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The Pop Culture Addict's Guide to Finishing a Dissertation
(a.k.a. Cool Stuff I Like)

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RECENT UPDATES: (If you don't see it right away, scroll to the bottom of entry for the new stuff.)

2/09 My blog is where it's at.

1/06 At this point, the blog is where it's at. There is older info on the forum.

Again, I'm slow at updating this list these days so I refer you to the blog for most recent stuff.
9/06 Sondre Lerche at Hiro Ballroom, NYC 9/21/06 (and then some) - currently not available
8/06 Sondre Lerche on Conan O'Brien 5/04 - currently not available
7/06 Colin Hay Concert at Canal Room, NYC 7/13/06 - currently not available
4/06 Sondre Lerche Concert at the Bowery Ballroom, NYC 4/6/06 - currently not available
1/06 My Brother's Best Films of 2005 - currently not available
10/05 Jason Mraz concert at Avery Fisher Hall, NYC on 10/16/05
8/05 Joan Armatrading Concert at The Apollo, NYC on 8/26/05
7/05 Tammany Hall NYC Concert at Mercury Lounge, NYC on 7/6/05
5/05 Another Undeclared DVD update
5/05 Paul Westerberg's Concert on 4/27/05 at The Supper Club, NYC
4/05 Sondre Lerche concert at Beacon Theater, NYC on 4/22/05
4/05 Best of Youth (2003) and Eros (2004)
4/05 More on the origin of "pound of flesh"
3/05 Metallica: Some Kind of Monster DVD edition (2004)
3/05 Paul Westerberg's Concert on 2/23/05 at Henry Fonda Theater in LA
3/05 (really: 10/04) Michael Azerrad's Our Band Could Be Your Life: The Replacements
2/05 My Brother's Dinner with Joseph Kahn, LA in 2/05
1/05 My Brother's Best Films of 2004
1/05 Addendum to Definition of Pop Culture
11/04 The Incredibles (2004)
11/04 Sondre Lerche Fest 10/04 (Bowery, NYC; Southpaw, Brooklyn; Paradise, Boston)
10/04 I Heart Huckabees (2004)
10/04 Origin of "bonfire of the vanities"
10/04 Origin of "pound of flesh"
9/04 Tommy Stinson concert at Mercury Lounge, NYC on 9/15/04
9/04 VH1's Bands Reunited Season 2 (Haircut 100, New Kids on the Block, ABC, English Beat and The Motels)
8/04 News about Freaks and Geeks soundtrack, scripts and Undeclared dvd
8/04 On Occum's Razor and Your Oral Defense
8/04 Tammany Hall NYC Concert at CB's Gallery, NYC on 8/6/04
8/04 Tammany Hall NYC Concert at the Knitting Factory, NYC on 7/27/04
8/04 Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004)
7/04 Tammany Hall NYC Concert at Southpaw in Brooklyn, NY on 6/30/04
6/04 Undeclared DVD (small but exciting tidbit)
6/04 A Conversation with Marijane Meaker (writing as Vin Packer) and Ann Bannon at The Center, NYC on 6/12/04
6/04 Tammany Hall NYC concert at The Cutting Room on 6/4/04
6/04 The Five Obstructions (2004)
6/04 Sondre Lerche - click here for tidbit about Portland, OR concert on 5/27/04
5/04 Super Size Me (2004)
5/04 Jason Mraz NYC concert at Beacon Theater on 5/24/04
5/04 Sondre Lerche concert at Irving Plaza, NYC on 5/10/04
(with bit about Two Way Monologue on the EW Must List from 4/30/04 and SL's appearance on Conan O'Brien on 5/11/04)

5/04 Troy (2004)
5/04 Kill Bill Volume 2 (2004)
4/04 Freaks and Geeks DVD (with easter eggs addendum - don't worry, no spoilers)
4/04 Definition of Pop Culture with a Defense of Pop Culture
3/04 The Passion of Christ (2004)/The Making of the Passion of the Dumpty (2004)
3/04 School of Rock (2003) (with You're Boring song addendum)
3/04 The Ben Stiller Show (1992) (with Jensen Ackles/Still Life ruminations)
3/04 Any VH1 Behind the Music episode (with John Frusciante addendum)
3/04 American Movie (1999) (with Rushmore/Lost in Translation/Bill Murray addendum)
3/04 HBO's Project Greenlight (2001)
2/04 The Work of Director Michel Gondry (2003) - Read about making of Steriogram's first video and then watch the Walkie Talkie Man video!

butt stop Reflected in Korea. More illuminating pictures.



