<%@ Language=VBScript %> <%response.buffer = TRUE%> Phoning It In
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Phoning It In

Popular culture, art, and life in general are in a sorry sorry state. When television dictates what is cool and alternative, the only hope for originality and honesty lies in something independent. Friction Magazine author, Craig A. Platt spins the web of hypocrisy and lets us know how to escape this drab and meaningless existence. Rise up my brothers and sisters and CREATE!

by Craig A. Platt


"Being brilliant is no great feat if you respect nothing."
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Having grown up listening to some of the best music ever recorded and watching some of the best movies ever produced, I am beginning to wonder whether that was the case at all. Is my music the best? What constitutes the best? Is it a competition? Of course not, but if it isn't why am I so convinced that it is? Was I fooled into believing it was the best by a machine of glossy pages, flashing images, and an all-around lovefest for the status quo?

These are not simple questions and their responses must be well worded and moreover must possess an ounce of ingenuity. Over and over, I imagine someday America will embrace the ugly duckling. And while the hypocrisy of that statement weighs heavy because the high art of today is indeed the ugly duckling, today's art has more to do with controversy than with well thought political statements. Does any one try anymore?

Reading through the glossy pages of Rolling Stone, Time, Newsweek, Spin, The New Yorker, and the ashen supposed zine pages of the Village Voice and New York Press, I see the same themes, the same shameless ass kissing words written about the brilliance of such and such, how they have encapsulated all that is great about America, or art, or the accusations that these other nations falling away in decay are breeding grounds for true brilliance while Americans lie in waste. Whether it is the description of a true hero or a true villain, Americans seem to lie on the wrong side of the tracks as the bastard son of high art.

I don't blame the artists -- well in a way I do, but more on that later --I blame the competition of it all. Woody Allen once said that he didn't like attending the Oscars because the idea of awarding one movie over several other great movies defeated the purpose of the art itself. Art, simply put, is about self-expression and commentary on the surrounding world. Popular culture no longer wants commentary. They want frivolous collections of words or images thrown together in a laissez faire way. They want subtleties spoon-fed to them.

This is the lead in to the article of course, and now it will pick up and really become what it should because when I write like this I am falling right into their trap, and who the hell wants to do that. I want to trash the English language, the format of an every day article and your preconceptions about which boy band is best, they all are shit (not their fault again), because my mind is a whirl of images and ideas and I am not going to cut it down to 3:05 and I am not going to sit around and allow for Pepsi and Jaguar to sample my song or voice or article and make a billion dollars off of it, because simply put, we all need to learn a little integrity. If there is anything all art forms should teach us it is integrity. Jackson Pollock painting his way, Jack Kerouac refusing to edit On The Road, Ernest Hemingway keeping it short and sweet when every one wanted to know more about Santiago. But now I am really going to roll out the article and if you don't like it, too bad, call your mother and cry about it. If you do like it burn it and make up your own story on what this whole thing is about.

So here we are kiddies a little zany and boiling over with distaste for everything commercial. A good way to get started is to tell you that the video you just watched of the band you never heard of before sucks. The band sucks too. Somehow they popped up on MTV -- The Strokes, Sum 41, etc. -- and were never given a chance to be good. That artist who painted the mural at your local park -- the one with the black fingernails and the old worn out pants, his skin brown with sun, his face tired and poor, his legs slightly limping as he heads to a local bar to nurse a few beers -- he is brilliant.

A synopsis for popular culture: They are all phoning it in.

Thought goes out the windows these days. Everything is a comparison, "He paints like this, they sound like them." It's all because the person with the money -- the one who wants to make more money -- knows new things frighten people so he wants to keep everything safe and simple so that he can buy your apartment building, turn it into condos, and then rent it to the same people that are scared of new things. See what I mean yet?

Let's delve a little further. If you think that making the old stuff sound new is a good way to start, you are righto, bam, smack right on the back. But, we mustn't stop there, we must find new ways to express ourselves. I am not speaking about this recent wave of youth that tattoos and pierces everything and then bares all for the cameras on Spring Break. Sex is a hot commodity; sell it when it's hot because someday you'll realize what it really is. How many kids have a tattoo over the small of their back? How many of them listen to the same band that sings of rebellion and being original? I am not poking fun, I am simply pointing out the hypocrisy of it all.

