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Love Your Selfie

IMG_0552

Here I am, surrounded by my family. They may not look like me, but they feel like me.

I am surrounded by many others actively involved in the marriage equality movement. It’s easy to consider my disinterest in the movement, as a queer-identified person, insensitive, contradictory, or even oppressive. But, it’s not that I don’t think those who wish to get married should be able to, it’s that I do not believe that certain people should gain certain rights and privileges only through an oppressive matrimony institution. Article 16 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes claims to ambiguous notions of gender (i.e. man or woman), marriage (between a man and a woman), and family (a man, woman, and their children). I actively confront and defy these notions. Reuters asserts that “nearly 60 percent of people polled thought gay couples should have the same rights as heterosexuals to adopt children and 64 percent thought same-sex couples were just as likely to raise children successfully.” I actively oppose this heteronormativity that is inscribed within the marriage equality movement on the grounds of mimesis, homogeneity, and assimilation; that homosexuality, or queerness, should be “just like” heterosexuality. Queerness is different, non-normative, and fully entitled to justice and meaningful living. We must rethink the kinds of definitions and assumptions presented by a sixty-six year old document that has no idea what contemporary society looks like.

 

What does your family look like? How would you illustrate your kinship chart? Why did you choose or not choose to marry? Or, why was your opposition or barrier to marriage?

 

Watch this video: http://fusion.net/Culture/video/activist-janet-mock-flips-script-asks-alicia-menendez-633691

 

When did you decide to come out as a heterosexual? When did you feel safe enough to tell your family you were going to marry someone of the opposite sex? What struggle did you go through in order to marry your opposite-sex partner?

 

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Roaming Queerness

Justin White

AP35, Louden

15 July 2014

Project 2.2

            I was very inspired by the works of Carrie Mae Weems and Kelli Connell for a variety of reasons; thus, I chose to emulate the style of Weems’ “Roaming” and Connell’s digitally created double exposures.

From “Roaming” (2006), Carrie Mae Weems

"Roaming Lake Merritt" (2014), Justin William

“Roaming Lake Merritt” (2014), Justin William

            Weems’ “Roaming” (2006) stood out to me for its representation of history and the evocation of human accomplishment, or rather, existence[1]. Weems photographed this project while in residency at the American Academy in Rome, using as her settings historical landmarks and other Italian cultural icons and wears a long, black dress as a way to insert her own presence in stark contrast to these ghostly images—she appears to be guiding the audience through time. The mere persistence of such landmarks and settings is in itself a ghostly presence of the past in a rapidly changing and increasingly technological culture. To an Italian looking at these photographs, they may see them as either everyday locations on their daily commute or represent their historical achievements and “Italian-ness.” In my own re-creation of these works, I chose to photograph myself as a ghost on Lake Merritt looking towards downtown Oakland. Being a new resident in this city, I took it upon myself to learn more about where I will be living, and found many cultural narratives about Oakland’s historical trajectory. There are shopping malls built on top of Native American burial grounds, and major redevelopment projects that are (and have in the past) resulting in rapid gentrification and demographic shifts. I wanted to act as a ghost guiding the viewer to a place that has undergone major transformations in Oakland. Lake Merritt itself can act as a ghost of the former estuary of the San Francisco Bay that it was before development of the area. Downtown Oakland’s architecture can represent what Weems discusses as the “edifice of power,” and its relationship to you especially in the context of redevelopment and gentrification (in the video posted on Frists’ website).

“Domestic Distance,” (2005-2006) Kelli Connell

"Navigating Queerness" (2014), Justin William

“Navigating Queerness” (2014), Justin William

           While I did not spend as much time working on the concept or actual image for my emulation of Kelli Connell’s work, I wanted to explore ideas of queerness and sexuality as they intersect with gender, race, class, and other identifiers through a similar method of making a composite photograph creating a believable situation that has never occurred. The most challenging part of emulating this style with the concept in mind was that the concept itself—and queerness—are not binary focused. Instead, I had to attempt to typify the two extremes rather than accurately portray what I find to be my own definition of queerness. Duality, as Connell points out on her website, is present here but multiplicity is lost. In this sense, I think that Connell is right to posit that the nature of these photographs exposes the self as unsolidified within reality, but rather a composite of varying social roles and contextual codeswitching[2]. The symbolism of the cigarettes and clothes in the left portrait was a way to think about consumption and addition (of materials, objects) as ways in which we accrue certain roles and expectations for behaviors, such as masculinity. The book and the nude portrait was, on the other hand, to literally strip down these ideas and represent deconstruction as a vehicle for understanding a version of queerness. However, the book, my own tattoos, and posture show ways in which I willingly enter into a community of “queer culture” through these similar kinds of consumption and additions.

