Saturday, September 27, 2008

A Bunch of Sofa Kings

I'm still deciding whether I like Santogold or not. I am certain that I like Jack Davey's voice better. But there's enough stuff on Santi's first album to keep me listening. For now.

One song may or may not be construed as a response to Barack Obama. It also might be the mantra of your average hipster.

If you've never run across Adbusters...firstly, you're forgiven...secondly, check this article out. Especially this passage:
"An amalgamation of its own history, the youth of the West are left with consuming cool rather that creating it. The cultural zeitgeists of the past have always been sparked by furious indignation and are reactionary movements. But the hipster’s self-involved and isolated maintenance does nothing to feed cultural evolution. Western civilization’s well has run dry."

If you read the Washington Post this past week, you might make that as an answer to this question:
"The stock market has gone nuts, and the federal government is treating Wall Street with experimental cures that will cost nearly $1 trillion. An unpopular foreign war, now in its sixth year, has resulted in more than 4,100 American deaths. For the first time in history, the presidential campaign includes an African American candidate for president and a Republican female candidate for vice president.

Taken together, these data points give this moment in American history a once-in-a-great-while feel of Something Large. But if this is truly a pivot in time, its most peculiar feature may be how un-peculiar it feels. For all the social and political upheaval, for all the 60-point headlines and for all the bipartisan calls for change, there is plenty of unease -- but a very notable lack of unrest...

...How come?"

To extend a phrase...the kids are alright because the kids just don't care.

Naturally, that's a gross generalization. One that leans heavily on the predictability of teenage angst. And one that relies upon the idea that youth has been extended indefinitely so that traditional teenage angst prevails as the default emotional status of 20- and 30-somethings. In other words, Xers and Millenials never really grow up. Since they don't, they are possessed of the vanity and insecure nonchalance we typically associate with the US high school experience.

(It also assumes that all young people are hipsters. Which they are not. But the point about self-involvement holds true for anyone who has a myspace page. Which is everyone under 40.)

Like I said...a gross generalization.

But is it utterly incorrect?

Kinda. Kinda not.

In terms of historical moments, we can best describe this one by borrowing from last year's live action version of Transformers and Aqua Teen Hunger Force (ATHF).

In Transformers, there's a scene right before Barricade confronts Sam. The one where Mikaela is sitting at a Burger King while Sam is pedaling his mother's bike down the sidewalk as the Decepticon gives chase. Sam hits a crack and flips the bike. Mikaela sees Sam stumble and says:

"Sam...That was, um, pretty awesome."

(I'd link to that clip, but I can't find it online.)

In the scene, Mikaela actually searches for the words to describe what she's just witnessed. And all she comes up with is "awesome." If you've had a conversation with any English-speaking person in the last year you know that "awesome" is the new "like." If "like" were multiplied by "dude" then that sum were multiplied by "cool."

It is spoken. Frequently. Which brings us to ATHF.

You may have seen this scene from the cartoon. Or heard it on the DangerDoom album.

What you wanna pay attention for is the line "Loses meaning." That, I think, is the point of all this rambling.

If high school is the dominant cultural motif of our times (which was being hinted at earlier), then what is the peak moment of high school?

It's four letters long. And it's not lunch. Or graduation.

The Prom.

And what's the prom about? Other than busting your cherry, it's about hyperbole.

Now, if "awesome" is the verbal pinnacle of hyperbole and is also the most conversationally used word in the English language, then it stands to reason that "awesome" has lost all meaning. By extension, meaning itself has been dulled. We wake up expecting each morning to deliver us to the prom. Based in part on the deluge of 60-point type telling us what is happening in the world. Whether or not that day is a prom day, there really isn't anything more to experience. It's that. Or, so it feels, nothing.

Which may or may not be a bad thing.

I really can't tell.