jueves, 30 de marzo de 2017

2010s: CAVIAR TO THE GENERAL

This weekend, I will purchase the storybook which contained the heartwarming poem "A Ball of Wool," translated into Spanish (with the poem title "UN OVILLO DE LANA") on this blog, just because television and radio have lost their ancient charm and all that remains is the Net, CDs, nostalgia radio, and... good old-fashioned printed books. Definitely, I have been macerating this particularly caustic invective for years, ever since this blog started. But never had the guts to type it down until RIGHT NOW. There was always either a new form of catnip to comment on (a poem, a fairytale, mythology, history, speculative fiction) or nostalgia of the 1990s and early 2000s to evoke.
Today I have published two such posts on nostalgia: one on advert jingles and one on mistakes I made as a child (or even as a teen!). Then I went into my Thursday yoga, but stopped at a particularly tricky asana, one where I had to stand on my left foot, keeping the right leg crossed over the left like a figure 4, and then bend my back, put my left hand on the ground, and Gods know what to do with the right hand... I simply turned my back and went off to lunch at one sharp.
For I thought, wow, I'm burned out and who knows if I may do that aquagym at three! Such a light sleeper going to bed with a mouthguard for the first time in forever... and, obviously, I slept just like the princess on the pea! Lucky you, dear readers unable to see my Kubrick eye bags (or panda eyes, call them whatever you prefer)! Fell asleep around 2 AM and was not woken up until 8:30. Still woozy. So I thought maybe some rest in the form of blogging and gaming may do me far better than physical activity.
And this brought me to... why not that invective on how screwed-up the world of mainstream entertainment has become? On the fact that documentary TV networks have watered all the way down from edutainment to twattical, or "mainstream," reality sitcoms that have little to nothing to do with the networks' name and original purpose (most NOTORIOUSLY, how The History Channel became The Pawn Stars Channel). On how both anime and edutainment have been generally discarded when it comes to televised animation, to be replaced by shows so lame --and screwed-up remakes of classic 90s toons and animesque-- that online fansubs appear at least to me as far more enticing than the idiot slab of plasma. On the rise of electronic music with no to little tunes, throbbing rhythms, and lewd lyrics, and the ostensible Death of Pop, capitalized for a good reason. On how they even got a saga meant to be a deconstructive satire of trash, or "mainstream," reality TV wrong by turning it into a sappy love triangle feud that feminizes the action heroine to the point of a fashion doll and has fans arguing of whether she'll wind up with the boy next door or the tall-dark-and-handsome stranger --when actually... I was and am the fangirl who understood the series the right way and sat on the fence with a third option, the princely/gentlemanly young man relegated by the creators to the role of companion, as I kept on nonchalantly and uninterestingly watching Little Miss Bland, Mr. Betty, and Mr. Veronica go on and on with their daily lives; as I did with another saga specifically meant to be a sappy love triangle feud in my teens (Seriously: I am Team Jasper and Team Finnick since my adolescence, not giving a hoot about the heroines or their cathetes while chilling out with my blond, cultured gentleman on the fence of neutrality as spectators).

