The Birdhouse Cultural Status Report
Feeling a certain je ne sais quoi about our collective
identity, a vague malaise surrounding our inability to figure
out exactly who we are as members of a confused and confusing
demi-monde, members of The Birdhouse Arts Collective have
established this Cultural Status Report as an ongoing
attempt to put a decisive finger on the gestalt of traits that
makes us who we are, and on what defines our enveloping zeitgeist.
The list can be seen as The Birdhouse's parallel to the bittersweet
dichotomy of Wired vs. Tired, or as a countercultural analog to
Harper's Index. We hope that social observers everywhere will bolster
their overly caffeinated arguments by citing the Birdhouse Cultural
Status Report, and that in the process we will become
notorious, reviled, revered, debated and oft-cited.
This list is by no
means definitive, and is in fact eternally incomplete by definition. We
need your help to grow the list, to add a thousand defining traits, to
focus and re-focus the lens of the understandascope through which we
attempt to examine our lives. If you would like to contribute, please
send us your ideas tout de suite. The
list must propel itself into the future, and guard against becoming
static -- the world will not wait for the list, so the list must not
wait for the world!
- All productive work is done by groups of two people or fewer. Any larger
group that is assigned a task must outsource it to three external
organizations of half its size (rounded up), and then eliminate one third of
its membership. All groups add one member each time they either outsource
something, or receive a commission from some other group, and eliminate one
member each time a group to which they outsourced something disappears. Any
task that reverts to a group by virtue of the disappearance of the group it
outsourced it to, must re-outsource it to a group twice this group's size.
Any group that actually completes a task is immediately disolved, regardless
of whether it has remaining tasks or not. All these rules are recursive.
- All art is based on other art. All songs are covers or remixes,
all books are based on true stories, all movies are remakes or
adaptations of books, all TV shows are based on movies or books or true
stories or remixes. Web pages, of course, are lists of links to other
- All information is assumed to be false, therefore there is no
incentive or reward for being truthful. Politicians' promises are
assessed independently of their actions, past or predicted. Research
and verification are forms of sociopathy. Advertisers must make more
and more absurd claims in order to seem enthusiastic ("Avalon: an
experience like no other", "Snickers: eating just one bar doubles your
- Integer numbering system replaced in US by alternate scheme in which
"eight" is written as "7.99", etc.
- All non-sexual artistic experimentation is either ignored or instantly
absorbed into the mainstream and buried in homogenized knock-offs.
"Punk" is a section of the Teens department at J.C. Penney's. The only
ward against bastardization is including photographs of actual genital
contact, which means that all accessible art is either prostitution or
- If best-selling book statistics were made based on readings, rather
than just purchases, a single diligent soccer team could conspire to
control the charts.
- Counting embedded ones, microprocessor-to-human ratio approaches 50-1.
Radio/infrared-transmitter-to-human ratio approaches 25-1.
- Golf, auto-racing and college basketball go 24x7.
- Everything is the official something.
- Central Park replaces Cheers as the idealized imaginary hangout.
- Coffee shops everywhere.
- Buying big four-wheel drive vehicles even though you never go offroad, or minivans even though you don't carry many passengers. This philosophy extends to shoe styles, as well.
- Net-dropping and talking about being wired (much more important than actually being online).
- Light everything. Anything that creates the impression of health-consciousness without requiring actual physical effort is highly prized.
- Watching TV is credible again. (Thursday night now firmly devoted to staying home and watching Friends, Seinfeld and ER, though socialization can be done during the other two sitcoms.)
- Cordless phones and call-waiting de rigueur. Cellular phones nearly so.
- Call waiting, Caller ID accepted as a fact of life, along with all surveillance techniques, even at Dunkin' Donuts.
- Seven dollar K-Mart fakenstocks.
- Being a trivia expert makes you "smart".
- Good coffee isn't enough. You need No-Doz and the bragging rights that go with it.
- Great bookstores everywhere displaced by Barnes and Noble.
- Just because I like the bunny, doesn't mean I buy Energizer.
- Celtic bands with a ocked-up sound and names like Boiled in Lead or Tempest. Still, there's
nothing for entering data or proof-reading reports like good solid background music.
- Despite the fact that items on this list apply to you, you still feel like a rebel.
- Everybody maintains the illusion of being informed about distant events with little relevance to their own lives, holds firm opinions for which they have have only memorized justifications, and forget today's causes and crises by tomorrow morning's drivetime.
- Tired all the time. For anybody who's anybody, time is a bigger problem than money. Epstein-Barr Syndrome is hip.
- The franchise death of the universe. Nothing is good until there's one everywhere. Starbuck's, Borders, and the Gap provide most of the essentials of life. "Personality" increasingly a multiple-choice exercise in consumer positioning: "I'm a Coke, Levi's, Nike, MasterCard, AT&T, Sony, Honda person." "Just Do It" really implies "Just Buy It".
- Anything powered should have a remote control. Anything that moves should have drink holders. All restaurants must serve Caesar Salads.
- All advertising campaigns attempt to create enduring characters around which loyal cult followings will develop. All fail, pathetically.
- 75% of music listeners claim to prefer "alternative stuff, outside the mainstream". The other 25% uses music only as a noise to cover up office-equipement hum.
- Freemarket capitalism almost universally accepted as the only viable social-organizing scheme, on large or small scales. The ideological bases for such things as communism and socialism are mostly dismissed or, more often, simply forgotten.
- Nothing ever built without a kit. General-purpose skills like assembling pizza dough out of only flour, water, oil and yeast, are preserved only in fringe communities. Most people haven't the slightest idea how to make or fix anything in their lives.
- Baseball caps.
- Screen savers.
- Hootie and the Blowfish.
- A spirituality in which we seek answers, but the questions become more important than the answers because we don't believe in any truth.