Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. - John 8.34
People compelled by craving crawl like snared rabbits. - Dhammapada 24.9
Here you will find information about some of the popular culture to which I am happily addicted. Just remember, this stuff is bad for you. You'd really be much better off reading a book than wasting your time with this garbage.
As a Gen-Xer, I grew up with television. In my life I've witnessed the evolution from air-wave broadcasting to cable networking to the convergence of TV and the Internet. In that time, the medium has gone from its classic era when it was the province of the World War II generation, to a new sort of Golden Era in which my generation dominates. Or at least it feels like a Golden Era for people my age, since so much of the content appeals to Generation X's preferences for twisted imagination and an uncomprising look at the raw human psyche.
What follows is some of my favorite TV by genre.
I used to like to watch the adult-ish animation shows that air on prime time or (for even more mature audiences) late night on niche cable channels. I got over them, though I have to give a hat tip to the man who inspired them all, Matt Groening, whose Simpsons shorts on the Tracy Ullman show in the late 1980s inaugurated an era of subversive animated entertainment. His follow up show, Futurama, is about my favorite TV show ever.
|Can't Get Enough Futurama|
|The Simpsons Archive|
There's a lot of good juvenile animation out there which has adult appeal. I like the work of Genndy Tartakovsky, particularly Samurai Jack and his version of Clone Wars, consisting of 5-minute episodes of a storyline that bridges the Episode II and Episode III Star Wars movies. I also really like the Avatar series from Nickelodean, sort of an American anime set in a wonderful fantasy world.
|Avatar: The Last Airbender|
|The Legend of Korra (Avatar Sequel)|
|Star Wars: Clone Wars|
In science fiction, a lot of the American series tend to be Star Trek-like: humans explore the galaxy and meet other spacefaring species that look like humans, with some minor differences, and act like humans, too. Really it is all just myth-telling, which is a chronicle of the psyche of the human species. We replaced gods and demons with extra-terrestrial beings, and churned out more mythology. A kind of sci-fi series I prefer is one with an epic sweep, about some vast galactic war, with plenty of political intrigue and heart-wrenching tragedy. The Battlestar Galactica reboot is the best example.
The sci-fi from beyond the United States tends to be weirder and more creative. An example is Lexx, a German production that is bizarre and often disgusting and vaguely transgressive. The best of all, of course, is the British show Doctor Who, the longest running television serial of all time. Yay for more doctors in the 21st century.
|Doctor Who Timeline Infographic|
|Xena: Warrior Princess|
|Buffy the Vampire Slayer|
|The Sopranos - The iconic show of the 2000s. America's fascination with a family of mobsters reflected a society-wide turning away from the forces of order and authority.|
|Dexter - A show with a morally questionable premise, exploring just how far one can take the idea of the individual's right to control destiny.|
|Breaking Bad - An instant classic American crime story, updated for modern times.|
|Friends - A show about a group of early-wave Gen-Xers and how they form a tight-knit group based on friendship, overcoming broken families and transient romantic relationships. Accurately portrays my generation's young adulthood, minus ethnic minorities.|
|How I Met Your Mother - This one covers late-wave Xers in the following decade. Much more frivoulous to the point of absurdity, but still a fitting book-end to the Gen-X experience.|
|The Office - A great mockumentary style send-up of white collar working life, with a memorable cast of stereotyped characters.|
|The Big Bang Theory - Another late-wave Xer show, poking fun at geek culture while also bringing it into the mainstream. Blends a little into the Millennial era, with the younger girlfriend character acting as baffled foil to the maladjusted male nerds.|
Of course, I can't discuss movies without mentioning Star Wars, the film from my childhood which launched a wildly successful franchise which boasts some of the highest grossing movies of all time. When I watched the original film in theatres in 1977 it was the greatest thing I had ever seen, and remains burned into my personality. With the advancement of years, I have come to appreciate that it mostly isn't really great art, but it is still dear to my heart. I always especially loved the Jedi Knights - just the idea of an ascetic order of warriors in a futuristic setting fighting for peace and justice with laser swords and mystical powers.
With perhaps a bit more sophisticated an eye, here are some of the directors I have come to appreciate, organized by generation.
I'll only mention one director from the classic era. I do enjoy the old black and white movies, but it is the modern era of film which has fed my soul.
|Filmography for Frank Capra - One of the greats of Hollywood's Golden Era. His movie It's a Wonderful Life is the perfect film - there really didn't need to be any other ones made after that.|
This is the first generation born entirely within the film era. Their directors have become accomplished masters of the art. Thanks to increasing longevity, many of them are still going strong today.
|Ridley Scott - Gotta hand it to the guy who gave us Blade Runner and Alien, redefining sci-fi for the ages. A solid director.|
|Dreams: The Terry Gilliam Fanzine - A whimsical genius whose films have always inspired me, ever since I saw Brazil when it first came out.|
|The Hayao Miyazaki Web - Another true genius. His animated films are the best out there. I especially like his compassion; he does not have black and white "good guy v. bad guy" plots, but sympathesizes with both sides in his conflicts. Sometimes he has no real antagonist character at all - the conflict comes from misunderstandings and personal trials. This pegs him as a member of his generation.|
|Martin Scorsese - Another all around solid director, famous for his crime dramas, which are some of the greatest. I have enjoyed his ongoing collaboration with Leonardo DiCaprio. Not all of his movies are violent - check out Hugo or The Age of Innocence.|
This generation rose to dominance in the culture industry, and have helped make movie entertainment a significant part of the global economy.
