Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Tue 15 May 12 10:27
You need an editor.
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 15 May 12 10:40
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.
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 15 May 12 11:33
Also, ad-hominem attacks are not allowed.
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.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 15 May 12 11:44
<scribbled by jonl Tue 15 May 12 11:44>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 15 May 12 11:45
<scribbled by jonl Tue 15 May 12 11:46>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 15 May 12 11:46
<scribbled by jonl Tue 15 May 12 20:56>
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 15 May 12 11:47
<scribbled by jonl Tue 15 May 12 20:57>
Peter Meuleners (pjm) Tue 15 May 12 11:49
Good times in Inkwell.
Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Tue 15 May 12 11:56
Thanks <jonl>, and <captward>. Good times indeed
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.
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: Ive 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 hes 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 thats 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, its just a change in pace TR: The problem with that is that were not here just on some random state of affairs. What happened in the period that youve 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 doesnt matter that its played 150 times a week on Power somebody or WKYS somebody else. It does matter! Now, that doesnt mean that there wouldnt 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, theres an appendix in the book that lays out who owns what [...] but right now, theres 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 theyre playing a lot of Jay-Z and they get a promotion for Jay-Z on the radio in New York, well its easy! You can use that in LA and in Memphis and in Detroit. But then that means Detroit rappers arent getting as much airplay, right? Now, thats 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 peoples 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 thats 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? Its not only that this piece of the puzzle the gangster street hustling piece has gotten bigger and almost eaten every other sub-genre but its 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, hed be labeled a conscious rapper! He probably wouldnt even be on the radio! So this is not just about human taste. Taste is cultivated. Partly by especially when youre talking about a genre thats 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.)
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. Rockets argument (and, less heatedly, Roy Christophers) 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. Im 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 Id 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 books introduction, but certainly too cursorily---is one of the books weak spots, and a leading indicator of my need to delve deeper into the Question of Race (especially in the Age of Obama!).
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. Im 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 Toops extraordinary early book The Rap Attack, a careful ethnographic study of hip-hops 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).
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).
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.
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.
Jack King (gjk) Wed 16 May 12 04:22
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.
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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