October 26, 2022

"Perfect" (Gura x Mumei tribute, One Direction parody)

Writing a comment about Gura and Mumei's friendship / colleague relationship got me thinking once again about -- who else? -- One Direction. Boy band anthems can easily be adapted to be about friendships and other non-romantic relationships, as long as they're close and potentially intense, especially where each of the pair complements each other, or brings out a hidden side of the other. BFFs, or partners in crime.

So I've adapted "Perfect" (original lyrics here), with two twists. One, the close relationship is a Platonic one between two girls. And two, the male voice that begins is not pining for a romance he may not ever get (although it starts off sounding that usual way), but for a role to play in the friendship of two others (without it being a love triangle).

In that way, it's more about the yearning between a fandom and their performer, as well as the Platonic yearning for close female friends between two female performers themselves. Girl-respecters and girl-likers are damn rare in the media / entertainment industry, where most girls are girl-haters (and man-haters, too -- people-haters, cynics, etc.). So when two of them find each other, it's quite the exhilaration. So fun, the boundaries start to blur -- are they performing for their audience, or for each other? Nobody loves Hololive girls more than other Hololive girls. ^_^

I could have easily written these lyrics about Gura's other bestie, Fauna, it's just that that recent comment about Mumei & Gura singing musicals together was fresh in my mind, and "Moom" rhymes perfectly with the original lyrics. Also, Gura + Mumei keeps it Platonic (if still intimate and intense), whereas Fauna's witchy sensuality... may make the lyrics sound like they're flirting with the outer boundaries of Platonic friendship, and not that there's anything wrong with that, this just isn't meant to be a shipping anthem. Hehe.

Aside from the giggly entertainment that you girls get from lurking here, I hope it also makes you appreciate your relationships more, and not take them for granted. As much as you make your audiences feel like they're entering a virtual wonderland, you're living a fairytale of your own with each other. Why do you girls have to be so damn cuuute?

* * *

I might never be your number-one fan blogger
You might never tweet me out to all your followers
And I might never be in a meet-up of the Holos
But I can be the one you use to break the ice

When I first saw Goob
In collab with Moom
I could tell that they were princesses (uwuuu)

Girls, are you so sure
Who you're streaming for?
Are you more than just actresses?

So if you like slumber parties under Minecraft moons
And if you like karaoke duet Broadway tunes
If you like to view the memes you know that you shouldn't view
Maybe you're perfect, maybe you're perfect for you

And if you like zatsu streaming with your filters down
And if you like yabai posting on your alt account
If you like to do whatever you've been teasing about
Maybe you're perfect, maybe you're perfect
So come log on now

I might never be the drive you save your art in
Or the heart-rate belt that spikes each time she logs in
But that don't mean you two can't browse into my mirror
'Cause I can be the one reflecting back your light

When I first saw Goob
In collab with Moom
I could tell that they were princesses (uwuuu)

Girls, are you so sure
Who you're streaming for?
Are you more than just actresses?

So if you like slumber parties under Minecraft moons
And if you like karaoke duet Broadway tunes
If you like to view the memes you know that you shouldn't view
Maybe you're perfect, maybe you're perfect for you

And if you like zatsu streaming with your filters down
And if you like yabai posting on your alt account
If you like to do whatever you've been teasing about
Maybe you're perfect, maybe you're perfect
So come log on now

And if you like channels clipping when you leave 'em in doubt (uwuuu)
And if you're looking for a mod who'd never ever time you out
Maybe you're perfect, maybe you're perfect

If you like slumber parties under Minecraft moons
And if you like karaoke duet Broadway tunes
If you like to view the memes you know that you shouldn't view
Maybe you're perfect, maybe you're perfect for you

And if you like zatsu streaming with your filters down
And if you like yabai posting on your alt account
If you like to do whatever you've been teasing about
Maybe you're perfect, maybe you're perfect
So come log on now

October 24, 2022

Horror conventions change with each new 15-year excitement cycle: Survey from 1915 to 2019

My discovery of the 15-year cultural excitement cycle began by detailing the dynamics of the three different phases (lasting 5 years each) -- the restless warm-up phase (energy levels at baseline, but capable of being stimulated), the manic phase (energy levels spiking), and the vulnerable phase (energy levels crashing into a refractory state).

