Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Blog Note Clearinghouse # 3: The "Time Is Weird" Edition

More unused blog-entry ideas, dispatched before their sell-by date expires:

1. Living On TiVo TiMe

A while back, I wrote about how TiVo, DVD news sites and Summer/Fall/Spring Movie/Music Preview Issues keep me living in the future, looking forward to the entertainment to come. Well, the other night I finally started catching up with backlogged episodes of The Riches–a really good show by the way, deserving of more attention–and I was struck, as I often am when watching month-old DVR-ed TV, by the jarring sensation of fast-forwarding past commercials that are recently out of date. "Hey, there's that movie I didn't see! And that limited-time-only fast-food milkshake I didn't buy!" In fact, if there's one thing that's been lost in the transition from beaten-up taped-off-TV videocassettes to complete-season DVD sets, it's that archiving of our useless pop past. It used to be, if I wanted to watch an old episode of The Simpsons, I'd occasionally have to zip through car dealership and restaurant ads from one of the places I used to live. I got not just a record of the show, but of the time I first watched it.

I don't get quite the same charge via the TiVo, but there's still that momentary warp. ("Wait … why are they still advertising 300? Oh right, this is from February.") And just like looking ahead fills me with hope for what's to come, looking back offers its own happy charm. What an innocent time it was, two months ago.

2. The Persistence Of Middle Age

Last week I signed a contract–and cut a frighteningly large check–to replace all the windows here at the Bowman-Murray manse, and during the course of the usual salesman/client chitchat, my window guy asked me about what I did for a living, and I told him, and he said, "I wonder if you've ever talked to my uncle, David Gates. He used to be in a band called Bread."

I don't know what freaked me out more: that this guy who looked to be in his late 40s was the nephew of a soft-rock star, or that he immediately confessed to me, "I never used to listen to Bread. I was more into Led Zeppelin." Now, I'm a bespectacled 36-year-old man, with a paunch and a bald spot and sprinkles of gray at my temples. Love & Rockets T-shirt aside, I don't think anyone would see me as anything other than middle-aged. But whenever I see middle-aged guys, I still process their presence the same way I have since I was a kid. I still look at a man or woman pushing 50 in 2007 as though they were as a man or woman pushing 50 in 1982. They shouldn't be listening to rock 'n' roll, in other words–or if they do, it should be Bread, not Zeppelin.

It's the same with the parents of my children's classmates. I'm the same age or older than most of those folks. (I do live in the south after all, where people get married young and breed even younger.) Yet I still see them as "moms" and "dads," not adults who've had more or less the same formative pop experiences as me. They watched John Hughes movies in high school. They probably own a copy of Nirvana's Nevermind–or at least R.E.M.'s Automatic For The People. That's just weird to me.

(Along those same lines, check out this video. Skip ahead to the 3:53 mark, and you'll see "MC Rove" as a shaggy haired youth, working to make the Republican Party cool for his generation. I wonder what was in his tape deck?)

3. Records Out Of Time

The other day I was listening to my iPod on shuffle and I heard an old song by Bikeride, a twee indie-pop band that's still around, but that I don't listen to as much as I did in the late '90s, when the band's kind of kitchen-sink sunshine symphonies were exactly the kind of music I liked best. Bands like Small Factory, Butterglory, June & The Exit Wounds, Zumpano, Olivia Tremor Control and Apples In Stereo all sounded charmingly homemade, and though I never deluded myself that any of them were the future of music, they all struck me as imaginative and likable, even with their off-key vocals and muddy mixes. Today, with the exception of a few songs and albums, I find a lot of those acts hard to take–in large part because bands like The Decemberists and The Arcade Fire and The New Pornographers (an offspring of Zumpano) have polished this style, and given it depth and weight. If they'd been around ten years ago, they would've been so superior to the bands I liked then that I probably would've thought of all those little indie acts as pale imitators–not as a heartening inspiration to sensitivos everywhere.

It makes me wonder how bands and styles of today–even styles I'm kind of tired of, like angular neo-post-punk–would've come across back in 1997. If I never hear another Radio 4 song, that'd be just find by me. But a decade ago? When I was salivating over The Pulsars and The Dambuilders just because their nods to techno-pop and early '80s Britpop sounded relatively novel? What I wouldn't have given for a Radio 4!

Which just goes to show: It's all in the timing.