linkthink re: hip-hop, reggae, the US, jamaica, and anything else wayne wants to wax on


you'll get a lightning bolt

"you wasn't there jammys" . . . "you never mix none of them tracks there" . . . "is I mix everything" . . . "you know-seh you're lying" . . . "you gonna do me something?" . . . "who wan' rob a dead man?" . . . "greensleeves a 'rob a dead man' thing" . . .*


the scientist saga continues...

exhibit A and B: "jammy's lies"

backstory via the west indian times:
West Indian Times Exclusive!!

Dub Engineer ‘The Scientist’ Fears For His Life As He And Record Label/Producer Jah Life Receive Death Threat From King Jammys Henchman

On Saturday, March 25th, 2006 West Indian Times was alerted by veteran artists and producers in the Reggae industry to the existence of 2 separate recordings of conversations which included death threats towards Dub Engineer Hopeton Overton ‘The Scientist’ Browne and Producer/Label owner Hyman ‘Jah life’ Wright as well as admission of perjury in a US court by King Jammys. One of the recordings is a conversation between King Jammys (a record label/producer based in Jamaica) and Dub Engineer Scientist who is based in America and the other recording is of a conversation between The Scientist and a man who stated that King Jammys was his boss.

After listening to the recordings West Indian Times spoke to Browne and Jah Life to find out what led to the death threats. We were given history that spanned over 30 years in the music industry; history, secrets, facts that only a few are privy to. For now, we will share with you our readers the information we were given as to what directly led up to the death threats against Scientist and Jah Life.

In 2003 The Scientist filed a law suit in the United States Federal Court against Greensleeves record label (based in England) and the company RockStar the makers of the game ‘Grand Theft Auto’ for copyright infringement. The Scientist had challenged Greensleeves for the recording and composition copyrights of five tracks which they used on the video game, Grand Theft Auto 3. The music was originally from one of The Scientist's albums that was released in the 80's entitiled 'Scientist Rids The World Of The Evil Vampires.' The Scientist’s music was included in the violent video game without his knowledge or consent. Greensleeves had made a deal with RockStar for the company to use the music by The Scientist and when Greensleeves was asked by RockStar if they had the rights to the music they said they did. Greensleeves indemnified Rockstar meaning they would be responsible for any costs incurred if there was a claim by any person stating that they had rights to the music.

In the US court Greensleeves had to produce the documents that were signed with RockStar for Grand Theft Auto, they had to produce the shipping bill and all the information regarding pressing. Greensleeves also produced a document which was alleged to have been signed by a producer and marketing rep who represented both Jah Life (US) and The Scientist (Jamaica) overseas. This producer/marketing rep. was Henry ‘Junju’ Lawes. The document was signed in approximately 1978 and showed where Greensleeves paid Junju for music. They also produced a second document which was allegedly signed by Lawes around 1994 before he died. The second document signed by Lawes basically gave ownership and copyright of music by over 30 artists to Greensleeves. However, nowhere on the contract did it mention an amount that was paid for the copyright ownership. There was also a question in court as to the validity of the documents signed by Junju Lawes as he was illiterate and Greensleeves knew this, in fact both Jah Life and Scientist say that Greensleeves would not work with them, only through Jun Ju as they could get away with fooling him as he could not read or write. Scientist and Jah Life claim that this is why Junju was named as producer on over 30 + albums that he took to Greensleeves instead of them. Also, it was noted that both contracts had identical signatures, no deviation and even had the same smudge marks as though the second signature was cut and paste from the first contract.

King Jammys Testifies For Greensleeves

Since there were doubts as to the validity of the contract signed by Junju, Greensleeves had Producer / Record Label owner King Jammys travel from Jamaica to America to testify in court on behalf of Greensleeves and against The Scientist. In court King Jammys testified that The Scientist was a young boy of 14/15 years old and did not have the experience to engineer the music that he says he did. He also said that he, King Jammys was the boss and foreman at King Tubbys studio in Kingston where the work was produced and when The Scientist did any work it was on a ‘work for hire’ basis, you got paid for your work one time and you owned no copyright. The Scientist says this is not true and although he was very young, King Tubby trusted him implicitly to open up and lock up the studio as well as engineer the music. Unfortunately King Tubby is deceased and unable to verify this. However, Jah Life verified that what The Scientist said is true. Jah Life states that at no time was Jammys in the studio with them, it was only The Scientist, Jah Life and Junju’s brother ‘Melon.’

