When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 1 Cor 11
Nick and I talked about culture tonight. I was still thinking about the conversation about Chuck Klosterman I’d had with threepunchstuff and we were on a similar topic: what the hell happened to culture in the last 20 years, and why are we assholes for not liking it?
I don’t like:
- Junk pop culture
- “Retro” nostalgia for previous junk pop culture
- New junk pop culture made by pasting together previous junk pop culture
- Ironic references to junk pop culture made in order to at once enjoy crap and pretend you’re superior to it
- The last 20 years of culture being in spasm remaking versions of itself, so that junk pop culture is now all slightly worse versions of earlier junk pop culture
- The glorification of junk pop culture as the new high art
I do like:
- High culture: Mozart, Zen gardens, Dante, Egyptian sculpture, gamelan.
- Disruptive modernist high culture: Marcel Duchamp, Jorge Luis Borges, Erik Satie, Virginia Woolf, Alfred Jarry.
- Disruptive pop culture: Bebop, Punk, New Wave film, DIY publishing, psychedelia, culture jamming, hip hop, graphic novels.
I am frustrated by a cultural environment in which many people do not want to grow up. The rallying cry of “we won’t eat our vegetables!” is awfully sad. Partly because grown-ups eat their vegetables as a matter of course, but mostly because vegetables taste good if you take the trouble to try them. The Klostermans of this world hate any well-made thing, anything that demands full attention for more than a minute, anything that isn’t sweet on the tongue, anything unfamiliar or challenging.
It’s fine to drink chocolate milk sometimes, or put a Star Wars figurine on your desk, or listen to the horrible record you bought when you were 10. As your life’s entire culture it lacks.
Last night I saw a woman of about 40 purchase cookie dough at the supermarket, eat about half of it in line, and then as we both left get into a bright yellow Tonka truck and drive away listening to A Flock of Seagulls on her car stereo. Chuck Klosterman, the post-modern irony crew, and her friends all think that’s cool. I think she could do better and enjoy life more.
Note: I may continue to bore on this topic or even just rewrite this thing a few more times, because I’m not quite there. Sorry in advance.