Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Opening Salvo

    Who we are is a culmination of many things, three of the most important being how we were raised, the era we were raised in, and where we were raised.

    Culture. We are immersed in it everyday, being exposed to its devices at home, on the road, at work, and at play. We breathe deeply of the aspects we enjoy about it, and exhale that which we no longer need or desire.
    The etymology of the word "culture" goes back to the 15th century and has a variety of uses. In Anglo-French Middle English, it meant to "prepare, or cultivate land." Before that, the word was rooted in the Latin word cultus which, of course, comes from "cult." In the vernacular of the day, cult merely meant common worship. So as a derivative, culture gives rise to "those characteristics which define and form the everyday existence of a group of people."

    As much as we like to think of ourselves as individuals, we identify with those who think similar to the way we do; whether it be through religion, politics, music, dress, desires, or dreams. The splintering of culture can go on forever, until, if you choose, you can find like-minded people who want to be identified as Latvian Environmentalist Inbred Gambling Gothic Cowboys who meet monthly for the Sushi Eating and Box-Kite Flying Competition.

    At its root, all cultural phenomenon is very specific and localized, but as it disseminates to the populace, the appeal becomes homogenized until it reaches a critical mass, and then, is gone. One has only to witness the current Hanna Montana craze which is so popular among the pre-teen set. I mean, Ms. Cyrus’ face is everywhere, from posters, to clothing, gizmos, trinkets, folders, pencils, baubles, magazines, books, and of course, CD’s (which gives her access to radio, television, and the internet).
    But take heart, me buckaroos, for that too, shall pass. Latest reports from "The Mouse" is that Miley's show may be in its last season as the 15-year old star is looking at future goals in her carrier. One of which includes *gaspwhowouldhavethunkit*, a Hanna Montana movie on the big screen!
    Small blessings abound for the fact that it is the nature of culture to re-invent itself every few years, even if it is largely in the form of spin-offs and sequels... This ability shows up in all areas of life and influences every way of thinking. Particularly language.

    IMHO, in our hyper-text habit of condensing words, we sometimes forget their original intent. For example: to be a “fan” of something (music group, sports team, etc.) is to express a loyal admiration of whatever is the object of your devotion, such as, "I’m a huge Braves fan!" What we don’t always realize is that the word "fan" is merely a shortened usage of the word "fanatic," so when one is saying how big a fan they are of this or that, what they are really saying is that "I’m a fanatic!"

    When is the last time you trusted a fanatic?

    But, once again, that is the way of culture. It moves, evolves, shifts, undulates, and changes with the times. Here, at Poplitiko, myself, along with the other contributing authors, will attempt to look at not only specific cultural trends and settings, but also general directions that cutting-edge thought and inventions will lead us to. It is this love for examining the mechanics of culture which brings us all together in our desire to find out what makes culture tick and how it affects the societies and individuals it influences as American and world-wide cultures continue to mesh, and in some instances, clash.

    In that sense, I guess you could say that we are all fans.



alex-ness said...

I am a fan of some things, truly.

I am a fan of sushi.
I am a fan of poetry.
I am a fan of Samurai tales.

So being called fanatical does really bother me. It is when I might be called a fan of the MN Vikings (who I am not a fan of) when I simply like football, or a fan of a genre when I a fan of a specific vein of it.

But nice first post, thanks for being here!

giadrosich said...

Oh, I know, Alex. I'm a fan of many things, also. Just telling you the "root of the words," mon ami.

And that was part of the point, being that to a large degree, we have forgotten where words come from...


Steve Chaput said...

At this point I think the word 'fan' has lost the original meaning. Calling yourself a 'fan' to most folks would be the same as saying "I like something/someone".

It's usually when the term "obsessive" is added that things turn ugly.

On the other hand, saying I was a "Red Sox fan" when I lived back in Brooklyn, did make life dangerous.

kurt wilcken said...

I have a fondness for the Japanese word "Otaku", which has the connotation of "Oh no, one of THOSE people..."