Monday, February 13, 2012
So, I finally saw 'em live last night. Two main thoughts:
1. I don't think I've ever seen such a "wired in" crowd before. Constant texting, use of phone cameras, talk about Vimeo, Youtube, Tumblr, etc etc etc. I've seen days at CES that were less wired-in. I realize that I'm old and out-of-date ( Why do you think that embedded video and soundclips are unimportant to me? Because this is more of a journal format, less of a full use of the technology) but I show up to tech conferences for my job(s) and I go to concerts for my entertainment- so I'm more aware than most, but this was at a higher level. It's part of a trend I've been noticing: the mainstream Teenage culture mill, purveyors of T shirts and other cheap declarations of tribal affiliation, has completely gone to the internet, and, as dumbed down as the rest of our mass culture is, it follows the teenagers. Really, people were there so that they could run a feed to their online personalities, and they came from as far as Georgia to do that ( For those wot don't know please see map, here.) I find it ironic that here I am typing away, as well, but I was more in it for the discovery of real, live people, as opposed to what my friend John Ou calls "words on a screen". I also find it ironic that the crowd was so wired-in for a such a physical group. Ninja is noted for performing in boxer shorts and tattoos, Yo Landi for exploiting her Hentai-like sexuality, the lyrics are about Sex and violence as often as not, and their music is all about the kind of techno you would hear at a rave 15 years ago.
2. But what about the band, you say? Well, they're not really a band. I'm not saying that as a slam on rap, or their persona- I mean that part of the act is that they're representatives from the "Zef side". Ninja would punch me in the face for using this phrasing, but I mean it differently than I think most would- they're doing performance Art. I don't mean that they're play-acting, or that it's not "real"- I'm a big pro-wrestling fan, and what Die Antwoord do is very similar. It's not a "performance Art piece' in the sense of a Chris Burden or Karen Finley- it's more like what Stone Cold Steve Austin does. They take some elements of their real personalities, and real culture, and real beliefs, and magnify those aspects to an almost surreal level, then exhibit these larger-than-life versions of themselves in morality plays, to make points about our real, base little lives. So, while Watkins and Yolandi might enjoy both trash culture, and high brow Art, Ninja and Yo Landi celebrate low culture to the point of making it high Art.
So, the question that would be at the heart of this performance would be- what are they driving at? Two things- First; reject external judgements, and rely instead upon your own, and secondly, be happy in your life. It's the same kind of message that punk rock has, expressed in slightly different form. Just like Punk Rock starts by saying that it rejects the power structure of pop Culture, and answers that power by saying "Do it yourself", Die Antwoord rejects what they call "the system" and answers it with their own culture- what they call Zef. To go back to being all internet savvy, they're basically giving voice to those people that hipsters make fun of on sites like "People of Wall Mart" and letting them say back- We don't care about your scorn, we're happy and you're not.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
So, Whitney Houston died yesterday. I feel bad for her kids, but only insofar as they lost someone they loved. I think they may possibly be better off without her, but that's impossible for me to know.
That she died right before the Grammys presents an irony, and a point on my moral compass.
The irony is that this was the most honoured female singer . To die right before what is arguably the biggest awards show of the year for American singers would be ironic, and not in an Alanis Morrisette kinda way.
But, the point on my moral compass is this- she's an example of why I left the business end of the entertainment industry.
See, in my opinion, she was screwed from birth. She was born into this- her mother was Cissy Houston, her cousins were the Warwicks, her godmother Aretha Franklin- how utterly horrible! We, as consumers, simply get to enjoy the fruits of their talents. They have to toil in the fields of manure to produce that fruit. Make no mistake, it's not that I hate them, it's that I pity them. Imagine a world with no true human interaction, but instead, everything is a transaction- a negotiation to get to the next negotiation. Imagine a world that necessarily rewards talent with creature comforts, but punishes it with isolation. If you wonder why so many go crazy, or get addicted to some substance or another, it's right there- the entertainment industry is designed to turn people into things, and trade emotions for commodities.
So, you have to ask why she was the most honoured? I think there's no escaping the conclusion that she was most honoured in the way that a slave is most prized by a master. She bowed the most to her master's whims. Yes, I know who Clive Davis is. As far as masters go, he's relatively benign, but still I think you can guess what I think his job is. That people like him are so well liked in the industry, and that people like Whitney are so celebrated- well, that's where my morals and the culture differ.
So, I hope Whitney gets to rest. I hope that her early death scares her kids away from Whitney's life, because I think there's still hope for them.