The Beginning of the End of All That is Good
By Brandon Adamson
When I was a child,
things in life would be good for a long while,
and then it would end(my goodness!)
As a young teenager,
things would end just as they were getting good,
or so my feeble mind wagered at the time.
In my young adulthood,
things tended to end as I thought
they were about to begin to get good.
Amidst the present tensions,
good things seem to end even before they begin
leaving little time to wonder
what might have been.
In the future then,
all things will begin to end.
At the used book store in the Milwaukee Airport in 1988, I made my mom buy me a book called “Winning Through Intimidation” mainly because, as a little kid, I liked the illustrations and was drawn to the cool looking turtle on the front cover.
I kept this book under my pillow(along with about 8 other books) and used to read it before falling asleep. I have no idea how much I was able to actually comprehend. Despite it’s title, this book is actually about how to avoid being intimidated, not just by people, but by life itself. With it’s cynical world view, and humorous anecdotes, the principles are timeless and can be applied to almost any situation. I revisited this book recently while in the bathtub and found that I had unknowingly(subconsciously) adopted many of the methods and attitudes promoted in this book(page 7 for example:)
Theory of Sustenance of a Positive Attitude Through the Assumption of a Negative Result
a. Prepare yourself for long-term success by being prepared for short-term failure
b. A person shouldn’t enter a sales situation feeling he can’t make the sale, but he should realistically assume that he won’t make the sale. If you’re prepared, then you’re able to feel confident that you are capable of making the sale if it is possible to be made. Hope for the best, but realistically assume the worst.
c. No matter how well prepared you are, only a small percentage of deals actually close, because there are an endless number of factors beyond your control.
d. Each negative result is an educational experience from which you can extract lessons learned, and then forget about the negative result.
How many times have I gone into a romantic situation enthusiastically while at the same time knowing it was likely to be a complete fucking disaster?(see the entry below this one.) I’m pretty sure it’s been every time, for a long time.
“Winning Through Intimidation” came out in 1973, and was remarkably a self-published book which became a #1 best seller. The Author, Robert Ringer, is still around, http://www.robertringer.com. I’ve always been obsessed with both rabbits and turtles. Indeed, my moniker on the internet was “rabbit” in the early days of the internet(after the main character in John Updike’s novel Rabbit, Run which has always been a personal favorite.) The white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland was my favorite character as well. Yet, truth be told I identify more with the tortoise. In fact one of my ex girlfriends used to refer to me as a turtle, mainly due to how slow I was to commit and allow the relationship to progress. Though I might also argue that my incredible patience with her and protective shell to deflect her blows were the real turtle-like qualities. Friends I have had in the music and art world have never understood why I released things so cheaply and never followed the so called natural steps to achieve fame, fortune and notoriety. “How will you ever become popular if you don’t play live.” “Don’t you want to tour and get a record deal?” You have to do this. You have to do that to make it, Brandon.” All they thought about was the short term, concerned with doing whatever they could to get ahead quickly. When I started recording music in the late 90′s, I may have lived under some of those illusions, but I was looking 20 or 30 years ahead. My goal was to release as many works and small projects as I could, with an eye on what their cumulative effect would be as opposed to their individual immediate impact(which I had no illusions about.) Just put something out, any way you can, don’t push it too hard or give a rats ass what anyone thinks, and move on to the next project. Each is just a piece of some gigantic narcissistic puzzle of my life. Is it the best way to create things and live? I can’t really say I know for sure. It is this tortoise’s way though.
Robert Ringer adopted The Tortoise as his alter ego in his first book, because so many of the anecdotes in that autobiographical work were reminiscent of the legendary tortoise-and-hare tale. The Tortoise is the unglamorous plodder who always seems to find a way to come out ahead, no matter how harshly life treats him along the way. He isn’t flashy or impressive; his strengths are consistency, perseverance, resiliency, and resourcefulness. He’s the kind of reptile who, upon being told that he can’t play in someone’s game, simply goes out and starts his own league.
The Tortoise is the quintessential antihero, reflected in such characters as Ben Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman), the shy, stuttering boyfriend in The Graduate; or Colombo, the fumbling, stumbling detective played by Peter Falk in the old TV series of the same name, slow when it came to figuring things out, but always catching the villain in the end; or Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) in the Rocky film series, the late starter who overcame all odds to become world heavyweight champion.
