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Another YouTube Phenomenon: "What Do You Love About Music"

So I heard this quote last night, and it reminded me of gwen's thesis (or at the very least, her thesis proposal, which dealt with the difference between activist rock in the sixties and the lame stuff we're left with today):

"Rock isn't dangerous anymore. The revolutionaries have long since packed their bags and moved uptown, creating a void left to be filled with derivative, tired out music, faux-angst, and lip gloss. Hollywood has officially invaded rock, and Hollywood ain't dangerous."

Where did I hear this, you might wonder? C'mon, I'm in MS 190... where ELSE would I have heard it but YouTube?

Next semester...

If any of you have space in your schedules for next semester... Professor Susan Larsen is offering a class on visual culture in Russia, which will be cross-listed with Media Studies. Not many people registered for this course, which is a shame, because it should be great! I took a class on Stalinist film and fiction with Professor Larsen during sophomore year, and it was absolutely amazing. I did a couple projects on children's literature in the USSR, and we also read some fascinating books and watched some incredibly interesting films. Larsen is a fantastic prof, really intelligent and passionate. You can't go wrong by taking this course.

Revised Thesis Proposal

I just realized that it's been a while since I've posted anything relating to my thesis on the blog, even though I've been working on it a LOT lately (as we all have, I'm sure, given last week's deadline). Here's my revised proposal. Congrats to everyone on all the work you've done this semester... it's been really interesting to hear about how far you've all come.


"Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato's cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth."
-Susan Sontag, On Photography

In my senior thesis, I plan to explore and examine the evolution of photographic truth, a concept that has intrigued and influenced theorists, artists, photojournalists, and the general public since the time of this medium's invention. I became interested in this topic as a junior while taking a class on the history of photography with Professor Kathleen Howe. For my final project in the course, I created a digital exhibit called "Contesting the Myth of Photographic Truth," which featured about 40 images dating from 1839 to 2004. Through this exhibit, I wanted to illustrate the longstanding power of photography as a tool of deception and counter the popular notion of the photograph as "an unmediated copy of the real world, a trace of reality skimmed off the very surface of life" (Sturken and Cartwright 17). Pictures have been altered since the nineteenth century, but the proliferation of digital image-editing software has made manipulation more efficient, convincing, and widespread than ever. As a result, people know that photographs have the ability to deceive--yet in spite of this knowledge, they still perceive photographs as unadulterated depictions of reality. This phenomenon, mentioned in a number of theoretical texts, strikes me as an interesting contradiction. If we realize that photographs can lie, why do we still believe them?

What was Iman thinking?

I just discovered the "I Am African" campaign website, which features images of celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker, Richard Gere, Elizabeth Hurley, and Elijah Wood in tribal makeup. Sure, it's for a good cause (i.e. raising money for AIDS victims)... but as neurotica said in response to my post about Regina Spektor's video for "On the Radio," it's the impact and not the intention that really counts.

The impact here, in my opinion, is the exotification of African culture. The face paint creates a false image of Africans as primitive. My friend who spent the last two summers in Africa says she has never once seen anyone there in tribal makeup. To make matters worse, it's not even an "authentic" representation, since Iman has said that it's something along the lines of a "modern reinterpretation of the African aesthetic" (okay, she didn't exactly phrase it that way, but that's the jist of it). I'm also struck by how "sexed up" the images of women are. Whereas David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz, Alan Cumming, Richard Gere, and Elijah Wood have shirts on, all of the women are completely naked, except for the occasional necklace or headdress. They also wear tons of makeup, and their hair has that studio-produced windblown look to it. They seem like sex symbols to such a degree that the humanitarian message gets completely lost. The pictures comprise most of the advertisement, and the phrase "I AM AFRICAN" appears in large text at the bottom, but the actual message of the campaign is in such tiny print that it would probably not even catch someone's eye as they flip through a magazine. In short, pretty much everything about this campaign seems flawed to me. Our common humanity is a positive message, but it just doesn't come through when it's depicted through such naive and offensive imagery.

