Monthly Archives: January 2016

Pop Music Today Vs. Yesterday (1)

This is not going to be brief, it’s something that has bothered me for years. By and large, people seem to feel that music has gone “down hill” since the ’90s. They view pop music today, the Cyruses and Swifts and the Jonases and the Kanyes and see a lack of either inspiration or plain understanding of what music today is. To me, this is largely untrue. I’m a music lover, perhaps obsessively so. One of the few whose group of friends takes pleasure in shutting the hell up around a set of speakers (singular in my case. My left Bose blew out and now have to run both channels through the right.  Besides panning, everything still sounds great) and simply listen to very diverse music. We informally critique, find what works, and move to another artist. It’s a fun exercise that you don’t see many people do. I think it’s because people typically view music as a vehicle for experience. They do something, so surely music must accompany it. It’s a lifting force that can add a spectrum of emotions to anything you do.

So I think it is pretty excitingly odd that my friends and I normally do nothing to music. We simply listen. Not because we’re so up our own asses that we’d rather analyze than live, but because music is an art form that requires so much attention. The reason I think it’s so popular is because of its passive nature. It’s hard to read War and Peace. It’s hard to even convince yourself to approach that work. Imagine sitting down and allot all 248 minutes to viewing Mankiewicz’s Cleopatra (1963) with intermission (can’t recall if that is included in the run-time). While for some, this isn’t a challenge at all, the fact is that both require a level of attention dedicated. You can’t claim to have read War and Peace is you don’t literally read it. Music can be heard while doing just about anything. While different activities allow different levels of attention, the fact that music allows any room for multitasking is a huge advantage. Now take any work (regardless of length) from Beethoven or Brahms to Cage or Davis and there is something simpler in those approaches. You can listen to any of them in the car, or while running, or while drawing, or while watching.

Music strikes us in a different fashion. How many soundtracks have you heard? Have you heard any of them separate from the media they were meant to accompany? In other words, do you need to listen to John Williams’s work by themselves to have appreciated them? War and Peace holds cultural, historical, and linguistic divides that prevent a large consumer base from fully enjoying it. Music holds very few barriers and even in extreme cases rhythm serves as a fantastic bridge. When in doubt, watch for the bass.

But what bothers me is how people view music of today. Despite amazing technology and talent, people still feel like eras previous were “better.” It’s unfortunate because that’s such a repulsive view. What good can come of it? That’s the ultimate betrayal of music’s mythology, particularly that of Orpheus. Why look back?

Dick Cheney and Big Government

Michael Ramirez’s political cartoon collection “Give me Liberty or Give me Obamacare,” is forwarded by former Vice President Dick Cheney. In it, he praises Ramirez’s political understanding and memory. What struck me was one of his final thoughts on the cartoonist. Towards the end, Cheney goes through a minor digression that underpins his frustration with the Obama administration. Constantly the subject to so much parody during his vice presidency, it’s hard to tell how meta –or self-aware– this phrase is:

Michael also knows the high stakes involved. Obamacare isn’t just a scam, it violates the Constitution. Big Government isn’t just an annoyance, it’s a threat to our liberty.

It’s brief, but to me it’s revealing to everything Cheney is about. He clearly respects Razmiez’s pursuit of the “truth” (his preferred version of it, I’m guessing. Not that I’m so politically incline to justify my disdain for a figure so publicly reviled by my peers as Cheney. It’s just questionable to regard any political cartoonist as a sort purveyor of truth (absolute,at that). It’s a harsh contradiction that I think most cartoonists would agree with).

What fascinated me the most was the phrase “Big Government.” Dick Cheney said that. Again, as an ignorant, this has been the perception attached to Cheney and really anyone from the Bush administration. Whether or not that’s true isn’t really the point. It’s evidence to how vastly wrong someone is. We deceive ourselves in the craziest ways. What if liberals and other sorts who are recalcitrant are wrong about him? What if he were wrong about himself?

He used those words. He said “Big Government” as if he were the little guy. As if he were never in charge of the senate, or the right-hand man of one of the most controversial and divisive leaders in American history. This is a man who focused a great deal of his policy on foreign affairs and national security. He probably feels like the only one who “gets it,” the only one that knows what’s best for the nation (not a surprising trait for anyone with a pulse). That, to him, increased security and military spending coalesce into a “freer” populace. Did he ever question this?

But Cheney has always been an interesting figure. He embodies a conservative mindset that prided itself in blunt speech and blood-boiled action. There’s a great respect in confidence, but also less of one to reflection. I’m pressed to wonder if Cheney ever stands in the shower, thinking of his own insignificance in comparison to something as all intrusive as “Big Government.”

– TC

Mythologizing: A self-deceptive practice

Myth-making has come to form a plethora of meanings, albeit mostly personal. What has struck me recently is the action my generation (millenials, i.e. “me” generation) has taken to mythologize everything into a cohesive and consistant image of our hopes and expectations.

As Charles Johnston puts it:

Mythologizing is not so much about leaving out aspects of experiences as interpreting what we experience in distorted ways that protect us from complexity.

