Are the Classics Doomed?

You know those books you’ve either read, or at least know the plot of because 15 people in your 9th grade English class did presented it for their book reports? *cough* Old Man and the Sea *cough* Animal Farm.

The film industry has its own overrated, yet underrated, Citizen Kane and Casablanca, or even North by Northwest. These books and movies have entered the lexicon having been parodied, praised, and played/read ad nauseam. Most people know the major plots of these movies and books without ever having touched them because at some point in their lives, Americans (this experience is probably different in other countries), have seen the ending of these movies and have heard people analyze the entirety of the aforementioned books.

So does that mean it’s not worth reading? Not quite. First of all, reading is essential and one of the most important forms of self maintenance – aside from exercise and a healthy diet. And second, just because you think you know how a book ends doesn’t mean it isn’t an enjoyable read. Ever hear the saying ‘it’s the journey not the destination,’ well that certainly applies to reading, and to movies. I used to work at a dine-in movie theater, which meant I was constantly slipping in and out of theaters at random moments during any given movie. Deadpool 2 had just come out and I knew the first 30 minutes of the film by heart. About 3 weeks after its release,  I finally took advantage of my free tickets and watched it. And you know what? I still loved it.

So even if you have seen Homer Simpson screaming obscenities at Edgar Allen Poe’s Raven, read it because the joke becomes that much funnier. Even if you have seen the kids of South Park drive their parents away by accusing them of sexual abuse and then proceed into a Lord of the Flies-type society in which they try to sacrifice an innocent couple to “The Provider,” read it. There are so many intricacies and details that will be lost on your experience of the story if you don’t read it firsthand. However, maybe it’s time for adult animation to find their own storylines instead of highjacking from better, more talented writers. Because not only does over-satirization and imitation drive people away from reading, but it also detracts from the story as a work of art.

And finally, what are my favorite “classics?” My favorites have always been ones that were less conventional like The Picture of Dorian Gray, Siddhartha, and Brave New World, The Time Machine, The Plague, and On the Road. There might have been a slight rebellious spirit behind my particular choices. Everyone was reading the tried and true so I just had to be different. My top three being Siddhartha, Brave New World, and The Great Gatsby. Gatsby is a little more conventional as a favorite, I realize, but I am a sucker for aesthetic.

Now I bet you’re asking yourself, can a book have an “aesthetic?” Yes, at least in my mind. I might go into detail on this later, but if you’ve ever felt your mood, attitude, and/or way of thinking change upon reading a book, this is the effect of an aesthetic. F. Scott Fitzgerald literally “colored my world” (cue Disney music here).

A rating system is not necessary here because since these are my favorites, all three get five stars. And if you haven’t read them, or its been a hot minute since you have, READ THEM. In the spirit of the roaring 20’s, I created a drinking game for The Great Gatsby. The rules are as followed: drink whenever… the eye is mentioned, there is an elaborate and nonsense plot point (like having a get together with your secret girlfriend’s husband and his secret girlfriend), and for run-on sentences (which happen A LOT). Finish that puppy when someone is murdered. 5/5 for my man FSG.

Rise (your glass) and Grind (into the ground)

I’m not a ranter, lord no. Usually this only occurs after forgetting I took my medication for the day and downing 4 shots. It’s about time someone said it – this “Rise and Grind” mentality is complete and utter bullshit. Books like, “What I wish I knew when I was 20,” and “The Art of the Hustle,” movies like The Wolf of Wall Street, Elon Musk, the entire Paypal Mafia, social media influencers, LinkedIn… all designed to make us believe we’re supposed to work 80 hour weeks; not to achieve wealth, not to feed ourselves, and not to gain prestige, but because we… like it?

I went to a University in undergrad where the majority of the population was either dedicated to the week of booze, or the “rise and grind” mentality. As a person who’s been caught in the middle of both, I sit firmly with my bottle of Three Olives Vodka and Champagne trying to figure out how the Protestant Work Ethic started “trending.”

