Saturday, April 6, 2013

Deep doo doo

I don't just listen to music. I'm a usual type of guy. I work, sometimes 3 jobs. I do housework, and take care of a pride of seven cats. I used to raise a son, but he's grown now, and has his own apartment, so that's only very part time now. I read magazines, websites, and books, I watch TV, and I see movies. I exercise, I shop for groceries, housewares, and sometimes consumer goods. I eat at home and restaurants.  I sleep on a bed that I bought, with sheets I have chosen. I bring all this up because I'm interested in culture, both artistic, and sociological,not just music.
So, given that, please pardon me for getting a little "meta" every now and then.
In this case, I have a whole bunch of random thoughts.
For example- between This parody video and Harmony Korine, you can see my argument on scheduled narcotics- I'm for legalizing everything, and I'm against using anything as an excuse. My viewpoint is that substances are only substances. Behaviour is behaviour, and we are who we are. I mean a drug doesn't make you do anything, so why focus the law on the drug? Further, we don't need to see into your heart, or soul- all the law needs to know is what you do. So, yes, I believe that Marijuana is illegal due to  private business interests, as opposed to public interests, but no, I don't think that smoking it is a good idea- people tend to use it as an excuse for poor behaviour- and no drug is a good excuse for poor behaviour. If I'm drunk and I hit you- I still hit you, regardless of my sobriety, or lack thereof.
Another wholly different thought is that I purchased another pair of specs from Loookmatic. I'm a bit nervous- I went with a few things that I normally don't. First, I ordered what they call 'progressive' lenses- meaning fancy bifocal lenes- which is especially complicated when you consider that I'm astigmatic, and myopic, and have some retinal damage, so my pupillary distance is... problematic. Then, I got some frames that are "clubmaster" style- meaning that like Kevin Costner in JFK, or Brother Malcolm X, they're both metal and acetate- and these have a two tone acetate: the outer is tortoise shell, the inner is cream. That's very complicated as well. I normally go with very simple things, especially on my face which is usually complicated enough between scars and facial hair. So, why did I do it? Well, partially because I trust the Lookmatic people more so than I trust most doctors. They really have been excellent to me. I also cannot discount the power of a discount- they had a promotional discount of 25%, which is not insubstantial . But, I could have gone with another set of frames- price and quality only really affects the lenses, directly, and the rest is fashion. So, the Clubmaster style is " my style". If you look at my profile picture, I'm wearing a pair of clubmasters. I already own 2 pair of clubmaster frames as I speak, and have two other frames that could be described as "clubmaster inspired". So, there's a bit of fashion identity involved. But, why the two tone? I'm not entirely certain. I guess I felt that they "modernized" the frames, and I wanted a bit of risk in a modern way. That's how complicated our discretionary consumer spending is, isn't it? I mean, even if you're rather poor, you try to buy things for price and quality- but if it's discretionary, you try to introduce a bit of 'flair', right? Why else, when you see photos of people in third world nations, as often as not, they're wearing T shirts with either bootleg or official western logos? Even on that level,  there's a kind of 'affinity shopping' isn't there? Is it as Naomi Klein would have it, and we're all so branded? Maybe, I don't know. But, I think that's only part of it. After all, my choices are subverting the Ray ban brand on two levels- they're not Ray Bans, and the two tone Acetate doesn't follow the branded 'classic' model- but it's not all subversion- the reference is clear. It is a bit nerve wracking any time we try to change our paradigms in any way though, or am I just neurotic? I mean, I know, ultimately, that I can simply return the glasses, but that nervousness is exciting a bit, as well. It feels good to risk something, even if the risk is only an illusion and about something as frivolous as fashion. It strikes me that such tensions are part of modern shopping. I read a short bit about a store that is trying to introduce a five dollar tax on "showrooming"- browsing at a physical store, only to buy online. Now, of course, it's bad business to do anything to turn away customers, but I do have sympathy for the store owners. I think a lot of people do that; they want the item cheaply, which they can do online, but they're afraid of the risks of shopping online- never mind that the real anonymity is not between seller and buyer- but between the manufacturer and everyone else. We buy stuff almost completely divorced from the people who make it, whether we buy at a brick and mortar or at a website. So, much like my specs, the risk is really an illusion and a frivolous matter, and the true risks are invisible. How do i know that my frames were made without harming the environment? What assurance do we have that our DVD payers aren't assembled by 12 year old Pakistani children, working 18 hour days under conditions that would make us wince if they were roaches, let alone children? These are real risks, and we make them without thinking.
At the same time, did you see this week's Walking Dead? There was a moment in the episode where one character hacks the fingers from a zombie in order to obtain a wedding ring to propose to his girl. This seemed to produce a near universal "Ewww". It made me think. We've heard of blood diamonds, right? So, were willing to hurt someone living and real for a diamond, but we're disgusted by a fictional character willing to hurt a fictional monster- a dead thing, at that- to obtain that same diamond? It doesn't even need to be that extreme- we're willing to blithely buy everything from tuna, to nickel plated batteries, without a thought as to how they got from the world to us- so long as we don't see it.  If we witness even so much as how our sausage is made, then we care. But, sometimes, even if we do see, if our self-delusions are inflamed enough, we don't care. In the Walking Dead, it is heavily implied that the character's motivation to propose marriage is a fear of immanent death. In our lives, we'll stomp each other to death to get into a concert or grab a toy to give to a child at Christmas. What is it about us- me included- that we cannot accept how alienated we are from our desires, and needs- and from each other?
Such lines of questioning are exactly why I write this little blog. I'm exploring my own dreamspace in a manner of speaking, in that I'm talking about those cultural artefacts that speak to my own fantasies and delusions, and hopes and aspirations. In other words- I'm exploring what myths I filter my experience through. They might not be as profound as yours, but I bet they are.

