Sunday, June 16, 2013

You Will Not Care A Man Can Fly

Just saw the new Superman movie:

Good news, it's not as bad as Superman IV.

Bad news, it's not as good as Superman III.

Subtitled "The Man Of Stealing Two Hours Of My Life."

Monday, May 27, 2013

Of Freak Mojo and Dead Clowns

This weekend we visited an annual event called the Great Glebe Garage Sale. For those of you unfamiliar with Ottawa, the Glebe is a very wealthy urban neighbourhood within spitting distance of downtown. Once a year, the entire 'hood gets together and throws a massive garage sale, with almost literally every house for blocks participating.

This being a rich neighbourhood, you'd think folks would generally have good stuff to get rid of. But I spent three hours cruising sales that, as far as I can tell, were mainly unloading Debbie Gibson CD's, used inkjet printers and other items for which there is no market whatsoever, anywhere.

Okay, one man's trash is another's treasure, but seriously--how did you get rich enough to live in the Glebe if your business sense isn't acute enough to tell you that literally no one has any use for a how-to-use-the-Internet book from 1997?

All right, I'm just being pissy. Sorry. The thing is, my garage-sailing skills are mediocre at best. I'm really jealous of people who have that seventh sense that directs them to where incredibly weird and awesome finds can be had.

People like my friend Beau, who for as long as I've known him has been tuned in to a whole other Luck Plane of finding bizarre shit. When we were in high school, there was this idea that late-night TV was full of weird cheesy old B-movies and forgotten, unloved cultural ephemera. (This was before capitalism, having for years made the uncharacteristic mistake of overestimating people's intelligence,  figured out that people will indeed sit through an hour-long commercial.) But when I turned on the TV at 3 am, I was never able to find The Prisoner or Godzilla Versus Mothra. Kitch and bulldada evaded my best efforts to find it.

But pull an allnighter at Beau's drinking coffee and eating chips, and turn on the TV, and wham--there is what appears to be a camcorder video of a guy eating grass, goat-style, which appears to be growing on another guy's head. Yes there is.

What I'm saying is--dude's got some major freak-magnet mojo.

Anyway, as it happens, Beau was cruising the Great Glebe Garage Sale the same day and came across this. It's a cheesy paperback mystery from gotta-be-the-fifties about a business magnate who joins the circus (!) as a clown (!!), and turns up dead of an apparent suicide a few days later (!!!), but it's awfully suspicious (you think?) and the maybe-murder has to be solved by a retired reporter who spends his days writing angry letters to the editor about how inept the cops are (!!!) It's called "Unhappy Hooligan" which--okay, look, I haven't read it, maybe I should, but as far as I know "hooligan" does not mean "clown." Are there gangs of violent soccer fans in this book too? I don't know, but at this point it wouldn't surprise me.

Knowing of my perverse fascination with dead clowns, he snapped it up for me.  If you can't have the weirdo magnet mojo yourself, next best thing is to have a friend like Beau who will find the stuff for you. Thanks pal!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A perfectly reasonable question for climate change deniers.

So, in honour of today's news that atmospheric CO2 concentrations have reached 400 parts per million: a bit of a point that's been brewing in my mind for awhile.

I think it's time that climate change deniers tell us all exactly what they would accept as sufficient evidence to justify serious action on global warming. They've never done that.

I mean, obviously they say they don't believe in it. But they must agree that, hypothetically, if it were true, there would be something that would be enough to persuade them. I don't believe Elvis is still alive, but if someone brought me an living, breathing old guy and took his fingerprints and DNA samples, and a body of qualified and disinterested geneticists and fingerprintologists told me they matched confirmed samples taken from the King back in 1957... I'd revise my opinion the the matter.

Just because you don't believe something doesn't mean you can't lay out a set of circumstances that, if met, would change your mind.

From the very beginning, the science and politics of climate change have been met by a series of denials. First, the claim was that there was no warming, indeed the planet was cooling. Then, okay, it was warming after all, but surely not due to human activities. Then, yes, global warming, and indeed we were causing it, but hey--maybe it's a good thing. Plants eat CO2, therefore more CO2 means more plants means more food for us. Then, no, okay, that was kind of a stupid idea, global warming is probably not a good thing, but it's probably too late to do anything about it. (Oh, if only we'd known sooner!)

The point being, at every turn--at every turn--the deniers' fundamental objections were addressed beyond any reasonable doubt to someone who has any respect for the scientific method. Whereupon the objection promptly changed, and science and climate activism said "Oh, okay" and gamely went back to the drawing board, patiently studying the question and gathering the evidence to address the deniers' concerns. Whereupon the goal posts were promptly moved again. Wash, rinse, repeat, for decades.

Of course, the objections were always different, but oddly enough they always, always pointed exactly to the same policy directive:  "We should not do anything to limit carbon emissions." Really quite remarkable; all that study, all that new data, all those fundamentally different conclusions, and yet it always meant, basically, hands off Big Oil and Big Coal. I guess all roads do lead to Rome.