Look, don’t get me wrong – I think hard work is necessary. It builds character, makes you appreciate the things you have, and gives you a sense of satisfaction. However, I think that dedicating your entire being to some polo wearing tech mogul, or suit and tie Gen Xer, just so you can shout to the mountaintops “Look how much I can do,” “Look who I work for,” is the dumbest thing anyone can do.  Competing to work the most hours and get the most done is an exercise in vanity. It’s self-congratulatory cognitive dissonance because guess what… YOU’RE BEING RIPPED OFF!

Of course, there has always been status in the business world. Who earned the most money, worked at the best law/marketing firm, and had the most high profile clients. Fancy suits, blinged out watches, ego stroking dinner parties, highballs, trophy wives. But you know what? People actually enjoyed having those things. Labors bore fruits!

The millennial late nights, schmoozing, excuse me “networking,” and canceled date nights just amount to knock-off designer wear and drinking wine out of a box while sitting in a shitty studio apartment huddled in front of a laptop for 18-plus hours.

Fuck that. I want bottle service, I want grapes fed to me, I want my own stable of women to pretend they live me for my yacht a la Dan Bilzerian. Okay, that last one was a bit of over the top satire, but you get the idea.

The point here is not to put in less effort, revolt against capitalism (I mean, that might be a good idea at this point…), or to quit life and live out of a van eating canned creamed corn and washing your hair in the river. The point that I am belaboring however is this, work smarter (not harder), take some time for yourself – learn how to say no. This means, if you know something is too much for you, like it will literally put you in the hospital, do not do it. Your mental, and physical, health is way more important. And finally, don’t be afraid to ask, no demand, that if you’re working off the clock and giving up valuable time that could be spent hiking, playing video games, writing a book, or coding your own app, then you should be rewarded.

This post was inspired by the article, “Why Are Young People Pretending to Love Work?,” which sadly enough is still relevant even in the midst of a global “I Am Legend” Pandemic:  https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/26/business/against-hustle-culture-rise-and-grind-tgim.html

 

Book Recs and Last Year’s Corona Free St. Patrick’s Day

Three days ago, it was St. Patrick’s Day and I was… sober? Thanks to Corona Virus. Sure, I could’ve gotten drunk at home, but on a Tuesday night without tacos, it’s just alcoholism. And I’m sure by now you are all tired of hearing about COVID-19, coronavirus, social distancing, staying inside, and avoiding puking up tide pods and tequila on spring break in Miami. Looking at you Gen Z (kidding). So this post will hopefully be a welcome break from all of that.

As I start to work out what the main focus of this blog is going to be, I’m trying new things, or rather, a mix of old and new things. Recently I just finished reading Pat Shipman’s Invaders: How Humans and their Dogs Drew Neanderthals to Extinction, which is a fascinating look at how, and if, neanderthals interacted with humans… and how by domesticating wolves into cute little fluffy dogs, we eradicated them and other species from the earth. I also just finished reading Influencer: Building Your Personal Brand in the Age of Social Media by Brittany Hennessy. What? I’m curious how these people do their thing. How they get their… “it-ness.”

Hennessy breaks down social media and branding into simple, but not easy, steps that I’m pretty sure I couldn’t carry out successfully. After all, I’m a pale imitation of those 20-year olds skipping through NYC and Milan wearing pink jackets and sitting in hip coffee shops with neon signs. Quite literally, I am super pale. Things were so much simpler when all you had to do was wear dresses above your ankles, smoke, and drink, and you were a certified Clara Bow “It Girl.” I ended up in the wrong 20’s apparently.

Now, if you care more about the real world, I would recommend you read Invaders or What If? Serious Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Scientific Questions. That review to come soon… I think. It’s a super funny, easy, and simple book that explains absolutely ridiculous (and normally boring) physics, math, and economic questions with terrible drawings and great science.

That brings me to my final topic, St. Patrick’s Day. Since I spent this St. Paddy’s reading, I’ll regale you in tales of drunken days past. Last year I failed to write up a sufficient review of this most holy of days, but I did manage to actually live it. I was looking back through my photos and managed to bring that night to the forefront of my memory (with a little help from google maps to find the name of the actual places I went).

