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Five Unambiguous Signs of the Death of Culture in 2010

By Ryan J. Meehan, Crimson Staff Writer

If a culture reflects its subjects, it’s more than appropriate that culture in 2010 was more miasma than movement. From Twitter-jockeying to the 24-hour news cycle, it’s become more apparent with each passing year that the ideological charade of cultural reinvention has slowed in novelty and ambition to a stultifying, zombified lurch. Or so we all learned in that one grad seminar. Here are five undeniable signs that culture in 2010 is beyond resuscitation.

5. The Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Fear

No two people in America have been as consistently funny about such consistently un-funny circumstances as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Somewhere in the spectrum between court jesters and philosophical interlocutors, their blend of political entertainment and entertaining politics made explicit the unhappiness of the current marriage of rhetoric and spectacle on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. But at some point the decision was made to put an earnest foot forward into the political fray, and on the terms of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin no less. The result was a confusingly pallid, expectedly self-congratulatory gesture, short on laughter and ideas in equal measure.

4. Hipster Runoff

Like greatest hits compilations and violent political upheaval, metacriticism has its place and its time—at year’s end, for instance. All the better that most people don’t have the wherewithal or the free time to expend trawling the Internet for emerging memes, microtrends, and the staggering permutations of Americans’ collective search for authenticity, let alone to catalog and mock them all. Blogger Carles is the exception. Hipster Runoff, his brainchild, is exactly what it sounds like: a virtual dumping-ground for anecdotes in the life of the cultural scavenger known as the hipster, bolstered by faux-schizophrenic web-slang introspection in bold, ironic colors. The stomach-turning part is that it’s actually on point now and then.

3. Four Loko

The liquid lovechild of moonshine, cough syrup, Red Bull, and Hi-C, Four Loko stormed the 18-to-24 demographic this year with the vehemence of the Blitzkrieg in Poland. Across the country, one in five of your friends ‘had an insane night last night’ with the help of a potable, mildly unpleasant friend in a $3.00 tall boy. Unfortunately, the absinthe of the YouTube generation doesn’t induce poetic vision. Side effects include slurred speech, raunchy dancing, and regret.

2. Four Loko Banned, Diluted

Ironically, the referendum on big government in this year’s midterm elections transpired concurrently with statewide bans on our blackout-ambrosia across the country, in a move that resonates weirdly with the Temperance era. Subsequently, the drink’s manufacturers—in all likelihood two dudes named Mitch or Javier with pet snakes and unkempt beards—announced that they would remove the beverage’s caffeine, taurine, and guarana, which, for some consumers, amounts to the Beatles without John, Paul, or George.

1. Tree of Codes

By the time you read this, culture may already be dead. “Tree of Codes,” Jonathan Safran Foer’s third ‘novel’ is advertised as a work of sculptural literature. What this actually involves, however, appears to be passages cribbed from Foer’s favorite work of fiction, Bruno Schultz’s “The Street of Crocodiles,” cut up and arranged on various pages, which themselves have lines haphazardly cut out of them. The desired result is a book that ‘looks really interesting’. The actual result is the invitably navel-gazing resolution of one of the more embarrassing creative arcs in contemporary literature. Whether anyone will buy the thing, let alone have the patience to read it, only determines how spectacularly Foer will have managed to avoid embarrassing himself among his own waning literary cult and the dubious conceptual art community to which he’s pandering. Or not.

—Ryan J. Meehan is the outgoing Arts Chair. He is not ‘outgoing’ in that sense.

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