Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Comic Book Dorks

From July 1st, 2001, half serious, half a joke, and at the end of the day, all I'm really doing is just talking about myself:

"Hulk Smash!"
-Stan Lee

So to start out this latest installment of "What the hell are you looking at?" I'd like to extend a hardy, heartfelt, hand shakey "thank you" to all that wrote in in regards to my last column. The response was overwhelmingly positive, especially so the one charming young lad who pointed out that I fucked up the "Duckman" reference that is the title of this column. Ya see, Duckman's catch phrase is/was, "What the hell are you STARING at?" Not "LOOKING at", which is of course what the column is called. To that I say, "OH well, whatcha gonna do?" These things happen, and besides, it'll keep me from getting sued once I get syndicated nationally.

Anyway, like I was saying, those many summers ago (two columns back), if punk was co-opted in the 90's ARE there still any real punk rockers left? Ya know, times have changed, people have changed. Society isn't as easy and straightforward as it used to be. No longer can some dumbfuck crusty walk down the street, get beaten up and blame on being punk.

Guy ..1: "Dude, the rednecks beat me up because I'm a PUNK, fuck them!"
Guy ..2: "Uhhhhh, didn't they beat you up because you spit on one of them and called his girlfriend a cunt?"
Guy ..1: "Isn't that what being a punk is all about?"

Yup, idiots now have to come up with NEW excuses for their moronity. The game has changed, punk went from a mechanism that desperate, fucked up kids used to distract themselves from their deep set emotional problems to just another marketing term. How tragic…

Even still, to this day, nearly a decade after Nevermind, the problem of punk being all mainstreamy and co-opted persists. TRL and MTV are littered with "punk" "rock" "bands." Sadly, these bands, yer Sum 41's and Fenix TX's, ARE actually perceived as punk bands by the mainstream. Groups so "punk" that they blend in SEEMLESSLY with yer N’Sync’s, O Town's, and all yer Korn-metal acts. The success of these bands SHOWS just how utterly soulless, uninspired and downright gag inducing these groups are. Back before they were on TRL, Maybe SOME of you (those with one foot in the "lightweight" category, perhaps), MAYBE thought these were decent bands, decent PUNK bands. But now? Now, it's pretty damn clear that they're nothing but the most aweful-est of aweful-dom.

What ever happened to the threatening, challenging, DANGEROUS part of punk rock? The closest thing THESE groups display is a mild "wackiness." Blink 182 will run around naked, but they won't take a crap on the floor (on live TV) and fling it at Carson Daily (which would of course be the GREATEST moment in all of human history). These bands are about as toothless as one can get. Some of them even have Jesus-Rock backgrounds, for fuck's sake.

Even more sadly, in EVERY midsized to larger city there are bands like this, yer ultra generic, post-NOFX, pap punk treacle. And this plethora of genericos are all chomping at BIT, waiting for their shot at the big time. For them, it's not a question of "IF" they should sell out, but rather "WHEN", WHEN will they finally get that chance? There's a time bomb of disposable, replaceable, non-goodful-ness that's just waiting to go off.

Back in the day, we knew Lagwagon was a BAD band, but I don't think ANYONE thought it could go this far. People used to jokingly call these type of bands "commercially viable punk", well guess what, that label has proven to be DISGUSTINGLY true. And as I said, from most people’s point of view, these Blink knockoffs ARE punk. You say "punk" and they'll think of these bands. Just last week I was out for drinks with some old friend that I hadn't seen since high school. I mentioned a little about digging the old punk rock/rock 'n' roll, and the friend, in a genuine but misguided attempt to relate, talked about how she really likes the new Sum 41 video. I think I would've cried if I hadn't been trying to look down her top.

Is THIS what punk is to most people nowadays? Gimme a fucking break, that ain't punk, that ain't rock 'n' roll, that ain't anything. Them ain't "US", that's for sure. The thing is though, they PRETEND to be like us, and that's the problem. In the 80's, yer mainstream dipshit was still the same idiot he is now, but NOW, that same idiot calls himself a punk. My oh my, das ist nicht gut. Once upon a time, these same fuckers would've never in a MILLION years labeled themselves as such. Punk was as uncool as one could be. Punks DID deserve an ass kicking JUST for BEING punks. Now though, in these modern times, punk is a fairly, relatively, cool term.

