The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'subculture'
Youth subcultures, as many middle-aged former teenagers have lamented, aren't what they used to be. In the old days, you see, you had to make your choices (or have them made for you by which class you had been born into and, in the light of this, what would get you camaraderie and what would get you beaten up), and stick with them. You were either a Mod or a Rocker, or a Punk or a Grebo or something, and you would live (and, in some cases, die) by that; you wore the uniform, listened to the music, and had little tolerance for other subcultures; if you fancied the other side's soundtrack or sartorial style, you would keep it to yourself, or else. But kids these days (kids these days...!) treat subculture as if it were a supermarket, or perhaps Noel Fielding's dressing-up chest; the entire back-catalogue of young cool is there for the taking and the mashing up, with elements going in and out of style by the season, to be worn as accessories. Beyond the dress-up element, the default becomes a globalised homogenate, a sort of international Brooklyn/Berlin/Harajuku of skinny jeans/
folkbeards/vividly coloured sunglasses/patterned fabrics worn by the international Hipster, and, more intensely and urgently, by their adolescent precursor, the Scene Kid. Subcultural music, meanwhile, is a post-ironic soup of the last few decades of influences, refracted through the prisms of trend blogs (drum machines, hazy synths, skronky/choppy guitars, That Krautrock Drum Beat, and so on). Parties are inevitably called “raves”, whether or not they bear any similarity to MDMA-fuelled bacchanales around the M25 circa 1987. Increasingly, the content of the subculture becomes interchangeable, and the process of performing a subculture becomes the subculture; almost like a masked ball, or a postmodern reënactment society for the youth tribes of the 20th century.
But once one goes beyond the idea of a subculture as being based around fashion or music, things sometimes start to get much more unusual. One case in point is the Tulpamancy subculture; which, could be summed up in three words as “extreme imaginary friends”. Tulpamancers essentially invent imaginary friends and believe in them really hard, to the point of voluntarily inducing dissociative personalities in themselves, hiving off one part of their minds to be another, autonomous, personality, with whom they can interact.
The term tulpa is a Tibetan word meaning a sentient being created from pure thought; the practice crossed over from Tibetan mysticism into the Western occult/esoteric fringe in the early 20th century (the explorer Alexandra David-Neel was one pioneer), but the modern version owes more to internet “geek” subcultures; it started amongst Bronies (dudes who are really into My Little Pony, which may be either a repudiation of gender dichotomies or the ontological equivalent of a frat-bro panty raid on the idea of “girl”, or both or neither), before spreading to other branches of “geek” culture/fandom.
Tulpas remained the preserve of occultists until 2009, when the subject appeared on the discussion boards of 4chan. A few anonymous members started to experiment with creating tulpas. Things snowballed in 2012 when adult fans of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – known as “bronies” to anyone who's been near a computer for the past three years – caught on. They created a new forum on Reddit and crafted tulpas based on their favourite characters from the show.
In the cross-pollinating fields of the internet, it wasn’t long before tulpamancy also started to attract manga and fantasy fans. “My tulpa is called Jasmine,” says Ele. “She’s a human but from an alternative reality where she can do magic. I created her a dozen years ago for a fantasy series I write and then made her into a tulpa.”Being a fandom subculture, there are, of course, plenty of drawings (of varying levels of execution) depicting tulpas; one probably would not be too surprised to find that many look either like anime bishonen with fox ears/snouts and/or variants on Hot Topic Darkling. Because, of course, that's what one's magical alter-ego looks like in fandom.
As for the creation of, and interaction with, these tulpas, an entire methodology has evolved for bringing them into being, and interacting with them. Tulpamancers don't so much consciously think up their spirit critters, but rather mentally create a wonderland, imagine themselves in it, and let them come up from their subconscious and meet them. From then on, they practice imagining them, allowing them to become clearer, and ultimately being able to hallucinate them in everyday reality, which is where the fun starts:
While voice is the most common way tulpas communicate with their hosts, tulpamancers can learn to stroke their tulpa’s fur, feel their breath on their neck and even experience sexual contact.
Tulpas soon get curious about their host’s body; some want to experience life as a “meatperson”. Indulgent hosts then use a practice called “switching”, which allows their tulpa to possess their body while they watch from the ringside of consciousness.This, of course, sounds a lot like disassociative personality disorder, something not generally seen as desirable. Some tulpamancers, though, have turned that claim on its head; rather than dissociation being a disorder, or a symptom of one, what if it could be a way of self-medicating or coping What if, in other words, the optimal number of personalities in one body is, in some circumstance, greater than 1?
