Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Post-Childhood Fads

Been seeing a lot of talk about Where the Wild Things Are. Not the book, mind you, but the "live-action" movie. Apparently, the hype is that this film is gonna rock your socks off - and then rock them right back on. I say, all of you who've been posting about your excitement for this movie are posers.

Seriously, if not for the constant stream of Hipster subversion of unusual cultural icons that somehow increase their own "relevancy" and "originality", not a lot of people would be psyched for this movie. If not for the Urban Outfitter shirts, and random Art School mimicry, the only ones who'd see this movie would be pre-tweens and their parents, who bought the tickets. Sure, a few nostalgic people would add to the motley audience, but on the whole it'd be teh kinderlach.

If there is one thing I hate - like really hate - it's when someone pretends to like something from "back in the day" just because it's suddenly become popular/profitable/mainstream. What do you know about children's literature? Had you ever heard of Maurice Sendak before Spike Jonze dropped [his] name in the credits? Did any of ya'll even read the book?

Next you'll try and convince me you also read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. What about The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie... ? Hell, do ya'll even remember Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, by Judith Voist? (Coincidentally, also now being made into a major-motion picture!)

[Insert Sarcasm]

My point is, that everyone seems to get so excited about things just because they think they should, like they realized just when you said that that it's cool, or something. In reality, most people won't enjoy the movie, but still go see it.

I, however, will not, because I think Where the Wild Things Are isn't literature but cartoon-art with a few captions. The whole book only has ten lines! (Sorry, but it does.)

Now, don't bite my metaphorical head off just yet. I liked the book; I just don't like it as a movie. To date, the only good movie adaptations of books - in my obviously superior opinion - are Lord of the Rings and Fight Club. Turning this story into a shoddy movie will not only ruin the whole point of READING the book in the first place, but it will also stop most people from interpreting the story in any other way from the movie, ever. (Okay, maybe the latter is worst-case-scenario.)

I'm just saying. I'm just saying I hate the lemmings of our generation latching onto facets of pop culture whose relevancy was at its high point way back in the day, when they couldn't give two-squirts out of their diarrhea leaking assholes about it. It's some mutant version of coolness, subverting the past and pretending it's present. They act like they always liked the things they like.

Well they sure as shit did not. So step off my kid-lit before I smack you in the face with an Elmo doll.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


It's a tale as old as time. The conflict between two equally awesome things. From spear versus shield to Mario versus Sonic to Pepsi versus Coke, the great rivalries never die, they only grow stronger with time.

But out of all the grudge-matches in the world, this one, is the awesomest.

The battle shall never be decided. The score shall never settle. Contention is the only constant, and so it will ever be.

(P.S. I choose ninja)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Covers and Remixes

What do ya'll think of it when an artist does a cover of a song by another artist? Or what about a remix? Does it sometimes make the song better? Does it give you a new appreciation for the original version? Or is it just lame artistic imitation? What's your opinion?

Nowadays some of my favorite songs are covers of much-much older songs, like Battle Hymn of the Republic, and The Midnight Special. But I've also got modern covers that I like A LOT better than the originals. I'm talking about Iron & Wine's cover of "Such Great Heights", and The Shins' cover of "We Will Become Silhouettes". (Coincidentally both are songs by The Postal Service... which says a lot about what I think of their music.) One band, Nouvelle Vague, ONLY does covers, but unlike other cover-bands they cover multiple artists. They have a great version of Human Fly, by The Cramps.

***Side-note: an interesting trend I've noticed is that lots of "indie" bands have been doing covers of each others' songs, like Grizzly Bear to Born Ruffians, or Kaiser Chiefs to The Cribs.***

When I listen to a cover right after its original, the dualities and differences give me a greater appreciation for the musical effort that went into BOTH songs, which in turn fuels my enjoyment of the music. I notice things I didn't before, and really listen to the things I simply "heard". Is this too intellectual for music? Maybe... but then again, maybe I just have higher standards than your average iPod user.

Then you've got remixes, which is essentially the same basic song. Sure, it's got different back beats, some psychedelic electronic effects, and maybe changes the verses or choruses, but all of that is pure mixing/mastering, not actual song writing or recording. There's no group of musicians going into a studio laying down an entirely new track. Instead they rip apart the original and super-glue their own elements to it.