TO BEGIN WITH
We people or humans go by the scientific name of Homo sapiens, which is Latin for "wise Hominid" (if genus is surname and species is given name, Latin employs Eastern order, while English employs Western order). Interestingly, the species or given name of every animal, plant, fungus, and micro-organism is in lower-case, while the genus or surname is capitalised. The fact that we are Hominids with a capital H is thus prioritised over the fact that we are allegedly "wise." Nowadays, signs of sharp intelligence can be found in other provinces of the animal kingdom: consider cetaceans (whales and their toothed relatives), corvids (crows, ravens, magpies...), and most relevantly cephalopods. Cephalopods, ie octopi, calamari, and the rest of their squishy family. Invertebrates, since they lack a spinal cord, but showing even more signs of intelligence than hymenoptera -social insects-. Consider the common octopus in particular. Not a lovely sight out of water (and here I am referring to on the ice or under plastic in a supermarket fish stand; cooked tentacles spiced with paprika and served with potato slices, Galician style, are scrumptious!), but in its element (saltwater, what else?), it has demonstrated some really impressive capacities for colour change (far faster than the quickest colour-changing chameleon), mimicry (it can successfully impersonate venomous lionfish and kraits to drive predators away, as well as blend in with the ocean bottom, be it sandy, rocky, or coral reef), even problem-solving (to open boxes and solve 3D puzzles, and even easily open child-proof medicine bottles!)... and a Mrs. Incredible- or Luffy-style elastic frame that allows it to squeeze through holes even narrower than its tentacle tips (its lack of both an exo- and endoskeleton allows for such flexibility). The scientific name of this intriguing species is Octopus vulgaris, which translates to "common Octopus;" ie, the fact that they are Octopi with a capital O is prioritised over how common they are. And the fact that eight of its nine brains are spread across this cephalopod's "shoulders," one at the source of each tentacle (the ninth brain is located in what appears to be the "head," but actually also contains the gills and guts, equalling the trunk or torso of a vertebrate!), may be the keystone to its intelligence. (In comparison, that strange naked ape that has colonized most of the biospheres on the planet Tellus and goes by a name that translates to "wise Hominid," has got one single cerebrum, which has led the species to incredible, impressive achievements... at least until the present decade of decadence.) The talents of octopi are amazing, even more given their lifespan of three or four years (By contrast, we humans live up to nearly a century, yet the artificially gained last decades of most of our lives come at the great price of physical and mental frailty: requiring us to pay less heed to lifespan and more to our current healthspan, which in the West lasts in general until late midlife and/or seniority).
So, are we wise Hominids still? Are you smarter than an octopus? If you swim against the mainstream like yours truly, dear reader, the answer is yes. Unfortunately, we nonconformists (geeks, nerds, hipsters; a rose by any other name...) are a minority, and even more in these current times of mainstream media decay.
The title of this rant is, now that we get down to business, easily broken down into a Kubrick reference that even the Svenssons and Otto Normalverbraucher understand (though they do not grasp the significance of the classical music soundtrack of that film)... and a Shakespearean reference that leaves most of the mainstream bamboozled: shouldn't a general, given his high rank and status as a man of the world, have a taste for caviar? The snag is that the Bard referred here NOT to the general OFFICER, but to the general PUBLIC. Consider it a shibboleth for the cultured: a sign used to tell friend from foe, deviant friend from mainstream foe, by putting their knowledge to the test.
I could as well have said the more vernacular and worldwide spread "pearls before swine" (how little pigs care for gems/jewels/precious stones!), or the Japanese "neko ni kóban," "doubloons before cats" (whether pet or stray, housecats have little use for gold/money), or as good Ser Uttam taught me before moving from Kathmandu to Kutztown, "as an orange to a carrion crow" (corvids being as bright as we have highlighted above, they easily recognize fruit as not part of their diet). Continuing with these animal sayings, we may as well coin a new one for the new decade: "Pawn Stars/Gumball/Electronic Dance before Octopi." But I have settled down for the Shakespearean version of the saying because of how little it is known by the mainstream, which makes it suitable for use as a shibboleth.