Koomer’s case is rare, and for Veissière “schizophrenia [could be understood as]… an incapacitating example of ‘involuntary Tulpas’", therefore, by forming positive relationships with their symptoms, sufferers can start to recover. It's an idea shared by the “Hearing Voices Movement”, who challenge the medical models of schizophrenia and suggest that pathologisation aggravates symptoms. “My schizophrenia manifested itself by having many thoughts and ideas all conflicting and shouting at me,” says Logan, who wanted his last name withheld. “Turning them into tulpas gave those thoughts a face and allowed them to be sorted out in a way that made sense.”
Alexis Petridis looks at the decline in visible youth subcultures; i.e., how, whereas a few decades ago, teenagers would differentiate themselves into subcultures, each with its style of dress, music, and other unfalsifiable badges of commitment, today's teens no longer do this:
And I've had a long and fascinating conversation with historian David Fowler, author of the acclaimed book Youth Culture in Modern Britain, who has an intriguing, if controversial, theory that subcultures such as hippy and punk had very little to do with the actual teenagers who participated in them – "They were consumers … they were sort of puppets" – and were instead informed and controlled by a slightly older, university-educated generation. "Youth culture as a kind of transformative, counter-cultural philosophy, it has to be shaped by older people and invariably it's by students," he says. Today, the lack of anything equivalent to the radical student movements of the 60s that fed into both the hippy movement and punk means a lack of ideas trickling down into pop culture.
But the most straightforward, prosaic theory is that, as with virtually every area of popular culture, it's been radically altered by the advent of the internet: that we now live in a world where teenagers are more interested in constructing an identity online than they are in making an outward show of their allegiances and interests. "It's not neccesarily happening on street corners any more, but it's certainly happening online," says Adams. "It's a lot easier to adopt personas online that cost you absolutely nothing apart from demonstrating certain types of arcane knowledge, what Sarah Thornton called subcultural capital. You don't have to invest in a teddy boy's drape suit or a T-shirt from Seditionaries."Of course, arcane knowledge in the age of Wikipedia and YouTube is hardly a barrier to entry, being little more than a token amount of homework; an otherwise naïve teenager with a desire to belong could do the legwork and become an expert on, say, DC Hardcore or early-80s Gothic Rock, in a Saturday afternoon, in between more official forms of schoolwork. Once you know the coordinates of a piece of cultural capital, you can own it without leaving your bedroom, and so being into obscure subcultural genres is no longer a peacock-tail, a difficult-to-falsify indicator of passing some criteria (in this case, belonging to and being accepted by a subculture). So subculture has evolved into a mélange of underground cool, commercial mainstream and utter kitsch, with veins of irony and sincerity running through it, with the map of where the mines are buried—what's in and what's out, what's genuinely cool, what's ironically cool (for several possible levels of irony), what's passé, and what was passé but is fit for semi-ironic reclamation, being passed along by word of mouth.
Modern subcultures, thus, look a lot different from the fiercely committed youth tribes of the 60s/70s/80s; there are no external uniforms or fixed musical allegiances (once one outgrows Justin Bieber and/or One Direction, of course), but rather a whole wealth of the last half-century's pop-cultural paraphernalia to plunder and mash up like Noel Fielding on a meow-meow binge. What emerges tends to be more evanescent, thriving in the blogosphere, spawning a wave of YouTube videos and MP3 mixes (incidentally, the music tends to be made electronically on laptops or even phones/tablets and influenced by rap and dance music, and parties/music nights for all these subcultures are called “raves”), and, by the time the recording industry and the Urban Outfitters of this world notice, being discarded and declared dead by its creators, no longer fit for its original purpose. One example of this is the Seapunk subculture that was big a few years ago:
And then there's seapunk, a movement that started out as a joke on Twitter, turned into a Facebook page, then gained traction to the point where it became a real-life scene, with a seapunk "look" that involved dyeing your hair turquoise, seapunk club nights and seapunk music. "Seapunk is the name of a mid-western club movement created by a group of turquoise-haired twentysomethings who like to drown warehouse breakbeats in a flood of sub-bass and watery Wu-Tang samples," ran one piece in style magazine Dazed And Confused. "The term was originally envisioned in a psychedelic GIF dream by Lil' Internet, but producer Fire For Effect has been responsible for turning it into a fully fledged lifestyle." Before you dismiss that as sounding like something made up by Charlie Brooker for a forthcoming series of Nathan Barley, it's perhaps worth noting that seapunk genuinely appeared to make an impact on mainstream pop: the seapunk look was variously appropriated by rapper Azealia Banks, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Taylor Swift. In any case, I'm too late. One of seapunk's supposed core members, Zombelle, apparently declared the movement dead when pop stars started cottoning on to it, which perhaps tells you something about subcultures in 2014.Petridis' article mentions one modern subculture, though: “haul girls”, whose mode of cultural production is to make YouTube videos of clothing and accessories they have bought.
