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Art and culture

Part 2: Life Lessons From Prince: Four Things I Learned After Four Days At Paisley Park.

Chanhassen-Prince-Mural-1I found myself asking this morning why I chose to break this blog up into 4 pieces instead of just pulling it all together in one sitting and throwing it out there. I told myself it was for reasons related to practicality like the fact that people don’t like to read long blogs and that I want time to get each piece perfect. I also thought it was just good old fashioned procrastination but that If i committed to the piece I would get it all done in a timely manner.

All that said what I realized as I was writing this second lesson today was that stretching this process out is allowing me to live with a meditation that I am not yet ready to part with. The time I spent at Paisley Park really did open up a door in my consciousness that I had started closing – but that allowed light into my life that I needed to remind me what’s out there. It reminded me of my own journey and to get out (and stay out) there and unapologetically let my own light shine.

With that in mind, here is lesson #2 of 4 that I will be carrying with me – and hopefully you will as well:

2. Life is an audition – so make sure you are always you and always shine

Certainly, Prince surrounded himself by talent notorious for being the best in the business at whatever their craft or profession. But a significant portion of his professional family were not found in the most traditional ways. One stand out story was from Mark Brown of Prince’s band, The Revolution (also now a producer in his own right) who once happened to make Prince a bad-ass plate of pancakes at the diner where he was working when he was 15. He also happened to play guitar and sing – and wound up with an invitation that turned in to a dream career.

Several band members and dancers have similar stories. They were somewhere being the best of themselves and found they had caught the attention of a muse who would both be inspired by them and inspire them to live their calling.

What I take from this is the opportunity for all of us to be who we are full time. That may sound ridiculous as many of us feel that we are ourselves full time. But the thing is, what we do for a living, the places we go, the people we hang out with, the hobbies and interests we have aren’t who we are. We try on all sorts of roles to either express or stifle the love and purpose that we know ourselves to be on the inside.

I think the mistake is that when we play these parts we tend to piece together
a character based on what we think the audience wants to see. The trick is to
play the part while wholeheartedly taking on the character your possess
inside yourself, regardless of what you feel the expectations of onlookers are.

Prince did it everyday. He knew who he was , for better or worse, and never put in less than everything he had into every moment. Because of that commitment and dedication (and trust me, it’s hard work no matter how much of a superstar you become) he was able to recognize that energy in others and chose to surround himself by other radiating examples of authenticity . That is where he saw potential and decided to give those people a place on the stage that was his magical world so they could shine while they were with him and then find their own spotlight in the world, with Paisley Park forever in their hearts

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Categories: Art and culture, Culture, Uncategorized, Well-being | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

We’re Not Mourning The 80’s. We’re Returning To Them.

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I know what everyone has been thinking as we look gleefully forward to the end of 2016, with a desire to put the social and political turmoil behind us as well as say “good riddance” to the year that took several beloved artists from us.

We are thinking, “How did we lose so many of our treasured pop culture icons from the 80’s? Why them?”  “Why now?” From Bowie to Prince to George Michael and Carrie Fisher and even (yes) the guy who played ALF!

Those of us whose lives have been touched by these so-much-more-human-than-human artists  and the characters that were so near and dear to our hearts feel this deep sense of loss. However, at the same time as we have had to say goodbye to these incredible beacons of hope from the recent past, we have seen a resurgence of many other things from that same decade.

For example:
In pop culture: Zombies! (The 80’s did, after all, bring us a nearly un-countable number of  zombie movies as paid homage to in the video hit Thriller) and Vinyl (because records are a “thing” again).

In fashion: Mom Jeans and thick eyebrows (Brooke Shields?  Anyone?)

I know you’re thinking that I’m getting a little too trend-centric and pop-culture fluffy with it, but hang in there.  I have a point, I promise….

In politics:  Celebrity Presidents (in the 80’s, we had former actor Ronald Reagan.  Now we have Reality TV star and bombastic businessman, Donald Trump) , what will soon be the resurgence of a new kind of Trickle-down-economics (which is the Economic Policy closest in to what Trump’s platform is based on) and Russia! (in the 80’s we loved to hate  Mikhail Gorbachev and now we have Vladimir Putin to make fun of on our sketch comedy shows.

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Culturally speaking, the 80s were a time of emerging conspicuous consumption and status-based classism – lots of nouveau riche boughie types flocking to the cities and the single life…wearing fur coats, driving porsches and ferraris and splashing around in the idea of a glamorous  “Greed is Good” mentality toward American economic and cosmopolitain “progress.”

