Grooming one’s social ecologies is no small task — in the real or the virtual. At least the real is bounded by the unities — you can only see so many people at once — whereas the virtual, with its asynchronous multitudes and embarrassment of data, can easily swamp a surfer.
I became acutely attuned to the importance of different information/interactional ecologies recently while getting used to Twitter.* I don’t know what made me finally decide to enter another one of these little cyberworlds, but I succumbed back in October and I quickly — despite the somewhat odd mix of friends and acquaintances I found there — grew to appreciate the distinctive little conversational channel it was (a function, in part, of the exacting economy of a 140 character limit).
I started to get a sense of my ideal Twitter ecology when certain folks I was following would suddenly clog up my feed with a dozen or so “tweets” in a row. This was especially annoying when done via a third-party client, like blip.fm, which seem to encourage prolific posting. But individuals can easily violate social media etiquette on their own and succumb to what @emynd has aptly dubbed, “twit[ting] the bed.”
Bless his vlogging rapper heart, but @noreaga can occasionally get downright prolix. Even so, I’ve decided, as with @THE_REAL_SHAQ, that there are enough gems in the rough to keep following the guy. Take these two recent tweets by N.O.R.E., for e.g. —
As you can imagine, there are some tough decisions to make sometimes in order to make room for the hit-or-miss musings of N.O.R.E. and Shaquille. So please don’t take it personal if you start following me and I don’t follow you back. I’m minding my twitter ecology, you see. At the moment, I’m finding that following 60 or so people is producing a pretty good feed. You never know what’s gonna throw off the natural balance.
To be honest, I don’t really know why anyone who doesn’t know me, relatively “personally,” would be interested in the fairly banal if occasionally pithy things I might share on Twitter. But that’s the nature of the beast, I s’pose. I don’t mind making my twitterings public. I am, however, resisting integrating them into this blog.
Which brings me to the question of annual resolutions and some ecological changes here at w&w.
Self-explanatory mantras, I know, but to explain the implications for this here blog: I’ve decided to put an end to the “linkthink” posts that have been appearing regularly here for the last year or so. I’m not giving up on linkthink, per se, since I conceive of blogging as having linkthink quite often at its core. But what I mean is that I’m stopping my practice — adopted earlier this year to compensate for blog-time lost with the arrival of Nico — of posting semi-daily linkdumps from my delicious account.
In a recent riff (well worth a read for other reasons), Nick Sylvester notes that “bloggers have two basic options — write original content or become a central link warehouse,” and while that’s something of a false dichotomy — indeed, I think of blogging somewhere in the middle — I definitely want to err on the side of the former (“original content,” whatever that means).
But the truth is, farming out blog posts from my delicious bookmarks has simply become too constraining on my actual tagging practice. I find delicious eminently useful, but if I’m thinking just a little too much about how to frame/excerpt something I stumble upon, the service begins to lose/change its value. Blogging my delicious notes has started to put too much pressure on them, so I’m moving all that activity back to delicious, which you’re perfectly welcome to continue following if you like. You can even subscribe!
The corollary to that change is that I’m resolved to post more frequently here in the year to come. I know that pledging such a thing is a little like signing a blog’s death warrant. Earnest promises to update blogs are like a sad subgenre of blogpost. But I’m for real. You’ll see.
* I can’t quite tell you why I’m on something like Twitter but not Facebook. I get a sense that Facebook’s status messages are pretty similar to Twitter, and I do appreciate that — literally — nearly everybody and their mom is on Facebook. But Facebook has long weirded me out, both because of the number of my own students I’d encounter there, blurring social-school lines I don’t always like to blur, and — perhaps more important — because of its radical and sometimes shady reshaping of privacy norms. I know that not being on Facebook makes me, in a certain sense, invisible — and blind. On the other hand, given its ubiquity, at this point it almost feels cool NOT to be on Facebook. I mean, I don’t have any tattoos or piercings either, so there you go. Still, I eventually joined MySpace for the p2p music networking, so it’s probably a matter of time before I cave.
There is much that might be said about why urban Africans in the
Northern Rhodesia of the late 1930s should have been so interested in ball-
room dancing and formal evening wear. But the Rhodes-Livingstone anthro-
pologists were right about at least one thing: when urban Africans seized so
eagerly on European cultural forms, they were neither enacting ancient African
tradition nor engaging in a parody of the whites. Rather — as Wilson recog-
nized — they were asserting rights to the city (cf. Caldeira 2001; Holston 1999)
and pressing, by their conduct. claims to the political and social rights of full
membership in a wider society.
