Twenty pages into self-appointed alternative culture guru Niedzviecki's muddled analysis of mass media -- TV and pop music primarily -- this reader feels like one of Monty Python's Gumbys. My brain hurts.
Both confused and confusing, the thesis argues that "we" -- call us Generation Whatever -- have had our once-radical counterculture co-opted by the corporate entertainment conglomerate. What was formerly alternative is now middle-of-the-road.
But, ironically -- and irony washes over these pages like "finger quotations" -- we still want to be part of popular culture, if only solipsistically.
To paraphrase Niedzviecki, we want to have our cake and eat it, too, but we're not hungry.
What does this all mean?, he repeatedly asks. Hal hasn't a clue. "I'm asking the questions, but I don't have an answer."
He cites pirate radio, squeegee anarchy and zines -- what he dubs "unpopular culture" -- as recent subversive developments in the war against The Man. Especially zines. Is it a coincidence that Niedzviecki, co-editor of broken pencil, has built a cottage industry out of reporting on marginalia for mainstream dailies like the National Post?
While Noam Chomsky, Jerry Springer and Malcolm McLaren are absent, Marshall McLuhan, whose obsolete, vague lingo is overdue for a serious academic overhaul, is referred to 13 times in the tome.
Beck -- Beck! -- wags "ironically" nine times. Nirvana? Nope. Everclear? Twice.
And check out this lightweight lineup of other pundits who reinforce We Want Some Too's tenuous contentions: Avril Benoˆt, Ralph Benmergui, Betsey Powell and Evan Solomon. Whither Al Waxman, Leah McLaren and Gerald McBoing Boing?
No doubt some of them will be attending Niedzviecki's book-launch tonight (Thursday, May 11) at the Imperial Pub (54 Dundas East, 7:30 pm). The rest of us are invited as well -- I'll be the one in the metaphoric balaclava brandishing the ironic Uzi.
Up against the wall, culture criminals!