Future Shock. Indeed.
August 14, 2012 8:57 AM   Subscribe

'textbook definition of surrealism' In his epic new bio of James Brown, "The One"--an account of not just the man's life and music, but a panoramic view of African-American, southern and American political and cultural history of the 20th Century--author R.J. Smith briefly discusses "Future Shock," a dance show that Brown hosted in the mid-1970s. It aired on a pioneering Atlanta station, WTCG, a Ted Turner-owned UHF station that would become a satellite channel by the end of 1976. Along with the pay-only HBO (started in '75 in select markets), WTCG paved the way for a cable TV revolution. Its name would be changed to WTBS (otherwise known as Superstation WTBS) in 1979.

According to Smith, Brown's idea was to syndicate "Future Shock" to American and then African audiences, with the idea that it could serve as a forum for black people to be themselves. "He saw it as building on 'Soul Train,'" the author writes, "which it sort of did, in the way that John Wilkes Booth built on Abraham Lincoln."

Sadly, you can't find any episodes, or even a representative collection of clips, anywhere on high-quality video. You can, however, find a decent-enough, 25-minute selection of clips at Vimeo and a WFMU blog entry from 2008, where people in comments claim to have been dance contest entrants and show participants. The most eye-opening material comes around 5:30 in both videos, where the show's dance contest begins. There, you see the blueprint or beginnings of a coming decade of street/hip-hop dance innovations. An entire episode is posted at WFMU's Rock 'n' Soul Ichiban blog. An ad for "Future Shock" T-shirts can also be found at YouTube.

At the former of the WFMU blogs linked, a commenter says of the dance contest: "Man, the dance contest footage is the textbook definition of surrealism. Not literally, of course, but if you were to film a movie set in the 1970s that incorporated footage like that, you would likely be accused of extreme exaggeration."
posted by raysmj (11 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
"He saw it as a building on 'Soul Train,'" the author writes, "which it sort of did, in the way that John Wilkes Booth built on Abraham Lincoln."

I usderstand what this means yet have no idea at all what it means.

It's like when Alice reads the Jabberwocky poem. Only funkier.
posted by Doleful Creature at 9:05 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

"as building on," not "as a building on." Minor, but ... carry on.
posted by raysmj at 9:07 AM on August 14, 2012

Mod note: Fixed.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:21 AM on August 14, 2012

The Magno-archeologists are going to have a field day.

(I didn't sey thay'd be human.)
posted by vhsiv at 9:34 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

(Unsurprisingly, James Brown wins the dance contest on the show that bears his name.)

(He wasn't a contestant but, still, he won.)

posted by vhsiv at 9:39 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

So wait, if it's the textbook definition but not *literally* the textbook definition, wouldn't that make it... the coffee table book definition?

Also, that clip built on surrealism the way John Wilkes Booth built on a sloth holding handfuls of dripping, cooked noodles while rocking on a melting landscape. Which is to say, not literally.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 9:53 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Surrealism as an aesthetic isn't all melting clocks, and it isn't completely associated with painting or fine art photos or whatnot either. Just for the record. If you really want to get into that and James Brown, I'd have to bring up the dog burial involving a cape as discussed in the book, but ...
posted by raysmj at 12:25 PM on August 14, 2012

Surrealism started as a literary movement and had it's roots in Dada.
James Brown's Dada was not Surrealism's Dada.
I believe your textbook is wrong as even a melting clock is correct twice a day.
The word surrealism in today's age seems to have about as much meaning as the word "nice"; used because the author is too lazy to define something using his own words.
posted by adamvasco at 4:06 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

OK. That comes from a comment under a blog, and was meant to be comical. But the author of the book does use the word "surreal" once, if I remember correctly, and does bring up Bunuel and Lynch.
posted by raysmj at 4:53 PM on August 14, 2012

I love "James Brown Dada," regardless!
posted by raysmj at 5:02 PM on August 14, 2012

Dada's got a brand new bag.
posted by Wolof at 4:17 AM on August 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

« Older Bill Shatner speaks   |   Manic Pixie Dream Dudes Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments