After a three-hour, early-morning binge, I learned something.

After a three-hour, early-morning binge, I learned something.

So, the lifemate and I are “camped out” in our friend’s basement until we can move into our apartment (we moved states, and so, we could only be so picky as to move-in dates with regards to our move-out date, since, hopefully like most people, we didn’t want to waste any money). This is not about our apartment. It is, however, about the basement. Our friend (an actual mutual [very platonic] friend of ours whom we both knew and spent time with separately before ever getting together) lives in a house far too large for a single guy with a dog (the house was bought and paid for by his parents, so there’s that, too, but it’s a long, personal story of his, so judge less-harshly). And the basement is partially built out with one enormous bedroom (just a rectangle really), a closet outside the bedroom, and a full bathroom with some built-in shelving. Aside from this build out, the entirety of the remaining basement is concrete and completely unfinished. It’s a strange oasis-type feeling. It’s also a strange sort of time dilator as the room itself has no windows.

The basement has two window wells that allow for a peek at whether or not the time is day or night. As the walls of the built-out bedroom/den float freely within the basement space, only the northerly wall is built against the foundation of the house, the other three walls are completely solid, with not a single window frame, and they were built too far from the window wells to have made any use of them. And so, I am living in a windowless basement room (that’s very warm and comfortable, so don’t feel bad for me, please) within which I have little to no conception of what time it is, and I am not free to roam freely about the house whenever I want.

With these two conditions set out before me, I woke up at 6 am this morning. The friend (and I know this because we can easily and clearly hear all of his movements on the main floor) wakes around 6:45 am and is gone no later than 7:15 am, six days a week. I had at least an hour to blow, and the lifemate was still sound asleep. I didn’t want to go upstairs and encroach upon the friend’s morning routine. I also didn’t want to go back to bed. And I’ve been getting these really nasty headaches lately from my screens, which leaves me only my laptop as an option for my viewing pleasure (the tv, I assumed, would be too bright, and my phone’s the usual headache culprit when in near or complete darkness). Plopping open my laptop, I flicked it into Night mode, but I had nothing to do. I didn’t want to write; that’s lame. I didn’t want to read the news that early (or at all in that moment). A general cure to my laziness usually resides in YouTube. My tolerance for the platform is so low that I cannot really tolerate a “binge,” as it were.

Apparently, however, at 6 am on a weekday, I can watch YouTube videos for three hours. And I’m not talking about the “good” kind of videos (of the educational or documentary type); I’m talking about some straight up shit and some straight up waste-of-timers, all of the “YouTuber” genre. This is unusual behavior for me, but after getting into a good little rabbit hole groove, I was happy that I was doing it, watching videos and attempting to learn something. Obviously, the world is changing fast, and not a single YouTuber I watched today had I ever heard of before. In short, I felt really old. But honestly, I’m glad to be out of my youth.

In No Time To Spare by Ursula K. Le Guin, Le Guin states something so beautiful about age. “Old age is for anybody who gets there,” she writes on page 9, and then on the next page, she quotes, “Old Age is Not for the Young.” I suppose, if anything, I’m grateful to be growing older. Not knowing about whatever is going on on The Tube never bothered me before, and after this morning’s junk-food binge, I’m highly confident that it will never matter to me at all.

‘Beauty & The Blogger’

‘Beauty & The Blogger’

… but don’t think influencing is something to be proud of.

-Bill Maher

(Real Time with Bill Maher, Season 17; Episode 8, 15 March 2019)

 

Imagine with me, will you?, the world in which you live. Perhaps when is the future. Perhaps when is the now. Either way, you plop down in front of a screen, and you scroll through YouTube or VidTube or YouVid, you get the point. You flip through a handful of your go-to channels, and then you browse a bit to see if there’s anything new left to discover. And then, you inevitably end up on the channel of an influencer. You watch this person entertain you with funny, educational, fun, beautiful life. You watch as this person either does a workout or performs some skill or teaches you something cool or shows you something cool or takes you along on some journey or slathers their face in makeup so that they may court jester you through the world of the elite.

The worst of these influencers, to me, are of the beauty variety. And a middle-of-the-road example would be Jenn Im, the beloved, adorable, cute, airy, uplifting, good-vibes-only, Korean-American, beauty influencer. Im runs a strong YouTube channel, has her own hype-clothing brand, collabs—seemingly endlessly—with all sorts of brands, all around the world. She’s living the dream, right? Unfortunately, not so much. The reality of the influencer market is that they are the future middle class.

