Thursday, April 28, 2005

Late? Never?

So, because the HH had a delayed production schedule for a while there, we never got around to listing our top tens for 2004. Seeing how it's not yet May, anyone care to join me in listing them?

Top Ten of 2004
Hayden Childs

1. The Fiery Furnaces - Blueberry Boat (album). Read about it here.
2. Mission of Burma at La Zona Rosa, March 18 (live show). SXSW showcase. Roger Miller had ear protection headphones on and stood behind his amp, and all three played like they were 20 years old. Excellent.
3. Jandek played live in Scotland (Oct 17, live show)? Really? I wasn't there, but wow. I'm still speechless.
4. The Wire Season Three (tv show). Featuring the most complex characters and almost primordially compelling storylines of any show ever filmed, The Wire is the best thing about television.
5. Kill Bill Vol 2 (movie). Between this & the Fiery Furnaces, I'm apparently a sucker for form. I loved the hell out of both Kill Bills, both of which were more semi-philosophical set pieces and love letters to great filmmakers than stories. And yet, also like the FF, they carry the weight of brilliance operating in confusing times.
6. Brian Wilson with the Wondermints at the Backyard, Oct. 24 (live show). They played SMiLE in its entirety, making sounds more beautiful than most live bands could even conceive. I remember reading a review of the Pet Sounds tour that commented about the loss of wonder in seeing those sounds reproduced on stage. That guy was nuts; I'm still reeling from the sheer talent in evidence.
7. Animal Collective - Sung Tongs (album). Dude. Seriously. Campfire music on acid.
8. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (movie). This movie was near perfect. Lots has been written about it, but my only personal 2 cents is that it rips my heart out every time.
9. Deadwood Season One (tv show). It's Locke vs. Hobbes in the State of Nature. This show is about why philosophy is almost as important as soap, whiskey, and a sense of honor.
10. My wife's pregnancy (May 2004 - Feb 2005). Nah, this isn't really the least important of the great things in 2004 (and we're not going to mention the horrible, horrible political realities around us). I'm trying not to be overly sentimental, that's all. This one is just so far above the other stuff that it doesn't make sense in context. Our pregnancy months were amazing, almost as amazing as what came after.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

New low for the NY Times

Despite all the articles that have carried Judith Miller's byline, this article on the "man date" may be the most idiotic thing that's ever appeared in the NY Times. Apparently, some reporter got it in her head that men who are friends may experience homosexual panic when seen together in public, and she decided to exploit this by a) christening it a "man date" and b) writing about straight men who hang out with nary a potential sexual conquest in sight in an absurdly lurid tone.

When women go to dinner together, do they call it a "woman date"? Is the only purpose of leaving the house or talking to another human being merely to get laid? More importantly, why is the most important newpaper in the country printing an article that stigmatizes homosexual men and inflames homosexual panic in straight men? D.U.M.B.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Slate mag has a new article titled "The Mall Goes Undercover: It now looks like a city street."

Like insecure teenagers, malls keep changing their style. They are ripping away their roofs and drywalled corridors; adding open-air plazas, sidewalks, and street-side parking; and rechristening themselves "lifestyle centers." ... They're also enormously successful—by the most recent count, there are about 130 lifestyle centers scattered around the country.

Including one near my house. I can never get used to the impermanence of cityscapes. When I moved here to Raleigh 16 years ago, North Hills was your standard issue indoor mall, and it seemed to be thriving. But it slid to the status of "the crappy mall" in town, to quote the movie Mallrats (at least I think that's the quote; you get an astonishing number of hits when you Google "Mallrats+crappy") then slid further, to 75%-vacant embarrassment. Then it cycled through a stage as pile of rubble, then mound of dirt, then place to watch giant cranes operating. Just before Christmas '04 it was reborn as North Hills Mall, the lifestyle center, with the external trappings of a comfortably lived-in but still vital urban neighborhood: awnings and wooden benches and cobblestone streets.

As the Slate piece points out, "The irony is almost too perfect: Malls are now being redesigned to resemble the downtown commercial districts they replaced." A true statement, as far as it goes. In the case of North Hills, the mall is the nucleus of a welter of new development, including a hotel and condos and office buildings. The goal is to supplement a residential area with a dense mixed-use area, with people working and living and playing in the same space. Locals have long divided Raleigh into two zones, inside the Beltline (the older neighborhoods and the downtown business district, including state government and NC State University) and outside the Beltline (the outlying residential areas--the 'burbs). Now the developer of North Hills is referring to it as "mid-town:" it is right smack on the Beltline (a.k.a. I-440, the loop expressway) and could develop into a hip happenin' downtown unto itself.

My initial response is to feel good about the change. A somewhat decrepit area has been transformed into a bustling one, with a cinema and restaurants and shopping, all within walking or biking distance from my home. Our property value is going to rise. Then I notice that the grimy auto mechanics' shop that I used regularly is gone--it struck the wrong aesthetic note. And I notice the rent-a-cops. It doesn't take long on the cobblestone streets of North Hills to feel the fakeness.

There's something a bit unhealthy about faux public places designed to attract rich people and make them feel comfortable. (At least the traditional mall didn't try to hide the fact that it was a shopping center.) The lifestyle center is a bizarre outgrowth of the suburban mentality: People want public space, even if making that space private is the only way to get it.

