If I’m gonna sit here and claim that the universe is a grand cosmic communication and that we receive hints from everywhere then on occasion I have to look at pop culture as pop culture events are grandly dense nuclear reactions. Don’t worry, it’s not all about rock stars. There are some pretty interesting bits about WWII inside as well. Okay, POP your way on in.
THE NEW PUNKS
This crazy blend of fashion, music, race, ethnicity and alternative sports is mind-blowing. Their big brother and sister’s generation thought they did something remarkable by electing a minority as president. But these kids aren’t too impressed. They’re in high school or college and they can’t get simple service jobs that the previous generations had a surplus of. We all worked in fast food restaurants or malls. Every time this seeming depravity happens a colorful counterculture pops up. The music these kids listen to is very different than their popular counterparts. The bubblegum seeming bop of songs like You’re A Jerk contain a subtle code that only they can decode. Plus it is performed by a peer. It inspires rebellious dancing in the streets and look at those clothes! Who needs nightclubs or school dances when a parking lot and a friend’s laptop will do just fine. When was the last time you saw cats wearing jeans that skinny? The look is a colorful smash of the 80s punk, 80s new wave and 80s hip-hop. An 80s trinity smashing together. The shoes have gone from complex to simple in design, but made complex again by their many different relative color schemes. Everything they wear is just a mess of influences and we don’t understand them. They confuse us. Just like punk rock during the late-seventies early eighties. The music contained codes and was performed in a manner that would confuse the older people, but not intrigue them so that they investigate. They dismissed it as a loud mess. “I’m So Bored with the USA” coming from a British band, a band coming from a country that the US had to defeat in order to give itself birth.
How can you be bored with us? We were once mischievous little ticks on your back. Had to been very interested in taking care of us. Now you’re bored? What? How can the USA not be sexy to you anymore?
It’s complacency. Just look what we were doing around that time and what they were going through. There were racially motivated riots in Britain. The British and American governments were the best of friends. Neither of us was peculiar. The US actually began to become interested in some of the ceremony of their past. We fell in love with Princes Di in the process. Once bitter enemies were now really becoming friendly. The punk music scene secretly started this though. They helped us to wake up and check out this new wave of music coming in AGAIN from across the pond. It was weird, a little odd, but we dug it. The punks continued banging on thinking they were tough guys, but remember the stateside punks fell in love with British culture via stuff like this:
In the 80s the UK started to look a little peculiar and interesting to us. Once we were the peculiar one. Around the time punk was grooving another new movement called rap was literally trying to find its own groove. Whereas punk subverted what was traditionally thought about talent—that its essential elements are dense and not sporadic—by understanding “why” they were playing, not “how” to play. Punk rockers were not intimidated by instruments. They had a message and that was all that was important. They just thrashed and thrashed and yelled and yelled. Rap found its groove when it threw out the whole idea of instruments altogether and noticed that you can isolate relative sounds in a piece of music, loop it and give it a new life. Add it with many other elements from many other albums and it sounds futuristic although it is composed of older elements. A little trickle down from cats like Steve Reich or La Monte Young or one of the baddest cats—Terry Riley, but it has its roots in those thumping tribal drums too. The older folks don’t get these new movements initially, it takes them a little time. By the time they do get it there’s usually another hip movement happening right under their noses that they are blissfully unaware of.
