Creative Culture Journal

The best site on the web for what is real in the world of arts & entertainment

Volume 1 - 2021

Those Disney Clones

"Disney Plus is an on-demand, ad-free streaming service created by The Walt Disney Company. With Disney Plus, subscribers can watch thousands of Disney movies and series on their devices (smart TVs, phones, laptops, tablets, and gaming consoles)."

 That is a Business Insider description of Disney's newest tool for inculcating a new generation of pop culture consumers with that company's weird ethos. In the video below, Oliva Rodrigo, star of the TV series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series finds hollow comfort in the acquisition of her driver's license.  

 

What makes this otherwise pedestrian piece of work notable is that it is a vehicle for a kind of interactive fan musical fiction that is played out on sites like TikTok and YouTube. There, fans of this sorrowful teen drama assume the viewpoints of characters referenced in the original track, and they do response versions of this song from the points of view of these secondary characters.

It is kind of brilliant, isn't it? The evil producers at Disney seem to have found a mechanism for engaging their target market - the impressionable young - in a way that turns them into an echo chamber of the drama that is being played out in this run-of-the-mill teen angst.   

Jazz Guitarist 

Graham Dechter

While streaming holiday music while working the other day I happened to hear Michael Buble performing the old nugget "Holly, Jolly Christmas". And there was an instrumental break during which the guitarist caught my attention, to the extent that I Googled the performance to see who it was.

Graham Dechter is a Santa Monica native and a guitarist who does session work with top tier entertainers and fronts his own quartet.

 

   His bio says that he started taking violin lessons at the age of five, and he began composing orchestral pieces. His guitar studies began at the prestigious Idyllwild Arts Academy, a  residential arts high school and led him to the Jazz Studies program at the Eastman School of Music. 

In 2005, Dechter was invited to join the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra (CHJO).  This is show business big time, in the pit with the pros, and Dechter was 19 at the time. He toured the world with the Clayton brothers and Jeff Hamilton, building an extraordinary resume, including work with Michael Buble, Eliane Elias, Benny Golson, James Moody, John Pizzarelli, Larry Goldings, Jon Hendricks, Nancy Wilson, Kurt Elling, Billy Taylor, Benny Green, Bill Charlap, Paquito D'Rivera, Curtis Fuller, Wycliffe Gordon, Terell Stafford, Clark Terry, Snooky Young and Wynton Marsalis.    

If live entertainment ever becomes practical again, and you are in the L.A. area, and you appreciate great guitar work, seek out the Graham Dechter Quartet. Or look for them on YouTube. 

 

  

Corey Landis Gets Gothic

 Have you seen the new Corey Landis video?

Many know Landis from his "Five Hour Energy" commercials, or from the many roles he has played in low-budget thriller flicks on the ScyFy Channel, in independent films, and internet projects . Or some may even recall his brief but effective turn on "That 70s Show" as the young Red Forman.

Those are all significant resume credits in the incredibly competitive L.A. entertainment world,   but for my money the Corey Landis that deserves the greatest notice is the one who is the singer/songwriter. He has done spectacular work on four LPs, writing and performing beautiful ballads and witty ditties    , but in his latest outing - with this video "Animal", done as a member of Black Angel - Landis takes a sharp right into a role in which he has cast himself against character in terms of his established musical persona.      

Respected as a piano man in the Billy Joel tradition, he dives into early MTV mode with "Animal", which has the edge of Billy Idol coupled with the theatricality of The Cure. Is he revealing a side to himself that has always been there? (He has demonstrated a fondness for David Bowie.) Or is this simply a creative force expressing himself in a way different than he has before, just stretching a bit, like good actors do?  

    Check out Corey's impressive resume and  find his albums on Amazon and elsewhere.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer Reissue

 That photo above comes from Phillip Rauls' book "The Rock Trenches". Phillip, as an A&R man with Atlantic Records, played a pivotal role in breaking many of the top acts from Rock's golden era. He knows everybody who was ever anybody in that world, and he lived the rock'n roll life, touring the globe to promote acts like ELP, who are the subject of a classic rock LP & CD masterwork titled "Greg Lake Anthology ~ A Musical Journey." The new release features the many highlights of this artist's great career including a deluxe LP compilation and 21-song collection of his choice music. Plus, a 27-page color booklet that includes original pictures from throughout his lengthy career.  

If you are a music fan, or perhaps a rock historian, you should check out Phillip's book, filled with rich writing and historic photographs. Get it here from Amazon.