Last year, I managed to take full advantage of the best festivities the Nation’s Capitol had to offer. My friends and I went to a bar crawl dressed in green kitty ears and leather jackets. Although there were six bars in total, we only made it to three. Well, two-and-a-half. And here’s why…

Bar #1: Decades – check in time. The crawl start at 2pm and aren’t THAT late. We just spent 45 minutes circling Dupont Circle looking for a place to park while I cranked The Struts’ ‘Body Talks’ and sipped on vodka and crystal light from a water bottle. Because, class. We stay almost three hours and didn’t even make it to the top floor, but I got jello shots, sweaty dancing, and Moscow Mules; all was well.

Bar #2: City Tap House – maybe had a little too much fun at Decades because now it’s almost 8pm and there are 5 more bars. So we hop over to the CTH, which I kind of hate because it’s too loud and no one is dancing or talking to anyone but their weird little cliques. One vodka & diet, and we out.

Bar #3: The Big Hunt – the closest bar to CTH on the list we can make before the 9pm free entry deadline. We rush in, flashing those arm bands with minutes to spare. We meet up with another group in the game room and I find out my Skee-ball skills are top notch when I’m three Tito’s and Diet (and some jello shots) in. Lesson learned; never stay too long at any single bar, and unless you’re networking, stay away from the pretentious ones.

Just Give Me The (Netflix) Dirt

Don’t spread any real dirt or germs… that would be dangerous during these end of days. So here I am, in Day 1 of social isolation and I’m piling up on the biographies; books, movies, etc. After revisiting Roxana Shirazi’s groupie epic, The Last Living Slut, I rekindled my love of reading about musicians and their insane lifestyles. Just started reading Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, High on Rebellion: Inside the Underground at Max’s Kansas City, and Pamela Des Barres’ Take Another Little Piece of My Heart.

But since I am making my way through approximately 1,930 pages of ebooks (thank you very much, $9.99 a month Scribd app) I’ll talk about THE DIRT. The Netflix movie, not the book. Full disclosure: I have actually not read The Dirt so this review is based completely on the movie. However, I HAVE read The Heroin Diaries and I can’t even with that… who shoots Jack Daniels up their arm?

Motley Crue has always been a controversial band for their behavior and general shittiness towards women. However, they have a special place in my heart for being one of the first hard rock bands that I discovered on my own (re: pilfering Dr. Feelgood from my parents old tape collection). Not to mention, Crue also awakened my love of all things androgyny. And speaking of androgyny, Machine Gun Kelly is almost unrecognizable as Tommy Lee. He, and the rest of the cast, clearly put in the hours of doing the research. I am thoroughly impressed at how much Kelly and the others were able to match the Crue’s mannerisms, and even their speech. You are made of stone if you don’t die laughing at the POV “Day in the Life” scenes of Tommy Lee.

Looking at hair metal through 2020 lens (or, 2020 vision you could say…) most of it seems relegated to that time and place. One of the few problems with this movie (yes, I am ignoring the more problematic issues just because that would be a whole thesis in, of itself, and I am still recovering from my last thesis), is that it does not look like a movie that takes place in the 80’s. Maybe it’s the clean production, the crisp picture, or the lack of any references to anything other than the band and a few pop culture shoutouts; this could easily take place in 1993, or even 2013.

Certain Stylistic choices aside, I love the shot for shot recreations of MTV docs and home videos. And of course, the soundtrack is a banger. I’ve been wanting to talk about this for ages because this movie is prime material for a drinking game. The first time I watched it, I resolved to create my own, as a matter of fact, it even inspired my penchant for the art. So here are the ground rules:

Drinking Game for Motley Crue’s The Dirt (Movie Edition); 1. Drink whenever sex happens on screen, 2. drink whenever there’s a petty band argument, 3. finish your drink when one of the band members does something stupid/pulls a prank. If you want to play the hardcore version, you drink every time someone says the ‘fuck’ word. I mean, the ‘F’ word. What’s my final verdict? It’s funny and fun, but it’s no Bicycle Thieves: 3.4/5

Absolute Smut with the Last Living Slut

Before you read this, you should know that the book I am about to talk about has trigger warnings, NSFW content, and borderline pulp novel writing. If that’s not your thing, but you still want to get the juice on your favorite rock stars behaving badly, I highly recommend Pamela Des Barres’ classic oldie but goodie, “I’m With the Band,” or the lesser known “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” Both are acceptable reads. “Please Kill Me,” is great for punk fans, and either Slash or Keith Richards’ autobiographies are fun for hard rock lovers.

