Thursday, December 19, 2013

Over the weekend I found a Star Wars trucker hat at the Savers on Noland Rd. in Independence. But it didn't fit.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Long Day of Childhood

I guess there's a reason I'm just now learning about this failed ad campaign from Ragu.

First off, I'm wondering why you would try and market Ragu to children. Although I guess it's not explicitly being sold to young people. It plays on common awkward situations children go through, so anyone could identify or at least laugh at them. Still, the adolescent boy (who incidentally has the same face that I used to...FACE OFF!) is the protagonist and is obviously supposed to be a sympathetic figure. But who the hell would want to eat shitty pasta sauce after seeing your parents mid-bone? And that song! It sounds like third rate Alan Jackson or Randy basically most of what's on country radio currently. Carry on.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Miley Cyrus as Postmodern Icon and Symbol of Late Millenial and iGeneration Culture: Towards A Theory of Popular Culture Under Late-Stage Capitalism (A Work In Progress)

Understanding What Miley Represents: Deconstructing A Decentered Culture

Miley Cyrus as a cultural symbol stands for nothing, substantiates nothing and ultimately means nothing. In this manner, she is the most representative of any pop star yet created and nurtured by late stage capitalist American culture.  

 photo 34942894-81bb-48d1-b18d-0ca912b353e6_zpsb8bb16d7.jpg
She has no defining qualities: (as with some of the most successful pop-stars) her capricious looks and stated beliefs change with marketing ploys, new albums and commercial campaigns, but she even lacks some of the traditional physical qualities that have been focal selling points for more recent female pop stars (think Britney Spears, Katy Perry etc. who often rely on their physical attributes and socialized feminine appearance). Hence, Cyrus's need to so strangely and emphatically create some sort of a public image and extreme but empty representation of herself. If Michael Jackson was the transitional high modernist to post-modernist realization of a pop celebrity, then Cyrus is its complete fruition and apotheosis. She is our culture’s Destiny.

 photo mjb4_zps67c5b2ac.jpg
Un-tethered to any of the modernist values that moralized and justified a belief system based on once fixed rules, or reacting in direct relation to or against such a moral belief system (a la punk rock and generally, counter culture), she represents the first generation raised entirely in the age of the internet. The constancy previously represented/broadcast by such institutions as the church, the state and even the traditional, grounded world of the corporation has had little to no effect on the Millenials. Yes they are vaguely aware of much of it, and they may even purport to have religion or a codified and constant center. 

What spiritual or constant self could one have, when pushed and pulled at every angle by advertisements for products, belief systems and even outward appearances to try on? If identity in a late-stage capitalist post-modern dominated society is shaped, purchased and created through owning and displaying products, what “self” can there be? The decentered self testing the spacial qualities of its world rather than the metaphysical ones is what we’re left with.

Cyrus is the decentered and ever shifting celebrity self (without a self), raised by corporate trends, Hollywood handlers, and agents, and steeped and encouraged in her narcissism, self-absorption and fame. Her behavior has always been cultured and developed behind the scenes in a lab, always with the public eye in mind. Every move is coordinated and cross-checked for the marketplace. 

She’s the fruition of the post-modern progression of popular culture that values nothing other than instant gratification, brought on by capitalist ideology. To say she’s nihilist or apathetic misses the point. Pop culture itself is not equivalent to nihilism or apathy; it holds few things sacred, outside of its own referentiallity, self importance, self perpetuation, money/ownership and the aforementioned impulse to gratify. In a sense then, these are the new values. Our popular culture, driven by corporate supply and artificially altered public demand, firmly believes in these as its core qualities. Those that do not own enough or the right things, are described as “poor”;this is in an economic sense of course, but also implies poor in spirit,potential, and of course poor in social standing. To own things is to exist and represents active participation in late-stage capitalism, which is the only way imaginable for those raised within it. 

Transposing and Defining the “I” for the iGeneration

The Millennials lack self because the antiquated notion of a fixed self ceases to exist in the ultimate gestations of post-modern culture. The creation of, perpetuation of, and ultimate belief in a progression of the concept of self, begun in and around the age of Enlightenment, has now reached its own mirrored-apex in the era of the Millenials and popularly in Miley Cyrus.