[1] From [http://frist.toursphere.com/en/roaming-18808.html].

[2] http://kelliconnell.com/

#MinhaCasaMinhaVida

In 2012, I moved to Rio de Janeiro and began to study the effects of urban development for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games on mostly underprivileged communities. I discovered multiple communities threatened by the kinds of “improvements” that were being carried out in preparation for these events, the most devastating being forced removal and literal bulldozing of certain communities that were simply “in the way.” But, I also found an inspiring amount of communities who were coming together and organizing in order to protect themselves and their families. One group, Chiq da Silva, works to occupy abandoned buildings in the downtown area of Rio. In doing so, they are reclaiming their rights to the city and space within it by creating socially and politically conscious intentional, community habitations. Unfortunately, I had to leave Rio too abruptly and was unable to complete my research and a documentary I was working on, but I plan on returning in order to finish. (See photos here).

(Will insert more photos here but uploading is not working currently).

Now we are in 2014, and the World Cup is in full force. In Brazil, soccer is literally a religion. After years of studying Brazilian culture I could come up with a thousand analogies and literal connections between what religion looks like in comparison to being a soccer fan. John Oliver, from Last Week Tonight, actually has a brilliant video that references this fact, and goes on to explain why FIFA, the France-based Federation Internationale de Football Association, is an incredibly problematic organization, especially in terms of its relationships with World Cup host countries It’s truly difficult to figure out where to start when discussing the problematics of the World Cup in Brazil. Especially because the media, both in the United States and Brazil, is unsurprisingly lacking in reportage about conflicts and protests (and more protests) surrounding the events. Here are just a few:

  • Displacement of entire communities in order to build stadiums, hotels, and other event-related infrastructure.
  • “Accumulation by dispossession,” essentially street cleaning but instead of roadside debris it’s people and by proxy, culture in general. The streets are being “sanitized,” which means becoming empty.
  • Spending millions of tax reais (Brazilian dollars) on building aforementioned infrastructure. The Arena da Amazônia in Manaus cost $290 million and three workers were killed during its construction. It will host four out of sixty-four matches during the World Cup.
  • Most of these stadiums will remain unused and empty after the Cup.
  • The host country makes little revenue from the events, while FIFA walks away with most of the money made during the World Cup.
  • FIFA is sexist, racist, and homophobic.
  • FIFA can literally change the laws of a country and eschew a country’s judicial system. The organization is essentially fascist with Sepp Blatter as the president since 1998.

Many Americans don’t care too much about soccer. Although, with this year’s World Cup, it seems as though soccer’s popularity, at least as a spectator sport, is rising. Even “journalist” Ann Coulter has something to say about this. Based on Coulter’s connection of soccer with “moral decay,” I think it’s safe to say that the decay comes mostly from the side of FIFA’s corruption and the Brazilian government’s complete lack of support for its people. But the ability of a private organization to be this atrocious is on par with the amount of struggle and harm done by multinational corporation (read this too). Chevron was responsible for numerous deaths and brutalities towards indigenous Ecuadorians in Lago Agrio as a result of oil drilling and unsafe, unfair operations; it was able to do so because it was an international company able to avoid both the law and the media of its own country. Think of soccer as oil, FIFA as Chevron, and Brazilians (especially native and lower-class Brazilians) as the displaced and mistreated people, non-human animals, and environmental systems endangered as a result.

Despite all of this, it’s still okay to love soccer and watch the World Cup. We often feel guilty when we enjoy something that is problematic. What is important is to be able to openly criticize and recognize the fact that something is harmful, to a certain extent. It is important to be conscious, aware, and open minded about criticizing and analyzing an overall harmful event, even while being able to enjoy a soccer match, to root for your team. I think what makes FIFA so successful is that it essentially caters to nationalism’s power to control mass amounts of people. Being able to support your nation’s team on a world stage is incredibly powerful, and FIFA makes that possible. But, people should never be forcibly removed from their homes or put into incredibly unsafe labor conditions in order to rapidly finish a stadium just for an event that will likely only happen once in somebody’s lifetime in that country. All the while, some white men in suits are in Europe counting their change. Brazil is “minha casa,” my home, and it is “minha vida,” my life, that is ultimately at stake. People experience very real consequences for something that we as Americans and Europeans abroad can turn a blind eye to in a couple of weeks when the World Cup is finally finished.