If you cannot “make it” without a “job” (meaning, if you are incapable of creating work for yourself), you will not, unfortunately, make it very far into the future. Consider how much money it takes to live today, at the level of civility and luxury we all seem to think is middle class. From my perspective, the problem of the disappearing middle class is as much a problem of the actual people who make up the middle class as it is the powers that be who have (essentially) oppressed us. This is not really about that. Nevertheless, the amount of luxury that “middle-class living” demands has inflated the cost of a middle-class lifestyle. Not to mention inflation of the dollar in and of itself. What this means now, is that the middle-class lifestyle has shifted into upper middle class, and the what was the middle class is now lower middle class. What’s truly missing is the middle of the middle class. And so, it seems as if the middle-class lifestyle has disappeared, but really, those who are in the upper middle class are still middle class citizens, even if they do have a million-dollar net worth. A million dollars no longer makes a person rich, if they want to live an upper-middle-class lifestyle, and that’s crazy. Think about that. If you want the semblance of simply keeping up, you need to make more than a few million dollars. This is nearly unattainable for the vast majority of people, and this is why influencing is not something about which one ought to feel pride.

The future that I see includes a still disproportionate distribution of wealth with the majority of it being held by a few hands, but that group will grow. Influencers and content creators, with millions of dollars in hand each year, will fall largely within and makeup most of the middle class along with a few independent business owners and corporate, upper-level management, but they will never rise to the very top. And then, the poorest among us will be left far behind to (essentially) fend for ourselves within our own little, poor world. Economies will rise within the poor, and a few will be catapulted out, up into the middle class, the truly ambitious, perhaps further.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I would say that influencers will never rise to the very top, and you’re also now probably debating whether or not you should become an influencer. First, influencers cannot rise once they are influenced. Once an influencer is influenced, either by catering to their audience or by being bought by companies to promote products, they establish themselves among the service class of the elite. Yea, sure, they are rewarded handsomely, and are even invited to peep into the world of the elite, but do not be confused, they are not part of the powers that be. They are the tools of the entertainment establishment. Be a tool. This is what I’m here to say. Make yourself useful to someone who has money to pay you for your usefulness.

In a world that will—inevitably—be run and operated by artificial intelligence and robots, you will have to have a purpose larger than showing up to work every day. You need to create that purpose. You need to create your work. You need to create your value. Once the table is set, and it will be set very soon, everyone will have to sit wherever they land. The music will stop, meaning jobs will no longer be created for you. Make sure that you’ve found a seat long before that day comes.

Striving, Striving Forever To Be More …

Striving, Striving Forever To Be More …

|how.odious| Year Two: DAY ONE HUNDRED FIVE

2017 February 03 [Friday]

Friday Feature

 

Doing it right
Everybody will be dancing
And we’ll be feeling it right
Everybody will be dancing
And be doing it right
Everybody will be dancing
When we’re feeling all right
Everybody will be dancing tonight

If you do it right
Let it go all night
Shadows on you break
Out into the light

If you lose your way tonight
That’s how you know the magic’s right

(Bangalter, T., et al, 2013)

 

There’s a really good chance that these lyrics have nothing to do with what I am going to write today; the reality is that I think they [the lyrics] are pure, simple genius. However small, nonetheless, there may be the semblance of a connection, which will end up revealing itself as the reason why this song has been stuck in my head for the past few days when mulling what I should/would/could write this week. I want to take a break* from my “‘Victims’ Who Make Victims of Us All,” series because the amount of necessary research has become substantial, at best, daunting, at worst, and since the availability of the research I require proves difficult to acquire, I am now in the process of determining exactly how I will procure the reading I need in order to further my studies on the subject. Thus, for the time being, I have come to a small, perhaps albeit important realization about my life and my role within it. To start, I must admit that I have done absolutely no research for this post, and so, everything said here is and will be pure conjecture sprinkled from time to time with vague observations.

When I consider the vast landscape of “What People Create,” I think that YouTube is a great place to look to supplement an understanding about what people “do” these days. Despite whether or not whatever someone’s creating depends upon or uses the video medium, there seem to be many participants who also use the video medium to share/spread their productions. This willing participation within the video-making medium, when the medium of creation is not video, must mean something. I don’t know what it [the meaning] is, nor do I really want to explore what it might be, but I will just off the top of my head for the sake of … [entertainment?] … faux-intellectualism. Hmmm … a presupposition is about to impose itself … People don’t like to read, but they still want to “know things,” but they’ll only work so hard to be able to know those things, and one could argue that video is easily digestible, so the more easily digestible something is, the more attractive it becomes to the person in search of knowing things. Maybe some people don’t actually want to learn anything as far as “knowledge,” but they do want to “be in the know,” which usually means being “hip” with whatever the current “hop” is of the era, year, month, day, hour. Okay, that’s my big assumption. I said, “assumption,” so back the fuck off!

