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Monday, August 22, 2005

Creative works that made me want to LIVE

It has come to my attention, mostly through the previous post, that Eliar Swiftfire has been suffering from the ever-traumatic post-creative depression. Being familiar with this myself, I have decided to alleviate the condition by posting a list of all the creative works that have ever made me want to LIVE. Seeing as I'm a pretty negative guy, it's taken a while to get this much. If any of disagree with any of this you probably have bad taste (kidding), but prove me wrong by posting your own shit in reply.

J-Pop Music Videos: Ayumi, and especially Utada. I still remember the first time I saw the 'Traveling' video. It was like the psychotropic inverse of every gloomy bullshit U.S. 90's alt-rock video. The colors, the synthetic pulse, the oranges turning themselves inside out, Cubic U dancing around like a pink-haired sprite in glam clothes...I wanted to jump around with pure joy. I watched it like twenty times in a row. It still feels like the future.

Shochi Aoki's Fruits Magazine: If this chronicle of (mostly) Harajuku street fashion somehow fell through a hole in time and space into the hands of any avant-guard art circle in the first half of the 20th century, they'd probably assume that the future turned out like they wanted it to rather than it being the capitalist nightmare it actually is. As far as I'm concerned, just a quick glance through Fruits fucking annihilates Andy Warhol, the Sex Pistols, and the goth movement, although it wouldn't have been possible without them. I don't know what these kids were thinking. For all I know, they're all posing assholes. But in my eyes, every single one of them is ten thousand times the artist I'll ever be. Kogaru, ganguro, gothic lolitas - popsicles stabbed in the face of public taste. They are trying to kill this shit now and bring back the conservatism. I don't see YOU doing anything about it!

Old-School Doctor Who: The triumph of linguistic nonsense over boring science fiction "logic", realistic behavior, and high seriousness. The late 60's/early 70's run achieved heights of insanity that have rarely been equalled by anything. Characters would spew bullshit about time-flow analogues and excitonic circuitry in order to facilitate plots about clay dinosaurs, Atlantis, comedy devils, and "The Celestial Toymaker." Any suggestion of actual hard science was quickly confounded by absurdity: recall the episode in which all problems were attributed to "space pressure," or the Doctor's inane explanation of how the TARDIS can be 'dimensionally transcendental'. The early pretense to being educational makes it even more ludicrous: by the time they got to 'The War Games', the historical settings were inextricably interwoven with alien Time Lords and S&M-suited, laser-wielding guards. In its own way, more anarchic than any of its contemporaries, and certainly anything now. Consider the premise: literally ANYTHING can happen in the next episode. The settings span all of space and time. Science fiction, fantasy, comedy, drama, historicals, Westerns...there was nothing they didn't do. The Doctor is the ultimate individualist/outsider hero.

The Illuminatus Trilogy: Hundreds and hundreds of pages of poorly written nonsense, all of it true. The line between pornographer, mystic, and conman is demolished. Give this thing to an impressionable teenager and you'll set them on the Robert Anton Wilson-friendly course for life.

Akutagawa: His suicidal "vague uneasiness" about the future. His ability to condense love and death into miniature porcelain paragraphs. Most of all, the way his work makes most other writing seem like bloated nonsense.
I've heard some people say that their favorite authors are the ones they'd like to meet or spend time with. Akutagawa is probably the only author I'd want to meet.

Italian Futurism: Futurism, more than anything, makes me want to rush out into the night screaming at the top of my lungs with a hammer and a vial of acid raised in the direction of the nearest museum. F.T. Marinetti and pals made their absurd declarations against cultural stagnation seem like the most exciting thing imaginable: every paragraph, every sentence explodes with vitality, hatred, fury, love. To my mind, Italian Futurism eclipsed Surrealism and Dadaism simply by the force of its rhetoric.
They wrote manifestos on anything and everything, and the tone was always the same: destroy conservatism, replace with insanity. This might seem like a fairly trite artistic pose, until you realize they seriously intended to remove pasta from Italy and blow up the moon so they could replace it with an electric light. All of this is delivered with the most incantatory, inflammatory wording conceivable - it would have to be, it would be laughable otherwise. Think about it - no matter how hardcore you think you are, would you ever seriously make a statement like "War - the world's only hygiene" and expect to get away with it? Much less actually follow through with it and get yourself killed in a war like many of the Futurists willingly did? The incredible presumption, the glorification of war, the absurd impulse to destroy European culture - there's no way they could have gotten it to work unless every other line was poetry.
Futurism is out of fashion and it's not likely to come back in: when "fascist" becomes a term of approbation, then maybe it'll have a chance. Not likely, eh? Doesn't matter. The best of the manifestoes completely obviate the need for the actual existence of the artworks they portend. These lines stay with me:
"You have the high honor of being loved by us, sapper-soldiers at the avant-guarde of an army of lightning."
"We will succeed in sculpting the astral body of woman with the chisel of an exasperated geometry!"
"Time and space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed."
"Art, in fact, can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice."

Homeless psychos, semiliterates, and non-native English speakers who take to prose with ambition: The only way to reinvigorate the language is to get these guys to do it for us. I've met psychologically shaky indigents in soup kitchens with blogs they maintain from public libraries whose prose style shit-kicks Burroughs a hundred years into the past. I've seen kids with only a rudimentary command of the English language post reviews of junk they love on Amazon and wind up with incredible, heart-shreddingly poetic sentences I'd have never dreamed possible. And I've seen unbelievable, unintentional comedy from writers who've never finished a book in their life but still think they can pen a masterpiece. I'm probably more influenced by this stuff than I am by many of the supposed 'classics.'

Cerebus: One man marching to a beat of his own for thirty years. Just knowing it exists is proof you can accomplish anything even if you about kill yourself in the process. The insane digressions, the technical proficiency, the over-reaching literary ambitions, the bizarre issue-long essays about feminism and the Torah...oh, and the perfect ventriloquism of actual historical figures functioning as characters, Gerhard's photorealistic backgrounds, the character depth, and the obstinate, unforgettable aardvark. Saying "ahead of its time" is a little inadequate.

Neon Genesis Evangelion: Evangelion feels like Anno's personal letter to the viewer, while managing to mean wildly different things to different people. I credit it largely for being able to end on a sustained note of disgust - something that takes an incredible amount of daring given the bullshit expectations of most audience bases. This is unadulterated fourteen hour catharsis.

Music: Why narrow it down? Your tastes change over time, but the high you get from the best of it is the same. Music can make you want to live, it can soundtrack the half-forgotten dreams that surprise you with their strangeness on days when you sleep in too much, it can provoke murder, caresses, everything.