Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Passing Opinion Off As Fact Since 2009

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Is This It? - This is It: The Rise of The Democracy of Pop

In October of 2001 The Strokes released Is this It? With it, a previously trite 20-somethingism, rang oddly true. The Strokes were the reflection of a generation of disaffected youths at the turn of the millennium. This massive youth culture was slowly coming of age and was not happy with what they saw. Actually, it was more about what they didn't see, themselves. Now, almost exactly 8 years to the day, the film of Michael Jackson's concert rehearsal is soon to be released and is titled This Is It. In those 8 years what was "it" to the Strokes slowly approached its demise, and the Michael Jackson film (and corresponding death) marks that finally that "it" will no longer continue to exist. We have witnessed the fall of the King of Pop and in his wake has arisen The Democracy of Pop*.

The Democracy of Pop is defined by three features:

1) The Democracy of Information
2) The Democracy of Content
3) The Democracy of Fame

The Democracy of Information is the most simple of the three concepts. With the Internet reaching near omnipresence there is no longer exclusivity to information. Before bands like Dirty Projectors were relegated to radio station kids, but now they can just as easily be heard on a particularly adventurous suburban 13 year-old’s Bar Mitzvah mix. Similarly, give me a week and the Internet and I can become an authority on any somewhat relevant director of the last 90 years. The result is a marketplace of experts, who both contain a greater passion for culture and demand more from what they take in. From this stems…

The Democracy of Content, which is a concept I touched on with “Why doesn't anyone talk about how bad a name ‘The Beatles’ is?” No longer is our popular culture defined by its monolithic entities. In its stead we have a fragmented culture meant to appeal to niches of varying sizes. We have a generation of individuals looking to separate themselves from the masses, not find their place within. Democracy of Content means the individual has complete control over what they involve themselves with and those in power are forced to respond to these demands as best they can. Still, it doesn’t matter if they fail to because the content’s creators themselves have the tools to reach its audience due to…

The Democracy of Fame, which is a concept I touch on with “I Haven't Read 1984 in 9 Years. You?” and “Isn’t it weird that Marketing sounds like Marketing?” Fame in the broadest sense is now remarkably attainable by the masses and in turn has become much more desired. We are able to put ourselves out there in ways never before possible and to a scale never before imagined. And it is more than just reality television, for the ascension of the Internet has allowed artists direct access to their audience. A band can develop a noteworthy national fan base without once playing a show outside their hometown or receiving any major press. Like Bon Iver, who recorded a simple 10-song demo alone in the Wisconsin wilderness with no intention of releasing it. Yet slowly but surely a hungry marketplace was able to seek out his remarkable music. He became a legitimate superstar (to those who care to know him) without really doing much other than genuinely creating his art. Democracy of Fame means everyone has complete access to fame and an equal say in who becomes famous.

Subsequently, just like our political democracy, there cannot exist a ruling monarchy. There cannot be another Michael Jackson (at least not for this generation) because our culture is no longer built for it. Maybe we can have a President of Pop** or some Senators and Governors. These hypothetically appointed positions would be filled by artists that honor the fundamentals of our democracy. Meaning, there will be a rise of artists who have reached their stature directly as a result of their fan-bases and who respect their role as part of a culture of niches.

Like The Strokes did as a young New York buzz-band who begged the question, “Is This It?” which for last 8 years has seemed to be an ever present nagging to our culture. Every step of the way the question was there – when Ruben Studdard won American Idol - when we cared that Kim Kardashian had a sex tape – when Radiohead let the individual decide how much they wanted to pay for a record – when Kanye West asked Jon Brion to produce Graduation - when Grizzly Bear had a Top 10 album without any semblance of mainstream publicity - when food blogs readership surged as Gourmet was going under – when 4 of the members of The Strokes released side-projects that sounded like niche versions of The Strokes. Almost poetically, the lead singer of the Strokes is set to release his solo record on October 20th, perfectly timed to be his (and everyone else for that matter) last chance to rally against the “it” of the last 8 years. For just a week and a day later “This Is It” will be released and serve as the goodbye lap for the “it.”

Michael Jackson will be projected on thousands of movie screens, a shell of what he once was, singing the songs that united the globe. This film will seem quaint in the coming years, not because the songs will feel like classics (which they are) but because the concept of a globe uniting song will be oddly dated.

Now, I am aware this sounds particularly unromantic, however I very much beg to differ. I think the fact that I can genuinely record whatever music I want to with no backing money - no big studio production - no marketing push – and be able to have it listened by anyone all over the world is romantic. I think that a college student through the viral promotion of his Facebook group was able to raise thousands of dollars (and a ton of awareness) for Darfur is romantic. I think that an art collector being able to bypass the major gallery system and buy a photograph off an art student’s Flickr page is romantic. We are a generation that has been told that we can do anything we dream of, and maybe that means we are millions of capricious ne’er do wells, or maybe it means we can do anything we dream of. Maybe “this” was not ”it.”

* Consider the phrase coined!!!!

** I will not alone appoint a President of Pop because that would go against the Democracy I am currently celebrating (though Justin Timberlake and Kanye West are possible candidates). Still for fun, I would like to bestow the position of House Minority (maybe Majority) Whip to Girl Talk. Who to better rally people behind a fragmented popular culture than a man that will mix dozens of songs into one track. One song in the first 70 seconds layers Lil’ Jon on top of Procol Harum, which leads into Kanye West and BLACKstreet, which then leads into Michael Jackson and a different Kanye song and Radiohead, and it continues from there still while maintaining a breakneck pace. What Girl Talk is doing throwing everything out there and letting the individual choose what to respond to. I might like 7 of the 35 songs he will mash-up in any given track, but I will be really happy when they come up. Moreover, Girl Talk is known for his live shows, yet he doesn’t really do much onstage. Instead, his shows are selling out large venues across the country because of the fans. People go see Girl Talk to be part of the show, not to see him put one on. What could be more democratic than that?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

My GRE Vocab Flash Cards Are Cheeky

Below are direct quotes from a GRE flash card...

side 1:

(taa sih tuhrn)

side 2:

silent; not talkative

The clerk's taciturn nature earned him the nickname Silent Bob.