At the same time, Willy Nelson, Neil Young and John Mellencamp organized the first concert that would turn in to a now 30 year-strong organization called Farm Aid to combat the suffering that middle America farm communities were going through due to rampant closing of family farms as corporations started taking over.

We saw a country ripped apart by fear caused by the AIDS epidemic – which initially targeted the Gay community, who was still living at the fringes and considered a somewhat alienated “unknown”.   It took the story of Ryan White – a young boy who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion – to humanize the epidemic and begin vital conversations in our country about sexual orientation and fear and inclusion. Not to mention the idea of coming together to begin finding searching for treatments and cures for a disease that nobody deserves to die from.

The 80’s also brought us Cable television – revolutionizing pop culture as we know it  – making it possible for us to see more and more of the America we thought we knew and beginning an era of overstimulation that would have us retreating back in to our shells of familiarity more than finding common ground because content was being pushed at us, but we didn’t have an internet to allow us to publicly react to what we are seeing.

These days we have replaced cable television with social media to maintain our echo-chambers.  But fortunately we also have ways to have conversations – should we choose to – with people who don’t look like us or live like us or even live near us.

The point I’m actually trying to make here is that, in losing the 80’s pop stars that have so obviously and publicly fallen this year, we are actually reminding ourselves of the good things that came out of a time and a mentality we seem to be regressing back in to for a moment.

You see, I spend a good amount of time studying culture and sociology and reading up on topics like  Spiral Dynamics and social science that focuses on Worldviews as well as topics like Generational Cycles Theory.   In my work, I apply my understanding of the world and it’s nuances and patterns of change to helping my clients understand how to evolve their business and the ways they communicate with the humans that buy their products.  And because I study this stuff and apply it to a consumer space all the time, I am also thinking about it constantly and looking at cues from pop culture to seek to understand our world.

This year – particularly toward the end – has had me wracking my brain trying to explain why all of this seemingly bizarre stuff is happening in our sociopolitical landscape;  the populist ideals, the xenophobia and the generalized seemingly backwards progress  (as many liberal, intellectual types like me and my peers might see it).   In the end, I am able to say, “well sure I saw this coming” – for a number of reasons stemming from the ways in which we have chosen to engage with one another in our mainstreaming digital world to other factors related to cultural, environmental and  economic factors.

But I end up left falling back on  platitudes like “it’s always darkest before the dawn” or “it’s gonna get harder before it gets easier” – yet still full of hope that we will get to the “easy” part soon.

That being said, the scientific disciplines mentioned above that focus on social change all tell us (as does history) that wen tend to evolve in a spiral-type way.

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But the thing about spirals is that you always have to go back a little bit in the direction you came from before you can move forward.

My point and hypothesis  is that THIS time is the time for our slight backwards movement and I believe we have chosen the 80’s as our touch-point for this devolution of sorts.  But ALSO per the loss of our 80’s icons like Prince and Bowie and Carrie Fisher, the actress behind the Iconic beacon-of-hope character Princess Leia)  I think we are being given sacrificial lambs as reminders of the wonderful progress that was made during these times.  In the article just linked to about Princess Leia, for example – the author reminds us that the real reason we love that character so much is because

 It’s about creative thinking, keeping it together when it counts, and outclassing every pretentious pencil pusher the Empire can throw her way.

 

Artists like Bowie and Prince  taught us to embrace our weird, to love ourselves for everything that we are and to let our true colors shine .  George Michael, through his music and very public human journey also taught us (in particular, the Gay community)  many life lessons about accepting who we are and not letting the world get us down.

Even ALF – who I reference as a HUGE fan, btw – taught us a good amount about how we see the world.  This affably bizarre alien reminded us that we are not alone in seeing how ridiculous everyday life can be and that it’s okay to laugh it off sometimes.

Truth be told, I still have an ALF doll in my office.  Whenever I feel like an Alien from another planet come to study humans and their ways, “he”  reminds me about the humor in all of it and that I chose to keep my eyes open because I love my fellow humans and I believe we are on a very profound, fast-tracked evolutionary path.

So as many of you mourn what you see as a loss and start throwing Molotov Cocktails at 2016 so as to obliterate the memory of it as we move in to a new year, take a moment to honor the memories of those beacons of hope who have been brought back in to our public consciousness once more to let us know that even though it seems like we are fighting an uphill battle sometimes,  we have the power of our light (and most likely The Force  as well) to guide us forward.