The key is to look for motivation AND respite in books, tv, movies, magazines, music and of course, surfing the web.  I stumbled upon most of these so-called injections of inspiration, but I'd like to share them with anyone who, like Will in Nick Hornby's book About A Boy and Peter (Ron Livingston's character) in Mike Judge's brilliant film Office Space, has a dream of, and in Will's case, the means for, doing absolutely nothing but exist, not harm anyone and just be happy, and yet, like myself not too long ago, finds him or herself with the need (requirement, demand) to finish a thesis or dissertation.

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There is much I can say on this topic because ultimately, I am a pop culture addict and can go on and on about my favorite forms of entertainment indefinitely. But let me break it down in an organized fashion.

First of all, I'm sure even Leonardo da Vinci took some time out for himself.  We think of "pop culture" as being of the moment, but it is, in fact, a relative term and can be applied to the popular culture of the time.

Added: 11/03: I should also admit that at some point, I just started adding things to this site that I'm just into at the time rather than things that helped me finish my dissertation (it has, afterall, been more than a year since I graduated). I just really like sharing my enthusiasm for new music, books, movies, etc. even if they aren't really new to the world but still new to me. However, I have made an effort to make my choices applicable to the theme of this page. So, I hope you enjoy my finds as much as I have! And thanks for indulging me by actually reading what I've written!

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Definition: Before I get started, I will give my personal definition of "pop culture" so you know what you're in for. This is not an academic definition. It's informal and an amalgam of what I remember reading here and there. For those seeking more formal definitions, I refer you to, what else, the Oxford English Dictionary. Okay, this is a stream-of-consciousness response so forgive the inconsistencies and run-on sentences: I know the obvious, "pop culture" is a shortened form of "popular culture" which is also known as "mass culture." "Mass culture" is also known as "consumer culture." Or maybe "pop culture" is a combination of mass and consumer culture. Anyway, what a group of people seem to find particularly interesting or to their liking, enough to "consume," out of the various information and entertainment available to most via all forms of media - books, websites, music, movies, etc. typically at a particular time, is what I think of as "pop culture." For the most part, whatever I write about in this guide will be a part of American pop culture. But there will be exceptions. For example, my first reference is Irish (and from the past). I just realized, I didn't define the size of the group. I guess it's the stuff that has appeal to a fairly large group of people. Is that vague enough for you? I'm reluctant to quantify it more. I guess I am sort of including subcultural references here, too. Hey, like you, I just like what I like. One more thing, I almost forgot to include celebrities as being part of pop culture. Okay, that's it for now. If you want to correct me, I won't be offended. In short, here are some books, movies, albums and tv shows I like and think have something to offer in terms of inspiring or at least giving you a chuckle about the trials and tribulations of dissertation-writing.

Added 1/05:

Addendum to definition of pop culture: So, I thought I had come across all these illuminating ideas during my winter break and couldn't wait to piece them together for a coherent definition for myself and for everyone else who is interested. But now that I look at my notes, they don't seem particularly profound.

Let me give it a go. The following will be a loose mix of paraphrasing, quotes and my interpretations. But I will make appropriate attributions not following any strict rules of citation.

By chance, I happened upon a textbook entitled Rethinking Popular Culture, eds. Chandra Mukerji & Michael Schudson published by University of California Press in 1991, and starting reading it.

I will refer you to the actual book if you're looking for more in-depth analyses. I will just tell you the few ideas that stood out from the introduction written by the editors which was a review of their thoughts and theories as well as overview of the book chapters.

1) paraphrased from p. 3 : Authentic folk cultures have metropolitan or elite roots and mass culture is incorporated into ordinary people's everyday lives so we can't make distinctions between pop culture and high culture or authentic people-generated folk culture from unauthentic, degraded (their word), commercially-borne mass culture.

So, what I got from that is that the origins and roots of pop culture and elite culture can be traced back to the same sources. What the book also indicated was that the distinction is more of a political one rather than aesthetic or intellectual.

I must say that I agree with that. They point out that back in the day of Shakespeare, the typical audience of a play performance was that of say a Yankees game (my example, not theirs) today, i.e., diversified across all cross-sections of the socio-economic map. And they also note that in Boston, the "Brahmins" made an effort to make art and classical music class-divided rather than of the people as it naturally was.

Other things to think about are the role of literacy in the development of culture. Oral traditions included literate individuals reading outloud either verbatim or more likely, interpreting outloud written accounts for those unable to read themselves. So, if we consider the "elite" as being those with access to education and thus able to read, then does that mean their culture is not pop culture but rather what is defined as elite culture? Then again, think of how the non-literate population was still able to access so-called elite culture. They could hear about it from the storytellers and attend plays and concerts.

Then next idea that I found relevant is apparently well-known in the academic field but previously unknown to me:

Max Weber said that we should study and consider how we make meaning in our world. Clifford Geertz in The Interpretation of Cultures published by Basic Books in 1973 said: "Weber showed us human beings are creatures who live suspended in webs of meaning they themselves have spun."

The ideas of Robert Park and George Herbert Mead from University of Chicago as well as those of John Dewey and William James can be distilled in this context as studying the emergence of: "how people make meaning and make society through the experience of everyday social interactions...." (p. 29)

Hold on because I just have a couple of more ideas to throw out to you:

Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes and Christian Metz considered the sensual nature of the process of reading, that is, "what makes reading a book or watching a film pleasurable" (p.48).

Further, the ideas of Jacques Lacan make us consider how are basic needs of humans addressed through culture?

The last ideas of the day come from Foucault's question of what does it mean to be an author and Janice Radway's question of what does it mean to be a reader. The authors in the intro ask us to think about how the more we consider objects and ideas (movies, music, books, etc.) interpretable, or to be more academic, "textual," then, the more relevant the interpretations and interpreters are to the meanings of these objects and ideas. Interpretation produces meaning. It's a cyclical thing.

So, the definition of pop culture is deep and more than simply youth culture although youth culture is often a sub-culture of pop culture. Pop culture is more than what's accessible although it is part of the definition. As I've mentioned before, sub-cultures or underground cultures are also part of the vast world of pop culture. For example, the gaming world is part of pop culture, but not everyone is part of it. The manga/anime world is part of pop culture but it's still a specialized area. Underground, unsigned music is part of what I would consider pop culture, as indicated by its inclusion on this site but obviously if a group is unsigned, how accessible is their music?

I think pop culture is what we, the people, consider important, interesting, fun or just plain entertaining. I guess the question is, is there a worthwhile distinction between what's considered high culture and pop culture? Or is it just political? I know I'm backtracking here but is accessibility, or appeal to a typical consumer or individual without particular training or education about a topic, form of communication or entertainment of whatever the medium and product/idea/object part of what makes something of pop culture vs. high culture? I don't think so. .

I realize I'm using the term "accessiblity" or "accessible" in two ways: 1) actual physical availability and 2) intellectual availability - is it presented in such a way someone without specialized knowledge can understand and enjoy it?

The more I read over what I've written, the more ideas become clearer to me. So, it seems that the original term "pop culture" is derived from the idea of commercially-produced "culture" as opposed to individually-produced, more organic culture.

But what I consider pop culture is more refined than the idea of mass-produced culture or elements of culture because, and this ties into the ideas of authorship and readership mentioned above, if we don't care for what is produced, then is it relevant? I don't mean, if only a few like something, is it relevant. Of course it is still relevant. I mean, if someone tries to force-feed an idea or object to the public and say, this is cool, like it and we reject it, what does that mean?

I think at some point, and perhaps some people would argue that still, pop culture comprises only those ideas, movies, books, music, etc. churned up and out for the general public using the proverbial lowest common-denominator.

