The Leftover Plurality

archive1

Momus has an excellent essay today about something I had felt vividly when I was back home in December: the U.S. Right has appropriated identity politics from minority movements. After the Republican’s total victory last November it has waned, but the Right Wing and their media spokesmen constantly make themselves out to be the victims of some imaginary Left Wing Conspiracy, when in fact, they are still strongly gripping the reigns of power. America’s demographics are changing, and in a very short time frame, WASP Americans will no longer hold a full majority. However, the other races and minority groups stand only as small fragments, and the Republicans can easily rule through a plurality of WASP support.

As someone pointed out in reference to my intentionally terrible “Trend Sheet” parody, an abundance of media naturally destroys “uniform culture.” But I would imagine that in both politics and consumer markets like fashion, the rate of subculturization increases as one approaches “liberal” or “fashion-forward,” respectively. In other words, the more you’re into fashion, there’s an increasingly better chance you’re into a different fashion than your peer with equal interest. This is in fact because people interested in obscure things tend to like them because no one else does, which means that a massing of likeminded people will lead to further fragmentation. There’s a lot of people finding culture on the Internet, but we’re all using it to do totally different things.

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s also a lumpen plurality of “mainstream” consumers/voters whose tastes tend to be simple and unrefined and quite uniform.

And with it, there’s also a natural force pushing back to the middle. Fashion in 1980s Japan was essentially monolithic — one fashion code for one age group. If you weren’t wearing DC brands in 1985, you were not “cool.” In the ’90s, fashion became subcultural, but there were usually only 5-6 looks in the public sphere — Skater-kei, Uraharajuku-kei, Mode-kei, etc. — and most people could manage the information required to read others’ fashion tastes. Now, however, the number of looks has grown exponentially, but the adopters of each are proportionally lower. And as the information required to break the code reaches overload, most people find refuge back in the “mainstream plurality.” I see Japanese kids in Mod gear, hip-hop, skater-wear, NYC rocker, and ultra-punk all the time, but I’ve also never seen so much Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Men seem to overcome the info overload issue by buying generic brands like Uniqlo, but Japanese women buy those particular luxury items in the certainty that they signal taste (and ultimately, wealth) to the largest percentage of population.

I’m grateful for the variety of consumer lifestyle choices and free information in today’s society, but unless we on the fringes can band together to create a larger coalition than the mainstream plurality, we will be witness to the lowest point in mass culture history. In the 1950s, mass culture may have been vanilla, but they also had to attempt to please those with somewhat alternative tastes. Now that we’ve exited the main cultural spheres and are blogging to our 25-person audience, mass culture can just totally write us off and go on its way without us.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
March 24, 2005

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

41 Responses

  1. Momus Says:

    I’m glad you liked the essay. But I think you’re on rather shaky ground when you try to map politics to fashion, and say, essentially, “We are various, they are one. We are divided, they are unified. We have good taste, they have bad taste. We are the margins, they are the mainstream. They are leaving us behind.” How does your dismissal of a blog read by 25 people (and I know for a fact that over a thousand people read Click Opera) square up to the idea that there’s a “digital divide”, for instance, and that it’s those who don’t read and write blogs who are being left behind, not those who do?

  2. marxy Says:

    Although this is changing rapidly, companies traditionally relied on economies of scale to maintain profitablity, which requires a relatively large market. As technology progresses, “mass customization” will get better and companies may be able to serve people on the fringes as well as those in the center. However, at this point, the largest companies who subsidize the biggest culture through advertising want to appeal to that middle mass and not try to hit thousands of subcultures individually.

    So, although we who read/write blogs are more on the crest of hi-tech and new culture, the money/power right now still seems to be centralized. I hope you’re right that we’re not the ones left behind, but those on the fringes certainly have less input into mainstream tastes than a decade earlier.

  3. Momus Says:

    I don’t think anyone needs to feel sorry for you and me, though, Marxy! Wouldn’t arguing that we’re somehow “victims” (for all our privilege) make us spoilt whiners just like the Republivictims?

  4. marxy Says:

    No, no, my point is not that we’re victims of the system as much as that we need to fight being marginalized through a unified collective action. If the Internet truly increases social capital, we may be in a better position in ten years or so, but there is a danger to going down the super specific subcultural path without acknowledgement that this cocooning isn’t good for society.

  5. stanleylieber Says:

    marxy:

    The very same technology allows these super-stratified groups to connect and cooperate on increasingly finely-cut, specific issues, though. Just as there are smaller and smaller groups, the ability to process and finesse finer and finer grained facets of larger issues comes along with it.