Now, at no time, to my knowledge, has the climate change denial industry stated clearly what evidence would persuade them that climate change is real, caused by humans, and clear and present danger that needs to be addressed now. The best they've ever been able to do is, "No, that's not good enough. No, thanks for trying, but that won't do either. How about this? Hmmm... no, I don't think so."

They're like restaurant patrons who won't say what they want to eat, but keep sending every dish back to the kitchen.

Now, I've been writing this post as if I thought there was some chance the deniers were acting in good faith. I was going to suggest that the deniers should be required to clearly state what they would accept--and then the rest of us can decide if that smoking gun looks too much like a mushroom cloud. The point is to call them out and make them clarify their position.

But let's not kid ourselves. It isn't 1990 anymore and the pretense that there can be any honest disagreement on the subject stopped being tenable a long time ago.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Zombie Apocalypse Las Vegas

I just got back from the annual Viva Las Vegas rockabilly festival in (where else?) Las Vegas. It's my third time going, and if there's a better opportunity to see the kind of mid-century upbeat dance music I love--rockabilly, rock and roll, jump blues, western swing--I don't know where it is.

I always come back with a few hundred bucks worth of CD's. Leaving aside the current bands who play this kind of stuff, there is a mind-blowingly huge catalog of old recordings out there. Seems there were hundreds of record labels in the 40's and 50's, all recording great stuff that dedicated music nerds have saved and reissued on CD. For every Sun Records, there were dozens of tiny regional or city-specific labels who recorded some killer tracks by local bands who promptly went back to their day jobs driving trucks or whatever.

I feel like I went for a long time loving this stuff but having no idea where to find it. There are bajillions of recordings. Once you find a vein, there's so much it's almost overwhelming. Go search out Wild and Frantic, Hey DJ!; East Coast Teen Party; or Rock 'n' Roll Orgy--each of these CD series has a dozen or more volumes, all packed with great stuff. (Um, watch out googling that last one though.)

Aside from the music, the event itself is sort of like a Star Trek convention for Back To The Future nerds, right down to the ballroom full of people who are obviously not teenagers, dressed like 1950's teenagers and cutting up the floor like professional swing dancers. There's a huge classic car show which--even for a committed pedestrian like me--is pretty impressive.There are merchant booths selling vintage threads, tiki knicknacks, and industrial-strength pomades to keep your ducktail tuff--including some hair goop with the if-nothing-else-memorable name, Cock Grease.

There's a whole other post to be written sometime about the appeal of this whole subculture. Were I to summarize, I would say that there are a lot of reasons to wish it was 1955 again, if you were able to surgically remove the racism, sexism and homophobia. (One of the perks apparently being that you could give your product a name without worrying that a google search will bury it dozen pages of porn sites.)

Anyway, as per my usual habit, I went down a bit early and spent a couple of days in the old downtown around Fremont Street. That original Rat Pack, Bugsy Siegel-era center has been gussied up in recent years for slightly less seedy audiences; they've clapped a giant roof over the street, and the roof is embedded with gajillions of LED's, making it a gigantic Blade Runner flat-screen TV.

Also as is my wont when I visit a new city, I took a walk out of said tourist area. Within two blocks found myself in the most desolate, fucked-up urban post-apocalyptic ruinscape I have ever seen--and I have seen my share of fucked-up urban et cetera. It was like I'd walked into a parallel universe where the Cuban Missile Crisis had ended very badly indeed. Block after block of demolished (or close to it) motels, their original and now-very-retro pylon signs flaking away in the desert sun.

 Looks like you're still charging too much.

 At a certain point you just give up and fill the pool with rocks.

If Downtown and the Strip are like Blade Runner without the rain, the surrounding area was like... I dunno... Planet of the Apes without the apes.

You maniacs! You blew it all up.... And I really wanted a burrito!

I recently heard an episode of This American Life, talking about how federal disability insurance has largely taken over the role of welfare in the United States. This tour bears it out. Almost literally everybody I saw--and there were a few people out at eight in the morning--had a cane, a walker or some sort of mobility device. I saw a guy pushing his girlfriend around in a grocery cart. Vegas being what it is, the extremes of poverty are probably particularly visible. But it looks like there are whole districts that subsist entirely on federal Social Security.... and this is what they're like.

The next day I took the bus out to something called the Zombie Apocalypse Store. It's a ridiculously stupid, not to mention awesomely cool, little store that sells all manner of stuff you would need to survive the hordes of living dead. Machetes, ammunition, army MRE's, first aid kids.

I thought about asking them for a ride back to the hotel but I didn't like the look of the guy they'd already picked up.

The Zombie Apocalypse Store is located out the Clark County exurban sprawl, in the middle of a vast, depopulated, de-industrialized wasteland of abandoned one-storey industrial buildings, many of which formerly sold granite countertops and other necessities for the great twenty-first century housing bubble which now, five years after popping, feels like a whole other world. As I trudged back to the hotel, I thought it was one of the few places on earth where a zombie apocalypse would be an improvement. At least there would be people walking around.