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Monday, May 22, 2006

Even though Slate’s music section has been making an impressive comeback as of late, they still can’t resist being cheeky and flaunting their contrariness in their arts section, hence an article like this: What Are Independent Bookstores Really Good For?. How pathetic is it to support the indie cause? Well, you’re just a deluded hipster-wanna-be if you support independent publishers not to mention indies labels.

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Monday, May 22, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

DJ Spooky

“Arguably DJ culture’s most intellectual turntablist, DJ Spooky links his personal roots together with his inimitable taste in music by hand selecting 34 of his favorite tracks from the Trojan Records archives and compiling them into one collection, In Fine Style: 50,000 Volts of Trojan Records (in stores June 27th).  A heady experiment where he plucks important and influential songs from the venerable Jamaican record label’s rich vaults, DJ Spooky sets out not only to create a new mood for the club scene but to take clubgoers through the vital history of Trojan and its direct impact on DJ and club culture to this day.” — Trojan Records

“DJ Spooky MegaMix Stream” [MP3]
multiple songs: [official site]

The Dixie Chicks
“Not Ready to Make Nice” [windows | real | quicktime]
video: “Not Ready to Make Nice” [player]

Extra Golden
“Ilando Gima Onge” [MP3]

Stuart Staples
“There Is a Path” [MP3]

Matthew Ryan
“Return to Me” [MP3]

Bardo Pond
“Moonshine” [MP3]

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Monday, May 22, 2006

I like to think that when I choose a beer to drink, I’m picking based on which one I think tastes best among the available options. In this I’m probably wrong. I’m exercising my taste, but not my taste buds; rather I’m probably picking based on my taste for who I want to pretend to be. That’s what I learned, anyway, from an article about Miller Brewing’s recent market-share renaissance in the latest BusinessWeek. This in’t really news, but the brewer’s various brands are all designed to target certain male lifestyles, or certain moments in the drinking man’s life. “The imported Peroni targets trendsetters. Milwaukee’s Best Light is for the hard-working man. Icehouse is positioned as the beer for young guys to drink before going out.” What a touching image: “Miller wants Icehouse to be the beer for those times when you’re hanging out with the guys, playing Xbox. or gearing up to go out.” That’s funny, I thought this might be the beer they were secretly interested in. No mention is made of which beer to have when you are having more than one, or which one to have when you’re looking for a little of the hair of the dog in the morning, or which one to have before you go careening off the road drunk driving. A beer I drink sometimes, Pilsner Urquell (it’s plan B after Spaten at the Bohemian beer garden near where I live), is designed for “discerning drinkers,” so it figures I would foolishly think I was buying it for the taste rather than to send out the signal that I’m discerning.

Anyway, this illustrates the insidious way brands are supposed to operate. Through sheer advertising and promotional clout, a brand is associated with a lifestyle, a concept of masculinity or modernity or insightfulness or free-spiritedness or whatever, and one might gravitate to that brand in an attempt to reinforce one’s own sense of oneself. But inevitably—maybe this already has happened—it begins to seem that you must buy the appropriate brands to be masculine or fun or discriminating, that you can’t demonstrate those qualities without being on the playing field of brands, without speaking the language of brands to get the message out. It’s no loner enough to simply act in the way you want to be perceived. If you aren’t accompanying that with the sanctioned products, you are insufficiently invested in your chosen identity, you are not putting your money where your mouth is, you are inauthentic.

And then we’re where anthropologists Mary Douglas and Baron Isherwood, among others, insist we are, where consumerism, brands, etc. are deemed necessary to be able to express oneself in any meaningful way at all. Ultimately, brands and advertising have this corrosive effect on behavior itself, refuting its ability to stand on its own, to be understood plainly. But perhaps the idea that it ever was so straightforward and legible is itself a mystification. A hypothesis: Perhaps the relance on consumerism for behavior authentication comes with a loosening of the class hierarchy. Once, the context within which behavior becomes comprehensible was determined by class-based identities that were fixed; there weren’t opportunities for dilettantism. With social mobility a need opens up for something new to supply context—hence lifestyle consumerism, backing up certain behavior with the effort and resources required to acquire the accoutrements of such behavior. This thereby proves your committment to the lifestlye and makes people feel comfortable in really seeing you that way. So authenticity is turned inside out—you establish it by investing energy in maintaining the illusion of it by discovering and acquiring the appropriate products, not by simply responding spontaneously to whatever situation you are confronted with. So next time you are pounding a few 12-packs of Miller MGD, rest assured you’ve proved you are a “mainstream sophisticate” far more convincingly than you would by actually acting like an adult.

