December 27, 2019

Me Too dead: Girls resume catcalling guys

Related to a recent post on the return of girls getting touchy-feely with strangers in public spaces, I can now add to the social weather report that catcalling from girls has returned as well.

As I was walking back from the used bookstore last night, a car of girls in their late teens let out a chorus of generic horny calls -- "yeeeaaah!" "oooh!" etc. No particular words in any human language, just animalistic vocalizations. No one else was walking around, and they were not just being loud and rowdy in general, since the sounds stopped after they passed on.

While it's not as palpable as brushing against someone, it's still directly addressing them and making your feelings known. In fact, it's a bolder risk to take because it's more public of a signal -- everyone within earshot can perceive you acting all horned up, whereas no one else will be aware if you make stealthy physical contact with someone you walk by.

Even during the most recent heyday of horniness, from 2005 to 2014, getting catcalled was always far more rare than getting brushed against in stores, grinded against in a dance club, and the like. Most girls just don't have that much of an appetite for risk-taking in public.

Just as with the case of physical contact, the last time I remember being catcalled was the summer of 2015, the first year of the vulnerable refractory phase of the 15-year excitement cycle. For the next four years since -- absolute silence.

As it turns out, it was in the same shopping center where the used bookstore is. I had just gotten out of the car and was still whistling whatever song had been on ("Lady in Red," I think). Then all of a sudden, someone from a group of high school girls calls out, "heyyy cockatoooooo..." as they stride on by. She just had to work "cock" in there, the little devil.

Going over previous cycles, I don't remember being catcalled at all in college, during the emo refractory phase of the early 2000s. There's a possible case in late 2004, when I was living in Barcelona: some American girl who thought I didn't know English commented as I walked by, "Now here's one who's got that whole male model thing going on," but I think she meant that Europeans dressed hotter than Americans, not necessarily that she was horny for me.

But during the late 2000s and early 2010s, I got catcalled by my horned up students at the tutoring center, groups of late teens / early 20s girls outside of nightclubs, one of my undergrad friends who was only half-joking in tone ("And here comes the maaaaale of the species," as I entered the dining hall and she had her phone pointed at me to take a video). Even a group of MILF-y types who were camped near the sidewalk during the 4th of July in 2013 (typically older women are less hormonally crazed).

During the '90s, I do vividly recall one instance of quasi-catcall behavior. Seems like 8th grade, either the end of the warm-up phase in '94 or the start of the manic phase in '95. It was spring or summer, whichever year it was, and everyone's car windows were open. I was being driven home from somewhere, and out of nowhere some girl screams out of a moving car that's passing right by us, "Hey [agnostic's full name]! I love you!!!"

I never did find out who that was, their car was moving on too fast to see. She never approached me in school either, probably assuming that I had recognized her but did not reciprocate -- but I couldn't tell who the hell it was! Next time tell the driver to slow down so the target of your catcall can get a clear look at you.

Getting a public call like that is so rare that you never forget it, if you're a guy anyway. It still gnaws away at me that I'll never know who that cute-voiced girl was in the back of that speeding car...

No memories of catcalls from before puberty, during either the early '80s manic phase or the vulnerable late '80s phase.

But now that girls' refractory phase is wearing off, they're going to start catcalling random hot guys in public again. It won't be nearly as common as surreptitious physical contact, but it'll be present as opposed to absent, during the next decade. They're going to get restless and want to re-connect with the opposite sex again, and for some of them it'll hit them so bad they won't care if the rest of the world hears them.

As in the earlier post, the point here is to provide a social weather report. If you're not a random hot guy and won't get catcalled, don't freak out. The fact that girls have resumed catcalling and brushing against guys in public means that they're starting to leave their withdrawn emo phase of "leave me alone," "all male attention is rape," and so on and so forth. They're getting more willing to take risks and put their intentions out there -- so you should be too. They're not going to launch a #MeToo witch hunt any longer.

(Well, that is until the next vulnerable phase, beginning in 2030, but you don't have to worry about that for an entire decade.)

December 26, 2019

Cyber portrait of Aimee Terese

[Colors look brighter if you click the image, to view against a dark b.g.]

