The line marking the cultural beginning and end of a decade is a fuzzy one. Any one who doubts 1980 was still part of the 70’s can just take a look at a 1980 JC Penney’s catalog and marvel at the width of the bell-bottoms, or look at a list of the top-selling 1980 songs and count up the disco tracks. Anyone who doubts 1990 was still in the clammy grasp of the 80’s need only look at the Yuba City High School 1990 yearbook, and observe the enormous Vuarnet sunglasses, Reeboks, and feathered hair.
#9. “Vogue” – Madonna
#10. “Blaze Of Glory” – Jon Bon Jovi
In piecing together the smoking ruins of my ego after the First Breakup, I realized I had to expand my social circle. Mr. Tackmier’s Geography C class seemed like a good place to start. I became friends with guys like Jeff Wong, Kevin Sevier, and Bret Kriezenbeck. Through Anthony Warthan in math class, I met up with guys like Jeff Olson, Eric Lansdon, and Pawen Dhokal.
On the last day of school freshman year, I went to see Dick Tracy with Jeff Wong, which featured lots of Madonna songs, but not this one. It came from the album I’m Breathless: Music From and Inspired By The Film Dick Tracy. How Warren Beatty’s brutal evisceration of the Dick Tracy character with his engorged ego inspired a treatise on dance moves from gay discos is anyone’s guess, but I’m Breathless kicked off a trend of “inspired by” albums where artists loosely associated with a movie’s soundtrack could unload their B-sides and outtakes. (The Madonna video hit around the same time, featuring our pal Madoo in a see-through shirt that wasn’t quite see-through, though not for lack of trying on my part. A Holy Bee Tip of the Hat to the original queen of titillation.)
That summer, Wong and I rode our bikes out to Movies 8 to see Young Guns II, which is better than the original (and if that isn’t damning with faint praise, then I don’t know what is.) The accompanying Jon Bon Jovi (solo) music video serves as a reminder that they used to drop some serious fuckin’ coin on music videos. Jon strummed his acoustic and mouthed his watered-down remake of “Wanted Dead Or Alive” on a massive, detailed set built on the edge of a cliff, and was photographed with more swooping helicopter shots than you can shake a stick at. Continue reading This Used To Be My Playground, Part 2: Touching Yourself in a Blaze of Glory
The Institute’s comics department may receive far less attention than its audio/visual brethren, but as department chair I will continue to extol the virtues of the medium to any and all mildly interested parties. When compared alongside music and film, comics does require the most human interaction, particularly in the sharing of discoveries. If Professor Flores was particularly excited about a movie, you might add it to your Netflix queue. If Dr. Howell was adding an LP to the fourth quarter syllabus, you might download it wirelessly to your iPhone. But if I want you to read the new Chris Ware book, you’re going to have to set foot in a bookstore, or, god forbid, a comics store. The twenty-first century has not devised an effective means of disseminating or reading comics digitally. Not to say it won’t happen… but chances are, for the foreseeable future, your best bet is to borrow my copy. And maybe we’ll get coffee too.
It seems rather fitting that the finest graphic offerings of 2010 are all achievements in comics storytelling and craft. It’s hard to argue that comics can accomplish things that other media cannot, especially when comics-in-adaptation are all the rage these days. Scott Pilgrim was one of the best movies of the year; The Walking Dead is a new AMC hit; and Disney’s new Marvel properties are toy shelf gold. These five books, however, need to be appreciated in the form the artists intended.
Call it hubris; to me it’s reorganization. After posting to no fewer than six different blogsites since 2004, I’m settling in here. Isey seems to be doing the same. In the interests of maintaining a proper archival home for our ramblings, here’s a post that appeared in the original Justifications for Idleness in May of 2008. Appropriately, I’m trying to find a home.
I’m lost. I know it’s an increasingly popular sentiment in modern culture to feel at once distant and connected; the dichotomy of shrinking-planet interconnectivity and impersonal digital relationships has fractionated many an able psyche, mine included. Black Francis has been looking for twenty years now. What chance do I have?
Continue reading All Who Wander…
If I was to do this sort of thing, I might award this novel by Belgian author Jean-Philippe Toussaint my Book of the Year. In so doing, I’d explain, on behalf of the Institute’s Accolades Committee, how a book originally published in France in 2004 and released in its English translation in 2009, could somehow be eligible to receive so important a distinction in 2010 which, incidentally, if I was to do this other sort of thing, would be on a very short list of nominees for the greatest year there ever was. At least in my lifetime. Two thousand ten.
Running Away is a frenetic ride from Paris to Shanghai to Beijing to, finally, the island of Elba. The motivations and developments governing each step of the journey are often as cloudy and mysterious as the nameless narrator himself, driven from one page to the next by pure emotion and “dream-like pleasure, distant and hazy” (p. 54). The entire novel zips by in that same haze, the kind of jet-lagged confusion that makes a traveler look back on the last twenty-fours of transit — connections, disconnections, meetings, and meals — as if it happened to someone else, or to a younger you a lifetime ago. The narrator becomes that someone else, and even if we’ve never had similar experiences in our past from which to draw vague recollections (I’ve never been to China, so apart from the cities in Elba bearing sharp similarities to small towns along the Italian coast, I’m in uncharted territory), the emotions are all recognizable. We’ve all felt confusion mingled with fear, sadness drawn from loss, and, most significantly, passion sparked by spontaneity.
