2004-04-16 1260 4Last week, beat pal Jimmy Palmiotti shared the above link with us, and we enjoyed it mightily.

And then we got to thinking about the days when Bollywood musicals and their rapturous innocence were a secret underground thing. You had to live near the Indian cinema or near an Indian neighborhood to even know about them, Benny Lava.

Once upon a time you had to have cool friends who told you about a cool new remix or Sammo Hung or confess that they collected Fischer Price little people. And when you learned about such things you were in a secret little club and you felt cool about it. But it didn’t, like, take over your life.

And then came the Internet. Then came Taiwanese legislature brawls all over the place.

Is nothing sacred? Is nothing secret anymore?

The other day The Beat was walking around the Lower East Side with her gal pals of many years, and we observed how many fun times we’d had in the past. Granted we’re all old and out of it, but nobody seems to be going to the kinds of secret clubs and raves we used to enjoy. I mean now it’s all one big mailing list. Our pal Elim did point out a secret place to get great food that we’d never heard of, but we’d sooner die than reveal it here on the Internet.

We’ve sort of posted about this before, on and off. And our alarm was heightened when we awoke the other day to an interview on the Brian Lehrer show with a lady named Maggie Jackson who wrote a book called Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age and she mentioned how we’re “trapped on the surface” of everything and now lack the comprehension skills to analyze anything. We’ll drink to that because this post has already veered seriously off course aside from an overwhelming feeling of overall dread about everyone knowing who Sammo Hung is and having to dig deeper and deeper and deeper to get to the cool. God help us, we’ll probably die trying, Benny Lava.


  1. It would be interesting to be a young person now and have easy access to all the things that are wonderful in pop culture that were a lot harder to find back when I was a kid. I know that the scarcity of certain items, their inaccessibility, changed the way I looked at them. It wasn’t part of the appeal — because I still like those kinds of things even though they’re a lot easier to find — but the hunt was part of the fun of consuming them.

    Sometimes I think it’s a wash in terms of it being as tricky to consume pop culture now from a sorting standpoint as it was once upon a time from a scarcity standpoint.

    Also, I suspect things are different for a teen in Kokomo, Indiana than they are for someone working in a pop culture industry in New York. I suspect from talking to my nerdy friends’ nerdy kids that American Idol or High School Musical looms as large in the hate-vision of the disaffected American youth as something like Hart to Hart or Lionel Ritchie did for my friends 25 years ago.

  2. Ah, but we are now in a cultural renaissance. Old ideas are rediscovered, and influence new ideas. Alchemists emerge from their parents’ basements, join society, and share their arcane skillsets with the world. Cultures clash, with fear and bigotry and understanding and dreams spiralling out like a change reaction, a huge mushroom cloud of sunshine and firestorms.
    There will always be a New, just as there will always be children who think your teen fashions look funny, and who will then mix and match something interesting.
    Technology always makes the sharing of information easier. It also has a learning curve, sometimes steep. There can still be secrets, but now it is easier to find those who share what we seek.
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  3. One thing I think of as a huge difference is just the overload of entertainment making things so…overwhelming. When we were kids in 7th or 8th grade, we owned a half-dozen albums and listened to them over and over and over again. We knew every word and every note and could write those lyrics verbatim on the desks at school or in our notebooks. We studied the album jacket with the scrutiny afforded to King Tut. Those became part of our DNA. Now, I think most 7th graders have an infinite rotating cast of songs on their iPods, songs now made easily disposable and interchangeable.

    I have gotten the same way with comics, actually. I used to buy a monthly and read and re-read that issue until I knew the heck out of it, and by the time the next month’s issue came out, I was so primed for it. Now, I have gotten into the habit of buying a half-dozen titles each month, reading each once, and then putting them aside. I need to get back to that re-reading and thinking more deeply about them.

  4. The second-to-last sentence above should read “Now, I have gotten into the habit of buying a half-dozen titles each WEEK,” not month.

  5. Remember though: Just because something is easier to access doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is accessing it. Sammo is still pretty much a cult figure over here, best known as “that guy from that cop show with Arsenio,” assuming people even remember that show at all. (Jackie Chan would be a better example, really)

    Even though this stuff is available with the click of a mouse, it still takes time and effort to find out about it.

  6. Even though this stuff is available with the click of a mouse, it still takes time and effort to find out about it.

    Yep. It also takes an active interest and willingness to seek it out.

    All of my friends who are facebook addicts might be hooked into everything facebook… but they’re pretty much oblivious to everything beyond that that isn’t sent to them.

    I think just like in the Olden Days, the popular memes get deep saturation through broadcast (today by email forward, blogs and news aggregators), and then only among an audience who has an interest in that particular meme, but that audience remains generally passive (their effort might extend only to “digg this”). Just by dint of the sheer volume of information on the internet and the limitations of the interests of the audience, a vast frontier of obscure stuff remains.

    So was the stuff that seemed “secret” ever really secret, or did it just seem so only because you weren’t able to know that actually, several thousand other people besides you knew about it, but you just weren’t aware of them? I mean, wasn’t it a revelation when you first began to explore the internet and found there was a Usenet group dedicated to that obscure thing you thought only you knew about? It might seem like there are a lot more comic nerds today than there were pre-internet because we’re all gathering online and meeting one another, but do comic book sales reflect that?

  7. Everyone move to Detroit.
    Having a compute-or is fringe.
    So is gainful employ-ment.
    Plus 14 rain days in a row have created a mossy texture on all of our outside fixtures. Very pre-apocalypse.
    Portland…bah. New York..elitist!
    Come to the land of small discoveries.
    We still allow drivers to use old style cell phones that require….hands