How about a short rant? YOUR WISH IS MY COMMAND.
Perry Bible, XKCD, Penny Arcade, A Softer World, 8bit, etc. Worse still are the ones that combine a cutesy artstyle with light adult themes and win over a legion of hardcore fans who will ravenously purchase the ridiculously kitsch merchandise to boost their geek chic. I am suspicious of any webcomic that sells objects based on the cuteness of its characters, because it seems like a lot of (usually but not exclusively) female webcomic geeks will buy any old tat if it’s cute but not quite mainstream (like say, instead of a teddy bear, a teddy bear THAT HAS FANGS!).
And this is personal opinion of course, but a joke in a webcomic is funny once, if you’re lucky. The same joke, out of context on a t-shirt is usually not funny to begin with, even less funny when you see it on a regular basis. But worse even than all of that, are those webcomic fans who go WAY too far. Not just webcomics though, almost any humour-based internet community. This point overlaps the next one slightly.
Internet memes, for those of you who do not know, are examples of the rubbish flash-in-the-pan counter-cultural phenomenons that storm the internet. The ones about Chuck Norris or David Hasslehof, or lolcats, or “THIS! IS! SPARTA!”, or, going back a bit, Badger Badger Badger. The one good thing about these memes is that they tend to go away quickly. One that seems to have remained much longer than most is the Ninjas vs. Pirates debate and the novelty media it has spawned, including shitty pirate-themed rock (for example, a metal band from my hometown of Perth that make me even more ashamed of that town than I was already) and hip-hop, and t-shirt ninjas.
I try to make a distinction where there has been a genuinely original and creative object at the heart of it (eg. the Weighted Companion Cube and such from the game Portal), but it is hard when the kind of derivative works they spawn are almost universally awful.
Christian Rock Music
Are you a hot young band having trouble hitting the big time? Sing some songs about Jesus, join a Christian label, release a bunch of cheap live albums recorded in horrendously extravagant modern churches that double as top of the line performance venues for your God-awful God Rock and say hello to instant stardom. All you need is a bland but nauseatingly melodic style that is very very easy to sing along to, preferably with choruses designed specifically for that purpose, and a good clean but marketable image; family members in the band, spiky hair to show you’re down with the kids. The kinds of parents who will only allow their kids to listen to Christian Rock will buy what few suitable releases there are to keep their teenagers happy and sedated. If it were the real music industry these vapid bland assholes wouldn’t make it at all, but with a Christian label, catering to Christians worldwide with mail order and online catalogues, suddenly they’re superstars, playing in packed Churches across the world. It’s a little bit like going fishing in a barrel full of haddock, although it’s actually more like shitting in the mouths of idiots who have convinced themselves they like to eat shit.
And a fan of such music might tell you stuff like “oh, I’d listen to them even if they weren’t Christian.” Bullshit, they’d be listening to the Foo Fighters and the White Stripes like all the secular kids. My problems with the genre range from ethical, as described above, to musical, because by and large (ie. I am unaware of an exception) modern Christian “Worship Music” is basically a crap watered down version of what’s already crap and watered down in the mainstream today.
Clearly the idea of it is to make people think that Christianity is hip and happening, and it’s not all hymns and solemnity because now you can go to church and ROCK OUT with Jesus. However, any “secular” rock fan who has even an ounce of self-respect can see through that and recognise how utterly derivative and tastelessly evangelical it is, so the only people actually listening to it are people who are already Christians. People who aren’t Christian generally find the preachy sugar-coated nicey-nicey “Jesus died for your sins” triumphalism a little less than enticing, and I myself find it at worst unbearably hypocritical and at best laughable.
CR (as it is sometimes abbreviated to, to avoid the negative connotations of Christian evangelism and make it sound slightly cooler) performs essentially the same function of elevator music or easy listening. And that’s fine, if Christians want to listen to tacky sickeningly inoffensive pop rock that supports their belief system in a life-affirming way that is relevant to them, then why not let them (eat cake)? Why not let them fund and support the continued existence of objectively bad music, and the self-imposed censorship of more challenging thought-provoking culture if they must? Besides, they most likely don’t think about it in anywhere as much detail as this, they probably just genuinely like the music. After all, most people just like to listen to a nice little tune they can hum. Maybe I should lighten up?
Well obviously I won’t be doing that. Any parent who decides the only CDs, movies, book, games, etc. that are suitable for their kids are those sanctioned by Christian organisations are bad parents. There is a rich tapestry of non-Christian culture out there and almost none of it is Satan-worshipping filth. Does that mean the only creative expression allowed in one’s life is that which plainly and directly expresses love for Jesus? That’s called Puritan society.
I’m not opposed to the idea of music in religion. Indeed, the entire legacy of western music as we know it today comes from the pipe organs of the more extravagant Catholic Churches. I say that if you’re a musician who like Jesus, they maybe do some songs about him if you like. If you like the Situationists, why not write a song cycle inspired by the principles in Guy Debord’s The Society of the Spectacle (which I am inserting here to look intellectual). But basing your entire career on any single thing seems quite limiting, and doing so with the promise of financial gain is known appropriately as selling out.
I have mixed feelings about Top Gear. I will admit that I find that it is sometimes quite enjoyable (and I was much more of a fan back when the show first came back in its current format), but more recently I find it hard to ignore the blatant staging of their increasingly ridiculous activities. Is nobody else sick of May being organised and fastidious, Hammond being the most middle of the road one, and Clarkson being the ludicrous pompous twat? Once upon a time, Top Gear used to be a car show with some comedy and genuinely interesting motor-related challenges. Now it’s turned into a British middle-age-middle-class version of Jackass where every week you tune in to see what utterly ridiculously staged, clumsily edited subpar slapstick they will come up with as an excuse to waste ever vaster sums of money, and of course make May look sensible and reserved, Hammond look sporty and cool, and Clarkson an egomaniacal pantomime villain.
I think it might be more entertaining if it were genuine, but it’s clearly not. Plenty of people are willing to overlook that, but I find it hard to do so these days. Same way I find it hard to enjoy some admittedly impressive Nazi architecture in Germany on account of that whole World War II thing.
Though I have positioned these as arguments, their purpose is not actually to cause debate or anger. These are expressions of opinion, mostly to vent my own small frustrations (it’s my blog after all), and as such it doesn’t really matter if you agree or disagree. I do stand by them.