Now that I’ve gone there, I will backtrack to my original thought, which exactly contradicts everything I am about to say. There is no original thought. No, wait, that’s not true. Shit. Where was I going? One moment please … oh shit, that’s right. So, when you observe the popularity of various types of YouTube videos, one thing is made apparent. The most viewed [by the billions] videos are all fully original creations: Music Videos. That’s obvious to me because music is something that people usually participate in on more than one occasion in their lives, again, a pure assumption or is it a presumption? I will consult the Google … it’s a presumption. Wait, maybe it’s a presupposition? Dammit … one moment please … no, it’s a presumption, but now I will state another presupposition: YouTube videos can be deduced into around five [maybe fewer, maybe more, again, I have not thought this through] categories of participation.

These Categories of Trite Participation are as follows:

  1. Curator
  2. Critic
  3. Commentator
  4. Copy-catter
  5. Aspirational [to be part of one of the above]

Now, how to define these categories and how to know under what category a particular video falls. The videos with billions of views are always music videos by original creators. People love music [an assumption], music is enjoyed on a regular basis [a presumption], thus, people repeatedly “watch” music videos mostly because that’s the best [free-est] way to repeatedly listen to music they love [the presupposition]. Other popular videos ranging in the millions to hundreds of millions include popular music, mind-blowing awesomeness and videos that are either of the moment or hit a chord with the population as a whole. Videos with tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands are also considered popular and thus are popular but with the caveat that [assumedly] the success of these YouTubers depends solely on their constant, consistent participation. And finally, those with a few thousand views or fewer [obviously] are aspirational participants. I think that some people use YouTube solely for the purpose of video storage with no hope of being YouTube famous or popular, and that’s reasonable. Here, today, however, I am speaking about those who use YouTube as a medium for [the semblance of] creative endeavors.

How do you categorize the types of videos that you come across on any given day? Well, it’s pretty simple. Original creations seem like they must be pretty easy to spot with straightforward signifiers. The reality is that they actually are not, and the reason for this is because ALL [presumptively] YouTube generators claim to be “content creators” who are [assumedly] creating original creations, but this, in fact, is not true. Thus, I will point out a few well-known types of videos that will help flesh out the Categories.

Number 1: Curator

These types of videos are of the “compilation” genre and are pretty straightforward, you know, Fails, Cats, Basketball highlights, Top 10 [Fill-in-the-blank], and Best Of [Whose-a-Whats-It]

Number 2: Critic

These videos are usually disguised as instructional or intellectual endeavors, but really, they’re just being the critic, you know, anything within the beauty or fashion realm [they’re choosing shit and then sharing it with you under the guise that they’re teaching you shit; it’s pitiful], the self-proclaimed “nerds,” “dudes,” “bros,” “bitches,” who condense so-called “knowledge” into digestible tidbits that you can then share with your friends to seem smart, satirical videos of other types of videos *cough “Shmonest Curtailers,” and the blatant critic who sits down in front of a camera and babbles on and on about how she knows and realizes so much more than you … wait a minute … shit. Critics are the best! *wink nudge*

Number 3: Commentators

Again, these types of YouTube practitioners are fairly easy to spot, they’re called vloggers. The impetus of their “creation” is to film themselves doing something and then essentially commenting on THEIR OWN FUCKING LIVES! What the fuck? Arguably, no actually, by the standards of subscriber statistics, the most famous of all YouTubers would definitely fall under this category. If you don’t know about whom I speak, then all of this is probably just gibberish nonsense, which it is anyway, anyway. Satirical videos usually fall under this category, as well, because they see the genre and usually want to comment upon its ridiculousness or, less often times, genius.

Number 4: Copy-catter

These sorts of videos fall under the, official mind you, title of “cover bands,” think that ever-growing-in-popularity a cappella group [although they are trying to branch upward into being Original Creators], or basically any form of video that plainly reiterates something that’s already been done or is currently being done or is the “thing” of the moment. Think cooking channels, those videos where people are asked to participate in something uncomfortable while we all watch, the participation in a “challenge.”

