I don’t like something on the order of 99.9% of the things I know about Justin Bieber. I don’t like his music, his taste in clothing, his haircut, his acting … pretty much nothing. In fact, I can’t think of something I actively like about Justin Bieber.
I just don’t think he’s some sort of monster. It’s very difficult for a normal human being to spend an hour in the Anne Frank House and come away thinking only of yourself. Maybe that’s what he managed to do, but I remain unconvinced that his guestbook entry demonstrates it. My sense is that people who believe that Bieber is nothing but a spoiled, self-centered, talentless jerk also believe that there are no circumstances in which he can act like a normal human being.
And I just can’t agree.
A self-centered monster would have held a concert outside the Anne Frank House. Someone who just didn’t care at all about other people or history or the world around him would have gone out to a club or just stayed in his fancy hotel room, when presented with the option of going to the Anne Frank House. Insead, Bieber went there and stayed for an hour.
I get it: Lots of people with very good taste don’t care for Justin Bieber. I’m just like you; I think I’m a good and serious person, as well as someone who cares about music. But I don’t need Bieber to be a monster. I can just not like his music and be done with it.
So … this happened over the weekend. And the backlash, not surprisingly, was intense.
Now I’m no fan of Justin Bieber, and I suspect that all the people who were horrified by what he wrote also are not, but I don’t see the need to be so outraged.
Anne Frank was a normal girl and she might very well have liked Justin Bieber if she was living now rather than in the 1930s. Lots of normal girls do. And Justin Bieber is a normal celebrity; he wants lots of people to like him. I’m not a celebrity in the least and I want lots of people to like me. I’d go so far as to say that I hope Anne Frank would have wanted to take some of my classes. We could even spin this around and say that Bieber was so impressed by what he learned about Anne Frank that he hoped she would like his music because he certainly liked what he now knew about her.
To go one step farther, I think it’s a great good that Bieber went to the Anne Frank House. He didn’t need to spend time there while he was on his tour and, I’d venture to guess, lots of celebrities don’t visit. If you’re young, rich, famous, and touring the world, there’s really nothing driving you to spend part of your day at the Anne Frank House. Having been there myself, I think it’s a place that as many people as possible should visit; it’s far more accessible than a concentration camp and I think it likely does a good deal more to bring home the extremity of the Holocaust by focusing on an individual than would, say, spending an afternoon at Buchenwald. And now a whole lot more people — all those “beliebers” out there — are learning about Anne Frank as well.
So, I’ll write something I never, ever thought I’d write:
This isn’t actually a good example of “poetic irony,” as there’s no poetry involved here. But I’m guessing the comment is really just some sort of misguided dig at the president and that my young friend meant plain old irony, which he then confused with “poetic justice.”
I say it’s a misguided dig because there’s one thing I know for sure — President Obama doesn’t lip sync:
My young friend wrote a response to this post, in which he agreed that President Obama doesn’t lip sync: “aw, but he sure does love his teleprompter.”
To which I responded:
Honestly, what is with the idiotic fascinating with using a teleprompter? Is this supposed to prove or highlight something, apart from a desire to say the words that are written in the speech and not make an error? When I lecture, I use notes and I can’t imagine anyone thinking this is some sort of character defect, but I’m sure you have a good reason for the unending references amongst conservatives to Obama’s use of the teleprompter. It proves something, right? Nah, just more foolish nonsense.
If one truly believes what one is saying, there is no need to be told what to say.
In other words, more foolish nonsense.
I can’t imagine living in a world where all speeches were off-the-cuff and filled with nothing other than one’s beliefs, where nothing was written down, where everything was either memorized or completely ad lib. I’m sure that would make for much better and more thoughtful politics. Or, the exact opposite.
On a related note, but with regard to Beyoncé, why does anyone care if she did or did not lip sync her performance at the presidential inauguration? Do we really not have any problems that need to be addressed today?
As millions and millions of children open presents under festively decorated trees in their living rooms this morning, I think we can finally declare this year’s War on Christmas at an end.
Of course, in an enormous mansion somewhere in this great country, Bill O’Reilly is sitting on a pile of money and already preparing for next year’s War on Christmas. It’ll begin just after Halloween, when the first lights go up on people’s houses and trees. And it’ll end, as every year, when the Christmas holiday is celebrated without a hitch.
