Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Tuesday, March 08, 2021

John McWhorter is a prominent conservative voice on African-American sociological/cultural issues. He hasn’t been shy about dismissing the notion of music serving as a galvinizing force in current black political consciousness, and he brought that message to Tampa last weekend.

“As far as I’m concerned, [hip-hop’s] about as important as disco,” McWhorter told 300 people at the Grand Hyatt. “It’s no more revolutionary than, for example, Stayin’ Alive .

McWhorter, who has risen to fame by challenging the conventional thinking of left-leaning African-American leaders, is turning his focus squarely on the pervasive music of such artists as 50 Cent, Puff Daddy and the late Tupac Shakur. And he doesn’t spare the so-called conscience rappers like Mos Def and Nas.

The criticism flies in the face of intellectual leaders such as Cornel West and Michael Eric Dyson, who boast of finding social value in the music. It’s those thoughts, and the rise of hip-hop courses on college campuses, that bother McWhorter the most.

“The point is that there are a lot of people out there now who think hip-hop … is politics,” McWhorter explained. “That this music promises some sort of second civil rights revolution. They have a serious problem.”

While I differ with McWhorter on the details of his critiques, at core I’m in agreement: Casting rap (the term I prefer to hip-hop — just my thing) as a political medium is folly. In fact, I’m of the opinion that relying upon music as the delivery vehicle for in-depth political or social discussion is a bad idea.

I touched upon this back during 2004’s campaign season:

There is, of course, a long history of using music to motivate younger people to get political. Folk music is almost synonymous with activism. The various musician-promoted voter drives (from “Rock the Vote” to P. Diddy’s current “Vote or Die”) have taken advantage of popular music’s pipeline to young minds who otherwise might never visit a ballot box.

Whether or not it’s the right medium for conveying the message is questionable. I tend to think it does lead toward a faddish impulse, without a truly lasting impression. But if the aim is to just get out the vote for the current election, long-term results aren’t necessarily important (not any more so than any other segment of the population).

That largely sums up my feeling: Music is great as a motivating force, but it’s got limited usefulness. It’s as wrapped up in celebrity worship as any other creative field, and to me, that doesn’t hold up well for getting beyond short-term goals (i.e., getting out the vote). If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of serious debate, you have to actually take in more advanced concepts, and at some point, you have to abandon the crutches of melody and rhyme to do that.

So, at root, McWhorter is right to admonish a line of thinking that confuses the medium with the message. I think it goes beyond just rap and into all popular music: They’re great for tapping interest, but ill-suited for substantive examination.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/08/2021 11:38:50 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Politics | Permalink | Feedback (2)

spaced, for rent
No, the whole body-parts-as-billboard phenomenon didn’t escape my notice.

Body-part auctions multiplied on eBay beginning in January after Andrew Fischer, 20, of Omaha, auctioned his forehead for 30 days to SnoreStop. Fischer got $37,375; Snore Stop got millions in free publicity.

After that, scores of eBayers rushed to their computers to auction their own body parts. Most offer to wear an ad for a specified period as they go about their daily business. “But the law of supply and demand is always in effect. If you’ve got 50 of the same thing (being auctioned), it’s not going to drive the same attention,” says eBay spokesman Hani Durzy.

Honestly, I was initially skeptical of that $37 grand figure — it seemed high for such a gimmicky stunt. But it turns out to be true, and more power to both parties for it.

This sort of thing has been predicted/speculated for years. Presumably, it’d work as an extension of the designer labels that so many people proudly display on their heavily-marked-up clothing (disclaimer: I’m one of them). If you like having Calvin Klein’s stitchery hanging off your limbs, then that same mentality should make tattoo-like logos on your skin appealing. And companies would seek out the most desirable subjects as living platforms for their ad messages, meaning model-quality bods.

Will it come to pass? It’s possible, especially with the increasing popularity of tattooing in general, and the increasing ease of electronic micropayments. But so far, it’s been proceeding in fits and starts, mainly due to skepticism on the part of companies. I doubt the Andrew Fischer episode will be the breakthrough.

Maybe the procreative body type, serving a specific market niche, is the key:

… GoldenPalace.com, an online casino, paid eight-months-pregnant Elise Harp of Roswell, Ga., $8,800 to temporarily tattoo its Web address on her belly.

“Pregnant bellies are perfect for baby companies,” says Ed Vallejo, co-owner of Belly Up Advertising, which helps connect advertisers with available body parts. Several such companies have popped up just in the past two months.

Between mom’s bellyspace, and the forming marketplace for baby naming-rights, we could be seeing the dawn of a purely ad revenue-driven generation.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/08/2021 10:27:00 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Society | Permalink | Feedback (5)

It turns out that, once you get past Leap Year Day, 1988’s calendar matches 2005’s, exactly to the day.


More on this later. Later, as in April. (I guess I’m committed now.)

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/08/2021 09:49:59 PM
Category: General | Permalink | Feedback (2)

With the War on Terror forcing the CIA and other intelligence departments to supersize in a super-hurry, there’s an “actuarial certainty” of terrorists infiltrating these agencies’ hiring pools.

If you can’t trust even your own spies, who can you trust?

This brings to mind John le Carre’s “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold”:

“What do you think spies are: Priests, saints and martyrs? They’re a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, sadists and drunkards, people who play Cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives.”

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/08/2021 08:09:07 PM
Category: Political, Society | Permalink | Feedback

Ever since reading the answers to last week’s Trivia Quiz on Ladybuggin this morning, I’ve had “Wheel in the Sky” by Journey flowing through my mind.

I hate Journey.

I absolutely hate them. I hate the cheesier-than-cheesy lyrics, I hate the pedestrian composition, I hate the shrill timbre of the vocals, and I hate the lowest-common-denominator infectiousness of their finished product.

The only good thing about the ’80s ending was that they took Journey with them. I’m sure that whichever Circle of Hell I wind up inhabiting won’t be complete without gigantic loudspeakers that spew Steve Perry’s warbling tones over and over and over, to torture my everlasting soul for eternity.

So, you can imagine what today was like for me.

P.S. Yes, Hoobastank and other flavor-of-the-month phenoms stink too. Today’s dearth of musical competence doesn’t make Journey look any better by comparison, though.

- Costa Tsiokos, Tue 03/08/2021 06:56:45 PM
Category: Pop Culture | Permalink | Feedback (3)