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Archive for the ‘art’ Category

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When Johnny Mnemonic premiered on May 26th, 1995, I was pretty excited to see it. I didn’t know much about cyberpunk, or the fiction of William Gibson. But I was a huge Star Trek fan, and loved Alien, Aliens, Batman, Blade Runner—big, immersive fantasies stuffed with over-the-top production design and special effects. I also liked computers, and Speed had made me, like so many people, a Keanu Reeves fan. Plus I’d somehow heard that this Gibson fellow was writing Alien 3. If memory serves, my friend Philip and I went opening day, buying our tickets and settling in, expecting to see our new favorite film.

Instead, we hated the movie—loathed it. There’s a moment, late in the picture, when a Yakuza member picks up a rocket launcher and starts firing it at the base where our heroes are hiding, screaming expletives until Ice-T’s character fells her with a crossbow. I remember turning to Philip and saying, “She wants out. She’s trying to blow up the film.”

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In the years that followed, I got more and more into cinema, branching out into foreign movies, experimental art films, classic Hollywood productions. I also remained a fan of the geekier genres, enjoying movies like 12 Monkeys, Star Trek: First Contact, and Starship Troopers. But I mostly forgot about Johnny Mnemonic. If it ever came up, which rarely happened, I found that those who’d seen it felt the same way that I did. The movie was garbage, a total joke. Even William Gibson agreed.

Recently, a friend and I were discussing cyberpunk movies, trying to figure out how massive walls of TV screens had become a cliche of the genre. Some google searches brought me back to Johnny Mnemonic, whose imagery intrigued me. Curious, I glanced at the movie’s Wikipedia page, where the cast list stood out: besides Keanu and Ice-T, the film stars Takeshi Kitano, Dolph Lundgren, Henry Rollins, Udo Kier. Twenty-three years ago, I didn’t know who they were, but I sure do now. What’s more, I learned that the director, Robert Longo, was a visual artist who, back in the ’70s and ’80s, used to pal around with Cindy Sherman, Rhys Chatham, and Glenn Branca. (One of his artworks was used on the cover of Branca’s album The Ascension.) And before he made Johnny Mnemonic, Longo directed the music videos for New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” and R.E.M.’s “The One I Love.”

I like those videos, I thought. So I found myself wondering if my memory could be faulty. Maybe Johnny Mnemonic was good? I had to find out.

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On May 8th, FSG will publish my book I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture, which is available for pre-order here.

About the book:

In I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing, A. D. Jameson takes geeks and non-geeks alike on a surprising and insightful journey through the science fiction, fantasy, and superhero franchises that now dominate pop culture. Walking us through the rise of geekdom from its underground origins to the top of the box office and bestseller lists, Jameson takes in franchises like The Lord of the Rings, Guardians of the Galaxy, Harry Potter, Star Trek, and, in particular, Star Wars—as well as phenomena like fan fiction, cosplay, and YouTube parodies. Along the way, he blasts through the clichés surrounding geek culture: that its fans are mindless consumers who will embrace all things Spider-Man or Batman, regardless of quality; or that the popularity and financial success of Star Wars led to the death of ambitious filmmaking.

A lifelong geek, Jameson shines a new light on beloved classics, explaining the enormous love (and hate) they are capable of inspiring in fan and non-fan alike, while exploding misconceptions as to how and why they were made. I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing tells the story of how the geeks have inherited the earth.

