Monday, August 05, 2013

Lollapalooza is God, And God Is Blackout Drunk

Sup guys. I'm new here, so allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cory O'Brien, and this is what most of my days are like:

     Lollapalooza was hardly an hour old, and a gangly boy in a muddy yellow t-shirt had already become an object lesson in collision physics. In the midst of the mob he was safe enough, bobbing as he was in a sea of people animated by a tsunami of bass, but take the crowd away and he became a newborn wildebeest with half the requisite number of legs. I could tell you what music we were listening to when this happened, but you've got the whole rest of the internet for that. Instead I am going to tell you about the crowd, because the crowd is where I found the agents of the gods.

     More accurately, they found me. My friend and I were a little sick of having all the hollows of our anatomy vibrated in four-four time while strangers cheerfully attempted to feed us their elbows, so we retreated to the relative safety of the port-a-potties, where the only danger was hepatitis. I wasn't too jazzed about locking myself in a closet full of other people's shit, so I opted to wait outside. I found a few square inches of lightly-trampled grass to call my own, and began juggling to pass the time. This was my first mistake...

     Almost immediately a woman came running up to me and asked if she could juggle too. I'm not sure why she felt the need to ask, because she clearly couldn't. After swatting ineffectually at the airborne balls for a few seconds, she hopped back a couple feet and asked if she could film me. You don't juggle in public if you're uncomfortable being filmed, so I let her. I'd already had most of the bottle of vodka-infused Gatorade we'd stolen from a table full of confiscated drinks at the entrance, and my juggling was terrible. That didn't stop a burly guy from strutting over and playing cheerleader.
     "Cory's a beast!" he said, again and again. I'm not sure how he knew my name. When I dropped a ball, he confidently assured me that no one had seen. The woman finished filming.
     "Cory's a beast!" said the burly man, and gave me a high five.
     "Yay Cory!" said the woman. "You're on [SOCIAL MEDIA APP], Cory! How do you feel about that?"
     "Alright," I said.
     "Do you want a shot of Vodka, Cory?" said the man.
     "Sure," I said, not being one to quit while I'm ahead. The man knelt down and unzipped an immaculate cooler backpack lined with pristine plastic water bottles. Event rules are very clear: no outside food or drink except for factory-sealed water bottles. I could have believed that these water bottles came straight from the factory. The man uncapped one and handed it to me. I drank. The man leaned in close, conspiratorially.
     "That's [BRAND NAME] vodka, Cory. Very high quality."

     Suddenly it became clear to me what was going on. I was being marketed to.

     "You didn't take a big enough shot of that vodka," said the woman. "Come on, have a bigger shot."
     "Yeah Cory," said the man, "Have a bigger shot."
     "I'm alright," I said, "Thanks."
     The man uncapped the bottle again, and pressed it to my mouth. I could feel the vodka lapping against my upper lip.
     "Come on, Cory," said the woman.
     "Come on, Cory," said the man.
     This went on for a while. Finally, the man withdrew the bottle, visibly ashamed of me. The woman sighed. "Well alright, Cory. Remember, you were on [SOCIAL MEDIA APP]!"

     The last bit, with the vodka to my lips, could have been straight out of a teen movie or an after-school special. The resemblance wasn't entirely accidental. It was product-placement: inserting a brand logo into the background of the movie that was my day. Hopefully a story I'd go on to tell my friends, with the brand names left in. The back of the mind, see, is the place where information sits until it becomes part of our mythology. It's where you put something if you want to poison someone's dreams. Frankness is the death of commerce. Admit you're selling me something, and it'll jump to the front of my mind and I'll hate you for it. It's the same thing the drug dealers are thinking as they wander through the park with their eyes down, sub-audibly muttering, "doses, doses, doses..." They're talking to everybody, but they can always say they were only talking to themselves.
     Binge drinking is not a modern invention. In ancient Rome they called them bacchanalia, there were shrooms in the mix, and it could get pretty bloody. Corporate-sponsored art isn't new either. To get a play into the Dionysia in ancient Greece you had to find a wealthy patron who liked your style. And festivals of this nature traditionally have a devotional element. There's the Dionysia, sure, but there's also passion plays, drum circles, et cetera.

So now, instead of worshiping here:


 we worship here:


Instead of wearing these: 


 we wear these:


The difference, the real difference, is that today's gods aren't as up-front about their godhood. We live in a secular era, where mythology has to be subliminal to stick. But these brands are our gods, just the same. Unless you make a conscious choice otherwise, whoever pays for your entertainment becomes your god. Not the one who gives you food or water or shelter, but the one who gives you cable. Because if the clerk at the grocery store asked you to wave your hands in the air, or stomp your feet, or scream real loud for him, you'd ask for the manager. No, to make you move it takes a six-story sound system, six hundred thousand dollars in LEDs, and a whole lot of [BRAND NAME] vodka.

Cory O'Brien is a technojester and word wizard of the first degree. He knows a lot of myths, as his website, will amply illustrate. His book is called Zeus Grants Stupid Wishes, and you should buy it.

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