Friday, December 23, 2005

LRC pick
Mass, mainstream pop culture is dying
The good and bad in that

I remember being very electronic media-deprived in pre-Sky, pre-Internet Britain, with the government near-monopoly and only about five TV stations (with repeats of American programmes and local fare like sheep-shearing... I’m exaggerating but not by much) and about as few radio.

I’m still behind the curve — no cable, no satellite-dish, no mobile, no texting, no wireless in the modern sense and no iPod — but still feel the benefit, obviously as I’m here in this medium. Even without an iPod, I don’t buy CDs any more because I don’t have to! My computer is my stereo.

And making all kinds of music available online to all gets rid of the phenom of the rock snob.

On one hand the digital revolution means freedom: no more Auntie-style government control of information and tastes (might TV licences become a thing of the past?) nor the Brave New World kind from Messrs Turner and Murdoch as the article says.

Then again like the article at times I feel a kind of nostalgia for common points of reference. These should be and once were serious things like history and better still religion: RCs in the US had this before Vatican II (or at least before the 1940s)*, as did tsarist Russia and Sabine Barnhart’s Germany (even well into the modern era, the 1970s when she was a little girl) with their myriad folkways. Catholic culture. Now, with many ‘wired’ and iPodded people thinking that original sin was about sex, Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife (hang on, wasn’t she the blonde on ‘Knots Landing’?) and that Jesus committed sins, that’s gone for most of us. (But how can one bring that back without falling into cultism/theocratic fascism, taking away the freedom the new media give?)

But that common culture can revolve around things as banal as make-believe TV characters: Mr Spock** or the Fonz. A social shorthand, especially comforting to the socially challenged: an easy in. Gone now really.

Well, there are still ‘must-see’ things I suppose — I understand that, gack, ‘Desperate Housewives’, which I’ve never seen and is on old-style network TV in the States, is now the No. 1 show in England. But thanks to narrowcasting and the new freedom it produces I’ve not seen them for the most part and have been busy with other, newer electronic pursuits... like this.
This roiling, recombinant technoculture dangles the promise of change, creativity and shared public life — but in the end, will it just come down to always-on, one-click shopping?
People had such high expectations for television when it was new — symphonies and stage plays, high culture, spread to the masses. Then we ended up with ‘Desperate Housewives’ and nasty ‘reality’ game shows.

Rather like the joke I read on Fr Joseph Huneycutt’s blog that the Internet proves that a million monkeys at a million keyboards will eventually produce great literature but first you’ll get lots of monkey porn.

*In a recent history full of bitter irony, ecclesiastical liberals who rabbit on about ‘community’ systematically destroy and make fun of this real example of community, dismissing it as merely sentimental and backward.

**I think the Vulcans are a fantasy version of the Japanese: a culture in which people value intellect and self-discipline but can fight like a samurai when they have to. The Romulans are the samurai side of the Vulcans. Yes, I’m a geek. Went off ‘Star Trek’, though, when I realised it’s a ‘pinko TV show’ (its good guys are really totalitarians, rather like America in the 1960s), intensely anti-religious, and that it was stupid that the whole universe looked suspiciously human and spoke English.

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