    -sl

  6. Momus Says:

    Cocooning both is an isn’t good. Yes, it isolates people and keeps a universal discourse from happening. But it also allows interesting things to exist — subculture, critical culture. Terry Eagleton says:

    “To claim that institutions of culture and learning should enjoy a degree of autonomy is derided as ivory-towerism. Yet autonomy means space for criticism as well as space for irresponsibility. A privileged distance from everyday life can also be a productive one. Literary academics are more likely than insurance brokers to be left-wingers.”

    I personally wouldn’t be making records if the choice was “Sell in Wal-Mart or don’t make records.” The only TV show I’ve been even slightly interested in this year is UK C4’s Nathan Barley. Here are the overnight ratings for the show (watch the 10pm to 10.30pm slot):

    http://www.jutl.com/nbr.html

    That’s right, people were switching off in their millions when this intelligent satire hit their screens, and switching back on for The Friday Night Project, some crap in which “celebrity guests take to the streets to use their power of celebrity to get punters to do funny or unusual things.”

  7. Jakey Says:

    The luxury you guys have of “being the margins”…mainstream exists for a reason; to make people like yourselves feel special…enjoy it, its your privelege, dont mock the afflicted…I really cant understand how youve managed to get as far as you have…soemthings definitely wrong…

  8. graham kolbeins Says:

    According to this Wall Street Journal article:

    “Some eight million Americans now publish blogs and 32 million people read them”

  9. marxy Says:

    But I think it may be safe to assume that those 8 million Americans generally blog about completely different things and there’s more similiarties between the cultural tastes of those who don’t blog than those that do.

    Compare this to television in the 50s. Even those who adopted the new technology quickly, all watched the same three channels.

  10. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    Head over to Flickr for 3 annotated photos and comments I have posted on a continuing 2-month old sit-in protest going on at Kyoto University as we type.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sparklig/7305337/in/photostream/

  11. Chris_B Says:

    Marxy: you are unusually verbose this evening, unfortunately its not focused and the comments you have added here make it seem like you have dusted off early issues of Wired and sniffed the binding glue. You might want to read up one some of the voting stats by ethnicity & income levels. They may not be what you suppose. Additionally, let me ask you if you are trying to assert some link between writing regularly on a web page and being a member of some sort of elite culture segment? (I’m avoiding certain politically charged terms in that question deliberately)

  12. marxy Says:

    I’ll admit that I have more confidence in using this “lumpen plurality” argument in describing Japanese fashion than U.S. politics. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that mainstream Japanese and American music and TV had an interesting “Alternative” stage in the early 90s – grunge, Shibuya-kei, The Simpsons – and went super lower-middle tastes at the end of that decade.

    I think this line of reasoning would be infinitely more interesting with any sort of empirical data to back it up, which I don’t have. But killing a bad idea is as important as embracing a good one.

  13. Jakey Says:

    type-shout-blog-colour-shape !

    A post I made to my intra-blog
    .
    .
    .

    A formulae to rise into the heady escelons of the tech-political-visuaural pantheon for at least…one week.

    Here goes…

    Set up a website with some clever name surreptitiously namedropping a cultural, intellectual inaccessible reference, a Greek god, a Japanese word, a 1930’s German film maker, anything will do as long as only a very small strata of society will understand it, after all…you only want people who UNDERSTAND IT to read your blog

    Decide you have ADHD, Aspergers syndrome, alcoholism induced by anxiety disorder induced by your ostrcisation by mainstream society by taking many of the self diagnosis tests that are available on the web.

    Decide the best course of medication is http://www.volumepills.com/ and treat yourself with 20 times the recommended dosage.Pep up with a doctors prescription of lithium for your “artistic shadow in the mind”.

    Read a number of slightly off the wall cultural and political commentaries such as x and x and x (never reveal your sources)

    Take aforementioned commentaries and expound your own opinions on them, interspersed with cultural observations of the current exotic foreign city you are residing in and currently employed / pioneering in as an electro-beat poet, extropian interior designer, fashion deconstructionist, etc, etc

    Write your thoughts in the most basic of text editors, remember the more obscure the text editor and operating system the better, for example if you can somehow manage to retro-redux your 1970’s pine finished MOOG MS-20 to convert monophonic key presses into ASCII text signals through a Kenton midi to CV converter into a VAX/VMS mother cluster server running VI text editor via a middleware module you wrote YOURSELF, that would be just ideal.