Number 5: Aspirational

Uh, I really don’t think I need to go into further detail. Okay fine, they aspire to be one of the above, duh.

The problem isn’t that these Categories of Trite Participation exist, and they don’t only exist within and on YouTube. It’s a general categorization of participants who participate in creative endeavors. There’s nothing inherently wrong with being a whore, I mean, a curator, critic, commentator or copy-cat. I mean, they’re significant, just look to the Tube! It’s all right there; people love it! It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re important, however. The problem is that I definitely do not want to be part of it. Why? Well, the overwhelming reason is that all of the above types rely on one very specific thing: The original creation of others. Curators simply pick and choose among various original creations and put them all together under a themed heading. Critics only have something to say because someone else did all the legwork, which they [the original creator] then made available, and now the critic, having done nothing him/herself, tears apart how good or bad that creation is/was/will be. Commentators also rely on the doing of others or else there’s nothing on which to comment, and in the case of vloggers, they edit their daily lives so that it may fit inside the packaging of “Me,” so that they may then comment on themselves, which is so obviously contrived. And then, the copy-cats are so dependent upon the original work of others that they would have nothing to do without them. The point is that all of the Categories depend fully upon the creations of true, original creators, which means that a participant who falls under the heading of any of the Categories cannot, in essence, be a creator; they’re just so meta but not meta-creators … it’s more like they’re meta-disseminators … that’s not a word … it is now!

Honestly, I swear to the good lords of rice cake, I watched a certain YouTube “nerd” comment on an “intellectual’s” critique of hipsterism in an attempt to criticize the criticism posed by the critic, with a severe lack of critical thinking, which is essential for critical thinking, when he failed to even touch upon the argument within the critique of hipsterism (Puschak, 2012). The “nerd” instead whined like a little hipster that the writer made an overwhelming generalization about a group of people and that nothing can be gleaned about an individual when taking into account an entire group of people, which, by the way, had nothing to do with the writer’s original criticism that hipsters live ironically (Wampole, 2012) but had everything to do with the “nerd” being butt-hurt by, you guessed it, criticism!, which ultimately proved the writer’s point. And mine, ah ha!, see what I did there? I embodied the role of critic and criticized the criticism of a YouTube critic who criticized the critique of a critical writer. See, falling into one of my Categories of Trite Participation is so easy! Ugh, whatever, you get it, they’re pointless! Except they’re not pointless because it’s all so significant because so many people participate in the ingestion of this pointlessness, which, in and of itself, makes the entire meta-dissemination effort significant but again, not necessarily important.

Thus, we have come to my conclusion. Since I absolutely do not want my work to fall under any of the aforementioned Categories, I’ve come to the realization that I have to work a lot harder than I’ve ever wanted to work before, and now the retroactive relevance of Daft Punk’s, “Doin’ It Right.” If you’re “doin’ it right,” there ought to be some knowable signifiers to validate and prove with no presuppositions that you are, in fact, “doin’ it right.” For Daft Punk, “doin’ it right” means that “everybody will be dancing.” YAS! What are those signifiers for me personally?; I have no fucking clue. I will say this, though, if you don’t already know, I am currently working on my second novel. The one thing I can say without a doubt and a little pride is that I know this is an original creation. How? Well, no part of it falls under my Categories of Trite Participation. Whether or not I’m “doin’ it right,” however, has yet to be determined because I don’t know what the obvious outcome should/would/could be. The easy answer is that I’ll become famous because my book gets published through the traditional publishing route, and everything is awesome. This may not be the signifier, though, because what is the role of publisher?, Curator and Critic. Thus, as I end this post, I’ve come full circle in realizing that there’s no escaping the leeches who exert their significance by merely meta-disseminating the hard work of true creators. So then why do anything? For starters, here’s why: The birth of a seriously kick-ass, mother-fucking great song [an opinion] born of original creators who fight for their need to always be “doin’ it right” [a presumption].

 


*I will eventually return to my “Victims” series, but to know when exactly is impossible.

 


 

References

Bangalter, T., de Homen-Christo, G.M., Lennox, N. (2013). Doin’ it right [Daft Punk ft. Panda Bear]. On Random Access Memories [Ampex reels & Pro Tools tracks]. New York, NY: Columbia.

Puschak, E. [Nerdwriter1]. (2012, November 24). Vlog #41 – What’s so bad about hipsters? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/B7pM4T4AKEc

Wampole, C. (2012, November 18). How to live without irony. The New York Times, p. SR1.