Synonyms: laconic; reticent

Thursday, October 1, 2009

10 - 1!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The most interesting trend that I came to realize when making this list is how important lyrics were. I have always considered myself not a lyrics person. I viewed the lyrics as some sort of afterthought. However, when I look at my top 50 and especially my top 5 this seems to not be the case. Sure there are songs where the lyrics couldn’t mean less (I’m looking at you “Beating Heart Baby”) but from what I see from looking over the list is that the songs that I really care about have lyrics I really care about.

10. “Fake Empire” – The National

Speaking of lyrics, The National win. They are the only band that I actively sight lyrics for the reason I care for the band. “Fake Empire” is no exception ("Let's not try to figure out everything at once" is a lyrical hug) however it is the music that places it here. It is subtle and comforting like any good National song. But then there is the big horn break down, which knocks me on my ass every time. I would say we are looking at a 70% success rate of aural goosebumps by song’s end. (“7/4 Shoreline” also features a similar closing – I apparently like big horn arrangements to end songs)

9. “Daydreamin’” – Lupe Fiasco ft Jill Scott

I can’t imagine liking a hip-hop song more than this. First, you have Lupe doing what he does best, rapping about the trappings of “the game.” Beyond being exceedingly clever, the track showcases the fact that he is one of the few rappers with actually understanding of melody. And then there is Jill Scott showing off her remarkable range as a singer. But fuck range, the song is about her being an absolute powerhouse for the last 80 seconds. This song remains a master-class in hook singing. More than anything you get a feeling that the two performers actually care about what they are talking about, which is pretty much a revelation in the world of modern day hip-hop.

8. “Extraordinary Machine” – Fiona Apple

Every single time I listened to this song I am surprised. From the first time to right this moment when I am listening this song while writing, I am taken aback. Amazed by how peculiarly it is, how remarkably executed it is, how idiosyncratic it is. It feels like some sort of future-past, both so classic and so contemporary concurrently. More than anything it is pretty. Very, very, very, very, very, very, very pretty.

7. “Since U Been Gone” – Kelly Clarkson

This is not a guilty pleasure. “Since U Been Gone” is a kickass song. I believe I started taking it seriously when she performed it on the MTV awards. During which a bunch of water fell on her and her in-ear monitor went out. Kelly responded by basically screaming her voice off. She went all over pitches but I thought it was the greatest thing ever. Only in the Aughts could a TV competition winner singing a song written by two hired gun Swedes result in the best rock song of the last 10 years.

6. “For Reverend Green” – Animal Collective

I signed up for about two years ago. Also about two years ago I heard “For Reverend Green” for the first time. If you go to my ( you will notice there is no song I have played as much. To me this symbolizes that at this point in my life, it is exactly what I am looking for. At its core it is a straightforward rock song, however one filtered through the Animal Collective prism. The lyrics are mostly the silliness you would expect (I always somewhat related to the “A thousand wasted Brooklyners all depressed” line) and man, he is the best screamer I have ever heard. Basically, it’s a song I always, always want to listen to.

5. “All My Friends” – LCD Soundsystem

I somewhat like minimalist classical music. I don’t listen to it often but I definitely do enough to know that it is the first thing that attracted me to “All My Friends.” Musically, the song is deceptively simple and arrestingly beautiful. Still, what takes this possible Top 10 song and makes it a Top 5 are the lyrics. It is a song about getting older but also a lot more than that. If in the future they develop a solely aural dictionary and if you hypothetically looked up “bittersweet” in said dictionary, you would probably hear “All My Friends” (obviously depending on the hipness of the dictionary’s publisher). The fact is the song gets me every time.

4. “My Mathematical Mind” – Spoon

Most people reading this probably already know I am pretty OCD. Not in some Danny Tanner, need to clean things way, or that I need to turn the lights on-&-off 4 times before entering a room way, but its there. Generally, I am more compulsively obsessive than obsessively compulsive. I digress, “My Mathematical Mind” is the anthem of this part of me. A song about getting out of your head and just live for a second. “My mathematical mind can see the breaks/So I’m gonna stop riding the brakes” has become my mantra. Musically, it is what Spoon does best – acts really cool and throws in cool/rockin’ noises. In this case the song features a classic Brit Daniels anti-solo that has greatly influenced my guitar playing ever since. I need this song to exist, at least the OCD part of me does.

3. “The Rat” – The Walkmen

This song was my #1 for almost the entirety of the list’s existence. Though that didn’t work out, “The Rat” still remains securely in my top 3. This is mainly because if I was going to use one song to define my taste in the last 10 years “The Rat” would top the list. I first heard the song really by chance when they performed on Letterman (don’t worry, tis the attached link) and I was drawn to it immediately and still remain so ever since. The song is exceedingly immediate and undeniably brash. It is a song that defies you to try to listen to it passively – from the drum beat to the vocal ticks, the song confronts you. The song, like the character created by the lyrics, cannot be ignored.

2. “Skinny Love” – Bon Iver

I first saw Bon Iver when he was touring solo as an opener for Elvis Perkins in the winter of 2007. Completely unaware of his music, I went into it not really expecting much. Two songs in I was impressed and definitely interested, but than he took out his resonator guitar and started strumming the chords now burnt into my brain. By the end of the first verse I stood with mouth agape. And then there was the brief pause before he entered into the chorus…

“And I told you to patient...” he sung, with his voice cracking a little bit from trying to hit that note just out of his reach. I literally had a hard time breathing for a second and probably teared. This was the most genuine moment I have ever felt with an artist. Still there was another chorus and more strain on his voice. The second chorus ended with (and always ends with) “If all your love was wasted/Then who the hell was I?/And I am breaking at the britches/And at the end of all your lines,” which he sang like he really meant it (I wish it wasn’t so trite to say, but that night he did mean it). At that moment I was overtaken – I wanted to leave the show so I could go home and listen to the song again. I did make it through the whole show; however, I did rush home and listened to it again and again and again. About two years later and I still cannot stop. I am still overwhelmed, I am still affected, I am still taken aback every time his just misses the note when he sings “told.”

