Category Archives: Popular Culture

Euphoria Comedown

There were lots of reasons to love Euphoria and to miss it now that the season has ended, but the biggest reason came at the end.

Let us start from the outside and work inward: the cinematography was liquid gorgeousness. The music was dope. The makeup was EVERYTHING, especially the gold chain eyeliner. (follow @donni.davy on IG for more). It had a hilarious in-joke about The Wire.

But, the show most excelled at delving into the psyches of the characters (and by extension all of us) by having their motives called out. Regardless of what Rue claims, she IS a reliable narrator; childhood rejections and recognitions set in motion the belief structures for each of the characters. These beliefs then all collided with one another as adulthood approached. Many beliefs centered around how the character wanted to be seen by others, and how they subsequently, rapidly, taught themselves to cater to people’s neuroses to get what they themselves needed to maintain stasis.

How one saw oneself was secondary, but it was a strong undercurrent, which bodes well for the characters’ future, offscreen self-actualization journeys.

In the finale, Jules proved herself to be one of the more self-aware teenagers ever by summing up her modus operandi, which doubles as a gift to the viewer for providing the most compelling case for transgender acceptance in the modern canon.

To Jules, to conquer men is to conquer femininity, and after conquering femininity she wants to, “fucking obliterate it. And then move on to the next level.”

Here’s to you, Euphoria: you may be in recess, but your thought-provocation lives on.

The Road to Hell is Also Loud

The trend of architectural minimalism as luxury means that many public establishments exceed a healthy decibel limit. Think restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, and stores. After decades of investing in high-maintenance soft surfaces, proprietor preferences have now put efficiency and disposability over acoustic integrity, and favor metal furniture, exposed ceilings, and open spaces.

To fool us, the claim they are recapturing mid-century modern styles: the last era when American exceptionalism went mostly unquestioned. Yet despite the advertisement, high ceilings and no cloth are actually NOT midcentury style:

According to this article,

“Trends that today’s diners associate with luxury, such as hard surfaces and open kitchens, were, in mid-century, mainly relegated to lowbrow spaces such as cafes, cafeterias, and diners. The finest eateries…were the most highly ornamented and plush. Even high-modernist interiors made extensive use of soft goods, including cloth tablecloths, heavy drapes, carpeted floors, and upholstered seating. Across the board, mid-century restaurants had low ceilings, often with acoustic ceiling tiles.”

Not only are loud restaurants cheaper to build and maintain, but they also encourage diners to spend more.

So, what is trendy is also noisy. So what? So, this admiration of din contributes to the erosion of civil society.  Noise pollution desensitizes us to coarseness in the other senses as well. There may or may not be any studies to back this claim up, but I believe that the more obnoxious the public space, the more likely violence is to follow. This is why people in bars and nightclubs feel free to get drunk, break bottles, punch faces, and grind on the dance floor: the loud DJ!

What’s next? Streakers at Chipotle?  

If you are or plan to be a business owner, I implore you to invest in noise reduction strategies. Or at the very least, use music that will subdue the masses.

Many thanks,

LIR

ModCon Reviews: The Front Runner (film)

The Front Runner, starring Hugh Jackman as former Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO), is designed to make us question the media’s role in creating scandal, and in how much private character affects public service.

After the Miami Herald shames Sen. Hart into giving up his presidential race after catching him nearly red-handed having an extramarital affair, Hart eulogizes the death of privacy. Unfortunately, he is not the right person at the right time to persuade us of this casualty.

Today, the Miami Herald seems to have no regrets with its role in the 1987 scandal or its aftermath.

This affair was supposedly the watershed moment in which judgement of character got put into the hands of voters, rather than letting the political party act as sole judge. LIR strongly supports the democratic discussion of character that has increased since #metoo. Indeed, the film’s strongest asset is actually just in giving us a place to reflect and project on how times have changed, and whether that has been for the better or not.  Decision: better.

