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Crazy creativity

Prepare yourself to see something really crazy. I mean, something absolutely psycho. Are you ready? Click here. Look! It's the craziest ad guys in America! Oh my God, those guys are wearing blue jeans! And a couple of them don't even have their shirts tucked in!! And the one on the far right, the guy with the radically long hair who's flipping a Madison Avenue gang sign, he's not wearing any shoes! They're crazy!!!

It's a cliche to portray ad men as wild, nutty "creative" types in the business press, guys who "think outside the box" and "reinvent" brands and devise campaigns that are really original or more unique. Sometimes they are depicted as bordering on subversive in the way they challenge management to question all their assumptions about their business and how to reach customers. But it hardly needs to be said that advertising is never subversive; its goals are always in the service of business, always for hire, always about selling more and grabbing market share. (Often when ads are extra wacky, it's because the product itself is extra shoddy, or haunted by some scandals regarding quality, as is the case with VW, a primary client of those kookoo nutcases on the cover. If the ad obscures the product, it seems safe to assume the product is junk and you'll be expected to continue to consume the ideas of the ad instead of the product.) Maybe we want to temper the contempt and manipulation inherent in advertising by lauding its cleverness; it makes us seem less vulnerable and gullible in our reaction to it. And that's not to say ad guys aren't actually creative, it's just that they aren't that much more creative than any sales person. There's not much separating an ad man from a used car salesman, particularly when you view then from the perspective of their mutual goals. They have to get your attention, they have to disorient you so that you forget what you thought you wanted and then smoothly introduce new ideas into your head that you'll mistake for your own. Used car salemen are on the front lines; they are the foot soldiers in the sales war that ad men are allowed to conduct on high from their executive suites in Midtown.

It seems at first that depicting advertisers are zany and creative is an attempt to redeem them of their explicitly commercial motives, make excuses for them, but really it seems an attempt to harness all creativity to entrepreneurship, buisness expansion and customer management. In our culture, creativity is measured in sales, and we are constantly reminded that the drive to increase sales is what inspires the most truly authentic creative acts. It's become harder and harder to imagine creative acts outside of the business paradigm; that is, the impulse to create and the impulse to earn are blurred together. They seem synonymous. The growth economy's insatiable demand for novelty absorbs all creativy to itself, and makes it seem as though creativity is merely the invention of something novel rather than the primordial act of making itself.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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