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inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #51 of 259: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Tue 15 May 12 10:27
    
You need an editor. 
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #52 of 259: Ed Ward (captward) Tue 15 May 12 10:40
    
No kidding.
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #53 of 259: Ed Ward (captward) Tue 15 May 12 11:01
    
As a host here, I have, at <rocket>'s request, hidden, and will
delete, post #50 after I hear from other guests. I would caution
<mark-dery> that this is a public discussion, viewable by all on the
web, including bots and spiders, and that personal and private
information that can be seen by Well members should remain personal and
private outside the Well unless you've specifically gotten permission
from the person whose information you're exposing to public view. 

Please keep this in mind. Thank you.
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #54 of 259: Ed Ward (captward) Tue 15 May 12 11:33
    
Also, ad-hominem attacks are not allowed.
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #55 of 259: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 15 May 12 11:43
    
I'm reposting Mark's #50 and scribbling it. I've removed part of the
post per <rocket>'s request.
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #56 of 259: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 15 May 12 11:44
    <scribbled by jonl Tue 15 May 12 11:44>
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #57 of 259: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 15 May 12 11:45
    <scribbled by jonl Tue 15 May 12 11:46>
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #58 of 259: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 15 May 12 11:46
    <scribbled by jonl Tue 15 May 12 20:56>
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #59 of 259: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 15 May 12 11:47
    <scribbled by jonl Tue 15 May 12 20:57>
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #60 of 259: Peter Meuleners (pjm) Tue 15 May 12 11:49
    
Good times in Inkwell.
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #61 of 259: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Tue 15 May 12 11:56
    
Thanks <jonl>, and <captward>.

Good times indeed
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #62 of 259: M. Dery (mark-dery) Tue 15 May 12 12:12
    
Captward: One man's ad hominem is another man's Mencken. If our dear
friend Rocket is going to mete out rough justice, insinuating cowardice
on the part of guests who won't rise to his hectoring "challenges," he
needs to grow some Kevlar. But if the WELL now insists on garden-party
politesse---which is fine by me, by the way---then I would urge the
moderators to call to account members who engage in the trollish
boorishness exuberantly on display in Rocket's posts.

As for the privacy issue, point taken. I hadn't known non-members
couldn't click through, from his WELL bio, to his LinkedIn page if he
wants to fly under radar cover?  

Incidentally, the mangled formatting in my redacted post renders it
migraine-makingly unreadable, handing Rocket the advantage. If the
moderators approve, I can repost their edited version with paragraph
breaks. Or perhaps they'd prefer to insert the breaks and repost it
themselves?
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #63 of 259: M. Dery (mark-dery) Tue 15 May 12 12:14
    
Sorry, typo: sentence should end at "...to his LinkedIn page."
Fragment "if he wants to fly under radar cover?" should be deleted.
JonL?  
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #64 of 259: David Wilson (dlwilson) Tue 15 May 12 12:39
    
I hope that puts the matter to rest.  

What I don't understand is the vehemence of your reaction to
<mark-dery>'s comments on hiphop music.  You are obviously steeped in
it and have a perspective that is worth hearing.  

But putting out a playlist that can't be digested, let alone,
understood so easily, and  laying down a challenge doesn't seem
productive.  I kind of feel like <mark-dery> on the subject of hiphop. 
It is a revolutionary form that is part of wider cultural expression. 
But the subgenres that have been commodified, overly hyped, and
luxuriate in glorifying the most sordid aspects of black culture are
real barriers to entry.  He brought up the concept of "culture
industry" that was touted by the Frankfurt School writers and it is a
spot-on description.  There were valid objections to the concept when
it was first used, but in describing the excesses of hiphop commercial
empires, it is a text book example.  

I got my introduction to hip hop in the 90's listening to Grandmaster
Flash and also the Sugarhill Gang.  Then I picked up all 3 volumes of
"Kurtis Blow Presents the History of Rap."  That helped me place what I
was hearing in the mass media, into both a historical and cultural
framework.  I hope you don't hold it against me that I haven't been
able to keep up with all the most recent music.  I rely on guys like
you <rocket> to curate the most recent stuff and to annotate it for us.

Maybe you are too close to it or forgot that in its initial phase when
hip hop was its most revolutionary, the creators controlled the
dissemination of the music, while in previous revolutionary forms (jazz
and rock n' roll) the music was integrated and controlled by the
mainstream.    



 
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #65 of 259: M. Dery (mark-dery) Tue 15 May 12 14:57
    
Dear Friends: Because I'd like Archaeologists of the Future who
excavate this topic to be able to read *with ease* both sides of the
exchange kicked off by Rocket, I'm going to re-post my redacted comment
in two mammoth chunks: for comic relief, my score-settling preface;
then, the meat of the matter: my thoughts on the commodification of
hip-hop. 