Another artist, veteran DJ Lady Ann also spoke to West Indian Times saying that she was there in the studios most of the time with The Scientist and that he was the best mixing engineer of those times. Lady Ann said that King Tubby’s studio was the worst place in Kingston, she said you had to pass gunmen who would ask if you are PNP or JLP in order for you to get past and you had to answer ‘Musician’. Lady Ann said that Jammys (who was Prince Jammys at the time) would not go to the studio because it was too dangerous and she knew that Jammys was envious of The Scientist because of the trust and faith that King Tubbys put into Scientist. Lady Ann says she too is fighting for her royalties so that her children are set before she leaves this earth.

Why Did King Jammys Lie?

According to The Scientist, King Jammys along with Lynval Thompson are the only people who records show are paid by Greensleeves. Lynval Thompson is also a record producer. It is in King Jammys best interest to see that Greensleeves stays viable so he can channel his music through England. The Scientist is now a big threat and hindrance to Greensleeves and King Jammys because although the US Federal Judge and Grand Jury believed King Jammys story that Scientist was too young to have so much power and skills at that young age, and he had been paid ‘work for hire’ the company RockStar settled with him out of court and paid him for his works. They obviously believed Scientist.

Greensleeves Responsible Party

Although they did not have to pay The Scientist and give him the copyright to his music, Greensleeves was responsible for the huge bill that had been mounting up over a three year period. The expensive lawyer fees for themselves and RockStar and all monies paid out was their responsibility.

Greensleeves recently sold their company.

The Scientist now has a lawsuit pending in France against Greensleeves, and his lawyer Andre R. Bertrand is engaging in actions to obtain the payment of the legal remunerations due and payable to the Jamaican artists and musicians, including Jah Life and The Scientist, who were not compensated for their work.

In France, the courts want to see an actual contract showing ownership they do not recognize the concept of work for hire. This will put Greensleeves in a serious situation because if they lose in court, they could face fines of up to 180,000 Euros per violation and a violation does not mean an album but a track. Not only that, but it would set a precedence for others to follow and be compensated for their work.

The Death Threats

Calls were made to The Scientist on Sunday, March 19th 2006 and he recorded them.

Listen to them. They can be heard at:

[link via dissensus]

* it doesn't sound to me like scientist was actually smiling during these exchanges, but i couldn't believe i found a picture of the man on the phone.


roam improvement

NC was cool. good peoples, good vibes. thanks again to darren and TJ and everyone else who made us feel welcome.

over at the new science experience page, you can hear DJ C's thursday performance at the local 506 as well as a set i played sunday night on one duran's and yugen's show on WXYC. (apparently, my set at the 506 didn't make it to tape - but what can you do? glitch happens.)

playing the radio set was fun, but it's far from perfect. i wince at several hasty transitions - among them, a quick realization that outkast don't always speak in FCC-approved terms - but it does have a "live" feel (and i don't mean ableton, though, yeah, that's what i used). the mix is a little sloppy and a little hot, but i dug into some nice, dubby treats for the occasion, so hopefully the selections outweigh the imperfections. if you liked dubble-dub, i think you'll dig.

after hanging in chapel hill, i spent a few days in durham with family, mainly working on patching up an old mill house that becca's sister and her mensch have been steadily transforming - with a little help from their friends - from an unbelievably run-down wreck to a functional lil' home. you can see the amazing progress for yourself - as well as some funny pics of me getting my hands dirty - on their home page (get it?).

among other things, i spent many hours stuffing bluejean-based insulation up under the floor...

never mind the pink stuff

pretty cool stuff - apparently the recycled denim provides the same insulation as fiberglass, but in thinner, greener form. depending on how the light hits it, though, it can look more (or less) blue, often with other colors interspersed...

i also spent some time "refixing" the bedroom ceiling with some reclaimed wallboards. eventually, they'll be scraped and repainted and all that, but i rather like the combination of variously weathered colors at this point...

and, of course, while driving around and such, i came across all sorts of oddities. this time - in place of t.j.maxx o'lanterns (my "most viewed" flick?!) and kitchy witches - there were cigar-selling injuns and a church sign proclaiming:



the secret life of nets

i've finally succumbed. come find me in the matrix.