Now, about a year ago (give or take) I had the misfortune, as well as the delight, of reading Roxana Shirazi’s memoir, “The Last Living Slut: Born in Iran, Bred Backstage.” Who is Roxana Shirazi you may ask? Only the most famous rock n’ roll groupie of the 21st century that you’ve never heard of.

This book is basically two books in one. The first half is a thoughtful memoir of a young Irani girl forced to immigrate to London with her grandmother during the revolution of 1979. Its full of poetry, blissful scenes of exotic lands, and heart-wrenching childhood experiences. But then we get to the second half. Which is basically just hardcore porn.

From group sex with Buckcherry, to anal with Synister Gates, to being the ‘Yoko Ono of Hookers N’ Blow,’ this book is unapologetic, nasty, and fun. While I’m With the Band is a celebration of musicians and admires groupies as muses, Shirazi’s “Slut” pulls no punches. She fully acknowledges her place in the fading glittery remnants of the hair metal sunset strip scene, and doesn’t apologize for it. She is full of contradictions; proud ‘slut,’ accomplished author, abuse survivor, gossip mongerer, Master’s degree holder…

In the end, she forges her own path after realizing the gross double standards men in the music industry (and virtually EVERYWHERE) have towards the women they are sexually active with. She’s a whore, but she isn’t your whore. She’s a proud Irani woman, but she isn’t the traditional quiet and religious ‘good girl,’ despite her soft-spoken voice. And after having read a few of her articles, she’s really damn smart.

Despite some of the less than artistic language in the second half of the book, I honestly respect her for owning her own legacy and taking back the power from her abusers (#fuckDizzyReed). That leads me to my final thoughts… Should I bring back the drinking game? Yes, I’m bringing it back. The rules are simple, and you can safely get drunk to this without getting confused. 1. Drink whenever she name drops a more than semi-famous figure (re: Nikki Sixx, not London LeGrand), 2. drink for outfit descriptions, 3. drink whenever a threesome is mentioned, and 4. finish your drink when she mentions an outdated technology. Yeah, she and Dizzy apparently met over email. 2008 much? My final rating? 3.8/5 because it’s really darn fun, funny, and sometimes even insightful.

Less Alchemy, More Harley

And now… as previously promised, Bird of Prey! First off, let me just be the one to say that I fucking knew it. Every reviewer, critic, and WatchMojo video said that this would be a pile of utter shit and THEY WERE WRONG.

Normally, I try not to let politics seep into my viewing of film because its one of the few avenues I have left that is a safe haven from academia. Law and Order SVU, Spartacus, and various other movies and shows have been ruined for me due to the fact that I am a stickler for historical and/or procedural accuracy. And that doesn’t even include my distaste for the many racial, gender, and sexual preference biases that seep their way into the mainstream media… which infuriates me to no end.

But if we’re being honest, the critics who have actually seen Birds of Prey and hated it were… men. Of course they were! And I can understand why their fragile egos the size of giant Eggo Waffles were burnt to a crisp (lets say those giant waffles are about 10 feet tall if we want to set any type of record). It starts off innocuous enough as a funny, colorful romp about Harley Quinn getting over a bad breakup and running from gangsters. Then it takes a turn as an all out epic battle between the main villain’s goons and Harley’s ragtag group of girl power.

But the thing is, the villain isn’t even really someone you hate. He’s a buffoon, sure, but not overly so because McGregor knows how to play it perfectly.  You also don’t realize just how stupid his character is until the fun house Battle Royale… yes, you read that right, I said fun house Battle Royale because it’s just kitchsy fun. And not to mention, the amazingly stunning Jurnee Smollett-Bell… there’s even a meta-moment of commentary on her very revealing, very uncomfortable looking costume, which just adds to the fun. It’s a moment that asks, “what kind of sorcery is this…”

And speaking of Sorcery, I’m sure many people who consider The Alchemist to be the ever oxymoronic “instant classic,”probably think I was a tad too harsh on the book. I’ll admit, I was on a deadline to finish my One Book a Week for the entire year challenge. And as we all have experienced personally in 12th grade English, mandatory reading is never fun. Even if it is on audio.

