Showing posts with label cultural criticism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cultural criticism. Show all posts

NPR and the 24-hour News Cycle

A common critique of the "current state of things" is that we are so thoroughly saturated with information, especially news reporting, that we've lost our attention span and are more easily convinced of certain positions via sound bytes, talking points, and the like.

I always figured that with an entire channel (in fact, multiple channels) focused solely on news, 24 hours a day, that there would be enough time to really get into issues, showcase all points of view, have legitimate discussion/debate, and so on. For whatever reason, this isn't the case.

I think, like a lot of people in my generation for sure but probably a lot of people more generally speaking, I haven't really "read" a newspaper in a long time. I have a hard time reading through an entire news article and instead usually skim headlines, get the relevant details, and then impress people at parties and gatherings by appearing to be "abreast of all of the relevant issues." Just don't ask me any questions about details or specifics.

On music criticism

Hipster Runoff recently posted the snarkily-titled "Is Caribou’s “Odessa” the first authentic mp3 of 2k10?" I semi-jokingly commented on that post, saying that I wasn't such a huge fan of the mp3 but that I would wait to reserve judgment until I found out whether the rest of the commenters liked the song. Because I wanted to like it if everyone else liked it, but didn't want to if the HRO micro-blogosphere chewed it up and spat it out.

Unfortunately, there was a pretty even split of HRO commenters that liked/didn't like the mp3. I mentioned then that the mp3 would need at least an 8.0 rating on Pitchfork or else I wouldn't give it another listen, wouldn't try to "get" it. Lo and behold, I checked and it got exactly 8.0 on Pitchfork. So I decided to give it another listen.

It's similar to how "cool" works, and reminds me of a Simpsons episode:

Marge: Am I cool, kids?
Bart and Lisa: No.
Marge: Good. I'm glad. And that's what makes me cool—not caring, right?
Bart and Lisa: No.
Marge: Well, how the hell do you be cool? I feel like we've tried everything here.
Homer: Wait, Marge. Maybe if you're truly cool, you don't need to be told you're cool.
Bart: Well, sure you do.
Lisa: How else would you know?
How do I know if music is "cool"/"relevant" if I don't have Pitchfork/HRO/the blogosphere to tell me whether I should listen to it? There's too much music out there. Bad music is made every day. I make bad music. I can't expect anyone to listen to my stuff without viral marketing/Pitchfork/word-of-mouth/my mom telling them to.

Men in Love With Each Other

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a reading at Elliott Bay Book Co. (no relation). It was for a book called Queers in History, by Keith Stern.


The talk was interesting, especially because instead of doing a traditional reading, he performed his "one man show," which was "rough," in his words, but pretty funny and interesting. Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was probably gay? Did you know (from http://www.queersinhistory.com/facts.htm):
  • Abraham Lincoln slept with his bodyguard in the White House when Mrs. Lincoln was away?
  • Joan Crawford and Marilyn Monroe had a one-night-stand?
  • Leonardo da Vinci was imprisoned twice for same-sex affairs?
  • Sir Francis Bacon's mother complained about him sleeping with the male servants?
  • The founder of Shinto Buddhism also founded a tradition of male-male love in Japan?
  • Angelina Jolie wanted to marry her "Firefox" co-star Jenny Shimizu?
  • Two ancient Egyptian men shared a tomb as husband and wife?
  • Lawrence of Arabia dedicated his life's work to a young male lover?
  • The wife of one US president moved her girlfriend into the White House, and another US President shared his White House bed with the male chief of his security detail?
  • An heroic soldier in the US Revolution was actually a woman in disguise, who "married" another woman after her service in the Continental Army?
  • One of the greatest male American athletes of all time was arrested twice for same-sex indiscretions?
  • In 1886, when US officials asked an Indian tribe to send "their best woman" to visit Washington, DC, the tribe chose to send a man in a dress?
"Facts" is a somewhat onerous title for that page, because most of these "facts" are conjecture based on circumstantial evidence (very few of the "queers in history" actually "came out"). But the circumstantial evidence is quite compelling, I must say. I haven't read the book yet but I want to after going to the reading.

The interesting thing for me was, though, after the reading, as I was getting back on my bike to go home, I was approached by a dude who had also been in attendance. He chatted me up for an awkward few moments - awkward because I was pretty sure immediately that he was hitting on me.

Jeff Foxworthy - Funny?