Continue reading Running Away by Jean-Philippe Toussaint
My long-running Blogspot series on my memories of life and music in the 1990’s will also begin running here. Here’s the first part, originally posted in April 2009:
Hey, folks, does anything suck more than Baby Boomers talking about the 60’s? Did you, like me, watch that Just For Men “Summer Of Life” commercial and wish a lingering death from some kind of impacted anal fissures on the fifty-something douche pretending to play guitar while some blonde thirty-something douchette pretends to be attracted to him through gritted teeth while visions of her Just For Men commercial paycheck dance in her empty little head? Maybe Generation X-ers talking about the 90’s is just a tad more irritating and pointless – but that’s not going to stop me. I’m going to walk you through 300 of the best, worst, and/or most memorable tracks from 1990 through 1999.
Inspired by our Idle Time Decades project, I spent my 2009 spring break painstakingly compiling a 300-song 1990’s iTunes playlist, cued specifically to my own recollections. To quote the Jack Rabbit Slim’s slogan, it’s “The Next Best Thing To A Time Machine” (and if you don’t know what Jack Rabbit Slim’s is, turn in your 90’s card.) Listening to this playlist is akin to spinning the dial on the best Top 40 radio station of that decade. (Ironically, the 90’s marked the death of true Top 40 radio.) The 1990’s saw me going from a scrawny, gawky, 15-year-old high school freshman to a chubbier, only slightly less gawky, 25-year-old college graduate, father, and (soon-to-be-ex) husband. And of course, all of this growth and drama had a soundtrack.
Continue reading This Used To Be My Playground, Part 1: She’s My Cherry Pie
I’ll confess that, initially, I wasn’t overly excited about the forthcoming Tron sequel, despite fond childhood memories of both the original film and the video game. Then I saw the full-length trailer and caught my first glimpse of “the hot doctor from House” squeezed into her neon-accented black futurefabric.
There’s something to be said about costuming. Take Carrie Fisher, whose otherwise simply cute-and-feisty Princess Leia took a turn into Sexual Fantasy momument thanks to a metal bikini and Jabba’s leash. Or a less obvious example, from the other side of the coin: Bridget Moynahan should have made this list, but every outfit she parades out in I. Robot makes her look like the frumpy sidekick whose job it is to accentuate the allure of the more attractive leading lady. Except there is no more attractive leading lady. Just Will Smith perpetually shirtless and showering without a curtain. No wonder this movie tanked.
Back to my point — Olivia Wilde, I now know your name. “Ryan’s edgy girlfriend from The O.C.” no longer. And once I’ve seen the movie in its entirety, you’ll even be eligible to make my…
Top 5 Sci Fi Hotties
Continue reading Tron Hottie Makes Bid at Cracking the Sexy Sci-Fi Hall of Fame
“The coolest stuff about American culture—be it language, dress, or attitude—comes from the underclass. Always has and always will.” – Russel Simmons
The release of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and my current enrollment in a class on film and cultural politics has inspired me to bring up something that’s been on my mind.
It’s recently come to my attention that I’m supposed to be living in a Post-racial America. Granted, right now I’m studying in England and not living back home in California, but when I was in the U.S.A, I didn’t think too much about what electing Barack Obama meant for race politics in America. Obviously it was a progressive step in a positive direction for a country with a history steeped in racism, but the term “Post-race,” though flaunted by the media after the election, was not something I really thought about. After spending some time studying the topic, I can summarize what it’s about. Basically, the Post-racial philosophy assumes that what the Civil Rights movement strove so hard to achieve when it began fifty-plus years ago – equal opportunities, respect and compassion for all people – has been realized. Since we’ve elected a Black president, issues concerning race have been, for the most part, satisfactorily resolved. Race is no longer a current issue because a Black man is in the White House. Does this make sense to you? Continue reading Is It Safe To Sing Along? Pop Culture and Post-racial America
Check 1-2-3. Is this thing on?
Isey here, and here we go again. I’ve penned more introductions to Idle Time/Holy Bee-oriented websites than I’ve had hot breakfasts. Take a look around the internet…
…that’s long enough, you pervert. What do you see, besides lots and lots of porn? That’s right, desiccated corpses of message boards. Empty husks of blogs, with the last update dating from 2006. These sad reminders of how easy it is to start– and then forget– a web project litter the landscape like Fago bottles after an ICP concert. The Institute of Idle Time was almost one of them. The IT Google Group turned into Frisbee golf circle-jerk, which drove everything of substance away, and the “official” website also dwindled into obsolescence, like an old GeoCities X-Files fan page from 1998. (There was a sad lack of hot Gillian Anderson .jpegs on the IT website, though.)
However, I’m pleased to report that the venerable Institute of Idle Time has a new web presence here at WordPress, where we will provide enough music reviews and pop-culture piffle to choke a horse (if that’s your idea of a good time) until everyone loses interest again in about four to five months.
Continue reading Meet the Holy Bee
Allow me to apologize for the fact that my first real blog post is nothing more than a re-post of an old entry from another site, with some minor edits and an addendum. I needed to get something on here to get the ball rolling… and that other site, being a paid membership site, is soon going to have one less member. I felt the need to preserve some old ramblings.
Originally published November 22, 2004:
My “wasted” years at UC Davis studying biological sciences elicited little more than an unreasonable fear of hydrochloric acid and a passionate distaste for scan-trons. I spent three years taking as many liberal arts classes as I could enroll in just to keep my GPA up, before it finally occurred to me that I’d simply be better off changing majors.
I’m a stubborn fuck.
Always one to make the best out of any given situation, I have recently revisited some of my college coursework. Some quarters were less mind-numbingly dull than others. You won’t be privy to any eight-year-removed insights into paleobotany (easily the worst class I ever passed), but you are about to benefit from this little life-changing revelation.
Continue reading Dating Chemistry
And, really, who doesn’t? After Google Groups and Blogspots and a half-assed attempt at creating a website, The Institute is revving its WordPress engine. Bookmark accordingly.