The Tortoise is the ultimate icon of perseverance, the reptile who demonstrates that the outcome of most situations in life are decided over the long term. His motto succinctly sums up his view of the world:
Quickly getting out of the starting blocks may get people’s attention, but all that counts is where you are when the race is over.
“Maybe I’ll be seeing you around the jungle sometime.”
As a side note, given that this book came out in 1973, there are some hilarious parts in “boy-girl theory and “better deal theory” sections relating to how a woman can sell herself as a potential wife to a man(and vice versa.) Now after all these years I finally recognize where my views on relationships as business partnerships originated. It was as a prepubescent boy at the airport in 1988, picking up a copy of “Winning Through Intimidation.” The butterfly effect, anyone?
A post-apocalyptic ghost town. That’s what Mill Ave seems to resemble these days as I stroll down it, making my routine stops to the few remaining establishments that I have any remote interest in (Old Town Books, Slices, and Mojo Frozen Yogurt.) Vacant retail spaces once occupied by monolithic chain stores like The Gap, Borders, Abercrombie, and (most recently) American Apparel, remain dormant…waiting for the next sucker to brave the astronomical rent prices to get a piece of that coveted “college kid” demographic.
I don’t have quite the fond memories that others share of the so called “good old days of Mill Ave,” which may be because when I started hanging out there it was 1997 and 1998, and the area had already begun it’s decline. In fact, during those days, going to Mill Ave was a totally depressing experience for me. It was flooded with those annoying ghetto street racers, bumping Power 92.3 in their lowered Honda CRX’s and modified Mitsubishi Eclipses. Not that I don’t have an appreciation for automobile racing(I’m a bit a crazy driver myself,) but only if we’re talking about 60′s muscle cars, grand prix, or Steve McQueen. Indeed, not some quasi-horde of mid 90′s riff raff wearing those “Boss” T shirts(the ones with huge writing on them) or rocking Tommy Hilfiger jackets and speaking in ebonic tongues. Though I will confess to owning two pieces of Tommy Hilfiger clothing in 1997 which were purchased solely for the purpose of attracting normal girls and repelling the sort of mousy, alternative, train wreck chicks that would have mistaken me for one of their own at the time.
In the spring of 1998 I used to wander down mill ave nightly, handing out crappy 4 track cassette tapes to unsuspecting victims. I always hear people talk about Long Wongs, Gibson’s, Gin Blossoms and Dead Hot Workshop as the epitome of a lost golden era of Tempe. In my mind though, the Tempe I remember, while it certainly included those elements(I saw Buck O’ Nine at Gibson’s and MXPX at the Electric Ballroom in 1997) the ambiance was much more gangster, machismo, and hip hop oriented than what one would have expected on an episode of “Party of Five” or Melrose Place Soundtrack. I recall long lines of hoochies and thugs stretched outside Club 411. The scene was thriving though. And most importantly, the things you were looking for could be found if you knew where to go and could filter out all the nattering nabobs of negativism.
Speaking of negativity, when will they finally get around to doing something about the aggressive bums? Downtown Tempe has always seemed to be a magnet for the most ungrateful and obnoxious homeless people I have ever encountered. Avoiding eye contact, harassment, and annoying interaction with Mill Ave homeless people is an integral part of the Tempe experience. A friend of mine once joked that avoiding the bums on mill was likened to the game “Plinko” from The Price of Right. I occasionally entertain fantasies of “The Scoops” from Soylent Green coming and swooping them all up to be taken away to some waste management facility. Not that it’s cool to bag on the homeless, but let’s face it, the “Mill Ave Street kids” are not boat people from Cambodia or South Vietnam. They’re mostly lazy underachievers from suburban homes in the East Valley.
I did have some interesting times in Tempe. I used to play Tekken at Sweet Daddy’s Arcade(where Fascinations adult store is now?) on their big screen version. One time I played against a homeless dude who smelled so bad that I let him win and take over the machine just to get away from him. There is no denying that there used to be a plethora of live music clubs, and they were quite good. Electric Ballroom, Gibson’s and Nita’s Hideaway were my own personal favorites.
