Peripatetic Postcards

Simulacra: The New Old in place of the Same Old

New trip; same old routine. International flight. Packed like sardines. Ten and a-half hours to get from there to here – wherever that may be. No matter where it is, it always seems to take ten – minimum – to get delivered to any international destination. Is it just me? A function of that little archapelago in the Pacific that I make a habit of inhabiting. Or is it true for you, too? No matter where you reside.

Okay. So, how about you? Does this ever happen to you, as well? . . .

Mid-flight, an unscheduled nod-off, only to wake unexpectedly nine minutes later; face flush against the spiny shoulder of the Indian teen to your left. A trace of spittle rolling from your lips, dribbling now along his bicep.


You’re in that situation – you find yourself in the throes of a dilemma, of sorts. Unsure as to whether you should wipe off your glistening trail – thereby possibly alerting the lad of your unintentional incursion onto his person -- or simply pretend that you had no role in the trickle of spit now slithering down his sleeve.

If you’re like me, you abruptly rise to head to the head. Maybe time and distance will solve all crises, you kid yourself.

Of course, you know all the while that that solution rarely works in the real world. Even if it does bring temporary relief. You know -- like this trip you are taking ten hours to anywhere; just to get away. It'll only be a week, but still . . .

So you engage in the same old (travel) routine – to break the (everyday) routine. Which is (or ought to be) what travel is all about.

Anyway, what travel is about right here, right now is that for these ten hours at least, this is not the real world. It is simulated stuff – Baudrillard’s simulacra; that which stands for what is not. In this case we are talking about a magical mechanical machine that humans step inside in one place at Time One then march out off in another, at Time Two, never actually going anywhere, but finding themselves somewhere else, nonetheless. A new truth in the stead of the old.

I’m thinking of The Fly here, although I suppose H.G. Wells would have come first to mind in a different age (a different machine!). David Hedison was my favorite mad flyantist, but I suppose a different generation would better recall Jeff Goldblum. Another generation entirely probably doesn’t know either and is wondering what the hell I’m dithering on about.

L.A. my friend. Hollywood. Is what I'm getting at. Time travel. Simulation. The land of the forever make-believe and put on. The illusory space of what is from the what is not. The fictitious all-consuming reality before the Internet; today's happening place of non-space; a contrivance of forever it-could-be-true.

Well, if you already hadn't discerned, it’s get away day for me. A new old for me, hopefully that won't be transformed into a same old for you.

To make sure that that becomes so, let me catch some real rest – hopefully sans salivatory somnambulance – and see whether I can come up with some travel insights that won't end up being mere simulacra: words in place of the ones that have just come before, yet signifying a slim nothing.

Well, there's always hope in life.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.