Monday, April 11, 2005

The Miss USA pageant is being held tonight at the Hippodrome Theater in Baltimore, two blocks away from where I am right now. Downtown Baltimore is a total mess as a result, blocks shut down for film crews, everyone else in congested clumps of traffic trying to get around it. On my lunch break, three or four contestants walked past me on the street, headed toward Lexington Market. They were dressed like they were going to the mall, except they all had their sashes on (I think they all said "Miss Teen USA" and then their state). They looked skeletal and tense. They were not attractive.

Baltimore is weird like that. Our brushes with fame and immortality are the random scraps that other cities toss off. Like, Bridget and I were driving around DC yesterday, and it sort of blew my mind to be like: "Wait, we can't drive down this street. It stops because the White House is right there and we need to detour around it", these incomprehensible places being reduced to just buildings (albeit really great-looking buildings) in front of you. People in New York must be really used to this, walking past Laurence Fishburne on the street or whatever. Baltimore doesn't have that. But we do have Edgar Allen Poe's body, which lies maybe 50 feet from where I'm sitting right now. My block was Chris Rock's DC ghetto neighborhood in Head of State. A lot of times, movies that are supposed to take place in DC (Enemy of the State, Meteor Man) are filmed mostly in Baltimore because it's cheap and all the people who worked on Homicide and The Wire and John Waters movies are just sitting there waiting for more work. So it's like: every little brush with national recognition we get makes us (meaning: me) feel just that much more provincial.

Hollertronix came through town on Saturday night, playing the local weekly coked-out hipster/suburban "The OC" kid dance party, and it was sort of weird actually getting to go to one of their parties, after playing Never Scared enough times to remember which tracks come when and missing the Philly Halloween party with Bun B and MIA because we couldn't find a place to stay in time. They're good-not-great DJs, occassionally letting the record skip or playing something a little too obvious ("Dancing with Myself", "Bombs Over Bagdhad"). But their aesthetic is pretty much perfect, pretty much just exactly what I want to hear. When I die, if I'm good, I'll get to dance to the Cure and Baltimore club and "Knuck If You Buck". Jamin Warren and his friend Elliott came up from DC and down from NY, respectively, for the party and were perfect guests. Folded the blankets and everything.

David Foster Wallace has an article in the new Atlantic Monthly about conservative talk radio, and it's pretty much old-school idea-heavy experiential think-piece DFW, no postmodern jargon-spewing or sweaty self-conscious freakouts. His basic idea seems to be that talk radio is essentially a very specialized and lucrative business, motivated by profit more than ideology. It chews up its content providers and spits them out whenever it's convenient, and it distills messy reality down to bite-sized ideological chunks in ways designed specifically to maximize dollar-value. If left-wing talk radio made money, that's what these guys would go with instead. It's sad and depressing, but it's a joy to read. Wallace is one of those guys who make me want to step my game up so that I'm roughly within his league, and it's great to see him back on top of his game.

Sideways would've been a pretty good movie if the main character wasn't such a wormy little bitch. I liked the other main characters, as simplistically drawn and emaciated as they were. I liked the sunny cinematography and the fake jazz score and the part where the guy runs out of the house naked. But man alive, that Miles guy was fucking horrible. The success of the movie was predicated on me the viewer liking or at least identifying with this guy, and that was just not happening. This probably shouldn't bother me too much - Sideways was better than Napoleon Dynamite and Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Alfie but not as good as The Ring Two or Starsky and Hutch or Ray, maybe roughly as good as The Passion of the Christ. But it's being held up as this example of virtuous filmmaking, of character-first, as the antidote to Jeepers Creepers 2 or whatever, and it's just ass. It's not like there aren't good "intelligent" movies out there - why does this piece of crap get to be the standard-bearer?