Tempe has been poised to make a comeback for a few years now, which seems to have been rudely interrupted by the real estate crash. The ruins of an unfinished condo tower loom high overhead, the developer of which committed suicide. Slowly, there have been interesting developments in Tempe. The Valley Art Theater is back in full swing, and the new Madcap Theaters venue replaced the old Harkins and shows cool vintage and campy films. The Fixx Coffee bar opened up where an internet cafe used to be. All the ghetto clubs have mostly been replaced by sexified pop music bars for the Sponge Bob Squarepants and Teletubbies generation. The college douchebags in their brodozers are still around, but as long as ASU is there, they will be too. Artists are slowly creeping back into the city, since word is getting out that you can sell on the street. I’m not into the whole “Tempe vs. Phoenix” rivalry. I love Phoenix and Downtown Scottsdale as well. It would be great to see Tempe complete its transformation from Mad Max style bartertown and 90′s Hippie wasteland to a 21st century, cosmopolitan art destination. Ready, set, go.
“He’s unelectable.” That was how Donald Trump characterized Ron Paul in remarks which no doubt infuriated many Paul supporters (with the exception of this one.) After all, Donald Trump has never won an election for public office, and his political experience is limited to having merely contemplated running a few times, as well as having participated in recreational golf outings with the likes of Bill Clinton and Rush Limbaugh. Ron Paul on the other hand is an accomplished congressman with many years of experience, who made a surprisingly strong showing in the 2008 republican primaries. However, while Ron Paul is still the most popular choice for the alternate right, the fact is he will be 76 years old in 2012. That’s probably too old for a presidential candidate with all the rigors involved in the office. Indeed he would be 80 if he were to run for re-election. We’ve all seen how the presidency has aged much younger men, barely in their 40′s and early 50′s. Not saying he couldn’t do it or that it would be impossible, but it is unlikely.
All of which brings us to the question, “If not Paul, who?” Some have floated former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson’s name as someone to carry the torch, but Gary Johnson is an open borders, free trade, libertarian. The issues he is weakest on are unfortunately, those that are most crucial to many paleoconservatives. Not to mention, Gary Johnson doesn’t yet have the name recognition with the American public to successfully mount a campaign for president.
Of all the remaining possible candidates, only one comes to mind who doesn’t toe the neoconservative line on foreign and domestic policy, yet is still mainstream enough to bridge the gap and attract some of them(as well as some democrats and independents.)
That man is none other than Donald Trump. Now, I know what you’re thinking…“Trump? Give me a break!” but just for a moment… as the great Pat Buchanan would say, consider:
Donald Trump staunchly defended Arizona’s controversial immigration law last year on Larry King, saying the federal government had failed to do anything and that he personally wouldn’t mind if someone stopped him on the street and asked to see his papers(the law itself doesn’t even go that far.)
Trump also opposes the NAFTA/free trade dogma and would introduce tariffs on foreign goods, as well as renegotiate our appallingly lopsided trade agreements with Korea, China, and Japan. He holds the paleocon views on trade while not being in the tank with the unions. He is not an anti-corporate, big government, tax and spend liberal who will leave businesses awash in paperwork and regulations.
When it comes to our nation’s bankruptcy, Trump has been there before himself and came back. He showed the tenacity and problem solving ability to get out of an incredibly dire financial situation. The US government desperately needs some of those skills, and they need them yesterday.
Of the Iraq war Trump called it “a total disaster.” He later stated “Look, everything in Washington has been a lie. Weapons of mass destruction — it was a total lie. It was a way of attacking Iraq.” Trump opined that George W Bush was the worst president in history(a remark made prior to Obama taking office.)
What about social issues? It’s true that Trump is no Rick Santorum, but if you really believe issues like abortion or gay marriage are the most pressing concerns of our time, and that priorities like curbing neocon-adventurism, reducing the deficit, restricting immigration, and revitalizing our manufacturing capabilities, are all second tier items that can go on the back burner…then someone like Palin or Santorum should really be your candidate. It’s also worth noting that Trump defended Carrie Prejean’s remarks on gay marriage in the 2009 Miss USA pageant. So, though he may be lenient on social issues(just as Goldwater conservatives or libertarians would be) it’s clear he’s not going to bow to the PC crowd or usher in Canadian style thought police. He recently even went as far as to claim he’s pro-life and against gay marriage.
The biggest question regarding Trump for republicans is whether he really believes any of what he says. In other words can we trust him? Is he the shapeshifting ideological play-doh equivalent of Mitt Romney, only with with weirder hair? They cite the fact that his track record of candidate endorsements and political analysis is all over the map. Perhaps though, the fact that Trump looks at candidates and issues individually is evidence of a person who can think objectively, who takes into consideration many factors in decisions and doesn’t have tunnel vision. This is unlike so many who stubbornly cling to an ideology or business plan even in the face of contrary facts. It all points to why he has been a successful businessman and has made so many comebacks. He has always challenged himself and been open to new ideas.