classroom to cackalack

dj dr.C pon the lecture-demo

DJ C gave a rockin' presentation to my electro class last week, showing us the innards of his gregory isaacs refix and putting down a knob-twistin' mini-mix.

this week dr.C and i will be travelling together down to north cackalacky - no offense - to represent some of our boston-baked bouncement. we'll be playing tomorrow night (thursday, march 23) at the local 506 in chapel hill, joining our hosts, one duran and dj yugen of the 1200 problems crew.

also, in more of an academic mode, dj C and i will be discussing music and copyright issues at an ibiblio gathering taking place friday at 3pm at UNC in the "freedom forum" (the school of journalism and mass communications, carroll hall). given the latest stirrings in the great copyright wars, i'm sure our talk will be au courant.

[btw, never fear: diddy's on the appeal. and who will win in this battle of millionaires wrestling over the rights to other people's music? who knows. who's at the bottom of all this? who else: bridgeport music, a collective of composers, musicians, and producers lawyers, accountants, and investors who've been steadily sueing the pants off sample-based producers (or, more precisely, their labels) for years.]


and while i've got something of a class-related post going, allow me to point you to some outstanding student contributions to date.

in a nice piece of music(al) criticism, one member of the class took stockhausen's race-baiting diss of the "technocrats" and remixed his avant-grumbling into a robotic MC riding some "post-african" rhythms. check it out:

oliver day, "F U Stockhausen"

another enterprising producer got ambitious with his dancehall "production project" and put together an online collaboration with a brooklyn-located dancehall DJ (who shouts out "harvard university"!) and an omaha-based digital-hardcore rocker. the track brings together all sorts of stylistic strands, from reggae to punk to jungle:

lunatik (ft. lynx & joe of the jungle), "gangsta war"

yet another impressive production is sir kibbles's trancey reworking of the chicago house classic, "move your body," complete with speak'n'spell vocals and all the little melodic bits that make marshall jefferson's original so technotronically compelling:

sir kibbles, "move your body (remix)"

there are many others worth mentioning, and i don't mean to give anyone short shrift here. i've been really enjoying the projects people have been cooking up. the main point of these exercises is to get a better, hands-on sense of how a particular style comes together. since that may sound a little dry, it's great that students consistently go beyond the call of duty and come up with tracks that not only engage with the genre(s) in question but that stand on their own as wonderful little pieces of music. if you want to check out more, just skim through the "listening journal" entries at our class blog, many of which, especially in recent weeks, have focused on these production projects.


finally, i'd like to point people to a few youtube videos recently posted by yet another member of the class. these were taken at the sonic acts festival curated by señor /rupture. some great short vids of jason forrest and hrvatski dancing in front of their laptops and aaron spectre flexing his MIDI muscles (see below).


moron whiteness, more on whiteness

while the talk of minstrelsy continues (and reminds me to get downloading), i thought i should return to a point to which i alluded a couple days ago.

in a post last week, i hinted at something called moron whiteness. this is not a technical term. it's just a way of saying that even some well-meaning 'white folk' (and there i go along with them), stop far too short of actually moving past the epiphany of recognizing their un/conscious complicity with race and racism, thus "owning" their whiteness without seeking to move out of it and to leave behind the days of racialized social relations.

learning about and speaking of and avoiding all profit on one's whiteness can represent important strategies in getting away from race-thinking and dismantling white supremacy. whiteness is not, however, a place where one stops after "coming to terms" with who one really is (or, more precisely, with where one's phenotype places one in the social hierarchy).

this is, in part, what vron ware and les back are getting at in their incisive volume, out of whiteness (2001). in the introductory chapter, the authors bring into focus the distinction between their own vision for a radical, critical analysis of whiteness and what they consider "more pragmatic and altogether more timid proposals that do not actively seek to disrupt existing racial frameworks" (6):
A wide spectrum of possibilities awaits the new recruit to "whiteness studies," since there is no unity of purpose binding this field together. Finding a position on this spectrum depends on an analysis of all social divisions and a readiness to address the fundamental causes of injustice. In plainer terms it will depend on whether or not race is seen as something that can not only be deconstructed on paper, but also eventually rendered obsolete as a system of discriminating among humans.

. . .

