Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Book Selection: "The Great Rock ’N’ Roll Swindle" by Michael Moorcock (Who Is Not Exactly a Proponent of "Conservatism for Punks")

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Todd Seavey.com Book Selection of the Month (June 2009): The Great Rock ’N’ Roll Swindle, or Gold Diggers of ’77 by Michael Moorcock (and judging by the prices for used copies on Amazon, perhaps I should sell mine — OR BURN IT!)

Like me, British “New Wave” science fiction author Michael Moorcock enjoys juxtaposing several related texts or ideas — unlike me, he doesn’t waste any time concocting segues. So today, neither will I:

•Julien Temple made a documentary about the Sex Pistols — two actually, the more recent one being The Filth and the Fury and the far earlier one being The Great Rock ’N’ Roll Swindle, for which Moorcock, oddly enough, wrote the official companion book in novel form, depicting his already-existing sci-fi mod/punk character Jerry Cornelius (not to mention Cornelius’s evil brother Frank and other associates) interacting with the Sex Pistols. The Pistols are depicted as despising their manager and record label, something you don’t normally see in official companion books.

Thanks to time travel and various ghostly apparitions (and wiseman Lemmy from Motorhead), London and reality itself unravel, with the Pistols repeating their Queen’s Jubilee boat performance but this time with actual accompanying aerial assault and widespread bloodshed. That Moorcock makes all this seem sexy and right and does so with an amoral smirk shows he’s an anarchist in a much broader sense than I am — and that he was a big influence on comics writer Grant Morrison, as I’ve noted before.

(And from there, if I were doing segues today, how easily we’d glide from Morrison to the comic Godland and its use of the chant “IBOGA” and thus to Morrison-lookalike Hunter S. Thompson’s groundless claims about drug use during the Muskey campaign, but we don’t have time for that or for an analysis of the prince in Hellboy 2, so do your own research for a change.)

•Moorcock himself would probably look with great suspicion upon my philosophy of “conservatism for punks” — but I have always found his godson, who is really named Elric and unlike his namesake character is a swarthy Brazilian and a friend of Reid Mihalko (rather than an albino swordsman), very pleasant, and Elric informed me of this new, definitive collection of Moorcock’s best short stories — the Best of Michael Moorcock, just out last month, so check that out, too.

•Was it Moorcock, the ungrateful bastard, who likened the works of J.R.R. Tolkien to Winnie the Pooh because of their conservatism and warmth? (Has he really watched the suicidally-dark Winnie the Pooh: A Day for Eeyore, as Helen and I have been planning to do, maybe along with the director’s cut DVD of Surf Nazis Must Die, which I just realized I have in my three-disc collection of hardcore punk songs Amp Records Has a Hard-On for Tromaville.com, which I’m listening to as I write this?) Regardless, I have to be grateful to him for creating a sci-fi/punk cultural crossroads that reminds me a bit of his fellow cut-up, William S. Burroughs, unbeknownst to most folks, writing the original, utterly unfilmable, vastly complex and cityscape-focused treatment for the movie Blade Runner, based at that phase of the project not on Philip K. Dick, kindred spirits though Burroughs and Dick might seem, but on the novel Blade Runner about black market doctors written by Alan Nourse. They kept the city, ditched the whole plot, inserted Dick — and, like much Moorcock, laid the foundations of cyberpunk while they were at it.

(These weird geek culture intersections are like a hipper version of that time the Avengers were on Letterman in one issue of their comic book in the 80s and he rescued them with his giant doorknob, a recurring prop on Letterman broadcasts back then, which made its final, climactic appearance in a bit that explained the need for the giant doorknob by unveiling the terror of the even larger, albeit more crudely made, Soviet doorknob.)

