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February 5, 2004

Your pop culture moment. Skot Kurruk of Izzle Pfaff! on a different portion of the Superbowl entertainment:
Things did not start auspiciously (do they ever?): some idiotic flack unwisely exhumed Aerosmith and turned them loose onto the stage for the pre-show. Aerosmith. These antediluvian fucks. Whose idea was this? Anyway, there they were, prancing ridiculously; they looked like the Living Avatars of Fruit Leather. Joe Perry arthritically strangled his guitar like a recalcitrant stepchild, and Steven Tyler…good god. He clutched frantically at the microphone, like a drowning man, as his glassine bones moaned under the weight of his terrible array of scarves. And of course his voice is just ruined any more: he searched myopically for notes the way a frustrated man looks for a missing sock in the back of the dryer, and unable to locate any, resorted to some terrible, grainy shrieking. At this point, mysteriously, tiny men began parachuting into the stadium, for unclear purposes. Tyler eyed them nervously, and I thought, ecstatically, They’re coming to kill Steven Tyler! Finally! But no, the weird ‘chuters touched down and just kind of scampered off, pointlessly, and Tyler flashed a relieved smile at the apparent reprieve from Death from Above.
Instant messaging transcript:
[Lucy Huntzinger] (4:59:00 PM): The terrible array of scarves is probably part of his warding. Without them he shrinks and implodes like the Witch-King of Angmar in the movie.
[Patrick Nielsen Hayden] (5:00:27 PM): I’m trying to work out some connection between that and the indigestable fact that Steven Tyler is Liv Tyler’s father, but all I can think of is that there are evil things in the deep places of the earth that surpass even the Dark Lord’s comprehension. [05:03 PM]
Welcome to Electrolite's comments section.
Hard-Hitting Moderator: Teresa Nielsen Hayden.

Comments on Your pop culture moment.:

Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 05:12 PM:

Liv has her dad's lips. That should have been enough to keep her from playing Arwen, but isn't really a serious detriment in most other ways.

My first thought reading this was "Now that's a pan. That's what a pan looks like, yes sirree Bob."

Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 08:20 PM:

So she comes by those lips naturally. Debbie had been muttering something about collagen every time Arwen showed up onscreen.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2004, 09:10 PM:

I liked the scene in "Two and a Half Men" where Steven Tyler (by voice from offstage) thinks he's caught his maid having sex with the chiropractor who is merely aligning her spine. We had to explain to our 15-year-old that Steven Tyler is Liv Tyler’s father.

He'd thought that the "Walk This Way" rock video proved that Steven Tyler was a Rap artists, and had wondered whether the song related to "Young Frankenstein" [1974], which James Billington, Librarian of Congress, put on the National Film Registry, where it joins the 375 great treasures such as Casablanca, Citizen Kane, Gone With the Wind, On the Waterfront, and, uhhhhhh, National Lampoon's Animal House . "It's an enormously funny movie," says Professor Billington.

Recall our thread about "smart dumb movies" versus "dumb smart movies?"

Just try explaining to a teenager today why we get all misty-eyed about the 40th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America.

Or deconstructing the rants by Dennis Miller, where the pop culture references are as jumbled as pebbles on the surface of Mars, being peered at by a Mossbauer spectrometer on a rover that might well be used to search for ricin in the Senate.

I am no huge sports nut, but really enjoyed the football game, and skipped the halftime kerfuffle. Lawyers were debating it at the office this morning where I do some paralegal consulting. Lawyers and pop culture. Dangeous mix. As with Pixar's CEO and Disney's CEO insulting each other in public. Oh, and Pixar's "Tin Toy" also got (plausibly) added to the National Film Registry. Boy, did it create a buzz at Siggraph!

Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 12:13 AM:

Sheesh, someone has filed a class action lawsuit for all of US, "who should be offended that the Janet Jackson act caused America to look bad to other countries." (that's a loose quote, but the gist) I don't think she realizes that our weird, puritanical attitudes toward sex make the other countries think that's all we obsess about. If she could possibly win, we'd all get around $250. (Kevin Olbermann commented that this would be like getting a special tax refund....)

dave heasman ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 06:28 AM:

"Just try explaining to a teenager today why we get all misty-eyed about the 40th anniversary of the Beatles coming to America."

Tuesday was the 45th anniversary of the day the music died.

Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 08:59 AM:

While a long way from a teenager, my favorite music has for the most part consisted of artists whose careers began before I was born. Sure, the classic rockers are getting old. So did Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, but their careers continued because a significant number of people still thought that their music was worth listening to.

I saw Robert Plant in concert in 1988, and he looked pretty well preserved for a musician of his age. Saw him again in 2002, opening for The Who, and, well, he didn't look so well preserved any more. But was it ludicrous to listen to him tear into "Communication Breakdown" or "Whole Lotta Love" either time? Not at all. The music still holds up, for me and for many other fans.

And I suspect that the "popularity" of today's pop music may be more than a little bit composed of smoke and mirrors. Radio airplay on most mainstream stations has little to nothing to do with listener requests, and everything to do with "promotions" (i.e., outright bribes) from record companies to play certain songs. So how do we know that the Top 40 artists are really the Top 40? Because the media conglomerates say so!

For an eye-opening comparison, take a look at the top-earning concert tours of last year. You'll see some familiar names if you're over 30. Bruce Springsteen, Celine Dion, Fleetwood Mac, Cher, the Dixie Chicks, Metallica, among others. Now, some people may point to one or more of those and say, "but they suck". But the point is that all of those artists make music that is actually memorable, that people want to hear over and over. Enough so that they're willing to stand in line for tickets, shell out the $50-100 per seat for a concert, and endure the hell of stadium parking and mass restrooms to enjoy their performances. Most of the artists on the pop charts today not only couldn't fill a stadium, but aren't even getting radio airplay after their second or third single.

As long as the music industry is dominated by marketing morons who wouldn't recognize actual musical talent if you strapped them down like Alex in Clockwork Orange and tortured it into them, we're going to see more stunts like the Super Bowl halftime. Talentless manufactured wannabe pop icons shoved in front of the TV cameras while the largest possible audience is watching, and even then they can't hold our attention without a strip tease.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 10:55 AM:

And I suspect that the "popularity" of today's pop music may be more than a little bit composed of smoke and mirrors. . . . Most of the artists on the pop charts today not only couldn't fill a stadium, but aren't even getting radio airplay after their second or third single.

Just like Edison Lighthouse, the 1910 Fruitgum Company, the Ohio Express, or zillions of other Sixties acts that even my music fanatic brain can't retain. Take a look at this list of top forty hits of 1968. It consists of a few good acts in a sea of shlock, just like today's charts.

Unlike then, though, there's life outside the major labels, which means that great music in non-LCD styles is easy to come by. It also means that music of the past is much more accessible than it was back then. If you want an eight-disc box set of the Browns or Memphis Minnie, you can have it. It's easier to get obscure Sixties albums now than it was in the Sixties!

I get as dewy-eyed with nostalgia as the next guy, but if I had to choose between then and now, I'd take now in a heartbeat.

Although I have to admit I kinda like "Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes."

Jimcat Kasprzak ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 12:12 PM:

Point well taken -- my nostalgia for the musical scenes of the 50's to early 70's may be biased by the fact that I can pick and choose those artists who have stood the test of time, or who come closest to my personal taste.

And given a choice between then and now, of course I'll take "now" for the sheer diversity of available music. But I prefer "then" for what was on the airwaves and in the popular taste and culture. Twenty years ago, I could tune in to a pop radio station without much fear of being driven away by crap music. Ten years ago, it was a much more iffy proposition. Today? Forget it, just forget it.

But then again, the diversity extends to the airwaves today too. I can listen to a classic rock or oldies station, or invest in satellite radio, to listen to worthwhile music on the air.

So what's my complaint? Well, I guess I'd be happier if the period from 1990 to today had produced just one or two new artists of the talent and memorability of the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, or even Stevie Nicks.

Steve ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 12:41 PM:

So what's my complaint? Well, I guess I'd be happier if the period from 1990 to today had produced just one or two new artists of the talent and memorability of the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, or even Stevie Nicks.

Wow, Stevie Nicks? You're setting the bar kind of low, aren't you? How about De La Soul, who I'd say are roughly equivalent to the Beatles of hip-hop*? (3 Feet High and Rising came out in 1989, but who's counting?)

I mean, I could name three dozen bands and albums that I think just demolish Rumors on every level, but that's because I heard them, and not Fleetwood Mac (or even the Bruce, really), in my formative years. How much is because good, innovative stuff wasn't getting played on the radio and you never heard it? (For readers not into hip-hop, I'll throw out Fugazi's Red Medicine and Sleater-Kinney's Dig Me Out, two independent releases that chew up and spit out fifteen years of American punk music in interesting and exciting ways; the Sleater-Kinney album also has the benefit of being a balls-out rocker. If either one of them got an hour's play total on commercial radio, I'd be utterly shocked, and Fugazi is probably the most influential still-extant indie band in America.)

How much is because thirty years of hindsight has weeded out the aforementioned 1910 Fruitgum Company? How much is because, quite frankly, no music is ever going to sound as good as what you were really obsessiely listening to from 16 to 19? I'm sure thirty years from now I'll be complaining that whatever weird music the kids are rocking out to is unlistenable noise, and not nearly as good as the unlistenable noise that the Pixies and Unwound used to make.

* I've heard Public Enemy or Eric B. and Rakim put forward as the Beatles of hip-hop, but they fall further outside the correct time frame, and I'm trying to make a point.

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 02:16 PM:

I don't follow pop music at all, but off the top of my head: Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Outkast, Nirvana, Matthew Sweet, De La Soul. That's sticking strictly to artists that I know charted. Taste issues aside, I don't see how anyone could seriously contend that that group isn't as talented or memorable as Springsteen or Nicks.

And I think pop radio in 1984 was terrible. Last time I went to the dentist he had the Eighties station on. I preferred the drilling to the Thompson Twins and Men Without Hats.

Kris Hasson-Jones ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 02:44 PM:

My younger son, who is 13, tells me that Nine Inch Nails is an old band.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 02:51 PM:

How did this particular discussion break out in this thread? I'm so confused.

My position: These kids with their "pentatonic" scale! It's just noise!

Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 02:55 PM:

And the hair! And the niche marketing!

Steve ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 03:19 PM:

How did this particular discussion break out in this thread? I'm so confused.

I'm preemptively trying to prevent Skot's head from bursting like an overripe melon at the mention of Stevie Nicks. You wouldn't want to be responsible for the death of the funniest Estonian on the Internet, would you?

Skot ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 03:28 PM:

Your search - "the funniest estonian on the internet" - did not match any documents.

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 07:54 PM:

But wasn't Beulshi (no, not Jim) the funniest Albanian on the internet? Unless you mean the "hilaritus" of Mother Theresa?

Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2004, 10:35 PM:

The old rocker wore his hair too long
Wore his trouser cuffs too tight...

I've never been a fan of taking potshots at "over-the-hill" rock stars, even if they're not the virtuoso sex-gods they used to be. (And who is? I saw Rich Williams play with Glass Hammer at NEARfest last summer, and he looks awful - haggard, portly, and with that eyepatch, like an unsavory veteran tavern-brawler. Nothing wrong with his fingers, though.)

"Old" guys doing what only "young" guys are supposed to be allowed are an easy target. But I wonder if Morrissey still does "Get Off the Stage" now that he's over forty himself...

David Goldfarb notes Comment Spam on "Your Pop Culture Moment" ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2004, 05:12 AM:

After you delete the comment spam, why not delete these flags, too? It's not like they really add anything to the ongoing conversation.