Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Corporate Bizness

It was painful to hear the voice of Common intoning jargon-y corporate blather--the actual words of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella--in this year's Microsoft Super Bowl Commercials:

"The real question that needs to be asked as well as answered is, 'What is it that we can do that is unique, that is impactful?' We are going to empower every individual in every organization to do more and achieve more. It’s this process of continuous renewal, of showing courage in the face of reality. Showing that courage in the face of opportunity."


While our wives explained to our kids the amazing prosthetic limbs featured in the commercial, my neighbor Josh and I remained fixated on the "horrible writing," as he immediately exclaimed. I kept saying, "I think that's Common, I think that's Common!"

I certainly don't fault the Chicago rapper and actor for taking the job. I slept on Common when I first heard him guest on De La Soul's Stakes is High. My ears weren't ready yet for the lower-key production of De La's post-Prince Paul career, which is still going strong. But after Common's solo success, returning to his spots on Stakes is High and The Grind Date gave me a new appreciation for where De La was taking hip hop at the time, especially in terms of rhyming and flow. It's been fun to see him "bang dents all up in they wallets" as Trugoy from De La Soul said of his former protege.

But what a shock to hear the voice of such a deep flow working in a style designed by the privileged for self-congratulation and linguistic domination. Assigning one of America's most accomplished socially conscious Black wordsmiths to read crap like "what is it we can do that is impactful," or "courage in the face of opportunity" strikes me as a completely clueless and lame brand of corporate narcissism, or even cultural imperialism. I wonder who on the commercial's writing or production team had to hand Common the script for his lines in the commercial. Maybe that person was a writer him- or herself; maybe he or she was aware of what their voice-over artist is capable of with his mind, a pad and pen, and a national audience. If so, that couldn't have been a very good feeling.

To get this commercial out of my head, I'm going to have to listen to this a bunch of times:

Or maybe just a couple. It's a powerful antidote.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The P-Word: Pranks and Provocations by Punk-rock Girls

Audio-visual materials for my talk, "The P-Word: Pranks and Provocations by Punk-rock Girls," Montgomery College, Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus, March 7, 2013.

Some thoughts about Riot Grrrl and punk inspired by learning about Pussy Riot.

This post contains the A/V materials used in my presentation (and some that were not). It is not the presentation itself.

There is way too much to say about women and punk than can be contained here. A million bands and ideas were left out.

I. Pussy Riot

Pussy Riot's "Punk Prayer": "Mother of God, Drive Putin Away"

St. Petersburg Times: "The group cites American punk rock band Bikini Kill and its Riot Grrrl movement as an inspiration, but says there are plenty of differences between them and Bikini Kill. 

“What we have in common is impudence, politically loaded lyrics, the importance of feminist discourse, non-standard female image,” Pussy Riot said.

II. Background: Civil Disobedience: "Put your bodies on the gears, upon the levers."

Mario Savio, Free Speech Movement, University of California, Berkeley, 1964:

Full speech - audio (play from 2:12 - 5:00)

III. Civil disobedience in the American South, civil rights era: 1950s - early 1960s

Rosa Parks had a seat in the front of the bus.

Sit-ins challenged segregated lunch counters


Black and White "Freedom Riders" rode side-by-side through the South on segregated buses.

III. Background: Punk

Late 1970s U.K. Punk rock - fashion, extremism call into question the status quo of freedom, freedom of speech.

The Sex Pistols defined early U.K. Punk: "No Future" / "Anarchy in the U.K."

St. Petersburg Times: Pussy Riot’s unsanctioned concerts are reminiscent of The Sex Pistols’ infamous boat concert, when the band rented a boat to premiere “God Save the Queen” to spoof the Queen’s Silver Jubiliee in 1977, by playing live on the Thames, passing Westminster Pier and the Houses of Parliament.

“In this story with the Sex Pistols we find it odd that the boat was rented by the band itself,” Pussy Riot said.

“It’s difficult to find an element of protest when you perform on a boat that you have paid for; on the contrary, it’s a type of commercial performance. There’s no connection to Pussy Riot in this, because we didn’t rent and are not going to rent anything; we come and take over platforms that don’t belong to us and use them for free.”

IV. 1970s punk offered more opportunities for women to form bands.

The slits, 1977-78 (R.I.P. Ari Up)

Poly Styrene of X-Ray Spex, 1978 (R.I.P.)

"Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard... but I say, Oh Bondage! Up Yours!"

V. D.I.Y. In the 1980s, U.S., punk bands began to live a do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) lifestyle, touring and selling within a network of like-minded people who felt they did not fit in with mainstream society.

