Hey! Welcome to the Pop Culture Death Drive!
(I promise I’m not as stern as this photo makes me look. I know, it’s the eyebrows.)
I’m Lucas, the writer behind Transylvanilla: the world’s worst-formatted music blog, and East Vancouver pop-culture enthusiast. I’m an award-winning music critic, I was born in Transylvania (yep), and I grew up in a Very Boring Town. I’ve been in the city for a number of years now, and it’s been an adventure the whole time. This is my new media blog-zine-site, where I’ll be focusing on inverting the increasingly negative discourse I see in a lot of online criticism, while trying to bring the guilty fun back into devouring Pop Culture – which I consider to be a form of Lowbrow Art. I’m going to be focusing on music and video-games, but honestly anything and everything that crosses my path is fair game, and that’s a lot of stuff. I have no attention span!
It’s all junk food, after all. ❤
If you’re looking to get in contact with me for writing, opinions or whatever else, the email is firstname.lastname@example.org, and social media stuff is all down the sidebars, there. I’m always around.
Now, here’s a big long story about how the site got its name, and how I got back to writing.
A few years ago, I stepped away from music writing, and really writing in general: I was busy attending a million shows and getting out to a million events, and generally living life in the most expensive city in the dang universe. I stopped writing online entirely. It was a whole time. I was busy, and concerningly I’d begun to take issue with a lot of the passively negative media writing I was consuming, and maybe unconsciously emulating. I stepped away out of exhaustion as much as I did out of a growing sense of unease about the mentality of my own criticism. Basically I got jaded.
In all that time away, I got to thinking: at what point, to what extent, are we as consumers of media defining ourselves by the stuff we don’t like? And why?
That might read a little heavy, let me explain.
I think this persistent negativity is an important topic for arts-loving folks in general, and that it goes doubly for capital-c Critics. Past a certain point, the sheer mass of available media becomes too much, and it becomes easier to write off anything and everything except whatever corner of the internet you’ve staked out as your own – whether that’s bubblegum pop or foreign cinema or harsh noise. Goth culture is a lovely, frustrating example of this. We become territorial out of a sense of instinct as much as anything else, and end up closing those same communities that once provided us a welcomed sense of belonging. Critics have a way of growing pretentious, pulling up the ladder, and growing close-minded. We begin to make largely arbitrary distinctions between high and low, locking folks out along the way. There’s an inherent snobbery to that attitude, no matter what you’re into: it’s the same ivory-tower mentality that keeps so many people away from outsider (or insider!) media to begin with. Persistent critical negativity erects a gateway to entry which suddenly, conveniently, needs defending. By a gatekeeper.
It’s easy to get carried away by that feeling of exclusivity, of being a kind of arbiter of good taste, and it can result in some really suffocating attitudes towards experimentation, collaboration, and positivity in general. It’s easy to hate on stuff for clicks, it’s fun to read, it’s very easy to write, and it sells. I’ve been guilty of it, you probably have, too.
It can be easy to lose track of the fact that, on some level, you’re supposed to love this shit. This goes doubly for media critics, who are curators and arbiters by design. Suddenly, trapped inside this paradigm and lodged awkwardly between curation and promotional service-journalism, it can become very difficult to write anything at all.
Funny how that works.
It’s an issue keenly felt here in Vancouver, a city which is so intensely negative about itself. There’s a self-esteem crisis at play: we’ve dubbed ourselves the No Fun City. This is an actual nickname we use, with zero irony, on our way out to club nights and rock shows and after-parties. We’re a real city with genuine legislative issues in regards to arts venues and public events (so many!), but so often this no-fun posturing reeks of a kind of entitlement. We can be so intensely navel-gazing that we shut out potential new avenues of entertainment, of arts and culture, and of community growth. This is an exhausting and baffling attitude, and it sucks.
It’s the same vacuum of elitism that drove me away from media criticism at-large. It was going to take a long time to learn how to punch through that general negativity, both as a lover of the arts and as a writer.
So I walked away from being a critic, and I went to a million shows instead.
I got involved in my city’s vibrant arts community. I got on a first-name basis with people, and pushed myself outside of my comfort zone. I stopped worrying about whether I was in the right place, or enjoying the right kind of music, and just started enjoying the thing, then and there. I gave up on the distinction between high and low, cool and uncool culture.
Immediately, it made me a better and more open-minded critic. It blasted open innumerable new artistic avenues to explore, in a billion new ways. The idea that there’s simply more stuff out there than I could ever hope to experience used to be an intimidating frustration – now, it’s the most exciting thing in the world.
There has to be a way to be a critic and a curator, while maintaining that level of open-minded enthusiasm that calls new fans in to explore new horizons.
On some level, I’ll always be that kid, sitting cross-legged on the basement floor of my Grandma’s old house, completely absorbed in Legend of Zelda. What if loving pop culture, genuinely, without the constriction of pretension, could be valuable in and of itself? Could I write that enthusiasm into being, for someone else?
And so I’ve doubled back to writing again.
So here’s the Pop Culture Death Drive.
The wonderful thing about Pop Culture – especially in the year 20XX where pop culture is everywhere and everything and Netflix and co. are a smartphone away – is that it fills every conceivable niche, every mood, every taste. There’s just so much of it. The other great thing about Pop Culture – and I think this is true no matter what type you’re consuming – is that it is by nature an indulgence. It’s junk food: chips and ice cream, soda and beer. It’s all terrible for you by design, so of course we need it. It’ll rot your teeth out of your head, which is exactly why you want it so bad: it’s the modern Death Drive.
For that reason, it’s super easy to look down on, and that’s exactly why I love it so much: Pop Culture is Lowbrow Art by Definition. That’s what makes it so precious. It’s sublime, and you’ll always be told it’s bad for you. There’s something delightfully human about that.
This brings me back to my Vancouver, and why I’ve come back to writing: I want to write about the things I love, as if I love them. It’s time to cast the idea of a guilty pleasure to the wind, and embrace the pop-culture death-drive in all its forms. No more gatekeeping. I’ll be sharing music reviews and writeups, true stories of the (many!) shows I’ve been getting out to in my absence, thoughts on the weird video games I’ve been playing, and whatever other pulpy, pop-culty exploits I get up to. Maybe I’ll even do big rundowns of upcoming events right here in No Fun City.
It’s 2019, and the whole world is real bad right now. Maybe it’s time to get back to enjoying whatever it is we enjoy, even if it’s bad for us.
Let’s get back to having fun for a change, we’ve earned it.
Pop Culture Death Drive: Come Waste Away With Me. ❤