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03 February 2012

So let's talk about culture gaps. This has been percolating in my brain off and on for a couple of months (and the MI will extrapolate), but the main question for you MeCha folks is: who/what are the culture gaps you feel like you need to fill in?[More:]For example (and here you go, BoPo) as much music as I've bought since I was like 8, on cassette or vinyl or CD or digital, I've never owned anything by Prince. I've got a $30 gift credit (holiday present from a buddy) and say I'd like to use $10 of that to fill in a bit of a Prince gap. Sure, I've heard and enjoyed a lot of his stuff from the radio/video TV (when it existed), and I'll get my faves from that (Kiss, Little Red Corvette, Darling Nikki), there are others that will inevitably show up on any kind of comp that I don't want (Diamonds and Pearls [ugh] or 1999 [heard it *way* too much]), so I'd love to have some recommendations for deeper cuts.

I know there are other artists that I feel this way about (and they'll come to me just as soon as I shut my computer down), but maybe other folks out there feel the same way about whoever (artist/band, author? director? doesn't matter to me).

So ask and answer here, please, folks. Ever noticed a crack in the tile of your bathroom and once you do, you can't help but stare at it? Let's fill those in.
This is an awesome question! (And now I get your Prince mention on Twitter.) There are so many facets of pop culture that are like this to me... they sound interesting, and I may know a few works by the artist, but it seems like a whole hermetic world that it'd be hard to break into. Even though, usually, it wouldn't be so difficult if someone would just give you a nudge.

The A.V. Club have an excellent feature called "Gateways To Geekery" that's about this very subject. I'm more than a little sick of the word "geek," but this series is excellent, and has provided little summaries and intros to everything from Funkadelic to kung-fu movies to John Waters to J.G. Ballard.

A couple of my own pop culture blind spots:

Buffy The Vampire Slayer I'm not sure if I'd like it, but this sounds like a whole world you could get lost in for awhile. And it might be cool.

Modern James Bond movies: I've never seen a Bond flick that didn't star Moore or Connery, but in the 80s my brother and I were semi-obsessed with Bond movies. I feel like I should give the post-Connery Bond movies a chance.
posted by BoringPostcards 03 February | 22:40
Ah, yeah, I do remember the Gateways series now. Seems like some of the one I knew more about I got snobby with and the ones I didn't I was excited about (so, The Internet, basically).

TV series, I think, may be a bit more difficult, especially if they've got plotlines that you *need* to follow. More of a "Yeah or Nay" thing than "Oh, yeah, check out this..." episode/season. More modern comedies like Community or Always Sunny or Workaholics have more hit-or-miss potential based on singular episodes.

And alas, I'm not a huge Bond fan (although I have friends who are), but of the Pierce Brosnan era, I remember enjoying Goldeneye but kind of rolling my eyes (hard) at The World Is Not Enough. I haven't seen any of the Daniel Craig ones.

But I'd still love some recommendations for Prince's best deeper cuts!
posted by ufez 03 February | 23:18
I cannot think of any gaps off the top of my head as I usually pursue such gaps as soon as I stumble upon them. The last was a couple weeks ago when I went on my own Prince marathon via Spotify. I simply hadn't heard all that much by him beyond the absolute peak of his megahits. I am still too new to recommend anything. Although I have heard most of Madonna's output, I would like to give her records another spin.

One recent excursion that proved most satisfying was seeing all the lesser Robert Altman movies I had missed, but were suddenly all available via Netflix.

Investigations like these however are fairly easy, much like touring a neighboring large city.

For true gap jumping, you must escape your comfort zones. For me, that was discovering the Capitol albums of Frank Sinatra between 1954 and 1962. Listening to the music for the first time is one thing, but for true insight, you should dig into the artist's life during that period as well as the cultural sphere in which he or she moved. For Sinatra, that extra research put a highlight on his moody albums from that time: "In The Wee Small Hours", "Sings For Only The Lonely", and "No One Cares". After you jump a gap like that, you can feel a true sense of fulfillment.
posted by Ardiril 03 February | 23:35
Okay, true story... I never watched "Lost" during its run, but when it was approaching its finale, the TV editor I was writing for put out a call for article ideas, and I though "well, there's that fat guy Hurley in it; what's he all about?" And my editor said SOLD, and I had two weeks to absorb the entire series and specifically, Hurley's role in it all. It took two drafts (the editor said the first was too much recapping and not enough analysis), but I pulled it off. And I promised myself to never get dragged into something I wasn't already 'into'...
posted by oneswellfoop 03 February | 23:45
"Star Trek" was my big one, but ikkyu2 has filled in that gap recently. I still have never seen "Lost," and the rest of my gaps are chick-flick weirdnesses for which I can conveniently tap into anti-woman narratives to explain my lacks of knowledge.

