Archives for March 2014

Scared Straight: The Music Video

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What is the greatest documentary ever made? Ken Burns’ THE CIVIL WAR? Alex Gibney’s ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM? CRUMB? CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS? HOOP DREAMS? THE THIN BLUE LINE?

Pencils down. Those are all great, important films, but the greatest documentary film ever made is, without question, Penelope Spheeris’ THE DECLINE OF WESTERN CIVILIZATION PART II: THE METAL YEARS.

Shot in Los Angeles in the late ’80s, the film features interviews with the rich, successful, elders of heavy metal at the time — Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Alice Cooper, Steven Tyler, Joe Perry, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons — talking about the freedom of metal and how it saved rock and roll from its own excesses, and everyone is in embarrassing period clothing (except for Lemmy) and everyone seems totally addled by either drugs (Ozzy) or money (Gene Simmons) or pussy (Paul Stanley) or some combination of all three. It’s all more amusing than insightful, but it is worth watching.

But what really makes this film amazing is all the unfamous bands who are also interviewed, and who contributed performances to the movie, insisting (against all the available evidence) that they’re definitely going to make it, they’re definitely going to be rich in a year or two, there is no backup plan. Their atrocious performances, along with the torrent of casual misogyny and drug and alcohol abuse, make clear — particularly now, 25 years later, when Odin and London and Seduce and Wet Cherry have conclusively failed to make any kind of impression on the world at large — that these guys are delusional and going nowhere, except back to their parents’ garages by way of the free clinic and probably a rehab or two.

Anyone who has seen this movie — and if you haven’t, I would encourage you to try and find it in a less crappy-looking format, though it isn’t on any of the streaming services and appears to be out of print — remembers the Chris Holmes scene, simultaneously amusing in its ridiculousness and heartbreaking in its pathos.

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Meet The New Republicans!

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Well, it’s 2014, and you know what that means: Washington’s attention is turning to the 2016 elections! I mean why not, right? It’s only two and a half years away, and it’s a lot more fun than creating policy or governing. So while the Democrats try to talk themselves into the idea that the cure for partisan paralysis is Hillary Clinton, of all people — maybe you were too young or too impaired to remember the ’90s, but she was the single most loathed Democrat of all time — the Republicans are trying to change things up a little.

It’s been apparent for several years that the Grand Old Party has a pretty serious demographic problem, and time is not on its side: The Caucasian wedge of the U.S. population pie graph is shrinking while all the other ones are getting bigger. That’s a problem for a party that’s 98% white.

So this week, they set out to rectify the situation by showing that it’s not just cigar-chomping, straight white men huddled around big long tables discussing tax loopholes that vote Republican — it’s those guys, AND cool young people just like you!

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Gentrification Is My Fault

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This Sunday’s New York Times features a full-page article on my neighborhood in Brooklyn, entitled Prospect-Lefferts Gardens Is ‘On The Map’. This is great news for my wife and me in many respects, but it is unquestionably a sign that our neighborhood is gentrifying — it has been for a long time, but this is a sort of watershed moment, and not just in my neighborhood: Spike Lee got some attention when he weighed in on the changes in Fort Greene and Harlem, and you can hardly open your browser without some asshole spouting off about what’s happening in San Francisco.

Nobody wants to see middle-class people get pushed out of their homes, and the majority of online commentary about gentrification seems to center on the evils being done by greedy landlords. But as it happens, only a couple of years after we had to leave San Francisco because we couldn’t afford the rent, my wife and found ourselves interviewing potential tenants to live in the spare apartment in our 2-story limestone rowhouse in Brooklyn, and we don’t see things quite as simplistically as they tend to get portrayed in the current blizzard of anti-gentrification thinkpieces.

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The Bachelor Turns On The Bachelor

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For too long, I have hidden my secret shame: over the last few years I have become an avid fan of ABC’s reality (or “reality”) dating series The Bachelor and its subordinate tentacles, The Bachelorette (same thing as The Bachelor, with gender roles reversed) and Bachelor Pad (stupidest/most amazing thing on television). It’s embarrassing, because it’s the worst kind of shlock, trading in outdated fairy-tale notions of love, full of people you wouldn’t want to share a cab ride with, much less the rest of your life, competing for the love of someone the show keeps insisting (against all available evidence) is the living embodiment of a lifetime of fantasies but who actually seems to be about as interesting and viable a life partner as a plate of unbuttered noodles.

Having said that, you all screwed up bad not watching The Bachelor in this, its 18th season, because it did something totally unexpected: it threw its bachelor, Venezuelan soccer player/himbo Juan Pablo Galavis — and with him, the entire franchise — under the bus.

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