Sunday, December 30, 2012

Beasties' anti-violence vid, "Something's Got to Give"

Featuring Adam Yauch taking a sledgehammer to a pistol. And smiling at his handiwork, after the fact. And B-52s bombing the bejesus out of Vietnam's countryside.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Alice in Chains, "Rooster": mythologizing Vietnam

Alice in Chains, "Rooster":

Walkin' tall machine gun man
They spit on me in my home land

Even the "alternative" grunge acts help spread the myth that Vietnam vets were spat at. To read about the untruth of this myth go here. Or read H. Bruce Franklin's Vietnam and Other American Fantasies.

More about "Rooster" here.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Maynard G. Krebs creates his own soundscape

1961. Headphones, transistor radio. From the TV show Dobie Gillis. Maynard G. Krebs, the "beatnik," is played by Bob Denver (RIP).

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Brand identity

A hierarchy of tastes: the US, 1949

Long before Bourdieu published his essential book Distinctions, Life magazine, in 1949, published this chart, of High-Brow, Upper Middle-Brow, Lower Middle-Brow and Lowbrow tastes. I found it courtesy the blog of Kieran Healey.

Drinks: High = 'adequate little' red wine. Upper Middle = v. dry martini w/ lemon peel. Lower Middle = bourbon & ginger ale. Lower = beer.

And so on.

Click here for a larger version.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mods: Quadrophenia

The New York Times today (August 26, 2012) announces the reissue of the classic film about the Mods, Quadrophenia (1979), out on Blueray and DVD this Tuesday.

The film, says The Times, "concerns little more than a skinny 18-year-old West Londoner trying to track down some blues (speed) for one of these seaside gatherings turned tabloid-covered riots [between Mods and Rockers]. But the emotions that “Quadrophenia” elicits and its role in converting troubled souls to smartly dressed members of a movement (one with its own chant: “We are the Mods! We are the Mods!”) can be as forceful as the waves that open both the film and the Who’s 1973 double album...

Hallmarks of its style have included military-style parkas (often worn over pinstripe Italian suits), Clarks desert boots, Fred Perry polos, Vespa and Lambretta scooters, and bangs (for men and women)...

the film is driven largely by period music, stuff actual Mods would dance to: Booker T. and the MGs, the Ronettes."

Here's the trailer for the reissued version. Gorgeous.

And from the film's soundtrack, "Be My Baby" by The Ronettes.

Also from the soundtrack: Booker T and the MGs' "Green Onions."

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sony Walkman Commercials


The only cassette player as small as a cassette case.

My first Sony:

Japanese commercial, very 1980s.

A long Japanese one:

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The New Elitists: Cultural Omnivores

Craig Ward

Sociologist Shamus Khan, writing in the New York Times, July 8, 2012, on the tastes of today's elite. Some excerpts:

Poorer people are likely to have singular or “limited” tastes. The rich have the most expansive...Today’s elites are not “highbrow snobs.” They are “cultural omnivores.” 

Omnivorousness is part of a much broader trend in the behavior of our elite, one that embraces diversity...Diverse and populist programming is a mainstay of every museum. Elites seem more likely to confront snobbish exclusion than they are to embrace it...

To talk of “elite culture,” it seems, is to talk of something quaint, something anti-American and anti-democratic. Whereas the old elites used their culture to make explicit the differences between themselves and the rest, if you were to talk to members of the elite today, many would tell you that their culture is simply an expression of their open-minded, creative, ready-to-pounce-on-any-opportunity ethic. Others would object to the idea that they were part of an elite in the first place.  

But if you look at the omnivore from another point of view, a far different picture emerges.
Unlike the shared class character of Gilded Age elites, omnivores seem highly distinct and their tastes appear to be a matter of personal expression. Instead of liking things like opera because that’s what people of your class are supposed to like, the omnivore likes what he likes because it is an expression of a distinct self. Perhaps liking a range of things explains why elites are elite, and not the other way around. 