THE LADY DI(ES) EFFECT: FROM WWII TO WII
We (the USA) loved her just as much as you (the UK) did. So much so that we mourned right alongside our former enemy. Up to that point we were falling in love with eccentric British musical acts and movies and TV shows. When that happened and we were subsequent coldness we felt from the Royal Family we got bored with them and decided to start really showing our ass. Their leader, once again got in our bed and they got attacked. What did they do? Get all angry and fighting mad? Not really. They booted out that guy who got in our dirty bed. Did we get mad at them? Not really. We reserved that for the French who didn’t like our plans in the first place. They didn’t dig all the cowboy posturing. They appreciated it during WWII. Bu it was different, then. Those blokes were humbly brave. They didn’t understand this concept of a world at war. Many of them were the children of recent immigrants. All they knew was America and it was an exciting place to them. They heard about the Old World from their parents. Why on earth would they want to go back to it? Now they literally have to. What a sacrifice. Then you had your Average Joe American—on the heels of a horrible depression, country not looking like the one those powder wigged cats were hollerin’ about you get drafted and in a weird way get to visit your homeland but it’s foreign to you and you’re foreign to it. And let’s not forget about the darker skinned people who served a country that considered them less-than. They could not explain to the others at home that they were fighting for them back home. They left a place where they were considered foreign to discover a place that considered them foreign, but actually kind of dug a little color in the cold. The Europeans found the Americans entertainingly peculiar. Think about how cool it would have been for a young Italian boy to meet a cat a hip cat like Sal from the Bronx. He has an Italian name, he may use a few Italian words, but he’s very different. Like a freakin’ rock star this guy! Here’s a cat that can navigate the complex grid of the Big Apple and is protecting a little Italian country villa. Then there were the white American who looked kind of like the big scary German enemy, but were cooler, had a swagger and a charm that was contrary to the uptight Germans. Must have been intoxicating. Not like this new kid. He just wanted to kick some ass.
They hit us so now we gotta go hit them. 9/11 was a day of infamy!
Do we even know what that word really means. We got all boiling hot after we had a short period of relative cool. Remember NYC right afterward, pretty cool heads. None of that scary stuff that intimidates the middle states. But then the leadership cooked up the stew and well it’s no wonder the French wanted the other guy. We said F-that and changed the name of the fried potatoes we love so much. A crop that suffers when you deprive it of relative diversity. It becomes susceptible to disease. And you wonder why Americans are so resistant to or tolerant of this H1N1 deal. We can catch it, but even some of our little ones just brush it off over time. Anyway, back on track. I’m always doing that. We turned our backs on the Brits because we did not approve of the way her family treated her passing and even before that we were none to pleased with how they tread her like the black sheep. We dug how down to earth she was. We didn’t get all of that coldness coming from her family. It was that same coldness that caused us to throw tea into a harbor so we did our own thing again which lead to this:
This new punk movement seemed so violent. They talked about bodies hitting floors and just screaming in anger. Didn’t seem to be any message behind it. Even rap got involved with overtly violent imagery. There was another Woodstock (the big deal for a former punk generation) and it deteriorated into violence. The mosh pit, a once contained density that served as a place for hormone exhaustion was now radiating out aggressively. Kids walked into schools with guns. Ridiculously violent video games were big. We didn’t readily dismiss this new movement, it was scary. We scrambled to blame everything but ourselves. It’s the movies, the music, the video games. Not our debauched actions during the 80s. Taking down another superpower and having nothing to show for it. We expected some of those World War II gifts. But then again this was a cold war after all so the gifts were cold. That’s why today our relationship with Russia can cool the freakin’ Bahamas.
Anyway, back to the late 90s. Even though it seemed like unchecked aggression. All of those “head shots” and body slams. They were telling the authority something. They just took a by any means necessary approach. Thing is they were confused as to what the necessary bit was. Then the bodies hit the floor and we showed our ass. Listen to the song. It kicks ass, but really listen to it. No seriously, listen to it. You cannot help but bop and remember the frontman Dave Williams committed suicide not even a year after the 9/11 attacks. Perhaps we were supposed to pay more attention to the song. Here, I’ll help you.