1. “Biomusicology” – Ted Leo & the Pharmacists

I think it’s beautifully apt (maybe too so) to end my list with this song. Simply, “Biomusicology” is a song about how important songs are. I don’t have an elaborate story behind hearing this song for the first time. I heard it junior year of college and loved it. Time went on and I loved it more. More time - more love, etc. Still one thing holds true, no matter when I am listening to it, I always want to hear it a second time. Everything in the world seems right as long as the song is playing. The song ends…

“All in all we cannot stop singing
we cannot start sinking
We swim until it ends
They may kill and we may be parted
But we will ne'er be broken hearted”

Which cues my heart to pump its fist in agreement. It is not a definitive Ted Leo song but it is without a doubt my favorite. Still what it came down to is this, “What song could I not live without?” This song was at #3 at first but then when I tried to play the list in order it just didn’t feel right. If I am going to listen to music, I need to be able to listen to this song. So when it is all said and done, Ted Leo earned the top spot the old fashioned way, by writing a song I could not imagine not listening to.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why doesn't anyone talk about how bad a name "The Beatles" is?

I have spent the last 3 weeks actively avoiding writing about The Beatles. This is decision coincided with the release of The Beatles reissues and Rock Band. This “historic” event gave everyone who writes about things an impetus to write about The Beatles. This was somewhat fun because now I know that Let it Be is just as good as the new Girls record by Pitchfork’s standards. Mostly, however, it was a lot rehashing of the same trivia, analysis, Baby Boomerisms. I am pretty sure the world decided at least 30 years ago that The Beatles were the greatest band ever – similarly, I am pretty sure greatest ever doesn’t have an expiration date.

So why am I about to write about The Beatles in 21 words from now? Because, apparently, The Beatles were the greatest band ever (who knew!*) and I have unequivocally determined why this is the case.

The Beatles were the greatest band ever, because they had to be. The Beatles came to be exactly when the world wanted/demanded/needed the greatest band ever to exist and to their credit they became that band. This was due to two reasons:

1. The market place

2. The generation that created said marketplace

There was probably fewer Rock N’ Roll bands in the 1960’s than there are now – definitely less that were commercially viable in one way or another. Fewer bands means = less dispersion of talent. Moreover, less bands means the bands that do exist have to do more to appeal to more people. Similarly, if progress was unavoidable**, then the less bands were responsible for the brunt of it.

Still it isn’t just a numbers game. There isn’t just a large pie of progress/greatness that fewer bands were allowed to split up. At the end of the day there was still that one band that carved out a Garfield sized slice of the pie. If The Beatles were Garfield***, then the Baby Boomers were Jon.

The Boomers were a collectivist bunch, especially for Americans. As a whole they looked to build a community bonded by a fundamental ethos. Kennedy was shot – racial tension was reaching its apex – the Vietnam War polarized the country – parents were being squares – students were being gun down – impending nuclear holocaust – (insert the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” and The Police’s “Born in the 50’s”) – and the youth just wanted to be together, to love one another, to be at peace.

The result is a generation of long-haired team players. And the team’s mission was to promote the potential of a world bonded together. What came of this were communes and free love and the general hippy pastiche. The other result was a culture environment rife with universally decided upon greatness. Bob Dylan was the voice of a generation, Woodstock was the greatest cultural gathering, The Beatles were the greatest band ever.

So what has changed in the 40 years since? Well other than everything, those hippies who thrived on being so supportive of their community birthed babies. In turn, those same hippies thrived on being equally as supportive to those babies they birthed. The Millennials**** are those supported babies and they are out for blood. Blood in this case represents individuality.

Thus there are tens of millions of people using their culture not to bring them together but to set them apart. And just like the 60’s the culture itself has responded to the demands put upon it. However, now the response is a culture that is more fragmented, more dispersed, more niche. Millennials do not want the definitives but my definitives. Meaning they are not looking to define their generation but themselves as part of it.

A Beatles cannot be created in this environment because this environment is diametrically opposed to a band being the sole greatest entity. Instead greatness is dispersed to a lot of different bands for the individual to pick and choose from. Where once you were either a Beatles or Rolling Stones***** person, now the youth creates a patchwork of hundreds of known artists******.

The Beatles first record was released in the states in 1964. Not coincidently, that same year the first Boomers (born in 1946) were entering college. At a time when individuals are most expected to define themselves and their place in the greater culture, The Beatles immediately allowed for that definition to based around commonality. Furthermore, I believe that in 1964 you had a youth culture prepared to come together (pun 100% intended), thus creating a fertile environment for The Beatles to begin cementing their legacy. A classic self-perpetuating cycle – this culture needed a Beatles and The Beatles needed this culture.

Now if you look at the first year the first Millennials (born in 1982) entered college, 2000, comparable conclusions could be drawn. Artistically speaking, Radiohead’s Kid A along with Outkast’s Stankonia were both released the same month that Fall and mark the emergence of the divergence of culture. Outkast introduced a completely left-field approach to popular hip-hop and Radiohead asserted digital music importance to the future of music. Both records were polarizing and I believe began the fraction of what became popular music. Possibly more importantly, however, is that Kid A is credited as the first major record to be leaked months before it was officially released (available on Napster July 2000).

The Fall of 2000 when these Millennials entered college many were talking about not only the artistic merits of the revolutionary Kid A, but how it was available before it reached the general public. At this moment the mass creation of a generation “in-the-know” began. Accordingly, as the Internet slowly became a viable medium to both learn about and acquire music a generational identity began to coalesce. What was created was a generation of experts, with almost infinite access to both content and information, actively looking to distinguish themselves from their equally as voracious counterparts. The fact is it is fundamentally impossible for millions of people to distinguish themselves by everyone loving the same thing – it is fundamentally impossible to have another Beatles.