|Steven Spielberg - A hat tip to the man who defined the modern movie era. He really knows how to make a good film.|
|James Cameron - Have to mention this guy, and not just because of The Terminator, another movie which struck a chord with my young self. Cameron has made some of the most expensive movies ever, as well as two outrageously successful box office grossers, and then used his earnings to fund a personal trip to the Marianas trench. It just shows shows how far you can go as a culture leader in these times.|
|Coenesque: The Films of the Coen Brothers - The Boomer Generation's contribution to whimsical genius, with many a cult classic under their belts. The Big Lebowski remains one of my all-time favorites.|
|Who2 Profile: Ang Lee - A personal favorite who has taken on a wide variety of genres.|
My generation, following in the footsteps of older culture creatives, have sought to carve out their own niches and cultivate distinctive styles. They've also cashed in on the wave of franchise reboots and superhero movies.
|Quentin Tarentino - Famous for artful violence. Has perfected the art of the lurid crime B-movie.|
|Alejandro González Ińárritu - His movies are subtle and a bit deranged. Also the only one on this list to win an Oscar.|
|The Wachowskis - Gave us The Matrix trilogy. Their movies are set in complex worlds and rich with plot points.|
|Zack Snyder - Has made a career out of adapting indie comics to the screen. Plus Suckerpunch.|
|J. J. Abrams - Mostly a writer and producer, but directed both the Star Trek and Star Wars reboots, and then dethroned Cameron with the top grossing film (at least in the U.S.) of all time!|
|Darren Aronofsky - Makes some weird psychological films. I like his touches of the occult and psychotic.|
|Wes Anderson - Has created a unique "deliberative" style and many delightful movies. My favorite is Moonrise Kingdon.|
|Spike Jonze - Another creator of amazing weird movies, including an adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are.|
In comic books, I like the same thing I like in sci-fi movies and TV - an epic story with lots of war and politics, that explores the effects of technological and sociological change. I'm not so much into the brooding lone protagonist type stories, though certainly they are entertaining.
Here are some notable socio-political graphic novels and series.
|Give Me Liberty|
Another comic series I have to mention because it is so delightfully creative and unique is Larry Marder's Takes of the Beanworld. It has been described, I think, as an "ecological romance". It's a complete flight of fancy, a series of tales about a universe with its own mysterious rules and fantastic denizens. In the telling, familiar archetypes from our own world emerge. I suppose you could read anything you want into them; I know I have.
|Larry Marder's Beanworld|
Music is a huge part of my life, something I just couldn't live without. Listening to music elevates the consciousness; it is a kind of spiritual experience. It ties into the mathematical nature of music connecting to the fundamental mathematical laws underlying reality. In the right mood, with just the right song, one can be transported into ecstasy.
On my music player you'll find mostly indie rock and electronica. Here is a small sampling of some of my favorite artists, organized kind of by genre and kind of by generation.
|Leonard Cohen - A true poet and craftsman of perfect lyrics. His songs are frequently covered by other artists.|
|Frank Zappa - A rock/jazz fusion master as well as a social satirist. He was making fun of the 60s culture revolution during the 60s culture revolution.|
Hawkwind - A lifetime favorite "space rock" band, with a long recording history (from 1969 to the present) and a large rotating crew of band members from both the Silent and Boomer generations. Lots of great science fiction and fantasy themes in their music.
|Negativland - Culture jammers and noise makers, samplers and mashup artists, these guys make truly subversive music.|
|Tom Waits - In his own words, he writes "beautiful melodies telling...terrible things."|
|Butthole Surfers - Old school punk rockers leading the transition from 70s prog rock to 90s indie rock.|
I like sort of jazzy, electronic pop music. Or maybe it's called trip hop or synthpop or something; I don't know. I'm calling it all "Downtempo" and present the following examples. There are both Boomers and Gen-Xers in the mix.
|Bitter:Sweet - A very sexy duo - click the link to see.|
|De-Phazz - A German group that always delivers.|
|Goldfrapp - Their debut album Felt Mountain is absolutely phenomenal.|
|Télépopmusik - A French group that uses lots of sampling.|
|Thievery Corporation - Lean towards dub and reggae.|
Another favorite genre, one that has been embraced by Generation X. But there are some notable Boomers in there too.
|Loopz - The Orbital Blog|
|The Flaming Lips - I saw them live when they had one album out - at a bar! Now they sell out stadiums. Made their best albums around the turn of the century - check out The Soft Bulletin.|
|Radiohead - Emerged out of the grunge movement and morphed into a distinctive electronic rock act. Their 1996 release OK Computer was the best rock album of its decade.|
|Sufjan Stevens - An absolutely brilliant indie folk artist.|
There are even more kinds of entertainment available in today's world than the categories I've included here. There's a lot of web-based stuff, on sites such as YouTube. Video and computer games can be thought of as art - arguably computer graphics are the only truly new art form in our age. Who knows where they will go as VR takes off.
I'm going to stick to old-fashioned TV and books for my culture consumption. As I've told my girlfriend, I just regret that in one human lifespan, there is not enough time to watch all the movies and read all the books that have been made. But I will do my best.
*From Logic's The Incredible True Story.
This page copyright Steve Barrera 2001-2017