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What Is An Overground? An Introduction and FAQ.

October 7, 2013

Hello, Internet!’ (Blogger’s equivalent of ‘hello Cleveland!’, I guess.) I present you with a brand-new blog. It’s called Overground: culture popular and otherwise. If want something out-of-the-ordinary to read online – if you’re looking for thoughtful, intriguing articles about, well, culture (popular and otherwise), you’ve come to the right place. I suppose that now is the time to answer some Frequently Asked Questions about Overground. So here we go – an Overground FAQ.

Q: Why do you call your blog Overground?
A: The phrase ‘Overground’ comes from a song of the same name by seminal English punk-rock band the Banshees. The song itself appeared on their 1978 debut album The Scream. I love that song, (even though I have no idea what the lyrics mean, if they mean anything), and I like to think that ‘Overground’ is a takeoff on ‘underground.’ I said to myself, a long time ago, that if I ever had a blog about popular culture, I’d have to call it Overground, just because I liked that song so much. Now I finally do have a blog, so that’s what I’ve called it.

Q: If this is a blog about popular culture, does that mean its a blog about the same kind of popular culture they talk about on BuzzFeed and TMZ?
A: Nope. This is definitely not a blog about the same kind of popular culture talked about on BuzzFeed or TMZ. I think that BuzzFeed and TMZ, and a lot of other websites too, have got the more current and ubiquitous movies and TV shows and actors, and songs and singers, and books and writers, covered. Overground, on the other hand, is a blog that revels in obscurity; it’s a blog about things that hardly anyone talks about.

Q: Byobscurity’, do you mean hyper-obscurity, and things Ive never heard of before in my life? And isovergroundlikeunderground’?
A: Not really, and the notion of relative obscurity is closely related (in my mind), to the second meaning of the name ‘Overground.’ In 2007, film-and-music critic Howard Hampton published a book of essays on obscure aspects of popular culture, called Born in Flames, which had a great influence on me. In the introduction, Hampton writes that people who seek out half-forgotten B-movie and indie records for inspiration are ‘…looking for…an intact underground to call one’s own.’ For him, the old, weird, unpopular things he liked were ‘underground’, they were so obscure. However, while I love Hampton’s phrase, I question his definition. In an age when practically everything can be found on the internet (and there are many more blogs than there were in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s, when Howard Hampton wrote most of the essays compiled in Born in Flames) I wonder if anything can be really considered ‘underground’, anymore. Besides, even though I’m trying to write about the less-popular aspects of popular culture, the critics I admire and try to imitate in my writing are famous and established (Greil Marcus, Robert Christgau, Pauline Kael), and a lot of the books and films and songs and albums I like are actually pretty famous, even canonical. Which brings us to the next question…

Q: Is Overground a retro blog?
A: You bet it is. Most of the films I’m going to talk about on Overground will be B-movies from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s (and maybe the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, too, I’m not sure yet.) Most – nearly all – of the music I’ll be talking about would be classified by radio deejays as either ‘classic rock’ or ‘golden oldies.’ Most of the books I’ll be talking about will be fairly old, too, although I do intend to write a few posts about a few modern Y.A books.  (I’m not a teenager anymore, but when I want to unwind with a book, I usually read something written for teenagers. I guess young-adult novels are wasted on young adults.) My favorite period for popular culture is the late 1960’s, even though I wasn’t around back then. I don’t know why, but I find nearly all the music and film and general style of that period fascinating.

Q: Is Overground a blog for hipsters?
A: Goodness, no. You will not obtain any hipster points liking most of the things I like, and liking some of the things I like may even cause you to lose some hipster points. I hope that doesn’t scare you off, though, because it doesn’t scare me off. I don’t like certain things because they’re hip, and I certainly don’t write about things because they’re hip. I read things, and watch things, and listen to things, and write about things, just because I like them.

Q: Is Overground a blog for nerds?
A: Overground is a blog for people who think a lot, written by someone who thinks a lot, and who thinks that pop culture should be thought about a lot. Overground is not a blog for people who think that pop culture exists in a vacuum, or who respond to criticism of a song or movie or work of literature by saying ‘relax! It’s just entertainment!’ (I personally think there are too many people around who say this.) Overground is for people who know that nothing is ever ‘just entertainment’, and who know that, in film, in literature, and even in popular music, the Smart (art that’s genuinely original, well-written, innovative) must be discerned from the tolerably or even pleasurably Dumb (art that’s hokey, predictable, clichéd), and the insultingly Thoughtless (art that perpetuates negative stereotypes, art that treats its audience like fools, art that was made by people who didn’t care). The distinction between the last two categories is especially important. Here at Overground, I will be talking about some pretty silly, hokey, undemanding songs, and books, and films (and I’ll be talking about them with great and unfeigned pleasure), but I will always take care to say when I think the Dumb tips over into the Thoughtless, to fondly tolerate the former and excoriate the latter. If all of the above makes someone a nerd, then Overground is indeed a blog for nerds. Besides, I quote from TVTropes, and nothing’s nerdier than that.

Q: What I expect to find on Overground?
A: Articles about the heroes of classic rock, both famous (Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones) and unfairly unsung (Coven, Peter Sarstedt, Laurie Styvers.) Reviews of B-movies, and maybe even reviews of A-movies, too. Quirkily themed playlists. Essays on young-adult novels, half-forgotten fantasy series, and poems and poets both good and bad. Poems I’ve written myself (and occasionally, short fictions I’ve written myself.) Trivia you can impress your friends with at parties, and possibly use to win at Jeopardy. And above all (I hope), deep, dense, thought-provoking writing.

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