We value the refreshing messages of anti-woke Leftists like Aimee Terese, who refuses to commodify herself as an online brand or persona. But she has too much energy and personality to be ignored as a character in the online drama. It's simply too fun to resist, whether it's supporters making groyper avatars of her, or obsessed haters cosplaying as her for Halloween.

She shies away from sharing the personal, having more of a virtual presence. Photorealism would be odd for capturing an e-princess. So, something stylized to computer-world, but not cold and geometric -- bouncy and jocular, to match her mood. Primitive tech keeps the tone lighthearted -- just a mouse tracing over and filling in color on top of her avatar.

I gave the lips a smirk and the eyes a bit more of a smiling-squint. She is such a tease and an instigator. The palette plays up her sensual nature, a key part of the persona -- she's one of the few political women who isn't a dour, dead-inside feminazi.

December 18, 2019

As MeToo vulnerable phase ends, confessional songs of reckoning and reconciliation to get a new start on relationships

When the vulnerable phase of the 15-year excitement cycle comes to an end, it gives way to the restless, warm-up phase, when people are no longer in a refractory state and feel like coming out of their shells and mixing it up with other people again, particularly the opposite sex.

During the transition, there are cultural hallmarks that reflect the bridge between the two phases -- they draw upon both the old emo vulnerability as well as the new urge to move on and connect with people once more. They want closure and new beginnings.

What better way to explore these themes than to write a song about reckoning with your past relationships, and perhaps even reconciling with someone you had a falling-out with? It is a far more honest signal of being over the emo withdrawn phase if you can re-connect with someone, than to just meet someone new -- you have to swallow your pride to deal with someone you were formerly close to.

Musically, these songs reflect this theme of bridging the two social-emotional phases by drawing on aspects of both, although primarily on the vulnerable phase musical style, since there hasn't really been a new style formed for the warm-up phase when it's only the first year or so.

That means the broad sense of "dream pop" as I've been detailing over the past couple years, as characteristic of the vulnerable phase. (See here for mainstream examples, and here for indie examples.)

The features of dream pop are a slow tempo, and multiple layers of repetitive drone-like "voices," whether human or instrumental. Harmonies (relaxing) over melodies (stimulating). The singing has an ethereal timbre. These features give it the subjective quality of being lulled into a meditative trance, and floating through an other-worldly space, where the multiple voices provide a rich array of distinct "textures" to the place, making the exotic dream-world feel palpable and relatable, akin to a lucid dream.

Anything with too much of a danceable or body-moving beat is excluded. The feel here is a passive rather than an active trance.

A recent post looked at vestiges of this style lasting into the restless warm-up phase. But the current look is different -- it's not late examples of a bygone style, it's transforming it to reflect the change of phases.

While the instrumental traits are largely carried over, the vocal delivery is totally different -- soulful and energetic, not collapsing or sighing (the background vocals may be sighs, though). Concrete and forceful, not ethereal and wispy. It's belting out a raw confession, wide awake, directly addressing a target -- not drowsily droning your way through a detached stream-of-consciousness exercise to yourself. And rhythmically, there is more of a simple but forceful beat that picks up, signaling the willingness to get out of bed from under your pile of emotional security blankets, and start moving your body already.

As the current vulnerable phase ends, we can expect to get hit by a few songs like these during the early 2020s. MeToo is over, and girls are going to want to connect, and re-connect, with guys for the first time in a long while. That will require a clearing of the air, getting rid of the "all male attention is rape" bad vibes that have infected the social atmosphere since about 2015.

Before conducting the survey over time, the purest example to study is "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor from 1990, as the late '80s emo phase was giving way to the restless early '90s phase. I'll only dissect this one song, but you'll see similar things in the others as well.

It opens with droning string layers, at a mellow tempo -- so familiar to those accustomed to the emo phase, that it sets off a cascade of dream pop stereotypes we expect to be fulfilled. Then a single bare vocal -- hmmm, not the usual vocal harmonies -- that is pained in a familiar way from the emo phase, but now strangely more melodic and pointed, woken up. After nearly a minute of this somewhat familiar set-up, we're hit with an entirely new kind of beat from out of nowhere -- a simple alternation between bass and snare hits, yet it's unavoidably body-moving, not letting us wallow in our dreamy emo state any longer. At the same time, the vocal builds slowly toward a crescendo, which feels even more tense because we're not expecting any kind of rollercoaster ride during a droning dream pop song.