"Our band could be your life": the dream was to live--and work--on one's own terms, rejecting mainstream values. But the intense energy in the movement often gave way to violence and substance abuse.

Minor Threat, "Straight Edge" HarDCore punk, early 1980s.

Straight edge punks made a deal with bar and club owners: They would mark X's on their hands so they would be identified as underage and unable to drink. In return, they would be allowed to hold shows.

Later - 1988 - Fugazi, Post-punk with an ethical slant.

Fugazi's song about rape, "Suggestion"

While, elsewhere in the country, the front of most punk shows remained a relatively scary place. St. Louis, Missouri, the same year:

VI. Riot Grrrl

A group of girls in Olympia, Washington, and Washington, DC responded to the situation within the scene (start 5:00)

Kathleen Hanna discusses the Herstory of Riot Grrrl

Bikini Kill practicing "Girls to the front"

Explicitly feminist lyrics

Bratmobile, from "Affection Training"

I learned somewhere that living with dudes 
Means you pick up their wet towels, 
Dirty underwear and find their 
Ignorance cute somehow 
I ain't 
I ain't done 
"I ain't never done nothing" 
See Mr. Whatever describe himself 
It's frightening to feel worthless 
In the eyes of worthlessness 
My fear has nowhere left to go 
Impossible- I can't get me no no... 
All the girls are fighting over 
The dummest boys who run this town 
I watch myself get watched like TV 
But I'd rather run you down.

Also often inspirational and easy for anyone who feels like an outsider to identify with.

"Resist Psychic Death," Bikini Kill

Your world not mine Your world not ours 
Your world not mine Your world not ours 
I will resist with every inch and every breath 
I will resist this psychic death 
I will resist with every inch and every breath 
I will resist this psychic death 
There's more than two ways of thinking 
There's more than one way of knowing 
There's more than two ways of being 
There's more than one way of going somewhere 
Silence inside of me silence inside 
Silence inside of me silence inside 
Silence inside of me silence inside 
Silence inside of me silence inside 
I will resist with every inch and every breath 
I will resist this psychic death

VII. Riot Grrrl "zines," flyers, and pranks engaged the world at large and built a network of young women writing and performing for each other.

Riot Grrrl flyers, including some from Riot Grrl Omaha:


An early zine suggested that riot grrrls write and draw on their hands to help them identify each other as "pro-revolutionary." Kathleen Hanna sometimes wrote on her body for performances or photo sessions.


In her subsequent bands, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin, Hanna has also highlighted gender and politics through fashion and appearance:


Hanna and her bandmates also integrated spoken word into their music and performances in order to illustrate and protest sexism.

"Phone message" from Hanna that leads off her song on L.A. punk Mike Watt's compilation album, "Ball Hog or Tug Boat":

VIII. The D.C. Punks digest the news of Pussy Riot

Positive Force founder Mark Anderson in the Washington Post:

"The sentencing this month of three members of the Russian feminist punk collective Pussy Riot to two years in prison for “hooliganism” showed once again how authoritarian leaders fear the power of art and thus unwittingly undermine their own power.

"After all, who had heard of this confrontationally named group until Russian President Vladimir Putin’s apparatchiks decided to make an example of them, to help quell a growing chorus of dissent? I had not, even though I am a punk activist and historian who was an early supporter of D.C.’s Riot Grrrl movement, a key inspiration for Pussy Riot.

"Without overreaction by the Russian authorities, the band’s theatrical anti-Putin “punk prayer” at a Russian Orthodox cathedral would have touched almost no one beyond the handful present for the action. Now the three young women — Nadezh­da Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich — are internationally known and have been deemed “prisoners of conscience” by Amnesty International, and their band’s racy name has become something akin to a household word. Conversely, Putin appears not only oppressive but scared, weakened by a show trial that was intended to solidify his rule.
. . .

"Tolokonnikova, Alekhina and Samutsevich face incarceration — and, for two of them, separation from their young children — but they can take heart that their message has been heard around the world, given extraordinary power and resonance by the Putin regime’s foolhardy actions."

Wait, did I just read "the P-word" in the Washington Post?

A feminist re-use of language in order to reclaim the power of a word used to objectify people? If so, feminism enters the company of...

...popularized by Queer Nation, a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) organization. The group was controversial for its practice of "outing" closeted homosexuals. However, the normalization of the word "queer," a slur at the time, has been a success:

Similarly pervasive is the re-use of the "N-word" by rap artists, though many commentators insist that its use merely spreads racism rather than counters it.

