Monday, 5 November 2007
Astronomer discovers that most distant stars are made entirely of ‘Star Hubris Illusion Tangents’, or 'shit'.
Since reforming as a band, The Police feel that decadent rock stars are the most ideal role models for the entire planet. "We're not fools", said band leader Sting, pictured here with a revolver.
In a recent swingin' column, Mark Steyn analyses Professor Allan Bloom’s great book from 1987, ‘The Closing of the American Mind’. The basic idea concerns the ubiquitous dominance of what was once considered only Pop Culture, and the fading of any other historical reference points and traditions.
The essentially mediocre aesthetic and limitations of this eternally “present tense", is now considered the only ‘valid’ thing. No one it appears, want's to seem uncool, when in reality, most of us are. Incredibly dominant, its relentless themes and pool of references are now often the only available ‘ideas’ known, learnt or conceived of by many, if not it seems, most people.
There is for many no relevant past, as the future is more comfortably replaced by the next rudimentary and shiny bore in an annoying focus almost completely on the present. Mostly it’s the unsurprising, perfectly manicured, or crude and entirely predictable ersatz rebels who rise to the top, meaning the meaningless of fame and the half way achievement of disproportionate to merit wealth. Yeah, something like that.
Thus the unmoored horde is easily indoctrinated and manipulated with ever more stupid, shallow and ridiculous versions of radical non-ideas that mean essentially zero, because to put them into practice would be insane, but the attempt at the facade continues.
The popular thing is the fraudulent and empty mouthing of “Universal Love” and “sharing the wealth” by people who are at the maximum point of narcissism and greed. People like Linda McCartney who spoke about the G8 countries giving money to Africa, while hiring New York law firms to make sure she paid zero tax to England after living there like a Queen for thirty years. Or ditto, Bono the tax shelter specialist, who keeps all his cash in the Bahamas.
You can go through the entire list of big name celebrities, movie stars, musicians and so on, and it can appear from down here on earth, that perhaps most are full of shit. Now there’s nothing wrong with being rich, but that’s the thing. Our culture is so stuck in a time warp of faux rebellion, that most celebrities it seems, can’t be happy to say they’re just successful entertainers. Nope, they have to maintain a wholly absurd fiction that they’re rebels and profound artists. Most are neither.
Today, that dual achievement is nigh on impossible. The benchmark is now so toxically ‘now’, back dated to months, or maybe slices of a previous decade but without the original motives, context, point or result.
It’s essentially often overtly immature and lacking any real adult possibilities. So narrow and juvenile is our common currency and language, so very sans depth and history, nuanced or otherwise, that stars are now exactly that; bright, distant mass objects feeding off a slowly dying and imploding ball of gas, while mostly reflecting the emptiness all around them, and fading totally from view within the relative terms of the 24 hours that is contemporary fame. There are of course, many older stars that long ago collapsed into a black hole of trite limitations, sucking in ever more fashionable flotsam that passes by.
Witness Madonna, the granite headed business woman and singing aerobics instructor. I had a Chinese girlfriend once, who was sure that Madge's name was not Madonna, but McDonut! You be the judge. Old Mad imports 30,000 birds for her friends to shoot at on her vast property, and then imagines that not only is she a Geopolitical Mastermind and a Global Economics Genius, but a simple and sensitive soul.
And dig this, Maddie thinks she's a Revolutionary! Yep, McDonut is gonna storm the citadels of decadent Manhattan where er, she has a decadent place of residence.
Now why is this so? Hey, didn’t stars used to be mostly well, just stars, consider themselves damn lucky to be so and that’s all they really did, with a bit of charity work on the side? When did being an actor or musician mutate into meaning you have anything to offer beyond those often feeble and amusing roles? Er, now every celebrity thinks they have something to say that simply must be heard when if you removed the shallow, rudimentary, stylised and merely fashionable from their ‘art’, you’d have nothing about anything.
How can anyone fail to notice that the majority of celebs, actors, musicians and self proclaimed artists have virtually and almost invariably, the same opinions by numbers? You know exactly the list of platitudes, heroes and causes they will believe in, well, at least at their level of spouting about it.
While Carlos ‘the Jackass’ Santana will wear a T shirt of his hero, Che ‘the child murderer ‘Guevara, don’t expect him to actually live like the people who have been ‘touched’ by the adopted monster of Cuba. Nope, Carlos knows which side of the ocean his bread is buttered on. And it’s the side with Miami on it.
But there ya go, no matter how far out of their depth, how utterly fake, superficial, essentially inhuman the ‘right on’ and typically mass celebrity non-idea is, no one will even blink, as long as one maintains the correct pose of a ‘for the people’ phony rebel. And today, as it’s been for over forty years, it’s often all pose. Not a lot of it is either real or real good.
The problem is not the lack of context; it’s that today much of what passes for culture is mostly self-referential. The thing itself is the context. So what do you compare anything with? It's as good as....what? The eternal dreams of the teenage narcissist have come to pass with all their simple minded grudges.
“Why can’t we have everything how we want it to be and all the time but only moreso, huh?” It's an eternal teenage rampage!
The saying that “there’s nothing more dated than the latest thing”, is a nice descriptive for today. It fits neatly into the relentlessly shiny, quickly fading and disappointing tedium of the latest incredible achievement of the essentially dull, being expensively shoved in your deeply unsatisfied face.
It’s not that there's anything intrinsically wrong with what’s most often popular; it’s that it's so thinly stretched to the snapping point to what it isn’t and can never be. It can’t even be as popular as it’s alleged to be, because so much is atomised and targeted to a thousand narrow markets, that there’s less and less chance of anything being widely appealing at all. Most acts and celebs despite the hype, have a surprisingly narrow demographic of fans.
The days of almost everyone turning on to the happy, infectious, perfectly crafted and thin cheese of say ABBA are probably over, and thank God for that.
The point is there is no importance in knowing the imagined and actually microscopic musically harmonic differences between any bands in any genre. To the studied mind, the differences are the same as those between various brands of take-away food. The flavour is fleeting, the anticipation is greater than the after taste and the effect either leaves you feeling either somehow unsatisfied or stodgy.
Whenever I attempt to read the mostly unwritten, unreadable non articles of the free music press such as Melbourne’s ‘Beat’ or user pays music and celeb publications, I always play ‘scan through the usual list of touring band tripe and tedium 101’.
“We were so, A. drunk, B. stoned, C. drunk and stoned”, “This is a detailed description of some musical equipment I bought”, “ The bass player is crazy!”, “The record company are bastard’s!”, “The other bands on tour were great!”, “The other bands were bastards and/or crazy!”, "It was really great to meet Iggy and the Stooges!", "It wasn't great to really meet Iggy or the Stooges",“I think I’m going crazy”, “They say I’m crazy!”, “I wish I was crazy!”, “Oh God! I’m soooo crazy!”.
“BushIsHitler”, “Out of Iraq!”, “Give all our wealth, (meaning yours and someone else’s, not theirs) to African Dictators”, “I only eat fruit”, “Be nice to Islamic terrorist’s and they’ll be nice in return. And anyway if they even did exist, and they don’t, they’re freedom fighters against the Bush Fascist Machine!”, or “We should all focus entirely on fantastically imaginary emotive issues now!” etc.
You will invariably find one of these or a combination plus others. This will be drivelled at exactly the same level of childish snoot and turpitude by the relatively unknown local as it is by major stars. They nearly all toot from the same B grade, High School, Undergraduate and comic book inspired script.
The last place you’ll find any depth of discussion regards actual music per se, is in a music publication and from a musician. That happens even less and less in symphonic and jazz focused publications, because everyone is using the same gauge as any other higher, deeper, wider and profound world of reference and compass recedes faster and faster into the hopelessly uncool past, such as last Thursday.
As Steyn writes, every great tradition is reduced to the criteria of dodgy ideas of the "authentic", having "energy" and being "angry" about well, insert whatever.
Now as for myself, I’m not nearly as interested as I'm supposed to be in what is laughingly called the ‘classic’ as opposed to classical music of my younger years. I feel that a lot of it was so ‘good’, that I never want to hear any of it again. Instead, I found music that I was totally unaware of. Me and every other clueless and callow chart consumer I knew. In short, the music I grew up with and liked, was mostly crap.
The stuff I do remember fondly was either novelty songs like 'Puff the Magic Dragon' or the first simulated synthesizer instrumental 'Telstar', pop shmaltz like 'Strangers in Paradise' or 'classic's from the Great American Song Book, like 'Witchcraft' and 'Night and Day'. But who cares? Aah, it's all shot to Hell, I tell ya! But it was the context and the collected random memory of it. Especially to the typical kind of guy like me, who knows a lot of useless, arcane and kinda embarrassing to admit to for some, stuff.
It was always so really, mostly. But the difference is, then it wasn’t often considered that it had to be anything else, than what it actually was. It was just for enjoyment, something to listen, dance and have sex to. Sometimes you even talked about it, but not for too long. I rarely managed the sex part but I talked about it, a lot.
So much of today’s soundtrack is supposed to mean something of urgent, insightful and (dreary) political import precisely as its inversion is happening, rather inexorably. Music incapable of meaning as music, presents rhetorical death and assembled by the numbers junk and bunk as the message. The medium is message burdened, and the message is pure cant. It's like listening to a lyric about diarrhoea merely because that's "keepin' it real".
To repeatedly state an attitude and position that has nothing to do with the rational, and is the entire opposite of any of your actual behaviour is the definition of insane.
And that’s where we find ourselves. We’re rootless and trapped because every subject has been defined to the only singular way of expressing it. Pick any subject, and you know the approved Left infected actor, celebrity and musician cliché way of presenting it.
So there’s Sting, singing “We can’t live here and be happy with less, with so many riches, so many souls, everything we see that we want to possess”. Yeah, right. So his ‘lyrical’ cliché is that wealth is a pizza. If I have more slices, you have less. The idea of making a pizza factory doesn’t seem to occur in 'Tunesmith Toon Town'.
Yes, the long since rhetorically leaden lyric wise Sting, and his Zeppelin sized ego plus consumption, prats on endlessly about reducing his ‘carbon footprint’, a meaningless and perfect phrase for any slinger of empty platitudes. He has four huge houses in Britain alone, one of 320ha, with 14 bedrooms and eight baths. He also has a beach house in Malibu and a 240ha estate in Tuscany. Yeah, all us plebes are eager to follow your outstanding example, Stinky old chum. Hell no! We won't go!
In 2007, his cook Jane Martin took Stingy to court which awarded her $58,000 for “shameful” dismissal.
She spoke of Stings Caligula-like lifestyle where there is “no regard to expense, cost or wastage where food and drink were concerned”. Right on, oh humble 'Saviour of the World'. She regularly had to make expensive journey’s just to make soup for Mr and Mrs Gandhi, when they already had two housekeepers, two nannies and a butler at their humble lodgings and bloated 'Pop Star Madhouse'.
But yep, it’s all wild contradiction. Hell, contradiction sounds better than hypocrite or plain nuts. Sting is apparently a green enviro guy and sells limos....Why not, eh? Yet the same Sting gives a lot of money to charity, and definitely more than me. A few years ago, he didn’t even notice that an accountant had stolen $14,000,000 from him.
Sting has six children. I guess that’s why in 1981 he said the following. A classic piece of Left Liberal, glib and nihilist anti-human guff. This baloney is now a standard and core canard of any current ‘Enviro-Freak’s Manifesto’. Sting was before his time!
“I just don’t agree with procreation any more. (Thus I get to just fuck everyone.) If we carry on thinking like that, we’re doomed. (Er, so breeding ourselves to extinction we won’t be um, doomed? Whose gonna buy your singles?)
We have too many people. (Too many of you, just enough of Sting. Suicide, Sting?)
We’re not the most important thing on the planet. (Yep, decadent and narcissistic rock stars never think or act selfishly. No, please, do go on.) And until we realise that, we’re in deep shit”. Gee, mate, that’s some deep shit. Um, when you say the Royal “we”, I take it to mean everyone else, right? Fantastic.
And there’s the rub. Yep, these are relatively old acts in the shallow pool of pop, but today’s stars have identical views only even more stylised. These folks are all trying to project a farrago of ridiculous and inherently contradictory, ‘right on’ images and failing utterly at any capacity for self awareness or reflection whatsoever. It’s all a mad act, but often more breathtakingly amusing and entertaining than most of their collective product. Some product.
Sources: Mark Steyn at New Criterion dot com. http://newcriterion.com:81/archives/26/11/twenty-years-ago-today/
Christopher Sanford at ‘The Herald Sun’, Sunday September 23 2007.