Let me tell you about a horror story called Twilight

A few weeks ago I was sitting comfortably in a suburban movie theater waiting to succumb to the numbness that is Hollywood’s interpretation of cinematic art. As with every movie these days I was under the captivity of the pre-feature commercials and previews for films I would not remember. As I sat munching heavily on a bag of popcorn I was horrified to see the sneak peak of Twilight. Up to this point I was able to safely keep my distance from this teen drama series. I had read a Washington Post article earlier in the year about the sudden rise of teen vampire drama. These books, the generations cousin to Anne Rice’s Lestat Chronicles were thick with sexual innuendo, a powerful male figure and wandering, hapless women (for the most part, I am paraphrasing) that were being eaten up with a religiosity by girls and boys across our mostly illiterate land. I cringed at the notion of vampires once again being popular. I mean the movie Blackula is awesome, and the original Nosferatu is kind of cool, but vampirism is such a perverse expression of horror and unfortunately I have found that Twilight is a shinning example of why.

Curiosity got the better of me eventually. The preview I saw showed a hapless young woman being saved at the zero hour again and again by the silver, skinned, dark eyed vampire hunk. At no point did we get a Buffy the Vampire a la Kristy Swanson (please don’t get me started on the Sarah Michelle Geller version. I have managed with success not to see one episode of that show) vibe from the femme fatal. Instead we get this doe eyed creature, more game then human. My initial reaction was the film, and thus the book, was about how women are desperately hopeless, always near danger and death, victims of prey by man and beast alike, and need a silver skinned, shinny knight to save them. In this case a chiseled vampire forever encapsulated in the body of a 17 year old boy. Eventually I caved after multiple trips to book stores wherein I was bombarded by displays of the book series. I did what any sensible literature major would do. I got a copy of the book on CD and listened to it. I had to prove my theory right. Sadly I did.

Author Stephanie Myer has defended her heroine’s hopelessness by stating that Isobella Swan (and as the book reminds you over and over again her nickname is Bella, so you see she is a BEAUTIFUL SWAN) is not the victim of helpless femininity but just a normal, awkward teenager who is the victim of humanity’s need for us to make choices. However, my analysis of this character finds nothing that hints that the little swan ever makes a choice at all. She seems instead entranced by the Vampire Edward Cullen who is stalking, overprotective, violent and in this book emotionally abusive. As this is also a love story and stories are often a reflection of the artist, I can’t help but wonder what Stephanie Myer’s eHarmony personal add reads like. The Brigham Young graduate alludes to the biblical story of the tree and the snake and the apple when talking about this story. And really, is that not a surprise? The most anti-feminist story in modern literature acting as inspiration for a vampire book is hardly shocking.

I don’t have the heart (or intestinal fortitude) to go into the details of the story. I do not encourage a reading of this book either. I will say though, that never in my life have I read a book where in a woman was a victim of violence and terrorization by every man she comes in contact with. The only person who doesn’t see Bella Swan as a victim is her dopey father, whose non-presence is the only telling and interesting facet of this story. The high school boys Bella meets, the Native American men she finds, and of course the Vampire Cullen are all so convinced that Bella can’t last five minutes alone in the big scary world that they practically kill themselves to defend her. The reward of course is not noble, it’s her vagina, at least metaphorically. Being an artist tempered by her silly beliefs, Meyers never quite goes the raunchy sexual route. Regardless the allusion to body heat, electricity, blood and pulses is enough to tell us what Bella and Edward both want.

Let us not get me started either on Meyer’s inability to come up with new adjectives. She was so pleased with her self when she had her characters shrug into their coats she used this allusion repeatedly throughout the book. Between the whole Isobella Swan nonsense and all the shrugging everyone is doing you wonder who the hell the editor was and why the hell they even have a job. Maybe if someone sat Meyer’s down and been honest with her from the beginning we could have gotten a more worthwhile story, written well. That’s all every writer wants, is to be told by an editor what they have is a start, but that the novel needs work. No one had the balls to say that to Meyers. Which is sad, because this means that money again dictates decisions. However, this book might have had a chance at being monumental in success. The world has proven with Harry Potter that it wants great, universal epic stories. In book form too, this writer might add.