From an electoral standpoint, Trump has the advantage of being from the northeast while not exhibiting the traits of a Neocon or Rockefeller republican. His populist beliefs could make him competitive in many midwestern states. His east coast appeal could potentially win in states conservatives have written off for decades(or at the very least force the democrats to campaign harder there.) He could achieve this without sacrificing the south, since he wisely doesn’t display hostility towards social conservatism and appears mildly sympathetic to it.
Trump is polling within 3 points of Obama with absolutely no money spent and no real campaigning other than just dropping his name out there to the jackals in the press. Donald Trump has the brains, the money, the imagination and the hair. He should run for president, and conservatives should seriously consider getting behind him.
I picked up the Something Weird DVD of the film “Toys Are Not For Children”(1972). I think it’s an underrated film and was kind of surprised that almost nobody associated with this film ever did anything else… with the exception of Harlan Cary Poe, the Luke Skywalker stand in who went on to act in a bunch more movies, including some bit parts in major films like Taxi Driver(1976.)
The story is centered upon a young girl who has just gotten married. She would rather play with dolls and toys her abandoning father gave her than “pay attention” to her husband. She actually seems to have very little interest at all in her boyfriend/husband, her mind completely detached from their relationship. Rather she seems to be with him just for the sake of it. I can definitely identify with the male, as his new wife “Jamie” acts in a way some girls I have dated behaved towards me in some of my distant dysfunctional relationships. Basically he wants to know what the hell her problem is, and she doesn’t know. Anyhow, after losing her virginity to an aggressive, slimy, pimp, (who actually is the only character who seems to understand her
and is not oblivious to her motivations) she becomes a prostitute. She eventually gets set up with her own father by someone trying to teach her a lesson and… well things get weird.
Marcia Forbes, the main character, is really cute(especially after she gets her mod styled haircut) and her acting is quite good. Others may disagree but whatever. She could have been a big star. I can’t believe she never did a single other movie(at least according to IMDB)
I wouldn’t recommend viewing the movie right after taking a shower. I felt super uncomfortable watching this, somewhat dirty even. The flashback scenes with the dad and daughter in particular were painful to watch. I kept thinking wow “that’s an actual little girl. Are they really going to go there?” They didn’t of course. The strangely watchable “Toys Are Not For Children” is just plain creepy from beginning to end. Be careful if you watch this movie, as unpleasant sequences of it may linger in your mind.
So, all the hullabaloo surrounding the new zodiac sign… “Ophiuchus”(which only applies to Sidereal astrology practiced in the far east and not Tropical so no your sign hasn’t changed if you’re a product of western civilization) well it got me thinking about the Zodiac killer, an unsolved mystery that I’ve always been somewhat interested in. They never found out who it was, and all of their longtime suspects have been cleared by DNA or fingerprint evidence. He’s still lurking out there, if he hasn’t died of old age(he would be about 65-75 years old.) So yeah, I guess you could say I’m yet another of those people obsessed with this case. Some of the zodiac’s ciphers are still unsolved after 40 years. In fact, only the first one he sent was solved. It is widely believed that since nobody has been able to solve them after all these years, that they cannot be solved through conventional methods of cryptography. Here is the unsolved zodiac 340 cipher:
A couple years ago, a guy named John Cecil came up with the idea of a 4 quadrant solution. He made a decent effort, but others have claimed his solution invalid saying the methodology he used would have allowed for too many possible solutions. So it’s not a valid solution, but I believe he may have been on the right track.
Actually the main thing that turns me off about the solution is that if you scroll down to some of his other blog posts there’s some far fetched claims about a certain “suspect” with some vague correlations and bizarre logic. These things are always a red flag to me and lead me to doubt other claims by the person.
Anyway, about a year after he mailed the cipher, the zodiac sent this halloween card. I believe he was disappointed that nobody could solve it and view his message and so he offered up some hints. If we utilize the Halloween card as a clue to the cipher…in my interpretation we have four sections: top left/top right/bottom left/bottom right. There would also be the center text vertically and horizontally.
I apologize for the jankified nature of this image as I just made it rather quickly with MS Paint.
