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New Year's Day Diatribe aka: The Trouble With Rupert Pupkin

 

Well... It's just before 7 am on January 1st, 2010.
I sit alone in my little living room, with only the ticking of the clock to keep me company.
Writing somehow soothes me. That's why I still do it I guess.
I've been thinking a-lot about today. About the time we're living in. 
I don't like it one bit.
I see so many troubling things. 
Not the least of which is the current state of the music business. It is so odd to me at present.
It really seems as if no one can be bothered to dig deep anymore... 
Did you know that music has become an ancillary art form? Merely an audio accoutrement to accompany more important technological breakthroughs like social networking and gaming? Well it has!
Seriously, when was the last time you bought a new collection of an artist's songs, sat in front of a pair of speakers (not your laptop!) and did nothing but listen to their music? Can you still do it? Or do you have to do it in conjunction with updating your Face-book status and IM-ing with someone while simultaneously surfing the web for new things to buy?? 
Oh yes friends, it's gotten bad.
This Twitter thing is the silliest (and to me scariest) sign of civilization's decline in my humble opinion.
I was laughing the other day, imagining Bob Dylan tweeting... or any other of my childhood heros for that matter.
John Lennon: Just had another nervous breakdown in my primal scream therapy : (
 
1 hour ago from the Dakota
John Lennon: Yoko just scolded me (AGAIN!) for wanting to contact Paul </3
30 minutes ago from the Dakota
John Lennon: Was wondering where a bloke can get some good fish and chips and heroin in NYC... Any suggestions??
15 minutes ago from the Dakota
John Lennon: OMG!! Just tried to crap for the third time today!! Not enough fiber??
Still wondering about that heroin!! LOL
5 minutes ago from the Dakota
Kind of ridiculous, right? Because we can't be brilliant all the time, now can we? 
You see, art is a piece of who we are. Some might argue the best piece. It's a means to take the parts of ourselves that need to connect in this unique way and focus them into something tangible and special
The ordinary isn't special, that's why it's ordinary!  
Do you think the artists of yore would have tweeted? And would their tweets have been the same inane, semi-mentally handicapped, misspelled child like snail trails that I have to endure from today's artists??
When I was a kid, artists were only soaccessible. You scoured every avenue available because information on them was limited.
You had to piece together a personal idea culled from a few carefully created photos, magazine snippets, newspaper articles, and the occasional interview. Mostly though, you had to form your ideas about your favorite artists from their music!!
Today I can learn seemingly anything and everything about a new artist. Way too much in fact. 
It's ridiculous. There's no mystery. Nothing is left to the imagination anymore. 
Growing up, I had friendships with numerous people based on the time we spent (literally hours somedays) trying to figure out what made an artist tick or what their lyrics were about... Hell, I'm thinking of a guy right now who I spent years with just trying to decipher the meanings to Steely Dan songs!! Today, all the info anyone desires is just a search and click away. Remember that colloquial phrase too much information?? 
I was watching an old film recently. "The King of Comedy". One of my favorites. 
As a kid, I was drawn to this story of a man who wants to be famous so badly, he's willing to go to any length to get it. 
Back then, I liked the film because the idea seemed so outrageous to me, and it was! The protagonist, Rupert Pupkin, was so desperate for fame and fortune. He was so desperate to be above his fellows, to be looking down on them with an air of superiority and exclusivity. Why? Because he was a sad little man. A lonely shut in. A pathological bachelor who lived at home with his mother and spent years in her basement fantasizing that he was a star. His desire to be someone else was so great that he hatches a plan to kidnap a famous talk show host, and use that act as leverage to get what he wants, i.e fame and fortune.
I always enjoyed this movie because it wasutter fiction. Rupert Pupkin was so over the top, so narcissistic, so delusional... He could only exist in a movie. But as I re watched this film recently I was shocked to discover that his musings, his dreams and schemes, his sheer desperation sounded eerily similar to a-lot of actors, musicians and wanna-be celebrities today.
What do you do when the paranoid fantasies of your youth materialize into reality when you've grown up?
How am I supposed to feel about this now? How long can I laugh and shake my head, dismissing the times we're living in as innocuous, when I know they really aren't?
These days all I hear are so many Monday morning quarterbacks directing us artists to tweet, status update and post our way into a successful career in the new millennium.
Is that really the solution??
I mean, c'mon friends, do you really want to know what I'm doing today, and everyday, several times each day??
Do you really find me that interesting??
Of course not! Because by and large, most of my days are spent doing the mundane things we all do. 
Working, eating, paying bills etc.
Not particularly interesting.
However, if I made a sex tape, or got busted for drugs, or was taken into custody for domestically abusing my girlfriend, might you want to know me more?
You see, this is the problem. Rupert Pupkin couldn't get arrested (or booked on a major talk show) until he broke the law and threatened someone's life. That movie was funny and entertaining because it wasfictional. Well not anymore...
