This article shows what I have known all along: That we are slowly turning into the movie Idiocracy. If you haven’t seen that movie yet, please do. You will laugh and cry…
I can’t really blame anyone for using drugs. If you watch advertisements, the TV news, anything to do with our political culture, reality TV, work a meaningless job, or pay attention to the million and one other absurd social and cultural things that go on in this country, you might need to get high. If you aren’t good at compartmentalization or aren’t a Zen master, you might need to ingest some kind of chemical to numb your thoughts. I’m not saying it is healthy or preferable, only that I understand.
We make criminals out of drug addicts, but hasn’t our society made drug addicts out of citizens? I feel like the only way to exist in this country is to live with a divided mind. For instance, you might realize that our economic system is unfair, but you have to earn a living and work within that system to pay your bills. A mind divided will surly fall, or something like that. If you look out at our country right now and think everything is as it should be, then you are either dumb, seriously deluded, or some kind of mutant sociopath.
I once remember reading or hearing something about Hunter Thompson’s drug use that talked about how he was just trying to cope with an insane world. He was acutely aware of the injustice of the Vietnam War and long slow decline that followed. He was highly intelligent and tuned in to what was going on around him. It was his way of self medicating. Sometimes I picture drug use as a way to even out the insane pressure from the outside world with insane pressure from the inside. Maybe it’s just creating a state of equilibrium.
We should stop demonizing drug use. We should help those that need it get better. Better still would be to make society a place where insanity isn’t the norm. It would be far better if drug users would spend all the time they used acquiring drugs to fight against societies ills, but too often those that don’t use drugs can’t even muster up such stickfuckingtoitness.
I am on the road today, so I thought I would post this interesting interview with Public Enemy’s Chuck D. Worth reading for his ideas on music, culture, and politics. Right now I am obsessed with their absolutely amazing album The Evil Empire of Everything.
I’m always wondering why the 60’s and 70’s were such a golden age of music. I was born in 1978 so I am not clouded by nostalgic feelings. I don’t mean that good music stopped being made after the 70’s, only that across the board quality was higher then that it has been since. Even many banal pop songs of that time feature some great musicianship.
I think a lot of it has to do with money. Artists were allowed to indulge then. Kevin Russell always talks about how the music industry from that time was decadent. A lot of those artists were allowed to live in a drug fueled world of fantasy and wealth. I remember reading that Pink Floyd sent a photographer to capture pictures of the great pyramids for Dark Side of the Moon. Just those pictures cost more than most people spend to make the actual album these days!
I also think that the record business was in the hands of people that knew how to exploit it for money, but not control it. By that I mean they knew how to use artists and their talents to make money, but now it just seems like they stick a pretty face and digitally do whatever needs to be done to make the music sellable. Real artists do things like challenge corporations politically on occasion. You don’t want too many of those kinds of people running around with too much money.
There were also a lot less distractions. Lord knows how many people are fucking around on the internet when they could be writing a song. Look at me right now!
Technological limitations of the time also required that people really be able to perform and play in the studio. When you have some limitations on what you can do, technology wise, you have to be creative. You have to find some way to make the sounds in your head without just pushing a button. When they used to create the sound of echo in the studio they actually had a box called an echo chamber that created real echoes! Digital effects are getting better, but nothing substitutes for a real echo.
Getting back to distraction, there was also some kind of artistic community, especially if you look towards the 60’s. It seems like so many people are off on their own trip now.
There was also the antiwar movement, civil rights, and so many great political struggles that people that were college age were participating in, which is precisely the age when people begin to really come of age with their personal stamp on art.
I think drugs played a big part too. It was the kinds of drugs that people are on. A great deal of psychedelics will inspire some weird shit to be cranked out! I just read this morning that most of one of Funkadelic’s albums was recorded in one day and they were all tripping! I’m also reading Neil Young’s autobiography right now. He basically says he was high from 18 to 65. That will definitely move the mind in new directions.
This is a topic that I have talked about before. I am always curious about why certain things in the culture lead to creative high points in some field. Look at TV right now. Everyone is calling it the golden age of television. There are several cultural and economic reasons why this is so. But that, my friends, is for another day.
One of the principle ideas of Larry David’s show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, is that people aren’t really all that interested in hearing about the great things that someone has been up to, hence the title. I realize that upon returning from Japan that there are very few people that I can share the experiences that I had with. There are people that flat out won’t care. There are people that will care, but can’t understand. Usually when I get back from a trip and people ask me how it is, I relay a couple of the stronger moments and move on. I don’t really want to bore anyone and I’m very aware that what I might have been through on a journey is not all that relatable. Sometimes, you just had to be there.