Twilight is why it is important for parents to read the books that their children are reading. If I did (and thankfully I do not) had a 14 year old girl, a 12 year old girl, a 10 year old girl, a 16 year old girl that was reading this book I would be nothing short of mortified. My house would instantly be plastered in photos of Kim Gordon and Kim Deal. Copies of Miranda July would line ever shelf and be slid daily into backpacks. PJ Harvey would exclusively be played on the stereo along side Sleater-Kinney, Team Dresch and The Breeders. Every weekend I would have Allison Anders movie marathons and if that didn’t get the point across, well at that point I would just track down bell hooks and be be done with the whole mess. This kind of shit is what turns impressionable young girls into unsure, neurotic women. I don’t say that lightly, but Twiglight seeks to do nothing more then reinforce the notion that women are the weaker sex. Reinforcing these notions that women are weak has caused unreal amounts of damage to the psyche of human existence on this planet. Why? Why are we content not just to reinvent and retell these stories, but why too are we so willing to allow them to exist without massive criticism.

I do not believe that Meyer’s does not have the right to deliver these tales to the masses. Art, even the bad art has a right to exist. It is our jobs however, as thinking people to challenge, and do so with venom ideologies in art that are not insightful, but reinforcing of behavior that is despicable. Twilight is a piece of shit as writing, but it is so much worse as a work of art in it’s ability to so thoroughly ignore notions of feminism, liberation and empowerment. In many ways I can’t think of a better thematic element then Vampirism to counteract anti-women mythology. Kristy Swanson was blond and ditsy and cute. But she hardly played the victim in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Not that this film was a super high five to feminism either, but it did at least put the steaks in her hands. Twilight is literary poison of the worse kind. Lets work to find a better, more empowering antidote.

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Polar Opposite Bear – The CreE.P.

Polar Opposite Bear
The CreE.P.
Exotic Fever

The CreE.P., Wherein you will find music of a particularly aggressive volume. Wherein you will wonder if Steve Albini recorded this music. Wherein you will hear track four, “Your Family’s Next,” which will lick at your throat seductively for a few seconds before ripping out your vocals chords with it’s teeth. Wherein you will learn that the former Synthesizer player moved to China. Wherein you will hear a great recording of the bass guitar but try hard to find the kick drum. Wherein the Exotic Fever stamp has been modified to include the Vacanti Mouse which is both odd, unfortunate and unfortunately, oddly cute. Wherein you will learn that Polar Opposite Bear are from Wichita, Kansas and had their gear stolen. Wherein you will see great cover art work that looks like a comic book and the music is fitting for such a world. Wherein you will think this band has a bright future both musically and artistically. Wherein you will be reminded of parts of Shellac, Joy Division and The Faint as well as a fair blend of good old post punk music similar to Hoover, Sleepy Time Trio and the like. Wherein you will be glad that you can get this from Exotic Fever Records who are mixing it up a bit in these challenging, interesting times for music distribution that is beginning to unravel in a wild wild west type of frontier. Wherein the awesome sounds of keyboards and synthesizers are mixed with anthem style riffage on the song “Grow a Tooth”. Wherein you will wonder what Al Burian is up to these days. Wherein you will be glad that music is awesome, filled with people who want to create something intense, different and forward moving. Polar Opposite Bear, The CreE.P., find it now in your ears. Listen, enjoy, relax and be swept away to a new world inside your mind.

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The age of 90 is a precarious notion for those of us who believe we are immortal. Time from this distance still looks so plentiful. There is no end to our enrichment, our dancing fingers constantly adding noise to this fire of life. Every moment we make is monumental, everlasting and rich in nourishment. The soil of life seems to be never ending in it’s ability to bare and breath and nurture our endless existence.

Despite popular belief, New York is not the epicenter of culture and is not deserving of the lavish and golden praises it receives. Culture is everlasting. It permeates beyond the simple whims of human expression. Culture defines a community, it is something that is recognizable when stumbled upon by wobbling outsiders. New York City has none of these features. I can tell you this by the number of twentysomething women I saw out in public wearing velor stretch pants, ridding tightly up their bubble butts. The legs of the hideous, skin tight pants are then shoved into faux fur booties that look as though they were stolen from the set of The Empire Strikes Back. The flipped up collar of the pastel polo shirts being worn is only out done by the resurrection of really big hair and hooker make up.