Today it's real. It's really happening. And even stranger to me? No one seems the least bit phased by it.
But I am. I think it's a fucking crisis. Do you?
In my last blog, I wrote about the current state of pop music lyrics, and how devoid of consciousness most of them are.
I was surprised how very few people found this to be a problem. We really are living in a Brave New World I guess.
But do you know we are the ones responsible for how this Brave New World will turn out? 
When I was a kid, the grown ups warned me us young 'uns would screw things up if we weren't careful, and boy were they right. Of course to be fair, they were screwing things up pretty bad themselves.
Still, I reasoned that if I abstained from certain base actions, at least I wouldn't be contributing to the problem.
I now realize that by doing nothing I still did something. 
If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice! To quote an old chestnut...
So, it's my 2010 New Year's resolution- I've decided I will do what ever I can to help redirect things. 
Because I think we can all agree 2009 was bad. Personally, it truly sucked. Might very well have been the worst year of my life. 2010 will be better simply because 2009 couldn't have been worse!
I don't know where guys like me fit into the musical strata now. I fear I'm an anachronism. That may be the case indeed.
In my defense, I'm still trying to figure out how to get out of the music business and make a living doing something else. 
But ultimately I know I'm stuck being a musician forever, even if it becomes just a hobby as times goes on.
I wanted to leave you with a bit of philosophy to chew on in this new year.
Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard once postulated there are three states man resides in at any given time.
the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. 
Most people, he observed, live an aesthetic life in which nothing matters but appearances, pleasures, and happiness. 
It is in accordance with these desires that people follow social conventions. 
I'm of the opinion that most of society is currently stuck in this state. Consequently, our relationships are superficial and shallow. By and large, we think only of ourselves and only look to connect or assist others when it suits our own needs. 
For example, every day I get a friend request from some new artist or other on Myspace or Face-book. Usually I get several. The short messages that accompany said requests are cliche' and impersonal. They are clearly copied, pasted and delivered through some automaton like program that has no interest in me other than adding my information to some list or other for reasons of personal gain. When I click on these artist's profiles and listen to their music, I'm often disappointed because usually their songs are unoriginal, lackluster and... I can literally hear the computer plug-ins they used to correct their lack of innate musical talent. 
People, it's so very depressing. It's so lonely. It's as if I'm in a warehouse of full of food, and I'm starving because every piece I put in my mouth turns out to be a fake plastic replica. You know, like the kind you see in the windows of Japanese restaurants? From a distance the food looks real, but get close enough to smell, touch and taste, and the deception is quickly revealed. 
Surely there are some real edibles somewhere, but I may very well die of starvation before I find them! 
In contrast to their soulless music, what really stands out with most of these so called artists are the number of "friends" they have. The number of social networking sites they belong to. The wealth of self disclosures they're happy to reveal. It's as if instead of spending their formative years studying music and practicing their musical instruments, they instead studied and practiced the art of public relations and marketing. It truly feels like one of Dante's circles of hell, but there's no Virgil to guide me through... So now I'm thinking, am I your Virgil? God help us all if that's the case!!
BTW, Kierkegaard also considered the violation of social conventions for personal reasons (in the pursuit of fame for example) to be a personal aesthetic choice. So when one of your beloved matinee idols decides that another social transgression is needed to boost their profile, to recapture some of that coveted market share, remember that it's calculated and therefore devoid of innocence. And while we're on the subject, is there any innocence left anywhere??
Now according to Kierkegaard, a much smaller group of people live in the ethical sphere. They do their best to do the right things and see past the social superficialities and one dimensional ideals of our half baked society. 
Where are these people BTW? Do you know why you don't hear about them? Because America doesn't reward or even support these folks. And you know, it gets pretty hard to keep on keeping on when you're unsupported...
Finally, Kierkegaard speaks of the third and supposedly highest sphere- the faith sphere. To be in the faith sphere, he postulates, one must give themselves entirely to God. Now, I'm not a religious guy. I naturally shy away from God stuff where these discussions are concerned. But as an observer, I do find it interesting that this is a potential ideal to aspire to. If only to give you guys options as you ponder (if you even care to) the ideas I've put fourth in this blog.
And I really hope you do. Because if we keep moving in the direction we're currently in, there won't be anything substantive left. 
And a life without substance is not self sustaining...
Well. That's enough straight talk for now. You can go back to your post New Year's Eve hangovers and Web induced trances. 
I'll love you no matter what : )
And as always, may 2010 bring you all the love, happiness and success you can endure.
  

 

 

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