Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Michael Jackson RIP: "I Want You Back"

"The End of Pop", looking at the story and legacy of Michael Jackson one song and video clip at a time.


It seems appropriate to start at the beginning; the first single from The Jackson 5 on Motown, "I Want You Back". A song about the most human of emotions: regret. And not regret for a loss that seems preordained by god, but human error. This isn't a hurricane that tore through town. It's not an accidental car crash. It's not having to leave abruptly for an unexpected job opportunity or to serve in the Army. It's the concession of a proactive conscious mistake: I was an ass, I fucked up, I'm sorry, I want you back.

regret is a funny emotion, it appeals to what presumably distinguishes us from chimps. we have ambition. we dream. we aspire. we try to understand love.

this was the sentiment mined by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, one of the most emotionally resonant movies of me and MJ's lifetime. "The world forgetting, by the world forgot." Or Nietzsche's, "Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders."

Knowing how things turned out, now, we can wonder what Michael might have given to forget. But what would he/we have lost if he forgot? in the case of love, and specifically, relationships, there's something that feels so inevitable about remorse. we regret doing. we regret not doing. what can ya do? would you rather be a chimp? (well, maybe, if it's Bubbles)

Kinsleydamus on Michael

Before I trot out a bunch of MJ posts, I wanted to point at what I found to be the most striking article I've read in the past week. That being Michael Kinsley's "The Prisoner of Commerce" on The New Republic.

The commerce/capitalist angle tells so much about MJ:

This points up a second way Michael Jackson's sacrifice for art is different from, say, van Gogh's. Jackson's art is also big-time commerce. Corporations supervised his development, and even bigger corporations are making millions off of him: CBS (which features Jackson on the cover of its 1983 Annual Report), Pepsico (which has $50 million riding on a Jackson ad campaign). Time Inc. (which sells magazines by putting him repeatedly on its covers), and others. It's happened in front of millions of paying customers.

So many people, so many corporate entities with a huge investment in one human being. So clearly not a way to live.

Kinsley also adds good points on the freakish elements of Jackson's personality being lapped up and/or exploited as part-and-parcel with his art. He takes a Time magazine cover to task for glorifying quotes like Steven Spielberg (after E.T.) saying, "He's like a fawn in a burning forest ... I wish we could all spend some time in his world." Yes, a fawn in a burning forest does sound like a rather pleasant afternoon now that you mention it, Steven.

Many of these "we're all complicit" takeaways are embedded in the tributes and articles being trotted out now, but the trump card here is Kinsley wrote this in 1984, when Jackson was 25. It's positioned as one of these counterintuitive articles that now represent the instinctive path for journalists. In hindsight the Spielberg quote, or Jane Fonda's "His intelligence is instinctual and emotional, like a child's." are ludicrous. Obvious warning signs. Back then they were part of the MJ publicity-puffery machine. Part of his aloof cool.

Kinsley is a big-time alpha-journalist with plenty of credentials on his resume. But as someone who leans apolitical, this is the sort of piece that gets me on his bandwagon. I want to call it incredibly prescient, but at 25 MJ had already been a "prisoner of commerce" for 15-20 years. So I guess it just underscores our collective lack of reflection, our willingness to be swept away.

But take MJ's capitalist incarceration, and throw in the child abuse and racism and you have the three pillars of his dysfunction. The imperfect storm that resulted in something that was more natural phenomenon than relatable human.

The Prisoner of Commerce [TNR]

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Friend or Foe, Bird? State Your Business

Lindsay at Videogum, a name/editor/sensibility to keep track of if you keep track of such things, posts 6 misunderstood cute-animal videos. I haven't been on the cute-animal beat for a second, so it was a good catch up for me.

This one I pulled, and totally see how it can be confusing. I would challenge anyone to get a definitive read on the parrot. I didn't know birds could emote smarmy, but the first half of the video, as he cozies up with his friend/victim, i am quite certain he has ulterior motives. Manipulative kitty-molester or somesuch. But by the end the cuteness rings true, and you think, oh, maybe it's just the claws that predispose you to suggesting otherwise.

I'd like a follow-up clip though, to get more sample-size on this relationship.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Eddie, Woody, & Michael: Do We Even Care About Genius Anymore?

On Gawk (I'll have some more MJ unpacking later/soon. Still processing ...):

Eddie Murphy, Woody Allen, Michael Jackson: All indisputable geniuses in the 80s. Hit-or-miss in the 90s. And, at least before the outpouring of adulation for Jackson today, you probably wouldn't want to trade reputations with any of them.

Everyone should have a go-to quote to come off like a learned smarty-pants. Mine is from Nietzsche who said, "the only proof of strength is excess of strength". I love it because in our current link-don't-tell culture it speaks to how proof of brilliance needs to be hyperlinkably obvious. For Woody, Eddie, and Michael this was never an issue. No one ever calls into question their obvious excess of talent. But yet, reading the news and reviews from the past week or so, and it seems being a genius doesn't seem to hold the same water it used to. At the least, critics and journalists appear to be challenging the statute of limitations on genius privileges like never before:

Eddie Murphy: This post was seeded by Brooks Barnes in the NY Times (who also was involved with NYT coverage of MJ) wondering how/why Eddie Murphy still had so much Hollywood clout, despite being the butt of more jokes than he makes these days. In the sidebar they list his top 5 box office grosses, totaling up to $780 million. If you throw in Coming to America and a couple of his middling performers like, say, Boomerang and Harlem Nights, you're approaching a billion dollars in box office bank before you even get to ten movies. Murphy is the #2 man all time at the box office, right behind Tom Hanks and ahead of names like Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise. So, what's the question again? Asking Hollywood why they keep going to Eddie Murphy is like asking why the Yankees keep putting ARod in the cleanup spot (despite inconsistent production).....

Eddie, Woody, Michael: Do We Care About Genius Anymore?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Toronto Has Yet To Receive Their Copy of Photoshop

No, seriously. Can someone put up a Craigslist Canada listing: This is Toronto, We Are In Need of Someone, Anyone Really, With Some Photoshop Skills. Thank You.

What am I talking about?

This is the original photo for Toronto's summer "Fun Guide".

Fairly non-descript, right? Now following is their current cover, after they decided to prioritize showing "the diversity of Toronto and its residents."

Now doesn't that just make your day? You might briefly be tempted to think this is some racist "pasting a black guy in at the last second" and then you realize, that's exactly what it is... And it's hilarious! How in this day and age of the iphone etc. is the country of Canada still, literally, like scissors and Elmer's, cutting-and-pasting images for a major activity guide?? Canada can't get an intern? This is Canada's biggest city being represented here! Is Toronto's Parks, Forestry & Recreation a one-man blogger operation? Is this thing handwritten on the inside? Look at it again. It's ridiculous. What is the black guy looking at? And maybe I've been staring too long, but doesn't his smile look kinda half-hearted? Like even he's wondering how he stumbled into this random circle of euphoric strangers (but moms over there is kinda cute). This is the most obvious example of slacking/waiting until the last possible moment I've seen from a country's economic capital evar!!!!

In a way, I guess, they kind of have the catalog game on lockdown. What better way to have fun with the whole "show diversity" game than this? And the Canadian spokesman who addressed the matter was very straightforward. Here's some quotes:

"He superimposed the African-Canadian person onto the family cluster in the original photo ...

We want everyone to feel involved and welcome to participate in everything. That's the only goal. Nothing wrong with that.

The policy doesn't say PhotoShop, the policy says 'show diversity'"

Ahh, yes. Love it. Dude's like, what? We old school. Respect our melting pot. If you got complaints, take this crayon and construction paper and drop it in the straw basket outside.

But yeah, back to reality ... if you're a graphic designer, holla at canada.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Coming Soon: My Date With Megan (Fox)

So this has been one of the cute-buzzy-celeb stories of the week. A young cherubic teenage everyman consumed by passion and desire for the Angelina Jolie3000 lovely Megan Fox attempted to make his affections known with a flower. Awww. Unfortunately, the only thing now in bloom is his awakening to how this cold nihilistic world works when you're cherubic and the object of your desire is out of your league. Ms. Fox couldn't even manage to Transformer2 her face into a CGI-affected smile.