Critics argue that this re-use of hurtful language for one's own purposes merely internalizes and reproduces racism, homophobia, or sexism.

Other recent feminist re-uses of words and uses of bodies include:

"Slutwalks" - In response to the shaming of sexual assault victims by suggesting that their dress or behavior invites sexual assault. Started in Toronto in response to a police official's statement, while discussing a rape case, that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."

Femen - started in Kiev, Ukraine, to protest the sex trade and raise awareness of women's rights and gay rights.

But music is more than language and protest - it is culture.

St. Petersburg Times: "[Pussy Riot] cites American punk rock band Bikini Kill and its Riot Grrrl movement as an inspiration, but says there are plenty of differences between them and Bikini Kill. 

“What we have in common is impudence, politically loaded lyrics, the importance of feminist discourse, non-standard female image,” Pussy Riot said. 

“The difference is that Bikini Kill performed at specific music venues, while we hold unsanctioned concerts. On the whole, Riot Grrrl was closely linked to Western cultural institutions, whose equivalents don’t exist in Russia."

Punk music has been used for activism, even civil disobedience, as Pussy Riot and Riot Grrrl show. However, it is also written and performed to move people joyously. The hardcore kids jumping off the stage, the fans pogoing to Amy Pickering and Fugazi, the girls dancing in the front row, Poly Styrene herself, are not marching or fighting, they are dancing. For fun. Making music that friends and fans think is great is its own accomplishment.

Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney says, "I consider myself a cultural activist rather than political activist because I don't organize politics. I think that I can see, though, that having women in positions of cultural power is really important for young girls. I can see that we inspire young girls at our shows, and I think that's important."

Sleater-Kinney, whose Corin Tucker was a member of Riot Grrl Olympia: Everything any of these three have ever touched has completely rocked.

VIII. Questions for discussion:

1. The Riot Grrrl movement happened before the internet. Has the internet helped or hurt the chances of such movements occurring?

2. Are there still places or events where girls and women are made to feel unwelcome? If so, what can be done to change this?

3. Are confrontational strategies such as those used by Femen and Pussy Riot effective in bringing about change? What other strategies are available?

Friday, February 26, 2010

POP CULTURE blog entry for Monday, March 1

Here is the blog entry assignment for the Popular Culture Learning Community... Answer the follwing question: How "real" is the TV you watch? To answer this question, think about the television shows you watch and discuss the ways they are realistic or not realistic. Think about this a bit before answering; most shows can be considered realistic in some ways and unrealistic in others. For example, some people might say that the Simpsons is realistic because it shows a dysfunctional family... even though it is a cartoon in which many unrealistic things happen.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Welcome Sucess in College and Beyond Learning Community!

To S2: MC/DC's many fans: we have added a new set of student blogs. Go to my links (coming soon) to click on students' blogs from the "Success in College and Beyond" Learning Community--a combination of my English 001 class and Dr. Cathy Wilson's Student Development class, "First Year Experience." Looking forward to getting to know their virtual selves in this forum.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Blog entry for Monday, 2-15-10: music lyrics

Here are the directions for your blog entry for Monday, February 15: 1. Choose a song you like. 2. Write down the lyrics. 3. Punctuate the lyrics correctly as if the song were sentences, with periods, commas, etc. 4. Write the lyrics, correctly punctuated, in your blog entry.

Some notes: treat the lyrics as if they were sentences, in paragraphs. Don't leave them in the original "lines" from the song. Those probably aren't in sentences. If you find the lyrics on the web, fine, but you will have to edit them into sentences with punctuation. Lyrics on the web aren't already like that. See these examples:


Sunday, January 31, 2010

A new batch of LC blogs

Check out my links for the new batch of bloggers in the "Don't Believe the Hype": Reading and Writing about Popular Culture learning community... Spring '10 version. Most of the links seem to work. Should be several more added soon.

LCers, go ahead and use your blog to write about whatever (keep subject matter appropriate while the semester's in progress, please). We'll also have official blog assignments we'll all do. Here's the first one: take any idea you talk about in your first essay (your popular culture autobiography) and tell a story about it--something that really happened. For example, if you say you like watching football on TV, tell a story about a particular time you were watching football. Try to be as detailed as you can. The idea is to practice going into more detail when giving examples.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Thanks, Fall 09 Pop Culture Learning Community

Thanks to everyone in Professor Simon's and my Fall '09 Learning Community, "Don't Believe the Hype": Reading and Writing about Popular Culture, for a great job blogging this semester. Students did eleven blog entries in addition to our 9 graded essays and revisions. For perspective on that amount of writing: the collegewide course requirements for the writing half of our learning community call for a total of 10 writing assignments. LCers, you doubled that, and that doesn't even include in-class writing or portfolio essay revisions. Great job; shake out those fingers.