By contrast, those who have exclusive tastes today — middle-class and poorer Americans — are subject to disdain...

so if elites have a culture today, it is a culture of individual self-cultivation. Their rhetoric emphasizes such individualism and the talents required to “make it.” Yet there is something pernicious about this self-presentation. The narrative of openness and talent obscures the bitter truth of the American experience. Talents are costly to develop, and we refuse to socialize these costs. To be an outstanding student requires not just smarts and dedication but a well-supported school, a safe, comfortable home and leisure time to cultivate the self. These are not widely available...

Today America has less intergenerational economic mobility than almost any country in the industrialized world; one of the best predictors of being a member of the elite today is whether your parents were in the elite. The elite story about the triumph of the omnivorous individual with diverse talents is a myth...

[elites today] deploy that cultural difference to suggest that the inequality and immobility in our society is deserved rather than inherited.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Big Fun in the Big Town: Rap 1986

Film by Dutch filmmaker Bram Van Splunteren, shot in New York City in 1986. The DVD is just, now, finally, out. I especially love the beatboxing of Dough E. Fresh in this trailer.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Jeff Chang on Rap and the LA Riots of 1992

Courtesy: Los Angeles Review of Books.

it was Dr. Dre's The Chronic, released 10 days before Christmas, that became the quintessential post-riot album...Against the backdrop of the reintensified culture wars and the patently empty promises to "Rebuild LA," The Chronic seemed a heaven-sent balm, a handshake extended by capital to the kids... Dre's songs spoke less explicitly than Kam's, but no less powerfully, to the atmosphere of the truce parties, the ecstatic freedom of rolling down the street without having to worry, for once, about cops or enemies... 

But separated from the prospect of a potential war between armed united gangs and the LAPD — for which authorities were at one point reportedly preparing — The Chronic could also be heard as the beginning of a guiltless, gentrified gangsta: no Treaties, rebuilding demands, or calls for reparations: just the party and bullshit. It was the product that finally and seamlessly closed the gap between the vanilla exurbs and the chocolate inner-cities: a brand-conscious "G" Thang ready for easy consumption.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Moral panic, Japan: 'Teenage Wasteland' from LIFE magazine, 1964

Amazing set of photos shot by LIFE photographer Michael Rougier in 1964, to accompany an article by Robert Morse on Japanese youth in revolt. In the notes he sent along to accompany Rougier's film, Morse wrote:

A large segment of Japanese young people are, deep down, desperately unhappy and lost. And they talk freely about their frustrations. Many have lost respect for their elders, always a keystone of Japanese life, and in some cases denounce the older people for “for having gotten us into a senseless war.”

The article from Time-Life (no date, but contemporary) on this piece, includes the following observation:

this “lost generation” was not even remotely monolithic. While they might, to varying degrees, have shared a genuinely nihilistic outlook toward their own and their country’s future, the runaways, rock and roll fanatics (the “monkey-dance, Beatles set,” Morse calls them), pill-poppers, “motorcycle kids” — all of these groups, along with innumerable other subsets of Japan’s youth-driven subculture, attest to the breadth and depth of teen disaffection found, virtually anywhere one looked, in 1964 Tokyo.

Michael Rougier—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images 

 Caption reads: A fan (right) and a "Tokyo Beatle," 1964

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Lolita fashion in Mexico

"Lolita," a fashion subculture from Japan influenced by clothing from the Victorian or Rococo eras, and anime, makes its way to Mexico. Via boingboing. And check out the Reuters photo album.