Yeah, that's right. Boo-hoo, Mr. I came-with-the-wonder-years-schtick-a-decade-or-two-late. Go start a blog and stand in line with the rest of us, kid.

But wait! Apparently Megan Jolohanbiel has feelings. On camera!

Hmm. Maybe the kid's gonna get to licky-boom-boom-down after all. I hear she's waiting for him while hiding on the back of this great big fantastically-fluffy polar bear:

(Seriously, what is that? A duvet? A cloud?) So, anyfox, media and companies have spied the potential hollywood narrative, and the chase is on. People are offering rewards to locate the would-be cupid, who is probably stewing and plotting his revenge as we speak/ogle.

Sounds like we might have a sequel to "My date with Drew" coming...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

For Every Press Conference, A Pop Song

People are doing some amazing things with auto-tune, and video and audio editing. Here's another one. Pretty awesome:

I wonder if this is incredible only for this specific iteration/execution, and because it's new and novel. Or if every press conference ever conceived can now be repurposed into something beautiful (and danceable, too!).

(Thanks: LT)

Might 'Love' Get Twitter Over the Hump?

Not romantic love, silly! I mean Kevin Love, the young power forward of the Minnesota Timberwolves who recently completed his rookie season. DUH.

"But why have you tricked us like this, TAN?" thought the internet chorus.

"Well I'll tell you," thought TAN as he wrote those very words on the keyboard ...

Sure celebrities like Ashton Kutcher and Oprah are huge celebrities, but that's just it, they're *celebrities*. I'd argue that celebritydom gets us to listen or pay attention or click, but at the same time it makes us minimize the weight/value of A-B-C-listers.

So, like, a PH.D will be more respected than a celebrity PH.D. (I know, there's vagaries to that, i.e. good and bad celebrity, but roll with me here, I think this is how we will undermine the celebrity infrastructure...) In the case of Oprah, in particular, it might constitute a thesis statement in need of further research to suggest her celebritydom has outflanked her ranking/merit as media mogul. The argument is at some point she (and every other celeb) tips over the line and is no longer applying her time to her media moguldom because she's managing everything involved with being Oprah day-to-day. The Celebrity Industry Complex.

Which is to say celebrities, if not now, sometime in the near future, will all occupy the same mind space. And this will be fair: part of the streamlining brain-efficiency program, we know to be a celebrity you must take some portion of your finite time and energy and devote it to something other than mastery of your craft/art/talent etc.

To make money these days, and in the past, you had to have some talent (play a guitar, rap, shoot a ball etc), but to be a *star* you also needed skills with schmoozing and the rest. Schmoozing and networking are the tools//talents of celebrities. Some people hate that. Some people revel in it. But that's all beside the point. What matters is there's a finite amount of time to devote your energies. And before, everything was wrapped into one ball. And now, everything is partitioned off. So it's easier to be a writer these days, but it's more difficult to be a *superstar celebrity writer*.

If we abide by the 10,000 hour rule, then to split your energies might get you more money and fame, but it will make you less of a master. Less of a genius at whatever you do. Some say I'm a good self-promoter, but that invariably makes me less of a writer. Presumably we don't know The Grand Masters of our various arts because they're in a hole obsessed to the point of socio-dysfunction. Genius!

So in the future, celebrities will be celebrities: People in the public eye, that we know to varying degrees, for some reason or another. Oprah, Ashton, Pam Anderson, David Letterman, same shit, different toilet. Or somesuch. (Unless you know them personally, of course).

Now back to Kevin Love. He's no celebrity. Just a basketball player. But last week he got the NBA media circles buzzing because he tweeted news of his coach/GM/boss leaving the team before the Timberwolves made any official announcement and before any reporters knew.

The big reveal is simply that he's going unpunished, and even better, he's being encouraged to do more tweeting. And now the door opens for every team to have their first player-tweeter-journo-blogger. Who's hurt, who's traded, who's leaving, who's got a bad attitude, who's re-signing, all from an insider perspective that couldn't be duplicated by even the most observant sports reporter. Players being allowed to use the new tools of the media trade feels like a game-changer.

