Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sign O' the Times

When I was around 17, I read a newspaper article that changed the way I looked at the world. Maybe that's overstating things; in actuality, it merely put into words a strange and sinister undercurrent in American life which I had noticed -- but for which I hadn't found a proper name.

The article was from Joel Achenbach, a talented columnist for the Washington Post, who at that time worked for the Miami Herald. The inexplicable feeling he described, he termed "Creeping Surrealism."

His assertion was that the technology of information manipulation had become so virtuoso in this country, that not only could people no longer distinguish fact from fiction -- they no longer cared to try.

Creeping Surrealism was the suspicion that nothing was real anymore -- that everything had become carefully-crafted bullshit.

I bring this up, simply because it is the only explanation I can come up with for the reviews of Justin Timberlake's new CD -- the egotastically (not a typo) titled FutureSex/LoveSounds.

I have no issue with the consistent chorus of accolades being thrown Justin's way; I'm sure the album is fine. What confuses me to the point of a near-stroke, is the implication in no uncertain terms that FutureSex/LoveSounds -- possibly by virtue of its suggestive title alone -- heralds the arrival of "the new Prince."

I realize that as Creeping Surrealism clearly dictates, the line between the genuine and the fraudulent is irredeemably blurred; but even in a world where television audiences happily gorge themselves on images of girls in bikinis gorging themselves on cockroaches while our government -- lead by a man who kept a straight face as he donned a flight suit and played fighter pilot, despite conveniently dodging any meaningful military service -- censors the broadcast of the coffins of fallen soldiers, supposedly to avoid offending and disturbing the masses -- anyone can see that Prince is an artistic genius and Justin Timberlake is, well, the guy who did Britney before her congenital disposition to become overweight white trash finally kicked in.

Prince writes his own material. He produces his own material. He plays almost all of the instruments on his material. He does all of this without the help of the Neptunes or Snoop Dogg. Add to that the fact that he has a legitimate sex appeal -- while Justin Timberlake has all the sensuality of a teenage makeout session in mom's borrowed minivan.

The remarkable thing is that, as dictated by Creeping Surrealism, Justin is thriving under the auspices of being talented, sexy and even slightly dangerous -- when in fact he is absolutely none of these things. We've simply come to accept this deception because it's been, and continues to be, foisted upon us from every direction and from those whose opinions we've somehow bestowed a disproportionate amount of credibility upon.

USA Today can call Justin Timberlake the new Prince.

New York Magazine can call Justin Timberlake the new Prince.

None of it will ever actually make Justin Timberlake the new Prince -- no matter how much bullshit we've become accustomed to swallowing.


VOTAR said...

"I know *exactly* what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here. You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.... Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth: That you are a slave. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind."

Jaedon Woods said...

Creeping Surrealism...very interesting. I'm often amazed at how the line between reality and fiction are so blurred by Hollywood. Looking at breakdowns daily and booking jobs I've seen a reality i've always kinda believed: Hollywood is a close second to the government in its psychological manipulation of the American psyche. What i didn't realize before living here and coming in contact with so many international people (who expected something different from years of shitty programming being pumped into there countries) that Hollywood's hold is much more ubiquitious then the governments, in that the US Gov't has been outed internationally for quite some time for what it really is, but most international people don't trully understand the full hold Hollywood has (in which it's so much tougher to differentiate between things that are obviously fabricated, but designed to appear truthful and things that are truly full of the bull and sold as genuine). When I pass a newstand and see the people Hollywood tells us are the most beautiful and talented, i think about to acting classes I've taken here and casting studios I've sat in while i waited to do my thing, and see that it's Hollywood's greatest trick. It realizes that through marketing repetition even rampant hyperbole and outright lies will be bought by the public. In effect, the reason so many agents, directors, manager exist at such a high level of duchebaggery, is that they know they have the ability to make anyone they choose. So, they lord it over the people with actual talent because talent is virtually unimportant (in many cases) in this game any more. Never did I think I'd see a time when singers didn't have to be able to sing and actors didn't have to have any talent. It's amazing if only in it's sadness. Hell with palm trees man...