In the second verse, they introduce sighing background vocals to bring us back into the familiar dream pop layered sound, all while the main vocal grows more soulful and restless, unlike what we're used to. The string layers continue into a solo, along with the sighing background vocals. The final verse is like the second, only now even more tenacious and clingy, not crestfallen and resigned, and with outbursts in volume rather than a uniformly mellow level like the typical dream pop vocal. After the final refrain crescendo, there's a lengthy outro in the usual layered style. In this case, it's serving as a denouement after a climax, whereas in a vulnerable-phase dream pop song, it would've been that way consistently all along, as part of the lazy river ride experience to lull you into a slumber.

This transformation of the dream pop style, along with the new lyrical themes of reckoning with the past, coming to some kind of reconciliation, perhaps re-connecting with a former partner, or giving a strained relationship a fresh honest start, mark a decisive end of the vulnerable refractory phase of the excitement cycle, and the transition into the restless warm-up phase.

For the survey, we'll start with the most recent warm-up phase, the late 2000s, after all that mopey withdrawn emo stuff from the early 2000s. (All examples made the Billboard year-end Hot 100 charts, showing how much they resonated with audiences at the time.) The first example was technically released on album during the final year of the vulnerable phase, in 2004, but was delayed being released as a single for over 7 months, in 2005, probably because it didn't quite match the mood of 2004, and needed the start of the warm-up phase to catch on as broadly as it did. The second example came a little late into the phase -- usually they're right there at the bridge moment -- but shows the unmistakable signs of this type, from the heavy droning organ intro, to the simple body-moving beat, to the soulful raw-energy vocals.

"You're Beautiful" by James Blunt (2004)

"Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis (2007)

From the early '90s warm-up phase, we've already covered the first example in detail. The second was a one-hit wonder, but it served its purpose at the time, moving out of the mopey and resigned phase of the emo late '80s, to a mood of making amends and turning over a new leaf.

"Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor (1990)

"One More Try" by Timmy T (1990)

Coming right after a year considered one of the worst in pop music ever -- 1974, the capstone of the early '70s vulnerable schmaltzy phase -- there was suddenly a whole new take on the moody R&B genre, now more unabashedly high-energy and shedding the awkward self-consciousness of just a few years earlier. The second example rivals "Nothing Compares 2 U" for its mixture of droning moody instrumental layers from dream pop, with the soulful, urgent, hopeful vocal and simple forceful beat. Here, it's not so much a reconciliation with a specific person, but with his entire past -- and he's addressing a higher cosmic force, rather than a specific person, to deliver him into an exciting new hopeful state of being.

"Misty Blue" by Dorothy Moore (1975)

"Dream Weaver" by Gary Wright (1975)

Finally, from the early '60s warm-up phase, both examples come from a teenager who made this style her trademark. Doo-wop from the emo late '50s was moody, slow, and heavily harmonized with vocal layers. Early '60s doo-wop became more energetic and outgoing, but these newer groups (Italian, not black) did not provide the transition songs. Instead they came from the white version of moody emo music -- country -- only now with more impassioned vocals, and lyrical themes about closure and reconciliation rather than droning along in a limbo state of unhappiness.

"I'm Sorry" by Brenda Lee (1960)

"Break It To Me Gently" by Brenda Lee (1962)

December 15, 2019

Leftoid polarizers thwart realignment in UK; workers punish Labour, not defect to Tories

In a recent post before the UK snap election was called, I detailed how a populist realignment must take place in Britain and Europe. Populists and economic nationalists from the major economies must rise to power, and extend each other favorable terms for unwinding the EU (and possibly NATO, on the separate but related track of military spending).

