September 01, 2011 | 08:08 AMI like to say that "I love living in the future." So what if it's not yet a Jetsons world1? Our time's got great things like The Internets, cures for cancer, and frickin' lasers sold in Thai street markets for baht that equals but a few US bucks. Hell, even scabby panhandlers have computers in their pockets (Trustafarians aside)!
Sweet though they can be, contrivances of this "future" have made the world no less quixotic or full of quandary than the past, and lately I've been pondering what implications this has in the audio/televisual realm. See, ever since video killed the radio star–only to be usurped by the wave that's the Web–our media has been on-demand, damned-near free and robot-and crowd-curated exactly to our taste. This is awesome for a person like me who's impatient, broke and picky.
Plus, this allows me to exercise one of my few talents: mentally constructing blinders. You know, blinders–like the distraction/spook-preventing horse tack also known as winkers, blinkers or nods. (OK. I lied. The first two are actual synonyms for "blinders," but the latter-most is a hopefully humorous Eugene Field homage. There is in fact a third analogue, and Aussie term called "pacifiers," but I digress...) In fact, I'm so good at putting up blinders that I'd even masked from myself how I'd unwittingly mastered said blinding to the point of being pop culturally bankrupt. TMZ what? Perez Hilton who?
When wanting to convey, a la Alanis2, that "you ought to know," the cheap albeit equipped idiom to use is, "unless you've been living under a rock..." (blah, blah, blah ensues). Though a tad tawdry, it can still be a good go-to; and lord knows I'm not above anything, least of all enjoying grazing on the oft-stinking onion that is figurative language. (Anyone have a mint?)
So the problem's become–for Me v. Pop Culture–that I've tech-curated a life lived under a rock. (And considering my aforementioned fastidiousness, until recently I've preferred an extremophile analogy; likening my ignorance-is-bliss idea to a barophilic organism living in geochemical extremes who's passed up giving sunshine a chance like Plato's peeps in The Cave.) Couple that with the ramifications of (literally) living on a rock–as the island fever-forlorn might say–and that puts me between a rock and a hard place when it comes to pop influences. There are 98-year-olds in Kansas more tuned-in to the top 40's than I am (or, as it stands, stand to be).
But god, have I done myself a disservice! I've been blocking out a lot of mainstream stuff that's actually pretty damned good.
With a shred of self defense I'll ask, can you blame me? I mean, I came of age of during MTV's demise; a time when Total Request Live was heralding The Backstreet Boys as the biggest thing since The Beatles. Dark days indeed.
So, I shut down like a mom and pop shop (well, minus the Pop, so to speak). When it comes to my playlists I like to fancy that I revel in what's relatively obscure–having emerged from a time when that seemed the only thing worth exalting. That kind of snobbery might be alright when your a teen desperately seeking identity–but it's got an expiration date and I've been swimming in soured milk.
While I suppose it's nothing to cry over, I'm still annoyed with myself when I discover all I've been missing. Cases in point: 1) Arcade Fire; 2) Beyonce (specifically her "Single Ladies" music video; and 3) Lady Gaga. (Bear with me if those celebrities are unappealing to you, too.)
1) Not long ago I caught Arcade Fire on Austin City Limits (on DVR, of course), and my rocky abode began to crumble. Until then, I assumed they were just another fart in the wind to add to the list of bands no one remembers despite their 15-minute windfall–and I didn't bother listening to a note. How misguided! Arcade Fire might look as though the cast of Harry Potter started a band (a herd of hipsters helmed by a brooding brunette frontman and a frizzy-haired know-it-all multi-instrumentalist chick; plus a redhead and all the rest)–but The Suburbs is hauntingly poignant even to this country kid.
2) I was indulging in a PBR and fried mandoo dinner at Lower Main Street's Green Leaf Sports Bar & Grill, and the bartender put on Promo Only music videos. It had been years since I watched anything like that, and couldn't look away from the car wreck. I was sure I'd entered The Twilight Zone because, I was shocked to find, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera are not only still recording–but they seemed to be the only ones recording. Just as I was on the precipice of swearing-off my reverse-spelunking entirely to live under my rock happily ever after, Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)" came on, and my hope was restored. Oh, that's why fish stick-loving Kanye West was railing against Taylor Swift! (PS: Oh my god, I'm taking Kanye West's corner?!) Beyonce's video is a feat of human movement, a triumph of cinematography; and I don't think you should bother making a music video at all unless it's of that caliber.
3) My good buddy Marcus from Requests is arbiter of taste and regularly informs my audible aesthetic. He's got a knack for knowing what I like and oft his suggestions make a monster of me (e.g. Marc's culpable for my John Safran and Reggie Watts obsessions). He's a huge Howard Stern fan, and we were watching a recent Lady Gaga interview and live performance. WTF? I had no idea! She's the real deal! And here the closest I'd gotten to Gaga was Cartman's rendition of "Poker Face" from South Park's "Whale Whores" episode, and an episode of Glee that I saw by mistake. If I was from the Madonna generation, I'd be feeling really ripped off right now.
All that said, my apologies, Pop. A decade ago you'd had me fooled into thinking you'd died; but I was wrong. So at the risk of an occasional spook, I'll forgo my blinders. Even the penumbra cast by celebrities in your limelight is inspiring–or, at the very least, interesting–and I'd be doing myself a favor to have a looksee. Oh, and thanks, too, for helping me from out under my rock and into the future I like to say I love.
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1 And anyway, in the unlikely case that cartoons are vaticinators in any minute degree, we can get geeky by saying that Hanna-Barbera's Jetsons et alia [won't] enjoy Orbit City's sprocketed conveniences [until] circa 2062, one hundred years from the time the TV show originally aired.
2 Yep. An Alanis Morissette reference to further prove my point: I've got some catching-up to do.
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