It could be that there is a completely separate key for each section, and then you merely piece them together, and decipher the center text separately as well. Or you could experiment with using the center text as key for all the outlying sections and so forth. Or yet still, there could be markers for shift changes and cycling. Notice the locations of the “P” in “Para” and “D” in “Dice” are identical in both the cipher and the card.
I think the “4-teen” could be a clue as well as the “sorry no cipher” diagram on the outside of the envelope. I have a couple of decrypting programs, but I’m not an expert at cryptanalysis or anything, so I’m trying to study more and see if I can get anywhere from here.
Brief paper on Zodiac Ciphers from a University in Norway,
only 24 pages and no solutions offered but some interesting findings:
Cryptography and Murder –The Zodiac killer
University of Bergen
San Jose St. U. students’ masters theses on 340 Cipher:
I’m very interested in the ciphers. Whether or not they provide any useful information, I think solving them is a great challenge, and the victims deserve justice however long it takes. The problem seems to be that too many people want to take shortcuts and simply try to finagle words out of nonsensical partial solutions to find some sort of strained way to insert their suspect of choice. Personally I think there’s no way the zodiac would put his actual name in any of the codes(especially not the one where he claims to give a location to where a bomb is hidden.)
I think that if these codes are ever to be solved it will be by a combination of a mathematical approach(with the aid of computer programs) and some intuition regarding the zodiac’s psychological profile, writing style and word usage. The solution would be a clear message, easily recognized as being a solution by all.
By the way, the best website for all things relating to the Zodiac Killer is http://www.zodiackillerfacts.com Don’t bother going to other sites because most of them are filled with nutty theories, bizarre accusations, misinformation, and the type of people who would call into the show “Coast to Coast.”
At the Fashion Square Starbucks yesterday waiting for my soy hot chocolate, as I was busy checking out a hot chick who was waiting for her vanilla latte…I was approached by a 50 something gay man who proceeded with the dreaded intro “Do you mind if I ask you something?” At first I though I had been staring too obviously at the girl and he was going to call me out for it, but then I figured it was just going to be a typical homosexual proposition…of which I have received thousands in my short lifetime. To my surprise though, he pointed toward three middle aged, ordinary looking guys who were in line and busted out with his question, “So who do you think dresses those 3 guys?” I looked back at him with a lighthearted smile and shrugged “I don’t know..Walmart maybe?” To which he replied “I’m thinking Mesa.” As he was headed out the door we gave each other a wave goodbye, and I said “Take it easy, pal.” A cool dude, but at the same time I kinda felt bad for the three guys. They just didn’t care about fashion or Scottsdale style..so what? As I gave them a another look I noticed one of them had an “Oklahoma Sooners” sweatshirt. Sure enough. Of course! Indeed the mall was packed with people from Oklahoma and Connecticut in town for the Fiesta Bowl to watch and cheer on their respective teams.
The first thing the incident brought to mind was that this is my home. That I in fact, belong here and this guy singled me out as being one of his kind was his way of saying “You and me, this is our territory. Who the hell are these guys and what are they doing here?” He saw me as one of his own, a fashion conscious, mild mannered, style oriented person of the East Phoenix/Scottsdale persuasion. Some people might find that disgusting, and maybe I do on some level. But as someone who has been on the other end of the equation, the stranger from out of town who draws peculiar stares and prompts cliche “Rebel Without a Cause” or “The Wraith” type questions like “You ain’t from around here are you?”(you should have seen the looks that I got from people while wandering through the Pittsburgh bar scene a few years ago) it was nice to for once be one of the “us” and not “them.” And of course, deep down I am like that 50 something Scottsdale gay guy…judgmental about people’s styles and often superficially able to dismiss “folks” out of hand, embarrassed to be seen with people who are unattractive or wack…too busy to take the time to get entangled in people’s troubles and too laid back to care about them. Rightly or wrongly…I must admit those characteristics manifest themselves in my personality and have for as long as I can remember. They can be kept in check but not eliminated.
The second thing this incident made me think of was the 1987 Fiesta Bowl between Miami and Penn State, the most memorable college football game of my childhood and a classic battle between “good and evil.” I watched this game in my grandparents living room in Phoenix on the evening of January 2, 1987. It was actually played at Sun Devil stadium in Tempe. I wanted Penn State to win in the worst way, since they were the underdog. Miami was heavily favored, and I never really expected Penn State to win(how I was able to draw up scenarios in my head and attempt to predict the outcome of football games at that young of age is a mystery to me.)
