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6/15/2004

FILM FLAM
We caught a sneak preview of Steven Spielbergís latest Tom Hanks feature, The Terminal, last week. Very loosely based on a true story, Hanksí character is stuck in an airport when his passport is invalidated by a coup in his home country while heís in flight.
You might remember Hanksí pre-Saving Private Ryan days as a very funny guy with an ability to do physical humor thatís simultaneously entirely believable yet still pretty damn funny. He lets a lot of that shine through this quiet role. I laughed a lot, which is pretty much all I ask from a comedy. There is some awkward romance with the lovely Catherine Zeta Jones that doesnít spoil the film, a predictable foil for Hanks in the part of the head of airport security, and some heavy Spielbergish attempts to pull at the heart strings, but itís Hanksí ability to be the charming everyman that makes this worth seeing.
Now a few degenerates and myself are headed to see Monty Pythonís Life of Brian at Landmark Midtown Art, a film Iíve seen probably a dozen times yet donít mind paying to see on the big screen one more time. Itís unfortunate that more people donít see this film, especially the non-geek people. But unfortunately for the rest of the world I ainít in charge so hereís my effort to get you (yes, you, sitting there thinking itís just a typical Monty Python batch of silly surrealist/toilet humor) to go Ė this is the most biting satire of the situation in the Middle East at this very moment that you could ever hope to see. Itís their best work, dammit, and if youíve ever rolled your eyes at religion, authority figures, government, the situation in the Middle East, or God, you should see this film. If youíve never rolled your eyes at any of the above, you should be nailed to a cross and forced to watch this film. GO.
We now return you to your normally scheduled life, already in progress.


BLASPHEMY
Dude,
You're pleased to see someone dead? I thought bed-wetting liberals were supposed
to be warm and fuzzy...
We're the 80's so unlivable? I mean Reagan did stop WWIII (the Cold War),
lowered unemployment, cleaned up Carter's failed attempts at world peace in the
Middle East, lowered the interest rate... blah blah blah.
Degenerate PK

Editorís response: Holy crap, thereís too much to say, so Iíll let degenerate RVI handle this one.

