Friday, July 13, 2007

Is Pop Culture Science

And if it is, Why the Hell Study this Garbage.

First you may be wondering why I hae not mentioned the religion class. Well it turns out that the religion class is more of a history course than a studies course, and thus it is harder to make fun of. That does not mean there are not interesting moments in the class, because some religious beliefs can be... Well here's a example. This came from an Anglican Priest in 18th Cetury Virginia. At that time planters were worried that perhaps if their slaves converted, and became good Christians, the slaves might earn rights. The pastor knew which of the two groups of Christians paid his salary, and he thus addressed the issue with the following religious ruling.
To remove all pretence from the Adult Slaves I shall baptise of their being free upon that account, I have thought to fit to require first their consent to this following declaration You declare in the Presence of god and before this Congregation that you do not ask for the holy baptism out of any design to free yourself from the Duty and Obedience you owe to your Master while you live, but merely for the good of Your Soul and to partake of the Graces and Blessings promised to the members of the Church of Jesus Christ . One of the most Scandalous and common Crimes of our Slaves is their perpetual Changing of Wives and husbands, which occasions great disorders; I also tell them whom I baptise The Christian Religion does not allow the plurality of Wives, nor any changing of them; You promise truly to keep the Wife yo now have till Death dos part you. It has been Customary among them to have their feasts, dances, and meetings on the Lord's Day, that practice is pretty well over in this parish, but not absolutely; I tell them that present themselves to to be admitted to Baptism, they mus promise they'l spend no more the Lord's day in idleness, and if they do, I'l cut them off from the Communion.
Ahh those Anglican Pastors. So empathetic to the needs of their congregation.

However, due to it's rather factual nature, the class itself is less deserving of parody. I might present a funny quote or two, but I will primarily blog about the Pop Culture.

And now for the question of the day, Is Pop Culture, or at least the study of pop culture a science? It certainly claims to be one, but at first glance, this does not seem so. I mean there are no explosion and hardly any mathematics. But even so, it could still be one of those soft, wimpy sciences like Neural Cellular Biology. So let us start at the beginning and keep an open mind.

A rigourous, scientific study of Popular culture is admittedly difficult. Apparently there are laws against locking subjects in rooms and playing 24 hour non-stop Hillary Duff music, while quantitatively monitoring their behavior.
Day 26, the subjects appear to be experiencing extreme agitation. Number 24 tried to strangle my graduate student, when she brought him food. This is the 28 time this week, that he ha displayed such violent tendencies. I intend to study this phenomenon further.

Thus Sociologists once again must take the wimpy way out and conducts surveys and or case histories. This is called Qualitative Research, or BSing. Qualitative Research is not unlike what Dr. Sachs has done. There are of course two differences. Oliver Sachs studied people with postencephalitic parkinsonism, while Pop Culture sociologists study Paris Hilton fans, so they face the additional problem that their research subjects are brain-damaged.

The second problem is more serious. Whereas Oliver Sachs can also do real science, soft and wimpy though it is, I simply do not see how a sociologist can. I must admit that sociologists do have elaborate ways of coping with this bias, (Emic and Etic and all that), and their studies are very thorough, but ultimately I think their research speaks for itself. So we conclude that no matter how much documenting and analysis there is, we still may not have a science. It's a shame, because done properly perhaps this would lead to interesting insights in human nature. Ah well. Done improperly, it as least generates much hilarity.

*This knowledge is all hearsay. I never had the urge to investigate her directly, but I get the impression that any fans of hers are weirdos.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Femininity, Decontruction, and Coconuts: An Explosive Concoction

So let us continue where we left off in the textbook, and from there we will proceed to the class. For once in my life I actually took notes, and I intend to use them, so expect the world. (Yes I might have made a note or two in Diff Eq, but they hardly count.)