Beowulf/Canterbury Tales are probably my other biggest ones. I have a weird English-major gap between Greek myths and Shakespeare, and then Shakespeare and Chekhov.
posted by occhiblu 04 February | 00:40
Oh, also: Doctor Who. Never seen any version of it.
posted by occhiblu 04 February | 00:41
Doctor Who. Never seen any version of it.

But you're interested in it? This thread isn't about the ignorance as much as it's about the curiosity.
posted by BoringPostcards 04 February | 00:48
Yes, interested. Just not sure where to start. Also, trying to finish up Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek. :)
posted by occhiblu 04 February | 01:00
I've never seen the 21st century version of Dr. Who, but man I was addicted to the late 80s-90s version.
posted by BoringPostcards 04 February | 01:10
Also +1 Ardiril's comment.
posted by BoringPostcards 04 February | 01:12
Also +1 Ardiril's comment.

Yeah, reading that, I realized that I very much used to catch up on film gaps myself, with tv gaps left unfixed. Now the resources are so intermingled it's sometimes hard to prioritize. (But I would have to say that Altman is always a priority.)
posted by occhiblu 04 February | 01:16
(But I would have to say that Altman is always a priority.)

Robert Altman's movies are one reason I edit video for a living.
posted by BoringPostcards 04 February | 01:22
Doctor Who is one of those for me, too. I have tried to watch individual episodes with Tom Baker but I just didn't feel any spark. I think that with the right guided introduction I could get into it.

Also, I still kick myself big-time for missing the opportunity to watch Northern Exposure while I was living near BP. I have only seen about 20 minutes of that show total.
posted by Ardiril 04 February | 01:24
Also, I still kick myself big-time for missing the opportunity to watch Northern Exposure while I was living near BP.

That surprises me. It felt like EVERYBODY was over on Monday nights in the 90s. ;)

Northern Exposure is right up there with SOAP to me as absolute pinnacles of what a sitcom can be. They're completely different, but they were both genius and they both achieved EXACTLY what they set out to do. And they both still hold up to this day.
posted by BoringPostcards 04 February | 01:38
I love "Northern Exposure," but I also feel like it's so culture-bound that it does not translate. But I loved it.
posted by occhiblu 04 February | 01:53
"culture-bound" - The reason why I still cannot get further into a Seinfeld episode than the first 40 seconds.
posted by Ardiril 04 February | 01:56
"culture gaps": personally I feel there will always be more culture than I can or want to consume. So generally I don't think of "gaps".
Still I'll admit to having vestigal internal imperatives. Mostly in the area of literature.
To give an example: I somehow feel that I should read and enjoy Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften by Robert Musil.
But not right now. :-)
posted by jouke 04 February | 07:48
This is interesting to me as I have been doing without regular TV for about 5 years now. Of course just about everything is availabke online, so I did catch up on some shows and discover some new ones.

Some hold up better than others, though. Anyone remember Duck Factory? I watched with my parents and we'd die laughing. Years later a young Comedy Central played it again and we we thinking, "we used to like this?" The same thing happened to me with Cheers. I just couldn't go back.

Now the space operas, I can do. I'm not quite ready to do BSG again, but I did just go through Bab5, and it's held up pretty well.

(Hm, some space operas. The Star Trek universe isn't one I could watch again as a marathon - there's not enough to hold it together)

I think Mad Men was the last one I kept interested in, and that was over on Television Without Pity. I watched one episode and it wasn't as interesting as the recap.

As for the gaps I want to explore, I'm thinking of Humanities 101 type stuff. There's a number of free online courses - I just have to apply myself.

As to music, I too would like to hear about his deeper stuff, or what's good. I'm also looking for bands similar to DaVinci's Notebook, Axis of Awesome, Moxy Frouvus, etc.
posted by lysdexic 04 February | 09:58
I feel like I've spent the past ten years of my life putting an extra focus on trying fill my big culture gaps. Like Ardiril, I usually jump on these things as soon as I think about them. Once I'm curious about something I tend to be obsessive about until I feel I've sufficiently dug in. I carry a pocket around which is full of random things to look into.

