Thursday, June 03, 2004

Idle thoughts while bobbing my head to "Into the Groove"... the Madonna "Reinvent Yourself" concert in Arrowhead Pond, 02 June 2004:

7:58 p.m. [1] Is this the greatest concentration of Vietnamese rice boys ever assembled? And is the flaming dude wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the word "Virgin" on the back their leader?

8:04 When's the last time I hung out at a concert with a crowd this uncool? Um, when I was one of two minorities in a crowd of 10,000 who saw Dylan at Auburn Hills? Oh, wait, I know! Paul Anka at Vegas with my mom and grandparents. I mean, did some superhuman prankster pick ten random people at Del Amo Mall and then multiply them by a thousand and then scatter them inside this suburban-corporate-center-cum-sports-arena? Man.

8:16 If I bail on my companion Jen now and get a running start, will I be able to jog to Edison Field in time to catch Pedro starting the bottom of the 4th? Will she even notice? [NB: good choice to stay, as I would've watched in agony as Vlad schooled Pedro and everyone else.]

8:28 Fuck, the Immaculate One has got some big guns. She's got bigger fucking biceps than Ron Artest. Johnny Damon, even. Who would win in an arm wrestling contest, Madonna or Morrissey? Strike that -- dumb question.

8:41 These are some of most spectacular concert graphic designs and production I've seen, as innovative as her videos. Killer design with the tarot card motif. For which songs did my bud Calvin help design the graphics again?

8:45 Oh, yeah! "Vogue". Awesome. Stunning choreography! Vogue! Madonna rules!

8:50 What the fuck is this hackneyed war footage and this combat fatigues production? Give me a break. Women in war gear doing runway walks? Oh, the audacious subversiveness! Please sing "La Isla Bonita" soon.

8:53 Did Reagan-era greed paean "Material Girl" always have that satirical edge? Or did the "Reinvented" Madonna retroactively add on the irony by singing "living in a material world" in her combat fatigues (that is, if the background video of time-lapsed supermarket shoppers didn't make the point obvious enough)?

9:20 Should I blog about this show? But that means I have to tell my readers that I went to a Madonna show in the O.C. -- the acme of suburban lameness. No fuck that -- Madonna is cool. Madonna is fucking cool. I will be cool for admitting that I went to see Madonna, the pop icon of our era, before she becomes a Vegas act.

9:44 Oh, no, I was dreading this. Madonna covering the ne plus ultra of peacenik cheese, "Imagine." Accompanied by a slideshow of happy or distressed children from around the world no less. You're better than this, Big M. Come on. You can make a more meaningful political statement by eating some Krispy Kreme donuts on stage. Fuck, this is awful.

9:49 Man, that was bad. But it's so predictable and easy to bitch about the badness of Madonna covering "Imagine". Should I be provocative and post about how the cover is actually a stroke of genius? Uh...nah.

9:50 Madonna's wearing a "Kabbalists Do It Better" shirt. You gotta hand it to Madonna: this follows the anthem for secular humanists everywhere ("Imagine"), and just before that, a rock and roll ode to Jesus. She's got dancers dressed up as nuns and Muslim clerics and rabbis dancing on stage. Given her chameleon persona, her woozy embrace of religious and cultural diversity almost kinda works. And by Krishna, her arms are sculpted! Get a gander of those triceps!

10:00 These acrobats are pretty awesome. With the money burnt on this multimedia extravaganza, they can probably find the cure to lymphoma. Is it "La Isla Bonita" time yet, Mrs. Ritchie?

10:05 "Like a Prayer" is a kickass song and all, but I'd much rather hear it sung from Madonna herself than from the improvised gospel choir that sprung up around me. Oh, shit, now Jen's belting out the song at the top of her lungs. Wait, she's looking at me. Does she expect me to sing along? I sang "Cherish" with her at karaoke already, what the fuck does she want? Okay, if I bob my head, move my lips a little and smile vacantly at the stage, will she look away?

10:11 I shall not be so contemptuous of these soccer moms. I shall not turn into Sofia Coppola, cultivating my studied air of hipster superiority. No, I shall not. Surrounding me are fine, hard-working Americans having a good time, and what is wrong with jiggling your flabby booty along to "Music" in a Mashall's sweater and mauve slacks anyway? No, I love these people, their sincerity, their screams of unalloyed pleasure, and liberating unself-conscious outbursts such as the one from the Latina mom two seats down to my left who yelled, "I love you, Madonna Ciccone!" Why, these fine people don't know even know what the word "kitsch" means. Good for them, I say. You know, I will not give in to hipster condescension...I will not give in to my...oh, who am I fucking kidding?

10:14 "Into the Groove" is one of the best pop songs ever. And this version, with the Scottish pipes and a driving house beat (and w/ the Missy Elliot video interlude) pretty much rules.

10:23 "Papa Don't Preach" in a Catholic schoolgirl outfit. Cool. Remember when Madonna used to send those adolescent hormones raging into the stratosphere? Easy to forget Madonna was the primary object of my lust, ages 12-13. Ah, those were the days. Scheming to score the Penthouse with her old nudes. Believing, for a second, that I can catch a glimpse of an upblouse breast when she bent backwards in that "Lucky Star" video. The Herb Ritts photos. Those "Cherish" mermaid shots. Being mesmerized by her pixie 'do and that sexy bodysuit in the hot "Papa" video. Man, she was hot. And then I grew up (and stopped pretending to be the horny boy in a bad Miramax Italian movie).

10:30 Perfect closer, party song "Holiday" with some nice "One World" flag graphics and confetti. Man, is Jen happy. Wait, the lights are on. Wtf? No encore? No "Like a Virgin"? No "La Isla Bonita"? Damn! Oh well, time to check the Red Sox score on my phone.

[1] Times are estimated. I did not bring a little notepad to take notes at a Madonna show, thanks for asking.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Lakers v. Pistons

Derek Fisher saved the Lakers' season. The only thing standing between the Mailman and the Glove and their first championship was Duncan and the Spurs. Once that lucky shot got the Lakers past the Spurs, it's an easy road. The Wolves, as much as I love KG's game, were simply outmanned.

The Pistons play some ugly game that tangetially relates to basketball. And the Phantom of Auburn Hills, Rick Hamilton, is the hottest player in the playoffs. Perhaps he and his team's weird Jungle Ball game will throw off the Lakers for a game or two, but this series is, for all intents and purposes, a coronation. I hope for a competitive series, but I wouldn't stake two dollars on it. Lakers in five. (Care to differ, Ben?)

Also: Belmont Stakes. Will Smarty Jones, who drew the outside post today, finally take the Triple Crown? Or will he falter at 1 1/2 miles like all of the recent Derby/Preakness winners? Man, it's tempting to bet against that 2-5 line, but I'm rooting for the favorite to win for once. Whatever happens, the Belmont will be more exciting than the NBA Finals.

Daddy Safire finally right!

Abolish the penny, the NYT's wingnut columnist sez.


Pennies add to the transactional costs of cash purchases, and inflation has rendered it functionally useless as a unit of currency. Only use now: psychological gamesmanship by retailers (ex. $9.99).

Heavy Lifting

Not much time this week except to pass links (Waz -- I concede the Dogshit contest to you), but this is a good one. One of my favorite public intellectuals is Leon Wieseltier, the longtime editor of The New Republic's literary back section. Yeah, the dude's got problems: an often humorless pedant, he often comes off as a bigger snob than even Harold Bloom, and he displayed an unhealthy and obsessive hatred for Edward Said through the years (a product of his hardline pro-Israel views, in line with the magazine itself). But he's also one of the few writers in the mainstream press who consistently grapples the vicissitudes of public morality, an issue that takes on particular poignancy in this polarized nation at war. By public morality, I mean: What ideas should we hold as citizens and why? How do you account for your government's actions?

One question I've been grappling with (see my Wedding attack post): is it right or wrong to feel awful about innocent Iraqi (or Palestinian victims) given the nature of war.

In discussing innocent child victims of the respective Israeli and American wars on terror and occupations, Wieseltier tries to find a middle-ground between "moral equivalence" on one end, and on the other, the risible (wingnut) idea that showing any compassion for victims of collateral damage is a sign of weakness and appeasement. Or more precisely, Wieseltier rescues the idea of "moral equivalence" from the straw men formulation offered by wingnuts while making the case that "compassion" must necessarily entail a certain moral equivalence of treating all human beings ("your" peeps or not) as human beings. Key passage:

And what is compassion, if not an exercise in moral equivalence? The care that we feel for people other than ourselves is the result of regarding us all, the subjects of our concern and ourselves, under a single and highly general description, which is the description of the human. There is no way to pursue justice without believing in the moral equivalence of all men and women.

Check it out if you have time. It's a question that every American -- nay, everyone who's serious about their own moral stance -- should ask themselves.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Kerry's lame slogan

After various attempts at a pithy campaign slogan/theme, John Kerry's seems to think he's found one: "Let America be America again." And he's been eager to show off this slogan at various campaign stops. He should stop -- this slogan is retarded.

By hitting the nostalgia buttons, Kerry evidently aims to associate himself with some kind of pastoral, idealized America. Tim Noah thinks the whole nostalgia idea is bollocks to begin with. But beyond the problems Noah identified, the most glaring flaw in Kerry's slogan, which was ripped from a Langston Hughes poem, is its bizarrely passive stance on electoral change. The operative verb here is the notoriously passive "let", which has the effect of being oddly disempowering. Compare Kerry's slogan to something like Dean's "You have the power" exhortation. Dean wants us to take America back, snatch from the hands of the evil Bush empire. Kerry, on the other hand, apparently wants us to just chill, man.

Just let America be America, dudes, and everything will turn out sweet, Kerry's campaign seems to be suggesting.

One word: lame. Time to dump this line, JFK, and come up with something a bit more, I dunno, empowering?