Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ron Paul, Michael “Max” Nofziger, Gnarr (not Gwarr), Bjork, and Grant Morrison

My tweets from Ron Paul’s speech last night at rocking Webster Hall.  (He announces his exploratory committee today in Iowa instead.  Cold-blooded strategy thought: If he or Gary Johnson ends up dropping out and endorsing the other, could be big enough to reshape the primaries, I think.  And Johnson would be even better suited to bring the pot-lovers into the coalition than Paul is, reputation-wise.) 

•And there’s a (libertarian-friendly) “Right-Wing Tweet Up” tonight at O’Lunney’s (W. 50th just west of Broadway) at 7pm that I’ll attend.

•Here’s an Austin City Council candidate suggestion for libertarians.  Nice to see him appealing to the musician/artist community of which he’s a part, not so unlike...

•...the mayor of Reykjavik, Jon Gnarr, elected along with his fellow comedians and musicians (including a punk singing “Fuck the system”) after a joke campaign as members of the Best Party, which inadvertently tapped into a groundswell of financial-crisis-fueled resentment of the mainstream parties, as hilariously recounted in the documentary Gnarr, which I saw at a Tribeca Film Festival screening two days ago (with an economist pal who has at least visited Iceland). 

One touching thing the director said during Q&A after the film is that even though the Best Party members all started this as a joke – and all of them now say this is the hardest, least fun, most grueling and thankless thing they’ve ever done – none of them has resigned from office despite having entertainment careers they could go back to, and they are trying to muddle through at a time when virtually all of Reykjavik is bankrupt and angry.

The documentary was described thusly in a promo:

Following his country's economic meltdown, in 2009 acerbic Icelandic comedian Jon Gnarr launches his own political party, the Best Party.  His platform?  Build a Disneyland, put more polar bears in the zoo, economize by hiring only one Santa during the holidays, and oust from the government anyone who hasn’t seen The Wire.  It starts out as a joke, but when support for Gnarr’s wacky mayoral bid surprisingly snowballs, a group of rebels and punk rockers quickly captures the imagination of a nation desperate for a release from the corruption that nearly brought on its collapse.

Some of my favorite items from his list of political promises: a drug-free Parliament by 2020, “all kinds of things for weaklings,” and “sustainable transparency.”

Gnarr said in an interview that he’d started out socialist but had been nudged toward individualism by punk.  And that is how we will win. 

•There was only one brief glimpse of Bjork in the documentary, so here’s the whole video in question, “Motorcrash,” from back when she was in her early twenties and more punk, and I was in my late teens and, well, just more nerdy, let’s be honest.

A friend of mine once said Bjork’s co-vocalist from Sugarcubes sang like he was “falling off a mountain,” and he doesn’t seem to have done too much since, so it may have been an apt metaphor.  His sad Wikipedia entry about having had some bartending gigs, etc., sounds self-written.  Bjork by contrast is now de facto prime minister and queen of the faerie in Iceland, just as the bald guy from Midnight Oil, who is fourteen feet tall and has twenty-seven children, is now the king of Australia, I think.

NOTE: Bjork has a twenty-four year-old rock writer/bass player daughter whose reviews contain sentences like:

Caterpillarmen make music I despise.  I’ll make no secret of that fact.  I hate progressive rock with a passion, and would rather die than be caught listening to it.  That said, Caterpillarmen are very good at making this music I so despise, and in fact, my visceral loathing of their music is proof of how good they are at making shit.

Here is a less positive element of Bjork’s life, per Wikipedia:

On 12 September 1996, obsessed fan Ricardo López mailed an acid-spraying letter bomb to Björk’s London home and then killed himself, but the package was intercepted by the Metropolitan Police Service.  López filmed himself in the process of making the acid bomb which was intended to kill her.  The nearly eighteen hours of videotape described López’s obsession with Björk, the construction of the device, his thoughts on love and other subjects, including racial remarks against Björk's then-boyfriend Goldie.  The video footage continues after his mailing the bomb to Björk's London home and ends dramatically as López shaves his head, applies face paint and commits suicide by shooting himself on camera.

And you thought her husband Matthew Barney’s video of the two of them carving up each other’s flesh like whale meat was disturbing.  Actually, it was, but then, I find even the giant teddy bear from the “Human Behavior” video sort of disturbing. 

