Suddenly Everything Has Changed

By: E · January 31, 2009

Back when I was in high school (or was it middle school?), the Flaming Lips came out with their now seminal hit, “She Don’t Use Jelly.” I’m sure I’m not the only one who loved it on this blog (or reading this blog for that matter), and went and picked up their album Transmissions from the Satellite Heart, which was mostly disappointing. I know some people think it’s a classic, but those people are wrong. Other than maybe one or two other songs (I do love “Turn It On” though), the album didn’t really capture what was so great about the song: the mix of absurdity and sloppiness with the semblance of structure, in this case the casing of a 3 verse, big chorus pop song. Fast forward to six years later when The Soft Bulletin came out, this time I wasn’t really expecting much from the Lips, but being the faithful alternative geek that I was back then, I dutifully bought it and popped it in my CD player as I lie on my bed, staring at the ceiling and thinking about whatever stupid teenagers thought about back then. Needless to say, life was never quite the same.

Being that it’s already February of 2009, post-racial America, I was remembering that moment in my life while I sat at a café reading books, writing this very entry and listening to Deerhunter’s Microcastle/Weird Era Continued (“Vox Celeste” if you want to be specific) while idly watching the people walk by outside. Snow is melting on the ground, and people are starting to look less like they’re on Hoth, and spring is just around the corner full of whimsical new discoveries to make in the world of popular culture. And yet, all I can think of is the Flaming Lips Soft Bulletin. What was so great about Soft Bulletin? To be completely honest, I couldn’t even tell you…And sure, while many may say that Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots is better, again, they are wrong, as I consider the Soft Bulletin to be one of the best albums of modern alternative music, and one that actually pops into my head on an almost weekly basis for certain lines or musical arrangements. But really, this isn’t a post about the Flaming Lips (even though, it is technically, but you know what I mean). It’s just the lens to view life through at this moment.

In about two weeks, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe (Vol. 5) will be released, and again we’ll be geeking out about Bryan Lee O’Malley’s masterful, man-child, lovesick, nerdsplosive creation. In about four months, a new X-men related movie will come out (Wolverine: Origins), which will most likely garner a lot of premature excitement, only to be followed by mild to crushing disappointment at squandered potential. In about 7 months, Quentin Tarantino’s new movie Inglorious Bastards will be unleashed unto the world, his first “real” (read: non Grindhouse/Kill Bill) movie since Jackie Brown in 1997.  And in nine months, I’ll turn 29 years old, right around the time the 2010 Oscar titles will start trickling into theaters. And while you could’ve looked on any number of blogs and found out all this information (hopefully not my bday), the sudden epiphany that all of this is on the horizon seems mindblowing to me.

A lot of people will try to tell you that filling your life with cultural ephemera is pointless, just a distraction from the bigger things in life.  That may be true to some degree, there’s no question that all of us are looking for escape from the important things in life. Sometimes it’s too hard to deal with the pain that tragedy or disappointment lays at our footsteps, sometimes life’s just too mundane to keep our attention for more than a half hour at a time before we’re running back to our computers to see who’s replied to a tweet, or posted on our facebook page. And sometimes, we just don’t like our lives very much. Whatever degree of escape we get from the culture that we immerse ourselves in, whether it’s sports, music, movies, books, tech, or whatever, there’s no question it’s an escape.

But what most people (y’know, THOSE people…not “us”) don’t realize is that culture, no matter how low brow it can be, is a way to connect. Because at our core, we are awkward, we are isolated, we are alone. I don’t mean this in a grand existential way, I mean this in a realistic, emotionless way. Before the internet existed, can you imagine how incredibly lonely it must’ve been to be a fan of some small, indie band, or obsessed with a book that none of your friends gave a shit about? And while many may decry the Internet as the destroyer of all that is good and holy in this world (“people don’t write LETTERS anymore!”), there’s no question that the unmistakable isolation all of us used to feel, in any small or large degree, is soothed by the fact that yes, haloxfan69 DOES agree with me that Neon Bible IS better than Funeral.  There’s a comfort in feeling like you’re not alone, even though you may not even know the people out there who you connect with. It’s better than just wondering if you’re the only person like this in the world. Go ahead and ask any gay kid back in the middle of the 20th century.