As Wilson noted, the acquisition and display of European clothes and
other goods was the only domain available in colonial society in which Afri-
cans could assert their claims to “a civilized status, comparable to that of the
Europeans.” Urban Africans did not want to be regarded as “decorative bar-
barians” but as “civilized men.” They wanted, that is, to be full and equal citi-
zens of a modern urban society. If they enthusiastically adopted elaborate
forms of European dress and manners, it was to press their claim “to be re-
spected by the Europeans and by one another as civilized, if humble, men, members of the new world society” (Wilson 1941:19-20, emphasis added).
This crucial claim to membership is denied by interpretations …
which suggest that such urban Africans were performing modernity
only to appropriate its magic for use within an indigenous cultural order. But
the most vital political question raised by practices of colonial emulation did
not concern the incorporation of Western symbolic materials into African local
cultural systems. Rather, it concerned the place Africans were to occupy in a
global sociocultural order — their status in a new “world society” — a point that
both Wilson and his informants seem to have understood very well.
do you see why it’s amazing
when someone comes out of such a dire situation
and learns the English language just to share his observation?
probly get a Grammy without a grammar education,
so fuck you school and fuck you immigration,
and all of you who thought i wouldn’t amount to constipation.
and now i’m here without the slightest fear and reservation.
they love me in the slums and the native reservations.
the world is a ghetto administ’ring deprivation.
a lot of mainstream niggaz is yappin about yappin
a lot of underground niggaz is rappin about rappin
i just want to tell you what’s really crackalackin
before the tears came down this is what happened…
You may have seen these here before, but I’m reposting b/c — oddly enough — they’re among my favorite YouTubes of the year (and in lieu of year-end lists, which I just don’t do, a little revisiting seems ok). The first one is even appropriately seasonal.
Whattayu think the greatest gift of the holidays izzzzzzz?
And, in case you missed it, this may be the best thing I saw on YouTube this year. Why it still only has around 20k views is beyond me. Here’s me doing my part to spread the virus —
It’s that time of year again, even if the incongruously balmy weather suggests otherwise. So, this past weekend Bec & I made another set of black cakes. This time, in anticipation, we started the fruits soaking in black-strap rum and Manischewitz a couple weeks in advance. And man, did they come out sweet.
To vibe with the Caribbean Christmas recipe, we listened to a whole heap of panang of course (h/t). How can you go wrong with songs about how great it is to eat a food and drink a rum and have a jolly time with friends & fam? Well, I s’pose you could introduce daggering to the whole(some) equation–
For my own part, I’m sorry to report that for a third straight year I have failed to put together another Christmas mix of my own, but for those of you who haven’t yet heard it, or — as with things like It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story — are happy to revisit such fare every December, allow me to point you once again to my “Remix-mas” (originally posted here):
My failure to produce is not exactly for want of trying. Over the last few years I’ve put together a couple flailing attempts at Christmashy things, some more successful than others. Most of them quite odd (nature of the beast?). If you’re in the mood, have a listen / read on —
Pace this post (see comments for continued convo), thx to Christina — who also wonders how hip-hop’s use of East Asian imagery fits into all of this (I think it leans more toward the I-talian than the A-rab) — for pointing me to three mashup “valorizations of the gangsta” via the dancehall/Mavado’s imagination (both of which take strong cues from hip-hop and Hollywood). These are easy fits given what Erin MacLeod calls the “melancholy, sweeping, and spooky strains of cinematic dancehall” —
So when is Jollywood (heh) gonna get into the global “film” game? No doubt Kingston could give Lagos and Mumbai a run for their money.
Since last week’s zungu-fest, I’ve had my eyes peeled for similar (semi-)Swahili utterances. And whattaya know, scanning the tracklist for Taliesin’s Apricity mix (which I recommend you listen to — it was a nice soundtrack this past Wednesday, when December actually felt like April), I noticed that the jumpoff track was by a group called NGUZUNGUZU, so of course, I got quite curious.
Given that the track was a remix by the homie, Kingdom, I wrote and asked him about NGUZUNGUZU, so he pointed me to their MySpace page and gave me an email address. Easy as that.
