes that actually made it seem hotter in the venue, and the way he seriously looked like if he didn't bring it down a couple notches, someone was going to put an eye out. Personally, I've never felt free to break that kind of shit out, but god knows I'd like to. I saw the Nine Inch Nails show a few times back then, and all I'm saying is that I loved the way the molten intensity of the sheer volume seemed to liquify my very bones while I breathed in the violence and raged vicariously through Trent Reznor. Also, sweet jesus, was he ever 5 foot 6 inches of pure dirty. Have I mentioned how much I loved that guy?
Since then, I have to admit that I've found it hard to follow along with Mr. Reznor in that level of continued total hysteria. It seems to me that one cannot rage full-on for all of one's adult life on the same tired old topics. When his last full-length effort seemed to have moments of being disappointingly free of interesting process(*), and his self-presentation started including big muscles and an orangey sort of tan, I moved on to some other angst-peddlers that seemed more in keeping with the tone of my changing times (cough, RADIOHEAD, cough). Still, the other day, when I purchased a ticket to see Keanu Reeves rock some very fetching trousers in Constantine, I was intrigued to be handed, along with my ticket, a glossy little card with the telltale letters "NIN" on it, with a record release date on the other side, and my dormant affection for The Rez flared up enough for me to write this blog post.
Apparently, it's called With Teeth, and oh man, how I hope it's a good one. I must say, though, that Reznor's recent assessment of his latest line-up's preparations to hit the road that ends with the statement "We are preparing to destroy you," doesn't really do much to buoy my hopes for some reason. Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, and residual admiration dictates that he will have however long it takes of my undivided attention to give this latest effort its proverbial day in court.
I'm a little nervous, but I'm game. Bring on the cornstarch.
(*That needed some qualification. It's below, in the comments.)
Is it me, people, or is the Oscar crop especially lame this year? In my humble opinion (ha!), the nominees fall into three categories (as always): The "Good," the "Eh, whatever," and finally, the "Jesus H. Christ, are you KIDDING?!" category.
And the nominees are:
Hotel Rwanda: Don Cheadle and Sophie Okenedo, who plays his wife, hold this film together with plenty of dignity, in much the same way the man he's portraying held the hotel together in Rwanda, and it's mostly the controlled passion of those performances that saves the film from the kind of horrible indulgence that can make using this kind of real pain and tragedy to sell movie tickets so skeevy (think Philadelphia and Schindler's List). Joaquin Phoenix is also a stand out in a small role of a western journalist, shocked and shamed by what he's seen; it's a cliche, but he makes it fly - something about the wet clarity of his eyes, combined with the dull slackness in his face when he realizes how complicit his cultural apathy really is (and I think I should probably just admit right now that I love Joaquin Phoenix). As strong as the acting is in this film, though, the best thing about Hotel Rwanda is how artless it is when it comes to making its point, which is that the west did nothing intervene in Rwanda because essentially, we don't care what happens to darkie. That's a good point, because while Bill Clinton was using American troops to stop the genocide in Serbia, his functionaries weren't even allowed to use that word in connection with the machete-fest in Rwanda. Bob Dole told journalists that we had no national interest there, so once the Americans were out, the Rwandans could fend for themselves. Millions of horrific deaths followed, and disgusting hypocrisy abounds in the international policy of this country. Hotel Rwanda makes no bones about it's mission: it's out to shame us for our collective apathy, and it succeeds without resorting to Spielbergian melodrama. I felt sick, but I was glad I saw it.
Finding Neverland: I loved this movie. The scene at the end, when little Peter (who was amazing throughout the film) comes to apologize to Johnny Depp's J.M. Barrie on his park bench, totally cracked me. The gentle attentiveness that informs every single aspect of Depp's posture in that scene, his expression, the clear and full orientation of emotion in empathy with the boy, all of which is achieved in stillness and silence, and with absolute naturalism is just one of the things that is so bewilderingly great about his acting. I cried for the last 20 minutes of this film both times I saw it, and even though that whole message of the power of the imagination is a teensy bit tired, it still has its pull, and I still loved it. Plus, there is no more beautiful actress in movies than Kate Winslett, and she was wonderful, too.