Down the phone, Helina is explaining what a haul girl is to me. "Basically, you go out shopping for clothes or beauty products," she says, "then you make a haul video and show viewers on YouTube what you got. You go through the items of clothing one by one. I guess what people get out of them is not showing off, like, how much money you've got or anything, but lifestyle: you get to see how one person lives, what their taste is."Along similar lines, it may be that modern youth are not starting a subculture unless they get paid for it:
17-year-old Wayne Hayes said: “We’ve got great concepts interweaving music, drugs and politics in radical new ways that will change the world forever. “But first we need a cash injection to get our subculture through the development stage.
Teenagers are hinting at something ‘really big’ possibly called ‘Snung’ which over people 30 cannot relate to on any level. 16-year-old Nikki Hollis said: “It’s not just drum machines and weird hats, it’s something altogether different involving psychic powers and colours you can hear.To be honest, “Snung” sounds like it'll decay into another form of “new rave” and/or neo-hippy psychedelia within nanoseconds of contact with the commercial sphere.
A look at China's emerging youth counter-culture, the wenyi qingnian (文艺青年), or “cultured youth”, a term which is roughly cognate with the English word “hipster”:
Like hipsters, wenqing stridently resist labeling themselves as such. The term “cultured youth” can divide Chinese audiences, alternately attracting admiration or derision. A perfect example recently emerged on Sina Weibo, one of China’s popular microblogging sites, with this post entitled, “Photos of Shanghai ‘cultured youth’ girls aboard a subway reading poetry.”One difference between the wenqing and stereotypical hipsters in the West is their sincere passion for their countercultural pursuits and values outside the mainstream of material status; not having lived through the betrayals and commodifications of subcultures from the hippies to the punks and beyond, they have not developed an armour of ironic detachment and nihilistic apathy. That, however, is the preserve of a different Chinese youth counterculture, the “2B qingnian” (二逼青年), or “dumbass youth”, who appear to be more like Nathan Barley-esque nihilistic pisstakers:
By contrast, China’s wonderfully sincere “cultured youth” lack the irony and apathy integral to hipsterism, characteristics which nonetheless can be found in China’s “2B youth.” These are young men and women who have nothing much going on in their lives (or, in some cases, their heads). As the photo collage suggests, “2B”ers like to engage in pointless and deliberately self-defeating behavior, all, it sometimes seems, for nothing more than the “lulz.”Note the graphic at the bottom of the page, which shows a range of activities performed in the normal, Cultured and Dumbass styles.
Or, in perhaps more appositely Marxist terms, the wenqing repudiate economic capital for cultural capital, whereas the 2Bs reject cultural capital as futile and mock it. Which suggests that, were one to shoehorn Chinese countercultures into American terms, the wenqing are a counterculture with the dynamics of, say, the Beats, though using the technology and symbols of the global late-capitalist hipster, while the 2Bs are (perhaps precociously) grasping at the nihilism of 1990s grunge slackers, anticipating that it will all turn to shit.
The Grauniad has an A-Z of today's music genres, for the old codgers who stopped paying attention years ago at emo, twee pop or grime and started lumping everything into whatever superannuated genre it sounds most like:
Afrobeats: Not to be confused with the 1970s Afrobeat of Fela Kuti – although admittedly it is quite confusing – the addition of an extra "s" denotes a frisky, contemporary fusion of hip-hop, house and west African pop, as championed by London DJs such as Choice FM's Abrantee and 1Xtra's DJ Edu. Nigerian Afrobeats star D'Banj, recently signed to Kanye West's GOOD Music label.
Lazer funk: A convenient appellation for the thrillingly maximal brand of glitchy neon rave favoured by Rustie (pictured, above), Hudson Mohawke, Krystal Klear and their LuckyMe/Numbers pals. May sound daft but it's only slightly less ridiculous than some of the names they came up with themselves. See also: Aquacrunk, wonky house, glitch-hop, post-Dilla
Nightbus: A charmingly apt name for all of the sensitive poshboy quasi-dubstep pleasantness that's followed in Burial and James Blake's wake: too fey for the rave but ideal for when you're riding home – alone – on London's N68.
