Topic C, Part 2: Hope I die before I get old. Oh, wait -- too late.

Great timing! Firstly, because I just saw a Frontline piece on TV last night that addressed the changing face of journalism (or, The Rise of THE BLOG), and secondly, because today is indeed my birthday.

I am turning 31, no longer on the Twenties-Thirties cusp, but I've felt "old" for quite a while. More than once over the past couple of years, I have found myself muttering, "What is up with the kids these days?" I'm not sure when and in what era I got stuck, but it happened just the same.

However, despite feeling somewhat distanced from an age group I was once in (and not so long ago, thank you very much), I don't think I'm quite as out of touch as whomever is responsible for these "lock up your children" news stories. I mean, seriously? Who's scared of emo? Was it ever actually threatening? Teenagers still connect with it, to be sure -- and maybe that's what's frightening parents, as always -- that there's a form of music to which their children deeply relate, which they themselves cannot understand, and thus even greater separation from their offspring is created -- but, Moms! Dads! Emo isn't even goth! Emo is kinda like the hair metal of my youth, except with a lot more crying.

It's funny that Frontline noted that even though most people still get their news from television broadcasts, younger audiences consistently turn to the Internet for their information (with nightly viewings of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, of course); for an "old people" news outlet, Frontline is certainly not oblivious to the shifting tastes of target demographics. In terms of these generations, I don't know onto which side of the divide I land. I suppose I've fallen somewhere in the divide itself, into some chasm in which I know that most of today's music isn't exactly made for me, but I still (somewhat secretly) enjoy "Dance, Dance" (I know, /a: for shame). It's a hole in which I'm so old that I listen to Big Tracks by choice, in a non-ironic way (with frequent, sincere, detours into Top Tracks), and willingly load such songs onto my MP3 player; but it's a hole in which I'm young enough to actually know how to operate an MP3 player, and it's a hole in which I'll never be too old for cake.

Who doesn't love cake?

Happy birthday, Miss Imperial! Have a wonderful day, with cake.

Topic C, Part 1: "Emos, or 'emotional people'"

I don't have the words...

Just wow. Has the generational divide ever been deeper? A yawning chasm never to close again? Not since Elvis' hips have the squares been so far off the mark (actually, the critics of Elvis were pretty on the mark - bringing a new, frank sexuality to the mainstream? Check). But by failing to recognize that some of what they report is in fact parody of the topic in question, they ruin whatever credibility a backwater local newscast might have enjoyed.

Things aren't much better in Rochester:

Emo is admittedly a strange beast. I don't pretend to fully understand it. I vaguely remember when it referred to Slint and Embrace and Minor Threat. I don't like Fall Out Boy; I do admit to occasionally falling for My Chemical Romance's "six songs in one" approach (in a sing-along-because-it's-on-the-radio sense). So yeah, I'm kind of clueless (not as clueless as Officer Maygra, mind you), but I'm pretty sure that when my daughter is old enough to have such interests, no youth movement to which she may pledge allegiance will be worth my wigging out to quite the same degree as the folks at WDAZ.

Rap music - which I was heavily into as a 15-year-old - genuinely frightened my parents. It was about black politics and empowerment and seemingly had very little to say to a white kid from suburban Ottawa. But I drew Public Enemy logos on my binders, and memorized the lyrics. I enjoyed it for several reasons, not the least of which was the danger it represented. It was exotic, and angry, and charged; it was the antithesis of my daily existence. The language was strong, the images sometimes violent, but my parents had the wisdom to let me draw my own conclusions. And now I am neither a militant nor a thug, but a free-thinking, often curious and (I hope) non-prejudiced lover of all music, someone who still loves hip-hop (but who wonders where the urgency went, the sense that the world could be changed - next topic suggestion: Why Hip-Hop Sucks in '07).

I'm a parent now, so I suppose I understand the confusion and fear involved here. We naturally want what's best for our kids, and the easiest way to imagine what's best is to imagine what we know. So here's a suggestion: know more. Ask questions. And don't assume the folks at WDAZ (or equivalent) know what the fuck they're talking about.

Topic B, Part 5: I Am What I Am Not

The internet combines two worlds in a way that no medium has ever done before – it provides the mob mentality of the congregated masses as well as the safety and anonymity of solitude. The result is the freedom to (re)construct identity and to perfect the art of (self-) promotion. It is both a communal and a personal forum; it operates much like a real marketplace or town square, given equally to exhibition and commerce. But imagine a marketplace that allows its participants as much or as little secrecy and obscurity as they wish. Accordingly, what we’re selling in this marketplace, as often as not, is a heavily modified version of ourselves.