In Chuck Klosterman’s book “Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs” he devotes a chapter to the 1980′s NBA rivalry between the “Lakers and Celtics” as being a microcosm for almost everything in life:
“As I have grown older, it’s become clear that the Lakers-Celtics rivalry represents absolutely everything: race, religion, politics, mathematics, the reason I’m still not married, the Challenger explosion, Man vs. Beast, and everything else. There is no relationship that isn’t a Lakers-Celtics relationship.”
Indeed, the same could be said of the 1987 Sunkist Fiesta Bowl(incidentally the first major bowl game ever to have a corporate sponsor in the title.) In fact, it was originally hyped as being good vs. evil before the game was even played. The slicked back hair of Miami coach Jimmy Johnson and his Heisman trophy quarterback Vinny Testaverde along with all the arrogant, suntanned, too cool for school, flashy Miami Hurricanes vs. old stalwart Joe Paterno and some blue collar, steeltown, god and country boys from Pennsylvania. The fast paced, showy, light up the scoreboard passing game of Miami vs the disciplined defense and fundamentals oriented Penn State. Looking back at that game, it’s clear that while Penn State may have won the battle..our side lost the war. Most of today’s sports teams resemble the Miami Hurricanes of 1987, and sports and society in general have long since adopted Miami’s as the dominant ethos. The steel mills and factories in Pittsburgh and all along the rust belt have all but disappeared now. College players skip their senior year to go pro for big bucks to spend on goods made in China and Japanese cars which they drive around with one the endless amount of trashy women they cheat on their spouses with. It’s difficult to reconcile the measured temperament and suit and tie demeanor of the 1987 Penn State Nittany Lions with the inarticulate, roided out, foul mouthed, gold toothed pimp athlete/monsters of today. Not only that, but nearly all college bowl games now have some sort of major corporate sponsorship. Heck, a crapload of the modern bowl games are straight up named for corporations: (Insight Bowl, Godaddy.com Bowl, The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl…no I’m not making these up.) In fact, my once favorite bowl game “The Citrus Bowl”(I thought it had a cool logo) is now called “The Capital One Bowl.” Sigh…named after a fucking credit card! Oh I forgot we import more of our fruits from Canada and Central America now while our main industries are finance, real estate, retail clothing and fast food. No more need for a citrus bowl! It’s obsolete. Maybe not quite yet, but soon….
“While growth in U.S. fruit exports has been strong, the United States has remained a net fruit importer. U.S. fruit imports grew during the last two decades and through the mid- to late-2000s, due in part to the growing minority ethnic populations in the United States and to an increased demand for new products. Not only have imports expanded for commodities already produced domestically, creating competition for U.S. producers, but imports have also increased for nontraditional fruits, especially many tropical fruits.”
Anyway enough about all that. One memory that stands out for me is that almost immediately after the game was over, they cut to local news which upset my uncle because they interrupted a shot of the cheerleaders. He actually got so angry that he called the television station to complain! To this day I’m still not sure whether he was joking or not, but I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t.
It ended up being the most watched college football game ever, and I will never forget it. The thing I always wonder though, is whether I grew up to be a Miami Hurricanes person. The 1987 Fiesta Bowl was a seesaw game that frequently plays out in my head as I make decisions. It was a close game. It is still a very close game.
“Wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first” was a saying that my late grandfather frequently used, mainly to deflate the unrealistic, cartoon-like, magical balloons that would float out of the dreamy heads of his young children. Such a phrase comes to mind (or goes hand in hand if you prefer) when thinking about John Derbyshire’s terrific new(now a year old) book, “We Are Doomed, Reclaiming Conservative Pessimism.”
Like many other young contraricons, I first became acquainted with the writings of John Derbyshire sometime around 2002-2003 via Andrew Sullivan’s blog. Andrew Sullivan achieved fame as an HIV positive, gay, conservative (who is still to this day HIV positive and gay, but no longer seems reliably conservative.) Sullivan used to have a “John Derbyshire Award” on his site for “egregious and outlandish comments on gays, women and minorities.” This award ironically had the effect of propelling Derb further into the limelight… and I’ve often wondered just how many others discovered John Derbyshire through Sullivan’s cheapjack attacks on him and subsequently went on to admire Derb and ditch Sully. It’s really a testament to Derbyshire’s writing that he can emerge through the negatively tinted prism he’s almost always presented through and make you think “Gee, I actually think I like this guy more than I care for the people who are talking trash about him.”