The Enlightenment first conceived of and publicized the self, as it “sang of [it]self and celebrat[ed] [it]self.” It created laws to protect and perpetuate the notion of the self (See the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights and the French Revolution etc.). In part, this was because the individual self as entity is essential to ownership of personal and private property which had only recently been borne and fully propagated. The Romantics waxed poetic about the multitudes held within the soul, or the core and fixed representation of being, the entity which possesses, profits, creates and owns. In other words, the entity that is necessary to take part in the capitalist marketplace.

On this same trajectory, Modernism was the next realization of the self, the next step on the evolutionary ladder. The self became a distorted and often hazy proposition, a twisted and distorted refraction of the centered-self dreamed of by Enlightenment era philosophers and thinkers, but was still based on a center of gravity, a “winding wheel” to rap oneself around, a comparison point/mile marker with which to judge the permutations of the different selves of the world. Modernist and high-modernist art often focused on the fragmentation of the self as related to forms of expression, mental illness and the impressionistic qualities of the self and the surrounding world.  

In the post-modern era we've seen the end of self, or at least the dissipation of the traditional concept of self. Personal identity is not a fixed proposition or singular belief that comes from an inner being or soul, it's an ever-shifting amalgam of images, socialized concepts, products and other ephemera. Self is now created and distributed for the masses, as a social product that is transmitted electronically.

Come See the Wheels of the Machine Twerk On: "If a body catch a body coming through the iPhone..."

 photo Miley-Cyrus-2224429_zps959379fe.jpg
“We Can’t Stop, We Won’t Stop” then, is the indirect mantra of the helpless and self-lacking (not to be confused with “selfless”) Millenial culture as it comes of age and takes possession of its own being. It comes in the language of the addict, mixed with the belief system of the capitalist. A mélange of apathy and a pastiche of empty meaning.

In traditional terms, the “coming of age” represented when one took responsibility (nee “ownership,” conceptually related to owning property) for one’s actions, and conceived of a future for the self. But once again, as in the creation of the concept of the self by the Enlightenment and its relation to property ownership, the realization and expression of the self is done in the terms of capitalism, that being one predicated on purchasing and owning property. Because Millennials have been socialized to own more and at a younger age by corporate advertisers and society at large, their grabs at self-actualization only seem more feeble and meaningless. If one already owns property at a young age, then a transition from adolescence to adulthood represents nothing more than ownership/control of one’s immediate flesh and blood, or perhaps gaining more property.

However, one with no self cannot take responsibility for its own actions. It can only take ownership of products, items and in the case of the adolescent, one’s own body. Hence the emphasis on the body as a representation of freedom in young women: what previously had been controlled and directed by the family, the rules/laws of society (for the under-age), and the hegemony of men, now comes into its own in a rite of spring. To fetishize (display and celebrate) one’s own body and act in accordance to one’s own sexuality for late millennial and iGeneration  women is virtually all that is left of the expression of the self. Much of western society teaches and raises women as sex objects, early on ones that are controlled and directed by others, so it only makes sense that the act of having sex or even the open display of sexual qualities for the first time is a statement of selfhood and control. 

The common Millienial and iGeneration women, those who Miley Cyrus is selling products to and in theory representative of, do not believe in feminism. The language and focus of feminism, under its post-structural third wave have become abstruse and disconnected from the lion’s share of the middle-class female populace at large. All that remains is the primal and base cry of the more extreme and reactionary wing of the second-wave feminists as it relates to sexual control/selfhood and reproductive rights: the right to choose to have sex, and in be in power of one’s own sovereign body. With no real form of self-expression outside of owning products, both young men and young women will opt for sex and the physical body as the closest thing to expressing and defining a now distant concept of “selfhood” and being.

“We Can’t Stop, We Won’t Stop” is the rallying cry of a now warped and empty transition to adulthood inside late-stage capitalism. “It’s our party” as in we own and control this scenario. We are members of the capitalist marketplace, if only because we can schlep our body around in ever stranger ways, which then creates a very base concept of self: the self is my physical body and what I choose to do with it.

In the face of a baby boomer controlled culture that has worshiped and capitalized on youth in order to sell products, we see the progeny is the shallow but self-absorbed iGeneration. Their entire lives they’ve been coddled and given whatever they want, so that the only thing that hasn’t been given to them, can’t be taken away and can’t be fully controlled is their own body. 
 photo 166559c1-2f41-45da-846b-8abc67f6cbd2_zps9f199d29.jpg
Sadly, Miley Cyrus is our child: collectively the culture’s. We’ve raised, nurtured and encouraged her to be what she is today. We watched her grow on Hannah Montana as a fictional pop-star with multiple personalities, then morph into a real one. She is a product with no actual being to speak of, and her public persona represents nothing in particular. Her wild gesticulations and tongue wagging, are nothing more than an inert replica of the modernist culture that challenged the status quo and the prevailing rules and conservancies of religion, government and the family which held actual meaning in a not-too-distant past world still based on the concept of a centered reality. (Those pangs of guilt towards our freak-child easily confused as a phantom ringtone and then brushed aside.) Our decentered culture represents nothing in particular or of note outside of an affirmation of capitalism and the dissolution of the self, and Miley is its final embodiment.

That special feeling/That confusing feeling

It's an unnerving feeling to realize you're high but you don't know why.

 photo toothbrush_zps26bb1254.jpg

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Return from Summer Away: Graffiti Camp (KC Found Art I)

Well, if you're reading this I'm back. If you're not reading this then I'm lost as to how you're hearing my thoughts. Oh well, I took a break from updating the blog and went on hiatus for a while, but here's a post I've been planning for awhile. I've been collecting random graffiti images around Kansas City for a few years now. Graffiti represents a very public and confusing art form to me. You rarely see the people "defacing" the property in real time, so there's a mysterious quality to it all. Some could rightly be called artwork on its own merits, but some is clearly public disobedience, social commentary or even nonsense; the best work probably lies in the middle where all these designations meet. I don't know how to compare local graffiti in KC to anywhere else, but these images are open to interpretation. I spared no expense searching grimy city bathrooms, hollow over/under passes, deserted warehouses and desolate street corners. Most of these photos were taken in and around midtown, but a few are from the northland and Lawrence. Here they are in all their glory with my own titles where applicable:

"West Bottoms Woman"  photo graffiti_zpsa73742ed.jpg

 photo downsized_0823121440_zps6402ad24.jpg

 photo Touch_zps8ee89591.jpg

 photo george_zps53267934.jpg

 photo 0218111920_zpsf94f0c25.jpg

 photo SidewalkMessage2_zpsd5f5e631.jpg

 photo SidewalkMessage1_zpsd429eed3.jpg

"D'Bronx Cheer"  photo scoregasm_zps6168b005.jpg

 photo downsized_1107121701_zps9a76d526.jpg

 photo BigBootyJudy_zps3a34dc01.jpg

 photo downsized_0319111315_zpsd0b1f5dc.jpg

 photo downsized_1103121622_zpsba00b45a.jpg

 photo downsized_0501131800_zps20406b87.jpg

"West Bottoms Ride"  photo 228938_1919158183190_1369106403_31792146_759285_n_zpsb49e212a.jpg

"Johnetta"  photo 0501131827_zps5c5c5fe6.jpg

 photo downsized_0220131522_zps994a6880.jpg

 photo BS_zps7ebd2b13.jpg

 photo DoNotEnter_zps2cf63340.jpg

 photo 0309112056_zps848d41af.jpg

 photo Hipster_zps8ed415a7.jpg

"Super Flea Scrawl"  photo 1117121427_zpsc21a2107.jpg

 photo buttplaza_zpsac38091f.jpg

 photo downsized_0216130020_zpscded036b.jpg

"Troost Life"  photo downsized_1020121516_zpsd48dd1f4.jpg

"God's Indiscretions"  photo 0309112057_zps27c8bcda.jpg

"What a Long Strange Journey..."  photo DontStopBelieving_zps3e9d8405.jpg

 photo HappyEndings_zpsa66b377a.jpg

(Photo credit for "West Bottoms Ride" with the bicyclist actually belongs to Cobra. I'll post more graffiti as I find it. Next time look for some found images.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

P.S. Comings and Goings

A place I’ve never been before but in my mind,
I long to go there with you
And live another life full of brownstone buildings, and cobbled roads
Old sections of old towns where all the young people meet
In clothes I’ve never seen before.