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Friday, May 19, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

The Dr. Octagon Chronicles

Ants (The Money Fight Fire Ants Remix) [MP3]

The Return of Doctor Octagon, Chapter 3: The Money Fight Fire Ants

Dark clouds have descended over the OCD offices. It’s been three weeks since receiving the mysterious package from the good Doctor and they are nowhere closer to deciphering his message for the people of earth. What’s worse is their two previous code crackers have become useless. Mike Relm has been only responding in binary code, which when deciphered, says
“Times up Ants move with the bell”
The Gray Kid has been committed to a mental hospital. They last heard he has been scribbling on the walls:
“Look at them crawl, look at them climb up the wall, like roaches”
Nervous, anxious, and paranoid, all seems lost for the people of OCD. After putting their heads together, they turn their attention to the Northern CA hills. Placing a call on the purple phone, it rings 14 times only to receive this message:
“Sorry, Her Space Holiday is not in right now. We are out on a global tour teaching a 12-part dissertation on how the past presents the future: a study of audiological time travel. Please leave your message after the beat beat beat.”
Defeated, devastated and defunct, the OCD feels the walls closing in on them. The despair lies on top of them like the weight of the world. Not a word is spoken. Then the purple phone rings. As it’s picked up, someone yells, “Track that call!”
OCD Operator: How did you get this number?
The Money Fight: That is not important. We hear you have… some problems.
OCD Operator:  Who is this? Where are you from?
TMF: We are The Money Fight. Where we are from is of no importance, what is important is that you listen closely.
OCD Tracker: It’s coming from LA
OCD Operator: What do you want?
TMF: You must listen. We hear you received a package. We received the same package 5 years ago. Upon opening it, destruction and chaos descended upon our society.  People were almost crushed under a weight of despair and grief. We were nearly decimated as a people.
OCD Tracker: Wait, its New York. Keep them talking.
OCD Operator: What happened?
TMF: We thought all was lost. Villages burned, people terrorized each other in the streets, and our society was reduced to almost nothing. That was until we were able to break the code. Through a combination of modern technology, audiological innovations and numerous sacrifices, we were able to save our great society. We were almost able to undo the damage.  Almost. We hear two of your people have been infected.
OCD Tracker: Australia!
OCD Operator: Yes, can you help them?
TMF: Yes, we can. You are safe for now. And if you ever find the ‘good’ doctor, tell him we are coming for him.
OCD Tracker: Saturn?
OCD Operator: Hello? Hello?
All is silent again. Had that all been a prank? Suddenly all the computers light up and the stereo switches on. A whistle blows. As the beat drops, and the strings soar, all begins to look up at the OCD office.
And we go “la, la, la, laaaaaa….”

Ants (The Money Fight Fire Ants Remix) [MP3]

Log on next Friday for the next installment of this amazing 8 week story featuring new interpretations of Dr Octagon tracks each week by Prefuse 73, Kid Loco, Rob Sonic, Skinny Man and more.

Previous Chapters:
Al Green: The Gray Kid Al Greezy remix [MP3]
Mike Relm 20-minute Return of Dr Octagon megamix [MP3]

The Return of Dr Octagon hits stores June 27th.

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Friday, May 19, 2006

It’s worth navigating through the site pass to read Rebecca Traister’s article in Salon regarding the alleged “return of the brainless hussies” and whether celebrity media and culture product manufactured for teens encourages girls to act stupid and/or cute (Is there a difference?) in order to earn approving attention. Traister finds redeeming qualities—intellectual content, encouragement to think—in teen lifestyle magazines like Elle Girl and Seventeen but indicts reality TV (and the parents of contestants therein) for prescribing class-ridden consumerist values and encouraging the notion that all attention is good attention: “On Super Sweet Sixteen and Tiara Girls, parents seem to be seeking the same cable-television spotlight that must motivate their children to self-exposure, without any concern that a nation (let alone their neighbors) will get to see them pushing their daughters to get collagen lip injections or enabling their offspring’s insatiable greed by never setting limits and getting them two cars.” This segues to her main point, that parents produce stupid girls, not culture:

