Wednesday, December 13, 2006

As an artist, a person has no home save in Paris.

Paris Hilton is the most important pop figure of our age. I don't like her at all, but there it is, she's the modern version of Bob Dylan (following up on the post from yesterday, I found a place where you can listen to all of Dylan's XM shows online). Dylan always tried to dodge the "voice of a generation" label he got stuck with, fortunately for Miss Hilton no one has tried to brand her anything like that, until now anyway.

Pop culture is important- not intrinsically, but it is important because so many people think it's important. I don't subscribe to US Weekly or watch Ryan Seacrest on E! (though I do watch "the Soup" sometimes), but I could tell you with a fair amount of accuracy who is dating who and who is hating who. Why? Because I pass the couple of minutes in the grocery aisle finding out. The lives and lifestyles of the rich and famous are worthless in every way, except in that they help waste the time until death for masses of people who have already put their lives on cruise control. It is hypocritical to pretend I am better, since I am huge sports fan, and that is just the other mostly gender specific way throw away time.

Among all the dimwitted good looking people that the magazines stalk, Paris Hilton is the most important, not because of what he is, but what she isn't. She manages to be among the most famous people in the world without being particularly talented or even very good looking. If you listed her talents they would amount to: being blonde, tan and skinny. Her other charms include being rich, wearing skimpy clothing (sans underwear on occasions that serve as cautionary STD tales for adolescent boys), always posing (she always assumes some striking or smoldering look for the camera) and being extremely famous. Famous for what exactly? Well, she is rich and was well known in the Hollywood set for years, but only became truly famous when she starred in a sex tape. Since then she has been in a reality show, which was a product of her fame, not the source of it, two supporting parts in movies and produced a book and a CD (both of which were eviscerated by critics before they even came out). But, Paris is most famous for frequent minor "scandals" involving herself or other celebrities, the most famous of which are the sex tape and her rift with rail thin druggie, Nicole Ritchie. That Brittney Spears (oh how the mighty have fallen) was hanging with Paris when she showed us where her kids came from 3 (count em, 3) times (Paris only pulled that trick once... no twice...) is no surprise. That is Paris Hilton's stock in trade, the manufacture of shameless fame by shameful behavior.

Understand, I am not moralizing. I don't care, further I don't even think anything is wrong with Miss Hilton sleeping with hundreds of thousands of people, animals, plants or inanimate object, nightly doing exotic and dangerous drugs so extreme I don't even get to know about them, ceasing to wear clothes altogether and starting to speak in some combination of the language from A Clockwork Orange and valley girl. In fact, if all of those things happened, my opinion of Paris Hilton would probably become much more positive, at least that would be interesting. People shouldn't be famous for having night vision sex tapes, showing their 500 bad miles of vagina, losing their cell phone with "famous phone numbers" in it, feuding with their drug-addict, anorexic BFF or any of the other shit that Paris does on a regular basis. She has turned being a ditsy coke-whore princess into a multi-million dollar business, and as a human being I feel slighted that someone would be given so much for so little.

But her general negative contribution to the world that lavishes her with success is why Paris is the key figure of our age. We live in a post-modern world where most people (myself especially) lead lives that are insular and small. There is so much "noise" that it is difficult for any book, movie or song to rise above it all and gain acclaim and no one has time to consider all of the "important" or "good" things coming out in a year. So what we are left with is the lowest and least important people become the most looked to and sought after. The most important aspects of culture to the average man and woman are sports and pop culture respectively. So ours is a culture that has rejected culture. In world where sports figures, actors and rappers are our demi-gods, pure fluff like Paris Hilton is elevated to the status once reserved for people who had, you know, done something. So enjoy all the good things that lady luck throws up on you Paris, by being the least deserving, you've earned it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

I'm wondering where in the world my lunch might be

Now maybe I am biased, well definitely I am biased, but I think Bob Dylan's new (or rather newest, it isn't exactly hot off the presses) album is fantastic. Then, I am a frequent drinker of the Dylan Kool-Aid. At, Dennis Cozzalio recently posted one of his movie quizes and one of the questions was: "Is there a movie that would make you question the judgment and/or taste of a film critic, blogger or friend if you found out they were an advocate of it?" I struggled to answer that question, but I know its musical inverse by heart, because if anyone tells me that they think Bob Dylan makes bad music, or they can't stand his voice... (I have certainly heard this before in the great Linkin Park vs. Bob Dylan debates that left many with hurt feelings, though not me, I have no feelings... sob) Well, that's it. We aren't friends anymore. I can appreciate different opinions, but Bob is my litmus test. If you can't at least appreciate that it is high quality work, I just can't trust your opinions on anything else. Sure, some people only like electronica (I am looking at you, 3), but you're gonna have to serve my man Bob his due props.

Back to the album at hand, I think this is his finest work since the 70s (I like some of his stuff from the 80s, but never got that into Love and Theft or Time Out of Mind, but in the 70s he put out the best album of all time, and this one doesn't top that one). There aren't any songs I really dislike and I really like tracks 1, 2, 5, 6, 8 and 10.

Dylan's music is at its best when it communicates a feeling or experience, but doesn't get too specific and this album is full of those types of tracks. Like Steely Dan, attempts to really unpack what Dylan meant are fruitless from the start, because I don't think that Dylan sat around making up metaphors for Watergate or Vietnam that became his "115th Dream" or "Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts" (two excellent songs). His focus was far broader (and far more specific), though when he was specific ("Hurricane") he avoided the temptation that artists have to become jingoistic. Let me stress, that I am all for thinking a lot about Dylan and his music, I just don't believe there is a final answer out there. Most of the time Dylan was talking out of his ass anyway, just to fuck with people, consider these two quotes: "I've never written a political song. Songs can't save the world. I've gone through all that." and "I'm speaking for all of us. I'm the spokesman for a generation. " If there is a disconnect there, don't worry about it, maybe Bob could save us but he was too busy doing it better than anyone ever had or will.

Here is the video that prompted this post.
Slate Took it Down, but here is a link to the video.