There was a time in my life when I knew what was up. I found the backwards secret message on Empty Spaces all by myself when I was a teenager. I combed through issues of MRR, like a rabbi studying the Talmud, for ideas and signs. I listened to college radio, I traveled like a troll and slept under bridges, I saw London squats thumbed dog-eared copies of zines, pamphlets, booklets, I kept my eye out for new graffiti, hitch hiked through Mexico listening to underground tapes. I went to Burning Man in 1993, and walked around San Francisco, naked, with a camera.
This is not a list of credentials, (click that, it's funny), this is a list of measures I took to understand the world around me. I saw how culture changed, how it moved and flowed, and it excited me. Music, art, writing seemed to bubble up on everyone's mind like an algae bloom on the ocean. I wanted to be carried by the red tide into the next thing.
In the last few years I've felt it slipping away. I felt myself being pushed out of the conversation...not being pushed, maybe just not being able to keep up. Suck.com, the lolcats, all the memes are belong to someone else. I watched as SF became more and more like today because today turned into tomorrow.
And I felt myself not knowing what the hell is going on any more. I've started reading history books because they talk about a world I can understand better than my own, even if the past is even further from me than Time's Square. I can't even put this sense of being out of it down to a generation gap, because the pioneers are my age or older. Which brings me to the reason for this post: I just read this post on Boing Boing about Bruce Sterling's essay on The New Aesthetic, and I don't...do not, absolutely in no way know what the heck he's talking about.
I want to. But these guys talked about stuff at SXSW that is simply beyond my ability to comprehend. I feel like these idea fests like TED, and South by Southwest are places where our culture is steered, described, and disseminated, like the fashion runways of Paris and Madrid, and the rest of us must wait until the watered down versions hit K-Mart before we can hope to try on a pair.
I feel so...out of it. This is not a pity post, I just thought that after three years of living in rural Japan I would understand more of what was going on in my culture than I do. This ain't just reverse culture shock, this is...I don't know what to call it.
If you can explain the New Aesthetic to me, have at it!