Evil Forces in the World

Reflections on ''Evil Forces in the World,'' as well as occasional remarks concerning ''Good Forces in the World.''

Saturday, July 27, 2002

League of Extaordinary Gentlemen, Vol. II issue no. 1 was released today, I'm told. I'll reserve judgment. Rest assured, if there is evil to be obliterated, I will do my damnedest to do the obliterating; alternatively, I might spend my precious ducats on fine cuts of Icelandic lamb, which would hit the spot right about now. Lamb: definitely good, and how. So good, in fact, that I'd sooner dissect my own brain than give it up. I also quite like duck.
Infuriatingly enough, the New York Times wrote about Varney today, which I only discovered a few hours after writing the item below. Sheesh kebab. (I came up with this expression as a youth; as you can no doubt tell, I'm very proud of it.) Can't a brother catch a break? Perhaps my finger is on the pulse of the nation.
On a lighter note, consider this:

To the Editor:

It is outrageous that, in these times, New York City is outsourcing jobs to Ghana, more than 5,000 miles away (front page, July 22).

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, New York City has a 7 percent unemployment rate. Thousands of New Yorkers are looking for jobs, and the city is giving away jobs to other states and countries.

Furthermore, there is no accountability in contracting out. In this age of cyber-terrorism, personal and potentially sensitive information is being transmitted across continents. Who is assuming responsibility for the security of this information?
President, Local 1549
N.Y.C. Clerical-Administrative
New York, July 25, 2002

[Emphasis added.]

Ahem. The following statistics are from the CIA World Factbook.

Bangladesh: purchasing power parity - $1,570 (2000 est.)
Ghana: purchasing power parity - $1,900 (2000 est.)
Haiti: purchasing power parity - $1,800 (2000 est.)

As for the unemployment rate in Ghana, it is my understanding that gangs of unemployed youth are frequently rounded up for a kind of corvée.

Judging by this press release (there's been growth since then, but we'll leave that aside -- there's also been a recession), and the 2000 Census estimate of the population of New York City, that leaves New York City with a GDP per capita of a little over $45,000 (a conservative estimate). This might sound high, but New York is an entrepot economy.

On an entirely unrelated note, I know more than my fair share of DVD-buying, cigar-smoking Ivy League grads who are collecting unemployment checks. This is an infinitesimally small proportion of the unemployed in New York City, but I gather it is a vastly smaller proportion of the unemployed in Ghana. But this statement is entirely worthless and may have led to needless confusion.

What we ought to keep in mind is that Ghana is really, really poor. No one deserves to be that poor, not even Communists.

(This link will lead you to a pretty cool book; I believe the intention is to poke fun, to which I respond, "poke this.")
It's almost embarrassing to reference an authentically evil event on this web site next to all of the drivel, but Celia Dugger's article in today's New York Times must be brought to the attention of as many readers as possible. Contrarianism is like a religion for me, and so there was a time during which I was drawn to the siren song of Hindu nationalism; suffice it to say, I've since come to my senses. As Ashutosh Varney argues in Ethnic Conflict and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India, communal violence isn't widespread, as it was in the former Yugoslavia -- in fact, it has generally been contained in a handful of cities, where there've been periodic eruptions of violence -- but it is vicious, and certainly worthy of our attention. Others have pointed this out, including the always insightful Ian Buruma, but I think the point bears repeating: Is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict truly singular? What of the world's countless other tragedies? For a variety of historical reasons, Americans are particularly concerned with the Middle East, and with good reason. (Also, our studied indifference to the rest of the planet is a hoary old scandal; both upsetting and unfortunate, but hardly news.) Then there are the pious Muslims who are so enraged by collateral damage in Gaza and the West Bank and yet remain utterly cold to the systematic rape and murder of Muslim women and children in Gujarat. This isn't the time for point-scoring, but I find it frustrating.