That was in response to an episode of the What's Left podcast, where they explained how the British are in no bargaining position to extract a favorable "leave" deal from the EU. That is only true until other crucial nations within the EU become overtaken by Eurosceptic parties -- of which the Labour party in the UK was supposed to be the second domino to fall, after Salvini in Italy. The French are ready to elect someone like Le Pen in the coming decade, so that would make the three largest economies in the EU aside from Germany -- which will never take part in a Eurosceptic insurgency, since they are by far the greatest beneficiaries of the EU and NATO system.

But I tempered that analysis with some uncontroversial observations about how willing the various partners in a realignment are to form a whole new dominant coalition. Partisan polarization is so intense these days, in all countries, that it would likely be delayed.

Plus, the upcoming economic depression has not occurred just yet, as the central bank of the US has resumed printing money to hand out to the elites, by the hundreds of billions (quantitative easing). Realignments require an economic catalyst, which makes even the elites wake up and take notice of how crumbling the system has become, and in need of a re-building.

There were national elections scheduled in Britain and France for 2022, so it would have to wait at least until then. (Clearly the Democrats will lose 2020 here, and realignment will wait until 2024 at the earliest.) With an election called early, in 2019, it goes without saying that the realignment would not take place, and the dominant party (Conservatives in the UK) would continue on in their ineffectual disjunctive phase of the regime cycle.

That's exactly what happened, to nobody's surprise if they read this blog. I didn't pay attention to any of the polling either, although that confirmed the analysis. If you listened to any left podcast other than What's Left (and perhaps a few others I'm unaware of), you were clueless. Especially if you followed Chapo Trap House -- utterly deluded about the possibility of a Labour victory, just cheerleading for their side rather than clearly analyzing the situation.

Still, delayed realignment is one thing, and total annihilation is another. By making the central distinctive goal of their campaign the reneging of the Brexit referendum, Labour might as well have not campaigned at all. They would've saved some face with the working class in de-industrialized regions, particularly the British Rust Belt of the West Midlands, who have had their material living standard destroyed by economic globalization and mass immigration. (Those are two sides of the same coin -- foreigners willing to work for less than Britons, whether they work abroad in an off-shored factory, or on British soil as immigrants.)

Those de-industrialized workers voted overwhelmingly Leave on the referendum, and their supposed patrons in the Labour party decided to reject the will not only of the nation, but even of their own party members! They courted the economic elites, who benefit from the cheap labor that globalization and immigration deliver, but they forgot how to count (typical lib arts majors). There will never be enough professionals to outnumber workers in a head count, which a major national referendum comes close to being. Wealth, influence, prestige -- yes, but not in a head count. The vote cast by a member of the media elite in London does not receive greater weight than that cast by a former auto manufacturing worker in Birmingham (Northfield).

When voters receive such a flagrant slap in the face, they will repay that disrespect the only way that they can -- by humiliating their party with the worst loss in nearly a century. Increasingly the bottom 80% of society have nothing left to lose, so their fortunes will not change massively if the Conservatives hold on to power for another several years. And while the party apparatchiks will never be penniless, their fortunes do change a great deal depending on how much power they have at the time. When one side has the leverage and the least to lose, the other side had better accede to their demands.

That clarifies the interpretation of this historic win for the Conservatives -- it is a temporary illusion, lasting as long as the de-industrialized workers decide they are not being taken seriously by Labour about these major issues. At the end of a regime cycle, there are seemingly historic gains for the dominant party that appear to cement its reign forever. I don't know enough British electoral history, but in the US, Jimmy Carter won back the South, which had not voted Democrat since 1960; Herbert Hoover poached Texas from the Solid South Democrats; and James Buchanan won the Whig strongholds of Kentucky and Tennessee. And yet in the very next election, these disjunctive parties got wiped out by Reagan, FDR, and Lincoln, who ushered in entirely new regimes.

Once Labour jettisons its economic globalist and social-cultural woketardism, the Rust Belt workers will happily vote again for Labour -- as will legions of those who have been voting Conservative for awhile now, and who can only look at the destruction of their society as the result. Much like the economic populists, or the social conservatives, who vote Republican during the Reagan era in the US -- it was the Thatcherites and Reaganites, not the quasi-socialists of the 1950s, who opened the borders and deregulated all of our social and cultural practices.

The result will be not just a fleeting win for Labour, as under Blair, but a rearrangement of the electoral coalitions, ushering in a new era in which Labour will become the dominant rather than opposition force in government.