 

 





Book Review: The Road to Character

By David Brooks
2015
270 pgs

A meditation: Why is it we have a reluctance to hold people accountable on the big things that matter or that hurt people, while only judging and confronting each other on small matters of taste?   Perhaps because our culture has made moral relativism a virtue beyond reproach, which manifests itself in our daily life as having no confidence or authority for claiming right from wrong, but supreme confidence in our inconstant feelings.

How to live, treat others, and make decisions are skills not always attained from schools, parents, churches, or other institutions.  David Brooks attempts to partly fill this void by offering his biographies and musings on proven historical figures.  Self-skepticism, moderation, and outward focus are all themes of the work, which is surprisingly refreshing with its shunning of the current obsession with self-directed truths.

In 1950, 12 percent of high school students told the Gallup Organization they considered themselves very important; by 2005, that figure was 80 percent.  The statistic is used in the book to show we have in fact lost something in the march of progress–the ability to see beyond ourselves.

The book holds our common wisdom up to the light and deliberately checks all facets.  Rather than seeming self-contradictory, it demonstrates the push-pull of competing and valid truths, the balance of which must be attained for a stable worldview.

MC highly recommends this as your next non-fiction read.  Mr. Brooks steadily holds interest with fresh angles on worn topics, just as in his New York Times columns.   One sees that being a person of character does not mean becoming less interesting, but more so.





Where Have All the Gay Bars Gone?

Many long-running, successful gay bars around the world have been closing over the last few years, and the rise of homosexual online dating apps are supposedly to blame.  However, the prevalence of straight dating apps has exploded as well, and yet the business of traditional, heterosexual bars remains stable.  In fact, many straight bars are finding new life as safe meet-up places for first dates, even for non-drinkers.

Gay bars provide purposes the dating apps cannot entirely replace, such as spaces to hold fundraisers and political events, plus a safe and organic way to make friends, network, and date within the same sex.

So if not for apps, then why are these centers of civil rights disappearing?

The theories include:

  1. Gays are more accepted in general and can congregate more freely in “normal” establishments.
  2. Gays have more straight friends than in the past, and so often spend social nights out with them.
  3. Gay clubs are stuck in an EDM and drug-based loop, which is very unappealing to gay professionals.
  4. Gentrification: rising rents are pricing the clubs out.

#1 is the most supported by evidence.  While points 2 and 3 are based on published anecdotal accounts, and also by nature cannot be easily quantified, #4 gentrification has been well-documented.

Most gay bars have survived for years in second-tier parts of the urban landscape, and so join many other businesses that are getting caught in the cycle of economic progress.

The placement of gay bars is determined by the residency  of gays.  Up until the 1980s, gays were liable to face loan discrimination, and so often chose places “less-desirable” to live that were cheap enough to be paid for in cash.

According to an article by the UK’s Guardian,
(Gays) choice of where to live is not limited by money alone. As Michaels, a transplant to New York from rural Oregon who still subsists on a below-average income, puts it: “I didn’t leave the country[side] because I wanted to, I was pushed out. As a queer person in America growing up in the country, I did not find rural areas to be safe, welcoming or financially viable – it was only in the cities where I was able to make a stable income.

Some say LGBT residents, especially gay men, cause most gentrification, bringing with their residencies artisanal food and coffee, expensive furniture and boutiques, and remodeled apartments.

In addition to their vulnerable geography in the face of gentrification, gay bars are also less likely to be able to adjust to the rising rents.  By only seeing business at night, they cannot diversify like traditional bars can with food and happy hours, to draw some daytime revenue.

Yet, if cost is such a concern for a struggling gay bar, and existence so crucial, then why not relocate to another part of town, even knowing the cycle may repeat in a couple decades?

This brings us back to point #1: while gay bars are an endangered species, that fact indicates a promising phenomenon: the declining need for such exclusivity and protection.  More bars are now “gay-friendly,” and can serve as meet-up spots for any gender combination of couple.  Just as sexual orientation no longer defines a person, so patrons no longer define an establishment.