Race, Media, and Regina Spektor

Lately I've been loving Regina Spektor's songs and music videos (I recommend "Fidelity," "Samson," "Us," and "On the Radio" for starters), but I noticed some controversy on YouTube surrounding her work, and I thought it might be worth mentioning here.

Regina Spektor's music video for "On the Radio"

As you'll see if you click on the link, the video shows Regina as a teacher in an elementary school music classroom. Sounds innocent enough, right? But if you dig through the 90+ comments that have been left on the page, you'll see that lots of people aren't too happy with the fact that Regina is white and all the schoolchildren are black. Some people called it "colonialist," implying that Regina sees herself as the "white woman who takes it upon herself to educate the black children." One person left the comment, "Sooooooo racist." Other people say that there should have been children of ALL races in the video (even though that strikes me as a little too "It's a Small World After All"... if that phrase can be used as an adjective... oh well, you get what I mean). I have to admit that it did strike me as a little odd at first, but I figured that Regina seems a little too sensitive and poetic to be a crazy colonialist. I really doubt that she intended for the video to cause any kind of controversy. Nevertheless, people have read it as problematic, which says a lot about how race is perceived in popular media.

My apologies to Richard Parsons

For this blog entry, I'm going to go through the notes I made in the margins of Siva Vaidhyanathan's book and expand upon one of them. There are a lot of things I'd like to say about the book, and Vaidhyanathan covers a ton of different topics, but I'm just going to flip through and find one thing to discuss here.

(Slight tangent: Spell Check on Microsoft Word doesn't recognize the word "blog." Weird. Maybe I'm just using an old version or something. And yes, I am a creature of habit; I can't write a reading response directly into my blog for fear that Internet Explorer will close randomly, causing all my work to disappear. You can call me paranoid, but trust me, it's happened before, and it's such a pain to rewrite something after spending time on it. In other news, I'm in the library because my computer broke last week, and the guy in the computer cubicle next to me has fallen asleep and started snoring reeeally loudly. Awesome.)

Our last registration

In just a few weeks, we'll be through with fall semester... which also means we'll be second-semester seniors. Am I the only person who feels like this happened really, really quickly?

Anyway, registration this morning was the easiest it's ever been, but in some ways I feel like I wasted it. I didn't sign up for any of those coveted classes, the ones that only seniors get into... I mean, Senior Thesis was a given, so there wasn't any surprise that I got into THAT one, and aside from that, I'm taking two Art History classes to complete my minor. I also registered for a couple electives which I may or may not end up dropping... plus some P.E. classes in hopes that I'll suddenly get inspired to work out on a regular basis.

If you're free this Wednesday at 4:15...

The last candidate for the position in Media Studies / Sociology will be speaking tomorrow at 4:15 PM in Hahn 108! Details below...


(Ph.D. Northwestern University)
Candidate in Sociology & Media Studies


Wednesday, November 29
4:15 PM, Hahn 108

Devorah Heitner is a Ph.D. Candidate in Media, Technology, & Society at Northwestern. Her research focuses on how African Americans challenged racist conditions in U.S. media by creating a national movement of black public a

Michael Barnes talk

Thanks to those of you who came to the Michael Barnes talk today! What did you think? To be honest, he sort of bored me at the beginning with his discussion of sociological just didn't seem all that dynamic or engaging...BUT I thought he was excellent when he talked about hip hop DJ culture. It was especially cool that he incorporated music and video clips into his talk (particularly the video clip he recorded at the DMC, which shows that he went to the competition and is really involved in hip hop culture on a personal level). I think he'd be great as a prof in an elective class on hip hop or any other subject he's really passionate about, but I think his intro theory courses might make some students fall asleep.

LECTURE MONDAY: "Distinction within Hip Hop DJ Culture"

Then Monday just might be your lucky day...

"Dig This: Distinction within Hip Hop DJ Culture"

Lecture by Michael Barnes
Candidate in Media Studies & Sociology

Monday, November 27
4:15 pm, Hahn 108

Barnes might be hired at Pomona, depending on how students and faculty feel about this lecture... so please come and give your feedback. Your opinion will help determine whether or not he will teach here!!