Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Greatest Taste Around

If the fire sale of free love taught the music group Negativland anything it's "don't sell!" Some people still talk about it, "when did the hippies die?" David Bowie even weighed in during his earlier career (see the clip at the end for the song, Memory of a Free Festival, no real video but the best quality song I could find). Peace & Love got sold for money and somewhere along the way thought stopped being a part of the process, no matter how drug addled. The money eventually goes where people are having fun and where those involved will let them. Negativland has always probed the motives of those clearly seeking monetary value over substance. In this montage of clips and in the words of the song the jabs of the little guy, the average Joe, the consumer, you, me, and us-- we can all be heard responding to the companies representing our wants and desires as they deform the market as well as our sense of decency.

Negativland is a post-structuralist musical group with the penchant for recycling clips of media to reiterate their meanings. This can be seen throughout the entire video. The very first few actions are a tray of ice cubes being dumped downward and a man in a boardroom telling us "The condolences of every person at Pepsi Cola are with you." In fact, the entire song is about Pepsi Cola being a big, slick company of lying hot-shot money-men; the title "The Greatest Taste Around" is in regards to Pepsi soda and is used sarcastically. The ice cubes in the tray are like us; they're given personalities, voices, and movement for the sake of their use in a Pepsi commercial but it's clear in Negativland's use that they represent us, the people, who are then dumped out of our trays to be awash in Pepsi-- drowned in Pepsi. And if we don't like it then Pepsi is sorry and wishes us the best but doesn't really care. It's hegemony on hegemony action in this battle of Anarchism/The Little Guy v. Capitalism/The Big Guy!

The Greatest Taste Around is a showcase of argument. The argument has a namesake grudge against Pepsi in particular but Pepsi is also acting as the name of other overwhelming economic forces that boast their services, supplies, and creations when they are in fact marketing their own control of the society they claim to serve, supply, and create for. The grudge with Pepsi stems from the infamous Cola Wars of the 1980s and 1990s where it seemed as though Pepsi and Coca-Cola were battling over market share via commercial enterprise. Sadly, this was found to be a diversion to the fact that they were mutually advertising their products; The two biggest names in soft-drinks were helping sell their product as well as their "competitors", duping a nation 30 seconds at a time.

Throughout the song, however, the company name "Pepsi" can be easily replaced with whatever monotonous company you can muster: Wyeth, Comcast, Macintosh, News Corp., Viacom, Nestle, Nike, etc. The juxtaposition of the company name (Pepsi) with terrible things implies that they (the company) are the cause. Get fired by your boss? Pepsi. Do you have powdered mashed potatoes in your cupboard since three years ago? Would you have them without a big company like General Mills? These products-- Pepsi, boxed mashed potatoes, Puppy Mill puppies-- are all gifts from The Big Guys to us Little Guys. Negativland wishes to communicate how unenthusiastic they (and how they think we should) feel about these Grate™ products. But these uglinesses are also used by the big companies to sell us even more of their products! "Get fired by your boss? Grab a Pepsi! Know what's great about powdered mashed potatoes? They can last three years! Puppy Mill puppies are great because once they're not cute anymore, they die! And then we can just mill you out another cute little buddy in a day or two!"

Throughout the song we can hear Negativland use choice clips of commercial visuals to make these points accompanied with chopped sound bites: "We", the faces selling you crap, "have look great for Pepsi Cola." Later in the song, we can see that "The sword cuts both ways" in that while these companies have such wealth and power they don't use it to do any good; they just reinvest in selling us more of their same old stuff. They could use their megatons of cash and do something beneficial for others (like "children dying of disease" or a "poor old widow" whose "house burned down") but don't. They just keep finding ways to resell us the exact same product that gave them that money in the first place; "everything still tastes the same."

You can take this message either way, that it falls upon the individual to help his/her/itself and that capitalism is progress-- but maybe it's only progress that it brings. Unfortunately, if that is true, then it has plateaued and perhaps even fallen . We, as a society, have gone far beyond modern times (see: Chaplin) and maybe even beyond post-modern times.

