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Frank Daniels’ Lit Riot: Take 1

by Susan Henderson on September 9, 2006

“The Status Quo’s Sure Looking Like It Needs A Good Smashing”

or

“This Town Needs An Enema!”

Everywhere you look these days, the overwhelming evidence points to there being a severe shortage of anything worth two shits offered to the public by the mainstream arts and culture community of Western society. The possible reasons for this are numerous and far-reaching. Most striking, though, is how little anybody seems to be doing about it.

We have grown fat and lazy in designating where to spend our entertainment dollars, although, to be fair, we have finally discovered a way to peel our asses off the couch and away from our 60 year love affair with the television. And now, because of computers and cellphones (with text messaging!), we are in an age of incredible interaction capability. We are connected to each other as we have never been connected before. Yet what the great majority of us are using this capability for is the most inane, mundane subject matter imaginable.

Let’s use Tom Cruise as an example: Tom Cruise’s baby made her first ever public appearance on The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric â„¢, a surefire ratings hit, as this was the first time ever that a woman *gasp* solo-anchored a primetime network news show. And what better way to expose your new baby to the world than to parade her on TV and in the glossy pages of Vanity Fair simultaneously, thereby effectively one-upping that other baby-to-end-all-babies, What’s-Her-Name Pitt-Jolie.

If TomKat’s baby making national news isn’t enough to prove beyond all doubt that our culture has entered the slow, swirly decline into the crapper, then I think I’ve finally figured out why there is such a(n) (annoying) proliferation of MySpace bulletins proclaiming users’ boredom. The gawd-awful truth is that there is so little out there worth investing our time and money in that, across the board, media conglomerates are seeing less and less return on their overwhelmingly shitty investments…the “product” that they present to us, the public. Doubt me? James Patterson, who doesn’t even bother any more to participate in the actual writing of any of the five books he releases each year, sits once again atop the bestseller list. Is there ONE fucking program worth a week’s undigested TV dinners in the Nielsen top 20 ratings? How about music? We’re passively observing the nascency of WWIII and look at the fucking Billboard Top 200. As much shit as I give the Baby Boomers for dumping their ideals as soon as a dollar was waved under their noses, post-Vietnam, at least they gave the enterprise of pretending to give a fuck a go of it for a decade or so. We can’t even be bothered to pretend. This is true atrophy on every level and we are all in collusion with its slow disintegration of our spinal cords and our much-hyped, though little-valued, “free will”.

The right wing faction in control of this country at the moment wants to talk about moral decay, and how the very fabric of our society is coming apart at the seams, but I’d posit that no amount of flagrant gay marryin’ can compare to the way in which we’ve allowed our arts community to be completely ravaged by the bottom line. Nearly everything you read, listen to, watch on TV or in a movie theater is OWNED by seven different media conglomerates. This is not an exaggeration. And they obviously have terrible fucking taste. Because the easiest way to make a product is to carbon copy it. We have been co-opted. We have become nothing more than target demographics and lowest common denominators.

But we have an incredibly large arsenal at our disposal. We can fight back. We have a voice. And a wallet.

More next time.

Talk soon.
~Frank
www.futureproofbook.com
www.myspace.com/nfrankdaniels

Frank Daniels is the author of the acclaimed,POD-dy Mouth-approved novel FUTUREPROOF. Currently, Frank is preparing to embark on a seven city book tour that he is funding through a little help from his friends…you guys. Please check out his eBay auctions, and help the cause.

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Lance Reynald September 9, 2006 at 12:18 pm

baaaah.
just kidding.
we are indeed living in a time where the arts don’t appear to be responding. in the past it has been arts and letters that have aided the groundswell for change. but these days change does not seem to be a product the big 7 want selling. it is such change that would make more work for the big 7, they might have to start thinking of people and not profit. though that thought is idealistic it seems unlikely. politics in this country have made it clear that even the few that still read most clearly do not comprehend. (but that is another rant these days) Even academia has been weakend by campus sports and sex scandals; where is the thought??
yes, I have my vapid moments here and there. I’m the product of the MTV hooligan 80’s. I once thought that the revolution would be televised. Maybe it already is, but we’ve all stopped watching because nothing was on in the first place.

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Lori Oliva September 9, 2006 at 1:54 pm

Frank! I have several bids on your ebay items. Good luck with the tour. I think what you’re doing is brilliant.

Lori

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Robin Slick September 9, 2006 at 3:09 pm

Hmmm…”As much shit as I give the Baby Boomers for dumping their ideals as soon as a dollar was waved under their noses, post-Vietnam, at least they gave the enterprise of pretending to give a fuck a go of it for a decade or so”

Hey, I resemble that remark!