[S]o many writers on whiteness have balked at the notion of doing away with all racial categories and have instead settled for the deceptively easier job of trying to remove the undesirable elements from whiteness without rocking the boat of raciology that keeps the whole concept in motion. For some it is possible, even desirable, to retain whiteness as a descriptive term, a potentially innocent aspect of individual and collective identity--in particular, one that needs to function as an integral part of the jigsaw of multicultural discourse within the United States.

. . .

One of the problems with this type of approach is that is in danger of reifying the idea of race as a reliable index of human difference, and therefore of breathing stale life into a belief system that ought to have been consigned to the twentieth century. (6)

dj/rupture offers a pro-minstrel stance on all of this, reminding us that fitty's been blacking-up, too, and wondering whether all the bloggaz-with-attitude are interrogating the "wrong carriers."

he's got a point. and here jace [sorry - wouldn't want to get it twisted and miss the performance] /rupture reminds us about the bigger picture, lest we find ourselves simply policing "white" transgression and turning our attention away from the overarching problem and context. on this score, it seems that /rupture's perspective here jibes, more or less, with what kanye west claims at the end of crack music, what eric lott lays out in love and theft, and what ron radano argues in lying up a nation...

now the former slaves trade hooks for grammies /
this dark diction has become america's addiction /
those who ain't even black use it

to his credit, o-dub also attempted to remind folks - repeatedly - that minstrelsy need not look, at least on its blackface, like minstrelsy. an historical product of the peculiar institution and an odd expression of our constitutive struggle, minstrelsy is the major mode through which (we) americans hear music and watch performances. and although matters of reception will always be colored by local contexts and histories, considering that we've been exporting - to no small success - our coon-show styles since the mid-19th century, i'm not sure how much we can restrict this phenomenon to the states.


minstrelsy is, i fear, a cultural legacy of which we may never rid ourselves. it seems absolutely certain, though, that neither minstrelsy nor whiteness will be going anywhere soon so long as racialized structures of oppression, disenfranchisement, and underdevelopment remain as entrenched as they remain today.

yesterday's nyt featured a sobering reminder of how bad things are in this country, chock full of the sort of statistics that one hears again and again to the point where they begin to sound apocryphal.

as a chilling reminder of how vigilantly we must keep our eyes on the prize, i still prefer the awe-ful compendium of stats marshaled at the beginning of "naming the illuminati" (2000), an article by christopher holmes smith and john fiske connecting hip-hop's late-90s chant-down-babylon tactics to the invisible, intertwined operation of whiteness and capital and the realities of racialized injustice:
Global capital and global whiteness may be always disembodied and absent from their local effects, but their effects are really embodied and really present. Naming some of them is necessary but insufficient: black males have the lowest life expectancy of any group in the United States. Their unemployment rate is more than twice that of white males, and the gap has increased steadily since the 1980s. The income of employed blacks is about 60% of that of whites (even college educated blacks earn only 75% of their white counterparts), and the net worth of an African-American (that is, assets minus liabilities) is one tenth that of a white: blacks find it disproportionately more difficult to get mortgages and small business loans than whites, thus ensuring that capital not only is white, but will remain so. Nearly half of all black children live below the poverty line, against only 16% of white ones, and not only is the black poverty rate three times that of whites, but the black poor are poorer than the white poor.

About one in four black men between the ages of twenty and twenty-nine are in prison - more black men are in prison than in college, and the United States continues to lock them up at four times the rate even of pre-revolution South Africa. Black people convicted of similar crimes to whites will receive harder and longer sentences, and up to 80% of black men will be arrested at least once in their lifetime. Black people suffer disproportionately aggressive policing in arrest rates and treatment during and after arrest and in court but enjoy disproportionately minimal police protection. Black people know that the military puts them in the highest risk units, but even they are safer at war than at home, for the black male is the commonest murder victim in the country: he is also the commonest suicide victim.

The life expectancy of a black child born in Harlem is lower than that of a child born in Bangladesh, and black adults die disproportionately early from the twelve commonest preventable diseases. Sixty percent of African-Americans and Latinos live in communities polluted by uncontrolled toxic waste dumps, and a 1987 study found that the race of the neighborhood's inhabitants was the single most important factor in locating toxic waste dumps. Tobacco billboards are far more likely to be placed in black than in white neighborhoods, sometimes by a ratio of 15 to 1.

Schools in black communities receive far lower funding per student than those in white ones, and black graduation rates are both lower and decreasing as a result.

