Category Archives: deconstructing pop culture

Media Enchantment (Cosmic Radio broadcast 4-28-12)

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Don't believe any of what you see and only half of what you read

And so, boys and girls, let me tell you the story of a man named Jed, he was so poor he barely kept his family fed, but then one day…. He struck it rich! And so, once again we are enchanted by the media. It could happen! A miracle within our pathetic hard working existence! We could strike it rich! When I was a kid I recall watching the Beverly Hillbillies on our black and white television. More recently, in fact just a few days ago, I was reminded of how we are all affected by movies, television, and all other sorts of media. We are media saturated! I was with my coworkers in Muir Woods and in the midst of all of this breath-taking beauty, my coworkers were reminded of the movie ‘Star Wars’ which was partially filmed in Muir Woods. I recognized how so much of our lives are filled with the media. It has a much more powerful impact upon our lives than we recognize.

It used to be that storytelling was the means to enchant the masses. The drab lives of everyday people were enriched by the stories they heard. These myths held a special power, and in a sense, were far more real than the actual physical existence people experienced. Dreams are important. They allow us to create the kind of reality we desire. Popular media is instrumental in shaping our dreams.

No one understands this fundamental principle as well as the politician. The truth isn’t as important as what we think is true. Perception is tantamount. We bathe in the media each night, and are frightened and manipulated by the media. We are instructed in what is important and what is not. We are reminded that we live in a crazy mixed up, and violent world. You are instructed in what to buy to really gain the acceptance of these invisible people all around you, that judge your every move.

This is sick. It has gotten out of control. We are approaching a time of hyper-reality, enhanced reality, which so saturates us that we have no choice but to tune it all out. There will be a backlash to this enchantment. There has already been some backlash. What is disguised as entertainment nevertheless conditions us. We form opinions unbeknownst to our conscious minds. It effects our voting and our social interactions. We become overly concerned with branding, and sexuality, and lose sight of what really matters. This is a dark enchantment designed to distract us from the way we have been disenfranchised. We have lost our power to make a difference. Corporations make a difference in the twenty first century. And, as you know, they are people, aren’t they? It is incumbent upon us to resist this enchantment and be skeptical of all media. This program of total mind manipulation has not been as successful as they would have liked.

We are not stupid, and we have capabilities that we have only begun to explore. We are not just passive consumers any longer. We are interactive with our world, and we will not allow ourselves to be duped. Politicians are going to find it much more difficult to find a simple message to dull our senses and lull us into compliance with their agenda, which is driven by a lust for power and wealth. They are ironically the victims of their own enchantment. The power brokers are just as taken in by the lure of various forms of pornography, be it sexual or not, as any of us, perhaps more so.

Media is a powerful tool. It is not as harmless as it is often perceived to be. It shapes our opinions, our sense of reality. But to a lesser extent now than in the past. The internet is both helping to dispel this media enchantment and it is aiding in the enchantment itself. However, so long as we have people who are willing to step outside the media dictated norm, this dark spell cannot maintain it’s hold for long. I have hope for the future.

So much for a cosmic radio broadcast on the subject of popular media and it’s dark agenda.

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Why I Don’t Watch TV

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Stone me if you like, but he just isn't all that funny. 30Rock and the Office come off as not particularly good SNL skits, and not the funny SNL, the almost never funny SNL.