So while I was not in the city myself and instead bumming around Long Island, this musing bunch of factoids only begins to strengthen my argument about how New York City SUCKS. Gotham is supposed to be America’s epicenter where people from around the world congregate, coagulate and then melt together in symbiosis. But if you cross any of the Burroughs or take one of the numerous bridges and tunnels out of the city you land smack down in a wasteland of suburban psychosis. Long Island is a paralyzed melting pot that seems to be as white washed as possible and completely desperate. The townships’ talons are hooked into a past that have died long ago. I blame New York and it’s unwillingness to adopt and care for it’s neighbors. Go to Hoboken, Elizabeth, Baldwin, Hempstead, the hipster parts of Brooklyn, the still savaged parts of the Bronx and tell me that New York city is taking care of it’s self and it’s community.

So what does this have to do with being 90 years old? This is the backdrop where both of my grandmothers reached this milestone year in their existence. Both of them are children of German emigrants, first generation born Americans, brought forth to this country through Ellis Island and settled in the Big Apple at the mouth of the 20th Century. Both of these woman have lived their entire lives in New York state. They both still live in homes bought by their husbands in the 1950’s, the same homes my parents were raised in. The same homes where they both watched their children grow up and marry, have grand kids and lost their husbands in. Both of these women live alone through a combination of their own determination, stubbornness and sadly, dementia and mental illness. They are cared for by siblings of my parents who have lived on the island their whole lives.

Despite being in my 30’s and with numerous trips to Long Island over the last two decades I have lived on the East Coast, I know very little about these women whose lives I am directly connected to. There are many reasons for this, some of which trouble me to no end. On my part, I have not visited them much over the last five years. I have been to Long Island so few times that I barely remember the last occasion that brought me there. I know it was in February and the time before that was also in February. This is probably telling about my feelings for this gray, industrial place and perhaps I could recapture the mesmerizing view of Long Island that I had as a child if I only came in a month like April or May. But I doubt the bloom of flowers, the green of trees or the semi-blue skies hiding behind all the exhaust would change my opinion.

There is no real excuse for this. Mostly I don’t come because New York depresses me and it’s easier for me to forget that it exists. I realize this is less than noble and will no doubt make me widely detestable to my massive audience. I can’t really argue with the hurled insults set to come my way. But the fact is the culture retardation, combined with streets and streets littered with store fronts and surely looking people is not the type of environment my already pessimistic, depressed self really likes to take in.

The reflection however on the fact that there are two women, whose blood and genetics I share, living alone at 90 is a startling one. I wonder very much who they were when they were young. My failure in collecting this knowledge is not as simple though as missed time and gross negligence. In the case of my father’s mother, she was diagnosed and has lived with Schizophrenia since my father was a child. Her perception of the past, of her experiences and where she has been and seen is most likely not very lucid. I sat with her in her dinning room and we shared peaceful silence and small conversations. She, unlike my aunt who talks all the time, is a self reflective person. She enjoys solitude and time inside of her own mind. I wonder if she isn’t schizophrenic at all, but just content being a singular being, uncensored by the whims of action the run through the mind. At the age of 90 she still reads a great deal, still walks to the store and still works on her knitting at which she is skilled. I may never know her stories, her sorrows or losses and loves. I may never learn about my father, aunt or the grandfather I never met from her, but I can’t help feel a deep connection to her. I gained an understanding of where I came from and more of who I am and why I am that way from sitting quietly in her house watching my aunt put out bird feed.

My other grandmother’s stories were overridden by stories about my grandfather. During my childhood visits it was his tales that were shared around the dinner table. I fear this is partly because my mother’s family was very traditional, relying on the patriarch and so he was revered by everyone. He was a great and wonderful and gentle man and despite the desperately thrashing arguments he and my grandmother were famous for having, there is no doubt that love was the central focus of that family. The stories I do hear about my grandmother, now plagued by dementia in the absence of my grandfathers imposing presence, was that she was quite the extraordinary woman. She loved to dance and my grandparents hosted dance parties in their half finished basement. I also know that she wanted to be an artist when she was young and was not encouraged to do this, despite what I found was a great deal of talent in a discarded sketch book in her basement during one of my visits. Now, unfortunately she speaks mostly of loneliness despite what I find is a daily influx of visitors and friends who spend a lot of time with her. The loss of my Grandfather seems to have taken the life out of her in a sense and she has become a shell of the bright, energetic and strong woman people tell me she was. The arguments my grandparents shared was not just a testament to their combined stubbornness, but to the fact that my grandmother was an independent, strong woman, not unhinged by and not complacent to an otherwise settled patriarchy. Make no mistake, this is not to say that my grandfather was an overbearing man with deliberation or made any demands of anyone, but much as I see how he was set in his ways, my grandmother too was set like stone in hers. When they met in opposition words were exchanged loudly and passionately. I see now, without that power struggle something deep is missing in her life.

