Monday, January 10, 2011

Doing a little reading

So, yes, I'm part of that 10% of the country that reads books, daily. Lately, I've been reading three books: Kids of the Black Hole by Dewar Macleod, Zero History by William Gibson, and X Films by Alex Cox. (Yes, I've read other books in the past month, these I've been reading in the past week- What I do, is start reading one book, get a little bored, and start another book, then, start another book when I get tired of the second, and so forth. I might come back to the first book, or the second. It's kind of like juggling)
Kids of the Black Hole is decent, but in trying to please two masters, Macleod lets both down. On the one hand, this is a serious book of sociology/cultural anthropology, but on the other hand it's a scene report for pop culture. Technically, it's an attempt to place the Punk rock subculture of Los Angeles in the late 1970's and early 1980's into a larger sociological context. I have points where I agree, and points where I disagree, but quite frankly, I'm not on his thesis committee, so that doesn't matter. The bigger problem is who his audience might be. I don't think the research is thorough enough to justify the thesis, if I were on his doctoral committee, and the rest of the world just wants to read more gossip about the key players. One good thing, though, despite the author's intent, it certainly brings out the elitism in the Hollywood Punk rock scene. See, Macleod writes as if he was analyzing his friends from the Masque, even though he takes most of his titles from the larger Hardcore scene. Just like one of those people at the Masque, he pooh-poohs the cultural or aesthetic intent and impact of the rest of the scene, all the while talking about what a misfit really is. In other words, it's a very erudite way of calling all us Hardcore animals a bunch of poseurs. That was very much the way things were. If I tried to get into the Masque, or the Zero, or Double Zero between 1978-1983- exactly the time that I did try- because I came in from South El Monte, because I wasn't dressed like a gothic John waters take on David Bowie's Ziggy Costumes, and because I did ok at sports, I would be denied, seeing as what a poseur I obviously was. Meanwhile, I could (and did) go and be accepted, easily at The Vex, and at the Fleetwood, and later, at Fender's ballroom, and so on. The fact is that the famous scene of X, the Weirdos, the Germs, and the Screamers was an invitation-only club. Meanwhile, Hardcore was open to most everyone. It was just as artistic a scene, and probably had more geniuses, but it wasn't a scene trying to be a vanguard. Every single description of the Los Angeles scene of that time I've read still reads like it was written by some fawning sycophant who was dying to get let in at the Masque, but was disappointed when they could go to Raji's, instead- and that just wasn't so for the majority of us. I had no desire to see some Slash Magazine-approved bunch, dressed like mimes, when I could go see TSOL, the Brat, The Bags, Los Illegals, the Adolescents, Agent Orange, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, MIA, Shattered Faith, CH3, or The Minutemen, and I was hardly alone. So, I got over being called a Poseur by consoling myself with better music, in a better scene.
As for the William Gibson book, it's the third of a series of quasi-tech spy novels, as opposed to the straight Cyberpunk Gibson is noted for. I actually prefer this later incarnation of Gibson's work.I can relate to it better, and it's easier to dive into a world that I can recognize, rather than trying to peer into a half-imagined future. I still like stuff like Mona Lisa Overdrive, but I prefer Pattern Recognition. So, of these three latest- It's better than Spook Country, but not as good as Pattern Recognition, which was almost like a post-everything take on Pynchon. I don't care for the Character of Milgram, or Hollis Henry, so maybe it's a personal thing with me, but both Spook Country and Zero History have the feeling of a Television Spin off- it feels a little second rate. Milgram is coming around a bit, and becoming a more real person, and Bigend is less of an Enigma than in Spook Country, so it's a bit closer to me, and therefore better than Spook Country, but I still wish we could go back to Cayce pollard who was an infinitely more interesting person, with a much more interesting life.
Which leaves us with Alex Cox. This is by far the most lively, entertaining, and engrossing book I'm on. Basically, it's a memoir of the making of several of his films. He is a fine film-maker, and you can definitely see the artist at work, but what makes the book so good is that it's very much like having a conversation with an unpretentious intellect with omnivorous appetites for politics, philosophy, culture, and life experience. So, even if you're not a fan of film, and haven't seen any of his work, it's still quite engaging. He doesn't leave himself out, but it's clear that he understands- we'll get to know him by what he does a lot better than by him describing how he felt. Not to mention, he got to go to a lot of interesting places, meet a lot of interesting people, and do a lot of interesting things. Really, it's a great read....