As mentioned in that earlier post, this requires parts of the Right to defect to the Left in countries where the neoliberal era has been dominated by the Right -- the Anglo-Atlantic countries. But there is a whole 'nother group of countries where neoliberalism has been dominated by the Left -- the Mediterranean, and the Anglo-Pacific nations of Australia and New Zealand. There, it is parts of the Left who must defect to a new populist Right.

That's why our anti-woke Left princess Aimee Terese is so tolerant toward the populist, anti-globalization Right -- she's Mediterranean by blood, and Aussie by nationality. If she wants a society resembling the Midcentury egalitarian paradise, that will be overseen by a Right dominant party in Australia. She would belong to the opposition Left in that new era, but in order to get to such a world, she'll have to team up with the anti-neoliberal Right in order to leave behind this world, where the Left has been the dominant neoliberal party Down Under.

Her counterparts closer to her ancestral homeland -- Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France -- will do likewise. Salvini has already struck a bargain to welcome former Left voters into his Right coalition by agreeing to a huge wealth transfer from the prosperous North to the poor South (the citizen's income), contradicting his party's former history of wanting secession for the rich North. Le Pen will pursue something similar to get Left voters to join her, and whoever the Australian Le Pen / Salvini is, will offer the same to get the Aimee Terese's on board with a realigned party system.

In the meantime, the partisan polarizers must be minimized as much as possible. Bernie should not be competing for wokies' votes, but to steal away the white social conservatives who have left him for Biden (the white professionals are lost permanently to Warren, Buttigieg, etc., and blacks are locked in for the machine candidate Biden). Just as Trump won on a message of "only I can win enough of the other side's voters," so should Bernie be pushed to campaign on "only I can win Trump voters -- and if you feel allergic to them, tough shit, they're just as American as we are."

Bernie of course is not doing that now, and will not be doing that next year. But that's how it must work. So far, the only visible signal of hope for realignment is the aloha goddess Tulsi, but in order for her -- or someone similar -- to have something to build off of, Bernie needs as strong of a showing as possible. Bernie then would be the John C. Fremont to Tulsi's Abraham Lincoln.

December 11, 2019

With MeToo dead, girls getting flagrantly frisky in public places

Over the past couple months, I've experienced a major shift in how girls behave in public places toward guys -- random hot guys, at any rate. During the MeToo era of the last several years, their public flirtation level has fallen off a cliff, still willing to make eye contact, follow me around a store, giggle and do cute things among their friends in order to get attention -- but not establish physical contact.

That was a huge change from roughly 2005 to 2014, when it was common for them to come right up and say "you're cute / so hot / etc," brush against me as we walked by each other, or press their hips / shoulders into mine while sitting on public transportation. Deliberate initiation of physical contact between strangers. And that's not to mention how they behaved in dance clubs -- I'm only talking about ordinary public places with no expectation of flirtiness.

The last time I remember frequently getting brushed against in public was the summer of 2015, the first year of the current vulnerable refractory phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle. One last hurrah of horniness before the broad MeToo sentiment began to set in. It's not as though people had stopped having sex altogether, but their levels of public touchy-feeliness toward cute strangers had crashed into a hangover state. I can recall maybe one instance per year since 2016 of some girl brushing against me in a store.

Until the past couple months, as the vulnerable phase winds down, and the restless warm-up phase begins in 2020.

First, although it wasn't direct contact, it was a level of blatant hormone-mania that I hadn't felt in public for years. I was taking a walk around a park, and after descending a hill, there was a group of three teenagers who were absent-mindedly playing on some playground thing while chatting with one another. As they saw me walk by, they went dead silent, and hopped right off in order to tag along about 10-15 feet behind me on the walking path, giggling and competing to see who could talk the cutest / loudest. They're so unaware of how obvious they're behaving, it's so cute and adorable.

Then just last week, there were two cases almost one day after the other, both in ordinary retail stores. Both teenagers again. One was a blue-haired indie chick who was walking with her friend in my direction for a good 30 feet down a wide aisle, then shifting to brush against me as she passed by, she and her friend giggling most of the time. This is probably someone who was SJW-posting just 2-3 years ago.