Every year, Fox News goes wild with the notion that Christians somehow can’t celebrate their holiday as they choose and, every year, a sizeable group of Christians crowd into shopping malls to sit on Santa’s lap while listening to Christmas carols that are playing on a month-long loop; they buy Christmas presents to unwrap under their Christmas trees on a federal holiday that just so happens to coincide with Christmas … all the while lamenting that someone has wished them “Happy Holidays.”
Before he was elevated to international superstardom this year thanks to the magic of his invisible horse dance, Psy was a rapper and music producer in his native South Korea with a bad-boy reputation. In the late ’90s he dropped out of Boston University and the Berklee School of Music without earning degrees, was fined for his first album in 2001 for using “inappropriate lyrics,” and in 2007 he came under investigation for shirking mandatory military duty in South Korea. Now there’s another indiscretion to add to the “Gangnam Style” star’s rap sheet: Psy is coming under fire for a pair of shocking anti-American performances he gave a decade ago.
But then Adam Elkus tweeted a link to this clip to me and I found that I lack the self-control to actually keep quiet about Žižek for more than a couple of weeks.
In this clip from a recent lecture, Žižek waxes philosophical about the “Gangnam Style” song and dance crazy that has swept the globe over the past couple of months. His claim is that the song — by Korean rapper Psy — is extremely vulgar and chauvinistic, and also that the craze has become “quasi-sacred” in the way of early Beatles concerts.
But, alas, Žižek has apparently failed to do even a cursory Google search to learn anything about the song he’s decided to viciously dissect in his lecture; instead, he curses out Koreans for their stupidity in enjoying the song, which is actually a pretty interesting social commentary of the sort that Žižek might actually find compelling if he knew what he was listening to:
Gangnam is a tony Seoul neighborhood, and Park’s “Gangnam Style” video lampoons its self-importance and ostentatious wealth, with Psy playing a clownish caricature of a Gangnam man. That alone makes it practically operatic compared to most K-Pop. But I spoke with two regular observers of Korean culture to find out what I was missing, and it turns out that the video is rich with subtle references that, along with the song itself, suggest a subtext with a surprisingly subversive message about class and wealth in contemporary South Korean society. That message would be awfully mild by American standards — this is no “Born in the U.S.A.” — but South Korea is a very different place, and it’s a big deal that even this gentle social satire is breaking records on Korean pop charts long dominated by cotton candy.
What if there isn’t any intentional message behing “Gangnam Style”? In other words, what happens if Psy just wanted to make a song about partying and record a video in which he looks ridiculous? In order for Žižek’s point about the vacuousness and vulgarity of this pop music to make sense, he would need to find a way to demonstrate that the only reason millions of people care about the song is because of the message that he is here denouncing … and not because they have found compelling some other possible interpretation (such as the one articulated above).
My original point, I think, will hold in either case. Žižek ought to be someone who embraces the notion of multiple interpretations of a momentary international sensation like “Gangnam Style” but instead he only to want to take it at face value in order to denounce anyone who enjoys it (for whatever reason).
While we were all so worried about too much money in politics, these celebrities have been doing their part by keeping their money out of politics:
Lena Dunham, Madonna, Clint Eastwood, Bruce Springsteen, Natalie Portman, Stacey Dash, Robert DeNiro, Katy Perry and Jon Voight.
In this election year, they have spoken out for their candidates; performed for them, sung of their virtues and chastised their enemies. Some have caused their candidates embarrassment and overshadowed their campaigns of choice.
But this group has something else in common.
Collectively, they have contributed a grand total of zero dollars towards the 2012 Presidential election.
I really wasn’t much of a Passion Pit fan before I heard the Sound Opinions podcast interview/live session with Michael Angelakos about two weeks ago.
But this completely stripped-down version of “Sleepyhead” is really pretty incredible. Here’s an artist taking a song about which many people already have an opinion and completely changing it by reducing it to its most basic elements. It’s the same song and a completely different song.
I liked the beat of “Sleepyhead” the first time I heard it; it was catchy. But this version is hauntingly beautiful.