Let’s Begin with the Past in Front

It all started with a movie.

About nine years ago, in those fast-fading days of pulp and glory, I was an entertainment writer for the Corvallis Gazette-Times, the sole organ of an Oregon college town, home to Oregon State University and a sizable arts community of pickled beatniks with a limited purview of what constitutes “art.” (You can probably guess where this is headed.)

One afternoon Lions Gate sent me a screener for a film called The Red Violin, which, fortuitously, was opening the following week at the local art-house. I took it back to my plush studio, slipped it into my VCR (how quaint!), and extinguished all illumination save the vivid cinematic palette humming from my TV. And for the next two hours I endured a lugubriously fashioned series of centuries-spanning vignettes/suites held together by a stringed instrument soaked in blood and afterbirth. The point of the overall story was a mother’s love for her son as expressed in the gift of music — the full embrace of life and passion — through this seemingly cursed object, which over the centuries increases in value and becomes the prized bauble for a metropolitan auction house. There are many bidders, but only one man actually deserves it: Samuel L. Jackson as a simple appraiser who nicks the invaluable vessel as a present for his daughter. Very treacly, very self-consciously ahh-ty, very dull, and I said as much in my own appraisal printed the following week. That was that, or so I thought.

The first letter of protest came from the theater’s owner. He called me a “feckless child” and, according to rumor, sincerely believed I’d nursed a personal vendetta for some past imagined slight. (Never met the man; had no opinion of him.) Then followed more correspondence, an outpouring of concern from the local Granola Mafia that the Gazette-Times staffed its office with culture-hating goons. A representative even arrived on scene to discuss The Issue with our managing editor, and I managed to sneak a snippet of her presentation. “I mean,” she reasoned, “doesn’t he actually write about rap or something?” Meaning that because I enjoyed a “lesser” or “base” art form, I lacked the sophistication necessary to grasp the subtle-yet-inspirational elegance of The Red Violin. There were orders for my head, demands I be replaced with someone more “qualified.” All because I panned a fucking movie. It was my first exposure to highbrow discrimination.

All my life, whenever someone’s asked about my favorite music or whatever, my stock answer is “Anything I can get my hands on.” It’s not a serious reply, but actually, it is. I love noise. I love visuals. And as a consequence, although I’m acutely aware of the cultural divisions between high and low, I’ve somehow never made that distinction for myself. To this day I don’t understand how someone couldn’t like, say, professional wrestling and jazz (the “Wrazz” of this blog’s moniker) and be knowledgeable about both. Or that someone couldn’t enjoy Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry while lounging under a Basquiat, enrapt in the latest New Yorker. Or that someone could coolly bob his bean to Rappa Ternt Sanga and give equal props to Die erste Walpurgisnacht. Or The Red Violin, for that matter, if it didn’t suck. (Shoulda been a bowling ball instead.)

Anyway, “The Daily Wrazz” is dedicated to culture of all kinds. There are no guilty pleasures here, just pleasures, period. See you real soon.


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