I was riding my bike uptown the other night past Seattle Center and noticed that Jeff Foxworthy is coming to Seattle soon for a show, with none other than those Blue Collar Comedy Tour stalwarts Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy.


Do you remember these dudes? I have a faint recollection of Blue Collar Comedy being really popular for about a year. If you don't remember, Jeff Foxworthy is the originator of the "You Might Be a Redneck If..." line of jokes, like this knee-slapper:
You might be a redneck if... you were acquitted for murdering your first wife after she threw out your Elvis 8-tracks.
Hahaha! Dudes! Rednecks totally murder people! And they obviously get divorced a lot, and dudes, they're so behind on technology they still use 8-track tapes! Man, what a witty observation. Anyway, this joke isn't funny and neither are most "redneck jokes."

I admit, though, that one isn't necessarily representative. I was googling around looking for ticket information for this upcoming show and I came across this list: Jeff Foxworthy on the Pacific Northwest! Here are some of the gems:
2. You feel guilty throwing aluminum cans or paper in the trash.
11. You know how to pronounce Sequim, Puyallup, Issaquah, Oregon,
Yakima and Willamette.
13. You can tell the difference between Japanese, Chinese and Thai food.
23. You have actually used your mountain bike on a mountain.
Tickets are only $70.00, y'all. But seriously, here's what you realize about these "jokes" - they are portrayed as making fun of denizens of the Northwest, and follow a long heritage of "You know you're from..." lists (you can surely find one about your hometown on facebook if you search for it) - but are in fact "funny" because they degrade the same population Foxworthy's been degrading, albeit on the sly, forever.

"Racial Identity Reflection: 'Both'"

This past month, a Louisiana judge denied a couple a marriage license. This seems potentially normal enough, but this particular case was interesting to me because the reason he denied their bid for an official union was because they look like my parents.

The judge's rationale was that the children of an interracial union would be unnecessarily burdened by being born half-black and half-white; that they would suffer an identity crisis of sorts - that they would be accepted in neither race community. "I don’t do interracial marriages because I don’t want to put children in a situation they didn’t bring on themselves,” he says.

Reading the article brought me back to May 2006, when I traveled with a group of students down to New Orleans, Louisiana, for a week, to do Hurricane Katrina relief work. While there, we met an amazing old man named Gary, who was taking six months of his retirement to fly down to New Orleans and volunteer full-time doing hard labor for people he'd never met.

I don't know how we got on the topic. Maybe it was my friend Jimmy, who as a half-white, half-Korean may have been discussing his upcoming engagement to a half-black, half Puerto Rican woman, and how their kids, if they chose to have them, would be something akin to multi-cultural superheroes. However we started talking about it, though, Gary, fully aware of our respective ethnic heritages, shared his opinion on inter-racial relationships with Jimmy and I - namely that he, like the aforementioned judge, and for the same admittedly good-hearted reasons, was against them.

"On (Not) Having Children"

There are 29,038,494 reasons not to have children. I was reminded of this fact early this morning as I ate oatmeal, drank coffee, and read from The Sun (some articles from which are mentioned in the previous post).

The theme of this month's issue seems to be "The Hospital," or that's what I've so far surmised (the two articles and one poem I got through this morning were all hospital- or doctor-related). The article I read this morning was in fact a short story (possibly true?) from a mother's point of view, about her 1 year-old son's week-or-so-long hospitalization. You really get into her head. It's heartbreaking.

"Hairy Women"

So, LVC is a group of young activists concerned about community, simplicity, sustainability, social justice, defying conventional societal norms, anti-racism, and many other things. For some LVCers, the "defying conventional societal norms" means more than just extricating oneself from the standard American consumerist/capitalist mindset.

For many LVC women, this means deciding that their internal merit is far more important than their physical appearance - many opt to go without make-up. Some take it a step further and do not shave their arms or legs, or pluck their eyebrows... and a daring two or three have decided that there is no real reason for them to shave any of their body hair. Yes, this means hairy female armpits.

I fully support this decision in theory, and want to believe that since I was simply socialized to find smooth armpits and legs attractive, I could be socialized out of the belief. I know that I would be somewhat uncomfortable if Lisa decided to stop shaving her armpits or legs - but I know intellectually that expecting her to shave her body is an outmoded, sexist convention that I could get over.

As I was thinking about this, and about how much I respect the two women I've met this week (there might be more) who do not shave their armpits, I found myself thinking about my face, and how I haven't shaved in a couple days. And - wait. Why do I shave my face again?