Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Routine Republic vs. Fake Mex-Am Food: O What a Choice

I found this Taco Bell ad surprisingly rich in meaning.
It of course takes a major swipe at competitor McDonald's, thinly veiled to be represented as a dictatorial, clown-themed government that thrives on drab repetition, lack of alternatives, and suppression of dissent. The references to a McDonald's playplace (slides, plastic ball pit) are clever, and one could even see in this ad a boldly revolutionary streak -- with tinges of Occupy and social upheaval -- were it not for the fact that the revolutionaries simply ultimately trade one multinational corporation for... a different one. Their "escape" through a hole in the wall to a more naturalistic, freer society (notice the timing of the Taco Bell bell sound when they see their hilltop utopia?) is at root a settling for a lesser of evils, because all that is really different between the two fast food giants is their theme and food (classic Americana vs. fake Mexican-American), but Taco Bell and McDonald's are arguably interchangeable. In a way this is a very dark short film, in which two brave people break from the herd, only to escape to a slightly less shittier reality. And while we hope their example will inspire more mass detractors, we don't know that, because the ad ends on a note of hope, not reality.

What would be truly hopeful is for the detractors to escape the corporatocracy altogether, but -- and maybe this ad gets points for this -- this is not possible, and at least the ad is honest. A Taco Bell CEO is interchangeable with a McDonald's CEO just as a lowly employee is interchangeable to work at either place. What this ad shows is that, even if we reject that governmental globalism is best described as a corporatocracy, it's hard to deny that most cultures on earth right now are defined and run by corporations*. So this ad gets it right in that humans cannot escape from a corporation-defined culture, although they can choose slightly less crappy places to eat food. Yet what would be a dark but truthful twist would be a response ad from McDonald's showing people escaping from the tyranny of a Taco Bell culture to a McDonald's utopia. Which would show that competition lies at the root of our culture, not mutual aid, collaboration, and cooperation. Doesn't Primus have a song about a person (probably based in reality; when I spoke with Les Claypool he explained how many of his song-characters have a basis in real people he's met) who buys fast food at one place and eats it at another? Is this not the perfect example of the culture we live in and what this ad is actually portraying? The ad company could've easily made an ad for McDonald's if McD's paid more -- I highly doubt loyalty or ethics has anything to do with it. The higher bidder does.

If the dinosaurs once "ruled" the earth, it can be fairly cogently argued that corporations are ruling it right now (but have not always, nor will they always). Deutsch, the ad company behind the Taco Bell ad, have made an interesting little film in itself. But still they know who signs their paychecks, and even they cannot break free of the tractor beam of a corporate culture (and perhaps have no desire to -- as in the ad, the two detractors say the others are coming, but maybe they're not).

What makes me sad is that many a bumpkin will be impressed/convinced by this ad to start viewing Taco Bell as a fast food breakfast provider. In other words, they'll get the ad on its most basic, banal level, without understanding its grimmer, deeper meaning about the ubiquitous of the corporatocracy.
Personally, I find one of the worst things about fast food the fact that none of them really appeal to me for breakfast food, with the exception of those places who don't delineate a breakfast vs lunch/dinner menu, ie you can get whatever's on the menu, whenever. But starting your day with a fast food meal is depressing, although, yes, it's better than starvation, I suppose. What I would love is for people to put down Fifty Shades of Whatever and pick up a Zizek book -- yes, difficult to read, but more rewarding. Or for a real rebellion to take place in which, rather than choosing between the lesser of evils (like voting), detractors break free of the corporatocracy in general on a mass scale. We deserve better than choosing between food shapes or answering the loaded question of Which shape is better? 
Because the answer is: they both suck. 

* case in point: the well-known example of how many American children -- let alone adults -- cannot identify a tree by its leaves, but can readily identify corporate symbols, logos, and mascots

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


For anyone who's feelin' down. 

Fire at AK Press

The great AK Press recently suffered damage from a fire nearby their hq in the Ghost Town part of Oakland. They have a fundraising page; please try and donate here.
I've not only ordered things from them, but went to their cool sales where they open up their warehouse  for people to browse and buy. They provided wine and beer and snacks, and were super friendly (and of course super smart). You may not agree with everything AK Press publishes (the SCUM manifesto book, advocating the eradication of men from the planet, is ridiculous, for example), but one thing I really admire is that they open up the imagination by selling books that are bold enough to envision a different, and better, world than the one too many people take as a given -- the one we live in. And fire damage sucks. Please try and support them. Thank you. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Shakespeare brought down to earth

"Shakespeare done in unusual ways" is a concept that has limitless possibilities, such as Shakespeare behind bars, and -- what I think is the best of them all -- Shakespeare done from memory, for no audience, by a bunch of people facing starvation while lost in Namibia

Funny flier

Crime, Punishment, and Underpants

The San Francisco jail I work a little bit at teaching Creative Writing had an escape. The prisoner uniforms are circus peanut orange (except for high-risk inmates who wear red, but I've not yet seen one of those) and it's pretty funny the fugitive stripped down to his skivvies and actually got away. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

42 seconds of WTF

Chigger Ale - TrĂ¡iler from Lanzadera Films on Vimeo.