Hence the release of The Beatles reissues couldn’t have been timed better. As this decade (the first decade culturally dominated by the Millennials) comes to a close, The Beatles serve as a perfect antithesis of the popular culture that exists today. Simply, no one wants another Beatles or more broadly no one wants universally agreed upon cultural certainties. Instead, the Millennials have quite possibly brought about the second greatest period of contemporary music, one defined by universally disagreed upon cultural uncertainties.

• Barbara Mikulski

**Which I think it obviously was. The genre was being invented still so almost anything done to expand its definition was progress. Rock n’ Roll was not going to be gussied up 12-bar blues progressions forever.

***It was a known fact at the time that The Beatles loved lasagna and hated Mondays.

****They were even supportive enough as to give us a cooler name when we complain about being called the highly derivative “Gen Y.”

*****The fact that collective unconscious of the day basically forced The Rolling Stones to record psychedelic albums, really cements home the idea that bands needed to be everything to everyone.

******I can’t even imagine a comparable example for today. The Killers vs. Grizzly Bear? Kings of Leon vs. Dirty Projectors? Lil’ Wayne vs. LCD Soundsystem? Taylor Swift vs. Kanye West? John Mayer vs. Yeah Yeah Yeahs? There are none.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

29 - 11

There is a trend that plays out mostly in 29-11 that I found particularly interesting. BALLADS!!!! This section has a number of ballads by bands that usually are on the more rockin' side of things. I guess this says something about a really good ballad. The louder/faster songs of the world might be more immediate and visceral, however as is the case with a lot of these songs, ballads offer something deeper. So as time goes on I found myself revisiting these songs and allowing them to grow on me.

That is the great thing about making this list, I really had no idea about this trend until now. Anyway, enjoy...

29. “Encore” – Jay- Z (specifically some unknown remix I have on my computer)

28. “Young Hears Spark Fires” – Japandroids

27. “Stuck Between Stations” – The Hold Steady

26. “Knife” – Grizzly Bear

25. “Beating Heart Baby” – Head Automatica

24. “505” – Arctic Monkeys

23. “Ordinary People” – John Legend

22. “Love Dog” – TV on the Radio

21. “Level” – The Raconteurs

20. “OK Apartment” – The Oranges Band

19. “Used To Vacation” Cold War Kids

18. “Sweetness” – Jimmy Eat World

17. “First Sight” – These United States

16. “Videotape” – Radiohead

15. “Lengths” – The Black Keys

14. “Last Night” – The Strokes

13. “7/4 Shoreline” – Broken Social Scene

12. “4 Kicks” – Kings of Leon

11. “One Thing” – Amerie

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Favorite Song of the Decade 50 - 30

This list was really, really, really hard to make. I thought I finished it two weeks ago, until I realized I didn't love many of the songs. I was putting important songs on the list that I merely liked a lot. "Maps" is a great and all but I have no real connecation to it, thus it was removed. After a few more weeks of editing I am left with the list that will be posted here. I really, really, really, really like these songs and deeply care for them.

So please enjoy the list, I have included links so you can listen to songs you haven't heard before/listened to in awhile. Again I implore you to make your own lists, it is a fun/revealing/rewarding process.

51. “Family Reunion” – Jill Scott*

50. “Vindicated” Dashboard Confessional**

49. “Untitled” – D'angelo

48. “Marry You When Yr Sleeping” – Voice on Tape

47. “Warning” – Incubus

46. “Sunday Morning” – Maroon 5

45. “Intuition” – Feist

44. “Die” – Iron & Wine

43. “Distractions” – Zero 7

42. “Seed 2.0” – The Roots

41. “While You Were Sleeping” – Elvis Perkins

40. “Stronger” – Kanye West

39. “When Did Your Heart Go Missing?” – Rooney

38. “My Love” – Justin Timberlake

37. “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” – The Postal Service

36. “Nantes” – Beirut

35. “Captive Train” – Holler, Wild Rose

34. “Daylight” – Matt & Kim

33. “I Found A Reason” – Cat Power

32. “Heartbeats”- Jose Gonzalez

31. “Blue Light” – Bloc Party

30. “Arms of a Woman” – Amos Lee

*I am aware that 51 is not included in 50-30. This song is great and remarkably silly (I would argue the most silly of the decade). On one hand, I knew I wanted to list this song and on the other I knew it was never going to be top 50. And since this is my blog, I will do whatever I want.

**The last song added to the list, appropriately comes in at #50. This song is the closest thing I have to a guilty pleasure (I don't personally believe in this term). Nonetheless, I have two very dear memories involving this song, which have earned it this placement.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Isn’t it weird that Marketing sounds like Marketing?

So as I was driving home from work I noticed multiple benches with Courtney Cox Arquette’s face on them. This seemed pretty harmless; she is famous and famous people’s faces always find themselves in the strangest of places. Eventually, I realized the ad was telling me that CCA was a real estate agent in some magical* land named “Cougar Town.” I am aware that “Cougar Town” is actually a soon to premier television show starring CCA. I am also aware that this bench is an example of viral marketing. Wikipedia tells me:

“The buzzwords viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that use pre-existing social networks to produce increases in brand awareness or to achieve other marketing objectives (such as product sales) through self-replicating viral processes, analogous to the spread of pathological and computer viruses. It can be word-of-mouth delivered or enhanced by the network effects of the Internet.”

So yes, this bench is an example of viral marketing - albeit very lazy and boring viral marketing. More than anything it is a direct theft of the much better viral marketing done by team behind District 9.

I have been told by a lot of people that District 9 is a very good movie. More importantly, those lot of people always mention how well done and even fun the marketing campaign was. It is very similar to the way LOST fans talk about the viral marketing master J.J. Abrams’s ability to create a mystique around his flagship show through his exceedingly clever promotion ideas. So this is what I thought about when I looked CCA’s generally attractive face, until…


An epiphany.

