Last episode, Biyomon saved Yokomon Village by defeating Meramon and destroying the gear that had lodged itself in his chest. The group dined and slept with their diminutive hosts and continued on their journey the following morning.
By which point, Episode 5 begins with the Digidestined lost again, and in another desert. Tai picks on Izzy for being so focused on his computer all the time, but Izzy’s obsession will bear fruit soon enough. Tai spots a factory in the distance with his binoculars and in his characteristic gung ho, quixotian fashion charges headlong in that direction. The rest of the group follows reluctantly behind and upon entering the factory, finds it devoid of people or Digimon, but oddly still running. The machines have been programmed to create odd metallic objects and then to disassemble them immediately after their construction.
Later, Mimi, Matt and T.K. will form a group and investigate part of the factory on their own. Mimi muses about the machines seeming lack of purpose and remarks that “all this deconstructionism is so ten minutes ago!” And in the history of ideas it was indeed. Deconstructionism as a philosophy of dismantling traditions and metaphysical foundations found its heyday in the 70’s and 80’s with the emergence of Jacques Derrida as the major force in continental philosophy. By the late 90’s, artists and writers like David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest and a number of other postmodern hyper-realistic fictions, would reflect on the postmodern, disentangled condition of living in a surreal, Kafkaesque nightmare: the modern world. This world without any foundational principles, no hopes, no dreams, no God, no anything, can free us from the dark night of the soul, some dangerous forms of group-think like nationalism or religious fervor, and most isms, though it creates its own existential-psychological problems. Wallace would later claim that the only possible recourse to redressing this issue was to move back into sentimentality and the belief in provisional absolutes like enjoying oneself and the company of others, back into sentimentality and emotion. Digimon is a sci-fi fantasy romp that emphasizes human connectivity as the one way to heal the existentially demoralizing conditions of a postindustrial world. That is to say, have fun, trust in each other, and live by the lessons you learn along the way.
When questioned by Mimi where the exit to the factory is, Matt will reply, “There is no door. This thing is based on perpetual motion, nothing ever stops or leaves this place.” This dialogue is unique for a show supposedly geared only toward children as I never understood the subtext of these notions as a child. The factory of ideas (and again this animated factory is an analogue for such a conceptual factory- Mimi already mentioned Deconstructionism offhand earlier) creates new categories and conceptions and technical languages to fit the experience of the world into one big, new paradigm. As soon as this process is accomplished, other thinkers find fault in the new system’s logic or they find complex new phenomena that do not fit the system. The burden of evidence against it becomes so strong that the system tears itself apart, appearing in an organic deconstruction, until a new system is formulated. This is the history of ideas in the world. Digimon’s repudiation of this process is a call to forget systematization and schematization and to just live with mysteries and complexities of the world, while recognizing evil and trying to diminish it with the help of others. This spiritual and emotional identification with friends is the only manner in which one can escape the spiritual disintegration of our age: in other words, we can fall back on constructed communities.
Next, we have Tai, Sora and Joe. They stumble upon an Android Digimon known as Andromon who has fallen into some of the factory’s gears and is stuck. As they try to remove him, another one of the black gears- like in the last episode- falls and enters into his leg, driving him mad. This is an example of, again, how technological progress gone unchecked can lead to aporias, existential dread, the feeling of being disconnected from the world and one another, and hanging above a monstrous abyss that stares back. Here, the machine quite literally becomes corrupted and attempts to take their lives. He states, “I will punish alien intruders!” I take this to mean that the black gear’s corrupting influence has manifested itself by interpreting the other Digimon and the human Digidestined as pests in the coding of Andromon. This might parallel the future of automation and/or the possibility of hostility in AI.
Izzy and Tentomon have found a large battery powered by binary runes. Izzy manages to tap into the power source of the battery and finds an algorithm that causes his Digivice to go haywire and ultimately allows him to Digivolve Tentomon into Kabuterimon and save the day by destroying the black gear in Andromon’s leg. However, while still inside the giant battery, Tentomon remarks to Izzy that he “can’t understand this preoccupation with who you are.” And asks, “Is there some deep dark secret in your origins?” Well, I know this secret, but you may not. So go watch the series and find out while enjoying the re-watching experience alongside me!
Ciao for now,
The Digidestined Cody
I just re-watched Martin Scorsese’s 1980 boxing film on the life of Jake LaMotta, one of boxing’s greatest sluggers and one of its most resilient, durable brawlers with a chin of iron. The film uses a flash-back and flash-forward set-up, but generally follows the events of LaMotta’s life from his earliest bout as a professional boxer against Reeves in 1941 through his legendary bouts with Sugar Ray Robinson throughout the decade and into the 50s, and climaxing with his downfall, his incarceration, and his time slumming it as a second-rate comedian playing to ten people at a time in seedy dive bars.
I don’t really know what to say that hasn’t already been said about this film. It’s cinematography- by the great Michael Chapman- ranges from gritty, French new wave realism to film noir-cum Bresson compositions; from meditative, hypnotic states of transfixed awe to reflective, slow scenes emphasizing an important detail like blood dripping from the ropes after a particularly gruesome exchange. This film is a meditation on the life of a self-destructive, paranoid, abusive, but powerful, willful, and driven man whose life story serves many as both an inspiration and a warning.
