Category Archives: vulnerability

cannibal capitalism and video game streaming

Cannibal capitalism is the mediated consumption of other people’s suffering. Usually someone gets paid for this. In the NFL players and owners get money while viewers watch men exchange ritualized interpersonal violence. Traditional televised sports are ripe with injury moments and the moral judgement that soothes and justifies the suffering.

Slightly less visible is the suffering that happens in order to bring us the entertainment. The New Yorker has a nice essay on video game streamers who broadcast their games to gigantic audiences of semi-interactive fans. Taylor Clark describes the harm that many streamers face from the occupation.

“At this summer’s PAX West–a yearly convention that inundates downtown Seattle with gaming fans–virtually every streamer I spoke with voiced concerns about the health risks of overwork. “My doctor told me I was going to die if I kept doing it like this,” a young broadcaster who goes by Bria Leigh said. ‘You spend ten hours a day in the chair. And you don’t even want to get up to use the bathroom, because you’re afraid you’ll lose viewers.'”(43) – Taylor Clark, “Revenue Streaming.” The New Yorker. November 20, 2017. P. 38-44

Clark’s article contains reference to a gamer who died during a 24-hour charity stream (Brian Vigneault) and a opens with the description of Roberto Garcia AKA Towelliee, a popular streamer.  Clark describes the impact on Garcia from his years of grinding out gaming for fans.

“Game streaming, Garcia discovered, required non-stop work.  The only way to attract viewers, and to prevent the ones you had from straying to other broadcaster, was to be online constantly, so he routinely streamed for eighteen hours a day.  “That’s what I had to do to grown the viewership,” he said.  His ankles swelled from sitting at this computer.  his weight grew to four hundred and twenty pounds.” (38) – Taylor Clark, “Revenue Streaming.” The New Yorker. November 20, 2017. P. 38-44

There is a lot to unpack in the representations of video gaming and new media.  My interest is to note that this new genre of entertainment has consequences for the producers.  Streamed live, viewers get to watch and comment on (consume) the streamers with a kind of interactivity that has seldom been seen before.  The invitation is there for viewers to chat directly with the producers and create community.

But the expectation is that the streamer is there for the viewer and in some ways is entitled to the viewing.  In this relationship where the streamer depends on the views to make a living there is a certain incentive to grind through moments of suffering in order to keep viewers.

This relationship is cannibal capitalism where viewers consume the suffering of someone else through the media.  It is visible through the twitch comments and the representations of streaming participants.  It is also in the bodily cost that is above-and-beyond other lines of employment.  (No doubt that people who cut down trees for a living have swelling feet and high blood pressure from their job, but few arborists have 10,000 people watching their successes and failures live).

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Filed under capitalism, communication, health, technology, video games, videogames, vulnerability

DIY synthesizer inspirations: Peter Blasser and Chris Beckstrom

I continue to learn about digital noise-making.  I’ve been soldering and bread-boarding synthesizers and noise-boxes for the last year.  Along the way I’ve found a few cool motivations and inspirations.

1. I found Peter Blasser and his musical wizardry through an essay he wrote about making electronic instruments for a small child for econtact.   At first I thought he was mocking the reader, and then I realized that the essay was deeply creative, fluid and inspiring.  I spent as much time exploring the links as reading the text.  This led me to Peter’s astounding limited edition home-made instruments: Ciat.lonbarde.net

Here is Blasser with a workshop about his Shnth I found enjoyable.

Blasser offers some really interesting DIY projects at his website: Peter B.  I’m collecting the parts to make some paper circuits.  I find his approach, openness and creative inspirational work to be sublime.

2.  Since I’ve been making my own instruments I often run into disappointment.  I finish something and plug in a battery and it doesn’t work.  Finding motivation to keep creating when projects flop takes a little intellectual inspiration.  I often turn to look at the pictures and read the notes by Chris Beckstrom.  As he puts it:

My admittedly lofty goal was to build a modular synthesizer, from scratch, using basic components (no kits), with zero electronics experience. Turns out, it’s possible! I’m sharing circuits, designs, pictures, and code to help other folks realize their dream of building a modular synthesizer for themselves.

Source: DIY Modular Synthesizer | Chris Beckstrom

I really like that uses bolts as cheap connections instead of the costly cables for most systems.  I appreciate that he lists that some of his modules aren’t working at the moment.  At points where I struggled to move forward it is really gratifying to see a home-made system that seems accessible.  In fact seeing creative people who aren’t deterred by lack of money or parts is helpful as I put together my machines.

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Filed under art, do-it-yourself, learning, music, synthesizers, technology, vulnerability

Kendrick Lamar: God is gangsta

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Defection from white supremacy

What does it look like when white people defect from the traditions of white supremacy?  It probably looks (and sounds) like South Carolina Representative Jenny Horne talking about removing the confederate flag from the South Carolina state house.

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Make this the year YOU discover a new destination!

Excellent visual argument about Palestine.  Compelling visuals, crisp juxtaposition and significant argument about the importance of graffiti.

