Monday, March 25, 2019

Things Move Too Fast | Lefsetz Letter

“Finding Neverland” is already old news. You know Michael Jackson’s handlers are aged boomers because they didn’t know you don’t fight back, you ignore it, and then people forget it.

In today’s “New York Times Magazine” there’s a letter from a fourteen year old complaining that the paper’s list of “The Top 25 Songs That Matter Right Now” contained songs she and her friends had never heard of, never mind listened to. Another writer said that too many had not hit the radio. And others championed the inclusion of Bruce Springsteen.

That’s the world we live in, one of chaos. Where the aged are addicted to the old and even youngsters are not comprehensive in their knowledge and experience.

The only way you can triumph is by having a continuing narrative. You can talk about albums all you want, but they don’t fit the modern paradigm, oftentimes they’re instantly forgotten. Kinda like Steve Perry’s comeback. He should have dropped single after single and maybe one of them would have been great and connected. Instead, he released a compendium of tunes that seemingly no one has listened to, and most people don’t even know he put out. Furthermore, if you’re in the marketplace on a regular basis you get feedback and figure out what works.

And Netflix succeeds not because of any individual show, but the tsunami of product, there’s always something new coming down the pike. Furthermore, almost everybody has a subscription so people can follow a suggestion, check something out and be part of the community, we all want to be part of the community.

Used to be in the pre-internet era there were self-anointed judges, who criticized your taste. You’re not listening to or watching the right stuff. Now, no one cares. The judges are on their own island stuck in the twentieth century. We’re all just trying to keep up, and oftentimes we don’t even find the great stuff for years. Who cares that someone is denigrating our consumption, no one else is aware of the criticism! Kinda like Twitter. Someone spews hate and then you check their number of followers, which is almost always low. And it being Twitter, most followers never see the tweet anyway, so you can ignore it.

But social media triumphs because we all have access and it’s free.

Meanwhile, the commentariat, the privileged, the wealthy, keep telling us to put our phones down and disconnect…they don’t realize, this is the ONLY way we connect, that in real life everybody’s pursuing their own dream in their silo and the only place everybody is in the town square is online. Ever try to schedule dinner or a playdate today? It’s an exercise in frustration, everybody’s BOOKED UP! But you can reach them in iMessage.

That’s the beauty of text, people respond.

They burned out e-mail, people get too much, they should ban cc.

Now one of the reasons politics dominates today is because of the continuous narrative. Trump writes a new story every day. And the oldsters can’t understand that time moves on. Yes, Trump was tweeting up a storm last Sunday, but that was LAST SUNDAY! Might as well have been 1962. It’s the cumulative effect that creates the lasting image. Just look at the right, over decades they’ve labeled Democrats as tax and spend, to the point even Democrats believe it!

As for Republicans glomming on and supporting Trump in his message… Independence was something the boomers were into that their children, the millennials, have rejected. The rewards come from being a member of the group, you don’t want to be isolated, outside. And on the internet, there are even groups for that! No one is alienated alone anymore, they can find their brethren online.

So we all have our interests and predilections. Oldsters are on Facebook, youngsters wouldn’t be caught dead there. Therefore, what happens on Snapchat and Instagram goes unseen on Facebook. And Zuckerberg wants to make Facebook even more private, adding to the lack of cohesiveness in society.

And everywhere you go, no one talks about music, there’s too much of it, we’re all listening to different stuff.

And since movies are about superheroes and you have to go to the theatre and pay to see them, many choose not to. Meanwhile, the industry and media keep trumpeting the success of said pictures that most people have never seen and don’t care about.

And a flick lasts a few weeks in the theatres and is gone. Every week there’s a new number one. Quick, name the hit movies of October and November! How about January? You can’t! Unless you’re a student of the game.

Kind of like baseball. Which used to start the first week of April and end the first week of October. Now it goes from March to November, satiating those who care, but for those who don’t… You mean I’m supposed to care in April, May, June and July? Wake me up in August, assuming I’m interested.

Baseball is not only no longer the national pastime, it’s certifiably NICHE!

While youngsters watch video game competitions on Twitch.

And some kids are on traveling soccer squads.

And every day there’s something new, that we’re supposed to pay attention to. How? We wouldn’t have a life of our own. And we’re addicted to the internet just trying to catch up. We foreswear connection every once in a while, but it only lasts twenty four hours and then we’re back in.

Steve Jobs’s presentations used to be mandatory viewing. Monday’s dog and pony show is for insiders only. Tim Cook is too boring and they haven’t introduced something exciting since…Steve Jobs was alive. Proving you can lose the plot. And smartphones are a commodity and we don’t need the latest one and…

Teenagers don’t get driver’s licenses and soon none of us will own cars.

But oldsters refuse to accept this. Oldsters always refuse to accept the present.

But the real story is the lack of traction of almost ANYTHING!

Theranos was last week’s story. “Finding Neverland” the week’s before.

And if you don’t get in early…

I can’t watch “Billions” or “Game of Thrones” because I’ve missed the previous seasons and I don’t have the time to catch up. I don’t have the time to live my life. And as big as “Game of Thrones” is, most people have never seen it. And have never heard Drake. And think Ariana Grande is something you order at Starbucks.

The internet made it almost frictionless to reach people, but they stopped paying attention, because they’re overwhelmed.

And those in the business of attention refuse to admit the game has changed. The studios make fewer movies of a single stripe. The labels put out hip-hop records only. Only TV is experimenting, but it took the AT&T merger to get HBO on today’s page. Why should I pay more than I am for Netflix for so little product?

It does come down to money.

But even more it comes down to time.

Money gets you through the door, isn’t that the essence of the college admission scandal?

But after you graduate, when you’re in the world, what do you want to do?

Oh, you’ve got choices, you might know.

But chances are the only person going there is you, along with a few friends.

Stars are not what they used to be, they don’t have the same ubiquity and their images have been tarnished for being revealed.

This is the world we live in. If you have any success, any following at all, be grateful. But know that growing that success bigger is an incredibly long haul, because you’re competing for attention with so many projects that you won’t even get a look, never mind be rejected.

And chances are if you’re trying to reach everybody, you’re too bland when everybody can drill down to exactly what they want.

This is where we are, and we are never going back. The internet allows things to be bigger than ever, but when it comes to entertainment, nothing has become that big. Will it stay that way? For a while anyway. But when someone tells you you’re a dodo for not knowing this or that, laugh in their face, and when you regain your composure, easily mention a bunch of stuff that they don’t know, and can’t even criticize because they’ve never experienced it.

We’re living in the Tower of Babel.

But we refuse to admit it.

We don’t know the same records, movies and TV shows, and we don’t even know the same slang!

It’s scary folks.


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