Tag Archives: cannibal capitalism

Cannibal Capitalism: Barbecue taster

Daniel Vaughn reviews barbecue for Texas Monthly.  Here he describes the bodily costs to him for his constant intake of meat.

I know this sounds terrible in a world full of hungry people, but to finally be hungry again is a welcome feeling. It’s not like I get chest pains while I’m driving around the state or anything, but I certainly take cholesterol medicine and I’ve put on about ten pounds since I started the job. (Let’s be honest, it’s fifteen, and it’s not coming off.) I get heartburn every time I’m sleeping in a hotel after eating barbecue all day. You wake up tired, so you drink a lot of coffee, so you get dehydrated, and then you’re driving all day, and you get hemorrhoids.

via Profile in Obsession: Daniel Vaughn | Lucky Peach.

Cheers to the Lucky Peach, David Chang’s new excellent food magazine.

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Cannibal Capitalism the Birdman edition

Photo of Birdman’s RG (perhapsRich Gang) and YMCMYSL (perhaps Young Money Cash Money Young Stoner Life) tattoos. Thanks to The Smoking Section for the photo, I assume taken from Birdman’s social media.

Birdman is trying to sign Young Thug to his record label.  To prove his sincerity he tattooed several Young Thug associated tattoos on his hands and face.

Cannibal capitalism is the mediated experiences of human suffering projected for human entertainment and profit.   It is obvious that the bodily impact of Birdman’s tattoos is a particular kind of communication.  Tattoos have often been the indication of long-term committment for gangs, military units and fans of musical artists.  Birdman’s tattoo is amplified on social media and through dozens of rap blogs.  It is a public communication of his commitment intentionally articulated to bring his company more profit (by signing a strong young artist).

In some ways the suffusion of cannibal capitalism into many so-called reality television shows (cooking shows, real estate flippers) is an indication of the desperation of many people.   But Birdman isn’t desperate (not in the poverty sense) — he can give expensive cars and jewelry to friends and label-mates.  I heard on NPR he just gave a Bugatti to Justin Beiber.

Fleeting fame and the potential for profit have encouraged more than one reality TV contestant to become a public exercise in morality and exclusion. (Did you hear about Stephanie on Top Chef when she cut herself and she went to the hospital?!?! How about that Survivor episode where that guy broke his leg? What a wimp!)

Cannibal capitalism can be mapped whenever a human is harmed and it is filmed and amplified for other people’s pleasure.  When this happens a particular morality of self-sacrifice is usually articulated.  Announcers and other contestants express just how someone should take the suffering.  In some ways the harm done to the body gives access to comment on the body.

In the case of Birdman’s new tattoo’s the morality expressed isn’t how tough Birdman was for getting the ink, but rather how idiotic it is to tattoo to something as fleeting as a new potential corporate rap alliance.   Here is the Smoking Section‘s Gotty mocking the social costs of multiple face tattoos.

We recognize that the fact that Birdman will never have to go to a job interview ever in his life. The Cash Money CEO’s so loaded his kids kids most likely will never have to worry about working either. With that said, his continuing effort to ink his whole body with scribblings dedicated to Cash Money subsidiaries is a little odd.

Actually, the “RG,” presumably for his Rich Gang management company, added to his right cheek isn’t that bad because what the hell would two more letters do to a face littered in tats? It’s the “YMCMYSL” scripted on his fingers that doesn’t make sense. Assuming the letters rep Young Money Cash Money Stoner Life as in Young Thug’s movement, that’s more confusing.

via Birdman Permanently Pays Homage To Young Thug | The Smoking Section.

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Cannibal Capitalism: Nate Jackson’s medical records

How do you sustain the gladiators of cannibal capitalism?  The folks whose bodies we consume when they fall?

Keep their medical records from them.

Next to that piece of paper was a file as large as a dictionary that contained my injury history. Every injury I ever had was described somewhere in that file. But I never saw it. It wasn’t my property.

Had I owned that file, that information, I would have had a better idea of what was happening to me. Every treatment was in there. Every report written up by Greek or our team doctors. The results of every physical. And an unbiased report from the off-site imaging center that conducted our post-injury MRIs. These MRI reports contain information of great value to a player, because they are unfiltered. But I never saw the file. As far as I knew, I never even had access to it.

