Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Making My Point For Me

I am listening to a talk on TED by a British fellow named Malcom McLaren who is talking about the difference between authentic and what he calls "karaoke culture." He rather eloquently sums up my entire premise, and it's worth reviewing here. Just on first blush, the talk does get a bit windy. I'll have more to say about it, as well as my review of why art matters, particularly today. And I mean by that, not only the product, but the facility of creativity, which is art, which is invention, which is a new way to see the world.

Malcom McLaren died on April 8th, 2010 in Switzerland. Turns out the talk he gives here is the last one before he passed.

More Later

Friday, September 16, 2011

Speaking Yet More About Re-boots

Andy Fish over at Fishwrap wrote quite eloquently about the fate of the creators of Superman, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. As famous and iconic as their creation became, they never saw a dime of residual income for years. It finally took legal action to get anything resembling a pension, leave aside royalties which would have made the two men wealthy beyond their wildest dreams.

Now, as the current owners of Superman, the corporate heads at DC have decided to re-boot the character, along with the entire DC cast of characters. As anyone who has followed this knows, when it comes to signature characters like Superman, re-boots don't always take and it's sometimes best to leave well enough alone. In fact, as a matter of history, changes have been made to the character with varying degrees of success. The last attempt to change Superman's costume was met with howls of outrage.

The moral of the story? Sometimes re-boots for the sake of re-boots are just a bad idea. But DC is attempting a wholesale re-invention of its entire line-up, including Superman, and this is after various revisions, history changes and so on in order to keep it all fresh (and to boost sales, lest we forget). It's hard to imagine Siegel and Shuster disagreeing with the need for an update from time to time. They certainly re-booted. Superman started off as a bad guy. Then they tweaked the character till they got it right. In this case, Jim Lee and his mates are playing for all the marbles, exercising the artist's prerogative to rip out the page and start all over again. It's always a bold move, and not an ill-considered one. When you get to the point that you have to do that, it's a recognition that the current course is not getting you where you want to go, and it's time for a do over. It'll be interesting to watch.

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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Fair Warning

At some point, some of you will be reading this and you'll either be delighted, laughing your ass off, or quite possibly, offended, particularly since I've already shown a tendency to skewer pop culture that I think is dumbing us down as a culture. The other day for example, I groaned and lamented the chorus line of celebrities showing off their pregnancies on the covers of magazines. Beyonce Knowles, whose profile is stratospheric right now, is just the latest example in what, to my mind, is a tired trend that needs to END. The first time I'd ever seen it, it was done boldly, and without apology by Demi Moore in the 1990s. And she wasn't just "a little pregnant". She was, as the old King James vernacular would put it, "great with child". Now, leave aside the arguably self-promotional aspect of it, the piece was a gutsy move. She took some considerable heat for it. The shoot was done by Annie Leibowitz, which gave it the artistic imprimatur it might not have otherwise gotten. It remains, as I said before, a startling iconic image in our popular culture, whatever you may think of it.

Problem is, you can only pull a stunt like this once.
It's like Daffy Duck swallowing explosives and...well, EXPLODING.
It's difficult to come back from that. And what do you do for an encore?

So I get a little annoyed at how lacking in originality our Hollywood driven popular culture can be. We've lived through a decade of re-cycled, re-booted, re-purposed EVERYTHING. And I'm not necessarily against re-invention, strictly speaking. But when, for example, Spider-Man becomes a movie franchise in 2002, and needs to be "re-booted" a mere decade later, I have to scratch my head. Hollywood made 3 movies starring the wall crawler and may as well have been legitimately printing its own currency.
Yet some executive said the franchise had grown "tired". It needed a "re-boot".
After what, nearly $2.5 BILLION in worldwide box-office, I would think some studio executives could have well retired. Instead we need a re-boot.

So what is my point here?

Just preparing my readers for the eventuality that you will disagree with me perhaps a bit.
Or perhaps I'm preparing myself. After all, some folks can get mighty heated if anyone says anything about Beyonce. Or Mariah. Or Britney. Or... you get the idea, that isn't reverent.

So fair warning, dear readers...

I'm not what could be called the reverent sort. It's probably why I sleep in on Sunday mornings instead of going to church.

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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

More Beyonce Baby News

From the folks at US Magazine comes this.
Now, to be fair, it's reasonable to think that Beyonce Knowles has the same dreams of family that many people have. She's obviously playing that one out. She's a successful woman and a successful recording artist. I applaud that. After all, what this does is legitimize artists having normal things like family. You know. Stable relationship. Kids. A nice house to raise them in with extended family joining in to help shape them into responsible, caring, generous, kind, and thinking human beings.

Who can't get down with that?

I just kind of groaned when I saw this picture, though. Why? Because this has been done to death.
First Demi Moore. Then Britney Spears had to do it (and I'm sure you were as overjoyed about her reproducing as I was). Mariah Carey had to do it here recently. The gorgeous Italian actress Monica Bellucci did it. And now it's just normal. Another day at the office. When Demi did it, it was bold, daring, and edgy to say the least. Love it or hate it, she made a statement. One could even call it an artistic statement and I'm sure some have. Now, a celebrity artist (singer, actress, etc) gets pregnant and the evidence must be photographed and put on the cover. For all to see.
And I'm having a hard time seeing it as necessary, leave alone artistic, and an easier time seeing it as nakedly (I use the word advisedly) self-promotional. It does take a particular kind of boldness to go public with so private and intimate an event, I suppose. And the celebrity game is a tough business. It's about being memorable, after all. My lament is that this has become rote, standard procedure. No originality about it. But people do remember. It continues to be done because it works. Vanity Fair sold a lot of magazines with Demi Moore's iconic shot. As an artist though, I have to wonder how many more times they can go to that well.

Just saying, that's all....

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