These dispersed regularities of racial differentiation are steadily widening the difference between white and black America, and they structure pain into the core of everyday life. The physical effects of white power are inescapably everywhere, but the discretion of its operations makes the system invisible, except in its effects. For whites, who are largely free of its effects, the invisibility is almost total; for blacks, the struggle is to make visible that which they know is there, to give a materiality to the system and its intentionality that approximates that of its effects. (608-609)

a bunch of stuff worth keeping in mind.


we went dancing every day, frankly

it's now been three years since the US invaded iraq.

back in the spring of 2003, i watched the countdown to war and the bombs over baghdad from my living room in kingston. it was an odd remove for a bloodclaat american like myself.

so it came as a true comfort one evening, as becca and i cooked up some curry chickpeas - one of our many bastardized creative jamaican recipes - to hear a heavy boston accent speaking of war with wisdom.

here's what i wrote at the time in our fledgling blog:
a few weeks ago, as the drums of war beat on, the BBC aired a piece on a 106-year-old veteran of the first world war. becca and i often listen to the radio while cooking dinner, and sometimes the BBC is the most engaging thing on the air. we were drawn into this particular segment for a couple reasons. for one thing, the veteran was, like me, an italian-american from massachusetts, who, unlike me, had an impeccably deep boston accent. what drew our interest most strongly, however, was the man's uncanny resemblance to mel brooks's "2000-year-old man" - a hilarious imagining of the world's oldest man as a jew with a new york accent, a penchant for glib responses, and a love of nectarines.

anthony pierro, the 106-year-old veteran, responded to his interviewer's questions in a brooks-esque manner, complete with interjections of "oh boy," a preoccupation with girls and sex, and an ability to make war - as brooks does with ancient history - seem hilariously mundane. (compare "we were in the woods" with "banging on rocks.")

aside from the charming humor of mr. pierro's responses, i was also impressed by the texture he gives to life during war. his emphasis on daily life and romance expresses a need to go on with life even as the world collapses around you. "dancing every day" perhaps says it best. his common-sensical argument for respecting the power of the united nations to resolve international conflicts reminds us how much the bush administration has undermined an important process toward peace.
recently, as talk in the news has turned to this anniversary, i've been thinking again about the piece and how much i liked hearing this 100+year-old veteran stating his rather reasonable, commonsensical ideas about conflict and happiness. i was happy to learn, while composing this post, that mr.pierro is now 110 and still going strong! (just shows what dancing every day can do for you.)

at the time, i liked the piece so much that i sampled it - i was recording the radio a lot those days - and put a beat under the vocals in order to give them a slightly more suggestive setting than the buzz of the refrigerator and the sizzle of the stove. this is how i described the process and the product:
i was only able to get part of the interview on tape, as i was a little too late to recognize how priceless a piece it was. from this recording, i selected various snippets in an attempt to represent the interview faithfully, but also to condense it and represent it in musical form. the beat over which i have layered the vocal samples is based on a twenties-era jazz sample, variously filtered, and i think its mix of past and present fits the interview samples well.

i admit that i conclude the piece a tad heavy-handedly, but i cannot resist underscoring the irony that a veteran of the "war that was supposed to end all wars" has not only had to live through another eighty years of conflict but will have to spend the december of his life watching hyper-real footage not of shells bouncing innocuously off trees but of bombs devastating baghdad. the song ends with a recording of my television set, transmitting the sounds of bunker-busting explosions directly into my living room on the first night of gulf war II.

i do my duty.
(guess i was wrong about that "december" part: quite sorry to have said that--but quite happy to've been wrong!) any rate, here it is again, for your contemplation and enjoyment:

wayne&wax (ft. anthony pierro), "the hundred-year-old veteran"


[cross posted to riddimmethod]


hamhocks and henanigans

boom sha-lock-lock top o' the marnin' to ya

all this talk of minstrelsy, coinciding with the holiday and such, reminds me of one of the first successful forms of ethnic drag in hip-hop: irishness.

given the high proportion of irish performers among the original blackface minstrels, not to mention the whole "blacks of europe" rep, it seems rather appropriate that irishness would so well serve house of pain as a resource for some good ol' recourse to ethnic particulars--a popular, perennial strategy among non-black rappers, latinos included. (even eminem put on a layer of classface to blur his whiteness.)

