Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Message for the Christmas Shopper

Excerpted from Leonard Pitts at the Miami Herald:
Last week, a 34-year-old man was trampled to death by a mob rushing into a Wal-Mart to buy stuff. Jdimytai Damour was a seasonal worker manning the door of a store in Valley Stream, N.Y., as shoppers eager for so-called ''Black Friday'' bargains massed outside. The store was scheduled to open at 5 a.m., but that was not early enough for the 2,000 would-be shoppers. At five minutes before the hour, they were banging their fists and pressing their weight against the glass doors, which bowed and then broke in a shower of glass. The mob stormed in.

Four people, including a pregnant woman, were injured. And Damour was killed as people stomped over him, looking for good prices on DVDs, winter coats and PlayStations. Nor was the mob sobered by his death. As authorities sought to clear the store, some defiantly kept shopping; others complained that they had been on line since the night before.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine a starker illustration of our true priorities. Oh, we pay lip service to other things. We say children are a priority, but when did people ever press against the door for Parents' Night at school? We say education is a priority, but when did people ever bang against the windows of the library? We say faith is a priority, but when did people ever surge into a temple of worship as eagerly as they do a temple of commerce?

No, sale prices on iPods, that's our true priority. Jdimytai Damour died because too many of us have bought, heart and soul, into the great lie of American consumerism: acquiring stuff will make you whole. ''You, Happier,'' is how a sign at my local Best Buy puts it. As if owning a Jonas Brothers CD, an Iron Man DVD, a Sony HDTV, will elevate you to a level of joy otherwise impossible to attain. Hey, you may be a total loser, may not have a friend, may not have an education, may not have a job, may not have a clue, but it will all be OK as soon as you get that new Canon digital camera, especially if you get it for 50 percent off.

It would be nice to think -- I will not hold my breath -- that Damour's death would lead at least some of us to finally see that for the obscene lie it is, to realize that seeking wholeness in consumer goods is an act of emptiness, not joy.

You, Happier? No.

Just you, with more stuff.

The End of Genre?

Excerpted from Bob Proehl for Popmatters in response to the Country Music Association Awards (acronymically known as the CMAs, not to be confused with the Academy of Country Music's ACMs):
You might not have caught it in Carrie Underwood’s quick introduction, but that sure enough was the remains of the Wailers backing up Kenny Chesney on a medley of “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven” and Bob Marley’s hit “Three Little Birds”. Which would have won the best mash-up of the evening hands-down if it hadn’t been for Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long”, a surprisingly poignant hybrid of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” and Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” (although the live version leaned heavily toward the former) which has become Rock’s first hit on the country charts, performed with rapper Lil Wayne possibly playing guitar alongside a gentleman who looked oddly like AC/DC’s Brian Johnson in a “Joe the Strummer” T-shirt.

Kid Rock’s performance was a wild clash of symbols, with Detroit-born Rock’s unabashedly white trash appropriation of urban style grafting onto Skynyrd’s oft-misunderstood call not just for Southern pride but a reevaluation of the stereotypes of Southern culture. With his oversized Titans jersey, Lil Wayne at his side, and huge American flags projected behind him, Rock seemed ecstatic to be part of country music, and the audience seemed thrilled to have him there.

In an age where every possible type of music is instantly available to new audiences, where American Idol prioritizes vocal prowess while tossing soul, R&B, pop, and country into the massive blender of Celebrity, and the number of listeners who staunchly self-identify as fans of one particular genre dwindle without new devotees to replace them, the country-music industry seems to have made an astute decision. When more kids are following MySpace phenom Taylor Swift to Country Music Television than are looking to CMT for their next Taylor Swift, it might simply be that the first genre to unify in order to protect and encourage its own financial interests back in 1958 is, 50 years later, the first to embrace the death of genre as a concept.

Kid Rock and Lil Wayne

Kenny & the Wailers

Monday, December 01, 2008

History Lessons

(for the college football fan)
The preseason USA Today/Coaches Poll, coupled with their current records:
1. Georgia (9-3)
2. USC (10-1)
3. Ohio State (10-2)
4. Oklahoma (11-1)
5. Florida (11-1)
6. LSU (7-5)
7. Missouri (9-3)
8. West Virginia (7-4)
9. Clemson (7-5)
10. Texas (11-1)
11. Auburn (5-7)
12. Wisconsin (7-5)
13. Kansas (7-5)
14. Texas Tech (11-1)
15. Virginia Tech (8-4)
16. Arizona St. (5-6)
17. BYU (10-2)
18. Tennessee (5-7)
19. Illinois (5-7)
20. Oregon (9-3)
21. USF (7-4)
22. Penn St. (11-1)
23. Wake Forest (7-5)
24. Michigan (3-9)
25. Fresno St. (7-5)
Not only are 5 of these teams not even bowl eligible this year, nearly half of them have at least 5 losses and more than half are unranked today. Make of it what you will