CANAL EL PRECIO DE LA HISTORIA (THE PAWN STARS CHANNEL)
There was a time when documentary and animation (children's or not) specialty channels were something you had to pay to have to play and a relatively "poor" lower-middle-class 90s kid could only dream about. It was the golden age of channels rife with anime and edutainment animated series, with wildlife and historical documentaries. Basically, this reality beyond the reach of the average kid millennial was the mediatic equivalent of those days to the belief that the streets of London were cobbled with bars of gold.
THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED WHEN THE DIGITAL SWITCHOVER TOOK PLACE.
At least there were children's interest and documentary channels for free (which also ended the Golden Age of the anime and edutainment that dominated the weekend morning and Monday-through-Friday afternoon programming blocks; see ALL HAIL THE SPONGE below).
Some channels on my own personal list, like the anime-specialty teenage network Animax (at least in Spain, as Animax Iberia) disappeared never to return. Children's interest channels rarely to never broadcast, nowadays, anime (including animesque) or edutainment series. And documentary channels... that is why I begin with this subject.
Before the Switchover, the History Channel of Iberia (Spain and Portugal) broadcast documentaries on the Thirty Years' War, the Enlightenment, the Hellenistic period, literary classics... basically everything imaginable when it came to the excitement of the past, living up to and even surpassing its name of Canal Historia. Post-Switchover, as it even became available to the lower middle class, it became first (during the late 00s) the "Hitler Channel" ("Canal Hitler"), exclusively devoted to Nazis, aliens, and Nazis in space; and is currently the "Pawn Stars Channel" ("Canal El precio de la Historia"). Note that these are fan nicknames, or rather fan slurs, for the network still retains its original name. Discovery Channel, its animal documentary counterpart, became a free digital network in Iberia once called Discovery Max and now simply called DMAX; "Foolhar-DMAX" would be a more appropriate name, since it basically shows reality shows about tough guys trying to survive in hostile environments (deserts, Arctic and Antarctica, jungles, high mountains...), doing tough guy things (bungee-jumping, extreme surfing, industrial lumberjacks, builders...), or both (fishing in the Alaskan ice in midwinter is certainly doing a tough guy thing in a hostile environment). Neither of these genres are exactly my cup of tea. Similar non-free documentary channel Odisea has also drifted towards the realm of EXTREME sports with emphasis on the EXTREME.
Once in a blue moon, the History and DMAX channels go back to their roots and show some edutainment that is truly worth watching. But that lasts ephemerally only as long as the Christmas and Easter holidays last. Even in summer, you get Pawn Stars, lumberjacks, icefishing in Alaska... all the way. Ewww. Add those anticyclones christened Charon, Acheron, Phlegethon, and the rest of their clan to the mix, and those summer days in the Valencia Region turn each year clammier and more tiresome. I wonder why tourists from the Protestant North still come down every summer, anyway; it's far much cooler where they live!
For it seems that the executives of documentary channels currently spit in the dignified face of High Culture. They have switched from entertaining the intelligentsia to appealing the flock of sheep of Panurge (throw some overboard, and the rest of the flock will follow into the ocean!) known as the mainstream or hoi polloi. We want Gabriel-era Genesis, Kubrick, Wes Anderson, steampunk films and series, quality TV series (whether watchworthy anime, historical/fantasy series like Reign and GoT, or The Simpsons), some Liszt and Mozart in the corners, Verdian operas and Shakespearean tragedies. And lots of quality documentaries. Lucky I have Netflix at my loaded dad's to watch as much steampunk, Reign, Lemony Snicket's ASoUE, and Miss Fisher as I please... the problem is dad's going frogman in Australia and I'm staying at mum's this summer, constrained to rant and rave about mainstream television and radio music as easily as other people breathe.
Which leads us back to the ruinous state of documentary channels. And the cause of this nauseating decay can be summed up in two simple words:
FILTHY LUCRE.