In sum: a sports league embracing Twitter to the point of players being allowed to break news before the team's PR department -- something that in the past would normally cause a fine or suspension or other reprimand -- is bigger than Oprah or Ashton getting a jillion followers. Sports as one of our cultural institutions is bigger than Ashton. Bigger than Oprah (i think). If our NBA broadcasts will soon be informed by players telling us all sorts of insider-y stuff, feels like more of a fundamental philosophical embrace of the new medium and what it means. Athletes already have blogs, so what happens when the players are doing both the playing and reporting?

Regardless, it seems fitting that Love has led the way.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Three Uses of the Blog: Viral Video as Metaphor for the Human Condition

The title of this blog is haughtier than the post is actually going to be. I mainly want to point to the series of posts in NY Mag's Reading Room on Bill Wasik's And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture.

The background summary is: Bill Wasik, basically, has some hands-on experience with viral culture; he engineered the "Flash Mobs" meme of a few years ago, where via email and text messaging throngs of people would convene at a notably random location and sing kumbaya enjoy the experience of being herded without a cattle prod. It's the seed that led to stuff like T-Mobile's karaoke session earlier this year.

There are other viruses on Mr. Wasik's resume. He's also a senior editor at Harper's Magazine, so he can write. And thus, a book is born.

NY Mag's panel of folk (Virginia Heffernan, Anil Dash, David Rees, Charlie Todd, Sam Anderson) don't issue a wholehearted recommendation for the book, but I'm probably going to cop it sometime soon anyways. It seems the biggest problem is Wasik comes off as a pretentious d-bag. Which seems to fall in line with his Flash Mobs narrative (he engineered the gatherings, and then later positioned/revealed himself as Mad Social Scientist manipulating people/rats to his bidding). But I don't have a problem with that as long as *good ideas* are present.

In any case, I haven't read any of these "I Will Explain the Internet and Internet Culture to You for $21.99" books since The Long Tail -- that's not intended as a slight; it's mostly because I've embedded myself deeply enough in the culture that I didn't feel the need for an instruction manual -- but given the evolution of the landscape even in just the last 2-3 years, it's a good time to catch up. If only to see how the new trends, memes etc are being packaged.

There were a couple really interesting takeaways from the discussion though. The first is Virginia Heffernan's suggestion that "viral" is a misnomer when we talk about the culture of people passing along videos. Mainly because as the internet has developed, it's not so much about person-to-person sharing, and more sending e-mailed traffic signals directing everyone to Youtube or whatever huge content hub is hosting the *virus*. As she says, "the word 'viral' is used to pretend that culture is so idiosyncratic and personal now, where it may actually be more fascinatingly uniform than ever."

No one came up with a better term, but everyone seemed to agree with the semantics of "viral" being no longer appropriate. Specifically, I think everyone is turned off by the corporate exploitation element, i.e. every company issues a "viral video" that hasn't even been seen with their new product line.

This all made me flashback to The Matrix, when Agent Smith uses "virus" as a metaphor for humans:

"The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague, and we are the cure."

It also made me think of David Mamet's three-essay collection, Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama, where in the context of a discussion on dramatic structure he explains how drama is a metaphor for the human condition. Drama is life. Or at least, what we live for.

I left a comment on NY Mag's post. Here's a snippet with another takeaway:

the other... was about "purity". How everyone, it seems, hates being manipulated. This is a theme through a few of the posts: Don't overthink it. Don't oversell it. Don't overschtick it (a personal TAN *cough* gripe that resonates). I guess we want internet hippiedom or something? Just be chill and watch pure-viral videos and people doing what they want to do but not too hard..."

This speaks to everyone being turned off by Wasik's pretensiousness. It also speaks to the nebulous don't-try-to-make-this-into-a-formula-because-you-can't nature of viral videos. Everyone thinks they have a viral video in them, and that's because they do. If you ignore the pernicious angle of Agent Smith's quote (don't worry Obama and Al Gore will fix all of that), then in the context of these quotes and book discussion, the striking conclusion is that the "viral video" is you. *cue Tony Robbins* Or, at least, it's your pure essence repurposed into a funny clip.

You can also think of the sharing element as someone identifying some crystallized portion of themselves in a clip, and sharing it. Like you would a list of favorite movies or whathaveyou.