What worries me is the use of mass media in conjunction with this principle. For a few years, I have debated media’s effects on people and what I realized was mostly a flat view of what it is/does. In general, I have heard people consider mass media as a subverting force or a plainly deceptive one. It distorts perception and brandishes its own desires. They (being ‘people’) refer to it (being ‘Mass Media’) as if it were some faceless suit, an authoritative power. It’s funny because these views fit well with people’s image of Hollywood.

But these views seriously worry me because they are typically both:

  1. ingenuous/misguided
  2. It’s hackneyed.

What people tend to forget about capitalism is that it’s mostly ran by a marketplace. While some groups have unanimously benefited from this system, overall it’s about money. This sounds bad, but for the most part it is reasonably-philosophically-balanced. A good example nowadays is the recent popularity of web-bloggers writing books. These are people who have made millions and millions of dollars posting videos on Youtube, and have now decided to direct their aim (rather passively, it seems) at the major bestseller lists. I’m not in any way bashing these books, but this trend signifies something big: if people will buy it, the sellers will sell it. This is the same engine that runs Hollywood and the scarily massive media.

The point I’m making is that it’s all crazy. Chaotic, even. The benefit to Captialism, supposedly, is to create balance through competition. This is a bit beside the point, but Hollywood’s system is one that has been claimed by every industry professional as insane. Nobody knows what works, and that’s good! It keeps the creative engine flowing (I’ll go more into this in another post). Mass media runs the same way. It’s a mess. A complete minefield of opinion and perception. Just look at Bernie Sanders’s numbers. I can almost assure you most of that is from his perception through mass media. That was how he rose to prominance. And for all of his supporters, this is amazing.

It seems that people demonize mass media whenever a product of it runs against their own interest. Yet when something works in their favor, it’s completely isolated, not even termed the same way. It’s “mass media” or “the media” when we hate it, and quickly shifts to  peer-[insert action, such as ‘sourced’ or perhaps ‘funded’].

My goal with this blog is to articulate what’s wrong with these perceptions and how it rapidly effects our creation of myth. Isn’t that a beautiful term? It’s one of my favorite words. It’s pretty much the only thing I’ve ever praised: the idea of myth. Storytelling, regardless of the medium. I love storytelling more than I will ever be able to describe or understand, but one thing I can speak for is its potential to entertain as well as deceive. It’s a dangerous game, that of expectation. You watch your favorite movie, hear your favorite candidate, and find yourself lost or even immersed. Imagine for a moment the possible down-sides of suspending one’s disbelief. It’s important to question, even through the most absurd myths. But it’s also important to stay awake to the fact you’re awake. I will admit to the internet’s subversive nature. It doesn’t track what we think, but how. With that knowledge, what do you think can be done?

TC

A Snowy Start

It was 1/23/2015 when I stayed up, looking for the right “theme” to display this blog under. When I found the right one, and made a couple adjustments, I went to bed.

I live in Owings Mills, MD, about 20 minutes from Baltimore, and the last couple days have been hailed by scads of snow.  It’s been nice though. I look outside to my apartment complex and watch everything within a couple kilometers vanish, blanketed by gray and visual gust.

Snow really is an amazing thing. Absolute in its elegance, it falls slowly bit by bit as the purest shade of white. Then, before we realize, it consumes anything it touches. To awake the next day, perhaps for work, we realize the consequence of it. It’s a good lesson for over-staying one’s welcome, but that’s pretty obvious. Regardless, my relationship with snow is unbalanced at best. I never know how to feel about it. During days spent in asylum, unable to call delivery or even walk very far, I wonder how I should spend the “perfect day,” as I always consider such days. And the regret is never doing the “right thing.” Perhaps not reading enough (or the right book), not spending enough time with the roommates, not playing the right game, or watching the right movie, or not stopping to simply enjoy the snow by going outside or staring blankly out a window. Nope. Nothing ever feels “correct” during these days.

There’s a feeling I’m trying to unearth, I think. For all of us, I assume, snow days are very nostalgic. They trap us from out day-to-day and remind us of a time (maybe grade school) where the rat race hardly existed. Where we could stop and appreciate not only ourselves, but the moments we spent not thinking at all.

In our youth, how much did we think? Truly. I wonder this often, because I am almost completey aware of when my “awareness” kicked in. But that’s not what had interested me. I wonder how I thought prior. What’s most interesting about Kids’ Fiction and prior is how those books are directed at an audience that lacks a fully developed brain. How odd?

I’m losing my point and worry I will never find it again. The point is that snow days are nostalgic and there is no way to fully enjoy them in the way I seek. Those days are gone, and just as it was then, the day following a snow storm is denouncement, a return to the ordinary world. Back to work. Back to school. Either way, the real treasure is memory and the ability to revisit. I only hope in 10 or 20 or 30 years, when the bad snow returns, I will have the same nostalgia for this moment. Of me writing. Hopefully, I will reflect on where this all started.

Thanks,

TC