The real coup represented by someone like Jeffree Star is the willingness to step into the actual world while maintaining that myspace-crafted persona. We have come to expect a degree of falsification and misrepresentation online, but still hold higher standards for authenticity in the flesh & blood, bricks & mortar world. The fabricated world of online creation should be negated by the actual world of lived experience – you are not your facebook profile; you do not look like your carefully chosen and posted photos - but when a Jeffree Star comes along and denies this rift, it raises alarm. And I think that, as PF suggested, is the point of the whole exercise. New modes of self-invention; newly available methods of self-definition.

Star is but one example of the new breed who, by cunningly utilizing the tools granted them by history’s greatest shared source of information, have become “famous for being famous,” or more accurately, famous simply because they claim to be famous.

***UPDATE*** Emily Nussbaum suggests that maybe it's a generational gap, that nobody over 30 can possibly understand what it means to be young and alive and online today. Most chilling passage? That would have to be this one:

Younger people, one could point out, are the only ones for whom it seems to have sunk in that the idea of a truly private life is already an illusion. Every street in New York has a surveillance camera. Each time you swipe your debit card at Duane Reade or use your MetroCard, that transaction is tracked. Your employer owns your e-mails. The NSA owns your phone calls. Your life is being lived in public whether you choose to acknowledge it or not.

Topic B, Part 4: Amplify the lie.

This whole fake it 'til you make it attitude must occur on such a grand scale in the entertainment industry (or at least the industry of entertainment wannabes). It's like padding your resume -- times a thousand! The practice must be much more common and accepted in showbiz than it is in the workaday world, though it's probably done just as surreptitiously.

One could argue that Jeffree Star has every right to manufacture his persona, and that he even has the right to create a biography out of whole cloth, since the business he's in is fuelled by illusion. Why should the development of an alter ego stop at stage names?

An artist's authenticity always amazes (ah! alliteration), but sometimes we need a little fantasy, no? As PF pointed out, the reality might actually disappoint.

Hmm. Maybe I shouldn't be so hard on Laura Albert.

topic b, part 3: the prettiest (proto)star

wow - i just came across this article and thought it fit in perfectly with our recent thoughts.

i'm curious about how real any of it is, though. clearly, mr. star is connected enough to make myspace demos with peaches' drummer (although, i can't honestly say how connected that really makes a person), and he's great at doing the self-promotion qualified by noncommittal disclaimers thing (ie, a makeup line that's "secretly in the works, but you can publish that" and a reality tv show that "is getting finalized today").

i'm impressed by the fake it 'til you make it chutzpah on display here. so impressed, in fact, that i can't tell if i'd really just rather it all remain a cloud of hyperbole awaiting media "condensation" (like a molecular cloud coalescing in the interstellar medium! if i may belabor the metaphor just a tad more - pardon that, but it has the word "medium" built right into it!).

that's the real art happening here, and i'm sure any "realization" of the alleged works in progress henceforth would be a bit of a letdown.

Topic B, Part 2: Infected

Ah yes, viral marketing, wherein the advertisers, having cottoned on to the fact that by and large we don't like to be sold to, try to fool us into thinking we're not being sold to, but that lwnmwrboy1980 from Des Moines just really loves Zowie Cola, and wants you to know about it. It's gotten so that I distrust just about any viral video I see - there are just too many fakes. A strange about-face, when you think about it: now that we all own the technology on our desktops to make near-Hollywood quality video, the marketing people are trying to make their product look as lo-fi and accidental as possible. It confounds the notion of authenticity. Makes the head spin.

Topic B, Part 1: You got served.

Betagal and PF bring up an interesting point: the idea of manipulation. This isn't just restricted to wigged-out brides on YouTube (please excuse the hair-related pun); remember lonelygirl15? JT LeRoy? Most exposed pranks are justified as performance art or even social experiments, but those who were fooled tend to get really, really angry about the grift. They write books about it! They make widely ignored movies about those books!