Recently, I read (or rather read most of) Zeev Sternhell's Neither Right nor Left and was struck by the parallels with the present; leaving aside Europe's post-Communist drift towards a charismatic, volatile, post-ideological politics -- which, as one of my heroes pointed out a short while ago, is like the 1930s all over again, except that Europe is now entirely irrelevant -- it seems increasingly clear to me that fascism is the wave of the future. (Fareed Zakaria's essay on "illiberal democracy" is worth a look; though it contradicts my strongly Waldronian tendencies, Zakaria gets a lot of things right.) China, as Lawrence Kaplan masterfully demonstrated in the pages of The New Republic, is more or less a fully-functioning fascist regime, and has been for some time. At present, India contains a significant fascist element, as Aijaz Ahmad has persuasively argued. (Gramsci is in many respects a better guide to the Indian present than the papers.) Venezuela under Chavez is fascistoid at the very least -- caudillismo with ambition. Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan comes to mind, as does Belarus's Lukashenka. The list goes on.

A grim prospect, to say the least.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

This is too pathetic to be true. Good grief. Woodrow Wilson is spinning in his grave. The man should've intervened decisively during the Russian Civil War, thus strangling Bolshevism during its uncertain infancy.
Thankfully, Blogger is back in action, and how. For those of you who don't know, which I assume is all of you (aside from those of you who've decided to infect my brain "like devils"), we've upgraded from the free version of Blogger to the extra-sexy, high-class, champagne-swilling, coke-addled, devil-may-care Blogger Pro, which is an entirely different burlap sack.

A burlap sack full of marbles, thus making said sack a potentially deadly weapon, much like the Death Wish sock full of quarters, which packed a vicious wallop (and represented the beginning of Charles Bronson's low, slow descent into senseless, brutal vigilantism in a world gone mad; incidentally, I particularly liked the one in which the elderly, feeling besieged, decided to take back their neighborhood with enormous automatic guns, which is not exactly the same as, say, putting more cops on the beat or midnight basketball, but might've seemed like a sound step at the time; in real life, I don't think this is the solution to such complex, multi-faceted problems, unless you're dealing with vicious international tyrants, in which case you're probably better off working with fantastically huge bombs). If you're going to fill your sock with quarters, and if you're going to fill your sock with quarters and then proceed to savagely wack dudes in the head with the sock in question, please, please make sure that the dudes are bad, bad dudes, as opposed to a pair of fun-loving, amiguously gay doofballs. To do otherwise would be nothing short of evil.
This is similarly absurd, but not quite evil:

What Spooky Being are You?

Earlier this evening, I saw an advertisement for a company called Capital One which featured an excellent song by The Specials and a gang of suit-wearing orangutans. It was "wicked," i.e., good.
Inexplicably, I've just discovered that I am

What obscure band are you?

This is patently absurd.
As for this gigantic meteor, we haven't a thing to worry about: fortunately, the world government has recruited the best and brightest minds to fend off intergalactic destruction. These special folk have been training since adolescence in the ways of space warfare to protect our human way of life. In particular, I predict that one special young boy, "Ender," will devise a brilliant strategem to deflect this meteor threat, thus saving us from milleniums of social and economic ruin. Likewise, military historian Frederik Pohl has documented similar efforts in the past to prevent mass interplanetary destruction in such texts as "Hammer of God" and "Nightfall." All in all, when it comes down to humans versus mammoth-sized meteor on a collision path with Earth, I'm betting on the humans. Don't knock the hustle.

The above rant also reminds me of a recent development in the realm of cultural studies: science fiction once again coming back into vogue in the academy. In 2004, The Publication of the Modern Language Assocation (PMLA) will release a special Science Fiction issue; this is tremendous folks, it is akin to Time Magazine publishing an issue devoted to nothing but superhero comic books. Featured, no doubt, will be a queer studies examination of LeGuin's Left Hand of Darkness, a Marxist-cum-"transrealism" neo-appraisal of Dick's "Time Out of Joint" and a few essays on why Robert Heinlein was a left-wing commie. Maureen Barr of Columbia University, and Carl Freedman of "Critical Theory and Science Fiction" fame will do the editing. I am excited: this may just be another drop in the hat, a la the short-lived mid 1970s craze over "Dune" and "hard" Sci-fi, but I am hoping for the best. Just keep Professor Harold Bloom the hell away from all this, and we may see some interesting results.

