Sunday, July 01, 2012

Stuff that is just plain shit

I am becoming increasingly unable to speak about stuff I don't like. Maybe this is how megalomania starts, you take a relatively tolerant person who eventually has their subjectivity collapse under the pressure to not appear parochial or worse, and eventually they just want to invade Poland and dictate to people what you do or don't like without struggling to justify it in any way shape or form.

For example, what I've noticed is thatit is harder to talk to somebody my own age about how shit hipsters are, without them getting nervous and saying 'you sound like an old person,' etc. And you wind up self censoring.

Another example is when wanting to make disparaging comments about specifically - how strange and foreign the Indian concept of what a 'cool guy' consists of. Even there I self censored. What I really mean is how 'bad' the calling cards of the Bollywood leading man are. In my minds eye, of course, what makes for an Alpha-hipster (male or female) is still infinitely worse. But... you know, I have to make subjective rankings in my head.

You know, I'm talking about something as superficial as coolness. In my head I can rank a bunch of Asian countries in coolness, making a presumption about their international appeal - for the record - Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and China.

And these are in no way reflections of anything else, such as economic management, political freedom, dominant religious practices etc. Or anything beyond what it is, which is saying 'it's uncool'.

In the same way, it is not invalid to say that Bertrand Russell was an uber philosopher and brilliant mathematician, and allegedly had really bad breath. It is not to say Bertrand Russell was not one of the most fascinating people you could ever talk to, it just says you didn't want to be too close when you did.

I mean Hipsters are reviled, and I don't think anybody understands them. But if I said - Punk, Goths, Hipsters, Hippies, Bootscooters, Metal, Rap, Shoegazing, Indie, Emo, Bohemian... you could probably rank them.

Anyone could. And ranks probably wouldn't be identical, but I'm sure there would be clear trends. I was always a fan of Tim something something's radio presenting on SYN fm because his functional definition of an angry person was somebody who walked around a supermarket yelling 'things cost more than they used to.' And apparantly Euclid or Socretes or some ancient Greek mouthed the exact same thing about young people as we still say of young people and we are expected to be learned and wiser and progressing as a species.

But there must be another side to the story of subjective appraisal.

For one, there are people who earn quite good compensation for making subjective judgements. I'm not talking about cool hunters or market researchers. I'm talking about people like Steve Jobs, whom never I am lead to understand used market researchers to find out what customers wanted. Or directors like Christopher Nolan, whom are retained despite having to have arguments about affectations like the use of CGI or 3D in filming a Batman franchise.

Apparantly investment used to be more art than science at some stage, people picking winners and selling losers based on hunches and intuitions. Now 'quants' poor over figures and construct competer models to infallibly make investment decisions for them, unswayed by emotions, superstitions or intuitive thinking.

I feel, perhaps controversially, but almost certainly because I read a few books by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, that investment is better off being treated as an art than a science. The markets defy scientific analysis, it cannot produce sure bets from enough analysis.

In the same way, I hope fashion design, and all the creative arts remain arts rather than sciences. For example, I'm sure one can do a bunch of research as to why the Indian models endorsing Lancome products on TV have strong upperclass english accents, the historical precedents, culture, media penetration by what nations, etc. But I personally would feel hypocritical if I laughed at pictures of David Hasselhoff and Chuck Norris' ill concieved 'so bad it's good' modelling portfolio, and didn't laugh at a Bollywood leading man for effecting the exact same look. (Mullet, trimmed beard, day glo coloured clothing etc.)

For two, over time social trends must change. Greeks may have complained about the 'youth today' in Antiquity, but how old were the youth complained about? James May, the best of the top gear presenters did a show about teenagers, which are a relatively new phenomena. Basically before the invention of the transistor radio, families gathered around pianos, or the big clunky radio in the living room and all sat around as Dad smoked a pipe listening to the same music. Teenagers thusly didn't really exist.

They only got called 'teenagers' when they became a viable market to sell stuff too. And that was only when you could sufficiently target music to them. So you could have stations that played Elvis Presley that would be listened to for reasons nobody really understood at the time, by people under the age of 20, and then have another station that played Classical, that people under the age of 20 weren't much interested in at all.

That's probably factually inaccurate, but the point is, the environment we live in does change. The experience of being 18 is probably radically different to my experience of being 18. My parents can remember not having colour tvs, or tvs at all. The difference between my parents and I in age is about 30 years, but consider that to a person just 5 years my junior, half a decade, they can't remember a time when your internet engaged your landline, or when kids didn't have mobile phones in school, they can probably remember when mobile phones and cameras were two seperate devices, and when you had an ipod and a mobile, in just the same way as I remember reading somebody who is my age now when I was 16 bemoaning how they had to steal their pornography whereas now you can't turn around on a 12 year old with a computer without turning back to see them looking at a german woman eating shit.

The times they are a changing, tweens exist now, they didn't a decade ago. People regularly live into their 80s, our elders didn't use to be so old. Between 1950-2005(?) most music was distributed in physical copy, meaning people listened to whole albums by artists. Has the proportion of music bought as a single increased or decreased? Do people own physical albums anymore? Crowdsourcing has become more viable, record companies have collapsed, piracy has exploded as has downloading, file sharing and any band anywhere can distribute their stuff to the world. Do none of these changes not allow the possibility that the next generation of kids may be into genuinelly shit stuff?

He likes chocolate, he likes vanilla. Is there no basis to say Skrillex is not as good as Aphex Twin?

I know there are subjective biases. For example, on any youtube video of a music clip that is say 3 years old or more, you will find a comment to the effect of 'I remember when music was good, todays music is shit' and I'm sure the sheer frequency of this phenomena tends to be that we are fans of the music of our youth by convenience rather than merit, and that we also tend to compare say the 90's by thinking of the best examples of an entire decade, and then comparing it to last weeks top 20 songs by downloads from itunes or other royalty paying sites. Almost certainly all 20 songs of last weekend will be forgotten to have existed by 2015.

But who cares? Who fucken cares. It's subjective. I hated the Emo's and I hate the Hipsters. But I know people older than me that loved the Emo's but hated the Hipsters. I know a surprising number of hipsters who hate hipsters. They are opinions, and they may arise from tendencies and biases as old as the dawn of time. But expressing them doesn't need to be justified, nor does it make them invalid.

Somebody famously said in 1923 or something, 'everything that could be invented has been invented' and certainly it seems a foolish gamble to take now, but that doesn't mean this statement will always be invalid. It's an objectively falsifiable statement at that. Subjective opinions aren't invalid, and I mean, you can point out that I sound just like the pipe smoking 40 year old of the 1960's tut-tutting my hippy children, but you'll note that fashion today now imitates the pipe smoking 40 year olds of the 1960's (or more accurately the wardrobe department of Mad Men) and that many of the criticisms of hippies were valid. Just as their movement enriched our culture so too did it bring its fair share of the cultural equivalent of STIs.

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