Now this is where I don't want the post to ramble out of control; just go check the book discussion. But i think in this era of information age paralysis, what is in us, the intangible transient *thing*, is what creates the kinetic energy (kinergy?) of viral phenomena. This is true with athletes, and art, and blogs, and twitter, and just about anything that people gravitate towards. Now, sure, corporations and market research groups, and smarty-pretentious editors will thinkthinkthink it through until they come up with some Cool Ranch facsimile, and that facsimile might even create some ripples (I'm an absolute sucker for the same ol cereal being put in a newly redesigned box).

But I think Mr. Dash nailed it when he talked about pop music being what it is because people just like a good beat to dance to, as opposed to indie-rock (or indie-music) being about overwrought thinking over an instrumental. Good memes, good people, good viruses, are self-evident. It resonates not only with our rational side, but also our emotional intelligence.

Another brilliant pull is from David Rees who identified "moms" as the ideal spreaders of real viral ideas. Most "moms" don't know the current tech-pop-culture-hipster fad-trend, but they will absolutely share anything that is need-to-know or cool in an obvious self-evidently good way.

Which I guess means all the tech/culture commentary circles back and boils down to life's one simple truism: Moms rule the universe. Hallelujah!

Vulture Reading Room, Diagnosis: The Spread of Viral Culture [NY Mag]

image via Mike Arauz, moms

In Search of Negropedia Brown...

Well, last couple weekends I tried out the "Negropedia Brown" concept on Gawker.

On paper, the idea is this: there remain "ethnocultural mysteries", which is to say the issues of racial inequality still exist in this country (c.f. Barack's race speech). Particularly in certain institutions, media, for example.

And I've always been a big fan of the "Encyclopedia Brown" boy-detective mysteries. So wouldn't it be sorta cool to use that conceit to explore these "ethnocultural mysteries". It's a more creative and fun way to dig in on a touchy subject, perhaps wag your finger at The System. Harkening back to childhood storytelling can soften what often comes across as harsh sentiments.

So far I've done three cases:

Case of Will Leitch and the Burning Q-Tip
Case of Jay-Z and the Undead Auto-Tune
Case of Vanity Fair and the World White Web

Unfortunately, the execution hasn't lived up to the dream in my head. Primarily, as I see it, because the answers to Encyclopedia Brown mysteries were simple, succinct, and definitive. I haven't managed to recreate the same effect of suspenseful storytelling leading to a clear satisfying conclusion.

I'm posting this cause I'm going back to the lab with Negropedia Brown. I believe strongly in creative transparency and crowdsourcing, and want to get more of "The Process" on TAN; especially if I'm outsourcing the product anyway. So this a post/space for any thoughts, suggestions, and for referring people to the samples.

There are certainly other variables at play: Is referencing Encyclopedia Brown already making for a very niche group (do kids today or even young adults remember/revisit those stories; they seem classic to me, but maybe not)? Does the complicated nature of race totally short-circuit any attempt to have satisfying answers? i.e. when we solve the mystery of race at-large then you can broach this. How does "turn to the back of the book" storytelling work on blogs/the internet? And how much does timeliness and news relevancy play a part-- the first and third cases above were not timely at all. All this before even getting to the nuts-and-bolts of the actual writing.

I still think the seeds are there for something very very cool. It might play better as video or sketch where a character can better translate the mood/tone. Maybe it works better as a cartoon, a la Boondocks. Maybe it's just one of those ideas that doesn't get all the way *there*.

If you have thoughts on any of the above, feel free to share. You won't hurt my feelings. And if you have the notion that gets it right, you're totally in on any byline, $, etc. I just think there's upside, style and substance potential. And so many ideas get shelved and forgotten I wanted to give this one some special attention.

TAN/Negropedia Brown

Illustrations by the illustrious Brandon.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Negropedia Brown: The Case of the World White Web

Negropedia Brown was pedaling furiously on his bike. He needed to return to his bodega office in fast order. His last case resulted in picketing, "Hell no, the negro must go!" the surly crowd chanted.