In LaMotta’s fifth bout with Sugar Ray Robinson, the thirteenth unlucky bout arrives. Both fighters are battered, bruised, and beaten. Robinson is exhausted and near-defeat, when LaMotta purposefully drops his guard and lets Robinson rain down punches upon him like a force of nature and by the will of God. The noise of the crowd fades and we are left with Scorsese’s hyper-focus, his go-to method of eliciting a reflective mode of viewing in the mind’s eye of the viewer. All else behind Sugar Ray and LaMotta’s silhouettes fades to black and the figures take on titanic proportions. We watch LaMotta absorb blow after blow. His face swells, his cuts open, new ones form. Blood splatters by the pint. Robinson regards LaMotta with confusion as he regains his energy and his breath. Then with one blow he plasters LaMotta’s blood across a row of judges behind the ring. LaMotta could have beaten Robinson if he had wanted to, but he challenged Robinson to floor him, to K.O. him, and Robinson was still unable to oblige through all the destructive force of his blows. LaMotta loses by T.K.O. as the referee calls the bout to end the needless bloodshed. Robinson was unable to ever knock down his greatest opponent, though LaMotta floored Robinson many a time.
Later in life, LaMotta would open a bar where he performed a comedy bit routine and kept a host of beautiful women around. He gets in trouble with the police for letting in minors, one as young as 14, who has presumably suffered some physical-sexual abuse from some of the men LaMotta introduced to her. He spends a stint in the stockade. The scene erupts with guards dragging LaMotta, fighting all the way, into solitary confinement. Once inside, he approaches a wall. The now bloated, older, pitiful LaMotta headbutts the wall repeatedly, then proceeds to launch a steady flurry of punches. He breaks down and questions his own stupidity, his own helplessness to stop himself. In a scene bringing immediately to mind Bresson’s “A Man Escaped,” he sits in shadow, while Scorsese directs some of the most haunting chiaroscuro lighting ever put to celluloid.
The Bronx Bull, The Raging Bull, the man obsessed with proving something in the face of the nothingness and meaninglessness of dilapidated, disturbing New York Streets. The one-time boxing champion of the world. The breaker of homes and of faces. A man who not only grappled with his demons, but seemed to become one time and again. I’m just riffing and musing, there’s no great point to take away here, there’s no one lesson, because this film is a testament to the life of one who acted with no finesse, who performed all duties- fragile or otherwise- with a hammer (as in the greatest traditions of art, of music, of philosophy, of writing), and who is an example of life lived in action and opposition. And all of this is opposed to the sterility of base thought without physical extension in the world.
If you don’t yet understand, think of your own dead-end job, your own meaningless and so-so actions, your own ineffectiveness that calls upon your spirit at 6 am and cries out “Why go on?”. “Why go into work when I could end it all now and submit my trivial pains to the void?” Watch this film and think about it. Then, stop thinking. Live and fight and claim what you can. You have hopes and dreams and desires and goals. And if they’re worth their salt, they’re worth giving it all you’ve got, and leaving a little blood on the mat if you have to, even if its your own.
In memoriam Jake “The Bull” LaMotta (1922-2017)
Recently Hayao Miyazaki’s first film received its first U.S. theatrical release nationwide, compliments of Fathom events. Only its been 38 years since its initial release in Japan. Why this film hasn’t received a huge U.S. premiere before is beyond me, but I am very thankful to everyone involved in its release now (including Pixar’s head honcho John Lasseter-sama). Much has been said about its elegiac compositions and sumptuous photography, its frenetic chase scene, dynamic fight scenes, erratic and innovative shot compositions, and the final unveiling of the true Cagliostro treasure. This is all well and proper, these things make the film a standout in Japanese animation as the greatest animated action film ever released and among anime’s top ten most beautiful films.
What I’ve not read much about is the narrative, the story, its complexity, and how it dons specific genre codes and subverts them. How it is at once both a tale of a Knight Errant Siegfried and a Knight Errant Quixote-Jester. Just what I mean by this will become apparent in this essay and should become more obvious (and may already be) upon reviewing. So without further ado here goes something.
Lupin III is the grandson of the famous french cat burglar Arsene Lupin. And he has followed in his footsteps. Along with his friends Jigen, the world’s greatest sharpshooter; Goemon, the world’s greatest swordsman; and Fujiko, one of the world’s greatest criminal minds, Lupin travels the world in search of adventure, money, and women.
In this film, Lupin and Jigen have just made a big heist and retrieved a ton of unmarked bills. But they are all fakes. The level of counterfeiting is so advanced that Jigen and Lupin decide to seek out their source. Through following various leads, they discover that the bills come from the Duchy of Cagliostro, a small European nation with less than three thousand inhabitants. The Duchy’s political system is monarchical and the Duke of Cagliostro used to rule the land with a certain ease and beneficence (despite the illegal counterfeiting operation at the core of the country’s economic prosperity). However, seven years ago, the Castle of Cagliostro was razed to the ground, killing the Duke and Duchess, and leaving only their young daughter, Lady Clarisse, as heiress. While Lady Clarisse took education at a convent, the country was ruled by Count Cagliostro as regent.
The Count’s line have traditionally been assassins, as well as the ones in charge of the counterfeiting. But now, seeing his chance, Count Cagliostro plans to force Clarisse to marry him, become both Count and Duke of Cagliostro, and unite the family’s heirlooms- two signet rings (one held by the Duke’s line and one by the Count’s)- to fulfill an age-old prophecy: “When light and shadow are joined together. It will be restored.” Meaning, he thinks, that the great lost treasure of the Cagliostro’s will be his for the taking. To ensure this occurs, he has removed Clarisse from the convent on the eve of her birthday and prepared her for marriage. A prospect she is not all that fond about.
So now, enter Lupin. The stage is set. A small European nation with an enchanting, almost magical quality and beauty comprising its aura, adorned with rolling hills, sky blue lakes, and castles. The players have arrived. A deposed King and Queen, the evil usurper of the throne, an imperiled young princess, and the Knight Errant: Lupin III.
