On recommendation this week: Power Misses: Essays across (un)popular culture, David E. James, Verso (1996)
FTWL: counter culture, sociology, punk rock, post-modernism, fashion, change, progress, academia, nerds.
“The stance that began as a rejection of rhetoric and artifice, an attempt to affirm the sufficiency of plain speech and the everyday situation, itself became conventionalized. The anti-poem became the poem, the ordinary guy became a role.”
This is neither the first, nor the last time I will proclaim this: academics are sexy. Even sexier: academics writing about the socialization methods and outputs in popular – or unpopular – culture throughout the 1970’s to the mid 1990’s.
James’ anthology of essays about the power that counter-culture had on mainstream influences explores the many facets of counter culture, what informed the streams, and just how far it struggled itself into the mainstream. Taking a broad perspective encompassing art, literature, music, and the cultural style choices which had informed and are informed by these passions; James’ touches on everything from Andy Warhol, the early stages of the punk culture, how rock and roll was represented in ‘Nam, the Avant Garde movement, and my personal favourite: postmodernism in literature.
Media has grown and changed dramatically over the last four decades. Tapes had replaced vinyl, and radio became more and more prevalent as an open source for information and music. Radio and television allowed culture to be transformed, and transplanted at a rate unseen before. As FM became popular and artists vied for spots on countdown charts, a consumer no longer had to ensure they had spending fortitude to enjoy and consume the culture they desired. Instead, it was brought into hearts and minds across the world, easily and with low effort expended on behalf of the consumer.
Even though the Internet has become our society’s main aggregation of all things consumable, the old culture shifts still hold true. Switch mediums, and the use of Internet and radio become almost synonymous.
‘Power Misses’ is a collection that examines just this idea. Revolutions are cultural, as is the explosion of music as a commodity. This collection provides an insight that is more than a comment on society. It looks at the wheels of a media revolution from a cultural standpoint that is as relevant in today’s world as it was in 1989.