The Cult of the Music Video

(please disregard the typing errors that are in the following piece. thank you.)

I have always adored music videos. This is in spite of the fact that they are not taken nearly as seriously as films, due to being one of the youngest art forms currently around . One reason I think I love the music video actually ties in a bit with my love for literature: Just like a lot of the most important literature out there, music videos are, basically as a rule, almost always short and sweet. They’re very much short stories in their scope, even if no one except 1 particular character is saying anything. 

While it is true that they don’t really have any acting in them (and if they do its often terrible ) it is also true that they pull you into a world – often a very odd & surreal world – and spit you back out just as quickly as you arrived. In the very early days of the Internet, when it was still hooked by 56k, I was never able to watch music videos anywhere aside from television, and thus I did not watch all that many. Once YouTube came around, of course , this all changed dramatically. All of a sudden, almost overnight, literally every music video that had ever been created was blown out into deep Cyberspace for everyone to see. Thus began a long and very passionate obsession of watching all of the videos I had never had a chance to see, as well as the new ones that were coming out each day. Like anything else, some are better and others obviously far worse than others. Some of the old ones in particular from the original MTV days- but even many from the 1990s- are so bad that you turn them on and …you almost want to scream. Just the other day in fact I was watching the 1980s Rolling Stones music video for “Waiting On a Friend” and could not help but feel horrendously embarrassed for everyone involved. The acting really was …that bad.
Of course, this aspect about how odd the music video sometimes is, is just one of many things that I find so odd about the entire music video culture because many times, when I get into a discussion about this particular sphere of the Arts, I likewise start to realize that many of my most preferred videos actually have no connection whatsoever to my most preferred artists or groups or, yes, even songs! 
This means to say that, while my favorite music to listen to when I am driving or trying to really get into “my personal zone” has always been music that bands like The Doors or Led Zeppelin made…it’s also true that, when it comes to the sphere of the sacred post MTV video …I suddenly could almost care less about literally anything that The Doors or Led Zeppelin have ever done.
The reason why should be obvious: These bands from the 1960s and even the vast majority of the bands from the 1970s were not “video bands”. They were mostly all just record bands. To this day it’s still always shocking to me that The Doors really only ever made one music video, that being the one for “People Are Strange”. Beyond that, I don’t think Morrison himself ever did anything else with this form. On YouTube these days the curious reader will see that there are videos for the popular Doors songs “LA Woman” & “Roadhouse Blues” – but it seems to me as though they were put together using clips that the artist maybe intended to use for something else. This is very much also the same for Jimi Hendrix, Zeppelin, and many, many others. The sad truth is that when it comes to all of these early bands it was almost solely the Beatles & the Stones that went ahead and made a bunch of videos — but even when one goes to look at those, one quickly begins to see just how ….strange they all are. The music might be fantastic, but they absolutrly cannot compare to the sort of videos that the new stars of now are putting out, because at that point in time the music video was not at all the cultural Ground Zero that it is today. The truth of today is that the success of the new music is almost completely intertwined with the video that is released for it. I want to make it very clear that I am not saying this is a positive thing and for a long time I despised it myself, particularly as a musician. But eventually I realized I had to give in and admit: Many of my greatest & even most inspirational & informative modern musical experiences have undoubtedly happened while I was inside of a music video…. 
It is just always so strange, however, since such a great deal of the videos I enjoy getting lost inside are accompanied by songs that I know for a fact I would never have even considered liking for a second , had I heard them with no video attached…..

The fact of the matter is that the song …in some ways…almost doesn’t make much of a difference if there is a good enough video in front of it. You turn it on and  you just get sucked in, plain & simple. One does not have to try very hard with a music video. There is nothing else to it. No effort involved. The dream that the video sends you is often so immersive that all of a sudden the song doesn’t really matter. You’re just sitting there in this capsulized experience, safe & secure. Not only that but you’re also living an experience which, especially in this YouTube age where the number of views are displayed for all to see, makes you feel apart of something. The more views the video has, the more “apart of something” the viewer feels. There is very little that is solitary about the modern music video watching experience. It is a group activity. It has also become, in my opinion, one of the chief art forms of this current generation — if not the chief art form.
Of course,  as I said when I began this piece, most people do not see the music video as being this significant. It seems to me that most people interpret it as “childish” and “infantile” and many times, if I try to bring it up , I find that folks almost look at me as though I have 3 heads. They don’t really think the music video is having as much of an effort on this culture as it is, I don’t think. They think it is maybe even, to a degree, culturally irrelevant.

What these folks don’t realize is that this is exactly what people said about film in general in the beginning as well. Casablanca and A Wonderful Life might be “classics” now – and young people in my generation often look at them as though they are very serious artistic creations on the same level as a Michelangelo – but in the beginning even films like Casablanca were very much considered a joke.
They were not taken seriously by the “culture” at the time and thus they were not picked apart & examined from a psychological or a philosophical perspective. Like everything else, they traveled from the street and then upwards. These days you look around and you see glorious writers and “academics” analyzing and examining these films. When they first came out, only the people on the streets were watching them. It is very much the same right now with the music video. MTV debuted in the year 1981. That means that at the time of this writing the music video, as a popular medium, is basically only 35 years old. Once you start looking at it like that…it all of a sudden starts to look A LOT different. This really is a seriously young culture we are looking at here.
Now, if I had to list what I think I love most about my personal experience with music videos, before I get to the bad stuff…. then I think I’d have to tell the reader that it is the probably the fact that, unlike film and, again, absolutely unlike literature, the music video almost seems to have been the first “Google Earth” sort of satellite device that ran through every neighborhood and literally ate up everything, snapping a picture of every road. This was a first.

A major cultural first. 

You see, in my opinion, one of the biggest problems with film (that the cultural lords won’t admit) is that a story needs to be very big and also very accepted to get itself made into one. It also needs to be, more often than not, rather extraordinary and not at all commonplace. With literature, unlike film, there are a very wide range of stories being told, both commonplace and extraordinary, and so it avoids this problem that film has with “only the real big stories”— but the issue with literature, unfortunately, is that, the second you start reading it, you know you’re dealing with the perspective of someone who is kind of “intelligent” or, at the very least, able to read & write. Yes, the author might be scribbling in regards to the disenfranchised and the impoverished- he might even be pretending to be disenfranchised — but it doesn’t change the fact that the Author is typically not themselves the disenfranchised. Even in the cases where an Author is dead poor and marginalized, in fact, like many would say Charles Bukowski or some such poet was, there is still always the fact that…well, at the end of the day, Bukowski was obviously rather different than the other folks in his social class, and thus he wasn’t a completely qualified representative. Yes, Charles lived in the commoners ghettos, he ate the commoners food, he drank the commoners beer, he lived very much just as the commoners around him lived,  on the surface — but up in his head (which is where an Author lives) he was nothing at all like the typical commoner. This is very important to make note of. 

When reading Bukowski, you see, one typically gets the feeling that the man felt horrifically out of place where he was living, and this theme is in fact a major part of his poetry that he does not make any attempt to hide. Bukowski did not like his family, he did not like his co workers, he did not like his friends, he did not like much of anyone. He was an outsider. Certainly: As a reader of DH Lawrence and Shakespeare and EE. Cummings, he probably wasn’t exactly eager to engage in the typical everyday conversations that the others in his neighborhood were often having. His entire narrative therefore revolves around despising the others, feeling alienated, isolated, and wishing more than anything that he could just get away somewhere, to find some reasonable people who would discuss literature with him and understand why he felt so lonely. It’s often the same with most Authors, this sense of alienation.