The next was a more typical girl-next-door cutie who was out with a group of friends (late high school or college). When she first made eye-contact she had a deer in headlights look, before composing herself. She walked slowly in order to prolong the contact, and I gave her a good pressing back with my arm -- not a push or shove, just giving her some pressure back with my forearm as she rubbed her body against it, to make her feel desired too.

A night or so after that, a group of teenagers had just entered the supermarket and barreled toward me, five or six standing abreast just in case I felt like dodging them. But the girl on the end who they were pressuring to brush against me (by all shifting in my direction) chickened out at the last moment and cut in front of the rest of her friends to narrowly avoid contact. No hard feelings from me, she's just less horny than her friends. Whoever's idea it was, should have moved to the end in order to do it herself, but that would have been too obvious of a signal and made her look desperate.

The damnedest thing is that this has all occurred during fall-winter, not even during the mating season when you might expect it.

In these cases, it's not as though we exchanged phone numbers, hooked up, or whatever. It's the fact that public horned-up behavior from girls toward their targets has started to surge recently. This is more of a social weather report. The winter of MeToo has begun to give way to the springtime of the next restless warm-up phase of the excitement cycle. And if the late 2000s are any indication, girls are about to get a lot hornier in public.

Thinking back over previous cycles, I don't remember much public horniness in college, which was the vulnerable phase of the early 2000s. In fact, I remember the same emo, anti-horny, "everyone's going to stalk or rape me if I leave my room" mood as we've been living through for the past nearly 5 years. But I remember very blatant physical contact initiated by girls during middle school (early '90s warm-up phase) and high school (late '90s manic phase). I don't recall much of it from most of elementary school (late '80s vulnerable phase). But during the early '80s manic phase, in pre-school or daycare, one of my most vivid early memories is during what was supposed to be naptime, a girl peeking out from under a tablecloth, waving me over to join her under the table, and then inviting me to show her mine and she'll she me hers. Good ol' 1984...

I think teenagers and girls in their early 20s are the most reliable indicators for this social weather report because their hormone levels are generally off the charts, and they are incapable of hiding their feelings from others. If they're horny, you'll know it -- and if they're not, you'll know that too. Their signals are very honest. Somewhat older women may have lower hormone levels to begin with, and even if they have high levels, they're better at disguising that from public awareness -- they only want their target to know, not the entire world.

December 10, 2019

Childhood nostalgia making a comeback, as hangover phase of cultural cycle ends

Lately I've noticed young people getting spontaneously nostalgic for elements of their childhood, mainly in thrift stores where old things can trigger their memories. I've been regularly visiting these stores for years, and this is the first time I remember such a deluge of instances.

I don't mean they're marveling at things from the past -- getting nostalgic in general. I mean, the feeling of sifting through a bunch of your old things and remembering what they were, what role they played in your childhood, and so on. The feeling of connection with the past, at a personal and specific level.

These were all groups of Millennials in their late teens or early 20s. The objects of nostalgia were the Y2K scare (reading some book or magazine that mentioned it), a particular kind of Barbie doll, and a certain style of shoes.

As I detailed in a pair of old posts here and here, Millennials had sheltered childhoods due to their helicopter parents, so most of their memories are of mass mediated pop culture rather than material things -- and certainly not material things that involved going outdoors, hanging out in public spaces, and interacting socially with peers.

So, it's nice to see a few exceptions to that trend, once they visit thrift stores full of material things rather than entertainment media. They still don't have memories of public spaces and playing with friends IRL, but at least they remember the toys and clothing of their childhood -- something that is typically absent on their lists of "things only '90s / 2000s kids will understand" (invariably a bunch of autistic internet technology shit).

The main point, though, is not what the qualitative nature of their nostalgia is, but its quantitative rising and falling pattern over time. During the current vulnerable, refractory phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, they -- and everyone else -- have been suffering from a hangover after the nostalgia-thon of the late 2000s and early 2010s (the restless, warm-up phase and the manic phase). But now that the vulnerable phase has less than a month left to go, they're starting to transition out of their hangover.

