culture

the curious case of the James Francos.....

Whether you like it or not, JAMES FRANCO is the character of the future. He is constant, consistent & working in PRESENT TENSE. Franco is the stream. And that stream is not going away because the stream demands stuff now.

Gone are the days where you could sit and toil on a concept for years, or turn a MALICK and show up 15 years later. Gone are the days where you could do or be ONE THING (however, if you  love that one thing, more power too you).  Because the world is turning so fast, if you don't pivot when you are required too, the media you are on top of will turn into OPERA, and then you'll be bitter. And pivoting becomes increasingly difficult as time goes by. It's as skill you must learn to survive. 

Franco and his cohorts are also the few characters around who are almost completely immune to criticism. This is not unprecedented. Woody Allan has already mastered that art, by the only effective method. By not giving a shit and immediately moving to something else. The new school just does it faster.

In a world where media is completely ubiquitous and a million paths of communication exist, dealing with a bad review is akin to wiping your mouth after eating a bowl of spaghetti. Who gives a shit. And if you do, well, you're fucked.

the shiny new, and the rugged old....

How many times do you hear the phrase, "they don't make em like they used too"? We like what we become accustomed too.

Back in prehistoric times (everything before 1999), our cultural cycles tended to move a bit slower and our economy was largely top down. Everything sat around a bit longer on the shelf. And the farther back you go, the longer these movements sat around.

A musical movement like GRUNGE had time to birth itself, and kill itself within a relatively stable time frame. People on the fringes sowed the seeds, and as it grew larger, the corps swooped in and made it readily available to all. And in those top down days, ALL really meant ALL.

These days, cycles don't work the same way. They have two distinct patterns. One is the giant explosion (VIRAL) and the other is the STATIC but constant feed. Things tend to move extremely quickly, or, they stay extremely stable as long as the feed is consistently updated.

Viral is like a big bang moment. Out of nothing, everything.  A huge burning moment of glory, but just as quickly, fading away, burdened by its inability to scale. Novelty is incredibly difficult to manufacture to a fickle audience always wanting something new. But some people learn to turn this situation into the second situation.

The STATIC feed is the other cultural movement. This one is based on confirmation bias and preferences built over time. Much of these where probably built many years ago. And sometimes, with consistency, you can turn viral into this.

The STATIC feed doesn't have to worry about capturing the entire market share. If you got a podcast, and people listen, you can keep a good portion of your audience for the long term, as long as you never neglect it. However, if you step off the throttle, the audience lost will probably never return. 

STATIC is all about comfort. STATIC is the same reason people get stuck into the "they don't make em like they used too" motif.  Most people just grown out of cultural items unfortunately, and are stuck with what they know. 

The interesting thing is that these days, STATIC can be beneficial for a creative. If your an aging rockstar, or a TV actor long behind your sticom glory, you can actually reconnect with that same group that loved you then.. People are looking back, just as much as they are enthralled with the shiny new toy.

 

musings of youth and hip hop....

This last few days I've been on one of my periodic pop culture rendezvous, where I survey a specific landscape that I feel my touch slipping away from.

This round happened to be hip-hop, it's new culture and the first wave of OG's reflecting on where the form has gone. Just a footnote before I get labeled; my youth was spent listening to rap and hip-hop and my roots are that of B-Boy. My crew, OSB used to battle at malls, schools, clubs and anywhere else little dudes could roam the streets and engage in rhythmic warfare. Violence hardly ever broke out, but occasionally a dance battle would turn into an actual battle.

This was during the second wave of breakdancing. I experienced the first wave as well, but I was too little to understand the culture. From spreading out cardboards to keeping PLEDGE in my backpack for lubricating linoleum, this was one of my true teenage passion. I'll provide visual evidence at the end. But alas, i grew out of favor with hip-hop, mostly as a result of new hobby's and experiences. Still however, I am a fan to this day.