Although these phases repeat endlessly in a cycle, we can still draw boundaries around a self-contained 15-year interval that has its own distinct zeitgeist. And these intervals begin with a restless phase and end with a vulnerable phase. The other two possible ways of drawing the intervals (beginning with a manic, or with a vulnerable) do not slice up history into recognizable and cohesive intervals. It's natural enough -- crashing into a refractory state is a natural end-point, soaring into the sky is a natural mid-point or climax, and doing warm-ups is a natural start-point.

At a higher level of dynamics, these 15-year intervals alternate between high-energy and low-energy versions, although that is not important for this post. But briefly, the high-energy cycles are those beginning in 2005, 1975, 1945, and 1915; the low-energy cycles begin in 1990, 1960, and 1930 (and 2020).

The only thing I notice about the high vs. low-energy cycles is that in the high-energy cycles, the villains tend to be invaders on the victims' wholesome supposedly safe home-turf, whereas during the low-energy cycles, they tend to be dwellers of a creepy lair into which the victims are drawn.

Something about the intense cycles makes people aware that danger can strike at home, whereas the low-key cycles make people think danger is only out there somewhere -- and therefore, home base is still safe. I think during intense cycles, people resonate more with getting out of the house to do exciting things (whether they actually do so or not), so they don't feel the need to sanctify the home. During low-key cycles, people resonate more with just relaxing at home, and need to feel that place is sacrosanct.

Let's look at how this changing of the zeitgeist plays out in the domain of horror movies. The point here is not to exhaustively list every example of the dominant genres for a given interval. We're looking at the big picture. And since the focus here is on where the boundaries between cohesive stand-alone intervals lie, I'll be using lists instead of prose to get the point across simply.

I'm not including the 2020s because cultural production has more or less ground to a halt across all domains, as our collective cohesion has come unglued. Big cultural production requires high-scale cooperation, so it is over, with only small-scale niche trends taking its place.

* * *

2005 - 2019: Torture porn, possessed / invaded home, paranormal investigation / science, found footage, reboots / vintage / retro

Key series: Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring, Paranormal Activity

Notes: The found footage trend grew out of the previous cycle's focus on urban legends being real -- there was documentary physical evidence, they were not merely a fictional narrative. In this cycle, found footage served to establish paranormal activity as an entirely mundane phenomenon (explainable, engineerable by human science), rather than a supernatural one.

1990 - 2004: Postmodern, self-aware / meta-, deconstructing, fiction invades reality, urban legends

Key movies: Candyman, Wes Craven's New Nightmare, In the Mouth of Madness, The Blair Witch Project, The Ring

Key series: Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend

Notes: Slashers and serial killers were still the main villain type, only now they had taken on a legendary status of their own, after saturating the market during the previous cycle. Basic Instinct took these trends into the adjacent genre of erotic thrillers.

1975 - 1989: Slashers / serial killers (human, animal, alien, cyborg, machine, supernatural)

Key movies: Alien, The Thing, Christine, The Terminator, Predator

Key series: Jaws, Halloween, Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child's Play

Notes: This genre reflected the reality of serial killers during the height of the rising-crime wave, and is distinct from mass-murderers. Unlike similar movies like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, which take place within a single small location like a house, the slasher is a hunter who stalks prey across a wide range of territory, relentlessly. The Child's Play series segues into the self-aware / "fiction invades reality" zeitgeist of the 1990-2004 cycle, since an icon of pop culture and advertising is the conduit through which a serial killer stalks targets in the real world.