Million Dollar Baby: Yeah, it's a quality piece of work. Yeah, Morgan Freeman is brilliant, and I yeah, I saw the tears dripping down Dirty Harry's nose; but honestly, I never cared much about these characters. For one thing, (and I know this makes me a bad feminist, but still...) GIRL BOXING? Without delving too deeply into that, I'll just say that I feel like this movie was suspiciously close to being a more macho version of Steel Magnolias: it only exists to make you cry. I can't say it was a BAD movie, but I didn't cry.
The Aviator: On the whole, I think Martin Scorsese's films blow. Yes, even the ones it's a sin against the very notion of "cinema" to abhorr fail to impress their alleged genius on me. Suffice it to say that I am no fan of the director's much vaunted oeuvre (Matt, every time I use that word I am laughing, and thinking of you, baby). Also, Leonardo DiCaprio. What the hell? He was good as the retarded brother of Gilbert Grape, but since then, he's grown up to be some kind of icky man-child, and there's something heinous and yes, REVOLTING, about his inexplicable sex-symbol status and role as a leading man. I am stumped, people. STUMPED! Having said all that, The Aviator was much less horrible than I thought it would be, and DiCaprio was strangely moving as Howard Hughes, slowly descending into madness. In the end, I had to ask myself, as usual, if Martin Scorsese has ANYTHING TO SAY about ANYTHING, and also, as usual, the answer was a resounding NO; but at least I was entertained, which is more than I can say for his last several outings.
Ray: Haven't seen it, but despite my great respect for Ray Charles, and the full faith I have in Jamie Foxx's ability to knock one out of the park on this one, the whole prospect of watching it strikes me as deeply boring. Maybe I'm just in a bitchy mood. I'll watch it, and if I have to eat crow, I will, but a big part of me hopes that the impulse to give all the awards to the dead, blind guy have already been exhausted by the Grammy's, because Green Day was ROBBED.
Jesus H. Christ, are you KIDDING?!
Sideways: I didn't only hate this movie, I F*CKING HATED IT. I thought this film, despite fine performances from all the actors, was cheap, badly written and freaking LAME. The deep, existential conversation about wine made me feel like making the internationally recognized meat beating hand gesture; and I never felt even one moment of sympathy for the two flabby, sad-sack, loser protagonists. I mean, REALLY! Are we supposed to have even a shred left for Thomas Haden Church's character at the end? After he tells us he likes screwing fat girls because they're so grateful? "Meh! I love my fiance! MEH!" Bullshit! And, is Virginia Madsen's beautiful Napa Valley divorcee really so lucky to land a basket case the likes of Paul Giamatti's character? Jesus. The fact that guys like these EVER get laid is a testament to the incredible generosity of women. The fact that we're asked to believe that those two losers head on up to Napa and land total Hollywood hottie girls, followed by the inexplicable wallet retrieval scene that plays the fat waitress and her boyfriend for laughs gives the lie to any effort the film is making at "realism" and just puts the cherry on top of what a truly dumb film it is. THIS is the film everyone's so rapturously in love with? I understand that Alexander Payne lives up my street, and I'm tempted to spell "HATED IT" in dog poo on his lawn.
My latest project is emptying out every single nook and cranny of my office. I have a lot of getting-rid-of to do around here. As can often be the case in the midst of such a project, I found something good while I was at it. There was a time in our young lives when my brother left our home in Massachusetts to spend some time living with my father and his wife in Northern California. While he was there, he sent the following letter to my sister and me:
Jaime - Okay, slime queen, what'll it be, sulfuric acid with human hair? Gin and tonic? Rum and coke? What? I'll bet you don't know what I'm gonna bring back for you. Yeah, that's right, an actual hunk of surfboard. Wanna do lunch? I do. Well, I'm certainly not going to shake your pepper or crush your ice, and I'm certainly not going to pee on your burger, honey, cause I'll be wearin' pin stripes. Save your dough, honey, cause when I get back, let's you and me go to Boston together for a day. Yes? Groovy. I love you. Make Jess, Nance and everybody (including you), write to me.
