photo manipulation by nacrowe
so i attended NORTHFIELD MOUNT HERMON. its a private boarding school in GILL, MASSACHUSETTS and when i attended it had two campuses and a student population nearing 2,000. in the years since its cut both the number of campuses and student population in half and is part of the exclusive EIGHT SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION, a self-contained IVY LEAGUE-like association of northeastern prep schools that includes CHOATE, PHILIPS EXETER, PHILIPS ANDOVER and the like.
i was there for two years and without doubt those two years changed me. academically it challenged me in a way nothing before or since has, including college and grad school. it also exposed me to the rotting core of white privilege and intergenerational power and wealth. i attended classes with the sons and daughters of film directors, national politicians, authors, lawyers, CEOs, drug kingpins (no joke) and foreign dictators. it was heady stuff and still is. whenever i see TRUMP speak it reminds me of half a dozen assholes i went to high school with who honestly didn't give a shit because they knew they were made for the rest of their lives.
here's an example of that ridiculousness that this place was, and no doubt still is. i was in my freshman english class and a classmate got a call on his mobile phone and let the teacher know he had to take it. i distinctly remember him saying "i'm sorry, i have to take this. its my mom, in space." he literally walked outside looked up and spoke with his mother who was orbiting overhead above NEW ENGLAND apparently and was being patched in via HOUSTON. just crazy. but that was the norm.
here is another less cheerful example. an upperclassman in my dorm sophomore year was caught selling opiates on campus, but wasn't expelled since his CEO father was giving a speech in a few days about making ethical judgements in business via a speech on the buddhist eight-fold path tenet of right occupation. you can't make this stuff up. and to make it sting of hypocrisy that much more, the fallout ended up being a few scholarship students from the inner-city being dismissed.
when WES ANDERSON's film RUSHMORE (TOUCHSTONE PICTURES, 1998) came out midway through my freshman year it was a revelation because it didn't feel that far removed from my experience, minus the creepy love triangle. there was even a junior that got christened for his bad grades and participation in seemingly everything.
by far the best thing about the film was the BILL MURRAY's epic chapel speech near the beginning of the film where he told the poor kids to "take dead aim on the rich boys, get them in the crosshairs and take them down." this was pre-COLUMBINE, but when that played in my dorm half the students would stare down each other.
watching it now makes me shudder. my time at NORTHFIELD MOUNT HERMON wasn't ideal, i was bullied harshly with knowing supervisors that turned the other way and "let boys be boys," but at the same time it prepared me for the reality of the world.
a world where the rich stay rich and fuck everyone else. no wonder i joined the PEACE CORPS.
photo by nacrowe
gonna just state the obvious. im a huge DEVO fan.
this photo was taken at MUTATO MUZIKA in los angeles by my god mother who works in the music and film industries. at the time MARK MOTHERSBAUGH was working on the score to WES ANDERSON's then in post production film LIFE AQUATIC.
thing i always appreciated about DEVO, much like other bands i adore like THE SMITHS or THE CURE, is their ability to lyrically and sonically represent a comprehensive vision. there is a whole lexicon of internal references and a cohesive worldview regarding consumer culture, masculinity and sexual politics that is embedded in their music.
as outsiders from akron, ohio, in the wake of the 60s protest movements, DEVO have developed a mistrust and skepticism towards nexuses of power (financial, political, commercial, social, etc.) which they often parody in their music and visual content. i would argue that the locus of their ire is not necessarily structures themselves but rather the empty sentiments and thought processes that make such things possible. by this i mean they are continually going after jingoist patriotism and toxic masculinity.
now its one thing to have a strident political or cultural bent in your music, but often-times the music is not the equivalent of the lyrical content (cough, cough, THE CLASH). when i think of RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, their aggressive reinvention of the electric guitar more than enhances their revolutionary lyrics. same with DEVO.
albeit their electronic-based experiments were initiated by the likes of KRAUTROCK bands like KRAFTWERK or NEU!, who i love and respect, their music is by design devoid of personality. DEVO was a bit of a sonic hybrid that used its unique sonic vantage point to draw attention and mock american society.
the most ingenious aspect of DEVO was their utter infiltration of american consumer society as their music has been licensed repeatedly for consumer product promotions and frontman MARK MOTHERSBAUGH has made a career writing theme songs for TV (PEE-WEE's PLAYHOUSE, RUGRATS) and scoring feature films (RUSHMORE, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, BOTTLE ROCKET). in essence they went from critiquing american consumer culture to becoming it.