You know what? I gotta hand it to this generation's pop acts. It's bloody tough being in pop these days. Don't believe me?
Consider the kind of stories doing the rounds these days.
Protest against Beyonce's Super Bowl performance planned for NYC.
Anonymous protesters accuse Beyonce of race baiting. Of course they're anonymous and don't want to reveal their identities to people. Rather than consider the symbolism of Beyonce's performance as a way of moving forward, the (non) event is all about perpetuating the race baiting that they are accusing the pop singer of. Whatever.
Rihanna tops Billboard chart amidst allegations that Anti is a flop, sold 1000 copies.
Is it just me, or is the media reception to Anti another example of how anyone connected with Tidal is going to be forever punished in the media? Granted, Tidal doesn't seem to be doing itself any favours along the way. At least the Guardian article bothers to look at the issue from a couple of different angles as it signposts how the music industry is changing.
Madonna's latest wardrobe malfunction should swear her off marriage forever.
Perhaps marriage just isn't M's thing. It's like anything connected to marriage gives M trouble. Of course the big M news in the media of late has been the whole Rocco saga. If you cast your minds back a couple of weeks, it was Madonna that was being accused of being a bad parent. Now it's Guy Ritchie's turn.
Nicki Minaj and the generation gap.
Wasn't the fuss about Only over and done with about a year ago? All the Fascist iconography that came with the lyric video got everybody in a tizz. But you know, parents are always the last to know, and when they do catch up, it's always a ripe for a vine kind of moment.
Think those are tough? Try being Kanye West.
And having a platform that you constantly misuse or opinions that do nothing but divide and detract from your musical talent. His onstage and on Twitter rants are the kind of thing that not even NATO would be capable of quelling.
In my mind, the most disturbing music news doing the rounds relates to Will Young battling porn, alcohol addiction.
Will Young's admissions are heartbreaking.
We like to gloss over the effect that being marginalized creates. That being categorized or labelled in a certain way is actually a healthy thing, when the vast majority of messages and attitudes run completely contrary. I really feel for Will Young, and I really applaud the fact that he stood in front of a young audience and bared his soul as he did.
It's not easy being different and being reminded that you're different, that you're somehow not an equal because the particulars of your life don't reflect the perceived majority, the perceived norm.
Sometimes I wonder if these days the Americans are the new Romans.
In their day, the Romans had a political hand in almost every geographical area they touched, and because of this they were in equal parts feared, respected and despised. Their presence was always felt.
In recent weeks, a lot of the international media's coverage has focused on America's culpability in the international arena. Time magazine recently published an article in which it posited that the US must bear some responsibility for the famine that is crippling Somalia, borne of its policies in the war against terrorism. Its foreign policy in the wake of prolonged campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, its uneasy relations with China and the still felt repercussions of 9/11, as we near its tenth anniversary, have absolutely hurt its international standing.
Tariq Ali's column for the Guardian makes a lot of valid leftist points, that, along with the Time article, along with the usual China Daily coverage, just goes to show how now we are far quicker to our criticisms than we have been for a long time.
Generally, culpability is something that has been widely protected with Freedom of Information acts that have sought to insert decades between documentations being made, and documentations being made available. Under the prism of Wikileaks, the empires are falling, and the information is increasingly cynical, sharpened, published.
I abhorr politics. I find it nauseating, repetitive and stagnant; more an arena in which politicians are serving themselves and their re-election hopes than the people that voted for them. That said, I find international politics fascinating, because unlike domestic politics, international politics is not very forgiving; new world orders rise and fall in the blink of an eye, and it can be like watching the zeitgeist, basically trying to plot where the energy, where the mood, where the new interests and power are going to be.
The price of a high profile is increased scrutiny. Check out the Guardian's 9/11 coverage to see what I mean.
I spent the beginning of this week in a shitty mood.
There was a story circulating around Rome that there would be an earthquake on the 11th of May. So naturally, it pissed me off. Not because I was worried about the shoddy buildings all falling to ruins, and collapsing on top of me (I don't need an earthquake to make me feel that in Rome), but because I was embroiled in my own righteousness about how irresponsible it was for the media to be reporting these ideas, knowing that one can't predict a natural catastrophe.
There was a lot of media hype about the city being deserted etc etc, but I will tell you, it was pretty much business as usual...maybe an iota less of the usual traffic.
So, when May 11 passed with no earthquake in Rome, I got talking to some friends and I asked who it was that announced that there was going to be an earthquake in the first place. I wanted to vent and take my frustration out on whichever scientist or ministry office had made such a foolish statement. And then, it was revealed to me that in fact, it was a century old prediction, made by an old fogue (Raffaele Bendandi) who apparently had rightly predicted past catastrophes that eventually befell the country. So, I laughed it off, feeling like a fool, because I wasn't across all of the situation, and then I also felt quietly chuffed because I realised that not having a TV in this country is better than having one, as I wouldn't fall into the trap of believing what was said to me etc etc.
The following day, the consensus was that the prediction had in fact rung true. There had been an earthquake in Spain on May 11. It seemed that some of the people who had taken the prediction into their hearts had found some consolation that the fogue's prediction had indeed come true...a couple of hundred kilometres away, and, well, not exactly in Italy at all, but whoops, there you go.