I do hope you'll bear with me. I'm thoroughly enjoying our
conversation, and very much appreciate the well-briefed prompts and
prods that have inspired such fruitful discussion threads so far. As
soon as I've re-posted my response to Rocket, I'll attend to the
backlog of comments and questions that accumulated during the dust-up
that interrupted Our Regularly Scheduled Programming.
 
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #66 of 259: M. Dery (mark-dery) Tue 15 May 12 15:03
    
@ROCKET:

I can't thank you enough for enlivening our discussion
with your hilarious (if unwitting, but no less amusing for that)
display of Alpha-male threat-posturing and territory-marking
"challenges." Just when I was beginning to think American manhood was
moving past metrosexuality and into its cruelty-free, Etsy-friendly,
Sufjan-Stevens phase, along comes Rocket. Who said bumptious trollery
was dead on The WELL? 

Seriously, I love
your tack-spitting Rage Against the Cultural Critic Who Dwells in the
Outer Darkness, Oblivious to Cee-Lo, just as I love the LinkedIn photo
of the Angriest Man in Madison, sneering a hole in the camera, wearing
Agent Smith's* necktie, re-tied---angrily!---with a pair of pliers.
(*The New Dery Posting Style, with 100% More '90s References.) And
I've
thrilled to your ultimate-cage fight with yourself, over your past few
posts. Fine, invigorating stuff; makes me feel young again. 

Since you're clearly the sort of gentleman who is at pains to observe
the
finer points of etiquette ("At the risk of sounding rude..."), I do
hope you won't think *me* rude when I offer some sage counsel from my
motorized wheelchair scooter. 

First, you may want to gamble a fin on
augmentation humor-plasty, especially if you're writing for THE ONION.
Case in point: my Saul-on-the-Road-to-Damascus riff about the scales
falling from my eyes was *A Joke*. And a self-effacing one at that,
since I was, after all, asking Mr. Christopher---whose writing about
hip-hop I know and respect---to enlighten me.  

Second, challenging some
random geriatric to a hip-hop trivia throwdown fairly screams
intellectual insecurity, just as all that testosterone-addled
offgassing about how your challenges "will likely go unanswered" makes
you look shrill and overcompensatory. Your reaction formation is
hanging out. 

Third, it's a pity you didn't take the time to actually
*read* my posts and consider my points. Not only would you be better
armed to dismantle my argument, if that's your intent, but you'd waste
less time whacking away at Points I Never Made. 
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #67 of 259: M. Dery (mark-dery) Tue 15 May 12 15:07
    
@ROCKET (PART 2):

Nowhere did I say
hip-hop came to a groaning halt when my interest in it drifted. And
I'll happily grant your point that my ignorance of contemporary
hip-hop, especially the indie stuff flourishing in obscure corners of
the culture, is measureless to man. 

My point, buttressed by what I
routinely hear on commercial radio *and* by the critical writings of
encyclopedically knowledgable hip-hop observers such as Tricia Rose,
was simply that corporate consolidation, market forces, and the
copyright crackdown seemed to have conspired not only against
hip-hop's
potential as the politicized, potentially progressive voice of black
America, but against the postmodern avant-gardism of its musical
innovations as well. I don't doubt that *lyrical* virtuosity abounds;
that deconstructionist turntablism and Bomb Squad-style mash-ups still
thrive, out of sight of corporate legal teams; and that the corporate
mainstream isn't the only arena in which culture wars are
thought---that the underground matters, too. But so does the
mainstream, whatever that is in these days of micro-niche marketing
and
demographic profiling. 

Rose's argument in _The Hip-Hop Wars_ is a
profoundly political one, articulated by a black woman born and raised
in the Bronx, steeped in hip-hop from the days of its creation, and
prodigiously erudite on the intertwined subjects of race in America,
black music, cultural politics, and critical theory.  Here's
Rose talking to Latoyah Peterson on the marvelous site Racealicious.
(I
hope everyone in this topic will forgive the length of this post, and
especially this excerpt, but Rocket's farrago of charges and
"challenges" demands a detailed response.) 

