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

 

 

Bruce Sterling’s “Schismatrix.”

“You could call it that.  The words don’t matter.  It’s as far beyond Life as Life is from inert matter.  I’ve seen it happen, many times before.  I can feel it moving here, I can smell it in the wind.  People . . . creatures, beings, they’re all people to me . . . they ask the Final Questions.  And they get the Final Answers, and then it’s goodbye.  It’s the Godhead, or ass close as makes no difference to the likes of you and me.  Maybe that’s what you want, sundog?  The Absolute?”

“The Absolute,” Lindsay mused.  “The Final Answers. . . . What are your answers then, friend?”

“My answers?  I don’t have ’em.  I don’t care what goes on beneath this skin, I want only to see, only to feel.  Origins and destinies, predictions and memories, lives and deaths, I sidestep those.  I’m too slick for time to grip, you get me, sundog?”

from Schismatrix PLUS by Bruce Sterling (1996 ed.)

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