Voodoo house: A sturdier British response to the witch house fad, as practised by shadowy outfits Demdike Stare, Raime and the Blackest Ever Black clique. Combines eerie found sounds with faceless Detroit techno and Throbbing Gristle-style industrial mischief, plus a working knowledge of the occult, and a penchant for visuals borrowed from sinister instructional films of the 1950s and 60s.
An interview with underground comic author Daniel Clowes, in which he talks about a number of things, such as the pitfalls of hipster parents trying wrongheadedly to introduce their kids to interesting culture (and, in the process, making it deeply uncool):
I think about that a lot with my son. I don’t want to inflict the stuff I like onto him. He’s only eight, so right now I could get him to like anything, pretty much, but when he’s a few years older I really don’t want him to respond to anything because I like it too much or not enough. I want him to sort of find his way into his own stuff, so it’s something I have to constantly modulate. I don’t want him to associate this music with me, I want him to discover it on his own and then I’ll go like, “Well, I happen to have all their records!”In short, you may be hip and credible, but once you have kids, your position as a parent will, in the eyes of your kids, be like antimatter to all the cred you have carried forth from your bourgeois-bohemian extended adolescence. And so, a generation is produced to whom Black Flag and Pavement will be as naff as, say, Engelbert Humperdinck or something. Or, in the post-loungecore, post-Yacht Rock age after irony has folded in upon itself, perhaps it's the act of having opinions about music that will carry a patina of daddish uncool, with record collections and discographies being inherently cringeworthy; perhaps, to the hip kids, music will be, as Jarvis Cocker put it, like a scented candle, a ubiquitous low-value commodity beneath caring about.
And now is the era of the Cool Dad. I know lots of parents who I just think, like, “God, if my parents had been like that I would’ve been into all this cool stuff.” Luckily they weren’t, so I discovered all that stuff on my own and they sort of disdainfully shook their heads at the stupid stuff I was interested in. But there are a lot of things that I don’t respond to. I’m not into video games, so I can just see my son becoming, like, a video-game tester as his job or something. Developing video games.Clowes touches on the mainstreaming of comic-book/nerd culture:
When I was in high school, if I’d gone up to a girl and said, “Would you like to go read some of my Thor comics with me?” they would’ve just thought I was the lowest form of human life. That would’ve been so unimaginable. I was actually on the subway in New York and saw this, like, Attractive Teenage Couple, and the guy was like, “Hey, wanna go see Thor tonight?” and the girl was like, “Yeah, yeah.” And I just thought, that is just blowing my mind that that is happening right in front of me.And touches on the way that, by reducing the amount of friction required to discover something, the internet has reduced the value of merely knowing about cultural products as badges of belonging:
I could tell you right now about some obscure filmmaker and you could know more about him by midnight than I would’ve been able to find out in 10 years when I was your age. But I don’t know that it would mean much to you unless you really connected to the guy and kept following it and doing more and more research. It’d just be like, “Yeah, I know about that guy,” and then you’d move on to the next thing. There’s something about having it be like a mystery that you have to solve and figure out that really connected you to this weird culture back then.
It also used to be like, you’d buy an album by a recording artist and there’d be one or two good songs on it, and there’d be all the rest that were just kind of to fill up the album, and you’d work your way through that and learn to like the other songs after a while, and then you’d wait till the next album came out. And now it sort of feels like everything is all the greatest hits. You learn about a musician and you immediately can figure out what their 10 greatest songs are, and you just listen to those and you don’t experience the full breadth of their failures and mishaps and all that stuff. I feel like that’s how all culture is. And I’m as guilty as anybody else now—if I hear about an author or something I go straight for their most well-known book and read that first, and, you know, I don’t have that experience of kind of building up to that. You don’t wanna read the rest of their books after that because you figure, “Well, I’ve already read the best one. It’s not gonna be much better than that.”The interview also touches on the settings of Clowes' works, the aura of alienation in his characters, and his aesthetic formative experiences having been a reaction to the cultural upheavals of The Sixties:
As a kid I loved the look of the early ’60s, kind of the pre-hippie era, just the haircuts and clothes and the way women dressed, it was really appealing. And then all of a sudden people started wearing, like, filthy clothes and messy hair and stuff. That seemed really hideous and horrible to me. It definitely relates to what was going on in my life at the time because, as with many kids who grew up then, my family was just disintegrating while all that stuff came in, so it represented this chaos that was entering my life. But I still have an affection for that pre-1968 look, that kind of saturated Technicolor look. That seems like the real world to me, or like the way things should be.
Your Scene Sucks, a set of sketches of contemporary (US) youth subcultures:
this guy is single-handedly responsible for the commercialization of your favorite bands, childhood television shows, and quirky indie movies. his other favorite shirts include such witty sayings as... "i saw your mom on myspace," "the voices in my head are telling you to shut up," and "can't sleep... the clowns will eat me!"
like most in his scene, he doesn’t know the first thing about politics aside from what his father brings to the dinner table. he has a strong stance against fascism, racism and sexism even though he has no idea what any of those terms truly mean. this punk firmly believes in anarchy, but this does not stop him from posting all day on the rupert-murdoch-owned myspace.com.
Also, LOLHipsters, which is like LOLCats crossed with VICE's "Do's/Don'ts" page.
two years ago, he had blonde hair and an abercrombie-wardrobe, but that all changed the second he first heard my chemical romance playing on a random myspace page. from that moment on, his entire existence could be summed up with just three words: "i'm not okay."
(via mrsmalkav, M+N)
The Russian government is considering banning the emo youth subculture, on the grounds that it is a "negative ideology" encouraging depression, social withdrawal and suicide.
Among the moves supported are strong regulation of websites and banning young people dressed in an emo style from schools and government buildings.
The document states that emos are aged from 12 to 16, wear black and pink, and have long, black hair which may "cover half the face". Other characteristics identified include black fingernails, black belts with studs and pins, and ear and eyebrow piercings.Presumably the Russian authorities would rather its youth disrupted dissident meetings, engaged in mass weddings and had lots of babies than going around wearing black and feeling sorry for themselves.
The latest trend for American punk rockers, indie-rock hipsters, Mod scooterists, hardcore straightedgers and such seems to be joining Masonic lodges. Freemasonry, which was once at the centre of Enlightenment radicalism, and later exerted untold influence over the business, political and legal worlds (not to mention wacky hijinks in 1920s America), had recently ossified into a stodgy, conservative institution, seemingly comprised of a dwindling number of old men. Now the lodges' ranks are being swollen with members of youth-oriented subcultures looking for camaraderie and networking opportunities.
“It’s kind of like a history class that no one else can take,” said Dave Norton, drummer for Victory at Sea and The Men. He believes his membership in the fraternal organization will be especially rewarding when he tours Europe later this year.Of course, Masonry has its critics. Traditional lodges only allow men to join (though there are womens' auxilliary lodges, and even mixed ones), atheists are not allowed to join (unless they're hypocrites and/or flexible with interpreting what a "higher power" is), and the institution has become somewhat conservative over the years. It could be that punks and/or hipsters joining Freemasonry is a sign of the conformism of countercultures (or perhaps of some countercultures; vide Jello Biafra's denunciation of punk's devolution into a conformistic fashion cult). Though, in part, it could also be the latest instance of the rustic/archaic tendency in indie-rock adorning itself in increasingly anachronistic symbols.
(via Boing Boing)
The Guardian fires off a robust rhodomontade at the phenomenon of knitting as a staple of alternative culture.
We've gone from screaming for anarchy, rocking against racism, storming the US Embassy and picketing recruiting offices, tuning in and dropping out and rutting like pigs on Viagra to taking up the favourite hobby of senile old grannies everywhere and declaring it radical. Which was hilarious for about five seconds about five years ago.
Nonetheless, the truth must be stated. Germaine Greer didn't articulate her disgust with women's oppression by knitting a lavender and yellow toilet-roll holder. Dr Martin Luther King Jr didn't say: "I have a dream ... set of place mats that I crocheted using a pattern I got from a magazine." Jimi Hendrix didn't take to the stage at Woodstock wearing a nice orange and puce cardigan (with a reindeer on it) that he made using a job-lot of wool he got at a jumble sale. And Sid Vicious didn't crotchet his own stupid mock-Tibetan hippy-dippy ear-flapped bobble hats. And neither should you. If you need a hobby, take up spitting.They have a point, if one regards punk-as-macho-destructive-nihilism and ignores the DIY aspect of punk and post-punk alternative cultures. (Wasn't it Lydia Lunch who said that the problem with punk rock is the "rock" thing, i.e., that beneath the obvious stylistic novelty, it's still the same regressively macho alpha-male proving-ground as the greaser rock of two decades earlier?)
Nerdcore hip-hop has made it into the Graun:
Obviously, that doesn't mean there were only eight people rapping on nerdy themes. Jazzy Jeff was doing just that a full two decades ago, and the lineage runs through MC Paul Barman, Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, various Madlib and Kool Keith projects and even Lupe Fiasco. Yet these aren't nerdcore artists, not least because they never claimed to be; nerdcore, Frontalot tells me, is strictly an "opt-in identity".
In Nerdcore for Life, MC Chris makes a similar point, noting that mainstream hip-hop is getting geekier, to the point where even Jay-Z records now contain references to comic books and superheroes. High-C takes the argument even further: "The whole definition of a nerd is expanding. Everybody in the US uses computers, a great many of them play video games, and comic books are really coming back for adults. So there's a little bit of nerd in us all."Not surprisingly, nerdcore hip-hop has its critics. Some people think it's all a joke or a parody, and others regard it as inherently racist, being white people mocking black culture for their amusement. That claim, though, is predicated on the assumptions that (a) hip-hop is exclusively black culture and when white people do it, they're appropriating a black identity (which, given that there's a generation of non-Afro-American people who grew up listening to NWA and Public Enemy (not to mention the Beastie Boys) and for whom, hip-hop is pop music, seems a little naïve), and (b) that nerdcore is a joke or gimmick, like a Weird Al Yankovic novelty record or office gangsta Herbert "H-Dog" Kornfeld, rather than an authentic cultural expression from people within both the hip-hop and geek cultures:
Dan Lamoureux, whose Nerdcore For Life depicts black and Asian as well as white nerdcore artists, responds thus: "I spent more than two years studying nerdcore, and never once did I encounter anyone that I thought was trying to insult or disparage people of another race. The genre is not a parody. A lot of the music is very witty, but the primary goal isn't to make people laugh. I think that the confusion comes from the antiquated and prejudiced assumption that hip-hop is 'black' music and shouldn't be attempted by people of other races. The whole point of hip-hop is that it's supposed to be the voice of the people. It's evolved into a truly global art form, and the music is so ubiquitous that it's even permeated into geek culture."
Indeed, if a key tenet of hip-hop is "keeping it real", then a fantasy obsessive is being less true to the genre by pretending to have more bullet scars than 50 Cent than he is by rapping about Lord of the Rings. Though admittedly, Lords of the Rhymes, who in Nerdcore for Life do exactly that while dressed in Middle Earth costumes, remain on the wrong side of the crucial distinction made in the same film by MC Lars: between being "fun" but still being taken seriously, and being "funny", and hence perceived as a joke.
A bus company in Yorkshire is facing accusations of discrimination against alternative lifestyles after a Goth leading his girlfriend on a leash was stopped from boarding a bus:
"Our primary concern is passenger safety and while the couple are very welcome to travel on our buses, we are asking that Miss Maltby remove her dog lead before boarding the bus.
"It could be dangerous for the couple and other passengers if a driver had to brake sharply while Miss Maltby was wearing the lead."Which raises the issue of when does something becomes discrimination. Is there a difference between Goths (who, in this case, are presumably BDSM fetishists or Goreans or something as well; AFAIK, this sort of thing is not a fundamental part of the Goth subculture) leading each other on leashes and, say, some Muslim women covering their faces? Both behaviours are at odds with the accepted social norms. If there is a difference, is it because religious justficiations automatically bear more weight than non-religious ones?
While we're on the subject of multiculturalism in the UK: a childrens' educational CD-ROM based on the story of the Three Little Pigs has been rejected from a government agency's annual awards because it may offend Muslims.
This month's Observer Music Monthly is a special issue guest-edited by Jarvis Cocker, and featuring a number of interesting things, among them, a round-table discussion of whether music still matters, including Nick Cave, Paul Morley and Cocker himself:
Nick Cave: People have been married to my music ... and I just don't think it would be very cool for them to switch on the TV and 'The Ship Song' comes on a Cornetto ad or something.
Paul Morley: It was as if all the boy bands and girl bands had wiped away the illusion of coolness created by the record industry, so they had to rehabilitate the illusion of cool. So a boy band, who would usually sit on stools like a bunch of Val Doonicans, held their guitars to kind of signify they were in rock. And after that came a flood of guitar bands - as if it was 1983 again, but without the politics. It was just that that kind of music by now felt comfortable enough for the mainstream. So that's why I blame Busted.
