1.10.08

I get letters!

Hi Mr. Hughes,

My name is Jennifer and I am conducting research for a piece for the Avenue section of the Independent Alligator. I was interviewing Dr. McKeen and he recommended that I contact you.

My article is entitled "Return of the 90s" in which I explore the various ways 90s culture has returned to the forefront of music, fashion, television, etc.

Initially, my idea sprung from my observations of 90's shows like "Are You Afraid of the Dark" and Beverly Hills 90210 returning, Radiohead's world tour, grunge and plaid fashion becoming trendy again, new indie bands copying Nirvana, college students throwing 90's parties, and so on.

Dr. McKeen said that you would be a better source on that decade.

Would you mind giving me your take on the 1990's and whether or not you see facets of that decade coming back to popular culture currently? Any opinions, perspectives, analyses, are welcome.

Your assistance in this matter is greatly appreciated.

Thanks so much,
Jennifer
Class of 2011
The Independent Alligator (The Avenue)


Hi Jennifer,

I've found as I get older, gain perspective and pay more close attention to the world around me, it's hard to compartmentalize music, fashion, TV, film, etc. into discrete decades, so if you'll indulge a bitchy preface I'd like to go on record as stating the use of "the '90s" (or any other decade) as shorthand to describe a wide variety of interwoven and long-stretching cultural threads is a fat load of balls — bogus hokum from the get-go and certainly a lazy way to go about criticism, much less journalism. It's a trope that involves jettisoning insight and trimming the edges off history after the fact, often in an attempt to homogenize, diminish, control, package and sell ersatz culture to dumb kids and boring nostalgia jerks. I recommend you immediately scrap this project and do something useful instead, such as constructing a moonshine still or burning a church.

That being said, the snowballing efficiency in information transfer that really got rolling in the early 1990s (blah blah blah the Internet) has created an environment where regional differences in popular culture have all but disappeared, and where meaning is restricted, fixed and refixed in much more specific and granular ways than perhaps was possible before.

One example of what I mean involves music: it was in the 90s that terms such as industrial, punk, hardcore, ska, rock, hip hop, jam and grunge started to be used less as descriptive devices than as titles for genres with narrow sets of prefabricated sounds, costuming, political opinion, lifestyles — even diets. Where before a term like "punk (or "punk rock") had been used to describe a variety of shifting strategies or attitudes about music and style (and to a lesser extent than what was to come, lifestyle), the newfound ease in transferring cultural data made a lot of people just sort of up and agree that "punk" was one thing. Due to people's general unwillingness to process deviation as well as the innate human proclivity to be big gay copycats, any even slight modifications to these new cultural one things marked by the participation of at least two idiots became a defined subgenre, and, if enough sheeple jumped on the bandwagon, a genre in its own right (hence crust punk, straight edge, emo, etc.)

If I were to overcome my resistance to talking about culture in neat little 10-year nubbins and assign some sort of distinction to "the '90s," it'd probably be as the period in which enthusiastic fans of pop culture, the types who can't settle for the top 40 or get too thrilled about the latest Hollywood blockbuster, gave up drugs, fucking and generally being awesome to endlessly argue about arbitrary classifications and parse meaningless data like a bunch of pussy-ass nerd bean counters. From this perspective, "the '90s" really have never left.

I hope this helps.

Love,
Patrick


P.S. Oh yeah — also in the '90s, frat guys started obsessing on Bob Marley and the Grateful Dead. Weird. (I'm inclined to blame the marijuana.)

20 comments:

Candy said...

So sayeth Patrick Hughes, Renaissance Man.

Patrick Hughes said...

I sure hope that's not anything like Renaissance Faire Man.

cIII said...

Constructing a Moonshine Still is hard work. But then, after you Distilled your Spirits, you could use the Product to burn said Church. It's pretty much a package deal.

cIII said...

Oh yea!
And stomp your Feet and clap your hands for the return of Patrick Hughes.
It's like a Ho-Down.
If a Ho-Down was filled with obscenities and Bathtub Onions.

Patrick Hughes said...

man, you don't want your ho-down to be filled with no bathtub onions. take it from me, you don't even want your bathtub to be filled with bathtub onions.

Mr. Austin said...

That was a long - and wonderful - way of saying, "No I can't help you." I'd love to know what her response is.

Patrick Hughes said...

people never respond when i get all blahblah like that. they just sigh and drift away.

owner said...

Hey wait, I thought the comments section ruined your last "blog." As if "blog" were actually a word. Which decade do we blame for that?

In any case, I think use of the word "balls" in your letter was a real service to that young lady, and I commend you.

glen said...

I bet you made that girl cry.

Also, which came first: The compartmentalization of cultural phenomena into ten-year units or pop culture retrospective news items?

themouse said...

I shall never tire of your humor.

Anonymous said...

A perfect summation.

You, Sir, are my hero.

- The Evil Twin

Anonymous said...

Criminey, you passed up a chance to tell her how Jean-Claude Van Damme invented grunge rock and Bill Clinton showed up drunk at the '93 Gator Growl and exposed hisself onstage, but Florida Blue Key hushed it up.

(sulks)

Feral Wimp said...

How can you be mad at a poor alligator staffer? Don't you know they get paid in chimney ash?

Patrick Hughes said...

mad! how can i be mad?! i used to be one of them! i'm not mad. everything i wrote was sincere! it's just that... well, i guess i'm kind of a dick.

Ozma said...

How fabulous to read you again and see that someone else suffers from bathtub troubles. Although our bathtub troubles aren't as fab, with demons and elves and dildos, etc. The ultimate test of your writing will be if you can make fixing one's stupid house sound cool.

I want to attest that everything in this letter is entirely accurate. Except that frat guys started that shit in the 80s and it was actually the LSD.

Anonymous said...

So nice to see you're back. And bathing in onion water, apparently.

Nice jargon babble- that bitch deserved it, clearly, but it would have been WICKED RAD (that's 90speech, amirite?) if you had also worked in an assblood reference.

ASSBLOOD.

Anonymous said...

I think you're just mad cuz some lil' college ho was like "Hey old man, howz about fillin' me in on the olden times. I was six when Kurt Cobain died. OMIGODISTHATKANYEWESTPLEASEFUCKMYWHITEPUSSYYOUBLACKGODOFFUCK!"

Captain Walker!
Captain Walker!

People like the past because they think they can define it. The present is so amorphous, so overwhelming. that's why people love to romanticize the past; they want a cogent, static definition of the reality they are experiencing. Since this is impossible in the present they apply this perceptual ossification to an inherently flawed conception of the past. The present is too confusing and scary for the average dipshit-especially the young dipshits raised on suburban fantasies. I'm not scared because I'll soon be riding myself of this organic prison and I will ride to freedom on comet 3487B. All hail the liberation!

If this chick is hot maybe you can seduce her by showing your collection of punk rock show fliers (copied on a xerox on lime green or canary yellow paper) and your copy of the mudhoney/nirvana vinyl single. Then she can ask "What's a Mudhoney?"
"It's in my pants babe, it's in my pants."

Behold the Man!

It is not girly to long for a world where a man may love his brother. Neil, I hate you!

Keith said...

The 90s are back? Awesome. I can't wait to call up Video Jukebox and have them play "Pop that Coochie" all day.

Megan said...

people are gonna be confused by your correct use of discrete.

Anonymous said...

Glad you're back!

Can I do laundry with your roomie?

P.S.
You'll notice the correct use of "you're" and "your" in this post. It happens so infrequently these days, I thought I'd point it out.