I don’t watch much television. People start going on about tv shows and I am in the dark. So I tried watching more tv and you know what? It sucks. Not only does it suck, it sucks badly, really badly. Most of the tv shows I saw are embarrassments. What has happened to the fundamental tenets of plot and character? Now the whole thing is to be too hip for their pants, or whatever. I don’t know what the current lingo is and I don’t care. Fail!!! That’s fine. As for as I’m concerned you could stamp Fail across all of current network television. I like Jon Stewart most of the time, but the suckiness even creeps in there. I attribute this to just plain laziness. Why bust your buns trying to put together something of genuine quality when you can get by with crap. Hasn’t this been the problem with television from the beginning? When I was younger I was still entertained even though I knew it was crap. But now, I have less patience. I have only so much time left, you know? I don’t want to waste it. I watched the first twenty seconds or so of 30 Rock the other night and I couldn’t stand another second of this uninspired ‘look at me aren’t I hip and hilarious’ sitcom, which isn’t a sitcom really. It is just one liners that aren’t funny delivered as though they are the cutting edge of comedy. It made me want to gag. I saw the Office briefly too. Same thing. Cardinal lesson in comedy: do not point to the comedy!!! The audience does not need to be told that the program is funny, it either is or it isn’t. I have to admit, though, that I don’t get a lot of young humor these days. I thought I was missing out on something, but I’m not. It isn’t that I am out of touch, it’s just that none of that stuff is funny. It is trendy. It is faux cool. So I don’t bother with it. Somebody suggested I watch Grimm because of the crazy premise. The premise is interesting but the creators had no clue about how to be truly inventive. So they stuck with formula, make it a stupid thriller, designed to appeal to thirteen year olds. Sorry, I meant to say three year olds, I don’t want to insult thirteen year olds. This show might even insult the intelligence of a three year old. Most movies these days aren’t all that great either. Popular culture today is a wasteland of talent contests and reality show bullshit. I hate it. The music is mostly uninspired as well, You can find interesting exceptions if you try but I am talking about the general trend. Where is the talent? It’s not on television.

Sex Death

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Just look at her and think, I mean really think. This is the face of death, not the face of pleasure, or of sex, just Sex Death.

This is a difficult piece to write. I noticed that stellamarr was following stockphotogirl, one of my other blogs. If you haven’t checked out that blog you should do so before finishing this piece so you will know what I am going on about. And so I checked out her blog, and in turn I checked out the secret diary of a Dublin call girl. This is not easy reading, especially for a man. Stella Marr is an ex-call girl, now a writer. I know next to nothing about the sex industry to be honest, although I have very liberal views about sex, and about women. I am dead set against the exploitation of women in any form, and yet am I exploiting stock photo woman? When she posed for those photos she understood that her image would be used for advertising, but not to illustrate a work of fiction. I wonder how she would feel about my whole series. Would she feel abused? But more about that later, my focus for this post is on the horror of prostitution, and the world of call girls. The photo above says it all as far as street prostitution is concerned. She is anorexic either due to drug use or just because she thinks she needs to be super thin to be a suitable commodity. Whatever is the case, I am literally sickened by the fact that sex has become a means for demeaning and destroying the lives of millions of women, and actually, to a lesser extent, the men who prey on them. When I read blogs like the secret diary of a Dublin call girl I want my penis to shrivel up to the size of a pea and then fall off. It makes me ashamed of my sexuality. Young women are perceived as sex objects every minute of their lives, usually in more subtle ways than what is involved in outright prostitution. I think it comes as a shocking discovery to many young men that women are in fact human like themselves, and exist for reasons other than sexually satisfying men. A lot of young and older men never make this discovery. I have a very hard time of it, because I have unwittingly used women. I try to redeem it with the writing itself, transforming stock photo girl into an actual human being. At least, I hope I have succeeded in doing this. But that whole thing is based on an infatuation I had with that model, so sex is it’s underpinning. I would not want to demean or embarrass that model. But am I anyway? Am I being demeaning in ways I don’t understand or detect? This is the problem for many men. We can’t always tell when we are being thoughtless towards women. Or am I being unduly harsh on myself? In the one sexual scene I wrote with stock photo girl, she was not used or abused in any way. He didn’t pay for sex, the fantasy was consensual, in fact it had been her idea. Plus I deliberately stood on it’s head the usual expectations of a male reader regarding sexual encounters. Women being in awe of a man’s sexual prowess just isn’t my bag, I can’t write that crap.