Photo: Alby Flores

Saturday, April 28, 2012

ironic hipster racism

courtesy Jezebel. an excerpt:

"So I'm not allowed to have a genuine interest in another culture?!!?!??!" 
First of all, privileged dickweeds wearing Urban Outfitters "Navajo" panties, I didn't realize that you excavated those in your anthropological field work. My bad. Carry on. And second of all, again, you "can" do whatever the fuck you want. You "can" wear whatever you want, say whatever you want, and think whatever you want about whatever you want. All the time! Yaaay! But if a group of people comes to you and says, "This thing that you are doing is hurting us," and you keep doing it for fun, then you are a dickweed! Like, you know we had an actual genocide here, right? A deliberate extermination of human beings? Right where your house is? So maybe just err on the side of sensitivity.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Dick Clark and the integration of 'American Bandstand'

"Most of the obituaries of Clark, who took over Bandstand in 1956, have noted that the show used rock and roll to break down racial barriers, mostly because that is the story Clark told. But that is where his legacy gets complicated. While the nationally televised dance program hosted a number of prominent black performers, the show regularly blocked black teenagers from its studio audience until it moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles in 1964. The image of teenagers that American Bandstand popularized bore little resemblance to the racial diversity of American teens."

Matthew F. Delmont, writing in the Washington Post, April 22, 2012. Read the rest of the article here.

"Viewers would have had little idea that African Americans made up nearly 30 percent of Philadelphia's population in this era or that black teens developed many of the dances that American Bandstand popularized nationally."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is Television "tell-a-lie-vision," "Death of a nation, breeding ignorance and spreading radiation"?

The effects of television have been questioned and critiqued almost from the moment that this medium appeared. And in particular, its negative effects on children have been widely assumed. (My mother banned the watching of the "Popeye" cartoon in our house in the mid-fifties, after reading that it might insult violence in children. So we watched the show at our neighbors' house.)

Anti-t.v. sentiment is particularly prevalent among the middle-class would-be literati. Sometimes I think the only people in the US who don't own television sets are university professors, and the Honors students I teach are likely to claim that they don't watch t.v. And although I appreciate how Five Percent hip-hoppers break the word television down to its basics ("tell-a-lie-vision") and I love the Michael Franti-led Beatnigs' 1988 song "Television" ("TV is the reason why less than ten percent of our nation reads books daily"), I couldn't live without my Mad Men and my Daily Show and my Breaking Bad.

Here's an article from the Wall Street Journal that argues that t.v. might, under certain conditions, have positive effects. (Although I'm not sure that could ever be the case with Fox News.) Here's an excerpt:

University of Chicago Graduate School of Business economists Matthew Gentzkow and Jesse Shapiro aren't sure that TV has been all that bad for kids. In a paper published in the Quarterly Journal of Economics this year, they presented a series of analyses that showed that the advent of television might actually have had a positive effect on children's cognitive ability.

The two are part of a tight-knit group of young economists using statistical techniques to examine how television affects society. The group's research suggests TV enabled an earlier generation of American children in non-English-speaking households to do better in school, helped rural Indian women to become more independent and contributed to lowering Brazil's fertility rate.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Consumption and US voting trends

Amazing article from the New York Times, April 16. Viewers of the Golf Channel trend strongly Republican and have a very high turnout rate. Viewers of VH1 trend strongly Democrat and have a very low turnout rate. Those who eat at Cracker Barrel trend strongly Republican and turn out in big numbers. Those who eat at Church's Chicken are low-turnout, strong Democrats. Amstel Light drinkers are strongly Republican, Cognac drinkers strongly Democrat. And on it goes. Here's one of the very interesting charts.

Scotch, as the article observes, is a 'centrist' drink.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cracking Teenagers' Online Codes

Essential reading on teens and social media, all about the work of Danah Boyd. From today's (Jan. 22) New York Times.

Children today, she said, are reacting online largely to social changes that have taken place off line.

“Children’s ability to roam has basically been destroyed,” Dr. Boyd said in her office at Microsoft, where a view of the Boston skyline is echoed in the towers of books on her shelves, desk and floor. “Letting your child out to bike around the neighborhood is seen as terrifying now, even though by all measures, life is safer for kids today.”

Children naturally congregate on social media sites for the relatively unsupervised conversations, flirtations, immature humor and social exchanges that are the normal stuff of teenage hanging-out, she said.

“We need to give kids the freedom to explore and experience things online that might actually help them,” she added.