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Location: Charlottesville, Virginia, United States

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Yappin to the Captain 'Cos the Flip-Flops Happened

I can't quite articulate it yet, but news stories like this one on the controversial wearing of flip-flops to the White House strike me as exactly the reason a sustained, critical examination of pop culture is necessary. It irritates me to no end that public space is taken up with worries of old rich white people (those chosen to be interviewed) who are offended that college kids didn't choose "appropriate" footwear to visit the president (when they were being honored). I'm not even sure where I want to start: maybe by explaining that flip-flops (at least the kinds worn in the picture) are now shoes, not just beachwear. No one looks ridiculous, and, while the footwear has been traditionally less classy than other styles, it's no more inherently offensive than, say, open-toed sandals. The CNN news story interviewed employees of an NYC shoe boutique about it, and they were all appalled. Eff them, I say.

What else is going on in the White House these days? I kinda forget, since the media's happily presenting me with its continuing Soma-brand news. Assuming the role of mass entertainment, these kind of uncritical stories lull us away from the world instead of, as both news and art do at their best, bringing us more into it, or at least putting the events of the world into sharper relief.

So why am I talking about this here other than to vent? Any tie to music, the usual subject of my writing? Today's Pop Playground at Stylus initiates a series on "The Problem with Indie." Josh Love's written a solid essay, detailing one of indie's problems without dropping to an indie-sucks mentality. The reader comments, however, radically miss the point; in criticizing Josh for both his big words and his movement past a "hey, this is just music" attitude, the commenters imply that music isn't something to be taken seriously (whether it takes itself that way or not).

The issue at stake, to me, isn't whether or not pop = easy/fun/whatever or whether Big Star was or wasn't pop (is that even a legitimate questions?). My concern is how the music we relate to affects our lives, our culture, etc., and vice versa. The role of fun in an individual experience and in a culture at large means something. Obviously every experience doesn't need to be aggressively analyzed and contextualized and blah blah, but nothing's ever too little to be looked at, if we can find something in it or use it to explain something we need to say.

Flip-flops, pop music, indie fuxxors, all of it. Please don't tell me "It's just rock/shoes/an escape/teenagers/etc -- don't fuss over it." Yes, I will fuss.

**sidenote: yeah, the flip-flop story bothers me extra because I've got a thing against dress codes -- like proper grammar, they serve to [insert generic liberal intellectual phrase here, eg "reinfoce the existing power structures"].


Blogger Alfred said...

do YOU wear flip-flops, Mr Cober-Lake?

6:51 PM  
Blogger Ian said...

Nicely done, Justin. This is a fine piece of writing.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Thanks, Ian.

Alf: I don't, but only because I think they're uncomfortable, not because I have a problem with them as a thing.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Alfred said...

They ARE uncomfortable. I wear the regular thong-less sandals.

5:01 PM  
Blogger Mike Powell said...

Obviously every experience doesn't need to be aggressively analyzed and contextualized and blah blah

The academic in me shouts "of course it does!" The blah blah is just where things get interesting, I think.

The question for me is to what end and (if possible) why do I enjoy this? I could go on and on, but instead I'll just say: I like flip-flops too, but nothing beats either barefoot or chinese gentlemen slippers for summer.

And yeah, the writing, keep getting loose, Justin, it works well for you, seriously.

4:55 PM  
Blogger Alfred said...

In keeping with your recent evolution to a looser prose style, Justin, might I suggest following Mike's advice?

(And I'm a barefoot man at home myself)

7:15 PM  
Blogger Justin said...

Thanks for the writing suggestions and -- at least as much -- thanks for noticing the shift. It's nice to know people are actually reading...

11:30 AM  

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