Zappa Quotes

For no particular reason, I offer a selection of quotes from Frank Zappa:

Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff.

Art is making something out of nothing and selling it.

The United States is a nation of laws: badly written and randomly enforced.

Rock journalism is people who can’t write interviewing people who can’t talk for people who can’t read.

Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say that there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.

Stupidity has a certain charm – ignorance does not.

I’ll give you a simple formula for straightening out the problems of the United States. First, you tax the churches. You take the tax off of capital gains and the tax off of savings. You decriminalize all drugs and tax them same way as you do alcohol. You decriminalize prostitution. You make gambling legal. That will put the budget back on the road to recovery, and you’ll have plenty of tax revenue coming in for all of your social programs, and to run the army.

The rock and roll business is pretty absurd, but the world of serious music is much worse.

It isn’t necessary to imagine the world ending in fire or ice — there are two other possibilities: one is paperwork, and the other is nostalgia.

I’ll tell you what classical music is, for those of you who don’t know. Classical music is this music that was written by a bunch of dead people a long time ago. And it’s formula music, the same as top forty music is formula music. In order to have a piece be classical, it has to conform to academic standards that were the current norms of that day and age … I think that people are entitled to be amused, and entertained. If they see deviations from this classical norm, it’s probably good for their mental health.

The most important thing to do in your life is to not interfere with somebody else’s life.

Scientology, how about that? You hold on to the tin cans and then this guy asks you a bunch of questions, and if you pay enough money you get to join the master race. How’s that for a religion?

A drug is not bad. A drug is a chemical compound. The problem comes in when people who take drugs treat them like a license to behave like an asshole.

Watch out where the huskies go, and don’t you eat that yellow snow.

The Ultimate Rule ought to be: ‘If it sounds GOOD to you, it’s bitchin’; if it sounds BAD to YOU, it’s shitty. The more your musical experience, the easier it is to define for yourself what you like and what you don’t like. American radio listeners, raised on a diet of _____ (fill in the blank), have experienced a musical universe so small they cannot begin to know what they like.

There is no hell. There is only France.

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Rebranding Books

HT to Kottke.org and Your Monkey Called for these classics, rebranded as if they were published today (my favorites):

Then: The Wealth of Nations
Now: Invisible Hands: The Mysterious Market Forces That Control Our Lives and How to Profit from Them

Then: Walden
Now: Camping with Myself: Two Years in American Tuscany

Then: The Prince
Now: The Prince (Foreword by Oprah Winfrey)

Then: Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica
Now: Why Do Apples Fall Down and Not Up? Answers From The Cutting Edge of Physics

Then: Little Women
Now: Concord 01742

Then: The Art of War
Now: Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Strategy Guide

Then: Cinderella
Now: How to Escape Being Bullied Without Once Standing Up for Yourself

Some of my own:

Then: The Fountainhead
Now: Terrorism, Integrity, and Date Rape: How Modern Culture Debases Everyone

Then: The Lord of the Rings
Now: Little People, Big World

Then: Goodnight Moon
Now: OCD: Finding Rest in Repetition

Then: The Illiad
Now: Terrorism, Integrity, and Date Rape: How Modern Culture Debases Everyone

Add yours!

pilgrimage

I won’t be blogging for the next few days, the family is off on our secular pilgrimage. Yes, we’re off on our Hajj to Mecca to see the Mouse in Florida.

Disneyworld!

: D

I hope to post a trip report when we get back.

good game

The Little League All-Star tournament started here tonight. My son had a good game.

He pitched a shut-out no hitter, had 10 strike outs, hit a home run, and batted 1.000.

Not a bad day at the park.

(10 strike outs , out of 12 batters faced. The game ended after 4 innings — 10 run rule)

Lileks!

James Lileks might be my favorite writer. He’s always worth reading, he’s funny, sharp, witty, insightful and writes about nearly everything. And he peppers his prose with Simpsons references that give me inordinate joy.

As with most good writers, he has that ability to write about whatever (old noir, matchbook covers, gun ads, Minneapolis, bad interior design) and keep the reader (at least, this reader) nodding and chuckling through every piece. It’s a rare ability, to keep your readers laughing and engaged. To do it on a daily basis is a sign of great talent.

From Tuesday’s Bleat,

I didn’t love America any less in the Clinton years than I did in the Bush years, or vice versa;  I don’t conflate my opinions about transitory leaders with my opinion about the nation’s role in history and its exceptional, if occasionally improvised, conflicted, and compromised struggle to do the right thing. I mean, go back in history and find another one of us. (Note: small ethnically coherent Nordic states that can’t project power six feet over the border really don’t count.) But unqualified love of country unnerves some people, as though the lack of qualifications means you don’t recognize qualifying factors. Me, I think they’re obvious; we’re made of humans, after all, and every house we build has beams of crooked timber. But I don’t recall a lot of FDR speeches laying out a litany of American sins in order to bolster the case for why America should fight Hitler, despite all those troubling similarities. After all, we lynched Jews, too, ergo we must face our own demons as well as those abroad. And so on.