Rest in Peace, 1980’s AND 2016.  We will remember to learn our lessons from the past and keep them with us, along with the beauty and the joys that have propelled us forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: American Culture, american History, Art and culture, Culture, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Meme to Marketing: The Power of Viral Meaning-Creation

 

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This morning whilst enjoying my leftover steak dinner turned steak omelet (waste not want not) I was also going through the Sunday paper coupons (as is a typical suburban Sunday morning activity – so I have observed).

Whilst perusing the pages of discounts for new, necessary hair care products and butter substitutes I came across this full page ad / coupon combo that made my consumer anthropologist nerve center tingle:

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This is just one of a long list of once random internet memes that have been adapted and adopted by brads for their marketing draw.  This is a practice aptly labeled “memejacking”.    It has been going on since internet memes started becoming “a thing”, as detailed in this 2012 article on the top 10 internet memes masquerading as marketing .  But what struck me was how this meme had moved from the “internets” to a Sunday paper coupon.  Proving memes are now no longer relegated to the hipster “inside joke” set but now have as much mass appeal as vanilla ice cream.  But don’t let the idea lead you to believe memes have lost their luster.   Quite the contrary.  Memes are all about transmission of meaning and the internet has become the ideal mode for spreading them.

This about.com article defining internet memes and explaining the origin of the term  does a great job of putting the evolution of internet memes in context. For example:

“The “meme” word was first introduced by evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins, in 1976. “Meme” comes from the Greek word “mimema” (meaning “something imitated”, American Heritage Dictionary). Dawkins described memes as a being a form of cultural propagation, a way for people to transmit social memories and cultural ideas to each other. Not unlike the way that DNA and life will spread from location to location, a meme idea will also travel from mind to mind.”

That same article points to some other great examples of internet memes from our recent history, like the classic “rickrolling” phenomenon that began in 2007, featured in this UK news story from “around then”

And who among us with their short-term memory still intact can forget

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which rapidly evolved to own its own funny-animal-pictures-with-anthropomorphic-phrasing focused media property, icanhascheezburger.com . I daresay our dearly beloved Grumpy Cat should be grateful to his trailblazing predecessors in ridiculousness.

So, why are these internet memes a marketer’s dream? Obvious to most who are internet savvy or not living under a rock with no electricity, but laid out nicely in a a recent article on memejacking: why it works so well and how to do it :

They’re already established. Based on the previously mentioned definition, memes are not memes unless they’re already a popular, spreading theme throughout society. By using something that’s already popular and attaching a branded message, you’re leveraging the success of something that’s already gone viral without starting from the beginning. It’s easy street at its best.
They draw traffic. One of the most frustrating aspects of any marketing campaign is trying to drive traffic to a specific website. Memes do it for you. Regardless of their form, when they’re attached to a link, visitors are likely to check out the message behind the meme. They also attract likes and followers, increasing social network presences across the board.
We live in a culture that likes to share. Social media users of today are accustomed to going online and sharing the information they find. Whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or another network, each one is designed to help users engage one another through sharing. If you’re meme attracts attention, it’s likely to be shared unlike any other marketing form.
They’re practically designed for social media. Along with being easy to share, social media networks tend to prioritize images and videos. Users want to see information that’s easy to process and sends a message without a lot of thought. This is a basic tenant of memes.
They couldn’t be easier to create. For any marketer, content creation is a regular activity that requires intense effort and thought. There’s no way around it: marketing campaigns are driven by targeted content. Because memes are simple to create and easy to share, they could become a staple of any successful marketing initiative.

An anthropological colleague of mine, Grant McCracken also wrote a more intensive “field guide” for marketers to help them understand how to leverage memes.  He did a couple of years ago it in the form of  a book entitled Culturematic , which I found to be a fun dive into the topic of the memetic experiment.  Indeed that very book inspired this very blog as it’s own experiment.  My goal was to write a blog a day for a year and see what comes of it.  Suffice to say, I am glad i did it and that this Narcissistic Anthropologist now has a successful outlet for her sociocultural musings.

Whatever your POV on internet memes or marketing, you must acknowledge one thing – that internet memes are a powerful example of the power of human creativity and the immeasurable value that our digital connection to one another can have to communicate new ideas on a global scale.  It also proves the value of humor in mobilizing the masses.    I don’t know that i have an appropriately anthropological answer for what that means for the future of marketing-kind or mankind, for that matter. But I do believe that we have an opportunity to think about how memes can help us shift our frame and change our game.   This phenomenon tells me that getting people’s attention isn’t so complicated and doesn’t need to be [fraught with fear or anger to call people to action.