Mourning in America, or Republicans Ate My Future
By Degenerate RVI, Special Correspondent to the Degenerate Press
Welcome to the 24th year of the revolution. No, not a Communist revolt, not some wild product of a Beat Poetís imagination, not a shattering pipe bomb salute from The Weathermen or the desperate bark of the rifles of The Symbionese Liberation Army. My dears, we know all of these came to nothing in the end.
The revolution that succeeded was a comfortable one, the revolt of a people tired of thinking, tired of hearing the sad truth again and again; it was a revolution in which the powerful became more powerful and the weak weaker, in which the gap between those with cash and property and those without it yawned wider and wider. It was a revolution in which the winners of the world decided to take all their toys and go home, noses in the air, no longer willing to even consider that they had any responsibility to the losers, except inasmuch as the losers could be used to build and amass more toys. It was a revolution that built a Shining City on a Hill -- for those who could afford the down payment. The rest of us got invited to live in the sewers and rat holes and catacombs, Morlochs to run the machinery that keeps the golden city bright and warm.
Yes, the first king of the revolutionary empire is dead; long live the king. Of course, the living dead can never die, and the virus of neo-conservatism this man Reagan and his skulking cohorts spread has come to infect the entire country, even to the point that poor people gladly, desperately even, vote to make themselves more poor and desperate - all in the name of just being on the Winning Team. The Reagan phenomenon was, is, and ever shall be about "being a winner," the definition of winner being cast in the most crass terms, purely materialistic lead gilded with the cheap golden foil of "traditional morality" and "patriotic pride" in the form of easily digested platitudes.
Listening to the coverage of the funeral, I could not help but smile at the choir singing William Blake s "Jerusalem" which contains the disturbing lines
"And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon these clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark, satanic mills?"
The ironies are myriad, beginning with the fact that this happens to be my favorite hymn, the only one I want sung at my own funeral. More importantly, though, is the fact that if Blake had lived in our time, the Reaganites would have made certain he would never have scraped up a living as an artist. Cutting the NEA eventually insured that the chances of getting a grant dwindled to nothing unless one was well connected and completely harmless - it also began the erosion of the many arts organizations that helped provide venues for lesser known artists; and by fostering an atmosphere in which Philistinism is the required cultural attitude if one is to get ahead, it was insured certain freaks like Blake spent their days without a broad audience.
Being a visionary, a philosopher, an artist and poet are not marketable skills here in the City on the Hill. After such a person dies you can buy and sell his work like really expensive trading cards, but while heís here - feh.
And then there s the little fact that any recent president, directly or indirectly, has been more responsible for the construction of "dark, satanic mills" than Ronald Reagan. Oh no, unlike in Blake's day, capitalism doesnít build many smoke belching factories; but what could be more of a grinding satanic mill than to be stuck working at minimum wage or near minimum yet still making a sub-poverty level income that barely covers rent and groceries since Reagan began the compassionate process of abolishing things like subsidized housing, welfare, and Medicaid?
Blakeís poem ends,
"Nor shall I cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand,
Till we have built Jerusalem
In Englandís green and pleasant land."
But we quit trying to build Jerusalem a long time ago, if our nation was ever really interested in that sort of thing to start with. No, weíve been at erecting our Puritanically-inspired Shining City on a Hill, Beacon to the World, Light to the Gentiles, &c. The irony is, the closer you get to it, the less this city looks like a Jerusalem and the more it appears to be some cheap-jack imitation of Las Vegas where the Big Boys and Girls watch bad stage shows straight out of Branson, Missouri while everyone else voluntarily chains to himself to a slot machine and burns up his hours feeding the thing his blood, cranking down on the handle, hoping beyond hope that he, too, will one day "make it" and be allowed to eat a $1000 omelet while watching the Mandrel Sisters in the company of his betters.
Reagan and his resurrected pack of Nixon-worshipping scum did not, in their revolution, set about building Jerusalem - no, what their blueprint said was "Babylon," and Babylon is what we got. Not the Babylon of history, but that dread, dark, secret Babylon of The Book of Revelations, Mystery Babylon, symbol of the decaying Roman Empire, the City of Outward Piety but Inward Corruption where the widowís and orphanís cries go unheeded, where the stranger is robbed and murdered, where the sick and infirm suffer and die while the medical industry and pharmaceutical companies wallow in ungodly profits, where churches have to hold bishop s conferences every so many months to debate whether, sort of, they ought to do something about clergy molesting children, maybe. Where it is ok for Corporate America to be well-larded with welfare and tax-breaks while people without more than a box of possessions are required to labor like convicts to receive even minimal assistance from their government - if that.
No, the countenance divine has not been shining on our clouded hills for the past 24 years. Not that anyone notices with all this cheap glitz and non-stop neon and the flashing whirl of the roulette wheels. To hell with Jerusalem, we re all happy now, right? Mr. Optimism rode into Washington on the White Horse and made everything right with his homey anecdotes and completely confused stories that had little to do with reality but which, nevertheless, made everyone feel good as we shuffled off to bed with our glasses of milk and plates of warm cookies, giving the executive branch carte blanche to expand and abuse its power from then on.
We did as we were told and Grandpa Ron took us all to McDonald's for breakfast the next morning - except for those of us who didnít get it, who didnít go along with the program, who stayed up all night watching the Contras (i.e. right wing terrorists) be illegally funded under the table while innocent people disappeared all over the third world because they were "communists." Those of us who disobeyed and paid more attention to what Ron did than to what he said did not get to go on the A.M. field trip and we probably didnít grow up to visit the executive washroom, except, perhaps, to unclog the toilet.
Thank God we no longer spend so much on our infrastructure, education, health care, or the needy. Reagan was truly a man of vision. He foresaw that if we were ever going to scare and bully and cheat the rest of the world into submission, all that cash would need to go to the military and the multinationals. And, I think, he knew that we d also need a big chunk eventually to bury him in truly pharonic fashion. Listening to coverage of the manís funeral, it made me proud that I paid my taxes this year and had the return seized to pay on my defaulted student loans.
Degenerate RVI


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