And by the way: the aforementioned "Critical Theory and Science Fiction" is a damn fine piece of scholarship. True, while critical theory and science fiction may not indeed single-handedly "lead the fight against oppression everywhere" as Freedman suggests, there's a lot to be said about these two burgeoning, oft-misunderstood genres of literature. And yes, you fucking stuck up assholes, they are real "genres," not subdivisions of a larger literary form. I, for one, as Freedman will agree, believe that the "Left Hand of Darkness" is one of the best novels of the late 20th century, and that Samuel Delaney is one the most theoretically astute fiction writers producing work today. A shout out then to Brooklyn's finest Sam Delaney and Marilyn Hacker, the esteemed modern poet, who once were married, but now have come out as queer, and both graduated from Bronx Science in New York City.
Another day, friends, another day I keep losing the ever elusive Ebay auction for Saint Etienne's Fairfax High bonus disc from the Good Humor LP. Right now, you say, "Rich, just put in some crazy sum, like 80 bucks," to which I say, "I did, goddam it, but the same three Swedish dudes keep beating me to the punch, no doubt kicking in some 1000 dollars for this Brit-pop booty." I am so angry: both at the world at large, for unclear reasons, and the consumer simulacrum that is "Ebay." "Ebay" as an internet marketplace exists in theory but not in practice. It is merely the copy of an original idea for an Internet auction site, which is a copy of another copy - Christie's and the like, that are more gestures at auctioneering than a real marketplace for the public at large. Anyway, Ebay is modern society's version of Pandora's Box. I'm sure of it. But what about Hope? you ask. Well, friends, I'm not sure if it's still in the box, or currently selling for $987.50 on Ebay at an auction that ends at 11.30pm tonight.
Shockingly enough, Daria has fans. I've always considered myself an ally of the Sassy set, which is to say the ex-readers of Sassy magazine in its prime. In fact, this has been a long-running theme, but we'll leave that aside for now. By and large, I look upon the Sassy readers as brassy, well-informed, thoughtful, and, most importantly, hip. This may well be a case of Sassy romanticism, a common affliction, but I do think it makes sense. A certain brand of inquisitive, anti-authoritarian girl with short hair will forever be associated in my mind with Jane Pratt's original brainchild. (Incidentally, who hasn't had a crush on Jane Pratt at one time or another? Second only to Winona for combat wounded veterans of the early 1990s. As it turns out, I never went through a Winona phase per se, as I am more a product of the mid-1990s, i.e., my quite unreasonably alright high school years, during which I was preoccupied with the stern, articulate girls of mature-beyond-their-years New York, many of them ex-Sassy readers, many of them primarily into chicks, not to mention young men vastly cooler than yours truly, and with good reason.) For me, Daria represents the wrong kind of Sassy reader: smug, condescending, and unintelligent. Nevertheless, I sat through roughly two-thirds of Daria: Is It College Yet?, the series finale (thanks to the merciful folks at MTV). I was on the verge of keeling over and dying due to sleep deprivation; Daria, by filling me with blind rage and convincing me that I must stay alive, if only to serve as a scourge of such evil programming, saved my "kiester." And for that I'm grateful.

Good luck at whatever top-notch university it is that you'll be attending in your hellish animated world, a world made all the more hellish by your presence, you lousy hoodlum.
Two remarkable sentences:

While racism against Asian Americans may not be manifested today in systemic acts of violence, trivialization of Asian culture denies Asian Americans their unique identity and existence. Culture should never be exploited for the sake of profit. It's time to tell Abercrombie's America that they're wrong.

Jade Magazine, July-August 2002.

Come again? "Culture should never be exploited for the sake of profit"?

This isn't so much evil as imbecilic. And I suppose we shouldn't sell records, or daishikis or saris for that matter. Fascinating. Three cheers for Jade Magazine: it has finally put to rest the offensive, ill-informed notion that all Asian Americans are clever, and that's a good thing. I suppose.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

In somewhat less important news, it seems that a mammoth asteroid is bound for earth; in less than two decades, all life as we know it, with the possible exception of cockroaches and the hardiest of rats, will have been utterly wiped out. The estimated date of impact: February 1, 2019.