As a pop culture documentarian, I first started writing occasional nostalgic posts in 2007, though it didn't really kick off until 2009, reaching a peak from 2010 to 2012. That was when I discovered the link between rising-crime times and outgoing social moods and wild culture (the defining features of a 1980s childhood), vs. falling-crime times and cocooning moods and low-key culture (1990s to present).

I have to admit, though, to suffering from the same hangover as everyone else for the past several years. Again, referring to personal nostalgia rather than a generalized, distant appreciation for what came before today. But I think I'm ready for a '90s nostalgia revival, as the cycle shifts into the warm-up and manic phases, repeating the two '90s phases. The main nostalgia-feelers are going to be 25-34, which means Millennials, so they'll be reflecting on the '90s for childhood memories, and not the late 2000s or early 2010s.

Some of them even felt a childhood nostalgia wave during the last warm-up phase, the late 2000s, even though they were still teenagers. Not to get all meta-nostalgic, but does anyone else remember this ancient viral YouTube video from 2008 of some girl showcasing the heavily retro items lying around her house?

The second half of the 2000s was also when the "retro video game" phenomenon exploded, primarily the YouTube videos of the Angry Nintendo Nerd. Since video games are a mass media product, I can see Millennials getting even more into a repeat of that pattern, reliving the original PlayStation and N64 era. Make it Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis, and they'll hook in the late Gen X-ers as well. Again, not some distant appraisal of earlier eras of pop culture, but directly reliving your own childhood experiences.

Hopefully the popularity of thrift stores will keep Millennials somewhat grounded in the physical world, as they become susceptible again to nostalgia, and we won't have to hear too much about which Disney movie or which Nickelodeon show was better than which other one.

December 8, 2019

As MeToo dies, look for reincarnation of "Don't Wanna Fall in Love" by Jane Child

An earlier post looked at key songs that heralded the end of the vulnerable, refractory phase of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle, going back to the late 1950s, as it transitioned into the restless, warm-up phase when people start to come out of their shells and mix it up together again.

The song featured from the current vulnerable phase was "Sweet But Psycho," which brought to mind "Buffalo Stance" from the end of the late '80s vulnerable phase. Turns out they're both in the same key -- D-flat major. The major key is a crucial detail, since dance music during the vulnerable phase tends to be overwhelmingly dissonant and minor-key.

There's an even better example of the cusp of the late '80s / early '90s transition, though I didn't realize since it was released as a single in April 1990, despite being released on the album in September 1989. (I go by first release in any format.) It was also a dance hit, and as it turns out, also composed in D-flat major.

It's far more upbeat than the late '80s freestyle sound, although it's still a bit ambivalent about coming out of one's shell. She's scared of letting go and just connecting with somebody, but it's thrilling at the same time -- a clear signal that the refractory phase was ending.

And the rhythm is more simplified, not as start-and-stop or herky-jerky as the freestyle sound was -- something that anyone can get out and dance to without fear of looking awkward. Reminder from the original post on the warm-up phase that simplified dance crazes are hallmarks of the phase, making it easy for everyone to come out of their shells and interact playfully with the opposite sex.

"Don't Wanna Fall in Love" by Jane Child (1989)

Now that the current vulnerable phase is ending, look for the reincarnation of this song in the post-MeToo era. It could have already been released on an album last fall, but just hasn't come out as a single because they're afraid it's too upbeat and socially connecting, putting it out of place among its emo "let me hide under a pile of blankets" peer songs. Musicians have been mining the late '80s more than the early 2000s for recent vulnerable-phase influences to channel, so it may sound more similar to Jane Child than you'd think.

December 3, 2019

Snakefinger: Disco-blues-rock Expressionism

While most avant-garde cultural production is too cerebral and conceptual to make good art -- which is fundamentally corporeal and immediately arresting of the senses -- there are exceptions, both individuals and sub-groups within the broader movement.

Beginning with the counter-culture of the late 1960s and early '70s, several musicians founded a new avant-garde for the rock era, first Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, later joined by the Residents. None of this music could be played in a dance club, whether rural or cosmopolitan, and get the bodies of the crowd moving along in fascination. And it's hard to find fans of it who didn't attend Ivy League or elite lib arts colleges.