    Once you’ve finished, prepare your blog into XML / XSLT or equally confusing format and colour code each word in your blog with a colour from the international standard F53HFTXXXTIII Pantones schema; colours are preferably chosen with a handicapped, false memory syndrome abused colour blind alien abductee.

    Start up your desktop music based system on your achingly expensive titanium alloy / glass / poly-fibri computer, the computer must not run the operating system it was orginally shipped with, preferably a linux hybrid written by someone in China that bypasses the countries strict fire walling policies, connect it to your valve compressor custom built mixing desk and sound system.

    For each colour and word in your blog choose a relevant “sound texture”…arrange each colour word or “wolour” or “corlwod” in a random sequence for each word in your blog (random sequence choices can be an obscure mathematicians theorem, DNA strands of an extinct animal, a eugenics pioneer’s speech from 1938 encoded in binary, etc, the more obscure the better)

    Sync your finished sound colour word composition to a video mixing unit to overdub-splice-mix images of pornography , 1950’s Korean communist propaganda, cookie crew and the wee papa girl rappers videos, TV static, Religious cult promotional videos, childhood family HI-8 cinefilm of a friend who recently committed suicide, etc, etc to your music.

    Encode your finished masterpiece to a unknown DIVX format or completely new inaccessible video format such as MIF4…before doing so remember to resample everything down to a 1khz audiovisual signal, before re-encoding back to original quality via such an obscure utility that even the people who made it don’t know how it works.

    Release this DAILY on your website to a limited audience of 20-40 people who you know and are associated with on a websocial level who think your techniques/opinions are passé and provide a comments board for them to openly berate your efforts on the publi-wet-web-sphere.

    A text download accompaniment should be available for your readers, in an obscure file format, though remember everything should be in italics.

    Provide links to your record label, fashion design range, book publisher, psychologist, et al

    Continue for 3 weeks and then re-invent yourself.

    生活にあきた。。。

  14. Chris_B Says:

    Jakey: amusing. Sounds like you know about Alan Sokal http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_Affair and or the False Document technique http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_document

    This kind of leads me to sort of sidecheck momus a bit. The intellectual failure of lots of the thinking which leads to both sides of the issue momus writes about is that the ideas of the arts can always be applied to the sciences. Anyone who thinks they can apply that relativism stuff to hard science doesnt know the first thing about either of them. Its all fine and dandy to wallow around in an intelectual mire until someone looses an eye.

  15. Momus Says:

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, I want my eye doctor to be an Enlightenment man. But what about the “pop sociology of pop”? What good is science there? It’s mix-n-match. Terribly messy and rather effeminate, I’m afraid. Emiricism does help, of course. We ask people how they feel about things (that’s why I’m always asking Hisae how it felt to be 11 and listening to the pop records discussed here: there really is no point in Americans trying to tell me what they mean), or we try to look at statistics which quantify the qualitative (hence my link to viewing stats for Nathan Barley today. But finally the social sciences and the humanities do require verstehen and theory, hermeutics and epistemology, a global vision, an ideology. All that terribly suspicious European stuff. That’s where the politics comes in, and the stats get left behind.

  16. Jakey Says:

    ummm no Chris_b, I just wrote it…just like plain and simple from my head Ive no idea what your on about with those references until you listed them and even after looking at the links Im dubuya (mix clash しゃれ style) confused…Im completely niave, perhaps like the Petrasnky orphans….its an interesting paradoxim, though interestingly enough you used the word amusing..yes..that does show something on your perception of sokals works and imaginings……

    You were just going to do a search on the word petransky orphans wernt you….it doesnt exist

    and momus…

    och away an pish…yir fuu o it

  17. r. Says:

    r. here.

    i just posted this comment on nick’s blog, but i thought it might be useful here. (i’m assuming you guys are au courant with the thread over there as it stands.)
    ————————
    r. here.

    upthread someone said (long quote coming, sorry)…

    “If people only formed into groups populated by those with opinions that fit perfectly in agreement with their own (a crazy and impossible hypothetical which is supposed to be the real-world equivalent of a game board with pieces in every space, for reasons I’ll get to), then they would not look at any views they valued that were also different from theirs and attempt to adjust their views, they would be faced purely with those who had views that were entirely unlike their-own. The idea here is that in this world that cannot exist (where everyones’ beliefs logically cohere, as opposed to coexisting in compromise–the very essence of real politics), there would be less, or, in the purely hypothetical and impossible world that I’ve just referred to, no challenges to to ideas accepted by the challenger.”

    and i want to ask david and momus (and anyone else who would care to answer): doesn’t this ‘crazy and impossible hypothetical’ pretty much describe Japan to a T?

    http://glitchslaptko.blogspot.com/

  18. Stanley Lieber Says:

    Jakey:

    I’m pretty naive myself (which may be apparent from my contributions here). Is it the aesthetic here you object to, or the ideas? If it’s the ideas, which ones, and why?