1960 - 1974: Cursed / haunted / killer-occupied house (often Gothic)

Key movies: Psycho, The Haunting, Rosemary's Baby, Night of the Living Dead, The Last House on the Left, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

Key series: Edgar Allan Poe by Corman, Hammer horror

Notes: The main difference with slashers is these are set in a single location, which is the killer's own lair, whether the victims wander haplessly there or are abducted. The slasher killer stalks a range of territory, invading the victims' familiar home-turf.

1945 - 1959: Sci-fi crossovers, creature features (aliens, robots, mutant animals, beasts)

Key movies: The Thing from Another World, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Godzilla, Tarantula!

Notes: Creatures generally invade the wholesome home-turf of the victims, rather than unwitting victims wandering or being abducted off to the monster's lair. Few horror movies were made, of any genre, immediately post-WWII, so these are all from the '50s. Faustian bargain -- advances in science & tech alert monsters to our presence, which they home in on. Or sci/tech creates these monsters from harmless beings. Similar to the "dangers of culture" theme in the '90-'04 cycle, only there it was the arts (fictional narratives), not sci/tech, that spawned the monsters.

1930 - 1944: Monsters dwelling in a Gothic lair

Key series: Universal classic monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein, Invisible Man, Mummy, Wolf Man)

Key movies: King Kong, Cat People

Notes: In contrast to the creature features of the '50s, the classic monster movies generally focus more on the lair of the monster, which unwitting victims are drawn into. The lair is typically Gothic, borrowing from the Expressionist trend of creating unsettling environments. Only now, it is a lair where much of the action takes place, instead of a hide-out while the monster is not terrorizing its victims out there on their home-turf.

1915 - 1929: Expressionist, Old World folk / fairytales

Key movies: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Golem: How He Came into the World, Nosferatu, Haxan, Phantom of the Opera

Notes: Most innovation in the early film industry was technical and visual, not narrative, so these drew heavily on existing traditions for their story. Generally the menace invades the comfy home-turf of the victims.

October 21, 2022

Today's bug of the day report

It was one of those autumn yardwork days today, the first big one after the oppressive heat & humidity of summer are safely in the past.

Little blister between my thumb and forefinger -- check. Scratches on my forearm -- check. Inhaling enough dirt to leave some on the tissue after blowing my nose -- check.

(Yeah, I wore leather gloves most of the time, and long sleeves, but it gets warm enough to have to take them off, and that's when they get ya. I'll never wear a mask outdoors ever again after the covid hysteria.)

Cleaning out the small toolshed after a season's worth of soil and leaves have blown under the door, I knew Gawr "the Nose" Gura would've absolutely died to be there, sniffer to the ground like an animal, from all the wonderful earthy aromas wafting on the crisp fall wind.

Is there "terroir" for toolshed aroma-scapes? "Mmmmm, this must be a Midwestern 2022, one of the few summers they didn't suffer from a tropical rainforest heat wave..."

Anyway, toward the end of several hours, I was squatting down picking up weeds. Does touching weeds count as touching grass? While pulling up handful after handful, I saw something just lying there on top of the dirt -- a bumblebee. Well, the exoskeleton of one, anyway, lying face-up.

He must've been a good bumblebee -- helping pollinate flowers, not terrorizing the nice creatures like wasps do. I wonder if he got killed in the line of duty, so to speak. But it might've been old age / natural causes, since he wasn't partly devoured or anything like that. It was just his time.

What else was I supposed to do but give him a proper burial? I was already next to a bunch of soil, might as well dig him a little final resting place. I tamped the dirt down on top of his admittedly shallow grave. Then for a grave marker, I found a stone about 3 inches long and set that into the dirt on top, along with six smaller stones about 1 inch long, three on each side of the big one. A proper insect memorial.

I said a little prayer for him in Jesus' name, and made sure the area around it was all cleared away of debris. Swept all the dirt off the bricks and stones, etc.