I had the unique experience of reading “We Are Doomed” while recovering from scrotum surgery last year. I was high on vicodin and my wound was draining at the time, yet I found the book somewhat comforting. I’m not going to give a complete rehash of every chapter, but Derb’s basic premise is that the prospects for any kind of meaningful conservatism are bleak, and things will only get much worse in our lifetimes. The idea being that only through a stoic acceptance of this and other inescapable truths can conservatives begin to muster the intellectual honesty required to face the issues of our time(but we’re still likely to lose anyway.) Probably the standout chapter of the book is “Culture: Pooped Out” which chronicles the deterioration of pop culture in Western Civilization. As a prime example, he revisits the film “Saturday Night Fever” which he hails as “one of the dozen or so best movies of all time.”
His original review of the film can be found here.
Can we really have gone downhill from disco? Downhill? From disco? I would add something here about pop music, except that I haven’t voluntarily listened to any for a couple decades. The main story seems to be one of fragmentation. The last time I really paid much attention, there was rock, R&B, soft rock, folk, jazz, and lounge singers. Nowadays, well…What are “Techno,” “Electro,” “Chillout,” and “House”? What’s the difference between “Emo” and “Screamo”? I remember Reggae, but what’s “Ragga”? How do “Nu Metal,” “Black Metal,” “Alternative Metal,” and “Death Metal” differ? Does anybody know? Would having a degree in metallurgy help? Is this like having forty-five different kinds of breakfast cereal that all taste the same?
I can certainly identify with this. I haven’t watched much television since about the early 2000′s, and even then I restricted myself to reruns of shows like “M*A*S*H*”(which seemed to air at least 10 times a day.) My TV is not even rigged to be able to watch basic channels(rabbit ear antennas don’t even work anymore…it’s all digital now.) Occasionally I get roped into watching television for a few minutes at a friends house waiting for them to get ready…or at the insistence of someone that I’m dating(I sat through an entire season of Project Runway on Bravo with my ex-girlfriend.) To me, most modern tv shows resemble the television programs depicted in dystopian future films like “The Running Man.” Remember “Climbing for Dollars?” It doesn’t seem too far removed from programs like “Fear Factor” or UFC and MMA fighting. In any case, Derb’s “Downhill from Disco?” ponderings are similar to my own recent assertion that there’s nothing on tv today that even rises to the level of campy late 70′s shows like “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century”(one of my favorites.) “The Rockford Files” and “Charlie’s Angels” are far superior than anything that’s on tv today…and these are the cheesy 70′s we’re talking about, which speaks nothing of even much greater shows of the 60′s like the highly imaginative “Twilight Zone” and “The Fugitive.” Indeed, one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes, “The 7th is Made up of Phantoms” would cause an uproar if it aired in today’s world of pc revisionism.
As a response to this, critics I’m sure would predictably point to modern shows like “The Wire” or “Arrested Development” as examples of so called high quality contemporary television. Indeed, the “The American Conservative” mentioned “The Wire” in it’s mildly critical review of Derb’s book. I don’t think “The Wire” is such a great show personally. In fact I would go as far as to say that I hate it. It’s typically phony sense of social high mindedness along with the repackaging of long ago discredited ideas, and the fact that it features ebonics and other aspects of modern ghetto and political culture that I go through great pains to avoid in my daily life…all make it unwatchably depressing for me. In particular it brings back annoying memories of what it’s like to ride the city bus, or of when I had to take driver’s ed at an urban public high school. Steve Sailer wrote an excellent review of “The Wire” last year, titled “It’s SO Authentic!”. Indeed, the touted authentic situational subject matter itself is what makes these shows so horrible. Plots related to sexual harassment, school shootings, outsourcing all serve as a reminder of everything one doesn’t like about contemporary culture and society. So how can you enjoy shows that prominently feature those “realities” of today’s world that you would prefer to see rolled back, or at the very least might be content to ignore?… as they are presented as part of permanent everyday life and entertainment, no less.
Downhill from disco? Downhill from “Buck Rogers?” I thought all cultural change and technological advancement was supposed to be progress! The 12th frame of R Crumb’s “Short History of America” (where he poses the question ‘What Next!?”) comes to mind.
The only complaint I have over “We Are Doomed” is that at around 300 some odd pages…it almost seems too short. A book with such a foreboding title, could have easily contained twice that many pages and stretched into the size one of Ayn Rand’s epic volumes. I certainly would have kept reading.
