Pop! Culture! And Why It Sticks Around.


The first record I ever bought with my own money was No Doubt’s Rock Steady. When my friends came over, we’d take turns mimicking Gwen Stefani’s chesty vocals into an old broom handle while the CD whirred in my plastic pink boom box. I still have the CD, and it sounds exactly the same now as it did in 5th grade; the punchy melodies and bass-heavy hooks are preserved forever, trapped in the worn laser disks hard physical matter. Despite having listened to this album countless times, I’m still effectively transported back to the emotional roller coaster of my pre-teen years by the end of the first track. This mysterious relationship between sound and memory I suspect, is why music is like time travel: it is a powerful trigger of emotion, capable of transporting the listener through the heavy sediment of recollection. Just  ask any die-hard deadhead, devout festival-goer, or reunion tour enthusiast, music solidifies a communal memory parallel to the historical memory of academia. Mainstream participation is at the heart of pop culture, a social element often dismissed for being decidedly non-academic.

Gwen, my 5th grade hero.

Gwen, my 5th grade hero.



(while pop does ultimately offer a sweetened and approximate perception of reality, a close examination can effectively illustrate temporal distortion in popular American memory, and its divergences from legitimate history. Shifts in American perceptions of time and leisure in the mid-20th century facilitated a dramatic increase in commercial consumption. This development hugely affected the music business, and its effects on pop culture.  The record industry played a significant role in marketing the ideas and aesthetics that ultimately composed mainstream content)


There is validity in mass appeal. Popular culture—particularly when paired with mass media—is especially relevant to the study of collective memory. Contrary to to common depictions, subculture and counterculture aren’t the opposite of mainstream culture, just different opinions framed within the same conversation. They are offshoots, not irreconcilable poles. So what is pop culture, exactly? A dictionary definition tells us pop culture is simply, “the commercial culture based on popular taste.” Clothes, movies, magazines, and music are all pertinent facets, and although rarely ever explicitly stated, pop culture serves as a foil to ‘high culture,’ different a cultural product held in higher academic esteem. For example: Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa can be considered high culture, a mustache penciled on her reproduction, pop culture. Popular culture is not new, but it is distinctly marked by postwar collisions with the rise of mass media. This phenomenon is distinctly American, because of the economic prosperity following the Second World War, and the comparably shabby condition of the rest of the Western World.


Pop culture’s fundamentally accessible nature often delegitimizes much of its academic appeal, but this detachment from traditional scholarship does not invalidate it. In fact, the contrary is true; pop culture is important to note in discourse pertaining to patterns and trends in group opinions and memory. Since the majority of even Western populations exist outside of the proverbial University, an examination of historical perceptions outside of academia can provide relevant historical insight into how history is portrayed by mass media. Since music is recorded, and accessibility to recorded music increases every year, correlations between music and their temporal context are often drawn after the fact, serving as a physical historical record for the attentive listener. American music is of particular interest, starting with the sentimental pop music characteristic of the mid-20th century. These recordings were relatively inexpensive and accessible, endowing everyone from the lower-middle class upward with a certain degree of purchasing power. This music was also not intellectually challenging, it was designed and recorded with the intention of being as appealing to as possible and to as many people. This added to the appeal of music in a commercial sense, offering at the same time narcotic escape from “the banalities of social life,” and collective identification with the rest of music’s anonymous audience.

… What do you think?

Slam Dunk, Da Funk

Winter is not only a time for hot cocoa and new year’s resolutions – it is a time for NBA basketball.

The city of Santa Cruz is taking the NBA D-League by storm this winter with the Santa Cruz Warriors performing far beyond expectations and making league history.  Currently, the SC Warriors are number one in the West Division with a record of 9-4.  After winning their first game in the history of Santa Cruz before a sellout crowd, defeating the Bakersfield Jam 93-88, the Warriors were off to a great start to the NBA D-League Season.

In addition to their outstanding victories, Santa Cruz Warriors guard Travis Leslie has been named NBA Development League Player of the Month of January for games played in November and December.  The first honor of the 2012-2013 season is also the first of Leslie’s NBA D-League career.  On January 7th, the NBA D-League announced that Leslie will compete in the Showcase slam dunk competition on Wednesday.

For updates, statistics, and schedules of the Santa Cruz Warriors visit www.nba.com/dleague/santacruz.

Keep tuned in to Slug Talk every Friday from 5-6pm to hear all the latest news.


John McCutcheon, Fri & Sat Jan 18th-19th

The Santa Cruz Resource Center for Nonviolence celebrates the birthday of Martin Luther King with a weekend of events centered around “The Power of Songs for Social Change.” John McCutcheon will be in concert Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at the Resource Center starting at 7:30pm, and will lead a singing workshop on Sat, Jan 19 at the same venue from 10am-noon. John is a talented multi-instrumentalist (fiddle, banjo, guitar, hammered dulcimer and more), singer-songwriter, storyteller, activist, and author, has released over 30 recordings, and been nominated for seven Grammy awards. Visit the Resource Center’s website for the other weekend events, which include a South African choral workshop, a Gospel night concert, an afternoon of free Hip-Hop workshops for youth of all ages, and an evening Hip-Hop concert.


Wave Rider

The big wave contest at Mavericks is happening. KZSC will be featuring the return of our surf music program, “Rock Don’t Run” starting on Friday, January 25th. And of course we know surfing came from Hawaii, just like the music you hear on “Wiki Wiki Wednesday”. Our Hawaiian surfing shirt is the best of both worlds, with an aloha KZSC logo on the back. Get yours in our KZSC Brand Store.

Mac DeMarco Cooks Up Something Good on “2”

Man vs. Mannequin II: The Reckoning

Man vs. Mannequin II: Return of the Mac

Oh hi! Didn’t see you there. I’d like to talk to you about a wonderful little record by a guy who goes by the name of Mac DeMarco. DeMarco – a Canadian singer-songwriter, formerly of the band Makeout Videotape – released his second album, fittingly titled “2”, in October, and I finally got  around to checking it out a couple weeks ago. I’m gonna be honest with you – I was pretty positive I would hate this album before I listened to it. The cover and Pitchfork hype made for a lethal combination in my mind, acting as some kind of harbinger of “ironic slacker” doom. The album’s first track (“Cooking Up Something Good”) even starts with a kinda chunkity-chunk Jack Johnson guitar part. Luckily, by the time the song’s chorus hit, things started to turn around. By the third track – The “Sultans of Swing”-esque “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” – I was hooked. Every song on the album is a catchy, hook-filled fun-time bonanza, full of jangly, shambolic grooves (think Pavement at their most singer-songwritery, laid back moments). These are songs you’ll be humming all day, then you’ll catch yourself humming them and be all “man, I ain’t even mad.” It’s the feelgood album of the summer, except, like, you know, in the winter. Let DeMarco and his band of merry men transport you to sunny days where the drinks are free and Jimmy Buffett is nowhere in sight. Swimming pools and barbecues are there too. Seriously, it’ll be cool. You just gotta listen.


FIDLAR Jan. 19

Do you like punk? Come get ur freak on Saturday night at the Catalyst Atrium with LA band FIDLAR. Opening for them will be Pangea (LA), Meat Market (Oakland) and Bummer City (Santa Cruz) with a special guest spot by DJ Se666undo. Show starts at 9 PM; this is a 16 or older event.