Tag Archives: Cyborgology

Janelle Monae & 500th post

This is the 500th post on life of refinement.  I’m proud of the non-linear series of artifacts gathered here that point toward new understandings.  I use this web site to archive interesting things.  Meaningful things.  This is a curation of the rambling series of artifacts and patterns of representation I find significant enough to be marked and analyzed in a free open public space.  This is as close to learning as we’ll ever get.

Thanks to all who read the website.

***

 

I knew of Janelle Monae and appreciated her music but only had singles in my library.  Inspired by a Wax Poetics write up, I bought a copy of “The Electric Lady” last night.  With two full listens into the album (barely enough to comprehend what is going on) I’m sold.

This project is wonderful dance music and a really good concept album (or an extension of a concept album to multiple projects — Monae plays an alter ego pretty consistently).   The record is an extended riff on technology, cyborg/human interactions, civil rights and living life with dual identities.  Given that “The Electric Lady” could be a Phillip K. Dick novel, the smooth inviting production and musicianship is what carries the project.

This albums sounds VERY eighties to me.  From the sonic structure and choices of beats/samples to the rock opera lyricism of the concepts.  At points I was reminded of my nostalgic childhood filled with Styx, Heart, Bon Jovi and Run DMC.    The strings sound eighties.  The drums sound eighties.  Even the vocal harmonies remind me of eighties hits.   But the eighties were a point of technological jump off and the slight broadening of pop music.

I like the futuristic world that Monae is painting.  And the willingness to build futuristic pop music out of the sonic blocks of the past.  Astute Monae names tracks after inspiring pioneers: “Sally Ride” (astronaut) and “Dorothy Dandridge Eye’s” (first black woman to be nominated for an Academy Award).

In the context of the blog, I’ll quote the end of the “Dance Apocalyptic” when Janelle Monae says: “I really really want to thank you for dancing to the end.”   Thanks for reading and dancing ’til the end.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under art, communication, funk & soul, hip hop, human rights, music, representation, resistance, rock and roll, technology

Smart thinking about white indignation and trolling

I’m completely feeling three arguments from Robin James at Cyborgology about the indignation over the Robin Thicke/Miley Cyrus VMA performance.

1. White indignation is a way to self-identify as better-than.

What are we supposed to find likeable in all this? If the aim of the performance is trolling, then we’re not supposed to find it likeable, but irritating and infuriating. I wonder if, in a particularly insidious way, we white people/white feminists are supposed to like what we think is our righteous outrage at the performance? It’s insidious because what is felt (and often intended, at least superficially) as a performance of anti-racist outrage actually further cements our privilege vis-a-vis white supremacist patriarchy? Sharing the pics and gifs of black artists’ reaction shots (the Smith family, Rihanna, Drake), and all the positive feedback we get from this, tells us that we’re “good” white feminists? And this knowledge of our goodness is what we’re liking and aesthetically enjoying? (I’m phrasing these points as questions because they’re genuinely hypotheses–they seem right, but maybe I’m overlooking something?)

via Trolling Is the New Love & Theft » Cyborgology.

No, you are not overlooking something.

2.   James also argues that new media enables sexist and racist communications to be quantified and amplified through critique via social media commentary and thus sanitized.

But today, in what we tell ourselves is a post-feminist, post-racist society, perhaps the way to dis-identify with the neoliberal mainstream is to identify with the objects of its disdain: sexism and racism. As before, the dis-identification with the mainstream is an attempt to prove one’s elite status above that mainstream. This eliteness isn’t conceived or expressed as vanguardism (being ahead of the pack), but as human capital, often quantifiable in/on social media. It’s not who’s most shocking, but who’s trending most on twitter the day after the VMAs, for example. Just think about the way Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” performances constantly throws #THICKE up on some screen.

via Trolling Is the New Love & Theft » Cyborgology.

3.  The best point James makes is framing this kind of cultural appropriation + rape supportive culture + toxic corporate media garbage to be a form of trolling.  Pushing our buttons in order to get more attention.  Now, this is a smart argument — it gives a way to better understand the reasons why Thicke’s rape song and Cyrus’ twerking are bothersome.

I also think it might point to a kind of consumptive desire in the audience not only to distinguish themselves through mockery, but also to desire to view and replay the suffering of the mocked.

Leave a comment

Filed under capitalism, communication, cultural appropriation, feminism, human rights, learning, media, music, race, representation, sexual assault