In the aftermath of this recent visit I have thought more and more about family, history, children and life. It’s hard to see the bigger picture, to feel that connection, for many different reasons. Mostly it’s because I grew up so far away from my extended family. We are related in blood, but that bond for me is not shared in experience. I am still the baby of the family and largely treated that way when I go there, despite being a homeowner in my 30’s. None of my other cousins have a family for the most part. One of them is living with a man who has three kids from a previous relationship, but these experiences we are having don’t seem bound to last as we enter our mid thirties and mid forties. Our parents are aging without becoming grandparents and we have no one to care for us if we are lucky to make it to these years. It makes an hazy future seem bleak in a lot of ways. But what enrichment is there in grand kids too busy to visit, children too busy to make the time to be there as you see the sunset years? I don’t really know, and sadly it seems I may never know.

I look at a part of my future, scared of losing my mind and hoping like hell my body lasts that long. I think of a fluid consciousness that misfires in charge and losses the current. My Grandmothers live a life that, unfortunately many of our elderly live, seemingly discarded. I long for days in which I could listen to them talk, to tell me their stories that might map out a history that leads to my existence. So much of that story has been lost though, and I will never get there first hand account of the past. Tonight I know they both sit alone in their homes, a day scarcely different from the previous, lost in a lifetime of emotions, memories, experiences, dreams, hopes, stories and wonderment. They sit alone, and even if I were to call them, they wouldn’t recognize my voice or remember my name. It’s no ones fault here, no one is to blame and truly, there is not much that can be done. I just wish existence in this world was different. I wish we would forget about dignity and pride. I wish we could find that inner peace before our bodies and minds let go. I love my grandmothers and am glad they had the courage and perseverance to live the lives they did. I am glad their actions brought me into this world. I just wish I knew more about those motivations. I wish I had heard their love stories.

Music Addiction Blog Number 1, 2009 – What the Fuck

Okay, I have a problem. As of Friday I have purchased or obtained NINE albums of music. This is kind of fucked up, and though this is not atypical for me, the absurdity of it hit me today as I drove home from the used record store. I have more music to consume now then I really have time for. It’s not a wonder my house and life are a mess. Who has time for this when there is so much music to listen to?

Lets not forget I had hoped to have a review/analysis of Lily Allen and her new album It’s Not Me, It’s You and the whole revelation that she was inspired by Joe Strummer after hanging out with him at Glastonbury and in life, that her cover of “Straight to Hell” is amazing and that her song “The Fear” is fucking with my head. But as it is, I never listened to that record while I was in Pittsburgh, instead opting to listen to “Life the Universe and Everything” as read to me by Martin Freeman and tried not to fall off of a mountain while driving home. Music? What the fuck.

So it started on Friday at work. A co-worker of mine, he’s kind of a Morrissey fan. I mean that in the way that you can’t kind of be a Morrissey fan because you either love him or you hate him. I fit into the category of, I want to like him, but for some reason the music doesn’t hit me. His new album Years of Refusal lacks balls. At least the first six songs. Maybe it’s my car stereo eating shit, this could very well be. But I felt like if Kurt Ballou had recorded this album it would be unstoppable. The absence of real boom in your face might be why I can’t get into Moz. It’s almost laziness in approach. Who the hell knows what he thinks when he makes records. The cover alone is enough to perplex me to no end.