Sarah - Well, suckertage, how's it goin', hostess ho-ho? Bless your little whipped-cream heart, sugar-coated banana boat with rainbow sprinkles! Oh, don't get offended, honey, I'm just jerkin' your chain. Jerk, jerk. My god! Sarah! I have enough facial hair to grow a beard and a moustache now! Wow! I'll grow a beard! Yeah! NO! Never! I love you!!! You little brat.
While I'm publishing letters, here's the text of a junk e-mail I received from Mr. (Ms.?) Cauterizing C. Tinfoil:
He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat. Cowards die a thousand deaths. The valiant taste of death but once. Life -- how curious is that habit that makes us think it is not here, but elsewhere. Disease is a vital expression of the human organism. Life loves the liver of it. Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is in our own power. He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead his eyes are closed. To educate the intelligence is to expand the horizon of its wants and desires. It is an old psychological axiom that constant exposure to the object of fear immunizes against the fear. A loving heart is the truest wisdom. You can't comfort the afflicted with afflicting the comfortable. Advertising is the genie which is transforming America into a place of comfort, luxury and ease for millions. In life, as in chess, forethought wins. Sons have always a rebellious wish to be disillusioned by that which charmed their fathers. Example is the school of mankind, and they will learn at no other Hope is the best possession. None are completely wretched but those who are without hope. Few are reduced so low as that. Not all of us have to possess earthshaking talent. Just common sense and love will do. Cards were at first for benefits designed, sent to amuse, not to enslave the mind.
People, I just want to tell you that if you aren't listening to The Mountain Goats RIGHT THIS INSTANT, then you are nuts, because there's nothing better.
As for me, I was lucky enough to attend a Performance of Special Magnificence Thursday night at a Silverlake nightclub, along with espresso slingin' Michelle, Tara, who I hope took way better pictures than I did, and Mr. RCJohnso, who offered up some engineering help for the time when I record my reverent cover of The Island Garden Song. Watch for that, people, because maybe, one day, it will happen.
Now, I say that it was a Performance of Special Magnificence, and I mean that in the gooiest way possible, and without a single shred of ironic detachment: a truly gorgeous performance of the kind of excellent work that fills your heart up with something it needed, just like it always is whenever I've had the gigantic pleasure of seeing John Darnielle play guitar and sing his songs. I wish I could write about him with as much astute wit and charm as he does about all manner of other musical acts; but the thing is, I'm enjoying the way The Mountain Goats show just leaves me smiling so hard my cheeks ache, with nothing much to say except that it made me so happy, and like always, reminds me what glorious creatures human beings are. That's without even mentioning the special genuis of warmer-uppers Radiation4, from DIAMOND BAR, California, who ROCKED ASS. Nice work, all around.
MAN was I lucky to see that. I recommend that ALL OF YOU get on the bandwagon, here. You won't be sorry.
As a special bonus, here's a picture of my Dad and his wife, Susan, proving conclusively that even unemployed, trailer trash Republicans (did you like that one, Dad?) make goofy faces if you really press them for it. Again, to avoid the wrath of Zak, I do want you all to know that Susan was photographed by my brother:
Many thanks to those two for a swell visit, and for being such good sports as to endure our silly party games.
While we're at it, here are some photos of my soon-to-be sister-in-law, MINDY. In the first picture, she's smiling pretty, but in the second, she's saying "Bitch, I KNOW you didn't just call me MINDY again!"
I want you all to know that MINDY pulled my hair last night, and threatened to scratch my eyes out, and all I'm saying is that's no way for a yogic princess to behave. Finally, NICE CATBOX, BITCH!
I also have some cute dogs for all y'all to enjoy. This is Mac and Daisy. They're trailer trash, too.