I used to have this killer “NBA Jam” shirt. Found it at Goodwill for a few bucks. At some point greed got the best of me and I flipped it on eBay for double digits. Yes, I have great taste and amazing business acumen.
This is the most intense game of “Hollywood Squares” I’ve ever seen.
X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Starring: Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, M. Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by Bryan Singer
2011’s X-Men: First Class is that rarest of things: a prequel that works. Full of snap crackle pop, First Class breathed new life into Marvel’s soggy mutant movie franchise (now fifteen years old) and emboldened 20th Century Fox to put together a sequel wherein an X-Man goes back in time and tries to erase the stuff from the original movies nobody liked. Actually, the heroes in Days Of Future Past seem to want to snuff out the first three X-Men films entirely, and who can blame them? Wouldn’t you rather live peacefully in an upstate New York mansion, teaching little childrens and apple picking in your spare time, instead of living on the run out of some military grade jet while humanity and other evil mutants are constantly nipping at your heels?
The line between good and evil is in truth a tad blurry in Days Of Future Past; yes, Wolverine (Jackman) travels to 1973 to prevent the assassination that kicks off humankind’s war on the mostly benign mutant species, but he also enlists a minor to help him break an incarcerated Magneto (Fassbender) out of his Pentagon jail cell. You see, in the future, Professor X (McAvoy) and Magneto have buried their hatchet, and they convince Wolv that he needs to get them together in ’73 to make sure everything’s on lock. It should come as no surprise that young Magneto, whose personal allegiances similarly blow around like a windsock, decides at a critical juncture to take matters into his own hands, gumming up the entire ballgame.
And then there’s shape-shifter Mystique (Lawrence), the assassinator, convinced she has to kill her target (a gov’t contractor who builds giant mutant-hunting robots) no matter how many people from her past or her future show up. Nobody can convince her this shooting kicks off a major human/mutant conflict. They should have just cracked open a history book for her. Hey dumb dumb, ever hear of Archduke Ferdinand? Pearl Harbor? Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Yoda? You know, I won’t fault you for missing that quote, you were busy with infinitely better movies when the Jedi master dropped that one.
Though clumsy in places, Days Of Future Past serves up a pretty fun slip through time and delivers everything you want in an X-Men movie: Wolverine whuppin’ up on dudes, Mystique whuppin’ up on dudes, political intrigue, a few yuks, a take on Richard Nixon that would be at home on “MADtv,” and tender bromance moments between Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as the aged Xavier and Magneto (respectively). If you don’t like it, don’t worry: at some point Days Of Future Past will be retconned out of existence just like every other comic property, because that’s the way this business works.
FINAL SCORE: Three and a half funky ’70s duds (out of four).
A decade ago I wrote a book about Star Wars fandom. It didn’t get published. Now, a thrilling e-book will recount that non-publishing, with large portions of the original manuscript, plus brand new essays reflecting on where you and I and Chewbacca are in this frightening day and age. If you’ve ever wondered about the mechanics of the literary world and what it feels like when you get trapped in the gears, this is the e-book for you. Also, if you’re super into lightsaber construction and ewok mating rituals and junk like that.
Arriving Hanukkah 2015.
Previously I speculated that Henry Rollins did not view the Mother Superior years of Rollins Band to be canonical because he did not discuss them during the Rollins Band episode of his podcast, “Henry & Heidi.” Boy, was I wrong: in April Henry and his bubbly co-host recorded a follow-up specifically to talk about the Mother Superior stretch of RB and how that time span was actually his favorite writing and performing experience (ever).
I listened to this ep last night and of course it spurred me to revisit Get Some Go Again, the 2000 debut from Rollins and Mother Superior (released under the Rollins Band moniker at the behest of Dreamworks executives, according to Hank). They sure sound like they’re having a blast. Still too derivative and underwhelming for me to put it in regular rotation, but it has its moments. The title track, specifically, and the bit in “Hotter & Hotter” where Hank says he “got no time for front porchin'” (my new catchphrase).
Further down the rabbit hole: the video for “Love’s So Heavy.” Is this Rollins being tongue in cheek or is he living out his David Lee Roth fantasies? Or both? Either way, have mercy, Rollins. Have mercy!
I’ve been listening to the Germs nonstop for the past couple of days. Here’s a piece I wrote for Crawdaddy! about their singer’s legacy, published around the thirtieth anniversary of his death.
A lot of pop culture historians like to point out the fact Germs frontman Darby Crash’s dramatic suicide in December of 1980 was rendered almost inconsequential when the most popular member of the Beatles was shot less than 24 hours later, but the truth of the matter is Crash’s death would have been overshadowed even if John Lennon proved entirely bulletproof. After all, December 7th is the anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack. Bring 12/7 up in front of any American and across the board the response will be more or less uniform: “Day that will live in infamy, 1941, FDR, World War II, shitty Ben Affleck movie.”
Never have I heard anyone say, “December 7th? Say, isn’t that the day Darby Crash and Casey Cola shot each other up with fatal doses of heroin in somebody’s pool house?” I don’t even say that, and I adore the Germs as much as clumsy puppies, double rainbows, and fresh morning dew. If Sid Vicious couldn’t permanently dethrone the groundhog after February 2, 1979, Darby Crash had no hope a year later against the most important piece of Pacific Theater in our nation’s history. Fact: Jimmy Carter did not declare war on opiates because they killed the guy who sang “Sex Boy.”