(Incidentally, several bad dudes were born on February 19, including MTV's infamous Gideon Yago. André Gide died on February 19. Assuming an asteroid smacks into the planet, he will soon, in geological time, that is, be joined by countless others. I somehow doubt that IMDB.com will be able to register said deaths, even if its remaining staff members limit themselves to film industry casualties; its remaining staff members will be busy searching for can-openers and Twinkies in the wake of the literally earth-shattering cataclysm.)

Suddenly, I just don't give a damn.

We've been told "not to panic." Right. Moving right along, the time has come to panic.

Dr Benny Peiser says: "In the worst case scenario, a disaster of this size would be global in its extent, would create a meltdown of our economic and social life, and would reduce us to dark age conditions." This is not unlike the dragon-induced state of affairs seen in the recent Christian Bale vehicle Reign of Fire, which wouldn't be that bad. Somehow I think our Dr Peiser is being a tad optimistic, but I've been wrong before. Roughly three times before, by my count.

(That's not quite true, but we'll leave it aside for now. Keep in mind that all life will be obliterated in a few short years. Old-fashioned pieties have no place in the harsh, brutal post-apocalyptic world to come.)

As you no doubt know, these massive meandering mountains of doom have very nearly crossed out path before. This time, we may not be so fortunate. For one thing, Bruce Willis and company have retired from the asteroid-battling industry; Ben Affleck has decided to go blind and take on The Scorpion King's Balthazar. (I don't know about you, but I'm betting on Balthazar, who has also played an enormous, mighty ape; Affleck, on the other hand, has also portrayed an ethically unsound associate at a prestigious, yet shady, Midtown law firm.)

The real question is: Whither Carly Pope? With less than twelve years to jumpstart her career, will she ever achieve Hepburnian or even Dunstian heights of fame and all-around excellence? As for the rest of us, I say we've had a pretty decent run.
Earlier today, I went to see Uzumaki, a Japanese film that addresses -- finally -- one of the more pressing problems of our time, namely the proliferation of spirals and spiral-shaped objects. At one point, a high school student turns into a slimy mass; in another scene, a father demands more spiral fishcakes for his miso soup. If the subtitles are to be believed, "Uzumaki" means "spiral," appropriately enough. I left in the middle of the movie: to tell you the truth, it hit too close to home.

Spirals. Evil.
I've been asked the following: "Reihan, what do you make of the plummeting stock market, and of the recent wave of corporate scandals?" I have but this to say: criminal behavior of almost any kind if evil, unless it is righteous criminality, like a lot of the criminality that would take place under the auspices of, say, a totalitarian regime. Leaving that aside, my sentiments are perhaps best expressed in the following phrase:

"We are afraid to see clearly, and also to be seen clearly." No, that is from Sunshine, the epic tale of a Hungarian Jewish family spanning three generations.

No, my sentiments are best expressed in this phrase:

"Low down and dirty / Boy, you know what I'm 'bout / Stay out my way and keep my name out your mouth"

(Special thanks to Dirty Dee: I've got your dirt right here, boss.)
The Postman naysayers outnumber The Postman "hey, that was dope as hell"-sayers by a ratio of about 12 million to one; unsurprisingly, I fall firmly into the latter category and indeed consider it (unironically, I might add) one of the finest films of the last century. It is difficult to strike an earnest pose when it comes to this matter, in large part because we live in a profoundly cynical age and I am, for better or for worse, very much a creature of my time; as even my kindergarten teacher would tell you, it's been a long time since "the Reihan," i.e., yours truly, has been ennui-free. But The Postman is enough to exorcise almost all demons, including those that make you shake your left leg when you're supposed to be sitting still, thus convincing the authorities and concerned relatives and friends that you have some sort of neurological disorder.

Ahem. "Low down and dirty / Boy, you know what I'm 'bout / Stay out my way and keep my name out yo' mouth."