Those bloody executives, in Iberia, the US, and elsewhere, have changed their target audience to mainstream in order to increase ratings and revenues.
These corrupt capitalists seem to have forgotten the age-old moral King Midas was taught and a Cree medicine woman told European settlers. You cannot eat money, and most importantly you cannot drink money. If you only had the money and no more cares, you would even thirst to death before you starved. And even kill for a glass of water, or more extremely for the blood of the victim.
Much of The History Channel's (now called "History") programming now consists of docu-soaps (Ice Road TruckersAx Men) and semi-documentaries with some (rather lowbrow) historical content (Pawn Stars and its spinoffs) focused on roughnecks or conspiracy theory "documentaries" about aliens, ghosts, and the end of the world, earning the network the derisive nickname "The Hysterical Channel". Regarding actual history programming, they air, at best, specials on a few major holidays, and only when their big ratings grabbers like Pawn Stars are on season hiatus. The only other time any actual historical programming shows up is to piggyback of any major upcoming films based on historical events. It makes many older fans long for the "Hitler Channel" days when all of their programming seemed to be about World War II and the Nazis
Many cable channels are created to fulfill a specific programming niche, and their name is Exactly What It Says on the TinSome channels, however, are not as wedded to their original concept as others. Meddling executives look at the demographics to whom their channel appeals and decide according to these. 
The fans of the original programming will mind, of course, but the channel tends to keep going regardless. This may show up with only a couple of odd programs in the schedule, but far too often, given enough time, a channel will have pretty much abandoned its original concept. Whether or not the former invariably leads to the latter is a subject for debate.
Since the network is strongly impacted by the ratings, and the highest ratings go to generally the same few demographics, this tends to lead to networks becoming more and more like each other, either in similar programming or outright airing the same shows.
Some changes can be chalked up to the changing landscape of TV. As the number of channels goes up, networks re-align themselves to try and hold some of their market. That, or the parent companies who might own seven or more cable channels each shuffle stuff for "synergy" or to reduce redundancy. Competition with new media is prevalent as well — classic reruns give way to YouTube, DVD box sets... (and the real killer, Netflix and similar streaming services), music-video channels give way to YouTube, iPods, and Spotify, and info-dumping all-text channels give way to the data display in a digital cable box, smartphone apps (once again, the real killer) or some new-fangled webernet site.
Other times, it's just shifting to whatever the network feels will attract the biggest audience — and the audience that lets them charge the most for ads (especially the lucrative young adult demographic, needless to say).
If the decay doesn't work out, however, then it can create a Broken Base among the channel's viewers, and can throw the network into a Dork Age. Even if the decay works, the expanded viewership would come for naught for the various programs now squeezed out of the network's scheduling - once again, pointing out that good and bad can come of it, depending on the viewer. (Good if the viewer is mainstream, in these cases).
All right, some of you may be asking if this excursion into Trope country served as an evasive in case someone said: you cannot drink high culture either. But it's quality entertainment. I mean, high culture, quality audiovisuals, quality music is good entertainment and mainstream media is trash except to the immense majority of sheep led to the abattoir that are the mainstream. You see why the humble printed book, the endearing fictional character on paper, the heartwarming verse or quote, have regained so much charm to me? Because there is at least quality and emotional investment there. I want creators who are Doing it for the Art, and also who fulfil the Enlightenment purpose to instruct and delight. The Beauty and the Beast I will see this weekend or next week will be such an art film, that will hopefully knock all the life-force out of me before I leave the cinema reeling.