>>

<http://www.racialicious.com/2009/02/18/tricia-rose-on-the-hip-hop-wars-race-a
nd-culture-part-1/>

LP: I’ve found – just from being a hip-hop listener and consumer of
hip-hop culture – that it seems like there was a very clear trend from
the time when hip-hop was beginning to become a strong cultural force.
So this was post ’83, post the avant garde era, the experimental era
where there were multiple genres within hip-hop. And it appears that
the more popular hip-hop got, the narrower and narrower the
representations [of hip-hop] on radio got. So whereas before, you had
someone like the Notorious B.I.G. and he’s rapped about dealing drugs,
and he has that line at the beginning of “Juicy,” where he talks about
the people who “called the police on him when he was just trying to
feed his daughter.” But those kinds of rhymes did go through his
thought process and his pain at doing these things as well. He had
another track called “Suicidal Thoughts” or “Everyday Struggle” where
he talked about killing himself for the deeds he had done, and not
feeling as though he could make it, and having that level of
introspection. And it seems like, over time, this formula that they
sell for hip-hop has been distilled down into a smaller and smaller
equation. So whereas there was once reflection over these deeds – not
just telling the story and recounting it, but reflection, remorse,
loss, and things like that in the original gangster rappers like
N.W.A., Tupac, Biggie to what we have now. The people on the airwaves
now barely bother to reflect if they do so at all. [They] show no
remorse, glorify this lifestyle, and at the same time not have the
same
lyrical depth that their forebears had. Do you feel like that’s a kind
of a function of the market as well as just changing pace? Some people
would say this is just where we are right now, it’s just a change in
pace… TR: The problem with that is that we’re not here just on some
random state of affairs. What happened in the period that you’ve
described is a dramatic transformation in the consolidation and
control
of musical outlets. So one of the things that drops out of all these
discussions is somehow, we like what we like, and it doesn’t matter
that its played 150 times a week on Power somebody or WKYS somebody
else. It does matter! Now, that doesn’t mean that there wouldn’t be
some taste involved, we make choices. But if there were a wider range
of things were constantly played, then we would make a wider range of
choices. And what happened in 1996 was the Telecommunications Act, is
that autonomous, black-owned, local radio is nearly killed. What takes
place is a massive consolidation of large conglomerate ownership of
nationwide outlets for different types of genres/slices of the radio
listening audience. And so hip-hop, there’s an appendix in the book
that lays out who owns what [...] but right now, there’s been a direct
consolidation. They have a vested interest in consolidating their
playlists because that allows them to cut staff, to repeat certain
promotional devices across the whole country. I mean if they’re
playing
a lot of Jay-Z and they get a promotion for Jay-Z on the radio in New
York, well it’s easy! You can use that in LA and in Memphis and in
Detroit. But then that means Detroit rappers aren’t getting as much
airplay, right? Now, that’s one form of impact. The second thing is
that gangster rappers themselves begin to talk less about suffering,
sorrow, and the complexities of a problematic choice, like being a
drug
dealer or a hustler, and they feel less and less ambivalent about
that. I mean Biggie and Tupac were both really important for their
expression of that pain and ambiguousness. And conflictedness. But
that
begins to fall away, and the simultaneous rise of their success as a
genre speaks to not just people’s willingness to celebrate these
icons,
but white desire for this kind of unproblematic consumption. You have
to really ask some fundamental questions about white fan consumption
of
hip-hop. It just rarely gets asked! What is it about this that’s so
exciting? You can sort of make some excuses for black young people
liking it, but what is it about this that makes it so exciting and
interesting? It’s not only that this piece of the puzzle — the
gangster
street hustling piece — has gotten bigger and almost eaten every other
sub-genre but it’s also that the content of that subgenre has been
narrowed, contained, and lost a level of critical self-reflection. As
I
said in the intro, I think if Tupac showed up today and tried to get a
record deal, he’d be labeled a conscious rapper! He probably wouldn’t
even be on the radio! So this is not just about human taste. Taste is
cultivated. Partly by– especially when you’re talking about a genre
that’s dominated by major global organizations.<<

(Incidentally,
Rose is a cultural critic. Not a "cultural critic," but a cultural
critic, an unremarkably commonplace term that has been in broad use
since the primeval world When Frankfurt Marxists Ruled the Earth. See
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_critic. The shocked-and-awed use
of air quotes marks you as "out of touch, by definition, and not to be
trusted" among the Deep Thinkers. Worse yet, it invites the jingoistic
speculation, among urban culturati on both coasts, that *everyone* in
the Great Flyover is some wheatstraw-sucking Jethro. For chrissakes,
man, don't hand them a monogrammed stick to beat you with.)  
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #68 of 259: M. Dery (mark-dery) Tue 15 May 12 18:24
    
Wittingly or not, Rocket raised a useful point when he argued that
“anyone branding [himself] as a "cultural critic with a fringe
sensibility and strong cyberculture roots" who isn't listening to
hip-hop [with] at least one ear is out of touch, by definition, and not
to be trusted.” 