Music and dance are as interconnected as the senses of smell and taste. Songs that don't provoke a body-movement response are like some strange food that only pleased the nose, without making the mouth water or getting the taste buds excited, and that you not only did not eat -- but that was explicitly intended not to be eaten. What the hell kind of "meal" is that, then?

The dance scene, as the '70s wore on, was dominated by disco. Some groups were eager to mix disco with earlier counter-cultural approaches, such as Talking Heads, but these were mainline rock groups first, with avant-garde pretensions coming second.

What about the members of the avant-garde itself -- was no one willing to incorporate mainstream disco danceability into their counter-cultural project? In fact, there was a fellow traveler of the Residents -- an actual, skilled musician -- who distinguished himself by making body-moving music whose roots were in the counter-culture: Snakefinger.

Distorted, moody blues rock from the glam phenomenon, surreal and fantastical lyrics from the psychedelic heyday, shamanic guitar solos of the then-current rock gods era -- these could all appeal to introverts, druggies, lib arts students, and guys. What set Snakefinger's music apart from the Beefheart / Zappa approach was the danceable grooves that opened up the avant-garde's appeal to extroverts, normies, girls, and people who don't need drugs but music-and-dance in order to achieve altered states.

Not that his music ever hit it bigtime, but if you were to play anyone connected to the Seventies avant-garde to a normal person, he would enjoy the greatest resonance, hands down. Indeed, sub-cultural types look at him as at best an also-ran in the weirdness contest, and at worst a traitor -- someone who deliberately tried to court the normies with danciness. Someone who didn't want to keep the avant-garde weird enough. See this overview of his music, for example.

True rule-benders enjoy the carnivalesque appeal of dance, though, bringing together people from all sorts of backgrounds, as long as they're willing to temporarily submit their individual autonomy to the superorganism of the club-crowd, moving along to the same melody with the same rhythm. Keeping a movement insular, on the other hand, reflects a puritanical undercurrent.

But far from cheapening the counter-cultural attitude to appeal to mainstream audiences, Snakefinger's music spoke to their feelings of dread, anxiety, and alienation. It was a dizzy, evocative portrayal of the topsy-turvy times -- not a celebration or encouragement of deviance and disorder per se, unlike the anarchic attitudes that pervade the avant-garde.

In this way, his music had a heavy Expressionist character to it, and in fact there was a neo-Expressionist revival surging in the visual art world at the same time (late '70s, early '80s). Several older posts detailed the rise of such art movements across two waves of rising-crime times, roughly the '60s - '80s and the 1900s - '20s. See especially this post for its quoting of contemporary sources that reflected how novel and exciting it was to see Expressionism make a comeback after all the boring cerebral stuff from the falling-crime Midcentury art scenes. (See also here, here on Art Deco, and here on Fauvism).

You might raise Kraftwerk as another exception to the trend of '70s avant-gardists avoiding dance music like the plague. That's fair enough, but they're really more Art Deco than Expressionist or Fauvist -- not as wild, primitive, fever-stricken, and desperately yearning for an end to their alienation. And by the time they were making danceable music, they were no longer members of the experimental or avant-garde scene, and had broken into mainstream distribution channels.

That makes Snakefinger sui generis, although there is an interesting crossover between the two, as he covered "The Model", which sounds like the soundtrack to a Kirchner street scene, and thus better than the original in rendering the ideas.

Below are links for listening to his first two albums, which embody the unique mixture detailed above, along with three embedded videos per album to showcase the variety of his output. After these two albums, he returned to a more purely experimental sound, then incorporating jazz, without leavening it with the disco-friendly grooves of his "hits," as it were.

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Chewing Hides the Sound (1979)

Playlist and single video

"The Model"

"Here Come the Bums"

"I Love Mary"

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Greener Postures (1980)

Playlist and single video

"The Man in the Dark Sedan"

"I Come from an Island"

"Living in Vain"

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Before he returned to the purely avant-garde, Snakefinger released a new song for a compilation of his early music, which retains the funky, groovy, blues-y beat of that style:

"I Love You Too Much To Respect You" from Against the Grain (1983)