But I would argue, and it seems I'm not alone, that the concept of pop culture now encompasses something different, something more substantial. The term refers to what is cool, what is in, yes, what is popular. I've already said yes, I mean currently, but I think there is a timelessness to pop culture as well. The more I try to define and analyze, the more I feel like I'm trying to explain. I might have to retract what I said about how my ideas are becoming clearer to me. But I'm trying!

So, the discussion continues...

Added 4/04: In defense of pop culture: I found a great quote/excerpt in a New York Times article entitled "Philosophy Hitches a Ride With 'The Sopranos'" By DAVID BERNSTEIN published April 13, 2004. So as not to take it too out of context, let me provide some background. In short, the article is about how pop culture and philosophy have been linked together in a series called "Popular Culture and Philosophy." Books in the series deal with philosophy and "Seinfeld," "The Simpsons," "The Matrix," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Lord of the Rings" and most recently, "The Sopranos." I haven't read any of them but I do have The Tao of Pooh somewhere. I think that's along the same idea.

"William Irwin, an associate professor of philosophy at King's College in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., is the series editor. Mr. Irwin, 33, calls the volumes "philosophy with training wheels." The goal, he says, is to make philosophy more accessible to nonacademics.

... Writing for The Village Voice, Norah Vincent, a freelance columnist, described the "Seinfeld" book as "a collection of essays by mostly third-rate philosophers from mostly substandard institutions ?a fact that should come as no surprise."

"Low culture," she continued, "is infiltrating the scholarly world, a curriculum of aptly `higher' learning in which shallow amusements have no place."

Alexander Nehamas, president of the eastern division of the American Philosophical Association, said the tensions between philosophy and pop culture dated to ancient times.

"Greek tragedy is now considered high art," Mr. Nehamas said, "but intellectuals at the time were seeing popular culture and entertainment. It was very distasteful. Now think 2,500 years from now somebody could be talking about Jerry Bruckheimer or Aaron Spelling. To us that sounds quite strange."

Joss Whedon, creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and its spinoff series "Angel," said the academic attention given to his show is "a little surprising," but he said pop culture should be taken seriously, not trivialized.

"Popular culture is a thing on its own that needs to be examined very carefully, very philosophically," Mr. Whedon said by telephone from Los Angeles. "If someone has a Nietzschian bias or a Freudian bias or any kind of bias that they want to put Buffy into as a mold, it's legitimate."

At the same time Mr. Whedon, who said he had not read any of the Open Court series, cautioned against getting too carried away with pop culture scholarship."

Shakespeare was considered somewhat"low brow" too with all the dramatics and comedy involved. My favorite line is Joss Whedon's saying pop culture is serious stuff. I agree. It's about the human experience. Anyway, I just wanted to share these comments with you all.

Added 9/04: I read this quote in the Sept/Oct '04 issue of Film Comment and had to add it here. Gavin Smith wrote, "...this issue embodies what former Film Comment editor Richard T. Jameson liked to call film's 'eternal present.' What did he mean? That a film made in 1937 is as immediate and relevant and alive as a film coming out next month. Or, put another way, that film history lives on and shapes what we watch and what filmmakers create long after its prime movers have exited the set."

Isn't that a lovely way to look at pop culture as a whole? Pop culture's "eternal present" is all of pop culture influencing what's next and how what once was is still as relevant as what is and what will be. And if you read on, you'll see that's how I like to go through life. Life is what was, what is and what will be and it all means something to you and me now even if it has happened to someone else before and will happen to someone else in the future!

That really became clear to me recently when I was re-reading Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. She wrote this book almost 200 years ago and human nature hasn't changed one iota in all that time. So basically, 200 years from now, people will be watching Felicity saying, I totally can relate to this love triangle between Ben, Felicity and Noel.

Added 6/05: Significance of Pop Culture: Oops, I just noticed I misdirected you. This is really where I ramble on about the significance of pop culture.

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The Pop Culture Addict's Guide to Finishing a Dissertation: MUSIC

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I have come to terms with the fact that I won't be doing the monthly updates I envisioned. But I'll add stuff as I can.

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(Note: There are many tidbits I haven't listed on the menu so if you have the patience, just go to the topic of interest to see what else I may have written.)

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