music, opinion and technology

la deconstruction

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I’m just home from work, watching a documentary on the topic of Tsunamis. I knew about their origin in earthquakes, but the program also presents new causes: underwater subsidence and landslides can also cause severe tsunamis. Southern California, in particular, is at high risk, and there is evidence that it happened in the past. In Santa Barbara, for example, there is historical damage at a point 300ft (100m) above sea level. Oh, dear.

Some scientists have found evidence that specific seafloor areas off the West Coast could be collapsed by a major earthquake on land. In addition to the serious damage on land, a tsunami could literally wipe out the whole SoCal coastline, including all low-lying parts of Los Angeles such as the city centre and the San Fernando Valley. Cue hilarious interviews with average LA lizard; none of them actually knew what a tsunami was. When enlightened, then asked what they’d do, the responses varied from “run” to “surf’s up – grab a board”.

The late Bill Hicks produced an album called “Arizona Bay” in 1993, the year before he died. The title is from how Hicks imagined the West Coast would look once “LA goes ker-splash”. He didn’t always feel that way about “Hell-A”, since he willingly moved there to further his career, but after a few years of talking to TV producers and playing the fashion-victim comedy clubs, he was ready to get the hell out. The only reason he hadn’t done so was because he spent so much time away on tour anyway: the album includes the story of how the LA riots started, while he was on a plane from LA to London.

“Y’all have fun while I’m gone!” “We will, Bill, we will!” I land at Heathrow airport, walk past a newsstand; ‘LA Burns To Ground’. What, did I leave a cigarette burning?

Weather forecaster: “Well, Suzie, it’s 420 degrees here in South Central Los Angeles, a good time to leave the city, there’s gusts of lead coming up Sunset…”

Demolition Man is on, again. It’s set in “San Angeles” in 2032, where Big Brother has completely eradicated crime, and anything not good for you is illegal. The cops are totally unprepared for the escape of a criminal from the 20th century, and need to call on a disgraced cop from the same era, played by Sylvester Stallone in his inimitable fashion. He is assisted by Sandra Bullock’s character, a cop with a misguided nostalgia for the “exciting” days before she was born. (She has a Lethal Weapon poster on her office wall, for crying out loud.)

Meanwhile, below the surface streets is a complete gypsy underworld of socially-excluded “scraps”, presided over by Denis Leary, just waiting to burst out. Yes, that Denis Leary, who seems to have been an influence on the script. He gets the opportunity to spout off about all the unhealthy activities he likes that are banned in this Naive New World. It’s as if the La-La-Land of Leary (and Bill Hicks, more notably) is projected into a future politically-correct nightmare scenario. (I speculate that Hicks would have liked that role, except that he was too ill to work at the time this was filmed.)

Actually, there’s a lot of self-deprecating and black humour, even in the character names, such as John Spartan, Lenina Huxley, Dr. Cocteau, Simon Phoenix, and Alfredo Garcia, who manages to keep his head when all about him are losing theirs. Then there’s the ineptitude of the police, who need to consult an AI for little-used tasks, such as arresting a suspect. The local museum even has a “Hall Of Violence” with a statue of Rambo, and the radio stations carry nothing but commercials. (There’s even an oldies station playing vintage … commercials.)

Still, maybe there’s hope for LA, in a cultural sense, if not the geographic. How many times has LA been trashed on screen, literally and metaphorically, in films by Hollywood producers and directors? Independence Day, Escape from LA, and so on. New York gets it worse, though, think of Escape from New York, Deep Impact, Godzilla, and Independence Day again. Actually, Independence Day pretty much did for every major city in the world, so there’s no reason for me to mention it any more. London doesn’t get it enough, since history has been pretty hard on it, but Reign of Fire may change all that, 60 years after the Blitz. My favourite city destruction, though, has to be the aliens’ playful annihilation of Las Vegas in Mars Attacks! Some town don’t deserve their existence.

I think I need to go to LA, just to see what everyone’s getting so wound up about, while it’s still above sea level. I need to learn to drive first, though, so that I can “read it in the original”.


Written by brian t

August 29, 2002 at 8:46 pm

Posted in america, humour, movies

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