So, out of nowhere a friend(Director Steven Christopher Wallace) showed up at my house randomly and wanted me to go with him to Venue of Scottsdale to see some “magic show” or something. He had an extra ticket, and it was free so I went. Turned out it was Andrew W.K. someone whom I had never heard of(I am out of the loop as far as modern music, I listen to as little of it as I can get away with) but is apparently super famous. It was billed somewhat outrageously as “The Most Interesting Show in the World” (which brought to mind some of Nietzsche’s presumptuous titles like “Why I am So Wise,””Why I Write Such Good Books” etc) but in actuality was only interesting in that there was free beer. Not to mention everyone knows the most interesting show in the world was The Twilight Zone. When we got there, there was an illusionist called “The Great Merlini” who was in an underwater tank supposedly holding his breath for 20 minutes. I don’t quite know how he did it exactly, but I’m guessing it wasn’t the old fashioned way. This episode was followed by Andrew WK and his band complete with skanky looking dancing girls. Andrew WK has one of those annoying Michigan accents, similar to ICP, or one of those WWF wrestlers. The show is tacky, but not good tacky like old Las Vegas style or 70′s game shows. It was very entertaining in spite of it being completely nuked. The real stars of the show were the dancers, who performed some fairly dangerous maneuvers without much clothing and probably for not much money.
The highlight of the evening for me was when we were walking up toward the Venue there was a guy outside talking on the phone, and he was like “yeah there’s a lot of hipsters here. I see a couple of them walking in now.” My friend turned to me and said “Ha! Isn’t it funny how dudes can be balding
and in their 30′s and still be considered hipster?” Yep.
The plane landed rather hard and kind of awkwardly swerved a few times on the runway. The pilot even joked about it over the loudspeaker “And after that crash landing… welcome to L.A!”
I caught a cab to Mark Schoenecker’s place on Sunset and LaCienega. It’s hard to believe he’s lived there 10 years, but swoosh! Just like that, there they went. I hopped the fence, and the first thing I noticed was that it’s not as sturdy as it used to be. The thing is held together by like twist ties now, and feels as though it could collapse at any moment while you’re climbing it. Old habits be damned, I’ve decided to use the gate code from now on.
When I got into his apartment, Mark wasn’t home… naturally. I attempted to play a 45 record, “Turn Down Day” by The Cyrkle. It played the song at a slightly slower speed, and then the record player died. Apparently the motor is bad but every three months or so you can turn it on, and it will manage to play half of a song. I had dinner at Poquito Mas(studio plate) and wandered around Sunset for a bit. Drank a tall can of Pabst blue ribbon and fell asleep in the mustard yellow living room chair, until Mark got home and woke me up.
Saturday was the party at VJA’s house in Malibu that I flew in for. I got to see some people I hadn’t seen in a long time. I met some new people I’m not likely to see for quite a while and wish I could see more of. Sitting on the deck, overlooking the beach I thought to myself “There are worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.” I love old friends. I never forget them, and the ones who never forget me are the ones I love the most.
Sunday, after riding around in their Volvo listening to “Sounds of the 70′s,” (whoa-ho it’s magic…you knowwww”) I had lunch at the Beverly Center with Greg and Mark. We talked about that rapper dude “Dolla” that got shot there, and Schoenecker floated some of his own theories about the unresolved death. We walked around Melrose for bit, went into some stores but didn’t buy anything. Sunday evening we were lucky enough to have dinner with Alex Berg at Cafe Med. She discussed her dating misadventures, and we listened attentively and occasionally chimed in with some bad advice or the sort of useless insight you’d expect out of the type of guy she’s probably never been involved with. She wanted us to go with her to The Darkroom, but Mark absolutely would not go. I really did actually want to go, but it just didn’t materialize.
Monday I met up with Kathy and we walked for a long time and then had brunch somewhere on Melrose before she drove me to the airport. I tried to wake Mark up to say goodbye, but he didn’t awaken. So I left him a note on his fridge that said something like “Thanks Mark! Be sure and go down on someone on my behalf love, b.a.” Knowing him that note will probably fossilize itself there for several years.
I can think of worse ways to spend a saturday afternoon…
Schoenecker casts his eyes upon the briny deep
“Dispersion” art exhibit at LAX by Meeson Pae Yang
Probably the closest I’ll ever get to experiencing space travel in my lifetime.