So last night I was supposed to go to bed but I remembered that Quote Unquote Records had just released O Pioneers!!! Neon Creeps and Bomb the Music Industries Scrambles as pay what you will digital downloads. I didn’t donate. Again. I suck. In fact I still fully intend to order Scrambles from Asian Man Records. Even though I find the album inferior to Get Warmer which was a fantastic album. Scrambles however is still a fine effort and considering it was recorded for $50.00 utilizing freeware versions of recording software and was essentially made in apartments and practice spaces is a testament to the future of music. Jeff Rosenstock is a genius and really I should whip out my wallet post haste and get this guy some cash. Unfortunately Quote Unquote is the kind of label that just feeds my addiction. Like how can I not download an album on there. Most of the music they “release” I don’t really dig, but O Pioneers!!! is a band I’ve been into a bit. Their Black Mambas album from a few years ago was mildly fun and the promise of bass and a few more years of main staple Chris Ryan writing songs intrigued me. This album is also on the Asian Man Records, but I had to take pause on this one. Neon Creeps is decent, a step up on Black Mambas and I like the added bass. The song writing is tighter too. But still, I am missing something. Not sure what it is. Maybe, if time permits I will have to give it more time to ruminate, permeate and marinate.

So after listening to these albums last night I went to bed. I had tried in vain while listening to them to rejoin eMusic. I had been a member for a very very short time. I found (and still) find their website terrible, their music selection broken and the whole experience left me dry. This time they promised me 75 free songs for 11.99. So that was 105 songs for a mere 11.99. Not a bad deal, if I hate it, I can bail. So I finally managed to work it out this morning and started on my quest.

After fumbling and bumbling I downloaded Franz Nicolay‘s Major General album. I love Love LOVE World/Inferno Friendship Society whom Nicolay cut his teeth in. He’s also a member of The Hold Steady whose Stay Positive got a lot of spins last year. His solo offering is AMAZING. It really reminds me of World/Inferno and I see how much influence he had on that band and am fretting what the next album without him will sound like. I also see why The Hold Steady wanted him, and I suggest they utilize more of him. The praise this album has been getting is well worth it and I highly recommend it after just one listen. I can’t wait to listen to it more. Check my last.fm stats and follow my progress.

So speaking of World/Inferno I also got Just the Best Party which has “All the World’s a Stage (Dive)” which rocked the hell out of my face the last time they played. I may even download another one of their albums for fun. I also got Miss TK and the Revenge’s Gern Balderstand debut XOXO. This band features Ari Katz on drums and his wife Tannis Kristanjson. Also they were featured on the soundtrack to the film I’m Reed Fish which I have, unfortunately seen. I have 68 songs left and I am trying to at least save ten of them until 3-10-09 when Cursive’s new album comes out.

So after battling with the internet this morning and losing I decided I would go to the used CD store. They have a Ticketmaster there and I was charged with buying tickets for the Glasvegas/Ida Maria show happening next month at the Black Cat. Well, Ticketmaster is master of nothing as they would not take my credit cards that worked just fine in purchasing CD’s. SO FUCK YOU TICKETMASTER!

For my troubles though I was able to get Sleater Kinney’s swan song The Woods which I am late to the party (BY FOUR FUCKING YEARS) but am glad that I finally found a copy of this at the used place. This is a testament to my patience frankly. So I would like to think that in the end I won. Shut up. I also found a copy of PJ Harvey’s Dry which I have not heard in years. Finally a replacement copy of Elvis Costello’s This Years Model was found. It’s not the deluxe version, but it was $7, so who the hell can complain? Well you can because I got it and you didn’t. But that’s life. Get to the used place at 10:00 AM on a Saturday and next time you will be the winner.

So now I am at home, an hour to kill before I head out to Transformer Gallery here in Washington, DC. I am hoping my friend Katy has copies of the Turbo Slut/Pygmy Lush split record she just put out. I have problems. Like I have time to listen to vinyl. I need some serious help.

The whole point of this rant is for me to confront the culmination of my dreams and to see the problems with it. I have a list next to me of all the new releases I can remember reading about that I want to check out this year. They have dates next to them. When I was a kid, I never had this. I just showed up to the record store and talked to record store people about what was coming out. They had to check paper catalogs for when things were coming out. Now album release dates are posted on the internet six months before the album is to come out. If I bought two albums on a day that was like insane. And that maybe happened once or twice a year if I was lucky. Now, buying music is a habit, a conditioned aspect of my being, something seemingly out of my control and thoughtless. There are so many options and so many bands. Not all of them are as good as I think they are. I have albums I will listen to once. I get CD’s my friends want me to hear. I rummage about the internet. It’s so easy to feed this. But I don’t listen to music the way I used to. It’s all very fucked up.