Seriously, no shit. But there are those of us babyboomers who did not do that, who continue to create, and who are just as mortified as you…if not more mortified…as to the current condition in the art world today and when I say art, that means music, writing, etc. We are in big trouble…and yet…if you go to small clubs, listen to internet radio, read books such as yours (well, I haven’t read it yet but I plan on it), there is a glimmer of hope and I’ve been around long enough to know that things go full circle. So as bad as it is now, and it’s pretty damn awful, the backlash will be that the generation of kids growing up now will reclaim the art world and give it a huge boost. I have a 19 and 20 year old and they are desperate to make good art and are insanely jealous that they didn’t grow up in the late sixties/seventies like I did. They are furious with the Bush administration; the seven conglomerates you mention above, and I really think that there’s no way to go now but up.

At least in theory.

And fuck, I just tripped getting off my soapbox. Damned old age. Hope I didn’t break a hip.

xo
Rob

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Ric Marion September 9, 2006 at 5:42 pm

Lot of us Boomers still out here working, trying to get noticed in the homogonized, write for the 28 year old editors, and remember your demographic target and it ain’t you.

Actually, if you think about, you save a lot of time of money with the carbon copy movies. “I’ve already seen that.” i.e. Posiedon, Superman, Batman, Shaggy Dog, Pink Panther. Why bother? The first ones were always better anyway because they were ORIGINAL.

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Aurelio September 9, 2006 at 7:07 pm

As a self-published author who wrote a difficult-to-slot book, I know of what you speak, Frank. We are consummately black-balled, black listed, and demeaned by the literati, the publishing industry, and even the reading public – it’s true. Unwarranted, but true.

However, to quote Pogo, “We have found the enemy, and he is us.”

Paris Hilton sells, as does the Cruise kid, the Pitt kid, et al. It’s as irritating as hell, yeah, but there it is. Give the people what they want, and that’s what they get. My own answer is to seek the things I really want and screw the rest of it. I can’t change the whole world, only myself. I discount hype. I read, watch, and listen to what interests me, PERIOD, and I encourage others to do likewise. But engaging the literary, film, or internet communities/industries on their own turf is tilting at windmills. I know – I tried.

We outsider creative types need to find good, satisfying workarounds, and it sounds like you’ve got a solid one going. I wish you all the best.

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Frank Daniels September 9, 2006 at 11:03 pm

Lance: The revolution is not being televised. It is being written. We have to write it. I hope you’ll join me in the effort.

Lori: Thank you. You are directly contributing to change.

Robin: Hope it didn’t come acros as Boomer-Bashing. I mean, yes, I was obviously bashing Boomers, but I hope it doesn’t seem that I think “all people over 40” are crooked and without the moral gumption to stick to their ideals. I know this to now be the case. But for such a huge amount of people to have such a major problem with the status quo in the 60’s, and here 40 years later we’re still facing the almost exact same problems, with many of the same shadowy culprits behind the scenes–it just says to me that the ball was dropped.

Ric: EXACTLY.

Aurelio: I was wondering how long it would be before somebody said to me, “Paris Hilton and Tom Cruise’s baby sell because people are buying them.” My answer to that is this is a defeatist response to a problem that even the person saying it acknowledges. People will also buy well-thought out writing and movies and TV shows if they are given the opportunity to know those things are there. But as of now, the lion’s share of promo money the Big 7 spends is on total shit. And just to make it clear what I’m aiming for, ultimately, with this campaign: I’m not so quixotic to belive that these giant seven corporations can be brought down and splintered apart to Mayberry-sized levels within our lifetime. That would truly be fighting windmills. But there’s absolutely no reason to believe, with the networking capabilities the internet provides, that we can’t make these media giants see that we, the comsumers of the crap they’ve been feeding us, are mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore.

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Deann September 9, 2006 at 11:26 pm

Ah, Frank’s Revolution.

“Communism is an ideology that seeks to establish a future classless, stateless social organization, based upon common ownership of the means of production and the absence of private property. It can be classified as a branch of the broader socialist movement. Communism also refers to a variety of political movements which claim the establishment of such a social organization as their ultimate goal.”

I thought we lived in a democracy? It’s all propaganda and most people in this society are too lazy to skim off the scum and see what’s underneath. Everyone is told what they should be interested in or molded to and those that stray become outcasts. Half the time I feel like I’m being stared at and mocked.

But hey…”I wasn’t born with enough middle fingers.”
Rock on, Frank.

