Arts Morning Roundup: Ron Charles Prevails, Watchmen Sucks, Baseball Cards Are Expensive
Good morning, y'all! Top of the news pile has Maura Johnston leaving Idolator, and Ron Charles, aka, the muscle at Book World, getting his space in the Style section, goddamit. (For those of you who are not ravenously digesting R.C.'s every tweet: He nearly lost his slot in Style due to the insane number of inches required to review Sarah Palin's new Inuit romance novel, Pantsuits with Wolves.)
Strange ways to write a novel, Johnny Cash's love for Native Americans, the many manifestations of Watchmen, the best songs of the decade, and more, after the jump.
- Big news on the DVD front: Yet another "special edition" of Watchmen is being released, this time with just enough additional footage to give some nerd a boner-induced aneurysm while still barely registering with those of us who fell asleep in theaters (Guilty!). Bill Gibron of Pop Matters goes on ad nauseum about these DVD special features, and I can dig that. What I cannot dig–will not dig–is this nonsense: "[I]n a few short years, when critical opinion has been snatched away from the grinning maw of Geek Nation, Watchmen the movie will be viewed in a similar light as Watchmen the literary icon–as one of the most powerful, forward thinking, and visually stunning stories of the last 50 years." Look, Gibron, The Mothman Prophecies is one of my favorite movies–definitely somewhere in the top five–but I'm not gonna bullshit you: it sucks. For all her chops, Laura Linney can't even handle the part of a hick cop, and Richard Gere's underbite really gets away from him, oh, once every other scene; so frequently, in fact, that you want to hold his mouth still for him. All that aside, the movie appeals to a part of me that doesn't really give a damn about Richard Gere's teeth or that Laura Linney is insanely overrated; a part of me that loves wonder and mystery. You see where I'm going with this, Gibron? The Watchmen movie sucked, and that's coming from a guy who liked The Mothman Prophecies. Don't shit the shitbird.
- Justin M. Norton compiled a list of 10 essential grindcore albums. AxCx's 40 More Reasons to Hate Us didn't make the list and I don't know enough about the internal dialogue of the grindcore scene to tell you why. It really is a terrible album, and seeing as shittiness is grindcore's guiding aesthetic, I think AxCx may have been cheated for political reasons.
- WWJD? For instance, if he had been around during the enlightenment, would Jesus have endorsed the castration of little boys with pretty voices in order to keep the Backstreet Boys alive forever? The tradition of the castrati, writes Jan Swafford in Slate, "rose from an unholy trinity of religion, money, and art. The church forbade women to sing in services. There was a standing ban, enforced primarily in the Papal States, on teaching women to sing professionally at all. Church choirs were staffed by boys, castrati, and adult tenors and basses." The Papal States have been fucking boys for so long, you think they'd be better at getting away with it by now.
- In somewhat related news, "Engineered Rabbit Penises Raise Human Hopes." (Steve passed that one along; round of applause for Steve, everybody.)
- All Songs Considered (or, All "Indie Rock" Considered) has assembled "The Decade Defined," a look at the "defining moments and trends" of the early 2000s. Is it interesting? Meh. Media attention is how we determine what's important, right? But there's a hand guiding the media spotlight, and that hand is attached to the arm of an old person whose other arm/hand is clutching a ratings/traffic printout with a Skeletor-like grip. If a bunch of public radio people are getting together and saying, "This is what we talked about for the last 10 years, so clearly it defined the decade–oh hey! remember when the Silver Fox won American Idol? Shit yeah! 55 is the new no, i swear i'm not old enough to be your father," then I don't really know what's going on. On the other hand, I was addicted to Contemporary Christian Music and the sweet stylings of the Dave Matthews Band for the first half of this decade, so it's likely that I have never known what was going on. For a detailed list of the best of the decade/best of the year lists (that's right–a list to keep track of all the lists), you simply cannot beat Largehearted Boy's continually updated list.
- Richard Powers, whom Mark Athitakis recently called "America’s most Wallace-ian living writer," is weird. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Powers...wrote his last three novels while lying in bed, speaking to a lap-top computer with voice-recognition software." Based on my limited exposure to improvisational folk-ballad writing, speaking a entire novel sounds hard. Also, Junot Diaz writes his novels in the shitter.
- How many jobs do you have right now? Whatever number you just said to your monitor (psycho), Jesse Thorn has at least three more than that. He's got The Sound of Young America, Jordan, Jesse GO!, all those meet-ups and nerdcons and whatnot, and now this: "Put This On, a style series for men who want to dress like a grownup." So far, only the pilot episode is out (and you can watch it here), but Thorn is looking for cash so that he can keep this good thing going. Because working less than 80 hours per week is for commies.
- I didn't need to know this to like Johnny Cash, but I'm glad Salon had the good sense to take a break from stoking leftwing paranoia over Pantsuits with Wolves in order to share this kick-ass story:
"Johnny, would you be willing to play a few songs for us," Nixon asked Cash. "I like Merle Haggard's 'Okie From Muskogee' and Guy Drake's 'Welfare Cadillac.'" The architect of the GOP's Southern strategy was asking for two famous expressions of white working-class resentment.
"I don't know those songs," replied Cash, "but I got a few of my own I can play for you." Dressed in his trademark black suit, his jet-black hair a little longer than usual, Cash draped the strap of his Martin guitar over his right shoulder and played three songs, all of them decidedly to the left of "Okie From Muskogee."
Go, Johnny. Go.
Also, this mini documentary about baseball card collectors is cool as shit:
Seize the day, y'all!
Photo from Pantsuits with Wolves by Darrow Montgomery.