•Also musically and (left-)anarchically inclined is comics writer Grant Morrison (his Sugarcubes-era song “Tortured Soul” with his band the Fauves –not to be confused with the other band by that name – is Violent Femmes-worthy and is here accompanied by a Fleischer Superman cartoon of much older vintage).  As a man from Scotland, he might appreciate the tragedy of the recent Boston-area man killed while burning leaves in a kilt (pointed out to me by Jake Harrison). 

A friend of mine has joked about what it would be like if the shrinking number of comic book readers ever got so small that the creators could just pass original art around the room, without going to all the trouble of publishing things.  And it occurs to me that another disturbing tipping point would be if the fans of any given comic come to be outnumbered by the (named, individual) characters in the fictional universe in which that comic takes place.  (Marvel, for instance, has something like 5,000 characters, and a top comic only sells around 100,000 copies these days.) 

I could probably convince mystically-inclined Morrison that some sort of sentience-awakening event occurs that makes the comic book come to life at that point. 

AND THE SECOND HALF OF THIS 2,000-WORD ENTRY is entirely about Grant Morrison, I should warn you (anyone who actually reads the whole thing should let me know):

Grant Morrison hit both a Jonathan Lethem-like note (trying to render mature/hip some absurd old comics tropes) and a John-Carpenter-like note of resistance to horror-movie-mind-control in his comic book opus Final Crisis, which is worth reading as a single-volume trade paperback (as I think it can now be purchased – beware similarly or more-elaborately titled works, such as Infinite Crisis or anything with a subtitle after “Final Crisis”). 

An attempt to squeeze every major DC narrative into one dark story arc – Monitors, crazy Jack Kirby stuff, even Captain Carrot – one of its clever if imperfectly executed tricks was to have a middle sequence in which the “Anti-Life Equation” is finally released on Earth as a computer virus so that the sinister, disembodied force called Darkseid becomes incarnate and starts turning the whole world submissive and evil. 

One result is two issues (included in the anthologized edition) called “Final Crisis: Submit” and “Final Crisis: Resist” in which characters either succumb or fight back against the mind control.  Those individual issues were originally advertised with ads simply saying SUBMIT and RESIST.

By the end, Final Crisis becomes so strange that it’s like (as one comics industry acquaintance put it) “Grant’s dream journal,” and that’s arguably the artistically irresponsible side of the half-mad Scottish genius, but there are some amazing moments along the way.

And technically, it’s all in continuity, though you could sense from DC folks’ public statements that the whole thing was largely going to be ignored by other writers, who were probably thinking, “What the hell is supposed to be happening to our characters?”  As is often the case, Morrison left the other writers with all sorts of metafictional and multiversal implications they could in theory follow up on in future stories, and as usual he has no one but his indulgent self to blame when they instead say, “Uh...let’s basically just proceed as usual, as though none of that fully happened.”

I thought one of his trippiest ideas, never of course mentioned again by other DC writers, was his conceit (in his very cool Seven Soldiers set of interlocking miniseries) that Camelot does not exist in a single time period but is rather a recurring set of circumstances and similar personalities (which explains different versions of the legend), so there was a prehistoric Camelot, a Pict-era (or whatever) Camelot, a newly-Romanized-England Camelot, a high medieval Camelot, etc., each with slightly different names – and all of it basically just an excuse to let Morrison present a radical new version of the dorky old DC character Shining Knight without eliminating the original.  

I respect anyone willing to rewrite the laws of time and space to avoid screwing up a comic book story.  Perhaps this can be used to explain why the concluding issue of the 80s miniseries Camelot 3000 didn’t come out until about a year after the rest of the series.  No, wait, that was in real life.  I think.

For the 3% of the readers paying very close attention, most of the Seven Soldiers characters ended up fitting into a single tableaux at the end that defeated the villain, a tableau in which the character Bulleteer functions like the spear thrown in an earlier historical battle, and all sorts of other complex, multilayered stuff goes down – which would become utterly exhausting if Morrison didn’t keep it fairly simple along the way, plotwise.  Actually going back and trying to read someone’s text account of what was going on in the plot, explained in historical/chronological terms instead of just visual/story logic, was mindbogglingly complicated and dense, like having someone exit the theatre after the first Lord of the Rings movie and say to you, “Now, just so you understand what we just saw, let me recite something called the Silmarillion to you...”