One particular note of interest in my recent cultural prowling was promo videos featuring the new kids on the block in hip hop. This being the social media age, the youngsters are all savvy of the technology of promotion.  You don't need to fork over big bucks of your advance to do elaborate music videos or smart campaigns, because in essence, you are doing it all the time. Always on twitter, always on instagram, and tumblr, the homies have some form of capture device on them at all times.

It's not hard to come by a 5d, or a Red Scarlett, or a slew of semi-professional camera's these days (and hell, what is professional anyways anymore). Everybody, including your momma has them. And shit, on a 1080 screen, an iphone is good to go. So, everybody is shooting something all the time. Now you just package that extra footage into "promo's" that end up going on youtube as a way to diversify.

The flow of content is a stream. And to not participate is death to an up and comer. In fact, it's death to everybody except a very select few who've managed to keep those giant, top down, middle of America careers of yesteryear. 

One thing that struck me odd about these promos is that the subject of the piece often, if not incessantly, would be looking down at their phones. This was a very common thread. It's jarring watching videos of somebody who spends an inordinate amount of time looking down at their phones. They're not even fully present through the prism of something that is trying to capture them in the present. And this becomes self reflexive. You ask, "do I do that, because, it looks really dumb". In fact, you might. I know I'm guilty at times.

Further, the subjects would often use their phones to capture another fleeting moment through a picture (instagram) or video. Always looking at a screen, or through a screen. Contextualizing everything through pixel.s

Now, granted I was looking mostly at Hip Hop promos because that's where pop culture is now. I don't think there are 17 year old rock and roll kids getting 6 million dollar 360 deals. And they too probably spend time staring into the abyss of electronics. It's an age thing. It's a culture thing. But, my guess is that there is more to this story.

Which brings me to my theory that our phones, through technology serve some strange psychological need to stare at moving things through light, while desperately trying to hoard moments, and store them away; basically trying to capture a life that's always slipping away, ungraspable. 

There is no doubt that our second life in digitalism will be our preferable choice in a very near future. It's an extremely effective opioid, creating the distance from the dirt and grime of reality. You can break up a relationship without direct conflict. You can insult someone without consequence; you can be a sexist, a misogynistic creep, all without even a cold stare from the other end.  However, it comes with many consequences. Chief among them, loneliness and detachment. That might not sound so bad, but when added up, the results are terrifying.

And with all that talk; here is some breakdancing in a living room, featuring your's truly and some ol school homies.

Peace.


Relevancy When Clocks Go Wild

The question of relevancy is always an important one when the arts, cinema or any cultural element is discussed, thought about, and perused towards some end.

We can always put our heads down and slog through the terrain, to do what we love without ever needing to be self aware of our place, or our goals, both collectively and individually.  But, that's a simple pursuit.  Valid as any, but, shallow in scope. 

Instead, and often, we think deep and long about our place in the world.  And, as the world changes in rapid succession, in a culture that Alan Moore deemed "The Culture of Steam", when discussing the immediate future, certain trends emerge.  And to clarify, I believe Moore was discussing the ungraspable future culture, as predetermined by technology and its interplay with our old world evolution.

This is the time of the instant update.  And, you can look no further than the emerging talent of today to really understand what this means.  In music, the perpetual mixtape was the start, but the further you push that along, the more you get to the current state.  Just like instagram, music has also morphed into the weekly song/video style most prominent in hip hop.  I like to use hip-hop as the example, because it's elements are very immediate.  It's production, usually fast, and wordplay doesn't necessarily need to be written.   

Acts like Lil B and Riff Raff elude to a changing landscape where they are always on the cycle of relevance, because, they mimic the culture of the internet itself.  They are both shrewd, entertaining and showman promoters.  They are a new species of music artist.  Self aware, skilled, entrepreneurial, shameless and momentum oriented.  And regardless of what you think of them, they continue turning critics into fans, by sheer willingness to be out there, to take the brunt of "haters".  