I must digress for a moment to set up a metaphor. In my days as a psych major at University I learned about a phenomenon called infantile vegetarianism. Basically, young children have a concrete understanding of words, in which every word represents a separate distinct thing. Eventually they stop being stupid babies and start thinking. Sometimes this thinking leads to this very adorable scenario in which a child will proclaim, “it’s weird that chicken (the word for the food) sounds like chicken (the word for the animal).” Once they learn the two are actually one-in-the-same they cry and swear off eating meat (stupid babies). Nevertheless, at this same age, kids still define their morality completely around what their parents say so they eventually end their hunger strike because their parents tell them to (stupid babies).

The point:


So why do we care so much about it?

I came of age in the 90’s where I think I thought marketing was bad. Did I miss interpret a decent portion of early-mid career Pearl Jam records? I thought history looked really poorly on yuppies and loved hippies/punks/counter-culturists. Commercialism is bad, no?

I guess somewhere along the way this view has grayed. The most obvious example is the general blanket acceptance of band licensing their music to commercials***. More than acceptance, there is a celebration of sorts. Advertisements have become the place to hear new music (in GRE… video : Radio-star = commercials : Video-star), In a time where everyone has become experts of sorts, Apple has become the western hemisphere’s top tastemaker. Isn’t this bad?

I don’t know if it is bad but it definitely is telling. You may ask yourself; well…How did I get here?

My answer to this question is inspired by a theory created by essayist/scholar/famous person/professional sandwich eater**** Jesse Fox. In his essay entitled “I Haven’t Read 1984 in 9 Years. You?” he pontificates, quite eloquently I might add, that culturally we are approaching a future in which we are all famous. Because of the rise of reality television and blog-culture we are putting ourselves out to the world in ways never before available.

The fact is the difference between the famous and the non-famous has shrunk to a point of sheer non-existence. I know at least 4 people who have been on a reality show for at least one episode and I assume I know more who will eventually be on one. The result is we can easily picture ourselves being famous – we can picture ourselves as content and like any content that has come before, we will need to be marketed. So like an overzealous reality TV star we care how we are advertised or at least how we could potentially be.

Similarly, it is a lot easier to be in a band and to have that band reach thousand of people. Just the other morning I wrote two fairly weird songs, recorded them that afternoon, and then posted them on the Internet that evening. Hypothetically, if they were remarkable (which they weren’t), I could have had hundreds of fans by the end of the weekend. The result is that we are more likely to see these bands as real people because at anytime we could be that person in a similar band. Selling out is so 90’s because finally as fans we can put ourselves in the bands’ place and realize we would do the exact same thing.

Still, is this bad? Probably.

However, let’s assume it isn’t. The economy is really horrible currently so maybe it is a good thing that being famous exists as a career option. Other than the lack of quality health benefits (yet!?!?!?!?!?!?!) being in a band can become a responsible career option. Moreover, though being surrounded by a web of viral marketing can be exhausting, at least the marketers are thinking and trying to be clever. And isn’t that point? People thinking - people being in bands - people being clever. Hell, I have no reason to believe Cougar Town is going to be a bad show, it might be the best show since Joey (I loved Joey). Hmm, wait I guess I do have one reason, its called "Cougar Town" - I guess they aren't that many people being cleer.

* What is the opposite of magical? I wanted to use whatever word that would be in this situation but I still haven’t thought of it.

** A lot of people***** have told me my blog is not onomatopoeic enough.

*** Matt & Kim have a song placed in a Bacardi commercial. This is crazy!!!!!!!!!! Could they not get the rights to a Team Robespierre song? I have tried but I cannot imagine a scenario where Matt or Kim would drink Bacardi. Maybe if it were a commercial for smiles, PBR, biking, contact lenses it would sit better.

**** Today I got an e-mail request from a start-up lunch company asking for my “professional opinion” on their new line of sandwiches. Top 5 e-mails ever received.

*****A grand total of 0 people have told me this but I have to assume at least one person has thought it. So for that person….





Sunday, August 30, 2009

Have You Heard Of This Thing Called "Music?" It Is The Bees Proverbial Knees!

This is it! We are doing it!! This is our collective time to shine!!! We will remember this specific time in history forever!!!! Etc!!!!!

Musically speaking, this year has the makings of being the best of our generation. Our 1994, our 1977, or 1965-1969. I know many people probably thought this moment would never come but it is coming and coming hard.

It can be argued as an age group we came of age during the worst period of music EVER* – the late 90’s/early 00’s (2nd worst is probably the mid/late 80’s, followed by the early 70’s). I could spend pages arguing this sad, sad truth however instead I will just point you Wikipedia ( start at 1995 and go forward ) to come to terms with how tragic this period was**

So how did we get here? And where is the here we are at?

Here is a world of indie-music as a fully realized entity. It went from obscure, to under-the-radar, to relevant, to now a world where it is post-relevant. Yes, post-relevant, I made it up, but I like it. It means that no longer it has to justify why it exists because it is a completely formed, self-sustaining medium. It doest not have to try to water down itself to fit in nor be weird just to prove how different and unique it is.

I am basing this opinion on the following albums***:

Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion (possibly the “greatest” album of our generation)
Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest
Dirty Projectors – Bitte Ocra
Various Artists - Dark Was The Night
TV on the Radio – Dear Science, (I am well aware this album came out in 2008, however I am making an exception because of a fact I will argue later).

These albums are all very, very good. The first time I listened to every one of them I had that a-ha moment that I strive for as a music listener. They all have the magical combination of adhering to and defying of expectations. It is more than putting out music of the utmost quality because a lot of them have been doing that for years. It is what the music sounds like and how it is presented that has abruptly slapped us all in the face. All of these albums are every elitist’s favorite word…ASCESIBLE. Its music that everyone can listen to and basically understand where it is coming from. As I like to put it, I would buy all of these albums for my Dad and probably will.

Accessibility implies that this music is more pleasant to listen to. No longer are these bands pushing you away with one hand as they try to pull you in with the other. Still more importantly, accessibility reflects a culmination of these bands ability to present their art. I would say there are songs that I liked by all these bands beforehand (except for Dirty Projectors) however not in the way I do now. These bands found a way to both filter themselves and expand their sound in a way that rings true****.

