Thursday, 5 November 2009

Cultural Priorities

I have been trying forever to write the second part of Celluloid Vampires and Then Some, and it just keeps getting bigger and bigger, so I thought I would relate an experience I had today, instead, since the Dogtooth post has been on there for a month and a half.

As seems to have become customary, today I spent quite a bit of money compulsively and in rapid succession but I am more than happy with what I got: first I went to the Solaris comic store to buy some bags and boards for my comic issues and then I spotted "The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga" by Helen McCarthy. Aside from being a huge, beautifully made book also featuring a DVD documentary as an extra, I realized it was much more than just an artbook: actually it's an Osamu Tezuka encyclopedia, featuring a biography, photographic material not just from his manga but also his life, from childhood, and adolescence, his time as mangaka and animator and up to his death and beyond. There's an (I think) exhaustive list of characters and their multiple uses and appearances, his works in chronological order, as well as a ton of analysis on it, positive and negative commentary and lots and lots more! I believe it's worth every cent of the 40 euros I paid for it.

Later on, I met with Kyoshiro and some other friends for coffee (well, chocolate milk-shake for me, for which I was sorely criticized) and Kyoshiro had brought me a little thing of beauty bought from eBay, the complete "Blackstar" from Filmation!!! Just to be clear, "Blackstar" first aired in 1981 and for many, perhaps including the company itself, it was merely the dry run before "He-Man". In comparison to virtually anything created in Japan during the same period, it's more than primitive in every way (imagine that "Captain Harlock" and "Candy Candy" were put into animation before the 80s). However, it has been a piece of nostalgia which has completely eluded my grasp for the better part of a decade (I have never been good with sites such as eBay, so buzz off). Not on the internet as a torrent, not in any local store, not on any of the usual sites for such purchases and when even collections of "He-Man" and "Thundercats" started appearing, and it still remained nowhere in sight, I had lost all hope of ever seeing it again. Yet, I finally have all 13 episodes in my hands and have already watched the first two (geek's guilty pleasures).

Still, I have not yet made it to my actual point. Even later on, I visited a Metropolis (now multi-store) on Panepistimiou Ave. in search of a book by Neocles Galanopoulos (a Greek writer along with whom we were featured among the 14 writers of "Ecocrimes" anthology), titled "Death Out of Nowhere" (Topos Editions). Entering the store, much to my surprise, I was met by the sound of brutal vocals and metal music, rather more loud than any other time I have happened to visit the store (not that I have ever heard black metal played in every floor simultaneously at any of these stores, but regardless).

Though I generally hate brutal vocals and have serious problems with death and / or black metal being labeled as "music", what I was hearing was not in fact so bad (the female back vocals and the occasional somber reciting did help), although of course I did not understand a word of it during the main body of the songs. At any rate, while searching for the book I came across some of the labeled "Ground Floor Offers": among them was a complete series of books from Penguin Editions, reprinting somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 books which gave birth to the great ideas of humanity, from Plato, Seneca, Lao Tzu, Darwin, Henry-David Thoreau, William Shakespeare, to George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, Fyodor Dostoyevski, Thomas More and many, many, inconceivably more for 5 euros each! After a very lengthy deliberation, I ended up choosing "Confessions of an English Opium Eater" by Thomas de Quincy and "Decline of the English Murder" by George Orwell. Believe me, it was a tough choice, made only harder by the fact that each book's appearance is designed to reflect its content, though they are all pocket-size).

The music was still gong strong. When I asked one of the employees a question and realized that he could not hear me, I was certain that something was off - there HAD to be a reason why that sort of music was being played at that volume... and then I saw them, just across the door connecting the two sections of the ground floor: hair uniformly long in both sexes, dyed black in abundance by the women, too much actual metal on all the people and blue-jeans. I could not understand for the life of me, what was all that metal crowd doing in the ground floor (that section is on the 1st floor and then again, you never see so many all at once these days). So I headed there to even find cameras and reporters directed to what I assumed was a metal band and merchandise for PS3 dubbed "Brutal Legends".

Finally, it hit me and a bit of looking around filled in any holes in my understanding: the black metal band from 1987, Rotting Christ, were proudly featured in the new expansion of "Guitar Hero", "Brutal Legends". That's what all the fuss was about...

After purchasing the book I had come for, as well as my other two selections, I still dug through the pile of Penguin's "Great Ideas" series and made probably unrealistic plans for buying all 80 of them sooner or later. The music was still on when I left. Now, I never liked Rotting Christ (although the HAVE gotten better since I last heard them in the late 90s) and I have already expressed my views on the particular sort of music, but that is not the point in and of itself: the point is, I saw all those literary masterpieces, cheap and beautifully printed... in an offers stack, with barely three people (myself included) stooping to dig through the pile, while some Greek black metal band featured in a video-game was suddenly sensational news. Though I have not fully digested what that implies, I can be certain of one thing: at that moment, as I was leaving, I felt ill.