Man, I don't know what's in the water these days in Ethiopia, but some awesome-looking feature films and short films are emerging from there. (Or from Spain, where the production company is, but the filmmaker behind the production company lived in Ethiopia for 3 years.)

There's of course Crumbs, a postapocalyptic scifi love story set in Ethiopia, but check out the above trailer. 42 seconds of whatdafuck. Hoping to be able to see and review some of these films soon! Looks like great stuff!

A Zen Buddhist and a Dharma Punk Go to an Electric Six Show

My friend Jeff kindly got me a ticket to see/hear one of the best things out of Detroit in some time, the Electric Six, the other night in San Francisco. Jeff is a Zen Buddhist and I occasionally dip my foot into that stream, although right now I have enough on my mind figuring out standard, plain ol' Tibetan Buddhism. 
This pic has nothing to do with the Electric Six except that the android cabbie looks a bit like Dick Valentine of E6. 

E6 were as good as always, and are at it again with a new album. The single is "It's Horseshit" and it's pretty catchy. Jeff and I ran into Dick Valentine outside the venue and I was able to unintentionally get a testimonial from Valentine, who told me I "look like a million bucks." Thanks, Dick! You too! 
One of E6's hits, "Down at McDonelzzzz." 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Predator III

I'm not a sports person by any means, but what the hell is going on with Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks? 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

SPD 2015

For many years I didn't do the stereotypical Saint Patrick's Day green beer-bar crawl-regretful next day thing, but I did celebrate it by watching one of the many horrible Leprechaun films available in that franchise's now 7-film canon. (After how horrendous the latest film, Leprechaun: Origins was, I think it'll hold at 7 for awhile.) It's funny to see other people have a similar idea, such as Lost Weekend video in San Francisco's hipster-rich, rapidly-gentrifying Mission neighborhood showing the unbelievably bad Leprechaun 4: In Space this 3/17.

Let's see: Lep 1 took place in Saugus, Califor-- er, North Dakota; Lep 2 was set in the underbelly of Los Angeles; Lep 3 was Vegas; where can we go with this franchise? 

I have to say that Lep 2 still holds a special place in my heart, mainly because of the surprisingly good performance by the late Sandy Baron as a Bukowski-esque con man, and the predictably bad performances by, well…everyone else in the movie. I will also say that the Lep movies just aren't Lep movies if they don't have Warwick Davis in all his limerick-ing, evil little kid, bowlegged glory. The attempted reboot/prequel of Leprechaun: Origins was the first film without Davis and it just plain sucks. (Its only redeeming quality is that is has Brendan Fletcher, who turns in compelling and multifaceted performances in Uwe Boll's bleak, evocative, intelligent, darkly comedic film Rampage and its sequel.)

So Happy SPD in advance! 

Music world: I've been listening to the Melvins/Lustmord collab Pigs of the Roman Empire, and man, such good stuff. One collaboration that holds up over time. It's like that perfect combo of experi-metal punkiness from the Melvins interwoven with awesome dark ambient from some imaginary horror movie. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Mac Sabbath (Gimme Gimmick Bands)

Two words for ya, folx: MAC SABBATH. 

A parody cover band that plays Black Sabbath songs with lyrics about fast food and McDonald's products, sung by a cocaine/supersized food-addled Ronald McDonald/Ozzy frontman, and featuring one of the most disturbing person-in-a-big-costumes you'll ever behold (above), a demented Grimace/Geezer (Butler) on bass. There's, of course, a Hamburglar on drums (there's also, different from Mac Sab, an ALL-Hamburglar punk band called, well, The Hamburglars) and a mastodon-tusked Mayor McCheese on guitar. (I'm not making this up, I swear.) 
As you can see above, they're doing "Frying Pan" to the tune of "Iron Man." Check out their YouTube vids, website, and pics -- you'll notice an unusual amount of attention paid to detail in their live show -- from the frontman's madman, clapping Ozzy-esque antics and Black Sab 4 flowing sleeves, to a grill cooking burgers and cheeseburger, surreal McDonald's projections behind the drummer, inventive lyrical reconstructions, and the bat burger. 
Sure, gimmick cover bands -- Metallagher (Metallica meets Gallagher), AC/DSHE (all-girl AC/DC), Dread Zeppelin (Led Zep songs done reggae*), et alia -- lack the depth of an original band, once the gimmick novelty wears off. But I think Mac Sab is brilliant: something about the surreal juxtaposition of the essentially creepy McDonald's mythical universe (McDonaldland) meeting vintage Black Sabbath just works brilliantly. A comrade who's seen 'em says they're good live (perhaps live is their strongest side). 
Perhaps this particular parody cover band speaks to an ol' Gen Xer like me: I grew up with both Sabbath and McDonald's as both cultural institutions, so smashing them together just makes sense, revealing a higher truth. And I'm not sure which is darker: Black Sab, or McDonaldland…. 
(Oh and by the way I came up with a parody cover band idea: XANAXADU, a Rush cover band who play songs about anxiety disorders. If you wanna join, contact me.) 

* I think Dread Zeppelin is particularly brilliant. This album is awesome.