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Searching for the Answers to Life’s Mysteries on YouTube

Old TV shows never die, they just go into reruns on less and less prestigious channels.

And so it seems enough of you lit candles for the patron saint of the internet and nothing that’s affected the lives of people born after 1970 has been left out of YouTube.

Aaaah, the stuff I thought was cool when I was a teenager…  And the bootlegs and B sides are there too!

Lucky for me, a whole lot of innovative and expressive music from the post-punk/underground rock scenes “broke” while I was an adolescent.  It must have saved the minds of millions of kids in all the disconnected towns and cultural backwaters of the Midwest.  It was “Alternative”.  It has, of course, itself been broken in turn.  I don’t know, maybe it is a secret that lots of innovative and great music is still being made – it’s just that it’s gone somewhere else to hide.

I mean, sure, because I was a skate kid who knew the joy of breaking stuff, I had already been primed.  But, when I went out and found Nirvana, I put it in my tape deck and couldn’t help but know it was dangerous.  I knew there was something in it that challenged so much that I had been told, and that it was right.  I knew that so much of what I saw around me was total bullshit.  (Oh, if not for rock n’ roll.)  Not every teen kid gets to figure that out, hell maybe for some it isn’t true… but for me it was and I saw that danger and I ran after it.  And when I saw Thurston Moore actually play complicated and coherent and noisy music with a guitar with a drumstick and a handrail right there before my own eyes, I knew the world had good people in it.

I know I could repeat the exact same passage and instead write about hip hop – saving young people’s hearts and delicate psyches, and getting sucked under the bus of RIAA/broadcast radio mediocrity – just that that wasn’t my experience.

And so I teach art, or, well, until now I had taught art, to 18-22 year old kids.  From time to time one comes through that’s headed somewhere.  I don’t know where.  That’s what makes them exciting.  But, that kid is indeed going.  Mostly though, my foot across their collective asses is the only and insufficient directive they have to seek out some connection with something uncontrived.  And so mine own heart slowly dies as I become the M-G-M-T(period).  I hear the things that drive their “passion” and they are, they are… derivative.

Sure, youth knows not from whence their slop hath been derived. Or so I would’ve written.

But that brings me right around to the art that was the reason I had hoped I got involved with these post-teens in the first place.  There is nothing more insulting in the contemporary art forum than to be “derivative”.  What we love is novelty.  It must not have been done before.  We know in our hearts that novelty is a mostly crappy goal though.  For commodity art, well, OK, but most of us aren’t into that as an audience.  What follows that is a bigger question about:

The difference between novelty and sincerity…

How many people will “question the boundaries between porn and art” (gasp!) before a sufficient body of the art world will figure boobies aren’t really novel any more?  I mean, we’re on the internet after all…

There is something covetous for an artist frustrated by academia in going to YouTube and watching Perry Ferrel cavort atop a giant amp – because it’s sincere and it’s consonant with everything else going on in Jane’s Addiction and if you didn’t get that era of L.A. surf you ought to now…  And it’s not novel – Perry and I and hopefully you are aware of the Stooges, of Iggy Pop and a like-minded insanity that might have saved the world from ourselves, but somehow didn’t.  And then, how many post-punk kidlings have I seen flop around their syncopated stages in sad sad attempts to convince themselves they weren’t acting.  But Perry Ferrel wasn’t Iggy Pop, nor Iggy Perry.  And both are doing other things now that, whether you’re into them or not, are just what each of them believes is the best thing for him to make; and each well crafted in whatever way appropriate to what it is.

How few of these things am I permitted to do as an Assistant Professor?  As a former Assistant Professor?

If you get a chance to watch old interviews with Bob Dylan, it’s so clear that he was an icon of rebellion because he didn’t give a shit about the things he was rebelling against and, he was kind of a dick.  He was not all folk music peace love and bunnies and flowers.  And, when he plugged in his guitars, if he hadn’t hit on something that was exactly right, and meaningful, no stuffy old agenda-coot would have felt it necessary to unplug him.

So, I’m going to argue that when someone is dedicated and sincere, what he/she makes is going to be “new” – i.e. not derivative, and maybe even novel but not in the cheap way.  And, If other people latch onto it…

So, yeah, enough time in academia and a short-lived taste of middle class air, and I’m looking for the answers to life on YouTube.  Just not yet sure what to do with ’em when I find ’em.


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