It was only hours after Negropedia had declared Slate's Jody Rosen to be in need of hip hop autotuning. And the crowd disappeared as quickly as they had arrived once the case files fell off the front page of the blog where he stashed his evidence, but the dank smell of defeat lingered.

Perhaps humbled by the angry mob, Negropedia was still undaunted. He knew he was the best -- in fact, only! -- Ethnocultural Blog Detective in town. More important: He knew the stately town of Mediaville needed someone to solve these mysteries of ethnocultural dissonance.

See, Negropedia felt strongly that people's perspective and choices were inevitably informed by their ethnic/cultural background. And often in Mediaville, despite no obvious ill intent, there were weird mysteries of slights, misinterpretations, and lack of sympathy resulting from what Negropedia's father called "culture gaps".

Negropedia found it odd how the folks in Mediaville loved to talk about how technology was changing the town, but never about how the face of the population was changing as well. It seemed to him that as long as America was a melting pot, someone would need to watch over mixing the ingredients to make sure things didn't get salty....

(click image above or link below to continue the story ...)

Negropedia Brown: The Case of Vanity Fair and the World White Web [Gawker]

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Will 'Keeping It Real" Ever Go Right?

One of my favorite sketches from the popular and missed-more-every-second Chappelle's Show was called "When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong". The sketch basically satirized the whole sensibility of "Uncle Tom" and "Keeping It Real" and "Politics of Authenticity/Identity" that can lead to denying your come-up in the world, i.e when success = sellout. And ... well let me not explain when we can watch it; it's only a couple minutes and well worth it:

[quick aside: in my first days at college i was a little notorious for breaking out animated-recitations-of-hip-hop-refrains as non-sequitur answers to normal class conversation, aka rapping in class. so for example, in my freshman seminar, i don't remember if this was the exact line, but imagine something to the effect of:

Teacher: "So, Patrice, what do you think about the summer reading? Could you relate to the protagonist's struggle in Manchild in the Promised Land?"

TAN: "I'LL THROW IT DOWN YOUR THROAT LIKE BARKLEY. YOU SEE THE CAR KEYS??? YOU'LL NEVER GET THESE!!" and then just look at the teacher like nothing out of the ordinary happened. it was pretty much the mid-90s college version of "when keeping it real goes wrong."]

So as with most good comedy, there's some other darker stuff lurking underneath.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Still #1: Not Vibe Magazine

Nice clip here with KRS talking about auto-tune and Vibe Magazine's authority in hip hop (in relation to their naming of Eminem the #1 rapper). He handles these potentially sticky questions in a hectic environment with ease, making sure not to conflate the artists with the artist-publicity machine. Then he drops a *freestyle* while waiting for the elevator. And he does all this while not being distracted by Super Mario's little nephew, or his mustache, harassing him with a microphone. Damn, he's dreamy ...

You know what you need to learn? Old school artists don't always burn.

like fine wine for the 0-9. Peace to Scott La Rock, you suckaaaaazzzzz

via BC

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Negropedia Brown: The Case of the Undead Auto-tune

Mr. and Mrs. Brown had one child. They called him TAN, but everyone else called him Negropedia. One day he opened a Blog Detective Agency to solve Media-Mysteries resulting from Ethnocultural-dissonance.

This episode, Jay-Z and the Case of the Undead Autotune. Can you solve the mystery before Negropedia???

The Case of the Undead Autotune

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Recipe: A Restaurant for Assimilateds of All Types

As an assimilated negro type coming up in the world, you need more than a job and an education. God, as they say, is in the coochie details. And with that, comes a need for knowledge about seersucker shorts, beautiful acoustic renditions of "Straight Out of Compton", and of course restaurants that cater to your upwardly mobile aspirations, but don't intimidate you for having from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks sensibilities.

Enter Recipe. Now written up in the NY Times twice, it has distinguished link pedigree.

Location: 82nd St and Amsterdam, i.e. nice neighborhood, but close enough to hood nether-regions. So if you're broke and living "uptown", your train or (gasp!) cab fare won't be too much. And if you never venture to the jungle, it allows you to get close enough to use binoculars and spy on the natives, without ruffling your cardigan. Win-win.

And Shawn -- DISCLOSURE: a friend of mine -- is one of the finest culinary artists you will ever meet.