That way, when archaeologists discover the site in 10,000 years, they'll know he was a good bee, and well appreciated by the people who knew him (if only too late). We don't just throw bees in the yard waste dumpster, y'know? We're more noble savage than that.

RIP bumblebee, you lived a good life, and you won't be forgotten.

October 20, 2022

"Shark Loli" (Gawr Gura tribute, B-52's parody)

Apropos of nothing in particular, just thought of the sharky princess when hearing this carnivalesque club classic. I kept the tone of the original (lyrics here) -- campy, surreal, party hearty, and the kaleidoscope menagerie at the end. I'm adapting the shorter version.

The original is about getting sucked into a dangerous yet fascinating ocean environment while out at a beach dance party, and this adaptation is about the dangerous yet fascinating virtual environment that we can get sucked into while channel-surfing vtuber streams.

For those piecing their playlists together, the infectious danceability, ominous bass-line, the minor key, and surreal lyrics all make this one a must-play for Halloween.

Pronunciation guide: in place of the repeated "sca-do-ba-da", something more like "uwu-ba-ba" (not written below to save space).

* * *

We were in the art tags
His password fell through the screen
Someone clicked in and dragged it up --
It was a shark loli!

Shark loli
Shark loli

We were at the stream
Every avi had matching crowns
Someone pulled down the watermark
And then out tumbled a shark
It wasn't a shark --
It was a shark loli!

Shark loli
Shark loli
Shark loli
Shark loli

Trollin' in the scrollin'
She flipped the script
Lots of struggle
Lots of juggle
He couldn't believe the chants --
There was a ban on pants!
Shark shark
Shark loli

Down, down

Loli shark
Loli shark

Let's LOL!

Boys speakin' Simlish
Girls scorin' Tetris
Everybody's LOL-in'
Everybody's chummin'

Hypin' up our oshi
Giftin' subs
Holdin' the line
Holdin' dubs

Fire up your caps lock
Fire up your stunlock
Pass the ban-evader

Here comes the neko maid (nyaa, nyaa)
There goes the wolf maid (awooo)
In hops the bunny-girl (peko, peko)
There's not-a-chicken-girl (ki kiri kiii)
Chased by a rat-girl (burrruh)
Here comes nature mommy (uuuuuu)
Beware the pirate dommy (ahoooy)
There goes the civ owl (ohai, ohai)
Here comes the fallen angel! (yabaiii)

Shark loli
Shark loli
Shark loli
Shark loli

October 15, 2022

Minecraft collab streams to keep Halloween traditions alive when IRL is dead

This post is mainly for the Holo honeys (Minecraft maniac Fauna especially!), but anyone can read through to appreciate how streamers and vtubers are in a unique position to keep Halloween traditions alive, in a world where they are dead IRL. The streamers themselves can feel free to skip the next section if they only want the suggestions for how to re-create Halloween within Minecraft. I'm including the next section to make some larger observations about what's going on.

* * *

Partly, the streamers would be carrying on the entertainment tradition of "the Halloween-themed special," where such traditions are re-enacted by the cast. This is not possible with podcasts or other formats of commentary, since those do not involve characters performing a narrative. TV, movies, video games, and other narrative formats are all dead by now, so it falls upon the newer and thriving formats like streaming and vtubing to play those roles.

But they would also be simulating the traditions, within a virtual realm rather than IRL. Such as going trick-or-treating in Minecraft. And that is not possible within other narrative formats, which are not based on the concept of simulation or virtuality.

Vtubers have already figured out how to simulate several activities that are friendly to Halloween, such as the TV show / movie watchalong, which simulates watching a scary movie with your friends. They also play scary video games together online, which simulates two levels of reality -- hanging out with friends IRL to play a scary game (such as during a sleepover), but the game itself is a simulation of, say, exploring a haunted house and running from ghosts.