The Dark was the Night compilation is kind of icing on the proverbial***** cake. Every band on that record stepped it up and produced great songs for a cause. The album needed to be able to reach a wide audience, so the bands had to focus. That touches on the bigger point, its not just about getting the most fans as possible, its about focus. It is about figuring out how to best possibly communicate one’s art in order to reach the most people, which is the assumed goal of art. Music at its core is a heightened form of communication – it is the tying together of the visceral (music sounds) with the rational (words). Currently, it seems like a lot of bands have finally come to realize that.

So how did this happen?

President Barack Obama

At around 11pm central in Chicago on November 4th the eventual President, Barack Obama, gave a speech in front of like a billion people and Oprah. Early into the speech the possible second-coming and/or anti-Christ exclaimed, “It's been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this date in this election at this defining moment change has come to America.” Subsequently, at around midnight eastern standard time, in Brooklyn I cried my face-off. Arguable this was one my top 5 greatest music-related moments of my existence. I can imagine at this exact time, probably also in Brooklyn, many of the band members that created the albums listed above had a similar reaction. I believe the meaning of this moment fundamentally effected the art of these musicians.

More broadly, I believe that from the time Obama had a legit shot at winning (early summerish) you can credit him for this shift in the music being created. It is not that all us liberal Americans (which I am pretty safely assuming these bands’ members can be included as such) were all happy to have a possible like-minded Prez or is it about his optimism or idealism or awesomeness. It is the way he speaks. President Obama was able to speak in away that didn’t dumb it down or go over the head of the masses. He was able to use $5 words***** and still covey a fundamental passion that a lot of people yearned for from their public figures. The result was the flipping of a switch in the heads of many artists.

These bands realized there is a large group of people willing to hear them out if they just put a little effort in to trying to communicate their vision in a more inclusive way. It’s the understanding that having more people like your music does not mean it’s worse. Politically, it’s akin to bare-knuckled populism. I know at least Animal Collective has spoken to this point, in an interview they mentioned that it might be fun to see how “other” audiences responded to their music. At the time they were referring to jam band granola-faces however I think something deeper can be extracted. Animal Collective has been a band for about 10 years and it seems like they to want to challenge themselves to grow, to evolve, to change (!). This amount of unbridled idealism can easily be traced back to our hopelessly so commander in chief.

Like Don Quixote with a Harvard Law degree, President Obama has changed the tone of our generation. Our have-the-cake-and-it-to-ness is no longer just perceived as being the fundamental nature of a youngest sibling generation, and can instead be lumped in with our willingness to dream the impossible dream. Our high-minded music no longer needs to be saved for the self-declared few, it can instead appeal to anyone with ears/hips/brains/feet. And it has been a long time coming, but tonight (or whenever you are reading this), at this defining moment a change has come to America.

* EVER really means in the Rock n’ Roll era. So like 1950 on.

** The fact that Radiohead was able to put out music of actually consequence during this time is singly the greatest achievement ever produced by anyone with a lazy eye.

***There are other similar albums but the ones listed are the most important. Also this is not saying these are the best or my favorite albums because that would mean I am brazenly ignoring some of my favorite albums (i.e. The Antlers, Japandroids, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, St. Vincent…)

****Animal Collective stopped screaming and generally being so creepily weird for the hell of it, yet they kept their defining aesthetic and off-beatness – Grizzly Bear stopped meandering and wrote songs, amazingly tight songs, which perfectly lay out their meanderings – TV on the Radio stopped flooding their music with tons of everythingness and wrote timeless melodies that they coupled with a sound that sounds like culmination of the history of western music to this point – I don’t know what the hell Dirty Projectors did but somehow they made an album of pop music that is as beautiful as it is progressive.

*****Brief aside, proverbial is my favorite word. So now you know and knowing is half the battle.

******Like “proverbial.”

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Real(?!) World: A Generational Commentary Disguised As Reality TV Bloggery, pt. 2

20 something’s in the 90’s had to deal with lots of ish: AIDS, finding jobs in a booming economy, thinking of ways to spell words with X’s, slackerness, trying to go outside after finding out the internet had porn on it, picking a Screaming Trees song that perfectly expressed their slackerness, homosexuality was invented but no one was allowed to ask or tell about it, saying the name Newt Gingrich, and other exxxxxtreme things. One show and one show only was able to capture these trials and/or tribulations, Real World.

I’m not going to offer some hackneyed break down of the show because its 17 years old and I think I know what hackneyed means. No, instead I wonder if the differences in the shows focus in recent years are actually as premeditated as people like to say it is.

My senior year of high school corresponded with the Real World Las Vegas season. These 7 strangers for the first time did not seem at all “real” mainly because they were all crazy sexy*. They partied and acted a fool and threw cutlery and had threesomes and cheated when on vacation and partied and had jobs in nightclubs. Additionally, it was awesome.

So awesome that many** have argued it marked the beginning of the end of what the show once was. I am not sure if there was an outcry but if there was an outcry the outcriers would have been outcrying against the shows producers. The argument is the show started casting fame starved, crazies, who were sexy/slutty/punchy because that would boost ratings. On paper, this makes all the sense in the world (the Real world) but screw paper, this is the internet – paper is for squares and old people.

As I mentioned about 142 words ago, the pivotal Las Vegas season corresponded with my senior year of high school, and I believe this is not in the least bit meaningless. That season was the first season made up mostly of “real” people of my generation. So I am here to argue that the show didn’t need to go out looking for sexy/slutty/punchy fellows, we are just a generation of sexy/slutty/punchy fellows (sexiness varies).

We as 20-somethings have little to none of the trappings of our 90’s counterparts previously mentioned. Instead we are escapists in our real world, so it makes sense that we have a more escapist Real World. College-aged/early-post-college-aged folks used to be defined by the pressure to find oneself and grow up and get a job in a great economy (or average one). We are just trying to ignore all that jazz as long as our parents let us. College for a lot of kids has become a very overpriced vacation. Our parents’ generation’s live-for-todayness has translated poorly.