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N. Mallory September 10, 2006 at 12:11 am

I like this bit of text:

(paste)

As much shit as I give the Baby Boomers for dumping their ideals as soon as a dollar was waved under their noses, post-Vietnam, at least they gave the enterprise of pretending to give a fuck a go of it for a decade or so.

(end of paste)

And even though I am not a “Boomer” ( an expression I loathe), but a bit older– a “war baby”, I agree.

The problem used to be referred to by my friends, “Haight” types from San Francisco, as ” the advent of the hippie businessman.”

Now I am totally ignorant of television. The last tv I watched was Rollie Fingers’s pitching in the 1972 World Series.

Aurelio is right, however, about the possibility of a good quality film today, I feel. It took a Brazilian director and some pretty tolerant English types together with a John Le Carre novel and a fine cast of actors, all shooting in the slums of Nairobi, but an epic-scale movie was made about the malfeasance of pharmaceutical companies.

I used to be active in the “underground” press movement, and every project I developed entailed a mad ( and groveling) scramble for money. I funded many books out of my own pocket. I lack the talent for bartering my way to the real cash.

After all, when Steven Spielberg ( one year younger than I am) refers to himself as, ” . . . just another carpool dad . . .” we are listening to mendacity on the scale of Tennessee Williams’s characters.

Thanks for your piece, Frank Daniels. I enjoyed it.

Kasper

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DaVE September 10, 2006 at 12:42 am

There is a great musical artist named ‘MC Lars’ who perfectly describes our lives in a single cheesy white boy rap blended with punk song, entitled “iGeneration”;
“Web-logged our fears, our hopes and dreams
Individuated by digital means
Fiber optic lenses, DVD, Coca Cola, Disney and Mickey D’s.
Flat mass culture, the norm that took hold
I hope I die before I get sold”
Its kinda said ya know, I mean quite lititarally consumerism has beaten christanity to become the most practiced religion in America to date. Rupert Murdock is our Lorad and Savior and it seems that everyone is quite content with that. It’s actually really sad, and it kinda sucks either way for me. I am realitively young (upper teens), so I’m like in a rut… either I’m a part of it or I’m in the position that I AM IN… being that I must be tormented the rest of my life, full well knowing that the populer culture mandates my every thought. I am not thinking what I’m thinking, I’m thinking what some jackass in a suit wants me to think. Millions of years of evoltion and we are sexually and emotionally repressed time-bombs. Now, I’m not claimed that it was BETTER before Henry Ford changed the world; I mean I’d rather die a manipulated soul, than to get mauled but fucking tigers when I’m trying to kill an anmal to eat. We are actually very spoiled if you think about it- our ansestors died from plagues at least we have medicine. What we have in our society is utimitley good, however unfree. This could be ideal if we were’nt so god damn lazy. We have amazing advances in science and medice that ideally we could be at the best part of our species, the only thing holding us back IS PREVENTABLE!!!!! So, make your species proud. I’m so sick of kids going to the mall every friday to by a $30 t-shirt from Hot Topic (which, incidentally is owned by THE FUCKING GAP!- How counter-cultural!!) and throwing pretzals at the Chiense lady. FUCKING THINK FOR YOURSELVES! What’s on MTV is not good music, the books in Barnes and Noble are not all thats out there, Ikea does not sell ‘real’ art… SUPPORT REAL ART! Its so pathetic I mean a little while ago one of my childhood ‘friends’ said that he could go to my band’s show because it was friday and he ‘HAD’ to go to the mall. WTF?!?!!! Support indie artists – read Frank’s book (Franke your my fucking boy!) and if your in the philly area check my band at one of our shows myspace.com/sexwithrollercoasters
and mc lars i do too, “hope I die before I’m sold” thnx for caring- Dave

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DaVE September 10, 2006 at 12:46 am

sorry I suck at spelling and I meant that kid I grew up with “COULDN’T” attend my concert- I forgot the ‘nt’ when i was typing — dave

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Susan Henderson September 10, 2006 at 2:01 am

Frank – I have tremendous respect for people who speak with courage. Thank you for giving voice to frustrated writers and artists who witness – with absolute bewilderment – how the publishing industry is run. I think editors and agents may share the frustrations more than you know. When, time after time, you bring books forward that you love and are told no because “what shelf would we put this on?” or “it’s an amazing manuscript but I don’t think it will make money,” you feel that same kick to the gut.

Lance, Lori, Robin, Ric, Aurelio, Deann, Norman, DaVE – Many thanks for adding to the discussion. You are grounding, energizing, inspiring, challenging, and I’ll be listening in with great interest.