as someone with but a mild cultural-symbolic attachment to my (or my family's) national/ethnic heritage(s), i always feel a bit like i'm trying to pass during such festivals, but then i just remember that i'm boston-irish (or -italian or -portuguese or -scottish) rather than irish-irish and i just enjoy my guinness and the company of my mongrel, american family while we celebrate st.patrick's day at a place called guido's.

at any rate, if you're in the mood to celebrate saint patrick or irishness or the color green or whatever it is you'd care to celebrate today, before you get too drunk, go grab a chunk of irish funk i've posted to the riddim method.

more on whiteness - and moron whiteness! - to come...


the unbearable whiteness

what's black and white and white all over?

a couple weeks ago some friends showed me a piece in the weekly dig thinking i would find it interesting, which i did (mildly), and thinking i might sympathize with the dig's perspective, which i did not (pretty strongly).

my friends thought i might agree with the dig--if i may so venture--because the piece seemed to be assailing an irresponsible portrayal of race relations, which is a subject i tend to harp on myself. i disagreed with the dig in this case, however, because i thought the portrayal they were criticizing was, more or less, accurate--if not quite as subtle as it could have been (or as i would attempt in my own writing).

in the semi-anonymous, staff-signed piece, the dig downright skewered--indeed, practically called for the termination of--a music critic for the boston globe, one siddhartha mitter (apparently, a/k/a the illhindu). the dig appeared to take issue with mitter's black-and-white reviews of some recent, local concerts. which is to say, they found his frank discussion of race and racism (and misogyny) offensive and out-of-place. at least, that's what i gather, since the dig is pretty vague about what actually irks them in mitter's articles. they simply present mitter's writing (out of any sort of context, of course) as obvious evidence of its own bullshittiness, which, in a piece of criticism about a critic, really doesn't fly. but please, read it for yourself and tell me what you think. (seriously, i'm curious.)

you see, i think my friends' conflation of my antiracist position with what seemed like the dig's antiracist position fails to make a rather crucial distinction among us liberal-whiteys. (and know that i use such an epithet not without cringing. these slanders describe not how i self-identify, but how i might be identified by some, so, since it's germane to the present discussion, i'll take the daggers. still: would that we could shift this paradigm!) my friends think of me as a person who doesn't like to truck too easily in words like "black" and "white"--not because i'm uncomfortable with them, but because i appreciate all too well the ideological magic they work. i tend to challenge other people when they use such terms too casually, and i try to speak more carefully myself or to play with such loaded terms in a rather express manner.

for example, if one of these friends were to ask me if i liked a particular indie band that they were listening to and which i had seen reviewed at pitchfork'n'blogs but whose music i had never heard and had no intentions of ever seeking out, i'd probably reply glibly, "i'm afraid they'd sound too white--and i don't mean that in an essentialist way." and what i would mean is that, though i don't really believe in racial difference beyond the skin-deep and the enculturated, i often dislike the aesthetics of music that has been marked as "white music" (which is to say, since "white music" is--in some strange way--the norm and thus not named, music that has not been marked as "black music"). there's something about the retreat into whiteness as a cultural zone that i find really unnerving, not to mention unappealing, in an age where racism and the legacies of institutionalized racism remain so stunningly powerful and destructive.

at the same time, when i attempt to chant down whiteness by calling it out in this way, unmasking what too often masquerades as the norm and denigrating what for too long passed as the ideal, i also vigilantly avoid reifying race. to inform someone that they are exercising racial privilege is one thing (even if by teasing), to lock them into a racialized subject position is another. and it is yet another thing again to decide that since "race is a social construction" we shouldn't ever talk about it. that, in essence, seems to be where the dig positions themselves in this debate: for shame, mr.mitter, we gentlemen of the press deign to discuss such sordid matters in publick; or, you got your chocolate in our peanut butter; or something like that.

but we will not wish it away, even with the important insight that race is not, in some sense, real. because in all too many other senses, it is. that's what the anti-anti-essentialists were getting at back in the 90s (before they became anti-anti-anti-essentialists). they weren't calling for a return to essentialism in the face of constructionism, they were calling for a consideration of the way that race works in the world regardless of its made-up-ness. again, to return to taussig: "we dissimulate."

so, ultimately, that's where i differ from the dig: i'm also uneasy with facile invocations of black and white and race and racism, finding them often more unproductive than progressive; but sometimes--and really, too often--race is the elephant in the room, and not talking about it is a lot worse than talking about it. by not talking about it, we're just pretending it's not there, thus ensuring its persistence more, i'd wager, than if we just stopped talking about it altogether (which, if we're racialized as black and remain the subjects of racism or if we're racialized as white and remain the accomplices, we can't).

but don't take my words for it, or my use of michael taussig's words either. try ebog johnson's provocative prose in defense of his comrade, for example. (you could also read mitter's post on the matter or his reply to the dig.)