Lupin and Jigen are driving through the countryside of Cagliostro, when a young girl’s car approaches and speeds past their own on a narrow, mountainous pass. A group of thugs in what looks to be a Citroen pass next, in hot pursuit of the girl. Lupin, intrigued by her beauty, jumps into action, chases after the men, and with Jigen’s help, dispatches their vehicle, thereby saving the girl, who turns out to be (you guessed it) the princess. But she has fallen asleep at the wheel! Lupin switches cars in mid-stream, as it were, and stops her car from colliding with the mountainside, only to fall off the adjacent cliff. He pads her fall with his body and is knocked unconscious as a result. All the while, the princess is captured by another group of men patrolling in a tug boat near the shore.
Lupin will awaken with her signet ring in his pocket. He now holds the key to the whole puzzle. He reflects back on a time in his youth when he tried to raid the castle of the Duke of Cagliostro. He failed and was injured whilst making his escape, but managed to find a secluded spot in a nearby wooded area to hide. Clarisse, then just a young girl, found him there and nursed him back to health. Now the knight errant, the wandering and itinerant, roving Lupin must return the favor to the princess who he is bound by chivalric codes to protect. But this Knight is no heavy hitter with a broadsword and bravery bordering on recklessness. No, he is an errant knight in a twofold sense. Both the knight of wandering errancy and the knight of delinquency, of lawbreaking, and of disobedience.
Lupin will fight assassins in hand to hand combat when needed, but he will use his guile to sneak into the Count’s fortress undetected through an old, abandoned roman aqueduct. He will sneak into the Princess’ secluded tower at night to spirit her away in the darkness (though he will initially fail, his second attempt with the help of his allies will succeed), he will cheat and steal and connive until he restores the Duchy of Cagliostro to his princess Clarisse and destroys the illegal counterfeiting operation and the Count’s covert assassin ring. He will present Clarisse with a rose of his love and devotion of service, but will ultimately deny the role the traditional hero-knight quest-scripts all maintain: that the knight wed the princess in the absence of a worthy prince. Lupin instead drives off into the distance to have more adventures, to lead a life of cunning and wiles, and to save the princess the corruption she would receive through fraternizing with the debauched and criminally-damaged likes of himself.
Always the trickster and jester attempting to overturn the tables and talk truth to the powerful through whatever means available and/or necessary, always the quixotian figure running after windmills and moving purposefully through the world with an illusion of greatness, and always our favorite heroic good guy at heart, this chapter in the original saga of Lupin III was a perfect beginning to a phenomenal career for Miyazaki-san. I thank him for enriching my life, even just a little bit, by creating this film. And I hope it does the same for you.
So far both Agumon and Gabumon have Digivolved into their Champion forms, Greymon and Garurumon. In this, the fourth episode of Digimon Adventure, it’s Biyomon’s turn to light up a hostile Digimon.
The gang is walking through the so-called “forest of irrelevant road signs” when they notice an object moving swiftly through the sky overhead. Matt mistakes the object for an aircraft, while Sora correctly identifies it as a gear. But what is a gear doing flying around in the sky?No one has the slightest clue, least of all the Digimon. They’ve been travelling for days, have seen many odd things, and have little interest in such trivial pursuits as flying gears, at least for the moment. Instead of focusing their attention any longer on this phenomenon, they investigate what looks to be a field of telephone poles, which turn out to all be disconnected from one another and lie not in a field, but in a desert.
The trip across the desert is grueling, but eventually Tai spots an oasis ahead where they meet some friendly Yokomon who offer them food, drink, and a place to stay for the night. Not all is well however. The water source derives from a nearby volcano, Mount Miyarashi, where a fiery Digimon Meramon, the guardian of the volcano, was hit by the black gear. Driven mad by pain (you would act erratically too if a metal disc cut you to the quick), he runs down the mountain to destroy the village and the Digidestined. Biyomon ultimately transforms to Birdramon, defeats Meramon, and watches as the gear ascends from his body and into the sky above, where it then disintegrates into dust. Meramon regains his senses and returns to the mountain.
The first eight episodes of the series are largely a coda to the story wherein all the heroes become strong enough to begin battling stronger enemies. In this way, these first episodes are relatively cookie cutter. In another, they are revelatory in the implications of their subtexts and arguably elevate the medium to new highs, albeit without drawing attention to itself as a high-brow narrative. So far I have discussed the process of becoming in the series, self-discovery and self-creation (that old Platonic-Nietzschian divide) , liminal journeys, bonding, and the virtue of shared experience. Now, we have a new theme: technology as a panacea. Plato or Aristotle (I forget which) wrote long ago in the Pharmacon about the panacea of writing, which cements and elongates cultural memory by allowing it take a form future generations can study: texts. Writing is a cure for memory, but a poison as well. Attention spans decrease as it becomes less necessary to train one’s memory.
Technology is a pharmicon as well to the writers of Digimon Adventure. Technology can civilize a world and make things more convenient, but the black gears of industry, of technology and progress can destroy the spirit, evaporate the will, and in the case of Meramon, who was possessed by one of these gears, cause intense pain and suffering, both physically and mentally whilst manipulating our wills and urging us to act on our darkest desires, ultimately serving the purpose of the one manufacturing the gears. Technology can elevate and also depreciate. The black gear is the first substantive clue as to what has been going on in the digital world. It is evidence of an evil force trying to control and coerce good figures into acting against their interests.
