Sunday, March 30, 2008

12

Well, to unveil my official opinion about the Vogue cover that I know you’ve been waiting for with baited breathe is that I pretty much refuse to have an opinion about the Vogue cover. I’m not pretending that it doesn’t exist, I’m just thinking along the lines that if we, or I, feed into an idea like this that it just perpetuates a problem rather than finding any actual answers.

The issue of the cover raises a lot of questions though. And maybe they’re questions that need to be asked in a mainstream forum. Is it racist because we READ racism into it? Is that reading in and of itself inherently racist? Does it say more about us as people, as a conglomerate if we see there being this intertextuality between an image of a white woman and a black man to King Kong?

There has been a lot of focus on this cover, and a lot of it I can say is needless. But, when talking about representation in media, I thought about how when you flip through a Vogue, how many images of minorities do you see? I have a copy of the Vogue at my house and have looked through it, and there were some stunning photographs of Bundchen and James together. So why this cover? Why not this cover?

All in all, I don’t really have an answer, just a series of questions following questions. I think that a dialogue about representations of minorities in mainstream media definitely needs to be opened up and embraced, but I question the validity of this cover to be the catalyst for this. I fear that this is all going to be chalked up to a debate over what is politically correct; another means to gloss over the actual problem rather than facing issues head on. But we shall see.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

11: Common, Vogue?

There has been an incredibly large amount of controversy of the the cover of the newest issue of Vogue. Critics, subscribers, and the public have been engaging in debate over whether or not they think that the cover is racist. Before you read on, take a look at the cover here.

The argument made is that the stance that LeBron James has been photographed in is reminiscent of King Kong, while Giselle Bundchen is depicting the fragile, helpless women.

I will post my personal take on the cover tomorrow, but I just thought I'd throw the image out for you guys to take a look at first and consider. I don't want to sway your opinion before you get a chance to take a good look at it. If you want to think more about it, I suggest you ask what does it mean that this cover is being interpreted this way? Does this make a comment on race and gender in a positive or negative manner? What is at stake? From the buzz around the internet, this is the first black man to appear on the cover of Vogue. What connotations do we look at when that is thrown into the mix?

Gisele B√ľndchen and LeBron James Vogue Cover Controversy. A Socialite's Life. March 28 2008, March 29 2008.


Lebron, Gisele Bunchen Vogue cover stirs up controversy. TheStar.com. March 25 2008. March 29 2008.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

10: the reflex

Since last night’s class, I’ve been thinking a lot about our potential for resistance and what resistance means for us right now. As soon as this was brought up, it reminded me of this interview Neil Young where he stated:
“The time when music could change the world is past. I think it would be very naive to think that in this day and age. The world today is a different place, and that it’s time for science and physics and spirituality to make a difference in this world and to try to save the planet.”

That statement has been a dark cloud for me over the past few days. I keep replaying the idea over to myself that if Neil Fucking Young doesn’t think that music can change the world anymore, the man whose music stood as a beacon for so many people, then what is it that we’re supposed to do?

I do not understand the math behind physics, and I vaguely appreciate spirituality to an extent, but music is something that I think I’ve come to understand, in some way or another. Music is something that most people can have access to. And, despite your politics, it’s something that is free. Anyone can make it, anyone can enjoy it. When taught in schools it makes kids smarter. It’s engaging. Maybe it’s not the music’s potential in and of itself to make a difference that’s past, maybe we’re just waiting for the right people to execute the medium correctly again.

Paraphrasing a quotation from a video we watched yesterday, that even if the effort is trivial, but contributes to happiness, then it might be on to something (I do not remember what it was called, help me out if you will). So yes, everything does get appropriated and everything sucks. Despite the fact that I’ve been pretty jaded and bitter about most things in my thinking lately, I think I’m finally getting that even if that is true, it’s at least worth a try to make some sort of change. And why not have fun doing it. It’s clear that we – our culture at large – love the idea of instant pleasure; why not use that for something positive? If everything gets worse and all of my worst fears come true (we all become bottled water drinking, hummer driving, bon jovi loving capitalists) then we can at least say we tried?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

9

Last Monday. Lauren and I were discussing the relevance and importance of celebrity culture. Our discussion lead me to think about the content that is posted daily, and beyond that, the potential meaning it has on a grander scale. I readily admit that I engage in the cult of celebrity. I read Perez Hilton daily, I know about Patrick Swayze and what defamatory comments Jessica Alba has made recently. But is there something more to it than just that? Beyond all of the standard trash talk and music recommendations, we both saw the medium becoming something much bigger.

