Monday, February 03, 2014

Is there anything more stupid than stupidity?

Completely by chance, the only bit of the entire Superbowl I happened to see was the Bob Dylan car commercial. I used to be a Dylan fan, but I found it instantly laughable and annoying. I did not bother watching the rest of the game, or the advertising blitz it was a platform for. I tried to content myself with a brief Facebook vent: "I walk in the room long enough to see Bob Dylan selling cars. I walk out."

But today, I find this defense of the commercial as laughable and annoying as the commercial itself:

Let’s be clear: Dylan’s greatest asset over the course of his long and still-going-strong career is precisely his willingness to disappoint and shock his fans and force them to reconsider their relationship to their singing savior. 

Come on. Aside from the fact that a commercial is not an album (does the former really have to be counted as part of Dylan's "career"?), and aside from the fact that Gillespie's celebration of Dylan's "willingness to disappoint and shock" is really just a disingenuous swipe at Sixties liberalism, his argument is pretty weak on aesthetics too. Lauding an artist's desire to go against the grain for its own sake (Dylan "changes identities as often as most of us change our socks," and so on) is as tiresome as lauding an artist for being predictable -- indeed, it is a kind of predictability. Anyone who really cares about art (and has graduated from high school) knows that there is good art that lives up to expectations and is comforting, and there is bad art that is disappointing and shocking. It takes a special kind of speciousness to assume that only the opposite can be true. 

My own reaction to the commercial had less to do with shock or disappointment -- no plaintive cries "oh no, they got Bob Dylan!" here -- than with an overwhelming sense of frustrated rage at the sheer tedium of what I was witnessing. Of course they got Bob Dylan. Someday they will get Springsteen. Hell, someday they may even get Woody. That's just the way Capitalism works. But why the fuck should I spend my valuable time on it? I'm not even in the market for a car.

1 comment:

mrG said...

this is a very very big planet with a great many exceedingly good poets and musicians, so there's no crime in not following the herd in worship of some pop-idol -- I find it hilarious that we kid the teenyboppers (or whatever one calls them these days) for their boy-bands and then turn around and do the same with our 60's pop-idols, as if it is somehow a higher grade of teenybopperism!

I is all really just a matter of how we want to spend our own time seeding our own brains with the influences available to us, one how we want to expend our attention. It isn't about who is really God and who isn't, I think it is more about who we, personally, want ourselves to be, and that we become from our experiences, and our experiences come from our attention.

I cross artists off my list all the time, not out of malice, not trying to convince anyone, just because I no longer want to be applying my brain and its precious time alive on the works of such people. I dropped Mellencamp when he sued a Czech kid for placing his lyrics online for free, I dropped Neil "this note's for you" when he pre-released digital copies that slipped DRM into the unsuspecting fans' computers, I dropped Keith Jarrett when he performed in total darkness and then still stormed off in a childish huff because of one photo flash. I dropped Richard Strauss for his attitude, I dropped Zappa and a great many others after doing my best to meticulously fact-check the tale woven by the twenty some chapters behind Inside the LC ...

And you and others may take issue and defend them and say they are all brilliant and within their rights to do what they did and do, and I totally 100% agree! I don't mean to issue a fatwa on them, it is just that it is my life we're talking about, and how I choose to spend my attention, and that choice is not to waste my time on certain things because I have only so much, and it is a great big wonderful world beyond the lot of them.