ALL HAIL THE SPONGE
Previously on 2010s: Caviar to the General...
There was a time when documentary and animation (children's or not) specialty channels were something you had to pay to have to play and a relatively "poor" lower-middle-class 90s kid could only dream about. It was the golden age of channels rife with anime and edutainment animated series, with wildlife and historical documentaries. Basically, this reality beyond the reach of the average kid millennial was the mediatic equivalent of those days to the belief that the streets of London were cobbled with bars of gold.
THEN EVERYTHING CHANGED WHEN THE DIGITAL SWITCHOVER TOOK PLACE.
At least there were children's interest and documentary channels for free (which also ended the Golden Age of the anime and edutainment that dominated the weekend morning and Monday-through-Friday afternoon programming blocks).
Some channels on my own personal list, like the anime-specialty teenage network Animax (at least in Spain, as Animax Iberia) disappeared never to return. Children's interest channels rarely to never broadcast, nowadays, anime (including animesque) or edutainment series.
In the 1990s and early 00s, edutainment, animesque, and anime were pretty much everywhere on the menu. Now what have we got in the age of the Switchover?
A lazy yellow sponge living in a pineapple under the sea (even the word NONSENSE is highlighted in his opening theme). And that's only the tip of the iceberg. Phineas and Ferb, Breadwinners, Adventure Time (A boy and his pet dog -and gameboy- redux), The Regular Show (a raccoon and a blue jay work as park cleaners), Chowder (I can only say like Schnitzel: Rado rado rado...), Flapjack (a cabin boy who lives with his captain guardian inside a whale; too bad it's not animesque!), the notorious Gumball (an interspecies Griffin-esque family of blue cats and pink bunnies, even with a sapient pet goldfish that isn't even second to Klaus!), Clarence, Uncle Grandpa, We Bare Bears, the nauseating list goes on. Back in the 90s and early 00s, gross-out and absurd Western toons were few and far between: for instance, Cow and Chicken --starring interspecies siblings, a big-assed Satan by many other names whom they often strike deals with (the way it sounds), a loutish and mooning baboon, offensive butch lesbian slur stereotypes, and Cow's superheroine form using her udders (if she were more humanoid, that would be her breast milk) as a firearm--. At least there were magical girl warriors and edutainment series to spare. Now the landscape has changed. Even the 2010s Powerpuff Girls and the Go! reboot of Teen Titans (known for instance on this blog by the derisive slur of Toddler Titans) are dense and wacky takes that rely mostly on absurd and/or gross-out humour; ie caricatures or mockeries of their animesque dark and edgy originals.
The combination of absurd and/or gross-out comedy with the often ugly and lazy-looking thin-line aesthetic is mostly what makes me wince. But equally emetic is the fact that the reason for this shift can be summed up with the same two words I used to describe the decay of documentary channels:
FILTHY LUCRE.
To quote TvTropes once more on the 2010s thin-line style: The need for quicker, cheaper animation after the economic downturn may also drive the desire for more cheap, yet still pleasing animation styles.
The same may be said about episodes that centre on decaying food rife with maggots, injuries full of pus, teeth covered in tartar and cavities, fungal infections (on feet, scalp and facial hair, love handles...), scatology, disliked vegetables such as broccoli and onions, and other triggers (including even male and female private parts!) which, in a sensible person (a real Homo sapiens), are meant to produce disgust rather than joy or laughter. For a comprehensive list, just look at these Nausea Fuel pages (SpongeBob first, since it's made enough nausea fuel to merit its own page):
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/NauseaFuel/SpongeBobSquarePants
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/NauseaFuel/WesternAnimation
None of these 2010s characters I have barely got to know even think of saying, or even feel like saying, "pardon my French" earnestly after a toilet joke. Again, even Mozart did it better because he was more clever and knew how to convey these messages better. Heck, the century before Amadeus, even Shakespeare did his gross-out humour better for the same reason!! Yet I see these prominent traits of 2010s animation as pleasing only to the mainstream crowd and to this new generation that has come after us millennials.
At least there is hope in the form of a new wave of 3D Franime such as Miraculous Ladybug et Chat Noir (and its predecessor Le Petit Prince). Season two of Miraculous will begin to air in France this springtime, and I predict the other European dubs will be broadcast almost simultaneously. I want creators who are Doing it for the Art, and also who fulfil the Enlightenment purpose to instruct and delight. And this 2010s wave of Franime fits in as well as its countrymen from the Enlightenment fairytale musical of this springtime, carrying on with the animesque aesthetic. 
PS. SpongeBob has also had its bright moments. I'm referring in particular to the character songs in a musical episode: Squidward gets his song about visual art (though he is more of a classical musician) and Sandy gets hers about life science, which homage high culture in the process... Curmudgeon Squidward sings, for instance, these verses with some Easter eggs only history buffs will notice:







