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January 22, 2011

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A common writing exercise is to spend five or ten minutes writing without stopping, a kind of free association writing or stream of consciousness. That’s what this week’s post is. The picture to the right, BTW, of Fnu Lnu? Read on.


RANDOM THOUGHTS FROM A WANDERING MIND

Pop culture. Pop Culture. POP CULTURE. Pop culture. Popculture. Nike.  Mikey. ABC. Bart Simpson. Big Mac. Old Navy. Super Bowl. Malls, malls, so many malls. Walls, walls, too many walls. Rama-lama-ding-dong-the-witch-is-dead. Out of the dead come the mouths of babes with fleet-footed, quicksilvered oratory sufficient to charm a day off with pay from Ebenezer Scrooge. King of beers. People magazine. The Yankees. Starbucks. Hip-hop. Coke. Coke? Coke. Which one? Either. Both. Pop Culture likes ‘em both. Lotsa Grammys, never any grampys, though. Grampy? How about Gumby? Nimby?  As in “Jack be nimby, Jack be quick,” just not in my backyard! Not with Super Bowl commercials costing as much as the GDP of three small countries or two large states. (Or is it the other way around?) Old McDonald had a burger, E-I-E-I-Ohiowa! Celebrities. TV. Celebrities. Politics. Celebrities. Sports. Celebrities. Movies. Celebrities. Religion. Weather. Criminals. Food. Holidays. The Wealthy. Sleaze. The Military. Consumerism. Celebrities X 10 to the nth power. Does anyone have a life anymore? A life they can call their own? We hitch ourselves to events, fads, people. We allow the purpose, the tempo, the direction, even the intensity of our lives to be determined by forces wholly external to ourselves. We receive daily instruction: What to wear, drive, eat, watch, listen to, like, feel, fear and believe. Is it really that difficult to leave the beaten path? Or is it that frightening?

Pop Culture uses us and abuses us. He plays to us and on us. He identifies our deep-downs and gives us what he has made us think we need. He has become our pop, our parent, and he runs our lives for us and shame on the one who has a different way! Pop knows what’s best for us. (Or, at least, what’s best for him, and, of course, what’s good for General Motors is good for the country.) Of course it’s important to have watched the last Seinfeld, to be reading Steele’s or Grisham’s or Clancy’s latest, to go to Disneylandworld, to drive an SUV, to be online, to have at least X number of credit cards, (where X  is a number greater than 5) and to know all the characters on at least four sit-coms and three cop shows. And after all that, who has time for anything more?


IF ONLY I COULD DRAW…

Cartoon #58: Nine black-robed judges are walking through a park. Caption: “Supreme Court Justices out for their morning constitutional.”
Cartoon #68: A pickup truck driving down the street. On the side is the name of the business: Cobb Construction and Salads.


BTW, the gentleman pictured up top was wanted by the Feds for failure to pay income tax. He is/was one of those who believes the income tax is unconstitutional and, as I recall, encouraged others not to pay. He refused to give his name so was identified simply as Fnu Lnu: First name unknown, Last name unknown. 

Reminds me of the story (apocryphal, I’m sure) of an army recruit named R.B. Jones. The initials were his name; they didn’t stand for anything. Told that in order to be paid he had to have something other than the initials, he dutifully filled out the form: R(only) B(only) Jones. Sure enough, his first check arrived made out to Ronly Bonly Jones. Ain’t guvmint great?

Until next week . . .


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14 Comments leave one →
  1. January 22, 2011 9:53 pm

    >Free form writing shows you've got one jumnbled mind there Dave. We created Pop culture in our own image and therefore it is us. It does not controll, rather reflects. It is created to give us a commonality as a group; things to talk about at a cocktail party, experiences we share even though we don't know one another. Because we are all indiviccuals we exist within the bounds and outside the bounds of pop culture. It is only evil if we see it as such. Hey I only have one credit card, watch little TV, don't listen to popular music, but I did like the final episode of Seinfeld and MASH.

  2. January 24, 2011 5:22 am

    >I don't know how difficult it is to leave the beaten path, but I do know it is very hard to beat a properly leavened path, especially with a loaf of bread. This all came to me via way of some of Mom's cultured stream of unconciousness. Why won't RB Jones write a defense of Fnu Lnu? Is he hiding something?Nonlyik

  3. January 24, 2011 2:25 pm

    >I think that, initially, we did create pop culture in our own image and that, initially, we did control it. But with the overwhelming dominance of corporocracy,their control of media, and an American public that continues to eschew critical thinking, we are no longer in control. We react, knee-jerk fashion, the way Pop Culture has programmed us.

  4. January 24, 2011 2:26 pm

    >Because RB Jones is still trying to cash his paycheck.

  5. January 24, 2011 7:17 pm

    >By definition, pop culture is whatever is most popular (especially if it is created in a culture dish). But petri dishes aside, unless they contain old California wine, sometimes good things fall out of the dregs. Are there that many more (percentage wise) great things from the pop (some would say poop) culture from the 1920s, 30s, 40s etc., that remain "art", or at least still popular icons, than we have now-a-daze? Probably not. It's always been created and maintained by some sort of corporate hand – from the tin-pan alley days, to the piano roll distributors, to movie producers. They've always decided what to produce, and often have overlooked great things – in all idioms – music, painting, movies, plays, books, etc. It's why we always end up with "independent" productions, which rarely but sometimes do end up in the pop music stream. The past with Elvis Presley or the Beatles is no different. They were all controlled by a Col. Parker or a Capitol records (at least until they became like Frank Sinatra late in their careers, able to sometimes wrest control back). Probably why RB Jones and his mom culture is so ticked off. It's unfortunate that the general population of this country in particular, but now creeping out world-wide, is so transfixed with what is "in" during their latest 15 second sound bit of amusement that they can't spend a few moments think and investigating the rest of the realm.Pheobe "retort" jonik

  6. January 25, 2011 3:17 pm

    >The difference between culture and pop culture is that the former endures, the latter we have to endure, at least until it fades away after its 15 minutes of fame. Or infamy. Very few things come to mind when I try to list pop culture items that have moved into the realm of culture. Norman Rockwell paintings for one and…wait, wait, let me think…Marx Brothers movies. There are undoubtedly others but none come to mind right now. There's also movement in the opposite direction: Michael Moore's movies, well outside the mainstram of pop culture initially, are now part of it.

  7. January 25, 2011 5:58 pm

    >Part of the problem is that "pop" art was/is aimed at the lowest strata of experience with that particular art form. The first real (country-wide United States) pop art was probably sheet music – which began by being aimed at adults, but as the music publishers began seeing what really sold, they began paying writers to compose songs that were as close as possible to their "hits". As that form became more simplified and repetitive, younger people who had not heard much else, began accepting it as the norm. And it began out-selling all other music (hence, popular) and over-whelmed the market for anything else. The same thing happened in radio, movies, television, art, music, and now-a-days usually books. The early swing bands that had a singer sold better, so even the best and most famous of the swing bands had to include insipid vocalists on a large percentage of their recordins if they wanted the studios to record them. That doesn't mean that they didn't produce some really good music, it's just that they were forced to produce a large quantity of what is now considered crap in order to put out their own stuff. It happens all the time, and has gotten worse now that the world market is opening up. Economics drives it, public ignorance makes it work. Without good arts education in the schools at an early age, and without some adults willing to show kids how to enjoy something besides what the market provides, it will continue to be the way things work. At least it allows some people to put some things in the minds of some folks that are good, but you have to sort through the garbage, to find it, as the independent sources continue to dry up.Notary Sojohn

  8. January 31, 2011 4:08 pm

    >Still don't see pop culture as something terrible or much of a threat. We all talk as though what lies outside is nothing but quality, but quite frankly much of it is worse than lies within. On the musical thread I'd much rahter listen to a Monkees song, the defiition of pop cultrue music in the late 60's than a pretentious and deep ode by some long forgotten "alternative" band of the time. The Monkees music survives and flourishes, theirs does not. Na, pop culture is not all bad, we look down upon it as though we are superior – we're not. I say enjoy or ignore. If we really want alternatives to it they're out there and more accessable than ever with the internet

  9. January 31, 2011 11:31 pm

    >All of us, myself included, participate to a greater or lesser extent in pop culture, but there is so much more to life and living, so very much more, if only we would stop to look for it! And that's my problem with pop culture: it entices us, distracts us, and, ultimately, leads us to where it wants us to go. I suppose my frustration is better directed to all those who succumb completely to its allures and its demands. It's so easy and requires so little from us in terms of being creative, of intellectual engagement, of learning about other people, ideas, cultures, perspectives. It comes back, as do so many other issues, to a question of personal responsibility. The choices we make are the choices we live with. A diet that is nothing but pop culture is no better than a diet of nothing but Big Macs: empty calories that in the end do very little for us.

  10. February 1, 2011 2:44 am

    >yes, I will agree that the frustration should lie with those who never step outside it's bounds and therefore are never able to look back in to see it for what it is.

  11. February 1, 2011 1:25 pm

    >Thanx for perspective. I've enjoyed reading and responding – and acquiring more food for thought.

  12. February 5, 2011 12:16 am

    >Pop culture has enabled the arts to produce much great work in modern times – for example both Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday were the most popular (and best-selling) musical artists at times during their careers, but they also have lasted, often with other work that they could produce only due to that popularity, as major innovators and from their generations. And going further back in time, most of the early classical composers such as Mozart and Bach spent most of their time entertaining their court employers, not writing music as a money-making career. Contrary to Bruce, I don't believe in one hundred years you will find the Monkees music in that category. But then, critics and audiences have frequently been wrong about what will last, and tastes change and redefine what "was" good and valuable art over the years. Guess we do need to accept the fact that someone perceived as a pop hack right now may, in fact, be considered great some day – and vice versa.Jock Plentitude

  13. February 6, 2011 4:31 pm

    >You can always find nuggets of gold sparkling in tons of dirt and rock. The dirt and rock are tossed, the gold is treasured. The same applies to pop culture. There will always be artists who are, indeed, part of pop culture but whose art is of such overwhelming beauty, power and importance that they do endure. To be trite, cream rises to the top. And you're right, The Monkees do not fall in that category. In a hundred years they'll be the answer to a trivia question, at best. (I have to say, tho, I still dig them!) There are artists (in the broad sense of the term), movies, TV programs, music and books that are nuggets of gold today and will continue to be nuggets of gold for years to come. The rest will be forgotten dross.

  14. February 9, 2011 7:14 am

    >They may not all be forgotten dross. Programs such as Vintage Rock (KBCS-FM, if we may plug) will continue to expose us to the "rest of the best"…Belle Ralphemy

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