|January 19, 2013|
Mariah Carey and Whitney Huston
There was, of course, a lot to love about pop in the late 90s: I was entranced by the weird, warped sound of anything Timbaland had a hand in, from Missy Elliott’s “The Rain” to Aaliyah’s singles– even then, there didn’t seem to be a far leap between that stuff and Adore-era Smashing Pumpkins (for better or worse). I loved the brazen cool and wild futurism of TLC, and later, in my most emo moments, I’d turn to Promise Ring LPs and the overblown, belted-out emotions of Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera ballads. But not all of this felt fit to broadcast. Alt-rock had lead me to punk and indie, and, in turn, those ever-elusive “like-minded people.” So while my teen memories of punk are public, communal, and external (moshing in VFW halls with my friends, affixing buttons to everything I wore), my experiences with pop music at this time feel private– almost secret. I’m not sure many people knew I’d voted for Kelly Clarkson on “American Idol” every week, or that I spent the entire afternoon Aaliyah died crying in my bedroom.
At first, my local punk scene seemed like a utopian space of total freedom and meaningful rebellion. But after a while, I became aware that I was still expected to dress and act and talk a certain way: that this world had rules of its own. Sometimes, they weren’t so bad (studded belts always, all the time!), but sometimes they didn’t feel so different from the rules that governed the rest of the world: because I was a girl, I could be the band’s photographer, or the guitarist’s girlfriend, but to actually be the guitarist was somehow out of the question. After a while, I felt bogged down by The Rules, as though a hidden part of me was still stifled.
A sea change was happening around the new millennium, and it was also tied to anxieties about the unknown future of technology. In his devastatingly smart 33 1/3 book on Celine Dion’s Let’s Talk About Love– subtitled A Journey to the End of Taste– Carl Wilson chronicled rockism’s rapid decline: “It came with startling speed. A new generation moved into positions of critical influence, and many of them cared more about hip-hop or electronica or Latin music than about rock, mainstream or otherwise… Online music blogs and discussion forums sped up the circulation of such trends of opinion. The Internet pushed aside intensive album listening in favor of a download-and-graze mode that gives pop novelty more chance to shine.” For the music fan, the move from analog to digital means a sudden shift from scarcity to unlimited access. And as many writers have observed, the person with the most discerning taste was no longer the “music snob” devoted to obscure subgenres and hating on anything that might be popular, but instead the “cultural omnivore” who likes a little bit of everything and gives all genres– including pop– a fair shake. The tectonic plates are still shifting and colliding as we continue to sort all of this out. It remains a confusing, anarchic, oddly liberating moment.
Inherent Vice’s Two Directions
The jokes certainly strike one as sophomoric and the latter one as clichéd, further below Pynchon’s intelligence than one would like to think he would stoop, at least in print. Discounting them and moving on, or throwing the book across the room as Parker half implies we should do, however, would be to lose sight of “that high magic to low puns”.
Auden, Larkin and Love
I was prompted to revisit these ancient questions anew by a long footnote about a single line in the new Complete Poems edition of Philip Larkin’s poetry. The footnote refers to “An Arundel Tomb” contains a provocative remark about that the poem’s celebrated, controversial, closing line, the one about the true nature of immortality: “What will survive of us is love.”
Plato, Our Comrade?
Not surprisingly, there have already been critics of Badiou’s translation. The first is that his translation breaks the formal rules of translation to such a degree that the original meaning of the text has lost its significance. But this critique is inadequate at face value because Badiou’s hyper-translation is forthright in its intention of taking Plato’s concepts and modifying them into his own lexicon.
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We know all the essential passport application stuff about Bush, and down the years she’s dutifully done the odd unrevealingly bland Q&A, but there’s an immense amount we don’t know. Has she ever taken psychedelic drugs? Has she had therapy? (Reichian, Jungian, marriage?) What music makes her cry? Is she actually a lifelong Rosicrucian?
I, myself, was barely six months old when Twin/Tone put out The Mats’ Let It Be. The day, they say, was Orwellian: Tuesday, October 2, 1984. Naturally, I recall nothing of it. Growing up, simple arithmetic holds I was 20 when Colin Meloy’s book about Let It Be was released by Continuum. Whereas I now know every groove in that record by heart (and pretty much all of Meloy’s words about it), alas, I only remember parts of the night I was, err, “gifted” my first 33 ⅓ book.