When it comes to music, I tend to be a purist: originals are better than covers, and covers are better than remixes, and remixes suck.

(And that is something that has been bothering me lately. It seems that there's a lot of remixing going on lately. People take a song and then change it through electronic manipulation to make it more dancey, or more popy, or psychedelic, or whatever, and then call themselves musicians. In fact, that goes for anyone who uses a laptop instead of guitar, who uses a looping program instead of chord changes, who need dumbed-down songs because their taste in music sucks. They are nothing more than glorified programmers.)

On the other hand - besides different fingers - there are some covers which piss me off in an almost religious sense. Take, Hey There Delilah, by the Plain White T's. Okay, I'm not a fan of their music, but it's still a great song that has obviously been overplayed. And since it tsunami'ed the airwaves, a plethora of half-assed covers have been done by artists like The Hit Crew and Empty Suits. (The latter tried to put a reggae rhythm on it... and failed, miserably.)

Or, for instance, take the remixes of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' song, Y Control, which has been remixed like a bitch, and even has its own single on iTunes for some of the more popular ones. They attempt to change and improve the song, not realizing that the song is already basically perfect. The same goes for Peter Rauhofer's remix of Beautiful, by Christina Aguilera, and the South Rakkas Crew doing Black Tambourine, by Beck. They screwed up the songs! Totally kills it for me.

But judging from the wide-spread popularity and acceptance of the form, remixes are likely here to stay. I just hope they can develop into a truly respectable format, instead of succumbing to destructive and cheap imitation.

Anyhoo... Some of the most popular songs ever have been covers of someone else's original. (I'm looking at you Elvis Presley.) From The Byrds to The Beach Boys, popular bands have been fueled by the creativity of others. Which makes sense artistically; inspiration can often come only from the work of someone else.

In jazz music, this is a mainstay of the genre. Most bands will play "standards" (i.e. songs that most musicians know and that people like, which are easily recognizable) but then change it COMPLETELY. I've heard versions of Now's The Time, by Charlie Parker, that sound like an ENTIRELY new song rather than a cover. I call these reversions.

But what does it mean when even some of the most talented musicians can only recycle old glories? Is songwriting - instrumental or otherwise - a waste of time? Through the slow progression of time, the accumulation of art has seemed to overwhelm us so that every story, every chord change, every brush stroke has been done before. Is it impossible to be truly original anymore? Was it ever?

Will we one day need to tear down the monuments just to build new buildings?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Deconstructing Cartoons: Eastern versus Western

It all comes down to one thing: do you like Looney Tunes, or do you like Gundam? Would you rather watch a Ralph Bakshi film, or a Miyazaki one? Is your favorite cartoon character Arnold Shortman or Spike Speigel?

It's Superman versus Goku.

Lately it seems that Japanese anime has taken over the cartoon world. All the best cartoon shows I can list post-Nickelodeon circa 1992-1997 (the "Golden Age" of American animation) are either pure Japanese anime imports, or bald-faced imitations. I mean, kids nowadays know more about Pokemon than they do about Bugs Bunny!

Take Adult Swim from Cartoon Network for example. All of their cartoon programs, with the notable exception of The Boondocks, are anime. (Toms goes to Mayor, Robot Chicken, and Space Ghost don't count, as they aren't pure cartoons, though they are animated.) They showed YuYu Hakusho, Outlaw Star, Inuyasha, and Big O, but not anything by Chuck Jones or Hanna-Barbera.

Anime is basically a category killer. Like those plastic chairs at Walmart. They're so cheap, easy to make, and popular, that nothing else can compete.

I want to see a renaissance of Western cartoon animation. I want to see Kids Next Door meets Ren & Stimpy meets Daria meets Doug meets Heavy Metal. Let's bring back the good old days of Yogi Bear and Rugrats. I'm sick of impossibly big-eyed, big-breasted heroines and all those "fan service" moments. I'm sick of Digimon and One Piece and Yu-Gi-Oh. I'm tired of hearing about the next episode of Bleach or Naruto or Fullmetal Alchemist.