Telephone booths on the beach, a forest of irrelevant road signs, telephone wires, a trolley car on an island, and now flying, corrupting black gears. Just what exactly is going on in the digital world? I legitimately wonder as I’ve not seen the series for years. I am enthralled by the story and the implications of some of its ruminations on technology and personal transition. Did I pick up on this as a child, or were there other less subtly pieces of the assemblage that drew me in ever deeper to the stories of these Digidestined on purely emotional or spectacular grounds? I don’t yet know, but I think I may be getting somewhere finally.
See you on the other side,
The Digidestined Cody
Last time on Digimon Digital Monsters, Tai was in mortal peril in the tentacular clutches of Shellmon. Agumon, by virtue of having eaten earlier, had enough energy to Digivolve into Greymon and save Tai by defeating Shellmon. This was the first time anyone Digivolved to Champion level in the series and it established Tai as the de facto leader.
During this, the third episode of Digimon, the gang searches for food (carrying on the theme from part 2). Izzy goes fishing while Tentomon collects berries and Patamon finds some bananas. Mimi attempts to collect mushrooms, but Palmon prevents her from gathering poisonous mushrooms that would provide a bit of indigestion to say the least. Food.
The gang finds a secluded lake with a small island in the center. Resting on the island is an inexplicable trolley car whose lights turn on when the Digidestined approach. Like the phone booths in the previous episode they interpret the trolley as a sign of civilization and decide to stay the night inside in the hope that it may return them home. While in the woods foraging, they find other odd artifacts from civilization in the form of road signs. There is, however, no road to be found. As the conspicuous abandoned hierophanies of technological civilization amass, only more confusion and mystery abounds. The phones in the previous episode could not connect them with their homes, the signs point to nowhere in particular, and the trolley will not lead them back to their own world either.
Night. Tai and Matt jostle for who will get the first shift as watchman. Both are zealous and raring to prove themselves as leader of the group, but Izzy intervenes and suggests that Tai take the first watch and Matt, the second. Matt’s half-brother T.K. also expresses interest in taking on the same responsibility, but Matt demures and tells him that he is too young to stand guard. His overbearing personality and perceived need to control T.K. is interpreted by the other Digidestined as Matt being a bad brother to T.K., but the relationship between the two brothers is more complicated.
Matt and T.K. are half-brothers who used to live together in the same home. Now, their parents are separated and they see little of each other. They don’t have a particularly close bond, but Matt is extremely protective of T.K. He even sends his Digimon, Gabumon, to sleep beside T.K. to keep him warm. When a camp fire alights upon the tail of a massive monster of the loch, and awakens the beast, Seadramon, Matt swims across the lake to the island in order to protect his brother. Seadramon attacks Matt instead and puts him in mortal danger, thereby triggering Matt’s Digivice and allowing Gabumon to Digivolve into the total BAMF Garurumon, who makes short work of Seadramon. The episode ends with Matt and T.K. bonding with each other, and with Patamon and Gabumon to the sounds of blues harmonica, compliments of Matt.
The stage has been set. Tai is a strong leader, but now Matt is as well. they have both proved their bravery and will be sure to butt heads again in the future (even into Digimon Adventure Tri). T.K. and Matt are growing closer to one another and becoming the inseparable duo we will later see in the film “Our War Game!.” The Digidestined are beginning to understand some of the quirks of the Digivices (e.g. they Digivolve their partners when the Digidestined are under duress). They have begun to become self-sufficient and acclimated to their new world, while maturing at a rapid, but necessary pace. Further, they now realize that the constellations in the stars are not identical to those seen from earth (as far as they can remember at any rate) and are beginning to question whether they are on an Earth gone haywire (as they have hitherto assumed) or have left the world altogether.
Qua qua qua quoth Pozzo,
The Digidestined Cody
[Catch the next blog in this series Here]
(Catch Episode 1’s Blog Here)
Last we left off, seven young kids experienced a blizzard while at summer camp, received mysterious digital handheld devices from an aurora borealis, were drawn into a wormhole and landed in the digital world. Once there, they met their Digimon, or digital monsters, who knew their names and seemed destined to join them on some sort of journey through their new and strange world. They were attacked by Kuwagamon, a giant red bug Digimon, but defeated it through teamwork and ended the episode by falling from a cliff into a quick-current stream below. That said, here we go!
At the beginning of Episode 2, Joe’s Digimon, Gomamon, summoned a school of fish to operate as a raft and bring the kids to safety. Thereby, answering the question: “What kinds of things can Digimon eat?” They do not consume other Digimon as far as I can tell or remember, but the question has always been a littlee more than disconcerting to me, especially as a child. This topic will be a thread I will follow in earnest here in this blog series. (Just like in Pokemon, this whole theme of what the monsters eat has always been an intriguing joke between my friends and I, and i’m sure it has been for some of you as well). Let’s just hope they don’t eat fish, Gomamon told us earlier in this Episode 2 that they were his friends!
In the last episode, the Digimon defeated Kuwagamon by digivolving and morphing into stronger, larger forms. They explain in this episode that they themselves do not fully understand the process, but that they drew the energy for the process from their human counterparts. Furthermore, the Digimon were only able to defend their human friends because they were in danger. When the Digimon Digivolve, they change names, as well as appearances, powers, and occasionally their voices as well (especially between Rookie and Champion levels). These quick shifts in identity are akin to the shifting identities and experiences of self-identification and self-creation inherent in the adolescent experience. As the Digidestined have not yet gone through such brisk, abrupt changes in their young pre-adolescent lives, their Digimon’s changes are disconcerting and bewildering. Joe, for instance, does not fully trust Gomamon, who was just ten minutes earlier, Bukamon. These quick shifts of appearance and identity are object lessons in the physical and mental shifts they will experience themselves over the course of their liminal, or crossing the threshold, journey from innocence to knowledge, from carefree living to responsibility, and from identities as self-centered children to thoughtful young adults (as evidenced particularly in Digimon Adventures Tri).