And thanks for your post on the TM story on my blog. What you said really resonates with me. At some point we'll talk when the ascention is at hand. Thanks again bro.

famous mortimer said...

the calculated spin from Camp Timberlake that has crept surrealistically into the press is hysterical to anybody with half a functioning brain, yet frightening with it's efficiency to create and sway opinion.

being (self) crowned the new Prince invites the mental image of J-Timmylake writhing around in purple ass-less chaps and 4-inch platform heels. yet poseur-ism nothing new. remember how Christian Slater made a career out of a Jack Nicholson impression? how about the career ending Corey Feldman as Michael Jackson phase? or Gwyneth Paltrow's Madonna obsession, complete with fake British affectations (English home, English husband) and accent. the biggest difference is that even though they all acted like douchebags they never went as far as or needed to incorporate it into their PR blitz. they just were who they were (not).

the tale of the tape should dispel any presumptive comparisons:
- Justified Timberlake pranced about in a boy band. Prince made Purple Rain. Purple fucking Rain!
- JT was a mouseketeer. Prince created a recording studio and fought Warner Brothers for artist rights.
- Mr. Cameron Diaz was in a movie called Alpha Dog. please, he gets his ass kicked by Under The Cherry Moon.
- putting your Justin Timbersnake in a backwoods slag like Brittany is nothing compared to the cocksmanship of Prince; Carmen Electra, Appollonia, Vanity, Sheila E., Mayte Garcia, and the entire town of Minneapolis in 1986 for starters...

I can think of no worse insult than to be referred to as the "new" something, which especially for an entertainer just means you're unoriginal and can't develop your own style, talent, or identity. yes Oasis, I'm talking to you.

as always, when in doubt, do as Chuck D would - don't believe the hype.

Ames said...

Votar- very fitting. nice.

Jaedon- I'm not completely positive either that Hollywood is second in its manipulation of our psyche; just look at the number of quasi-anorexic teenagers walking around looking like little Paris Hiltons in training, showing more skin than not. However, Hollywood can be (marginally) excused in that it is supposed to manipulate us. The government, however, while allowed a certain amount of propoganda due to its nature, is certainly not supposed to be supplanting Hollywood in mastery of releasing a constant barrage of blatant bullshit-artistry designed to make us ignore reality.

I just don't understand why there are so many people who decry both, and yet everything seems to be getting more and more (pardon the word play)...creepily surreal.

Peter L. Winkler said...

"heralds the arrival of 'the new Prince.'"

Well, unlike you, I don't hold the old Prince in very high regard.

More to the point, I believe the repeated occurences of the phrase "the new Prince" in so many reviews provides more proof for my theory that many book, film, msic and TV reviews are taken in whole or in part from the presskit. I've written about this on my blog, as the corruption of criticism is one of my pet peeves.

I think the Wachowski brothers may have read the article you mention, because Creeping Surrealism strongly resembles the premise of the Matrix trilogy.

I'm also reminded of an anecdote from an excellent documentary titled No Maps For These Territories, which is a feature-length documentary about writer William Gibson.

Gibson recalls a writer friend callling him to inform him that Lisa Marie Presley just married Michael Jackson. Gibson replied, "You just made my job so much harder."

Peter L. Winkler said...

Have you heard about the lonelygirl15 fake amatuer videos on YouTube?

Just another example.

Robo said...

1) Hollywood = Made up Stories for Entertainment
2) Current Gov't = Made up stories to go to war.

#2 is Muuuuuuch scarier here people.

Hollywood is doing it's job in giving me a place to get away from the stresses of life. It's funny that you're trying to find Reality in Hollywood. The only thing that's real there is the $$$ that's being made by a bunch of rich people. Geez....even the people aren't real (Botox, Plastic Surgery, "Enhancements").

Chez said...

Peter: Yeah, I caught up on the whole Lonelygirl15 pretend-controversy.

On the one hand it's brilliantly Andy Kaufmanesque -- it's almost a living Donnie Darko.

On the other hand, yes, there's something very disturbing -- in the Gibson/Matrix vein -- about its "Creators'" little media mind experiment.

It's been done for years -- from the War of the Worlds to Blair Witch -- it's just that now the technology is such that it's truly almost impossible to tell where the real ends and the artificial begins.

What's interesting is that Achenbach made that assertion in 1987. Think of how much more advanced technology has become since then.

Philosophy students much have it very tough these days.

famous mortimer said...

ugh...Lonelybitch15 and her make-believe life. getting wrapped up in that is like worrying if Stone Cold Steve Austin is going to keep the title belt at WrestleMania -- an obvious fake developed for the entertainment of the type of people who think of a nutshot as high comic genius. the same holds for (un)reality shows...doesn't anybody care that there are writers?

please, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

"ignorance is bliss," said Cypher with his mouth full of steak, and he's right. Joe Wal-Mart and Jane Main Street USA are fine with being told JT is the next Prince -- that's what they want. consider that there is so much unchecked bullshit because everybody (save we independent thinking and rational souls) simply allows and accepts it. I don't want to blur the line between the now commonplace false reality of carefully planted ideas / information and blind consumerism, but if they're not bosom buddies, then at the very least they share a bunk bed. they could say JT is the second coming of Jesus but with better dance moves and it still wouldn't be so...unless the same people those words are targeted at actually believe it.