Here is an example of just how important soccer in the media is for various countries:

References

(in order of reference)

“Brazil: FIFA Forces Evictions For World Cup, Police Brutality Rages”. [http://en.squat.net/2014/01/11/10654/].

Chiq da Silva website. [http://www.chiqdasilva.com/site/].

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: FIFA and the World Cup” YouTube video.
[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DlJEt2KU33I].

Vettorazzo, Lucas. “Polícia reprime protesto contra a Copa e agride dois jornalistas do Rio.” Folha UOL. 28 June 2014.
[http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2014/06/1478154-policia-reprime-protesto-contra-a-copa-e-agride-dois-jornalistas-no-rio.shtml].

“Contra a Copa: The Other Side of Brazil’s World Cup.” VICE Magazine. 14 June 2014.
[http://www.vice.com/vice-news/contra-a-copa-the-other-side-of-brazils-world-cup].

Gaffney, Christopher. “Hunting White Elephants/Caçando Elefantes Brancos.” 30 June 2014.
[http://www.geostadia.com/].

Azzoni, Tales. “Brazil inaugurates another World Cup stadium.” Associated Press. 9 March 2014.
[http://bigstory.ap.org/article/brazil-inaugurates-another-world-cup-stadium].

Lowenstein, Fiona. “Sexist FIFA President Sepp Blatter has made no secret of his feelings about women.” Bustle.
[http://www.bustle.com/articles/27547-sexist-fifa-president-sepp-blatter-has-made-no-secret-of-his-feelings-about-women].

Makhunga, Lindiwe. “Should FIFA move the ball on racism?”. Al Jazeera. 27 June 2014.
[http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/06/fifa-racism-20146278457474970.html].

Simon, Max. “FIFA Chief Sepp Blatter: If Gays Fear Qatar’s Homophobic Laws, They Should Abstain During World Cup.”
Queerty. 13 December 2010.
[http://www.queerty.com/fifa-chief-sepp-blatter-if-gays-fear-qatars-homophobic-laws-they-should-abstain-during-world-cup-20101213].

Coulter, Ann. “Any growing interest in soccer a sign of nation’s moral decay.” The Clarion-Ledger. 26 June 2014.
[http://www.clarionledger.com/story/opinion/columnists/2014/06/25/coulter-growing-interest-soccer-sign-nations-moral-decay/11372137/].

Wikipedia. “Lago Agrio oil field.” [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lago_Agrio_oil_field].

 

 

 

(For AP35, Cabrillo College).

Newtown, Connecticut, guns, and mental health.

In thinking about what happened on Friday (13 December 2012) I posted this status on Facebook: “Could gun control have prevented what happened today? No. Could it have made its chances drastically reduced? Yes. Even if you love guns or whatever, this should be enough reason to support gun control. End political status update.” Peoples’ criticisms chastised how one could talk about guns at a horrific and tragic time as this, and how objects, like guns, don’t cause crime. My point was not to point to gun control as the solution to the problem of mass murders in the United States, but quite the opposite. My point was that gun control is not the answer, but that gun control could contribute positively to preventative measures against situations like this form occurring. But the issue is not gun control. These types of horrible events occur as complex mixtures of social and political histories. What happened in Connecticut, or anywhere else, was due to a complicated history of political ideologies surrounding freedom and property ownership (yes, this includes guns), health care and our treatment and conceptions of mental health in the U.S.. It also arguably involves race and gender relations, pointing to the fact that most mass murders of this variety are committed by middle class, white men in suburban areas.

            First, I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not arguing for gun control as the sole and most integral aspect to solutions to preventing events like this from ever occurring. But it needs to be talked about. Most of the guns used in mass murder situations like this have been legally obtained, which for me points to the need to enhance laws around gun purchase and ownership. To argue that inanimate objects don’t cause crime is perfectly true. But that is to look at an object as separated and unconnected to human behavior. A family member of mine made an important point: “the human mind is confused, and doesn’t need a gun to prove this.” If a person, with poor mental health or not, has the intent to kill, they will find a way to do it. So, if a gun is available to them, that makes their job that much easier. If they didn’t have access to a gun, they obviously still could have gone into an elementary school with a bat, a knife, whatever, and killed children and teachers. But to the degree that they were able to kill with a gun? I highly doubt it. Not many people can go Uma Thurman-in-Kill-Bill style on a group of people. At some point they would have probably been apprehended in some form, making the murder of 27 people much less likely.

