Tuesday, June 12, 2012

What's Going On?

At the risk of sounding like an old man, I write this post.  It’s kind of funny what sparks ideas and thoughts in my head.  Monday morning, I was simply perusing the movie times to see if I would be able to work out going to see “The Avengers” with a friend this week.  As much of a movie fan that I am, with three kids and nearing the end of my seminary education, I just don’t get to the theater as often as I would like.  Of course, if you don’t have the money to go to the “big screen,” you can wait a few months and catch it on DVD or Blu-Ray.

I was pretty disappointed to see that the movie times were not really conducive to someone who has little kids or a job that they need to get to in the morning.  My ranting on Facebook turned into a dialogue that really got me thinking about who is being targeted by Hollywood and the entertainment industry in general.  It seems that I am not really the one being targeted by this industry.

There are obviously the emotional elements that come with the realization that  one has moved past the targeted age range of a specific industry, but I don’t really think that was what was bothering me.  A friend made a valid comment on Facebook that,

It really got me thinking about the progression of the entertainment industry and where it has come from since its inception so many years ago.  We've come a long way, possibly in the wrong direction since some of the great music and movies of yesteryear.  I always find it interesting and encouraging to see the next generation embrace the classic rock of the 1960's that was quality.  There was some good acoustic rock that came out in the 1970's to counteract the disco movement.  Of course, there were even groups like KISS that embraced the disco movement, but we won't go there.

I'm not sure when it happened, but somehow, shock value took the place of actual value.  Carole King, Joni Mitchell, and Shawn Colvin were replaced by the likes of Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj.  While some of the latter may be talented, it seems like they've set aside their talent for the things that seem to sell.  Have you seen videos of Lady Gaga before she got big?  When you strip away some of the glitz, she's got some talent.

Somehow, we've got all of these tools and instead of using them to enhance our creativity and a gifting, we use them to replace or overshadow them.  Seriously, have we been "Auto Tuned" to death?  Have you seen the latest Mr. Rogers Auto Tune extravaganza?  How about Antoine Dodson?  Are we tired of music that says nothing, put together with simplistic lyrics?  Have we had enough of a lack of creativity?

Then there's movies.  I was remarking to someone today that there are some classic movies out there that didn't have tons of special effects but their stories were phenomenal, with the ability to grip the viewer from the first moment on.  Instead of using special effects as the main gist of the movie and the plot, we need to use them to enhance the story and plot, not replace it.

It seems like this is nothing new though.  What are the first programs that get cut in schools when there is a budget crisis?  The arts.  We take away music classes and art classes, stripping away the opportunity for the next generation to use and enhance their creativity.  We don't create free and creative thinkers, we create robots who will strive to do things that will make them money.  While it might seem like money might make the world go 'round, it certainly doesn't solve the problems of the world.  Creative thinkers are the ones who turn the dreams of today into the realities of tomorrow.

While many musicians have protested the ability of music to be shared and stolen via the internet, it may have been one of the greatest things to spark our creativity.  No longer do artists need big recording contracts to get ahead.  With a few thousand bucks, they can put together a recording to get their name out there via the internet.  Some of the best new artists are the ones who have stripped away a lot of the fancy tools in favor of a more organic sound.

Check out John Mayer's new album, inspired by the Laurel Canyon artists of the 60's and 70's.  Have you heard The Civil Wars?  Mumford and Sons?  Midlake?  There's some quality music coming down the pike, and it's not all coming from the big name companies.  Some of the best stuff actually started as independent releases.  Go find any college town and you will find some quality music.  R.E.M., the Indigo Girls, Dave Matthews Band, they all started out playing to college audiences.  How far they have come.

The other day, I loaded my CD player for dinner (yes, some people still use CD players).  I thought to myself, what do I need to expose my kids to?  What did I choose?  Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and Stevie Wonder.  If my kids reach middle school without being schooled in quality music, shame on me.

Sure, there are plenty of more important things that I need to instill in my children, but to me, creativity breeds creativity.  The opposite is probably true as well.  Some of the greatest musical moments that I have had in my own life have come after sitting through a concert that moved me and inspired me to write something that might inspire as well.

I refuse to build up the next generation in ignorance of what quality and creativity are all about.  I guess I've been pretty slack in this, but I have begun to see what happens when my kids hear music.  They've been going around singing a song from the latest Muppets movie, and if I'm around, I will generally join in.  It seems pretty cool to me that we've introduced a new generation to the Muppets.

There are plenty of things that our kids can learn from school, but there are certain things that they might only learn from us.  If arts and music gets cut in school, I want to be the one to teach those things to my kids.  They might not seem so important to you, but to me, they are what will breed the changes of tomorrow.  I think I need to go cue up some Marvin Gaye so I can tell my kids what's going on!


  1. I never did understand why the Arts is the first thing on the chopping block in a school system during a money crisis. Maybe that's it right there...the powers that be that make those decisions don't see any monetary ROI (return on investment). Could this be a valid reason why school systems should not be run like corporations...where it's all about the bottom line? This from a former Broadcasting Major who had dreams of introducing the next Dylan, Beatles, or 77s to the world and then came to the crushing conclusion that Radio exists to sell soap; however, it did not kill the desire for great Art. FWIW...I still have my LPS and 45s...yep...I'm old school. Analog all the way :-)

  2. The Civil Wars blow me away. Plus whatever Chris Thile is up to (lately - Punch Brothers).

  3. I totally agree with everything you're writing about. On a personal note, Dave and I really try to push the classics in our house with music and movies. Of course, you know we are big Beatles fans. When Drew was about 3 or 4, he belted out "Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds" while we were shopping at Food Lion. I remember this man walking by smiling, looked at me and said, "Well done!" Angeline sang "Bulldog" at the Kindergarten talent show. The teachers were very impressed. Last year, I heard Andrew say to his friend, "What do you mean you don't know who Ray Charles is? How can you NOT know who he is?" Though they refuse to like classicial music, I continue to play it. Recently, Angeline has been into Johnny Cash. How cool is that?! We also have a jukebox. My children know what an actual record sounds like!!

    I do have them watch, what I consider to be, classic movies. All the great 80s movies were a must! Of course, we have "The Color Purple," "Forest Gump," "Roots," and others in that collection as well. Some would think Star Wars is a classic as well? They refuse to watch Grease with me. I think they find my singing and dialoging with the characters quite annoying. If there are any movies you consider classic that the kids should see, I would love the suggestions. I'm not sure they're ready for "Bugged" yet.

    A suggestion I have for the classic books, go to the library and check out the Juvenile version of the classics and read them to your children. I read "The Adventures of Odyseus" to Drew when he was 5 and he still remembered it when he had to read Homer's book this year! It was fun comparing it to "O Brother Where Art Thou" as well.

    The flip side to all of this is that I, in turn, make time to listen to their music and watch their movies....I just don't get it. Man, I'm turning into my parents!!