    Marxy:

    re news: Isn’t it interesting that we can use a news aggregator like Google or some other search engine to refine our intake, comparing and contrasting different versions of the same story, from different sources? Even in an automated fashion. Tools like this might have caused the 1960s to be a very different decade.

    -sl

  19. marxy Says:

    Isn’t it interesting that we can use a news aggregator like Google or some other search engine to refine our intake, comparing and contrasting different versions of the same story, from different sources?

    We can, but few do. Amazon doesn’t always have the lowest prices, but we aggregate towards the big brands in the center. Pretty soon, they’re going to change that brand power into high prices. In the 60s, there were about 3 TV channels, and now even though we have a million options, people still will gravitate towards the central cultural firms, and those on the fringes are all consuming from different providers.

    doesn’t this ‘crazy and impossible hypothetical’ pretty much describe Japan to a T?

    I think there is way more dissent in Japan than popularly imagined, but the public spheres for debate are limited – masked under a “tradition” of consensus.

    The relatively lower number of media access points, a conservative government, and a dugged-in oligopolistic media with bureaucratic leanings towards transmitting press releases as news tends to create a unified public stream of information. America has started to move in this direction recently as well, but there is a sense of standards falling; Japan has never had any sort of instituationalized investigative journalism or ideas of an independent media. The end result is a lack of moritorium on “opinions” in the public sphere, and if you can’t debate, there looks to be little ideological conflict. Talk to the Japanese themselves and they don’t have to be sayoku to question the public line.

    At the end of the day, however, a moritorium on ALL ideas – not just liberal ones – is a victory for the conservatives, who have always worked to create ideas of homogenity and cultural determination. They are purging textbooks of war atrocities, and meanwhile attempting to rebuild the army. I would assume that most Japanese are happy with Article 9, but I don’t know if we’re going to have Ampo style demonstrations to the consitutional alterations.

  20. Chris_B Says:

    momus conceded: Yeah, yeah, yeah, I want my eye doctor to be an Enlightenment man.

    Well I’m glad we see eye to eye on this matter at least

    and then the pills kicked in: there really is no point in Americans trying to tell me what they mean), [snip] But finally the social sciences and the humanities do require verstehen and theory, hermeutics and epistemology, a global vision, an ideology. All that terribly suspicious European stuff.

    Indeed, do tell us simple Americans what you mean that it is pointless for us to tell you what we mean. A global vision and an ideology eh? Just one? Which one? The only suspicious thing is when soft skulled academics in the soft social “sciences” and the humanities try to aply European lit-crit ideas where they dont belong.

    Did it ever occur to you while pasting other people’s thoughts about the American right appropriating the techniques of the left that perhaps someone somewhere realized that good show business techniques can be used anywhere to sell anything? If you are going to sell snake-oil to the masses, sell em what they already want to buy.

    I’m also curious if you vote anywhere or know anything about the MP or MEP wherever it is your citizenship is registered. Or are you above all that messy political stuff? For all the energy you spend writing about the US, how much do you care about the EU and the encroaching command and control systems of the technocrats in Brussels. Have you been following the growing fears of the Germans and the English about how similar frivolous lawsuits may become common in the EU after the adoption of the constituion? Maybe you just choose not to write about EU politics for some reason?

    Jakey: all I’m saying is that it is amusing how easy it is to pose as some sort of elite authority on the Web. Those two citations were intended as examples of how the fine art of bullshit can be practiced.

  21. Dave Says:

    It’s a tough trend to deal with. (Both fashion-wise and politically.)

    I think a large driver is the amount of competition that exists in people’s lives for attention. I finish work around 8 or 9, walk home, buy dinner or sometimes cook it, try to read something and then hit the sack. On weekends the mundane requirements of daily life devour half a day to a day, then by the time I have seen a few friends I’m out of time!

    The sheer variety of looks/styles of music/political ideas etc means that it just takes a lot more thinking to decide on something. If it’s not a real passion then it’s easy just to go with the predictable McDonalds variety so the precious little remaining attention can be spent on something that really is important.

    Of course if you like breadth rather than depth, it’s now possible to spend ALL of your time on activities that are somewhat superficial (e.g. mass market fashion, ‘quality’ mass media, organic home cooking, reading well received novels, listening to high quality bands that have already made it to the mass market, watching the better big studio films with the odd independent one….)