“Funny, incisive, and timely … Jameson does for geeks what geek culture does for its superheroes: he takes them seriously, respects their power, and refuses to hide his deep affection.” — Lawrence Kasdan, co-screenwriter of The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Force Awakens, and Solo: A Star Wars Story

“Self-aware and self-reflective, A. D. Jameson deftly examines the development of mainstream geek culture from an insider’s perspective. He traces the path of contemporary geek media from Lucas to, well, Lucas, celebrating the future-forward thinkers in gender-fluid cosplay gear who will inherit geekdom and arguing that even if cranky critics like me find some superhero movies are getting staid that the geeks are capable of reinventing cinema again.” — Film critic April Wolfe, host of the Switchblade Sisters podcast

“Compulsively readable, Jameson’s Geek Culture is a tasty combination of personal memoir, survey of the rise of geek culture, and defense of the value of geek literature and arts. Enjoyable for the general reader and exceedingly useful to teachers, academics, and anyone interested in the past, current, and future of geekdom.” — Mary Ann Mohanraj, author of The Stars Change, founder of Strange Horizons, and Director of the Speculative Literature Foundation

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Jack Frost

I’m helplessly fond of ’80s & ’90s Hollywood films with animatronic puppets created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and large fake snowy landscapes constructed on soundstages. Which is why, during the holidays, I finally watched Jack Frost—yes, Jack Frost, the 1998 children’s movie starring Michael Keaton as a hideous animatronic snowman.

And I survived to tell the tale! Jack Frost isn’t as terrible as some (like Roger Ebert) have made it out to be, but at the same time it isn’t great, either—it’s mediocre. So I’m not writing this to recommend that you watch it. It’s hardly as good as true classics like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Batman Returns. But at the same time, it has its charms, which I will spell out in extravagant detail after the jump.

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I could swear that, a while back, I published a short story that I made by cutting up and rearranging panels from Beetle Bailey cartoons. But I can no longer find it online, so I present below the epic “Sarge’s Big Day.”

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The Wolverine

The words above him are from some French homework, translating an interview with Foucault.

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Here, right here, click right here to see this film. It’s a punk ballet. It’s 86 minutes long.

I’ve written about this magnificent film here & here.

More can also be found here & here & here. You will not find it in the history books but who cares? It’s a secret history. Like Jack Smith!

It’s the Real Art History.

Please whatever you are doing, take the time to watch this film this very second. Do not put it off another day!

Because if you do, your skin will fester and blister and fall off. And also you will be at risk of dying without having seen one of the most beautiful movies to be seen, and that will be sad.

Also,  it is my dream that everybody living on the earth will see this film. And so I want to organize a screening.

And so if anyone reading this now wants to help make this dream a dream-come-true, please contact me.

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Photograph by Martin Schoeller

Photograph by Martin Schoeller

I’ve had my pocket picked. It happened a few years ago in downtown Chicago (the Loop). As I was leaving a sushi place, two men walked over to me. One stepped in front of me and one stepped behind me. The man in front paused in the doorway, dropping the smoothie he was carrying. He apologized and fumbled with the cup, as though trying to mop up the mess. The other man pressed up behind me, as though he hadn’t been paying attention, and was trying to walk through the door. He was carrying his coat over his arm, I remember. I noticed him but my attention was focused on the man in front of me. That guy apologized again, then hurried out the door. The second man pushed past me, and took off in the opposite direction. A few moments later, I realized that my wallet was missing. I hesitated, wondering if I’d left it inside the place. I looked back. By the time I decided I really had been robbed, both men were gone.

The two guys were pretty clumsy, I think (how repeatable is that M.O.?), but I was sufficiently distracted by them, and they got me easily. And this despite the fact they were memorable—I noticed them the second I entered the place, two middle-aged men in nice suits. (They were also black, and when I realized my wallet was missing, I at once chastised myself for thinking that they had stolen it—white liberal guilt in action. Hence my looking back into the place to see if I’d left my wallet on the counter.)

I was reminded of this experience because I recently read Adam Green’s excellent article on Apollo Robbins in The New Yorker. The two of them also made a wonderful short video in which Robbins demonstrates his craft. Many things described in both the article and video rang true for me. The primary tool used in robbing me was directing my attention away from my personal possessions. I also know now (from the article) that the first man was the “stall” or the “stick,” while the second was both the “shade” and the “tool.” (And there might have been even more men operating as part of that outfit, such as a “duke man,” who gets handed the wallet so the other men are clean.)

As for what happened to me and my wallet after the robbery …

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