Not a lot of critics seem to like Cloud Atlas, but um, I thought it was one of the best things I’ve seen in a while. My review:
From her article “What an Academic Who Wrote Her Dissertation on Trolls Thinks of Violentacrez”:
Trolls are cultural scavengers, and engage in a process I describe as cultural digestion: They take in, regurgitate, and subsequently weaponize existing tropes and cultural sensitivities. By examining the recurring targets of trolling, it is therefore possible to reverse-engineer the dominant landscape.
Consider trolls’ deeply contentious but ultimately homologous relationship with sensationalist corporate media. For example, when trolls court emotional distress in the wake of a tragedy by posting upsetting messages to Facebook memorial pages and generally being antagonistic towards so-called “grief tourists,” they are swiftly condemned — and understandably so. But when corporate media outlets splash the most sensationalist, upsetting headlines or images across their front page, press the friends and families of suicide victims to relive the trauma of having their loved one’s RIP page attacked by trolls (and in the case of this MSNBC segment, by forcing them to read the hateful messages on camera), or pour over every possible detail about bullied teenage suicides, despite the risks of “copycat suicide,” the only objectively measurable media effect, and in so doing slap a dollar sign on personal tragedy, it’s just business as usual. In both cases, audience distress is courted and exploited for profit. Granted, trolls’ “profit” is measured in lulz, not dollars. Still, the respective processes by which these profits are achieved are strikingly similar, and in many cases — which I chronicled throughout my dissertation — indistinguishable.
I am not arguing that members of the media are trolls, at least not in the subcultural sense. I am however suggesting that trolls and sensationalist corporate media have more in common than the latter would care to admit, and that by engaging in a grotesque pantomime of these best corporate practices, trolls call attention to how the sensationalist sausage is made. This certainly doesn’t give trolls a free pass, but it does serve as a reminder that ultimately, trolls are symptomatic of much larger problems. Decrying trolls without at least considering the ways in which they are embedded within and directly replicate existing systems is therefore tantamount to taking a swing at an object’s reflection and hanging a velvet rope around the object itself.
The Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946) // Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965) // Silent Hill: Revelations 3D (Michael J. Bassett, 2012)
I have no problem with dressing in rags, or in all black, or whatever, so long as it isn’t seen as something more than it is, a personal fashion choice and subject to the same aesthetic and tactical considerations as any other fashion choice, i.e. silhouette, palate, does it conform to gender roles, is it original, is it confrontational, that sort of thing. Crusties have always been one of my fashion inspirations, their attention to details is staggering and the dedication, the sheer time spent perfecting their look, sanding their bandanas and what not, it’s a true example of demi-couture. And as amazing as they are at fashion, I think it’s hard, if not impossible, to extend their aesthetic and lifestyle choices to a genuine politic or form of radicalism. Half of anarchist culture is about genuinely scraping by since we’re all broke and trying to avoid working shit jobs, the other half seems to be posturing, and that posturing has this weirdly religious feel to it that totally undermines those good intentions. I think a lot of folks are using declasse as an excuse for getting off the hook, in terms of privilege, then sitting back and criticizing people who aren’t playing poor like them. There’s no aesthetic to poverty, and it’s cruel to think that choosing to live in squalor and dressing in a particular way somehow creates solidarity with those that genuinely struggle to make ends meet. I’m not sure I’ve actually championed decadence, but I think it’s a useful anarchist tactic that has its time and place and is an antidote for the kind of masculine/femme-phobic superficiality that I just mentioned. Decadence to me is about embracing your vanity, your artificiality and not letting morals turn you into a bore.
The Yamaha Corporation developed Vocaloid (“vocals plus android”) in the early 2000s, and the first commercial program arrived in 2004. It allowed users to input lyrics and then fiddle with the melody to generate a voice that sung what they wanted how they wanted it. In 2007, Japanese company Crypton Future Media introduced the first release in their “character vocal series” line, Hatsune Miku. It was just an updated version of the Vocaloid software, but the digital voice now belonged to an anime character. Sales exploded, and the company initially had trouble keeping up with the demand for the singing-synthesizer program.