  22. Momus Says:

    Indeed, do tell us simple Americans what you mean that it is pointless for us to tell you what we mean.

    I think my point was clear, and I’m surprised you find it so offensive. Marxy has subtitled this weblog “the pop sociology of pop”. I’m personally a big fan of sociology, and one of the things that’s particularly good about the discipline is a kind of inbuilt relativism. Because sociology studies culture, it cannot make value judgements. It cannot say “Culture X is better than culture Y.” What it must do instead is ask “What do the participants in this or that cultural activity believe about what they’re doing? How do they attribute meaning to their activity?” This is where the German words come in: weltanschaung or “worldview”, verstehen meaning “to see from within”, and gemeinschaft, meaning a community. Sociology tends to “see within the worldview of a community” rather than passing “absolutist” judgements from outside. So what I’m doing when I ask Hisae how the Onyanko Club sounded to a Japanese person going through all the Japanese socialisation processes is much more appropriate, much more “the pop sociology of pop”, than an American, socialised in America, telling me that the record is irresponsible, in his view.

    I’m a big fan of the political organisation of the EU, where I live, and often comment on my blog on issues such as EU expansion (for instance, I’m in favour of Turkey’s accession). Unlike you, I don’t think of the EU as “an encroaching command and control system”. I tend to share the views of the “bureaucrats”. Nuisance lawsuits from extremists is simply not the issue in Europe that you’re trying to make it out to be.

  23. marxy Says:

    You should really read up on the differences between modern academic Social Anthropology and Sociology. What you’ve described sounds exactly like Social Anthro – cultural relativism, how participants “feel,” worldviews, community. Modern sociology deals more with the big picture, macro-structures, and “culturalist” explanations are bottle of the barrel. Weber was a Sociologist, but so was Marx, and the battle between culture vs. structures continues to this day.

    And what’s even better than asking a non-captive Japanese person in English what they think of the O-yanko Club is asking them in Japanese. While I was writing those articles, I talked to a bundle of Japanese girls (the same age of Hisae) who thought back on the songs and thought they were unbelievable. Hisae does a good job of towing your ideological line, but I wouldn’t extrapolate that a large majority of the Japanese themselves think that the Onyanko Club’s songs were appropriate.

    I wish I had the link, but supposedly there was a poll about Horie vs. Livedoor. The NEET kids all love Horie, and the salarymen all hate him. So, yes there are those who want to protect the “natural Japanese system” from outside influences but it’s dangerous to think that the only one in favor of the hegemonic system’s destruction is an “arrogant” American kid with a blog.

  24. Chris_B Says:

    momus: a famed pomo like you should know the text is the only text there is. Dont add words where they arent. Oh and thanks for dumbing down your explanation for a simpleton like me. I had no idea you were just ribbing marxy and praising hisae in the same breath.

  25. Momus Says:

    Weber was a Sociologist, but so was Marx

    That’s nonsense. I studied Sociology at university. We had units on Weber but not on Marx. Marx is a philosopher, not a sociologist, and his famous dictum “Historians having merely explained the world, the point however is to change it” excludes his project from any modern definition of sociology.

    Hisae does not “tow my ideological line”, although obviously we’re together because we share ideas about a lot of things. These are her actual opinions. (She adds: “Maybe it’s because Onyanko Club was my idol, in a way.”)

    If you talked to lots of girls about the Onyanko Club record, why didn’t you record some of their opinions in your entries? Better still, why didn’t you invite them to comment on your blog? Wouldn’t that give a better picture of the subject, and also be a lot more interesting for us to read? Weren’t you bemoaning the fact, the other day, that you have no female readers, and no Japanese readers?

    (BTW, thanks for posting the mp3s, even if they’re gone now. I DJed last night at a Japanese-themed party here in Berlin and played them. Nobody complained about their immorality, you’ll be glad to hear.)

  26. Momus Says:

    a famed pomo like you should know the text is the only text there is. Dont add words where they arent. Oh and thanks for dumbing down your explanation for a simpleton like me. I had no idea you were just ribbing marxy and praising hisae in the same breath.

    Chris, I’m going out of my way to answer a question of yours, and you just come back with this defensive, offensive crap. Would you care to actually engage with some of the points, or are you just interested in rhetorical questions and blurry smears (along with a kind of fuzzy patriotism once in a while)? You’re great on the details of cable companies and their business deals, but when it comes to wider issues I’m afraid you just aren’t cutting a very impressive figure here.