Because excitement is not self sustaining. No movie or song or book has the inherent quality to create excitement by just sitting there on a shelf, or in your player. And being alone in being excited is like pouring sand on a candle. I can sit here and think to myself, man, I shore am excited about Scott Pilgrim, but without LD, Y, N8, JC, and SN (not Grimbil, he sucks) here to stoke the flames on any number of topics, it, like so many other interests in life, would eventually fizzle out, and it would just become another sad echo of the place it used to have in your life. Hell, I got into Scott Pilgrim because LD basically forced me to sit down and read volume one while hanging out at his place. I think I told Y to run and grab it the next day, and N8 grabbed it after getting sick of us babbling about on our group emails. See? As the great scholar Jay-Z once said, “now that’s what the fuck I call a chain reaction.”

What does this have to do with the Flaming Lips you might ask. Okay. I’ll oblige. Because back then, when I first listened to Soft Bulletin, I thought my life had changed because the album was so great. And when I ran to my friends, forced them to listen to it, talked about it incessantly, I was met with blank stares and bored faces. And eventually, the excitement fizzled away, so much that when I finally packed up and left for college, I sold off a huge portion of my (at the time) 1,000+ CD collection, and one of them was the Soft Bulletin. Because I had listened to it enough, because the songs were locked away in my mind forever, and because it would only serve to remind me of the futile struggle in finding reciprocation from those around me.

And every time something big happens in my life, I remember the lines to  the chorus of “Suddenly Everything Has Changed,” (which are, ironically, the same as the title). And when I sat here, watching the people walk by, I can remember thinking a few weeks ago that it would be a while before I found something that excited me in the cultural world. Books bored me, the music all felt stale, the Oscar season movies of 2008 were all mildly disappointing, and I was faced with the cold winter, one that lately, seemed like it would never end. And even though it’s a stupid, childish, pouty thing to think, you still think it. This sucks, everything’s boring, blah! Maybe I should focus on something more IMPORTANT, maybe that will wash away the ennui.

Only, the important things aren’t obvious. You can’t just manufacture important people, causes, ideas in your life. They come organically, and with the weight they hold in your life, they can crush you with disappointment when things go awry, when life hands you shit sandwiches. And I’ll tell you, I can stare at an Oxfam website all day and have a blank countenance, but throw me into any movie/celebrity gossip/sports/music/fiction page, and I’ll feel inspired. I know that makes me seem like a cold, heartless prick, and if it does, so be it. I do enough in my daily life to assure myself that I still have some semblance of compassion for the world to sleep at night. The point is, there will always be something exciting to look forward to with these things we call geek. There will always be the next Batman movie, or the next Scott Pilgrim, or the next book you want to read, or the next Jason Isbell album. And with a site like ours, and so many others out there, we hope you know that if you feel like you want to get excited, you’re not alone.

I eventually bought the Soft Bulletin again (happy RIAA?), and have since barely listened to it. But it’s weird, because when I see it on those days when I dig through my CD cases or rearrange my place, it no longer makes me feel like I’m alone. It makes me feel at home. And I realize, that even though things do change, we always seem to forget that these cycles we go through sometimes just require us to take a second to appreciate the fact that there’ll always be stuff to be excited about, and now a whole lot more people to share it with.

And if you thought this entry was only about geek stuff, then man, you REALLY missed the point. Enjoy the new site, faithful readers.

Comments

2 Responses to “Suddenly Everything Has Changed”
  1. LD says:

    FUCK YOU KILL BILL IS AWZUM AND 100% MORE REAL THAN THE FLAMING LIPS MAYBE YOU ARE THE ONE WHO IS FLAMING I BET YOU DIDNT CONSIDER THAT DID YOU I THINK THAT MAYBE EVERYTHING HAS CHANGED BECAUSE YOU BELONG BACK IN LAOS OR SOMETHING.

  2. SN says:

    Very thoughtful entry, but without the equally thoughtful response from LD, this post just would not have had the same dynamic, thus proving your point. Thank you LD.

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