Thursday, September 13, 2012

Top Ten "Conservatism for Punks" Notes of the Week

1. An enthusiastic Jeff Goolsby says Peter Schiff “rocked it” at the debate I hosted yesterday, seen below (and our Federalist Society hosts sounded happy, too, which is nice).  There will at some point be video from the Schiff folks, I think.

Interestingly, though it did not come up during the debate, Schiff’s (friendly) opponent, law prof Richard Carnell, is a conservative Christian – and perhaps far more surprisingly, also an avowed Christian is leftist writer Chris Hedges, who I saw debate shortly afterwards yesterday, criticizing “black bloc” protest tactics within Occupy Wall Street against the objections of a representative of the anarchist group CrimethInc.

I found myself sympathizing with Hedges (much as I criticized his book Death of the Liberal Class), and me sympathizing is almost always a sign that someone or something on the left is about to be turned on by other leftists (sorry to be a canary in the coalmine that way – remind me to blog about Naomi Wolf).  Some people at the back of the CUNY Graduate Center kept shouting and swearing at Hedges (but the members of the mighty Occupy Poughkeepsie seated in front of me seemed pleasant enough).  There was some macho bellowing of disagreement when Hedges argued that black bloc tactics are troublingly hypermasculine.

CrimethInc’s B. Traven (who noted that his fellow punks have gotten much more political over the past decade) argued that violence doesn’t only begin when a non-government individual does it – and any self-respecting libertarian must find that logical.  Hedges’ argument, though, as he repeatedly stressed, was more tactical than narrowly-moral: You don’t build a broad-based, MLK-sized movement by scaring (possibly injuring) apolitical average citizens or inviting a police state crackdown.  Some at the event had no sympathy for that line of argument. 
Interestingly, even though I’m something of a Tea Party sympathizer I thought one of Hedges’ best arguments was that if his fellow leftists encourage black bloc tactics, they’re going to end up very unhappy if the Tea Party – or even outright proto-fascist groups – adopt the same sorts of tactics.  It could be Berlin 1930 all over again, with opposing political gangs fighting in the streets.  Politics looks more and more like the early twentieth century lately, not the usual 1950s/1960s redux. 

That’s more stuff to sort out on MONDAY (Sept. 17, 8pm) at our Dionysium summit about Occupy and Tea Party commonalities, at Muchmore’s (2 Havemeyer St. in Williamsburg).  Strange as it may look to some, this summit is really another means of continuing my ongoing fusionist project, of which the essay “Conservatism for Punks” (in the anthology Proud to Be Right) was a part two years ago.

2. Emilio Quintana was nice enough to translate that essay into Spanish, which I don’t speak.  If you do, though, check it out on the website Contrautopia.  (And just vow to check with me on the accuracy of the translation before you angrily ask me why I want to paint all clowns orange or something like that.)

3. Speaking of punks, above, in addition to Goolsby’s photo of Schiff et al, is a blurry photo I took of other panelists on that Rew and Who? broadcast I was on recently – and a less-blurry picture I took of what was on my table as I waited to appear: one bunny rabbit noisemaker from that pivotal day’s Pussy Riot protest, one Partisan Review anthology (a legacy of the C-SPAN ex, now living on a new continent and blogging at a new URL, both without scandal, to the delight and approval of all), one Justice League issue in which Superman and Wonder Woman kiss, and one Johnny Walker Black, neat.

4. And speaking of Christians, I’ll see rock reporter turned religion advocate Dawn Eden speak at the First Things offices (35 East 21st) today at 6, and that reminds me that even though I often mistakenly think of my interactions with serious Christians as something that only began in the late 90s via political channels, in fact I must admit that many of the smart and studious kids in my high school were Christians. 

Even though I was a solidly atheist enough teen to argue with them occasionally, I didn’t really care enough (or take these things personally enough) to remember vividly how many of them were Christian.  It’s almost – dare I say it – as though me remembering them as smart made me forget to file them under Christian.  But it happens – even in secular New England. 

5. Meanwhile, in Australia, the awesome Nick Cave has written the current bootleggers-vs.-cops movie Lawless, which I’m told is rather libertarian. 

6. If so, it’s a good month for anti-authoritarian movies,
since The Master sounds like an artful takedown of cults.  Of course, the trailers for the movie use a cultish technique themselves (as do many avant-garde films, interestingly), which is to slightly confuse people by being cryptic.  I would rather startle them into alertness with the punk slogan (admittedly originally used by Margaret Sanger) “No gods, no masters!”

