Thursday, September 11, 2003

Five Questions from Planet Swank
My bud Greg (aka Mazinga for you DAM readers) honored me by asking me to take part in a little mini-questionnaire being sent from Blog to Blog.

1. We've been seeing an increasing acceptance of Asian culture in the United States. But is there something about Asian popular culture you feel is unfairly overlooked, or misunderstood?

Good question. In fact, I've often struggled with the notion that Destroy All Monsters does more harm than good. By writing about kung-fu movies, interviewing hot Asian women, and unearthing the wierdness of Asian culture, don't we support the very stereotypes we claim to help dismiss? I still don't have a good answer for that, other than to speak plainly that these are the things I am legitimately interested in. Like yourself, I grew up on a steady diet of these things, and I'd be doing myself a disservice by ignoring them.

I know that's kind of a dodgy answer. Truth is, I think Asians are making great strides in the U.S. and that we've probably got a better rep than ever before. Common Asian stereotypes are that a.) we all know kung-fu, b.) we're all smart, and c.) Asian chicks are all exotic hotties. All things being equal, I'd rather struggle under those mis-apprehensions than the ones shouldered by most minorities in the U.S.

2. Is there any part of Asian pop culture you feel will never really catch on in the States?

Vending machines. At least, not in the way Asians view them. You can buy anything out of a vending machine in Japan. The last time you came across a vending machine that sold hot food at a rest stop, what did you think? "Not on your life, buddy...". Yeah, me too. Americans seem to have a problem buying things sight-unseen (at least, things not overly snack-y). On a related note, America will always shy away from a good deal of Asian food. I'm pretty flabbergasted that sushi is so readily available, but even my youngest brother is wary of ordering squid at the local Chinese takeout. I really don't understand why. Then again, he's by far the most squeamish of my siblings. I also don't think that animation or comics will ever really break the stereotype of 'kiddie-fare' here in the States. I'd like to see it happen, but I doubt it will venture out of the gutter in my lifetime. Sad to say, but there will never be a mainstream theatrical animated film aimed at the adult market produced by an American studio. You can make a claim perhaps for South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut or even Beavis and Butthead, but these are comedies. Heavy Metal was a step in the right direction, and Ralph Bakshi will always have a place in my heart. But for the most part, dramatic animated film is dead in the U.S. And though comic-book films may be big business, I don't see the source material becoming bus-stop reading among U.S. sararimen.

Oh, and Shaolin Soccer, should it ever be released here, will totally flop, I'm fairly certain.

3. Your Destroy All Monsters handle is based on your Battletech call sign. What first led you to get into wargaming/role-playing games, and what kept you interested in them?

I've been an avid gamer since I was 9 (for those keeping track, that was 1979). My first experience playing D&D was at a friend's house, and I had no idea what I was doing. I loved the maps, though, and spent days drawing intricate dungeons on graph paper for no apparent purpose (now you see why I became a graphic designer). Pretty soon, however, I was deeply immersed into D&D sessions with a group of older friends. I'd been a fan of Tolkien since I was about 5 or 6 (The Hobbit was one of the first books I ever read) and I loved the notion of being able to create my own fantasy stories. When I was 13 I got a job at a bookstore near my Junior High School keeping the roleplaying section stocked. They paid me in store credit, and I took home scads of D&D stuff. I've been playing on-and-off ever since.

Battletech came later. I played the wargame when it was first launched in the early 80's, and when I found out ten years later that they had a virtual cockpit simulator I made it my life's mission to check it out. I first played the Virtual World version in the early 90's during a trip to Chicago, and after meeting my best friend Jason (and discovering we had both spend a fair amount of time in the 'pods) we made weekend trips to Indiannapolis, where they had a fairly large VWE center. A year later, VWE opened a Battletech center at the local Dave and Busters, and Jason and I began hanging out there. I used to go by the callsign Kether (a kabbalah/magick reference), but later changed it to Musashi, after the Japanese swordsman, when we formed a team for the 2000 Battletech invitational. A visiting team from Japan took a shine to me, because they thought I was Japanese...even moreso when our team (Team Banzai) took to shouting 'Banzai!' after every victory.

4. You got into punk rock about the same time as I did. What do you see as the spiritual heir to punk in the beginning of the 21st Century?

That's a hard question. I hate to sound pessimistic, but I don't know if punk has a spiritual successor...at least not musically. The beauty of the punk movement was that it took the structure and form of the mainstream, and turned it on itself. While the Sex Pistols and Ramones were ostensibly 'rock bands', at least in form, they were far from such in function. I don't see that happening anywhere these days. I had held out hope for several mutations of the rave scene (though I may be biased being an expatriate of said scene) but alas, nothing really took hold. We now live in an era in which corporate 'cool hunters' constantly keep their ear to the ground, listening for the next new underground movement to co-opt and subvert into the corporate fold. Does anyone really consider Avril Levigne or Good Charlotte to be punk? I sure as hell don't.

I think the Blogging phenomenon had the potential to become 'punk'. It's certainy very DIY...but even that's going mainstream. The closest thing I can think of is perhaps magick. It's the one thing I can think of that the mainstream hasn't found a way to corporatize. To be certain, there are many aspects of magickal study that have been co-opted (Harry Potter anyone?) but serious adepts of Crowleyan magic or followers of the hermetic path are seen as daft at best and Satanic at worst. Of course, neither is true...not for the most part, anyway. Does magick really work? I don't know if that's the point. The universe is a pretty odd place (if it even exists!) and I'm willing to believe in just about anything. I think it's just as reasonable to believe that Jesus walked across water and turned water into wine as it is to believe in magick ritual. So why the hell not? It's all beautifully Quixotic, in my mind.

5. You're about to become a father. What experiences from your own childhood would you want your own child to experience, and which ones would you prefer be avoided?

Well, I have to say that I had a wonderful childhood. I hope my children are allowed to be children for as long as is reasonable. I fear that the world we live in (and I'm not talking about the 'post-9/11 world', I'm talking more about the dangers of globalization and corporate control over mass media and economics) has dramatically reduced the ability of children to be children. My greatest fear (and I think we...meaning you and I, Greg...discussed this at length the last time I saw you) is that my children will grow up as a.)corporate wage-slaves and b.) born-and-bred consumers. I'm deathly afraid of sending my kids to public schools, which I view largely as being training camps for exactly the kind of consumerist-wage-slavery that I outlined above. I know this makes me sound like some sort of Unabomber-wierdo, and I'm really not. But my children will live in a world in which government's hands are tied by the corporations that line their pockets and the media conglomerates that 'manufacture consent' (to coin a phrase by Noam Chomsky). It's a scary prospect.

Really, I just want my kids to be happy. I don't care how much money they make, how 'successful' they are, or what they do for a living...as long as they feel fulfilled. I don't think any parent can ask more than that.

posted by Musashi | 7:21 PM --> link


Monday, September 08, 2003

NPR remembers Keith Moon
While I was expecting a nice piece on the passing of Warren Zevon, I was pleased to see that NPR broadcast a nice 13+ minute piece on the late Who drummer Keith Moon. When people ask me who I think the greatest rock band of all time is, I unhesitatingly declare The Who; while some may feel that The Beatles deserve the top spot, I feel The Who have a ferocity that embodies my image of 'rock' far more convincingly than the Beatles ever did.

Be sure to check out the extended interviews with Roger Daltrey and Moon biographer Tony Fletcher, which together clock in at just under one hour.

posted by Musashi | 9:29 PM --> link
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