so incapable of evolution
Thursday, October 2 2003
Most of the time I don't think of the world as a dangerous place. Most of the time there seems to be an overly-protective nanny system in place to protect me and everyone else. Sure, there are trees whose branches fall at random. Planetoids and asteroids wheel about with dumb Newtonian inertia, and if you fast-forward that mental movie you see the Earth being smacked down by these repeatedly. On the highway, I'm always one impulsive twitch away from death or quadraplegia, and I can maybe take somebody with me, preferably one who claims to have the "Power of Pride." I remember once (back in the height of Bush's popularity) I was so distracted by this knowledge that it crossed my mind that I should pull over to the shoulder and wait until the feeling passed.
The disappearance of Noah the Cat has renewed my awareness of the dangers and lucklessness of the world. We, a civilization developed in the now-desert Middle East, have spread out into the forests of North America, replacing them with corn fields and subdivisions. People living in those subdivisions have the luxury of being concerned about the practice of partial birth abortion, obscene rap lyrics, and the availability of ecstasy in their schools. Meanwhile, wild animals are stealing into their backyards and devouring their cats. Their children are spreading genital warts to other kids in their abstinence-only sex ed programs. And our country is failing miserably in its pathetic attempt to convert a large chunk of the Middle East into the 51st state. Any enjoyment I can get out of the American Dream is a function of my unusual luck. I feel incredibly lucky on most days, even when Microsoft code is driving me crazy. But all of us are going to be very unlucky at some point in our lives. And it doesn't happen just once - it happens every time a person close to us dies. Noah was such a person.
Today I was thinking about grunge music, and how little it has changed in the twelve years of its existence. Is there any other form of music that has proved so incapable of evolution? I watched the video of the song that began it all, Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit," looking to see if there was anything dated about it. One of the cheerleaders in the video has a prominent tattoo on her upper arm. That was pretty radical back in 1991. Then I got to thinking - the reason so many cheerleaders subsequently went out and got tattoos was because they'd seen them in a popular music video. That video wasn't documenting its time, it was facilitating a future in which an underground culture was mined for mainstream products to commercialize. Kurt Cobain and the video's producers might have thought they were being ironic by featuring junkie cheerleaders in the video, but the irony was lost on mainstream viewers. To them, the icon of the cheerleader indicated that the thing being presented was the latest roadmap to cool.
Recently I heard a song called "Gasoline" by a South African band called Seether. (They're all over idiot-rock radio and their MP3s are all damaged on KaZaA.) Aside from certain nu metal aspects of its production, this song could have been the weakest song on Nirvana's Nevermind and nobody would have thought it out of place. The weakest thing about the song is its lyrics, which (as all grunge lyrics do these days) imperfectly attempt to ape the æsthetic advanced by Nirvana. This æsthetic can best be described as "the gritty realism of an outsider dealing with the messy thoughts and realities of life as a child or teenager growing up in a dysfunctional family." For Nirvana, wanting to eat somebody's cancer when she turned black was about as messy as things got. For Seether, we learn that the lyricist would, when contemplating a beauty queen, "like to waste her monthly blood," then "get some on my love," then "get some gasoline," then "burn the house down." (He pronounces "down" as if he's the guy from Stone Temple Pilots, though mostly he sounds like Kurt Cobain.) I'd like to believe that Seether originally wanted to "taste her monthly blood" but had to change the lyrics because they were too gross and realistic for Clear Channel. As stated, the lyrics make no sense, even by the decadently self-righteous standards of today's grunge. Nobody wants to waste anyone's monthly blood. Monthly blood gets wasted no matter what.
I'd say something about Rush Limbaugh's trouble, or else the escalating crisis concerning a punitive unmasking of a covert CIA operative by the White House, but things are unfolding too quickly for me to offer anything original other than it's payback time. I love living in interesting payback times, and news.google.com is still my friend. Another friend is the Raveonettes. I can't get enough of their song "Chains." They've achieved the impossible: it's the perfect song!
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