Okay so we go through that bit and the New Punks begin to emerge. As I said, these kids are from all over the globe and they play different music, but they dress alike. It’s a weird cluster@#$% of cultures and they seem more interested in the green stuff than the white stuff. I guess they saw what happened in the 80s and decided to Just Say No. I know. I know. Hilarious. The fired egg and all of that. The aggro heads found their necessary and started these odd little social networking sites that linked people from all over the globe. You can now link yourself to your favorite band and a long lost friend and a new one from Japan. They play slightly more peaceful games than before. Peaceful games that bring people together like various musically themed Hero games (I love these, just look at the diverse array of music at your disposal). Then there’s that Wii and Microsoft’s Project Natal. They also love playing online. No matter where they are you cannot keep them apart. Even if they are in remote locations they have cell phones that offer a diverse array of communication options. Let’s not forget all of those itsy bitsy laptops that can do damn near everything. We even got some hooked to our cars. We call them navigation systems. Then there’s this guy:
The Brits responded by holding their leaders responsible and did not succumb to fear. We did the same this time. No matter your opinion of Obama, you cannot deny the fact that he represents the polar opposite of what came before him. The other guy, much to his chagrin, had to counter by playing up the fear. They even put a nice smiley face on it (a pleasant enough woman, just has to stop talking at her base and talk to them). We could have viewed how the Brits reacted to their 9/11 as odd or cold again, but we didn’t this time. Instead we embraced their TV shows. We added a little American flavor, but we always keep a Brit on hand to judge us. And boy do we love our gossip which like all gossip stems from a curiosity about the ruling class. Run back a few hundred years. If you were a peasant you could only wonder what it was like to be a king because you knew you would never get your chance. They kept it in the family. You lauded them for their accomplishments, and quietly lamented their shortcomings. They kept an eye on you, although they assumed you were too stupid to do anything to change it. But look, you Knight gay actors now. Okay, so the same news networks that kept us informed during the election now just take it easy by yelling obscenities at us and lulling us to sleep with a constant stream of celebrity news with just a few bits about what’s going on elsewhere. We’re more interested in two people making eight kids. It fits though. It’s extraordinary. So many from two, all the same though. Hmmm? Just get the message and let’s get movin’ folks.
OUR FIGHTING PEACE LOVERS
We got some pretty brave cats over there trying their best to protect themselves as well as the people of the respective countries they’re fighting in. The prior administration responded to the 9/11 attacks with a targeted campaign that devolved into a fearful one. It was fast, little thought seemed to have gone into it. Dems helped it along because they feared being called Nancy Boys. Helluva justification for sending young men and women to die guys. But guess what, our guys are not responding in fear. They are over there doing that charming thing again. It’s tough, they’re in what is a relatively absurd world to them, but they are trying. Just wish the cats on the Hill would have tried half has hard. Don’t worry Bush, this is not a hatchet job. It is far from just your fault and we know some of you meant well. But sheesh. It’s no mystery why the cat who actually had to doge some bullets stepped down. Imagine if he decided to run for president afterward. Oh yeah, we would have had one enlightening campaign season. That’s for sure. Would have been a lot more fun than this last one.
I WONDER WHAT BATMAN WOULD HAVE LOOKED LIKE…
The man who wrote and directed this cool bit of cinema history. Anyone who has even so much as peeped around this blog knows I don’t have to really go into that one. I want to direct you to The Fountain. Get lost in it, don’t think because you do not have to. The film is sedative in its tones. The lighting in every scene is slightly askew. Not too much, but just enough to kind of get you to tilt your head. That’s when you get curious and start thinking. The movies lulling pace stops you. That’s the state this film puts you in, like a nice smooth roller coaster ride. Nothing but peaks and valleys with very little jostling around.
