The Real Deal

Of course, our focus on authenticity in our popular culture is flawed. Gangsta rap and punk are supposed to be authentic, but bubble gum pop and teeny boppers are fake. There are music fans that don’t care, listening to whatever strikes their fancy, and I suppose you could charge that they are lacking in artistic values. But you could just as easily charge certain discriminating hipsters and intellectuals as being snobs.

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Tornante, Indeed

There are young people who don’t know a world without color television, remote controls, digital cable, the Internet, high-speed data, personal computers, and so on. Prensky argues that these younger people “think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors,” because they were born into the Digital World and are native speakers of its inherent language…. She said the Old Media had Attention Deficit Disorder, covering flashy stories and then quickly moving on. She spoke about new forms of journalism that shattered the old model of the men and women covering political campaigns “on the bus,” spouting conventional wisdom while caught in the echo chamber.

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Eat to Live? Live To Eat?

If you like to cook yourself, and you watch the programming, you might have the occasional dream to have your own show on. The network, er, feeds into this desire with the reality show The Next Food Network Star, in which people compete to get their own show…. What is the point of having theatrical films, 24-hour cable networks, blogs, online videos, and books devoted to whatever topic you’re fixated on, unless you’re going to absorb some actual information and tuck a little data away in your brain?

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From Sea to Shining Sea

But one source of anxiety for those trying to control immigration is people coming in from another country, speaking another language, wearing strange clothing, listening to weird music, the funny-smelling food…Listen carefully and you’ll hear the often unspoken logic at work: If they absolutely must come here, they need to get with the program, speak the language, go to McDonald’s, wear a T-shirt from the Gap…. And I also read the conservative John Derbyshire in the National Review explain this week how he doesn’t watch television and is “TV-challenged” (A tip for John: when you use Bruce Jay Friedman stories and John Cheever novels from the Sixties to back you up, you’re already showing how out of touch you are).

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With a Song in Our Hearts and Stars in Our Eyes

What is a song? What does it mean, in the grand scheme of things? Can a song change the world? Can it sum up all the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a presidential candidate?

I wouldn’t bet on it.

In olden times (as the kids say), presidential campaigns would commission songs that usually had all the grace and elegance of a Hallmark card written by an accountant. You can be forgiven for not recalling such toe-tappers as “Huzzah for Madison, Huzzah,” “Tippacanoe and Tyler, Too,” “Buckle Down with Nixon,” and “Get on a Raft with Taft” (which, considering Taft’s girth, sounds like a really unsafe suggestion).

More recently, campaigns have adopted popular songs, sometimes to the artist’s consternation. The Reagan campaign briefly used “Born in the U.S.A.” as a campaign song before Springsteen protested; the same thing happen in 2004 with Orleans’ song “Still the One,” when songwriter John Hall raised a fuss.

On the one hand, Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” seems to sum up the ambitions of every politician who has dared use it over the last 23 years. But Al Gore’s use of “You Can Call Me Al” didn’t seem to humanize him as much as he was probably hoping.

For a brief moment during the 1992 campaign, the Clinton campaign was playing Jesus Jones’ “Right Here, Right Now” at campaign stops, before Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop” became the official theme song. Much as I like their music, it’s hard for me to not think of the mid-70’s Fleetwood Mac as the prefect representation of all the bright-eyed dreams of long-haired hippies daring to change the world turned into the coke-fueled wretched excess that came after Woodstock. But maybe that’s just me.

Hillary Clinton was using “Right Here, Right Now” at events, but she held a Web contest to select an official song and the results are in: Celine Dion’s “You and I.” You could point out that Dion represents safe, mainstream, middle-of-the-road pop. Or you might notice that she’s Canadian – not that there’s anything wrong with that country and their fine healthcare system.

Better still, it turns out the song was written for an Air Canada ad campaign, and an advertising consultant wrote the lyrics. This isn’t unprecedented – the Carpenters “We’ve Only Just Begun” started as a jingle for a bank commercial – but it doesn’t help with that “authenticity” problem Clinton has. You know, the one about her being warm, human and just like the rest of us.

But even more disturbing than Clinton fronting herself with Celine Dion is how she chose to reveal the contest winner. It was a cute little Web video starring her and Bill, done as a spoof of the final scene from The Sopranos (cameo appearance from Johnny Sack). Let’s not even touch the fact that Senator Clinton hasn’t hesitated to strengthen her moral and spiritual standing by attacking the media for violence. Instead, let’s recall that I pointed out just last week that The Sopranos is about a family in massive denial. Whether Hillary is suggesting that she’s Tony (violent and selfish) or Carmela (straying husband, materialistic), I’m not sure she comes off well either way.

I don’t know if John Edwards has picked a theme song yet, but I can promise you it’s going to be something populist. After all, at the DNC Winter Conference, he played John Mellencamp’s “This is Our Country” as his entrance music; in April, donors could receive a collection of country and bluegrass recording artists; on his MySpace page, you can currently hear Foo Fighters’ “Times Like These.” Obama’s been blessed or cursed by the Web phenomenon that is Obama Girl singing “I’ve Got a Crush on Obama.” Can a uplifting number from R. Kelly be far behind?

I’m not sure any of Clinton’s competitors will edge her out based on theme song choice. And in time, we’ll probably forget all about the whole Sopranos thing and we’ll tune out the Celine Dion as we hear it for the hundredth time. After all, can one song, any song, sum up all the hopes, dreams and aspirations of a presidential candidate? Probably not. But if a campaign goes up in flames, it provides a satisfying target for armchair political strategists to point and say, “There, that’s when I first knew it was all going wrong.”

Editor’s Note: P.J.’s not one to curse the darkness. Nor are the rest of us here at Spot-on. Here’s a link to an iTunes iMix of our suggestions for Sen. Clinton’s campaign.

A Dark View of Family Life

Time and again, The Sopranos has created fascinating characters and allowed us to indulge our fascination with the Mob – and the Mob’s fascination with its glamorous image – while always reminding us that these are animals, who would as soon kill you as look at you…. Son A.J.was too mentally weak and emotionally fragile to either follow in his father’s criminal path or to build a new life of his own; he finally swore he saw through the whole masquerade of our society, built on lies and blood, but then succumbed to an easy job and a new car. Even the authorities were no better.

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We Are All Sinners There

One night earlier this week, I was sitting in a Las Vegas hotel bar with some business colleagues. A co-worker alerted me that there was a “couch full of prostitutes” behind me. When I turned to look at the group of young women, it struck me: How could you tell?

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Taking the Culture War to DEFCON 3

Back in January, when Stephen Colbert, host of the satiric program The Colbert Report, suggested that D’Souza was supporting radical extremists in the Muslim world, it seemed quite amusing – a comic exaggeration made more amusing by the idea that conservatives – that’s the flag-waving crowd right – would endorse the ideals of our harshest critics and enemies…. He criticizes Hillary Clinton for supporting “a V-chip” to control violent programming, since she “has never called for an S-chip to enable parents to monitor sexually explicit programming;” he seems unaware that the V-chip and other parental control options block content in a variety of ways that include both violent and sexual content.

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