Pop Culture + Kids + Aging Hipster Mom = ???

I am now in the twilight of my second pregnancy: with less than two weeks to go and the baby already “in position,” I’m finding I have to force myself to focus on the marathon I’m about to run. Labour is similar to just that — running a marathon — it is mentally and physically exhausting, but the reward at the finish line is like nothing else we, as human beings, will ever experience in our lifetime. This goes for moms and dads.

This being our second child, I feel more confident than I did the first time around. And while this confidence still comes with its own hesitations, I guess I am more relaxed knowing how the whole labour thing is generally going to go down. I pulled up my previous birth plan and whittled it down to the “best of,” a half-page of point-form notes detailing my personal list of dos and don’ts for whoever is staffing the maternity ward that day.

As I was working on the plan, I decided to consult the Internets to read about plans for second births. One of the resources I came upon was a blog called TheFeministBreeder.com. The name of the blog was one thing and the advice was fine, but more captivating was the blogger’s bio:

Gina Crosley-Corcoran — writer, doula, childbirth educator, activist, and mother of three littles. Used to play in a famous rock band. Now earning a Master of Public Health in Maternal Child Health.

I mean, “famous rock band?” How could I not Google this? The rabbit hole led me to ’90s femme-grungers Veruca Salt, of whom I was a big follower in my mid-teens. While mommy-blogger Gina was not in the band while I adored them, I was nonetheless fascinated to learn that the band is still kicking around. I watched YouTube videos for Seether and All Hail Me two of their singles from their seminal 1994 American Thighs album.

Thank the heavens that tight, ringy snare sound, which I would vocalise as a tonal schpincks, has gone out of style.

Beyond that, I began thinking about our seven-year-old daughter who can memorize and sing back a song after hearing it once. She comes home from school with all this total musical garbage in her head — stuff her peers are “into” — though I’m sure they don’t know why they like this music other than the fact they must be mainlining the Disney Channel where it’s being marketed aggressively to them. I mean, these kids are in grade two and their parents are buying them head-to-toe Selena Gomez and Hannah Montana apparel. Call me a snob, but yuck.

Do people even listen to music? Following my alternative lifestyle, harsh words for most mainstream music and dangerously “aging hipster” attitude, I mostly think that music is an empty escape for most of the consuming public.

But I digress. I want my daughter to actually listen to music, to hear and appreciate what she is listening to. She is immediately drawn to music with female singers — she likes Feist and Robyn but we rarely listen to music at home so nothing is forced upon her — and for a moment I thought maybe she would like Veruca Salt.

Parenting is an odd, amorphous journey you take with your children. We have to avoid cramming our own nostalgia down their throats and let them discover who they are and the culture that will inevitably inform their identity. So as I shepherd a seven-year-old carefully around the edges of the music industry, I will also welcome a new person, who will grow up hearing me talk crap about music marketing and false-representation in the arts.

Wish me luck.

This post also appears on the HuffingtonPost.ca

Will Vice be The Harbinger of Neo-Grunge?

Thanks to Twitter, Facebook and other places that algorithmically recommend things one should be interested in, I read an article on the Vice media empire. The headline: “Can Vice Get 20-Somethings to Watch the News?” The most intriguing quote was from Vice co-founder Shane Smith on some of the inner workings of the Vice machine:

“Most of the people who work here are 14 years old. They sit two inches from each other. We only employ millionaires’ children.” And later calls Vice “a sweatshop for trustafarians.” Simultaneously a hilarious yet poignant comment on what defines much of today’s culture.

I thought not much of it, finished the article, then went into the backyard to do some seasonal gardening. Tomato plants: gone. Mealy dogwood: uprooted. Hula hoop and toy shovel: stored in the garage. Yet as I worked the article resonated with me. I thought, if engaging the youth in current events is the goal of Vice today, then back in the mag’s early years was it more to get the bored 20-somethings of the late 90s to care?

When sitting back, pondering the genesis of hipsterdom, I often trace it back to Vice, and the importance they laid on the concept of “cool.” I mean, Vice didn’t invent it, they just presented a pre-existing sub-culture in a consumable format. And yeah: back then, I understood what Vice was because I was living it. Watching one of the guys that started the mag drink his own piss on the patio at Foufounes, or letting someone smack my bare ass at a bar in exchange for more beer — these things are what young people do. In your 20’s, getting messed up and having fun is serious business. It wasn’t #YOLO it was punk rock. You don’t fuck around with that. You write about it.

But it’s not 1997. Fifteen years have passed, and my lifetime subscription to the magazine has long been revoked. After having a kid, I was admittedly nervous about having a full-colour, glossy magazine showing stylized images of syringes, used condoms and blood-soaked models lying around the house. In 2008 I posted on my blog a comparison of Vice to the Economist, calling one “stupid” and the other “smart.” At the time, I found it ironic that I held subscriptions to two diametrically opposite magazines. Soon after this post, Vice stopped coming. An independently wealthy intern must have caught it.

Little did I realize that the two magazines were converging, and now I am fascinated by the concept of non-ironic, hipster investigative reporting. And I have to commend the concept of fearless fieldwork and its promotion of xenophilia to a young population that is otherwise totally living in a self-obsessed, social-media infused bubble (see #RKOI as an extreme example).

Today’s culture is at a tipping point, much as it was back in the 90s: we’re waiting for the next Grunge to topple the current mainstream “regime.” The romanticized, nicely packaged version of reality in which we float about must be torn down, and we need to remember that our heroes, and the people and places that influence our very existence, are never perfect.

This post also appeared with a lamer title on HuffingtonPost.ca

Musical Mnemonics 4: The Beautiful South

Did I actually like The Beautiful South as a teenager? I think I did, since I was attracted to them enough to swipe my sister’s CD copy of 0898 Beautiful South. I think I really wanted to like them, for whatever reason, but never got into them hardcore. I’d pop on the disc, then think: “I’d rather be listening to World Party,” which is equally harsh for everyone involved.

Up for review today is: “Song for Whoever (Pencil Case Song)”

If there ever was a reason for the meme WTF to be invented, it may be to describe this video. The bottom line, IMHO, is how perfectly early-90’s this is: strangely abstract, totally about nothing. Musically and visually. I mean, culturally we thought we were doing fine, but in reality it was a wash of moral-less culture that had run its course, exhausted all aspects of its identity. Baby blue blazers with pushed up sleeves. ‘Nuff said.

Besides, that jiggling Jell-O mold makes me think of Dr. Demento. At least we had comedy back then.

Then grunge broke. THANK THE LORD FOR GRUNGE. So, I propose that 2011 be the age of neo-Grunge, of something that will rescue us morally from the music that fails to speak to us, lyrically or otherwise.