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Robin Slick September 10, 2006 at 10:29 am

I’m sorry, I still feel pissed at Frank’s comment about Baby Boomers dropping the ball. We were fucking assassinated by the government. I refer you to the deaths of Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy…the massacre at Kent State…and the death of John Lennon…and the following:

It makes the headlines nearly every day, and the tone is usually resentful: Beware of those soon-to-retire baby boomers, all 80 million of them, who are about to place a huge burden on the rest of us. The first of this whiny, entitled generation are turning 60 this year, and they’ll be demanding even more special treatment in old age than they’ve gotten the rest of their lives.

But imagine if the generation getting ready to retire wasn’t the baby boomers, but the World War II generation — or the Greatest Generation, as it’s popularly lionized. No one would be calling those Americans a burden or a drag. If they were retiring today, we’d be writing columns full of praise for their sacrifice and discussing what our nation owes them and how it’s our moral duty to support them.

Why the different attitudes toward these two generations? Why is one idealized as heroic and giving, while the other is disdained as self-indulgent and taking? It’s time to reassess. The true test of a generation should be what it’s done to make America better. And in that regard, boomers have an important story to tell. It’s a story about a more inclusive and tolerant America, about women’s equality and men’s growing respect for it, about an appreciation for cultural diversity too long denied, about a society that no longer turns a blind eye to prejudice or pollution.

The boomers’ problem is not that they haven’t accomplished a great deal; it’s that we take their accomplishments for granted and don’t give them any credit. But if we look more closely at the legacies of both the boomers and their parents, we might see that the boomers are a far more consequential group than many admit. We might see, in fact, that they have advanced American values in ways the Greatest Generation refused to do.

Today, no one questions what the World War II generation gave to America, and that’s as it should be. Its members sacrificed their lives and futures to defend our country. They were heroes then, and they deserve our continuing gratitude. But the reality few acknowledge is that, mission accomplished, they returned home to preside, by and large without complaint, over an American society vastly inferior to the one we know today.

Our view of the 1950s is clouded by nostalgia. We have a Norman Rockwell image of that era, one of tightknit neighborhoods and white picket fences. But for too many Americans, this was no golden age. In the storied years of the 1950s, we told women to stay home, blacks to stay separate, gays to stay closeted, Jews to stay inconspicuous, and those who didn’t conform or prayed to a different God to feel ashamed and stay silent.

Greatest Generation blacks who fought Hitler were forced to sit behind German POWs at USO concerts, and when they returned home the new suburban neighborhoods — emblems of the American Dream — were closed to them. Even baseball great Willie Mays couldn’t find a house to buy when the Giants moved from New York to San Francisco in 1957 — until the mayor intervened. Just as Jews anglicized names and decorated Christmas trees to fit in, blacks tried to straighten their hair and bleach their skin by using fiery, painful chemical products with names such as Black-No-More. For them there was nothing warm or nurturing about that era.

It was a time when men with beards seemed subversive and women in pants were questioned by police, and when the Organization Man ruled the workplace. Children thought to be gay were sent off for psychiatric treatment and even electroshock therapy. As for those who spoke up for the environment, they were irritants in a nation that was on the march and viewed smog alerts and clouds of soot as simply the price of progress.

Women of that era found themselves trapped in an apron. Want ads were segregated by sex — a practice The Washington Post didn’t end until 1971 — and it wasn’t unusual for a description of the perfect “girl” to be “5-foot-5 to 5-foot-7 in heels.” Judges ridiculed female attorneys as “lawyerettes” in court. A woman’s job didn’t count for much, as credit bureaus typically denied women their economic independence.

The Greatest Generation largely accepted and defended this status quo. Even in the 1990s, polls showed Greatest Generation majorities continuing to resist racial intermarriage, working mothers and laws to protect gays from discrimination. Through the late 1980s, a majority of white respondents in national polls even said they would vote for a law allowing a homeowner to refuse to sell his home to a black buyer.

In other words, if most Greatest Generation Americans had their way, American life would have remained frozen in the ’50s. They were not the agents of change that built the far more inclusive, tolerant, free and equal America we have today.

That task fell to the boomers, who almost immediately started breaking down the restrictive codes and repressive convictions of the Greatest Generation’s era. From the moment pollsters began recording their attitudes in the 1960s, boomers stood diametrically opposed to their elders on the core issues of race, women, religious pluralism, homosexuality and environmental protection. They saw an America that was not living up to its ideals, and they set about to change it.

But this is a story that rarely gets told. In part that’s because the media prefer the dramatic or the epic, which leaves out a great deal of social change. In part it’s because we remain fixated on the ’60s, as if boomer history ended there. Yet nearly four decades have passed since the ’60s ended, and the ways in which America has changed are so far-reaching and fundamental that they have transformed how we live as profoundly as any war or New Deal.