Visitors, check out the LCers' final blog entries (for the class, hopefully not for forever) under "Links", which provide an overview of our semester.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Blog entry for Wednesday, Dec. 2

For this blog entry, reflect on the entire learning community--the reading and writing parts of the coruse--so far. Discuss the skills that you have had the most success learning about, skills that remain difficult for you, and what aspects of the learning community you have found most and least enjoyable. Be specific: talk about particular readings, videos, activities, assignments, essays, chapters, etc. The purpose of the reflection in this blog entry is to help you prepare your mind and spirit for your final portfolios and tests. Sharing your reflection will also help your classmates prepare.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What I learned from King Corn and Chew On This

Besides learning that I'm kind of homesick for Iowa, but kind of not, I learned that basically, many of the environmental, economic/labor, and health issues are the fault of soda, or as I would have said in Iowa, "pop." I also learned that the problem is huge and involves lots of money, so it's not going to go away any time soon. Farmers are subsidized to grow more and more and more corn every year, so there's always a surplus, which means that they can make corn syrup really cheaply, and Pepsi and Coke can make tons of money. Oh, and we all get diabetes. Oops.

In addition, because all that cheap corn is lying around, we can fatten cows up really quickly and thoroughly (by keeping them in confinement feedlots and feeding them corn all the time), and it makes really fatty meat. Plus it produces soooo much waste. The feedlot in King Corn produced as much wasate as a city of 1.7 million people. Isn't methane from farm animal manure contributing to global warming, too? I think Al Gore told me that.

I have really been trying to stop drinking soda for health reasons, but now I think it's kind of an ethical issue. I don't want to give them my money any more. It just feeds the corn machine. Completely by coincidence, when I was in Whole Foods today, they were giving samples of Snowville Creamery Milk, which comes from grass-fed cows in Ohio. It's non-homogenized (meaning the cream still rises to the top), pasteurized at lower temperatures, and bottled on the farm then shipped to grocery stores the same day. It tasted really, really good, kind of creamier than the milk I usually get (which is already organic and all that, but not grass fed. I got some for Daphne. $3.19 a gallon... I don't think that's that much more expensive than other milk, is it? I'm also going to shop at my local farmer's market more--I got some apples from there last week, and they were like, 100 times better than ones from the grocery store, so I actually ate a few apples this week. Only had cafeteria pizza twice this week. Maybe by next semester I'll be writing, "I am hungry, so I will eat grass-fed organic beef."

Anyway, I'm going with grass-fed meat and milk from now on, and a complete moratorium on soda. If I find I can't afford as much meat, I'll just eat more veggies. I will do a grass-fed meat recipe this weekend and report here what it was like. (My parents had some grass-fed beef recently and they said they definitely could tell the difference... unfortunately, it's the fat in beef that makes it tasty (not the big chunks, but the tiny flecks in the grain of the meat itself), so it probably won't be as good, or as tender, unless i get dry-aged... but then we're looking at $20+ per pound, easy.

Blog entry assignment for Friday, 11/20

For Friday, blog about what you learned from King Corn and Chew on This, and what you can do to have an impact on the problems created by the way food is produced.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

It takes two lyrics punctuated

I wanna rock right now. I'm Rob Base, and I came to get down. I'm not internationally know, but I'm known to rock the microphone because I get stupid, I mean outrageous. Stay away from me if you're contagious cause I'm the winner. No, I'm not the loser. To be an M.C. is what I choose. Ladies love me. Girls adore me. I mean, even the ones who never saw me like the way that I rhyme at a show. The reason why? Man, I don't know, so let's go 'cause it takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight.

Hit it!

My name is Rob. I gotta real funky concept. Listen up 'cause I'm gonna keep you in step.
I got an idea that I wanna share. You don't like it? So what? I don't care. I'm number one, the uno. I like comp. Bring all the suckers 'cause all them I'll stomp. Bold and black, but I won't protect all of my followers 'cause all I want is respect. I'm not a doctor. Put them in rapture. A slick brother that can easy outfox ya cause I'm Rob, the last name Base, yeah, and on the mike, I'm known to be the freshest, so let's start. It shouldn't be too hard. I'm not a sucker, so I don't need a bodyguard. I won't fess, wear a bulletproof vest. Don't smoke buddha, can't stand cess, yes. It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight

Hit it!