During my football career, I dislocated my shoulder multiple times, separated both shoulders, broke my tibia, broke a rib, broke my fingers, tore my medial collateral ligament in my right knee, tore my groin off the bone, tore my hamstring off the bone twice. I had bone chips in my elbow, bone chips in my ankle, concussions, sub-concussions, countless muscle strains, labral tears in either hip, cumulative trauma in the lower spine, sciatic nerve damage, achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis in both feet, blisters—oh the blisters! My neck is bad. My clavicles are misaligned. I probably have brain damage.

via My Injury File: How I Shot, Smoked, And Screwed My Way Through The NFL.

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Cannibal capitalism: Chief Keef and rehab

I’m interested in the idea that folks would become famous because they harmed themselves or allowed someone else to harm them on camera.  I’ve been calling it cannibal capitalism – as a means of describing this wide scope on popular media.    Cannibal in the sense that viewers consume of the body of another human being who is on camera taking years off of their life

Chief Keef is in rehab for ganja and let’s loose with some great insights about how unpleasant it is.

Nestled inside a nondescript beach house, one of hip-hop’s most controversial rising stars is holed up in court-ordered rehab, and he’s feeling frustrated and alone.

“It’s like being locked up,” Chief Keef, 18, tells Billboard, in his first interview since he entered rehab. “And when I’m locked up, I don’t want anybody to come see me. I won’t let my family come here. I haven’t seen my 2-year-old daughter.”

via Chief Keef Talks Rehab, ‘Bang 3’ Album & Learning How to Surf | Billboard.

Cannibal Capitalism is best thought of as a pattern of mediated communication about morality.  Along with viewing people getting hurt and enjoying it (Jackass, NFL, Ultimate Fighting) we also get the moral commentary from the narrators and participants about that suffering.

Part of the narration of morality that comes with hip hop and cannibal capitalism is a kind of racism+classism+paternalism.  When the articles were popping about Odd Future, the dominant story was just how naughty they were and emphasizing the difficulties they got into.  Very little conversation about music, and heavy emphasis on the disciplining of (usually) young black men.

The quote from the Billboard article is the opening passage.  Do you think it invites a kind of moral judgement?  Do you wonder what this rapper did to get this punishment?  Is it framed in a way to encourage you to read it as an omniscient person who hasn’t had this kind of difficulty, shaking your head in faux-sympathy?

There is no doubt that Chief Keef is at the core of a major moral panic.  One part of the division is the fascinating language used to divide people up.  Richard Sherman and the significance of the representation of thug:

I wonder if the exciting pleasure of the music and imagery of Chief Keef experiencing suffering, particularly mapping up to the discipline and punish strategy of suffering/redemption (recycled) is part of the appeal?

Public consumption of rap stars and their back stories usually includes a kind of nefarious sharing of information.  I went over to my buddies house and we listened to music and also to a 5 minute rant from KRS-ONE threatening some dude over a van robbery.

Hip hop fans are usually fiends for gossip, and interested in the music, culture, language and well, anything of our favorite musicians.

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Waka and Gucci fall 2013

Waka Flocka Flame has a diss track for the currently-incarcerated Gucci Mane.  Having been friends and label-mates, this schism seems pretty interesting.   Nice beat and a particularly scathing criticism.   Drug use, question of authenticity (“I’ve been shooting pistols since seventh grade.”) number of goons willing to shoot for them, and attacking Gucci for causing strife solely for attention.

“P.S. Don’t get caught in that/Dissin’ for promotion/All in your feelings/all in your emotions/Just for attention/you cause all this commotion/Ni**a you just talking/you don’t really want all your business in the ocean. “

– Waka Flocka Flame “Ice Cream” Oct 2013.

I actually think Waka has some good points.

He also has the status to call out Gucci like no one else can.  Waka has taken the Snoop Dogg path to success.  Astounding tour concerts.  Relentless affection for his fans, and a consistent ability to stay out of gossip blogs.

Remember Waka volunteering to go naked for PETA?  Like Snoop, Waka seems “like a grown-ass rock star” as one of his buddies puts it in a video.  He is a taylor made celebrity — with toxic violent raps and a Fozzy Bear sized lovable personality.  Waka, like Snoop before him has chosen a particularly thin road to walk for fame.   Playing cute in morning shows and rapping about shooting people at the same time.

If Waka releases videos full of debauchery and destruction, he loses a significant portion of his buying public.  Something Gucci is now facing — perhaps the myriad offenses cease to be explainable.  Fans desert you and your albums are not purchased.

But Waka (and Gucci Mane and a million other roughneck emcees) still have to articulate an image of outlaw anti-social behavior.  In most cases, they choose to emphasize their wealth (suggesting that it was garnered through drug sales and not through regular work, music, savings or investing.)  In other cases, they mark their own perpetual return to the criminal life.

