57 Channels and Nothin’ On.

Never ’till this week-end did I feel that sense of futility, of there being nothing to see at the movies but Hollywood crap that older critics had talked about when I was younger and still going to see everything. I want to see a movie, and everyone’s decided “Solo” and “Deadpool 2” are what’s worth talking about.
 
The Laurelhurst is closed as a second-run — excuse me, I forgot to mention “Avengers: Infinity War” — and, now that they’re re-opened as a first-run theater, who needs ’em?
 
I can’t go see that lone Paul Schrader movie playing at Fox Tower 10 with Ethan Hawke before Monday if I’m saving it for then, and if so, … *nothing*?
 
Never before have the reviews, the articles, the promotional pieces seemed so desultory. I can almost see the people’s jobs behind them, their desks, their clutter — what they need to put the article and magazine out. “Add exclamation points!” They seem so like an assembly line, or a logging farm. One of those things you’d make a video game out of, hopping from thing to thing.
 
What’s puzzling is why this took so long: as a kid, I was always *excited* about whatever-it-was that was coming out, and that lingered: I never felt the cold chill I’d read writers older than me writing about, as though you’d turn every corner and that’d be all that was there: the same thing, the *sameness*, the unfeignable enthusiasm because it. Just. Isn’t. There.
 
Am I whining? What with 82nd Street [a large theater with room for a couple more than usually play in Portland; I’ve seen Kevin Smith’s “Yoga Hosers” and a 2hr. 40min epic about Korean resistance against the Japanese during WWII there], the 5th Avenue Cinema run by PSU students [introduced me to Alex Ross Perry via “The Color Wheel” before “Listen Up, Philip!” even came out; saw “The American Astronaut,” Murnau’s “Sunrise,” Alex Cox’s career-wrecking “Walker” and not-countless-but-plenty others there], the NW Film Center [two lesser-known-but-restored Clouzots … ALL MONTH?], and the other second runs [Academy, which has decided until August to run though “Back to the Future,” “E.T.,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and etc., for those who don’t know that without the bookends of “Heathers” and “Pump Up the Volume” — titled changed, against director Allan Moyle’s objections, from “Talk Hard” — the ’80s don’t make much sense] normally, there’s a lot for the other art houses [Cinema 21, Hollywood Theater at times, Clinton St. Theater for more radical stuff, more documentaries but more sporadically, too …] to cover but — NOTHING? I haven’t felt so dispirited, such a sense of ennui closing in. Before. For all that, for all the culture in Portland, I *still* don’t hear 94.7 Alternative Portland played most *anywhere* … I don’t hear stuff they play on it most often, let alone stuff they *wouldn’t*, like Cat Power or Yo La Tengo … rents keep going up, places keep closing to be replaced by those more San-Fran. upscale, everyone hates Trump but — why? Why isn’t there a resorting to things we should’ve known, all along. Going back and reading Marge Piercy, for Christ’s sake. I feel like everyone doesn’t know what to do because the voyage’s begun, there’s been a drop-off a long time ago — akin to the ballast bags off a hot-air balloon — and, for all the “true believers” I might spot or cross paths with at Music Millennium, all the energies seem disorganized and too individual, too particular, too insular … why isn’t here more radical communings of thought? Because you’d *have to acknowledge an alternate canon*, is why. Because you’d have to read your Burroughs. Dave Eggers made it too enticing to not do your homework, it feels great, so you’re under- (or even contra-)prepared when it comes time to appraise heavy shit, make a decision, create something never seen before, acknowledge the next fork in the road, make a decision that might even … piss people off? Socially? Subtly?
 
So we’ll let the corporations — not the robots — take over?
 
I think not?
 
You *don’t*?
 
I, for one, am not so sanguine.
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Just to Put This in Perspective …

“It’s 2017, Donald Trump has been elected president of the United States of America, and it is hard to find a Fugazi fan who doesn’t wish they were still around.”
—Joe Gross, signing off from Austin, Texas in June 2017 in the Afterword to the 33 1/3 book on In on the Kill Taker

“I went, in honor of fifteen-year-old me. The crowd went bananas from the first note. I burst into tears. I was struck by an emotion so powerful and raw that I had a hard time identifying it at first: grief. I stood there in that ecstatic crowd and mourned. I mourned all of us dumb kids. I mourned our graying hair and slackening bodies. I mourned some unnameable forgotten truth I used to know … I’d thought that I was there for nostalgia; turns out I was there for an opportunity to grieve that I didn’t know I’d needed.”
—Emily Flake, in “Young and Dumb Inside,” The New Yorker, December 4, 2017

 

 

1, 2, and 3.

