Crying’s weird in the premium held over other human expressions defined in general verbiages. This is for sure the romantic idea of being wind-swept up into something unseen from the horizon, or tumblr or whatever. In the case of this average white male once mentally belittled to a melancholy rat after a bout with major surgery and an oxy scrip, it’s inching to tears over words about a dead writer while standing in line for lunch.
The dead writer is David Foster Wallace, he hanged himself in September of 2008. This year is the twentieth since his sprawling, eight pound (books literally eight pounds) novel Infinite Jest was published which, incidentally, comes on the heels of this past summer’s not blockbuster The End of the Tour, a la Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg. It’s an adaptation of a never published interview turned book by a then hacking-it Rolling Stone writer about the last few days of Wallace’s press tour for Infinite Jest. Yes, it’s fucking boring. However; there’s a trite, Midwestern twang of a quote rattled off by Wallace somewhere near the middle, he’s talking about his youth and brevity of a competitive sports career before honing in on school – “…although of course you end up becoming yourself.”
Wallace’s estate publicly dislikes the film for what are probably very legitimate reasons. The point is that Wallace was a goofy white dude and a big rap fan who happened to see (in concept) where our social attention as America was headed some two decades previous to today.
Wish I was an original Wallace fan, all in favor of the human condition, but that’d be a lie. Simple facts, as a college senior I stumbled over an essay of his and click baited my way to a purchase cart for Infinite Jest, only bought it after a Google search of the title revealed his suicide. His end was the first thing that excited me on a chest beating level.
Peter Thiel (PayPal, Facebook) has a really cool book out called Zero to One. He covers loads of ground on the startup world and what winning businesses look like today, but he’s at his best when painting would be complex issues on current “that’s the way it is” -isms with easily digested pop culture topic points. (Justin Timberlake, Instagram, William Shatner cc. Priceline ads).
Specifically this, talking about hipsters and America’s presumed nostalgia obsession:
“Consider the trivial but revealing hallmarks of urban hipsterdom: faux vintage photography, the handlebar mustache, and vinyl record players all hark back to an earlier time when people were still optimistic about the future. If everything worth doing has already been done, you may as well feign an allergy to achievement and become a barista.”
Today’s media cycle, once one digs a little, is so the same as it’s always been in the realization that America’s social conscience is, at its core, still rather confused. We the people, like, love entertainers to points of worship and mass monetization. The hyper-speed add-in of handheld computers only reassures this. If enigma’s are new, fresh, inexplicable, then where does that leave us on topics older than America itself?
“…although of course you end up becoming yourself.”
This is where fame makes no sense in the American norms of mass celebrity interpretation. That, or powers inherent with such -all the time- face time deeming this highest oh high level of celebrities to be, at all costs, truth sayers and reasonable thinkers on hard lying social issues (or the opposite) even when mounting evidence to a contrary exists. It’s a kerfuffle, and the cracks are there.
Kanye West lays claim to possibly the most illustrious career of a male celebrity in American history. This possibly exists for the non simplicity of his being a black man in America. Black men in America have probably had a tougher go at it than you have and when a black man in America marries into the contemporary Kennedy’s morphed into matriarchy and impregnates their not subtle leader, the idea of a rap career or opinions on his person being at all relative to said rapping, or that which made him famous in the first place, are pushed out the window to splat on the pavement of justifiable reason. It would seem that Mr. West became himself at the chance to make an entire album with his biggest brother. Peaks or not, where does one go when they surpass artist and become spectacle?
Donald Trump is your 8th grade bully ixnay ninety percent of the profanity.
He’s impeccably good at this employment of asinine insults. When looking at this and other examples in his blubbering Twitter-sphere, 18 seasons of reality television, or Trump-a-mania campaign speeches, one views reason in a cresting wave. The recognition of something so, belched out, initially seems to be very stupid…and it settles, until a little voice back somewhere in the cranium pipes up to say “he’s a dickbag…but he’s sort of got a point.” Donald Trump probably isn’t a good dude, but I’m not sure how much that’s worth considering when taking into account how adept of an entertainer he’s become. American latency isn’t a new thing, despite what “Kardashians are the devil” -ers will tell you. No, we’ve always been fat and bored in the middle class, they have, just like the Donald, found the route to capitalize and stir on easy whims with social sales.