 

Getting Your Own Message Across

Amit Gurbaxani has an interesting piece on the tunecore website - pointers on communicating effectively to the press.

Whether you are an artists or an impresario, a businessman or a bum, you need to plan your pitch carefully. Creating a checklist of things that it will be important for you to say can be the hardest part of the job, though often it is the most overlooked.   

Read More 

Fashion and Shoes

A school-girl named Payton apparently found our website useful recently while researching for a school assignment. Our fashion page somehow led her to a website called Journeys.com, where they have a Historical Timeline of Fashion and Shoes. See the following link:

Historical Timeline of Fashion and Shoes.

Thank you, Payton, for finding our site inspiring, and to Payton's mother for seeing to her daughter's school credits.     

10 Electric Guitar Brands Compared and Explained

Beginner Guitar HQ is a website focused on educating those getting started on learning to play the instrument. They offer instruction, overviews of guitar accessories, and profiles of the "best" guitarists and guitars. 

The content of the site is varied, in part pitched to novices, and overview in nature, but also including rig reviews of top players, so there is depth. Players at any level might enjoy reading through their article "The 10 Best Electric Guitar Brands, Compared and Explained". One can take exception with some of their insights, and their 10 best list is all about the most commercial properties, but who doesn't love to read about guitars?  

Trash Theory

The CCJ offers a sincere shout out to the Trash Theory YouTube channel. The music essay channel does an entertaining and knowledgeable job of dissecting elements of pop culture. They explore such consternations as "How Goth Became Goth" and "The Smirking Revenge of the Sisters of Mercy & THIS CORROSION". You would likely need to be a music nerd to care, but the U.K. project is nicely done and has an authoritative voice. The site boasts 202,000 subscribers, and a new visitor can find her or his self watching one episode after the next.

Happenin' Harry in Difficult Times

Remember Happenin' Harry? Now there is the type of question that would strike terror in the heart of any denizen of West Hollywood, of which Harry is a principal example.  
Harry has been a primary impresario on the Sunset Strip for many years, working regular rotations at the area's more colorful venues, but particularly at the Cat Club. That venue was home to Harry for over a decade before the owner, Slim Jim Phantom of the Stray Cats, sold it and the place became Rock & Reilly's, "an Irish bar with personality". That didn't include Harry and the Haptones, a collective of star metal rockers. Things were changing on the Strip and it apparently boded ill for Harry's future. The pandemic has killed live entertainment, and Harry has been tweeting from his car, reporting on life on the streets of L.A. He and his two black cats, his cancer, and his liver disease. He has a Facebook page, along with other social media, and has been getting some support as he awaits a surgery. The CCJ interviewed Harry years ago, when he was surrounded by well-known friends. Jennifer Egan had a point about time being a goon. Sometimes "happenin'" just means staying alive.


 

Influencers

I’m sure the intelligentsia has been aware of and working this forever, but in recent decades there seems to me to be a growing awareness in the proletariat that the way we perceive and approach life is a reality manufactured for us. 

This annoys the holy hell out of many of my fellow Baby Boomers, certain that ours was a ground-breaking, woke generation, beyond control, but it is increasingly apparent to me that we were manipulated by what my generation knew as “opinion leaders”. That’s what they were called back when I was in journalism school. Today we call them “influencers”. 

Back in the 1960s, it was not easy to know exactly how our opinion leaders – campus radicals, women’s liberation leaders, civil rights leaders – were elevated to their positions of influence. How, exactly, individuals got that pulpit power was difficult to trace, though books published over the years have suggested the involvements of intelligence operations (CIA, MI-5 and MI-6, among other). To those who would debunk such ideas as fantasy, I give you TalentX, Influences, and FlipMgmt, the talent management agencies referenced in this Bloomberg article:

https://www.bloomberg.com/.../inside-l-a-s-tiktok-party...

These companies rent mansions in the Los Angeles area to provide shooting sets for TikTok and YouTube “influencers” – 20-somethings who pay their rent by churning out videos messaging a certain lifestyle and youth culture. TikTok, of course, has become front-and-center in the developing online video streaming landscape because it is a Chinese operation that the Trump administration has attempted unsuccessfully to disrupt. It has millions of hooked fans, who watch young girls dance provocatively, enjoy video magic (clever illusions), and whatever else you can do in 60 seconds.

