Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category
Americans have become obsessive about shine, gloss, polish, smoothness and superficial flawlessness. Our new cars are very shiny, our magazines are glossy, our music is aurally spotless our art museums celebrate the machine made Warhols and now Murikamis and Koons. The printing industry and commercial photographers have made shine a religion. Legions of amateur painters obsess over quasi-photographic mimesis and spray this work with retina-scarring high- gloss varnish. What are we trying to conceal in this collective fever, our consensus trance that must close all doors and windows on the uncertain or ambiguous? Our gutted humanity? Our emptiness? We obsess about gloss as if we were only a single generation away from life in an earthen hovel with shine and polish being refuge from a collective memory of a daily struggle with cleanliness. The problem with polish and shine is that, in this towering effort to obliterate imperfection, we are allowing a smothering omnipresence of imperfection into our lives. We live in glossy denial of our human touch, our marks and traces, of our imperfections. The evidence of our being and our uniqueness as individuals is our uncomfortable secret.
The essence of the modern movement in painting, manifest in the late paintings of Cezanne and Cubist painting and collage, is the destruction of resolution. This principal of modernity still perplexes and frightens most Americans. Cezanne re-introduced the notion of the human touch to painting. He edited out polish, that had characterized western art for four hundred years for a deeper resolution.
We are now drowning in shiny stuff. Our food is polished to its flavorless detriment. The multitude of packages in a supermarket blow out our brains in their agonizingly competitive polish and shiny, glaring color. Popular songs are polished by sound engineers until the music sparkles with vapid aridity down to the digitally accessible one-thousandth note. The most popular television shows sparkle and shine from the layers of kleig-lit glass in every other scene, to the stretch and puff of every botoxed, lifted, implanted, nipped and tucked actress. Actors abound with fluorescent teeth who could illuminate a scene by opening their mouths. The set of every television talking head from sportstalk and national news/opinion bloviators to late night funny guys, is a train-wreck of clashing, super-saturated color with colored patches crawling across the screen or flashing behind their heads.
We now swim like a great school of seduced, drugged, woozy fish following a vast array of spinning lures dipped in shiny shit of processed and poisoned substance and imagery as we swim into a vast net of financial oblivion. Americans are force-fed shine and polish and specular reflection along with railroad tank carloads of cellulite-breeding, organ-clogging corn syrup as though we were pate’ geese, our ankles chained to our jobs (what jobs?) with our mouths forced open by a brain-numbing media onslaught – a shiny shitstorm of television, movies, magazines and all variety of consumer products. The message: If it doesn’t shine, it is not finished. If there remains a micro-flaw, then truth will get in and destroy the beast or humanity might escape and nurture someone’s soul – heaven forfend! If there exists in the product’s message an opening, a trace of the modern, of ambiguity or uncertainty then it is flawed, not yet ready for mass consumption.
We live in the age of the polished turd. Ideas, products,, images, stories are all shined until antiseptic, soul-less and dead. All information that issues from the corporate beast, the “vampire squid” of global capitalism must be shined, made palatable and seductive. Shine glosses over evil or banality – take your pick. The fact of shine reveals indefensible assertion, fear of ambiguity, a fear of open-ended soul-power. Why is Cezanne widely acknowledged as the greatest painter of our epoch? He faced down the purveyors of the paradigm of shiny shit and showed the world something deeper, something better, something more honest thus more beautiful. Cezanne’s ragged, open-ended late landscapes invite the viewer to participate in the dance of creation, to “finish” his work in our own hearts. In Steve Earle’s great anti-establishment anthem “Copperhead Road”, his rebellion is most deeply expressed, not in his gunning down U.S. government ATF agents who raided his pot patch but by the fact that he “shot a coat of primer” onto his Dodge Hemi (a black matte finish where shine goes to die) rather that submit his wheels to some conventional “Dukes of Hazzard” shiny paint job.
The phrase “jump the shark” captures the idea of exhausting the thematic potential of a concept and continuing on with work after the source has become depleted of all possibility of freshness. There is an episode in each television. series where the idea -well runs dry. The episode of “Happy Days” where Fonzie jumps over a shark tank on his motorcycle is the inspiration for the phrase . The series was downhill from there. It had jumped the shark. Has the United States jumped the shark? Did the events of Nine-Eleven force the hand of our leaders, our government officials, to straddle the motorcycle of our military, rev up the engine of the international will and zoom out over the shark tanks of Iraq and Afghanistan? Do these events signal the exhaustion of our epochal paradigm? If Western Civilization is a sitcom (as it must be on some outer-galactic network) have we exhausted our good ideas? No, we haven’t. We have exhausted the idea of fossil fuel capitalism. This era is ending. The Iraq/Afghanistan exercise becomes the jump-the-shark episode of our exhausted era of The Big Engine. The beauty of our shark event is that it is a powerful signal that The Big Engine is dying and that we stand informed by global circumstance to harness our best effort to the development of The Bliss Engine. (see The Bliss Diet Book for definitions of engines)
It seems unusual that a major U.S. car manufacturer would try to sell cars by naming a model after a devastated native American tribe – the Cherokees as in Jeep Cherokee. This tribe was driven from their federally designated tribal land in Georgia in 1830 by whites in the midst of a gold rush. The state of Georgia annexed Cherokee land to adjoining counties. This dislocation is called “The Trail of Tears” Where is the sex appeal in this name? Is the Jeep model nomenclature team trying to piggyback on Cher’s pop song “Cherokee People”? CHER-o-kee. Is it that the name conjures brave native warriors and their tribal mojo that might turn out to be transferable to a suburban yuppie family? It is that Cherokee sounds like Cherry Key. Buy this vehicle and get laid by a virgin. Perhaps all of the above – whoop it up Jeepers.