I would recommend that men read secretlifeofamanhattancallgirl.wordpress, which is Stella Marr’s blog, as well as the secret diary of a Dublin callgirl. Because we need that perspective. When we get caught up in our sexual fantasies this provides a bit of realism. Women do not exist for our sexual pleasure. They have lives which have nothing to do with us, which we should familarize ourselves with. Some guys get really pissed off by these women, if you are the sort of man who can’t handle ‘uppity’ women, you should steer clear. Now, as I have made clear on several occasions, I am a bit of a pervert, I have a perverse imagination to be sure, so don’t think from what I have written here that I am some kind of holy saint. Or that I am a feminist. No. My misogynist roots are deep, and it takes blogs like Stella Marr’s blog or Margaret Cho’s blog to help dig those roots out. In a word, dear reader, you have no idea, really no idea just how degrading prostitution is for all concerned, but especially for the prostitute. It is Sex Death as far as I am concerned. It kills all the pleasure anyone might obtain from sex. Now I recognize that there may be exceptions to this, but they are exceptions that prove the rule. I’m talking about the scummy underbelly of the sex industry. The part that industry prefers you not know about. Now I am not a psychologist and I can’t examine what causes women to take that road, sometimes they really have no choice in the matter. They may be literal sex slaves, prostitutes because they would be killed otherwise, or it may be because they see no other option. Sex is the most powerful drug on Earth, when you harness sex to other needs it is damn near impossible to deal with. It takes over your life, It ceases to be a source of pleasure, and empowerment, and becomes an agony, a sex death. It makes me want to be celibate, and never write pieces like “An Indecent Proposal” again. But after a bit, I gain some perspective.

I should not be ashamed of my love of sex. But I should keep a good eye (my one good eye), on my intention. What am I trying to achieve with sex? Is a woman’s body a commodity? Am I redeeming myself when I take an obvious commodity such as a Stock Photo Woman and attempt to make her a real character? While I definitely have the hots for that model, I also wonder about what she is like as a person. Am I exploiting her? I would like to think I’m not by virtue of how I have used her image. To be honest, the entire fashion industry is founded upon women as sex objects, and very particular sex objects at that. If a woman doesn’t look like the beautiful, perfectly crafted stock photo women they see everywhere, then a man is sorely disappointed. Guys????? Hello????? These women are pure product, as far as the image is concerned. They don’t exist in real life. Take a look at the actual women you see every day, in the flesh. My intention with Stock Photo Woman was to repurpose all of that nonsense. Far from making her an empty shell, I have endeavored to sabotage male expectations. But I am a flawed man. I do not pretend to be free of male chauvinism. I am not a champion for women’s rights necessarily, although I do support that. I am just an older man with a crush on a stock photo woman. Does this make me a punter?, I wonder. A punter is a john in case you were wondering. And if you don’t know what a john is, then you are too young to be reading this material, go back to bed young man!

It is hard to have a sense of humor about these matters. I have to admit, I wonder at why Stella Marr would want to follow my stockphotogirl blog. Does she genuinely enjoy it? or does she want to see how this punter exploits an innocent model who didn’t ask to be in his story. If ever I get a complaint from this model, believe you me, the posts disappear just like that. I have no desire to hurt anyone. Or am I just full of shit, as usual? Let me know. Especially you, Stella Marr.

Supergirl foils me again

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She has super intuition? Who knew?

Someday Supergirl will be mine!! I was going to post this great story about how Stock Photo Woman (see earlier posts), is actually Supergirl’s alter ego for the twenty-first century. I had caught her peeling off the fake black eye and..my God! Is that an S on her chest? Now that the real Supergirl is on to the hoax, I’ll have to say that the S stands for Stock. Oh, well…it was such a clever hoax. But it never pays to mess with Supergirl!! I didn’t count on her super intuition. She has super intuition? Who knew? Curses! Foiled again!

I have had a crush on Supergirl since I was a boy. It was that sexy little miniskirt she wore. Be honest, fellow baby boomers, didn’t it drive you nuts, too? I was just talking to Superman the other day (sure we know each other, why wouldn’t we?), and he told me that when he was Superboy, he’d fly behind her and try to catch a glimpse of her…” “Why didn’t you just use your x-ray vision?” I asked. “Oh I tried all that, but she wears lead-lined underpants!” “Smart girl!” I said, smirking. “You know, Russell, I could just give you a slight smack and your head would sail off and be in orbit in a fraction of a second!” “Yeah, but you won’t do that!” I said unconcerned. Superman is always making those idle threats. He should just grow up! Ok, I admit it. I made all that up.