The fact is the economy is bad right now, so there aren’t jobs to have and then hate. The result, we are left to remain kids (sexy/slutty/punchy kids) a little longer and ride it out***. I am very much not saying we are villains here, I think we were given little to know choice***. If you told previous generations that the economy/job-market is not going to improve for a few years, I think they would act-a-fool as well*****.

That is why I argue the producers of Real World have been doing a bang up job. Regardless of the staggering opposition they face, they maintained the same mission statement they have since the start, “this is the true story, of seven strangers, picked to live in a house…” I lived in Brooklyn during the Brooklyn season, and at first (well actually until right this second) hated them there. I thought they were going to ruin my Brooklyn and so did many others*****. There were stories of stones thrown and spit spat.

Yet I am reminded of this guy named Jesus H. something who once said to bunch of potential stonethrowers “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.” We are those eager stonethrowers and maybe we all need to take a look in the mirror (and throw a stone at it).

*Just look at them: . Two have since been playboy, which I am not going to link to because this is not that type of blog (yet…).

** I actually have 0 idea if anyone has thought this other than myself, but they definitely should have.

***The best example of this is that there are investment banks and law firms paying recent graduates a good amount of money to take a year off before entering the work place. WHAAAAAA!

****Even I auditioned for a reality show when I was in between jobs a year ago. I was a finalist but was passed on (thank God?).

*****Save the Greatest Generation I guess. But they were really, really good people. My Great-Grandfather sold apples during the Great Depression. APPLES!!!!!!!

******I am aware many of these “others” probably think I ruined Brooklyn during my stay there.

A DREAM DEFERRED by Langston Hughes

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I Haven't Read 1984 in 9 Years. You?

Here is a quote* from the English teacher character in Chuck Klosterman’s Night Owl, “As you read Nineteen Eighty-Four you will learn about a man named Winston Smith. This is a man watched by the government and hounded by a group called the Thought Police. He is under surveillance twenty-four hours a day. This, obviously, would be horrifying. I’m sure none of you would enjoy being watched twenty-four hours a day. Or maybe I’m wrong.”**

He is wrong. Well at least he would have been if speaking to a class of high school juniors in 2009. Why?

Reality television!

1984 existed for decades and everyone was like, "ewwww people watching me all the time, gross, when will I..." Yet now of days it seems like people have taken this cautionary tale and turned it into a celebration of sorts (dumb). I am not talking about our government***, no I am referring to the state of reality television. 1984 taught generations of people to fight to maintain their independence and privacy. Presently, we literally broadcast our private selves to millions of fools. The title for the show Big Brother was supposed to be a cheeky (twas British first) reference to this, yet it has become obnoxiously apropos.

Speaking of cheeky, Andy Warhol referring to the fleeting nature of celebrity famously pontificated, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" Well we now undeniably live in the future and it seems like we are approaching a society in which we all will only have 15 minutes to be not so.

Look at me. I write this blog. I am putting myself out to the world in way my great grandparents wouldn’t begin to understand, even if a time traveling me (that spoke Russian) tried to explain it to them at Ellis Island right after they finally reached the land of the free and right before their name was being changed from something a lot Jewier.

Am I famous?

Probably, not - but maybe yes. I have "published" "articles" that could be read by billions of people. It is quite possible that more people have read things I wrote than had read the original Guttenberg Bible - the first printing of Romeo and Juliet - the first run of The 95 Theses pamphlets. I know there are a lot of slippery slopes going on and a lack of perspective, but somewhere in there is truth. There are a lot of people looking for a lot of access to a lot of other people. We are choosing to give the world 24/7 access to us, or at least 16/6. 1984 cannot come fast enough.

But why???!??!?!??!? !

We want to be cared for and/or about. We want to be validated. We want a legacy. And we don't care what this legacy is and what expense it comes.

My favorite show this summer was NYC Prep, in which 6 uber-rich kids gallivanted around New York City like possibly bi-curious gremlins. A couple wanted to be actors/singers so I guess it makes sense (though has there ever been a reality star that has truly crossovered? I feel like the numbers are dimmer than that of porn stars). However, a couple didn't want to be in showbiz. One wanted to get a 1600 SAT, go to Harvard, and eventually run a major corporation. This show in no way helped her (I doubt Bravo producers will write college app references) and it might have hurt her. Yet this seemed like a smart decision to this apparently bright little lady and her probably absent parents.

We are a generation of youngest children. We are a generation of broken homes. We love to be coddled - we need to be coddled. And this trumps everything, especially freedom.

So now 25 years after 1984 I am like a mini-Big Brother. I have had 100% access to a lot of individuals. I have seen them laugh and cry and eat and do it and fight and make up and sleep and compete in challenges. This is creepy, or at least it should be. Yet there we want more. We love access. We want to know everything about everybody and we want everybody to know the same about us. The fact is this can’t stop-won't stop, not in the least bit. Imagine 2084.

At the end of the day, it probably isn’t that big of deal (yet). No one gets hurt (at least physically) from watching these shows. And its nice that I was able to spend the half-an-hour before finishing this article watching the Kardashian’s spend a day with a monkey. Right…?

The future is now!

* I read this quote immediately before starting to write this entry. Effectively, preventing me from finishing to read the rest of the page. This reminds me of when I met Mr. Klosterman and he said he didn’t read that much because he can write as quickly as he could read. This effectively reinforced bad habits of mine.

** I don’t need to do citations for blog entries. Correct?

*** God, if this was a Patriot Act article, I would hate myself.

Fox con Sox con Blog: NOW WITH LINKS!!!!

I was never planning on this being one of those blogs that linked to ish. This was mainly because I didn't want to look up the html code for it. But then I found what I am about to link to.

It is a trailer for a filmed visual interpretation of an audio portrait of New York City. Though not the full thing, it is a solid 10 minutes long and includes some of the more affective parts. It is going to be presented at The Tank on September 9th, and I really recommend it highly if you live in NYC or its surrounding areas.