Today, we see minorities and women contributing to society in ways that would have been unimaginable just a few decades ago. Diversity and pluralism are now moral values, bigotry and sexual harassment no longer get a free pass, and ethnic boundaries once considered impermeable are breaking down in media, society and personal relationships. Half of all teens now report dating across racial and ethnic lines — and 90 percent say their parents have no problem with it.

Discrimination against gays? Increasingly prohibited. Domestic partner benefits? Increasingly accepted. Men sharing housework and child care duties? No more raised eyebrows. Toxic runoffs and belching smokestacks? No longer tolerated. The command and control workplace? On its way out.

So natural and comfortable are these new norms that most of us take them for granted, as if it’s always been this way. Because we live in a changed America, we tend to forget what it was like before boomers agitated for change.

Boomer-bashing has become a virtual cottage industry. They’re labeled “the worst generation.” They’re accused of infantilism and self-promotion. One Web site described them as “a plague of self-centered locusts.”

Part of what drives this vitriol is an implied criticism that boomers are soft and overindulged because they never sacrificed in a Great War or Depression. But millions of boomers fought bravely in a war their parents handed them, and millions more risked arrest, uncertainty and ostracism for protesting what they believed to be the pointlessness and duplicity of that war. There’s no reason to believe that boomers wouldn’t have fought Hitler as nobly as their parents did, and boomer antiwar protesters said as much at the time, distinguishing between what they saw as the just and necessary war against fascism and the misguided, deceptive and morally ambiguous war in Vietnam.

As for the well-worn condemnation of boomer materialism, the truth is that materialism is nothing new in America, and boomers are far from the first and only generation to face this charge: It was conspicuous consumption in the 1920s and keeping up with the Joneses in the ’50s.

Boomers certainly haven’t solved all of society’s problems, and they’ve created a few as well. But if we held the World War II generation to the same standard, the word “greatest” would never come to mind. Even if we’re not a perfect America today, in so many ways we’re a better America. And for that, we owe the baby boomers our thanks.
*****
So what I want to know is — what is your generation doing, Frank? Why are you not out in the streets protesting and working for change? We tried and yes, we were beaten down. Your turn, baby.

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Aurelio September 10, 2006 at 2:37 pm

LOL – I certainly didn’t mean to sound passive or defeatist – people who know me would get a chuckle out of the very thought of that, and if you’ve seen my site you’ll see that I’m fighting as hard as anybody to make some noise out here.

I suppose I’m advocating more of a Gandhiesque type of passive resistance though – change one person at a time. Individuals need to make the conscious decision not to buy the shit. Don’t go to crappy movies just because they’re out in theaters or hyped to death, don’t by crappy books just because Oprah says you should, etc. And the flip side, don’t discount the self-published just because they did it on their own, or because there isn’t anyone famous telling you it’s good. Make and follow your own tastes.

There is, interestingly, far more acceptance of independent film work than there is for independent writers’ works at the moment – I’m not sure why this is, but it needs to change.

We’re on the same team, Frank, just playing different positions.

Fight on.

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teresa September 10, 2006 at 3:24 pm

Nice commentary from Robin Slick!

I hear your concerns Frank.(god, I’ve seen too many movies about psychiatrists.)And I think that things appear dire culturally because of the massive media focus on only a drop of what’s actually going on. Sure, celebrity baby pix are the current rage and everyone is going apeshit about Paris Hilton, but we all need to look past that and take a walk in our own neighborhoods to see what is really happening. I read the tabloids all the time (I’m addicted, see, and I know I need help, but.. but…Lindsay Lohan is out partying and I want to know with who, dammit, I hate myself but..)(it’s okay,I’ve just smacked myself in the head with a book and can carry on).

I also support my local indie scene. There are amazing things being done by the current generation of teens and twenty-somethings. I go to inspiring experimental music events.(Music4No1) I go to collective art shows put on in people’s apartments.(Oh Billy Collective) I see fashions that are exquisite (check out Worn Eden). The most important thing we can do is support these events with our presence. I have been doing this kind of thing since I have been fifteen. The difference that I see happening now is that the music and art that is being created is really being done as a lifestyle choice with no eye to “getting somewhere” with it, more so than ever before. If it happens, great. But if it doesn’t, it’s still a creative lifestyle. Yes, you have to work harder to keep yourself going but it’s do-able.

Most of the stuff I go to I hear about through word of mouth or folks bring posters and hand outs to my store and I try to get the word out with myspace. I know it’s fashionable to hate Rupert Murdoch (I’m even signed under a group of bloggers that are referred to as Rupert Murdoch’s Death Camp for crissakes!)(We’re on blogspot under The Babel-Rouser), but this whole myspace thing has created a venue that gets people writing, and yes, there are a lot of mundane thoughts out there, but I’m more excited by the fact that words are being put down and there is an awareness there that observation of oneself is a valid creative act. There is a lesson here if we’re smart enough to get it.