Of course telling a couple of hundred thousand fans (and increasingly interested cops) about your criminal behavior has potential consequences.  It seems like cops listened to Waka and Gucci when they raided Deb Antney — Waka Flocka Flame’s manager and mom.

Antney, who heads up Mizay Entertainment, was frustrated because her company is scheduled to host a toy drive Thursday. She said when she arrived on the scene, police called her “the Candy Lady” and suggested she was the ring leader of the prostitution operation.

“Of course I’m not gonna sit back and be called ‘the Candy Lady,’ ” she said. “There was no prostitution. And we’re not gang-affiliated.”

via Waka Flocka Flame’s Mom Denies That Prostitution Was Behind Raid – Music, Celebrity, Artist News | MTV.com.

(Pause for a minute to ask ANY of you how you would do with the cops raiding your mom’s house?)

I’m not blaming musicians for rhyming about criminality.  I’m interested in how Waka stayed famous, rich and out of jail, while Gucci is alienating everyone and in prison for the next six months (at least).

Part of it has to be Waka noting that those who commit crimes when trying to rhyme are “hustling backwards.”

“Why would I try to rap and then street gangbang?” he added. “That’s hustling backwards. I’m good. I dropped the album Flockaveli, and it’s doing numbers. I think ‘No Hands’ is platinum or on the road to be. I’m in the top three albums of the year…I’m going in, man.”

via Waka Flocka Flame Addresses Police Raid | Get The Latest Hip Hop News, Rap News & Hip Hop Album Sales | HipHop DX.

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Cannibal capitalism poker edition

Cannibal capitalism is the performance of bodily suffering amplified by mass media.

It is cannibalistic because humans consume humans.  Viewers watch human beings exchange of their well-being for our entertainment.  Put another way, some people find it profitable to harm themselves in the name of their work, which happens to be televised.  And some people make money on the whole exchange.

I don’t think the concept is all that new or inventive, it just happens to be useful to describe a pattern 0f commonly repeated media tropes.   Consider an athlete who picks themselves up after an exceptionally hard crash.  Television highlight films, complete with expert commentary will fill our lives with the painful exchange.  “She really took a bruising, bone crushing hit there . . . what a soldier getting back in the game.”

Re-reading a Grantland series on the 2003 World Series of Poker I noticed a paragraph about the impact the long-hours of playing poker had on the participants.   Farha is the runner-up and Harrington came in third place in 2003.

Farha: For five days, I had no sleep. None. I did not sleep. And the last day, the reason I lasted, I drank 20 Red Bulls, about 20 cups of coffee. I could not function.

Harrington: I’ve played a lot of different games, chess, backgammon, whatever, where you had to put in long, grueling hours. If you get down near the end, where victory depends on you being alert, I could dig down and get something out of myself to give that final push. Well, at that final table, I dug down, and there was nothing there. I hit the wall. Here’s how bad it was: When it got down to me, Sammy, and Chris, I wanted to bet 75,000, which was the right bet for that situation. I sat there and I couldn’t calculate how to make the bet. I had a whole bunch of 25,000 chips in front of me, and I could not figure out how to get to 75,000. It was an insurmountable problem.

via The oral history of the 2003 World Series of Poker, in which Chris Moneymaker turned $39 into $2.5 million – Grantland.

Cannibal capitalism is often accompanied with mediated commentary — either praise or blame about how the person who experienced the suffering took it.  In the case of Farha, the runner-up in 2003, it seemed his many hours of extra poker play became a justification for his ultimate loss.

Later Harrington gives this insight:

Harrington: After I busted in third place, ESPN asked me for a prediction, and I told them, “No one over 40 is ever going to win this tournament again.” It’s become an endurance contest. The next year, I was at the final table again. I was sitting next to a younger player. He nudged me and said: “I know you tell everyone how brutal it is on you to get down to this point in the tournament, you don’t have the energy. Well I’m 28, and it’s brutal on me, too.”

via The oral history of the 2003 World Series of Poker, in which Chris Moneymaker turned $39 into $2.5 million – Grantland.

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Cannibal capitalism: superbowl edition

I enjoyed reading the saucy narrative invitation of the Rumpus ‘superbowl preview for people who don’t know football’.  But the section on Justin Smith — the wounded SF player reminded me of cannibal capitalism.  I’m understanding this as a move of self-promotion/financial gain via-the-suffering of the body.  Cast as sturdy spirit in this piece, we get a more transparent view than normal about the bodily costs of success in the NFL.