Those same girls that'd never give us the time of day back in high school, the type of girls that MADE most of us into punk rockers to begin with, are actually AT shows now (not GOOD shows, though), replete in their New Found Glory T-shirts, STILL not giving us the time of day. What the FUCK (exclamation point)? If yer gonna preTEND to be like me, the least you can do is actually LIKE me. But I digress......

Punks just aren't the same group of social misfit, alienated, LOSERs that they used to be. Since we're slightly "cool" right now, the whole sub-culture doesn't have the teeth it used to. We're not so much rebellious iconoclasts anymore, we're more of a current haircut that's probably gonna go out of style soon.

IN this climate though, where punks aren't actually even PUNK anymore, we have to search for the NEW punks. The NEW rebels of our time… We have to search out those that are TRULY uncool, the people that NO one wants to be like, those that are pure and hopeless in their alienated existence.

And guess what? I've "searched" and I've found them. Yeah, I've looked far and wide and the only real punks left in this "now" time (is it just me, or does Lisa sound like a guy on most of the songs?), the ONLY true rebels left are…get ready for it…COMIC BOOK NERDS! And I ain't speaking of yer Fantagraphics, R. Crumb, slacker comic type, I'm talking about yer full blown, died in the wool, Spiderman subscribing, X-Men reading, back issue of Darkhawk having, super hero comic book reading nerd. The type of guy who not only KNOWS who Speedball is, but has all the issues from the original series sealed in acid free poly bags. The type of guy that cried the day Jack Kirby died.

THESE people are the only real punks left nowadays. Think about it, a 25-year-old male walking into a store and proudly purchasing a funny book intended for nine-year-olds. A book which he takes SERIOUSLY.............. If THAT isn't one of the boldest acts of rebellion against mass culture that I've ever seen then I don't know what is.

Sociologist John Lorber once described being "punk" as being "aggressively nerdy." Obviously, comic book nerds have the NERDY part down. The aggressive part comes in, as before, with their BOLD rejection pop cultural values. These people buy ACTION FIGURES for fuck sake (exclamation point), how much more aggressively anti-social can you GET?

But wait, you say, "there are others JUST as alienated, just as outcast as comic books nerds. In fact most of the time, the two groups are interchangeable. What of those people?" And YEAH, this OTHER group closely associated with comic book nerds also does deserve some attention. You need to be told why, despite their similarities, this OTHER group isn’t the new punks.

This "other" group is of course, GAMERS. Yeah, within the last few years, Dungeon's and Dragon's playing geeks have actually gelled into a whole new subculture, as real and as valid as punks or goths, mods and teddy boys or flappers (not that any of those just listed were ever really all that valid). They have their own ultra-elaborate rules and codes of ethics, their own "gamer aimed humor", their own form of dress (ill fitting clothes of any stripe and trench coats of course). Yes, they have truly entered the vast cultural miasma, the quagmire-rical battle of uhhhhhhh, society/sub-culture-y/life or something (sorry, I got in a little over my head with that last metaphor there).

In the old days, these D&D dorks might perhaps convene a few times a month to "Slay the dragon" (god, how I wish that was some kind euphemism for sex, but sadly, it ain't). Nowadays, "Gamers" often gather several times a WEEK for their, uhhhhh, games. They have fucking LEAGUES now, POKEMON leagues in some places even. These are some sad, SAD, dark days that are upon us.

Now sure, gamers are just as aggressively nerdy as comic books nerds, but in actuality, they are even NERDIER, and even MORE aggressive about it. Gamers are to comic book nerds as Hardline Vegan Krishna motherfuckers are to punk rock. The gamers take it TOO far, they are TOO alienated, too much of a misfit. Their lives are too aggressively anti-social. If it WEREN'T for all those "league nights" that they have, gamers 'd probably be out there KILLING people and then either eating or fucking them (or in some cases, BOTH).