  27. marxy Says:

    Marx is a philosopher, not a sociologist, and his famous dictum “Historians having merely explained the world, the point however is to change it” excludes his project from any modern definition of sociology.

    Maybe not “technically” a Modern Sociologist, but to totally ignore his influence on the field would be obscene. But hey, how can I argue with someone who studied Sociology!?

    Better still, why didn’t you invite them to comment on your blog? Wouldn’t that give a better picture of the subject, and also be a lot more interesting for us to read?

    I very much would love Japanese readers to comment, even if they do not write in perfect English. I talked to a female friend the other day who said she read my blog AND speaks fluent English, but has never once commented. My argument that Japan is behind in Internet culture and English language skills is not some sort of victorous celebration of America’s ascent (is that the words you would use?) but honestly comes from real disappointment that Japanese kids are not participating in online dialogue, whether my blog or elsewhere.

    (日本の方、このブログで日本語でも英語でもコメントを書いて頂ければ、嬉しく思います。)

  28. Momus Says:

    I’m sure you’re a pretty cool guy in real life, Chris (you make music, live in Japan, etc) but based on your comment style I’ve built up a picture of you looking something like this:

    http://www.shellworth.com/images/Pablo.jpg

    (This is just a hunch, not sociology.)

  29. r. Says:

    nick (hi nick!) said:

    If you talked to lots of girls about the Onyanko Club record, why didn’t you record some of their opinions in your entries? Better still, why didn’t you invite them to comment on your blog? Wouldn’t that give a better picture of the subject, and also be a lot more interesting for us to read? Weren’t you bemoaning the fact, the other day, that you have no female readers, and no Japanese readers?

    and i say: i bet if you asked yuki
    http://kissui.net/
    (19, bilingual, blogger, socially AWARE) about the oyanko club, you might get a different answer…but perhaps one different than even i:m expecting.

    i forget, but isn:t hisae older than 25, right? so that was HER generation (or even a tiny bit earlier?). when she was ‘hit’ with this culture, all she could do was to like it, shake her prepubescent booty to it, and EMULATE it. her critical faculties were still in a training bra (i won:t make any gum jokes, don:t worry). and since the past always looks more nostalgic when we look back on it than NOT, i guess she has no choice but to ‘affirm’.

    but i:m interested in the younger, teen generations opinion (again, yuki would be an interesting person to ask). are they are viewing this as a part of their pop-cultural ‘milieu’ or are they thinking that the pussy club is detrimental to their ‘project’ i don:t know.

    yuki, are you out there?

  30. marxy Says:

    but i:m interested in the younger, teen generations opinion (again, yuki would be an interesting person to ask). are they are viewing this as a part of their pop-cultural ‘milieu’ or are they thinking that the pussy club is detrimental to their ‘project’ i don:t know.

    I don’t know if kids younger than 26 (who didn’t experience it in real time) will have anything against it nor for it. I don’t want to make a blanket statement, but there’s not a lot of historical perspective about culture here. In 2000, I would talk about Flipper’s Guitar to people and they acted as if I was talking about The Donna Reed Show or something from the Triassic period. I’d like to hear the opinion of a Japanese person in their 40s who was old enough to have an honest opinion of Onyanko. I found a Japanese blog that saw my Boingboing’d Onyanko pieces and couldn’t believe that BoingBoing was talking about his childhood idols.

    Much like Hisae’s love of Onyanko, I loved You Can’t Do that On Television as a kid. That TV show is absolutely “mine” but I saw an episode a couple of years ago and couldn’t believe how terrible a show it was. (“Hey, Christine…”)

  31. Chris_B Says:

    momus hath thus spoke: but when it comes to wider issues I’m afraid you just aren’t cutting a very impressive figure here.

    Its a fair cop guv’nor! As you have noticed I have a tendancy to bait people from the sidelines. Why am I doing it to you? In short I see that you have something to say but I feel you are often very sloppy on the details. Even with reference texts, I cant determine if you are actually saying anything or just playing with words. That may well be my lack of crticial facilities in effect. I’d be more than happy to discuss this with you out of band and off the public record.