Below are some ideas on how to simulate experiences that are unique to Halloween, using the best escapist real-life simulator -- Minecraft.

The date would be near Halloween, ideally Halloween night itself. No one goes to Halloween parties anymore, as I've detailed for over a decade on this blog. Millennials, who were victims of helicopter parenting, cannot tolerate anything carnivalesque, i.e. inverting the ordinary order of things for a special festive occasion. So they could not stomach going out to party on October 31 -- because that could very well be a week night, and they ordinarily don't party on week nights. Duh, that's the whole appeal!

Sometime around 2010, as they were getting into their college and post-college years, they all felt the same queasiness about partying on a school night, yet still wanted to go out for a Halloween-adjacent party. What would keep them in their snug familiar cocooning routine? Partying on a Saturday. And ever since then, Halloween parties have been celebrated instead on The Saturday Before Halloween (while there's still some energy for it, not after it's already passed).

But that's IRL. Online, there are no week nights vs. weekend nights, since no special places are closed vs. open on those days. It's hilarious to see terminally online people still pretending to have a thriving IRL social life by not posting on Friday or Saturday night -- don't want your internet followers to think you're a NERD. Online, there is no such special segment of the week. Not because "every day feels like the weekend," but because "even the weekends still feel like the work week" with nothing special, high-energy, or festive to make them stand out. If anything, online weekends feel *slower* than week days.

Unless, of course, you're on a streaming site. Activities like "going out for karaoke" are far more likely on Friday or Saturday than other days, and are far more likely at night than the afternoon or morning. Even on week days, most streams are at their best during the evening, taking over the practice of primetime TV, as opposed to boring daytime TV.

So there is a typical night when a festive stream would take place -- Friday or Saturday, as usual for IRL, back when it still existed. This also makes it possible to subvert that norm temporarily, by doing something festive on a week night. Streamers already do that for Christmas and New Year's Eve, but even IRL those are still celebrated on their real dates. The challenge is to seize back Halloween as a carnivalesque holiday that typically falls on a week night.

* * *

Here's how the night's activities would be structured, in very loose terms -- to allow for the most spontaneous, unscripted action. In the section below, I'll spell out some specifics to guide you along the way, so you don't have to make up everything as you go along, and to provide some motivation, if you've never done these things before (or it's been awhile).

First, a preliminary gathering, to start building some excitement.

Going out trick-or-treating at other people's homes.

An optional prank to play on someone's home.

A campfire storytelling session (personal or fictional events).

Finally, the trip home, where you work out the rest of your energy, and tuck in for the night, in sleepover party fashion.

* * *

I'm imagining the standard SNOT line-up of Gura, Fauna, Mumei, and Kronii, although whoever else enjoys Minecraft social outings could join as well (Irys and Bae?). Not a huge number, though, it needs to feel intimate.

Start at Gura's haunted house -- this will get some more mileage out of the project, and it was already designed with Halloween spookiness in mind. Now the "abandoned" nature of the project only adds to the eerie-ness -- kind of like hanging out in a ruined building, only this one never got completed. "Some say a mysterious such-and-such came over the building team before they could get to work on the interior. If only they had known that this house was built on cursed land..." Get something positive out of a sidelined project! (And no, we don't really care if Gura ever finishes it inside, we're not autistic completionists ourselves.)

Begin by sharing memories of your own experiences with Halloween -- the IRL traditions like trick-or-treating, carving pumpkins, baking cookies, decorating your house, going to school in costumes, etc. Maybe some gabbing about pop culture Halloween specials, too, but mainly the IRL part. The main point is to unlock and activate these memories, indulge in some nostalgia, and get hyped up for when you go out -- but you have to build up some excitement first, so you're as crazy and chaotic as you can be once you head out the door.