Their existence is something BEYOND hopeless-ness, beyond vague notions of "purity." Gamers are indeed something verging on pure evil. To look into their bespectacled eyes is to look into the eyes of Satan himself. You think I'm exaggerating? Have you ever had the sorry misfortune to 've actually ENCOUNTERED one of these sad, pitiful people? If you have, then you know what I stay to be true.

In the last year or two, I've maybe been in a comic book/gamer shop three or four times. In each instance there were gamers present, GAMING their disgusting, life disavowing games. That alone was enough to terrify, but then, one time, something else happened, something even MORE HORRIFYING. These nigh-serial killers, these omega geeks started to talk about the Civil War, specific EVENTS in a specific BATTLES in the Civil War. I didn't know whether to laugh in their faces or run in terror (I think I just ended up buying some back issues of "Love & Rockets"). Yes, these frightening, uhhhh, "crazy aunts that you lock in the basement and pretend don't exist" (even though they were guys, mind you) were not only GAMERS, but HISTORY BUFFS as well. God help us all..... What more proof do you need that these people are Mephistopheles incarnate? What was even worse though, several months later, in another comic book/gamer shop in a different city, I once AGAIN overheard two uber-losers discussing the Civil War. As I said, in the last couple of years, I've maybe only been to comic book/gamer shops four or five times at the MOST, so that's about fifty percent of the time I've heard talk of the Civil War. These people are EVIL (exclamation point).

Comic book nerds though, they are aggressively anti-social within HEALTHY, acceptable limits. They can't get laid right here, right now, but maybe, one day soon, just maybe… They've been ACCUSED of being a stalker, but they've never actually DONE any stalking. They can get the TIME OF DAY (literally) from girls, but little else.

Comic books nerds are the future. All advances in culture within the next twenty years will originate from their camps. All the new ideas that reshape the way we view world will come from the comic book nerds. The revolution will not be televised, but there WILL be a limited edition, gold foil Ghost Rider graphic novel released in conjunction with said event.

The times ahead of us will become even more increasingly anti-social. People will find it harder then ever to relate to one another. In these dire days, only the comic books nerds will thrive, because you see, their whole culture is built up upon NOT being able to fit in, in the SLIGHTEST, on being a total outcast. They CAN go for a decade without getting laid. A challenge which the rest of us could never handle. They can LIVE with being suicidal for YEARS upon YEARS. You're average person would maybe last through six months of being suicidal.

They will be the ones that lead us out of that darkness, for in a time when everyone is a poorly adjusted, total outcast misfit, the REAL rebels (i.e. comic book nerds) will become more social, less alienated. They will develop the new forms of communication that will lead us forward. They will make the changes that NEED to be changed, because THEY will be the ones MOST affected by the flaws of society.

Punk rock got us through the last quarter of the century, and comic book nerds will get us through the next twenty-five years. So I ask of you now, toss down your records, cancel your subscription to MRR (let me pause a moment here to wait for the laughter to subside). Yes, I say unto you, cast the cruel specter that is rock 'n' roll OUT of your home and join me in my quest. Come on, you're already an obsessive record collector geek. It's only a short trip from that to being an obsessive COMIC collector geek.

We will all become comic book nerds. We will read the exploits of the Fantastic Four. We will wonder aloud why Captain America has been around since World War Two and has yet to age a day. We will argue over which Captain Marvel is superior. Yes, we shall tackle all the great questions, solve all the unsolve-ed mysteries. We will be COMIC BOOK NERDS, the only real punks left, and we will SAVE THE WORLD.......and not come anywhere CLOSE to getting laid while doing it............

MORAL OF THE STORY: Fuck rock 'n' roll, early issues of Action Comics are the only things worth dying for.

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Well, there was some DVD I rented called "SOMEthing", and it had David Bryne and MAYbe the rest of the Talking Heads in it. It came out originally in '86, and from what I WATCHED of it, it seemed quite kooky, but I mean, I didn't get around to watching the whole thing before I had to return it.

Another good DVD is the "Clerks" animated series DVD. All six episodes, four of which we never shown, commentary by Kevin Smith and a couple others that's quite good.