But seriously, I have always been obsessed with the idea of a strong powerful woman. Without going into all the gruesome psychological underpinnings of this obsession, let’s just say I had a dominant, outgoing powerful mother. My Dad? He was shy, like me. I’m sure my mother was his Supergirl. But I loved it when women would kick butt. Wonder Woman was awesome too, but you had to be extra careful around her. You couldn’t be having all those horny thoughts about her nearly naked body because she might whip out her magic lasso and force you to tell the truth. Oops! How embarrassing! Catwoman was nice too, what a fox!, I mean cat, oh whatever. She was especially sexy with that whip. Who knew comics could be so kinky! But I really loved Batgirl, something about a girl in a cowl…it’s totally hot! Girls intrigued me from a very young age, I always wanted to know what they were thinking. They lived in a strange enchanted world, off limits to grubby little boys. Guys? They’re just guys, what can I say? I don’t know what women see in them really. I mean I like guys, I am one myself, but there is nothing mysterious or erotic, for me anyway, about guys. Women? Quite a different matter. They fascinate me! That is what lies at the heart of my when-is-this-going-to-end? Stock Photo Girl/Woman series. I just love thinking about beautiful women. You notice I never show my own picture? Why ruin a great romance with my ugly mug?

But I got off track, as usual. Supergirl knew this would happen. I would just end up humiliating myself yet again. Super intuition. Damn! How can I get around this problem? Wrap my head in aluminum foil? Nope. Tried that. I guess I will just have to get used to Supergirl knowing my every move. Oh, Supergirl! I just want one little ride on your back! Is that too much to ask? I know she heard me, she has super intuition!

Tough break Brainiac 5! I know how it feels.

All comics are the property and copyright of DC Comics.

Viggo Rasp or is it Fritz Mortensen?

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Viggo Mortensen seduces Louise Brooks, Wait! That can't be right!

Does anyone remember Fritz Rasp? He is that sinister other-worldly figure that haunts Metropolis, the sci-fi classic from the 1920’s. He also seduced Louise Brooks in Diary of a Lost Girl. At least, that is what we think we know. Actually, it is perfectly obvious to us that Fritz is Viggo Mortensen. How can this be? I think we need to ask Viggo a few questions to clarify the matter. Time travel? It’s hard to say. Maybe Fritz Rasp is Viggo’s grandpa? I am a fan of both actors, but this particular post focuses more on Fritz Rasp. Fritz captured a certain casual sadism pervasive in Weimar Germany. He seems to be this grotesque exaggeration of Aryan manhood, personifying the menacing  storm troopers which filled the streets at that time. He is deliciously creepy. Viggo Mortensen? He could certainly project a vicious manliness, but creepy? Not really. unless you count his performance in History of Violence. I am referring to the part of the film after he loses the nice family guy facade. That was creepy, but in a different way from Fritz Rasp. Even when Viggo is being a total bastard, you tend to root for him, but nobody roots for Fritz Rasp, except possibly Josef Goebbels.

I have seen the future and it is Fritz Rasp!!!

 

What to make of this bizarre resemblance, ja? Ist is a topic of much interest here in the Metropolis. Viggo ist ubermensch for your time, your reich. Very strong, ja! You must be proud of him! Such a fine Aryan, and a good actor as well!

Yeah, well, thanks Fritz.

I think.

Let’s see what other doppelgangers I can find! But take a look! They aren’t identical, but there is a distinct resemblance between the two actors.

