The OF Blog: Whatever, nevermind

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Whatever, nevermind

And I forget
Just what it takes
And yet I guess it makes me smile
I found it hard
Its hard to find
Oh well, whatever, nevermind

- Nirvana, "Smells Like Teen Spirit"
This is going to be one of those rare (or so I hope) posts where I step out of the reviewer role and speak directly to the fourth wall. There's something on my mind and I think I'll just write it out here, consequences be damned and all that.

This morning, still stick from an upper respiratory infection that's left me homebound for the past week, I woke up and started to flip through the channels. First thing that caught my attention was a program on the Catholic Eternal Word Television Network about a guy who collected images of religious graffiti and artwork done out there in BFE America. From scrawings underneath bridge overpasses to images of La Virgen de Guadeloupe on storefront walls, so many images of a particular faith, most of them done by the salt of the earth. While certainly there are times and places that such images become a bit hokey, there is a sense of authenticity about these expressions of belief.

After that, I flip through the channels and come across a documentary on DirecTV's "101" (formerly Fuse) on a particular video that helped change pop culture, albeit only for a time. As you might have guessed from the introductory quote, it was over Nirvana's seminal 1991 video "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I don't know too much about the people who read this blog, but as someone who was a high school senior when that video came out, that video just nailed the fuckin' Zeitgeist of the early 1990s. High unemployment, no fuckin' clue about what to do, seemed like that damn hallucinogenic "American Dream" was little more than just another marketing tool that the stylists and the con men would use to cozen us and make us feel that there was something beyond the despair that often follows ennui; we weren't buying that bullshit back then. It truly was like, "oh, yeah, whatever man." We wanted something "real."

And for a time, seeing a HS dropout, dressed as if he had come to a garage rehearsal, it was pretty damn close. No slickly-produced videos, no teased-up hair, nothing but rawness. Our time, our values, I suppose. But yet I, like millions of others my age, experienced the second of our two traumatic events (the first being the Challenger explosion back in January 1986, when many of us were finishing up our space projects in preparations for the "lesson" that Christa McAuliffe never got to give) on April 8, 1994. Yep, the Cobain suicide. Yeah, whatever. Fuck that shit.

And why share this here? Sometimes, I just get that longing to see something of "substance" in the spec fic genre. Something that reflects images of faith or a DIY-type ethos about what's happening. A daring to spit in the face of convention and a rebellious attitude sometimes can lead to things of beauty. Watching the "Smells Like Teen Spirit" video for the first time in years felt like the 17 year-old and the 33 year-old versions of me had somehow merged for those five minutes. There was something in that, something that I've experienced only fitfully in the books I've read. The book I mentioned yesterday in my Countdown, Michael Cisco's The Traitor, has that in its narrative style. That je ne sais quoi that screams "What about me, motherfuckers? Maybe I got something to say here as well, even if it won't be palatable for your conditioned ears." Another book on the Countdown, Catherynne M. Valente's The Orphan's Tale: In the Cities of Coin and Spice, has a sense of this ethos in how it just takes the fairy tale/storytelling models and just throws it in the cultural mixer with all the various ideas, faiths, etc. that all of our cultures have developed over space and time.

But maybe it's just a generational thing. Maybe a search for "authenticity" is just another Quixotic quest. Or maybe it's something else. Yeah, whatever, nevermind.


Anonymous said...

FWIW, the lyric is "I forget just why I taste..." It's a heroin reference, unfortunately.

I was 18 at the time that video hit and it was a jolt, even as it played alongside Marky Mark, Michael Jackson, and Kris Kross, on MTV.

The other "Videos That Rocked The World" are worth a watch. Each with its own something to skew the zeitgeist into a different direction, from Run-DMC and Aerosmith fusing rap and rock all the way to OK Go showing that there is massive power in Youtube.

Cobain was like Lennon to me, though. He was a figurehead, but he was not everything. Better music was put out (IMHO) at that same time by Uncle Tupelo, the Pixies, Bob Mould, and others. Cobain just caught the fire and couldn't handle it. The Unplugged session late in 1993 turned out to be an elegant elegy, even as grunge was being co-opted by the Bushes, Silverchairs, and Candleboxes of the world.

Not sure what this all has to do with SF/F, but I can sense it somewhat. I was thinking of starting a thread regarding the Fuse/101 series on the asoaif board, but have not gotten my thoughts together on them just yet.

Good post, though. I'm glad someone else saw the 101/Fuse show.

Anonymous said...

On further review... maybe I was wrong about that lyric.... I can't find any evidence for my claim of "why I taste" in the first comment...


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