Tom Goulter - Gadabout, Christchurch

Monday, April 19, 2004

Jam with this

I know a guy who collects old video games. Every time I see him, he proclaims loudly the latest archaic 1980's goody he's picked up, or if he hasn't found any, he reiterates how his collection of NES games now stretches around his mantelpiece. And he has some good fuckin' games, man. He's got Digger T-Rock. He's got fuckin' Excitebike. Thanks to my diligent digging styles, he's even got his very own Super Nintendo, which, in addition to (infamously) being the basis for something Sony made a minor impact with a whiles back, is unquestionably the Best Games Machine Ever.

But I digress. This fella, he loves him some old-school gaming, and good on 'im. He also, he's proud of proclaiming, culturejams as a hobby.

My boy's seen Culturejam. He's a radio student, where he's getting well schooled in the politics of the media.

So when people bemoan the current stagnant state of New Zealand media, I say to them, I sit them down and I say, "Listen. It's not all Paul Holmes and it's not all Mikey Havoc. There's a new generation out there, a bunch of hungry kids who're growing up fast, and won't be happy with Mike King Tonight and cheap crap produced by Touchdown for much longer. These kids, they're too media-aware to make the same mistakes as we're seeing made now. This new generation," -- sometimes I'll put my fist to my heart and stare achingly at a spot just above the horizon as I say this bit -- "they're gonna make a difference".

And I'm talking about my buddy when I say this. This guy who says he culturejams for fun, and what he means by this is he likes to sit in his room and change the logos so they say "Bugger King" and "The Whorehouse", while his main jazz is in paying good money to further someone else's brand far past its theoretical sell-by date. (Of course, if you're going to fork over your mindshare to anyone, Nintendo is a fine choice).

And ay, as some white guy said one time in some play about identity dysfunction among privileged white folks (with a nice sideline in Whitey's mad skillz in narrative-hijacking), there's the rub.

Because the whole image-colonisation, guerilla warfare, battle for the mind, memetic warfare thing, what good does it do either side if you keep it in your head?

Hell, forget my buddy. He's small potatoes. He's shooting at targets in his back yard and he'll probably never see real action, but at least he doesn't pay >$20 for a copy of Adbusters, right? At least he (as far as I'm aware) has not paid for the DVD, the poster, the t-shirt reminding everyone that he is not his fucking khakis. (Though it is a very nice digipak you get it in).

You can't, in this town, read your Chomsky or your Klein or even your Moore or Franken on the bus without being approached by people trying to get you to join their hare-brain revolutionary scams, which is usually just a segue into mundane talk about the weather, talk about the Government. Everyone has those fucking Hallenshirts with witty variations on popular corporate logos: "Enjoy Crack"; "Motherfucker - Every Time A Good Time"; "Fuck Motors". (Let's not start with the Che thing).

You blinked, and a nice idea - take back our voices and our eyes and ears and minds - became another ice-breaker at parties. (About the best thing you can say of "culturejamming" as the average citizen experiences it is that every "jammed" shirt on the street is one less You're Been A Very Bad Girl - Go To My Room or You're On My List Of Things To Do Tonight - hell, I guess jamming is blocking out at least one avenue of unwanted noise). And meanwhile, serious organs of media criticism had started getting really barbed (oh, the humanity!) in their characterisation of their opponents.

Yes, yes, it's just another truism - The Man Steals A Brother's Ideas And Runs With Them. It was inevitable, of course, and you don't have to be incredibly clever to spot it - hell, I can point it out, and I have trouble with how one guy can formulate the theory of relativity and do those dope movies with the baby prams running down the steps and shit.

But let's close with a final, much-lamented juxtaposition: The poet laureate of the 1960's protest scene, shilling unmentionables. Wouldn't it be the best Dylan lyric ever, if reality hadn't beaten him to it? I mean seriously. At this rate, it's looking like the revolution will be advertised.