Adults have made careless consumption the crowning American pursuit. We have invented and happily consume magalogs full of luxury items. Teenagers didn’t create Paris Hilton. In fact, they wouldn’t have any idea who she was if adults hadn’t elevated her from a dull table-dancing heiress by circulating a porn tape and giving her a reality show. Teenage girls don’t write the “Gossip Girl” books; 35-year-old Cecily von Ziegesar does. And consider the cabal of studio heads, publicists, club owners, photographers, designers and magazine publishers who have colluded to make Lindsay Lohan famous, drunk and ubiquitous so that she can sell their magazines, movies and handbags to teens who might rightly get the impression that they should live like her. Eliot Spitzer, of all people, recently accused the grown-ups over at Lohan’s record company of goosing her popularity by bribing radio stations and MTV to play her music. It’s all in the name of legitimate American enterprise, sure. But how can we be surprised when the kids we are hustling take our cues and mimic even our most corrupt behaviors?
And how about the fact that it’s not just teens photo-realistically aping the adults, but adults who are aping their own teens? The Alcotts and Austens and Brontës that Wolf recalls with deserved reverence would have blanched had they encountered the slice of the maternal population currently striving to look and dress like their daughters. Which is more alarming—reading about Lohan drinking too much and collapsing from “exhaustion,” or reading about her mother, Dina, sponging off her daughter’s success and cavorting with her beyond every velvet rope? It’s fair to ask, as Pink does, how many girls long to mimic Lohan. But it’s also reasonable to wonder whether any of their mothers long to live like Dina?

But Traister concludes by assigning blame to the fragile male ego: “Working on this story, I received an e-mail from a Harvard graduate student who told me that while he’d dated only smart girls, he ‘liked the idea of dating a dumb girl.’ The fantasy, the student explained, ‘is almost certainly formed for us by the media representations of ... celebrities [like Hilton, Lohan, and Simpson]. Blonde dumb girls are sexy. And won’t talk back. Add in various shades of male ego/guaranteed superiority notions, and you’ve pretty much got it.’ In a world in which male superiority is no longer guaranteed, it becomes a lascivious desire that can be gratified, performatively if need be, by willing women.”

Growing gender equality, then, creates a market for passé sexual stereotypes. So in other words, the media representation of female stars being dumb, manipulatable and compliant services the male ego, even though one wouldn’t think of men consuming such media—though every morning I see plenty of hombres on the subway studying Page Six the way fantasy-baseball nuts look at box scores. These depictions of Paris Hilton, et. al, then, are like “Under My Thumb,” mechanisms that allow men to fantasize about having the upper hand, having total control when really men’s lust and sexual cravings—stimulated by these same media renderings of copious sensuality—are out of control, and men are helpless to live up to what they are shown as the dream. Humilated by the tease of unfulfilled desire, men in turn seek to humiliate women, who they mistakenly blame for the frustration. So the corollary to such representations are the Neil Labute-type paranoid fantasias that assault women and depict them as cruel and controlling because they turn out not to be brainless, available and eager-to-please. The surveillance of young woman celebrities foments the myth of women generally always being available, always being flattered by the attention, that no attention is unwelcome (no matter how creepy or inappropriate)—in short, that they are simply waiting around with no purpose other than to be noticed.

But then the culture industry generally lionizes passivity, spectatorship, and so on; that is what its business model is built on. Typically feminism is blamed for male-ego fragility, as in the risible WaPo Style section trend story that Traister lampooned a few days ago, but probably it has as much to do with an entertainment industry that profits by emasculating them and then promising them the secret formulas to restore their lost manhood. If women can be blamed in the process, so much the better. And anti-intellectualism has practically become a patriotic badge of pride in America. The point is, as far as the entertainment industry goes, we are all stupid girls: passive, frivolous, attention-challenged, in thrall of shiny baubles, desperate for recognition and flattery and assurance that we are succeeding at being just what we’re expected to be.



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