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Wednesday, May 24, 2006
by PopMatters Staff

The Procussions

“The Procussions are set to saturate the globe with their B-boy energy and powerful message of positive change.  They are a multi-cultural group that not only break the normal stereotypes of what mainstream hip hop must be but as well aren’t afraid to discuss issues that other rappers don’t: rape, child abuse, neglect.  One example is “Miss January” featuring Talib Kweli which discusses the perils of having to say goodbye to a destructive relationship.  The three man crew consisting of Mr. J Mederios, Stro and Rez befriended each other while growing up in Colorado but now make Los Angeles their home.  With musical influences stemming from the Golden Era of Hip-Hop, to J Dilla to Megadeth, their sound is a style that reflects all genres of music.”  — Rawkus Records

“Miss January” feat. Talib Kweli [windows | real]
“The Storm” [windows | real]
“The Storm” (video): [windows | quicktime]

Code Pie
“Little Bamboo” [MP3]
“Cement Truck” [MP3]
“Gala” [MP3]

“Yoko Majikick Ono” [MP3]

The Like Young
“Dead Eyes” [MP3]
“For Money Or Love” [MP3]

The Black Angels
“The First Vietnamese War” [MP3]

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I’ll admit up-front that I have a pretty strong revulsion toward tattoos on the purely physical level. When I see them, I don’t see a iconic imagery or cool Chinese calligraphy or anything, I just see pain. Indeed recently psychologists have documented cases of tattooing as self-harm, as an new iteration of cutting on oneself. Perhaps they are now receding back to the alienated subcultures from whence they came.

Once tattoos had a specific anti-social purpose; before they achieved their current semi-respectability, these marks of Cain served to show that one was unwilling to play along with society; one literally branded oneself as an outcast, voluntarily. Or perhaps a tattoo was supposed to prove that you had enough stature and undeniable talent (as a rock star or an athlete or whatever) to rise above what anyone might say about you. Or it was an emblem of solidarity amid a tightly-knit group, like a group of sailors or something. If you inflate and generalize all those motives you probably have an explanation of the 1990s tattoo boom, which in the process nullified what tattoos once connoted and left them signifying only that you were desperate enough to permanently scar yourself to be trendy.

Of course, everyone with tattoos always insists how personal they are, and there must be some truth to that. But still they seem a symptom of the loss of faith in subtler, richer means of communicating things about oneself—to others and even to oneself. It’s a sign of a crisis of belief. A tattoo is perhaps a way to signal that you really mean something; it’s a way of swearing on someone’s life, only you substitute your own skin for that someone. It’s a drastic way of committing oneself, one that seems to suggest that just your word isn’t enough to show you really mean something. Tattoos are a way to make communication seem less like bullshiting and more like action—doing something instead of just yapping about how much you love your girlfriend or how cool you think your car is or how into some band you are—but the 1990s proved tattoos could be a form of bullshit too.

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Brian Montopoli’s CBS blog post “I Use The Shuffle Feature Because I Like To Shake Things Up” lampoons the press coverage of the non-story of what’s on a politician’s iPod.  Good for light piece at the end of a news broadcast but not earthshaking stuff for sure.  That is unless you subscribe to the theory that we are what we listen to.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

I ran these before on the old blog, but with little time for writing today, I thought I’d trot out a slightly revised version of them again.

1. Commercial fiction exists to justify the status quo and make such justifications be experienced as pleasure, either through flattering the reader for his ability to predict what will happen, dignifying his customary circumstances or positing fantasies that dovetail with the commodities markets have to offer.

2. Commercial fiction thrives on the reader’s isolation, which allows his fantiasies to develop unchecked in the channels provided by the fiction and allows for a more absorbing suspension of disbelief. This corresponds well with how the consumer society depends on isolated consumers to permit a wider array of unnecessary purchases and to allow unsubstantiated claims about products and the lifestyles they purport to provide go unchecked. Resistance, even to the flimsy premises of genre fiction and advertisements, requires social organization—you need a network of communication outside of mass media to set up a discourse counter to it. Isolation, on the other hand, streamlines acquiescence.

3. Vicarious participation is a prerequisite of both commercial fiction and commercial societies. In both instances we must be prepared to enjoy our emotions more thoroughly through proxies than through direct experience of nature or society. We must be prepared to choosed mediated forms of experience, because of the illusion of control it affords us, over direct, spontaneous, unpredictable “natural” experiences.

4. Plausibility may be redefined within the realm of commercial fiction to suit the consumer society’s requirements. Reading commerc ial fiction reconfigures the plausibility threshold so that only matters inconsequential to commerce and consumerist fantasy are rejected as “unrealistic.”

5. The question of the commericial novel’s form may best be seen as a problem of industrial design.

6. The commercial novel was one of the first commodities, and as such, it contributed to the notions that acquiring goods constitutes a story itself. The dream world we enter in fiction is akin to the dream lifestyle a product, typically branded, hopes to posit for us via its ads. A story unfolds, closure is obtained (the good is purchased) and a new story must begin. Commercial novels, in being utterly worthless after they are read once, are emblematic of consumer goods generally, which become beside the point once the pleasure of acquiring them has been acted out. (Example: the home espresso machine. Note how many of these you find in thrift stores.)

7. Our facility at enjoying commercial fiction, adopting to its conventions and enjoying its foreshortenings and its illusions, the clockwork execution of its familiar formulas, makes us able to enjoy shopping more—the necessary pre-purchase fantasizing, how ads are metonyms for powerful narratives illustrating our values, how there can be a dramatic arc to our shopping experience, how the invisible hand is really a kind of deus ex machina.

8. Connoiseurship in the market—the quest for distinctive goods—has roots in the connoiseurship of feeling experienced vicariously through the earliest commercial novels and the taste in reading it allows to be expressed. The cult of sensibility taught culture to value the calculated display of feeling and find nothing inauthentic in it. Authenticity was brought to the surface as a set of signs.

9. Pleasure does not preexist systems of distribution and consumption. It manifests itself through those systems; the shape pleasure can take is defined by those systems. The 18th century commercial novel is an artifact of first forms of pleasure enabled by capitalism. (Needs are “set free” by economic growth.)

10. For commercial novels as well as consumer societies, anticipation is far more important than satisfaction.

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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

If you’ve haven’t seen it already, get prepared to be disgusted by Jim DeRogatis’ great article about how major labels have been hosing artists over online royalties: A cheap trick.

All the while, the RIAA gleefully champions the poor artists who lose their living because of evil downloaders, never mentioning how the labels that pay off the RIAA are screwing their beloved artists out of huge chunks of profit, basing their royalty calculations on antiquated decades-old laws. Remember how Courtney Love said that she was gonna take on her label and become the Olivia de Havilland of the music industry? Well, that was before she took a big paycheck and backed down from that stance. The lawsuit that artists are now bringing against the labels over this could be just as important if not as important in ending unfair practices that have gone on for decades at the expense of recording artists. For more info and background, also see a previous post I had here about the artist lawsuits.

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