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Filed under capitalism, colonialism, critique, do-it-yourself, graffiti, human rights, juxtaposition, media, propaganda, protest, representation, resistance, vulnerability

No Malice & Pusha T on CNN

Several casual observations:

– Bill Weir, CNN reporter seems manipulative, disrespectful and really entitled.

– Both spend some time trying to not incriminate themselves.  It is Pusha who makes the most blatantly inconsistent statement when he refuses acknowledge drug profits in part 2.  “No, I’m a really good rapper.”

Probably worth juxtaposing with “King Push” first track from his most recent album:

– I have a little more clarity about the difficulties of No Malice.  I think he makes some of the most explicit justifications for why he refuses to perform violent drug rap music any more.  I appreciate that he gives up obvious financial gain to be real to his family and his beliefs.

– Pusha T’s segments are basically Pusha T advertisements.   The exchange where he tells Weir how much publicity he’ll get from being on CNN is awesome.  Pusha is phenomenally media savvy and makes it clear that he wouldn’t be on CNN if it didn’t benefit him.

– No Malice’s argument about white consumption of violent black-performed drug rap is pretty compelling.

– When asked by Weir why he doesn’t take the money to perform Clipse songs, No Malice gives the best exchange of the series:

“Brother, that money, that money at one time, was out for my life.  They can’t invent a dollar amount to get me out there to tell . . . look at what’s at stake? I can’t tell anybody about selling drugs any more, I can’t even make it look cool anymore.  There are people that are dying, look at what is going on in Chicago.   And I like I said earlier, your race can enjoy it!  And laugh and joke and enjoy it . . . and then get back to business.  I have a message and I have to share it.  Then I have to let you do what you want with it.  You know, you do what you want with it.  But, I’ve got enough blood on my hands.  Enough.”

– No Malice, CNN.

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Filed under capitalism, communication, cultural appropriation, drugs, hip hop, juxtaposition, media, music, race, representation, vulnerability

Harm reduction, EDM & ‘Molly’

Longreads suggested the tell-all essay on so-called molly and Electronic Dance Music festivals written by Shane Morris.  It is a good read with snappy prose and a strong argument that the EDM festivals are locations where lots of people seek drugs from one-time drug dealers who may sell them almost anything.

But I’m more taken with his follow up essay where he not only answers many of the criticisms and also suggests a series of solutions.

Much of what he suggests is harm reduction – trying to make risky behavior (of almost any stripe) less likely to result in damage.  But it is also a sincere plea for bystander accountability and a change in the culture of drug-users and those promoters who make money on festivals.

I’m only saying that it’s time the EDM community starts acting like the family it espouses itself to be. No more secrets. No more “turning around and pretending you didn’t see that happen.” No more fearing what might happen if you ask for help. No more pretending people aren’t getting hooked on Molly. If everyone in the EDM community collectively decides to help themselves, rather than bending to legislation, we can fix this. If we advocate a culture of safety, health, and honesty, we can correct the course of this ship before it maroons itself on the rocks.

Part I. We need a return of safe, “cool down” areas to EDM events. If we all acknowledge that people are going to do drugs, and it’s just something that happens, then we should also be able to acknowledge that every person deserves to be safe, healthy, and well. If you’re not feeling OK, there needs to be a place you can go and sit down, chill out, drink water, maybe even get a bag of ice and put it on your head.

via Finding Molly: Reconstructing Dreamland | Bro Jackson.

Morris also suggests people “call out the idiots promoting overconsumption,” and for transparency (including drug testing kits for prospective users).   He also commits to making his own music events more safe and offers up “safe word” as the catchphrase for a campaign of communication:

Here is his explanation:

In BDSM circles, using a safeword means things have gotten too much for you to handle, and you need to stop, without judgement. In that regard, I feel its purpose is well served here as well. If you’re at an event, and things have spun out of control for you, a friend, or perhaps a stranger you’re just looking out for–you should be able to remove yourself from the situation and know your safety is the primary concern, without fear of repercussions or judgement.

via Finding Molly: Reconstructing Dreamland | Bro Jackson.

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Filed under communication, dance, do-it-yourself, drugs, health, music, punishment, vulnerability

Juxtaposition: Fiona Apple and Dave Chappelle walk off the stage

Artifact One: Fiona Apple at a Tokyo fashion event.

Apple grew frustrated with the ongoing chatter in the venue, a hall at Tokyo Station Hotel, where the exhibition makes its home. Partway through her short set, she climbed on top of her grand piano and asked the audience to be quiet so that she could perform. She then challenged everyone to be silent for the duration of a tone she created by striking a small metal bell. The performer grew even more angry when the noise in the venue continued.

Apple instructed the audience to “shut the f–k up” and uttered other expletives, both audibly and under her breath, calling the event’s attendees “rude.” She continued with her set before shouting, “Predictable! Predictable fashion, what the f–k?” as she stormed off the stage. The show was punctuated with other bizarre moments, such as when she hit her head with her microphone, did a back bend over her piano bench and stared intensely at her guitarist as if in a love-struck trance.

via Louis Vuitton Toasts ‘Timeless Muses’ in Tokyo – Parties – Eye – WWD.com.

