Category Archives: pop culture

&some. Lives Matter

There’s a story going viral now, in the spring of 2017, about a waitress who paid for the meals for a table of policemen she served who had just been at the funeral of a murdered colleague. Some versions of the story include a picture of her note on the back of the receipt, including the line, “#policelivesmatter”.

This is clearly a response to the “Black Lives Matter,” movement, whose theme might be summarized as, police shouldn’t get away unchallenged with so many shootings of African-Americans. It suggests that African-American lives don’t matter, that too many people believe that so many African-Americans are criminals and dangerous that almost any police shooting of an African-American can be justified.

The implication of #policelivesmatter, or #alllivesmatter, for that matter, is that police lives, like African-American aren’t valued and that some class of people in America shoot law enforcement officials with impunity routinely. “All Lives Matter” would imply that anyone in America can be shot with impunity, that African-Americas aren’t more likely to be killed by people not prosecuted than others.

People who shoot police offices are routinely found, arrested, and tried for their acts. The man accused of killing the officer in Columbus faces (faced? I can’t find anything about an outcome) the death penalty.

It’s much less common for officers who kill African-Americans to face criminal charges, let alone convictions.

Our legal system values highly law enforcement lives. It doesn’t hold the same value for African-American lives.

I don’t mind a waitress’s act of kindness toward police officers mourning one of their own. I mind her telling them she supports them, doubly so when she herself is the daughter of a retired office.

What I mind is the coopting of the construction, “<adjective> Lives Matter”. Get over it. Stop it. Admit there’s a problem and stop making every social issue about yourself.

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Performance or Performer?

When you think of Pink Floyd, what specifically do you think of? The Wall, some will say, or Dark Side of the Moon. Few will say Syd Barret’s illness and death, or anything other than the music.

With Harper Lee or J. D. Salinger, you think of their single books and their reclusive images, not some party they threw or some talk show interview they gave.

With others, it’s not so clear cut.

Do you remember Prince for his musical genius or for issues peripheral to his music, such as abandoning his name for several years, or his aggressively sexual imagery in his work, or his all-female backup band when he couldn’t play all the instruments himself?

I’m not familiar with Lady Gaga’s music; I haven’t heard most contemporary music. I am, however, familiar with the phrase, “meat dress,” as well as a probably-manufactured controversy about if she was a hermaphrodite or androgynous or what.

I don’t watch much football any longer, so maybe there’s a beauty to Cam Newton’s play that I haven’t seen, but I can’t help but see his pitches for a Greek yogurt brand.

I’ve seen some basketball, so I know LeBron James can play, but I also remember a less-than-humble announcement that he was leaving Cleveland for Miami, and I still wince whenever someone refers to him as “LBJ.” Maybe no one whose lifespan overlapped that of Lyndon Baines Johnson refers to James by those initials, but letting that use go unchallenged, as James seems to, reeks of hubris.

Actions should speak louder than words. Skills and art should negate any need for self-promotion. We should be known for any skills we have that are outstanding, not merely for being willing to be outlandish until we earn our fame.

Maybe Gaga, unlike Prince, has mellowed as her art has become recognized and has let her music speak for her. Maybe James deserves credit for learning a lesson and being more reserved as he left Miami to return to Cleveland. Maybe in ten years, Newton’s leadership of his team will dwarf any endorsements he has done. Maybe, to some, it already does.

I’m painfully aware that segments of our society watch the spectacle more than the art; that’s why someone like Stefani Germanotta has to take a name like “Lady Gaga,” even to get her music heard in some quarters. Wishing it wasn’t true doesn’t make it so; I have no idea how many flawless performers are outshone by auto-tuned publicity seekers who will do anything to attract our attention and then convince us that we’ve found something great, regardless of merit.

In the mean time, every time someone stirs up so much fecal material in an attempt to get my attention, they’d damn well better earn my respect or quickly fade away. Shit-stirrers who feel offended that I’m not impressed and not mesmerized will have no call to yell “discrimination” or otherwise take offense. It’s true of politics; it’s true of culture wars; it’s true of everything that clamors for my attention.

Pop Philosophies (L, L, & L)

I saw a tweet this morning showing disdain for the phrase, “Live, Love, Laugh.” That struck me as wrong. The disdain, not the phrase, that is.

Which of those wouldn’t you advise?

Everyone advises everyone else to live, and I’m not going to get harsh on that.We might disagree on what the admonition here is, but it’s a common enough admonition.

Similarly, isn’t loving someone or something a goal, perhaps even many people and many things? The Greeks cited four types of love (eros, philia, storge, and agape, although my high school religion class seems to have conflated storge with one of the others), so it’s not like the asexual can’t love in another way, for example. You have to be fairly dead in the soul to reject all four types of loving.

Is “laugh” the weak link in the chain? I suppose if you’ve been bullied a lot, you might associate laughter with being mocked, with being laughed at. That’s not what the phrase is saying; it’s saying “laugh,” in general. Find something that makes you express explosive joy. It’s not “laugh constantly,” to the exclusion of other moods; it’s just “laugh.” Laugh when you can. Laugh when it’s appropriate. Don’t be a sourpuss (says the sourpuss).

Now, if you want me to mock your pop philosophy, tell me not to worry, tell me to let go of my worries, tell me to throw my worries away. Then I’ll get in your face and explain the merits of appropriate worrying.

But until then, sure, live, laugh, and love.