TikTok is short attention span theater. Chinese government intelligence operations aside – as if one could do that – most adults viewing TikTok for long at all would conclude that there are some really clever people in this world, but they wouldn’t stand a chance in a fair fight with the idiots, who outnumber them greatly. The influencers living in 02L Mansion, 1600 Vine Street, FaZe Clan, Clubhouse, and Sway House in the L.A. area, and Wave House in England, are demonstrating and encouraging socially destructive behaviors. In this time of pandemic, they are holding parties sans masks and social distancing, and doing dumb stuff like setting off pyrotechnical displays in areas of high fire danger. These companies who hire these young people to crank out these videos, and to glamorize a hedonistic lifestyle and a nihilistic approach to life, are clearly engaging in conspiracy, some criminal in nature. 

This hedonism was catnip to people in my generation – our media analogs, like “Where the Action Is”, were tame by comparison – just as it is to young people now, though in modern times we have normalized behaviors unthinkable in earlier times, which has not happened by accident. The media has accepted and glamorized a pimp-ho culture that now routinely features poll dancing stripper routines even in mainstream media (see the recent SNL performance by Megan Thee Stallion). 

I see this all as a long-winding plan to destroy America by degrading its culture, though it seems to extend to the U.K., as well, and probably beyond. Some see a globalist agenda at work, though in the case of TikTok the brain trust clearly resides in China. 

With all this distasteful, sometimes illegal stuff going on, steps could be taken to shut that all down. But then such a clamp down throws us on the horns of our dilemma, doesn’t it? There is no pulling back on free speech, and apparently no appetite for governing the internet and air waves. 

It feels to me that we are up against a boxer, like Vasyl Lomachenko. I'm not sure who "he" is, but like Lomachenko he sees all of our vulnerabilities and is lightning quick to respond. And while we are getting pummeled, we are really distracted by that one girl in that TikTok video who you can’t stop watching, and those robots doing the impossible.

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Spotified: Rogan

Maybe it has something to do with the hellish Quonset hut that he now does his podcast from, but I don’t know that Joe Rogan has done a show worth listening to since he moved to Texas. I have been something like a regular viewer of Rogan’s YouTube channel, which will soon be going away now that he’s got an exclusive deal with Spotify. I wouldn’t sign up to follow him. Some of the Spotify people seem to hate him. 

What’s their reason? Same as anyone’s. 

Rogan is a comedian, though I think only other comedians know that. They make up a regular part of his guest rotation, but none of them are people I am familiar with. I don’t see comedians anymore, the way I did back in the ‘80s, when there seemed to be a renaissance of new funny people. When I do see a comedian now, I don’t find them funny. I see people working niche audiences with routines that sound like inside jokes or rely heavily on audience red meat – sure fire, easy laughs. 

Rogan’s comics all seem to be B-list, which seems right because Rogan is a blue comic selling cheap cuts, his appeal being a run-of-the-mill Bro humor. This is something I have never understood about Rogan. He seems, on some levels, like a sensitive, thoughtful, reasonably intelligent and sophisticated guy, but he champions things I find indefensible. 

Rogan is a libertarian and rife with contradictions. For instance, he is a guy with young daughters who argues for pornography. He is incapable of uttering a complete sentence without using the f-word. And he argues for the individual rights of people, which he seems to feel are more important and valid than the individual rights of others. 

There is a saying that goes something like your rights end when your reach extends into my space; or, variations on that theme, such as your rights end where your fist touches my nose. It seems to me that libertarians are uninterested in where their rights end. They figure everybody accepts risks just by breathing, so let the cards lay as they fall. 

In that, Rogan seems right for Texas but maybe not so much for Spotify, where some employees have made a big stink about his program’s un-woke themes, which include everything from conspiracy theories to homophobic, anti-transgender rants. They suggest that his podcasts be pre-screened and censored. 

A former construction worker, mixed martial arts fighter, and reality TV host, to go with his comedian thing, Rogan is pretty rough trade, with an arrogant attitude and a swagger that sells his brand of individual responsibility hard. He is old school, in that way, the kind of guy who goes hunting in Utah. Why is it that arrogant, mean-spirited right-wing types do so well on the radio, and now with podcasts? I think of Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Alex Jones, and others, who I wouldn’t care to promote. 

Somehow MIT researcher Lex Fridman is getting a lot of promotion as he attempts to create a podcast of Rogan’s magnitude. Rogan likes associating himself with smart folks like Fridman. Lex has a problem, though. He seems way too thoughtful and kind for the medium, which means he’s boring. As the elite alternative to social media, podcast and syndicated radio shows function as another vehicle that thrives on meanness of spirit. Lex seems like an innocent on that field of play. Joe Rogan seems like a player.


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