Artists of the Year

Iraq. SARS. Jay Leno, Still on television practically every night. Yeah, 2003 was about as much fun as a social disease.

The difference is that "In Da Club" was buoyed as much by the patronage of Earth's biggest superstar and its performer's readymade street mythology as by the beat itself. Paul and Wonder might be superstars in Jamaica, and may yet turn out to be in America, but in Marsden's beat, they were vessels for something bigger than themselves. Not bad for a rookie.

Michaelangelo Matos is the music editor of Seattle Weekly. His contribution to Continuum Books' 33 N series, Sign 'O' the Times, will be published in February.

 

Tony Hoagland
BY T.D. MISCHKE

I have long lamented the back seat poetry has taken, in this country, to other well established arts. How did this happen to such an honorable and potent medium? Poetry wasn't always second-class. It was once for everyone. The man on the street could recite a poem at a café or talk of a favorite poet with a drinking buddy.

I know, I know, modern poets began to write too often for their fellow poets, the elite stole the art away and contemporary verse grew increasingly inaccessible to the average citizen. Or so the hackneyed complaint goes. Frankly, I think we all got lazy. Either way, to the rescue comes Tony Hoagland and his new work What Narcissism Means to Me, recently out on St. Paul's Graywolf Press.

Hoagland shows prose fans and music lovers that poetry can compete for their right brain's attention if they just give it a chance. His sharp, sleek, salty poems are there for anyone who relishes that feeling of being momentarily taken, suddenly shaken, or briefly awakened. Something poetry used to be able to do for most everyone. Here's a poem called "Hate Hotel":

Sometimes I like to think about the people I hate.
I take my room at the Hate Hotel, and sit and flip
through the heavy pages of the photographs,
the rogues' gallery of the faces I loathe

My lamp of resentment sputters twice, then comes on strong,
filling the room with its red light
That's how hate works---it thrills you and kills you

with its deep heat. Sometimes I like to sit and soak
in the Jacuzzi of my hate, hatching my plots
like a general running his hands over a military map
and my bombers have been sent out
over the dwellings of my foes,
and are releasing their cargo of ill will.........

Just 38 poems in this offering, but each one is chiseled and fitted properly in its place. Clear and strong, delivered with a dexterous punch. Poems to sit and talk about, authored by a person you could find at the café. Isn't it time for the poetry shelf to be every bit as crowded as the CD rack? Here's hoping. Regardless, it should at least house Hoagland's latest work. Tuck him in there between Sandburg and Bukowski.

T.D. Mischke hosts The Mischke Broadcast on KSTP-AM (1500).

 

Olivier Assayas
BY LAURA SINAGRA

With his spliced, diced, coolly hip yet live-link lyrical pseudo-thriller Demonlover, French critic and Irma Vep director Olivier Assayas has confidently conjured the best onscreen rendition of the internet slipstream--the instantaneously gratifying, clairvoyantly personalized, sexily unpredictable, mindfuckingly serendipitous, sibilantly empowering experience that now dominates many of our days. Leaving the previous War Games-like world of desktop monitors and CPUs behind, Assayas doesn't waste time filming flashing screens. Instead, he plunges--as we do every time we splash through our browsers into the web's sudden spectacle, heated conversation, or urgent commerce--dismissively past the hardware and software and straight into the fecund flow.

Loosely concerned with sleek corporate sharks trying to monopolize the distribution of internet porn--everything from anime to interactive snuff--Assayas's hypertextual intrigue ping-pongs between Paris and Tokyo, losing lots in translation, divesting itself of the musty trappings of conventional plot, and giving over to the pure vertigo of his characters' bloody power plays. Ensuring that we never know if the violence is real or simply a peek inside the fantasy lives of these edgy personal assistants, Assayas roots for all of his potentially doomed antiheroines (Connie Nielsen, Chloë Sevigny, and Gina Gershon) as they compete with murderous intensity amid high-stakes squeeze-outs and hostile takeovers. But Demonlover's subtext, bubbling up from under the International Style couture of its meta-moguls, is always the messy problem of the organic. The clammy heave of sex, the gushing persistence of blood, the simple ugliness of brute force, and the tragic tenacity of gender inequality when the virtual world intersects with the all too real.

Laura Sinagra is a New York-based freelance writer and a frequent contributor to City Pages.

 

Venus
BY EMILY GOLDBERG

Some people make art. And some people live it. Venus, lead singer and guitarist in the glam-rock band All the Pretty Horses, falls into the latter category. I know this well because I just finished making a documentary film about Venus. After three and a half years of working on the project, I still find myself continually surprised and entranced by Venus's fearless creative spirit.

If you've seen this corset-clad love child of David Bowie and Joan Jett onstage, you know that she's a spectacular presence. (And yes, for lack of a more accurate pronoun, Venus--who's transgender--prefers to be called she.) Some have dismissed All the Pretty Horses as "that transgender novelty act." But I've seen the band win over skeptics on both sides of the Atlantic--from working-class English pubs ("The most beautiful women in there were blokes!") to Fridley biker bars ("I heard 'em sing and it didn't matter!"). By forcing people to rethink their narrow definitions of gender, Venus and her bandmates are nothing less than agents of change--true revolutionaries.

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