I’ve been accused of being a culture blogger. I am not even sure what that means. I reject the label ‘blogger’ because it is used to devalue writing as an artform. Yes, I am interested in art, music and literature – all those good things that make life worth living. The death of the American Dream has kept many an American writer occupied and provided happy daydreaming for those that hate us. I find myself mulling over the basic philosophical and physical tenet of ‘what goes up must come down’ in relation to the fall of every Empire since time began in dangerously quiet moments. It occupies my thought processes when I am not thinking about practical stuff like how can I persuade myself to get out of my warm bed to go and make a cup of tea or use the bathroom, or how come the 2010s and 2020s have failed to produce a single worthwhile guitar band other than Big Thief and Wayfairy. There is some good stuff going on in Rap, for sure, but in general the music scene is dead and dying. I’ll admit I am so disheartened by modern music I don’t look too hard for the good anymore. I just see another dull and shitty Taylor Swift album or Sam Smith or Ed Sheeran stinky offering and . Don’t even get me started on Godspeed You! Black Emperor or the Fleet Foxes. I said it, and I mean it.
I feel compelled to write about how in this country that has more than enough shelter for every single person, we have so many people living outside, unhoused and destitute while housing sits empty. Let me fix it all for you right now. Put people in homes, don’t allow foreign or domestic investors to use houses as investments, and stop making excuses why this can’t be done. I know what has caused this disaster and how to fix it, and let’s face it, I am hardly a super-brain, we can all work it out, it is just that the universal ‘we’ just needs to want to do so. Due to our end-stage capitalism and the horror of modern bureaucracy that ties everything up in red tape whilst economic investment puts barriers in the way of basic human needs every single step of the way, we find ourselves enmired in what seems like a gordian knot of a problem that needs the sword of compassion to cut through the bullshit and provide a solution. Yet our culture that makes victims out of the poor, heroes of the rich and rewards only dullness, mediocrity, idiocy and the artificial polish-and-plump of silicone filled Kardashian-glossed duck-lips, while any one doing anything real, gritty, burnished and interesting is ignored, or else mocked, sidelined and de-platformed. There are a few halfway decent things to read being written out there, and an awful lot of dross, some of it with big bucks being poured into publicity and placement.
Culture? What culture? Culture has been cancelled, hung on the wall of a billion dollar gallery, drawn down and out, and quartered in the barracks of the darkest corners of social media. I am not a culture blogger, I am a coroner, trying to find the disease that has killed the patient, before the whole toxic mess spreads. I am not a culture blogger: I am a watchman, standing at the gate sounding the alarm that what is modern society is about to go down in flames and fury. The only trouble is, I am an inveterate gen-x’er that finds it hard to raise enough hope in my heart to bother shouting very loudly that this time it is not the English that are coming but instead the Dark Ages, and I am pretty sure its agents are beyond the superficial international borders that arbitrarily separate us all.
No wall will ever keep out the exchange of information and culture back and forth online, but like any game of Chinese whispers, the message gets corrupted and degraded, and by the time the likes of Tik Tok are finished the sum of modern culture is some ‘sushi terrorist’ licking ika nigiri sushi, sucking bottles of soy sauce, and running their gross tongue over cups and putting them back on the shelf for use, then posting the gross video for shits, giggles and likes. Culture? Only if you have two braincells and like listening to Celine Dion of an evening. Culture? Stupid little dances, role plays based on historical events and amateurish chat shows where people eat food and talk and the dumbed down masses watch them devour pizza and ‘double-triple ketchup burgers’. Social media has been the death of culture, and it is partly because of the nature of open platforms. People can produce art, but most are not interested in art or quality, and instead want to shock and make ad revenue. There is nothing wrong in making money, heck I could do with making some before my entire life crashes down around me, but I can’t help but think that with this new wide range of impact we all have access to that all of us – me included – could be doing an awful lot better with the platform we have got.
Where are the Led Zeps? Where are the Dylans and the Tom Wait’s? Where is the talent? Where is the innovation? Where is the Bukowskis and Hunter S Thompsons? They are ‘blogging’ and playing music separately not in bands, in their bedrooms and not actually doing anything much at all. Davey504 on youtube plays amazing bass. He needs to be in a band. He could be someone’s Entwistle, but instead he is slapping that bass all alone, making little videos in exchange for ad revenue, and it breaks my heart in two. What is a critic without a band? What is a writer without inspiration? What is culture when it has been broken into tiny little pieces, scared to express itself in case someone gets triggered. I’ve been disgusted and offended by various comedians recently, and it pleased me immensely, because whilst I don’t agree or like their transphobia or antisemitism, at least they are taking risks. There is no place for risk taking in music, there cannot be another Velvet Underground or David Bowie, because there is no space for anything other than polish and money, and it has destroyed music and media.