Further disconcerting is the realization that Kuwagamon was not just a monster, but another Digimon just like the benevolent partners they are growing to like and to trust. Sora is incredulous and proclaims the whole scenario “creepy.” And indeed it is. Trust comes natural to children, but once the monstrous abyssal figure, this time in the form of Kuwagamon, becomes apparent, they must reflect individually on the evil and abject self-centeredness at home in the hearts of all seemingly benevolent beings just as their Digimon and other Digimon can be either evil or good. Repressed for now, but able to escape the abyss and perform atrocities at any moment, this abyssal quality of evil will be a theme that runs throughout both Adventure and Adventure 2 (as it does through most Kaiju films). This is the significance of Kuwagamon’s appearance out of the sky or seemingly from nowhere, ersheinen in the sense Martin Heidegger knew all too well (see: Being and Time). Kuwagamon’s return to the mysterious sea of trees, the mountain’s forest shows how quickly this dark face can return from whence it came, destruction and turmoil left in its wake (think Godzilla returning to the abyss after leveling Tokyo).
These themes of coming of age, self-identification and self-creation, the banality of evil, and the abyssal nature of human cruelty and self-centeredness are crucial to Digimon’s appeal to young audiences who may remain, far into their twenties even, Dionysian, like Peter Pan, or the Jungian Puer Aeternis, without a clear idea of where they are headed, who they are, or what their purpose may be.
Later in the episode, the digi-destined find a secluded beach with isolated telephone booths. They attempt to call home, to their friends, and to any emergency services they can remember, but all to no avail. The phones operate, but do not connect them to anything but pre-recorded absurdist operator messages claiming that the day’s weather will be cloudy with a chance of ice cream showers and that the “this number only exists in your mind.” This failure to communicate brings to mind the initiation rite of Australian Aborigine’s: “The Walkabout.” During this period, a young man must wander the outback and remain totally self-sufficient for a set period of time. Cut off from his tribe, the seclusion and possibility of severe hunger, dehydration, and physical strain can produce revelatory visions and experiences in the youth’s psyche that are important in their self-formation and remain important through their lives. the trip makes them self-sufficient and resilient. The Digidestined must undergo a similar experience it seems as they ration out their food, try to gather supplies, and bravely orient themselves in this strange land as strangers.
The Digimon, not wishing to burden their human friends, claim that they are self-sufficient and can forage for food themselves. This is a great comfort to the kids, who realize this means that they have more food to themselves. However, Tai Kamiya shares his snacks with Agumon, his Digimon, anyway. When the group is attacked by Shellmon, Agumon is the only Digimon who has eaten anything and must defeat Shellmon without the aid of the others. This demonstrates that selfishness may be pragmatic in the short term, but sharing creates bonds and safety nets that can ultimately make or break it in life or death situations.
Smell ya later!
The Digidestined Cody.
[Catche Episode 3 with Matt and Garurumon HERE]
This blog is amorphous. Its content has never been steadily forthcoming or of the same general category. This new blog series is my attempt to grapple with Digimon from Adventures 1 through Fusion and the new Digimon Adventures Tri film series being released in Japan. Watching Digimon was a formative experience for me and I hope to understand more about why while simultaneously producing a series of commentaries for your edification and use. This one’s gonna be a doozy.
“And So It Begins.” Seven young kids are enjoying their summer camp experience, whilst the rest of Japan experiences strange climactic conditions (cold and icy precipitation in mid-July, odd weather patterns, flooding, and other occurrences linked to climate change, but here, derived from more metaphysically sinister machinations) and disruptions in telecommunications and electricity supply and service. At summer camp, things progress per usual, until one day a snowflake lands on our narrator Tai Kamiya, presaging a blizzard.
The kids being kids, they adapt to odd circumstances (with the notable exception of tech-head Izzy, who complains about lack of internet connectivity) and decide to go play outside in the snow. What happens next shatters the viewer’s complacency and comfort in the digital reality of Digimon’s Japan, which has hitherto been a world experiencing nothing more than environmental and climatological changes. An aurora borealis manifests itself before the children and launches electronic devices at their feet. They are sucked into a whirlpool and arrive some time later in a different world.
The children once lived a life of childlike adolescence with innocence intact and sexuality null. Now, in the digital world, they meet their fighting partners in their Digimon, or “digital monsters,” diminutive creatures with special abilities they will put to good use against a large insectoid creature known as Kuwagamon who attacks and threatens the lives of the children. They have been spirited away, as it were, into a new reality with new dangers and responsibilities, new vistas of near-total freedom and discovery. They have successfully moved from one state of being onto the threshold of another. This liminal move discards their past identification as carefree children into children with new digimon they must develop bonds with as the digidestined (but more on this later).
My own knowledge of the series makes this a difficult episode to cover objectively because the outside knowledge of future events colors my perception on re-viewing. However, it seems obvious by the time the children arrive in this world, that the odd climactic conditions and telecommunications disturbances are not the cause of climate change, but of some problem in their new world. The two worlds are connected in some profound manner, but we will not find out how or why for some time.
At this point, the whole episode generates a feeling of mystery and confusion, of excitement and identification with these children thrust into a fantastic new situation. Elation might be the only proper word to describe the feeling consuming me as I write these last few sentences. I can’t wait to watch the next episode.
