Firing Off 

For the umpteenth time in the past two years, America has been subjected to school shootings and mob violence, most recently with last week’s San Diego incident and last month’s Mardi Gras melees in Philadelphia and Seattle. Naturally, these outbreaks of violence are cause for serious concern and consideration. In the case of the school shootings, the problem seems obvious for anyone willing to confront it: We need gun control.

It will be interesting to see how the new Republican administration, which is so cuddly with the NRA, will duck dealing with gun-control issues as these incidents keep happening. I’d really have a lot more respect for these people if they’d cut the crap about the Second Amendment and ’fess up that they like guns ’cause weapons make them feel powerful. Shooting firearms is fun; it’s like getting a sports car during your mid-life crisis. It’s not a security issue—it’s an insecurity issue.

Violence among the young’uns isn’t really confined to teen executions. From Woodstock ’99 to the recent Mardi Gras festivities, there have been an increasing number of incidents of rape and violence at large, public youth-oriented gatherings. Which leads one to the conclusion that guns or no guns, young people seem to be dead-set on hurting one another.

So one has to wonder, just what’s going on with the kids today? Parents and politicians always jump first on the entertainment industry, claiming that repeated images of violence have desensitized kids and driven them over the edge. Being, thank God, neither a parent nor a politician, I will give my outsider’s perspective on this and say that they are both wrong and right. I think the kids of today are attacking each other because they don’t have anything to rebel against. There’s no straitjacketed ’50s society or Vietnam War. Instead, we have a generation being catered to by a hungry entertainment industry—an industry that has figured out that the young folks never grow tired of paying for cheap thrills.

As a result, we have a generation desensitized not by excessive sex and violence, but by overindulgence in general. They’re taught that satisfaction, love, fame should never be far from reach. Only people this spoiled bring guns to school and kill people because they’re not popular. It’s the ultimate act of selfishness: I’m unhappy with everything, so I think I’ll blow you away.

A year and a half ago, the brilliantly dark satire Fight Club made this exact point, and nobody could see the film as anything more than an exercise in nihilism. But by the end of the film, the main character realizes that his anarchy has been nothing but a childish response to shallow expectations not being met. He faces up to his responsibility, if a little late in the game. Parents need to realize that their offspring aren’t any different from Ed Norton’s character: These kids need to be taught that they will grow up one day, that life is hard, and that shooting or otherwise harming a bunch of people really isn’t going to get them too far in life.

Ego-trippin’

Long, long ago in a magazine far, far away, Courtney Love said something interesting about her late husband Kurt Cobain. As a matter of fact, I think it may have been the last intelligent thing she ever said in a public forum. Love said that she thought that Cobain’s discomfort with the trappings of stardom was due to the fact that he lacked the necessary amount of rock-star ego—something that in the long run Love would more than make up for.

More often than not, those with the requisite amount of rock-star ego have little talent to balance it out. Case-in-Point A: Jennifer Lopez. New York was abuzz recently after J. Lo was in town and left the staffers at a Christian Dior boutique about to pull their hair out. After personally being shown all the handbags on display, she reportedly turned up her nose, snidely asking, “Don’t you have anything better than this?” And when a sales clerk was busy helping a customer instead of heeding her wishes, she allegedly proclaimed, “Excuse me, I’m Jennifer Lopez.”

But none of this compares to the Jacko-like behavior that has been rumored about her appearance on the Rick Dees show. She insisted, as part of her agreement to appear on the show, that the hallway and room she was to be interviewed in had to be sprayed with Tuberose perfume. In addition, the room had to be adorned with Tuberose-scented candles and an arrangement of white flowers. Finally, employees were warned never to look J. Lo directly in the eye. I suppose that was really just for their own safety—wouldn’t want anybody’s soul accidentally sucked dry.

Why would Lopez think she should be accorded such treatment? We’re talking about someone whose music makes Britney Spears sound avant-garde—and with a film career filled with far more cringes than smiles. Her success can be attributed to one thing and one thing only: a gargantuan round ass. And that’s nothing to crow about. Body parts for men are like trends. It just so happens that right now we’ve all come to realize Sir Mix-A-Lot was ahead of his time. That’ll change any moment.

Case-in-Point B: Lil’ Kim vs. Foxy Brown. A recent shooting incident outside a New York hip-hop radio station has been rumored to be the result of a longstanding feud between these two foul-mouthed rap divas. This war of peabrains apparently got under way after Puffy Combs, Lil’ Kim’s “mentor,” dissed Foxy on one of his protégé’s records. Is there any shooting in New York this guy doesn’t have something to do with?

This latest feud has led each woman to accuse the other of cribbing her style. Let’s clarify: Two trampy women who make their living with explicit, self-degrading raps and by dressing like hookers are having a war about who thought of it first. This is certainly worth someone getting shot over. Why don’t they just cut the crap and take this to its logical conclusion with a pay-per-view mud-wrestling match? That way, we’ll all benefit from their stupidity.

Programming note

One small note this week. Wednesday night on VH1, you can catch the 2001 Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. A couple of years ago when the network started airing the event, Neil Young refused to participate in the induction of The Buffalo Springfield. He felt that airing the ceremony on television would make it scripted and cheapen the intent of it.

Neil was right. The show is pretty much about spectacle, but I’m not entirely sure there was any purity to the Rock ’n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the first place. I’ll confess that my feelings would be more in line with Ray Davies’ comment when he was inducted: It was a shame, he said, that rock ’n’ roll had ever become respectable.

But even so, what really irks me is how, over the years, the “Hall of Fame” has become less a tribute to music and more of a love letter to the never-satisfied Baby Boomer Generation. This year’s inductees include Steely Dan, Queen, Aerosmith, Paul Simon, and Michael Jackson. Meanwhile, true innovators like Captain Beefheart, The Stooges, AC/DC, and Big Star continue to await recognition.

The string of novelty hits from Freddie Mercury and company is more important to the history of rock ’n’ roll than The Stooges? Paul Simon’s arrogant, laid-back lite rock is more genuine than the undiluted power-chord raunch and roll of AC/DC? You’d think Bill Clinton and George W. would be enough, but I guess we always need a reminder of how the Baby Boomers are screwing somebody.

Quotidian Challenge

“Baby you and me were never meant to be. Just maybe think of me once in awhile.”

E-mail the origin of this useless bit of trivia to poplife@nashvillescene.com first, and you’ll get some free useless crap from the Nashville Scene!

Previous week’s answer: Ed Norton in Fight Club.

Winner: Brian Miller

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