I was thinking of some kind of opening spooky activity like using a Ouija board, but that would be hard to simulate in Minecraft. The point there is everyone's hands are on the heart-piece as it moves, and no one feels totally in control of its movement. Maybe you could have a quick convo about whether you believe in Ouija boards, Tarot cards, and other things -- this will set off an interesting dynamic between the rational skeptics like Fauna and the "I want to believe" ones like... Gura? Bae? We don't know who stands where, so it will be interesting to see this unfold.

As for in-game costumes, you could stick with the pumpkin mask, just make sure everyone already has one. You'll have to do whatever tricks to undo the narrowed vision, though (3rd-person POV, or removing the menu bar at the bottom, IIRC). I don't know anything about Minecraft skins, but those would work as well -- a simple skeleton, for example. And not everyone would have to have their own unique costume -- the point is to dress differently, and spookier, than you normally would.

The trick-or-treating would take place away from home, like the JP or ID servers. This creates more of a field trip feeling -- and back in the '80s, when trick-or-treating was at its peak, we used to venture *all over* the place, often places we never normally got around to, instead of just a few streets right around our home.

No parental supervision! Not that your managers play Minecraft with you anyway, but this is important. We never went out with our parents in the good ol' days, that only began with the helicopter parents of Millennials. It's the kids' own special time, and there are plenty of grown-ups around anyway -- the hosts at each of the homes you visit.

The girls on the JP or ID side who participate would have to show up for, say, a one-hour window when this portion of the stream takes place. For the rest of the hour, they simply have a zatsu with their chat, or whatever else. But they have to stay in the home for the appointed time, so that when you show up, they're there to open the door, give you something, and appreciate you paying them a visit. You don't have to have a long convo with them, it's a fairly quick and informal scenario.

Some might throw you some berries or emeralds, while the ones playing a trick on you might throw some raw chicken or whatever.

Others can participate without being logged in for the appointed time -- they can leave a chest out in front of their home, with a sign next to it that says "Take one" or whatever creative message they want. ("Please take only one -- the spirits are watching you / or suffer the curse / etc.") The chest can have tricks or treats inside to choose from.

This may be the majority of homes you visit, if the time slot is hard to make. But that's fine -- it's still venturing outside your home base, visiting one home at a time, until you've wandered all over the place, picking up tricks and treats along the way, and making those social-emotional connections with the other people in your community, some of whom you rarely meet! We didn't just go to our best friends' homes while trick-or-treating, we might not have recognized their faces at all. Outside the routine!

Whether they're at home, or setting up a "take one" chest outside, they can decorate their home with jack-o'-lanterns, spider webs, etc. A few things, nothing huge if they don't want to. In fact, if a lot of the girls don't log in often, one or two people from their server could put up decorations in front of their homes for them, if they have some free time. So it's not just a few homes on the "street" that are decorated.

After that, optionally, you can play a prank on someone's home, akin to throwing eggs or "wrapping" their trees with toiletpaper. The rambunctious rule-bending side of Halloween. One idea I had is to wrap someone's entire home in a giant jack-o-lantern. Find a home that's small, and build a simple rectangular box around it.

The materials would be orange wool or whatever, and one wall would have some black wool or coal blocks to make the eyes and mouth. Triangle eyes, with the curly number 3-shaped smile, as a smug prankster signature. No green needed for a stem on top -- it wouldn't be visible from the ground level, so don't bother. Just a simple box. With 4 or 5 people there, it would get built pretty quickly, and would be a nice little bit of teamwork.

This would also simulate carving pumpkins into jack-o'-lanterns together, at the same time.

Ideally, find someone's home who logs in somewhat often, so they could get surprised by your work, and have a chuckle. "Those ornery kids..."

Next event, finding a spooky spot outdoors to hang out and tell scary stories. I'm thinking the top of Fauna's lighthouse, since it's not right in the middle of a bunch of residences, it's Gothic with the vines growing up it, and the light at the top could stand in for a campfire. Plus, fear of heights getting activated, easy view of the night sky, etc.

