This is an old story in the terms of internet history (two years ago), but I almost forgot it when teaching Media & Technology and I wanted to post it here so I would remember it next time. The video ‘Crank Dat’ (along with the dance in the video) because a huge hit, with everyone from MIT grad students to Pari and Harvin‘s ‘Crank Dat Curry Sauce’ doing their own interpretations of the song and dance. It was so successful that when Soulja Boy was signed to a major label the new video portrayed a clueless African American Record Executive having the phenomenon explained to him by two little kids. As a sidenote, the MIT grad student who played a small part in the internet phenomenon received a letter from some lawyer with a ‘cease and desist’ order (view his response here). That, I imagine, would signal the end of the ‘internet sensation’ portion of the song’s shelf life!
Speaking of copyright, here‘s a nice video by law professor Michael Geist about the super secret copyright treaty in the works at present.
streets with no names
Despite reading Benjamin and Situationists, Urban Sociology students rarely see how individual practices can also be a part of shaping cities. It’s not the only thing, but it’s a part of the picture. I love these images, although I’m starting to feel mixed about Detroit being continually cast as the ultimate blighted, post-apocalyptic city. From the ever-fabulous Sweet Juniper blog:
In the heart of summer, too, it becomes clear that the grid laid down by the ancient planners is now irrelevant. In vacant lots between neighborhoods and the attractions of thoroughfares, bus stops and liquor stores, well-worn paths stretch across hundreds of vacant lots. Gaston Bachelard called these les chemins du désir: pathways of desire. Paths that weren’t designed but eroded casually away by individuals finding the shortest distance between where they are coming from and where they intend to go.
Update (bumped up from ‘comments’ so that I’ll remember it): Tom adds “This reminds me a of a story that a professor told me in one of my engineering classes about a new college that was built and decided to just place sidewalks and steps around the front and side exits of all the buildings. Then they allowed the students to use the campus for the first year. After that, they paved all the worn footpaths between the buildings, dorms and dining halls. It had something to do with allowing natural systems to develop on their own and how sometimes a solution more efficient than the best engineered design will arise.”
My students have a hard time imagining that all kids don’t start on a level playing field. After reading George Farkas’ ‘Black White Test Score Gap,’ and showing them this video, they’re changing their minds. (Although I may never convince them that Disney has racist and sexist elements to it.)
Last week for our culture reading group, I had to lead the discussion on Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style, a classic that many had not read. So, instead of giving a mini-lecture on the book, I thought I would give some of the trans-Atlantic cultural exchanges a little context by going through some of the songs that seeped into my psyche when I was too young to know what it was all about. First, I showed them Toots and the Maytals’ 1968 song, ‘Pressure Drop‘ and then the title track cover of Robert Palmer’s 1975 R&B version, and then to show the link from Reggae to Punk: The Clash’s 1978 B-Side. Then The Specials’ version, which only came out in 1996, but their inter-racial ska-punk was certainly influenced by these movements. (And I hate to say it, but it was only when I read Hebdige’s book that I figured out that The Specials’ ‘A Message to You, Rudy‘ and The Clash’s ‘Rudy Can’t Fail‘ were references to Rude Boy subculture–Jamaican patois for a juvenile delinquent.)
The Gentlemen of Bacongo
Then, just to show that Toots wasn’t oblivious to the way in which cross-cultural exchanges had their benefits, I played for the group their killer rendition of ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads,’ which replaces ‘West Virginia’ with ‘West Jamaica.’
Update: Not completely disconnected, I came across Daniele Tamagni’s new book The Gentlement of Bacongo, a photo essay of the street style of the Sapeurs, or dandies, of the Congo. ‘Sape’ (the ‘Society for the Advancement of People of Elegance’ or ‘Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes’) is called ‘the religion of clothing.’ According to Dylan Jones, who reviewed the book, Sapeurs ‘fantasise about walking the streets of Paris or Brussels – places most can only dream of visiting – returning to Brazzaville as sartorial aristocrats of ultimate elegance.’ This distinctive style is a rebellion against traditional African costume… There is a strict code of honor and sense of morality as members, and there is no violence or fighting. According to the book, it’s all done with the clothes: Pierre Cardin, Roberto Cavalli, Dior, Fendi, Gaultier, Gucci, Issy Miyake, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent, Versace, Yohji Yamamoto. I would love to see a Hebdige version of this phenomenon.
George Herbert Mead
My research for a paper on ethnographic characters has taken me back over a century of sociological thinking and there has been no better resource than The Mead Project. I realize that this is something that I should share with anyone who visits this site. I have been digging into Thomas and Park, and there’s been a lot of great, seemingly forgotten texts here. Enjoy.
From farm to fork, the use of urban spaces is greening up, from Baltimore to Detroit. Carolyn Steel on ‘How to Feed a City.’ (And Robert Neuwirth on ‘Squatter Cities.’) More to come.