Evil Forces in the World

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

Saturday, August 10, 2002

Best pop lyric of the month:

"We're all smiles, honest, I swear -
it's the turnstiles,
that make us hostile."

-- Morrissey, "We'll Let You Know"

I'd like to be serious for a moment. In the last 10 months alone, two of my favorite American poets have died. While both writers - Agha Shahid Ali and Kenneth Koch - were somewhat into their elder years, and both have garnered a preposterous amount of critical recognition, nonetheless, their respective passings saddens my heart. To me, Shahid embodied the finest lyrical voice and the humanist of emotions. His narrative "Evanescence" from The Nostaglist's Map of America, in which he chronicles the death of one of his former students, Philip Orlando, is one of the most poignant things I have ever read. The last line reads "But Phil, you never wrote." We could all learn something from this.

And Kenneth Koch remains my favorite New York poet, and favorite "humor" poet of the 20th century. He taught at Columbia University in the English department since the 70s, and wrote some of the finest modern lyrical epics I have ever read. "To Marina," which describes the rise and fall of a relationship, is the rare poem that sounds like everyday speech, but transcends the mundane with wonderful ideas. Koch, along with Frank O'Hara and Alan Dugan, made me want to study contemporary American poetry. Koch was also a great teacher apparently, and I am deeply disappointed that I will never get a chance to take a class with him.

I'm really saddened by the loss. I first heard about Shahid's passing through the New Republic, which rightfully published one of his last poems as a sort of elegy. As for Koch though, I was in a bar hanging out with an English graduate student when he broke the unfortunate news to me. Somehow, all of this no doubt smacks of irrelevancy and absurdity: poetry remains a frivolous avocation, it seems, pursued by the rare bookish type. To elevate writers like Shahid and Koch to some sort of celebrity status seems rather ridiculous - certainly. But to non-aggressively, non-obtrusively mourn the death of two fine, thoughtful writers, I think, draws the poetry enterprise (its study and appreciation) closer to what it should be - an impassioned community of freedom loving individuals - and away from the thing it should never become:an insular, elitist hobby-sport of academics and professional intelligentsia.

Friday, August 09, 2002

Earlier on, a fellow called Rich So suggested that the Special Delivery remix is not, in fact, so hot that it is not only burning up the streets but in fact liquifying both the concrete and the macadam, in the process engulfing innocent passersby, their shrill screams falling on deaf ears as powerful tank-like vehicles continue to blare the Special Delivery remix at the highest possible volume, going from "10" to "11." In response, I have but this to say:

(1) "I'm sorry mama / I never meant to hurt you / I never meant to make you cry"

This is not meant for Rich So; rather, it is meant for my "mama." Fortunately, I've never referred to her as "mama," nor am I planning on doing so anytime soon, in large part because such a course of action would constitute an inexcusable evil. As a role model for the "youth, here's the truth: you'd best start wearing bulletproof," I'd be more than remiss.

(2) "Wonder woman armed, Ghost is intelligent" and "The rhinestones in my Flintstone look crazy in my sweater":

This is, I should think, self-explanatory.

Word to the wise: though the rhinestone in the Flintstone may look crazy in Ghostface Killah's sweater, this doesn't necessarily mean that they will look crazy in your sweater.

(3) Who invented chopsticks? These are atrocious, infernal devices, and they ought to be banned, along with that dancing, which leads to fornication.

(4) I should add that the teen-oriented NBC sitcom City Guys, first introduced to me an exceptionally sharp young man called Spencer McClelland, features a very short Asian fellow who is both wry and charming, which is almost certainly a force for good, as it disguises the unfortunate fact that most short Asian fellows, myself included, are in fact knife-wielding and vicious. No, I do not use knives; rather, I am shy and retiring and spend most of my time solving customized Rubik's Cubes, several of which include whirring blades. No, I mainly sip on NesQuik, and that's a fact.
William Shatner:
the cutting wit, it just can't be stopped.
Why can't all Egyptians get along, whether Muslims or Copts?
Friday is about to draw to a close, and so I had to drop the knowledge
Slapping kids on the head, from here to Yale College.