            A gun is an inanimate object. Someone commented on my status reminding me of the definition of “inanimate,” meaning, “1.Not alive, esp. not in the manner of animals and humans. 2.Showing no sign of life; lifeless.” The gun is just as lifeless as the person who was hit by the bullet that came from the gun whose trigger was pulled by another person. The gun is an inherently violent object. It possesses the power to kill. Even in the hands of a responsible person, or a hunter, its purpose is to end life. Of course there are other uses for guns; you can use it to simply injure or to announce your presence. But a gun is imbued with the power to kill. Humans created it in that context. An object is never simply an object, and is never totally disconnected from human behaviors, society, and culture. It doesn’t stand on its own or exist in a vacuum—it has a meaning and symbolism that surrounds it and that place it into use and discourse. It changes the way murder is defined and talked about. A murderer-with-a-gun is a much different person than a murderer-with-a-knife. The object has the power to redefine the human that uses it.

            Going back to my family member’s comment above, “the human mind doesn’t need a gun to prove this.” Truthfully, one of the biggest issues that revolves around mass murder is that of health care and the ways that Americans look at mental health and illness. I don’t need to say much on this subject, since the “Anarchist Soccer Mom” blog post touches on this particularly well, other than we stigmatize mental health to a degree in which total exclusion and confinement and inundating mental health patients in pharmaceutical drugs is a viable response. And when things go wrong and someone with poor mental health walks into a school and murders 27 children, the only appropriate this situation is to put them in prison (assuming they haven’t already committed suicide). With a health care system that focuses on preventative medicine and approaches mental health with more compassion and uses pharmaceutical drugs with care and discretion, we can begin to find a possible solution to mass murders.

But that’s not the only factor in this tragic, complicated equation. Guns, too, need to be approached with greater care and discussion in the political sphere. As do class, race, and gender privilege. The truth is that every one of these factors are intertwined and inseparable from one another. We can’t come to many conclusions or solutions to events like this from unfolding by hyperfocusing on one specific issue over another. To criticize discussions around gun control is to totally ignore an important factor in a mass murder, since guns were the weapons used to kill people. It is also to ignore the fact that the 2nd Amendment is seen as a sacred preservation of individual property rights and defense. And to look at only guns is to ignore an incredibly broken health care system. And to look only to the health care system is to ignore the role of the media in these situations. And to look only at the media is to ignore race, class, and gender relations in the country. We need to look at everything involved in a situation and situations like these in order to come to more poignant and effective preventative measures for disastrous and horrific mass murders like this to never happen again. 

What is a photo if only a myth?

Let me begin by stating that I have a horrendous memory. I can barely remember what happened last weekend much less my life when I was a child, and no I didn’t get super wasted last weekend. My interpretation of this photograph will not understand it within the context of when or where it was taken or what my life was like then, but in the context of present day, only because I can only understand it from the context I’m in right at this very moment. Thus, the significance of this photo when it was taken differs significantly from how it did ten years ago, or now.

I don’t remember anything about this photograph. All I can assume that it was more or less the 8th of May, 1991, judging by the fact that I am a newborn and it appears to be at a hospital. Clearly it was the 90s judging by my father’s sweater. The people in the photograph form left to right are: my brother, infant me, my mother, and my father. I was born in Burnsville, Minnesota where I would live until I was two years old and my parents would divorce. In fact, I chose this photograph more for what it hides and conceals than for what it truthfully shows. This is one of the only photographs I have with my mother, my father, and me all together, and only one of a few photos I have with my brother at all. (I also have two older sisters, 40 and 42 years old, from my father).

