Allright, time to clean out the entirety of entries that have been sitting in the Draft Folder for a while in a single rambling post.
I’m noticing a lot of Best of Decade lists, but I’m not hearing an important question on the blogs: Did the 00s suck? For the United States, I’m way too close to it; I graduated college 3 months before 9/11, and turned 30 shortly after Obama became President, so the 00s are the story of the Bush Years and are also the stories of my 20s. The internet turned out to be fantastic, far better than I expected 10 years ago. A 65 year old widowed friend of my mom’s found her old high school sweetheart on facebook in another part of the country, also widowed, and they are going on small romantic trips together, which is just amazing. But there’s all the other stuff…
The Worst Thing a Person Said in the 00s
– To start, what was the worst thing a person said in the 00s? I know the obvious is the “You gotta hear this one song it’ll change your life I swear” scene in Garden State. I get where people are coming from, not because of the twee-ness (I really liked that Shins album, especially “Caring is Creepy”) but at the horror that Zach Braff is going to be the muse of my generation, walking me life event to life event. But that’s not the winner.
The winner? This:
[4/11/03]…Q: Mr. Secretary…television pictures are showing looting and other signs of lawlessness….
Rumsfeld: Let me say one other thing. The images you are seeing on television you are seeing over, and over, and over, and it’s the same picture of some person walking out of some building with a vase, and you see it 20 times, and you think, “My goodness, were there that many vases?” (Laughter.) “Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?”
“Is it possible that there were that many vases in the whole country?” wins, hands down. I’m still kind of amazed by it. It’s tough to read old press briefing transcripts like these because they are a pretty chummy affair. But still. A lot of neocons in the buildup to the war tried to convince me that there’s no way Rumsfeld wasn’t going to manage this war well. Hearing him say this made me think “It’s possible this guy is a real sociopath.” At the time all I could do was reflect on this Get Your War On Cartoon:
I remember thinking that things were going to get real nice for the people of Baghdad.
– So right after college I moved to Chicago and lived with my friend Ed (of ginandtacos.com fame). I started work at Motorola doing the statistical numbers and the programming. After 9/11, Motorola would go on to announce, over the course of several years, the layoffs of somewhere around 1/3rd of its workforce. My suspicion was that my job was more safe than normal because I had no health care expenses, while veterans and lifers were getting cut left and right.
– A lot of people linked to this interesting discussion of The Office being depressing because of Jim’s situation with being promoted to middle management at a floundering company this season. I actually love the new dimension and wish they would take it further; there’s something about the experience of “I hope they don’t lay me off this job I really don’t want to be doing” that the civilians among you can’t relate to unless you’ve experienced it yourself.
– Ed, god bless him, was hired as a manager for a medical debt collection company. You sometimes hear about how debt collection is happy technicians using smart computers to dynamically give you the most dynamical debt schedule, but at Ed’s firm it really was hiring goons and thugs to call and then scream and threaten sick people who couldn’t make their payments. (He has a great story about their best collector always showing up to work, and doing his job, with a knife strapped to his leg.) You can’t even imagine the turnaround Ed was able to pull off in taking the GRE and applying to graduate school.
– So several early formative adult experiences involved watching the Keynesian-Fordist corporate pact in complete implosion mode, and hearing about the ugliest part of debt collection carried out among those unlucky enough to not be able to afford health care. My politics adjusted accordingly.
– You probably already know all the best stuff. Some gems you may not know that I’d highly recommend saving from this decade: The BBC show Black Books, a “High Fidelty” with a boozy angry Dylan Moran in a used book store, with an excellent first season that later gets a bit slapsticky. Also Los Angeles Plays Itself, a 3h experimental documentary consisting of 191 clips of movies set in Los Angeles that explore the city via the movies and the movies via the city (it will probably never be released formally because of the insane copyright, but it does float out there as a bit torrent…). It seems that Mclusky and Hot Snakes are slipping through the cracks on top lists of music for the decade, which is very unfortunate.
Zombies, Survival, Torture Porn
– Though I’m not usually a fan, I think trends in horror movies are always onto something. What to make of the wave of torture porn in horror? I think this, from American Stranger, is interesting here:
The cultural debts owed by most of this decade’s horror are painfully obvious: the Golden Age of the 1970s, when the genre was infused with as much ’social commentary’ as fake blood and pigs’ guts…
No, the legacy of ’70s horror (in the sense of its effect on later filmmakers) is not politics but reductionism. Zombies, ‘torture porn,’ even the sometimes more highbrow ‘new European extremity’ of Gaspar Noe, Alexandre Aja, Michael Haneke, Bruno Dumont, etc., strip their horror scenarios of everything but the bare premise: the dead walk, a killer attacks at random, now deal with it. Watch.
That there is nothing for the protagonists to do but live or die, nothing to mean but success or failure, is no longer a mere precondition for a broader recontextualization of ideology but the entire narrative and ideological point…Even more than the cartoonish ’slasher’ monsters (Michael Myers, Freddy, Jason), but for notable exceptions like Jigsaw, the new breed are absent non-entities, a-causal killers. In Funny Games the murdering duo are fictional tropes — in Hostel torture is just a business. The Dark Knight’s Joker,There Will Be Blood’s Plainview, and No Country For Old Men’s Chigurh all borrow the trope: the ’00s were the age of monsters without reason.
– Like Dostoevsky, I think you haven’t really appreciated t.A.T.u. until you’ve experienced it in the original Russian. Thanks to youtube, you can click to hear “Ya Soshla S Uma” and “Nas Ne Dogonyat”. Someone really should do one of those slate pieces where they argue t.A.T.u. is the essential band of the 00s; faux-lesbians, bad pop music, Universal Music lawyers and Russian mobsters breathing heavily in the recording studio while explaining to the girls that they have to keep making out for the cameras until their record recoups expenses, which it never does (I can’t even imagine how Russian mob accountants count money).
– I don’t give enough Scharpling & Wurster love at this blog, a radio station that does some comedy clips, but this track from their CD is one of my favorite comedy clips from the decade. Come listen to the story of Corey Harris, lead singer of Mother 13, playing “Bud Light/Snickers Dancing in the District Festival” for Clear Channel on the hopes that their album recoups. It’s a funny version of Albini’s The Problem with Music. “Some of your friends are probably already this fucked…” is a rallying cry, and the internet has opened up a realm for musicians to get their stuff out without having to mimic the twisted market structure of the recording industry. I think that’s the obvious win for music in this time period.
– In mid-2008, after discussing some terrible shows we’ve seen, a friend said “You know, we had to live through the Bush Years, and we didn’t even get a decent punk band out of it. All we got was Vampire Weekend!”
– You weren’t there. But here’s something I love and want you to see anyway: The Top 20 Champaign-Urbana Albums of the 00s. The Headlights are starting to get some attention; this great video and song remind me of that place and time.
Someone was complaining about how terrible music was in the 00s, and he wanted to trace the source of what he hated to Braid. I disagreed, and pointed out what he hated was really more of a Cap’n Jazz thing (the singer is later the Joan of Arc guy, the drummer the guy from the Promise Ring). But I love all those bands, and all things upper-midwest more generally.
– Someone just recently reminded me of this, and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Superhero Ted Leo sings “Since U Been Gone” with “Maps” in the middle:
Is that how it goes? I forgot all the terrible stuff, and just remember all the little parts that I really enjoyed? That’s not so bad. What’s your take?