Our tagline says, Art is not a lifestyle. Addendum: A real community is not a lifestyle center.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Bring Out Your Duds

I don't know about where you live, but in my neighborhood, this past week sure has brought out the hack in the editorial cartoonists. Every day I open the paper that the kind folks at the deli were good enough to wrap my sandwich in, there's the same basic set-up: Gabriel at the gates of Heaven, consulting the book in reference to his newest applicant, to see if he should swing wide the doors or call the bouncer. One day it's John Paul II, another day it's Terri Sciavo ("Here, honey, have some water."), even Johnny Cochran ("We don't usually get lawyers up here..."), until all I could think of was that story that The New Yorker cartoon department once cleaned out its closet by running nothing but desert-island cartoons for one whole issue, and nobody even noticed. The Pope was a gimme, but I'm betting that if Pauly Shore had keeled over last week, he'd have been shuttled into position with the others. Sometimes you hit too comfortable a rhythm and it's just too hard to stop.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Randall Terry

It's not an original observation to point out that something's seriously wrong with the people who run CNN. The whole Terri Schiavo death-watch and its attending coverage should have opened a lot of people's eyes to what seems to be an increasingly ideological slant to the news coming out of downtown Atlanta. That they would even consider giving air time to that sleaze Randall Terry, who used the occasion of a woman's death to further his own fanatical socio-political aims, is bad enough, but at least (I guess) you could make the case that he did sort of have a dog in that hunt, however tenuous the connection between the anti-abortion POV and the anti-euthanasia POV.

But how, why they can justify giving this nimrod air time to spout his invective as part of their coverage of the Pope's impending passage from this earth is beyond me. He thrives on publicity, and giving it to him is like pouring gasoline on a pile of burning books. The morbid nature of their apparently now 24/7 "Who's dying now?" programming is bad enough without using this need to fill time to justify giving every wacko anti-freedom fanatical nutjob his talking head moment.

Friday, April 01, 2005

I wrote this yesterday and was going to simply delete it out of existence, but several good friends have encouraged me to keep it around and even post it here. I'm a little embarrassed by it, but that didn't stop me from putting it on my personal blog, too.

I was thinking about my problem with religion this morning, mainly because I think I'd like to feel hope for the human race in a spiritual, personal way. I'd like to be able to say that I belong to some group of people who think like I do and have it mean something. But I don't know that it does. I feel that leaving the Southern Baptist Church was one of the most profound things I've done in my life short of being a father. However, I've retained a sharp moral compass that may be at odds with the positions of the church, but that I learned from the church and that guides me to be the man I am. If my son has no similar religious instruction, will he never learn to develop that compass?

But so much of the Christianity I've been exposed to is about negation of life. The Southern Baptists I'm most familiar with say no to science, no to a just welfare state, no to mercy, no to sexual desire, no to valuing healthy lives when those who live those lives are criminals or of different religions, no to allowing people the privacy to make difficult decisions about fetuses and mentally damaged love ones, and no to minds that question any of the above. This, surely, isn't what religion should mean to people. What sort of good God would have people prioritize their lives in such a way?

And these people -- I know I'm talking about strawpeople to some extent, but almost all of my cousins would tell you that they believe all of the above with all of their hearts, as well as the following --these people would tell you in a heartbeat that a) they are happy and b) they are 100% confident that their positions are right.

I should mention that I treasure my doubt. To my thinking, the ability to doubt and critique, by which I mean the ability to reason, is the most profound and important skill that human beings have developed since we became the only monkeys to have pleasurable, non-procreative sex. I think that the greatest, most profound people of faith in recent history, such as Reinhold Niebuhr, Martin Buber, Soren Kierkegaard, are those who have doubted their faith, and I believe that most theologians and even marginally self-aware men of God would concede that point to me. But so many Christian churches, even the ones where I think people agree with me politically, have this prevailing belief that God is the answer. What if God is the question? Is there a church for that? From my understanding of modern Judaism, questioning what Judaism means and what it means to be a Jew is an important aspect of being a rabbi, if not being a Jew. Is there a similar group for goys?

I also suffer from a somewhat paradoxical unwillingness to belong, a lack of fellowship, if you will. For instance, I find the local Unitarian church saccharine to the point of uncomfortability. I've felt the same in liberal Christian churches and in Westernized Buddhist temples. I want to feel kinship with my fellow man, but I'm terrified and a little nauseated by false connections. This may be overly psychological, but my time in the Southern Baptist church has left me convinced that those people are faking their happiness and couldn't give less of a shit if I feel welcome in their congregation. I'm not a person, I'm a warm tithing body.

So, I want religion with doubt, fellowship without fellowship rites, a great big yes to life and my personal ethics without sickening cheerleaderish fake emotion, and to tell you the truth, I like to sleep in on Sundays. Anyone have a clue?

My friends have been very encouraging, discussing options such as the Society of Friends or pointing out that they grew finely tuned moral compasses without the unwelcome touch of the church. Some have mentioned how certain churches have touched their lives and how they've found the best way to deal with complicated issues in religion is to be open and honest with their kids. Most, if not all, of those friends are fellow-posters here, so perhaps I should let people talk for themselves instead of paraphrasing.
I guess now is as good a time as any to spread the news - starting next week, The High Hat will be updated daily, thanks in no small part to a heavy infusion of capital from Farben AG 2000, LLC and an influx of fresh new talent courtesy the National Young Writers' Collective, the American Youthful Copy Editors' Society, the U.S. Underage Web-Coding Community, and the Geographical Area Between Mexico and Canada Underannuated Internet Magazine Reading Group of People. Thanks to all who made this happen and everyone else for their alleged support!