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Sunday, Feb 25, 2007


Two of our biggest adversaries—time and authority. Constraints that keep us from living in a pure state of freedom. One to keep us moving forward, the other to keep us in check. Occasionally moving us forward, in the process of keeping us in check. An irony of sorts, but society’s operant framing truth.


But what does that have to do with the title of this entry—which seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with time and/or authorty. Actually, it does, but it’ll take a step or two to get there.


 


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Tuesday, Feb 13, 2007
by tjm Holden

No matter where we travel in this peripatetic world, there are a few universals we’ll inevitably stumble across: taxes, corruption, commercialism, kitsch, artistic expression, hope against all odds, selflessness, selfishness, true love. Maybe a few others. Math. Sports on the weekend. Spirits—often in the form of beer. The idea of education. The tendency to settle disputes with fisticuffs.


Cultural universals are what anthropologists like to point to as signs of humanity’s general similarity. As proof that no matter how unique we may claim to be—either individually or as a collection of somehow-like-defined folk—we are actually all cut of the same general cloth. These universals do not have to be genetic traits or indigenous to the social organism; they can be acquired and installed in the heart of a culture via practices. Repeated repetition; social sanction.


That is where we are heading—a universal that is such because it is practiced . . . everywhere. And—stop being so antsy!—we’re about to get there.


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Sunday, Feb 4, 2007
by tjm Holden

I was trolling for my next idea, letting seconds pass in the LA Times California Politics Blog (which doesn’t make much sense since, as you know from my last post, I have all the politics one might wish to feast on closer to home), when I came across this off-site link.


Now, anyone, familiar with the Six Degrees concept would appreciate that this YouTube offering is a misnomer. After all, the idea is supposed to be that there are only six degrees of separation between one person and anyone else. The most widely cited (and demonstrable example) being the famous parlor game in which six steps (or less) can be found to separate Kevin Bacon from any other actor who has ever worked in Hollywood.


The “six degrees” concept had been rattling around in my head for some weeks, most proximately the result of this piece on former California Jerry Brown, again from the Times California Politics blog. Somewhere embedded in there was a link to Brown’s “MySpace” space and out of curiosity I diverted some more of those all-precious seconds over there. What I encountered—aside from Booker T. and the M.G.s performing “Green Tomatoes”—was an inset with a listing of Jerry’s friends. Among them was Bill Clinton, who—as one of the world’s most-traveled, gregarious characters God (should she truly exist) ever invented—just about everyone seems to know.


And, clicking into the former President’s MySpace page, that got me thinking. Swaying to Bill’s selection of U2’s “Vertigo” as his official theme track, I wondered how far the six degrees concept would play out in cyberspace. Because, actually, knowing what I know (or at least think I know) about the web, I had a hunch that it wouldn’t. Not to say that it couldn’t, but that, in the main, it is more the case that there is a nearly infinite number of iterations of separation between you and I; which is to say, folks who are generally non-contiguous strangers. So, just to scratch my intellectual itch, I decided to track from Jerry to Bill to . . . wherever else in five more moves, and see where it might lead me.


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Thursday, Feb 1, 2007
by tjm Holden

In Japan it’s a big word, a concept, a way of defining relations between people. Most often in organizations – like between teachers and students or managers and staffers—but also in other connective sets. Like when a coach presses a tennis player for greater effort, or a hotel guest berates a maid for failing to make up a room, or a cop pulls a driver over to the side of the road.

Pow-wa” means “power”. No big decoding mystery there. “Hara” (aside from being a family name in the ReDot on the order of “Jones” over in the English-speaking West) is the Japanese rendering of “harassment”. And, as I have explained elsewhere in the PopMatters’ world, it is common for Japanese to shorten words as a means of expediting conversation. For instance, “akemashite omedetou gozaimasu” – (Happy New Year) – is transformed into “ake-ome” (akay omay). In the same way, “Brad Pitt” – short enough as is—nonetheless, gets even shorter shrift, becoming “Burapi”. Everyone seems to get the meaning, it saves time, and no one is any more the worse for wear.


Whoever said the Japanese weren’t creative?


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