17 Jan 2011

Pop culture’s downward spiral

January 17, 2011 Conversations with crazy people Comments Off

Twunk, perusing Twitter: Hey, look at that. Trent Reznor won a Golden Globe.

20-year-old, questionably related: Who?

Twunk: Trent Reznor.

20-year-old, possibly adopted: Yeah, who’s that?

Twunk: Trent Reznor. Nine Inch Nails.

20-year-old, possibly newly-landed alien life form: Uh …

Twunk: How is it you know every indie band out of Brooklyn but Nine Inch Nails isn’t ringing any bells?

20-year-old, also perusing Twitter: Hey, Chris Colfer won a golden globe.

1 Feb 2010

Why hello, navel.

February 1, 2010 506, assignments Comments Off

I read Catcher in the Rye when I was 13. It’s a good time to read it, especially when you’re a prickly, precocious kid with a bone to pick with the world.

I read Catcher in the Rye again when I was 23. I was too old for Holden; I wanted to slap that whiner across the face with his stupid hat.

Holden Caulfield, cultural icon. Metaphor for disaffected American youth. J.D. Salinger, the writer who withdrew to write, many imply selfishly, for himself.


29 Sep 2009

Penguins aren’t cute.

September 29, 2009 501A, assignments, responses Comments Off

To paraphrase, “It’s the experience, stupid.”

(I tried to post this last night, but was having some issues. I think WordPress lost a few of my posts as well.)

This cute little penguin was posing for photographs. Coincidentally this is a Gentoo penguin. It's nice that they named the species after a Linux distribution. I wonder what a Debian Penguin would look like?  -photo from Paul Boxley (Lord Biro) on flickr.com

This cute little penguin was posing for photographs. Coincidentally this is a Gentoo penguin. It's nice that they named the species after a Linux distribution. I wonder what a Debian Penguin would look like? -photo and caption from Paul Boxley (Lord Biro) on flickr.com

Penguins and experiential learning

Linky goodness:

Penguin Experience at the Mystic Aquarium
Beluga Experience
The Secrets Inside Your Dog’s Mind
Mars 2112
Max Brenner
The Overscheduled Child
Obama would curtail summer vacation

Other stuff about reading, play and developmental readiness:
Can the right kinds of play teach self-control? (New York Times Magazine, Sept. 25 2009)
Educators differ on why boys lag in reading (Washington Post, March 15, 2005)

Here we go, although I must say I’m a bit bored of Swift and West(on … Twunked likes her little pun).

The comments from my last post inspired me to consider this incident in a different way. Here’s how I see it:

We have four players: Kanye, Taylor, Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Or rather, we have the constructed images that the real people known as Kanye, Taylor, Beyoncé and Jay-Z and others use to sell us “their” music. Or clothes, or perfume, or sunglasses or shoes or T-shirts or binders or anything else with their names and/or faces attached.

• Kanye steals the mic from Taylor and stomps on her moment, in a misguided attempt to defend the absent Jay-Z’s woman from a perceived slight, thereby removing both women’s agency. (Which … is its own post unpacking that particular piece of social baggage.)

•Taylor is shell-shocked and leaves without making a speech.

•Beyoncé reclaims her agency by calling Taylor back, which does not restore Taylor’s agency.

•Taylor completes her speech.

Each of these players is not, effectively, a real person in this situation. They are each the embodiments of their respective brands. And those very, very valuable brands are not created and shaped by our players as individuals. They are created, shaped, promoted and controlled by lots of people for economic benefits many, not the least of which are those four, enjoy.

In a very real sense, these are not people, they are enacted economic properties. And that is something each of them has chosen by becoming a public figure and not merely singing in their own showers.

Now, in this situation, Kanye acted in a way that was consistent with his brand, that is, a loudmouth jerkoff. Beyoncé acted consistently with her brand. Taylor acted consistently with her brand.

Therein lies the problem. Both Beyoncé and Taylor Swift’s brands are carefully packaged and skillfully executed. But Beyoncé’s brand allows her to embrace her own agency, while Taylor’s limits her agency.

None of these brands is who these people actually are. They may be in some ways similar, but the brand is not the person. See: Martha Stewart.

Taylor Swift’s brand is, I believe, socially damaging. Millions of young consumers who do not have the critical thinking skills to unpack these ideas of branding are influenced by what they see as her actions as a person.