Antony Hegarty: My friends [the group] CocoRosie went to Brazil to play a concert, and their music isn't distributed in Brazil but there were 2,000 people there singing along; they knew all the words. But their record isn't even in the shops in Brazil!One could argue that CocoRacist's record company missed a trick in not having investigators at the show photographing/identifying those singing along so that they can be sued for piracy in the future. Perhaps their shareholders could sue them for failure to maximise profits?
Paul Morley: But going back to the beginning of the conversation, lots of people form bands now as if it's a career choice they're making. Because of certain TV audition shows, and the materialism of hip hop, you can actually envisage a career in pop music now, whereas back in our day, you would just make a song at a time, and go from week to week. The thrill of playing a gig and you never knew when or where it would end ...Elsewhere in the issue, there is a piece on what today's music-savvy teenagers are up to
The Underage Club could be the hippest show in town right now - it's just slightly hard to tell, because unless you're 18 or under, you won't be let in. The idea is that Sam puts on bands such as Pink Grease and the fantastically of-this-moment the Horrors - his particular favourites - to an audience of dressed-up kids who want to party hard but who normally aren't allowed into licensed music venues. 'Strictly No Arctic Monkeys,' it says in the online advertising, because they're too obvious and probably too old, and instead the club DJs spin a wide selection of tunes ranging from Sixties garage rock to early-Nineties riot grrrl and grunge. 'There'd be more Francoise Hardy if I had my way,' says Sam, smiling. 'But, y'know, I guess you've got to appeal to the masses.'It's reassuring to see that the abundance of access to diverse varieties of music is producing a generation of superhipsters with encyclopædic knowledge of esoteric genres and influences (some dating back to their grandparents' time), a DIY ethic the smarter post-punks would be proud of and acutely refined taste.
The article continues with a breakdown of today's freaky teen fashion:
An anthropologist might put them in the general class of indie kids, but they are loosely split into two different groups. There are the new ravers, who listen to bands such as Klaxons and the group second on the bill today, Trash Fashion. New ravers mix and match the skinny jeans and floppy hair of the classic indie look with the fluorescent fabrics of Nineties rave culture (Day-Glo face paint and tacky plastic accessories included). None of them is old enough to have danced with 20,000 people in a field back in the heyday of rave; rather, some might have been conceived back there and then.
Then there is the look made newly fashionable by today's headliners, the Horrors, which involves a dressier version of the classic goth look. It's achieved by painstakingly rummaging for the finest Victorian-looking garms and brought to life by some ghoulish make-up and lashings of hairspray. These kids don't have a name for themselves yet, but there are certainly shades of the Cramps and early Nick Cave.
One subculture not represented is emo - punk's pale-faced and more introspective offspring. 'It's not that I have a personal vendetta against them,' says Sam. 'It's just they have an embarrassing reputation. They do cringey things like cut themselves at parties, say stupid things, and just have terrible style. Not the kind of people I want at my night.'Though not everyone is optimistic about popular music culture in the age of the iPod, MySpace and last.fm; former KLFer turned grumpy old man Bill Drummond argues the case that all music is shite, and proposes a No Music Day:
Further on, Turner laureate Jeremy Deller looks at Depeche Mode fandom. Apparently the Mode are big in Russia, partly (as he argues) due to the cleanly futuristic yet melancholy sound of their music appealing to the Russian soul.
Sociologists attempt to answer that most baffling of questions: why do we have Goths?
"Sometimes you'll find that people who were low status in the school environment will suddenly find this new group in which the things that they do are considered much more high-status, credit-worthy things," he said.
And he added that particularly noticeable was the role of relatively feminine men in the goth scene.
"At school they were either bullied or just not really noticed too much," he said. "Suddenly they discover goth music, and they find themselves in an environment where actually, to be feminine as a man is rather valued, and suddenly girls are rather interested in you. "I think it's an alternative set of values which renders people - who previously didn't have status - desirable."That's not quote the explanation I heard (i.e., that wearing black PVC fetishwear, smoking extra-carcinogenic Indonesian cigarettes and cultivating an appreciation of laughable Teutonic fascist-themed dance pop is the best way for spotty, awkward geeks to get
A piece about "furries", a growing subculture of people who identify themselves as anthropomorphic cartoon animals, and which may or may not be a sexual fetish, depending on whom you ask:
On condition of anonymity, the author of a G-rated a comic book featuring an animal character described his experience at a Furry convention he was invited to attend, and how revolted he was by the horny Furs he encountered. They have convinced themselves that all writers and artists who have ever placed a talking animal in a story must in fact be closet Furries at best, and that surely those creators would not be disturbed by the sexuality of Furry fandom, he says. This includes even the classics like Bugs Bunny, the Pink Panther, and Mickey Mouse.