No doubt, hip-hop is part of the warp and woof of popular culture, by
now. Rocket’s argument (and, less heatedly, Roy Christopher’s) seems to
turn on the assumption that pronouncements about hip-hop as the
commodification of black misery, fetishized by middle-class whites, are
only valid if the critic in question has earned his subcultural cred
going to and fro and walking up and down in hip-hop subcultures, the
more indie the better. I’m not convinced, for the simple reason
that---while much of my writing is about the cultural fringes---the
mainstream, corporate-owned center is where the mass of consumers live
their cultural lives. So this is partly an argument about the
centrality of hip-hop to any understanding of global youth culture,
partly an argument about the fragmentation of anything resembling a
monolithic mainstream into a million microcultures, partly an
admonition to be mindful of the specter of race that will never, ever
be wholly banished from the American historical unconscious. True
Confession: I do wish I’d addressed that subject more squarely in the
book; my silence on that subject---not entirely, since the essay on
Mark Twain touches on it passingly, as does the book’s introduction,
but certainly too cursorily---is one of the book’s weak spots, and a
leading indicator of my need to delve deeper into the Question of Race
(especially in the Age of Obama!). 
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #69 of 259: M. Dery (mark-dery) Tue 15 May 12 18:39
    
>>#64 of 67: David Wilson (dlwilson) Tue 15 May 2012 (12:39 PM)

The generosity of this response is a model of online tact, while
yielding nothing when it comes to spirited debate. I’m especially taken
with this graf---

Maybe you are too close to it or forgot that in its initial phase when
hip hop was its most revolutionary, the creators controlled the
dissemination of the music, while in previous revolutionary forms
(jazz
and rock n' roll) the music was integrated and controlled by the
mainstream.

---which is borne out by David Toop’s extraordinary early book The Rap
Attack, a careful ethnographic study of hip-hop’s birth pangs in the
South Bronx, written when the genre was fresh from the delivery room.

DLWilson also directs our attention to the importance---and,
simultaneously, impossibility---of Keeping Up on Everything, especially
for the cultural critic (a leprous figure, apparently, in corners of
the culture where street cred is cultural capital).    
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #70 of 259: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 15 May 12 20:25
    
(jonl) thanks for that Spotify playlist...I grabbed it and will
attempt to get a sense of what Roy C and (rocket) are on about. I know
Roy has a keen interest in it and in the way the whole remix culture
integrates and uses tech, so I should catch up and pay attention.

Mark, I went down to B&N today to try and get Vidal's essays...thanks
for that.

While reading your book, I found myself starting to compare you to a
lot of writers and critics - some of whom you mention and some you
don't (Kurt Vonnegut for one) and then I realized you are very much
your own writer with your own style and what was similar was what you
evoked in me while I was reading -- that sense of both the Emperor's
new clothes (the nothingness and vacuity of what passes for truth
and/or culture) as well as the whole charade of the current priesthood
of social arbiters. I forgot that every generation has to go through
this and just because I think I "got it" in the 60's and 70's by no
means gives me a free pass for the time I'm living in now.

I think I've been so focused on tech and the future of digital that I
lost sight of the world I'm actually living in. So thanks for this
collection of offerings made over time (most all of which I missed in
their first iterations).
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #71 of 259: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 15 May 12 21:07
    
> I think I've been so focused on tech and the future of digital that
I
lost sight of the world I'm actually living in.

This is a real danger for those of us who have committed so much of
our time and energy to the Internet and social media, and the plethora
of Internet-focused drive-by conversations in Twitter, Facebook, and
Google+. We think that we're experiencing the world, because we're
reading about it, seeing pictures of it, watching videos of it. But
we're just watching a play of light on the same flat screen, and in a
sense it feels like every experience is the same and any other.  
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #72 of 259: Mike Godwin (mnemonic) Tue 15 May 12 21:41
    

Mark writes:

'No doubt, hip-hop is part of the warp and woof of popular culture, by
 now.'

I've been giving this sentence some serious thought, and I've decided I
wholly agree with regard to the woof, but I have some intellectual
reservations about the warp.
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #73 of 259: Jack King (gjk) Wed 16 May 12 04:22
    
Woof!
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #74 of 259: Mark McDonough (mcdee) Wed 16 May 12 04:29
    
Like Mr. Wilson, I loved what I am informed is now called "golden age"
hip-hop, but got off the bus when it started celebrating misogyny,
violence, macho posturing, and mindless materialism.  I'm sure this
makes me a bad person and there's no doubt lots of good music to listen
to in later hip-hop, but life is short, I'm easily annoyed, and
there's so much other good music to listen to.
  
inkwell.vue.441 : Mark Dery - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts
permalink #75 of 259: M. Dery (mark-dery) Wed 16 May 12 06:05
    
Re: #72 (mnemonic): Oh, Godwin, you irrepressible cut-up, you. Now the
gang's all here. I'm getting that 1992 feeling all over again. The
sofa's a little lumpier, the baseboards a bit more scuffed, the Ottoman
the worse for wear, but The WELL is still, well, The WELL.
  

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