During his first year on the 49ers, Justin’s defensive line coach Jim Tomsula saw him spitting out tooth fragments after a collision with a teammate, and asked if he wanted treatment for the chipped teeth. “Nah,” Justin grunted. “Hell, I got a bunch of ‘em.”

Partially torn triceps are a different realm than chipped teeth, however, and playing through this kind of injury can exact a dear tuition, payable in future surgeries, decades of painkillers, financial insolvency, and for the moment, having a known, exploitable bulls-eye on his right arm.

Former NFL fullback Lorenzo Neal, no stranger to injury in his own Pro Bowl career, spoke to a radio station about what Justin Smith should expect. “Guys are going to be hitting it, chopping it,” Neal said. “The triceps is mostly when you extend. He’ll have one arm to punch with, I think the other arm will be more to grab and wrap and tackle.”

“He’s going to be sore,” Neal adds. “And I know what he can do. They can put him on Toradol.” (Toradol is a potent non-steroidal anti-inflammatory) “Toradol, they inject in your butt. It’s a pain killer, it numbs the pain. You can play through it. Toradol, it’s candy. It was tea for me. I was taking Toradol like I was drinking coffee. You’re tight, you’re sore, and it relieves the pain for those three hours. We’ll see how Justin responds to it.”

We will see, indeed. Former player Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, writing for NFL.com, recalls, “One veteran player looked at me and said, ‘Take a shot of that and you won’t feel a thing when you play.’ I jumped in line, and that was the beginning of my Toradol dependency. After my first shot, I heard someone yell across the locker room, ‘Once you get on the T-train, you won’t get off.’”

The side effects are well known. Toradol rips up your stomach lining, and can cause vomiting, bloody stool, liver disease, and congestive heart failure. In addition, its pain-masking qualities make the player temporarily ignorant of further injuries endured while under the influence of the drug, with concussions and plantar fasciitis being among the most common collateral “side effects.” So, when the drug wears off, you may have a completely new injury, which can either mean surgery and the potential end of your career, or more drugs, and that’s not a choice that most players think over for too long.

via A Super Bowl Preview For People Who Don’t Know Football (2013 Edition) – The Rumpus.net.

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Cannibal capitalism: diving and the NFL

I’ve been struggling with the idea I call cannibal capitalism — the idea that one would trade of your body, health and well-being in order to get money.  It makes the most sense to help understand some current rappers — Gucci Mane in particular.

But this morning I got two recomendations from Longreads — one on the NFL and the other on deep-sea industrial diving.  Both seem to suggest that there is a popular understanding that in some occupations — the danger and assumption of self-harm is part of the job.  That one trades of their body in order to continue to survive, and occasionally thrive.  I guess one element of surviving in cannibal capitalism is that one often has a limited selection of options and choices.  In my opinion this is driven by the previous discourse one is saturated in — learn, as the NFL players do — that one is expected to endure suffering for pay and success and one is more likely to see this behavior as normal and participate.

The perspective of pain is what this story is about. For fans, injuries are like commercials, the price of watching the game as well as harrowing advertisements for the humanity of the armored giants who play it. For gamblers and fantasy-football enthusiasts, they are data, a reason to vet the arcane shorthand (knee, doubtful) of the injury report the NFL issues every week; for sportswriters they are kernels of reliable narrative. For players, though, injuries are a day-to-day reality, indeed both the central reality of their lives and an alternate reality that turns life into a theater of pain. Experienced in public and endured almost entirely in private, injuries are what players think about and try to put out of their minds; what they talk about to one another and what they make a point to suffer without complaint; what they’re proud of and what they’re ashamed by; what they are never able to count and always able to remember.

via Worst NFL Injuries – Tom Junod on Injury Issue in the NFL – Esquire.

The deeper you dive, the more you get paid. In his second or third year an apprentice may be promoted, or “broken out,” to a full-time diver. His salary will increase to between $60,000 and $75,000. He will start as an “air diver,” diving as deep as 120 feet while breathing regular air. Jobs at this depth might include retrieving tools from the worksite, or cutting and retrieving the polypropylene cord that runs between the surface vessel and the underwater worksite. Next the diver will be assigned to more complex jobs below a hundred feet, for which he must breathe mixed gas in order to avoid suffering the effects of nitrogen narcosis while working with heavy machinery. A full-time mixed-gas diver can earn more than $100,000 a year. He will perform jobs at ever greater depths, with higher degrees of technical difficulty, until his diving supervisor deems him ready to graduate to saturation diving. Sat divers can make $200,000 a year. Sat’s where it’s at.

via Diving Deep into Danger by Nathaniel Rich | The New York Review of Books.

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