What are your thoughts?



Nerethil said...

Though I do understand the point of what you're trying to say (I think I do, at least), I don't really see how is it any different from the huge croud, we ourselves had gathered in a small show room in Fnac, when a few meters away lied quite the huge collection of books and works of art, be that in music,painting anthologies, or even movies. Now, I don't really enjoy Rotting Christ (or any black or death metal band to be frank(and I could never tell the difference between the two)), however I do understand how proud these people must be feeling right now. As a gamer myself, one who does not read as many books as he used to(or as he would like to, as of late), I do understand their feelings quite a bit. And "Guitar Hero" is a huge franchise in the gaming industry, they have every right to be proud. If I were them, I'd be more worried about the kind of music I produce, but clearly, it makes their fans happy and it did get them in "Guitar Hero", so I guess that's what works for them. I hope I'm not too irritant, for I am not trying to be, I just think it may be a little unfair, considering how some people might be equally disguisted by our choice of watching those japanese cartoons and doing an event about them, instead of getting lost in the magic of some literature work he found a few meters away from our event in a bargain bin...

Nerethil said...

Also : "BLACKSTAR"!? REALLY!??? FUCK!!! There was someone else besides me who watched that show!? I was about 4 and my father used to rent the series from our local video store (when we lived in Zografou). Up to this day I had no idea what the name of that awesome (to my childish eyes)series was, and all I could remember was the really cool guy and the even cooler sword he carried. So thank you for that, I'll be relieving you of the weight of carrying something this heavy pretty soon
Ps: Leave your windows unlocked,cause my crowbars are all in the washing machine

evaofadawn said...

I happen to agree with everything Nerethil posted above. I understand what you felt like by this contrast in the Metropolis store, and I have to say I've felt this way before in my life in similar situations, but.. now, to me, it only makes sense that people are focusing more (or even exclusively) on their specific interests that are often very limited and of underground origin. Look around you; mainstream culture nowadays is far from paying the proper respect to classic values, not even mentioning aspects such as classic literature! The average person has been merely told at school of a certain amount of info on classic works of art, and such info were never considered of great importance either.
In my opinion, most people are trying to get out of the mainstream "pile", exactly by indulging in all kinds of underground subcultures, stuff that small minorities only indulge in. And as Nerethil said that's exactly what we do too (as one part of our lifes i hope!). I believe, it's not the fact that other subcultures are uber-strong that should makes us worry, but that the mainstream culture isn't broader. On the contrary it's of low quality and it's getting narrower and narrower. It's the exclusivity of any kind that should make us worry. For example, how would you feel if those same people, the metalheads that you refer to, were actually interested in the great books you found? What if they already have some of them at home? There is a probability that even one of them did, right? That would make me happy. That's what I'd want things to be. To me it's not about priorities, but about pluralism and variety. That's what people lack most of the time.
Also, to end with sth more positive; isn't it a small miracle in life that at least you and me can find these wonderful cheap editions? Let them believe no one's interested, let them put them in the offers stack.. WE will buy them!

Speedgrapher said...


Nope you are not irritating at all: being reasonably argumentative never is (well, to me). Furthermore let me accept that you are partially right as to my being unfair: black metal ill-disposes me.

However, you managed to draw out from inside my skull what exactly I was trying to say: first off, I was not, by any means, comparing myself specifically with anyone else but since all that was a personal experience, it may have seemed that way. I think the real point was being generally troubled by an example of what is promoted and regarded as a cultural success, when at the same time great ideas are being read less and less.

Don't think that I manage to read quickly enough all those books I buy: it takes me ages and the pile never seems to get any shorter but I think I was shocked that, not just people mostly ignored the books I mentioned, but that the shop itself went to such lengths to promote the specific expansion.

As for the people themselves, I did not say they should not be proud: that is up to anyone's individual predisposition, much like we are proud about our anime and events. However, it does show a tendency for cheap thrills (our community being no exception at times), as well as that tendency being catered to ardently, don't you think?

Speedgrapher said...


Now, let me see: I don't have any problem with metalheads (having been one of the epic metal variety myself), nor do I consider them universally and uniformly of "lower cultural interests", as it were (although I will probably never understand what joy they find in these growls). Yes, they could, in fact have any number of these books at home.

However, it DID disturb me to see such a fuss being made in a music store / book store, over one song featured in one expansion of a game. As for mainstream culture, isn't it sad when one is considered alternative for even reading these books?

evaofadawn said...

