UCSD’s theater dept. is mounting a production of “The Grapes of Wrath” this month — Frank Galati’s superlative stage adaptation of John Steinbeck’s landmark novel. Galati won a pair of Tonys after initially bringing this story to the stage at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Co., and my former colleague, theater critic Hedy Weiss, described the adaptation’s faithfulness to the source material as “not only uncompromising, but devoid of sentimentality, and that it is flawless in the way it sweeps us into the lives of the characters, and their time, without a wasted word or motion.” Hard to go wrong with source material this great.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was hanging with the Joads myself.
A playlist of virtual pop stars (click here for full list)
Drawn from one of the historical sections of my research, here’s a hopscotch through six decades of virtual pop stars (non-corporeal, mediatized characters presented as a singular musical performer, whether an individual or group) you may or may not have encountered:
1. Alvin & the Chipmunks, commercial (1960)
2. The Impossibles, cartoon bump (1966)
3. The Archies, “Sugar, Sugar” (1969)
4. The Beagles, “Foreign Legion Flops” (1969)
5. The Banana Splits, theme song (1969)
6. Josie & the Pussycats, theme song (1970)
7. Silicon Teens, “Memphis, Tennessee” (1979)
8. Max Headroom, on “Late Night With David Letterman” (1986)
9. California Raisins, commercial (1986)
10. Jem & the Holograms, “Real Me” (1987)
11. Prozzäk, “Sucks to Be You” (1998)
12. Gorillaz, “Clint Eastwood” (2001)
13. One-T, “The Magic Key” (2003)
14. Vbirds, “Virtuality” (2003)
15. Crazy Frog, “Axel F” (2005)
16. Pikku Orava, “Maalaispoika oon” (2006)
17. Mistula, “Baptized” (2008)
18. Dethklok, “Go Forth and Die” (2008)
19. Hatsune Miku, “World Is Mine” (2008)
20. Studio Killers, “Eros and Apollo” (2012)
21. ODB hologram @ Rock the Bells (2013)
In four decades I haven’t tired of Gene Simmons’ tongue as much as I’ve grown sick of seeing Miley Cyrus’ in the last four weeks. While I’d rather let her lick me than contribute any words about her ballyhooed but belabored and rather pathetic attempt at reinvention, I’d at least like to thank her for contributing to the great week I’ve had. Seeing all these photos of Cyrus skanking around with her faux flat-top and wagging tongue reminded me of one of my New Wave touchstones, Grace Jones (and obviously a new inspiration for Miley, though perhaps for the wrong reasons), which sent me spelunking back through her wonderfully snarling but celebratory catalog.
I'm THOMAS CONNER, Ph.D. in Communication (Science Studies) and culture journalist.