On the trip over to it, you can chit-chat about your trick-or-treat haul, the exhilaration of pranking someone's home, etc. But once you reach the storytelling spot, you sit or stand around in a circle -- not wandering all over the place, but staying intimately close. Then you can go around the circle telling scary stories -- these could be from your own personal experiences, something that happened to someone you know, or a friend of a friend, urban legends, etc.

If one of you likes getting into storytelling mode, you could prepare a story to tell the others, in dramatic fashion, where you're narrating and they're listening, not a back-and-forth convo. But if you're not a storyteller, or don't want to practice it, don't worry about this. You wouldn't have to make up your own story, it could be reciting some popular urban legends (the hook on the car door, the kidney heist, etc.).

For maximum impact, this narration should take place after an initial round of informal storytelling among the group. "Well, if you thought *that* was frightening," the segue opens, "have I got a tale for you..." The others' curiosity is piqued, so they focus their attention on the narrator, who tells the story. After it's told, they discuss amongst themselves, then eventually go back to the informal round-robin of personal and conversational sharing of experiences.

When the chatting energy has dwindled down, a quick trip back to the home base (Fauna's home is nearby and has lots of beds), where you work out what remains of your energy, maybe pretend to savor some of your treats, go to bed in-game like a sleepover, and end the stream with a "Happy Halloween!" to the audience.

October 3, 2022

Grunge vocal harmonies: Alice in Chains as the final egalitarian all-American sound

To stay on the topic of grunge for a bit, let's return to the economic context of vocal harmonies in popular music, as detailed in previous posts and comments (here, here, and here). Namely, they are an aesthetic expression of an egalitarian economic zeitgeist, rather than a hyper-competitive zeitgeist. The reason is simple: if you want to stand out from the others in a group, that's easier when the climate favors me-first behavior, whereas one that favors collective well-being will corral a would-be lead into sharing status with the other members.

This economic climate, and its aesthetic expression, lasted from roughly 1920 to 1980, the so-called Great Compression, when inequality was steadily falling, and norms were collectivist (no matter if that was under Stalin, FDR, or Franco).

However, just because 1980 marked the start of the neoliberal, individualist Reagan era, doesn't mean the egalitarian ethic disappeared everywhere overnight, nor that vocal harmonies totally and instantly vanished either. The best-known example in pop is Wilson Phillips from the early '90s, well into the Reagan / Bush era.

But just a few years later, during the Clinton years, and even more of-the-'90s in their style, came one of the most popular grunge bands, Alice in Chains. Unlike other bands of their scene, and of modern rock as a whole, their songs made heavy use of harmonizing vocals between lead singer Layne Staley and the lead guitarist and songwriter Jerry Cantrell (and perhaps one of them overdubbed, to make three voices).

The multiple voices and the intricacies of the harmonizing come through better with a mellow acoustic arrangement, without loud angry distorted electric guitars. Here is "Down in a Hole" from their MTV Unplugged performance of 1996 (originally released in '92):

As far as I'm aware, they were the last major group to rely so consistently on vocal harmonies, especially involving two different people -- that's the whole point of the egalitarian climate. Overdubbing your own voice, to make two or more of your own lines, is perfectly compatible with a me-first norm. Sharing the spotlight with another person is only possible when there's a stronger social pressure to do so.

There's also a geographic angle here, which is that grunge was not only from the West -- where American ethnogenesis has always been most intense, during its westward frontier expansion -- it was mostly not from California (aside from SoCal band Stone Temple Pilots). It was from the Pacific Northwest, which no one had heard much of before.

Most of the other harmonizing bands like the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, and their kids Wilson Phillips, were from California. Earlier girl groups were from the Midwest (Andrews Sisters, McGuire Sisters, and the Chordettes). Only the Everly Brothers (Tennessee) and Simon & Garfunkel (New York) were from back East.

