Cultural Clutter and Art

Celebrity and the Fascinati

M. reads People magazine, and freely admits it. I read it when she’s asleep, and won’t admit it to anyone. (And yeah, “reading” is overstating it). That magazine is the only reason that I have a fighting chance of at least recognizing the names of those people who are famous because they are famous, and who, it seems, fascinate others. But my memory is short. So the other day, a guy at work made a joke while IM’ing, equating something really good with somebody named, I dunno, Megan Fox. I’d never heard of her before but I soon got that she’s some latest “hot thing” to fascinate — someone with big breasts, probably, someone “sexy,” some sort of scandal-clad bad girl that men think they want to fuck, etc. etc.

My friend thought I was joking when I asked who she was.

Thing is, I’m not wired. I am not in the loop, and I don’t care about cultural icons. It’s much too much work and I can’t invest. Celebrities live and die in the cultural landscape like daylillies in summer. Or not even —

I’m sort of fascinated by how and why these things are so fascinating to others, but the idea of immersing myself in a sea of ever-changing fascinati — yes, I think I’m coining a new word here — well, it would be like driving down a beautiful country road in autumn and having Post-It notes all over the windshield, each of which contains something important I’m supposed to remember and which occasionally fly off, to be replaced by equally important notes. Or like having a Kirby vaccuum cleaner salesman on the porch with me for breakfast, talking non-stop, pressuring me to buy, buy, buy, throwing dirt clods on the floor and firing up the 2000 amp machine to clean it while I’m just focused on my coffee cup, watching the steam curl over its edge and attempting to right myself for the day. I mean, do I really have to watch Dancing With The Stars, or American Idol, or SNL, or Letterman, or [name that ‘reality’ show] to participate in American life? How does this connect me to others? How does this help me connect with myself?

We live and breathe distraction. And the fascinati-aware will ask — distraction from what? Will say — this is the stuff of life, and please do join us when you come out from inside your asshole, er, cave.   

You can certainly make the argument that dallying about with this stuff allows you to “connect” with people, if by connection you mean being able to gossip about people you have never met and to “get” cultural references.  Would knowing the name of that starlet have helped me connect more deeply with my co-worker? No, what it allows me to do is to confirm our mutual delusion, to quietly sink together into the gooey muck, to forget we are alive (in the delicious existential sense of the word).

My friend D. gets lots of hits on her blog (at least relative to me), and she gets those hits not just because she writes really well (she does), but because she writes about shit people care about.  Shit I’ve never heard of, at times.   She doesn’t write about stuff from the center of the illusion, from the People’d perspective — not at all!  She writes from the outposts of the cultural landscape.  Very different. I love hearing what she hears and seeing what she sees, and on many occasions windows have opened and birds flew out, or in (but she’s a trickster so you have to expect that).  But to me it’s still mostly clutter. Don’t take that the wrong way — I don’t mean it’s junk — there’s a huge difference between clutter and junk. But I mean — ok — do I really need to know what a butt plug is for?  (And no, I really don’t know — and just because it’s a Jesus butt plug does not make me more inclined to want to find out). I don’t need to know, but that’s just me — I like a clean windshield.  

What About Art?

Thing is, D. is a real writer, with serious Muse-ness, and she blogs (and tweets) for exercise, she says — so what happens for me, I find myself looking beyond what she writes on her blog — like I’m at a movie and there’s a tall guy sitting in front of me, and he’s wearing a hat. And the movie is not just a movie but it’s a thing that I want to sit with and be moved by, a thing that orients me, that fires me up even before the coffee starts. It’s the sensibility of an aware soul who can shout it out, who can wake the goddamn mummies fur real, not the made-for-tv/You Tube, cheap torn-polyester sheet ones but the honest-to-god 5000 year old walking souls, the ones who know a thing or two about the underworld. I just want to see that movie. I want to see that movie — the one that only she can make — and she’s holding out on me. She’s writing a blog about anything and everything, all of this cultural stuff, and I don’t get to see that movie.

I was thinking that she was like the shamanness in the village, but she’s inside watching tv when she should be out in the open air, sprinkling bits of bone shards and paprika and crushed birds’ nests onto peoples heads instead. I thought — D, you are watching the blinking lights on your dash, watching the people watching you, becoming engulfed in fascinati, becoming one with the search engine — and don’t you know that those lights will never stop blinking? The searches will keep on coming  — but what are people really searching for? A way back home, of course — or, at the very least, a short ride through the underworld on a hay wagon.

But maybe she’s not “just writing a blog,” as her friend S. thinks, stubbing out her cigarette in it. It occurs to me that she might just be showing parts of that movie I want to see, but from odd angles, showing little x-rays of its bones, mini-previews, raw footage. It occurs to me that she uses her blog like a mermaid must use sonar — it’s not just about the content, the sounds she makes, but in the blogosphere it’s about what comes back from those soundings. It’s the way it all bounces back at you. And I don’t just mean the comments — those are golden, of course — but something else. It’s about the vivosphere, about gathering hums, about sending and receiving messages on channels we don’t really understand. 

That’s what artists do. The story I think I want to hear is not the story I want to hear.  And I am willing to wait.

About David

Prone to musing and to being prone. Father to two, writer, engineer.
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