Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Eliticism of Subculture Critics...and Everyone's a Critic

The fact of my anti-social personality is no more proven true than in the process of this post. I debate this purpose with the silent voice hammering adjectives and verbs and subject-matter points in my head. But, putting them on screen is a conversation I must have alone with an imaginary audience much smarter than I and fully capable of smelling bullshit in a flower shop.

Between sentences and paragraphs, I twirl a pen and think of what the non-existent voice in my head cannot...complete sentences. Because I can type them, that makes me better than him. But he thinks them and whispers them humbly, altruistic acts of a true writing spirit, contradictory to the writer himself. Trying to speak for him, a butchered and biased translation proceeds now.

Punk is just...punk. It's both. It's the musical style and the message. They both have to be there or it's not punk. There's no way to really get someone to understand. You either do or you don't.
- from Psycho Dave's essay, "The Meaning of Punk: A Memoir" on Kuro5him.

You either know something or you don't, either way, a definition is unexplainable. It's easier to say what something isn't, than to say what it is. Cliches aside, subcultures are created from critics.

Being a writer or a punk or a gamer is not a lifestyle, but a life. A life of images as seen through ideals and self-worth. A subconcious life of shaking heads and pointing fingers away from the body. "I am not this." "I am infinitately more indescribable."

"The Meaning of Punk," to Psycho Dave is one thing, to the critical commenters it's something not so easily packaged between the first capital letter and the final period of the piece.

I am a poser, the non-existent voice is my head is a writer. I embody a definition that he just knows to be true without limiting it to vague words and cliched phrases. That's the way it is with me and this non-existent voice. We don't know how we write together, we just do.

Friday, October 14, 2005

To Hell in a Hand-Woven Basket

Uncanny reading lately about scientific discoveries, past and present. Even men in Ancient Egypt were scared of getting their girlfriends pregnant. Ramen did not invent the noodle. Tolkien's "Lord of the Ring" series could really be Hobbit folklore. Pre-historic white meat in South America learned to fly just as quickly as birds in North American and Asia.

Contraception, noodles, Hobbits, flying dinosaurs; just more useless trivia our kids will be tested on in junior high history classes or maybe our junior high history teacher wasn't lying when he said "history has a way of repeating itself" when asked why we needed to know about the past.

Modern-day resemblences: AIDS, Anorexia (the teen suicide before-dinner salad), men saving the world from Ring-fascinated, world domineering women (that may be a little exaggerated and biased...senseless EE, senseless), and Avian flu.

I'm not a conspiracy-theoryist - though this taken with my previous EE post, I may start writing about alien sitings) - but I find it interesting that news-making, historical findings, in fact make the news because of their ties to modern-day headlines. I wonder if the connection is merely one of "newsworthiness" or one of irony.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Who's "Intelligent Design" is This Anyway?

So, God creates Man on the 6th day. Millions of years later, after a 40-day flood to rid the earth of its sinners, we still argue if God really did all this or if we walked away from our crazy, Godless monkey ancestors.

Hurrican Katrina nearly sinks New Orleans, obviously not a man-made catastrophe, that is, unless you believe those wack-job scientists who say global warming has heated the earth's oceans thus making strong hurricanes more numerous.

A pandemic incubates in Asia. In the image of the H5N1, avaian flue, Americans re-spawn the deadly 1918 Spanish flu that killed millions worldwide. Cloning things, and now bringing deadly viruses back from the "dead" - a virus is never really alive, so it can never really be dead, but it's the idea here - it seems as if we're getting this God created us out of His Image thing down and are just running amok here on earth.

While a Pennsylvania state court decides whether the chicken or the egg should be taught first, I'm watching the West Coast wildfires claim thousands of acres, I'm watching the calender as it flips pages closer to 40 days and 40 nights since the Aug. 29 Hurricane Katrina landfall and following floods, and I'm watching the biological clock tick away the seconds and minutes the H5N1 virus evolves and mutates, like the 1918 Spanish flu, from bird flu to global pandemic. While I'm watching this apocolypse unfold, I'll read the Book of Revelations as told by Stephen King in his bestseller The Stand, and be glad that I'm a sinner, don't believe in Heaven or Hell, and won't have to worry about fighting the final battle between good and evil.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Harriet Miers: Garfield in an Odie Costume?

Senate Democrats slept peacefully uneasy last night. President Bush's USSC Chief Justice nominee, John Roberts, put on the robes of a new era this morning, but the historic truth of Roberts' judicial and constitutional legacy was overcast by a new Supreme Court nominee - one that has never worn a judge's robe before.