How then can I possibly be a culture blogger when culture is on its knees? There is a pile of good stuff behind me to bury myself in and that is what I do. I take the measure, I do the accounts, I write about what was good and ignore that fact that I am writing about it all after the fact. There is great stuff out there I am sure, but people need to be brought together to inspire and encourage each other, and thanks to the internet and then the pandemic, we are more disparate than ever. Art does not take place in a vacuum. Poor artists have been driven out from New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The wealth that was created by artists in the 60s and 70s raised the value of even traditionally poor parts of those cities, and now anything new has been strangled and stunted and stopped before it even begun. Andy Warhol could not afford to start up his Factory nowadays, the rent would be ridiculous. Money, capitalism has destroyed art. We are in the end stages of our decline and we are speeding up and going downhill faster and faster every day. The talent is still out there, but it is dying of fent overdoses and struggling to get a meal or pay the rent. The talent is back in Patti Smith’s Piss Factory and has no hope of breaking out and going to the Big Smoke, unless they are a nepo-baby with rich parents and a leg up into the lucrative business of creating something.
Culture is on the skids. It worships idiocy, pain, suffering, money and mediocrity. We are going to have to kiss the bottom of the pit before any of us get a chance at a renaissance. We are living in the Dark Ages for art and creativity. If it hasn’t got a brand label on it, and a few million followers, catering for the masses who seem to really enjoy watching other people overeat, and do stupid dances, then it has not got a chance. There is no hope we will come together when there is nowhere to do so, and being close together has been discouraged for a few years now. I am not sure I have the stomach to review movies which are terrible, music which is dull and derivative and designed not played and performed. I can’t bring myself to say just how terrible I think Adele is and how appalling she has treated her fans. I don’t care about offense, and to be frank given my new attempt at being out and not hiding my non binary gay self under a veneer of bisexuality and forced femininity has been met with almost universal hostility I have taken my fair share of it on the chin recently. I drew the short straw as a critic: the nadir of creative output. I too am isolated, uninspired, disheartened and feeling as if there is no point in art at all. Perhaps I should just join ’em if I can’t beat ’em. Eat 500 boiled eggs live on reddit, or do the dance from the hit show Wednesday (which was not terrible, but did not rock any worlds either) wearing cat ears, or cook something badly to gross people out. That would have more success than any of my writing, poetry or stories ever could.
Artists have always used drugs and booze as inspiration. We are a sensitive bunch that finds it hard to live life on the straight and narrow. We are interested in those altered states of being. Even the state of drug culture is dire – everything is unsurvivable, full of dull mechanical fentanyl (including the stimulants), and boring. The artistic community is under attack. Money is everything, instead of a nice by-product of success, including artistic success. Money is boring, cruel and heartless…and necessary. The artists are priced out of the space they need to create. There cannot be any more ‘gone to New York to be an artist, musician or writer’ stories. If you are young and in NYC you need to be working 24 hours a day to pay the damn landlord.
I am meaningless. I have no role outside of my cultural-coroner’s office that is The Paltry Sum. I am here with my scalpel and my voice recorder, my tears and my endless cups of darjeeling listening to Dylan and wondering just what the fuck I am doing here. There is no definite movement towards innovation, excellence or freedom; instead a few disparate wonderfully talented people who are drowning in a sea of culture-death.
I promise to do better in finding the other stragglers who are out of time and out of place, and do my bit to raise a modern army of artists, refugees from the end-stage-capitalist push towards money instead of humanity, banal entertainment instead of art and keep watch at the tower for any signs of a distant renaissance of excellence. No one can create when tuna is almost five bucks a can, and rent is alarmingly high. Survival is the enemy of artists everywhere and always has been.
Culture is on the skids, has been smoking the fentanyl and is currently nodded out in an uncomfortable position trying to forget who they are. It is better that way. I don’t want to see Culture suffer any more than it has done already. I am just wondering which piece of art or culture to dissect next, seeing if I can get to the heart of the matter, or else raise myself a Frankenstein, reanimated and lurching around in the dark like a beautiful dark monster, almost brought back to life, like a secular Lazarus, come to save all this beauty for those who still care to see, listen to and read it. I doubt it. I used to care, but like Dylan once sang, ‘things have changed,’ caring is too expensive, too painful and too exhausting . I am standing in the ruins along with you all. Perhaps together we can go back on the road and glory in the beauty of what used to be, and keep a small light of hope alive that maybe things one day will bounce back. This small mortician’s thumb is on the scale of justice, it ain’t much that is for sure, but if enough of us fight back for art, for culture for creativity, then perhaps we will have ‘something’ once again. Probably not….it is probably going to be dark out there for a while. Oh well…there are always muk bang videos to watch….