I don’t know what the future of publishing and the artsgame is. It seems as though culture is consuming itself with the help of the media which seems to have gladiatorialized(if that’s even a word, you know what I mean)every aspect of modern life. We need to take it back down to the neighborhoods, man. That’s where real life is taking place. That’s where no one is botoxed or nipped or tucked. That’s where you see bent backs and faces worn with care. That’s where you see undereducated children of all economies. That’s where you see urban despair. That’s where you see people trying to get by. That’s where you see lack of opportunity and, even worse, lack of awareness of possibilities. Observe the field of dreams where life is decidedly NOT surreal as it portrayed in the celebrity life that is fed to us as NEWS.

Is the common man a nobler creature? Hell no. But if we all don’t figure out how to get everyone to aspire to some sort of nobility then the cause of civilization will have been for naught. It seems these days that there is a rather loud ticking in the air.

What’s the solution? Look at past generations and learn from them without the rosy Lennon specs of emotionalism. I think we need to support grass roots movements of all sorts. And as regards culture, support the act of creativity on the smallest levels. Perhaps the day of Hemingway and Austen and Warhol and Haring is done. Perhaps we all need to develop a giant creative consciousness that anyone can access all across the earth. It would be nice to visit another neighborhood far away and hear some songs and read some stuff. And maybe it would matter and maybe it would change things and maybe it won’t. Maybe the media and the world situation will pull us deeper into a cultural morass, but at least we will have tried to use art to better ourselves by honing and expanding our observational skills.

But enuff blithering, I have to run off and read the latest news about Johnny Depp in France! And then I’m going to a reading of a Pinter play. After I sell some used books, of course!——–Sincerely, Teresa

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Frank Daniels September 10, 2006 at 3:31 pm

Robin: This isn’t a question of one generation against another, and I think we do ourselves a disservice by turning it into that. If we can agree on the basic problems in the arena of art and culture, then whether you’re 19, 39 or 69 doesn’t matter one whit. As I said before, I wasn’t trying to say that there were no Boomers who contributed anything of value to our society, but rather that if you look at what they did once they came of age and moved off the protest streets and into the boardrooms, and into the polls, much stayed the same. Tell me what was so different from the Nixon administration and the Reagan administration? The Reagan administration and the 2 Bush administrations? To have the largest generation this country has ever seen seem to be so liberal-thinking and anti-establishment, those with the most sway over politics and culture sure weren’t out there making much change. This is my main qualm with Boomers. While I have no doubt, Robin, that you are not one of those who sold themselves out, the direction this country has gone speaks far more than any other statistics can. You guys still far outnumber anyone else, and we’re living in the SECOND term of perhaps the most Orwellian administration this country has ever seen. Don’t take it personally. But the numbers speak for themselves.

I have no defense for what my generation has or hasn’t done. I guess my whole rationale has been that Boomers dropped the ball and with that in mind, we the followed never bothered to pick it up. So what am I doing to exact change? You’re reading it. All that 60’s protesting didn’t seem to accomplish shit.

Aurelio: I completely agree that we are on the same team.

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indeterminacy September 10, 2006 at 4:11 pm

This was an excellent article. It picks up, I think, where “Trivializing America” (1983) by Norman Corwin left off. Corwin described the downward trend of trivilization in many areas and aspects of American life (news, entertainment, etc). For my part, I support the independent musicians and film makers, read little known books, and basically decide what it is I want to see,hear,read and then look for something to match that description.

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Robin Slick September 10, 2006 at 6:39 pm

You know, I can’t stop thinking about this, Frank. Of course we’re on the same side. But I just want to add that another part of this is you can’t group baby boomers into one category just because we were all born between 1945-60. Those of us who wanted to change the world were a very small minority back then, and if you don’t believe me, just look at the landslide victory Nixon had over McGovern in 1972. Although a young girl at the time, I look back on it as the day my cherry was really popped — it was the day I lost my innocence.

I guess you touched a nerve with me because I am in a state of shock over what’s going on in the world right now…I can’t believe Bush is getting away with what he gets away with; I can’t believe what is passing for music…well, what’s passing for all art in general; I can’t believe how fucking passive we are and how this administration is preying on our fears. There are times lately that I wake up in the morning wanting to slash my wrists. But at least I know I’m doing my part…I don’t drive a car, I have a “buy at mom and pop stores only” policy and would sooner die than go to a Wal-Mart; I continue to write my congressmen protesting the war via snail and email, and my most important achievement — I raised my kids with art and music as a priority and as a result they’re the two most terrific human beings in the world and currently actually earning a living as musicians playing real music. So I can honestly look at myself in the mirror and know that I haven’t dropped any ball.

