Saturday, June 26, 2004

Gojira!

Last night, we went to see the restored version of Godzilla at the Oak St. Cinema. Wow. That's one heavy movie. Seriously.

The first reaction, of course, is to laugh at the preposterous special effects (I mean, the guy-in-a-rubber-suit-stomping-on-a-model-of-Tokyo has sort of ascended to iconic status, but there are a lot of other scenes where toy ships are sinking in water with bubbles as large as the ship, or toy jet fighters tootle around with wires clearly visible), and the people I was with did a lot of that. But I don't know, maybe it's because I read so many comics, I ended taking the movie at face value. And if you take Godzilla straight, and think about the recent history of Japan in 1954, it turns into a pretty hardcore movie.

I mean, imagine Hollywood producing a movie in 2010 wherein Osama Bin Laden summons a gigantic demon that proceeds to kick the shit out of New York City for about a third of the movie. Even if Ben Affleck did figure out a way to stop it in the third act, that still would be a pretty impressive act of cultural scab-picking. I suppose on one level, Godzilla is kind of a wish-fulfillment fantasy for the Japanese: they're getting devastated by the consequences of the American nuclear program again, but this time Japanese ingenuity could do something about it.

I was also impressed by the parallel they set up between the creation of the Oxygen Destroyer weapon (I'm assuming the name sounds cooler in Japanese) and the real-life Manhattan project. In the movie, Dr. Sarizawa (I think) is just looking to do basic research, stumbles across a potentially unlimited source of power, and shits himself when he realizes that it could be turned into a devastating weapon. Sounds awfully similar to all of the neutron-bombardment going on in the 30s. And like Fermi and the real-world Manhattan engineers, Sarizawa resists weaponization until he sees that the threat of Godzilla (which is scarier- a 150-ft. radiation-breathing lizard, or a Nazi A-bomb program? Search me) is so grave that he doesn't have any choice. So he goes public, hating himself for it.

Did you catch that? In a weird way, Sarizawa is written to be an acceptance that the people in the American bomb program did what they thought they had to. And this movie came out 9 years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Holy shit.
A Ghost Is Born

I don't intend this to be a full-length review (actually, Pitchfork's review is worth checking out... they piss me off pretty often, but in this case I think they're spot-on), but I've been doing a lot of listening to the new Wilco album, and a couple of things have struck me.

First off, this is the first Wilco album since A.M. that didn't immediately ring my bell. With all of the others, I may have thought they were a little weird at first, but they were pretty obviously great achievements. This one, I don't know. It's got some good stuff, but it's not magnificent in the way that Being There, Summerteeth, and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot are.

The biggest thing is that the band don't seem to be having fun anymore. That always used to be the thing that iced the cake with Wilco- not only was the music really good, there was a sort of submerged joy in it; even on the depressing songs, it was clearly between the lines that they'd enjoyed recording them. And their live shows were energetic hoots. Ghost doesn't really have that. To be honest, Ghost sounds like the recording sessions must have been real bummers (which, given all of the recent news about Tweedy's personal life, I suppose they were). And the last Wilco show I saw, which was about a year ago, was actually pretty stiff.

Weirdly, it seems like Jeff Tweedy is picking up a lot of what I used to think of as Jay Farrar's bad habits. Back during the heyday of the Wilco/ Son Volt rivalry, I always preferred Wilco because Tweedy had some energy and his lyrics had literal meaning, while Farrar just sang strings of words that didn't convey any information while he slumped onstage looking fort of like the porcupine from Pogo. Now Tweedy's lost his fire and gone all abstract-expressionist on us, too.

Weird.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Getcher Gmail Here

I have a couple of Gmail invitations left, and nobody in my immediate circle seems to want one. So I'll put them up for grabs here. Email me if you want one.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Random Notes from a Week in the Apostle Islands

* When I was fresh out of college, I thought that the main issue involving Superior, Wisconsin was which of its gritty, “authentic” bars was coolest. Now, pushing thirty, I think the big question with Superior of such great natural beauty manages to be such a shithole.

* I would say that having a tree root plug your toilet drain of your cottage sucks ass, except that it really prevents the fruits of your ass from being sucked away. You get my drift.

* On the other hand, when said toilet-drain blockage gets you a discount so deep that you're staying at a swank cottage on a beautiful island for less than a Motel 6 would cost, you learn to love tree roots.

* Minneapolis is a city of many great bookstores; and St. Paul has a few good ones, too. But by far the coolest one I've ever been to was this dinky little used place in Bayfield, WI. I can't remember the name offhand, but it's not like there can be that many other used bookstores in Bayfield to confuse it with.

* As far as that goes, Bayfield rules. No city of less than a thousand would ever be expected to be so funky and cool, especially with the mullets of Superior just an hour away.

* However, I can't understand the passion shared by all of Bayfield's merchants for Blue Bunny Ice Cream. It's not like Blue Bunny is dog food, but it's nothing special. But everyone there sells it and acts like they're serving you the special gourmet shit that they only trot out for kings or Donald trump.

* Sea kayaking = fun.

* I enjoyed staying on Madeline Island, but it seems to be full of hippies and weirdos. The hippies I can handle just fine; although you think that with so many of them around, it'd be easier to get veggie burgers. The weirdos, though, were pretty overwhelming. We had the mumbling self-talker who stumbled into a bar and announced to everyone that he'd been at his job for six years and wanted to celebrate it by having a party Friday night at which he'd get a couple of cases of O'Doul's and get crazy (this, by the way, was the first thing we saw on the island). Or there was the dumpy-but-bronzed man who split his time between driving around the island in a convertible and hanging out at the Island Inn pool hosing down children with a squirt gun. Or that guy's kids, for that matter, who thought it was a ton of fun to put on life jackets and hop into a hot tub with an unfamiliar couple and bug the hell out of us, going so far as to try to sit on Rebecca's lap. Rebecca rebuffed the attempt with a well-placed kick.

* However, the single weirdest person we encountered was in Superior (of course)-- a kid in his mid-teens who was spending his Saturday afternoon in a Subway, rocking out to a boom box that was cranked up to drown out the oldies compilation Subway wanted us to eat to. Said kid would bob his head constantly, talk to himself, and occasionally stare over at us to judge how effectively he was annoying us. When it became clear that he was annoying us pretty effectively, he brandished the case of the CD he was rocking and initiated a stare-down.

Really, stay out of Superior. That's the main lesson. Duluth's wonderful, but for god's sake, its sister city is the armpit of Wisconsin.