Actually, speaking of director's commentary, the commentary track by Oliver Stone on "Natural Born Killers" shows just how big of an idiot he is (in case that was unclear to anyone).

The commentary on "Boy's Don't Cry" was interesting, 'cause ya see, it was the director's first feature length film, and hearing her talk about it, she just uses all these big fancy, semi technical director terms, betraying the lack of confidence she has in her own directorial abilities. After HEARING her commentary, you tend to get the impression that the film was OVER-directed (if such a thing is possible). An impression that's pretty much solely based on that commentary, it didn't seem over-wrought watching it initually.

What else? Saw "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" for the first time yesterday. And yeah, there was absolutely no point in me watching it, I already knew the whole story, "Nest" has been referenced in at least three episodes of "The Simpsons." Overall, simplistic characters, simplistic situation, extremely poor hospital security, and Jack Nicholson playing the same role he always does, i.e. "I'm Jack Nicholson and I'm the coolest guy in the world."

Saw "Memento" again, the best movie you'll ever see in a mall (take that for what it's worth). Uhhhh, definitely a post "Fight Club" type dealie, mental non-healthy-fulness. The plot moves backwards, and other fun stuff...

BAD CLUB OF THE WEEK: The fucking Cat's Cradel in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. They were supposed to have a Templars show there on Sunday. I drove three hours only to find the show was cancelled last minute. Fuck them, it was still up on the Internet, and on their answering machine. Bastards..........

AUDIENCE REACTION/EVENT THAT REAFFIRMED MY FAITH IN HUMANITY OF THE WEEK: Last week at the Bad Brains' reunion show, some horrible Korn-metal band was one of the opening acts. Even worse, they had keyboards for some reason. Before their first song they said something about their debut record that was about to come out on MCA RECORDS. I grew scared.... They played their first song and it was total crap, then their second which had some line about "a bitch knowing her place." I became disgusted at this and walked into the other room of the club. I played me two games of Galaga. I then return to the stage area and heard the singer say, "Well fuck, if yer gonna be like that we just won't play anymore." With that, the whole band walked off the stage. Yes, they were BOOED OFF STAGE! As the title-y thing says, it reaffirmed my faith in humanity. A few minutes later the keyboard player came back out on stage to take down his stuff. He addressed the audience and said, "When we're big rock stars on MTV all of you can suck my dick!" He was of course booed once more... It was a good moment.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: "Dance of Days: two decades of punk in the nations capital." Whelp, as the title of the book says, it's about the history of DC scene. And well, first of all, no rock 'n' roll book will ever come close to approaching the greatness that is "Please Kill Me."

And lemme tell ya, "Dance of Days" DOESN'T. It's a long book, clocking in at over 400 pages. And well, ummmmm, FUCK, it's boring, it's pretentious. Kind of like "Get in the Van", it's good through the early years, but the later stuff turns all crappy. The writer/writers of "Dance" just don't even come anywhere CLOSE to nailing down the TRUTH about these people, their personalities and their interactions with each other. Throughout a lot of it, I really got the feeling that a lot of the DC folk were just plan dumb. From the naivete of them thinking that they could change the world with a band. Gimme a fucking break. There's a repeated theme of "revolution" throughout the book, but nobody INVOLVED in the various efforts ever seem to realize that they actually HAVEN'T made any noticeable impact or difference whatsoever. For all their talk of changing things, making it all SOOOOOO better, using their bands as vehicles for all of this, participating in all of these various demonstrations. Throughout ALL of it, the only "real" difference they made was keeping George Bush from getting to sleep ONE night at the White House because they were doing some drum thingy. YEAH, you've really changed the world there... I don’ know, like I said, the thing seemed to be just enshrouded in this aura of dumb. Ya know, the lies about the punk scene that most people see through by the time they hit 22, THESE people, even into their thirty's still buy this simplistic, naïve bullshit. "Please Kill Me" is such a great book because it checked all the bullshit at the door, all the propaganda and hype where left by the wayside; they just told the fucking truth. Jim Morrison wasn't some brilliant gifted poet-god sent down from the heaven's to free us all from the shackles of corporate oppression, he was just some dumbfuck, flaky asshole that used people and treated them like shit. THAT'S reality, THAT'S honesty! Iggy wasn't some magical soul channeling whichever into whatever, he was a god damned junky who fucked 13-year-old girls.

