Featured: Top of Home Page

A few anecdotes

I just returned from lunch and witnessed a fashion shoot on Fifth Avenue. The model stiffened herself in the wind, looking like a bodybuilder in the impressive and palpable strain it required for her to hold her pose, her long legs like reeds that refused to bend in the breeze. She was like a strange statue that suddenly had been deposited in front of my office; she had a marble blankness of expression. The photographer was on one knee, pointing his camera up at her, to make her even more monumental. But tourists were staging guerilla shoots of their own, taking any number of snapshots of her from whatever angle was most convenient to them. Most of them wanted to get the photographer in their shot as well, to perhaps prove that they had manage to stumble behind the scenes. I wanted to wait around and see the model deobjectify herself, see her snap out of whatever it was she had done to herself. But it was taking too long, and I had to get back to work.

Yesterday, before seeing a truly dismal slog of a film, Sherrybaby -- acting for the sake of acting, squalor and dysfunction as "realism" -- we had burgers at a trendy burger joint tucked into the lobby of the Parker Meridien hotel on 57th Street. The line can go slow, and grew even slower when the Austrailian tourist in front of me, in the midst of ordering for her and her six friends, realized that she had forgot to mention some topping for one of the burgers and had to start over again, and again. Thus prompted the cashier to apparently stage an impromptu work slowdown. Some well-dressed media types were in line behind us, and one of them went to save a booth, a few feet away, for their group. Then, after a few moments, I see the woman waving her arms in the air to her friends in line. "Hey," she says, "I'm calling you." She was using her cell phone to call someone who was standing five feet away, someone so close that the sound of her voice was louder than phone's ringtone. They proceeded to have a conversations on the phone, while making eye contact with each other. It was the craziest thing I had ever seen. No wonder so many stadiums are named for telecom companies; they must have money to burn with customers like these. This seemed to prove that at some point gadgets begin to dictate your behavior over and above what may have once seemed like common sense. It's not exactly path dependence, but something related, whereby one justifies some technology by finding the least useful, most ostentatious ways, and then gets trapped in these usage patterns. This may explain in part an otherwise puzzling (but rather cheering) item in The Economist about cell-phone use on flights. Americans hate the idea:

When America's telecoms regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, requested public comments on in-flight calling, it received thousands of mostly negative responses. “Please no. No,” read one response. “I object to this in the strongest terms. I can't believe you are even considering it.” America's airlines seem to share this lack of enthusiasm for the idea. Both United and Delta say their customers do not want it.

But airlines may introduce it anyway, because people will use the service whether they really want it or not. Part of this apparent inconsistency would stem from egoism: There's always a perfectly good reason to have to take a call oneself, but other people's chattering is inexcusable. Part of it is probably an unwillingness to admit in a survey that one has given up on that basic standard of politeness: respecting the existence of the other people one shares space with. But some of it would derive from a compulsion to do something simply because one can. The article suggests that airlines may introduce the cell-phone service simply to have the chance to charge more for tickets in cabins that prohibited it. What a great idea -- get a captive audience and subject them to nuisances that they must then pay to avoid. Why not have shrieking noise come standard with your airfare and invite preferred customers to pay more for silence? When cell phone users become nuisances, the best way to beat them seems to be to join them, so one talker would likely beget several dozen more. In that cacophony one will be able to hear the sounds of the social order tearing apart.

Music


Books


Film


Recent
Books

Political Cartoonist Art Young Was an Aficionado of all Things Infernal

Fantagraphics' new edition of Inferno takes Art Young's original Depression-era critique to the Trump Whitehouse -- and then drags it all to Hell.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

OK Go's Emotional New Ballad, "All Together Now", Inspired by Singer's Bout with COVID-19

Damian Kulash, lead singer for OK Go discusses his recent bout with COVID-19, how it impacted his family, and the band's latest pop delight, "All Together Now", as part of our Love in the Time of Coronavirus series.

Books

The Rules Don't Apply to These Nonconformist Novelists

Ian Haydn Smith's succinct biographies in Cult Writers: 50 Nonconformist Novelists You Need to Know entice even seasoned bibliophiles.

Music

Siren Songs' Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels Debut As a Folk Duo (album stream + interview)

Best friends and longtime musical collaborators Merideth Kaye Clark and Jenn Grinels team up as Siren Songs for the uplifting folk of their eponymous LP.

Music

Buzzcocks' 1993 Comeback 'Trade Test Transmissions' Showed Punk's Great Survivors' Consistency

PopMatters' appraisal of Buzzcocks continues with the band's proper comeback LP, Trade Test Transmissions, now reissued on Cherry Red Records' new box-set, Sell You Everything.

Music

Archie Shepp, Raw Poetic, and Damu the Fudgemunk Enlighten and Enliven with 'Ocean Bridges'

Ocean Bridges is proof that genre crossovers can sound organic, and that the term "crossover" doesn't have to come loaded with gimmicky connotations. Maybe we're headed for a world in which genres are so fluid that the term is dropped altogether from the cultural lexicon.

Books

Claude McKay's 'Romance in Marseille' Is Ahead of Its Time

Claude McKay's Romance in Marseille -- only recently published -- pushes boundaries on sexuality, disability, identity -- all in gorgeous poetic prose.

Music

Christine Ott Brings the Ondes Martenot to New Heights with the Mesmerizing 'Chimères'

France's Christine Ott, known for her work as an orchestral musician and film composer, has created a unique new solo album, Chimères, that spotlights an obscure instrument.

Music

Man Alive! Is a Continued Display of the Grimy-Yet-Refined Magnetism of King Krule

Following The OOZ and its accolades, King Krule crafts a similarly hazy gem with Man Alive! that digs into his distinct aesthetic rather than forges new ground.

Books

The Kinks and Their Bad-Mannered English Decency

Mark Doyles biography of the Kinks might complement a seminar in British culture. Its tone and research prove its intent to articulate social critique through music for the masses.

Music

ONO Confronts American Racial Oppression with the Incendiary 'Red Summer'

Decades after their initial formation, legendary experimentalists ONO have made an album that's topical, vital, uncomfortable, and cathartic. Red Summer is an essential documentation of the ugliness and oppression of the United States.

Film

Silent Women Filmmakers No Longer So Silent: Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers

The works of silent filmmakers Alice Guy Blaché and Julia Crawford Ivers were at risk of being forever lost. Kino Lorber offers their works on Blu-Ray. Three cheers for film historians and film restoration.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.