Posts tagged `pop culture`
Supergods Supergods by Grant Morrison
Publisher: Spiegel & Grau
Year: 2011
Pages: 464

I’ve never been much of a comic fan; my brother liked them for the both of us. Despite a flirtation with our local comic store’s annual summer clearance sale, and a long-lived passion for the 6-issue Double Dragon series in 1991, the medium left me largely cold, and I eventually became enamored of the long-form novel.

As a result of either my age or my eventual indifference to the format, I was unaware or unimpressed of most of the important happenings in the medium. I learned most of the historical ones—e.g., the origins the Batman and Superman, and their eventual censorship or transmogrification during the panic of the 1950s—from David Hadju’s The Ten-Cent Plague, and many of the latter-day events either from first-hand knowledge—e.g., hearing about Bane breaking Batman’s back or Doomsday killing Superman—or finally reading the graphic novels themselves—e.g., Alan Moore’s critical 1980s work The Watchmen and V for Vendetta. For what it’s worth, I tried reading Roger Stern’s 1994 The Death and Life of Superman, though it was beyond my 9-year-old self.

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§7597 · February 25, 2012 · (No comments) · Tags: , , , ,

Steven Pinker has a new op-ed in the New York Times where, ever the gallant hero of relativism in the way that most linguists and social scientists are, he defends new forms of mass and social media from their loudest detractors. His two salient examples are Powerpoint and Twitter. While the former has been a fixture of academic or professional communication for well over a decade, the latter is a relative newcomer and currently receives the same mix of pointed dislike and frenzied exuberance usually reserved for the novel.

Let it not be said that I am discomfited or alarmed by new forms of media; that I’m posting this to a blog after finding the article on Facebook, cross-posted from Twitter itself, may say something about my attitude toward the new and the popular. At the same time, I am extraordinarily distrustful of smiling cretins who like to whitewash the tendency of pop-culture to both reflect and encourage those things about ourselves which are ultimately damaging—the execrable Everything Bad is Good For You is a good example of just how facile such attempts can be.

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§5679 · June 11, 2010 · 1 comment · Tags: , , ,

Snoop Snoop by Sam Gosling
Publisher: Basic Books
Year: 2008
Pages: 272

I have a weakness for popular science books, even though that sometimes steers me dangerously close to quacks or shallow popsci frauds (think pretty much all of Oprah’s guests….). I picked up Snoop on the strength of its review on Amazon.

Some of you may be familiar with Room Raiders, a sickly sort of reality television show airing on MTV since 2003. In it, three young men or women have their rooms “raided”—that is, inspected—by a member of the opposite sex; at the end, the inspector’s room is summarily raided by the contestants. Any pictures of the people are covered up: the goal is to surmise as much about the person as possible based on the state, condition, and content of his or her room. It’s actually an interesting premise—as we shall see—ruined in this case by the fact that its stars are about keg stand away from being mentally retarded.

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§3941 · July 27, 2009 · (No comments) · Tags: , , , , , ,

Chuck Klosterman IV Chuck Klosterman IV by Chuck Klosterman
Publisher: Scribner
Year: 2006
Pages: 384

You may recall that I read Klosterman’s 2003 work, Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, at the end of last year’s meme. At the time, my views on Klosterman’s work was about as divided as critical reception to his collected essays.

One need hardly speculate that this new book of Klosterman’s would be much the same; if anything, it’s a bit inconsistent by comparison, since it’s a collections of articles spanning a decade. Most of the first section is articles from his days at SPIN; the second is articles from Esquire; the third is a piece of short fiction that he wrote (apparently a while ago). Each story is introduced by a short blurb that gives it historical or personal context.

His pieces for SPIN go something like this: “Rockstar X or Moviestar Y have dimensions to their character around which I will formulate a fundamental theory of culture; despite this revelation, I remain socially maladroit.”

His pieces for Esquire tend to be more intellectually stimulating, usually dealing with things like legacy (e.g., why there will never be a shared cultural experience like Johnny Carson ever again) or intersections of culture.

The short fiction piece is, frankly, an unimpressive piece of thin metaphor, interesting perhaps only for the intended repugnance of the main character.

Here, I suppose, is my problem with Chuck Klosterman: he’s obviously a very smart guy, and well-educated (or at least well-read), but he’s a pop culture apologist. In Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, he explained to the world his infatuation with and the cultural importance of MTV’s The Real World. In other words, he spends most of his time telling me why he thinks shitty things aren’t all that shitty after all. Despite his posturing, I’m not convinced. Neither, it seems, is Klosterman, whose introductions to many stories seem to cast doubt on the validity of whatever premise he worked upon when originally writing the article. Some have withstood the test of time better than others: the quality of Chuck Klosterman IV is a pretty jagged line graph.

I can’t help but think that Klosterman is like a low-rent David Foster Wallace. He has the ability to draw interesting conclusions from relatively ordinary phenomena, but Wallace’s philosophical arcs are grander, his prose more eloquent, and his topics less incendiary if for no other reason than he doesn’t venture very far into the realm of pop culture. Klosterman, by contrast, is shorter, less grandiose, more centrally-defined, and infinitely more digestible: a “smart” writer for people who watch MTV a lot.

Klosterman is becoming an icon of our “postmodern culture” (Patterson’s words) for at least two reasons: He writes the way his readership speaks and thinks (or at least the way they aspire to speak and think), and he creatively examines pop iconography so as to draw from it a greater meaning about American culture. He’s the contemporary King of Pop Semiotics.

I can’t argue with Klosterman’s intelligence; nor can I argue with the assertion that he’s probably one of the most influential columnists of his generation. I do, however, have reservations about some of his methods, some of his logic, some of his conclusions, and, like Johnson, wonder “if the audience questions his assertions.” If Klosterman teaches us anything, it’s that we should, but as a cultural critic, I can imagine he seems imbued with a distant or invulnerability from the he critiques. Certainly, we know he’s not.

§1909 · September 23, 2007 · (No comments) · Tags: , , , ,