Give Us Three Minutes and We’ll Give You the World

The original version of Robocop hilariously satirizes TV news and television commercials.  Sure, a movie made in the 80’s is bound to get a couple things wrong, but overall it captures the shallowness of modern culture excellently.  Years on our culture still too often feels like an 80’s action movie.

One of the general plot points in the science fiction movie Robocop is that a military industrial corporation is trying to take over the police force of Detroit.  Knowing now how are police have often been militarized, thanks in part to the military industrial complex, a good deal of this movie is still more relevant than one would hope it would be.  

The Walking Dead in the Age of Anxiety


The Walking Dead in the Age of Anxiety

The above article is an interesting read if you are fan of The Walking Dead, as I am.  It’s an article that tries to get at why the show has such a hold on the popular imagination.  It also examines the show, and zombie stories in general, for there political and cultural messages.

Madonna Banned for Age and What This Means For Culture

Madonna Banned for Age

Although I love some of her early singles, I am not what one would consider a Madonna fan.  However, the above article is something I find troubling.  Apparently the BBC have declined to play her latest single due to that fact that her and her audience are too old. 

First of all this is completely senseless.  When I was thirteen I remember listening to the Doors, a band from my parents generation.  Even now many of my favorite artists are decades older than me.  This wasn’t just true of me, but all my friends.   I remember parties in highschool listening to classic rock and early 80’s post punk, despite the fact that even the early 80’s stuff came out when I was a couple years old.  (I was born in 1978.)

People like what they are exposed to.  If you are a kid and you hear something you like, you are going to listen to it if you have any sense of self.  If you don’t hear it, at any age, you aren’t going to like it.  Plain and simple. 

Age, like sex, race, and sexual orientation,  is just another way to divide people. 

Here is what I find particularly troubling about this:  When it comes to a pop artist, although it is still senseless and wrong, it does not necessarily affect the world in any major way.  However,  there are a lot of older artists that are effective at critiquing society, that speak truth to power.  Jackson Browne, Morrissey, Springsteen, Chuck D, and on and on have been effective chroniclers of what is going on in society.  They are all in their 50’s and 60’s at this point.  It is not hard to see someone in power using age to not play music, something that is not always thought of as political, in order to effectively silence political dissent.   “Oh we are not going to play anything off of Jackson Browne’s Standing in the Breach because we don’t play music by older artists.”  This is when Jackson Browne released one of the most intelligent albums of last year, which was also highly political on certain tracks.  The same goes for the rest of that list. 

Divide and conquer.   This is another fictitious way of dividing people, who may have similar beliefs, interests, and passions, in a way that is currently possible without looking like censorship.  Chuck D is much older than most pop stars, but he is the one bringing the thunder, preaching change, speaking truth to power.  A disenchanted kid, if they were to discover him, might be inclined to listen to him over the other music choices they are currently being presented with.  That isn’t to say that kids aren’t smart enough to find and seek things out on their own, but they have a better chance of finding someone like Chuck D the more exposure he gets.  Age is one of the last ways you can openly discredit someone without looking like a neanderthal.  

Who Wants to Talk to a Stranger?

I am not claiming that what I am about to write is scientific in any manner.  It is simply a matter of observation by myself.  In the past year I have canvassed for  several different political causes.  I have walked numerous neighborhoods of all different classes.  I have talked to hundreds if not thousands of people.

What I can’t stop thinking about is how different classes of people, rich, poor, working class, and middle class, react to a stranger at their door.  Although there are all different kinds of people across all classes, it does seem that middle class people seem the most open to strangers.  Working class would come in second.  Meanwhile poor people and rich people are often highly skeptical when someone knocks on their door unannounced.

It may have something to do with myself.  I grew up middle class.  Those are the people that I feel most in common with in my outlook, even if I myself make money that is definitely more working class.  I have also worked plenty of blue collar jobs.  So what I am saying is there is the possibility for unrecognized bias on my part, but I don’t think this is the case.  I am talking more about initial reaction, before we have even really had time to talk.

Another point that I want to make is that I’m not dressed up.  I have to walk miles while I do this stuff, often in Texas it is quite hot.  This winter has been a strange one, with cold and rain that we usually don’t see.  Either way, you want to be dressed to be with comfort in mind when you are out there.  Usually I just have on a t-shirt, and either shorts or jeans.  I imagine I look either working class or middle class, so people may simply be reacting to the way I am presenting myself, before I even open my mouth.  However, I again don’t believe this to be the case, I just don’t want to rule it out.

I am a white male that is 5’10”, 200lbs, and occasionally have a beard.  Although I have become more friendly since I moved to the South, and I always make it a point to say thanks and to smile at people, I know that I am not as outwardly warm as many Southerners, or at least I have been told so.  When I worked for AT&T my bosses would often tell me I needed to be warmer on the phone, though I knew that I was trying really hard!  Since moving to the South I have adopted y’all as I like that it is easiest way to talk to people and sound inclusive.  I also like that it is short and simple.  It is also neither masculine or feminine, so you can include everyone in a group without saying “you guys” or “you girls” or whatever when talking to a group.  I am just trying to lay out what people are getting when I come to the door.

If there was a certain type of person that was intimidated when a large male comes to the door who doesn’t seem like a member of their tribe, I would understand.  But I have plenty of middle class women open doors, who are home alone with their kids, before a lot of people are home on their block.  If people were perceiving myself as a threat, I would assume that a small pregnant woman with a two or three year old would not open their door to me, but this happens time and time again.  Meanwhile people in groups or males larger then myself will view me with a skeptical nature.

Again this seems to happen the most, people looking sideways at me, if the home appears to be really rich or really poor.  No other factor appears apparent.  Yesterday I was walking in a neighborhood that is going through gentrification, in which there were people of all classes.  Sometimes it was block by block, and sometimes it was home by home.  You would see a million dollar home next to a house that looked like it was falling down.  You would also see blocks of safe looking suburban homes and blocks of houses that look like they were boarded up after a hurricane.

Race did not seem to be apparent in peoples reaction to me.  A middle class black person would generally behave more in line with a middle class white person, than with a poor black person.  Again, this does not mean that stereotypes always apply.  There were different experiences with people of all classes and colors.  The only discernible difference was that again poor people and rich people seemed to be less trusting of strangers than middle or working class people.

I also want to add that I was asking people questions about what they wanted to see in their city, and was not pushing a specific political agenda.  I have done that in the past, but this time I was simply collecting data.  One of the questions I asked people was what they wanted to see built in a certain portion of the city.  This was giving all people a chance to have a voice in their city.

There are many conclusions that I could draw from this.  However, I would rather not do that at this time, because I don’t believe I could accurately draw any conclusions.  However, I want to know why this is so.  There are so many questions.  Has America treated poor people so badly that they are no longer trusting of people?  Do poor people feel so disenfranchised that even when they are given a voice, they don’t feel that it is worth it to participate?  On the other hand, why are rich people in this country, who seemingly have everything, also not willing to trust people?  Why are they not willing to participate, to voice their thoughts and concerns about their city in this fashion?  I am not assuming that all of the people I talked to don’t participate in our democracy.  They may participate in other ways that don’t involve a stranger asking them questions.  They may have ways that are particular to their neighborhood, their upbringing, etc.  But all of this is very interesting to me, and also troubling.  Why are the people that have the most to lose and the most to gain in this country, the people that are the hardest to communicate with when canvassing?

Pimp My Ride Was Fake


Pimp My Ride Was Fake

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

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.  

How Far Will You Drive?

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.