The whole post is great. I’d quote more of it, but really, you should just read the whole thing.

The really wonderful thing about Lileks is that there’s so, so, so much more. Really, he’s actually put up a frightening amount of material… check out the Institute of Official Cheer, which is just a taste. It’s all up at www.lileks.com. Except for everything that’s up at Buzz.mn, of course.

Plus, he loves Disney and files wonderful trip reports. What more is there?


Up!

We saw Up! on Friday.

It’s a lovely film; funny, endearing, moving, and sweet. What stood out for me, aside from all the tears (I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much during an animated movie) was the audacity of the filmmakers.

Although Up! was developed before Disney bought Pixar, the distribution deal was in place and Pixar knew that Up!, like the rest of its movies, would be marketed as a children’s movie and would be sold by Disney as lighthearted Summer fare. Knowing that,  Pixar set about telling the story of an aging retiree dulled by despair and longing.

Yes, there’s adventure and funny birds and talking dogs and jokes and antics aplenty,but at it’s core, Up! is a movie about an old man coming to terms with grief, loss and the shadows of deferred dreams and unfulfilled promises. That it can be all that and still deliver all the laughs and chuckles that the target ten-year old audience expects is, well… it’s incredible.

As in Wall-E, the first twenty minutes are largely silent and serve to anchor the arc of the film in an emotional context. And like Wall-E, the major themes are loneliness, companionship, courage, and love. I liked Wall-E quite a lot, but as with most animation, the emotional core of Wall-E, lovely though it is, is thin and brittle.

Good cartoons succeed by humanizing their characters as much as possible; the movie succeeds to the extent that the audience can identify with Wall-E”s loneliness, Shrek’s alienation, Eric Cartman’s self-absorption, Ariel’s conflict, or Homer’s obliviousness.  But cartoons are… cartoonish. Their subjects are characters painted in sharp relief with hard lines and little nuance: they are abstractions drawn to serve narrow purposes. Characters in even the best cartoons have very little depth. That’s OK, because that’s generally the point. The abstraction of a cartoon allows the creators to isolate elements of human nature present a highly stylized and abstract story.

Wall-E is lonely because he’s the only sentient creature on Earth. But Wall-E isn’t troubled by the anger or desperation that plagues Robert Neville. Homer is a buffoon without the added pathos of an actor’s persona that transforms characters like John Belushi’s John Blutarsky or Chris Farley’s Tommy. Shrek is alien and “ugly” in a sterile, simple way that John Merrick is not. Ariel is troubled by her longing for her prince, but is free of the deep sexuality of Daryl Hannah’s Madison.

The abstraction of cartoons lends itself to grand scales and harsh contrasts. Wall-E is alone in a world of trash. Ariel is a fish. Shrek is an ogre. Just as cartoons simplify and abstract human qualities to pare the characters down to simple essences, cartoons tend to exaggerate circumstances and conflicts. These are differences in style that are accentuated by medium. The abstraction of cartoons is not  flaw, it’s a feature. Flattening characters and stretching plots allow writers and artists to narrow their focus.

Which is what makes Up! all the more remarkable. Carl Fredrickson is an abstract representation of sapping, eroding despair. He is a character grayed by time and grief. And while he is still certainly a cartoon abstraction, his history is filled and rounded. His grief is compounded and complicated by the little losses and troubles that beset everyone; the petty details of life that derail plans and projects are not embellished or stretched, they simply happen. He does not wallow in his grief, he is not reduced to a caricature or simpleton. Rather he endures, and we feel his longing in the way he places his palm against a mailbox or the way he dusts his mantle.

Carl is simply sad. He’s not sad because the world is dying, or because he will be ripped forever from his homeland by magic. He’s not sad because society shuns and disowns him, and he’s not sad for being a failure. He’s sad because his wife died. He is no less abstract than Wall-E or Shrek or Ariel, but he is much more human. His grief is a human grief, his sorrow is a human sorrow, and while the journey he takes out of sorrow is fantastic, his adventures only serve to highlight his troubles. In the end, he eases his sorrow with as simple an act as can be imagined.

There might be snipes and talking dogs and flying houses, but that’s all mere fantasy; like finding patterns in passing clouds,  it’s a diversion and a joy. But the movie, for all its soaring flights is anchored by the simplest of human relationships: a man’s love for his wife, the need of a child for security and safety, the love a dog has for his master.

Up! is the simplest, most grounded, movie that Pixar has made yet and it’s wonderful.