This photograph assumes I had a cohesive family unit, at least when I was born, and if someone only saw this, they may assume that I always have. But that is not the case. When my parents divorced I lived with my mother and we migrated from Minnesota to Southern California. However I can’t even recognize my mother in this photograph, because she has since lost the baby weight, and she dyed her hair blonde and it’s how I’ve always known her. Somehow her facial expression also seems alien and I can’t figure out why. My brother is 18 years older than me, my mother had him when she was 17, and he has always lived in Minnesota so I haven’t ever really gotten to know him. He’s also extremely timid and was at one point xenophobic, so we don’t have much of a relationship, especially on a generational level. In fact, the first two years of my life were the only two where I lived in the same house as my mother, my father, and most of my siblings (my oldest sister had moved out by the time I was born). And it almost doesn’t even exist because I have absolutely no recollection of it and minimal photographic evidence to prove it.

It is my father in this photo that is so unusual. I didn’t know him until I was in 6th grade when I was forced to move in with him. He looks basically the same, and it’s weird to see him smile at me. I’ve always been so detached from my father that I never felt he was my father, not to mention I look nothing like him. We don’t get along and have just about conflicting opinions about everything. And as soon as I had a job and made my own money, I was completely on my own. I like to say I raised myself, but that wouldn’t be giving enough credit to my mother, probably the most influential person in my life. Then I discovered this year that he really isn’t my father, which is why this photo makes me so uneasy. Literally nothing about this photograph is as it appears. It represents a myth that I ever had a family, a cohesive one at that, when I’ve never really had the feeling. I’ve only ever known my mom, and even she is unrecognizable. The entire thing is fiction, it is entirely myth, depicting a family portrait that never existed in reality. My brother hated my father, my mother hated my father, and it took me until I was 12 to know that I do too. On the other side, he hated us too.

Yet, like Bechdel, it really isn’t fake. The boy in the photo really is my brother, the woman really is my mother, and the man has always been understood to be my father for most of my life. Moreover, the baby in the picture has virtually always been a brother and a son to the others. But it doesn’t seem like that to me. It’s strange to see all of these people in one picture because it confirms that there was a point when we all were together. It is so foreign to me in every way. The concept of family has always evaded me, I feel like I’ve never really had one. The fact that my siblings are all approximately 20 years older than me reiterates that; I didn’t even have siblings to share my experiences with. I literally cannot comprehend what it’s like to have a family function, even when my mother’s side of the family is enormous. I was further alienated from family because they all lived in Minnesota, and I in California. My father’s side is tiny and disconnected. Because of this, I’ve always defined and created my own version of kin through friendships. I have always found the idea of a family really unusual, how you have to live with these people your entire life, no matter what conflicts occur or what your relationship is like. That’s why I find my relationship with my father so strange too. He is no doubt a major person who I will know, and have known, for a long time, yet I don’t relate and have a terrible relationship with. This is extrapolated by the thought that he never even had to be a part of my life because he’s not my biological father, something he may be very pleased about. This is especially interesting because what I am saying assumes that to be a “father,” one must be the “biological father,” when the entire concept of fatherhood is culturally constructed; just like I said before, I’ve created my own notions of family through non-blood relation to some extent.

What does this photograph reveal about my family or my life? Nothing. What does it conceal? Everything. Yet these are messy and complicated answers, because they don’t accurately represent every dynamic. The most unreal by far is my father smiling at me. It represents a false image of what never really was a stable family unit. I would prefer it be my mother looking at me, because it would be more accurate. And although I like that my brother is in the photo, if this were to be fully accurate, both he and my father would have to be missing. However, this is only how I am interpreting the photograph right now. My interpretation of it would have been different years ago, and will undoubtedly be different ten years from now. And I cannot comment on the family dynamics of the moment this photograph was taken based on the fact that I can’t remember it. I don’t even know who took it, maybe an aunt or a nurse? Everything I can understand about the specific time in which this was taken is only through how I interpret what my mom says about it. It is highly subjective and contextual, which adds to the fiction. The photograph is both real and fake, representing a particular fraction of a second in time that happened about 20 years ago, and a strange collection of people that I’ve never known to be in the same room at one time. The metaphor of a photograph functions particularly well here. All social, cultural, historical analyses aside, the photograph itself is a lie because it is only an oversimplified and muddied reproduction of the three-dimensional dynamics that actually were present that day, influenced by the past. No photograph can be separated from its context, but no photograph is ever being read from the context in which it was taken, only in the present day context of the person reading it.

Proceeding Unaccompanied

The pop music industry is experiencing an influx of new artists who were previously songwriters for other famous pop musicians, now trying to make their own break into the pop music scene, including Jason Derülo. Like most Top 40 hits, I detested Derülo’s “Ridin’ Solo” as soon as I heard it. I didn’t even know who the artist was; I just knew I hated it. Something about auto-tune, conventional synth beats, and his high octave nasal voice that comes off as whiny just doesn’t sit right with me. My first reactions to the dislike for this song are purely aesthetic choices in taste. However, what exactly is it about this taste that renders this song so appealing to some, and so distasteful to others like myself? Clearly there is subjective decision involved, but to elaborate upon what the nuances of taste are that distinguish myself from those who love “Ridin’ Solo” requires an analysis of the cultural and historical context surrounding this quasi-sociological study of popular music and taste, focusing on Jason Derülo’s single, “Ridin’ Solo.”

The first thing to note about the popular music industry is that it is exactly that: an industry. In this way, pop music has fulfilled the American dream, the Protestant work ethic, seen through mediums such as American Idol. Consequently it has entered the dangerous territory of its “paradoxical partnership” with capitalism. As Carl Wilson pointed out, capitalism’s entire goal is to move into a potential clientele and essentially exploit their tastes for profit, which is something the pop music industry has gotten really talented at. I think that the pop music industry is not completely an entity imposing its force upon a “duped” mass, rather it is more like what Ian Hacking called a “looping effect,” people are exposed to a certain culture or stereotype and react to it, in turn reinforcing or recreating that culture. The pop music industry is not telling people what to like, it’s recapitulating exactly what they think people will like. But the idea of my musical taste coming from a bunch of capitalist-minded entrepreneurs behind the scenes of the pretty faces of their weapon of choice, faces like Jason Derülo, sits with me badly.

Jason Derülo, born Jason Desrouleaux in Miami to Haitian parents, began his career as a songwriter for people like Diddy, Danity Kane, Sean Kingston, and Lil’ Wayne (Wikipedia). He, like many others, desired a solo (the double meaning is comical) performance career, which is what he got when music producer J.R. Rotem discovered him. In order to understand popular music and why people are drawn to “Ridin’ Solo” the philosophy of music producers, and Rotem in particular, must be explained as well.  In an interview with the website Hit Quarters, Rotem discussed Derülo’s debut single “Whatcha Say,” which sampled an Imogen Heap track, saying that he knows samples “work because they’re already hits familiar to people. Familiarity works.” He said something similar about the type of beats he produces that appear in “Ridin’ Solo.” When asked about his opinions on the popular music, Rotem describes his productions along the lines that he is required to create music that is a “service people will want to spend their money on,” and he distinguishes his music as “commercial appeal” versus “very weird” and “artistic music.” This illustrates perfectly Hall’s idea of pop culture as a battlefield, where people are constantly pushing the boundaries in the name of innovation while restricted by cultural ideologies that would condemn them to failure, which means no money. In fact, Rotem’s music “has something innovative [and] fresh, but at the same time not so innovative that it’s over people’s heads.” Perhaps people are seeing his renditions of more familiar tracks and beats as innovation, and so they are pleased with an alternate view of familiarity. This adaptation in something already done is respectable, and is indeed innovative to some degree, a respectable aspect of Rotem’s business. He even goes so far as to separate himself from art, calling his music “commercial appeal” and “artistic music” “very weird.” While I may not disagree with him because of my own bias against the music he produces, I find it strange that he is in a way rejecting his own music as art. Maybe he only sees it as good business sense and profit—strictly business. While I view Rotem’s perspective of his demographic as cultural “dupes,” having no faith in their artistic or taste sensibilities and trying not to make music that goes “over their heads,” I feel it’s more of a safe move of Rotem so as to eschew failure and the surrender of profit.

But it is still necessary to investigate what about “Ridin’ Solo” in particular that appeals to so many people embedded in a mass culture. On the surface, it is exactly what Rotem wanted, a catchy tune of familiarity to appeal to mass audiences, an intentional absence of innovation to avoid making people feel uncomfortable. The beat present in the song is practically universal; almost anyone can dance to it. I believe this is a crucial component to most pop music—danceabliity. In my opinion, Derülo’s hit is more it’s success in dance clubs and less lyrics or story that are responsible for it’s success. The song’s danceability is the reason why it became the number four hit single in Australia, nineteen in Canada, number one in the United Kingdom, and number nine in the United States in 2010, the year it was released (“Whatcha Say” was considerably more successful, reaching number one in the United States).