It’s no accident that I bring up Sid Vicious; many people over the years have written Darby Crash off as a hand-me-down version of that doomed Sex Pistol, just another barely educated weirdo in a dog collar on too much dope. The inherent difference between these two boy-men, though, is that Sid Vicious (at least towards the end of his life) didn’t seem to give a flying fuck about anything, whereas Darby Crash seemed to really care about something. What, exactly, is open to interpretation, but it cannot be overstated that the unapologetic slur of drunken pain and disgust Darby employed in most Germs songs wasn’t the sound of half-assery. That was the sound of a human being desperately trying to convey his message against a typhoon of inner demons.
Crash probably didn’t realize it at the time, but that was a staggeringly awesome subversive move. Singing in such an obviously terrible way forced fans to decode his actual lyrics from the drugged-out death cat moaning. When they did, what a shock it was to be confronted with the unexpected poetry of Darby Crash’s astute, mature songwriting.
Darby’s lyrics weren’t the knee-jerk “fuck this, fuck that” reactions you find in so many other punk bands. There was more honesty, more naked doubt. Look at “No God,” where he says he’s “peered in every window where I saw a cross” and admits he’d “pray to anything” if only there were some tangible evidence beyond what’s been “handed down…by some thoughtful blur.” Similarly confused feelings are expressed in “Communist Eyes,” wherein Darby invites the listener to the Soviet way of life despite his own personal misgivings. “I open my books but the pages stare…it’s a double edge,” he repeats of the hammer and sickle.
On the other hand, there were times where it was crystal clear what Darby Crash wanted: a religion based around his own divine greatness. He apparently looked at Germs fans as his loving congregation, asking the faithful in “Lexicon Devil” to “gimme gimme your hands, gimme gimme your mind” while promising to “build you up and level your heads.” Crash gets more to the point in the creaky mess “Forming,” begging listeners to “rip them down, hold me up, tell them that I’m your gun…pull my trigger, I am bigger than…”
Bigger than what? Bigger than any of Darby’s disciples or critics expected, probably. The Germs never played outside of California, but their music and message still managed to creep its way around the country (and the world) for years after the fact, due in no small part to the chipped tooth enigma that was front and center leading the playful/pointed cacophony.
The most notable mainstream artist to ever claim influence by the Germs was of course Kurt Cobain; you can certainly hear the Darby-esque approach Cobain took trying to mask his words with inaudible mumbling and/or howling screams of pain in any given Nirvana song. Kurt’s fandom was certified in September of 1993 when he invited Germs guitarist Pat Smear to join his multi-platinum grunge band. Sadly, eight months later Cobain would take another cue from Darby Crash and shoot himself in his Seattle greenhouse, claiming in his suicide note that he’d rather burn out rather than fade away.
Darby Crash actually did both, burning out and almost instantly fading away thanks to impeccably bad timing. That was actually sort of a good thing—Sid Vicious was just popular enough when he died to become an immediate fashion accessory, popping up on t-shirts and purses and, Jesus, now I’m sure his scowling face can be purchased on an iPad cover. Even John Lennon, that paragon of peace and humanity and other non-monetary concepts struck down so quickly after Crash, has now stalked New York City billboards shilling for iTunes. Darby, on the converse, remains purely an artistic figure (at least in the sense we’ve never seen his image sewn onto a hoodie on sale at the Gap). He’s still trapped in the grooves of the records, waiting to convert, offend, or disgust anyone willing to listen.
Whatever you stood for, Darby—freedom of indecision, the power/cult of the self, getting drunk as an act of terrorism—it’s still (mostly) in effect. In the next life, though, you might wanna check the calendar before you draw the final curtain.
I was walking home from the gas station. I don’t remember what I went there to purchase. Let’s say gum, or an iced tea. I hadn’t even crossed back over the parking lot before a light gold colored car pulled in front of me. A guy about my age poked his head out the window.
“Hey, Pakistan?” he asked, as if Pakistan is my name.
“Pakistan, right? You’re from Pakistan?”
There was no menace or sarcasm in this guy’s voice. He seemed genuinely convinced I was from the Land of the Pure. Straight outta the Gulf of Oman. My reaction was utter confusion; I’m Polish, and I couldn’t look more Polish if I tried. Mashed potato complexion. Relatively shapeless body. A general air that screams, “I have intimate knowledge of Lech Wałęsa and pierogi.”
“Uh, no, I’m from Connecticut.”
“Oh,” the guy responded with disappointment. “You know people from Pakistan, though, right? Like around here?”
I looked off into the distance, squinting. Do I know people from Pakistan around here? Is this code for something?
“I don’t know anyone personally from that area, no, but I think maybe there are some people…”
Silence fell between us. The guy seemed perplexed. I was absolutely perplexed. Eventually he thanked me and drove off.
I’ve considered putting up a sign in the neighborhood, a sign with my picture. “Dear Friend, if you look like this and your country of origin is Pakistan, a nice man in a gold car is searching for you. Text for more info.”
The Empire Strikes Back was released thirty-five years ago today. Our planet seems unanimous in the belief that Empire is the best of the Star Wars films, which of course it is. Dramatic and dream-like yet so human and accessible. Breaks off a lot of the clunk from the first film, avoids the retreads of the third. And those tauntauns sure are some wacky snow-stompin’ bipeds.
Nutty two-legged space camels. Crying out with their distinctive sad gurgle. Filled with weird blue macaroni guts. Namaste, tauntauns.
Please celebrate The Empire Strikes Back’s birthday responsibly, by which I mean do not turn your customized Boba Fett helmet into a gravity bong.