Quick Fixes All Round

I saw 28Days this week which is a navel-gazing film amounting to far less than it clearly could and which is therefore a disappointment. It stars Sandra Bullock as an alcoholic who goes into rehab for four weeks, hence the clever title. It seems to have suffered from art by committee syndrome and is basically Hollywood paddling in the shallow end of the ‘coming to terms with addiction’ pool.

The only line that really stuck out, to my mind, was something about how addictive personalities are people who get caught up searching for a quick fix solution to life’s problems. And the more I think about it, the more I think that actually applies to nearly everyone in the modern western hi-tech consumer-oriented world. We’re sold on the idea of a quick fix by television, comic books, newspapers and those short catchy pop tunes all of which are geared to filling you up for three minutes and leave you feeling unsatisfied. Set meal for one, two and keep the change.

We’re living in the age of flavor enhancers and artificial colors and, although it’s not hard to find something that isn’t chock full of monosodiumglutamate, those things are swamped by the pretty pretty snacky snacky things.

An example. I’ve been seeing the name Yo Yo Ma pop up on various internet discussions this week. That’s an odd sort of coincidence or maybe he’s just in the public consciousness at the moment because a friend was telling me about him just before that happened. Now anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m not a great classical music buff but I like to try things and music is always such a wonderful thing generally, I thought this would be good – start listening to someone who is regarded as the best cellist in the world.

So yesterday I went on the hunt for Yo Yo Ma in the town where I live. Five record shops. Shouldn’t be a problem. Should it? Well, yes it is. Two of those shops are owned by the same chain and have, err, stuff all in the way of a classical selection. The Queen Mother’s Birthday Favorites, Nigel Kennedy and music to watch commercials by hardly qualifies as a selection. The third is Woolworths, which had Niel Young and a lot of empty cases in the Y section. Fourth was HMV which was slightly better but not really.

I went into the self-styled jazz and classical specialist, a tiny store with four racks. And that was four racks of very very little. The poor sales assistant was having trouble explaining to someone with hearing difficulties (irony?) that they needed to clean their CD to stop it skipping. I left empty handed and will search in the big major got-everything store in central London today. Thank goodness for London!

This also reminds me of Robbie Williams standing up at the Brit Awards a couple of years ago and saying something like, “I’m amazed that I get an award for something I find so easy to do.” Duh. That’s because pop music is mass-produced rhythms and a lot of big marketing budgets, methinks. A triumph of form over substance and technically clever but not really deep is it? Or am I just being cynical? Is great art or great music really just a five minute wonder with a short shelf life?

Okay I buy it because I enjoy it too. I’m a victim of quickfix MSG culture and I want it want it want it. And why not? I’m certainly not knocking Robbie Williams, who clearly does have talent. But I’m also an adult now and I don’t want to eat candy all the time, so why is the nourishment being undersold? Is it just cheaper to market chod or is marketing a big con trick anyway run by MSG junkies? Answers on a postcard and never mind the cost of the stamp.

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