Audiences are at once fragmenting into niches and consolidating around blockbusters. The stuff that people used to watch or listen to largely because there was little else on is increasingly being ignored.
What people love, it turns out, are hits.
A lot of the people who read a bestselling novel, for example, do not read much other fiction. By contrast, the audience for an obscure novel is largely composed of people who read a lot. That means the least popular books are judged by people who have the highest standards, while the most popular are judged by people who literally do not know any better.
Jonathan Franzen, on Shanghai:
It was as if the gods of world history had asked, 'Does somebody want to get into some really unprecedentedly deep shit?' and this place had raised its hands and said 'Yeah!'"
Nobody is born to lose, and yet failure embodies our worst fears. The Loser is our national bogeyman, and his history over the past two hundred years reveals the dark side of success, how economic striving reshaped the self and soul of America.
John Maynard Keynes:
We have reached the third degree, where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.
The business of popular music, today, is now, in some peculiarly new way, entirely about promotion.
Guitar Hero and Rock Band involve musicianship in the same sense that chess involves military service. Rocking, like rooking, is the thematic action; but the content is the form, the rules.
When an entirely new and untried political project is sprung upon the people, they are startled, anxious, timid, and for a time they are mute, reserved, noncommittal. The great majority of them are not studying the new doctrine and making up their minds about it, they are waiting to see which is going to be the popular side.
One joke that never gets old is saying "I see you" to people, a la Avatar. It is the greatest, especially when they're mad at you. Like at the deli, when they're tired of waiting for you to find change. "I SEE YOU."
It couldn't last, and now it's running out. I don't particularly care that it is and like the way things are going. The record age was just a blip. It was a bit like if you had a source of whale blubber in the 1840s and it could be used as fuel. Before gas came along, if you traded in whale blubber, you were the richest man on Earth. Then gas came along and you'd be stuck with your whale blubber. Sorry mate -- history's moving along. Recorded music equals whale blubber.
Real anxiety comes not with influence, but with the imperative to transcend it.
It's not where you take things from -- it's where you take them to.