President Bush's nominee is relatively unknown by anyone outside of the legal system, yet she is already being hyped and criticized in the media. She was the first woman to serve as president of the Texas State bar could very well be the third woman to sit on the USSC (after O'Connor and Ginsberg. In the Texas and federal political arenas, her record is clumped highest in the president's kitty box. But, then again, she was doing only what she was hired to do.

Little is known about her stances on hot-button issues, but already Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid said
"the Supreme Court would benefit from the addition of a justice who has real experience as a practicing lawyer."


Her judicial inexperience could either be her most profitable asset or an insurmountable deficit. Some democrats are already saying that her nomination is just another way President Bush is taking to get this country lost in his head, but she could very well be the "average jane" in Washington that we've all dreamt of being right out of college.

There is an American tradition that politicians breed politicians and a middle class that yells for a representative of its own. Harriet Miers could be just that. Or she could be a Garfield dressed as "man's best friend" four weeks too early.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

New Orleans Roots and a New Creative Class

Your fascination with extremes - Wall Street in the 1980s, Silicon Valley in the 1990s - seems to be a consistent theme in your work. Why?

Probably because I grew up in New Orleans, which is the complete opposite of these worlds. New Orleans is a stable, unchanging world.

-Michael Lewis in Robert Boynton's book, The New New Journalism, pg. 252.

Creative Nonfiction, like Lewis's Moneyball, and Boynton's New New Journalism may be the next great American literary movement, but the massive displacement of New Orleaneans after Hurricane Katrina could be the beginning of a new Creative Class.

Wherever these creators flock, the city thrives with commerce - Washington, D.C., Boston, San Francisco, Austin. New Orleans was like that. It had "culture" in abundance: museums, jazz clubs, bars, coffee shops, and other quaint establishments where like-minded individuals - writers, artists, etc - got together to converse and create. It was one of those creative epicenters.

Now, its residents are being shuttled to various cities across the nation. Most will most likely return when they can, but many will remember what they have waiting for them back "home." When they are evicted from their make-shift shelters, they have no where to go. They are looking for jobs and trying to get back onto their two feet in our backyards and playgrounds. They will be competing for jobs and contributing to their new, host cities. Their lifestyles and cultuers will follow them and will paint the towns a new color.

Bring on this Jazz class. Bring on these poverty-stricken individuals with nothing else to lose. What's to hold them back from re-locating some of New Orleans into the Louisiana border states? We have Chinatowns and Little Mexicos across the country, why not New Orleans? Maybe they'll stay and blend-in and maybe they'll seek out a way to create their own subdivisions or suburbias. Who knows what the next few months will have on them and on us.

I think Michael Lewis may have been wrong about New Orleans, but then, again, he may have been referring to its people rather than the dotten lines on a roadmap.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Wake Me Up When September Ends

I don't know whether to pack the car and roadtrip to New Orleans or curl up into the fetal position and cry myself into a month-long hybernation. We are in the shade of the three-day, Labor Day weekend and the shadowing reminder that Mother Nature and Life, both, go on.

Unemployed and without reason to celebrate. Alive and without fear of homelessness. I take stock in humility. We should all be so rich and so embarassed. On Sunday, I watched Hurricane Katrina move across the Gulf of Mexico - not unlike the sauntering musicians and celebrities at the VMAs in Miami - praying for the best and hoping to see history...Train-wreck awe and masochism.

And as the first photos, the first videos, and the first reports live from the "City beneath the Sea" start to flood the internet and the television, I think we all should bow our heads in shame - or maybe, just me - for wanting to witness history and forgetting about those having to live it. It's easy to feel sorry from here. It's hard to look away from the damage, but easy to look past the faces of the affected. When you see a picture of the devastation, do you first see the person crying out for help from their roof, or do you see the rising flood waters just below the roof-line? It's okay, they aren't looking at us; the homeless survivors are looking to the rescuers, the camera is looking at them...we can be the "fly on the wall."

And that's exactly how I played it. I disassociated myself from the Katrina situation because I'm so far away, gas prices are going up, and I'm ashamed that I secretly wanted to see the city disappear. But the eyes of helplessness cannot as easily be dismissed. I blame it on the dog. In him/her, I saw the confused tears in in America. And all of a sudden I can't get "Behind These Hazel Eyes" by Kelly Clarkson out of my head...
or "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day.

And, WTF?! One an American Idol; the other American Rejects. Opposite spectrums and passionate about it. Still, I don't want to like Kelly Clarkson. I don't want to fall into that American Groupie category. But, I hear that song and I relate to something. Or maybe I'm just hearing in that song what I choose to.