Beyoncé’s brand sends what I believe is a socially healthier message, because she retains her own agency. However, I would still have a talk with my child about how Single Ladies promotes what I believe are damaging notions, namely, that if a man respects a woman as a woman and as a partner, he will marry her, and that a woman’s goal is to be a wife. Which is not to say it’s not a fun — and very lucrative — single. (Waaa-ohh, oh oh ohhhh oh oh …)

But the really sick thing is, we collectively responded to this really minor pop culture incident in ways that show brands work. Even I was like “aww, poor little Taylor” and “Beyoncé is a class act, Kanye” for a bit.

Now, if you like, you can discuss Swift’s Road Not Chosen. Unfair, I know, but it’s my house.

17 Sep 2009

In which there is speculation about the murder of Annie Le, a discussion of Kanye and quite a bit of profanity.

September 17, 2009 Uncategorized 7 Comments

(I promise this will end with an upbeat video clip. Until then, bear with me.)

Police arrested a man today who allegedly strangled the life out of Annie Le.

“Police said it was a case of workplace violence, but didn’t elaborate.”

Annie Le was a smart 24-year-old woman who stood 4’11″ and weighed 90 pounds and was, by all accounts, a good person, a good friend, a graduate student with a bright future ahead of her.

Raymond Clark III is a 24-year-old lab technician with a history of controlling behavior towards women that went back as far as high school and sent emails to Le criticizing her behavior.

I’m not going to apologize for saying the following: to call this murder an incident of workplace violence is a fucking disgrace.

This is not about issues in the workplace, and calling it that masks the real problem here.

We, as a society, have not dealt with our members who cannot control their outrage that young, pretty women with bright futures ahead of them threaten their supremely screwed-up notions of masculinity.

Annie Le didn’t get killed because she didn’t take care of mice properly. She got killed because an (allegedly) emotionally-stunted man couldn’t handle working for or with a woman smarter than he was, even though she seemed to be really nice about it.

But it shouldn’t have mattered if she was a complete raving harpy. She was a smart, pretty woman with a bright future who was murdered precisely because she was a smart, pretty woman with a bright future ahead of her.

That’s really fucked up.

It’s insulting to cast this as workplace violence. Doing so obscures an issue that we, as a civil society, have chosen not to deal with.

And now, for The Kanye Incident (latest version).

Kanye acts like a jackass, frequently. Even the President knows this.

But here’s what’s really going on within all this outrage about him taking a big ‘ol dump all over Taylor Swift’s moment in the bright shiny spotlight of MTV.

We see an angry, older, bigger man (and I’m not even going to bring race into this, although one easily could) take away a young, pretty, successful woman’s chance to enjoy the results of her hard work.

Taylor Swift — who yes, is young and was scared and probably lives in a world where this sort of thing doesn’t happen, which I’m sorry to say is not the real world — should think about the following next time some asshole like Kanye tries to stomp on her:

“I have sold 10 million records. I have sold 20 million singles. I am a successful artist and a brand and a role model. And I will open my mouth and say that, out loud, right now.”

And I’m not blaming the victim here, because she’s young and scared and works in an industry that sexualizes women for their agency or for their lack of agency.

But you know what? We allow this to continue. We allow young, bright, pretty women to be stomped all over, physically and metaphorically, simply because they are young, bright, pretty women.

I’m not saying “we” as in women. I’m saying “we” as in all thinking, productive members of a civil society. Male, female and in between.

We allow a few assholes to define a debate we’re not even having. And we allow a few assholes to look at 52 fucking percent of the population as people who should be controlled. Who should not use the brains God gave them simply because He also gave them a uterus.

We talk about Mad Men like it’s some kind of social commentary on How We Know Better Now instead of Gee, Doesn’t That Look Good. We call the really screwed-up, nastily stereotypical thugs on The Sopranos masterful characters that Really Say Something About The Human Condition.

Both shows racked up awards by the handfuls. So has Kanye.

Which means we’re all guilty. Collectively. Because we can’t have a productive debate about this when we personalize it, and that’s what ends up happening.

This is not about me and who I am, what I do or do not do. This is not about you, who you are, and what you do or do not do.

This is about the basic human right of HALF THIS SOCIETY to live their lives without fear. To lead productive, successful lives as they see fit without question.

And now I will leave you with something I think is a really wicked little piece of social satire: