Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Why Not Waste People's Time?

Well, again, I wanted to keep all the My Space blog material separate, but fuck it, I'm dumping it all into one place. Choke on my bullshit, you fuckers.

Why Not Waste People's Time?

Okay, so since this fucker has the option of letting me post crap, I thought I'd put some of my old BlankGeneration.com and Rip Off Records columns on here. Not that there's really been any "demand" for them to be online again, but people seemed to like 'em the first time around, so why not repost? You should note though that I will be slightly editing the fuckers because my grammar and punctuation have improved greatly since those days.

What follows is the second column I wrote for Blank Gen back in April of 2001. Yes, that's right, 2001, four years ago. Anyway, even though I penned a lot of pages for that zine, all of my old stuff got taken off the archives a while ago due to some miscommunication between me and BlankGen head honcho Joe Domino. He thought I bore long term ill-will towards him and that I no longer wanted to be associated with the zine.

This of course, was not true, the main reason I stopped writing for Blank Gen was because "life got in the way" and I didn't even have a computer or internet access for months on end. Once I get to later columns I'll address the dispute on a more indepth level.

Anyway, here is the column, I'll be back after it's over with my modern day take on this whole dealie. Enjoy:

"I am a lost soul, I shit myself with rock 'n' roll"
---Bobby Pollard

To some degree us punk rocker folk are out of step with the rest of the world. It doesn't make sense to us; it seems at times idiotic and/or pointless. We are to varying degrees critics of popular culture; critics of other fringe cultures. The thing IS though, as much distaste as we might have for whatever other culture it is we're making fun of; as much as it might be displeasing, we still have to STUDY these other cultures, we have to pay attention to these other groups if we are to rationally and logically evaluate them. No matter how fringy, isolated and alienated your cultural preference is, one still must pay attention to the over-arching bigger picture. Put simply, unless you're living in a shack some where, "pop-culture" is just too big to escape.

We need to understand mass culture in order to fully understand ourselves. Like take the last decade for example. The 90's have been over for more then a year now. What did we learn from those turbulent times? What cliches and stereotypes were established in the pop cultural milieu? The 70's had a distinctive character, so did the 80's. WHAT then "was" the 90's (from a pop culture perspective)? What stupid shit are we gonna look back at and laugh about? How are we different and BETTER now? How has it all changed?

It's hard to say, because for the most part, we are still in the 90's. Not from a chronological standpoint, mind you but definitely spiritually. The 00's haven’t broken away yet from that 90's aesthetic. It hasn't established it's own independent identity yet. We are currently in a flux-y/limbo type state. We exist in an in-between phase, where we are neither or uhhh, "nor". The right now is kinda like that Christian Slater movie "Pump Up the Volume." This was a film that came out in '90-'91 and in a lot of ways it DID foreshadow what was to come. It had a great(in a relative sense) pre-Nirvana alterna soundtrack that featured the likes of The Pixies, The Butthole Surfers and The Descendants; BUT in most ways it was still an "80's movie." It had that same feel as all the other major 80's teen movies did. All the perennial themes were there. Dumb, high school teen angst, it stunk to high heaven of John Huges. Fuck, it might as well have been "The Breakfast Club" for all the average person’ld notice. It WAS technically a "90's movie", but in EVERY other way it was an "80's movie."

That's where we exist now, only obviously a decade later… We're in a flux where it IS possible to foretell upcoming uhhh "semi-major to major pop culture mentality shifts." It's POSSIBLE to predict what is gonna happen, but nobody right now knows what is for sure gonna happen; where it's gonna go. Clearly, the manufacturers and MARKETERS of "cool" would like to THINK they have a handle on what the "next big thing" is. Surely they already have the PRODUCT which they are TRYING to push as such, and although these people (MTV, various magazines, uhhhhh, "Madison Avenue Ad Executive" types, major label record company scum) DO have a lot of influence over what is considered "cool" or "new" or the "next big thing"; even though they DO have a lot of power in determining these things, their power is not absolute.

Remember a couple of years ago when they tried to push techno on the american masses? This was like '96 or '97 or something. All of them were hyping it to death. Prodigy were being sold as the greatest thing since Sliced Bread (Sliced Bread having had a number two single the previous summer). As the year opened they all pushed techno OFFICIALLY as the "next big thing."

Later on though, when the end of the year rolled around, and I remember this, a few of them actually came out and admitted that DESPITE all the hype, despite all of hoopla, that nobody really liked techno all that much in this country. These records that they had pushed SO hard for SO long hadn't sold for shit. There was no vast sea change like there was with the alterna-boom earlier in the decade. Techno was just not gonna take over America like they hoped it would. What were they thinking, we aren't fucking Brits?

The aforementioned Prodigy received the VAST majority of attention surrounding the whole techno thing. These guys were supposed to be THE techno "band", the gold standard to which all other groups had to live up to and/or rip off. Prodigy, who were the appointed FUHRERS of this new techno wave, only sold two fucking million records. And while two million IS a lot of records, but it really ISN'T the uhhhh "undeniable cultural mandate" that they were expecting. Fuck, Alanis Morrisette sold FOURTEEN million records in and around that time period and I don't remember anyone labeling her the vanguard of "what's cool NOW." Although, that's mainly because most of her records were sold to house-wives and Europeans; two groups which have never really had that much of a handle on what's cool, at least not within the last few decades or so(pre-82 housewife is soo killer).

Like I said though, the manufacturers and marketers of cool DO have a lot of power, and while they can't form public opinion whole-y out of whole cloth, they certainly do shape and or influence it GREATLY. They have very clear ideas of what they want to push as that next big thing. In a recent MTV special, they actually awarded and/or tagged a number of bands with the aforementioned label ("the next big thing").

None of those they listed were surprising, none of them in anyway stood out from the pack OR broke with tradition, none of them except for ONE. Along with all the Crazytown’s ("too crazy for Boy's Town, too much of a boy for Crazytown") and the Linkin Park's and all the other Korn-metal bands that spell their "S's" as "Z's"; amungst this parade of generica was one standout.

At the fucking Drive In was named by MTV, OFFICIALLY labeled as one of THEIR picks for NBT-age. A fucking EMO band has gained MTV acceptance, and not just on 120 Minutes (although, before like '99, there weren't even any emo bands on 120 Minutes either. I think Jawbreaker got their video played ONCE). MAINSTREAM MTV acceptance, for an EMO band. What has the world come to?

Bands close to emo have gotten MTV acceptance before. Foo Fighters, Radiohead and Weezer have all enjoyed varying levels of success, but they all fall safely under the "alternative" banner. And sure, it CAN be argued that all emo bands are "alternative", but not really; this is the start of something new.

But anyway, wasn't the original topic here about the ninety’s, not the 00's? What WERE the 90's? IS it still too early to have firm grasp of then? HAVE the cliches been identified yet? More importantly, can we make fun of them yet? I say, "YES, we can already make fun of the 90's." The cliches were in place and were IDENTIFIED by as early as like '93 or so. Sure, early on the jokes were more about grunge then uhhh skater "punk", but it was essentially the same thing. 'Twas minor refinements, nothing major.

"The 90's", as we know them, started in '91 when Nirvana hit it big on MTV with "Smells Like Teen Spirit." The record came out in September and by the time Christmas rolled around, "the 90's" had spiritually begun. Nirvana established the alterna thing, and THAT more then anything else was what the 90's were about. Within about a year or so of Nevermind's release, college, frat, jock, date rapist assholes went from uhhhh having long hair to having a different KIND of long hair. Nirvana killed off hair metal, killed off MC Hamer and Vanilla Ice. They made it all right for a person to UNtuck their shirt and wear Chuck Taylors. Tattoo parlors starting opening up everywhere, the term "piercing" entered the popular vernacular. People were allowed to have sideburns again, (but not moustaches). They started wearing jeans that fit them differently then the old pairs of jeans they USED to wear ("I was SOOO stupid back then, I can't believe I wore that.").

There was some resistance, hockey players and pro-wrestlers ever so desperately held onto their hairstyles. New Kids on the Block put out an album or two more. Prop comic Gallahger wondered aloud, "Well what the hell am I supposed to do now?" For the most part though, people had CHANGED (on a superficial level) and changed fairly quickly. Like all those college kids in the 60's that suddenly stopped listening to Doris Day and uhhh "turned on, tuned out, smoked up" and became hippies. That was 90's, albeit they were yuppies to start out with and they turned into uhhh grungies. Yeah, people stopped snorting coke and went back to pot..........

In the 90's, everyone pretended they were a punk rocker, albeit, a very save, watered down, "crazy jester hat wearing" version of a punk. They GOT the aforementioned tattoo's and piercing’s, they dyed their hair "CRAZY" colors like blond and red. They obsessed about being "extreme" and "hardcore." They listened to "punk" "rock" bands like Pearl Jam that sounded more like the Tom Petty Hearbreakers then the Johnny Thunders Heartbreakers. ESPN started the "X Games", showing us all that skateboarding was just as boring to watch on TV as any other sport.

Yup, it was all very fun for people to adopt some of the superficial imagery of punk rock completely missing any deeper meanings. It all got co-opted and decontextualized, anti-fashion became just plain old FASHION. You could now buy that same thrift shop flannel shirt at JC Penney for a mere fifty bucks more. Ouuuuu, there's another cliche; thrift shops were now considered "cool." Yeah, kitsch and irony went insane and got completely out of control. People made Scooby Do and Brady Bunch references like there was no tomorrow. At some point, since SO many of them were SOOOOO stupid, the irony and sarcasm kinda got away from them and they actually just started genuinely liking some of this shit. "It's cool because it's so lame" became just "It's cool." People would COMPLAIN about not getting Cartoon Network where they lived (and not because of Space Ghost). All women became "girls"(or "grrrrrls"), and started wearing pigtails again. Jennifer Love Hewitt and Jennifer Jason Lee became stars even though they both only looked like they were twelve.

Yes, the 90's were a time of much sham-ery, moron-ness and pose-age, but that wasn't really anything new, every other decade had been like that in one way or the other. The 90's were different on a superficial level, no one learned anything new. A few sitcoms got more complex ("Seinfeld" "Simpsons"), MAYBE people got a little more refined, maybe not. Old standards of decency broke down. "The Simspons" paved the way for "South Park", "South Park" paved the way for Tom Green, Tom Green for "Jackass." You could now say the words: "bitch", "ass" and "cunt" on network TV.........

Moral of the story: The more things change, the more they stay the same. That and the fact that the Power Puff Girls SUCK with a capital: "What intelligent twenty-something could fool themselves into liking such SHIT? Answer: No intelligent twenty-something could watch this show, but the dumb ones sure could."

Be sure to check out next month's installment: "If punk rock was co-opted in the 90's, then ARE there any real punk rockers left?"

The answer will shock and amaze you..........

As before, even though I don't actually REVIEW records, feel free to send me stuff, uhhhhh, Big Neck, I'm looking in your direction, come on, we live in the same state. I mean, people, no matter WHAT I get sent (records, pictures of naked, hot chicks, hate mail) I'll mention it in the column.

Movie of the week: Well, in the last month I haven't seen a whole lot of shit, mainly because I have late fees at three different video stores, but I have seen some decent stuff. At Blockbuster I rented a "Stop Smoking Forever" hypnosis video. Yeah, it's three weeks later and I STILL think that "SMOKING LEAVES A BAD TASTE IN YOUR MOUTH" and "YOU HAVE THE WILLPOWER TO DO WHATEVER YOU SET YOUR MIND TO" and most of all "YOU ARE A NON-SMOKER"...... Yep, I haven't smoked since, of course, I didn't smoke before, but whatever.

Besides that I also rented a free public service video about how to tell if your child is in a gang or not (they were all out of that women's breast cancer self-examination instruction video, i.e. free boobies). Anyway, the video had some HILARIOUS moments, like "if your child carries a gun or often times wears a bulletproof vest then MAYBE that's a sign they're in a gang" (oh gee, ya think so?). And the guy hosting the video was really creepy to, at one point he even said something about teenagers getting sexually assaulted and there was clear excitement in his voice when he said "sexually". Huuuuuuuuuu (the sound uttered, terrified, and disgusted)..........

Speaking of disturbing, another creepy video I rented lately was "Chuck and Buck." Now THIS was an actual movie, but it contained.....fuck, it was just creepy and unsettling on a semi-very "deep" level. Maybe not as bad as "Man Bites Dog", but not all that far away. Anyway though, I promise that next time I'll have only ONE pick for "movie of the week." As I said, there wasn't really any clear standouts this month because I didn't rent all that much stuff. Next month though I'll pay off all my late fees and have one single, uhhh ultimate choice.........

Rock Club of the Week: Local 506 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Just a few weeks ago I discovered that this place existed and I already have been to a couple GREAT shows there. In all seriousness, this place could maybe give Rock 'N' Roll Highschool a run for its money. It's located in downtown-ish Chapel Hill at 506 West Franklin Street, just like a block or so down from this other club "The Cave".

Junk Food of the Week: Those Tube-Popsicle’s that you have to freeze yourself. I love those bastards and now that the weather's warmed up, the stores are finally stocking them again............

Sope, that's it, hope you enjoyed my column. Uhhhh, that Onion article about "Lust for Life" was hilarious the other day. Actually, like yesterday I saw SOME commercial that had "Lust for Life" in it, it was funny.............. - Clint Parson

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Alright, so we're back to 2005 now. After reading that column, the main thing that sticks out is the fact that I was surprised that MTV had JUST decided to start putting emo into major rotation. As far as "rock" goes nowadays in the mainstream, emo is a pretty fucking dominant force(seems to be all Fuse ever plays) and it actually is hard to believe that things used to be quite different. Of course though, rock music is becoming more of a fringe dealie now. Obviously, hip-hop has an unbreakable stranglehold on the musical tastes of this generation/decade. Hip Hop has even made it's way into the modern day equivalent of "120 Minutes"("subterranean" on MTV2).

Anyway, I'll be back again soon with some more old column shit... Let's see if My Space'll actually post this whole thing