Monday, March 24, 2008


You know, I've actually got three blogs running right now: one for AMST and two for MCS 370. In MCS370 the blog assignments are due by the end of the course and there is a requirement of some 20 independent blog posts related to the broad topics of Facebook Culture & The Internets. For this reason I'm more inclined to freely blog at my leisure about other issues there. Not here. This blog is for assignments I need to have done and nothing else. Nothing else is really encouraged.

Just a thought.

Also, where the hell are all the blog #4s? Ferreals.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Also, I've been doing another blog for MCS 370's Facebook culture. You can view it in all its black & white glory here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Ah. Ha. Haaa--

Seems I done gone and dids my blog post#4. Well, if I do hear back from the illustrious TradeMark G., then I shall ask him more direct questions:

What do you think about Negativland_, in general?
How have they inspired you? Have they inspired you?
Would you ever collaborate with them on a larger project?
Do you know what Negativland_ thinks of you and what you have done?
Would you ever do a dance-mix homage to some of their work? I think I'd enjoy that. A lot.
Has Negativland_ ever taken you under their wing, so to speak? If so, would you ever consider doing the same for another aspiring "collage" artist(s)?

M-m-m-m-Monster Mash-ups

Breaching conversation with an internet acquaintance can be a bit delicate, especially if they're someone you consider famous or admire. So, I'll wait patiently for TradeMark Gunderson to response-- maybe he will, maybe he won't-- but I cannot, it seems, wait long enough before my blog post is due.

So, instead, what I have chosen to do is interview the only other person I've forcibly exposed to Negativland_: Molly Heroux, my sweetheart-darling-suga'-pie. Of course, I know what sorts of media she consumes but I decided to ask anyway. She told me that she watches the same stuff as me and as rarely as I do-- that she and I just get whole seasons of shows via Netflix and watch T.V. like that. But she started to talk more about a trend I have been noticing with her; Molly likes celebrity gossip! But not the mainstream gossip, that's too boring for her. Molly is an addict of

When I asked her what might and Negativland_ have in common, she thought for a moment and eventually told me that they both poke huge amounts of fun at fame and celebrity. I thought that was a rather good point. Molly also told me that in so many ways, both and Negtivland_ are really nerdy. I understood that Negtivland_ was nerdy, I, myself have come to terms with this. She went on to explain that she was ashamed, to some degree, of her addiction to the site and that any obsession with any topic is pretty darn nerdtastic.

I asked Molly to listen to a few songs I thought were interesting. Then I showed her some videos. I have to agree with her in the fact that much of what Negativland_ does is not so much listenable. This has been a point of fact that I, too, have wished wasn't so. We then started to compare The Evolution Control Committee with Negativland_ (TradeMark Gunderson is the sole mastermind behind the E.C.C.). Her and I both enjoy the E.C.C. to a high degree, as they are the more modern and musical of the two. It's interesting to note the similarities and the differences because I came about learning of Negativland_ through my enjoyment of the E.C.C. In fact, I'm aware that they put out an album or two on Negativland_'s record label: Seeland.

We noted how Negativland_ was and still is much more experimental in the way that they create and manipulate media. Molly had mentioned how perhaps the enjoyable differences between the two were some oddity of generational difference. After all, Negativland_ hails all the back to the 1970s, while The E.C.C. is (formally) as old as me! Negativland_ came about before the record pace of change in media formatting and us: video tapes, cassettes, 12" technic turntables, personal computers and their many applications (.exes), compact discs, and digital formatting! The E.C.C. were there and already on the hook of the rapid changes being made; Negativland_ was spurred from a more punk movement, using what they wanted and how they wanted to say whatever they wanted to say. It's not even music? Too bad. Molly especially enjoyed this quote from a great Flash site I recently found, which labels this sort of music "Music Collage":

"To the anarchistic, culture jamming, kopyright liberating post-punk pranksters who make it known that music is free, sampling is an end in itself, not a means. It is both art, canvas, paint and brush. But it is more than just a form of music. It is an ideology, encapsulated within the fundamental belief that art is an expression, not property. It is to be explored, not controlled. Yet this simple recognition of the aesthetic worshipping of sonic liberty has made it the most illegal music in the world. But you know what? They don't care. They will sample anything they damn well please. You can not stop them. They will sample your hit single. They will sample you complaining about sampling your hit single. They will sample you trying to stop them from sampling your hit single. And when you sue them, they will sample that too. They will take anything that fuels culture and powers society, and appropriate it for their own uses. To them, anything you say is simply raw material."


Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Hully Gee --whatever the hell that means --Geppi's Entertainment Museum of downtown Baltimore is one classy display of childlike memorabilia. They have toys and fun-stuffs categorized by era and type. Most of all, they have rare, interesting, and poignant comics that chronicle popular society and business. While cartoons are childlike, gross exaggerations and absurd in just about every way, Geppi's Museum presents an almost academic view of the cartoon: how it sells, what it sells and has sold, who done it, and what came from where. Geppi's not only familiarizes its audience with popular culture, it informs us of many others like us and not like us vicariously through what once "sold" to the public.

Although it was the last thing I saw before the gift shop, the small gallery of duck art caught me as a current fan of ducks and a long time fan of Scrooge McDuck (possibly the best character name ever). Everything else I sort of knew about, gawked at a bit, and moved on but I felt a special affinity for reading about Scrooge McDuck. I wished there were more about him and his epic adventures and legendary greed but was forced to begrudgingly move on. Scrooge McDuck sold to me.

Well that isn't entirely true, the bit alluding to general apathy. I was mostly unaware of Buster Brown and felt his design as a character was quite excellent. And what's more is that he was in the same room with Yellow Kid, a highly repulsive character meant to contrast the class difference between Yellow Kid and Buster Brown (high class v. lower class English). The blunt style to which Yellow Kid was utilized to sell things was comical (this booze is great, these smokes are the finest, buy the paper suckers!) in a way that polarized the gist of Buster Brown (Resolve: I shall refer to my male part as a tie to which I'd like to assist a female in dressing with). Both characters were utilized for sale to the markets that they ridiculed.

I suppose the same can be said of comics after the fall of racist propaganda. The stereotypical reader of comics is not particularly heroic or even athletic; heroes often battle social outcasts and people whom are quite abnormal. While media commentary of this sort is not the main of a Geppi's experience it can certainly inspire such thought, which I believe is their intent. It's quite difficult and certainly impressive to accumulate fine examples of human pop culture from the last two centuries. There's only so much room to show an audience what's important, all of which is not adequate to the vast bounds of understanding there is to be had about the subjects discussed in each piece of work. Geppi's presents material with the hope of giving patrons a deeper interest in what is and has been so damn entertaining.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Intellectual Freedoms

I hereby declare that my course topic for AMST 325 is Negativland.
They're a late '70s experimental music group who still exist in their same copyright fighting fashion. They're the granddaddies of mash-up, mixing, and sound manipulation; while not all their tracks are the most lyrical or melodic pieces in the annals of music history they're still pretty important. They're important for music and beyond, as their works pertain to popular media and the industry of it. They've reached out and touched the big guys (in a less than pleasurable way): Pepsi, Disney, U2 & Island Records, the general news media, and the gub'ment. I'm a big fan of a group related to them, a later '80s mash-up group more interesting in the way that their material is catchy and musical: Evolution Control Committee. In spite of this importance, however, I have been unable to get "into" the sound of Negativland. I have a hard time sharing it with others and generally liking it too. I certainly respect what I know about the group. I appreciate the wonderful tricks they've played, what they stand for, and the fun that they poke at big media. I chose Negativland because I like them and I don't. It's occurred to me recently that I might even have a shot at getting a few words from them as I move on through the course; they're the type of people that enjoy spreading information from what I can tell. Either way, I feel this group will prove to be excellent material pertaining to their importance to and within the context of Popular Culture™.