A point to ponder as you continue about your day, and seek to find meaning in the messages that will cross your path.

For the marketers out there, I encourage you to seek meaning in the meme.  There is undoubtedly something appropriate for your brand out there – and it likely comes from the heart and mind of one of your most coveted influencers.  It goes to show that sometimes you don’t need to dig too deep into the magic of marketing science to find gold.  Sometimes the most innovative communication is right on your computer screen during a Facebook break.

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Categories: Advertising, Anthropology, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Culturematic, Marketing, pop culture, Technology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The Talking Walls of Wynwood: The New Face of Creative Miami

Imagine South Florida, in all it’s hot, sticky, sunshine-laden sunburned glory – filled with pastel colored houses and apartments to repel the UV rays, cruise ships, retirees, the oceanfront and an ever-growing melange of cultural communities.  The Latin influence is strong there – in a way that gives the city a truly ethnic vibe that makes you feel like you are on a cultural immersion vacation – which this Narcissistic Anthropologist just loves!

A friend was telling me a popular phrase there is “I love Miami because it’s so close to the United States”.  I am sure that in some way this was initially meant to be a complaint by one of the slow-to-adapt natives (of which there are few, btw…”natives”, that is), but I revel in the awesomeness of that designation.  Miami truly has become its own cultural destination – whether you are recently immigrated looking for a taste of home or a local / tourist looking for an authentic cultural experience to hang on to in this dangling peninsula of transients and bronzed south-beach “beauties”.

And if  you travel a bit away from the beach into midtown, you have the opportunity to go even further down the rabbit-hole.   As the evening shade begins to cool down the pavement, you can stroll down blocks where the walls, sidewalks, and any municipal surface (including the bike racks,  garbage cans) are covered in art and the air wafts through, lightly scented with hints of marijuana and Gucci Rush.  It’s the only part of town where you can start off enjoying Latin-inspired tapas in a restaurant where the walls are filled head-to-toe with Shepard Fairey Murals, take a short stroll  around an expansive outdoor courtyard that doubles as a painted wall gallery, purchase a book on street art sculptures, have a cocktail outdoors on the bleachers of a “takes all kinds” (including dogs) watering hole complete with a life-size Jenga set while sharing some smoke with another human who knows no strangers, go hear a live Cumbia / Electronic music performance and then end up eating grilled cheese at a food Truck with Gallagher (yes – I mean the American comedian from the 80s who wore suspenders and smashed watermelons).

Wynwood is like Brooklyn, West Hollywood and Miami made a test tube baby that consisted mostly of their “good” genes.   And I for one am a new fan.  It is a far cry from the Miami I knew as a teenager growing up in South Florida and I couldn’t be more pleased with the creative haven.  As as far as I can tell, it has become a city to at least try out for a little while for both the cultural creatives and young , aspiring  and acculturating bourgeois. I definitely encourage a visit on your way to your next cruise or after a day at the beach.

I would like to thank my friend Andy for giving me a heartfelt tour.

Here is a “photo walk” of my evening in Wynwood – starting at a nearby “quintessential” creative high-rise residence and then hitting the streets:

IMG_3518 IMG_3520 IMG_3522 IMG_3527 IMG_3530 IMG_3533 IMG_3535 IMG_3536 IMG_3537 IMG_3538 IMG_3539 IMG_3541 IMG_3544 IMG_3549 IMG_3553 IMG_3554 IMG_3556 IMG_3561 IMG_3565 IMG_3566 IMG_3574 IMG_3578 IMG_3581I highly recommend a visit.  If you are making plans, here are a couple of websites that have more info:

http://wynwoodmiami.com/home.php

http://www.wynwood.com/

Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Art, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, hipster culture, pop culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Nine Pieces From Ninth Street: Philly street Art

I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Philly this week for the second time in a few months doing some fieldwork. My team and I spent time in several neighborhoods – in people’s homes observing life and food culture.

I remember before we arrived someone mentioned that a few of the blocks we were going to be on were a bit “sketchy” – and that in Philly they don’t have “desirable” and “undesirable” neighborhoods so much as a block by block distinction.

In any case – I don’t distinguish between “sketchy” and whatever the opposite is. It’s all real life to me. And I have to say my favorite experiences were in the very “real” South Philly. Aside from the people I talked to and homes I was in, I particularly enjoyed the opportunistic free time I had to stroll down 9th street – an international experience rolled into a several block stretch of shops and restaurants full of the fuel that sustains the locals and entertains those visitors with the right amount if wanderlust.

