Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shatner, Randi, Raimi, Pop

I strongly urge you to read the manic interview with William Shatner in the January GQ (on sale now) by Andrew Corsello — and not just because he asked a question about “Rocket Man” at my urging. No, Andrew covers the waterfront and captures the self-referentially larger-than-life quality of Shatner — or “SHATNER!” as he renders it throughout the article — better than any other profile of the man I’ve seen. This paragraph is an example, inspired by Shatner’s recollection of moving his hand at an auction and accidentally buying a horse (and I am reminded that Andrew and I had a class years ago with readings from Nietzsche):

“I believe that when things happen, they happen with a PURPOSE,” Shatner declares. “You can’t change them. I have been accused of never saying no. I am INDISCREET, it is said, is it not? With my roles. With my endorsements. With my books. With all that I am involved in. But I am not a big believer in No. What if I had tried to renege on that horse? I’d only have embarrassed myself. A flaky actor pretending at being a cowboy. No, I ACCEPTED it. I moved with it. I believe in MOTION. I believe in CHAOS. I believe in taking what happens as inevitable. Lightning STRIKES. It RAINS. You get ILL. You get NOMINATED. The photon SHATTERS the molecule, the electrons SHOOT OFF in all directions, and I BEHOLD the mineral around me!”


Speaking of things resembling science, Chuck Blake notes that another nerd hero, debunker-of-false-claims James Randi, has (to my delight, really) run afoul of the global warming alarmists. This has to be a strange time for them, with their sinister regulatory triumph at hand in Copenhagen and their credibility rapidly crumbling in East Anglia at the very same time. Predictably, instead of becoming more cautious, they’ve become more dogmatic — slapping down anyone, such as Randi, who expresses doubt about the doomsday narratives, declaring him — James Randi! — anti-science.

They know they’re in a weakening position intellectually and can’t afford to let the momentum get away from them. And it’s not just that one or two East Anglia e-mails suggest the scrubbing or skewing of data, it’s that the e-mails confirm the widely-held suspicion that the tiny, well-funded club of climate researchers is not engaged in dispassionate research but rather in circling the wagons and preventing anyone straying from the approved storyline. If, as they so often claim, they thought the science alone would bear out their story, they wouldn’t be as desperate as they visibly are to get one more of their guys onto each science journal editorial staff that has an opening. It’s like watching a lit department faculty hiring committee torn between humanists and deconstructionists (neither able to win converts by pointing to evidence alone), vying for control.

Pathetic. This is not how lasting scientific wisdom is created, and it shouldn’t be how regulation is created. But then, given problems like this, the human race probably shouldn’t create regulation.


What should the human race create? Better Spider-Man movies for one thing, as alluded to in a previous entry. Toward that end, it appears that no less a figure than director Sam Raimi himself has been arguing with the studio that the Vulture is the best villain for the next movie. Of course, it’s worth reminding myself that I didn’t like Spider-Man 2 (critically-acclaimed Michael Chabon’s writing efforts notwithstanding) or 3, so I suppose I shouldn’t care too much.

In more auspicious news, though, it sounds like the young-Magneto and young-X-Men movie ideas have merged into an X-Men: First Class prequel (emphasizing the initial Magneto/Xavier split), directed by Bryan Singer, who did X-Men and the stellar X-Men 2. That all sounds like the best of three worlds coming together, which is nice.


On a broader note, it has crossed my mind over the past couple days that pop culture, despite its growing plenitude, hasn’t really changed that much in its overall tone in the past twenty years — not when you compare, say, the 40s to the 60s, or the 60s to the 80s. People in their teens or twenties at any time over the period 1989-2009 got a similar combo plate in some ways. Like strange attractors in chaos theory, certain recurring tropes such as the Internet, gaming, reality TV, genre-mixing alternative/indie music, retro crazes, and personal electronics seem to be scattered almost evenly across the epoch.

And five things (some huge, some admittedly very dinky) that in my mind sort of demarcated the current pop culture epoch, each happening in or about 1989, were:

•(politics) collapse of European Communism

•(everyday living) the Internet

•(TV) the Simpsons

•(music) the Deee-Lite video for “Groove Is in the Heart” (and all the retro-things and gender-bending clubbiness it portended)

•(film) Do the Right Thing (in retrospect, it “looks like the 90s to come” as surely as, say, Miami Vice looked like the 80s)

And when I recently listed a few absurdist humor items that preceded the Simpsons era of omnipresent absurdism, I should have given props, so to speak, to Airplane (and Police Squad from the same crew) as well as to early Steve Martin. He got tame quickly and did all those family comedies, so it’s easy to forget how ludicrous The Jerk was, not to mention his fantastic first two ABC specials, which dared to ask questions like (paraphrasing): Has this ever happened at your home? You throw a party, and a friend leaves drunk…then gets into his steamroller and begins to drive?

1 comment:

William Shatner Turning into Nutty Beat Poet | KyleSmithOnline.com said...

[...] From my friend and sci-fi tutor Todd Seavey, who is forever educating me on topics I can never hope to appreciate such as “Star Trek,” an excerpt from an interview with the Shat, whose (only) great accomplishment to my mind is the cover of “Common People” he recorded with Ben Folds and Joe Jackson and ecstatically performed on the Tonight Show. William Shatner is sounding very 1963 coffeehouse and quite pleasingly mad: [...]