It must be nearly 50 years since I got my mind bent at the movies like that.
I just saw Once Upon a Time in Tennessee, the latest addition to the Quentin Tarantino Cinematic Universe. My expectations were modest, as they’ve been for all these films ever since Tarantino officially retired and sold his intellectual property to Sony. I’m always curious to see other filmmakers explore his world, employ his characters, and actualize his numerous unfinished ideas. But I’m also keen to remind myself that overabundant film franchises are bound to be inconsistent. (See also Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and Harry Potter, as the 2010s grinded along). As a result, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by stuff like The Vega Brothers and Killer Crow and Queen Medieval, and only mildly disappointed by stuff like Fox Force Five and The Adventures of Hangman Ruth and Jules Winnfield Walks the Earth.
Jessie Janeshek’s MADCAP (Stalking Horse Press, 2019) is a poetry collection with the soul of a surreal neo-noir film directed by David Lynch and starring Mae West as the hard-boiled detective. It’s a mystery wrapped in faux fur, wandering through a jagged and smoky past like it’s a hall of mercury-glass mirrors. It seeks clues to answer haunting existential questions about the eternal entanglement of beauty and violence. To track down leads, it conducts seances with the spirits of Old Hollywood starlets, their voices phasing in & out like staticky radio waves on West Virginia mountain roads, their sentences cut up & reassembled by the ghost of William S. Burroughs.
The recursion-obsessed journal ➰➰➰ (or “Many Loops”) just launched its 2nd issue and it’s even more mind-blowing than I could’ve expected. And I’m proud that it includes “Groundhog Days & Russian Dolls,” a thing I wrote about time-loops, simulation theory, mental health, Natasha Lyonne, and more…
It’s not exactly breaking news that we may well be living in a computer simulation. If the number of computer-simulated worlds that’ve been created is increasing exponentially toward infinity, so the logic goes, we’re probably already inside one.
But just because a scenario is highly probable doesn’t mean it’s easy to accept as reality. I get it. I have a hard time accepting this idea myself. The logic seems retroactive. Besides, reality usually feels too real to be fake, even when it feels too fake to be real.
Of course, logic can be illogical in a simulation. In a simulation, time can flow in all kinds of directions. And if fake reality were the only kind of reality we’ve ever known, how would we tell the difference between real reality and fake reality—if there even was a difference?
I’ve talked about conceptual aspects of the collection; O’Brien’s craft is also strong. I love their flexibility with and careful use of form to suit both the aura of the flapper in question and the song that she’s paired with…
My debut poetry EP, BADMOTORFLAPPER, is now on sale! It’s a 10-track collection of poems I wrote as tributes to some of my favorite women of the 1920s + music of the 1990s. Some of these poems have been previously published in places like Yes, Poetry and Rag Queen Periodical, but some are exclusive to this little booklet.
Today marks the launch of Many Loops, a fascinating new online publication obsessed with recursion. It includes “Buddy Holly,” which is a thing I wrote in 2018 about my nostalgia for Weezer’s 1994 video “Buddy Holly,” which was nostalgic for the 1970s sitcom “Happy Days,” which was nostalgic for the 1950s. It’s pretty much the most Joe O’Brien thing I’ve written to date.
This is something I’ve been writing called “Buddy Holly,” but it’s not really about the late preppy-nerdy rockabilly musician with the thick-framed glasses. It’s about a music video for a fuzzy-yet-sleek new wavy power-pop song called “Buddy Holly,” which isn’t really about the musician Buddy Holly either, it’s about how the song’s singer, Rivers Cuomo, resembles Buddy Holly.
This is something I’m writing in the year 2018, looking back affectionately and obsessively upon a music video I fell in love with when it first aired in 1994. Directed by eventual Oscar-winner Spike Jonze, the video features Weezer, a pop-rock band formed in the 1990s, playing their song “Buddy Holly” as if they were characters on Happy Days, a fondly-remembered sitcom from the 1970s that looked back warmly on American life in the 1950s.
This is about 2010s nostalgia for 1990s nostalgia for 1970s nostalgia for the 1950s. Nostalgia kinda like those Russian Nesting Dolls, or matryoshka.