Every great independent movement was just that: INDEPENDENT. It's shared by a few and never going to be mainstream itself. It does however influence the mainstream to strive to be more independent. The outcasts of the world are outcasts for their differences. One day someone decides their differences are nifty and, all of a sudden, everyone wants to be an outcast. But when everyone becomes an outcast, being a serial, normal person becomes cool again. Somehow the cycle seems to have no solution. Ah, but it does wait.

How about every one does what they are comfortable doing? How about once a week every one tries something new. Would that be so bad? Would it be terrible if your yuppie father came down to CBGB's with you and listened to Striking Distance or some other punk band? What if you went with him to a seminar on the legal procedure for prosecuting a disabled defendant? You might learn something about yourself. That is all I am trying to say.

Everything is so specialized, so pigeonholed that the world has become infinitely more accessible -- planes take us across the ocean in eight hours, we can be in Madrid tomorrow sipping Sangria outside a bullfight -- but we have become infinitely smaller and more specialized in our own little world. We don't go to these exotic places and sample their cultures, we watch a television station that goes there for us or we listen to an American musician interpret the cultural rhythms of South African tribes instead of listening to the tribe. We don't do these adventurous things because we work in colorless, lifeless, gaping wounds of the world, in glass skyscrapers and construction trailers. We listen to the band we loved as kids or to a band that sounds like the band we loved as kids and go to some stuffy gallery and look at reproductions or at mindless art that is simply testing the boundaries of decency.

The entire world is yours, colors at your fingertips, brushes in your sink, paint the whole world whatever color you want it. Don't be fenced in by what they (whoever they are) tell you to like. The bands we see on the TV don't know the difference; they are victims of money and greed. Greed is the same as competition and competition brings out the worst in people. People don't want to be the worst, and when they are they don't want to admit that's what they have become. Each and every one of us can change the world, our world. We can make our lives longer by simply expressing our real selves. We can make it a little happier and a little better if we stop trying to know more than other people, stop trying to sing louder or paint brighter and just paint what is inside us.

The whole thing is a circle, you get out what you put in and if you put in the minimum you will end up with the same. If you want the world to lie down and die then you should do the same. If you want to sit on your ass and let your brain wither like a raisin then be my guest. But, if you want to grow and think and achieve some little dream in the back of your mind, then the first step is to realize that the only judge and jury in your life is your mind and your conscience. Once you do that it will all fall down into place.

Stop letting them phone it in. Demand more from you local zine or your favorite magazine. Write them and say, "You article about the lead singer's abs was the dumbest shit I ever read, I thought this was a music magazine. I don't care how much Epic Records paid you to make this guy a heartthrob, the bottom line is he is a singer and a dude and he is no different than any of us and does it really matter that he has washboard abs? My garbage man has washboard abs and you haven't written a feature on him. Maybe you should though, he is an interesting story." And so on and so on, as Billy Pilgrim would say.

So what is the point to all of this ranting? Well I like the old stuff and I hate the new stuff, but I know the new stuff could be so much better given the chance. I hear things and I see things that are right on the verge, but staring poverty and rejection in the face we all adjust and sort of wrap it up in sugar and sell it and sell it all with the idea that once they make some money than they can crack it all up from the inside and crawl out of that sugar cell. But once you are loved it is hard to turn the back on the love.

I know that we need to start making a difference, to start caring and saying something instead of letting time slide away. I want to see the best minds of my generation starving, hysterical, and naked speaking holy litanies to the saints we hide in the backs of our own minds. I am paraphrasing of course, BUT I DO. I want to see it all come together so that when I am dying, I know I was part of something, I made a difference, I opened one eye, I GAVE A SHIT.

Listen, look, feel and touch all those things you always wanted to and stop flipping the channel searching for cool, searching for something that might make you feel a little better about yourself. If you try you have already succeeded; if you don't, you will never be able to complain about failing. The best we can all do is stop all this madness, get off our asses, and make one stab at being eternal. Do yourself a favor and work at leaving a stamp on the world before you go, not collecting someone else's stamps.

"You tell me that I make no difference, Well at least I'm fucking trying, What the fuck have you done?"
-Ian MacKaye

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