Then of course, there was the street art. In this case, I encountered an eclectic exhibit of sorts that was covering a construction barrier wall while we were on our way to lunch. Here are 9 of my favorite images in honor of 9th street.

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Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Art, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Ethnography, pop culture, sociology | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Best of The Best Street Art and the Role of Art In An Urban Context

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My favorite thing about street art is that it puts art, literally, in context.  Rather, it creates art within a context: expressing something about local and / or popular social mores in a forum that allows denizens of  that context to be disrupted with a different kind of conversation starter. It addresses issues relevant to specific populations and brings unexpected creative inspiration to the urban grind.

Music is a great forum for bringing pervading issues related to the human condition to the masses – but street art takes a different tack.  It discusses human and cultural issues in a memetic format – using imagery to evoke a depth and breadth of meaning.  And it does so by allowing everyone to participate in the conversation – rather than limiting the appreciation of an artistic message to a select few museum-goers.  It speaks by showing without telling in a fleeting space of time. You can walk by a piece of street art and bring a lifetime’s worth of personal and social meaning into a moment.  It’s an opportunity to meditate on life without going to church or finding a quiet “happy place”.I suppose my passion for street art is really rooted in it’s context.  It’s an accessible, grassroots commentary on the human condition.  And we all know that this human experience can be beyond words sometimes.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Katarina for sharing the following link of some of the best street art examples, to prove my point:

The Best Examples of Street Art from 2012

Enjoy!

 

Categories: Anthropology, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Ethnography, pop culture, sociology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

DragonCon In Context

About four years ago my wife and I met at DragonCon: a Fantasy/sci-fi/comics/all-things super-nerdy convention held annually in downtown Atlanta.

While both of us are needs at heart (and in-practice) in many ways – we were there as mostly observers that year – hanging out at one of the host hotel bars observing hundreds of conventioneers decked out in their finest superhero fantasy attire (although I was also playing Scrabble with A friend which made me more of a “participant observer”;) ).

In any case – we decides this year to take a day a d actually attend the conference – see a few exhibits and sessions. And of course – enjoy hours of people watching and getting excited to see our favorite nerdy obsessions and movies / books / childhood memories come to life and coexist in magical temporary ecosystem where he inhabitants survived on making the imaginary real.

It got me thinking about the objective so social co text of this gathering as well as the cultural ethos shared by the thousands of people who flow through it each year.

For example: after four years if attending this thing in one way it another I have been told by numerous nerd friends that it would be more appropriate if I came in costume next year. Why? Because this is not a place for observers – it is a community of participants. People from age five to eight five commit to being the hero, outlaw or other fantastical superpower or character they feel the human world is missing and revel I. Te sense if community that brings

This collection of self-identified and nerds and geeks who may have grown up (or still are) on or near the “outside” for believing in things the human experience does not count as “real” come to celebrate our dreams by creating living totems in their honor.

It is among this same group of fringe believers that MOST if the people who invent and create the thing a that change our world for the better come from. The science. The art. The innovations. The inspiration.

We are entering an age where we are finally teaching our children (and our adults) to be proud of the parts of ourselves that think different and embrace our imagination: that seeing is not believing, but believing is the first step in making something real.

So, in honor of my DragonCon soul sisters and brothers I thought I would share some of my favorite moments of the characters I encountered being “real”. Enjoy!

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Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Ethnography, Participant Observation, pop culture, Rituals, sociology, Television and Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

A Walk Through East Atlanta

My wife and I took an early evening stroll through an often-missed-by-tourists-and-transients part of Atlanta last night. We had both spent most of the week down with a lovely stomach flu and wanted to get out for a minute.

Typically, we would head to this part of town for evening’s hijynx: drinking and generally hunting down some trouble when we have a wild hair – as it is known as a great down-n-dirty party locale for locals because of its string of bars and nightlife that takes all kinds and all budgets.

However, spending some time in the daylight you can see a little bit more depth on your journey through the neighborhood. At dinner (the hipster taco place that serves things like grass fed brisket and organic margaritas) we were surrounded by Gen X parents – tables of couples in their late thirties and early forties with newborns and toddlers . We were reminded of the “alternative lifestyle” choices that reside here – the heterosexual artists who took their time settling down , and chose to live a little left of center before getting decent-enough paying jobs to buy / rent a home in a not-quite-yet gentrified part of town. These residents are mixed in with the less economically fortunate legacy residents of the Afrocan American Community as well as a collection of young artists who’s work can be seen on stickers and random acts of street art throughout the neighborhood.