I’ll work in a kitchen, evenings and nights
With the Hispanics and the Asians,
Cooking food for the locals and the all nighters;
I lie on the job application so nobody knows.

But you don’t know who I am either,
Even as we dance up and down deserted late-night streets
Of 50s glory, and the caterwaul of the man
Who has no direction and yet is free
Echoes along cracked, shadowed walls.

I’ve seen in your eyes the shattered hope
Of somewhere new and holy,
Smoke along the sides of stained walls
Moving to the distant, hollow music.

We end up there, and make sense later
When our whole discordant lives
Are not before us, but behind us 
In that same cloud of dispersing smoke. 
 photo mustache-_0005_mr-belvedere_zps5f3b4da6.jpg

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Our philosophers should be rock stars, but our rock stars should be philosophers.
 photo 11438778_f4240015d1_m.jpg  photo 0000034962_20061021043244.jpg

Monday, April 8, 2013

What's Going on with Kansas City's Middle of the Map Fest?

 photo MOTM_zpsb5a67a76.jpg

Last weekend marked the third edition of Ink's Middle of the Map Fest, with a lineup that once again is described as being "curated" by local label The Record Machine. Let me first say, that I've attended each year and I think this is a well-intentioned and positive event for the city and midtown/Westport specifically. Each year hundreds of fans throng in and out of the bars, venues, coffee shops and restaurants in what is surely a boon for the economy of Westport and the local bands that are often highlighted. This year we lost the Beaumont Club, which seemed to create some locale problems, but we gained the Uptown Theater which typically serves as a better concert going environment.

Still, I'm left wondering after this year's incarnation what exactly Middle of the Map Fest intends to be. The promoters don't seem to reach out much beyond their core base of fans and local groups that they book every year. It's obvious that in name and spirit, MOTM wants to be a successor to Austin's famous SXSW Festival. People from Kansas City or Austin will probably wince at the comparison, but perhaps for different reasons. As one patron of Buzzard noted on Saturday, "This looks like Kansas City trying to do SXSW and doing a shitty job."

It pains me to criticize anything local that brings in business and gives a platform to deserving local musicians, but somebody has to offer a critical perspective in what is largely an insular and self congratulatory music scene. (We can't expect this from the Star since they own Ink and by and by are therefore directly involved with organizing/funding MOTM. I don't know what to expect from the Pitch, but giving MOTM too much coverage is basically promotion for a competing rag.) 
The majority of core local bands booked this year were present in one or both of the two previous years, and although some of them are my favorite bands, I don't really see this as a productive use of MOTM. The Appleseed Cast are not an up and coming act, and anyone involved in local music has probably been seeing them annually for a decade+ (I've seen them about 30 times). On the other hand, great local acts like Cowboy Indian Bear and Soft Reeds are on the bill every year because they're signed to The Record Machine (absent this year was Capybara, which surprised me a bit). Then you have the rest of the usual suspects, which are often older indie musicians entrenched in the local scene that currently do booking/run venues, or are still kicking around town in one form or another. Hello Roman Numerals, Thee Water Moccassins, etc.

And oh yes, don't forget the Beautiful Bodies. We can't have a local show without the Beautiful Bodies.
 photo asolo_zps251e6c0f.jpg

Every other entry in the fest appears to be a crapshoot after this. Typically, bands that just happen to be on tour show up and breeze through as if they were playing any other show on their current tour. As I watched Grizzly Bear Friday night at the Uptown, that's basically what it felt like. Location wise, the Uptown had little connection to the fest and besides two puny banners hanging from either of the sides of the box seats there was no indication that this was anything but another concert by another touring band.

But don't forget the twelve dollar beers. After paying a mostly reasonable 45 dollars for a three night pass, music fans were expected to pony up twelve dollars for a beer at the Uptown. You might've thought you were at Arrowhead Stadium at this point. (Sadly, not even the Chiefs charge this much for a beer.)