•Speaking of anarchist metropolises (damn — segue), while making an honest but failed effort the other day to locate a copy of The Case for Big Government (which I’ve promised the author I’ll read) at the disturbingly empty and doomed-looking local Barnes & Noble just before, to my relief, it moved two blocks west and got larger, I instead spotted something I thought Helen might like and so picked up Kat Long’s The Forbidden Apple: A Century of Sex & Sin in New York City, which — and I swear I had not anticipated this when I bought it, honestly intending to expand my horizons — turns out to be the latest book to endnote me (the last one I knew of being Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto by Mark Levin, which is rather different in political orientation from Long’s work, but that’s how we libertarians roll). Makes you wonder how many other books mention me without me happening to pick them up…

A Reason article of mine from 1997 is foonote 27 in chapter 8, about Giuliani conspiring with Disney to zone the porn out of Times Square (another reminder to shed no tears over his failed presidential bid, I suppose, though instead we get Obama…who appoints Sotomayor…who likes eminent domain…which likely leads to more stuff like zoning out porn, so you can’t win, not without a bigger dose of anarchy).

Kat Long, it should be noted, is not to be confused with Pussy Galore. With the addition of the mention by Long, if memory serves, I have now been a footnote or endnote in a libertarian book, a green/organic book, a conservative book, and a liberal book (that I know of) and should next aim for Perotista, maybe. (In the meantime, I’m just toasting Iranian protesters, or was here at last week’s Manhattan Project gathering — and if that sounds more to your liking than toasting Leader Obama for the hundredth time, join us one of these months, per the directions on my main page’s right margin.)

•There’s a Moorcock reference in the very avant-garde old MTV sci-fi cartoon Aeon Flux, by the way, since the cloned/redundant nature of the characters is marked by giving Aeon a sister named Una, a recurring character name in Moorcock’s work, filled like sketch comedy with half-familiar, half-transformed characters, all of it rationalized as a side effect of the existence of the multiverse. (And is it coincidence or the best homage ever that Una was also the name of the all-by-herself duplicate of the Legion of Super-Heroes’ Triplicate Girl who bit the dust, horribly devoured by super-rats, in DC Comics’ Countdown to Final Crisis miniseries? And why is the final issue of the Legion of Three Worlds miniseries that resolves the multiverse’s connection to the awesome villain Time Trapper delayed once more to July 22, putting me within two perilous goddam weeks of ending up a forty-year-old comics reader? And will the homicidally deranged Superboy-Prime somehow be redeemed?)

•In a similar vein, from the Wikipedia page on comics writer extraordinaire Alan Moore:

Moore has written one screenplay, entitled Fashion Beast, loosely based on both Jean Cocteau’s version of Beauty and the Beast and the life of fashion designer Christian Dior. The script was commissioned by former Sex Pistols manager, Malcolm McLaren. It has yet to be made into a film.

•The most sci-fi British thing I’ve experienced this week, though, may have been a concert by hilariously textbook-perfect prog rock band Van Der Graaf Generator — with opening act the Strawbs, who sounded a bit like a cross between Fairport Convention and Yes and, sure enough, have counted Sandy Denny and Rick Wakeman as members, according to J.R. Taylor, who got me in and mentioned the concert recently on his invaluable blog, RightWingTrash.

New York Times’ Jon Pareles reviewed the Van Der Graaf concert yesterday — and now I realize he was the twitchy Boomer ubergeek in front of me and J.R. in the VIP section who asked us to move back because he was having trouble seeing around the speaker system, then twitched and spasmed and occasionally air-conducted to the most obscure and prog-rocky eleven-minute songs in rock history. He looks like this.

But it’s Beyonce, per NYT on the same day, who is a “rapacious animal-robot-dance-titan,” which undeniably sounds hot — and oddly enough, I weaved through her fans in the MSG area (after seeing Helen off at the bus for DC) as I made my way north to see Van Der Graaf at Times Square. Naturally, I will always think of Beyonce as an R.A.R.D.T. now and like her all the more for it.

•Unlike J.R. (or Helen), the site io9 likes horror movies most when they’re socialist. The real horror, of course, is that the mind-virus of anti-capitalist thinking is so powerful and widespread, hardly anyone can even imagine movies or novels with morals the opposite of the ones listed in that article, but, hey, why try thinking outside the communal box?