Hence, as I am saying, the Author becomes something different and almost – if I can say it – something “above” or at least “removed” from the rest of the people. The Author is, after all, the Creator, and he thus becomes like a sort of God when you are reading him (or her). God has historically been painted as someone who is not exactly part of the crowd. He is also often painted as someone who is “disgusted” and “enraged” or even “indifferent” with what the people below him are up to. This is exactly how it has always been for the Author. The Author writes the characters. He does not necessarily become them…

This isn’t really the case in a music video, as far as I am concerned, however, because in the case of a music video one is almost always thrown straight into the perspective of a person who, oftentimes, seems just like every other person who is also trapped inside of the music video. In fact, the entire theme of most music videos is that the star in question is often trying as much as possible to look just like all the other folks in the video…no matter who or where they are. If Oscar Wilde or Balzac or Edgar Allen Poe were able to see some modern music videos, they would probably find it very bizarre, something tells me, since when one reads most of the literature that has come down through the centuries, one is not typically reading a manual on how to be “hip” in the time in which the literature is set. One is instead reading a manual that explains how to get yourself away from the others. 

Again, just as i said with Bukowski, the tradition of the Author has always been a tradition of aloofness and alienation. Often he is not only not at all concerned with fitting in, but he is actually very adamant about trying as hard as possible to purposely go against fitting in. If not this then he is simply not very concerned either way, maybe even totally unaware. Even in the case of very popular US authors this is almost always the case. Stephen King, as much as I have often ripped him to shreds, is the perfect example of this. He doesn’t seem to have a distaste for the commoner, but he also doesn’t seem, thank the Gods, to be just like him, either. It seems he doesn’t know what to make of him. With the music video star, however, this changed…more or less for the first time, and it changed dramatically. 
With the music video, the commoner who loved to be nothing more than another, run of the mill commoner..,suddenly became a God of the screen himself. In fact, it has never been any coincidence to me that the first real star of the whole music video affair was a young woman such as Madonna. Like it or not, women have typically been the first in line through the centuries to conform and get into step with the others and wear the mask of the others, to please the others, even if that mask is a poisonous and lethal mask, since the woman was always unfortunately the most threatened and thus the most frightened. Never forget that when a city was sacked and burnt to the ground in the distant past, it was the men who went to their deaths fighting to uphold the city and its individual ways …and it was the woman who often just sat and waited until the fighting was over – and then conformed and assimilated to the new victorious enemy. Women and conformity, historically speaking, in some sense, do indeed go hand in hand. When I was growing up it was often extremely difficult – and still is- to find a woman who thought “out of the box”. Women are given quicker rewards for conforming. They’re also punished more if they don’t. 
For someone who is made uncomfortable by this, then the fact that the pop culture woman in modern times is currently often known as the best “choreographed dancer” (like Madonna or Beyonce et cetera are) should tell you a great deal about how compelled the common woman has always been to march precisely and exactly in time with the other soldiers. She is unfortunately terrified to do anything else. Yes: It is at its core a problem the man has created for her but it is still being acted out through her nonetheless. Hence, it is sadly the case that, when we look at modern pop culture, we see the woman who wants to dance out of line….currently seems to be having a rather hard time of this all. Many feminists often complain of how “all the women stars are the same”. Well, I will stress one last time, this is not surprising once you look at cultural history over the centuries and also (this is the most important step in the dance) you must make absolutely sure to remember that, despite what the Americans are now telling us, a glorious and beautifully colorful World did, in fact, exist long before this dreadfully tedious country called the United States. And in that world things happened and people lived and all of this had an effect on the World in which we now live in today, even if the Americans want to take all the credit for it. Notice also how all of the big name so called “diva” singers in this country who have followed in Madonnas wake – Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Miley Cyrus et cetera – have all sung that horrendous “National Anthem / Star Spangled Banner” at least once in their careers. Madonna, as far as I can tell, having been the pioneer artist who just so happened to give rise to this music video culture that then became obsessed with conformity, has never once sang this abysmal thing in her entire life. Not surprising. All of the other girl divas in her wake have however, to the point where it almost seems like it has become a necessary career move for them…. 

For those who still doubt that there is something seriously off about many of these new post MTV stars and in particular the female ones, this article excerpt might help change your mind: 

Raise a glass of mull to Mariah! Twenty years since she donned a sexy Santa outfit and pranced around in the snow, sales of All I Want For Christmas Is You have finally reached 1 million in the UK. Merry Christmas. Though it seems Mariah’s biggest presents aren’t delivered by Dasher, Dancer and Prancer but Mutassim, Muammar and Dos Santos.

As Mariah was receiving the good news about her sales record, she was heading off to Angola to play a concert for President José Eduardo dos Santos. In a country where 70% of the population live on less than $2 a day, Carey is rumoured to have been paid $1m for her appearance. During the show, which featured three outfit changes – including the slightly worse-for-wear Santa costume – Mariah said she was “honoured to share this show with the president of Angola”.

The article goes on to explain that it wasn’t Mariahs first time – and that Mariah  is not the only one: 

This isn’t the first time Carey has played for a despot. In 2008, she performed at the New Year’s Eve party of Mutassim Gaddafi, one of the sons of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Eventually apologising for the gig three years later, she said she was emarrassed and that profits from a forthcoming song, Save The Day, would be given to a human rights organisation. The song is yet to emerge.

This story is becoming well-worn. Beyoncé also performed for the Gaddafi family, although she has since donated her fee to charity. Kim Kardashian was reportedly paid $500,000 to say less than 10 words at an event in Lagos earlier this year, and Jennifer Lopez was moved to apologise after performing “Happy Birthday” for Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, a noted human-rights violator.

It is as I said: Conformity is on the rise, my fellow citizens. 

Hence we see indeed that, when MTV first gave birth to the music video, we suddenly had our cameras aimed – for the very 1st time-at someone who was very much obsessed with being exactly like all of the others in whatever place he or she found themselves- and this is the precise sort of dangerous thing which ultimately led us to idiots like Kardashian and Carey and Beyonce et cetera. These people are not artists in the traditional sense of the word. They’re just folks who can’t wait to be exactly like all the other folks. We no longer as a culture reward difference — but sameness , and this is all so much more amplified when it comes to our fair SISTERS. 

I cant keep stressing enough what an enormous cultural switch this switch from rewarding the “outsider” to the “insider” was in so many ways. In fact, to again mention The Doors and Led Zeppelin, and even someone like Dylan, one of the major reasons those bands seem so odd to modern eyes is probably directly connected to this fact. What folks just don’t understand now is that men like Robert Plant and Jim Morrison had very little previous pop music culture to draw on when they began in the early 1960s, so mostly what they drew on was the classic “alienated artist” ideal that the literary world had tossed them. They had Old World European literary heroes (Europe is to this day still the true Western continent of differences, not the USA) and from these heroes they learned the exact same thing Bukowski learned: It is important to be different, to be unique, to get yourself away from the group, to not dress like the group, to maybe even despise the group, to forever question those who wave flags, etc. Thus….yet again I must say….it has never at all been any coincidence to me that it was, of all the people on the Earth, yes of course- who else?-the Americans who created the conformist music video and tossed it into true orbit, since this sort of isolated & alienated individual, who strives to be different and think for themselves, like Bukowski or Oscar Wilde certainly would have, is the same sort of individual who would have never given the Americans much of the military might they now have and are, unfortunately in this current time period, very much seriously disrupting and endangering the peace and safety of the World with. They have this power because it is a country of people who have stopped asking questions now. They think it’s fantastic to go around and salute the flag over and over now. You don’t need to read statistics to know the average American does not read much. It’s very obvious just by looking at the culture for a second. No nation of decently informed people could ever be as obsessed with the military as they are — especially for this long now. This has been going on for awhile now after all, and it very much only really seems to be peaking…. 