The situation that the Base is in: I'm kinda stingy; that's why I don't wanna lend a funky rhyme to a foe or a good friend, but listen up 'cause I want you to comprehend cause I'm the leader, the man superior. I take care of ya and then ya get wearier, so just sit. my rhymes are not counterfeit. The record sells which makes this one a hit. It won't hurt to listen to Red Alert. Take off your shirt; make sure it don't hit the dirt. I like the kids--the guys, the girls. I want the ducats 'cause this is Rob Base's world. I'm on a mission. Ya better just listen to my rhymes 'cause I'm all about dissin' cause
it takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight.

Hit it!

I stand alone. Don't need anyone cause I'm Rob. Just came to have fun. Don't need friends that act like foes cause I'm Rob Base, the one who know about things that make ya get weary. Don't cheer me; just hear me out 'cause I got the clout. Shout (Ho!) before I turn the party out. I won't stutter.
Project my voice. Speak clearly, so you can be my choice on stage or on record. Go to the Wiz and select it. Take it off the rack. If it's wack, put it back. I like the Whopper; f### the Big Mac. If you want static, so let's go. So, throw up your hands. Go for what you know. Bro', I got an ego. Yo, talkin' to me? No. Oh. 'Cause Rob is in the front; EZ Rock is on the backup. We're not soft, so you better just slack up 'Cause I'm cool, calm just like a breeze. Rock the mike with the help of EZ
Rock on the set. The music plays; only cuts the records that I say. It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight.

Hit it!

All right, now, EZ Rock, now, when I count to three, I want you to get busy. You ready now?
One, two, three, get loose now!

It takes two to make a thing go right. It takes two to make it outta sight.

Hit it!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Blog entry assignment for Friday, 11/13 (Friday the 13th!)

1. Choose a song you like. 2. Write down the lyrics. 3. Punctuate the lyrics correctly as if the song were sentences. 4. Write the lyrics, correctly punctuated, in your blog entry.

Example: Now, when you bug out, you usually have a reason for the action. Sometimes you don't; it's just for pure satisfaction. ... etc. ("Buggin' Out," A Tribe Called Quest.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What I'm eating

Starting now, 9:45 p.m. on Tuesday: I just ate two chocolate truffles from Whole Foods, in bed. I put them in the freezer for a few minutes so they aren't so smushy. I got them as a treat for when my parents were in town last weekend. I'm also drinking my nightly liter bottle of Harris Teeter seltzer water. I have heard that the bubbles "leach away" nutrients, but I don't believe that. It's a good digestive after meals.

I didn't used to ever eat breakfast, but I've been starving in the morninglately. Wednesday and Thursday (and if they have it this morning, Friday) I had hashbrowns and bacon from the cafeteria. I switched to turkey bacon on Thursday. Supposedly healthier, but I don't know how anything that salty couldn't be bad for you. Also, the pork bacon was somehow dry and greasy at the same time. I eat breakfast on the walk from the cafeteria to my office. Plus coffee. I am down to two cups a day now, one at the apartment from the machine in the lobby (It's Starbucks!) and one at school... you know, the one you see me drink after MC Munchies opens up at 10. That fake Dunkin Donuts coffee in the cafeteria is foul.

I have a small but unhealthy lunch most days. I am hungry, so I eat pizza. (coordination) Because I am hungry, I eat pizza. (subordination) I am hungry; therefore, I eat pizza. (coordination with conjuctive adverb). One slice of sausage on Tuesday, pepperoni on Wednesday, cheese on Thursday. Plus I snack on nuts I keep in my office. A handful or two holds me over. I'm such an idiot, I even had pork chops to bring to work to eat, but I kept forgetting. Now I'll have to throw them away.

This week, all my colleagues had tons of leftover Halloween candy, so I ate too many Reeses, Mounds, and Sweet tarts to count. One day I must have had 10 Reeses in the afternoon.

Dinner--on Monday I made Moroccan spice-rubbed pork tenderloin with sauteed apples and zucchini. (had to get that in there cause I'm proud of myself.) Tuesday was some kind of leftover... I can't remember what it was. Wednesday, leftover pork tenderloin, apples/zucchini. I was surprised that my daughter didn't like that. I thought she would, but she spits it out. Thursday is sandwich night! We go to the Whole Foods after work and buy sandwiches, but I bought a piece of salmon out of the deli case and cooked some frozen mixed veggies with it. Daphne didn't like the salmon either; I was picking it up off the floor. Tonight I'm going to try to talk my wife into going to Trio's, a diner down the street. I want a hamburger.

Why did I eat so much pork this week?