My own list of “socialist horror” would include China, Cuba, and Obama’s healthcare plans and bank subsidies. Cool as io9 may be, its editor is just one of countless intellectuals in our day — and in our society for centuries now — who sympathize with government control of the economy for what are essentially aesthetic/cultural reasons, which in a sane world would be regarded as about as shallow as thinking Coast Guard vehicles are better suited to reach Mars than NASA vehicles because of the color of the Coast Guard ships or the jaunty tunes the sailors play. Grow up, people, and learn economics. Now or never — and not from Marxists or labor unions.

•I praised the twee music last week, but I must also say that Postal Service’s version of “Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)” is another reminder that even alt-rock bands you like are often revealed as gnats beside gods when they attempt to redo classic rock. And that’s probably why Johnny Rotten reportedly liked to dance over and over again to “Hot Blooded” by Foreigner. My praise of them in my Flag Day entry doesn’t seem quite so unhip now, does it, you arrogant jerk?


•You know, prior to watching it with Helen, I’d never seen Pretty in Pink (you may recall me listing big 80s movies that I somehow failed to see back in the 80s, presumably because I was busy rewatching Raiders of the Lost Ark — which in fact I also just did a few days ago).

Anyway, Helen mentioned the Duckie/Blaine dilemma being a bigger one than just what’s on the screen. As you may know, the script originally called for Ringwald to stay with Duckie at the prom, but the studio made Hughes change it so she reunites with rich guy Blaine — and Hughes made the same-plot-opposite-genders Some Kind of Wonderful precisely so the Duckie-analogue could win instead, apparently. That’s one of those making-of notes that makes it hard to think of the familiar ending as the “real” ending, meaningless as that label may be to sophisticates and deconstructionists.

Then again, Duckie is kind of annoying. I also strongly suspect the character was inspired by the obscure but very interesting wacky 60s black comedy Lord Love a Duck, about a man (played by effete Roddy McDowall) so eager to serve the woman he loves and make her acceptable to others that he ends up committing crimes and wacky 60s mayhem on her behalf. Netflix it if you don’t believe me.

•The closest filmmaking development to the dual endings thing among last month’s new nerd films may be the two different post-credits bits attached to different versions of Wolverine, for what little it’s worth: one hinting that Wolverine’ll be in Japan next time, where perhaps the best story ever told about him in the comics took place (involving a hot she-ninja and Yakuza and samurai and stuff), and the other hinting that villain Deadpool still lives and can “see” the audience, in keeping with his odd ability to break the fourth wall in the comics, one of the quirky characteristics reportedly making him likely to get a spin-off (of a spin-off) film of his own.

•We may not have many anarchist politicians (almost by definition), but I was pleased to see that we have a governor, in South Carolina, who doesn’t mind being called a “libertarian” (on social conservative issues he isn’t, but even if it’s just on fiscal issues, that would make him better than virtually all other Republicans these days). Needless to say, then, I was unhappy about the overblown hullabaloo that accompanied his little disappearing act last week when he decided to go off and hike the Appalachian Trail on the same weekend as Naked Hiking Day. I doubt there’s anything scandalous there except in the eyes of his enemies, but I can also imagine the whole incident easily being turned into a mildly offensive USA Network movie (perhaps from Troma Studios), based on the most logical explanation of the whole incident, like so:

The governor heads into the woods with naked co-eds to get away from it all and remind himself what liberty truly is, at a time in his life when he isn’t sure he feels inspired to carry on with his political career, then gets captured by nudity-hating, authoritarian Appalachian Mountains hillbillies who feed naked chicks to the Bigfoot they have captured in their barn, but Sanford and the hot chicks manage to win Bigfoot over to their side with a big orgy that Bigfoot attends, and then the Bigfoot rips the hillbillies’ limbs off so that the good guys can escape back to Columbia, SC, where Bigfoot is given the key to the city and Sanford’s wife takes him back, recognizing that he’s beaten his demons and is now ready to set all America free — but the one hillbilly with the hook hand may still be alive at the bottom of the gully.

