Monday, 14 May 2012
The Death Of The Cultural Peacock
So I'm on the train clocking the girl with her Kindle, thinking 'We're all anonymous, these days...what with those thin grey slabs and MP3 players' . There was a time when cultural peacockery was possible, which meant an album tucked under your and a visible paperback in your pocket. Alas, there's no more flaunting your Good Taste for all the world to see. We did so in the hope, perhaps, of attracting fellow-travellers, or simply showing off. Sounds crazy, I know, but older readers will get it.
It may be for the best. After all, the rise of both gadgets gives me less opportunity to fall prostrate before Miles and ask 'Why, oh why do so many people lack Taste?!' Poor sheeple, trotting into the pen marked 'Suckers' with the collie dog of Pop Culture snapping at their heels. Oh they go willingly, of course, not as lambs to the slaughter, but as eager participants in the mainstream flow of things.
Before the thin grey slab rose to prominence I recall seeing everyone with either a Harry Potter or The Da Vinci Code in their hands. I felt like Michael Douglas in The Game, and became convinced that friends had clubbed together to buy a voucher from Consumer Recreation Services just to see if I could survive the ordeal. Turned out it was far worse, of course, being reality, although I'm starting to believe that CRS really exists and the CEO is Simon Cowell.
As laughable as those old tactics seem now, they did at least act as beacons of light amid the seemingly eternal darkness that is life as an underground dweller. Yes, reader, we cultural outsiders lead tortured lives, prisoners of our own pickiness. Not even 'friending' a stranger on FB because he 'likes' Sun Ra can save us. Noting the amount of people who have 'liked' an underground hero is meaningless, ultimately, except to reaffirm the fact that the Net displays all of life along with all the likings of it slaves. Whereas to see a person in the street or bar with an album you treasured was, however brief, a real connection. They were flesh and blood, and what's more, had invested in the artist instead of merely clicking a mouse. Those streets, bars, carriages and buses were the same ones you inhabited, the physical world of smells, sights, sounds. And there was a living, breathing visible human who shared your love of that artist. So it went.
I'm currently working on inventing a set of headphones that will easily, and securely, hold an album cover. They won't appeal to many people, I know, but I look forward to the day when I can see one of the dedicated few, determined to uphold the cultural peacock tradition by walking around with some Reid Miles artwork stuck to the side of their head.