Till next time,
The Digidestined Cody
[Check out Part 2 Here]
Something like a month and a half or two months ago it was record store day. At my local favorite record spot- Charlotte’s Repo Record- I picked up some hot wax, watched AntiSeen put on a tight set, and talked rock with Eddie Ford. Ford is frontman for one of Carolina’s most raucous, righteous r’n’r rabble-rousers: The Self Made Monsters.
Being the son of a Charlotte punk icon has its perks. One of which was having some of the coolest tin lunch boxes imaginable as a grade-schooler. From Kiss, to Ramones, to my two Planet of the Apes boxes, lunch was my favorite class of the day for the obvious reason-food- and also for the pleasure of upstaging all of my mindless, clueless peers. The coolest piece o’ tin I ever sported, however, was a full black construction worker’s akin to the one sported by Popeye’s hamburger-hound Wimpy. I decked it out with all the coolest stickers I could find: primarily stuff with skulls. Mad Brother Ward, G’n’R’s Appetite for Destruction cover, and this Self Made Monsters image:
Needless the say, I dug it and knew instinctually that I would dig the music when’ere I first laid ears on it.
Fast forward ten or so years. 22 years old and borrowing tons of the old man’s LPs on cd. I come across the album Fine Stew by The Monsters. When I first play the thing on my car console, i’m thrown by the aggression, the roughness, the squealing guitar effects between a few of the tracks. Without any frame of reference, I file it away as something like pared down troglodyte metal and with song titles like “Mongoloid” and “Fine Stew”, and a cover complete with a caricature caveman Ford boiling his bandmates in a pot, my suspicions seem confirmed.
Forget circuity, back to the record store. I ask Eddie if the guys are playing any shows soon and he tells me about an upcoming show planned for the following week up in Lenoir. I instantly make plans to go. The Stooges, The Sonics, The Troggs, and a league of contemporary garage and proto-punk bands having come to my attention, I decide I might really like The Monsters after all and hope to have another extant band to latch onto, to bank my hopes and aspirations on for what r’n’r should and could be. I won’t be disappointed.
The week glides by fairly quickly and I’m off to the mountains of North Carolina with Tyler Adams, friend and drummer of The Boron Heist, in tow. The show is going down at some place called Hotel Hell 10. We drive by it twice before realizing the gig is in an old mechanic garage on a hilly, country backroad. We pull up, a little offput by the conflict between the reality of the venue and our pre-conceived notions of it. Before we even exit the car, this guy walks up and introduces himself as Dave from the headlining act Thing Sloth. He explains that the garage used to be his father’s and that there’s a ton of trails and old picker stuff around and we should walk around and check it out. The trails lead to more trails, which often lead to neighboring homes and outbuildings we’re interested in exploring further, but decide against as it’s not apparent where one home-owners lot begins and another’s ends.
The interior of the garage is a quirky melange of old auto equipment; rock music and horror movie tapes, films, and memorabilia; a large rock wall; and a sound-proofed venue space. When Eddie arrives, I quip, ‘Talk about diy, this is it!’ He concurs.
Three bands were booked for the night, but one had to drop the gig last minute (this seems to be a recurring theme to many of the shows I go to), but most of the thirty or so people who’ve shown up aren’t put off by this as it’s a free show with drinks and snacks on the house… er, garage.
Self Made monsters set up and quickly start their set. A wave of psychedelic, 60s-inflected garage rock quickly envelops the small sound-proofed practice spot. I’m reminded distinctly of Funhouse–era Stooges and catch some heavy T.Rex and Thin Lizzy glam and hard rock vibes coming through. The guitarist and drummer are brothers and founding members of the group alongside Ford, and they are locked in tight rhythmically, stylistically, and in spirit. I can’t help but recall the now-mythical write-ups of The Stooge’s Asheton Brothers who helped hone the core sound of what would serve as a bridge between 60s garage and early 70s punk.
Eddie Ford is a monstrous presence in front of the mic with a distinctive gravitas and personality unique to himself while notably post-glam post-punk post-garage (in the sense of taking them as points of reference). He is one of the most interesting and forceful frontmen of any band i’ve ever seen live or on celluloid. Period.
The Self Made Monsters bassist is a relatively new addition to the group and in energy and focus, he matches the force of the other players of the group. All in all, it makes for a powerful rock and roll experience informed and invected with a number of the strongest traditions within r’n’r’s canon.
With crowd pleasers like “Hook”, “Dinosaur”, and “Monkey Brains” (a track tragically overlooked but infinitely catchy and more worthy of repute than all of what commands pop attention currently), they ignite a relatively small, laid back crowd with an energy only strong compositions rendered with energy and authenticity can. Round that out with a gutter-punk, schizoid, powerhouse rendition of The Sonics classic “He’s Waiting,” and I would call it more than a success.
Next up, the second and final band of the night: Thing Sloth. The group is definitely representative of the Charlotte style even though these are Lenoir boys (I think). Stoner and speed metal influences. Check. Punk and hardcore. Check. Rock and roll. Check. Cds with obscure sci-fi comic book art covers. Check.
Thing Sloth plays a longer set than they might usually to account for lost time from the cancellation of the night’s third act. But with blistering backbeats brewing behind brute, frenetic pacing, galloping bass and experimental guitarwork, the group is an interesting, driving, if not idiosyncratic experiment. I dig it. and it seemed like the crowd did too.
With the free show behind us and free beer within us, Tyler and I got ready to head out after speaking to Eddie Ford, his bandmates, and some of the guys from Thing Sloth. But not before buying some merch! 30 bucks and 20 minutes later and I was leaving with five or six cds, some stickers, and a few Self Made Monsters 7″s. Can’t beat that, eh?