He showed us destructive behavior begetting more destructive behavior with Requiem for a Dream. The pace relative to that of The Fountain tries to throw you off your rocker, but it pulls a clever trick and keeps you on board. A lot of the score is calming with only a few jolts of kinetic energy. Just as you fall into its grasp it bangs you with that awesome crescendo. Everything about the movie is triangular. The two characters with relative happy endings are the ones played by Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Connelly. Marlon’s character goes to prison and thus is given a chance to reform. Jennifer’s character is shown with her “score” she picked up after committing a demeaning act. Now that demeaning act can be her last or the start of many. It’s up to her. But one will fail. They all started this mess of a cycle and unless they find each other again, one will fall again. Jared Leto’s character’s reminder of his sacrifice is physical. The other two characters don’t actually wear any of their wounds. No questions to answer if they don’t want to. The grandmother, after degrading right in front of her friends will also wear her wounds physically and now has a story or “lore” that will plague her. Over time as it is passed down it will become more and more grandiose. Her leniency is what set this whole mess into motion. She may have felt that she was sacrificing herself for her grandson. But he walked all over her—the movie opens with a scene depicting this. And then there’s The Wrestler. Another story about sacrifice. Mickey Rourke’s Randy the Ram character sacrifices his own relationships as well as his health for his adoring fans. He does this because the love of his fans is easy to understand. A few body slams, a little blood and a “Ram Slam” from the top ropes is all they need. The two women in his life are way more complex and he is not capable of giving them what they need. Ironically, all they wanted was his time.
A BIT ABOUT PHARRELL WILLIAMS
I was listening to the latest album Seeing Sounds (awesome title) by Pharrell’s alter-ego N.E.R.D. or No one Ever Really Dies and got to thinking about how he blends both sides of the American music scene—black and white. There are all sorts of gray in between and you can play to these different shades and build a nice career for yourself. If you are distinctly country, you may kill with country fans, but be a point of derision for distinctly rap fans, and the same goes each and every other way. But to really catch on what if you were a creature of the generation that gave birth to the New Punks but instead of steppin’ out in your latest Gordon Gartrelle you dress just like them. You even design clothes for them and all you want to do is drop a love bomb and just dance. Oh, but don’t get complacent, he can bring the scary stuff too. But notice how he defuses it. Listen to the scary lyrics of Drop It Like It’s Hot. Okay, now try to act them out. Kind of don’t want to. Kind of want to just play it again and bop a little bit, maybe have a glass of green tea even. But then again, you’re only supposed to drop it like it’s hot. It’s really cool baby. Oh, and P, Hugo and the rest, thanks a lot for this. Black folks, give the man a chance and stop just picking him apart because he may do things things a little differently. Some cats do peculiar things and there’s no problem with pointing it out. The curious part of what gives gossip its legs is not the problem. It’s the envy, hate and subsequent jealousy that it inspires in some that becomes dangerous.
She gets it. Just check her out and help her out if you can. Sorry, I’ve been meaning to reference her for some time now.
WHAT ABOUT NOW? WHAT’S GONNA GO POP NEXT?
I don’t know. That’s how this universal game works. It lets you look back to discover a pattern, but when we look forward things get fuzzy. You look at the sun you can barely keep your eyes open, but turn around and look at the shadow the light creates. It’s that simple and it’s that complicated. The universe sets it up this way so that you cannot exploit it, but so that you can see your errors and correct them. One day we will radiate brighter than the sun because we have too. It won’t happen until billions upon billions of years from now. But when we get together we cannot be stopped. The sun will not be able to hold us back. One of these days our planet will look eye to eye with our sun and we will make it go POP.
Now here’s the thing. That sounds pretty scary but it really isn’t. If we get together and rock out we will have fun as we get there. If we continue on the way we are we still get there, it just takes a longer time. We can blow up in fear or we can blow up in love. It’s up to us, but not really because no matter what, this little blue planet is going to fulfill its destiny. Evey bit of it gets its turn in the sun, but one day it may become the sun. We just have a lot of growing to do before that happens. Literally. The only thing we know is that we will be “popping” in infinitely relatively diverse ways as we go. There’s no stopping that.
THE LAST BIT
There are many other folks out there making great music, art, films and the like. I’ve mentioned many here and there on this blog. I would love for all you hip folks out there to help and expose myself and everyone else to these people. Remember, there is that little comments section that follows below. Just be easy with the vitriol please. I have fun writing this crazy stuff and if you’ve gotten this far and you still decide to leave a hateful comment then how did you even get this far in the first place? You should have left a long time ago. But it’s cool. Thanks for stopping by regardless.
NO REALLY, THIS IS THE LAST BIT
The only reason you have the ability to take a life is so that you do not by virtue of contrast.