Wow, it has been a long time since I have dipped my toes into the cold, polluted waters that is pop culture. Given the slag that is being shoved down our throats, it’s no wonder I want to avoid movies and television like Jenny McCarthy avoids common sense. It does make it harder to write a blog post on pop culture, but it does give me fewer headaches.
Not to sound like a bitter old man, but speaking as someone who remembers Bruce Jenner as a man, I am depressed at the state of mainstream entertainment these days. I must emphasize mainstream, because there is good music, movies and books that can be accessed, if one is willing to hunt it down. Mainstream entertainment, for lack of a better expression, is shit. Where do I begin? Let’s see. Taylor Swift, shit. Justin Bieber, shit. Rap and Hip Hop, shit. Let’s explore the world of television. Duck Dynasty, shit. Big Bang Theory, shit. Reality television, shit. American television has de-evolved. It is a knuckle dragging, club toting Neanderthal. How anyone with any brain cells left can watch this garbage, I will never understand. Are we that far gone as a society that people are entertained by sticking a camera in front of any idiot and watching what happens? Then we have the movies. Ah, the movies, that bastion of escape that has twisted itself so that it’s looking at its own ass now. Do we really need Hot Tub Time Machine 2? Hell, we didn’t need the first one. Just like a Mel Gibson Chanukah party, things have fallen apart in a bad way in Hollywood. I cannot place the blame totally on Hollywood. We as consumers are just as culpable for the garbage that is being spit out. As long as people will wait in line for 50 Shades of Grey premieres or go to the latest Night at the Museum shit show that is out there now, things will not change. Plus, for the love of everything holy, please shut up about the new Star Wars movies that will be coming out. Who gives a rats ass? Didn’t you people learn anything from the last crap fest that were the prequels?
Overall I guess I am bitter and angry. I know all these things I have mentioned are not made for my demographic. I just see the decline of entertainment. I see the decline of people in general. I mean I know the shows and movies I grew up with were not all classics. Hogan Heroes and Gilligan’s Island, I am looking at you. People have always wanted base and simple entertainment. Let me take off my shoes after a long day and just give me entertainment I do not have to think about. We have always had it and we will always will. It just seems worse now that we have much more access to things as ever before. As long as people give a shit about or even talk about Honey Boo Boo, we die a little as a nation. Now excuse me I think I am gonna read a book.
I used to. Not the flamboyance of David Copperfield or the Jedi Mind tricks of Chris Angel. I mean real magic. Sitting on the porch, the summer sun setting and a cool breeze blowing across your neck. The perfect song coming from the stereo. A peaceful setting, a mind at ease. Friends and family hanging out together and swapping stories. I am not usually one for being sentimental, but there is a definite lack of magic in the world, well at least in my world. I was thinking just this morning that life gets way too complicated as you get older. Priorities are skewed and one gets wrapped up in situations you wouldn’t even care about when you were younger. In the end, does anyone really hope we will be remembered for whatever job or career one has tried to eek out a living with? I can just imagine the scene: A casket draped in flowers, mourners bowing their heads in silent thought or prayer. “Wow, that Bob”, someone thinks, “he was one hell of an insurance salesman” or “No one could
push papers like Sue”. Doesn’t seem right to me.
Perhaps the magic is still out there. I am thinking it just might be harder to cast the spell as we get older. It doesn’t surround us naturally like it used to. There is something to be said about youth. The innocence and naivety are what is missed most by me I think. I have become such a cynical, jaded person over the years. That part of me rejects the magic. That part of me circles the drain day-to-day with the same cycle: work, home sleep. It does get harder to recapture something from such a long time ago.
How long has it been since you actually totally enjoyed a moment? What I mean is, when was the last time you got so lost in the present that you forgot about all of your troubles? It has been way too long for me. Our time grows shorter and we only have a limited time to get the most out of life. I am not trying to be a downer, just make you realize that life is a gift. We make of it what we want. So go and make something of it. You are not defined by your job or how much stuff you have. All we have when it is all said and done are our memories. Those cannot be taken away. Go out and make some new ones.
I guess that is all I have to say for now. I needed to get this off my chest. Hopefully someone out there will read it and know what I am talking about.
Thanks for reading,
Well readers, I finally got around to trying one of the breakfast items at Taco Bell this morning. It was the “Sausage Crunch Wrap”. It is one of their crunchy tortillas wrapped around a mixture of sausage, cheese, egg and hash-browns. Sounds decent to me, but I love breakfast and anything that goes along with it. That being said, my first bite of this breakfast offering was less than stellar. Actually it had no flavor. None. There was no differentiating between the wrap, the sausage and the egg and the hash-brown. I was amazed. I assumed that Taco Bell would at least impart some flavor on their unsuspecting public, but apparently that was too much to ask. Then I took my second bite. This is when the real fun began. My mouth was flooded by Taco Sauce. Yes, that is right, Taco Sauce. I mean I have had salsa on eggs before, it is ok, but this was too much. From that mouthful forward, that was all I tasted. To make up for the lack of anything resembling flavor, they masked the wrap with their horrible taco sauce. Let’s just say I won’t be trying any other of their breakfast offerings. I was highly disappointed. I personally can not recommend this one item and it was bad enough that I won’t be going back.
