Irreal Life Top Ten, two days after the last one.

by waxbanks

  1. The Invisibles: Not my first try with this book, but my first go-round with the 1,500+ page hardcover omnibus edition (via MIT Libraries — I don’t have $150 to spend on something like this), which makes the physical act of reading almost impossible but eases the burden of acquiring the damn things in the first place. Morrison is, let’s say it, one of the only geniuses ever to write a comic, and while The Invisibles isn’t his ‘best’ work — his shorter collaborations with Frank Quitely, e.g. We3 and All-Star Superman, are more perfectly formed — it’s his masterwork, showing off the full range of his powers, revealing his limitations and pushing eagerly past them. I’m surprised to find myself giving this advice to first-time readers: read up a little on Morrison’s interests, e.g. chaos magic and ritual uses of psychotropic drugs, just enough to convince yourself that the series isn’t just a grab-bag of impulses but an ecstatically weird longform improvisation within a system. Knowing that every single ‘random’ exchange has some mythic or ritual parallel invests the proceedings with their intended awesome significance, and even if you don’t buy into Morrison’s magical theories (which are much subtler and more playful than he’s credit for) you’ll enter into the reader/writer contract on the appropriate terms. The art, by the way, is all over the map. I’m head over heels for Phil Jimenez’s version of Ragged Robin.

  2. The Flaming Lips, instrumentals: I’ve rarely enjoyed the Lips’ individual instrumental tracks in context; as with a lot of rock bands accustomed to the singer being the center of attention, absent Wayne Coyne’s singular voice the Lips tend to rely on vibe and uhhhh sensibility rather than a compelling melody line or sensible harmonic movement or any of that boring old shit. (Remember how deflating ‘The Observer’ is on the heels of the merely perfect ‘What Is the Light?’ or the way ‘Yoshimi…Pt. 2’ seems unimaginative filler after three killer songs? At least the sleepy ‘Pavonis Mons’ actually moves…) But the goal-directedness of the Christmas on Mars soundtrack seems paradoxically to focus them: the album’s all but melody-free, yet the tracks get stuff done, sustaining a mood of lonely sci-fi psychedelia that perfectly matches the no-budget visuals of the (underrated) film. As I said in my 33-1/3 Phish book, the primitivist backlash of punk and hip-hop at the 70s/80s turn so shifted the critical Overton window that ambitious longform work now (still!) gets tarred as ‘pretentious’ instead of merely ‘ambitious’ and ‘long.’ The hell with that. Pair Mars with Cliff Martinez’s Solaris score for a trip into heartbroken innerspace.

  3. Phish and Bernie: Sanders was mayor of Burlington, the college town where Phish came up. Phish are one of the biggest rock bands of the last twenty years, and have always been good to their adopted home of Vermont. Their drummer and bassist have played Bernie benefits and campaigned for him. They’re also — believe it or not — a good band. I’m most interested in what goes on in the head of someone whose first and only response to [Sanders’s comments] ( was to roll his eyes at what a shit band Phish are. Who still thinks that? Who ever thought that was the last word on Phish? Anyone who works harder than you ever have at something more complex than you can imagine deserves, if not respect, if not your ticket purchase, at an absolute minimum your attention, briefly, if you please. But Phish have never been the sort to ask. They just do what they do. How dare they.

  4. Vernacular: Anytime you’re motivated to use the phrase ‘Last one in is a…’ you should instead bust out the swinging archaism ‘…and the devil take the hindmost!’ It recalls the glory of warfare and the omnipresence of Satan; the Americanism, itself archaic, sounds like kids’ talk, which is — yes, I understand — The Very Thing in this relentlessly infantilizing shitscared world. As usual, the hipsters with their wonderful-childhood-wonder-that’s-also-a-little-sad fetish were ahead of the curve. The devil take them too.