Yeah, i know you don't have a problem with the specific people. I just used them as an example, like you did.
And yes, it is very sad when one is considered alternative for even reading these books, at least that's how I feel too.
But i'll say it again; "To me it's not about priorities, but about pluralism and variety." For example, it wouldn't be the actual event that would irritate me, but the fact that similar events don't take place in the same store for a myriad other reasons. The fact that the store makes this choice to promote such a thing, alone, doesn't annoy me, but combined with the lack of other events of different cultural background does annoys me too.
The problem though is the bigger picture in my opinion, that's why I talked about the low quality of the mainstream culture in general. And I think that's exactly what you feel too.

Speedgrapher said...

I tip my hat to you dear lady: most eloquent and erudite. Not to mention, correct.

Skauld Skauksson said...

Είναι πολλά που θέλω να πω και ψιλοβαριέμαι αυτή τη στιγμή να γράφω... :P

Πρώτον είσαι gay που βγαίνεις κέντρο και δεν λες μια κουβέντα... Αλλά αυτό είναι μόνιμο παράπονο, δεν περιμένω να το λύσουμε τώρα... :P

Δεύτερον... Είσαι στο Metropolis ffs!!! Αν θες να πας σε ένα μέρος όπου θα προωθούνται "σωστά" τα βιβλία... ε, δεν θα σου μάθω εγώ τα βιβλιοπολεία στο κέντρο... Σίγουρα ξέρεις περισσότερα από εμένα... Και γενικά νομίζω ότι δίνεις σημασία σε λάθος πράγματα.

Το τι προωθείται και κατά πόσο αυτό που προωθείται είναι πολιτστικό επίτευγμα, δεν θα το διερωτηθείς λόγω του ότι οι RC ή o Abbath μπήκαν στο Guitar Hero... Αυτό ξέρεις πολύ καλά ότι ήταν ένα μεμονωμένο γεγονός... Και ταινία βγαίνει στους κινηματογράφους για το black metal στην Νορβηγία, αλλά κι αυτό είναι ένα μεμονωμένο γεγονός... Κατά τη γνώμη μου, είναι καλό να αναρωτηθείς τι σκατά προωθείται, όταν στην Ελλάδα του (ουσιαστικά) 2010 ακούγονται ΑΚΟΜΑ και προωθούνται ΑΚΟΜΑ η Βίσσυ, η Βανδή, η Ζήνα (η Πέγγυ... :P), ο Πλούταρχος και ο Πάριος... Κι άσε την Ελλάδα... Κωλοχώρι ήταν, κωλοχώρι θα μείνει... Όταν στην Ευρώπη προωθούνται οι Tokyo Hotel ξέρω 'γω, ε, καταλαβαίνεις ότι κάτι πάει λάθος...

Τουλάχιστον, από τα 10 συγκροτήματα στον χώρο της black, τα 2 θα έχουν και γαμώ την επική στιχουργία. Θα είναι μέσα σε αυτά άνθρωποι που ήθελαν να πουν κάτι, έψαξαν τον καλύτερο τρόπο, έψαξαν την αισθητική που τους ταιριάζει και κατέληξαν σε αυτό... Άσχετα αν ταιριάζει με τα δικά σου γούστα ή όχι... Και αυτοί είναι που θα μείνουν κιόλας. Επειδή λοιπόν είμαι τίγκα μαζόχας και θέλω να δω κάποιον να μου "τα ψάλει" θα δηλώσω απλά αυτό που πιστεύω. Δεν βλέπω το λόγο να θεωρείται υψηλότερο πολιτιστικό επίτευγμα ένα βιβλίο του Πλάτωνα από ένα τραγούδι των RC. Με ποιο κριτήριο βάζουμε αξίες στα πράγματα? Κι αν χρησιμοποιούμε κάποια κριτήρια, αυτά είναι κοινά για όλους? Νομίζω καταλαβαίνεις ότι οι ερωτήσεις αυτές είναι λίγο ως πολύ ρητορικές... Αλλά για να γυρίσω λίγο στο θέμα, η αισθητική της black metal είναι ένας τύπος αισθητικής που είναι πόλυ δύσκολο να γίνει αποδεκτός. Τόσο από κάποιον που δεν τον έχει ξαναδεί ποτέ στη ζωή του, όσο επίσης από τους περισσότερους που τον έχουν ξαναδεί. Δεν είναι δυνατόν λοιπόν να εμφανίστηκε τυχαία. Προέκυψε από κάτι προηγούμενο. Ούτε είναι πολύ πιθανό να τον επιλέξει απλά και αβίαστα κάποιος στα πρώτα του βήματα στην μουσική βιομηχανία. Ή θα το υιοθετήσεις επειδή το γουστάρεις, ή θα το υιοθετήσεις επειδή θες να το παίξεις αντίδραση... Όπως συμβαίνει και με οτιδήποτε άλλο πέραν του τυπικού mainstream, με την διαφορά ότι το black metal έχεις λιγότερες πιθανότητες να το γουστάρεις εξ' αρχής (συγκεκριμένα το black metal και όχι το death metal απαραίτητα...). Οι Tokyo Hotel από την άλλη, κι οι περισσότεροι από όσους εντάσσονται στον mainstream χώρο, έχουν "ντυθεί" από την κιμαδομηχανή, για να γίνω και λίγο κλισέ... Τελικά, το πρόβλημα κατ' εμέ είναι εξ' αρχής η ύπαρξη των πολυκαταστημάτων όπως τα fnac, public, metropolis και τα σχετικά... Γιατί είναι (κατ' επέκταση) αυτά που επιλέγουν τι θα προωθήσουν και με ποιον τρόπο. Και μάλιστα δεν μιλάμε καν για προωθηση συγκεκριμένου συγκροτήματος από συγκεκριμένη μουσική σκηνή, έναντι άλλων συγκροτημάτων από την ίδια σκηνή. Δεν μιλαμέ καν για προώθηση συγκεκριμένου συγκροτήματος έναντι όλων των άλλων συγκροτημάτων από όλες τις μουσικές σκηνές (που είναι από μόνο του κάτι εντελώς inconsistent...). Μιλάμε για προώθηση ενός συγκροτήματος έναντι βιβλίων...! WTF??? Fuck that!

