“לתת לו ללכת”"أطلقي سركِ" “Libre Soy” “Libérée, délivrée” “Lass jetzt los” “E F# G DDA GEEEE F#G” “Tawas Nyo” “Και ξεχνώ, τα ξεχνώ, και πίσω δεν κοιτώ” "나는 이제 떠날래” “Livre estou” “Tukufu Mwangani” “Отпусти и забудь” "رها کن رهایش کن" “Giờ ra đi, một mình ta” “Let it go. Let it go! Can't hold it back Anymore” - Idina Menzel - Demi Lovato
“History repeats itself, First as Tragedy, Second as Farce.” - Karl Marx
“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations Indefinitely; But they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” - Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens
*We're all going to die!*
I've accepted this fate and have begun planning how I want to live. This book represents my humble first attempt in creating a new voice, experimenting with how I can use this voice and how wide I can share it. But first! I'm full of existential dread about the two forces that are swelling, ready to tear open the fabric of humanity in the coming decades.
The first force is climate change, which will alter not only the surface and atmosphere of our planet, but also threatens to push hundreds of millions of humans from their homes and to the brink of starvation. Hurricanes Katrina and Maria are deafeningly loud examples of how complacent we have become and will continue to be to the suffering of even those humans we share an identity with, such as these Americans, as they confront the ravages of nature. Every human will be affected, but as I surmise in this book, the ultra-wealthy will insulate themselves in climate-controlled bubbles and isolate themselves from their fellow humans forced to suffer the worst of it.
The second force is what I've dubbed the Great Disruption. This will be the tipping point of the Automation Revolution, when 80% of all job tasks will be automated. Oh to be sure, it will cut loose the shackles and free billions from doing tedious tasks. For some, the .1% of the human population, the soaring profits, free from paying salaries and even the cost to heat factories, will vault them to the heavens, allowing them to enjoy the unimaginable luxuries of the Gilded Age of Automation. (Did someone say a quaint, single family 530-foot-long super-yacht which comes with two swimming pools, its own submarine and a missile defense system? Yes, this already exists...)
But for the billions of other humans, once the shackles are smashed, I fear we will be abandoned by this advancement, severed from the already shoddy fabric of our capitalist society, thrown into the waste bin and left to fight for what little scraps remain. This creeping automation has taken over many of our factory jobs and, in this novel, I explore how it will take over not only white collar jobs but also creative jobs, which many think are impervious to automation.
To be sure, I'm not some second-wave luddite. I'd love for humans to be free from the most degrading tasks such as scrubbing toilets or hosing off the puke in frat houses. But who will benefit from this advancement? How will we use the new, tremendous wealth generated? How will we use the free time it will afford us?
Most importantly, what are we doing as a species?
As we stand on the precipice to this cataclysmic shift, we have more money, resources and tools for coordination than humanity has ever known. But how do we spend our scarcest resource, our attention? On average, Americans spend 10 hours and 39 minutes each day in front of a screen, working and absorbing the media provided here. But as the supermodel turned humanity's final social-philosopher, Karlie Kloss-Marx, warned in her foundational critique, Das Luxus, “Pop Culture is the opiate of the masses.” We happily sedate ourselves with this frivolity while we forfeit the future of humanity.
Pop culture hijacks our consciousness and creates narratives about what is and is not normal. We are silly social animals full of tribalistic impulses about who and what to trust. Pop creates a sense of familiarity that dulls our judiciousness, and all too often, we conflate this familiarity with legitimacy. For example, why not give the man who declared bankruptcy six times a shot as president, his pop persona on the Apprentice portrayed him as a smart, hardworking and successful businessman. Or why not listen to that Playboy Playmate turned game show host when she claims that vaccines made her son autistic. Jenny McCarthy seems so relatable and her suffering is so believable in those gossip magazines, much more so than the entire cold, faceless field of pediatric medicine. Who are they anyways?
Pop's glossy tendrils have reached into so many parts of human society and choke out deep, meaningful conversations with its fluff, from the universities that care more about polishing their brand names than liberating their students from ignorance, to the Christian preachers who spend their congregations' money on plastic surgeries and private jets, to the politicians who are more concerned with their poll numbers and sound bites than crafting effective legislation, to the doctors who can make much more money lengthening eyelashes than lengthening lives.
Pop culture is full of deliciously absurd mythologizing. Below are just some of my favorite revisionisms:
Jay Z named his independent record label, Rock-A-Fella, after the wealthiest man of all time, an oil tycoon and monopoly magnate, (John D. Rockefeller.)
Women's two-piece bathing suits are named for an island in the Pacific Ocean used for nuclear testing, because it was joked that these swimsuits would have the same explosive effects on men, (Bikini Atoll.)