(1.)
“Unaware that the letter was a CIA plant, the leading officials in the American Embassy held an urgent meeting to ponder its meaning. The political officer then dispatched a long classified report to Washington, alerting top policy makers to the possibility of a startling turn in Latin American Communist policies. ¶ No one bothered to tell the embassy or the State Department that the newspaper article was written by the CIA.”
—David Wise and Thomas B. Ross, in The Invisible Government (1964)

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“When secrecy seeps into the life of an individual, dribbling like mercury into the fault lines separating one’s identity—husband, colleague, traitor, friend—it has a way of segregating those different parts, changing them from facets of the same personality to different personalities altogether.”
—Patrick Radden Keefe, in Chatter: Uncovering the Echelon Surveillance Network and the Secret World of Global Eavesdropping (2005)

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“Capitalism no longer has a global antagonist, just at the moment when it has never needed one more. Or rather, capitalism has found a deadly opponent, but the problem is that the opponent is capitalism itself.”
—John Lanchester, in I.O.U.: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay (2010)

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“I just think liberals are, well, Johnsons—reasonable people who have some sort of sense of moderation and common sense and are not in some state of hysterical, righteous anger.”
—William S. Burroughs, in Interview magazine in 1991

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“Those who take the extreme positions in American political and economic life are always wrong.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower, to Walter Cronkie, in 1961

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“Career bureaucrats—speaking as one myself—are very good at waiting out political appointees. They’re going to be here for a few years and then go, and their agendas will go with them. I’ll still be here.”
—an unnamed Defense Department policy official, as quoted in Radden Keefe, op. cit.

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“You can’t take everything you don’t like as a personal insult.”
—Bob Dylan, in a 1966 Playboy interview

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(2.)
“He hints, indeed, at a supreme irony: that America, which began as a place of exile for the religious misfits and social detritus of those older nations, would prove heir to the vast rottenness of Europe: its centuries of repression and—from slavery to competing national mythologies of otherness—its manifold instrumentalities of marginalizaion.”
—David Cowart, in Thomas Pynchon & The Dark Passages of History (2011)

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“It is probably no coincidence that in recent years a number of intellectuals, including Salman Rusdie and Jacques Derrida, have committed themselves to creating so-called ‘cities of refuge,’ that is, an internationally based network of autonomously operating, hospitable cities where refugees and asylum seekers of all kinds, whose legal appeals have run their course, could find sanctuary. In this way, the city would again fulfill the pioneering role in the area of international relations assigned to it by Baudelaire: of being in the vanguard in the normalization of relations that in other parts of the world would not go smoothly…”
—Stefan Hertmans, in Intercities (2001)

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“The truth is that you cannot be increasingly funny without at some point raising topics which the rich, the powerful and the complacent would prefer to see left alone.”
—George Orwell, in “Funny But Not Vulgar” (1945)

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“How many lies are too may? How much bullshit is the human organism designed to tolerate before it starts to malfunction? Is there a breaking point?”
—Matt Taibbi, in The Great Derangement: A Terrifying True Story of War, Politics, and Religion (2008)

Breaking-Point

“I don’t avoid women, Mandrake, but I do deny them my essence!”
—the crazy general in Dr. Strangelove

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“Living inside the system is like riding across the country in a bus driven by a maniac bent on suicide . . . The System may or may not understand it’s only buying time.”
—from Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow

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“If it does not arrive physically with scientific and military assistance a universal explosion of the spirit with radical social consequences is the only remedy for the state while Paul and his coevals are in.”
—from Harold Clurman’s Introduction to the Maysles Brothers’ Salesman film scenario (1969)

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(3.)
“Traditional ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ slogans are simply not adequate to cope.”
—Gary Hart, then a Senate candidate, in a 1974 letter to Time magazine

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“What luck for the rulers that men do not think.”
—Adolph Hitler

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“The truth is like a strung-out pimp in the middle of a storm, said the congresswoman.”
—from Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 (2004)

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“As Hamilton saw the people of his adopted country, they were kept from being a great nation, indeed from being a nation at all, by the inertia of a social order whose pervasive attributes were provincialism and lassitude.”
—Forrest McDonald, in Alexander Hamilton: A Biography (1979)

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“The shriller you are, the better it is to raise money.”
—former Young Republicans activist Terry Dolan, on executive-directoring the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC) in the mid-‘70s

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“Passion has been praised too much. It leads to loud noises and incoherence.”
—George Friedman, in America’s Secret War: Inside the Hidden World and Struggle Between America and Its Enemies (2004)

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“The Pentagon needs two things to survive: war and oil. And it can’t make the first if it doesn’t have the second.”
—Nick Turse, in The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (2008)

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“The movie gives you the feeling that you’ve gone past alienation into the land of detachment. It takes place in a different dimension—a punker’s wasteland where you never really know where you are, and nobody cares to make things work, and everybody you see is part of the lunatic fringe. A movie like this, with nothing positive in it, can make you feel good.”
—Pauline Kael, on Repo Man, in 1984

Neuromancer

 

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