And for people already wearied just by this blog entry but curious about Morrison, a great encapsulation of his whole aesthetic (about six original issues collected in one trade paperback) is called The Filth, about a man who may have a civilization in his kitchen floor-scum or just be a sad crazy man alone in his apartment talking to his cat.

•We already went through a period when (among those paying attention) it was realized we all now live like kings compared to the people of ancient times – and it’s beginning to dawn on people that a huge swath of the population now lives like celebrities or pseudo-celebrities (thanks partly to blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube).

Next – since we live in a world already full of de facto cybernetics and things like wingsuits, not to mention ever-diversifying fashion – I guess we all get to be superheroes (as happens in more than one power-to-the-people moment in Morrison stories), and I don’t just mean like those homeless people who were given gift capes by the government (depressives were recently given them as well, I read – which somehow depresses me).  I predict this superhuman future will feature less body modification than the hipsters of the 90s sometimes envisioned, though.  Faces full of piercing can still seem icky.  Wings, maybe (I actually danced with a woman who’s flown in a wingsuit this past weekend, incidentally). 

•And speaking of alternate realities, have you noticed there’s a live-action movie coming out this summer about Earth-2?  Really.  And it looks like it might even work as a date movie.  Don’t expect to see the alternate-Earth version of Clark Kent in it, though.

P.S. In fairness to Morrison, once in a while other writers follow up on his ideas.  He created a sentient street named Danny – who can teleport and is also a transvestite (lined with flower shops, etc.) and who eventually transformed from Danny the Street into Danny the World – and I see that in the current Doom Patrol series, the schizo character Crazy Jane briefly appeared to the current team to hand them the badly-injured form of Danny the World, devastated by “multidimensional gentrifier devices,” currently reduced to Danny the Brick.  That’s worthy of Dada.  Get well, Danny.  And be careful if you try to use a McDonald’s bathroom in Baltimore. 


Marc S. said...

Why the hatred for David Weigel? I know >I< hate him because his Slate contributions are boring and annoyingly insiderish at the same time. I have no idea how I'm supposed to interpret many of his posts, its like he's writing for some beltway elite that is focused only on the meta-narrative of how politics is being covered, with no interest in the policies themselves or even the potential electoral implications. Bring back Mickey Kaus!

(Sorry to disappoint, but I skipped the Grant Morrison essay.)

Todd Seavey said...

Partly joking, but: I was wary of Weigel early on, since his old Reason posts had an ambiguously-ironic tone that seemed designed to sound knowing while obfuscating his real positions -- much like the writing of the ex-girlfriend I condemned on C-SPAN2 last year.

And sure enough, not only was he later outed as a secretly conservative-bashing and libertarian-bashing participant in the leftist list serv called JournoList, he also sprang to the defense of my aforementioned ex on Twitter -- one of only about two people I sort-of kind-of knew who did so, I'm pleased to say, and he'd had more contact with her than with me -- saying I should no longer be taken seriously. Whereas he should be? I think not.

But to see the JournoList founder himself mocked, attend the May 2 debate between Ezra Klein and (vastly superior) Objectivist former bank president John Allison at NYU (under the auspices of Demos and the Ayn Rand Institute). I'm going. I mean, I'm not gonna heckle or anything -- or mock Weigel again -- but I'm rooting for Allison.

Eric Hanneken said...

"Another Earth?" I think movies whose titles begin with the word another sound tiresome. For example: Another 48 Hours (1990), Another Stakeout (1993), and Another Thin Man (1939). Of course, those were all sequels. What are they going to call the sequel to Another Earth? Yet Another Earth? Still More Earths?

Todd Seavey said...

By contrast -- combining some themes here -- I like it when songs start with the word "And" (as does my friend Dave Whitney), as with the Ayn Rand-inspired song "Closer to the Heart" by the band Rush: "And the men who hold high places must be the ones to start..."

Ditto "And She Was [lying in the grass]" by Talking Heads, etc.

And (there's that word again) "Sappy" by Nirvana: "And if you save yourself/ You will make him happy...And if you cut yourself/ Then you will think you're happy."