    As to your clarification, thank you. I may not entirely agree with your line of reasoning but I understand it nonetheless. I do still think you either misunderstood me (I wasnt offended at your perception of Americans, I simply did not understand you meant marxy as a representative for all of us) or added words where they werent. My comment about the growing fears of the Germans and the English about how similar frivolous lawsuits may become common in the EU after the adoption of the constituion (note the bold as emphasis that they are indeed not a problem now) was based upon articles in various business journals and newspapers where lawyers in the UK are concerned about areas where the EU Constitution conflicts with English law and may allow claimants to file suit in Brussels against the Crown, Government or businesses. In Germany, the concern as I understand it is that the “right to employment” (paraphrase, I dont have the text of the constitution at hand) may allow migrants to file suits in Brussels against State and Private firms for employment. This concern is made stronger by the awareness of the rigidity of German labor law. Have I made myself clear on that one? I think the EU is an interesting expermient. I liked the single currency better than the constitution but since I dont live there my opinions dont mean much anyways. Personally I hope the Turks make it in for a variety of reasons. All that said, do you vote or not?

    Thanks for the later compliment however undeserved. I dont really look like that other than being white and male. I’m skinny, short and have a buzcut with a receding hairline. I do indeed make music, but to me thats not so special. I’m not that great at it anyways. As for living in Japan, thats just something that happened. Its where we ended up and decided to nest.

    All: As for all this bickering about who’s sources or opinions are most valid regarding ancient pop product, its rather silly. Were all just writing our own opinions or interpretations here. Why pretend otherwise?

  32. Momus Says:

    Chris, thanks for your answer, I really appreciated the conciliatory tone and the way you addressed the points. The “concerns” you mention about the EU constitution are in my view exactly what’s so good about it. I want to see the UK government taken to court over things like its suspension of innocent-until-proven-guilty legal procedure, just as I’d like to see the International Criminal Court have authority to try US servicemen who torture prisoners in Iraq.

  33. Momus Says:

    I really can’t believe the stubborness with which you’re all trying to demolish Hisae’s perspective. You’re doing it with so many different arguments, too. We’ve now had

    * Hisae is just towing the Momus line. The “spineless” argument.
    * Since Hisae was 11 and these records were aimed at 11 year-olds, “her critical faculties were still in training bra”.
    * The fact that she looks back fondly on these records now that she has adult critical faculties is down to nostalgia.
    * Japanese people in general lack historical perspective.
    * Only a Japanese person in their 40s could have an “honest opinion” of OC records.

    Honestly, don’t you hear how completely patronising, insulting, ethnocentric, and unsociological you’re being? And you wonder why no Japanese people comment here! I’d say a tactful silence at your pronouncements is the very best you can hope for. The Japanese don’t like rudeness, nor bull-headed judgements on their culture.

  34. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    I’m sure you’re a pretty cool guy in real life, Chris (you make music, live in Japan, etc) but based on your comment style I’ve built up a picture of you looking something like this: http://www.shellworth.com/images/Pablo.jpg

    spoken like a true crusty old punk, nick.

    it was pretty close to my imagined image of chris_b too. i pictured him as slightly thinner but still bulky and low-browed, with blonder hair.

    i think he called me a girl somewhere in the pages of this blog. i took it as a compliment.

  35. sparkligbeatnic Says:

    anyhoo, i think i’m going to tune out of neomarxisme this evening and watch a dvd i’ve just received from amazon today, an edition of g&b’s mikado recommended by lord whimsey.

    either that or browse two books that arrived with the dvd: w.s. burroughs the cat inside and
    murray schafer’s soundscape: the tuning of the world.

    i’m enjoying being between girlfriends for as long as it lasts.

    anon,

  36. marxy Says:

    Hisae is just towing the Momus line. The “spineless” argument.

    This comes from suspicion about your filtering of her opinions, not her opinions themselves.

    Since Hisae was 11 and these records were aimed at 11 year-olds, “her critical faculties were still in training bra”.

    This was Robert.

    Japanese people in general lack historical perspective.

    I was about to write something else about this. The reason you take things so personally is because you treat Japan like its some remote tribe in Papua New Guinea and that everything “different” comes from that tribal culture.

    For a lot of bureaucratic reasons, Japan never developed Cable TV, and in the US at least, the early days of cable TV were mostly reruns of old shows. I used to watch My Three Sons on Nick at Night because they didn’t have money for real programming. And as cable has grown, there’s even more old TV on the American airwaves. It’s pretty easy to access old media. This is not as true in Japan, unless filtered and curated through new media clip shows. And with pop music being seen as highly disposable, there isn’t a media obsession with past recordings like in the US/UK. There are no monthly magazines that put the Blue Comets on the cover every month like what happens to the Kinks etc. Due to the nature of the market, Japanese media is not as self-obsessed and nostalgic, and there’s an effect on individuals.

