Huffington Post just put out an article that makes the claim that many of the revisions made to cars on the MTV reality show Pimp My Ride were made just for the TV cameras. It’s long been known that reality TV is not very real. I have no personal interest in that show or almost any reality show. I do think that they are a drain on our culture as they blur the line between fact and fiction, they create meaningless public figures, champion consumerist values, and they entertain with the lowest common denominator.
Among the Navajos, a Renewed Debate About Gay Marriage
I found this article interesting because it demonstrates that all people, even those who have dealt with great discrimination, are capable of their own discrimination.
Today I am hitting the highway for some weekend Shinyribs dates. Being in a band one thinks nothing about driving to get somewhere unless maybe it happens to be over 10 hours. However, having lived in both Texas and Pennsylvania I know that geography and population density play a role in how far away somewhere feels.
Even though Pa is not small, Texas is a gigantic state. People will think nothing at all of driving an hour or two to hang out with friends or go to an event that they want to attend. Even driving to a city four to six hours away is not that big of a deal for many people, if there is a concert, sporting event, or some other event that appeals to them. Some people will even drive further than that for a weekend without much thought put into it.
Pennsylvania is the state of a thousand small towns. I lived in a small town, but my town pushed right up against other small towns on the borders. People seemed less inclined to drive somewhere spur of the moment. A show an hour or two away would be more like driving from driving from Houston to Dallas in Texas. Even for large concerts or events, events that would only happen once every few years, people seemed less willing to drive long distances for. We were about two hours from Philly, about four hours from Pittsburg. Although we drove to Philly many times for large events, I can only remember driving once to Pittsburg for a large concert. In my experience that was typical for a lot of people.
I’m not saying this is scientific proof, or that there aren’t always exceptions to the rule. There are also cultural reasons for this, as well as reasons having to do with topography and weather. Driving somewhere in Texas, where it doesn’t rain, on flat roads, is easier than driving through Appalachia, especially in winter. However, I do think that people will adapt to their surroundings. When I am in Texas I think personally think nothing of driving long distances. When I go home to visit families the old mentality takes over to a degree.
If any readers have any feedback or thoughts on this, I would love to hear from you. I have to approve all comments, so if you reply you can let me know if you want your comment shared or not.
I have said it on here before, but I can’t say it enough: If you value the work that artists in any field do, you should support them by buying their work, attending their events, etc. In the music world, listening to internet radio or using streaming services are not a substitute for buying an artist’s record. That’s not to say that at some point they might not be viable financial models, but right now they are a joke. Read the above article about Pandora’s latest attempt to screw artists. If we want to have a viable culture in this country, one that doesn’t just reflect the lowest common denominator, than we need to make sure that the artists we value can earn a living.
It ain’t a privilege to be on TV
and it ain’t a duty either. – Neil Young in Grandpa’s Interview
Whenever I think too deeply about what is going on in our culture I get the urge to slither into the shadows and never return. I often think about that Neil Young quote above. Earlier this week I was watching the absolutely brilliant movie Birdman. There is a scene in the movie where the character that Michael Keaton plays is accidentally caught running through downtown New York in his underwear. A video of it gets online and becomes popular. His daughter tells him that, “Believe it or not, this is power”, in a scene that is both funny and sadly condemning of our times. I am aware that modern fame is as much a dumb joke as anything.
Earlier today, thanks to my friend JR, I read the above New York Times article, a fascinating read, about how one person’s tweet, they made an off-color joke, lead to them being fired. The author, I think rightly, comes to the conclusion that everyone, from the person that put the tweet up, to those that are condemning her, are part of a modern trend where everyone is performing for audiences that they can’t see. A sample:
But perhaps she had now come to understand that her shaming wasn’t really about her at all. Social media is so perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval, and that is what led to her undoing. Her tormentors were instantly congratulated as they took Sacco down, bit by bit, and so they continued to do so. Their motivation was much the same as Sacco’s own — a bid for the attention of strangers — as she milled about Heathrow, hoping to amuse people she couldn’t see.
Yet here I am in a band, writing a blog. I can’t help but feel conflicted at times. Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my fucking time. However, I know how much writing, art, and music have meant to me. I know that I might not be sane if not for it. Part of the reason I started this blog was to try and create a platform where I could hopefully lead some people to things that I am passionate about, that I believe have value, in the din of senselessness that so often is our culture. Books, albums, movies, and various forms of expression have been my armor in this world. I must keep going, because this stuff is in my blood. However, if I’m helping or hurting, only you can be the judge.
In my last blog I mentioned that culture, in general, seemed in decline. I asked why. The above article is from Salon and focuses on the same idea, but from a black perspective. The writer, Brittney Cooper, starts with Prince’s quote at the Grammys:
“Albums still matter. Like books and Black lives, albums still matter.”
And then goes on to talk about the connection between a culture that devalues human lives and arts, hitting upon this core theme:
But under conditions of neoliberalism, which favor the unregulated, unchecked reach of huge multinational corporations into every area of our lives, art and music and the people who produce them all become merely marketable commodities.
The above link is a recently published Morrissey rant at http://www.true-to-you.net, his official site. It’s long, but full of laughs. It is an attack on the Brit Awards, though many passages could serve as attacks on any awards show and the modern music business in general. A sample:
In short, Britain has been encouraged to become a nation of idiots (which, of course, is what it is not). But why has British culture become so debased? Why is it that only ideas-free and factory-farmed ‘personalities’ are encouraged? Is it simply because we are all easier to govern as long as we are free of any content? Well, yes. The sudden, manic rise in loud and overquick camera shots (for a populace presumed to have zero attention span); television sponsorship; persistent sports news for events attended by no one; the obvious lusty dictatorship of the “royal” family (the one and only British institution that we pray for the government to ‘sell off’ – preferably to China)… it all adds up to an underpattern of controlled obedience, and the notion of the BPI awards being handed out by genuine musicologists becomes as ludicrous a concept as witnessing someone on the Brit Awards coming perilously close to actually making a worthwhile point. Meanwhile, if we mourn the unlikely possibility of positive change in pop music, or if we dare suggest that change is even allowable, we are treated like mental patients.
A constant for me, is trying to figure out how the music business feel into such decline. I not only mean in terms of sales that is partially, if not substantially, due to technology, but also why the artistry and cultural relevance is in decline as well? To me, it is an endlessly fascinating subject, not only because I am interested in music, but because I, along with many many other people, can sense that aspects of our culture seem in decline. What are the artistic, economic, political, technological, and cultural forces that are causing this?