Here’s their reply; I’m afraid it may disappoint some of us Swahili-seeking conspiracy theorists, but it’s an interesting bit of suggestive sonic overlap —
We named ourselves NGUZUNGUZU after a type of wooden canoe prow carving from the Solomon Islands. We liked the name firstly for its phonetics,when repeated rapidly it sounds like a digeridoo. And the idea of this guiding figure on our craft of sonic explorations. Something like a beacon, a navigational tool, a compass that points us in various directions.
Their music sounds nothing like Yellowman or canoes, but I like it — all sorts of sounds and styles streaming into each other.
i <3 SFJ for sentences like this — "The song is rooted in the jiggling rhythms of James Brown, the motherlode for sampling producers from the eighties, and now entirely irrelevant to any rap being made in New York, Atlanta, Rio, or Miami." — point taken, but isn't contemporary crunk pretty much based on kraftwerk's automatonization of JB's funk? if so, "entirely irrelevant" perhaps overstates things, tho i appreciate another fine sentence/assertion which follows — "This song must sound like jazz to Soulja Boy Tellem."
an excellent, engrossing, flashy site about brazilian soul, aka the roots of baile funk, back when the sounds of james brown (& philly, motown, and memphis) were moving the masses, prior to the kraftwerk/miami-bass invasion of the 1980s
"HIGH TECH SOUL is the first documentary to tackle the deep roots of techno music alongside the cultural history of Detroit, its birthplace. From the race riots of 1967 to the underground party scene of the late 1980s, Detroit's economic downturn didn't stop the invention of a new kind of music that brought international attention to its producers and their hometown."
“Arab Money” may not have musical legs to stand on (remains to be seen — I think it’s still climbing up urban radio playlists), but it sure is the talk of the virtual water cooler. Most of my posts and comments on the song & its fallout have been distillations of email conversations with awesome thinkers (thx, esp to Kevin, Rachel, Marisol, Elliott, Jace).
Yesterday, Ted “Kufiya Spotting” Swedenburg started another “Arab Money” email convo, this time mostly among Middle East-studying anthropologists / poli-scientists. One of whom responded —
hard to get really worked up about this — for one, it’s just really bad hip hop. I mean, really weak. I guess the question is whether was this a deliberate attempt to draw attention by a washed-up has-been, or just something the guy was having fun with and never considered the repercussions? From what little I’ve seen from Busta Rhymes on this, it looks like the latter (and the goofiness of the video would support that reading)… but if it’s the former, a calculated outrage, should we get outraged?
to which I replied —
I think [redacted] is right to suspect Busta of the “latter” rather than calculated outrage. His response has certainly seemed to affirm such an interpretation. And, yeah, it’s a pretty weak slice of hip-hop too (though has received a good amount of uptake on urban radio). At the same time, it’s not exactly an either/or question — what Busta has put together here is quite a piece of aestheticized ignorance, the same kind of ignorance that supports Manichean wars on terror and harassment of Arabs here in the US.
In what ways is this song similar to/different from valorizations of the Italian mafia in hip-hop?
to which, I responded with this —
Good question about comparing “Arab Money” to valorizations of the Italian mafia in hip-hop. I can think of a number of important differences, however — some aesthetic, some structural:
1) Italian-Americans long ago “became white” in this country, so the kind of “representational violence” done by a song full of cartoonish stereotypes has less power to demonize/dehumanize them than it does Arabs or Muslims at this rather fraught moment in history. (Of course, one could argue that the cartoonish stereotypes of “Arab Money” easily enough descend into absurdity, though I can’t say how common a mode of reception that actually is.)
2) Hip-hop’s valorizations of the mafia, mostly borrowed from Hollywood depictions, may similarly revel in stereotypes, but in the main they are positive, strong caricatures rather than the smorgasbord of references that Busta packs into “Arab Money,” many of which have to do with his own power to consume Middle Eastern commodities (“I got Middle East women and Middle East bread”). And sure, Busta’s point, as repeated in defensive interviews, is that — and we may or may not take offence — “Arabs” are good about working hard and saving and keeping money “in the family,” which may all be construed as positive values, but I think we can all see how this folds into some rather familiar Semitic stereotypes, while ignoring the very real poverty afflicting Arab societies.
3) The US has been waging war against Arab societies and harassing/surveilling Arab citizens. It’s been a while since we went to war with Italy and blanketly demonized Italian-Americans as mafiosos. (As an Italian-American myself, not to mention a lifelong hip-hop fan/practitioner/scholar, I’m something of a connoisseur of these Godfather/Goodfella images.)
any other opinions out there? (academic pedigree / Italian ancestry not required)