Wednesday, January 12, 2011

In the Rivers Float Our Modern Times

The guy who wrote this is Toby Altman, of Lufftwaffe and most recently, Camera Phone or his writing partner. I'm going to proceed under the impression it's Toby, because that makes it simpler. Why? He's my good friend and we go way back. He's defending (sort of) his enjoyment of Jersey Shore, which, I am surprised by. Below is an excerpt. Italicized: Not me. Not italicized: Me. Unless it's the music writing. In which case, me. Clear? Clear.

Here we see GTL in its natural environment. On the one hand, it is a set of practices — Gym, Tan, Laundry. On the other, it is a byword for a whole lifestyle, almost a political philosophy: “SITCHNATION GTL all day,” he writes. What is remarkable about the phrase, at least in this cited instance, is the way it defies its origin. In none of these instances are the actual practices of going to the gym, or the tanning parlor, or the laundromat, referred to. The phrase transcends its roots in practice; what begins as practice becomes identity, a rallying cry for a nation acolytes.

I've said that philosophy is like lying with big ideas (only like two or three times) and this one seems like the best example I can think of offhand.

It [GTL] is a byword for a whole lifestyle, almost a political philosophy.

Yes but WAITWHAT? What we've got here is a catchphrase whittled down to its most basic elements, repeated until it sticks in your brain, because he's got a book to sell, a DJ tour to promote and however else he's monetizing his fame. What are the politics of this philosophy, pray tell? I doubt, intently, that he cares about where he goes to gym, except that there aren't too many grenades or butterfaces there. If there is a belief in the philosophy, it's believing in looking fresh, getting laid and repeating steps one and two.

Nowhere in Gym, Tan, Laundry does it involve other people except for the desire to have sex with them, which makes it very hard to argue about it being political in any way, shape or form. Unless you want to argue that ignoring people and using them only when they're convenient to you is the Republican political philosophy, in which case, it's a great joke, but basically inaccurate.

I want to celebrate the show, and the wild, great people who are its heart...On “The Jersey Shore” we see personhood at its rawest, its most naked, unencumbered by everything but hair gel.

Great is an interesting choice of words, man. The characters inhabiting Jersey Shore are people, yes, that are barely held together, but I don't see needing to celebrate that. If your point is that you can't go anywhere else to watch overgrown children who never matured past seventeen desperately stretch out parts of personality to appear like full human beings, then yes, it's an avenue for that.

It's a trainwreck. If the trainwreck is gigantic and colossal, well, that's something. But let's not lie about how clown shoes these motherfuckers are. I don't mistake that sadness just underneath the surface of the program for depth. Jersey Shore is a show where desperate people a) try to comb over their lack of personality to appear to be full human beings so they can have sex with people they actually interact with and then b) try to sell that desperation to actual human beings with real problems who they don't interact with.

(Given that description, could this enterprise be underwritten by anyone other than MTV?)

This is why I insist that I am not condemning Ronnie and Mike and Snooki. They’re no more fragile than the rest of us, no less cobbled together.

Okay, but you're saying you're just a fan of the show because it lets you see personhood without self-awareness, interactions while disregarding other human beings and sex with disgust.

It's a show about how miserable humans can be to each other in a way that's played for laughs and the joke's on everyone except the advertisers. Dude, if that's what you like, cop to it, but don't hide behind the idea that it's really a great program and that they're just like you and me, except they're self-centered drunks who are being watched 24/7 with the knowledge that the crazier they get the more money they can stand to make. I don't think that's a bullet point that's attractive to you or me.

Since Toby named an entire EP for me, the least I can do is use Private Radio here, since in this case, there's a little thing between him and me that was released to the world. It's now something on the internet and still a little private moment walking back home from a bar excitedly.

Also! I'm proud of the title, since it's about the exhaust and silt of modernity. Trap Them! Metal! Yes. Wait. Where was I?

Oh, yes. You know the Bouncing Souls, don't you? Wait, you don't? Seriously? They're from Jersey and they're a punk band. They're also hugely influential on kids my generation. Anyway. Fast songs about finding yourself, then, after Anchors Aweigh, about getting older and still intelligent. This one is...a bonafide classic.

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