Oh yeah, Taylor.
Daughter to an insurance professional who’s probably a great guy, the next-gen disney star, pasty white and privileged as the picture of suburbia itself. She’s managed, against literally all odds, to become bff’s with Compton’s human sacrifice. The knocks on her, admittedly, come mainly from the media. Calculated, entitled, trying too hard. It’s a humorous non coincidence that she’s dating her Swedish electric counterpart in both music and cultural interpretation. Talent, maybe more so her showmanship, is not up for debate. Love Bad Blood. Speaking of love, or lack of it, her fans. Here I find a technical trepidation in the sense that fans of hers and even show go-ers I know (ostensibly this would be different if I had a little sister or something) just really, really like her. It’s strange, borderline unintelligible to say this about an artist who transitioned from a very successful country career into the biggest pop star since Michael Jackson (pre face stuff, etc) in about a year and a half. But it comes back on a personal level to that extreme lack of love – the exact thing her tunes would be seeming to inspire. Also that I still don’t have the slightest of clues as to what she could be talking about. She’s making art, yes, and this is oft the point…no understanding, but she may well be saying nothing at all. Whatever her utilitarian goals are…they seem flanked by model buddies and lacquered in ice cream sweet adjectives. As enjoyable as her music is, it’s weightless in all the wrong places. Like fucking Wonder bread, not swirling in or out of love.
Peaks or not, where does one go when they surpass artist and become spectacle?
The corollary could peek out from many a place, but I’m drawn, as ever, backward. NPR last week held a borderline meta discussion on the Yeezy Season 3 Rollout at MSG, and mostly it’s this bit from Ann Powers.
“In this way, the Kanye projected within his music is more like a Picasso painting than Picasso himself: cubist, collapsing perspectives, the latest explosion of the new. I think that’s Kanye’s biggest commitment — to the new. It’s why he loves fashion, too. But he can’t escape into the future. He’s stuck with the past, with his mom’s memory, with us.”
I’m drawn here also by Taylor’s permed hair to the written words of a different black man in America; Rembert Browne, he’s a career writer (R.I.P. Grantland) and is currently at the height of his powers. A few weeks back he did a piece on Macklemore’s single White Privilege II, from a forthcoming sophomore album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made.
“But no one’s going to forget. Which means, at some point, white people will have to give up the delusion that the playing field has magically leveled, and actually go through the difficult process of really figuring out what it means to be white, and what you want it to mean for you in the future. In that, it means accepting the fact that white is a race.”
This is where Kanye and Trump in 2016 are more or less the same person operating on different poles of attraction. West, still the most talented producer, creative, of two generations, has degenerated fully into the South Park caricature. There’s nothing cute about public support for Bill Cosby’s innocence on your fucking Twitter account, plausibly worse is the so obvious album press plug in doing so.
And Trump, riling up voiceless men and women from the flyover states that men like West have had and have all rights to despise, giving a vapid credence in tact for regaining a grip on the mantle of freedom so destroyed by uber liberal icons of Obamanation, rotting our once great nation from the outside in. Because that’s just it, everyone’s got something to be scared of, and no matter how offensive these anti-heroes become there’s still a necessary degree of begrudging respect. As long as Kanye West has the nuts to stand and scream in the face of crusty white middle Americans longing for days before sit ins, the Trump campaign gets to rock and roll on the pull back toward some great yesterday that might be just over the hill.
Oh, and Taylor? It might be my favorite lyric on TLOP, but the actual thought process behind Kanye making her famous is fucking absurd. However, did it make her any less so? Her Grammy speech was about as cute as her gold chain shimmy in the Shake It Off video. Her god given right, to look in the eyes of a man who publicly insulted her sexuality and professional legitimacy, albeit a two sided coin for art that will inevitably be both loved and misunderstood. She still drips the privilege she can’t escape, have you ever seen her that rattled in a public appearance?
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