But confuse people, whether through art or mysticism, and they will grovel at your feet.  Take the undue tolerance people have shown for some of (Transcendental Meditation adherent and surrealist) David Lynch’s work (wonderful as some of it is).  Here are the positive bits (though not all bits were positive) of the Wikipedia entry for his absolutely terrible Inland Empire, for instance:

Inland Empire was named the second-best film of 2007 (tied with two others) by Cahiers du cinéma, and listed among Sight & Sound's "thirty best films of the 2000s," as well as The Guardian's "10 most underrated movies of the decade"…Overall the film has been well received by critics. The New York Times classified Inland Empire as "fitfully brilliant" after the Venice Film Festival screening. Peter Travers, the film critic for Rolling Stone magazine wrote, "My advice, in the face of such hallucinatory brilliance, is that you hang on"…Jonathan Ross, presenter of the BBC programme Film 2007, described it as "a work of genius... I think." Damon Wise of Empire magazine gave it five stars, calling it "A dazzling and exquisitely original riddle as told by an enigma" and Jim Emerson (editor of gave it 4 stars and praised it: "When people say Inland Empire is Lynch's Sunset Boulevard, Lynch's Persona or Lynch's , they're quite right."

Oh, please.  It was awful. 

7. Nearby, you’ll see a panel of a woman telling Captain America he’s a jerk.  So hard to please people.  At least the Ramones liked Spider-Man, though.  I knew they did a great cover of the theme to his 60s TV show, but I did not know there was a version of the video that showed them lip-synching to the song.  Awesome. 

With Joss Whedon, to my delight, planning an Avengers-related S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, my one big Marvel adaptation wish, I now realize, is that they use the character Moondragon in the 2014 Guardians of the Galaxy movie.  True, the character can be annoying in the comics, but a hot bald arrogant bisexual martial artist psychic chick would translate well onto the big screen, I’m thinking.  Not all characters do.  (Too bad Persis Khambatta is dead and Sinead O’Connor is fat and has hair.)

Even though I’m almost entirely off the junk these days, I like to tell people who for some reason might want to become comics addicts (not samplers of old classics, mind you, but buyers of trashy new stuff) when there’s a convenient “jumping-on point,” and next month’s Uncanny Avengers (written by the swell Jonathan Hickman) definitely seems like one of those points at Marvel.  It’s very consciously Marvel’s attempt to blend some members from their two most popular teams (X-Men and Avengers) into one unit. 

(HUGE SPOILER WARNING FROM THIS WEEK.)  The new team is apparently sparked by Cyclops turning into Dark Phoenix and killing Prof. X this week, but I don’t think you’ll need to know that to pick up Uncanny Avengers #1 – and in any case, Prof. X has died several times.  (SPOILERS OFF.)

The X-Men comics have recently played with dystopian themes – fitting for my talk of utopia and reform during this blog’s “Month of Reform” – while over at DC, the series Earth 2 appears to be turning that alternate universe into DC’s default darker-and-dystopian world (dark invaders, dead heroes, destroyed cities, etc.).  The characters in StormWatch have a history of getting authoritarian delusions as well, and there are some hints the Justice League itself might be headed that way (while the newly-popular Animal Man and Swamp Thing see the main DC Universe turning into the decaying Rotworld – and while we’re touring alternate realities, some might be pleased to hear there’s a Smallville: Season Eleven comic book, though now that he’s Superman, it may be pointless).

In any case, if you want a jumping-on point for the DC Universe, this month’s “Zero Issues” (all fifty-odd DC Comics ongoing superhero series being numbered #0 in September) give you a good one, recounting origins and other important flashback moments.  You know, a libertarian novelist friend of mine who visited New York recently and a conservative playwright whose party I went to that same weekend would likely be aghast that I still care about any of this.

8. But they both appreciate the theatre enough that they may be pleased I will take to the stage for karaoke again tonight – with libertarians.  It’s a relatively free country, so you could join us from 9pm on in the large back room of Bar 182 tonight. 

9. If you’re one of those people who prefers quality in your music, though, you’ll have to join me in the audience for (my fellow Phillips Foundation fellow) Jesse DeConto’s band Pinkerton Raid on Saturday at 11pm at Freddy’s Bar (627 Fifth Ave. in Brooklyn).  One of his fellow North Carolinians, Kristen Leigh (that state apparently being a hotbed of hipster/traditionalist overlap), will perform “chamber folk” at 10pm that night at the same location. 

10. Of course, at heart I (like this cat) remain a New Wave person, and I couldn’t help but think of the Fixx song “Saved by Zero” when Andrew Muchmore (owner of the eponymous bar where we’ll do Monday’s Occupy/Tea event) lamented that things are so bad for some people out there that maybe we should just erase all debts and start over (as David Graeber might also urge).  Starting over might also entail everyone forgetting that this is literally the thirty-fourth time I’ve mentioned the Fixx on this blog. 

Fight Club, with astonishing prescience, ended (as some may forget) with a back-to-zero scene – shot in 1999 – that is an almost perfect combination of Occupy Wall Street and 9/11 (not that the Occupants would want those things linked in the public mind).  Maybe we can discuss that, too, at this coming Monday’s Dionysium (8pm at Muchmore’s!), even though the founder of the original, Austin, TX Dionysium, L.B. Deyo, thinks Fight Club is a crappy movie.  Maybe everything is terrible.  

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