I am not the first to note the beauty and composition of this photo of Justin Bieber apparently being strangled by fellow club-goer. Not nearly. It was a bit of an internet meme, yielding mash-up photos like this, in which Bieber and his people are placed within a Renaissance milieu in what are shown to be striking similarities of form. Maxim wrote a piece called This Photo of Justin Bieber Getting Choked in a Nightclub is a Work of Art. I have not read these, only seen enough in the Renaissance compositional analysis vectors to know that I want to think my own thing about this before I read those, most of which are just waggish, hucksterish pieces anyway, I think. Everything’s a zinger joke.
And that’s how memes go. Memes are so quick they’re like Higgs bosons
The photo itself is mesmerizing. Because it’s Bieber and seems to be real, captured, and just inherently beautiful. It doesn’t look like it came from any paparazzo. It’s active, candid. Colorful. How could a photo this good have been made without…more…intent? Forget the mash-ups. Just look at the photo as it is! The indifferent ring of clubbers, going about their own social lives, the centrality of Bieber’s face, Christ-like, even the hoodies and trendy Flex-fit baseball caps on the onlookers seem…ancient. Byzantine. The people around him are a perfect throng. (And are there twelve figures in the frame?) The mix of races and sexes, the various angles and attitudes of composure, leisure. It’s a perfect photo. Not a thousand words but ten thousand.
This deep burgundy backdrop, with just a few swatches of contemporary club color, like the purple blotch in the upper left quadrant. The iconic swirly painting or acoustic tile or whatever it is behind Bieber. And especially the man in the gray hood, Judas-like, looking on with what seems like an approving, almost conspiratorial will as Post Malone goes for the glottis. This figure is even more central. The figure of our complicity or our malice or our complacency.
Who is the photographer of this masterwork? Is it real?
Stream a list like this or just…look at it. Take in the hit songs from the year when you were the age that your children are now to understand something deep and wordless about their inner lives. About music and the inner life in general. This is eleven years old for me:
Top Songs of 1980, from Bob Borst’s Home of Pop Culture and Web Development
Deborah Harry, Lipps, Inc.’s “Funkytown”. When these songs were on the radio—and they were all the time—I’m sure I acted like “This is silly”. This is gooey. Kim Carnes? “Bette Davis Eyes” ?? They were silly. They sound even sillier now, in fact, our aural standards being what they are, the state of recording and producing being now what it is. They can sound a little tinny. Innocent, but not in a good way.
But they didn’t then! Just seeing these song titles and remembering what music was doing to me then, how exciting and lush and limitless and powerful it was. It’s so funny, because this particular magic circuit was completed by some shit little clock radio in my room. But I would weep about these songs! I would fling myself on the bed. I would karate kick my full-length mirror to the opening riff of J Geils band’s 1982 hit “Centerfold”, to the B-section of Billy Joel’s 1980’s “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me.”
As you get older you can get sort of walled off from your own experience and the experiences of others, maybe especially your kids. Like you know better, or feel more. For me, Olivia Newton John and Captain Tennille are great teachers, their songs instruments of empathy.
|| Call Me
|| Pink Floyd
||Another Brick In The Wall
|| Olivia Newton-John
|| Michael Jackson
||Rock With You
|| Captain and Tennille
||Do That To Me One More Time
|| Crazy Little Thing Called Love
|| Paul McCartney
|| Lipps, Inc.
|| Billy Joel
||It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me
|| Bette Midler
|| Rupert Holmes
||Escape (The Pina Colada Song)
|| Gary Numan
Separate from and prior to all that Mircea Eliade
stuff about sacred naming and names nobody’s allowed to say, I’ve conceived a new theory about the function, significance, and ubiquity of nicknames
. Here it is:
We can’t help but use funny, diminutive variants of the names of our intimates because our emotions about them constrict our mouths just as we name them–with delight, surprise, or some other trespass of emotion.
Like say you’re a caveman and I’m a caveman, and my name is Wug. You come out of your cave and you see me and you go to say my name, Wug! But you’re so excited that we’re here and we’re both still alive and there I am and instead, with a wide grin on your caveman rictus, you say “Wug-UH!” or “Woo! Woo!” or even “Weeeee!” New nicknames for me that so far only you and I know. Over millennia the anatomical/emotional fact of this has become etched into our naming rituals, bro-bros.
It’s a rare day off for work for me. On a clear winter afternoon, I sit out on the back porch and sun with our dog, Georgia, whom we refer to variously as “Georgie-G”, “G-G”, “Joo Joo”, “G Girl”, “G Gordon”, and “Goo Goo.” :-)