Pop Culture This Week: 6/22/15

I am too into pop culture and all the current happenings so why not write about it more generally while offering a guide to what is out there for people. Maybe this will come in weekly installments, maybe I’ll get too apathetic, for now enjoy this weekly update on what’s happening this week in popular culture.

MUSIC 6/23

Son Lux “Bones”

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Son Lux is an interesting artist–an experimental talent who combines a knack for creating orchestral-lite pieces with atmospheric electronic sounds. Backed by his deep vocals, it all combines to make something that is nearly always interesting but not necessarily easy to listen to. The moments of beauty tend to be there and he is really effective at creating mood (he has worked on several films including one of my favs Looper, as well as upcoming Paper Towns). If you like Sufjan at his most Age of Adz-y you may enjoy this (he worked with Sufjan as a part of hip-hop project Sisyphus last year). He doesn’t quite have the critical pedigree that Sufjan does, but certainly has talent.

Kacey Musgraves “Pageant Girl”

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This is country’s critical darling for some reason, particularly resonating with people at NPR and the like. This is probably because she offers some critique of the place she comes from while simultaneously fitting pretty perfectly into that mold. She doesn’t really do much for me and the reviews are down from her debut, but it will probably sell a lot of copies so lookout for her as a potential crossover act.

Other albums of note: Meg Baird “Don’t Weigh Down the Light”, Wolf Alice “My Love is Cool”, and The National playing “Sorrow” for six hours straight in “A Lot of Sorrow”

MOVIES 6/26

Ted 2

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Yes the Seth MacFarlane movie about a stuffed bear that comes to life and does fratty things with Mark Wahlberg made a lot of $$$ and now it’s back in order to make a bunch more. The first one was decent critically and I can’t imagine this one will be anything close to that, so you should probably just go see Inside Out instead.

Big Game

This movie sounds strangely fascinating–about a Finnish boy participating in a rites of passage/wilderness survival venture who runs across a crashed plane where the American president (played by SAMUEL L. JACKSON!!!) is found as a survivor (I already want to think of this as a Snakes on a Plane sequel). They must survive together, not only against the wilderness, but also against kidnappers trying to take the president hostage. If this doesn’t sound crazy enough, I should add that it is directed by Jalmari Helander whose credits include Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale which is essentially a Christmas horror film that uses a Santa-like figure and Norse Jul traditions to make a crazy and fairly terrifying movie. Plus the title is Big Game which asserts that somebody will be hunting somebody else, which sounds out of control. Watch the trailer for this, it feels like something that will be a cult film for years to come.

Other movies of note: Just go see Inside Out and maybe check out Dope, it looks, well, cool.

TELEVISION

6/24

Big Brother 17 (CBS)

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Not much to say about the newest season of Big Brother though I do like to irrationally advocate for it now and then. Its underlying game mechanics are actually quite complex even if its exterior remains the silliest of all reality TV. It’s not as perverse a show as you’d think, I swear! Another noteworthy announcement is that we will see the first transgender reality contestant (at least in a major US competition) so that should be a newsworthy topic over the first few weeks and maybe longer depending on how the other houseguests react to her.

6/28

Humans (AMC/Channel 4)

I only wanna talk about the most intriguing of culture, because there is already so much out there, but this does seem to show some promise. Humans is a sci-fi show based off of a Swedish idea, taking place in a world similar to the present except for there are AI servant robots (what could go wrong?!?). It looks to add to the catalog of other culture looking at how we relate to AI and its potential dangers (Her, Ex Machina). The most interesting thing to me is that it is a co-production taking place between British Channel 4 and American cable channel AMC, but I doubt any of you really care about that.

Other TV to check out: Well, True Detective season two premiered yesterday at the time of this writing; reviews are not great but we can all watch it in nostalgia of the first, right?

OTHER

I don’t have much else for ya, I’m sure the Barack Obama episode of WTF with Marc Maron will probably get released this week and that should be a fascinating listen.

Weekly Thoughts 11

Emojis

Technological advances often bring about vast changes in the ways that we communicate; this, in turn, often brings large cultural changes. With any form of cultural change there is a resistance both to the technology and to the unique forms of expression that these new forms can bring. Nobody wants to commit themselves to a form that will soon be out of style–a relic of an old age only to be parodied later–so they do their best to ignore that which is modern or new. Others commit themselves entirely to new technologies either to great avail or to great shame.

There comes a point when these forms enter into a debate as to whether they are juvenile forms of expression or something that can be used in deep or profound or even mainstream ways where culture at large recognizes it as a part of the norm.

Today the focal point of this discussion is the emoji. The emoji is something that is not poised to go away (though it might be replaced) and the question is whether it is something altogether useless or is it something that can be used to contribute to living life in the world?

Full disclosure, I’m a bit of a Luddite when it comes to these things. I’m not sure I’ve ever used an emoji–I don’t own any sort of smart phone, I don’t have an Instagram account, have never snap chatted, etc…

My natural inclination on this is to reject it entirely. I’ve seen the emoji in use and it feels quite lackluster. Really? Small pictures? People messing around with these reminds me of my high school days where you would send the most abstract smiley faces you could to one another–it was fun for a minute, but it never really stuck.

But that doesn’t mean emoji won’t. I remember my senior year of high school my English teacher declared that our texting acronyms (this was at the first peak of texting, when all the parents would joke about how weird text-speak was. LOL) were actually their own form of poetry. We sort of laughed her off–she was kind of strange after all.

Upon review though I don’t think she was entirely wrong. While a lot of the the texting acronyms (do we have a better phrase to describe this? I swear there is an actual name for this) have failed to remain a part of the larger consciousness (TTYL anyone?) others are relevant and have escaped that connotation of simply standing for something else. LOL, OMG, and WTF are real things now. If a modern poet used them in a poem it still might be for playful or ironic purposes, but at this point I don’t think it would look too out of place.

Emojis could go this route. We never wanted to be poetic, but we altered the way we spoke and communicated. By not intending to be anything profound something can in fact obtain profundity. Kids aren’t trying to do anything special or important, they’re just doing it and this is a form of expression and that makes it work. Layers of meaning upon meaning are being formed later to be used and to be undermined and to evolve the way language and culture always does.

Emojis are so dumb though, right?