(More sci-fi film stuff tomorrow, and more political radicalism in the next day’s new Lolita Bar debate announcement.)

•In other political news: Yes yes yes, a thousand times yes, to continued 50/50 senatorial gridlock and the suspension of legislative business in Albany.

•And no to France for trying to ban the burqa. You don’t talk people into adopting secular ways by having the law literally force them to remove their clothes. And I say that as a guy who toasted the Iranian protesters and would be happy to see political Islam vanish into history with fascism, communism, and government in general.

You know what you get if you’re in an oppressive (but not physically threatening) family? The right to leave when you’re a teen. With the average human lifespan, that gives you plenty of time remaining to decompress and read Reason (where you’ll find more of my thoughts on culture and whether or not it can truly oppress absent law, in a couple months, if all goes as expected).

•I’m pleased to see comics columnist Val D’Orazio quoted me this month, but what’s weirder is that the previous time she quoted me led, apparently, to me appearing on the Wikipedia page about the DC Comics character Anarky, along with left-libertarian Rod Long, who I criticized in December during this blog’s “Month of Feminism” (a spat in which Val would likely not be on my side). Here are the “relevant” passages from the Anarky Wikipedia entry:

Following the publication of Robin #181, Roderick Long, an anarchist/libertarian political commentator and Senior Scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute, and self-professed fan of the character, expressed annoyance at the portrayal of the character of Lonnie Machin and the usurpation of the “Anarky” mantle by [another character named] Armstrong. Upon learning of [writer] Nicieza’s reasoning for the portrayal, Long “summarized” the explanation as a mock-dialectic:

•Thesis: Anarky is too interesting a character not to write about.
•Antithesis: Anarky is too interesting a character for me to write successfully about.
•Dialectical synthesis: Therefore I will make Anarky less interesting so I can write about him.

…Besides Breyfogle and Peatty, Todd Seavey was another professional writer who expressed an interest in creating stories for Anarky. A freelance libertarian writer and editor, and author of several issues of Justice League, Seavey considered authoring an Anarky series his “dream comics project”…

•Tomorrow, though, I will fulfill my humbler dream of writing a blog entry about Transformers.


Byrne said...

I’m opposed to the Iranian protestors. Or, to be more accurate: I think any decent American should loudly claim to be opposed to them, because 1) it’s unlikely that they will topple the regime, 2) they know this, and suspect that they can only do it with US assistance, so 3) whenever Americans say they support Iran, it encourages innocent Iranians to go out in the street and get shot by snipers. Also, those protestors are using the riots to demand some fairly socialistic stuff, so it’s likely that Ahmadinejad’s otherwise indistinguishable opponent could end up leading a lefty vanguard instead of being a generic establishment politician.

Anyway, violent revolutions never solved anything. Why not support them by buying Persian rugs you’re sure they didn’t pay export duties on?

Todd Seavey said...

Resistance to oppressive regimes everywhere, all the time. The more the people of the world begin to see that we all stand together in that against all states, the more optimistic I’ll be about someday being optimistic again.

Helen said...

Further Seavey citations appear in Digital Culture: Understanding New Media (according to which you and Ray Kurzweil “interrogate some similar projections”) and, oddly, What to Do When You Don’t Want to Call the Cops: A Non-Adversarial Approach to Sexual Harrassment.

Todd Seavey said...

Meanwhile: Argentina, Appalachia, whatever — nothing fishy here, I’m sure:


Christopher said...

Well, his political career is done. How fucking stupid could the guy be to think that he would get away with GOING TO ARGENTINA AS PART OF AN AFFAIR???

Todd Seavey said...

Hey, the Argentina/Appalachia switcheroo could have worked: two places that begin and end with an “a” and are filled with mountains and poor people. People almost bought it.

Now we wait for the lightning-like Fred Thompson comeback. And we drink.

Brain said...

speaking of prog rock and Elric:

Black Blade by Blue Oyster Cult


Todd Seavey said...

And Moorcock himself wrote songs for the band Hawkmoon — but tomorrow (6/25), an excursion into the _economic_ wasteland…