You should definitely read this article, because it’s very fascinating, but this section in particular stirred the futurist in me. I can imagine a world where instead of these dead, mechanical things, instruments are actually, like, these virtual beings with totally unique voices and tonal contours, and instead of playing guitars or synthesizers, musicians “play” these virtual beings who have independent lives of their own.
From the brief sampling of Hatsune Miku that I just did (mostly listening to the stuff Patrick linked to), it seems that the technology is not quite there yet. The Hatsune Miku songs sound just a bit too rigidly modular, as if you just program notes and lyrics into the software and something very mechanically comes out on the other end. But if there was more variability to this software, if it functioned in three instead of merely two dimensions, so to speak, I think it could totally redefine how we think of music and musical instruments. Because, while I don’t play an instrument myself, the act of playing music seems to me to be very interactive, like the way a jazz musician (especially in the context of free jazz) might “explore” his or her instrument, assessing its range of options by butting up against its physical contraints.
But imagine if musicians did this with instruments that resembled people with organic, ever-evolving sonic profiles more than they resembled machines. I think people can tend to see Hatsune Miku as a crass embodiment of our obsession with the image (“Why, oh why, can’t we just enjoy this music without needing to see a face or body attached to it?”), but to me, this is totally wrong (and it’s something I pretty much already addressed in my essay on The Master). Putting a face to this software is a step in the right direction ethically, because it encourages us to move away from treating the world like an impersonal machine (and treating the world this way, in turn, makes us less human ourselves) and because eventually, instruments may very well have, or deserve, this quality of personhood. Who knows, we may even start giving pop stars, those instrumental media through which songwriters channel their own music, the respect they deserve.
—Lipstick Remix (DJ Vodge Diper)
It looks like the Dance Gods have answered my prayers for more dancefloor-ready remixes of K-pop. Here is a remix of Orange Caramel’s delightful song “Lipstick” by the horribly named DJ Vodge Diper.
I think K-pop is really ripe for this kind of thing. For instance, to me, U-Kiss’ “Neverland” as a whole doesn’t work, but the chorus is majestic and perfect, the kind of thing that could be extended and blissed-out for the ecstasy set (or serve as the perfect foundation for a pretty bitchin’ Elite Gymnastics remix). It helps that K-pop is so much about extreme emotions and vocal performances, the kind that dance music really thrives on.
This “Lipstick” remix is a pretty great example of how that could work. The original song is very cutesy, but this remix adds a darker, harder edge to it, the kind of gravity I honestly wouldn’t have imagined was possible with Orange Caramel, and the transformation is seamless. I love how the remix subverts the cute, aegyo-inflected vocals, chopping them up into pleasurable bits that ping pong around. As pure sound, they become micro-hooks all their own, pulled like putty into new shapes, and I think this is the perfect approach for K-pop, which is pretty much an endless source of interesting sounds and ways of singing (some of which only exist on the microscopic level). I would fuckin’ dance my ass off to this, and the cover is perfect.
I like writing in bars because there’s music I didn’t choose. Music that’s interesting but not too interesting. And I generally respond negatively. “I hate this song.” “This is how it should go.” But there will also be something nice about a song. “Yes, it’s nice the way that singer swoops an octave on the word ‘oh,’ maybe that’s a nice effect I can use.” “That should be in three-four and in a major key. No, a pentatonic scale and it should be like the Residents. No, it should sound like Brian Wilson. O.K., what would Brian Wilson do with this moment?
I write about Japanese culture and design. The most important thing to remember, and the thing most Westerners get wrong, is that logic and linearity are mundane (in the sense of being bound to the worldly and material), and are therefore gross and inferior. Logic is avoided. It is considered the language of deception and antisocial behavior. Sociable beings rely not upon logic and reason but mutually consensual feelings. (The very term “nee” is a non-meaningful, non-verbal indication of assent or mutual agreement). Absurdity, imprecision, and contradiction put you closer to the divine and non-transitory. It is very difficult for Western people to abandon linearity, which makes its appearance in minuscule and subtle ways that are mostly invisible to them but that are immediately recognizable by Japanese people, and thereby often rejected as “non-Japanese”. This rejection may be seen by Westerners as mysterious and arbitrary.
—From a comment posted on the Fader blog re: Kyary’s “PONPONPON.” I can’t speak to its veracity, but I approve of its meaning.