Tagpop culture

Psi-Fi: The Feedback Loop Between Pop Culture and Paranormal Experience

Matrix and Avatar painting from Wat Rong Khun Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand
A painting from the Wat Rong Khun Buddhist temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand from FEEL

Interesting article by Professor in Philosophy and Religious Thought at Rice University and author of Authors of the Impossible Jeffrey J. Kripal on the feedback loops between paranormal experience (or what Susan Blackmore calls “exceptional human experiences”) and popular culture:

A Buddhist temple featuring Superman and a Marvel comic reproducing an actual UFO photo? A pulp fiction editor using his own precognitive dreams to write short stories and a sci-fi master getting zapped by an alien space machine? What is going on here? It would be easy to fall into an either-or mentality, as in “This happened, and that didn’t.” or “This is true, and that is false.” That, I want to suggest, is precisely what is wrong with much of our thinking about popular culture and the paranormal. Much better to pay attention to all the back-and-forth loops, that is, the incredibly messy, “loopy” ways in which popular culture informs paranormal events, which in turn informs popular culture, which in turn informs … well, you get my point. I mean, where exactly are we supposed to draw a line between the real and the unreal in, say, a graphic novel and an actual UFO sighting? It would be easy to suggest that the graphic novel is pure fiction and the UFO—whatever it was—non-fiction, except for the uncomfortable fact that the UFO encounters of the second half of the twentieth century often followed, down to precise details, the pulp fiction fantasies of the first half (for more on this, see my discussion of Bertrand Méheust in Authors of the Impossible). It would also be easy to call it all fiction, except for the uncomfortable fact that people really experience such things, all the time. There were F-16s chasing that floating Wal-Mart. Not your typical piece of fiction.

Boing Boing: Psi-Fi

This reminds me a lot of Erik Davis’s book TechGnosis. Erik, incidentally, is now a student at Rice.

When did TV become art?

In response to this NY Post piece by Emily Nussbuam, Robert Moore makes a persuasive case that Buffy the Vampire Slayer made TV art:

This was the decade in which television became art. So argues Emily Nussbuam in a recent New York Magazine essay, “When TV Became Art”. She certainly makes a strong case that 2000-2009 was a pivotal age for TV and I strongly recommend her essay to anyone interested in the development of television over the past decade. I agree that this was, all in all, the finest decade for great television. Others have argued that TV had arisen as an art form in earlier decades, some (though in dwindling numbers) arguing for the fifties, based on the series that presented staged plays for a television audience, including such original masterpieces as “Twelve Angry Men”, written by Reginald Rose for Studio One, and “Requiem for a Heavyweight”, written by Rod Serling for Playhouse 90. Later, Robert J. Thompson, in his widely cited Television’s Second Golden Age: From Hill Street Blues to ER, argued for the eighties as the crucial period. But Nussbaum has numbers on her side; it is difficult to argue against the sheer quantity of very fine shows that emerged in the past ten years. The number of truly great series from the past ten years is so substantial that it might surpass the number of great shows from all previous decades combined.

Nonetheless, I want to take issue with Nussbaum. I think that chopping the overall picture up into decade-sized blocks obscures the reality. I believe that one can point at a precise point where TV became art, and that point was the debut of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. […]

I understand Nussbaum’s desire to fit the birth of TV as art into a decade framework, but the truth is that art, like life, is messier than that. TV had become art before 2000 and it was largely thanks to Buffy.

Pop Matters: When TV Became Art: What We Owe to Buffy

(Thanks Zenarchery)

I love the The Wire but it certainly wasn’t the most ground breaking series on television (remember, both The Sopranos and Six Feet Under preceded it). I haven’t watched Buffy, but Moore makes a strong case. Either way, the 00s certainly marked a turning point in the history of television. It was, perhaps, the decade in which television eclipsed film.

The biggest difference between now and the 80s

If there’s one thing I miss about the 1980s, something that I wish the teens of today could have, it is only this: We only had the most vague sense that everything we knew had happened before. Our parents told us that their teenage years had been much the same as ours, with the same joys and heartbreaks and pains and revelations, and we sorta believed them. Today, a teenager can get on the web and discover that The Killers really are a Duran Duran ripoff, and that we were just as goofy for “The Lost Boys” as they are for “Twilight.” They can recognize their faces in our own. And though our ignorance was part of what made the 1980s fun, I sort of envy the myriad ways through which today’s teens can retrace their steps.

Monkey Goggles: What the Eighties Were Really Like

(Thanks Josh)

Apocalypse Jukebox: The End is Near, There and Everywhere

“It has long been well established that gospel music was one of the main ingredients in the original rock ‘n’ roll stew. Yet it must be emphasized that the particular gospel style that most influenced the founders and forefathers of rock was as much on the fringes of the musical mainstream as the religious views of groups like the Millerites were from the norms of biblical interpretation. Everyone knows, for instance, that Elvis was in large part formed by gospel and that gospel music is a significant part of the Elvis canon. There is a vast difference, however, between the style of gospel upon which Elvis drew to help create the rock blueprint and the gospel records, based within a more mainstream tradition, he made later in his career.“How Great Thou Art” is not a rock ‘n’ roll urtext; the premillennial musical expressions of sects such as the Holy Rollers is.

In his definitive biography of Elvis, Peter Guralnick tells the story of how Elvis and his girlfriend Dixie would sneak out of their all-white “home” church during Sunday service in order to experience the ecstatic service of the black church down the street. There, Elvis would have heard Reverend Brewster, whose sermons were also broadcast on the radio, deliver the apocalyptic “theme that a better day was coming, one in which all men could walk as brothers.” Yet even if Elvis did not pick up on that message, which is doubtful, it is obvious that he was directly influenced by the “exotic” and ecstatic music of such soul stirrers as Queen C.Anderson and the Brewsteraires, the church soloists. His first audiences did not fail to make this connection.”

(via Pop Matters)

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