I saw Iron Man 2 this weekend and enjoyed the hell out of it. It had pretty much everything missing from the first film: a superpowered villain from the get-go, alcoholism, Sam Rockwell … I could go on. Now, it wasn't a ground-breaking film that redefined how we look at crazy men in costumes and all such jazz I'd like to pretend people expect out of these films. No. It was explosions and witty dialogue and a drunk billionaire urinating in a giant metal suit to please a crowd. My expectations were met and, at the exact moment when Mickey Rourke (in a delightfully dead-on Russian accent) says the phrase “this software is sheet,” exceeded.
So, I got home and decided to read some Iron Man comics. It was suggested I start during Warren Ellis' “Extremis” arc. Right in issue one, something caught my eye. If you're not familiar with his craft, you should know that Ellis has worn his cultural interests on his sleeve throughout his entire career – Transmetropolitan's Spider Jerusalem, for instance, would repeatedly (and sloppily) quote the Pixies' lyrics as dialogue. The scene below, occuring at a Stark International complex in “Coney Island, NY” (my relationship to which I've written about earlier,) was a bit more unexpected:
If you're a fan of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, you'll recognize that as a rephrased version of the monologue which opens “Sleep” on Lift Yr Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven:
Again, considering this is Warren Ellis, I'm wasn't too surprised, but it was nice to see a wink-wink-nudge-nudge sort of reference. As opposed to, in the next issue or two, having a character parrot out a brief summary of the works of Terence McKenna's. There's something to be said for both subtlety and pleasing the pretension of your audience.
I grew up on Coney Island, sort of. In the two or three summers between being too old for summer camp and too young and lazy to get a job, my mother sent me to live with my grandmother for the summer months. My grandmother lived in projects housing right off the Coney Island boardwalk. Now, this wasn't the sort of projects housing with the potential to give birth to the next big hip-hop artist (that were across the street,) but rather a gated-off, white stone enclave with private parking and a doorman. Built abutting a geriatric rehabilitation center, this building was mostly occupied by senior citizens who, like my grandmother, had recently emigrated from the former Soviet Union. The building was clearly designed with seniors in mind – all the bathrooms, for instance, had emergency “oh god I fell, help!” pull-switches. Google Maps doesn't actually go down the block, so I've tried to highlight the building in the picture below. As you can see, it is right on the boardwalk.
I spent my time time wandering up and down that boardwalk. A 36.6 kb modem can keep a young man occupied for only so long, and I found myself regularly venturing out there with Pretty Hate Machine or Jimi Hendrix' Greatest Hits album blaring out of my walkman and into my ears via those cheap-ass foam covered headphones we all had at thirteen.
One early afternoon, wandering to the Stillwell Avenue train station to get to my programming class – I spent a couple days a week learning C++ and Unix at a front for a diploma mill – I came across a pair of Latina girls wandering on the boardwalk. We didn't speak or even acknowledge our mutual presences, but they had a little radio. The radio was blaring a song I did not, could not acknowledge loving the ever loving hell out of until my freshman year of college...
I love this song. I love everything about it. It even transcends by unnatural love for the genre apparently referred to as “bubblegum dance.” It defines my teenage summers on Coney Island for no other reason than being played at just the right place and moment.
...and apparently Freezepop covered it.
(There's no video, just a black screen.)