So…truce…and I look forward to reading your book.

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Darrin September 10, 2006 at 6:50 pm

“People will also buy well-thought out writing and movies and TV shows if they are given the opportunity to know those things are there.”

Absolutely, Frank. The trick, of course, is how to let everyone know that the kick-ass writing/music/movies exist.

As Frank points out, the internet is a great tool for getting the word out.

But there are footsoldiers in the analog world, too, that need our support. Whenever anyone finds a CD store that promotes local music by putting it in the listening station, the customers should THANK the store so they keep it up. Tell them how it sets the store apart from others. (Most CD stores now only want to work with distributors.) And, of course, if you dig the music, save your pennies and pick it up! The same goes for radio stations that play self-pressed music, even if just once a week for a “local music” program (those stations are a dying breed, for sure, especially around NYC). Call the station, and tell them how cool it is that they’re spinning tasty stuff that the conglomerates won’t touch. Hell, call in a request.

The same goes for bookstores that carry POD books (THANK YOU, St. Mark’s Bookshop!), and movie theaters that run movies whose makers cannot afford nationwide commercials. They’re all our allies.

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Kyle J. Kaczmarczyk September 11, 2006 at 4:01 pm

Frank,

I, of course, agree with you. I, personally, feel that it’s time the independent arts community banded together. If we organize it’s a hell of a lot easier to make our voices heard. We all have to support one another if we want to make it through the bullshit.

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Frank Daniels September 11, 2006 at 8:20 pm

Kyle, Darrin, teresa, indeterminacy, Robin again: I think it’s a safe bet to say we are all on the same side here, and all want to see change exacted. And as Kyle says, we can do this best by banding together, something I’ve always been a staunch advocate of doing, from when I first looked into publishing my book. So we, even now, are already doing just that. But we need more organization. And I have a pretty awesome idea on how we can get organized. I’ll announce it on my blog some time next week. Stay tuned.

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Ric Marion September 12, 2006 at 3:08 pm

“All that 60’s protesting didn’t seem to accomplish shit.”

Well, okay then. We did manage to turn the nation against the war. (March on Washington, Oct 15, 1969, March on Washington, Nov.15, 1969 – I can still smell the tear gas). Voting Age Amendment.
Roe vs. Wade. The PILL. (if the Pill were trying to get approved today, it would not happen – note Plan B).
If they hadn’t started shooting at us, we would have accomplished more faster.

Don’t think we didn’t forment change. Some was good, some wasn’t so good. Porn, Paris Hilton, etc., not withstanding, we also have taken over the schools – wander into the local high school – it’s amazing.

Did everything turn out right? Not by a long shot, but things are better. Robin did a great job pointing to specifics.

The hope is that the next generation – yours – will build on those foundations and not let the crazies send us back to the ’50’s.

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Frank Daniels September 12, 2006 at 9:29 pm

I don’t know what Rose-colored glasses you’re looking through, Ric, but mine don’t register hippie priotests accomplishing anything when the war went on for five years after the protests you speak of, and Nixon was reelected anyway.

I never said that there weren’t things the Boomers accomplished. Just that all the great promise of a great society, a society more just and less divided by class–it doesn’t exist. The class and wealth divisions are terrible now. And I’m not saying that all of that is the Boomers’ fault, but that for you guys being the largest generation in American history–well, why are we in the same predicament forty years later if you guys did such a bang-up job of changing things? Because make no mistake, not much has changed around here (WHAT high school are you referring to? The norm is not great schooling). Same shit, different generation.

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Ric Marion September 13, 2006 at 12:51 am

Jeez, Frank, I didn’t mean to get your dander up.

I didn’t say we ended the war – I said we turned public opinion against it. And it was about 1972 that a lot of us turned to making money since we obviously weren’t going to take over the country.
(but, then again, there were lots of quasi-legal drugs so the old saying, “If you can remember the ’60’s, you weren’t there” kicks in.)

When I went to high school, no bluejeans, no long hair, girls could not wear pants – skirts or dresses only. Highly reminiscent of the uniform codes being instituted today.

At my son’s high school, anything goes – within reason. Goths, nerds, leather, bluejeans, tattoos, piercings, – many, not all, teachers challenge the kids to think, to reason, to question,

I’m not saying we solved all the great problems of the past 40 years, but, gee, we have blacks, asians, hispanic, gay, lesbian, whatever – and everyone gets along for the most part. None of this was happening 40 years ago.

yes, the rich/poor division continues and is getting worse – fed by those who use fear to stuff the ballot box.