Artifact 2: Dave Chappelle walking off the stage at a Connecticut comedy club.

Chappelle wasn’t having a meltdown. This was a Black artist shrugging the weight of White consumption, deciding when enough was enough. This isn’t the first time Chappelle has done so and it isn’t the first time his behavior has been characterized as a meltdown.

There is a long history of asking African-Americans to endure racism silently; it’s characterized as grace, as strength. Chappelle’s Connecticut audience, made up of largely young White males, demanded a shuck and jive. Men who seemed to have missed the fine satire of the Chappelle show demanded he do characters who, out of the context of the show look more like more racist tropes, than mockery of America’s belief in them.

When he expressed shock at the fact that he’d sat there and been yelled at for so long, people yelled that they’d paid him. They felt paying for a show meant they could verbally harass him, direct him in any tone of voice, as though they’d bought him.

via Dave Chappelle Didn’t Melt Down – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY.

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Martin Luther King improvising

I heard a nice tribute to Martin Luther King Junior and his speech at the March on Washington on the radio this morning.  Another version of this showed up in my RSS feed thanks to the fantastic “Daily Feminist Cheat Sheet” on Feministing.

Apparently, the essential chorus of “I have a dream” was a semi-improvisation for King.  It was a response to Mahalia Jackson.

As King neared the end, he came to a sentence that wasn’t quite right. He had planned to introduce his conclusion with a call to “go back to our communities as members of the international association for the advancement of creative dissatisfaction.” He skipped that, read a few more lines, and then improvised: “Go back to Mississippi; go back to Alabama; go back to South Carolina; go back to Georgia; go back to Louisiana; go back to the slums and ghettos of our Northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.”

Nearby, off to one side, Mahalia Jackson shouted: “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” King looked out over the crowd. As he later explained in an interview, “all of a sudden this thing came to me that I have used — I’d used many times before, that thing about ‘I have a dream’ — and I just felt that I wanted to use it here.” He said, “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” And he was off, delivering some of the most beloved lines in American history, a speech that he never intended to give and that some of the other civil rights leaders believed no one but the marchers would ever remember.

via Mahalia Jackson, and King’s Improvisation – NYTimes.com.

Don’t sleep on the impact of the solid gospel choices of Mahalia Jackson in motivating a political crowd.  Remember that music is key for every liberation movement I can think of.

She sang two spirituals, “I Been ’Buked and I Been Scorned” and “How I Got Over.” King was seated nearby, clapping his hands on his knees and calling out to her as she sang. Roger Mudd, covering the event for CBS News, said after the first song: “Mahalia Jackson. And all the speeches in the world couldn’t have brought the response that just came from the hymns she sang. Miss Mahalia Jackson.”

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I hope you have some remaining monthly New York Times tokens!  Or else you won’t be able to follow the link I’ve recommended to read the whole article.  Pretty short-sighted New York Times.  #newyorktimeshatesfreeinformation

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Killer Mike exposed

Killer Mike is a grown up hip hop artist, thinking about serious stuff.  He and El-P ran through the Combat Jack show and came off with this nice little exchange. 

1. Notice the fundamentals, Dallas Penn sets this off.  I don’t love his consumerist Polo identity, but there is no discounting how smart and insightful that guy really is.  If you aren’t reading and donating to Dallas Penn’s web site, you aren’t living right.

2. Good interviewers.  Ask the question and get out of the way.  Combat Jack is serious, Dallas Penn is serious.  That means listening when ideas are flowing.

3. How about two grown men getting honest with each other?  El-P telling Killer Mike he is just starting his career.  Killer Mike talking about having to expose parts of his vulnerabilities and fears to work with El.

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Updated a few days later . . . May 9, 2013.  Part 3 is out.

El-P, Killer Mike, Combat Jack, and Dallas Penn.  The third clip is a conversation about race.  Nice discussion.

1. For those educators out there looking for an example of a “race pass” check out Dallas Penn saying to El-P: “I don’t call you a white rapper.”

Absolutely on point, El-P rejects the offer of the card.  “I’m a white guy, I rap. There’s no question about it.” Just because you are cool doesn’t mean that you don’t have privilege.  And leave it to Killer Mike to remind us of that.  When asked about white-identified rap fans Killer Mike responds:

“I’m not saying their experience isn’t worthy, I’m not saying it isn’t valuable. I’m saying it’s not special.  Because every human being experiences love and pain and let down.  Your thing is no more special.  And a lot of times, as Americans, and in this country, we feel like our suffering makes us special. You are special because you are a human being.”  – Killer Mike

3.  This argument is a dumb prompt from Combat Jack.  I think it might be a kind of policing — because of Killer Mike’s reference in segment one to his increasing vulnerability.   I appreciate all the examples of great black emcees who recorded some vulnerable verses that are quickly volunteered by the panelists.

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