The Case for Y’all

Y’all, as a one-word abbreviation of “you all,” ought to be accepted into modern English usage.

English is lacking a unique  second-person plural pronoun. In the past, “ye” served this crucial function, but it has since slipped into severe, irrevocable disfavor.

Supposedly, ye began to disappear after the 1600s because it was a formal pronoun, and once class distinctions became unclear, you–which had always been an appropriate catchall–became the simple pronoun for all occasions.

A demand for modern translations of the Bible also has reduced peoples’ exposure to old English words.

What besides “y’all” could round out our language?  “You guys” is offensive in its tackiness, familiarity, and misogyny.

“Yinz,” “you’uns,” “yous” and “youse guys” are each used in pockets of the world, but are inferior options to y’all because of obscurity, gender complications, or both.  The Ohio River Valley area around Pittsburgh is especially rich in use of historical language; it’s where both yinz and you’uns are at home there and there only.

Join me in supporting y’all, by using it whenever possible.  By the theories of the descriptive grammar school, if enough people use it, especially in published writings, we can finally make it formally recognized.





Casual Dress and its Ramifications on Western Society

One of the best things about living in Miami was that people there got dressed before leaving the house.  More than just covering their bodies in fabric, they made themselves thoroughly presentable: time taken to select a look, hair done, nails done, make up on, outfitted and accessorized, complete with a wallet and watch that each cost enough to indicate that the individual was not financially destitute.  Even when the SoBe styling was of sparse bodily coverage, and the shoes veered toward the rediculous, it at least meant people had put forth a little bit of thought and effort.

If you have studied history, you may have noticed that up until a few decades ago, the same people who lacked indoor plumbing, electricty, automobiles, washing machines, and healthcare still took more pride in their physical forms than most Americans do today.

Reasons include the separation of clothing from indication of socioeconomic status, and individualism, according to a recent article on American casualness.  While it is now acceptable to alternate mode of dress depending on mood and resources, what’s lost is one aspect of respect for oneself–and more damagingly, the willingness to project this value, and in turn command a treatment worthy of one’s invaluable humanity.  No, a person should not have to be well-dressed to be treated “a certain way,” and yet–in this fallen world–they do, so Lady accepts it.  This lack of value of the physical self could also contribute to the obesity epidemic.

Remember, no style IS a style, as well as a refusal to accept that we live in a world where sight is one of the five senses that people use to process and evaluate their surroundings.  We must first acknowledge these human limitations of perception in order to master them.

 





The Trolls Out There

The LA Times just took an academic look at the practice of internet trolling: making nasty comments and threats in online chats or comment boards.

Some reflections:

  • Anonymity does not make much difference on level of cruelty.
  • The internet is not really making people nastier:  “Every single trope they engage with exists in real life offline; [they are] just picking up cultural detritus and weaponizing stuff that’s already on the ground.”
  • Yes, they often get a kick out of your pain.  So don’t feed them.

712155_rainbow_troll

 

 





Cuban Diplomacy and Fashion

Tracy Reese Spring/Summer 2014

As America warms to Cuba politically, expect fashion to be influenced, according to the New York Times.

First and foremost, there is a “forbidden island” fantasy that has been stewing underneath the surface of fashion made for warm and humid weather, especially in Florida where Cuba is so near, and expats so common.  An open Cuba sets the imagination on new paths of exploration: and florals, and white, breezy linens seem to be the attire required for this learning experience.  Cuban designers especially, who have long drawn from their culture, now feel more free to proclaim their heritage.

Perhaps even more captivating, there is a frozen-in-time aspect to Cuba; it has an isolation from globalization that is unique and refreshing.  Expect the midcentury silhouettes of long skirts, cinched waists, and strong shoulders, to go along with the light fabrics and bright colors of yore.