I must admit that a certain type of brand loyalty extends into my forays in Pop Culture. I started watching the Walking Dead more because Michael Rooker was involved than because of the much-lauded Comic books. Likewise, I will give anything that has Michael Emerson a chance. Conversely, Morrissey could release the ultimate hard rock record and I will never know, or David Spade could star in a Joe Strummer Biopic, and I'll miss it. Such loyalties are undercut by reason, of course. I like Tim Roth, but I still won't watch Funny Games. So, if they ever unearth a tape of Bob Mould playing with Morrissey singing, I'll pass. But, my loyalties will lead me pretty far afield- I watched The Incredible Hulk for Tim, Ed Norton and William Hurt, even though I knew it was bad going in ( and yes, it was bad. Just like 99.999% of Superhero movies suck.  If you have to break with reality in order to make a character 'heroic" chances are good, the character isn't all that fleshed out.) I have read George Pelacanos'  Right as Rain because he's friends with Steve Wynn, and was listening to Steve's records while he wrote it, and did an interview in Magnet magazine that was witty and charming. Personally, I think Pelacanos would make for a better critic than noir writer.
But that's Brand Loyalty, not the "Great Man" theory of history. For example, I know that, in that same interview, Steve directly follows that theory, saying that it wasn't so much Punk as it was Johnny Rotten, it wasn't Grunge so much as it was Kurt Cobain, it wasn't Beatles, so much as John Lennon. Sorry, Steve, but as much as you make great Americana styled music, the politics of that are stupid, and the history even worse. Punk made Johnny Rotten, Grunge made Kurt Cobain, and Beatles made John. What "Great Men" have is charisma- such that they can take genius and add or subtract enough that it's digestible by the masses. No, when i say I have 'brand loyalty" to Artists, or performers- I mean that I enjoy the viewpoints or cultural touchstones they reference- not that I think they're better than me- with certain rare exceptions. I think Joe Strummer was a better man than me. I think that Colin Newman is a smarter man than me, but not a better man. I think that Rob Zombie is a more creative man than me, but not a better man.

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