"Dance of Days" is COMPLETELY void of any of that kind of thing, it lacks any kind of real honesty. The closest they come to real criticism is stuff like "Maybe Wendel Blow was a Nazi?" and "Perhaps us DC kids were 'elitist' sometimes"

I don't know, maybe the whole old Nazi element in the DC scene is where a lot of the dumb came from; it rubbed off on them or something. "Oh, we're a million times smarter then the Nazis, so obviously we're not idiots." Guess WHAT? Just because yer smarter then Nazis doesn't mean you’re not an idiot. I don't know…there's so many problems with so much of the DC stuff. Like the shit Ian'd say between songs at a Fugazi show. He'd be standing up there, thinking himself all Mr. Righteous and whatnot, and he does his little speeches, speeches that are maybe a few sentences long and he thinks he's actually making some kind of real difference. "Daaaaaaaa, don't be mean to gay guys, girl power", I think even Bono is too smart to do that type of shit nowadays....... Anyway, I could go on about all of this (maybe in a future column?) but I'll cut that off. One more thing though, somewhere towards the back of the book, there's a line about Kill Rock Stars being one of the best or maybe most important punk record labels ever.... GIMME A FUCKING BREAK. It's debatable that/if KRS has even put out any actual PUNK ROCK records to begin with. Don't believe the hype........

LATEST TIME I'VE EVER STAYED UP TO WRITE A BLANK GENERATION COLUMN… Six thirty in the morning. Yeah, it's 6:30 right now, I gots ta get to bed.......

.............................................END OF COLUMN............................................

Eeeeeh, it's kinda annoying how dated and/or "time specific" some of this stuff is, but HEY, it was written a long time ago. It's so bizarre to think that the notion of DVD's having director's commentary was once a new, original concept...effin' nutbars.... I also gotta say that SOME of this stuff seems kinda naive as well, but I think that's at least partially because I've "grown up a lot since then". It seems simple to me because my thoughts and notions have developed a lot since then. Ya know, nowadays I'm a coward hipster who barely ever takes a chance, where-as back then I did my damnest to try and alienate EVERY-fucking-body...

Also, currently, there's an ever increasing group of guys that just terminally can't get laid. It's a number that's way up from past generations. Mid 20 somethings with only mere neuroses(not fully blown psychoses) just can't seem to get their "game" together. Yer average punk rock joe really does seem to be more alienated, more stuck within themselves than they used to be. Its a bi-product of the modern age, we know a lot more about music and lot less about what it feels like to have a girl swallow our balls. I was so shocked when I landed in Milwaukee and witnessed just how hard it was for SOOOO many guys in the scene to get any type of action at all.

And of course, the alienation goes both ways, guys that can't get laid and girls, they throw themselves into one pointless physical relationship after another, hoping desparately to make some kind of real emotional attachment, but failing miserably each time.

Everybody's a coward now, myself included. No one is willing or able to take those chances and really reach out to another person. The few that DO, they're labeled as "weird" or "needy" or just outright "crazy". I know SOOOO many girls that are just dying for some real emotional intimacy, and yet the second you broach those kind of topics with them, they run for the hills. People have been fucking beat down, they've been made to conform to this bullshit that is SOOO fucking antithetical to living a healthy, happy life. Listen up peoples, if anyone's read this far, pay attention, please pay attention: IF YOU EVER WANT TO BE HAPPY YOU HAVE TO BOLD-FACEDLY REJECT HIPSTER CULTURE. You have to learn how to talk to people and really share your thoughts and emotions, you have to make real emotional bonds with people. You have to open up and put yourself on the line....

And fuck, people have always been cowards, society's always beaten people into shape in one way or the other, but thing is, this modern abuse we have to deal with, in some certain ways, its just completely fucking intolerable, its an unliveable situation and we've gotta do our damnest to fight against it...

Anyway, I think I actually talk more about this type of stuff in the upcoming columns.....