That is not to say that the lyrics are superfluous to its meaning or success. “Ridin Solo” tells the story of an unidentified person, probably anyone, who is elated about their newfound bachelorhood. I was skeptical at first, how this song’s lyrics could appeal to so many if it’s about the failure of love, however I soon realized a positive effect of this song. The lyrics explicitly assert autonomy, in lines such as “Finally doing me and it feels so right/ Time to do the things I like,” “No one to answer to,” and “I’m livin’ my life, ain’t got stress no more.” And autonomy is not such a negative quality to possess. The song, rather than applauding the failure of a relationship, demeaning the other person, and acclaiming the lack of companionship, the song is welcoming individuality and sovereignty through an extremely conventional medium and equally extremely repetitious lyricism. The only lines that express contempt towards the narrator’s ex-lover are “Told me to get my shit together/ Now I got my shit together,” not so much subjugating the other party but reinforcing the woven theme of autonomy throughout the song. Derülo sings about the “pain [being] gone,” and that he is “sorry but it’s over now,” communicating to his audience that it is better to end a bad relationship with someone instead of let it persist. Emotionally speaking, Derülo makes it exasperatingly clear that it is better to be content than be in a bad relationship, to “ride solo.”

Other factors that may possibly play into the success of “Ridin’ Solo” aside from its danceability and praise of autonomy are much more material. It seems that Derülo is marketed similar to the persona conveyed by the early Chris Brown, the pretty, ladies’ man/boy, who cares about women and love and is still “cool.” He even has the dance talent of Chris Brown aside from the uncanny looks and vocal style. In a way, Derülo is catering to the audience that is scarred by Chris Brown’s abuse of Rhianna and need a new person to look up to. Still, it seems that Derülo has fulfilled what Rotem said about him, that he “has one of the most impressive work ethics [Rotem has] ever come across—he just keeps knocking out songs in the studio. That’s an amazing quality.” Indeed it is a good quality, if economic capital is the desired result in lieu of cultural capital. He is reinforcing the notion of the pop music industry as a machine, churning out formulated hit after hit, playing it safe with “familiar” beats and samples that aren’t too innovative.

This correspondence between capitalism and music, Rotem’s disregard for “art,” and Derülo’s exhausting repetition and my own personal aversion for this type of aesthetic reveals something about my own opinions about music. Derülo has taught me that there is not an absence of substance in pop music, rather it is overwhelmingly elementary because it is bound by the confines of music producers like Rotem who need to ensure that it will be generalized to appeal to as many people in a market as possible to drive profit. While I respect Rotem’s perspective on innovation, placing a new spin on a familiar track, he seems to compromise art and aestheticism for the sake of profit. Personally, this forced superficiality and refrain from innovation or talent cannot be undermined by greed; I see it as an excuse to play it safe and lazily ride the wave of profit in place of advancing the music to a more sincere or different level. While appealing to a mass audience is a valuable and productive method for communicating a message, this should not inhibit music’s emotion and profound meaning. I believe this is the reason why “Ridin’ Solo” so obnoxiously relays a valuable message to a mass audience—he has been intentionally blocked from creating anything innovative or compelling because of capitalism and the need to produce a catchy dance beat for the clubs. This may say something about my own “eliticism” or notions of bourgeois aestheticism tied to socioeconomic class, but my aversion comes from the fact that greed and profit are not justified reasons to produce insipid music that actually has potential. I would rather assert my own autonomy and ride solo of Jason Derülo’s “Ridin’ Solo.”

Thoughts on Ramírez’ “Afrofuturism/Chicanafuturism”

I was very interested in learning about these new concepts that I’ve never heard of before. I was very interested throughout Ramírez’ article and agreed with a lot of the points she made. However I was slightly confused and taken aback when she talked about her changing her curriculum to address the racial makeup of her classroom.

It bothers me that she wouldn’t want to teach a course about black people to a group of non-blacks, or what she is implying as white males, the predominant demographic of science fiction, so she changed the curriculum. If anything wouldn’t she want to increase awareness or education about the subject to people who aren’t black? Or why would she assume non-black people want or need to learn about this or would be interested in it? Yes, the institutionalized racism of the University has made it less diverse, and this is bad, but that isn’t necessarily the fault of the students or their views–that is at the top, in the bureaucracy of the University. This aspect of her essay seems racist to me.


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