But what binds all the residents of this part if Atlanta’s world together seems to be a taste for the ecclectic that makes a neighborhood a home.

Here are some photos from our early evening after- dinner walk as a preview. I recommend both Atlantans and outsiders head down I-20 East to have a look with open eyes sometime and enjoy the perspective.

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Categories: American Culture, Anthropology, Art, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Ethnography, Participant Observation, sociology | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Honoring The Drive-In: An American Cultural Tradition

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Tonight, I’m going to the Drive in for the first time this season.  It’s not something I do often, but about once or twice in the Spring / Summer months a bunch of us girls drive our SUVs out to the east side of town, pack up coolers and camp chairs and tailgate at the Drive-In.   We usually pick a movie we don’t care too much about digesting, get there early and eat dinner / drink a little bit and socialize through a double feature.  For us, it’s a great way to catch up and enjoy a night out without going to the bars.

I have to say, however, that I’ve never actually sat in my car and fully absorbed a drive-in movie date.  Never made-out in the back seat or got “stranded” and “branded a fool” (name that iconic American teen movie!).

But I do know one thing for sure – the Drive-in is an American icon.  It’s one of those things that’s unique to our American culture – an artifact of an era that has been slowly fading away.  I know in my town, however, the Drive-in gets a lot of traffic during the summer months  – not just from movie-goers but also by car clubs and festivals.   It seems people have been itching for different venues to actually get out and socialize – a nice change of pace from our daily “virtual” lives.

In any case, I found a great article here , most of which is below along with one of the two videos shared in the article.  I would recommend visiting the site to see the image gallery as well.  Enjoy!

Vanishing America: The Drive-In Theater

It’s one of the icons of American civilization, combining Hollywood with car culture. The drive-in movie theater was once a mainstay of every American city, and plenty of small rural towns too. In the 1950s there were more than 4,000 of them. They were a place for families to enjoy a night out together, and for teenagers to be initiated into the games of adulthood.

Now the drive-in theater has fallen on hard times. According to The United Drive-In Theatre Owners Association, there are currently only 366 drive-ins in the United States with a total of 606 screens. The states with the most theaters are Pennsylvania (33) and Ohio (31). Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii and Louisiana sadly have no drive-ins. Many other states are in a precarious position with only one or two.

Competition from cable TV and movie rentals along with rising cost in Tucson real estate agency services have seriously hurt the drive-in theater industry, yet it clings to life. It’s gone from that great American hero – the success story – to that other great American hero – the underdog.

The first drive-in opened in New Jersey in 1933 and the idea soon caught on. In Piscataway Homes, the average person went to the drive in at least once a month. Their heyday came in the economic boom years of the 1950s and ’60s. They began to feel the pinch in the 1970s with the spread of more TV channels. With VCRs and cable TV becoming popular in the late 1970s and early ’80s, things got even worse.

Now most drive-ins are gone. Others have remained as spooky abandoned lots that offer the photographers in this article’s gallery the chance to lend atmosphere to their images. Visiting a dead drive-in theater is a bit like visiting a ghost town. It leaves you wondering about the people who used to spend time there.

Unlike with ghost towns, many of us can remember being one of those people. I remember going to the DeAnza Drive-in in Tucson, Arizona. My friend and I used to put a futon on top of her VW van and watch movies under the Arizona starlight. The DeAnza is gone now, and all that’s left is a webpage of memories.

But don’t despair, movie fans, there’s hope. The remaining drive-ins are keeping the flame lit. There are places like Hollywood Drive-in, which has been showing movies on Route 66 near Troy, New York, since 1952. New technologies like video projection are making it easier to open up drive-ins in any location where there’s a blank wall or the space for a screen. My favorite indie cinema, Ragtag Cinema in Columbia, Missouri, has done some outdoor shows in a nearby parking lot. Check out the photo gallery to see a cool Belgian drive-in using an inflatable screen.

As the great Joe Bob Briggs always says, “The drive-in will never die!”

 

Categories: American Culture, american History, Art and culture, Consumer Anthropology, Consumer Culture, Culture, Television and Media, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m Just as Strange as You

I’ll be going to see a Frida Kahlo / Diego Rivera exhibit today. Last night my wife and I watched the movie again in preparation. I love how art can speak a language about human nature that transcends words. But I also love when someone can feel so deeply and be able to express those words without abandon.

Exquisitely Human

I'm just as strange as you

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Categories: Art, Art and culture, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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