We proceed from the basic understanding of pop culture to a didactic analysis of the effects of the feminine revolution on the genre of Mass Culture. Perhaps Didactic is not the right word. Well I don't care, and neither does the author of the cunning pun, Femininity as Mas(s)querade*: A Feminist Approach to Mass Culture. Ha I'll bet you didn't even realize Faminism was popular culture, but didn't Betty Friedan make the Top 40 just last year? Oh, well it must be a masculine conspiracy!
Well, let us proceed back to the footnotes.

•Feminism stands as the vanguard, the first defense against the homogenization of society. It and it alone fight the good fight against the corrosive evil of supermarket tabloids.
•Even Marxism has learned that if it wishes too survive, we need feminism.
•But Marxism doesn't truely belive in Feminism.
•Hmm we already mentioned the importance of Feminism and Marxism, but something is missing.
•Ah yes a gay guy, because naturally gays represent the omnipresent womanly love inherent but DEEPLY hidden in the breathtakingly flawless philosophy of Trotskyism.
•Trosky! Now there's a pop culture icon. When's his CD coming out?

Um the rest of that chapter doesn't really mention Pop Culture at all, but if the Gay-Feminocommmunist Cabal of Evangelical Nightmare really exists, the rest of the chapter is probably its Satanic Scripture.

The next chapter seems to me to be boring and devoid of meaning, but I will point out that the last owner of the book must have been enthralled with it's prose; he highlighted every word.

Chapter Six: Deconstructionism.
•Pop Culture was created by some vast supreme power to permanently disenfranchise the proletariat.
Incidentally the best proof of G-d's existence can be found in the rants of Atheist Communists. They say the world is being run by an all-pervasive Bourgeois Conspiracy, with the goal of the utter destruction of the working class. Religious people call that omnipotent and omniscient force G-d. It's just a matter of perspective.
•Pop Culture is being shaped by this mysterious force.
•The working class only think they are watching a video of half-naked women, but really they are being softened to prevent the, otherwise inevitable, Communist Uprising, may it happen in our days.
•Pop Culture is constantly being manipulated, with yesterday's sex objects being forced aside to make way for today's sex objects.
•All the problems in the world come from the immoral influence of pop culture.
•Things are always in there balance. Every day there is a constant clash between the forces of justice and the evil influence of depraved Pop Culture.
•Hmm. Maybe conservative Christians and liberal Communists really do have common beliefs.
•Um, maybe we're being too extreme (You think!) We should probably backpedal just to be safe.
•Yeah let's muddle the issues a bit. If it's too clear, we won't be able to get tenure.

OK Last chapter.
•Pop Culture is he People's Culture. It symbolizes Liberty and Freedom.
•Or maybe not. Maybe it symbolizes continued oppression.
•At it's roots are the struggles and desires of the working class. But they have been twisted and transformed into junk.
•This isn't a very original chapter, is it?

So there you have it. Pop Culture through the eyes of non-science academics. Academics who need to go outside more. To Hawaii, say. Perhaps Aloha Springs. Just stting there relaxing. Under the shade of a coconut tree... Oh right, sorry. Join us tomorrow when we tell you how to study Pop Culture**.

*Ha Ha. Get it? Mass as in Mass Culture. But if you exclude the 's', you end up with masquerade? Ah those Cwazy Sociologists.
**Hint. It come out the back of a male ox. Oh and it's brown.

Monday, July 09, 2007


Imagine a coconut. Now imagine a second coconut. Now imagine a lady is beating you over the head with said coconuts. Well at the Aloha Springs Resort, you don't have to imagine because.... Whoah! Looks like I got a little carried away there. Because, today's post is not about getting hit on the head with coconuts, at least not physical coconuts. No today's post is about 1) pop-culture and 2) why Britney Spears deserves to get beaten with a coconut.

Actually the class hasn't started yet per se, but I did do the reading. The reading as 4 chapters in a book called, what else, Pop Culture. Four chapters of pompous, academic, ranting. Four chapters, spanning 41 pages. Luckily most of what they said was garbage, and the rest can be summarized in bullet point form.