The biggest culture gap I haven't made much progress is a biggie: literature. I'm mostly a non-fiction reader and don't read much fiction, and have only read a few of the classics. Strangely I get the gist of many of the classics because I've soaked up so many references to them in pop culture, movies, and articles - but only have a superficial knowledge of the key talking points. I feel like I'm finally ready to start devoting time discovering some of the classics that everyone else takes for granted.

posted by Slack-a-gogo 04 February | 10:53
And ufez, per your Prince deeper cuts suggestions, here are a few suggestions of songs that kick my butt from the Purple One's deeper catalog:

"When You Were Mine" from Dirty Mind - one of my faves - just a nice catchy pop song
"Let's Work" from Controversy - a great old school classic funk groove
"Sexuality" from Controversy - pretty much the template he'd use the next year for "Little Red Corvette: and "Let's Pretend We're Married"
"Pop Life" from Around the World In a Day - Not a deep cut (I think it was a single), but it's my favorite Prince song. A 60's pop inspired feel-good song.
"America" from Around the World in a Day - Prince grabs a killer groove and runs with it
"the Cross" from Sign O' the Times - This seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it pick for most - but it builds slowly into a loud guitar rocker. A song that didn't grab me when I first got the record, but after seeing Soul Asylum do a killer cover of this live it made me go back to the song and fall in love with it.
"Peach" - This is a throwaway b-side, but I love it. Funky rhythm and some blistering guitar. And Kim Basinger moaning.
"Face Down" from Emancipation - A gritty dirty funk riff from a pissed off Prince.

Prince has a lot great stuff, but the problem is that also has a lot of filler. To make it more complicated, there doesn't seem to be much agreement with fans over what's filler and what's great.
posted by Slack-a-gogo 04 February | 11:10
As a member of a different generation than most of you (and a very atypical one, at that) I find that Metachat itself is always pointing me toward vast gaps. E.g. there was zero chance that I'd have read Bossypants had I not seen it mentioned twice among the recently read books.
posted by Obscure Reference 04 February | 13:12
Music wise, my biggest gap is with rap/eminem. I feel like a snob for not getting into rap & assuming so much of it is about violence & objectifying women. But since eminem seems to have stood the test of time & garnered so many accolades, I feel like I should sample. Any guidance appreciated. :)

What all is included under the umbrella of culture in this question?
posted by chewatadistance 04 February | 13:31
Gah, I run into this constantly. For example, there are huge gaps in my knowledge of classical music, particularly in the Romantic era. My husband's encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and blues reminds me of my lack thereof. I really don't know punk, disco, or rap. I could go on. The shorter list would be what I DO know.
posted by bearwife 04 February | 15:32
P.S. I am stronger in filmography, but only mainstream movies. Big gaps in my TV knowledge too.
posted by bearwife 04 February | 15:33
Music: classical, which I know is a BIG category.

TV: I'm catching up with Six Feet Under, but there's still Buffy, The Wire, the new BSG, Deadwood, Game of Thrones.

Movies: I find it difficult to watch old movies, I have no idea why. But there's also lots of more recent movies that I've missed out on. For instance, Fargo; I'd love to see it, but haven't yet.

Books: so many classics I've missed. I've finally read most of Jane Austen, but I'd also like to read the Bronte sisters and others. Poetry intrigues me, but I have yet to look for stuff that really grabs me.

There's so much I want to see, read and listen to but there seems to be so little time for everything. And I've so much time wasted on crap.
posted by deborah 04 February | 19:02
BP, I recommend Buffy.

Occhiblu, I've only seen a scant few Doc Whos and feel I'm missing out on a cultural icon, but I'm also sometimes terribly thorough and I feel I should start from the absolute beginning, which is pretty overwhelming.
posted by shane 05 February | 11:05
I've really come to like Madonna in a non-teenager way :) Maybe only every other, or third, album, is really great, but they're evenly spread out throughout her career. I have a feeling MDNA (the upcoming one) is not going to be one of those which does it for me, but I think I have reason to be hopeful for whatever comes after. Hard Candy really grew on me, for example.
posted by halonine 05 February | 12:34
Yeah, Shane, that's more or less where I am, too.
posted by occhiblu 05 February | 14:00
Deborah, Fargo is an utter joy, though definitely it is humor for grownups. Have fun.
posted by bearwife 06 February | 13:50
Interspecies snorgling! OMG! || Happy Birthday Stewriffic!!