So should staged clips be labelled as such? I'd like to think that I'm savvy enough to distinguish real footage from the scripted variety, or at least take it all with a grain of salt (if that expression applies), but what if the clip involved a crime? (Imagine, /a, if we had posted a clip of one of the fake kidnappings we pulled off in high school? Would the act be dismissed as low-brow entertainment, or would we have police knocking on our doors?)

If I saw footage of a crime on YouTube, my first instinct would be to assume that it was a prank. Who'd post that sort of thing on YouTube, of all places, right? Yet the site has been used to nab murder suspects and is being used to find missing persons. Will the proliferance of Internet hoaxes (and punking in general) diminish the effectiveness of measures like these, because the fakes create a "crying wolf" atmosphere in which the real victims are lost?

topic a, part five: surveillance camera

sorry, guys: i'm finding it hard to tackle this topic. i mean, the problems of defining public vs. private space (especially in the face of accelerating media infiltration) all by itself gives me too much to chew on. where do you even begin?!

all i can say is that the idea of every man, woman, and (shudder) child/tween/ager wielding near-microscopic cameras everywhere and then beaming the raw footage directly to every available eyeball and/or brainstem in the world feels like the future to me right now, by which i mean that it both scares and fascinates me.

what i'm really looking forward to is the explosion in editing techniques that can't be far behind. in short order, posting raw footage will have fallen hopefully behind the times, and the original blunder will pale in comparison to the seamlessly manipulated mutation it becomes....

Topic A, Part 4: Teach Your Children Well

A slight (but oh so slight as to stay on track) shift on this topic. Thanks to PF all of my friends are now addicted to RapCat, and there is indeed an indescribable beauty to being able to watch the commercial for "The Clapper" anytime you like. I mention this commercial in particular because:
a. I love the cranky old woman at the end.
b. A friend of mine tried to find this very commercial in the pre-YouTube era whilst on the job and ended up downloading a ton of spyware onto her company computer. Whoops!

But one thing that has stunned me about YouTube is the proliferation of online blogging. I'm certain there is a fancier name for these things, but you get the ideer. Now whether they are honest-to-God 16 year olds or a bunch of actors who merely look like fragile 16 year olds is really beside the point. I saw the video below and was horrified on several levels. Give it a look, I'll wait.

In my day, we wrote all of this sort of thing down in spiral bound notebooks or little journals with butterflies on the cover which were kept under lock and key. Then 2 or 3 or even 10 years later we found it again and shuddered at our innocence or stupidity or even just wept as we remembered how painful and awkward those years were. But we most certainly didn't put it on the internet to be found by our parents and classmates.

It also brings up a good point brought up earlier by Miss Imperial. Anonymity sometimes brings out the worst in people, and for evidence you need to look no farther than message boards and the comments on YouTube. This poor kid is just about as awkward as they come, and the comments under this video telling him to kill himself because he's pathetic and hated made me unbelievably sad. Is this where we are, people? Is this the magic of technology that was promised us? Laughing at Britney's bad skin on HDTV and telling the underdog to kill himself?

That's it, my kids are using a Commodore 64 for their homework and playing Pong.

Topic A, Part 3: Mostly sidebar.

Just the mention of House of Guitars -- "The store that ate my brain!" -- sends me into a tailspin of nostalgia. (I, too, grew up in suburban Ottawa; like /a, I cannot say "J&E Grocery" without adding the store's street address IMMEDIATELY AFTERWARDS, as if it were part of the name. In a way, it is.) I really did feel like I had some claim to Rochester, NY, and even though that city is right across the water from Toronto, all the American network feeds come from Buffalo affiliates. People, that is NOT the same.


It's true, though, that the world feels a lot smaller than it used to, thanks to the Internet...but, like /a pointed out, the world also feels a lot more congested. How do teenagers stay in the loop? It's not even a loop! It's like a bunch of loops all intertwined, then wrapped tightly around a really huge backpack. No wonder they all need three cellphones each.

(At some point we're going to have to talk about people wearing Bluetooth earpieces ALL THE TIME. I know it's been parodied on many an occasion and is therefore old news, but seriously, it's like those things are grafted to people's temples.)

And /a, you're right, there's a lot of footage on the Internet that some would call, er, "pointless". I feel as if I should applaud the DIY mentality of posting your own work on YouTube -- I suppose it beats waiting in that giant American/Canadian Idol line -- but how does one ensure that the work gets noticed?

(Oh, and I should note that the TBS feed in Toronto comes from somewhere in Georgia, which is the reason why I saw Rap Cat in the first place. Step up, Buffalo!)

