It would be naïve in the extreme to think that clicking on everything in sight or allowing all manner of applications access to your personal Facebook account would not open up your details to marketers. However, it seems like if some people had any idea of the scope of information that was being collected on them, they would lock themselves in a sealed chamber. The concept of privacy seems to be fast morphing itself out of existence. The young people I work with seem entirely comfortable with this fact and it seems the level of alarm people feel is in direct proportion to their age. The trouble is that we all just shrug at the futility of our situation, and who could blame us? Our absolute inability to do anything about it only makes the younger look much smarter than their older, wiser counterparts.
I believe one should always think twice about clicking on ads or liking things on Facebook. Not that you’re going make a huge dent in the data compiled in your name, but the thought that every single thing I do online is being fed into some behemoth spreadsheet somewhere is just depressing. I rarely search for bomb-making materials online so I’m not too worried about law enforcement getting wind of my habits. On the flip side of that, I never give info to places that say they just want some responses for “marketing purposes”. If they want that, they can pay me for it. Likewise, if I ever take an online survey I make sure to lie as much as possible. Anyone who speaks of “double loyalties” is completely misguided. The loyalties of those who mine data for a living never lie anywhere except for where the money is flowing from, and that is rarely from those being mined. I have no illusions whatsoever that I am winning the war on the extraction of my own data but it’s always better to let yourself think you have a say in the matter.
After I moved back to NY in 1999 I was definitely not well off. Having recently abandoned a poorly-chosen career I was starting over at nearly age 30, and I was dirt-poor. When Boredoms put out anything new, I would buy the import as soon as it came out (usually $35 or so) because the U.S. version was always up to a year or more away. Some of their e.p.s didn’t come out in the states for more than a decade so I had no alternative, because even a few weeks delay was torture. What’s more is that the Japanese version often had better artwork and packaging. My unswerving love for this band will be discussed in a future column. Suffice to say that I have remained a rabid fan for almost 20 years now. Back to the point though. When “Vision Creation Newsun” first came out, it was only available as a deluxe box set from Japan.
I was so broke that $150 or so was an unthinkable sum but I took out a credit card that I shouldn’t have just to buy the thing. It is this sort of irrationality and slavish devotion that this band has caused in this fickle and cynical music consumer. As for the album itself, it was the culmination of what they had been building towards since their shake up of the mid-90s. And like all great albums, what you get out of it on listen one is a fraction of what comes on successive plays. If this had been my entire music budget for two years it would have been a better choice than all the other records I could have bought.
I chose the album not just because it would probably rate as my all-time favorite, but because it ticks off so many boxes of greatness. The record is challenging in that it has almost no lyrics save for the title being chanted in the first song and some other extraneous and unintelligible words sprinkled throughout. Similarly, you could listen to it as one single track, I actually have a version of it in iTunes ripped that way because it works so well. As such, it eschews a format of song followed by song for a long and flowing whole. On the flip side, this record is ridiculously accessible. I have a friend who used to work in a record store around the time this was released and, just like a scene out of “High Fidelity”, he would at least be asked about the record, if not sell a copy, every time he played it in-store.
Anyway, more gushing and specifics yet to come…
I am struck watching this video by how impressionable some people can be. This goes back to the debate about whether or not different media can incite violence. For me, I don’t believe people should necessarily be prevented from saying outlandish things. What I do have an issue with is that there is no apparatus to call people out on what they are talking about. Talk radio has fostered an atmosphere where people can say just about anything they like and there is no counterbalance, at least in the same venue. They touched upon this in the video but I think it’s important to consider that the general formula is to constantly ratchet up the absurdity every time to guarantee people stay outraged and keep tuning in.
Ultimately, I lay the blame on our society itself. We live in a country that has begun more and more to value a really scary strain of anti-intellectualism. Alongside this scariness is a decided lack of critical thinking. Even as far back as I was in high school the one thing that still sticks out is 100% not learning to think critically about what I was taught, it was rote learning meant to support one version of things. I especially remember being the subject of much criticism for being the person who always liked to argue with teachers about points that were entirely debatable. Few teachers valued creating any sort of environment that fostered debate of any kind. I have always remembered the ones who did fondly, even if I constantly disagreed with them. As someone who deals with young college students in my job, things seem infinitely more grim nowadays. Teaching for the test seems to have created a big thinking hole in a huge number of young kids. Personally I believe that these twin evils are responsible for the bulk of this problem. Not sure how to get us out of though.
I am also happy the producers of the show chose to just keep it silent during the little memorial bit at the end. PBS and NPR can really ramp up the cheesiness in these things and it sort of takes the power away for me. Bill Moyers is the man.
When I was in high school (in a slightly earlier time than this film) there were two instances of teenage metalheads entering into suicide pacts and actually succeeding. New Jersey is such a dense state that despite the fact that these kids came from semi-nearby towns, we didn’t know them at all and weren’t really emotionally affected. The administration of the school responded with a really ham-fisted campaign of suicide awareness that seemed far more concerned with covering their own butts than with the mental well-being of the students. Being insensitive teenagers, we thought it funny to make extensive lists titled “Suicide Pact” in bold letters. The list included all the top, most straight-laced kids as well as much of the school staff, including the principal and vice principal. We left the lists in conspicuous places around school. Now, before you condemn my fifteen-year-old self (yes, I know it was jerky) consider that we were making fun of the adults in school rather than the fact that these teenagers did something terrible and desperate. Their understanding of us was so comically off center that I suppose we responded with something just as ridiculous.
What this has to do with the film is that it goes after this pre Nirvana-era teenage angst. Adults not only don’t understand kids, they have no interest in understanding them. In this sense, the movie actually rings pretty true. I have no clue as to whether my school was typical or not but the administrators in my school were such jerks that I felt it was my duty to mess with them as much as I was able to. My low GPA likely says a lot about the wisdom of this course of action though.
It is worth noting that I can’t resist pointing out that a movie set in the early 80s has Chevy Caprices from the 90s in it (see “Basquiat”). This means that I am also unable to resist pointing out the fact that the equipment required to produce any signal that you can listen to on your radio would maybe be larger than what you can cover up with dirty laundry when your parents walk in the room. I know, I know, suspension of disbelief, yes. Backyard teenage nudity is also hard to swallow, but it’s not the point.
I do find it somewhat depressing that if you were to violate FCC regulations like this in today’s America, you’d be in Guantanamo tout suite with your local folk hero status quickly revoked. The aforementioned stunt got me no more than some grimaces from the vice principal, and he hated my guts. In today’s world you get suspended for doing something as innocuous as this. It’s possible we are moving backwards.