my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (iconic)
A confluence of interests, Mr. Daroga's and mine, has me reading about the Walker Brothers (a pop trio that rivaled the Beatles for fame in the UK in and around 1966) and listening to a Four Tops live show Mr. D found somewhere. And it's gotten me thinking about a few things that you just don't see anymore.

1. The Walker Brothers experienced that kind of fame that had hysterical teen girls tearing their clothes off (the brothers', I mean, not their own, though probably that too) and required them to wear crash helmets to and from the stage door. No one ever heard one of their shows over the screaming, which is probably just as well as they could never replicate their sound live. It was in the air, I guess, this license to get as close as possible to your idols, and it made me think about the codification of online fandom and the fact that I can't imagine anyone getting away with engaging in such behavior. I don't mean just because celebrities are more savvy, but I think that fandoms police themselves now and people who do indulge in invasive behavior, and are found out, are punished socially. Everyone wants to maintain the access they have, so things are both more strict and less dangerous.

ETA: It's been pointed out to me that this stuff still goes on in (physical) music fandom especially, and I just wasn't aware. Oh well!

2. In the live Four Tops gig, they move through Motown and rock to standards, Tom Jones, and Rogers and Hammerstein. What fascinates me about this is that popular music seems a lot more niche-oriented and narrowly focused today. Of course, it's awesome we have so much variety, and that the internet and cheap recording processes allow a great number of things to be heard. However, I can't imagine many rock groups indulging in a bit of Lloyd Webber or Sondhiem or Sinatra without either camping it up or arousing disappointment and disdain. Or being accused of currying middle of the road favor and being seen as sell-outs or posers. Which is too bad. I think that inflexibility is a loss to culture, though I'm certain there are trade-offs. I was watching a film the other day that had a bus-load of people all singing together, and I can't imagine a song today that everyone on a bus would know. That doesn't make them good songs. And I don't lament the fact we've got so many options. But I do think it's too bad our shared culture is so small. [I should disclaim I am American, and talking from middle-class American experience.]
my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (fantomas)
The Pew Research Center and NPR have just released the results of a poll which raises some interesting questions. What's being pulled out most is the idea that class, rather than race, is what segregates America these days; 37% of black people say that the values held by poor and middle class blacks have grown more different over the last five years. Likewise, 37% of black people also question "black" as a single racial identity. It's not a majority, but it's more than it used to be. A growing number of black people agree with Bill Cosby that it's not racism, but black people who are bringing themselves down.

What makes this interesting to me is the touchy ground where race and class meet. I can't speak to the numbers here, and I'd be ill-qualified to answer these questions or speculate about the results. But I do know that the most prevalent form of racism I've seen in my immediate life is the kind leveled by black people against other black people for acting "too white." A few years ago I was being trained on the job in an environment where I was the only white girl, and my trainer had to endure taunts like, "You better go listen to some James Brown, get that Elvis out of your system" because she was, apparently, talking like a white person in order to communicate with me. (As an aside, that was by far the most pleasant work environment I've ever been in, and I really miss those guys.) But it seems to me the "you're not black enough" argument is losing relevance in a world where black identity isn't tied to a certain lifestyle or income bracket. Where no two people can define "black identity" the same way.

Some really interesting semantic debates could open up over whether X is "racism" or "classism." Racism is still prevalent in our society, but the line where it becomes classism is fuzzy. Where, for example, should we classify criticism of hip hop culture? And would it be different depending on the race of the critic? Is it more excusable to be classist, because it ignores the race question? Or is that a smokescreen, "the new racism"?

I'm not even going to try to answer that. What's interesting to me is that this has become a question at all. Will it change the dialogue about race and culture and class?

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my_daroga: Mucha's "Dance" (aces)
The problem with a book as funny as Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs is that it's funny in precisely the way I want things to be funny. That is to say, it examines terminally unimportant aspects of culture (The Real World, breakfast cereal, Coldplay) in such a maddeningly entertaining way that one is convinced that it can't possibly be useful. Have you ever encountered a pundit who seems amazingly brilliant until you realize you think that because he's saying exactly what you, yourself, think? Of course it seems right. I get the feeling reading Klosterman that he's tapped into some Nintendo-playing, Full House-raised, anti-depressant zeitgeist that I, as a late Gen-Xer, am socially programmed to respond to. I can't help but be suspicious of the fact that he blames John Cusack for the way no one approaches romance with any sense of realism. I would really like to believe that there's some connection between Reality Bites and The Empire Strikes Back. Really. But the fact that that feels so right must mean that it's wrong. That is to say, it can't be that easy.

This crap can't be that important.

How does the guy who wrote it get over it?
The goal of being alive it to figure out what it means to be alive, and there is a myriad of ways to deduce that answer; I just happen to prefer examining the question through the context to Pamela Anderson and The Real World and Frosted Flakes... And while half my brain worries that writing about Saved by the Bell and Memento will immediately seem as outdated as a 1983 book about Fantasy Island and Gerry Cooney, my mind's better half knows that temporality is part of the truth. The subjects in this book are not the only ones that prove my point; they're just the ones I happened to pick before I fell asleep.

In and of itself, nothing really matters. What matters is that nothing is ever “in and of itself.”
So there's his justification. Does this really absolve me of any guilt at enjoying an exploration of the Real World personality types, or the implications in having met a serial killer, or theory that amateur porn fuels the innovation of internet technology?

In the end, like Klosterman says, it really doesn't matter. Because it's not important whether you believe that Cusack erased Chuck's chances at romance, or whether the Trix rabbit is a meaningful icon for your generation. What matters, to me, is that these things matter somehow. That commercials and MTV and bad modern country music and cover bands say something about our world, just by existing. And the connections Klosterman, or you, or I can make between these things are meaningful enough just because they can be made.

But, please, only if you're as funny as he is.

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