Thursday, September 11, 2003
Five Questions from Planet Swank
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monday, September 08, 2003
NPR remembers Keith Moon