Wednesday, September 28, 2005

On last night: stating the obvious: pop culture is for the masses; a high level of fluency in it probably isn't.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

"pop culture is for the masses; a high level of fluency in it probably isn't."

I'm not sure about this -- what do you mean by a high level of fluency? There's probably not many people who have a large amassed knowledge of all areas of pop culture, but I suspect there's quite a large number who have a kind of specialist knowledge in one or two fields. Not necessarily any analysis thereof, but lots and lots of knowledge.

What strikes me is that most "pop culture", or what is identified as such, is really also youth culture. There are in fact some areas of popular culture in which lots of people over, say, 35 are liable to have specialist knowledge (sports and genre romance, for instance), but they tend not to be the things that come to mind when the phrase "pop culture" is used. So in that sense not for the masses, no, because the masses (in the developed world) skew older these days.

-- maggie

3:16 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

I think I mean the ability to use names, etc., as shorthand for various concepts or trends, or the ability to find coherence or disjunction among different strains and period. I guess I mean a sort of meta-fluency, if that makes sense. Something along the lines of what BJD et al. were up to last night, which I got the gist of but that's all. I guess, when I think of it, what I'm saying could apply to just about anything (to ladybugs, for instance). It's just that pop is supposed to have particularly democratic aspirations. I felt very much outside a code last night. Of course we were listening to specialists who weren't pretending to be anything but, so I shouldn't have expected to get it all. Or should I have?

A thought occurs to me: does the popular consumption of popular culture imply a lack of memory? Is it the specialist who remembers?

"The masses." I don't think we use this term as much as we once did.

3:41 PM  
Blogger dfb said...

mark re “listening to specialists”

remember that discussion around that song by YES a couple of months ago. where people were applauding the story because the author made a reference to an insipid song by YES, and it gave gave the audience the warm fuzzies. it’s called nostalgia.

this type of writing has little or no chance of traveling forward in time – and i’m not talking about 100 years i’m talking about 5 years.

writing to a “hipster” notion of nostalgia is a loosing game.

you have to have keep changing your nouns because the nouns have a fixed meaning but an unfixed attitude and these texts all about attitude.

the differents between writing these types of text and writing with the language of ladybugs is “hipster” has little poetry in the words. it has a poetry about “the style or fashion”, but that will last only until next season.

hope they sell all those book now –no one will be caught dead with one next year.



4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I guess I mean a sort of meta-fluency, if that makes sense."

Yeah, I think that's what I meant by "analysis" in my first post. I think that kind of meta-fluency is inevitably a specialist thing, but it doesn't mean that the source material is in itself elitist or exclusionary. Literary theorists working in certain fields have a lot of analysis and meta-fluency around genre romance that would exclude the average reader of Harlequins, but that doesn't mean that Harlequins don't have a widespread general following.

One of the issues, of course, is how far the people with the meta-fluency are quite different from the actual "populace" which makes something "popular" culture, and whether there's an implied condescension involved. I'm really more interested in people who have a non-ironic involvement in fan culture, or various fields of populist cultural production; but I am to some extent excluded from that population by having read too much theory. (Not entirely; I had a non-ironic involvement with The X-Files, though people laugh at me for this.)

I'm also still chewing on the question of what "popular" culture is, because lots of the stuff being discussed last night did not actually have a wide or popular cultural spread (there are exceptions, e.g. Buffy or the Pina Colada song). I suppose "pop culture" and "popular culture" are diverging in meaning, to some extent.

""The masses." I don't think we use this term as much as we once did."

Yeah, I think it was kind of laughed out of general usage. It does have a sort of Marxist condescension to it, but it has its uses, too.

-- maggie

5:54 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

A point of observation about last night: I think the vibe was decidedly more geek than hipster, at least in my reading, and I think those involved acknowledged as much.

Yeah, the aging question is a good one. But I wonder if the book's longevity, assuming it has some, will come through the connective tissue (the prepositions and conjunctions, and possibly the structure) rather than the nouns. I also suspect that the exchangeability of the nouns is s good part of what Davis is dealing with.

Is it legitimate not to engage popular culture given that it's such an inescapable part of our lives? I ask this as someone who hasn't done so much. (And I realize I'm overstating the stakes slightly.)

Oops. Maggie's comment just came through. More later.

5:57 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

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6:03 PM  
Blogger asthma_boy said...

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8:01 PM  
Blogger asthma_boy said...

popular culture has always been subject matter for literature. shakespeare wrote about the pop culture of his time. his work seems to have travelled forward in time. to deny the poetic potential of any specific idiom or vernacular is foolish. saying "[hipster poetry] has little poetry in the words" sounds elitist to me. poetry can be made from any linguistic material.

i've recently read BJD's book and what I like about it is that its poetic or rhetorical strategy can't be easily pinned down. it's not a condemnation of popular/corporate culture but it certainly isn't an earnest endorsement of it either. there's a tension between tenor and vehicle that makes for good art, good satire.

portable altamont, as i'm sure most people know, is a reference to the events of that rolling stones concert at the altamont speedway (in 69) where hippies died at the hands of the hell's angels -- that signified the end of sixties counter culture and the loss of innocence, etc. my friend andy and i had a good talk about this and I realized the strength of BJD's title -- in a sense, the text can be read as extreme anti-nostalgia. but it doesn't matter. nostalgia is not the pejorative it used to be in poetry. it's much more complicated than sentimentalism and "warm fuzzy feelings." it seems to me that PA is a comedically savvy book with no simple answers but lots of laughs.

when things are dismissed as "boring" or "hipster" that doesn't add very much to the discourse. and it usually reveals more about the assumptions, values and beliefs of the one who dismisses than it reveals about the text in question.

9:05 PM  
Blogger dfb said...

yea - i get the title - but frankly isn't just a late night tv movie - no big deal - but i guess i must be missing the BIG IDEA. thanks JPF i guess i'm wrong and you are right again


9:10 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Carl Wilson makes a good point re: Davis and timelessness over at Zoilus.

11:27 PM  
Blogger carl said...

Thanks, Mark - and by the way, as I'll also make clear in the comments section to that post, there was absolutely no "dig" at you intended. It was just an illustrative example - I wasn't saying pop culture references are better than high culture references; I like both; I just don't think pop culture references are any *worse*, especially not in terms of accessibility.

2:19 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

A couple quotes from Portable Altamont:

My goal with this book was that, as time progresses, empires would fall, formats would change and every single reference would, slowly and incrementally, produce a chorus of "Who?"s. Jessica Simpson has, unfortunately, outwitted me with the strength of her career and robbed this book of its planned escape from history.

I have no idea who Candace Bushnell is, and I suspect (depending on what year you are reading this), neither do you.

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sadly, I do know wh Candace Bushnell is.

-- maggie

9:48 AM  
Blogger dfb said...

if empires fall - books get to be burned for warmth - no one is going to be asking who - if your not dead your trying to find something to eat - but the Portable Altamont will be there as the big questionion mark - teh ultimate statment - give me a break - all he wants is for some littel star to read hid book and mention it on tv so he can go to hollywood (or maybe just satrt tv on queen street) and get a job writing for people magazine or flare or entertianment tonight Canada

and i know who Candace Bushnell is and i saw her give a reading and it was stuiped

but hey if carl and jpf say it a good book we should bow our heads in deferance to there knowlege and skill about great art and writing

fuck off

12:23 PM  

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