So, the Next Big Thing in music hailing from the cultural center of the nation, out West, was hardly new -- but not this specific region of the West. Why not California, where the record studios are mostly located as well? By this point, neoliberal yuppie-ism was starting to thoroughly infect California -- and yuppies don't want to share credit and fame.

But there was still a pocket of the informal, egalitarian, "Hey man, we're all Americans here" spirit up in the Northwest. That was one of the few regions to vote against Bush in the landslide 1988 election -- not California, Illinois, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or Vermont, all of which voted Republican (for the last time). Rather, Oregon and Washington, the Lutheran Triangle of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, and West Virginia alone in Appalachia.

Jerry Cantrell thinks of himself as half Yankee and half Redneck. In fact, during that same Unplugged concert, he led a brief impromptu rendition of the Hee Haw staple "Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me". Part of the broader trend of multiculturalism in the '90s, including across various white cultures -- in this case, the rural / country / hillbilly culture. No different from every sub-culture wearing bib overalls in the '90s. That's probably also the root of the grunge / post-grunge vowel growl -- including a nod to the Southern drawl, while still making it a new distinctive out-West sound.

Several decades later, the whole Pacific Northwest has been yuppie-fied, led by the tech sector. But back then, it was not like that at all. It had a few large booming cities like most other states, not towers of ill-gotten wealth and inequality, which only began in earnest with the Dot-Com Bubble, slightly after the heyday of grunge.

That whole scene was also one of the last times when working-class people could become cultural stars, whereas now it's mainly the children of investment bankers who dominate the entertainment industry. Back then, ordinary people with enough talent could create their own music -- they only needed the studios to record it, and promote / distribute it.

Now, with the whole process being more of a committee-managed machine, the performers are more a series of slots that individuals can be plugged into -- or unplugged from, when they lose favor with the machine. So someone's daughter doesn't need to have a whole band behind her -- she'll collaborate with other pro songwriters, lyricists, and sessions musicians. And when the machine is through with her, that's it, she's on her own and fades into obscurity.

Taking on the system, however, requires a huge amount of social cohesion -- the same small group of outsiders, the band, need to stick together and work out their problems in order to maintain the integrity and bargaining power of their collective unit, rather than be split up and fending for themselves as they fight for individual slots within the machine. No team spirit, no team behavior -- and they get crushed by the collective power of the culture cartel.

As economic norms have shifted even further into me-first yuppie-ism (however rebranded for Millennials and Zoomers -- "get that bag"), and as a cocooning rather than outgoing mood took over the social sphere during the '90s and after, bands disappeared. Everyone became a solo artist and free agent, plugged into and dependent upon the machine.

But back in the '90s, this disappearance was just beginning, so although it was noticeable, it was not total. There were still plenty of highly popular rock bands, and rap *groups*.

By now, though, if you want to be in a band, you won't be creating your own music, but playing covers. Participating in your own band is about more than finding the right number of individuals with musical talent -- they have to collaborate, get along socially, work out problems, etc., on an ongoing basis. That was already a tall order back in the good ol' days, when fights and creative differences were standard -- but typically got resolved, at least enough to make another album (and the loser of those fights didn't automatically take their ball and go home alone).

Today's young people have imprinted on a climate of hyper-competitive economic norms, and helicopter parent-induced cocooning away from their peers during their critical developmental years (which is why they're still socially anxious in their 20s).

It is time to start accepting that American ethnogenesis is complete, and very little new will be created going forward. However, that just means we're going to switch from expecting new stuff all the time, to performing the classics and standards of our culture. And that's not bad, it's just the next natural phase of the cycle. Nobody who goes to church these days is composing their own music -- they're performing what was created by other people, during an earlier era of ongoing ethnogenesis and cultural dynamism, hundreds of years ago.

On the bright side for today's young people, and all future generations, they have an infinite treasure trove to choose from, in order to showcase their talent for playing music in a group, and harmonizing their vocals -- from the Chordettes, to the Bee Gees, to Alice in Chains.