1. Thanks to Feministing for the best framing of the uprising in Baltimore. I appreciate the foregrounding of gender, class, and the juxtaposition of Wholefoods feeding the National Guard and community members organizing (through technology) to feed local kids.
2. The New York Times seems to think that activism documented through the internet focusing on police violence is a new thing. It isn’t, but Jay Caspian Kang’s write up of the radicalization of the leaders of this movement is a useful connection point. Here Kang outlines the articulation of long-standing injustices into first-person experiences of tear-gas saturated outrage in Ferguson.
Mckesson was radicalized that night. “I just couldn’t believe that the police would fire tear gas into what had been a peaceful protest,” he told me. “I was running around, face burning, and nothing I saw looked like America to me.” He also noticed that his account of that night’s tear-gassings, along with a photo he took of the rapper J. Cole, had brought him quite a bit of attention on Twitter. Previously, Mckesson had used the social-media platform to post random news articles that interested him, but now he was realizing its documentary power. He quickly grasped that a protester’s effectiveness came mostly from his ability to be present in as many places as possible: He had to be on West Florissant when the police rolled up in armored vehicles; inside the St. Louis coffee shop MoKaBe’s, a safe haven for the protesters in the city’s Shaw neighborhood, when tear gas started to seep in through the front door; in front of the Ferguson Police Department when shots rang out. He had to keep up a steady stream of tweets and carry around a charger so his phone wouldn’t die.
Sims, Mass & Alan the G created this wonderful video montage of MF DOOM samples and snippets. Well constructed and inspirational (I’m trying to find a copy of Altered States right now!)
Excellent visual argument about Palestine. Compelling visuals, crisp juxtaposition and significant argument about the importance of graffiti.
Thanks to Boing Boing for the link!
Robinson Meyer notes some of the interesting ways Weird Al uses the interwebs to promote his work. Writing in The Atlantic, Meyer observes:
No wonder, then, that this week Al has mimicked the tactics of the preeminent Knowles. From last Monday to this upcoming one, he released a new music video every day, eight videos in total. There are few songs on his new album that will lack a video, meaning that, in medium and marketing, he’s pulling a sort of time-extended Yoncé.
But not all eight videos are going straight to YouTube. Weird Al is spreading that goodness around.
His parody of Pharrell’s “Happy” is hosted by Nerdist, a sprawling online entertainment empire that achieved fame through its eponymous podcast but which now encompasses a news website, a network of audio and video shows, and a television program on BBC America. Al’s Lorde spoof, meanwhile, went to competing digital content factory, CollegeHumor. It did go to YouTube, but is marked “Exclusive” and a “CollegeHumor ORIGINAL.” A “Blurred Lines” send-up sits on Yancovic’s Vevo page.
I also liked the reflection about Weird Al’s mockery driven art. Since the idea of juxtaposition comes up so much on Life of Refinement, it seems worthwhile to think about Weird Al laying a mocking interpretation on top of something already widely marketed. Adbusters-style mock advertisements do the same thing. Borrowing the millions of dollars of advertising money that preceded to simultaneously undercut the original message and build a counter-brand.
The situationists would call this détournement — to turn something against itself. A media concept articulated by Debord, but well understood by any Weird Al fan. Here Meyer describes this process as “disruptive innovation:”
The phenomenon Weird Al describes here is actually well described by a genre of scholarly literature—by business scholarship, of all things. It’s disruptive innovation, the buzzword so buzzwordy that the New Yorker devoted a thinkpiece to it in print!. Disruptive innovation describes what happens when new products create a new market for that type of product, which winds up challenging the existing one.
I also appreciate the documentation of the Lady Gaga incident. Yankovic created a parody of a Gaga song and when he checked in with her to get her blessing to release the tune on an upcoming album Gaga’s people refused. Weird Al released the song on youtube with an explanation and Gaga quickly relented.
It’s worth noting something more about the substance of Weird Al’s mockery.
Not only is “Tacky” a review of a number of bad fashion moves, it is also a conservative morality rant. This tune marks as “tacky” oversharing on instagram, forcing others to pay, reminding people you’ve done them favors, insulting people, dropping names, leaving bad yelp reviews, and having no shame.
At points Weird Al references particular low-points of recent toxic internet culture such as: “I’m a live-tweet a funeral and take selfies with the deceased.” This could be a Fox “news” commentary.
I happen to agree with Weird Al on most of these morality points. But given that Pharrell’s “Happy” is a sort of liberation utopian expression of pop-oneness, the grounded grumpy juxtaposed retort is interesting. [Let’s note that the use of the Odd Future crew in “Happy” is a juxtaposition in itself.]
If you add in the English-teacher favorite “Word Crimes” you can start to map a particular perspective to Weird Al.
I get the sense that Al is frustrated with some of the changes in this new-fangled world. His juxtaposition is intended to bring down and anchor some of the worst behaviors of the current era.