• eC15 means Early 15th Century
• Likewise lC19 means late 19th Century
• By now, you can probably guess what mC17 means.
• If you want your readers to know what the hell you are talking about, it would be best to write "Early 15th Century." It takes only a little longer to type, and it is much clearer.
• At the very least define your acronyms, rather than forcing your readers to do guesswork.
• That goes double for l. and fw.
• Culture is a very old word stemming from a root meaning agriculture. It's facts like this that are useful in Trivial Pursuit.
• Eight bullet points, and we haven't even touched Pop Culture.
• Eventually in the eighteenth century, culture came to mean nourishment for the mind. Thus Opera can be considered Culture, as can Calculus, but the author, being "Liberal Artsy", does not mention Calculus.
But what does this have to do with Britney Spears and Coconuts? Well we have many more bullet points to cover.
• The word mass indicates plebeian or low base, mob, ignorant. It also indicates a fundamental property of matter, but we don't really care here.
• So here's the nub of our argument. If we prefix culture with mass, we vulgarize it. So instead of Opera, we get, well, Britney.
• Presumably Pop Culture is the same sort of thing.

You following? Good cause there are 3 more chapters to go. Interesting how much time you can spend on the blindingly obvious.

• Culture, as in the Shakespeare and the calculus, is appreciated by only a small number of people. Actually again the author only cares about art, music, and literature, but I'll give F.R Lewis the benefit of the doubt.
• Not only can only a few people appreciate the beauty of Shakespeare, but those precious few people can something or other. "For such capacity does not belong merely to an isolated aesthetic realm it implies responsiveness to theory as well as to art, to science [finally] and to philosophy in so far as these may affect the human situation and the nature of life." In other-words, understanding culture involves responding to external stimuli. It involves not being brain dead.
• Only those select few individuals make any meaningful contribution to society, and everyone else could die of Plague for all the author cares.
• The Author is of course of this minority.
• notElon disagrees with this author. I mean without the rest of the world, who would clean up all those bodies?
• Besides that, even if most people aren't intellectuals, they sill can contribute to Society in some way, assuming they are not brain dead.
• "It seems, then, not unnecessary, to restate the obvious."
• notElon has noticed.
• America does not possess this high culture, but is more "Democratic."
• I mean just look at that Mark Twain. So low-brow.
• And don't get me started on Dave Barry.
• Those darn Americans are even making the British less stuck-up.
• Even France won't hold out for long.
• Then Culture will be dead, and the world will be doomed. Doomed. Doomed to mediocrity.
• If it means getting rid of the Author, no loss.

Half way there. Gee, this is fun.

• "For about a century Western Culture has really been two cultures: the traditional kind — Let us call it "High Culture" —that is chronicled in the textbooks, and a mass culture for the market.
• Only for the last ONE HUNDRED YEARS? G-d where has this guy been?
• There were always two sets of academics those that sit around in monasteries having obscure discussions ie the Monks and those that popularize their knowledge ie the Minstrels.
• Lets see if we can get "The Monks and The Minstrels" into an academic journal.
• Many of those guy you enshrine as Pure Culture —Shakespeare for instance— were also popular entertainers, and they are actually the far more interesting category.
Oh sorry I got carried away for a second. Back to this guy's bullet points.
• "A work of High Culture is occasionally popular, though this is exceedingly rare.
• Gee, I wonder why.
• Soviet Russia is the King of Mass Culture, i.e propaganda and statues of Lenin.
• Everything in Soviet Russia is BIASED and appeals to the lowest common denominator.
• And the masses love it. They eat Pravda up. They sing the most tasteless base odes to Stalin with real fervor.
• What is wrong with these stupid Russians? Can't they see this is all garbage?
• Gresham's Law can be applied to culture, because I said so.
Gresham's Law states that bad currency drives the good out of circulation, as people are more eager to spend that which depreciates faster and they will hoard their more currency as they come across it.
• Gresham's "Law" of Culture: "Bad stuff drives out the good, since it is more easily understood and enjoyed.

