Wednesday, May 26, 2004

the big big [media] whoredom

I was talking to Melissa today over vietnamese food. I was explaining my burnout recovery / method of dealing with boredom when I'm home: read profusely, listen to music and watch incredibly bad movies with only a beer as company. I realized that my objectives are different with each form of entertainment. I'm a notorious music snob-- at least with pop music. I stick to the more esoteric, difficult neighborhoods of rock, with occasional cheap forays into country and blues. In reading I run a similar fun-but-challenging gamut, but I allow myself more leeway with the occasional dirty escapist pleasure (mostly sci-fi novels from my childhood). I'm less picky with text. In movies I get equal amounts of pleasure with art-house flicks and awful action movies (provided there is beer). The editing and dialogue of The Transporter is easy enough to decode to make the hour and a half entertaining. I'm also able to get enjoyment out of bad-cinema disgust, whereas bad music just makes me want to leave the room. Maybe it's the added detail and complexity in a movie that makes this possible; maybe it's just the influence of my friends that has made me so tolerant of lousiness in one and so abohorrent of the same in another.

I'm not going to pretend that there's any worth in treating all art as worth thought. In any medium, I'm a firm believer in quality-- at least that quality, as a concept, is valid. Recognising it on my own is often somewhat difficult, but I have no problem enlisting the help of my friends, websites, and the occasional book or newspaper. The issue is more in the nature of analysis itself-- should I be enjoying the experience itself or the mental dialogue that is created? I can watch awful, campy films but still think about them-- picking them apart to see how they are made, second-guessing the director, the actors, the editor. The same thing applies when listening to insipid, formulaic music-- I pay attention to the production, the bassline, the lyrics, figuring out what committee or focus group or fashonista decided to EQ the guitar or sequence the melody or select the theme.

I read an article in adbusters a few months ago that suggested this sort of experience is damaging to our mental health. It is easy to slip into a zone where everything is worth analysis-- every bottle and can in every movie becomes product placement, every truck on the highway is part of some evil globalising economic force. It's a kind of distracted attention-- no serious meditation on a single theme, rather a schizophrenic constant reevaluation of the same idea, the idea that our world is fucked up and that that, itself, is kind of pathetically, nihlistically funny.

I know I'm not like that. At least, I hope I'm not like that. I'm not flexible enough for yoga and I don't affirm anything, but I'd like to believe I'm capable of coherent, meditative thought. It's a good thing I'm moving to the loudest, fastest, most distracted city in the union.

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