    Only a Japanese person in their 40s could have an “honest opinion” of OC records.

    I said, I’d like to hear their opinion. You can ask me anytime what it was like when Reagan was re-elected, but I bet my dad can give you a better perspective.

    Honestly, don’t you hear how completely patronising, insulting, ethnocentric, and unsociological you’re being? And you wonder why no Japanese people comment here!

    This is coming from a guy who defends VICE magazine, which commonly makes fun of the mental retarded for giggles, but once his little sacred tribe – whom he can’t communicate with in their own language and therefore interprets in a self-interested way – gets questioned, he can’t BELIEVE our insensitivity!

    Momus, you are impossible.

  37. Chris_B Says:

    “the cat inside” in my pile to read, along with finishing “the western lands”. I never said sparling was a girl just that I thought sparkling was a girl.

  38. Chris_B Says:

    marxy: could it be that the new “boom” of back catalog media is due to the fact that the new stuff just isnt selling well enough?

  39. Momus Says:

    I don’t see the Japanese as a Papuan tribe, I see them as the world’s most postmodern culture, pioneering what comes after postmodernism for the rest of us. I completely disagree with you that Japan is not self-conscious or nostalgic. There may not be a Nick at Night on Japanese TV, but it’s a requirement of postmodern culture that everything from other cultures, and from the past of one’s own culture, is present equally and simultaneously on the market, and I think Japan presents that “symptom” of pomo very clearly. And by the way, it’s not contradictory to say that the past — or other cultures — can be both present and absent at the same time in postmodernism. The disposability of the past and its availability are two sides of the same coin. Japan throws out a lot, but go to Dorama and you’ll find it’s all catalogued there for any otaku who wants that all-important 1992 edition of Studio Voice with its guide to Eskimo skiffle psychedelia (complete with detailed shopping maps of Igloolik).

    Your dad could not give me a “better” perspective on Reagan’s reign, he could just give me his perspective. If I were studying the mindset of David Marx, your dad’s account would be of only peripheral interest.

    As for Vice magazine, I very much disagree with your take on the Mental Illness issue. There was humour in some of the articles about the mentally ill, because “the return of the repressed” always provokes uneasy laughter. But if you think a style mag which doesn’t ever show images of mentally ill people is superior, I disagree. And if you think that magazines which only show images of very good-looking caucasians flashing perfect teeth and wearing expensive clothes are more “liberal” than Vice, I also disagree.

  40. r. Says:

    i think the simple question with hisae (hi there, hisae) that some here have is: does her voice truly speak for her demographic (a nebulous topic in and of itself) in the same way that you seem to be using it? fine, she thinks what she thinks, but does that maker her voice THE untenable basis for anything you might write about the cultural ‘drift’ of her generation? the evidence either way is negligible at best, and so it might be difficult to ADMIT her testimony as indicative of anything. if there were only a few thousand more hisaes out there AND if they were only commenting. oh, to want, and lack!

  41. marxy Says:

    The Japanese don’t like rudeness, nor bull-headed judgements on their culture.

    I’m not attacking ukiyoe here. If a French person or Icelandic guy or Japanese girl or Chinese family wrote a blog entry about how stupid Americans were for watching Small Wonder, I’d be the first one to write: “Right on.”

    I know I’m supposed to be the bad guy but I find your overprotection of Japanese culture to be really patronizing. They also make bad pop culture, and no one’s going to cry if you attack it. They are adults.

    I see them as the world’s most postmodern culture, pioneering what comes after postmodernism for the rest of us.

    Your belief borders on the eschatological. I’ve never seen proof that Japan is continuing to be further post-modern than the rest of the world, when it’s falling behind in media technology adoption. If there’s a “new” way to listen to music, the Japanese certainly have not adopted it. How many Japanese mashups have you heard? Japan was ahead of the curve on sampling culture, but they are not coming up with its following act.

    Your dad could not give me a “better” perspective on Reagan’s reign, he could just give me his perspective. If I were studying the mindset of David Marx, your dad’s account would be of only peripheral interest.

    Last time I checked we were looking into a broad perspective on Onyanko Club, not any indivudal Japanese person’s specific mindset.

    I know you love VICE and they love you, but those guys cry wolf too often. If they’re exploiting sex and drugs and racism for money in every issue, I’m not going to just accept that their exploitation of the mentally retarded is some sort of grand political statement against media oppression. They made a bunch of Bridge-and-Tunnel kids chuckle at the “retards” and you probably got a good essay out of it. And then they went back to being mentally retarded and VICE collected their ad revenues.