Ask your mama or your dada
to tell you about the uh, schism
between minimalism and cubism

while science nerd and team smurfette Sandy delivers this gem as she plays a Fantastic Voyage Plot-themed videogame:

Look out, germs! The end is near!
Your days are numbered, 'cause Sandy's here!
I'll get these germs, and make 'em pay,
with some good old fashioned kah-rah-tay! Hi-yah!
If I borrow some elements from the periodic table,
I can mix up a brew that is sure to disable
any virus, bug, or sniffle
that steps into my path,
and make them feel my microscopic wrath!
Hi-yah!
I cannot think of any more Easter eggs for the cultured minority, and thus, think of SpongeBob in general as alternating between absurd (the opening lyrics have the word "nonsense" in them), Kafkian, and nauseating.

POP IS DEAD (LONG LIVE... WHAT THE F!?)
About a year and up to half a year ago, I (convinced since I began this blog and university that Katy Perry's Hear me Roar and Coldplay's Viva la Vida still were the new black), began to hear Don't Believe Me Just Watch everywhere; in the DreamWorks Trolls film trailer, in aquagym classes, on the tram, even in my nightmares. Now it's Don't Believe Me Just Watch, Picky Picky Picky, La Gozadera, All About That Bass, My Anaconda Don't... I went to my first all-nite-out convinced that we would make some nifty 90s/early 00s coreos like Follow the Leader, El baile del Gorila, La Bomba, Aserejé... upbeat, with more or less of a tune, and cheerful lyrics that even mentioned how to do the steps of the coreo. Or 70s disco (or Spanish pop, or upbeat britpop) with more or less violin strings -In the Navy, Ra Ra Rasputin, Mi Gran Noche...- The result: I walked out of the club at dawn with a throbbing heart and a weary soul. The nonstop 10s music had me plunging, to drown my sorrows and pay no heed to what my ears were trying to tell my brain, into a spiral of cocktail binge drinking and EPUB smartphone Renloras fanfiction. Yes, it was a drunken, and later hungover, fujoshi who went wee-wee all the way home that day at sunrise, only to slump down on the sofa without having breakfast lest she could not hold it, while daydreaming of Renly and Loras lying together in the same bed, under the covers.
I've always called electronic music "dunka dunka" because that's how it sounds to me: a loudly throbbing beat, little to no tune, and most frequently salacious lyrics revolving around sex-appeal and/or intercourse. That's both disgusting and a far cry from both 1990s/early 2000 Canciones del Verano and 70s/80s disco, not to mention Spanish 80s pop or britpop. Electronic music wants to rape me, to deflower me, to make my head explode like Oberyn Martell's. In 1000 Ways to Die, I heard some electronic musicians are experimenting with beats that can be used as auditory drugs, the way it sounds! Turns out you don't have to inject, or breathe in, or drink a drug to get it inside your system anymore... even hearing the right frequency can have that effect!
So POP IS DEAD, LONG LIVE WHAT THE F!? Hip hop? Reggaeton? Beatboxing in general, which hasn't literally been in since the end of the Stone Age!?
Heck, even Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote better keister-centric songs than All About That Bass and My Anaconda Don't!! He was even inspired by a friend's Bavarian accent to make some Latin chanting sound exactly like "kiss my ass" in Bavarian, the way it sounds! As I have implied before in ALL HAIL THE SPONGE, all it takes is WIT to make good toilet humour. And nearly everyone is misusing or lacking that.
PS. As long as there are CDs and nostalgic radio stations like Cadena Dial or Melodía FM, there is hope for us. The issue of all-pervasive dunka dunka is with physical activities and discos/clubs in nightlife.

IS ALL OF THIS A PLOT TO BREAK MILLENNIALS!?
Millennials. Raised on anime and edutainment shows, britpop and goth fiction, not to mention animated musicals. Trained to think, to feel, and to appreciate earnestly. If not dumbed down, a formidable threat to the powers that be.
So is this a plot made by the powers that be to dumb down and/or break down millennials like us, while also to "instruct" the generation that has succeeded us? Is it the result of the economic crisis we are living in? Or do both factors play a part in the game? Or neither? Is this a more convoluted and sinister conspiracy than meets the eye? So it appears, indeed... why not?

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