"It's rough if youre a transsexual its even rougher if you try to explain that you're a cat in a human body," says another Furry fan, who bemoaned the fact that Furries cant opt to surgically change their species in the way transexuals can change their gender.
These conversations are typical of what one will find at Furry conventions, scheduled alongside social events like dances and talent shows. Scattered here and there in private hotel rooms, one might also find places like The Nursery where adult babies can get diapered and Fursuit dry-humping orgies, or Plushie parties, where people who disdain or cant find human sexual partners stick their organs into an SPH (strategically placed hole) torn into a carnival prize raccoon. But most of the Furries who get laid at the convention will probably hook up through mutual interests, physical attraction, flirtatious conversation, and a few drinks, just like everybody else does.
Apparently there are now "furry nights" at nightclubs in the US. Could Furry be the next Goth or something like that? (If so, I wonder how long until "furry" musical projects start appearing, and what they'll sound like. Or, indeed, until we see veteran Furries bemoaning the influx of trendy normals in tiger suits from Hot Topic or Dangerfield or someplace.)
Warren Ellis (he who knows all too many scary goth camgirls) writes a commentary on the intersection of the geek/tech and goth subcultures:
Sometimes I think of LiveJournal as the world's biggest technogoth community. LJ has been both lauded and derided as a space for people with black clothes and strange hair to work out their alienation and disaffection in electronic public. That hasn't stopped it being successful, and it hasn't stopped it being a tool for national and international networking. As a piece of "social software," it's not flawless, but its influence and effect has been huge. If nothing else, several thousand alt.models, often very ambitious and creative, seem to have hooked up together with this thing. An army could be formed. That would be an army worth supporting with taxes. In fact, it could probably be paid for by Paypal donation links.
(Though I'm not sure I'm comfortable with the idea of goths forming an underground army. It's too easy to imagine paramilitary groups of real-life Blackshirts, motivated by the nihilistic tirades of Marilyn Manson and the cryptofascist bombast of VNV Nation, and filled with contempt for the inferiors who wear coloured clothing. First they came for the jocks, but I didn't speak out because I wasn't a jock, and so on. But I digress)
Though I was wondering whether LiveJournal was another one of those Gothic Internet Startups of the Not-So-Long Boom, like Dimension X (now part of Microsoft) and Netizen (no longer around). I once had the idea of a parallel history where the boom doesn't end, and the goth subculture evolves into a sort of tech-industry freemasonry, with membership and initiation essential for getting any sort of consulting gigs; and the usual goth-club "courtly intrigues" and catfights happening behind the scenes. It'd make a decent setting for a story or a novel.
According to a recent A Word A Day a "goth" is "a rude or uncivilized person". So it's synonymous with "mook" then?
(Which other youth subcultures are named after words for disagreeable people? There's punk, for one.)
(Thanks to Cos)
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Bootywhang: A piece on the rise of 'alternaporn' sites. These are independently-run online soft- to medium-core porn sites with subcultural themes (raver, goth, geek, punk, and others), 'real' models who often have online journals, and a distinct paucity of the ugly, degrading, exploitative material that your typical spamvertised commercial porn site pushes. And, perhaps surprisingly, many of their subscribers are heterosexual women.
"I want to take the sketchiness and smuttiness out of porn," said Chase Lisbon, 28, who launched Supercult in August 2001. "I don't use words like tits or ass or pussy anywhere on the site." Supercult is a mod-styled website featuring pictures of naked hipsters posing with Lambretta scooters and Star Wars action figures. Chase estimates that 30 percent of the site's paying users are female.
(Well, someone had to put Mod revivalism/retro hipsterism and porn together sometime...)
Anyway, as far as porn has been with us since the Etruscan era, if not cave paintings, and is likely to be with us as long as we have sex and symbols, it's a good thing to know that it's not all misanthropic, envelope-pushing brutality and ugliness ("Teenage sluts get banged hard by farm animals!"), and that perhaps porn can be humanistic and positive. Of course, the religious right don't agree. (via bOING bOING)