At this point, you might be wondering how exactly the fest is highlighting a broad swath of local talent when a lot of the bands basically play every year. I've wondered the same thing myself, and I've concluded that either: a) the local scene is a lot weaker and more limited than we realize, or b) the organizers simply aren't trying very hard or just don't have the pull yet. Let's not forget, this isn't SXSW. Bands probably aren't dying to play the Middle of the Map Fest in Kansas...City. (I'm sure more than a few visitors echoed that same confusion so many of us on the eastern side of state line have gotten used to hearing.)

I'm bringing some of these issues to light because I love local music, and I love Kansas City but this festival could be a lot better. Why not try and get someone like the Get-Up Kids to play? The recently reformed band is arguably the biggest thing to come out of the area in decades, but they have a national appeal as well. Perhaps the promoters have tried and the scheduling or money simply didn't work out.

What about having another high profile reunion rather than seeing the Casket Lottery play again every year? It was great to be there when they got back together for MOTM in 2011, but am I supposed to feel nostalgic for that each year when I see them open up with "Code Red"? Maybe just maybe if the circumstances were right and the offer was there, we could see Kill Creek or the Anniversary come together for an evening. Is our scene really so limited that we have to trot out the same tired act every year? Are we that challenged in our booking capabilities that our options remain either aging local bands, not ready for prime time players, a few random national acts or bands that are easily booked because the "curators" happen to be releasing their new album?

In this, it's third year, we might begin to expect more from Middle of the Map. But it ends up being a  mediocre representation of local talent that's even starting to wear on an ardent fan like myself.

Kansas City, we're better than that aren't we? Or is an unfocused, largely unoriginal and somewhat disappointing indie rock festival all that we have to offer?

 photo 11990_501282813247360_1663606874_n_zps0604bdc1.jpg

Monday, March 25, 2013

Sermon on the Fount 1.0

 photo Andy-Warhol-Elvis--1963--triple-Elv.jpg

Apotheosis in a late stage capitalist society is dependent upon passage beyond our chains of self into material goods. Deification occurs when we transcend our own mortal existence to gain what we’ve always longed for and become a product. Only then do we live forever and manage to defeat the time trial that is our lifetime. 

Our fear of death and the unknown has been heightened in the absence of true religion. Advertisers use our own mortality as a way to pierce our thoughts and sell us products that promise more than anything can truly offer. No, religion and the afterlife is now for zealots and the weak minded. Those of us raised on Coca-Cola, Saturday morning cartoons and Bisquik know that there is nothing after our own death. No heaven. No hell. No purgatorio as in Dante. Materialism and consumer culture is our new religion, and we worship at the altar of the flat screen. Culture and the media is our pantheon and it tells us to buy more, own more. And work more to do it. The things you own surely can’t own you? Inanimate objects are harmless of course, as harmless as the NRA would tell you that guns are. People are the real enemy. 
 photo tvod-1_zpsb9411de5.gif

And so fear of one another is bred as well. It’s only the material product itself that offers us any respite from the unnerving paranoia and distrust created by advertisers to sell us more…stuff. And it’s all vague, worthless crap anyway. Shoes, phones, little dolls with little doll eyes, DVDs. Products need no longer have a purpose, only a hook or an angle. A flashy advertisement that promises something we long for. It fulfills a need we didn’t even know we had. 

Objects use to be created to fulfill needs, to accomplish goals. Man needed the wheel to move faster and cart grain around. Form follows function after all. 

But now products are created simultaneously with the function built in. The necessity created afterwards in a conference room or a marketing office. When I was younger I didn’t know I needed a cell phone; now I can’t live without one. Products no longer fulfill needs, they create needs.   

Those of us that produce culture and goods, our musicians, our artists, our leaders, our corporations are the high priests of our religion. We long to know everything about them. Others are paid to follow them around and capture every meaningless detail of their lives in a fish eye lens. And then they report back to us the glory and sanctity of their blessed day to days. Where they eat. Where they shop. And of course, what they buy. Celebrity is bestowed and created by the media. 

When those celebrities pass on, as we all will, we immortalize them by turning them into products. Michael Jackson figurines. Kurt Cobain video games. Paul Newman salad dressing. And this is what we all long for. To become something other than flesh and blood. To become something that is useless, but is not subject to our own mortality and fickle desires. Something that can live on when we are gone. A piece of us that is not in all actuality a piece of us. Ashes to fashion, dust to rust.