 

 

Where Scott Walker doth dwell

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Where Scott Walker doth dwell there may be spiders, I can’t tell. Although he has sung of it, in his deathly tones, many times I confess. I cannot tell the lamppost from the lie, the fractured fairy tale from the putrid meat in the cellar. Scott Walker beckons to me from too great a depth, I cannot fathom it. His longing, his longing,,,,I must go to sleep, it is getting late. Scott Walker grew up on a ranch, no!, ’twas in the heart of New York City, ah, no it is told he had a different name, but why bother? He is the night, he is the promise, he lifts his blood stained hands before the altar. Why? Why must this man force his way into my brain? His objectives are obscure, hammering softly the same refrain, you have a swanky suit, a very swanky suit. But it shall not save me.

He is old. He is young, this man of no certain hour. Where doth dwell this teenage idol, this mildewed tower? He lives in a forgotten magazine, songs you can’t quite hear, no matter how much you increase the volume. He doth dwell on abandoned staircases within forgotten movie sets. He knows the ancient whores gazing out the window beside the rotting wharf, cigarette dangling out of a grease stained mouth. Don’t ask this seraph to explain his evocation, for this is not his path. It is his to slam the freshly butchered lamb with mallets till he’s said…..it…..all. Such is the way of this mysterious man, whose weirding way is but by chance. Where Scott Walker doth dwell there may be a knowledge unprepared, wrapped in fading newsprint, like a fish.

The Sun will never shine again as Scott pulls the azure garment close, and cries. The Sun will never shine again as Scott makes the ancient sign, and hopes. Gazing steadily with his youthful smirk, Scott Walker knows just how it works, stealth and guile, mirrors and smoke. Where Scott Walker doth dwell.

My Virtual Living Room

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My Virtual Living Room

Welcome to my virtual living room. This was a project for my Beginning Photoshop class in 2010. It captures my fascination with popular culture quite well, and it is certainly a lot more interesting than my real living room. This is the face of popular culture in the twentyfirst century. Everyone creates their own versions of the culture which surrounds them. Popular culture today is interactive, which leads to a lot of thorny issues I won’t go into here. Popular culture has always involved an interaction between the viewer, listener, or reader’s imagination and the work. This is where the magic occurs. When I was a kid I used carbon paper to trace images from my Batman comic books. I created my own stories for my own amusement. Much the same sort of thing happens today with the varied multimedia tools available to us all. We use the sounds, images, and words of popular culture to produce our own product. So long as we aren’t selling our product, we reason that we are not violating any laws. If we are creating projects for school we are generally protected under fair use laws. This is a difficult area for consumers and artists, because today  the consumer also becomes an artist.

This virtual living room also reveals a few of my obsessions within pop culture. I am fascinated by the weird and mysterious fringe areas of popular culture exemplified by Donnie Darko. The rabbit stands guard here, about ten times larger than the original figure. Batman of course, I have mentioned before, and he continues to resonate with me. Batman wasn’t always so cool, I was teased relentlessly for the Batman sticker on my bicycle. There weren’t any action figures when I was a kid, only models of Superman or Batman that you had to assemble. If I could afford it, I’d have a ton of action figures. So that is another obsession. They are especially fun because they are tangible, you can actually hold an action figure in your hand. In our virtual entertainment paradise we lose the tactile quality of toys. I think it is important to have an actual object to play with. I am not an advocate of keeping things in their boxes. I am not a collector. I want to play with my toys. Of course Andy Warhol’s Marilyn stares down from the wall. She is the queen of pop culture. Elvis is the king. Considering he is one more of my obsessions it is odd that he isn’t present. The devil girl bathed in red light is also a cute touch. I like kitsch, especially the underground comic sort of kitsch, which this sort of is. I liked how the San Francisco street outside appears like a watercolor. Nice unintended artifact.

I am fascinated by the interface between imagination and art, which is the essence of popular culture. To a child everything gets mixed together, they aren’t bothered by differences in scale, playing with a plastic dinosaur and a huge teddy bear at the same time. Things don’t have to make sense, the child gives it his or her own sense. That is the spirit of today’s popular cultural explosion. So this blog isn’t entirely about the passive consumer aspect of pop culture, it is also about the deconstruction of pop culture and the new art that emerges from that. So…anyway would you like an oreo?, they are right there on the coffee table. Help yourself.