I liked the movie so damn much that I bought the bloody sci-fi novel on which it was based, which must've been around the time I was shot in a school play (for the second time, mind you). The novel was disappointing, but only because it couldn't quite reach the sheer dopeness levels of the movie, which is understandable. Human civilization has yet to approach said levels since the movie's release; it is thus unsurprising that such peaks were rarely ascended in the years and indeed the centuries preceding its release.

One of many sequences I particularly loved: Will Patton, also of the ART if I'm wearing my tie correctly (I am not wearing a tie at present, so do take this with a grain of salt), who plays General Bethlehem, the principal bad guy, says something roughly resembling the following to our hero during a pitched battle sequence at the close of the movie:

"I study people. I know why you can't win. You don't care about anything. You don't believe in anything." [Keep in mind that this is only a rough approximation of the actual text, as it is very early in the morning; also, the lines were delivered haltingly as both men were in a high-pitched battle for survival, a battle involving a seriously long sword.]

And our hero responds: "I believe ... in the United States," and then proceeds to headbutt the bastard, thus turning the tide of the battle. It was truly awesome. This might be my favorite moment in cinema.

Good grief, Olivia Williams, also of Rushmore fame, is tremendously lovely; it's too bad that her American accent was so unconvincing as to be distracting, one of the few less-than-flawless elements in the movie.

It occurs to me: The Postman, which I own on VHS (and you should too), is the perfect movie for the present time. It was released too soon. It is about Americans coming together and defeating fascist bastards through courage and cooperation, as opposed to mammoth lasers. This is the most moving film I've ever seen. I remember another scene in particular: Larenz Tate's character, Ford Lincoln Mercury (f.k.a. John Stevens, who changed his name because he wanted to drive cars and, as the real mastermind behind the Postal Service of the Restored United States, is my favorite character in the movie), is being scolded by Sheriff Briscoe of Pineview, Oregon, an instinctively distrustful man (and another favorite) who questions The Postman's intentions from the very beginning (and with good reason). The Sheriff makes a point of referring to Ford as Johnny, his given name, but when Ford says to The Postman "I'll see you around," The Postman says, "Sure thing, Ford." This is a clear rebuke to the Sheriff; also, it makes the point that Ford can reinvent himself if he so chooses; it's his right as a human being, and as an American. Wow.

I should add that James Russo has tremendous range: in The Postman, he plays a real evil dude; in Spider-Man, he plays Uncle Ben, and how.

I wish I could bring a squad of heavily-armed Marines from this reality and send them to The Postman's world so we could crush the Holnist armies and restore the United States ourselves, in the process building a better world. This is, of course, an idle dream -- until the interdimensional cross-time teleportation device is complete, that is.

Another awesome moment is when Luke, played by Scott Bairstow of Manitoba (who bears a passing resemblance to Stephen Dorff -- fear.com this, "ya greasy bastard"), defects at the end. Luke's salute is so damn cool that I practiced it for several minutes.

I saw Sunshine recently, and it was similarly excellent. Not a similar movie by any means, but excellent. Truly tremendous. I can't even begin.

I will begin, and end, with the following observation: Rachel Weisz. Dang. (Have you seen Enemy at the Gates? Bloody hell. And she's smart too. The rest of us are doomed. Good riddance, I say, to the rest of us, which is to say all of us who aren't Rachel Weisz; may she asexually reproduce and serve as the first of a new, sexier, yet sexless, human race.)

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Today's New York Observer, hip to the jibe as always, reports on a new social menace for Manhattan's beleaguered single men: "Listen up, fellows: Rich, bored teenage girls in New York City are on the prowl for twentysomething (and in some cases, thirtysomething) men. And this time, they’re not just arming themselves with fake ID’s." No, not at all; instead, they're armed with elaborate and, judging by the insightful and thorough investigation by the mysteriously mysterious Mallory Stuchin, utterly unconvincing lies. Take this anecdote, for example (which I'm quoting at length, but only to get you to read the bloody story and, if possible, purchase it; rest assured, I hold no brief for freeloaders):

Consider Alexis. By 14, she was fed up with the dopey guys in her age group. This 5-foot-9 private-school student and class treasurer likes them older—much older.