Round about midnight with a two hour drive ahead of us, we rode off into the night, down the mountains, and back into the piedmont, ears buzzing tinnitus shrieks and cool Carolina air rushing on past: Memories of monsters, most recent, just now settling in, of r’n’r music not fade away. Hopefully not too soon that is.
AntiSeen had just played a set of weekend shows in Hickory, NC and Spartanburg, SC. I had made out it out to both shows and had a great time hearing new bands and watching AntiSeen play live. Fast forward a week later, it was Saturday, April 22nd, 2017: Record Store Day.
I meet up with Mad Brother Ward in Charlotte just after finishing my shift at work. We sojourn over to our local record store to check out this year’s Record Store Day vinyl and to prepare for the show AntiSeen will be playing here this evening. Jimmy ‘Repo’ of Repo Records is doing business slinging vinyl at a breakneck pace and the store is packed. Nonetheless, I manage to wade through the cacophony of voices and waves of bodies to find some pretty cool merch. First and foremost amongst which is a pretty killer re-release of ‘Psychotic Reactions’ by legendary 60s garage rock group ‘The Count Five.’ Score! After picking up some re-issue Link Wray and Music Machine, plus a Robert
Johnson cd boxset, I scope out the room and found that my friend and bandmate Owen Sykes had arrived. We shoot the bull, look over some more merch, and catch up with our friend Alex Stiff, frontman of The Fill Ins.
The show is set to start at 5 pm. So at ten till, we stand watching the band do a quick line-check before disappearing into the back room, where I can only surmise they are mentally preparing for the show. The store is even more packed than it was just half an hour ago and it seems subtly quieter. As the minutes tick down, anticipation from fans and a slight impatience from first-timers compound into a palpable atmosphere of uncertainty. I have never consciously ‘read’ a room before, but I find myself doing so now and intuitively understanding crowd psychology on some level.
AntiSeen enter the room and begin to launch into their set full-force. Thousands of teeny-bopper power punk bands claim lineage to The Ramones. But this intensity, this no-nonsense approach during the first act of the set demonstrates it, lives and breathes and revels in it. The past two nights contained only one major hiccup musically, a sonic false start on the same track both nights. Tonight, this issue is remedied and the songs are all played perfectly as far as I can tell. All the same, the crowd is understandably less energetic than if the show were in a large, open space, but many audience members (me included) belt out the lyrics track after track and have one hell of a time. Although its a hot day, AntiSeen’s energy never wavers. The Gooch goes full ambidextrous octopus on his drum kit, while Barry Hannibal lays down steady, driving grooves, while Mad Brother’s aim rings true, launching a surging sonic assault. All this, buttressed by the deep-fried soul-punk groove intermittedly escaping the indomitable Jeff Clayton’s vox.
At the end of the set, a break occurs in my thought. No one is yelling loud enough or directing chanting well enough to warrant an encore. The crowd diffuses quickly and waits to buy some AntiSeen vinyl. People stand around talking about how great of a show it was, or how great the band was, or how they wanted to hear a particular song. They just stand there and let possible experiences pass them by. And I stand there and do the same damn thing. Spiritually hangdog and disheveled, something clicks and a new vista opens itself to me, a thing to which the ramifications of will not become fully manifest till weeks later.
AntiSeen is releasing a new vinyl today: The Complete Drastic Sessions. The release of these early versions of AntiSeen’s first EP stands as an important event for Charlotte music as Bill Cates, the original bassist of AntiSeen is present. This day marks the first time Cates and Clayton have seen each other in over 30 years and the album’s signed by the two of them will definitely become highly sought after collector’s items.
Before making my departure I catch up with one of AntiSeen’s biggest fans, Matthew Vaine, as well as Eddie Ford of ‘The Self-Made Monsters,’ who proceeds to school me on early garage rock and punk bands I should check out asap. I find myself writing a decently long list of band names like ‘The Action Swingers’ and “The Cosmic Psychos’ whose depths I am currently in the process of plunging. Barry Hannibal, Mad Brother, Eddie, Owen, and I head out the The Tipsy Burro, put on some great music on their free jukebox, get some grub, and head our separate ways.
I find myself grasping for words when writing about an AntiSeen set. I have seen too few good rock and roll sets in my as yet relatively short life. This is due, in large part, to the low levels of popularity r’n’r enjoys these days. There were times in the 50s with the black fathers of rock and roll, the late 50s and early 60s with their popularizers and later garage rock, early punk and glam in the 70s, and arguably a revival of rock for a very short period in the late 90s and early 2000s, and during these times the music was vital. But only because it was immediate, true, and above all else, fun.
Now, I and a small group of disaffected, alienated, and generally pissed off youth are taking The Boron Heist multimedia. There is a time for all things commercially. This a time to force the hand: https://www.facebook.com/TheBoronHeist/
(For information on AntiSeen’s upcoming LP ‘Obstinate’ or for upcoming shows near you check out AntiSeen here: https://www.facebook.com/ANTiSEEN-82559392576/ )
If you missed part I, check it out Here
AntiSeen has been around for a long time. They’ve remained while bands, movements, and decades passed. They have a large European following and a strong contingent of fans stateside. They’ve toured alongside many great bands like Fear and The Meatmen. Played large festivals with groups like The Sonics, The Weirdos, and Mudhoney. And enjoy the support of many underground and mainstream acts. But they’ve never seen mainstream success themselves.
This is due in large part to vocalist Jeff Clayton’s lyrics and rhetoric, which have been both lauded and criticized. The latter press ilk has been more heavily emphasized and so, they can sometimes have difficulty booking shows in more asinine parts of the country. To make myself perfectly clear: I mean specifically fascist groupthink sorts of places.
