Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ambivalence Ho!

I listen to a lot of NPR, college radio and BBC when I'm at work. At the same time I'm working up graphics which accompany the fluffiest of all broadcasting: news flashes about Britney Spears' earlobe hemorrhage, Jessica Simpson's plastic surgery, Tom Cruise's teeth memorialized by the Vicar of the Universe, etc. So, I get an earful of considered, academic broadcasting cross-influencing my brain as I'm toiling with putting together disposable entertainment dreck under deadline. It's truly a self-loathing exercise and I should seek immediate help.

Recently I've noticed a lot of airplay on these radio station of Johnny Cash's final recordings. There's a kind of obligatory side to all this, like how NPR tends to feature little back woods stories about folksy people and their naive art, which is eventually fetched up, exploited and sold by city hipsters. These stories are conspicuous in how they try to bring some fresh air into an otherwise suffocating didactic stream of "smart people" news and music... but I digress.

So, like I saying, there's these last recordings of Johnny Cash. I'm having trouble with them because they couldn't make me feel more ambivalent. They situate me right, exactly in the middle between like and dislike. I just started reading a bit about these recordings and their undertaking. I'm admittedly sadly well behind the curve. So, I guess from what I'm learning, many are saying that the critics who object to these recordings as synthetic and half-assed should just get over themselves.

But ambivalence wouldn't be ambivalence without me saying that I sort of like these recordings too. That is, to the extent that Cash could probably read a Bazooka Joe comic and immerse the ear with his inimitable quivering soulful texture. That can't help but pay off. But, again, I still get a bad taste in my mouth about the whole exercise of recording the guy during his dying days, and doing this just because we want to salvage some last particles of something that our current culture cannot even come close to delivering in a popular form. It winds up making us all look pretty lame.

Having said this, I'm just ambivalent enough to welcome my legions of readers to try to persuade me either pro or con about this whole stupid mess. Ready, go.



Cocovan said...

I don't think your quite ready for the Pro's.
Stay in the minor leauge and pay your dues!

Joey Polanski said...

Go con.

Like in Folsom Prisn.

Hey, ol John dont, like, drop in mid-reckording, do he?

Thatd be a steal at twice th price!

Anonymous said...

NPR is drivel. How silly of you to listen to it.

Britney Spears is the most important thing to ever happen to music. I can't wait for her to release a disck of her covering old Johnny Cash and Paul Simon songs.

Take pride in your part of popular culture. You're making a differnce in the world.

What does Entertainment Tonight tell you to do? Do that. (or at least Oprah)

Charlie Bo Barley said...

Dear Mandingeritopia,

It's easier said than done, but maybe you can take those last recordings on their own merits, as moving songs (or however you hear them) from an artist with integrity (or so I think of him).

I know it's hard for us analytical types to take art out of its cultural context, removed from the motives of producers & critics, etc. Maybe it can't or shouldn't be done. Just an idea.

By the way, ambiguity is one of my favorite responses to art. (I have no ambiguity in my reaction to Snakes on a Plane.)