It’s good literature, but the plot seems a little circular to the point of being nonsensical. It’s almost a “wherever you go there you are,” kind of thing. But I can appreciate the 17th century YOLO of it all. I couldn’t help but think that that poor shepherd kid didn’t deserve the crap he got. But maybe if he would’ve looked under the pile of rubble at the church he was sleeping at in the first scene of the book and dug a few feet, he wouldn’t have almost been pirate food.

In summation of Harley Quinn; breakfast sandwiches, smeared makeup, glass-breaking voices, and diamonds… sounds like a good time to me.  My opinion of the movie hasn’t really changed in the past few days. Birds of Prey: 4.5 + 4.6 / 2 = 4.55

And my final take on The Alchemist; Desert oases, smart aleck back-talking wind storms, stained glass, and pyramids… also has not changed much. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: 4.2 + 4.3 / 2 = 4.25

The Alchemy of Harley Quinn (Pt. 1)

Two things have happened in the month or so, 1. I got a nasty ear infection in both ears and was unable to write due to the fact I was puking in pain… and 2. I finished The Alchemist, after watching Bird of Prey: and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One, Harley Quinn, and 3. I delved into a deep study of “influencers.”

Okay, three or four things happened. It was a month. I’ll start off bypassing my ear infection because no one actually cares and to be honest, I kind of forget what the pain felt like. Like after childbirth, you know it was painful, but you can’t recall the exact feeling. It’s totally the same… right?

Now. What can I say about The Alchemist other than what. the. fuck.  And don’t get me wrong, it was well-written, nice flowery language, and lots of philosophical thought jammed into 4 hours of audio and a little more than 250 pages. The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Jeremy Irons, who, as we have already established, is #grandaddy (see last post).

In my opinion, you have to be in the right mood to take this piece of literature in. Written in 1988 by Paulo Coelho, it is the very definition of “instant classic.” It’s about a shepherd young boy (whose age is never specified, but I’m assuming 17 or 18) that has a dream interpreted by a fortune teller and heads off to the pyramids. Of which, he has no idea where they are. It’s only until he is tricked by Moroccan thieves that he learns the pyramids aren’t just a hop skip and a jump from the Iberian Peninsula. Seems like he should’ve consulted a map first. They had those back then you know.

Today, this would be absolutely batshit crazy, but I suppose back then your options were either die of dysentery at 30 or never leave the 20 miles of your home town… Why the fuck not? Why the fuck not; the real theme of this book. Coelho uses a lot of metaphors about the “soul of the world,” and “listening to the universe.” But lets be honest, this is all the long-winded explanation of “why the fuck not?” A 17th century YOLO, if you will.

Of course he meets and falls in love with a desert girl, argues with an elitist Englishman, and is almost inadvertently murdered by “The Alchemist.” No, this kid is not the alchemist, sorry to say. However, while I won’t spoil the big plot point, the alchemist basically acts recklessly with this poor kid’s life and just generally doesn’t give a fuck because… why. the. fuck. not? It’s 16-something in the middle of the desert. Pretty good overall, kind of circular logic, but if you like Steinbeck, Descartes, and Jungs’ collective unconscious/non-metaphorical soul hippie stuff, you’ll like this.

And finally, Harley Quinn. I’m running out of room on the length of my usual post lengths, so I’ll probably add my thoughts on that later. But suffice it to say, it’s much better than any male critic who got their fragile masculinity bruised will tell you.  It’s funny, cheesy (in a good way), and doesn’t try too hard. That’s all we can ask of our DC films (looking at you, Batman vs. Superman).

The Alchemist: 4/5

Birds of Prey – and The Fantabulous Emancipation of One, Harley Quinn: 4.6/5

I’ll probably re-rate these after another assessment and average the two.