I want a new Walt Disney to take over the world and give us the next Mickey Mouse who'll take his badass guns and blow those fuckers and their randomly colored hair to the drawing room floor.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Popular abstract concepts

What is cuteness? How do you define it? Where does it come from? And when the fuck does it go away?

Exhibit A:

Note the diagram's illustrations using a classic example I like to call, "Disney kewt". The posture, the expression - the chubby cheeks - the basically exaggerated features. "Cuteness" is distinguished by its deviation from the normal physiological mode.

Essentially, cuteness is disfigurement.

That is why we think the nigh-microscopic sized purse-dogs are "SOOO KEUT!" Because they're so pathetic that they have to wear doggy-clothes so as not to freeze to death, and can't even go to the bathroom properly. Kewt is when we look at something and say, "awww...!" (As I'm sure all the ladies reading this blog are doing right now.)

Cuteness comes from looking like an impossibility that actually happened. Something so grotesque seeming that we just want to push it to our chests and squeeze the life right out of it, all the while calling this a "hug". Even babies, whose heads are cone-shaped upon first entering the world, wailing like La Llorona and dripping from after-brith, are considered ADORABLE.

I'm sorry, is that really cute? Or is it just biological nonsense? Why do we glorify these particular oddities while condemning others. What makes this:

so goddamned KEUWT, and not this:


I mean, they're both fucked up. The cat doesn't even have a tail! But these precocious twins from the Ozarks are ugly, even though they've got wonderful Dumbo ears, while the kitten will make most people's heads explode in a cute-factor overload. It must have something to do with our early enculturation via Bambi, Carebears, and My Little Pony. We've been brought up to think that only weird-looking shit is cute. Fucking western society...

Here's a website, dedicated to the presentation and study of all things cute. I check it semi-regularly and it provides me with endless amounts of lil' baby kittens, fat-faced hamsters, and other deliciously cute things that you just wanna EAT UP.

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Get at it, boyos.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Emerging literary sub-genres

Okay, so after indulging myself in a few melancholic postings, I'm pleased to bring you back to our regularly scheduled blogcast of interesting oddities from the depths of Saboteur Academia's juxtaposition division.

I bring you: Chauvinistic Literature!

Not only did this book inspire a video that has coursed through the YouTube zeitgeist like grease through arteries, clogged with dangerous ideas like maybe militant feminism is WRONG, porn-style sex is FUN, video-games are AWESOME, and that men might actually be JUSTIFIED for their misogyny. The main character is the prototypical "dude" who has sex more than most porn-stars, treats women as objects, makes the gym into his holy church, and generally blows through life like a chihuahua on steroids with a painful erection and a hot-poker up its ass.

Men are Better than Women is as obvious as its title. Dick Masterson is an author true to his namesake as he writes the new male handbook on female fuck-ups and idiocy. The logic drips with pure mantastic manliness like bloody red meat. You'll laugh at the ridiculous premise only to find yourself nodding with his conclusions! If you've ever wondered why women can't park, lose shit all the time, have eating disorders, get drunk to hook up with random guys, and generally suck at life, then get a copy and feel the light of revelation. This book explains the impossibly true statement of, "Women, fucking up the unfuckupable since the Garden of Eden."

After slaying the fat whores, manginas, and pseudo-intellectuals of the world, Tucker Max restores the Asshole to his proper place as the big dick on the playground. It's huge, it's hairy, and it's gonna smack you in the face so get used to it. This next collection of gonzo-stories will probably be another round of drunken debauchery that makes National Lampoon's Animal House look like a middle-school dance where nobody even knew to spike the punch. Unfortunately, the release date for this book is still being pushed back, so don't sit there waiting for it with your dick in hand.

These books are subversive. They make bold claims as hilarious as they are offensive (which is why they're hilarious in the first place) that test the limits of tolerance and prejudice. Sure, we like to think we've come a long way in gender relations, and that we're all basically equal, but honestly, if you believe that then I've got a Ferrari here to sell you... painted on the side of a sack of bullshit!

Chauvinist literature pushes back at Feminism, unshaved armpits, bra-burning, and the cracks in the Glass Ceiling. It is scathing and unrepentant. It is the TRUE equality because it treats women exactly the same, without regard for feelings or mercy.

Read at your own pleasure, leisure, and risk.