Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Just finished this brilliant, candid, generous memoir by Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon.  Aside from her reflections on music, art, creativity, parenthood, fame, band dynamics, and more, through the  experiential filter of being a woman, there were lots of little, unexpected Easter eggs for me:  a few people we know in common, Northampton, the NYC post-punk scene …  Whether you liked Sonic Youth or not, this is a great read, thoughtful and thought-provoking.

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I really wanted to see what Hollywood did with the “colony starship” trope, a genre staple.  The previews looked promising, as did the high-octane cast (Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Laurence Fishburne).  I  should have known better.  There will be spoilers ahead but I promise you:  nothing will ruin your experience of this movie more than actually seeing it.  The starship Avalon, its cargo of 5000+ ensconced in cold sleep, encounters a cloud of dust and rocks in deep interstellar space some 30 years into its 120 year journey. The ship’s defense systems deal with most of the debris, but a large rock gets through and the ship suffers some damage.  Implausibly, one of the thousands of suspended animation pods malfunctions, awakening Jim (Pratt), a mid-level techie.  The ship has plenty of amenities and we sit through endless filler scenes of Jim playing basketball, exploring the creepy-shiny Mariott future, and hanging out with an android bartender, Arthur (Michael Sheen), who is a little reminiscent of Lloyd from The Shining with none of the edge and menace.  Of course, Jim gets lonely, grows a scraggly beard, and becomes obsessed with one of the sleeping colonists, Aurora (Lawrence). He figures out how to revive her and, after talking  it over with  Arthur, decides to go ahead with it.

Okay, I thought, I might as well just get up and leave now.  The movie is basically over.  They’re going to try and normalize this horrific violation via the enduring mythology that romantic love can emerge from a raw, brutal exercise of sexist authority if only the right circumstances allow it to flourish.  But, for me, this was such an amoral act, so deeply pathological and wrong, that there was nothing the mechanics of plot could do to make it okay.  You just can’t go back from there.

I didn’t leave, but my instinct was spot on.  He wakes her up, lies to her, fucks her …  the story machine is a goddamn power shovel at this point, digging itself into a deeper and deeper hole.  When she finds out what actually happened, she’s kinda mad!  At one point, she is kicking the shit out of him and reaches for a huge-ass garden implement which surely would have crushed his skull but she sets it down after some deliberation, a huge disappointment.  Then a bunch of other things happen, but it hardly matters.  The ship’s systems are deteriorating.  A crew member, Gus (Fishburne), gets awakened so he can explain some stuff and die.  Aurora’s still mad but she and Jim have to work together to figure out how to fix the failing ship.  Shit gets gnarly and he makes the ultimate sacrifice to save her and the ship, which is supposed to redeem his dark, obsessive idealization and objectification of her, his deception, his rape.  (It doesn’t).  The ultimate sacrifice turns out to be not so ultimate since she was able to revive him in the Autodoc.  He figures out how to tweak it to support her (but only her) returning to cold sleep for the rest of the voyage, but she says, no, it’s really okay that you ruined my life and turned me into a fuck doll.  I love you!  They live happily ever after.

This movie fails on so many levels it’s hard to know where to begin, but its failure as science fiction is worth underscoring, since that’s the package it’s wrapped in. At its best, SF uses its rich, evolving heritage of tropes to entertain us, to enlighten us, to explore questions about who we are as individuals, as a patchwork of cultures, as a species: where we come from, where we are, where we’re going.  Passengers uses SF’nal eye candy as window dressing to frame a deeply creepy idealization of romantic love that seeks to normalize misogyny and rape.  If you like that sort of thing, check it out.

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Small success, heh.  Small …  oh, man.  Hahaha.  I’m getting a little tired of the Marvel entertainment machine, but this one didn’t suck much.  Reasonable matinee fare — sit in the dark in front of the IMAX curve and zone for two hours.  Hey, at least it wasn’t Ultron.

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I’m reading new work at 10:30 AM, running a workshop at 1:30 PM and generally shmoozing about the rest of the weekend.

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I love a loud, dumb, pop-genre romp with plenty of splosions and plot and stuff as much as the next guy.  Probably more than the next guy.  But the latest in the X-Men franchise was hollow as an empty can of Tab, dumb as a box of crabs,  nearly as self-referential as my narcissistic ex from grad school, not quite as loud as a Pixies concert, and flatter than day-old poori.    So the Magneto Gandalf dude is a good guy now.  But his younger self is still a little bitch.  But maybe not.  And Wolverine is supposed  to go back in time to save Peter Dinklage from the blue lady, who wants to kill him because he’s gonna have invented an army of mutant-killing robots for Richard Nixon. But first he has to rip Tony Soprano’s throat out.  After that, the story starts getting complicated.  This is not so much a review as a lament.  What the fuck did I just do for two hours?  I don’t even know!  I just know I’ll never get them back.  Unless I go back in time and kill Patrick Stewart. Looks like if I wanna enjoy a shitty movie any time soon, I’m gonna have to wait until Joss Whedon detoxes from the last Avengers to slam out another big budget E-ticket.

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I get so weary of pop culture misogyny, both as a consumer and a parent.  I can’t remember it ever NOT being pervasive, but in recent years, with the multiplicity of channels and social media as an accelerant, and  in spite of a lot of progress in normalizing gender roles,  it’s just gotten worse.   After I saw this I wanted to stand up at my desk and applaud.

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Fooled again

Why did I think that the new big-budget Tom Cruise sci-fi joint wouldn’t suck?  I feel like that guy who keeps getting involved with women he meets in bars just before closing time.  Four months later, you’re sifting through your email contact list trying to find someone with a couch you can crash on while you cancel all your credit cards and change your cell number.

Some random observations, plus and minus,  about my experience with this fine, cinematic adventure.  No spoilers — you can’t spoil chicken  that’s already been left under a radiator for three weeks.

+ both utterly incoherent and laughably predictable

– both utterly incoherent and laughably predictable

+ robot voice gets conveniently high and distorted so you know it’s angry

+ nice eye candy

+ cool borderline personality killer drones

+ it’s so nice of Hollywood to give people who have never written (or apparently read) science fiction before a chance at penning the next blockbuster

+ Saw it at the Solano Drive-In

– Was at the Solano Drive-In watching this and not a double of Caged Heat and Black Dynamite

– I gotta say, Laurence Fishburne is a better science fiction black dude than Morgan Freeman.  Sorry, Morgan.

+ Better than Prometheus

– Not much better than Prometheus




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Say hello to The Newcomers

They are Dante Ryan, David Marcus, Jackson Kinder.  Aside from the great, original music, and the fact that one of them is my son, it is worthy of note that these guys are 14 & 15 years old.  Yeah, that’s right.  Here is their FB page


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Thanks, Lauren.  Some good ones here, many of which I have owned.  Definitely not the 65 best SF books.  “The Day They H-Bombed Los Angeles”  sucked so bad I wanted to hang  onto it as a Platonic  counterexample of “good,” but it got shuffled out of the deck on one or another house move.

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