Thus I shall keep stressing it: it is no surprise at all that the country which is currently the most famous for the music video of total and utter sameness is also the most famous for having the Worlds biggest and most violent military. The music video culture – as entertaining and as culturally informative and even as similar to a short story as it can be- thrives around conformity and sameness, and it also typically wants everyone to speak the same language….just like – surprise surprise -the modern day, new  Americans do. Americans look at the European idea of difference and think they understand it – but they don’t really understand it, because the average American is threatened just by hearing a bit of Spanish, let alone a dozen other tongues! The original Americans and even those in the early 1900s understood differences – but we no longer understand it now. This country is honestly as isolated as could be. 

Which is why we just keep seem to be getting more and mor obsessed with all being precisely the same. The music videos just …well…they wound up being where it all went to get reflected back to us. 

 Anyone who has watched even 2 music videos in my opinion can see this immediately, and this whole aspect about the language is actually the exact reason why the Europeans were never really able to move in on this musical video terrain, try as they might . The Americans did not and still do not like them, and won’t even give them a lousy chance, even if they are making videos, because the Europeans were speaking in other languages inside their videos, and when the common American hears another language, he grabs a gun, not a dictionary. As the old joke says:

A person who speaks two languages is called bilingual.
A person who speaks many languages is a polyglot.
What about a person with only one language?

An American. 

Oh, I know very well that it might seem silly to some that I could possibly make a correlation between an aggressive and seriously militarized culture obsessed with conformity, and a supposedly “simple snd infantile” thing like the music video, but I can assure the reader: There are enormous connections between these phenomenons. Think about it: Social activism and anti-war attitudes were very popular in the 1960s and 70s, even in this blood thirsty wolf of a country, and now many people often wonder what happened to all of that…? Well, I told you before precious reader: the music video was invented, and the young, new Americans thus became very enthusiastic about the “joys” of conformity, instead of thinking they ought to be against it.

Indeed: The music video is beautiful and creative, just like the literary short story, in the sense that it suddenly pops you into Brooklyn or Texas or Los Angeles for a few minutes, with a set of characters you maybe never met and will never meet – and this part is very inspirational and beneficial to someone studying culture – but the thing that ruins the music video is..again…that everyone in it is almost always the same as the next person. In every video there is always a certain “uniform” that all of the characters are wearing. The average American does not seem to take much note of this, they seem to think these videos are “extremely individual”…but then again the average American also does not seem to take note of the fact that they are living in one of the most brutally aggressive & militarized cultures that has come about in the World in centuries. I really must get off of that, I know, but it seems it’s a fact that insists on popping up continuously in this piece, I don’t know why…. 
Hence I declare again that, when the music video characters finally popped out of the screen & into our living room with MTV, this whole cultural element of the Arts that had existed previously- this element which was deeply intrigued by individuality, not conforming, thinking for ones self, & getting away from the others, speaking some unique language – changed and was no longer at all the case. Now, as I mentioned before, when we look at the very early pioneers, like, again, Madonna, who got her start the second MTV did, we see that SHE was fairly individualistic,different and unique –yes I realize this is the truth —but by the late 1990s and 2000s not even this element of individuality was visible any longer in the characters we were being sold.
Once the pioneers were thrown out of the way, the Militarized conformists were able to get started on what they really probably wanted the whole time — and now you look and you can see very clearly: the roads have now seemingly diverged completely. From the modern cultural perspective, music videos have next to nothing to do with being an individual who thinks for ones self, and instead everything to do with being a part of some enormous group to which one must desperately try to be accepted into . The music video, the shopping mall, the department store, the absurdly enormous US military, the Church – these things are all very much in the same category. Imagine for a moment just how many sneakers or hats or particular shirts the American music videos have managed to sell..?
Works of art and fun though they may be, there is nothing, in my opinion, even slightly individual about them at their core. They are the epitome of group think and conformity – the 2 traits that the new militarized, gung ho Americans (who have very, very little to do with the old 19th or early 20th cent. Americans) prize above all else.

Yes, it is true, the camera often focuses on the voice of one person and the face of one person – but there is also almost always, for me at least, this strange feeling that the person whom the camera is focusing on was chosen completely by utterly random chance, and really could have been ….once you strip their voice away and remember the image of sameness these performers always portray….just about anybody. I think everyone has had the experience when they slip inside a music video and they suddenly start to see a myriad of faces that they went to high school with. That isn’t a funny sign. It’s a bad one.
Alas this is a major part of the reason, I think, maybe even perhaps the only reason, that our current culture is having such a hard time understanding itself these days: The people who are now being chosen to represent us oftentimes don’t seem to understand even themselves as individuals, let alone the rest of us and the culture from which they came. In other words, they’re so much like everyone else we know here on the helpless and overly patriotic ground level – that they’re actually just as CLUELESS, STUPID, and WEAK as we are! Perhaps that is why we like them so much. When we watch them, we feel like we are watching our own ignorant selves.

(To be continued)

Country Songs: A Few Opinions

I’ve been doing some reading on Miranda Lambert recently after she passed through my mind the other day, and it seems that I might have more of a connection to this figure than I perhaps ever realized.

The reason I say this is because, after she randomly came to mind and then after I scribbled a sentence or two about her in an article a few days ago, I went ahead and came to find that she’s actually about to be performing right near me very soon, in Hartford, two days from now. I found this very….strange. What on Earth were the odds that I would be thinking of Miranda Lambert literally mere days before she was due to arrive at a theatre near me? Granted I don’t think I’ll be attending the show -though I certainly would like to! – I cannot help but find it all a little odd. After all, it is not necessarily every day that I think of this figure. It is probably not even every year. Hell I almost don’t even think I ever thought of Miranda Lambert more than twice in my entire life before this very week…
As I’m sure I’ve already said a time or two, I’ve always had a very intense interest in the classic country stars, like Loretta Lynn & Parton & Haggard et cetera, for historical purposes, but I never really got around to examining the modern ones too much. Guys like Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith …I guess maybe they’d be cool to hang out with occasionally..they seem like those classic “beer swilling “ sorts…. .but for the most part, I’m not really interested in them as artists or musicians, and this is mostly the same, I’ve found, for almost everyone in an urban area. In fact, when I was growing up, I vividly remember folks writing on their social network pages, when it came time to answer the music question, that they liked “literally everything! everything! except country music of course…i hate country!”

I don’t know where the joke came from but a few months ago I even checked in with my 17 year old brother to see if this “joke” was still going around and, sure enough, when I started to rattle off the old line …. “I like everything except…” he finished it for me in a second, with a great deal of laughter. “Oh yea,” he said, “everyone still says that. You don’t know how many times I’ve read that.” I’ll admit this actually kind of bothers me. I’ve never lived below the Mason Dixon , I’ve never actually even really seen a farm with my own two eyes (well I did see a vineyard in Italy..) but ..still…I want country to go on. It’s actually kind of important to me. There are certain things about country music that are important to me and this is why I keep an interest in it…. I don’t really like this whole “I like everything except country” trend…….
The reader might naturally wonder what stock I have in country music going onwards if I only really like the historical stuff like Hank Williams Sr., and Johnny Cash and so forth. Well, it all goes back to the acoustic guitar, which is a country symbol, and is likewise extremely important for me. I am absolutely obsessed with acoustic guitars. I might not necessarily dig the themes that Toby Keith or nost modern Nashville dudes and dudettes write about; but what I do really love…and always will love…are the tools they use. I love pedal steels, wurlitzers, acoustic guitars, fiddles,banjos, the whole nine yards.I actually have a 50 year old banjo behind me on the couch as I scribble this.

Indeed I have been a very colossal fan of acoustic music since I was 12 years old and I was introduced to the Nirvana tape “Unplugged in New York”. Serious music enthusiasts from the olden days, go ahead and laugh all you want at me; but I have often actually told people, as an acoustic player, that this tape is maybe the most influential and inspiring tape I have ever heard …for the simple fact that it is all acoustic and that it popped into my ears before I ws even a teenager. The reader has to understand that, in the time I was coming up, and even still, all the music that was considered “acceptable” for someone young to be looking into…was not acoustic, and instead almost always electric. In fact, being from the city, it was almost kind of ..dare I say it …BIZARRE …to see an acoustic guitar like I did when I saw Kurt Cobain holding it on stage in the Unplugged performance. But what began as a result of this, for me, was a lifelong appreciation and at times downright obsession with acoustic music….and naturally where this obsession eventually led me was straight to the halls of what Jim Morrison once called “the great high and lonesome sound”….otherwise known as COUNTRY MUSIC!
The fact that Kurt Cobain led me to cowboys is very strange, but very true. It was what really happened. I ran out and bought my first acoustic guitar not long after lyrically memorizing every single song on the Nirvana “Unplugged” tape, and though my lessons on the acoustic guitar began with Spanish flamenco music (equally as beautiful) I eventually drifted off, around 17 or 18, into straight nitty gritty songwriting. Though I recently haven’t played guitar nearly as much as I used to (bcause I am trying to scribble now instead) the fact is that, for years, it was really the only way that I liked telling a story. I think a big part of the reason I liked it so much is because telling a story with an acoustic guitar actually isn’t all that different from telling one…like this!

A writer uses a desk, a pen, and a piece of paper (or now the screen) to write his or her tales. An acoustic musician, assuming they’re a singer, uses their acoustic instrument, their pick or their fingers, and their words. Everything else just falls to the wayside. There’s also the fact that, much like writing, acoustic storytelling is very quiet. It’s extremely earthy…just like writing is. This is, of course, probably one of the reasons that it has fallen out of favor. After all, when we look at Nirvana’s Unplugged performance, we see that, while it was the greatest thing the band ever did as far as I personally was concerned, it’s really nothing more than a footnote for everyone else.
Most Nirvana fans are very familiar with it the same as I am, but they probably wouldn’t call it the most significant performance that Kurt sent out to the World.

When it comes to that they’ll more likely than not list 1991’s Nevermind, and I wouldn’t blame them if they did, since I probably would have never taken the time to appreciate the Unplugged performance if I did not first appreciate the electric stuff – which, to this day, is incredible. Alas in the end I wound up obsessing far more over the acoustic guitar than the electric……and I particularly went insane, as a boy,when I would see an acoustic guitar being played right in front of me. I will never forget how magical it looked to me the first time that my mother took me to see the Spanish flamenco guitar man that she found through the newspaper. I can still see that mans room, what it smelled like, everything. Everyone who plays guitars or who has ever walked into the mystic acoustic section of a guitar store knows the smell. It’s like bliss. I always go straight to the acoustic guitar section in any guitar store I walk into. Immediately.

To this day I don’t even know how to describe it all. When I saw the man play his little Spanish flamenco guitar, a Seagull guitar I remember (my young brother now has my old Seagull) it was one of the most extraordinary things I had ever seen in my life. It literally was like seeing a magician doing magic right in front of me, a wizard casting a spell. Again the reader has to keep in mind that, being a kid from the city and then too being a kid locked away in the early 21st century of recordings and video tapes, seeing someone who was actually playing an instrument, right there…. so close that I could touch them…..was utterly mind blowing.Mesmerizing. Until that day that I saw the old man playing the flamenco guitar like I did, I had only ever heard music through a speaker, and I had probably only ever seen musicians holding their instruments through a screen. Looking at this guy was unbelievable. And so began a lifelong obsession that is still very much with me of following acoustic musicians wherever and whenever I could find them. YouTube drove me insane when it first came out. It was like suddenly I had walked into a room and everyone said “FREEEEE BEER!! FOREVER!!”
And this of course, yet again, brings me back to country music, and to ..yes..Miranda Lambert and all the other country stars that are currently lost somewhere behind her. You see, as an acoustic guitar boy from the city, I actually have both a bit of a bone to pick with the country musicians, but also a bit of thanks to give. On the one hand, they have, like I already stated, done a lot to bring the acoustic guitar to prominence and they’ve also written hundreds of songs, if not thousands of them, that are absolutely incredible – every last time – when they’re performed on acoustic guitar. There is absolutely nothing better than pulling out some old country tune, whether it was written in the 1800’s, the 1920’s, the 1970’s or today, and running through it on an old acoustic. Few things are better than that…. especially if you have background singers and a pedal steel somewhere.
At the same time as this, however, the country music legend and image has actually…done a bit of serious damage to the acoustic guitars reputation. I have often tried to explain that it is almost as though the country music people have claimed the acoustic guitar as being “theirs and theirs alone”,. and almost any time you go to pull one out and start playing, a lot of people immediately think you’re trying to be a country star ala Merle Haggard — even if you ain’t. I can remember one performance I put on rather randomly at a party once, actually, where I pulled the acoustic guitar out of the case, began to strap up, and the second I started strumming I saw a bunch of guys start “yodeling” and pretending to square dance.
I was sort of drunk on that occasion, snce it was probably a university party of some sort, and extremely offended the second the “yodeling” began. I immediately stopped singing and shouted across the room that just because I had the acoustic guitar in my hand, it didn’t mean I was some god damn hick. I needed to make my city self known, because they were embarassing the hell out of me. I shouted out that I was from the Bronx and that I actually despised cowboys. I was probably red in the face. In fact, I went on to explain as I was screaming, I was getting ready to perform a Destiny’s Child song. They looked at me as though they were bewildered. The performance that followed didn ot go well. I was too angry, and offended. Totally unable to tap into my inner Beyonce Knowles or Kelly Rowland….

This is one small example of why I often despise my acoustic guitar once I am in public, you see: It immediately gets me written off as…yes…a cowboy loving hick. I suppose if I were from Tennessee or Texas and I wore big snakeskin boots and carried a Desert Eagle tucked into my pants, this wouldn’t bother me…but I don’t do any of those things. I’m just a city kid who happens to love acoustic music, not some cowboy. But every time that acoustic guitar comes out of the case, I have to deal with this, and the reason I have to deal with it is – again I will try to work her in here – because of people like Miranda Lambert. On the national pop culture stage, Miranda and her ilk are really the only ones who still whip out acoustic guitars not just in random bars, but in actual arenas. For all the rest of the arena obsessed world, this no longer really happens anymore. Acoustic guitars generally don’t get that much love anymore. Most kids starting out on guitars will often beg for hours to get an electric, not an acoustic. And I think that’s a massive shame. I really think that’s a massive..terrible..horrendous shame.
The next thing that is a massive shame is that Miranda Lambert and the other country stars have kind of….and I really can’t tell if they did this purposely or accidentally… I honestly cannot tell… but they have alienated themselves from the pop culture at large, in our modern time now, since country music is so heavily affiliated with politics…… and so what has happened as a result of this is that they have brought the acoustic guitar with them too. The acoustic guitar is now, as an instrument, just as alienated as they are. I pull it out and people start thinking that I’m not only a hick, but that I have conservative politics like a “hick” too. They start making these absolutely ridiculous assumptions (that I’m gonna sing about the military, that I love the rodeo, that I chew Skoal) all based on the fact that I am carrying an instrument that these musicians have “claimed”. And what all of this means is that these folks write me off before I can even get started. They literally think I’m going to start singing about some conservatist, traditionalist values even though I’m actually to the extreme left in almost every single political regard…..and it was music that put me there!

Eventually I think I wound up suffering a bit of an identity crisis because of this, and it might just explain why I am sitting here scribbling to you today instead of singing to you. I literally …at a certain point…I just could not go on with it anymore, because I was driven so mad by it all. I literally could not reconcile my love for the acoustic instrument with my liberal politics. I felt like a …I don’t know….like someone dreadfully misinterpreted around the clock. And eventually I got sick of being so horrifically misinterpreted. At first it was kind of comical , but as my love for the acoustic guitar grew and grew, it started to get tiresome and annoying. I started to see that it was going to be impossible to carve out a really ….wide ranged identity…. for myself in terms of music, but at the same time as this I had developed such a love for playing acoustically that it was hard to go back to electric – because I had never really developed the same love for electric performances.
Like I said before, electric performances don’t tend to offer the same “lyrical freedom” that acoustic storytelling does. Singing a song acoustically really is very much like telling a short story. Many of the greatest short stories I’ve ever heard were acoustic songs. And yet I’m not allowed to tell the sort of stories that I want to over an acoustic guitar, because every time I do I get slammed with this idea that I ought to be writing about the country and nothing but the country. I can’t sing about space aliens on Mars or Venus when I have the acoustic guitar in hand, they tell me, I can only sing about the Louisiana bayou and the gators and the swamp and the old sanctified toad calls. I gotta sing about the Vietcong and the bayonets. I gotta sing about the US Marines. I gotta sing about “Freedom land” and Indians and frayed leather jackets like Neil Young wears—-

Can’t sing about space aliens or some transgender freak or some …I don’t know … you just …they say it every time … “You gotta sing country. Country!” It’s so limiting though…how could anyone not see that? Every time I would sit in my room alone with the guitar, I felt inspired – like I could write anything – like I was up with Han Solo and Obi Wan on the Millennium Falcon and I could write anything I wanted to …any song I wanted – but the second I sat down and I pulled up the so-called “classic albums” …all of a sudden I felt totally trapped and ensnared.
Everyone holds on to those classic albums too dearly now, I think, and it’s actually gotten to the point now where music has become just as repetitive as many people used to say that literature was. Everyone forgets this now! But back in the days, say when the 40’s and the 50’s come up I suppose, folks were getting antsy with literature and wanted to bust it out …because they felt tht all of the literary stories were starting to repeat was getting repetitive…everyone was trying to be Hemingway,…you look at Norman Mailer you almost sometimes think you’re looking at Hemingway…sometimes it’s gorgeous, sometimes it isn’t … but the beautiful thing about music, when it all first exploded in Nashville and Memphis for the first real time, was that music was NEW! FRESH! Something totally undefinable, something that had never been done before….
And yet now what has happened? All of the modern soungs – and in particular the coutry snogs – they’re all the same. “Write about trucks, bayous, gators, tail gating, Budweiser, Marlboros… and the country! Write about country girls in daisy dukes…. hopping in your Ford pick up….”

It is maddening. I’m sorry but it’s maddening. And in my opinion it’s all even worse for poor Miranda Lambert. As a girl Lambert actually has it the WORST! I was reading the other day, they don’t even want to let the girl write songs about shooting her boyfriend or even cheating on him — -”gunpowder and lead” –they think it’s too racy…and then there is the fact that it’s the 21st century now and…Kacy Musgraves or whatever her name is…I was watching a few videos of her earlier … Kacy Musgraves comes out with a song about marijuana…a country song done in the traditionalist country style, banjos and the worx…and they tell her ‘it’s too racy”. Are these people insane? What topics are allowed here? They are ruining the genre and stripping it of its worth by doing this. They’re honest to God going to destroy an entire genre by making it so irrrelevant like this. It isn’t right. It’s doing a disservice to the legacy of Johnny Cash. Even Johnny at the end was writing about more than just ‘country”. In the Highwayman song with Nelson and Kristofferson and the others, he sang about space! “I’ll fly my starship across the universe divide… & when I reach the other side ….. I’ll find a place to rest my spirit if I can …. perhaps I may become a highwayman again…”

Now keep in mind that all of this isn’t to say that I don’t like writing about the country beacuse I often do just that – even in my actual short stories – but it’s rather to say that….how come it ALWAYS has to get me nailed this way? Why must I always feel pegged to sing about country stories and nothing but? No literary writer would ever feel this trapped, no movie actor would ever feel so trapped, nobody ever would except musicians – which is ironic- because musicians travel the most outta everybody!
And don’t think, of course, that this is just me, because it isn’t. If anything barroom guitar slingers are better off than the big shot famous ones. It’ the famous ones, of course, who are going this all the worst. They are completely trapped in a box. “He plays acoustic songs about coal miners…must be a CONSERVATIVE! Must be a hiccccck!”
This past May or whatever it was, when that whole weird “transgender bathroom” thing was going on in blessed West Virginia, Bruce Springsteen went out against it and a lot of LGBT I saw, they were absolutely “shocked” that Springsteen had gone out against this law being passed. They literally could not believe that old baby Bruce had gone out in favor of the LGBT community; and the reason they couldn’t believe it is because …yep…that’s right…Bruce is pretty famous for playing not just an acoustic guitar…but also, to make matters worse, a Fender Telecaster, just like Terri Clark or some other yodeler…..
Country music fans will already know of course that the Telecaster is famous for making the best high and lonesome “Twang” there is. It’s also pretty good at making good old rock and roll. Keith Richards has been using one for years. But these folks associated Bruce with being conservative and “ignorant” just cause he uses an acoustic guitar to sing the stories of folks that work in coalmines and ……..
[incomplete the page flips back and you hear a Telecaster roaring]

Female POV Stories

These are some of my favorite books that have a heavy Female POV. 

A few words:

Foxfire here is by Joyce Carol Oates and has been, as the reader can see, made into a film with Angelina Jolie – I think sometime in the 1990’s – that I’ve only ever seen clips of. I did not realize it had been made into a film until after I read thru the book but it’s quite easy to see why now.

One of all my time favorite concepts, perhaps because I am an Italian…is the concept of a GANG…a violent and wild gang in specific…. and it was particularly interesting for me to see this concept play out from the perspective of women instead of men in this Foxfire book. Of course it would have been a little cooler if JCO had allowed the characters to age and grow older but ….she didn’t. Alas it was still good, and has certainly left me with plenty ideas of my own.

I’m always looking for new books that have a good female POV, I really love it when it goes right…the problem is just that I’m very often looking for characters who are kind of reclusive, dark, a little sardonic and a lot of the female oriented novels, I sadly find, do not give that to me. For example with the Mercy Thompson novel here, the one with the very awesome art of the Native girl with the red bandana in her back pocket… I really dug that book, but I still felt that the girl character was painted as a little too….caring.

The author Patricia Briggs is a good writer; but she didn’t write any sex scenes (to the point where I felt I was literally going to die waiting) and then too she is from the Mid-west and I kind of felt I could see it in her work….because the book was very …well…religion was kind of seeping out of it in all sorts of ways and you could tell she was nervous to include sex for this reason. What on Earth is someone doing writing about werewolves and vampires and God at the same time for? It’s ridiculous to me that these folks can’t let go of the religious thing even when they’re writing. I might look through another one of the Briggs novels now, but I’m not sure. I gave up with that series after reading through the first 2 because I just kept waiting for sex and insanity and ruthlessness and it never came ……

It’s like every female POV book I find is either ALL sex and no intellect or NO sex and all intellect/emotion.

Maybe it is because I have eaten of the male POV for all my life, but when I go looking for a character that is supposed to be “bad ass” I expect ruthlessness, no holds barred, no pity, no mercy — but also a lot of intelligence and emotion at the same time as all of that too. A famous male character like James Bond is really the perfect example of this. Bond is slick, there’s a lot of sex appeal and earthiness to him; but at the same time he’s still intelligent and deals with the “wider world”. Where is this same character in womans fiction??? Unfortunately I can never seem to find it. Just being honest…. 

As for the Danielle Steel novel that I included, well that was her debut book that I just so happened to accidentally stumble upon at a second hand store one day, and it was just a very gripping love story that I happened to get drawn into. There are a few deaths locked inside of that book but nothing serious… nothing dark….

So if anyone can point me in the direction of some books with a rather sadistic female character who likes men but is a bit wild/”assertive” (yet still intelligent) that’d be fantastic. Ciao ciao…









Corporate Landscape

I have recently grown rather fond of explaining to close friends and acquaintances that, when Spotify came out, I finally began to understand – after a literal lifetime – exactly what the attraction was in being, I suppose we could say, ‘trendy’.
While I would never go so far as to describe myself as the sort of individual who lived completely unaware of the current trends, I would also never say that I had ever taken much of an interest in them, either. For the most part the current hit songs and the top 40 playlists of the week were something I would generally only hear in my car – and much of the time that would happen solely because I was forced to.

In many ways as I now look back on it it occurs to me that a great deal of my ‘missing out on the trends’ more or less occurred entirely due to the fact that I have always lived my life without much money at my disposal – and this was especially the case in the earliest years. I have also never been very interested in shopping at the mall which I feel, particularly if you live in an out of the way area, is the only way you will come into contact with whatever the current trends are. Since I never did any of that, I never really had much exposure to anything “current”. I also never kept a television. As I have described elsewhere in my writings, I have lived most of my life flying my plane between two worlds: the world of the printed books, and then the world of the Internet. At first glance it might seem like someone using the Internet would be trendy almost as a rule; but the crazy part about it is that all those years ago the Internet was very much the perfect place to go when one wanted to escape the trends, and instead sink into whatever one felt most personally drawn to. It was through the Internet that I discovered the world of the great essayists, the great writers, the great musicians and artists of yore et cetera. Essentially it acted as a guide of sorts helping me to figure out what was worth reading or looking into and what wasn’t. For many this detail might seem small- but it is actually in my opinion quite an enormous deal. It also helps to explain why I accidentally dodged the trendy world even though I was at the time the precise sort of “individual” that they were aiming for. Honestly I often look back on my youthful years these days and it is like I grew up in some sort of twilight zone. The Internet was just so radically different that I still all these years later cannot totally grasp how rapidly and seriously it has changed. In recent articles I have devoted a great deal of time to analyzing the changes. A part of the reason for this is because I am in many ways frightened by it: I basically think that the lure of following the trends is becoming too strong now.
In the opening few sentences I said that” I have recently grown rather fond of explaining to close friends and acquaintances that, when Spotify came out, I finally began to understand – after a literal lifetime – exactly what the attraction was in being, I suppose we could say, ‘trendy’. “The point I was really trying to express with this is that if even I am now someone who is feeling strongly pushed in the direction of checking out whatever is most “trendy” , at least occasionally, then what does that say about the average 15 or 16 year old consumer wandering around back there in his or her earliest and most formative years? Essentially what I am in a large part afraid of is, I think, the fact that all of the latest material is quite simply becoming far too accessible even for the poorest of people. While at first glance this might seem extraordinary and a cause to celebrate, I actually would argue to the contrary, mostly because a great deal of the current “art” and “entertainment” being offered is rather .. empty… it has no cultural connections and no links….
It is almost like surfing around in a great big cultural void of sorts. It never leads anywhere. It certainly never leads one to anything even remotely historical. In my opinion this is the big issue and is certainly what worries me the most. While I will admit that a great deal of the latest and trendiest music videos and top 40 hits – available all for free on Spotify now, at one click – feature state of the art production and are thus very enticing.. I also cannot help but feel that this is actually doing people more harm than good. In some way the overwhelming accessibility to everything has most definitely cheapened it in some sense. And it has also at the same time made it that much more invasive. After all one must again keep in mind: a large part of the reason that I wound up slipping away into the world of literature – and thus discovering a lot of beautiful and ancient truths about the world – all occurred in a large way due to the fact that I had absolutely no spending money as a youth – and thus never went to any commercial shopping centers. On the rare occasion that my amigos and I were able to hitch a ride to the shopping centers, we mostly just waltzed around walking in and out of stores looking suspicious. Nobody was ever able to buy a thing. We were “priced straight out” of the consumer culture. We literally could not afford to keep up with whatever was “trendy”. In return many of us surfed through the Internet which in that time period – which is almost beginning to seem ancient – inevitably often wound up introducing one to a very different… and marginalized / non mainstream .. world.
There was a place basically for the freaks and the outcasts and the highly intelligent to meet and mingle.. without feeling attacked or repressed or – yes – spied upon. What concerns me about the Internet of today is I can see very clearly that, if I were 14 or 13 browsing today’s 2016 Internet, I never in a million years would have found that world. Instead I would have gone almost definitely tripping straight into this ultra mainstream (and incredibly self contained) world of the trendy. Instead of being totally unable to access all of the latest albums as my own self was in, say, 2003, I would now be able to access any album I wanted around the clock. I would have access to every single music video the moment of its release. I would have a Netflix account and thus access to all the television shows and films et cetera. The Internet has now become, in other words, like the mall – and the door to every store is not only flung wide open; but also the stores are all offering endless “samples” of whatever you want. You want to hear the new Iggy Azalea album in its entirety? Go right ahead. Want to see every episode of Friends there ever was? Grab a Netflix account. You want every music video literally the moment it’s published? It is all right here.
In essence,joining the trendy or “most popular” club would have been so easy in this modern time period that I am honestly not quite sure my young self would have been able to resist. Now I realize that some people might try to argue me on this point. They’ll tell me that the wide open nature of the Internet and the fact that “everything is available” on it will inevitably lead to people becoming more and more individualized and unique et cetera. I have given this some thought and for many years somewhat subscribed to this idea myself. In the case of people who are already adults, I think it is very much the truth. For instance when I personally use the Internet I often still use it in the same way I always did in the deep back days of my boyhood, and I can see that this is more often than not the case for some “contemporaries” and certainly for many who are a wee bit older.
Ultimately though, after carefully reviewing a number of current trending factors in the last four or five years or so, I have come to the conclusion that this is not at all the case once we are dealing with the current crop of very very young people who are – at the moment I write these words – landing their new and fresh planes on the Internet “Tarmac” for the very first time. Most of these people seem to be joining a herd rather than escaping it by logging on. In my opinion, you see, i cannot help but think there is always a bit of a “locked out” factor at play when it comes to the story of anyone who stumbles upon a world of individuality instead of sameness. In my experience a similar back story is almost always there in the case of all highly unique personalities: the truly great artists that come to us with stories of creating seriously innovative and “this is so unbelievably new!” art were also always young people who, somehow or other, got locked out of whatever was very popular or happening in their own time. It is truly the same story straight across the board. When I look at this new internet (Internet 2.0? 3.0? 4.0?) what I see is that individualization might actually be a far harder thing to pursue. I really must stress this. In our own time now everything is simply far too available. It has largely stripped us of what used to be known as “scenes”.
It reminds me of a conversation I once had with a friend of mine who was, at the time, living in Manchester (England) in a neighborhood more or less entirely populated by immigrants from the great wide open – and in some sense largely untouched and certainly misunderstood- east of Europe. He himself was born in Moldova – a country which sprang up after the Soviets collapsed – but was, so he told me, one of the few in the neighborhood able to converse widely in English. He had been living in England for years and even had a bit of the cockney accent et cetera. “I cannot help but think,” he remarked to me at some point, “that the next great musical innovator is going to come from one of those oddly out of touch countries like my Moldova. It is almost like the people back there are all so out of touch and out of the way that only they can possibly come up with anything truly original anymore. The rest of us have simply eaten too much of the mainstream to create anything original now…”
Again the reader must keep in mind that, as it currently stands right now, a great deal of material that would have been completely inaccessible to a poor fellow living in the year 1980 or even 2004 is now completely accessible – in the easiest of ways – to anyone with an Internet connection. It is also quite meticulously, thanks to Spotify, VERY organized and presented in a very concise and “trendy” manner. For example many people might argue that the Internet has been the source of trendiness in music and film ever since the early days of MP3 piracy with Napster and prior to that the days of sharing .avi files across mIRC. In my opinion however there is an enormous difference: in those days there was still very much the idea in place that whatever one was finding was somewhat ‘valuable’ and there was also the fact that the system in place was very unorganized and loose, and so all the media was traveling down “word of mouth” pipelines. It was essentially an independent Silk Road of sorts totally free of all big business intervention…..
For instance I can vividly remember spending summers at my oldest cousins house in the late 90s – when he was a late teenager and I still only 11ish- and watching him zoom his jet plane all around the dark and strange back alleys & tunnels of mIRC chat rooms. It was incredibly exciting.
Many young Internet users now perhaps don’t even know what mIRC is.. which is funny.. considering that for us it was very much at the time equivalent to Netflix! The only difference was of course that it was all illegal- but still fairly popular amongst PC nerds. Indeed I can vividly remember my cousin downloading dozens of films and music catalogues at a time across the darkness of mIRC. Mostly in those days we were very interested in a seriously wide variety of Japanese anime – some of which we would even just sit there watching entirely in Japanese without even using subtitles. This is to me a very interesting example of the manner in which the early Internet accidentally – since it wasn’t corporatized and colonized yet – led our little “virtual sailing boats” to foreign and very exotic shores. It was much the same story when I myself later came across the great French poets and writers of yesteryear like Rimbaud or Flaubert, the writings of Dante Alighieri, the work of Homer and Aeschylus and Virgil and onwards. I was introduced to al of this because I was riding the strangest Internet rails imaginable- none of which I feel would be ridden by modern youths today almost solely due to the fact that all of the modern youths are surfing a very cluttered and colonized Internet. They’re being told where to go. They log on to Tymblr and the door slams shut behind them. “You locked in baby….” The same goes for Facebook and all the others.
Indeed the most interesting detail about all of this early discovery from my youth is that nothing was at all organized in those old “it was still dawn” days of the Internet – and I know for a fact that everything my cousin used to get during those long summers he mostly would pick up due to a strange sort of ‘word of mouth’ system. It was all rather random: you took what you could find….
This was very much the same way it worked in the early 2000s when Napster and then Kazaa and Limewire broke out for the mainstreamers. Due to the fact that all of these systems were “illegal” (it sounds very odd now?) there was not only a sense of everything you were hearing being rather valuable -but there was also this enormous sense of LIBERTY. One did not, for example, log on to a program like Limewire or BitTorrent and get sent into a particular “trendy” direction. What actually tended to happen was precisely the opposite: since there was no organization at all, one wound up developing the most peculiar of tastes. I think many people from my generation largely forget this – but when you think about it this particular process of picking up music and media was truly quite bizarre. It was also, I see now, very much equivalent to shopping at a thrift store or something. Everyone was so excited to have this first time never before heard of access that they were just grabbing everything. Artists that would have never been heard of beneath a mainstream system such as MTV or corporate radio were al of sudden being blasted across the world soaring at hyper speed across the many crisscrossing tunnels and labyrinths of the Internet….
Agai I just can’t forget sitting there with my cousin and watching the most random movies imaginable solely due to the fact that, during some periods, they were the only ones flying down the pipelines that were available to catch. We were introduced in this manner to worlds we would have never thought to explore otherwise. This absolutely must be stressed. This idea of randomness.
It must be stressed because, in today’s time, this is not at all the case and would never happen. Today we are very much back to the pre-Internet model of picking up media and information. Since everything on the Internet was colonized and corporatized, we are now very much walking around in an enormous shopping mall whenever we log on to a program like Spotify or Netflix and so on. Basically we are walking through the aisles and being strongly influenced to walk in certain directions. The moment I log onto Sootify, I am immediately told what the top 40 hits currently are; it creates playlists for me; and it never lets me forget who the most popular artists are at any given moment in time. When I log on to Netflix much the same thing happens.
When we really dwell on it we begin to see that this is really not at all different than what happened many years ago when the big corporate malls opened and suddenly slammed shut the doors – and the roads – which led to the really out of the way and “individualized” shops. In fact I even had an experience which might sound rather infantile but stands out to me now as I write this: I have a rather vast collection of rings that I’ve been putting together across the years, and about seven months ago I suddenly got the idea in me that I wanted to add a thumb ring to my collection. For some reason a thumb ring had never occurred to me before but now I wanted it quite badly.
When it comes to my rings I never order them online. Now many of my other previous rings I have picked up at out of the way head shops and other such small “indie” places. But on this night I was staying at a friends house, only right down the street from a massive mall. I never imagined that the mall – with all its stores! – would not have such an item. To me it seemed mainstream. And so my two buddies and I set off to go and grab one. We were perplexed when we found that not a single store had one. I went into literally every trendy store imaginable, both male and female: Forever 21, Hot Topic, JC Penny, Claire’s, the sad and pathetic list goes on and on.
No matter where we shopped, it seemed, this small and ridiculous item could not be found. It was to the point where we were walking around laughing so hard dead tired of the phrase “thumb ring” that we were almost becoming rather delirious. My one friend being rather mainstream and “trendy” was truly flabbergasted. He had never before had an experience, it seemed, where something you wanted could not be found at – of all places! – the great Big mall where we are told that everything and more is always waiting. Well as it turned out this one very little item was not waiting , period. Eventually my friend who was familiar with the area said: “there is perhaps a store I know of a few miles from here, on the back roads, that might have this. It has only just now occurred to me. Of course it is too late now and the store is closed. We will go in the morning.” Sure enough the next morning on a Saturday we woke up and went , and the thumb ring was found… in addition to many other hundreds of them as well. Now at first this story may seem, as I said previously, infantile and absurd. After all who really gives a hell about a thumb ring right? Well that, you see, is the theme of the entire issue: a very very small number of us do care about the thumb ring – and what this story explains to us is that, in this increasingly corporatized landscape, finding little noteworthy or unique items, whether songs paintings rings or candles etc, is becoming increasingly more difficult. In an ironic twist the Americans, who for a hundred years wouldn’t shut the hell up about how inventive, extraordinary, and “unique” they were, have now sold themselves down the river so badly to the corporations that they have, for the most part, quite possibly created the most uniform, dull and systematic culture imaginable. There is literally nothing unique beneath the corporate system. It is almost impossible to even remain unique as an individual for long beneath it.

This is because if you are “too unique” or “out of the box” you will presumably not survive long in America -as a business – and at the same time, the second you do get a leg up, the American businessmen will – and I use vulgarity for a reason- lightning fuck you into what I would personally refer to as “extreme cultural overload” territory. They have done this a million times with their fastidious corporate landscape – and they’ll continue to do it.

The first real example was McDonalds which essentially picked up the hamburger stand idea that was very popular amongst young people in 1950s America and – once they saw the success of it – they twisted it , rather insidiously , into something so disgusting that we literally cannot even see a trace of what it originally was.

Years ago the hamburger stand was very often an individual and unique affair: each one had its own idiosyncrasies, its own design, its own way of making a hamburger. Finding a place you liked was like looking for a wife. The modern franchise ala McDonalds or Five Guys or Burger King however? Well – to put it in the language of the peasantry – “it’s like a pussy that every dirty cock in the whole city done slammed out…” It’s been passed around a thousand times. You gotta wear protection ‘fore you head on in. It isn’t the sort of woman that a nation of gentlemen would want to be seen with. For those who want, spin it around and switch the genders if you must. I only use the old time “unclean woman” example to pass a sad and tragic point. My apologies. Whatever the case, the sad truth is this: across the entire planet now, for a great many people, the big joke is that Americans and Starbucks, Americans and McDonalds — they go hand in hand. They’re like the same thing. Foreigners in all of the worlds cities walk pass a McDonald and they see America. I cannot help but think this is a very sad thing to be famous for? During one particularly luscious trip in Old Venice a dear friend of mine (an Italian) came across a statue of Caravaggio’s David holding not the head of Goliath like the Biblical tale tells us he did after murdering him with the famous slingshot – but rather the head of Ronald McDonald. I have included a photograph of the statue:

We are known the World over now for being absolutely tasteless lovers of McDonalds. This is ridiculous. This should not be the case. The Americans I read about in the long back history books were better than this. This is plain embarrassing. 

Again, not only can we not see a single trace of the original hamburger stand idea in these modern chains, but we also can’t taste it either. The McDonald’s hamburger is so unbelievably disgusting that even thinking of the thing makes me want to vomit. And this is very much the same no matter where you are looking. An example that I feel more people notice with some regularity is coffee. Years ago we are told that there were a slew of individualized coffee shops and that this was especially the case in areas of the country where perhaps there was a college campus where young people gathered et cetera. Well these days you will still occasionally stumble upon these chains; but what you’re going to notice is that they’re almost solely in affluent white areas. Everything else has been lightning fucked out of existence. For those of us locked inside the filthy ghetto zones of this “OHMY GAWDDD ITS THE BEST!” country, it’s nothing but Dunking Donuts as far as the eye can see. Starbucks tries to press this idea that it is some sort of Parisian cafe to clueless white women who are willing to pay a lot of money for what is essentially muddy water with a fancy European sounding name. This has got to be the most pathetic thing I have ever witnessed. Honestly: I spit the biggest and lowest class loogies imaginable on all of it…..

Again: All of this of course swings us straight back into what is currently happening now with the Internet – because they’re doing the exact same thing to the Internet that they did to the physical reality of the United States largely in the 70s and 80s: those corporate hoses are coming out and they’re flooding all the roads. They’re gonna kill it all off and what they don’t kill they’ll steal and try to make their own. If the theft is not successful they’ll forget the thing, whatever it is, even existed. And of course last but not least they’ll find whatever they can that is juicy and good, like the hamburger once was before Ronald McDonald got it, and they’ll eventually drain it so bad that what will be left in its place will be nothing but a strange and almost robotic item that never changes. I am honestly convinced that once America falls (and this empire is gonna crash hard, reader, hard and bad) the historians will look back and they’ll say “yes indeed, THIS is where it went wrong. This is where it went entirely wrong…” Honestly: I cannot stress enough how much every American city and town is almost exactly like Disneyworld. From one to the other, there is no real difference. They all have the same restaurants, the same kind of shopping malls with the same exact stores, the same plaza shopping centers lining main road after main road, et cetera. There is literally nothing unique or individual left about any of them.
We literally took an enormous continent and all we did was paint every part of it with the same brush the same design. From time to time something unique pops up – like the store where I bought the thumb ring – but for the most part everything unique in this “OH ITS THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD! THE GREATEST! OH ITS SO GREAT!” is exactly the same as the other thing. And now that they dropped their bomb of uniformity and total lack of inventiveness or ingenuity on the physical world, they’re going to take it – and already are and have taken it – to the virtual world.. which is where this article began. In many ways it is as I said: they have already succeeded. For the most part the majority of young people now getting online are being introduced to a world that has already been flooded out. It is all the same on the Internet now…..
I just can’t stress enough how years ago you logged on and you were often thrown forcefully into the “true” “original” web – where you would browse indie site after indie site, many of which were often put into existence by people operating from a completely “individual and solitary” base. Even young people made their own websites. Not the case anymore. This is literally unthinkable now. What we instead have now is the great American lightning fuck machine: log on and take your pick from the corporate names: Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Google, Instagram, YouTube, Soundcloud, on and on. The peasants in their ignorance think it is delightful – in much the same way they thought McDonalds and WalMart and Pizza Hut and Starbucks was delightful; but it isn’t delightful. It’s murderous and insidious and all it really does in the end, as is clear to see from any perspective, is drain everything and everyone of their energy and their personality. When I go to Times Square I am often reminded of the Internet in some way: a city center that could have been the most beautiful and creative area in the World- but has instead become nothing but a relentless area to be drenched by the advertisement, American lightning fuck machine. It is suitable, I suppose, that a culture-less business like Donald Trump Incorporated is very much at the center of this machine….
It is also, of course, quite suicidal, as the Walmart story proves. Times Square was merely one of the first places to get deep backed into an oblivious worthless void. Main Street USA went next when Walmart and Pizza Hut and Taco Bell and Outback Steakhouse and Supercuts and all the rest invaded; and the next thing that will sink shall be the entire country itself. We’ve collectively murdered a great thing, folks….

In fact, the idea that anyone thinks this is even remotely acceptable to me is in my opinion offensive to the whole human story right down the line. All that these intensely structured environments do to people (and it’s clear it has already done a number on the mental health of the average American, who is, more often than not, a shaking anxiety ridden prescription drug addict) is box them in. Life does not work like that. It can’t. Art most definitely does not work that way….
In truth I have often driven through many areas in this country and felt that I was looking at a world which some sort of moronic copycat adolescent has created. In many ways most US areas are not so different from a game like the Sims… if anything thry are even less expressive or open ended. In The Sims one creates a house and then you choose from a pre made rather limited furniture set et cetera. Your character maybe has five outfits that they’re allowed to wear so on. It is essentially paint by numbers, a coloring book for an imbecile. When we look at modern US, it is as though something like this is what took place at some point, as though whoever was pushing this all into existence had a very limited number of “premade buildings and sets” to choose from. They dropped the McDonald’s set literally millions of times. Then they began dropping Wendy’s, TJ Maxx, Starbucks, Forever 21, Bestbuy, Guitar Center, Walmart, Walgreens, Burger King…. The list goes on and on and on….
And now they are dropping these sets on the Internet as well. Oh well. Hey, that’s just the way it goes right?
– Kelli Pink writing out of Barbie Land

Favorite Cable TV Show

Over the years I have mostly only ever watched film, read books, or listened to music, but a few years ago, probably around 2009, 2010 or so (well more than a few years ago now!) I had a pretty big period where I finally started to dig into some hour long television shows through HBO.

I watched Boardwalk Empire, Rome, The Tudors, and then, last but certainly not least, I tuned into Deadwood, which was based in the Wild West. Though I pretty much liked all the shows equally, I was fairly intrigued by Deadwood considering it was based off real old school US history and so, when I came to find out that one of the main characters from Deadwood was going to be in this FX television show Justified, I knew that I had to give in and watch it and see what was going on.

At first I was disappointed with the news and I just wished he had stuck with Deadwood – but once I got started on Justified, whenever it was that it began, I realized that, in many ways, what had happened had really been a blessing. While it’s true that I have not watched any other cable television shows from start to finish in all my life, it’s also true that I have obviously caught random episodes of a few from time to time and was just never…at all intrigued. With Justified this was different. I went into it thinking I would find naught but foolishness and awful acting and instead walked out with one of the greatest film experiences of my life. This show is up there with movies for me now and I don’t say that lightly, trust me. I loved all of the characters on this show, even the bad ones! ALL OF THEM!

The fact that the original meat of the story was written by Elmore Leonard was obviously an enormous bonus. This video montage someone on the Tube made with the show is quite good, the song too. The one regret I have with the show is that I wish I could see more of the Ava Crowder character, who was played by a woman named Joelle Carter apparently actually born and raised in Georgia. Honestly I have to say that I am very frustrated to no longer be getting my shot of ….how should I put it…Ava dope! I very much wish the lady Joelle would get a whole new show all her own. Just now a moment ago I read that she’s been introduced on some set in Chicago but….that…isn’t…the…same. I want a whole new show focused ENTIRELY ON HER ..set in some place just like Kentucky with Justified. I want the show to not necessarily be a spin off of her Ava Crowder character but a character just like it. I really loved it when she went “rogue” as they say. It was the best part of the show. Oh well…..

Enjoy the video and if you maybe know of another show where I can find a character at all similar to Ava Crowder PLEASE REFER ME TO IT.

Mucho Gracias .