In an alternative way, if Riff Raff put out a few videos, and waited for something to happen, nothing ever would.  This is a critical difference between the old and the new.  The closest example in the film world would be someone like Joe Swanberg.  But perhaps, there are countless other "video" artist who are better examples whom I just don't know.  Tim and Eric immediately came to mind as the television version, but the metaphor is not as clear.  Adult Swim nurtures these changes, and was willing to take those risks years ago.  In the world of books/blogging, look no further then Seth Godin.

In a disposable age, perfectionism isn’t valued because we just don’t have time for it.  By the time it’s perfect, the world moved 10 steps ahead.  I know, your ol school idealism doesn’t want to deal with it.  Whatever. 

The question is, in this new landscape, what if you turned it off.  What if your video didn't come out on that Wednesday, or that you stopped your twitter'ing and vine'ing and facebook.  What if you get sick?  What if you don’t make three films a year?  And what if, you weren’t birthed into a career before this all happened?  You know, in the old timey days (pre 2005) when things work different? 

The constant hustle and digital sharecropping reminds me of Jaron Lanier's critique of the internet and the middle class.  You can hustle on that street corner all you want, but, when you get sick, well, you're fucked.  But, at least you’re relevant.   :) (smiley face)

pop + trash + culture + memories.

Low culture, sometimes deemed "trash culture" is where we are.  Escapism, transfusion plus fetishizing  is the state. Pop lives in this space mostly, but, it's always had the ability to move between cultural hierarchies.  At present, it loves trash, the audience devours it, and the appetite grows because priorities have changed. 

But, can we truly call anything pop anymore?  Exceptions exist, but when history is perpetually the present, it's difficult to have a true pop culture.  Pop relies on memories.  It happens, and it was that thing, but then it goes away.  It was silly, and we loved the novelty of it.    

However,  thing's don't really go away anymore, they get continued, rebooted, or dressed in a new shiny shell.  And we don't have the options to forget.  We only have options to filter.  And boy oh boy, that net is polluted.  

the book versus the other plastics.

The book is old analog.  It's technology is without a doubt, one of the most important items in the human catalog.  

Books are the enablers.  The perfect informational passing device.

Almost always a perfect gift.

Books are not CD's.  Books are not DVD's.  Although, people love to include them in there analogies of the death of physical media.  

However, those forms were never necessary to the origins of their own particular media. Cinema needs other devices for transmission.  Music the same.  These forms always change. In many ways, and even with hard earned consumer consistency, they are not standalone.  How many music delivery systems have come and gone?  

The physicality of a book includes all of it.  The written word was always meant to be passed along, in it's final form.  it duplication is always scaleable.  Not from the beginning of course, but still, it could have been duplicated somehow, with errors, money and hard work.

And even though, the scalability of music and cinema can lend itself to other product forms, they will never be perfect.  Because its delivery origins are not seamless.  Music has always been a live format.  Cinema, was birthed in exhibition.  One ticket, one play.  No pause, reverse, repeat.

The book, in it's final physicality is the delivery.  It's a perfect system.  Yes, it can have an uglier digital counterpart, but it's essence is it's form.  And, only for environmental reasons would it ever go away.  

But, that CD you're holding, or that Criterion DVD you just bought, or that new XBOX game you stole, well, that's not going to be around.  So, build your collections now you geeks and nerds.  Show them off to your kids, who will marvel at that lo-fucking fidelity that you and I loved so much.

Ball So Hard.

If you are an outlier, outlie the fuck out of the world.  Outlie so hard, that people can't look away.  

The other choice is to follow the herd, looking to fit in with whatever is the flavor of the moment. 

It just so happens that the mass market flavor of the moment(long drawn out moment) is REALITY TV stars.  Drink that sugary, sticky, coagulated syrup.  Just make sure you don't choke on it.

An Image that may or may not have anything to do with the words above. 

An Image that may or may not have anything to do with the words above.