It has been a week of ceremonial events.
In three of the world's archetypal capitals, symbolic events played out, each against a backdrop of much fanfare, enthusiasm and fanaticism. And each event has led to a similar net result.
The weekend was ushered in in London, with the first high profile British Royal Wedding in recent memory. The brouhaha that surrounded the Royal Weddings of the 1980s, most markedly those doomed unions made between Prince Charles and Diana Spencer and later, Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, made a return on Friday, as much of the UK and the former British Empire stopped to take in the grandeur, pomp and ceremony of the matrimony. In fact, someone took the trouble to publish the figures which may or may not be of interest to you.
No expense seemed to be spared, and the media coverage; unequally part fawning and part cynical, depending on the sources, was an electronic reheat and revamp of the insatiable press coverage that the Royals once commanded when those star recruits, Diana and Sarah added some spark to an otherwise flailing cast.
The superficial comparisons between Kate and Lady Di ('is Kate more beautiful?'), the unending scrutiny of the couple's last official days of singledom ('the hotel where Kate will stay') and the Olympic style ratings of the fashions reflected the vaccuous kind of escapism that we globally, never seem to tire of. Where Diana and Sarah once commanded the public's attention, imagination and contempt, their children have now been thrust into the spotlight; but its a muted light, that seeks out recognition in the way that digital devices recognise faces but say nothing of the subjects they label.
William and Henry, continue the largely fawning tradition that seasawed in their mother's glory days of the 1980s, that same efusive adoration that eluded her during those murky days when she seemed capable of singlehandedly bringing down the family, and then tellingly seemed to settle once again on the world's media in the aftermath of her tragic death, and the profound world reaction to her passing.
The demonization that mostly continues to dog Sarah, looks to be in the process of the baton change; the mantle ready to be handed to her daughters, who were on the receiving end of some of the most savage editorial coverage.
So, no sainthood for the girls, but no matter...the steps are already being undertaken here in Rome, where Pope John Paul II was beatified on the Sunday.
Again, this was a ceremonial event, one in which the Vatican flexes its still considerable prowess over what should be by definition an EU state. This event, being outside the constraints of normal politics was one where wanted politicos could come and go freely of their own accord, because of the involvement of the Vatican, which seems to remain outside of the laws of physics and relevance, and yet continues its strong hold on the political and social make up of the country.
The city was abuzz for weeks with talk that three million people would descend upon the capital. In the end, reports numbered the visitors to half that number, but the media coverage was just as feverish, and often, pointless. But that is what ceremony is all about. That, and 4.6 million euro that will be paid by the government in furnishing the event, in a country where essential services and education are being slashed to the point where they are almost non existent. The problem, which the current Pope seized upon immediately after the death of his Polish predecessor, is that PJPII was immensely popular. Even today at street stalls all around the centre of Rome, you can be assured of finding a calendar full of full color photos of PJP, whilst his successor...well, lets just say people don't seem to have warmed to him yet.
The jury is still out as to how history will see PJP. He had a likeable face, popular appeal, but, his design and endorsement of papal policies did much in the 1980s and 1990s to keep marginalised social groups (and whole continents) marginalised. In fact, that soft, smiling exterior hid what was a razor sharp intellect, and ability in diplomacy and politics which couldn't be underestimated.
The intricacies of current day international diplomacy, politics, and as always, intelligence also came to a front with the assassination of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan. Although the events unfolded in Washington and Abbottabad, this was an event which was resoundingly connected with New York and New Yorkers. Whilst much of the rest of the western world is cautiously heaving a sigh of relief, Americans were outwardly rejoicing. Already the cover star of no less than five issues of Time Magazine, his sixth was a not so subtle affair. Cynics will say that the news was timed to give Obama a boost at the polls, and reports have suggested that the killing of bin Laden will make for an easier exit strategy in Afghanistan (even if it opens up a new and volatile chapter of relations with Pakistan). Outside of the US, and particularly here in Europe, the sanctioning of his death has been tempered by the popularly held idea that 'America got its man', 'America did it their way', and that, at the end of the day, this was another example of law enforcement in the traditional American style, harking back to the wild days of west. The Time magazine cover probably strengthens the argument that retribution once again is intrinsic to the law and ideals of that help define the American perspectives, whether its true or not. It's a commonly held belief outside the US, but as someone who comes from a land originally colonised/invaded by the British and populated by convicts, I don't feel I have the history to back me up on it.
When wrong things are done for the right reason, not everyone can remain happy and content. And if the world's most wanted terrorist, whose actions have changed the way of our modern lives, has been killed, and this brings solace to those who suffered at his hand, then so be it.
On a larger scale, what's more important to note, is that although the players are different, and occasionally the pockets of the world where events unfold change, the old guard and the same ideas and interpretations, have once again prevailed, reinforcing not only the paradigm that we live within, but also, reminding each and every one of us as to where we slot into the world heirarchy.
Dave Di Vito is a writer, teacher and former curator.He's also the author of the Vinyl Tiger series and Replace The Sky.
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