Thursday, February 23, 2012

generation ?

You'd think the hipsters started it all: Bell-bottoms, Jackie-O frames, red lips, Elvis-inspired blues, rockabilly a la The Everly Brothers. The retro resurgence has pervaded every medium and compartmentalized today’s consumer behavior. It is impossible to turn a corner without being bombarded with some kind of nostalgic reference in the form of a vintage re-creation in the form of an overpriced commercial product.

Some things are rightfully never forgotten, but it seems that everything “retro”, the good, the bad, and the painfully misguided, has been reincarnated by a generation of culturally lost consumers. While it is the role of the self-proclaimed cosmopolitan tastemaker to obsess over the latest obscurity, what has compelled the trickle down effect to morph into a colossal cascade that has invaded the plebian periphery? 

At the start of 2000, the world’s artistic momentum reached a plateau in lieu of the Y2K prediction, and we were left with nothing but the inspired cultural innovations of the past fifty years to gaze back on longingly. The world lost track of the future and found itself at a standstill. And the only way to move forward was to sell nostalgia. We have yet to cover any ground since then, our popular culture but relics from the idealized decades we struggle to reconstruct.  The only sorry excuse we have for anything that slightly resembles a popular culture is “electronic,” or dare I say, “rave.” But again, been there, done that. 70’s Krautrock or 90’s Acid House anyone? Sure, we’ve arguably built on past movements and no doubt has reinvention always existed and been a legitimate art form, but nothing of the past decade has persisted to be more than a transient fad.

An optimistic rationale of this is that our right brains have been sitting idle for so long that, out of convenience and laziness, we have become hesitant to seek out new inspiration. A grimmer prospect is that we have digressed as a society and lost the ability to summon a thought-provoking, progressive aesthetic. 

The Millenials lack an identity. The avant-garde has run dry and surely, the current media landscape has not been conducive to counterculture. The days of anti-establishment, free love, and ‘bricolage’ are long gone and the faint ring of subversion is only left sounding in their parents’ teenage memories. It has been long enough to safely say “popular culture has drowned itself in the past” without sounding insensitive. Today’s society is steeped in an ideology that is unconscious. We lack a collective energy because we have become complacent and unquestioning. I love/hate to reference Radiohead, but could the eerie prophecy of OK Computer be coming true? 

What are your thoughts? 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

social bookmarking soulmate

Today I was introduced to the social bookmarking site Diigo, a digital tool that allows users to annotate, store, and share information via web pages. I have reservations about the value of this tool, but I see that a potentially practical use might be that it allows searching for and finding other users with similar interests. Case in point, I noticed that I bookmarked many of the same pages that user Lysa Fish had, so following that lead I sifted through her library of links and found many interesting articles that are relevant to my points of study. For example, I found a paper entitled "Constitution of Culture through Consumerism and the Illusion of Individualism," which discusses the empirical observations of contemporary culture and economics as a product of self-interested agendas. I also came across "Retro Resurgence with Old, Unique Technology," which details the increasing demand for nostalgic commodities. She has built a rather extensive library, with over 100,000 links and a few added daily. Not only does she solely select articles that are well-researched and trustworthy, but she goes the extra mile to tag and attach a short caption to each find and neatly organizes all her tags. Her collection mainly focuses on culture, media, vintage, and the history that runs through these themes, and I hope, in following Lysa, I will find many more relevant and interesting articles that I can share with my readers. Until next time...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

fellow nostalgiahead

Yet another blog caught my eye the other day, and I couldn’t refrain from sharing the delightful find with you, my dear readers. Nostalgic Rambler is the brainchild of author Hans “Jeff” Borger. Bringing to you the “nostalgic ramblings and musings on Pop Americana of the 1940s to 1960s,” he tackles a bevy of topics, most of which are, truthfully, unfamiliar to me. I scanned the post titles for one that would be most pertinent to my blog and happened on this one. I’ll leave it up to you to read the post, ‘cause what I’d like to talk about is the ubiquitous voice in this blog.

Jeff leaves a lot of room for the audience to form an opinion about him. On one hand, the breadth and depth of his knowledge makes him an authority on the culture of these eras. Jeff is eloquent, but not in a pedantic or overly academic way. He employs a concise and easy to follow sentence structure and refrains from excessive use of punctuation. He’s educated, but doesn’t try to wave it in his readers’ face, demonstrating that he’s comfortable with his level of knowledge. He spares his readers from the pseudo-intellectual tone too commonly found in the blogging world.

His voice is characterized by disillusionment, his tone bemused.  So what’s the cause of this? Well, for starters, he feels that these bygone eras were better times to live in. His idea of a Golden Era is crippling him and his life in the present day, maybe even alienating those around him: “I live in the past. My time warp is a comfortable cocoon even if it sometimes drives my wife crazy.” Jeff lives vicariously through the subjects of his blog posts, and his nostalgia may be a coping mechanism for living in a time in which he doesn’t feel he belongs or fits in. At the same time, he is the voice of an older generation, his suspicions of the younger generations’ amusements apparent in his sporadic, somewhat condescending undertone: “I don’t think we have too many national wits around anymore. The general population is probably too lowbrow to understand the comments.”

He’s nostalgic for a time when everyone gathered around the radio set for Benny Goodman’s orchestra in the same way that kids today are nostalgic for when Joy Division and Echo and the Bunnymen graced television sets over MTV’s airwaves. Reedimingly, he tempers his overflowing nostalgia with a healthy serving of self-criticism. He didn’t actually live to witness half of the things he talks about and he openly admits to that in his introduction:  
The music of the 1940s and 50s, the stars of those days were big stuff in their day, but are now almost forgotten. Oddly enough, I was born in ’64 so those iconic years were for the most part over by that time.
Jeff comes across with an almost father-like tone. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why this is so, but he evokes that anecdotal feel present in any story beginning with “When I was kid…” Imagine him saying this at the dinner table: 
Today in 2011 the 1940s seem like ancient history. Subtract thirty years from today and you get 1981…that doesn’t sound like THAT long ago, does it? As Jack Benny would have said…"Hmmmmmmmm."
 Jeff is softspoken, subtle, and ultimately endearing.

This blog is Jeff’s outlet to wax nostalgic and talk about the things he doesn’t think anyone in his life can appreciate: “The comments presented…probably won’t be of interest to the masses…anymore. If grandma and grandpa and their friends were still alive, then it would be a different story.” And thus the name Nostalgic Rambler: It might be rambling to everyone else, but to him it’s gold.