Ihen, I watch the video for "Wake Me Up When September Ends" by Green Day and I can see something similar there. It's easier to empathize than to sympathize. It's easier to imagine the pain of loss rather than know it. It's the way of dealing with everything only as it pertains to us individually. Loss of love: Loss of life. Both the American ideal of pain and suffering - the anti-American Dream. It's happening to our soldiers overseas and now it's happened to our neighbors in Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi...yet it's the camera that sees and feels it all.

When does it start to hurt? It should shouldn't it? I mean, even under blue skies, we should feel at least a little guilty for having our family and friends around the weekend BBQ. I remember going to my grandfather's funeral a number of years ago and found myself wanting to cry - should've been crying - but i couldn't. That hurt. Not crying hurt me more than losing him.

I want to cry with Cindy Sheehan and the other suffering mothers. I want to pray with the counter-protesters. I want to drive to New Orleans and Biloxi and join the Red Cross just to help out in any way possible. but I won't because I can't cry. and, again, that hurts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Ashes to Ashes: Saying Good-bye to Hunter S. Thompson and Peter Jennings

I remember my father's two-year transition into the world of respectability. He was promoted from beat-cop to detective. He quit smoking and drinking and bought some new suits. He did it for the family. We needed the money and he wanted to be at home when my brother and I were awake instead of out protecting the midnight streets while we slept. And, he did it to give my brother and I options. Options I never would have appreciated had not both Hunter S. Thompson and Peter Jennings died the same year I graduated college.

The two as different as my degrees in journalism and creative writing, yet alike in their passion: the craft. Neither had formal journalism training, both blindly followed purpose. Both spoke well for their cultures and their voices should immortalize them.

As a kid, I never saw ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings. Instead, my parents would turn the channel to Wheel of Fortune and then disappear into the kitchen to prepare dinner after the 6 o'clock local news. And, I wouldn't have it any other way now because my dad was there to cook dinner. But, before the days of cable reminders and Tivo, you flipped from channel to channel only when you knew one show was over - for us, that flip came only after we'd heard the announcer say "with Peter Jennings." And the switch from inactive reality into the game-show fantasy was just that easy. After my parents had come home from work and changed out of their business attire, Peter Jennings was still wearing his suit and just getting clocked-in.

And then, years later, there was Hunter Thompson, as protrayed by Johnny Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, in khaki shorts, a Hawaiian short and a tape-recorder duct-taped to his chest. That was the first year I took journalism seriously. After years of seeing news reporters in their ties and sports coat, here was this guy wearing shorts and driving a red convertible sports car across the country in pursuit of the story and the Great American Dream. Another option.

And I think about the options we are all left with. We live in a country where the rich go to college, the middle class go into student loan debt, and the unfortunate join the military. Exemptions do apply, but the deciding factor is opportunity. Those that have it, take advantage of it. Those that don't, make it happen for themselves. And most do it for the same reasons my dad traded his police uniform for a suit and tie: family. Others like Hunter Thompson and Peter Jennings - a suspect subculture - take advantage of opportunities because destiny give them no other paths.

There are now more advocacy and interest groups than ever, and each speak louder when they can turn a celebrity into a poster-child for their own causes. Unfortunately, it is these groups that will fight to martyr those who have or will die as icons because of their contributions and/or vices. In the eyes of these groups, immortality can only come from one's mortality. And in that, the vision gets lost.

Hunter will go and be publically remembered the way he lived - with a bang. From the top of the Gonzo cannon, his ashes will be blown out onto his Woody Creek Ranch. The invitees will see and hear Hunter's final escapade; his following will remember him on that day. But what of Peter Jennings, the person beneath the suit and tie that symbolizes so much of American culture. The journalist brothers and sisters said their tributes the days immediately following his death. Now, he's become the angry voice and shaking finger of a nation-wide anti-wide smoking campaign blaiming the Marlboro Man for his untimely death. He was a victim, but he was also the voice we all needed to hear during 9-11. And on that day, when we turned to him for journalistic compassion and emotional support; when he needed a cigarette more than anyone has ever needed a cigarette in the history of the addiction, he sat there for 48 hours and told us to call our children.

On August 20th, when Hunter's ashes are being blown out from atop the Gonzo tower, remember when you think about Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas that the angry midget yelling at Hunter (Depp) after leaving the Flamingo Lounge without paying for lunch will be toasting Hunter. The Hell's Angels will be toasting Hunter alongside everyone at Rolling Stone as well all the friends and enemies Hunter made throughout his entire career of telling the story as he saw it and to hell with everyone else. But, Hunter could not have been so loud without Peter Jennings anchoring the other end of the spectrum. So, remember Peter as well. Both, I trust will enjoy the entire scene together smoking cigarettes and thankful that someone else has to cover the story. Me, I'll drink to the good Doctor, smoke to the future of journalism, and thank my father for putting on the coat and tie so I could have the opportunity to be a part of that future.