The great American comic and satirist George Carlin talked a lot about how words don’t come pre-loaded with positive or negative connotations. A word means nothing in and of itself. The only real way to evaluate the meaning of some word or phrase is the context of its use and the intent of its speaker. That’s it.
So when Clayton writes a little ditty about a wifebeater or incest or killing your nagging spouse, the first rational thought (I recognize the nonrational validity of one’s first outraged position as knee-jerk that should then give way to thought afterward) should rightly be to ask what the context or intent of these songs is at bottom and not simply what they say on the surface. The way I see it, Jeff Clayton and all the AntiSeen boys are steeped in camp, wrestling, and bad horror movies. Their songs reflect and mirror these interests, presenting some good ol’ southern gothic: painting a picture of a specific real or imagined reality for backwoods southern folk rather than making some political or social statement.
But here’s the double standard. When lauded and beloved punk and roots rock band X did it in LA in the late 70s and early 80s, John Doe and Exene Cervenka’s lyrics about alienated, sexually violent, and xenophobic youth (See ‘Nausea’, Johnny Hit and Run Paulene’, and ‘Los Angeles’) were understood to be akin to harsh realism in fiction and jive Beat poetry as both were budding poets in an art-infused early LA punk scene. AntiSeen, being from middle-of-nowhere, Carolina with no such local cultural reference points, were automatically castigated for being violent, sexist, homophobic, etc., etc., etc. And they’re not. Period.
That said, rant over, and back to where I left off last:
The day before the Hickory show, I rode along with AntiSeen to Spartanburg. It was a long night and I had to wake up early to begin a long shift cooking southern comfort and diner food for the patrons of Monroe, North Carolina’s Jud’s Restaurant. At 2 pm, I call to a close my toil and make a b-line to the car with my friend Owen Sykes. We ride up to Charlotte, score another ride along with AntiSeen to the show in Hickory, and prepare for the night ahead of us.
Along the way, traffic isn’t nearly as chaotic as last night, though through my incessant napping I guess I wouldn’t notice if it was. We opt not to stop for fast food again on account of the lackluster quality we endured at a Hardee’s the previous night and we instead find a Cracker Barrel where we commence to stuff our faces. Before leaving, Barry Hannibal (bass) and I get pretty hyped on some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans we find in the adjoining shop. He buys a pack and we then spend a good deal of the remaining trip talking up how bad they taste to the rest of the van’s occupants. Everyone else decides to sit out the jelly-bean-roulette experience.
We arrive at Hickory, North Carolina’s ‘The Wizard’ saloon and club relatively early and load in the gear. ‘Dirtbag Love Affair’ had to cancel both tonight and last night’s gigs, so that leaves only three bands on the bill: Stardog, No Power No Crown, and AntiSeen. Rather than start the show early, the club pushes back the start of the show by 30 minutes. This means a later eta home, but also allows me ample time to make some conversation with James Capell ‘Cap’ Nunn, a friend of mine who plays bass for No Power No Crown and The Fill Ins. During this time, I also make my way to the merch table and buy a few AntiSeen CDs.
The opening act ‘Stardog’ gives a bar band sort of vibe and some of the lyrics are ham, but I find myself enjoying a few tracks on account of the Gary Moore-like virtuosity of their guitarist, the camp approach and lack of seriousness of their vocalist, and their overall tight sound as a group. Although their set plays a little too long, they perform a great cover of KISS’s “Love Gun” that makes it impossible for me to dislike them and they get some audience involvement from a relatively small turnout.
No Power No Crown is an interesting band. The guitarist and founder of the group is very much a Dimebag Darrell acolyte from playing technique, to the long hair and goatee, shorts and t-shirt, and even the Dean guitar. Usually I like the band’s live performances (although they tend to play a few too many covers), but tonight the guitarist confesses he is a little stoned. He is off-tempo and a bit sloppy on some solos, but the audience has a fun time anyway. And hell, if that ain’t the point of a music performance I don’t know what is.
When AntiSeen takes the stage, I’m taken aback by how good they sound. Last night they played well, but tonight they sound even more on point. Further, the sound man is an old pro and really did an amazing job on the line-check for all the instruments. The Gooch blasts out aggro, caveman beats with a one-pointed ferocious focused force, while Mad Brother Ward’s buzzsaw Tele cuts screaming highs and vicious mids akin to a machine press in its death throes. Barry Hannibal lays down the groove and adds the panache and sophistication that rounds out these otherwise minimalistic tunes. Jeff Clayton hollers and croons his hits with a sinister sneer and snarl while the audience sings along note for note. The set is a success and the band is called out for an encore of more classic destruco tunes as well as a new track off their upcoming LP ‘Obstinate.’
We load out the gear shortly after the end of the set and hit the road. Again, its a long drive home and I have work at 6 am. At some point the following morning I no longer feel tired and somehow get an extra boost of energy for the Sunday church crowd. I tell myself i’ve gone beyond tired and come out on the other side. I’ll find i’m sorely mistaken later that night.
Something about writing straight-forward narratives always tires me out. I wanted to end on a note comparing AntiSeen to other great bands. I was going to write something like ‘Jeff Clayton and AntiSeen’s approach to writing is somewhere in between the contemporary gothic of X and the fuck you, take no prisoners attitude of Fear. Somewhere between John Doe and Lee Ving.’ But I couldn’t stomach this becoming much more labyrinthine or long. So there you have it, take it or leave it. Nonetheless, I hope you enjoyed it.
(To be concluded: Here)