Monday, April 23, 2007

Grounded at GRINDHOUSE

By Nicholas Allanach

Is it possible for a group of stupid hell-raisers to have a fun night out at the flicks? Likely not; after all, we’re all familiar with the standard procedure of reserving your ticket online three days in advance, patiently watching forty minutes of credit card and Coke commercials, to ultimately sit through two dry hours with no booze or smokes. Sure, one movie-goer’s idea of fun may be another’s irritation. So as to avoid such conflicts, the timid and bland masses of our consumer culture won; by successfully managing to turn a night-out at the movies into one more lifeless drab experience. In fact, after following so many rules and regulations, one should welcome the occasional digression from such rigid formalities; especially, if the film viewed is intended to celebrate the depravity of the bygone “grindhouse” era.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a “grindhouse” was the name given to movie theatres that showed cheap and often badly executed films. Most were violent and exploitative, but subversively –a blast. The “grindhouse” films weren’t intended to be serious, intellectual, or at all good. If anything the “grindhouse” specialized in being bad. Thus, such movies were nothing like contemporary big-budget blockbusters. Accordingly, the “grindhouse” itself was much different from the “Happy Feat” friendly Cineplexes we’ve been reduced to.

Thus this past Friday, a team of us decided to go see Grindhouse with the intent of bringing back some much-needed vitality to an otherwise sleeping cinematic audience. Our plan: rendezvous at the Key Bar for drinks, acquire the necessary fried chicken, and booze to sneak into the theatre (no sense in spending $7 on popcorn; moreover, none of us were in any state to sit through a movie for three hours without some kind of stimulation). Unfortunately our problems started at the fried chicken joint, which was closed. “Somebody must have tipped-off Popeye’s to sabotage the mission.” Jesse said. Of course, the time was also, as Jen pointed out, “against us” and that “at this point, the theatre would most certainly be full.” But we still needed booze, which we successfully acquired along the way.

Once at the cinema, we walked into the auditorium just as Grindhouse started, which I, at first, considered to be a great thing (since it meant we avoided all the commercials and previews) but soon I realized we were fucked –no seats. Our group moved to the front of the theatre looking back at a packed house. There was no place for us all to sit together. We foolishly tried to salvage some seats along the periphery –nothing. Our only alternative was to go back near the entrance where our comrade Noah had safely secured one lone seat beside the wheel chair section.

At first I was totally ready to set-up camp on the floor and watch the movie. But, as Sung soon brought to my attention, “We’re not going to be able to sit here on the floor for three hours.” I didn’t want to admit it, but she was right. Despite the fact Stefanie and Jesse were already mixing-up our first round of Jack and Cokes, I knew we’d soon overstay our welcome. So I patiently sipped my drink, watched Rose McGowan dance through the opening sequence and waited for the inevitable.

Fifteen minutes into the film (and one “Shissshhh!” from a prudish bitch in front of us) the man with the flashlight was behind us holding some paperwork saying “you all need to leave.”

After a couple bad comments and some grumpy-kid-heat from me, we left the theatre. Sure the bastards at the Cineplex may have won this battle, but they’re fools to believe they have won the war! Thus, this Wed. at 9pm for all looking to reclaim the Cineplex back to its true “grindhouse” roots, then please join us. We’ll again start at a bar, but, this time, will mostly certainly be settled into our seats before the previews, with our bags full of booze and fried chicken, and to hell with any “shoooshers!” who make the foolish mistake to see Grindhouse on the same night.

Let the reels of Grindhouse roll on! Debaucherous to the core.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This week: Racism and School Shootings

By Nicholas Allanach

Despite the lies we tell ourselves, America is not kind, compassionate, rich, or free –perhaps, it could be. But for now, America is incapable of becoming the manicured image it imagines itself as; moreover, America is ineffective at sustaining any semblance of legitimacy on the world stage. Certainly America will continue to frantically and hastily sustain its influence through military might but this is not a solution, this only prolongs the inevitable –America is failing and will continue to do so until it honestly (and without guilt) acknowledges it’s own (present and historical) criminal actions, removes the poisonous influence of a rising theocracy, and then –like Imus—“apologizes” to itself and the world. Such scenarios will likely never unfold. After all, America’s strongest defense is to stubbornly resist self-reflection, let alone change.

Now that I’ve vented this vague and, admittedly, bleak assessment of the “state of the union” let us turn to this week’s grim headlines …

Racism can be a slippery subject, or not; after all, you’re either a racist or not. Admittedly, one can get lost in distinguishing latent vs. implied racism; but ultimately, what racism comes down to is whether one truly believes racial differences produce an inherent superiority of one race over another and whether one expresses this belief through their words and actions. Of course, what could arguably be a more messy subject is what we’re willing to consider and accept as offensive.

Don Imus has said his share of offensive things, some more tasteless than other’s, such as back in February when Imus suggested, “It might be good to start with somebody who is willing to take three big ones [bombs] and drop one on Mecca, one on Jedda and one on Saudi –one on Riyadh.” No doubt, Imus had it coming for sometime. I’m not surprised Imus called anyone a “nappy-headed ho.” In fact, I expect Don Imus to speak more sanity from out his ass than his mouth, just as I also anticipate Pat Robertson to continue being bigoted against homosexuals and Lou Dobbs xenophobic and racist to Mexicans.

Sure, as much as I loath these fuckers, I guess I take a certain solace in knowing they’re given an opportunity to speak whatever bullshit they have on their mind; after all, it’s up to the audience to decide whether or not to listen or take such speakers seriously. Thus, if we’re offended by someone in the media, it is our choice to turn them off. What is troubling about the Imus debacle is not only the racism/sexism, but the way it illustrates market fascism –the advertisers called the shots, if companies didn’t pull their support, then Imus would still be on the radio. Thus, people speak through products.

Whereas, I’m delighted that that ignorant redneck Imus has been yanked off the air, I’m afraid the reaction to this event will only fuel those already eager to further their “standards of decency.” After all, if Imus isn’t allowed to say “ho”, does this mean the new Jay-Z album should be without such lyrics as well? Obviously, as Snoop Dogg pointed out, "It's a completely different scenario... [rappers] are not talking about collegiate basketball girls who have made it to the next level in education and sports. We're talking about ho's that's in the 'hood that ain't doing shit."

Nevertheless, I'm leery of suggestions such as those made by the Reverend Al Sharpton who has stood at the head of an initiative to convince rappers and hip-hop artists to cease their usage of insulting and derogatory comments (specifically towards women). Admittedly, Sharpton’s request is reasonable, but my feeling is that it is risky to even entertain such censorship games. Sure, I’m not offended by a rapper calling a girl a “ho”, but that's because (as Snoop pointed out) some women are hos! Just as some men are “dogz”. Moreover, I understand that rappers are often being ironic. Sure, Imus wasn’t being ironic and, thankfully, his comments were caught. But what about all his other offensive comments? What about all those crass comments from others? We could get into a real back-and-forth witch hunt here if we wanted to, and nobody would be safe. You see, whereas I’m glad another racist has been exposed and brought down, I’m leery of supporting any initiatives that ban or inhibit expression.

I’d love to pull the plug on Bill O’ Reilly and just as many would like to yank Bill Maher’s. However, if society begins preventing people from expressing what they think and feel, or ban what they listen to (no matter how obscene), then how can we continue to justify the semblance of our “freedom of speech”? We cannot. Thus, please count me as standing alongside those who like their church out of their state and prefer their laws out of their art. No matter how offensive it gets, it will “never be too weird for me.”

Banning and censoring anything only gives the said offensive material more power. We must protect our ability to freely express ourselves; otherwise, this expression will develop new ways of being communicated. Besides, how will we ever figure out who the real racists are if they’re always in hiding?

Massacre at Virginia Tech:
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you inferior without your permission.”
Fuck you Eleanor! Your words may have rung true to your New Deal generation, but this is Year Zero baby and all the “loners” feel really inferior and are subsequently lashing out against a system they feel never gave them a chance to be heard. Eleanor Roosevelt never read about anyone “going postal.” But we can.

In fact, as much as I could go-off on a tangent about the Virginia Tech shooting, it seems pretty obvious –the “nobody who wanted to be somebody” couldn’t take being treated like shit anymore. It of course also comes as no surprise that the shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, was “a loner” who “was very quiet and always by himself.” Duh! The person that goes postal is never popular.

I encourage you to read my good friend Mark Grueter’s review of Mark Ames’ “Going Postal” for Stop Smiling magazine which is, in my humble opinion, an important observation of this very American problem. And, if you haven't already, to watch Michael Moore's excellent documentary "Bowling for Columbine".

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Springtime in Union Square

By Nicholas Allanach

Yesterday, while standing beside the statue of Mahatma Gandhi I glanced over to Union Square’s more prominent equestrian monument of General George Washington on horseback. From where I stood, Gandhi faces one direction, while ol’ G.W. the other. This seemingly arbitrary decision in civic planning was, obviously, executed for symbolic purposes –or not. Of course, it’s difficult to read the man of peace and nonviolence facing one way and G.W. on his war horse marching the other as unintentional; especially on this historic New York intersection. Needless to say, random acts and mere coincidences are often synonymous, and no doubt, considering such subjects on this heavily traveled crossroad of commuters, students, etc. does cause one to reflect on the thousands who move through this space daily –some go one direction, others go another.
There was nothing special about the fifteen minutes I spent waiting for my comrades to meet me for drinks. Just another day in the park: people leaving work and making their way home. An attractive girl—not wearing a jacket—walks by shivering from the unexpected drop in temperature. A happy hipster couple poses out front of Gandhi for a picture. A homeless man talks to himself while sitting on a bench. Some black kids skateboard by. A man with tattoos all over his face pouts to himself. A beagle in the dog park howls. A brass band plays on the corner. Anti-war protesters hand out literature and sell t-shirts. Two girl’s walk by, “this is the worst job ever!”, they stop, throw-up a big smile and hand me a stupid postcard to some college frat bar.
Just an average day and another standard moment ticks by. How many moments have happened in this square? The mind boggles. A lifetime is made up of millions of such instances and history even more. So often we neglect to consider the significance of these moments, but every so often, when we’re away from the desk, something inspires us to see the world in a new light, and we’re able to take it all in at once. Although it’d be nice to hold on to such moments, it’s refreshing to feel them fleeting-by, all sporadic and immediate. Nothing lasts forever.

That said -New World is going on a brief hiatus to tackle more pressing projects. Till our next fleeting moment –peace. And may Congress give those bastards in the White House a run for their money!
Nothing lasts forever, not even a war.