Technically there is yet more material, but that is probably enough to stew on for now. Does Gresham's Law of Culture explain Britney Spears? Does it explain Coconuts? It is it not too late to go back to the Feudal System? Tune in when we replace the batteries, and once again shine the light of Cold Hard Facts upon the daemons of Popular Culture.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Post 100

Well actually it's post 101. Because, due to a Blogger error, for a short time Wednesday's post was 100. In America they even had post 100 fireworks in my honor. Though, for some strange reason Britain's celebrations in my honour are scheduled for November 5. Beats me why.

Anyway, next week I have to take two Humanities Classes, to fill my "Electives." Quite honestly, I would rather elect to take Physics or History, but I'm stuck with Humanities. Why do you care? Well a while back I wrote a guest post on another blog, showing my alleged schedule.

At that time, some people expressed interest that I actually take those classes (All the ones but the top 2). That way, I could then blog about those said classes, and everybody could have a good time. Alas for Humanity, feeling that this would involve me spending extra money to have a bad time, I declined and later registered for better classes.

However, all is not lost. I now have to take Humanities classes. I will bring this laptop to class, and appear to take careful notes. And I will... sort of. What I really will be doing is recording the Cold Hard Facts, so that we can all enjoy the Professor's wisdom. Then, when the test comes, I can reread my own blog, reflect on all that I have learned, and get a good grade. Meanwhile you can all follow along with the curriculum and comment on the interconnectedness between Humanities, trash cans, and low paying jobs.

There is just one snag. Security. Anything written on a blog could be read by any computer user. And if I actually write about things that are "not" true, someone could potentially get offended, and I could potentially get harmed. As long as I am writing about Humanities, most people won't care one way or the other. Jeering at humanities won't offend anyone who I wouldn't offend in about 15 seconds anyway. But there is ONE person who does matter. If the professor of those classes happens to read this, I could get in serious trouble. It probably is not illegal to blog about coursework, but it might reflect badly in "Class Participation." Now odds are the professor will not read the blog just because it is mine. I seriously doubt a humanities professor would enjoy my style of writing. He might stumble on it by accident, and we must therefore take precautions. At this point, if he googles my name, we're dead. I can't do anything about that. But we can at least ensure that if he googles his own name or the name of the class, this blog will NOT show up in the search results. I won't mention the professor nor will I mention the classes the way they appear in the course catalog. People commenting should do the same. That way, as long as he doesn't google "Ghost of Jamesburg", we're good to go.

So tune in next Monday for the first dose of the Studies of American Popular Culture and Religion.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Though this be madness, yet there is method in 't. Well now, come to think of it...

Everybody hates going to the dentist, what with the drill and the root canals and the painful shots. Plus the fact that someone has to stick both hands and an assorted array of tools into your mouth. Nothing could be more painful, except maybe dipping your left hand in hot, boiling, wax. Well now thanks to the ingenious Spa industry and ingenuous dental patients, you can have a root canal, while simultaneously having hot wax applied to your hand. Ahh relaxing. Oh G-d. Ow Ow Ow. Relaaaaxing.

But apparently not only do dentists get to perform more of the torture they love so much, it is also good for business, and supposedly makes patients happy. According to one, possibly a masochist, ""It's wonderful. I would recommend it to anyone because it's so relaxing."

Relaxing, huh? Well maybe I was wrong about these spas. Maybe eyebrow waxes and chemical baths are "relaxing", at least to some people. But why have the spa in the dentist? Wouldn't a better medical facility, a better host for the a spa, be one where the only clientele are women? Specifically hormonally crazed women, who are going through a stressful time, and are worried that they are no longer in the shape they once were. There could be a fortune in a career like that. Ah. It appears someone has beaten me to the punch*. Darn! Ah well. Maybe next time.

*With apologies to every woman but the ones who started the stereotype. Actually on second thought, with apologies to them too. Don't kill me.