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How not to age gracefully

When I first read that Nine Inch Nails was going to “retire” (again) by touring with Jane’s Addiction I thought it was a weird rumor. The excitement of our internet press didn’t really catapult this underwhelming announcement. It seems however that Los Angeles rock juggernaut Jane’s Addiction is in fact getting back together for a tour with the actual, full on original line up after 18 years or something terribly ridiculous like that. Eric Avery must need the cash (?).

No, but in all seriousness, below you will find video courtesy of Pitchfork TV of the band playing a warm up show in Los Angeles. I’m mildly impressed, but mostly I don’t really care. Maybe it’s because I still feel cheated by the release of Strays a few years ago or maybe it’s because Dave Navarro doesn’t seem that cool to me at 31 the way he did at 14. The fact is, they can still play with the best of them but no one in this band has done anything remotely good or relevant since Porno for Pyros and that was fairly uneven. But really, Perry has costume changes, looks like Iggy Pop and after nearly two decades, all they ever managed was a piss poor album and the continual beating of a horse they killed prematurely because of infighting, ego and drugs.

Rock and Roll isn’t dead, it just won’t die with any grace or dignity. There is nothing terrible about their performance at all as evidenced by this video, but I fail to see the relevancy, especially as the music world is getting turned and twisted on it’s head. We need great rock bands again, there is no doubt about it. But dragging out former glories isn’t going to be a reminder of what rock and roll can do. It’s going to leave us scratching our heads wondering why?

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More Thorns of Life

For anyone out there and as excited as I am about the Thorns of Life, their recent performance at the legendary Gilman Street (see Green Day, East Bay Punk). The sound is of excellent quality, you can actually hear the music and the lyrics. The best kind of bootleg if you ask me.

Included in the link is a short, but worthy dialog between the guy that recorded this and the guy that posted the link for it. They discuss the rights of who is the share holder of recordings such as this. The engineer, Avi wonders if they hosting blog would host commercial releases. The blogger of course says no. But who is the gate keeper. After all Thorns of Life do not have an album. Why would they, they haven’t toured too much and generated enough money to record one from those tours (or maybe now they have). The model is all messed up these days. It seems like if you don’t have an album before you tour you aren’t legit. So for a band to have the first taste of their music from a bootleg, I can see how it might be frustrating. It’s not the controlled environment of the studio and as with all live recordings, the true energy of the performance is not necessarily captured.

My allegiances I think are obvious. I love a good live show find on the internet. For me this show (the two songs I’ve heard so far) are really hyping me on this band. It’s a much more poppy sloppy punk rock outfit then I was expecting. So this is what the internet is good for, the trading of live shows that people around the world can now be a part of in the ever stretching lexicon of existence.

Okay, it’s early on Saturday when I wrote this. I am no longer making sense. Enjoy the link, or don’t. Thanks for reading. Thorns of Life – most hyped band of ’09 on Franconia Station so far.

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Company Flow To Re-Issue Funcrusher Plus

Pitchfork is reporting that former indie hip hop uber legends Company Flow have retained the rights back to their 1997 debut album Funcrusher Plus from the fading Ruckus Records. Company Flow was the launching pad for Def Jux CEO and recording artist El-P whose I’ll Sleep When your Dead was this bloggers number one album of 2007 and is part of this bloggers illustrious top ten albums of all time. May 5th will see the release of this newly remastered edition which includes three tracks recorded after the album. Get excited, get stoked, get naked. Do whatever you need to do.

Def Jux is also reporting that emo looking rapper Cage is finally releasing his follow up to Hell’s Winter on June 30th. The new album will be titled Depart from Me and will probably be just as fucked up and screwy as Hell’s Winter. Def Jux is also promising a 7 song digital download of new Cage songs for nothing come this spring.I saw Cage open for Aesop Rock last year and he looked like a possessed Kurt Cobain replete with Daniel Johnson T-Shirt, Converse sneakers and covered in a brown cardigan. Scary indeed.

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