Αναρωτιέμαι όμως... Έγραψες αυτό το κείμενο με ειλικρινή συναισθήματα, ή είναι σε φάση "κουβέντα να γίνεται"? :P

Congrats για τα νέα σου αποκτήματα! Σε μισώ, κωλόφαρδε!!! :P Lots of love and bear hugs nyaaaarrrrrr!!! Axa0x0a0x0ax0a0x0ax0a0x0ax0axa!!! ;)

[α και για να μην το 3εχάσω... +1 σε Nerethil & evaofadawn ;)]

Speedgrapher said...


Θα κόψω τις φλέβες μου... Είχα γράψει μια τεράστια απάντηση (δεν είχε ψαλμωδίες by the way, just conversation) και μόλις έκανα να ποστάρω το comment κόπηκε η σύνδεση... Το δε ευφυέστατο Blogspot δεν έχει cache για αυτά που γράφεις στα comments, οπότε...


Δεν θυμάμαι τα μισά ή πως τα είχα γράψει και νυστάζω υπερβολικά για να το ξαναπαλέψω. Πάντως τα περισσότερα τα έχουμε πει και από κοντά.

Επιγραμματικά μόνο:

1. Όχι, το post δεν ήταν ώστε κουβέντα να γίνεται - όντως ένιωσα έτσι.

2. This is my rant-space: ένα μεμονωμένο γεγονός κάνει trigger χαμό από συνειρμούς.

3. Σαν πολύ δεν αναφέρεις τους Tokio Hotel; Εεεεεεεεεεεεε;

4. Δεν πήγα για fun στο κέντρο ρε συ: απλά έκατσε και τους είδα.

5. Η μόνη πραγματική έκπληξη στο comment σου ήταν το ότι το πόσταρες τόσο αργά - καθώς πόσταρα το αρθράκι σκεφτόμουν ότι θα απαντούσες πρώτος.

6. Ευτυχώς που βαριόσουν να γράψερις δηλαδή... :p

7. John Blackstar, Astronaut.

Skauld Skauksson said...

Μαλακία... Εγώ τις περισσότερες φορές που βλέπω ότι παρασύρομαι και αρχίζω τα κατεβατά... ---> Ctrl+C!!!

Το αν όντως ένιωσες έτσι ή όχι, το ρώτησα κυρίως για να επιβεβαιώσω τα πράγματα τα οποία κάνουν το trigger... Και τους Τόκυο Χοτέρου τους αναφέρω πολύ γιατί είναι οι μόνοι που θυμάμαι, αφού δεν πολυενημερώνομαι εδώ και καιρό σχετικά με τον "mainstream/pop/whatever-is-considered-a-direct-reference-to-the-preferences-of-the-most-people" χώρο... Τουλάχιστον σε ό,τι αφορά την μουσική... :P

Τι εννοείς αργά...? Αν κάποιοι τύποι (συνήθως μουσάτοι και γενικότερα τριχωτοί) είναι ανώμαλοι και ανεβάζουν το κείμενο από τα χαράματα, δεν φταίω εγώ...! :P Εγώ στην ώρα μου πόσταρα...! :P (άσε που έχασα χρόνο λόγω έκτασης... xD)

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