  5. Playdates: Now that we have a 5yo son we have one party a year — his birthday — and never just ‘hang out’ with friends anymore, with the noble exception of my weekly ‘gentlemen’s night’ playing nerd games at Rugs and Lindsey’s house, and my roughly biweekly lunches with my bald doctor friend Jeremy. Our circle of close adult friends consists solely of other parents; our crew of beautiful curious children will run this world someday, if there’s justice and sense. And our social lives revolve almost solely around the children. As a result I’ve all but lost the ability to judge whether I’d hit it off with another adult. So if you and I were destined to be fast friends and I’ve sidelined that possibility in favour of occasional Twitter hellos and the like, don’t take it personally. Instead, get (someone) knocked up and in a couple of years text me about a playdate. There’s a couple of great parks nearby and the weather’s nice.

  6. The rebooted X-Files: A frustrating mess. The TV showrunner usually ends up guardian or avatar of the show’s organizing vision, which makes sense; it’s usually her idea in the first place. But Chris Carter, like George Lucas, is a clumsy dialogue writer and ambitious but technically limited producer/director who misuses an excellent cast yet still manages to come up with one haunting tableau after another. (In both cases, an epochal soundtrack and excellent production values help.) The opening of ‘Season 10’ was an embarrassment, but for the middle three episodes the show went from strength to strength, showing off the key features of the original series — tongue-in-cheek Forteana, coolly intense small-group melodrama, sharp-eyed (if at times cack-handed) cultural analysis, genuinely subversive antigovernment (etc.) paranoia, and a moving sympathy for the mad and marginal — with newly softened edges courtesy of Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, still one of the all-time great TV couples after all these years. (They’ve both aged miraculously, and Anderson in particular is now a formidable technician.) The show remains a fish out of water, poorly matched to the lazy credulity and banal partisanship of the post-9/11 era. But Carter’s vision of America’s inner schizologue retains some of its original power. Assuming we can stop the ‘critics’ babbling about the incoherence of the mythology and whether the one-offs were better than the serial eps (hint: ‘every episode is a mythology episode’) and Carter doesn’t completely piss away the goodwill he and his actors have built, The X-Files will be known as one of the essential premillennium American screen entertainments — among the most accurate maps of that decadent era’s unspoken urges.

  7. Apple and privacy: Now that no one’s paying attention but the hardcore — making this bullshit request at the height of an insane presidential campaign was pure coincidence, I’m sure — expect the government to reach up its sleeve and pull out something ugly. Then take a minute, or even just ten seconds, to ask whether you should be paying closer attention to what will either be a near miss for the good guys or a huge step toward the end of our democratic experiment.

  8. Wearing pants inside out: No big deal, really, as long as the pants are clean. You’re not making any kind of statement or pushing any boundaries but other than the zipper and pockets you’re not making life hard on yourself. Less daily labour than a mohawk, probably. However! If (like a certain 5-year-old boy in our damned house) you take a dirty pair of pants, a pair of pants you’ve already worn a couple of times this week because they’re your favourite gettin’-into-trouble pants and your favourite roughhousin’-with-the-lads pants, and put those on inside out, you will be taking a dozen floors’ worth of gross shit and just rubbing them all over your legs all day. Sonny boy, it’s important to make mistakes. But it’s no good making that mistake twice.

  9. Flying Lizards, ‘Money’: Knowing nothing about this track (off the Wedding Singer soundtrack) except that it was a cover of a song I knew from childhood, I played this for my son and experienced extremes of disgust, confusion, and elation over the course of 3ish minutes. A joke like this doesn’t take much follow-through — it sounds like a first take — but that doesn’t mean it’s not funny. Norr funny, mind you, though it actually is, thank God. All the way through! Robert Fripp was in the Flying Lizards at some point, which is even funnier; everything involving Robert Fripp is a little funny to start out with. If I were Barrett Strong and I’d written Motown’s first hit single and these no-talent assholes came along and pissed all over my song I’d be pretty annoyed, which is (I suspect) part of the point. That’s not funny, not even a little bit.

  10. Respiratory ailments: You live in the country, you get asthma exacerbations when you exercise. You live in the city, you get them when you stand up from the couch. Between these two poles is a poem I can’t write.