Out here in the hinterlands, where a prochoice bumper sticker will get your tires slashed, we’re still fighting the good fight.

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Frank Daniels September 13, 2006 at 2:37 am

Ric:

I appreciate you forthrightness and your honesty, and I don’t doubt for a second, like I expressed to Robin, that you guys and many like you, of many different generations, are fighting the good fight and still do. Believe me, I now wish I hadn’t put those lines in the post because it really has only served to take the focus off the issues at hand, and that is, how can people like us, regardless of age or sex or race, take back the cultural reins in this country? I’d love to keep it completely a-political, but there’s no way of doing that because politics is part and parcel of what is wrong….when you have administrations making it easier for corporations to run everything into the ground, and everything is then based on the fastest way to make the cheapest buck, quality suffers on all levels. That’s what I want to talk about. How can we change things?

And I guess I should let everyone here know right off that, even if my tone comes across on the page as shrill or angry, I PROMISE YOU I’M NOT. At you anyway. At the situation, yes, but not with you guys. We are all allies in this.

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teresa September 13, 2006 at 7:18 pm

Yo Frank: I don’t think you’re coming across as shrill or angry. You’re coming across as pretty thoughtful which in turn, is obviously making us think and potentially sound shrill or angry. I think the common denominator is that we’re all feeling angsty these days.

As per the sixties, it seems to that what changed were social mores, but not how we actually live our lives. The nuclear family is still the main social pod and what most people seem to aspire to whether they can legally or not. Without sounding biased against “the family” it does take a lot of resources to keep one’d family going and that does not seem to provide a lot of extra time to see that the “family” is part of a larger family of man. This may sound facile, but there does not seem to be as much focus on other ways to live one’s life. My married and “with child” friends all say that I can do all of the cultural stuff I do and support what I do is because I don’t have a family. And to see their beleaguered selves, I must agree. It takes a certain amount of disposable cash to be a “culturally aware” family I think. In my old neighborhood, everyone worked and simply collapsed when they came home to their family. Both my parents worked and sometimes they had to work night shifts. It doesn’t leave much time and inclination.

A little spark for me, though, was that both my parents could recite poetry by heart and would, on occasion. My dad would listen to the opera on the radio. I went to ethnic school and learned the whole idea of what “culture” actually was because we were “different”. I learned that there were dances native to our ethnic backgrounds. That there were, in fact, different ethnicities. The thing that saved me in the neighborhood was the local Boy’s Club where I learned even more.

There really was nothing else to go to or do because our parents were all poor and living on the edge and there was no concept of extracurricular activities to be taken to. Our school was no-frills as well. We loved it when a cheap carnival would come to the neighborhood, but that was hardly culture, more like carny kulcher. (which I now totally appreciate)

Anyway, my own interest in pop culture stems from these tiny sparks, but a lot of kids I grew up with still have no clue and just go on and follow the same patterns of working and raising children on limited means. Not that much has changed.

I think education and some kind of activist cultural centres would be terrific in helping to get more families involved in helping their kids know that there is a much vaster realm to exist in than just in their own back of the yards. And maybe some appreciation of those of us with no families who are more than willing to help out with getting the message across.

I know I sound all pie-in-the-sky with no actual plan, but I think it’s also good to try and get some semi-utopian blither out into the ether to counteract all of the dystopian blither that is clogging up the universe at the moment. Can’t wait to hear what your cultural plans are, Frank. Thanks for provoking some cool talk.———teresa

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Frank Daniels September 15, 2006 at 1:33 am

Theresa, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I am living proof, though, that if it matters to you, you find a way to make it happen anyway, nuclear family or not. So is Susan. I know, though, that there is a long and sordid history of writers abandoning their familes to support the all-consuming “habit” of writing. I sometimes hate how consumed I am with it all, and know that there are other children whose parents are probably far more attentive and less distracted than I, but I also know that there and many many more parents than that who are far worse. We can only try our best and raise our kids with good values, which in my opinion lies with focusing on knowing right from wrong, and having utmost concern for fellow human beings and the planet. Littering fucking pisses me off.

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teresa September 15, 2006 at 5:13 pm

Yah, I hear ya Frank. Certainly, there has been the writerly abandonment of the nuclear family in pursuit of the craft. Good point. And sure, there are those of you who are culturally cool with their kids and caring to boot about everyone else. You know, I think not littering is a really good entry point into doing something, anything for the world today. Peace.—teresa

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