At first, Alexis employed a simple alias: She would tell the older men she met that she was a junior majoring in communications at the University of Pennsylvania. Everyone bought the lie. It went well until a 24-year-old man asked her out, and mentioned that he, too, went to U. Penn.

"I, like, totally bugged out," Alexis said.

Alexis scrambled home and went on the Web. She spent the next 24 hours researching the U. Penn. campus, her major, the names of professors and other campus activities. She called a friend’s older brother who went to Penn, too, and he gave her some more inside dope: the names of dorm R.A.’s and the local drug store.

From this information, Alexis created a U. Penn. cheat sheet that she carried with her on her date the next night. Oozing with information, Alexis spewed out fact after U. Penn. fact. The hunk from Morgan Stanley never knew what hit him—and readily accepted her story as truth. Though she’s moved on to other men since then, Alexis has kept her U. Penn. persona intact.

"If one guy believes your story," she explained, "then most guys probably will."

There was, of course, no need to "totally bug out": does anyone really believe that the gentleman in question was convinced? By a teen naif, no less? Unless the fellow in question is an utter buffoon, I seriously doubt it -- this might be the right time for a joke concerning the relative smarts of Penn alumni, but I will not indulge as I know quite a few sharp ones, including that Biddle fellow, who, if I recall correctly, was president of the Second Bank of the United States; not a personal friend, by any means, in large part because he was dead well over a century ago and also because I don't hang with many bankers, at least at this stage in my life. But yes, back to the topic at hand. This fellow is clearly a bad, bad dude; there's really no excuse for this kind of behavior, except that she was probably quite fetching, and yet that is still absolutely no excuse. And it's also Grodin to the max. I mean grodie to the max. (I certainly don't mean to suggest that Charles Grodin, a personal hero of mine, has a thing for these latter-day Lolitas.)

And might I add the following: "Low down and dirty / Boy, you know what I'm 'bout / Stay out my way and keep my name out yo' mouth."

Words to live by.
Remember 40 Days and 40 Nights, the Josh Hartnett vehicle about a sex-crazed young man's decision to give up sex for Lent? It was quite forgettable, except for Shannyn Sossamon. According to this bio, she is "French, Hawaiin, Dutch, Irish, Filipino and German." Good lord. (I feel really guilty as the web site from whence this picture came offered the following plaintive caption: "Please do not take this picture." Sorry dudes.) She is one of the many reasons why we must keep Hawai'i in the Union at all costs.

Monday, July 22, 2002

A blast from the past: so lovely that, sad to say, my head exploded from the sheer goodness, leaving the local neighborhood vigilante strike force to pick up the charred remains of my once perfectly content oblate spheroid of a skull.
Thus far, I've done my best to avoid airing personal grievances on this web site. As of yet, I've revealed very little as to my personal likes and dislikes; instead, I've used the blinding, awe-inspiring power of human reason to slash through the often overpowering everyday obfuscation of a media-saturated, hyperreal po-poco planet. (Incidentally, did you know that there was a Decepticon called ApeFace? I didn't. Until now, that is. To tell you the truth, I'm a bit disappointed in myself.) But tonight, I will share something closer to home, something deeply intertwined with questions of good and evil, the eternal questions with which we concern ourselves on this modest web site: Chris Park, the keystone in the arch that is our wise (who is perhaps better known as "Chris Park, Dynamo"), petulant, thoughtful, dope, irritable, forgiving, thuggish, epicene, old, young, stanky, fresh-smelling, and otherwise ethnically, congenitally funky editorial staff, is now also on the editorial staff of an obscure, musty, and utterly tiresome rag published at a twelfth-rate vocational school somewhere in the still unmapped wilds of Northern North America. To which I have but this to say: "What do you want, a cookie?"

Now we're cookin' with gas.