Thanks for reading,
Sometimes when a member of a very successful group releases a solo album, it runs the risk of being proportionally as good or proportionally as bad as the group’s work. This is not the case with White City: A Novel by Pete Townshend. It is a surprisingly solid record all the way through. With this album, Townshend gives us a glimpse of life in an area of London where he had grown up. All the songs are sung by Townshend and he provides a couple of high spots with “Brilliant Blues” and “Hiding Out”. I believe the only song that got any radio play during its release was “Face The Face”. This is one of those you either hate it or love it songs. The song is catchy in an embarrassing kind of way, but as far as serious writing, it is a throwaway song. There is also a corresponding film that was released with this. I have never seen it, but I would be interested in watching it.
This album can be labeled with the dreaded moniker of “concept album”. I know that phrase makes some cringe, but don’t be worried. If you are looking for a solid rock album with some catchy tunes and some really good music, this is the album for you. The songs can stand on their own and there is no comparison to the music of The Who. Townshend was always the driving force behind the lyrics anyway and he shows on this album that he hasn’t lost his touch. It is an older Townshend reflecting on his past. There might not be an anthem like “Won’t get Fooled Again” on this, but there doesn’t need to be. It is a really good album from an artist, who at the time, was starting to change his direction of songwriting. Give it a chance and I am sure you will find it is worth a listen.
Thanks for reading,
Maybe I am feeling sentimental today or maybe it is the thoughts of Spring slowly creeping its way in that’s got me thinking of the past. The change of the seasons has always made me a bit moody and this year is no exception. I don’t want to go into this diatribe on how better things were when I was younger. I have never subscribed to that. I saw enough of that attitude with my father and it really annoyed me. His life was a series of clips from the past that made him feel old and unwanted. The actual truth of the matter was that he hated being old and he would rather live in the days gone by than in the present. It was hard on everyone around me. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t think I am. It makes no sense to mourn the past at the cost of your present. You get nowhere with that attitude.
All that being said, I do long for a few things. I do long for the free time I had as a kid and teenager. I do miss my imagination. It was my best friend as a kid. We have long since parted ways and the thought of that does make me a little sad. I miss my mom. We were just getting to know each other when she died. I don’t mean in a sense that she was missing in my life, just that I was finally out-growing that obnoxious high school demeanor and trying to find my way and appreciating my family. We were talking and caring about each other as adults. She was taken way too soon. I miss that innocence of a child. It is hard for me not to look at things with Cynic-colored glasses anymore. I do miss when all of my friends stood as one. Time and attitude has changed that and the less said about that part the better. I know who my close friends really are and I am grateful for them.
I don’t want this to turn into this sad, “I hate my life” type of rant. I don’t hate my life. I am in a rut at the moment, but I am better off in a lot of ways than I was as a kid. I am not this emotional train wreck that limps along feeling sorry for himself. I just would like for me to have more control over me. Time and age may change your body, but it shouldn’t change your attitude. I might be growing older, but I am not growing up and I personally like it that way. I just find it harder to recapture that feeling of youth, but it is out there, just waiting for me to slip it on like an old favorite sweater. The sweater might be worn and faded because of time, but it does keep you just as warm and makes you feel as good as it always has. The thing is, you have to hunt a little harder in the closet to find it.
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Unfortunately the only performance is a giant tragedy that never seems to end. The actors are all done up with their make-up and grease paint and we the audience sit by the glow of our computer screens reading and watching as the play is acted out. There is no intermission, no chance to step away from it and take a breather. We are subjected to an endless variety of war, murder, rape, mutilation and sadness. That’s all within the first five minutes. This group hates that group, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, soldiers and civilians dying for some ideology that is beyond their control, governments spying on their own citizens to keep them “safe”. It has all the trappings of an Irwin Allen movie, but there are no B-rated stars to look upon. We only have the faces of the injured or dead. They say plenty, but somehow no-one seems to listen. The leaders of the world all seem to be interested in making political and power moves rather than trying to fix the problems facing their respective countries. They are all playing their parts to perfection, unfortunately.