Throw in reasonable prices, and you have a restaurant that clicks on all cylinders. Just dying to get in your rotation and help you fulfill your multiculti dreams.

So sayeth TAN, so it shall be done.... (Really just experimenting and seeing how restaurants handle the "TAN Bump". When you go, tell them Mr. Assimilated Negro sent you.)

At the Next Table, Is That Dr. Freud? [NY Times]

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Reading the Rhymes: Death of Auto-Tune

Song: Death of Auto-Tune

Artist: Jay-Z

Date: 6/2009

To my knowledge the debut of "Death of Auto-Tune" came via radio, Hot 97's Funkmaster Flex and Mr. Cee. Nearly immediately after, you had FWMJ on the scene. Miss Info followed up, and the net was off to the races.

It's odd to me that even in this micro-analyzed cultural landscape, we still don't have a basic blog/tumblr whathaveyou doing a run-through on the lyrics for all the major-release hip hop songs. Something that gives a quick, intelligent meta-analysis of the content and sizes it up strictly on lyrics. If I'm missing out, shoot me a link. But it feels like this is where the audio-literary impact of hip hop is slipping through the cracks; of course the alternative is maybe there's just nothing there.

well, only one way to find out. to the lyrics, Batman!:

Lyrics (italics)

Only rapper to rewrite history without a pen
No I.D. on the track let the story begin…
begin… begin...

So most should recognize Jay's trumpeting of not writing his lyrics down. He talks and rhymes about it all the time. I suspect this investment in "spontaneous genius" might be one of hip hop's tragic flaws; but it's definitely one of Hov's.

For hip hop: between the ongoing argument of "Freestyle vs. off the dome"; and the "Biggie wrote that song in the booth" t-shirts; and "Jay wrote this album on the toilet taking a shit" hand-warmers, and "Weezy ain't never wrote nothing down ever." OMG, dude is a genius! Huh? What??

Friend Recruiting: Looking for Young Men or Women Who Can Breathe Fire, Etc.

Seriously. Wouldn't it be cool to have a fire-breathing type in the crew? That's definitely one of those character-types that would distinguish your circle of friends from others. Make your montage of memories a little spicier when you die.

I'm thinking an ideal crew probably has a legal person, a web/tech person, a business/finance wiz, 2-3 artists (writers, musicians, painters, comedians whatever), and then you want one random, like a cirque du soleil type in the clip below, or an origami obsessive, maybe someone in the FBI, or a private investigator. Something that raises eyebrows as soon as you say it at the cocktail party.

Man Has Friendship Privileges Revoked

Commenter-to-Friend Application

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The New Portable Mini-Computers from Apple Have Arrived, and They Make Phone Calls Also

So yeah, pretty exciting. The new iPhone 3G[!!(S)!!]was unveiled earlier this week. And as I talk about the new features and *what the technology means* with my Top 5 friends & family, it continues to amuse that we regard this device as a "phone".

Per the new feature list: your "phone" can now take pictures, with variable focus, and video. You can also edit video. So to my understanding you can now go out with your phone, shoot a movie, edit it, and mail it in to Sundance or Tribeca Film Festival, then listen to music while you wait for the powers that be to call you back and tell you "you're in!". Then you can take a break and play a video game, before checking your blood pressure (about to be a star! in the public eye! feel stressed!), and even start making the music for the soundtrack to the new film because, of course, there's apps for that etc. etc., all on the same device.

I mean honestly, at this point the *phone feature* is becoming a nuisance. I might ask apple to deactivate if/when i get a new one. Something I'm undecided on, by the by. Will prob wait to see the first round or two of reports and feedback.

Also, worth highlighting: the old iphone, 3G, is now $99. When it first came out, two years ago, June 2007, it was $600. Wow. (I did a man-on-the-street for the first release on gawker. ahh, history.) But if they're not already, by next year they will be ubiquitous. Coming Soon: African babies, still starving, looking in the App store for food.

iPhone 3Gs Feature Guide [Gizmodo]
New iPhone [Apple]
First Responders: Are You Buying an iPhone? (2007) [Gawker]

Monday, June 08, 2009

Death of Auto-Tune: Wow, Jay-Z Is Looking Pretty Hungry

I've got more coming on this front, but here's a theme/narrative I'm not seeing in the hip hop conversation: Superstars being HUNGRY!