Topic A, Part 2: You Filmed Me Doing What?

I grew up in suburban Ottawa, Ontario feeling that Rochester, New York – a city I haven’t visited to this day – was something of a second home, because when I was young, before the explosion of available channels, all of our American network TV stations (and by “all” I mean CBS, NBC and ABC) came from Rochester. So I knew that city, in a strange, detached way, rather intimately: The Great House of Guitars; J&E Grocery (139 Reynolds Street); The Eddie Meath Penny Fund; Carvel Ice Cream; Eastman Kodak. Rightly or wrongly, I still expect to be able to navigate my way around and to recognize local landmarks if ever I do visit The Flower City. Cultural literacy, Richard Ford’s Frank Bascombe calls it.

Now, with YouTube (or Google Video, or iFilm, or Veoh, or hell, even, the whole damn world is something of a second home – a vast, dizzying, perplexing and altogether overwhelming one, stacked virtual floor to cyber-ceiling with all manner of cultural effluvia (satellite TV contributes to this to, in that I can now watch the evening news from St. John’s or Spokane, if I want to). And like Miss Imperial, I dig the ability to find Rap Cat, or the Geico Caveman commercials, or old music videos whenever I chose to see them. Content delivered on my terms (this is the great advantage the new providers are promising us). The problem then becomes wading your way through all the content that’s available, much of it user-generated. In theory, I’m all for user-generated content (UGC, if we must get all jargon-y). I mean, you know, power to the people and huzzah for the quasi-democratization of the media, but doesn’t the vast majority of it suck?

AFV always struck me as something to chuckle at before changing the channel (with all respect due to PF). Now there’s a gajillion pratfalls, bloopers, hi-jinks, goofs, pranks and stunts vying for your attention, so what’s any of it worth? And who has the time? I think of it all as part and parcel of the cheapening of celebrity, wherein notoriety, infamy, recognition and ridicule are basically and unfortunately synonymous.

And then, as Miss Imperial discussed, there are those unwitting victims of this extreme proliferation of lenses. Combine that with the infinite storage capability we’ve seen develop in our lifetimes, and you arrive at the very sinister notion that once something finds its way on the internet, it can never be erased, suppressed, denied, ignored, deleted or hidden. That’s a good thing in the arena of truth-finding, but not so good if you’re the victim of unwanted photojournalism or overzealous camera phone usage.

Maybe I’m just getting older, but there are days when the whole thing seems tremendously overwhelming, and I’m tempted to forget all about it and sign up for the Luddites’ newsletter (printed on paper, naturally). Of course, then somebody digs up something funny, and I’m back to toasting our cleverness and ingenuity. And being thankful that I’m not this guy:

Topic A, Part 1: Instant infamy.


And this is what I love about YouTube: the fact that I don't have to anchor PF to the couch, hoping to god that this fast food commercial airs again, in order to share with him the magic that is Rap Cat. (Now, if only YouTube had an English version of "Die Simpsons - Rektor Skinners Lieblingsfilm", not to mention a clip of that dog howling along to a Casio keyboard on AFV, it would be perfect.)

I love that YouTube is a community-based site akin to those (ahem, illegal) file sharing servers and MP3 blogs that I believe have made the world a better place, or at least levelled the playing field. This, admittedly, is a very sunny view of things. What about the darker side of this "community"? What about the unwilling and often unknowing celebrities of the Internet?

It's on.

Since we comment on each other's personal blogs with considerable frequency, I thought it might be a good idea to open a collective blog in which our responses to each other aren't relegated to pop-up comment windows, but are instead displayed as threaded blog posts...a conversation, if you will. I thought it might be nice to have a running discussion where post titles only come into play when the topic is changed, and all the category labels are named after song titles. (It's Valentine's Day, so I'm thinking about love, and the four of us -- me (Miss Imperial), PF, Betagal and /a -- LOVE music.)

Sure, there are message boards for this sort of thing, but with this blog we eliminate at least ninety percent of the boards' self-righteousness and tiresome one-upsmanship (if that is even a word. See? If this was a message board, there would already be 87 replies explaining why I am a total idiot and shouldn't be wasting everyone's time. That sort of "advice", my friends, is what the Comments section is for). This blog is more like an IM session with better spelling!

So how do we break the ice? Keep reading.