However, on this blog I try to use my personal likes and dislikes, my personal experiences and biases, as a way to take a different look at our culture and our world. So I will have no choice but to write here about what I’ve seen and thought over the last week in upcoming days. This trip has left me with a flood of emotions and ideas. I learned and experienced an incredible amount of things. I will try to not make it a simple trip journal, as again I hope not to bore you. I do hope to be able to use these experiences to dive into bigger ideas that might be of interest to those of you that have never been to this part of the world.
I left Tokyo on Monday at 6:40pm and somehow arrived back in Austin on Monday at 6pm. That’s right, I arrived earlier on Monday then when I departed. It’s probably as close to time travel as I’ll ever get. Tonight I rest. Tomorrow I will try to make some sense of what I saw and get back into the regular schedule of blogging.
I read The Atlantic a good deal, because overall it’s writing seems to be above average. Even if I don’t agree with a certain writer, I usually hear a reasoned argument. However, today I was scanning the headlines and there was a headline so stupid it made my head explode. The headline was: Lou Reed Made Generation X. First of all Generation X is nothing but a marketing term used to describe people of a certain age, that as all people of a certain age can run the gamut in terms of political beliefs, religious beliefs, and all manner of other things. So basically other than actually describing people of a certain age, it means nothing. Unless of course you are using it to describe the punk band that Billy Idol was in. Lou Reed no more made this generation than he made those of baby boomer age, or young kids now. Certain members of each generation loved him and certain ones did not. It is a lazy generalization on several fronts.
Now you may think that I’m nitpicking. But I believe that pop culture writing should be taken seriously by serious publications. Often people know more about what is happening in pop culture than they do about what is going on in some far away third world country for example. You can view this as sad, but it’s true. I remember onetime reading a New York Times article that about Morrissey that was so factually incorrect and lazy that it blew my mind. I thought if they can’t even get the facts on him right, which are pretty easy to find, how factually correct are their serious news articles?
Now one does not necessarily affect the other. A newspaper or magazine could hire a crack commando unit of investigative reporters, and then because of budgetary constraints, hire a bunch of ignorant amateurs to write their pop culture pieces. However, with the newspaper and magazine industry in such trouble, can they really afford anything that makes people question their credibility?
Let’s give these publications the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say that given the current economic constraints that they are facing, that they are indeed saving money on hiring good entertainment writers, so that they can fulfill their mission of providing people with news on what is most important in the world. In 2012 it was estimated that the American people spent $490 million dollars on entertainment. It is expected to grow by 5% to $597 billion dollars by 2016. This is despite the current economic problems that the country is facing.
It is well documented that during the great depression that people turned to entertainment for escapism from their economic woes. It is true now that many people are turning to spending money on entertainment even as they struggle to pay their bills because it helps them cope with the world.
Another important thing to note is that entertainment plays a role in this country in how we interpret the world. Often when we see something in the news it might make us reference a movie. Movies have moved the dialogue on political issues. I can remember, growing up in a somewhat conservative town, that the movie Philadelphia was one of the first times my friends and I talked about gay people in a real and meaningful way. Even when entertainment might not directly move the needle, it can often give strength to existing political ideals. I was against the Iraq War before Neil Young’s Living with War, but it definitely gave solace to me in hearing someone lay out what I had already been feeling with such clarity. It strengthened my resolve to speak my mind when I was out in public.
Whether you believe it is for good or ill, we spend an amazing amount of money and time on entertainment. What we listen to, watch, and read, is not only important to us as individuals, but does have an impact on our culture at large. Hopefully these publications will keep that in mind as they think about who they are hiring.
Facts about the economics of entertainment were gotten from: http://atkinsbookshelf.wordpress.com/tag/how-much-do-americans-spend-on-entertainment/
Today the Windup Wire has reached 100 full time subscribers. There are many others of you that visit this site on a regular basis, and many of you that just check it out from time to time. I can’t thank all of you enough. I’ve only been at this for three months and I am extremely happy that so many of you have cared enough to read what I have written. I promise to always be as truthful as I can be, given one’s own personal limitations and blind spots. I will write as much as I can, about as many things as I can, for those of you that enjoy coming here. The world is an incredibly interesting place filled with mystery and wonder. Being a working musician with an American Studies degree, I hope that I can provide you with a unique insight into politics, literature, film, TV, and music. I want to examine our culture and look at how all of these various subjects interact to make us who we are. I am filled with tremendous gratitude to all of you. We are only getting started. Onward through the fog…