In closing, I'd like to cite a tremendously good force, a song that has managed to tap into a deep vein of universal human glee: the Todd Rundgren song "Bang on the Drum All Day," which goes as follows:

I don't want to work
I want to bang on the drum all day
I don't want to play
I just want to bang on the drum all day

Ever since I was a tiny boy
I don't want no candy
I don't need no toy
I took a stick and an old coffee can
I bang on that thing 'til I got
Blisters on my hand because

I don't want to work
I want to bang on the drum all day
I don't want to play
I just want to bang on the drum all day

The new Flaming Lips album is so excellent, it hurts my brain. Advance notice on the album was, indeed, impressive: Spin calls it an "artistic triumph" while NME adds that the album is rather "sublime." But I knew something was up when I walked into Tom's Tracks, located in Providence RI, for as soon as I approached the front register, and before I could utter a single word, Tom says, "no, we're all sold out of the new Flaming Lips." Damn, people.

The new LP, called "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" (reader: do not be turned off by the kitschy and arguably retrograde, late 90s ironic pose) is both an artistic triumph and rather sublime. The album was inspired by the sudden and unexpected death of a Japanese friend. The death, while tragic enough, was worsened by the inscrutability of her passing: the band was on tour when she was suffering through her last days in the hospital, and all correspondence came through the "Innanet" from her friends, but the friends did not possess a thorough control of English. Thus, the band never really knew of the gravity of the situation, and even when she died, it was unclear that she was indeed dead.

If I were a colder, more indie rock bastard, I suppose the above could inspire some cheap laughs - but this is not the hooplah of Weezer's Across the Sea shennanigans. This is some sad shit - robots and all - and the new Lips album makes a bizarre, yet impassioned plea for commiserate humanity. I, for one, am deeply moved by the title track "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots" which implores "Oh Yoshimi ... don't let them eat me" ["them" are the robots, to wit].

This is a great album. After giving it a good spin the other night, I was compelled to call my girlfriend up in Cambridge and demand that she pencil in 74 minutes this weekend to sit in my room, stoically posed, and listen to the new Lips album without uttering a single word, in profound silence. But I didn't, because she would have just thought I was doing my usual, stupid indie rock gesturing half serious/ half ironic thing.

The seriousness of all this could also be posed as such: so overwhelming is this album that my usual incessant discourse of human teleporters has been trumped by talk of pink robots and the "Fight Test." But there is a reason for all this: when faced with the inhumanity of evil robots taking over both our bodies AND minds, there can be little chatter of anything else. I refer you to Terminator I, Terminator II, and "Skynet" for a further discussion on this topic.

Sunday, July 21, 2002

Over the past three days, I've seen Pootie Tang, my second favorite movie of all time, about six times. This movie is so good -- indeed, so forcefully good -- that it makes me want to remove my own brain.

Consider this sentence from Elvis Mitchell's review:

The father passes his Zen power along to his son, who uses it on the forces of evil; the scenes of the belt working like a living thing as Pootie issues whuppings to bad guys and then leaping back into his belt loops are very funny. [Emphasis added.]

The execrable Undercover Brother, on the other hand, was an insult to my intelligence. It was so soul-searingly bad that, in all honestly, I'd rather slice my own hand than ever see it again, and I'm extremely skittish around both knives and human blood, including my own. That it was both well-financed and aggressively promoted, unlike the vastly superior Pootie Tang, makes me all the angrier. It is rare that I kvetch about "Corporate America," the principal villain of Pootie Tang, but this does strike me as a travesty of justice and as a goddamn shame. (I should add that Eddie Griffin is an extremely talented fellow who deserves better, as seen in this year's excellent, and sorely under-rated, The New Guy, which also stars Parry Shen, a fellow 5' 7" 1979er who plays the lead in Better Luck Tomorrow.) Unlike Pootie Tang's thoughtful, unconventional, and insightful take on race, UB (it's hardly worth typing the whole bloody title) offers a half-witted, primitive, narrow and, worst of all, unfunny brand of black nationalism. Pootie Tang is nationalist as well, to be sure, but in the Albert Murray vein: Pootie is an Omni-American; his black nationalism is a galactic, all-embracing black nationalism with which we can all get down. Sepa-town.

Incidentally, Dirty Dee is my favorite character.