A best-selling rock band named themselves after the Grand-Arch Duke of Austria whose assassination led to World War I, (Franz Ferdinand.)
DMX rapped an anthem for a group whose name comes from the volunteer cavalry that Teddy Roosevelt fought with during the Spanish-American war, (“Stop. Drop. Shut 'em down, open up shop. Oh, no, that's how Ruff Ryders roll.)
One of the most famous shock rockers named himself after both the pinnacle of Golden Age of Hollywood female glamor and a vicious cult leader who orchestrated nine gruesome deaths, (Marilyn Manson.)
The Swedish disco band, ABBA, gained international fame when they won a song contest singing about how their love is like the battle that ended the Napoleonic Wars and killed more than 65,000 people, (Waterloo. “Couldn't escape you if I wanted to.”)
The poems of T.S. Elliott were taken and twisted into the longest running, fur-and-spandex-clad musical of all time, (Cats! Now and forever.)
Taylor Swift sang in her first crossover hit about being a Hawthorean single mother ostracized from her entire community for adultery in one line, and then, in the very next line, how she's a Shakespearean teen suicide victim, (Love Story. “Cause you were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter and my daddy said 'Stay away from Juliet.'”)
Even our religious holidays have succumbed to this revisionism. Santa-Christmas is a pop perversion of the story of Jesus, the anti-rich god-child born in a manure filled manger. (Also, Christians fudged the date of Jesus's birth so that it could remix and take over the popularity of Saturnalia and other Roman winter solstice celebrations. The Bible hints that his birthday was in the spring since shepherds were watching over their flock.)
Pop culture also constantly revises our perceptions of what a human should look like. George Washington served as America's first president with only one birth tooth (ok, he did have dentures made from the teeth pulled from his slaves.) One of the greatest singers, Freddie Mercury, was able to create his unique vocal sounds only because of his overbite and buck teeth. But it seems like all pop figures nowadays, from singers to politicians to news anchors, rush to get the same cookie-cutter veneers. Cardi B states this pop priority in her breakout hit, “got a bag and fixed my teeth, hope you hoes know it ain't cheap.”
But oh how I love it! I could swim for hours in the silly joy of a well-produced pop song. Its just a sweet, sweet fantasy. These pop images of rapture get me feeling emotions, deeper than I've ever dreamed of.
This book and my new voice act as a meta-narrative for me. This novel is my rebuttal to pop culture. Can I hijack the delicious familiarity of pop culture to focus our feeble human attention on our species's greatest threats? Can I mythologize our living idols and use their already well-scripted personas to tell a moral story?
I'm an artist whose medium is pop culture references. I smash song lyrics and pop moments into glittery rhinestones and then bedazzle these into the tapestry of a story as I weave it. The style of this novel is “Gitchie, Gitchie, Ya Ya Dadaism,” a modern, pop art take on the avant-garde movement, Dadaism, that rejects logic, reason and capitalism and which vaults men's urinals as celebrated masterpieces. I've written this novel inspired by pop artists like Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons, whose Marilyn Monroe silkscreens and Michael Jackson and Bubbles statue are able to quickly snatch our attention but then drag us into deeper reflections about both our celebrity obsessions and what these say about who we are.
As you read, you'll notice my mysterious, glitchy narrator is prone to the hallmarks of pop music: sampling, remixing and referencing. I also got a giddy thrill in transforming two of the most-critically reviled genres. Radio Ga Ga is a jukebox musical without the music. It's also a fan fiction without the fanaticism, and even worse, a song fic, the most detested subgenre of fan fic.
Far and away, physical books are my favorite technology. But, I'm interested in how I can use new technologies to deepen the readers' experiences with the layers of meaning I've woven into this novel. One of the main problems with our Information Age is that we are bombarded with too much information. Part of the experiment of this book is to see if I can curate my favorite online content in a way that causes audiences to think in a new and brilliant way. Can I display the online sound bites and fury and signify something? The novel samples, remixes and references more than 2,300 song lyrics, scientific studies, philosophical theories, news articles, poems, memes, the Bible and other pop culture pieces. I've coded the online version so the reader can quickly access every reference that I've (knowingly) made with a click. Enjoy it all here: www.radiogagemixtape.com. I've created YouTube and Spotify playlists of the tracks included in the book, you can find these by searching for Stefani Bulsara on either site.
This is version 1.02, a beta launch, so there will be some errors. But I hope you will enjoy this campy romp and that the saccharine sweetness of pop helps our existential crises go down.
So sit back, sip some hot cocoa, and enjoy this tour de farce experiment!