Every once and a while, Perez will deviate from his normal practice of drawing coke noses on paparazzi photos and give some sort of commentary on what's going on in the world -- be it reports on which democratic candidate is his pick, what the situation is Venezuela is, or what's the deal with the writer's strike.

All of this eventually lead me back to something that Duncombe said in the chapter "Recognize Everyone:"

"In the absence of a unifying moral textbook, celebrity gossip becomes one of the places where we work out what is right and what is wrong and, through our interpretations of the actions of these characters eke out a moral code to live by"(Duncombe, 113-4).

When Hilton posts these pieces of non-celebrity text, there's usually the typical wave of offensive comments, but what I'm beginning to see is real, thought out responses and commentary on what has been written; actual engagement with the information that Hilton has provided. While it may not be completely constructive or rational, it still is providing people with a forum to express their responses to the content that has just been published. What does this do to the shape of the moral text book that we create? I'm really beginning to see that there could be more to this entire thing than just the notions that" cocaine is bad, adoption is great” that people have typically been getting from the gossip provided. If this can be used as a tool to shape mores, then can it be a jumping point for readers to become actively involved in the world outside of junk entertainment? And, if social norms are being established, along with interactions with the political, will this become a forum to make politics something to be more readily engaged with, rather than something tedious and out of reach?



Duncombe, Stephen. Dream: Re-imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy. New York: The New Press, 2007.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

net neutrality

just a quick post,

I had never encountered the concept of net neutrality, and therefore didn't really understand much about it. But I was hunting around on digg and found this video that explained what it's about. So if anyone is as clueless about it as I was, I've posted the video. Hope it helps!


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

7: reaction to dream, part one

The Stephen Duncombe book really struck me at a level that surprised myself. Mostly because I could see myself in it. And not in a particularly flattering way.

When my mom, sister and I were making the trek back from Guelph to my hometown (which, may I preface with the fact that my town loves its conservatism, gas guzzling luxury vehicles purchased with sweet, sweet, nuclear power money and large trucks for the country kids thrown into the mix for kicks) for reading week, we were being tailgated by someone driving a Hummer. This garnered my response of: “Driving a Hummer automatically makes you an asshole,” and thusly started my shtick about why SUVs are killing the planet, blah blah blah.

Later, I went on to yell about why I thought drinking bottled water made you an asshole, all while making my eloquently planned out argument about how you shouldn’t try to commodify something that is a right, further blah blah blah.

My sister finally looked at me and said “So okay, in your world, there would be no sweet cars or ways to drink when you are not near a fountain. Your world would be terrible, and you are the asshole.”

I really tried to downplay the fact that I got metaphorically body slammed by my younger sister and her shoddy argument, but the fact was, in all respects, I was being an asshole. When I read this passage in Dunbcombe’s book, I stopped and said to myself “Dear god, this is you.”

Think of how progressives often frame their demands for ending dependence on fossil fuels: don’t buy a sport utility vehicle, don’t drive over 55 miles per hour, don’t waste gas. Don’t, don’t, don’t. …It’s fun to drive fast: one feels invincible in an SUV, and bare skin is sexy. This doesn’t mean that wasting energy should be celebrated, only that it is worth figuring out way people do it before simply condemning, regulating, and repressing (34-5).

So for all of my good intentions, I was actually coming off as an elitist to both of them. Everything that I feel was positive that I had to say was paired with this looming negative. Rather than demonstrating what was positive about my ideas, such as the all important ability to breathe freely, I was completely isolating them and probably making them feel as if they were the targets, and therefore wanted no part in it.

When you’ve become disenfranchised with the way things are going, I guess it’s easier to feel the negative because, at your most base level, sometimes that’s the only thing that you feel you have. I lead myself to believe that all of the injustices and reprehensible things that I saw as an immediate issue would resonate in the same place for everyone as it did for me.

My intention was completely lost in the fact that the only thing that I knew how to do was to preach: Preach about how Hummers make the atmosphere cry sulpheric tears, how bottled water will probably give you cancer –cancer you paid for, at that. And it didn’t stop there. For as long as I’ve distanced myself from my family’s politics in lieu of my own, I’ve probably been slapping them in the face with my rhetoric rather than finding ways for them to relate with them. Rather than guiding, I’ve been sort of punishing them with my ideas.

I think on a whole, I’m going to be able to apply Duncombe’s book on a much smaller level to myself. He states: “…progressives need to think less about presenting facts and more about how to frame these facts in such a way that they make sense and hold meaning for everyday people” (10). If I can’t be fun, if my message can’t be interesting or engaging or anything to anyone else but myself, then what’s the point of having a message?