Eminem just returned after 4-5 years. Hungry. Real hungry. No matter how you parse the end results, dude is obviously on his grind.

Now, per this clip below, we've got Shawn Carter, Jay-Z, looking pretty damn hungry/earnest/eager to earn your respect.

These are two of the best to ever do it. Both talent-wise and as corporate entities. Skills and resources. And it's interesting to see how they play their cards.

Jay's been swinging and missing since Black Album, or at least that's the public perception. But he's clearly looking to return to his roots -- the release before this "Brooklyn Go Hard", was another east coast hip hop headbanger with little mainstream/autotune ambition, --so he clearly feels he just needs to go back to ill lyrics on hard beats.

But I think, per the video, he's clearly amped about the song-as-manifesto; rocking this song, at a Hot 97 Summer Jam, with T-Pain on stage, Kanye on co-production, if you go along with the spirit of it all it positions Jay as the sole steely [life preserver-ish TK TK TK] in a sea of pop-autotune-inauthentic-blahblahblah that's drowning hip hop.

What's being missed here in terms of relevancy (I think, I still have to turn it over a few times myself) is hip hop's unique position in giving us this window into passion's relationship to artistic product and subsequently commercial product and success. Which is to say: it's easier to spot an angry rapper, as opposed to an angry actor or politician or athlete through their product. Hip hop transmits talent/creativity more transparently, and this is part of its still not-fully-understood value. (?)

Friday, June 05, 2009

JerusalemPass: Well If They Feel This Way About Obama...

I guess my oft-pondered, long-sought trip to Israel is on delay. The following video is offensive and NSFW. Here's the rest of the setup commentary from the source:

On the eve of President Barack Obama’s address to the Muslim world from Cairo, Egypt, I stepped out onto the streets of Jerusalem with my friend Joseph Dana to interview young Israelis and American Jews about their reaction to the speech. We encountered rowdy groups of beer sodden twenty-somethings, many from the United States, and all eager to vent their visceral, even violent hatred of Barack Obama and his policies towards Israel.

There's more commentary here, basically a questioning of why journalists are not following this story, and a note on how the sentiments and behavior seen in the video above are very much representative of American Jews in Israel.

Like Cajun's reaction, I'm just sort of shocked that these are educated folk. And the parallels to drunken fratboy delirium are striking. Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men (and women), indeed.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

In Case You Missed It: Obama, Orator Extraordinaire

Barack speaks to "A New Beginning" in delivering a speech that might be underrated for its ambition and direct approach to such internationally divisive issues: the American-Islamic culture gap, terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and more. The speech given at Cairo University in Egypt clocks in at the 55-minute mark in the clip below, so he gets to touch on just about every problem in the world. About time we got a master "To Do" list.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Celebrating National Fist Bump Day!

TAN celebrates National Fist Bump Day on Slate: Black The Root today. Here's a teasing snippet:

... This mainstream outreach may seem warm and fuzzy now, but at the time, some writers wondered if white folks had even noticed the gesture. And oh, they did. (To the point of not even paying attention to the perhaps more dubious booty-love tap that followed right after.) For a fascinating few weeks, the fist bump, a functional, hyper-hygienic descendant of the handshake and high five, was the topic du jour around America's water coolers. First came the blogs and tabloids, both here and across the pond. Then came the satirical cover of The New Yorker depicting the first couple as a Muslim Constitution-burner and an Angela Davis wannabe. This controversial image inspired parodies of the parody. And of course, the conservative response to Hurricane Obama made the whole thing feel like a game of “telephone” gone wrong: Fox News host E.D. Hill asked on-air, with fevered eyes: “A fist bump? A pound? A terrorist fist jab?”

So why take us back there? If anything, the fist-jab furor represented a profound moment in interracial misunderstanding. For blacks, the salutation was nothing new. We wondered, were white folks really so ignorant, our worlds so segregated, that they couldn’t tell what a good old-fashioned dap looked like? ....

The Bump Heard 'Round The World [The Root]
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