Thursday, August 08, 2002

I consider Reihan Salam to be not only one of my closest friends, but also, a true brother-in-arms against the forces of evil. We fight a never-ending battle, day and night, and I'd like to think I would literally take a bullet in my pelvis if it meant sparing his life. If the imagined shooter had more than one bullet, however, I suppose it would be irrelevant if I deflected the first, as more would surely follow, in which case, I would probably let the first bullet pass. Anyway. Nonetheless, sometimes even in times of war, ranks must be broken and dissent must be acknowledged. I'm not sure why: maybe it's because Reihan is now "reprazentin" Brook-town, and I am still holed up in, uh, Providence, RI; maybe it's because we cohabit different cultural "habitus;" maybe, in the words of the late, great Biggie Smalls, "things done changed." We've seen this before: first with the Andrew WK and then later with my unwillingness to crown Carly Pope as the queen of North America. But those were just small, paltry gestures of disagreement. I came around to the WK (once he got the official nod in The Onion, and I saw the video for "I Get Wet," which features multiple Andrews destroying a suburban home), and all in all, the Pope is really hot as fuck.

But this business with the Special Delivery Remix: this I cannot abide by. This song is crap. First of all, while I now like P. Diddy, what with his recent public outpouring of human emotion on Usher's "I Need A Girl," the video for which disturbingly features a dead ringer for J. Lo, his spot on the Remix is pathetic, and his appearance in the video is abysmal. Through the entire video, Puffy gesticulates wildly with his body, seemingly locked in a epilectic fit, only to ocassionally bump into G-Dep. And then there is G-Dep. Who the hell does this guy think he is? He reminds me of a poor man's Mos Def, that is, if Mos Def had an even bigger lisp and was roughly about 80 percent less attractive. G-Dep is an idiot. Now, while the song does feature some hot cameos, all the rhymes are appallingly weak given the amount of talent represented. With the exception of Craig Mack's line in which he rhymes something with "I got more [something] than the United Negro College Fund" - which is incredibly hot I agree, whatever the first part is - the rest is forgettable.

I am both troubled and saddened by Reihan's endorsement of the Special Delivery Remix. And now, to close my argument, I will drop my final and largest bomb: the Remix video doesn't even feature the ambiguous "Special Delivery" packages that look like Fed-Ex packages. All in all then, this remix is a hollow, empty effort. To wit: just writing about all this conjures images of P. Diddy spastically flailing his body about for a good 4 minutes. I will mentally replace this image by thinking of a young, 1970s Diana Ross dancing on my bed, singing "Upside Down" over and over.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

Yeah, I've been listening to "Special Delivery (Remix)" all night long: wanna make somethin' of it? I particularly appreciate the following line from Ghostface:

"Wonder Woman armed, Ghost is intelligent"

While I firmly believe that "Ghost is intelligent," I can't quite see the connection between this entirely sound contention and the well-known fact that Wonder Woman is armed with a magical lasso. Of course, I may well be looking in the wrong place; perhaps I should stare for several hours at a rapidly rotating cube and allow it to mesmerize me into a hyperlucid half-stupor.

But there are other gems, including:

"The rhinestones in my flintstones look crazy in my sweater"

What on earth does this mean? And are the Flintstones in question vitamins? Sadly, we cannot see that Ghostface Killah is wearing a statuette around his neck as he raps. Also, he has a menacing metallic hawk of some kind affixed to one of his forearms, which is neither here nor there. This song is a force of good, as is Spy Kids 2, despite the fact that the latter introduced a new Osment to the world, which should give every last one of us pause.

I am willing to go on record: the Osments are nothing less than evil, but, living as we do in the ethical shadowland that is the 21st century, we cannot take direct action of any kind, including long-distance exorcism. And so I begrudgingly wish both Osments the best of luck, though I certainly hope both of them choose a life of utter obscurity, thus shielding the US and indeed the global public from the deviousness that lies deep within.

The opening paragraphs of George Gurley's latest essay in The New York Observer:

Girls, ladies, women of the city: I know you love your open-toe shoes, and so do I. They’re very sexy! Sex-y! I love everything about you: the hair, the eyes, the lips, the shoulders, the arms—and you know I’m fond of the breasts, not to mention the belly, the curves, the hips, the rump, the Brazilian bikini wax, the buttery thighs, all the way down to the ankles, and oh—it is all good.

Except for one thing. There’s just one little problem, something you haven’t quite picked up on: Your feet, your toes, displayed so proudly, stuffed into $500 strappies or $10 flip-flops as if on a pedestal for all to behold and admire … Here they are! Here’s the prize! And look at my toe ring!

Well, they ain’t so cute.

Thank goodness for this man, and thank goodness for this newspaper. I have deeply contradictory, tortured thoughts on this matter, but I'll spare you, at least for now.

Perhaps I won't spare you. Simply put, something must be done about the proliferation of nail varnish; specifically, it must be banned. I can understand an entirely reasonable desire to, for example, conceal dirt and filth underneath the nail, but that's hardly an excuse for what is an entirely superfluous, borderline creepy, and unsettling practice, i.e., placing a layer of paint, ranging from almost inoffensive translucent shades to thoroughly terrifying, thoroughly opaque encrustations of thick enamel. For me, this has relatively little to do with the sex of those involved; rather my staunch opposition to nail varnish, particularly that which finds it home on or near nude feet, is based on a simple, instinctive revulsion for the thing itself. Evil has many names.
I should add that I own a compilation of every music video made by The Smiths, The Smiths: The Complete Picture; my favorite video is, by a wide margin, the fantastically odd video for "Ask." It featured a young man with quite bad skin, a two-tone cast of inexplicably letter-jacket wearing secondary school kids with teased hair, and a round black object labeled "bomb," which served as a stand-in for the then-looming threat of nuclear annihilation. According to a reliable source, nuclear annihilation wouldn't necessarily be that bad, provided we managed to avoid a Postman-like collapse in global order, with all the deeply-destructive banditry that would entail, much of it led and inspired by a bearded and capricious Will Patton.
What's with incredibly sharp and beautiful people maintaining weblogs? It's long been my operating assumption that such individuals should be starring in long-running Australian soap operas, out on the town (painting it red, naturally), writing serious fiction (oh lord, the debut was fairly dope and, judging by the Vanity Fair piece from a short while back, she's the kind of knockout who'll knock various satellites out of the sky, as well as long-dead decent dudes floating in said sky, unlike Tupac, who, despite making a truly prodigious number of "hot" tracks is almost certainly rotting in hell due to his broad proclivity to violence and being exceptionally rude), or mercilessly mocking doughy-faced young men wearing glasses. That said, I can't fairly characterize this phenomenon as evil, particularly since every damn lady and gent working on this anti-evil project, a project crucial, in all seriousness, to the success of the overarching human project, launched millions of years before we were born, way back when our ancestors first started crawling out of the primordial much to shake bums and snatch crumbs.
Wow, such a long time since I've posted! Right now I'm a little under the weather. You might even say sick. Fewer forces have wrought more evil than illness. I don't think this is a debatable point. (Although, I suppose, everything is debatable; and I should probably mind my critique when it comes to denouncing illness in front of Reihan.) Take for example, the Black Death. Not much to discuss, is there?
I finally had the good fortune to get the chance to watch the video for the Smith's classic 80s song "How Soon is Now?" This was, also, the very first Smith's video I have ever seen, and so I nearly melted into a small pool of tears, the joyful sort. But, I must say, the video is a strange - deeply strange - cultural offering. The "video" is not so much a semi-coherent rock narrative as it is a bizarre montage of chopped up footage of an attractive blond woman walking outside of her apartment, crossed with grainy images of Morrissey singing to a pack of ravenous British fans. Johnny Marr ("Moz"), naturally, makes the perfunctory cameo, "Flock of Seagulls" haircut and all. This leads to the inevitable question: do you love Morrissey or Marr more? Keep in mind, if you say Morrissey, you align yourself with 30-plus years of sexual celibacy - serious shit, no doubt - and if you join the Marr team, you join the sometimes brilliant Electronic team, a group that also includes Pet Shop Boys genius Neil Tennant, thus identifying yourself with 30-plus years of post-Stonewall era flamboyuant "London mode" homosexuality. Choose well, my friend.

Anyway, back to the video. My viewing event becomes even stranger when put into its broader context: I saw the video while shopping in the Virgin Megastore in Boston, while also rocking the headphones for the Kylie Minogue "Love At First Sight" listening station. Much to my chagrin, these disparate pop forces did not congeal into an even more potent hole; no, indeed, the mixing was a devastating post-ironic, hipster collission that made my poor skull explode into a putrid mess. Who will clean the materialized remains of a concept-joke gone awry?

But I stand by my assertion (and Reihan has already gotten the full treatment) that Ms. Minogue's "Love At First" is the first great pop single of the millenium. Yes, even better than "Can't Get You Out Of My Head" which is more of an 80s retro joke gone awry than a true pop gem. "Love At First Sight" combines all that is great about pop-dance music nowadays: the updated 70s 4/4 disco beat, the fading in and out of the guitar sample, first pioneered by AV Helden, and of course, that sexy, very naughty voice that speaks of very, very superficial love. Indeed - a love at first sight. When I hear this song I think of a debaucherous NYC disco club in the mid 70s, and lines and lines of coke, although I have no reason to. I wasn't even born until the 80s.

And last, out of nowhere, the often amazing pop group The Beegees come to mind. Is "How Deep is Your Love" one of the finest pop ballads of our time? I honestly don't know. I do know however that a Korean hip hop group sampled its chorus, all to chilling effect. Sometimes this thing we call cultural transnationalism or cosmopolitanism is a deeply disturbing affair, and while it is giving dozens of English graduate students something to write about, it is also, I believe, singlehandedly ruining my Asian homeland. Thank god for World Cup, which President Kim likened to Korea's finest historical moment, greater than their moment of national independence. Who would argue with this?

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Earlier on, I declared my intention to run over a particularly detestable fellow with a tank. As it turns out, this was, I now realize, inspired in part by a never-released song by Billy and the Boingers: "Let's Run Over Lionel Ritchie With A Tank." If I recall correctly, it went as follows: "Middle of the road / man it stanks / let's run over Lionel Ritchie with a tank." This is neither here nor there, evil-wise. Mr Ritchie has passed away, which is a shame as he was a gifted musician, or so I'm told by reliable sources. Billy and the Boingers Bootleg, a really great Bloom County compilation published during the mid- to late-1980s, was given to me by two exceptionally cool dudes when I was a kid, with, amazingly enough, the two-song flexi still included. They were very much a force of good.

Jesse Shapiro, a member of our crack anti-Evil battalion, came upon a deeply disconcerting web site recently. (Some time ago, our Mr Shapiro was something of a flannel-wearing, metaphorical-bomb-throwing radical; more recently, he's decided to never leave home without both a diamond-encrusted cravat and a solid platinum fob watch, which both fires a laser and tells time.) Enter at your own risk. How deeply strange. The real question is this: why are the children wearing sailor's hats? Surely some sort of evil is afoot. Are they planning on challenging our total domination of the seas? Good luck, Busta. (I find it more plausible that Busta, with his formidable combination of charisma and lyrical skill, could meaningfully contest our total domination of the seas than the plodding, precious Bundesrepublik.)

Speaking of Germans, what's with all of the Franka Potente hubbub? And the hubbubbub? The hubbubbubbub? A Potente strain of pure evil? No, but I plan on keeping an eye out. I am frustrated by Ms Potente's rocketing rise to success, particularly since North America's own Carly Pope has not been declared Queen of America, with the power to summarily execute and/or dismiss her cabinet ministers, footmen, strategic rocket forces, buttercup squad, botanists, and legendary mustachioed battlers (LMBs).
Since the release of Shaolin Style, evil has been held at bay, with the possible exception of the NOPD, which remains pretty awful, particularly on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I should note that my obsession with battling the forces of evil -- please forgive this brief, self-indulgent foray into the realm of autobiography; as a small child, I left pellets of poop lying about my home, for which I'm deeply sorry, but there's really nothing I can do, aside from perhaps hurtling back in time in a phone booth along with funnyman George Carlin to retrieve said pellets, using them to pelt militant Stalinist thugs in high-pitched Praha street battles, but this is another matter entirely (and an evil matter at that; as long as I am plagued by thundering thunder and throbbing voodoo beats, I too will remain vulnerable to the siren song of evil, despite my best efforts to innoculate myself with various creams and powders) -- derives in large part from a lifelong love of the Wu-Tang Clan (I highly recommend treating yourself to a pair of Wu Devilles, now available in infant sizes), and specifically the song "Wu-Revolution," the first track on Wu-Tang's historic, long-awaited Wu-Tang Forever. It was around this time that I realized that Wu-Tang had lost its collective mind. And yet in a world gone mad, who could possibly blame them?

During moments of repose, I often ask myself the following:
Well, what I'm trying to say my brother
Why, why do we kill each other?

After all,
The universe is not completed
Without the sun, moon, and stars.

I should add, however, that I disagree with the sentiments expressed below:
At one time it was told to me
That man came from monkeys, ha ha ha
That we were swingin from trees
I hardly can believe that unless I'm dumb deaf and blind

No, no, I am firmly convinced that humans and monkeys share a common ancestor. Moreover, the broad thrust of 5 Percent Nation ideology strikes me as patently absurd. Regardless, Wu-Tang is incontrovertibly a force for good: lest we forget, Wu-Tang is for the children.

I certainly hope that ODB quits being so damn crazy. (Does a punitive strategy make sense? I couldn't tell you.) It will be less entertaining for yours truly, perhaps, but I do think that he is a good, decent human being who doesn't deserve the pain he's suffered; in a similar vein, the various police officers he's fired upon, and Shawn Colvin, do not deserve the suffering they've experienced at his drug-addled hands. In all sincerity, his debut album, Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version, is one of my favorite albums of all time. (Oddly enough, when you search for "Return to the 36 Chambers" via Amazon's search engine, the first result is a subscription to Where to Retire magazine; if given the opportunity to do so, I would gladly retire to the 36 Chambers.) To this day, tracks like "Shimmy Shimmy Ya," "Hippa to Da Hoppa," and, of course, "Brooklyn Zoo," my vote for Brooklyn national anthem on that fateful day when we overthrow the Usonian yoke, have great resonance for me. ODB is a great, and good, man, but no man -- not even ODB, despite the fact that he very nearly named his second album "Revolution: The Black Man is God," a controversial proposition to be sure -- is an island, or rock or mountain.
Irv Gotti and Michael Jackson are joining forces. As an ineluctable, inescapable result, the earth will soon split into two halves, one of which will fall into the unending void of space, thus leading billions to freeze to death; the other half will be drawn into the sun, turning billions of others into baked goods. On the cold, desolate half of the planet, millions will wear parkas and listen to Starsailor's "Goodsouls" (a modern trad-rock classic), in part because the members of Stairsailor are well known for their love of parkas; unsurprisingly, the new Nelly smash single "Hot in Here," which includes the immortal words, which will endure long after our planet is tragically split in two, "good gracious / ass is bodacious."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

In case you haven't guessed as yet, a shattering cosmic blow that severs our beloved planet in half is evil. I can only engage in so much hand-holding. Keep your nose clean, rhombi.
Honestly, ladies and gentlemen, I am befuddled; as a result, don't be shocked if I come across as a bit muddled, or rather more muddled than usual, which is certainly saying something, in light of my demonstrably high degree of everyday incomprehensibility, or rather "incomprehensibilidad," which may or may not be the correct Spanish translation. I'm guessing it isn't. And while it's hardly my intention to waste your time on nonsensical faux Spanish translations, or rather "Español-ey that is baloney, or Bologna, as in the Università di, what up, D, as in D-Fens, protagonist in the simultaneously sad and borderline infuriating (goddamn, of course that immigrant fellow's going to charge a premium: the rent is high, as is risk of theft, and he presumably has to purchase fresh produce at four in the morning, so why don't you shut your filthy maw, macaw; judging by his decision to vandalize this hard-working, if a little rough-hewn, cat's store for no reason, not to mention his general lunacy and indefensible love of menacing his entirely innocent wife and child, D-Fens is very much a force of evil -- and so the hammer drops once again, much like an earthquake or the brutal sting of my infinitely robotical nunchucks, which have no purpose aside from delivering a brutal sting; to tell you the truth, I do not own such a deadly martial-arts weapon; I prefer books) Michael Douglas vehicle Falling Down, also starring Robert Duvall, who is quite possibly Southern -- Enough.

I have lost my way. The sentence has spiraled out of control, not unlike the world envisioned in Daniel Patrick Moynihan's Pandaemonium, as well as big Zbig's appropriately titled Out of Control. My original intention was to expound upon, to explicate, and to explore this Op-Ed by Garry Kasparov, also known as the man who lost our decisive battle against the robots, which have now seized control of the commanding heights and will soon bring about a kind of robo-Götterdämmerung, complete with massive gatherings in which toddlers will be forced to dance the electric slide (have some bloody decency: but for our batteries and monkey-like dexterity, you'd still be toasters and switchblades, or "switchbladez"; incidentally, replacing "s" with "z," particularly in the word "kidz," which is a very popular thing to do among the merchants of downtown Brooklyn, which is relatively close to where I lay my dome, is just plain wrong, not to mention evil), which appeared in yesterday's Wall Street Journal. While I heartily endorse Kasparov's general sentiments, I can't quite understand why Kasparov's expertise on the matter, i.e., the war on terrorism and why we must bomb the heck out of our increasingly ruthless, increasingly deadly enemies abroad, was of particular value; had he, for example, explained how we might defeat, say, the brutal Iranian clerisy in, say, chess, I'd understand. But that wasn't the thrust of the Op-Ed, as far as I could tell. Evil? Far from it. Kasparov's sentiments are certainly appreciated.

Let's roll. Specifically, let's roll over Saddam in enormous tanks.