I first saw the piece in some abandoned boat that was turned temporarily into an art gallery for the Armory Show weekend. I went with my friend Kirby and we sat through the film twice back to back. Easily, it was the most compelling piece of the weekend for me, if not of my entire existence as a contemporary art viewer.

So I implore you to watch the video in the link. I know you haven't watched your tivo'd season finale of Kendra or even worse the premier of Megan Wants to Marry a Millionaire but they can wait the extra 10 minutes it takes to watch this...

SOUNDWALK - Kill the Ego

This is also a video of NYC but A LOT less intense.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It is not if we need to have babies - but WHEN we need to have babies

I haven’t written really anything in about a year or so (save two twitters - I don’t know if that counts)*. This doesn’t seem staggering until I realized that for about 17 years straight I never went longer than 3 months without writing something about something (the importance of that something varied greatly). This is because like many of us at least moderately-privileged Millennials I went to school for a decent while.

I do not go to school anymore and my personal space-time continuum has been cosmically effed. From the ages of 5 to 22 I spent my entire existence on one creepily straightforward schedule of 9 months on – 3 months off – 9 months on – 3 months off – etc. And then it stopped dead in its proverbial tracks like a polar bear on a mystical desert island being shot 7 times by a southern, nickname giving, Confidence-Man. The result is I have lived 2 years that have felt like one giant 3 months off (or I guess one decently large 9 months on). I still think of my senior year of college as last year, which is really maddening.

So when talking about space-time, obviously that leads my brain to one place…LOST (oddly enough I felt like I just started watching LOST last year during my senior year of college, yet I have watched two full seasons since). There was an episode where one, very Scottish, character started jumping around in time in his brain (this was never really explained, and probably never will be). Then some other, much more twitchy character, said that the Scot needed a “constant.” This was the perfect LOST solution to a problem, it sounds sciencey and is vague enough that everyone just accepts it as dogmatic rule. Usually, I would cast off such conventional wisdom but this was a really good LOST episode.

The fact is he is right and wrong. Post graduation, there are has been just the constant of being out of college and trying to be a grown up. This however never changes so I can’t define time passing by it. The constant is too constant. So where do we look as pseudo-grown ups…


Think about it. Babies are the perfect solution. Lets say I had this baby, we’ll call him Oliver James Fox (yes, I know that would make him OJ for short, its still a prototype), every year he would grow and change. I could define time based on how old that strange little being is. In 2046, Ill remember 2019** not by the year number but as the year Oliver very tritely lost his two-front teeth and I made him dress like a newsy (I have a plan to make my kid be really cool and kinda eccentric, so he will likely grow up being “interesting” and hating me. I am also aware that my wife won’t let me doing anything I am currently planning for OJ).

I guess this desire for a baby, is comparable to a lady’s biological clock but WAY cooler. This is social evolution making men’s brain desire to be around their kids instead of just spreading their respective seed across their respective universe. I guess the idea is that men who didn’t stick around to see their babies age lost sense of time and went super crazy. There was another character whose brain was traveling through time and he went mad and died of crazy brain (the show called this a very LOSTy temporal displacement). Again life is JUST like LOST.

The fact is being grown up is not half as fun as growing up. They don’t teach LOST and life philosophy in school (YET!!!! You know some place will eventually, my guess it will either be Michigan, Occidental, Emerson, or Pace) and babies smell weird, cost a butt-ton of money, and have crazy easily destructible skulls. As I watch, for the first time season 1 of LOST (yes, I know this fact is a travesty) eagerly waiting the final season to answer the myriad of questions about the world they have created I will also we hoping for bigger answers like how to quantify time when I am not with child and the series itself has ended.

* This was written before the manifesto
** It is remarkably weird thinking about the year the child you have no plan on having anytime soon will do things.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Mi Manifesto

So I started a blog. This blog. The one you are reading at this very second (like right that second you read the word “second” – minds officially blown). I have blogged before for a short period of time at but then I had to stop because I started to get paid very little to write for the premier online tween girl magazine Then I had to quit that job for reasons I will not discuss. But now a year later I started a blog. This blog…
My biggest concern in starting a blog was that people would think I was being a narcissistic (yes I am aware that thinking people would spend time actively thinking of my narcissism, is the exceedingly narcissistic). This problem was solved when I had a friend tell me I should blog. No longer am I the guy who thinks people would like to read my random thoughts - I am a guy who knows there is at least one person who does (his name is Dawson).
So now that the narcissism hurdle has been handedly cleared I can write this blog. It is the writing that is really most important, more than the others reading it (no offense). I have thoughts/theories in my brain that I have thought/theorized for years now that I must put down on paper (or whatever the internet equivalent is). You as the a reader will get to read these thought, though most likely you will skim because that’s what I’d do if I was you. I would like to warn you:

1. There will be a lot of words. I spend a lot of time thinking of subjects, the result is a lot of scribblings. I know this is hard in an age of twitter and four-word reviews, so do what you need to do.
2. My grammar is going to get progressively better. I haven’t written in over a year, so please cut me some slack.
3. As the sub-title of the blog suggest, I state opinion as fact. I say things like “I Love LA” is the definitive song of Los Angeles without at reason to back me up. I feel like I accurately tap into the collective unconscious, however I am mostly bullshitting.
4. As of this second, the blog has no specific focus just the de rigueur pop culture musings one would expect. If this changes, I will keep you in the loop.
5. I will probably refer to my blog in my everyday conversations. I will start talking to a madam or fellow about this, that, and/or the other and be like, “hey fellow/madam, I address a similar subject in my blog” – at this point they would stop listening while I tell them the address. I am exceedingly aware of how annoying this is, but I am 103% sure that I will do this, often. Sorry ahead of time.

If no one (other than Dawson) reads the blog, I will probably be ok. I will say that I wanted to be able to tell my kids that I was a definitive version of a Millennial. Having a blog is our version of our parents dropping acid at a Nixon protest.

So without further ado, the blog I have been writing about for about 549 words…

P.S. The title of this article is a reference to this very awesome Boy Meets World episode...