The above New York Times article is the best review I’ve seen yet of Brian Wilson’s new album, No Pier Pressure, based on what I have heard of the record so far. All of the other reviews I have read have been either completely shallow, or seem to not be interpreting it correctly given his discography. I am still forming my thoughts about the record and will write about it more at some point. In the meantime I think that this is a good place to start reading about the album if you are interested in it.
It ain’t a privilege to be on TV
and it ain’t a duty either. – Neil Young in Grandpa’s Interview
Whenever I think too deeply about what is going on in our culture I get the urge to slither into the shadows and never return. I often think about that Neil Young quote above. Earlier this week I was watching the absolutely brilliant movie Birdman. There is a scene in the movie where the character that Michael Keaton plays is accidentally caught running through downtown New York in his underwear. A video of it gets online and becomes popular. His daughter tells him that, “Believe it or not, this is power”, in a scene that is both funny and sadly condemning of our times. I am aware that modern fame is as much a dumb joke as anything.
Earlier today, thanks to my friend JR, I read the above New York Times article, a fascinating read, about how one person’s tweet, they made an off-color joke, lead to them being fired. The author, I think rightly, comes to the conclusion that everyone, from the person that put the tweet up, to those that are condemning her, are part of a modern trend where everyone is performing for audiences that they can’t see. A sample:
But perhaps she had now come to understand that her shaming wasn’t really about her at all. Social media is so perfectly designed to manipulate our desire for approval, and that is what led to her undoing. Her tormentors were instantly congratulated as they took Sacco down, bit by bit, and so they continued to do so. Their motivation was much the same as Sacco’s own — a bid for the attention of strangers — as she milled about Heathrow, hoping to amuse people she couldn’t see.
Yet here I am in a band, writing a blog. I can’t help but feel conflicted at times. Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my fucking time. However, I know how much writing, art, and music have meant to me. I know that I might not be sane if not for it. Part of the reason I started this blog was to try and create a platform where I could hopefully lead some people to things that I am passionate about, that I believe have value, in the din of senselessness that so often is our culture. Books, albums, movies, and various forms of expression have been my armor in this world. I must keep going, because this stuff is in my blood. However, if I’m helping or hurting, only you can be the judge.
The above link is to a really interesting article in the New York Times Sunday Book Review section about how technology and economic forces are destroying important parts of our culture. It was written by Leon Wieseltier. It is definitely worth a read. A small sample:
Amid the bacchanal of disruption, let us pause to honor the disrupted. The streets of American cities are haunted by the ghosts of bookstores and record stores, which have been destroyed by the greatest thugs in the history of the culture industry. Writers hover between a decent poverty and an indecent one; they are expected to render the fruits of their labors for little and even for nothing, and all the miracles of electronic dissemination somehow do not suffice for compensation, either of the fiscal or the spiritual kind. Everybody talks frantically about media, a second-order subject if ever there was one, as content disappears into “content.” What does the understanding of media contribute to the understanding of life? Journalistic institutions slowly transform themselves into silent sweatshops in which words cannot wait for thoughts, and first responses are promoted into best responses, and patience is a professional liability. As the frequency of expression grows, the force of expression diminishes: Digital expectations of alacrity and terseness confer the highest prestige upon the twittering cacophony of one-liners and promotional announcements. It was always the case that all things must pass, but this is ridiculous.
This was a fun read this morning. The article is about Bernard Hopkins, who is a light-heavyweight boxing champion at age…49! He also talks a great game and is a highly entertaining character. I don’t even follow boxing and I found myself reading the whole article. A sample:
“‘We gotta discredit him. Do he drink? He don’t drink. Do he run with whores? He don’t. He lives clean. He don’t party. He don’t use drugs. Who cooks his food? He cooks his own food? He stands in line at Whole Foods with everybody else.’ So they try to find guys to beat me, and I beat them, and I get rich. They become part of my discipline.” Then he was off on another of his regular topics: the conspiratorial failure of Whole Foods, Nike and other corporations to make a “poster boy” of him, a bad boy who became a good citizen and the most potently healthy-living middle-aged man imaginable. How come the marketers, who ate up George Foreman’s fuzzy-bunny routine and Lance Armstrong’s lies, aren’t lining up to pay for the celebrity-pitchman services of an outspoken Sunni ex-con who abjures alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar, processed grains, tap water, performance-enhancing drugs, weakness and just about everything else other than winning fights and making money? This grievance is part of the eternal dram of Bernard Hopkins, a renewable energy source that helps keep him going strong in and out of the ring.
This new book by Edward Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, looks really interesting. The above link is to The New York Times article on the book. This is a book that challenges many of the myths that our country has told itself about slavery.
A report came out today that talks about how climate change is already causing major effects in the U.S. The above is a link to a New York Times article summarizing that report. It makes me sad and angry to think that so many people are confused on this issue due to corporate misinformation. Change is coming and we need to get serious about how we deal with it. “If you don’t know this, then what do you know?”
Extra points to anyone that knows the song that last quote is from.
My Dad got a letter published in the New York Times today! I am very proud of him. His name is Donald A. Brown. He has long spoken about the ethical problems concerning our response to climate change. My Dad was an environmental lawyer most of his life. After that he taught at Penn State. He now is a professor of sustainability ethics and law at Widener University School of Law.