Archive for Music

Throwback to the Future

Remember when it was cool to be retro? I sure do. Growing up on the Beatles, Converse, Nick at Nite, and Larry Bird highlight tapes made me feel generations ahead of my time. As a kid, I used to love chatting with my friends’ parents (perhaps even more than with my friends themselves) because it was exciting to bridge our age gaps through nostalgic dialogue. Referencing Lennon-McCartney and Lenny-Squiggy set me apart from others my age who were more familiar with Evan & Jaron and Keenan & Kel. Sporting “Dr. J’s” and a #33 Celtics jersey gave me character, and made me feel like a man among boys wearing Sambas and the Bulls # 23.

The only reason worth watching "Laverne & Shirley"

Nowadays, being old-school paradoxically means being with the times. Retro style isn’t truly “retro” anymore, and it often feels painfully uncool. When everyone including your eighth grade sister rocks several colors of low-top Chuck Taylor’s, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our age’s love of all things past. Throwback jersey-filled stadiums, Journey sing-alongs, and high school chicks in Ramones’ t-shirts all make me want to vomit and immediately torch my vinyl record and baseball card collections.

I (REALLY) Wanna Be Sedated!!!

My generation is relatively apolitical, non confrontational, and cleanly, so why is it that we all want to dress like punks and hippies!  Why do we play “Beatles Rock Band” and quote  Across the Universe, when many of us would likely confuse George Harrison with the guy who played Han Solo (I’m right now picturing a future YouTube video called “I am the Wookie”).

"George" Harrison Ford

Perhaps we love what once was because we fear the uncertainties of what’s coming. Or maybe we find security with past styles in order to mask our age’s apparent lack of substance. I fervently doubt most of today’s music, TV, films, clothing, and automobiles will possess similar staying power as those we celebrate from prior times.

It’s scary to think that my generation isn’t contributing much worthwhile and long-lasting culture to the future. Still, it is probably more frightening to believe we are doing so! If my children grow up listening to the Dave Matthews Band, watching Gossip Girl, and wearing corny rubber bracelets around their wrists, I’ll feel partially responsible for cheating them of the sheer retro awesomeness my parents’ generation passed on to my peers and I.

Maybe throwing things back a bit has its perks, however. By continuing to follow trends of the ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s, my generation can make history forget that we’ve never really had a distinctive cultural identity of our own.

Perhaps it’s impossible to establish a unifying, representational image for a generation so absorbed in the past. Our identity crisis is also complex due to addictive social networking and new media allowing individuals to strategically manipulate the ways they are viewed by others (as a blogger, “Tweeter”, and Facebook user, I’m as guilty as anyone). True individuality is hard to notice within collective networks, making it even more difficult for unique people to stand out and inspire positive cultural reform. Consequently, many revert back to older forms of expression (classic rock music, iconic images) to share how they truly feel.

As much as it sometimes pains me to see retro become so commonplace, I’ll have to bite my tongue and continue donning my “Larry Legend” attire quietly. After all, I believe John Lennon inspired many throwback t-shirts that boldly read “Give Peace a Chance.”

Imagine...all the t-shirts!

The Best of the Worst

While visiting some good friends in Connecticut this past weekend, I was drawn into a heated discussion about film and cinematic stars.

While most movie debates are centered around who or what is “The Best,” I was intrigued when our conversation shifted in the opposite direction. My friends and I were busy discussing some of the worst films we’ve ever seen, and this naturally made me think about some of the Hollywood heroes who should be held responsible for these atrocities.

One individual whose films routinely came up was eccentric American actor Nicolas Cage. His “work” in lamentable recent flicks like Ghost Rider, Next, Knowing (not a sequel to Next), and Bangkok Dangerous make Cage an easy target for criticism. However, it’s unfair to simply call Nic a “bad actor.”  When reflecting on Cage’s career (he’s been in over sixty films), the guy has proven he can carry both big budget action movies (the two National Treasures, Face/Off, The Rock, Gone in Sixty Seconds, etc.) as well as enjoyable comedies and dark human dramas (Matchstick Men, Adaptation, The Family Man, The Weather Man, and his Oscar-winning vehicle Leaving Las Vegas). Still, despite having a diverse body of work consisting primarily of profitable and very entertaining pictures, it’s also unfair to call Nicolas Cage a “great actor.”

Therefore, after careful analysis, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that Nicolas Cage is quite simply The Greatest Bad Actor in American History. Few stars are as inherently likeable as Cage. Hell, if I were to compile a list of the Most Innately Likeable Veteran Actors, I’d place him in the # 2 slot, behind only Tom Hanks, yet slightly ahead of the recently arrested Charlie Sheen (comic Bill Maher once said that Sheen could “beat a nun to death in a pile of dead puppies and America would just go, ‘Oh that Charlie we love him he’s hysterical!’). Like Sheen, Cage is also currently facing legal issues (he is reportedly  broke, yet owes millions of dollars to the IRS for his alleged role a property tax fraud scheme), yet he too will always maintain a level of public immunity because of his natural charisma.

Nobody can convey an heir  of goofy self confidence like Nicolas Cage, and this is what has made him (and most of his movies) memorable and respected. He is so freakin’ charming that we forget about things like his dreadful attempt at using a southern accent as jailbird Cameron Poe in 1997’s Con Air (arguably The Greatest Bad Movie in American History…depending on whether or not you like it more than Top Gun) and his back-to-back “Razzie” nominations for “Worst Actor” in 2006 and 2007.

Who wouldn't want to sit next to Bubba Gump on an airplane?

Who wouldn't want to sit next to Bubba Gump on an airplane?

***Above is an outstanding skit from “Studio 60,”  one of the more underappreciated television programs in recent history. This is not actually Nic Cage, by the way.

If Nicolas Cage is the “Best of the Worst” in film, who holds this title in other cultural spheres?

In music, I proudly give the award of Greatest Bad Rock Stars to Bon Jovi! While Jon Bon Jovi and his bandmates have sold countless records, it’s impossible to consider them as one of the best mainstream bands of the last twenty years. Like most good Nicolas Cage movies, their hit songs are easy to love and remember, yet not really worthy of any serious acclaim. Now I’m not saying I don’t love classics like “Livin’ On  A Prayer,” and “Wanted Dead or Alive,” but Bon Jovi’s dreams of reaching E Street Band-like heights of cultural relevancy have not, and will never come to fruition. If you disagree with me, re-listen to the lyrics of “It’s My Life,” and you’ll come to your senses.

What the hell is a "Steel Horse?"

What the hell is a "Steel Horse?"

The Greatest Bad TV Show of today has to be Law & Order. No show is more formulaic, predictable, and unspectacular. Ironically, it’s these three traits that  make it regularly watchable and so very popular with the masses. The days of the great American network police drama may very well be over (this era probably ended with the conclusion of NYPD Blue), so for better or worse, we’re stuck with L&O, CSI, NCIS, and other mediocre acronyms.

Duh, Duh, Duh, Duh, Duh, Duh, Duhhhh

As social commentators, we are generally too cut-and-dry. We tend to judge things based on where they fit in relation to conventional extremes. Perhaps we need to re-evaluate our criteria, and modify the lens by which we see and value culture. Most people think that people and content are either good or bad. I, however, believe that the bad can also be great.