Posted by: Harold Knight | 03/17/2010

Who the Hell Is Adam Lambert? or Anthony Burgess, for that Matter?

Today a friend sent me an email with a link to a Huffingtonpost story about a weather-related delay resulting in a sixteen-hour flight from Los Angeles to New York: “Flightmare: LAX To JFK Flight Takes 16 Hours, Chips Rationed.” He sent me the link because he had recently been on a flight from Dallas to Boston that was diverted to Washington, D.C., where he spent the night. A few days ago my brother was on a flight from Salt Lake City to Baton Rouge via Memphis on which he missed his connection (because of de-icing in Salt Lake City) and spent a night in Memphis.

So we live in a dehumanizing, inconvenient, technological age. So what?

What does anyone expect? We paid for this. We crave it and we love it. We swallow every new technological gadget like water in the desert. We can’t live without the electronic toys that run our lives (like this blog—which is a fossilized remnant from three or four years ago, replaced by the Twitter generation). So we get on airplanes trusting the electronic wizardry to direct flights smoothly and get us to our destination (where we are going to make money playing with more gadgetry). Then the forces of the natural world intervene. Big deal.

Complaining about degrading, impersonal, corporate and mechanical glitches is hypocrisy. Get with the program, folks. You wanna live like cattle in a chute waiting for the slaughter, giving over every ounce of humanity to Big Brother, fiddling constantly with iPhones and making money the new-fashioned way? Get on an airplane.

Remember Smith Barney’s bygone ads, “We make money the old-fashioned way. We earn it”? Now we all make money buying and selling gadgets and the electronic world the gadgets control. Or we work in service industries (servicing our hunger both for both Big Macs and Big Profits) that produce nothing tangible but fabricate wealth out of mirrors-and-wires for stockholders and fat-cat executives. When the mirrors-and-wires fail, these industries earn money their old-fashioned way: they bilk the government (that is, you and me) out of a trillion dollars so they can go back to making money out of mirrors and wires. Sixteen-hour flights from Los Angeles to New York (irony, anyone?) and Morgan Stanley-Smith Barney’s (Smith Barney couldn’t, on its own, make enough money) thievery are part and parcel of the same violent Clockwork Orange world we have come to love—greedy, using the remnants of humanness (Beethoven, anyone?) to cover over the reality that Big Business and Big Gadgetry rule our lives.

But I digress.

On the Huffingtonpost page about the sixteen-hour flight was a link to: “Adam Lambert’s Pants Leave Little to the Imagination.” Obviously I had to check that out. First to see what little was left to the imagination (the headline was, I am sure, designed to get the attention of every gay man and every gay-basher on the internet), and, second, to find out who the hell Adam Lambert is that his pants require the attention of Huffingtonpost.

So I clicked on the link.

There’s a picture of an ugly boy in tight (apparently spandex) shiny pants with a big bulge at his crotch. The picture leaves a great deal to the imagination. First, of course, is what the Huffingtonpost in its pruriency wanted me to think I’d see—a picture showing Adam Lambert’s genitals, which the picture does not. The bulge could be a rolled-up sock stuck in his pants. Second, and much more important, is to imagine what (if anything) Adam Lambert does (or has done) to warrant interest in his pants.

The joke is on me.

In the first place, Adam Lambert, were his clothes in this picture white instead of black, would do very well as an advertisement for Clockwork Orange, the movie. Nothing has changed since 1971. The only difference is the electronic gadgetry that makes Adam Lambert ubiquitous (to everyone except old fart university professors like me).

As far as I can tell from watching Adam Lambert on YouTube, he is a male (I guess) version of the female (I guess) Lady Gaga. And violence (doing violence to language, to music, and to the social contract, in addition to plain old ordinary physical and sexual violence) is his stock in trade (are you listening, Smith Barney?).

I sound exactly like my father talking about Elvis in 1958. Fifty years makes no difference at all. Old farts are old farts. And pop culture is pop culture. So what? But that’s exactly the point. Fifty years makes no difference at all.

Violence and greed are the same in every generation. But, as Maria says in Sound of Music, “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.” Fifty years is a drop in the proverbial bucket. Let’s go back to the Bible. Anyone who reads what I write knows that I have grown apart from the religious tradition in which I grew up. I have no truck with the idea that the Bible is some kind of history. Duh!

But there are some interesting lessons to think about in the Bible—even the parts of the Bible from prehistory. My Baptist Sunday school taught that the story of Noah was about God’s ridding the earth of sexual immorality. But that’s not what the Bible says. It says violence made God cranky enough to destroy all human beings except Noah and his family. Genesis says, “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). And again, God speaking directly to Noah, says “I have determined to make an end to all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them; behold I will destroy them with the earth” (Genesis 6:13).

In his song “For Your Entertainment,” Adam Lambert sings

Baby, don’t be afraid I’ma hurt ya’ real good, baby. . .
‘Cause it’s about to get rough for you
I’m here for your entertainment. . .
Baby, I’m in control
Take the pain
Take the pleasure
I’m the master of both. . .
‘Cause it’s about to get rough for you
I’m here for your entertainment

Oh sure, I know. It’s simply a song about wild young love-making. The pain and the pleasure of adolescent sex. Everyone involved loves it. There’s no real violence here. Right.

And Morgan Stanley-Smith Barney is simply about making money. The pain and the pleasure of raping the American economy for the enrichment of a few stock brokers.

And Virgin American flight 404, holding passengers on the ground for the better part of sixteen hours, rationing pretzels and water, is simply business as usual. If you’re going to make money, you have to take the pain along with the pleasure.

I’m an old fart, disillusioned with the electronic ways of the world, unable to cope, thinking with great trepidation of buying my first iPhone. I have no business writing commentary on pop (or any other kind of) culture because somehow I equate all that impersonal electronic gadgetry with violence. But everyone else knows it’s all just fun and games.

That’s who the hell Adam Lambert is. The leader of our fun and games. It was ever thus. Damn! I hate sounding like this old fart. But God said, “For the earth is filled with violence through them; behold I will destroy them with the earth.” Why should I care? I don’t even believe in that god. But I find it interesting that in Clockwork Orange, the movie, Stanley Kubrick had to leave out the last chapter of Anthony Burgess’ novel. Read it if you don’t think we thrive on violence.


  1. Violence is something that calls to an ancient and untamed part of us, something we fight, and should fight, to NOT allow it free rein. But where does passion end and violence begin?
    I admit, I am a time lagged techno-phile. I can’t get along with Twitter; it seems too facile.



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