What part do we as a nation have in this giant cluster fuck of a production? Well we are the protagonist. We are the star. The blue-eyed bombshell who makes her way directly to the spotlight. We have the potential to make you laugh and make you cry and make you mad as hell. All other characters flow through us. Some wait for our lead to say their lines and some try to be an upstart and trample over our dialogue. We are not perfect, but with the right motivation, we can be the best actor out there. What is our motivation you may ask? Well sadly most of the time it is the all mighty dollar. We take that concept and run with it full force. It morphs our character in to this ugly, bent old man much like Dickens’ Scrooge. Our monologue is filled with words such as NSA, terrorism, freedom, drones and safety. The words have changed over the years, replace terrorist with communist and NSA with FBI. However, the tone is the same. When we are motivated by the good and the generosity that this country possesses, we become the best actor on the stage. We need to be leading the way, showing the others how to learn their lines and how to make their audience laugh instead of making them cry. I still have hope that this will happen. It will happen with the youth of this country. I am a strong believer of how the next generations will improve things and clean up the act of past performers. It takes time, just like all things, and in the end we will become a stronger nation for it.
For my final act, I would like to talk about the role of the audience in this production. That’s right, you and me. We are the critics. We are the ones who can change the actors on the stage and even change the scenery and backdrop if we want to. We do that with voicing our opinions, by writing editorials, by standing up for what is right and good about this country. The pen is mightier than the sword. I should up date this to say that the keystroke is mightier than the drone. We watch from a distance and feel helpless. Don’t. Write your congressman, write your president and let them know how you feel. If enough people stand up and say we want REAL hope and change, I think they might actually listen. I mean they don’t want to lose their part in the play. I don’t want to make this so America-centric. This can be done on the world’s stage as well. To quote the movie “Network”, “we are all mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore”. Write them and be the critic to the drama that is playing before you.
Thanks for reading,
To start off with, let’s define culture. According to Merriam-Webster culture is : “the act of developing the intellectual and moral faculties especially by education” or “the integrated pattern of human knowledge, belief, and behavior that depends upon the capacity for learning and transmitting knowledge to succeeding generations.” I use these two specifically to address the question raised on my header. Does the current state of Pop Culture lend itself to these definitions? Do you get any sense of fulfillment by watching an Episode of “Honey Boo-Boo”? Do you think that generations down the road will be enthralled by the works of Taylor Swift or Justin Bieber? Will future archaeologist be filled with wonder at viewing old episodes of “Duck Dynasty”? I think and hope we all know the answer to these questions. Granted, these are not serious programs or really anything of lasting value, but to a lot of people they are. In the days of Da Vinci, Bach, Mozart and Debussy they were the pop culture “stars” of their age. The culture and works they have produced has lasted all these generations. We still know their names. Who is going to be able to name any of the modern pop stars or actors in the next 30 years? Heck the way things move so fast, let’s narrow that down to the next 30 seconds. I mean really, will Vince Vaughn or Matthew McConaughey be remembered? I really hope not.
So what does this mean? As a society, do we not produce anything of worth as far as popular culture goes? Are we as a nation so “dumbed down” that we can fool ourselves in saying that we watch “TLC” and still think it is “The Learning Channel”? As I flip the channels, I see more and more of vapid, soulless and meaningless shows. Even some of the cooking shows I enjoy are filmed like a stupid reality show. I don’t need to see some scripted emotions and fake personality telling me what they personally go through to try and cook bacon. I don’t understand the mindset of Americans. Television can be a worthwhile, entertaining AND educational endeavor. Instead we get cookie cutter reality shows, comedies that are just a bunch of stupid one-liners and music that is no longer music. I mean a “singer” today doesn’t even need to be able to sing. With the auto-tune program that is out there anyone can be a hit as long as they are pretty. What kind of legacy are we leaving? Will it only get worse? Why do we insist of more of the same thing. I used to fault the networks, but they only provide the garbage that the American viewers are demanding. Harlan Ellison described television as “The Glass Teat” and he is right. We suckle at it while it pours poison down our throats. I can’t imagine what will be happening next.
Pop Culture is not culture. Not in any real, binding sense. Not anymore. It is too disposable. One reality show is replaced by another, the lines get blurred. No one can tell one pop start from another. One blockbuster movie blends into the next blockbuster movie until you get the sense that we are just watching a rehashing of the same idea just in a different shiny, brightly colored package. I just want a little substance here and there. Not everything we watch or listen too has to be a life changing event, but it does need to have some components that are memorable and add some value to our experience with it. I understand people just wanting to be entertained and maybe because of my age, I don’t see the appeal. I do understand though that eventually there has to be a limit. Saturation has to start to take effect and American will revolt again this plastic and heartless dribble that is current pop culture. I do hope one day people will take off their headphone and have this sudden realization that : “Hey maybe listening to Justin Bieber is not a good use of my time” or maybe while channel surfing, they have this epiphany that “hey maybe I should read a book”.
Only time will tell.