It's a Bubble Gum Life

Contemporary life is as mad as it is perplexing. Disjointed as it is neatly collected. Engaging and dynamic. Above it all lies the secret caves of ironies and ambiguities the modern world has in store for us. I know, I've seen the paintings in the caves. They are impossible to decode.

Most of it, however, can be remarkably frustrating. Recently, I recalled an episode of 'WKRP in Cincinnati' that lamented the death of the disc jockey. As the 80s rolled around, corporate cookie cutter program directors with play lists were beginning to take over. Dr. Johnny Fever and Andy Travis had become obsolete - with it went all the originality that once ruled radio. Good luck trying to hear Bo Diddley on the air. You'll hear Cher but not 'Diddley Daddley.'

There is no sense of adventure on mainstream radio airwaves anymore. Everything is watered down and safe. It panders to the least offended denominator. No one can bang on doors like they used to and speak directly to a major disc jockey or record producer and get their stuff played. Today, too many obstacles are in the way of the artist. Pig vomit types (coined by Howard Stern) abound.

It's the same if one tries their hand, for example, at food importing. Once upon a time you visited the numerous independent retail owners and you showed your product. If they liked it they bought it and you had yourself a business. Today, corporate know-nothings who wouldn't know good food if it was crammed down their numb throats make the decisions through a mechanical process known as procurement. It's where a product gets a lobotomy.

Another area is in media. If the bubble-gum stigma exists in music, it most certainly finds life in writing. Bubble-gum writing is all around us. It's in our movie scripts and it's in our newspapers. A newspaper usually has a handful of bona fide writers and the rest are just fillers talking or writing gibberish like you find in a bad contemporary rock album. Perhaps it's a function of people forgetting what the art of writing means or maybe we just want crap that satisfies our short-attention spans - or indeed, we just don't give a shit. In this light, art mirrors society.

Speaking of immediate self-gratification, the other day I was staring at a huge magazine section in a book store and was bombarded by the number of senseless idol talk. 'Why Brad and Angelina Adopted' littered the covers. At its core, these types of publications pollute our minds with clutter. Sex sells, the mind collects dust on the shelves. Pity the entertainer who must rely on flashing flesh to make a splash. Pity the person who only reads this sort of stuff. Give ad execs credit, they know what they're doing.

Same in sports. It's not about the team anymore. Rather, it's about the individual. The cult of the personality has infiltrated the sports world too. Once upon a time - it seems anyways - one lived and died by their team. A city's honour was tied to its professional sports franchise. We still see this in soccer and teams like the Yankees, Cowboys, Packers and Canadiens, who still maintain a certain cultural presence. But marketing is all directed at the people who care least for the game - witness the gimmickery of shoot-outs in soccer and hockey. It's all about convenience and entertainment now. Watching the Lions take on the Browns or Bears today, to cite one of many examples, is akin to watching a painting of a saber-tooth Tiger in all its majestic power.

I read articles, longer pieces and movie scripts from the 20s,30s, 40s and 50s and I am thoroughly astonished at the quality of the work. Once upon a time kids went to watch Chick Webb. Now they go watch 50 Cent. Something got lost in translation somewhere. A film from the 1930s, arguably Hollywood's Golden Age, has a certain writing brilliance not dared to be disclosed today on a mass level. This is strictly the domain of independents and renegades. Whenever a script that breaks the iron clad Hollywood mode of today, we automatically ordain it brilliant. Sort of like how Oprah calls her guests 'geniuses.' While it is true some contemporary music and programs offer sophisticated content (probably more so than at any point in pop culture history) on average mediocrity gets the reward. However, we should all realize, only masterpieces get the last say.

It's all around. Take a drive. We have more technology and better resources yet our architecture in urban centers is atrocious. The Renaissance spirit is dead. Yes, it is true some businessmen with means have been known to help renovate decaying arts of great cities, but new development lacks the panache we once revered. Outdoor shopping malls are like soulless mini city-states now. All have the same design; same stores. It is not uncommon to have a Wal-Mart open but a mere kilometre away from the last. Choice and originality is out, price is in. Consumers want it that way. I wish there was a balance.

Life is weird, random and unpredictable. This can, with proper confidence, channels and support, drive us to works of genius. Are we being shortchanged? Who are all these people who make important decisions for us? Many lack sense, others are afraid of their own shadows. Many can't lead. It's frightful in some ways.

Will we ever be able to decode the message in the caves?

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