PM Pick

The Gang of Four are dead

Not the band, though there is someting spiritually deadening about their comeback tours and their money-grubbing album, Return the Gift. I'm talking about the Gang of Four who started China's Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s. Yao Wenyuan, the last living member of the group, died a few weeks ago. During the Cultural Revolution Mao was deified into a living god -- Gang of Four cohort Lin Biao claimed "Chairman Mao is a genius, everything the Chairman says is truly great; one of the Chairman's words will override the meaning of ten thousands of ours" -- and students were encouraged to seize power from the state and persecute all bureaucrats and intellectuals for their recalcitrant bourgeois tendencies -- for falling back rather than pushing the permanent revolution forward. They were then typically forced to undergo painful public self-criticism, usually while groveling at the boot of some Red Guard thug. The idea seems to have been that complacency automatically bred "capitalist roader" mentalities and inhibited the development of a truly socialist superstructure to complement the command-economy base. Whenever I lament the fact that few take the politics embedded in all culture seriously enough, I think of the chaos of these events, their rabid and unhampered anti-intellectualism, and remember to consider more carefully what it is I wish for. The whole point of self-criticism and the social critique that might flow from it, is that you take it upon yourself; it's no good if it's beaten out of you. And it is no good to be forced to the country for proletarian re-education, as many students were during the "Down to the Country" movement, if no one can identify what anyone should be trying to learn. When one reads about this period, it seems like a grotesque version of the contemporaneous film Wild in the Streets, in which teenagers take over the government and force all the adults to take LSD and die insane in prison camps. The Cultural Revolution seems to demonstrate what happens when you fuse modern youth culture, sustained by the mass-media propaganda potential, with a self-aggrandizing political platform and behind the scenes powerbrokers who stand to benefit from chaos. It seems a model for terrorism in the name of Islamic fundamentalism (not to mention Christian fundamentalism -- is it so hard to imagine a paramilitary force from a megachurch somewhere being granted police power in some Southern state?)

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image