/// an aside: the dig's response to mitter--"but we didn't want to exchange views"--is more or less the equivalent to mitter's characterization of the paper as "the mediocre alternative weekly to the other mediocre alternative weekly in Boston." neither response is what i would expect, or hope for, from among a community of local journalists who really should be--and, duh, clearly are--engaged in conversation. and, moreover, mitter's dismissal really isn't fair to the dig or to the phoenix, both of which, in my opinion, add quite a bit to local life here. and, seriously, you know what they say about people who live in glass globes houses... ///

although--full disclosure!--i occasionally write for their long-established local alternative and i side with illhindu on this issue, i actually like the dig. they've carved out a voice for themselves in boston's lil' mediascape and i think the reading public is enriched for it, usually. more important, the dig's been nice to me (at least to date): so rather than, say, a snarky caption of some sort, i get cute, sweet compliments. still, i certainly don't like everthing they write. their recent defense of larry summers, for example, is classic bawstin in its anti-PC slant and totally misses the boat on why summers was so strenuously opposed by the faculty. but i understand. i grew up in cambridge, yes, but in a part of cambridge where, for many, liberal was a four-letter word (though these were hard-working dems at heart, and not necessarily "conservative"), whites were whites, and blacks were blacks (or sometimes worse). indeed, insofar as it is a reaction against the hypocritical discourse of the boston/cambridge "liberal" elite--those so-called limousine liberals, lefty in lipservice only, upholding various political pieties but rarely acting on principle--the dig's position kicks a little too much like a knee-jerk.

and, now, since i've so humbly placed myself on the enlightened side of the whiteboyus urbanus divide--what was it ebog said about smugness in these matters?--allow me to clarify my position on the whole matter just a little further. if you will, allow me to do so once again by referring to another's words--in this case, those of anthropologist peter wade. i find wade's perspective and position here instructive, and i wonder whether mr.mitter or those mystery dig writers would agree. (not sure they are interested in exchanging views with me, though, at any rate.) at least recently, this has been the conception that i too have attempted to follow when writing or talking or thinking about race. the following excerpt, explaining wade's particular approach to discussing race in his scholarship, appears in the introduction to his book, music, race, and nation: musica tropical in colombia (chicago 2000) (pardon, or please mind, the context):
Let me be clear about what I mean by "race." I am referring to the changing categories and concepts created primarily by Europeans as a result of their contact with, and subordination of, non-European peoples through colonialism and imperialism. These categories focused on aspects of physical difference deemed salient (primarily skin color, but also hair texture and certain facial features) and worked them into "racial" signfiers which came to bear a vast load of social and cultural meanings organized primarily by hierarchies of labor exploitation, power, and value. Meanings have varied over space and time, influenced by many factors, such as economic and demographic structures, the development of scientific understanding of human difference, and political and cultural struggle over the categories and meanings themselves. Partly because of their construction of heritable phenotypical variance, racial categories have, to a greater or lesser extent, been naturalized: the cultural differences that physical difference is taken to indicate are held to be rooted in a natural essence which is heritable through sexual reproduction; this naturalization has varied according to historically changing conceptions of human nature as well as changing structures of social relations, particularly those involving inequality.

This approach to race emphasizes the process of racializing, naturalizing identifications and derives from my experience of Latin America, where racial identities are more often ambiguous, changeable, and context dependent than in other regions, but I think the approach is widely applicable and helps avoid reifying racial categories. In this sense, rather than studying "races" or "blacks" or "whites"--even as socially constructed groups--one studies processes of racialized identifications and the racialized social relations that go with them.
so, that, in a nutshell (or not), is why i disagree with the dig, support siddhartha mitter, and wouldn't have written what he wrote.

except for the part about williamsburg. and wu-tang. money's on the mark there.


mimetically capacious machines: some like it what?

allow me to share some recent quasi-experiments in quasi-art/quasi-copyfight, interspersed with what i hope are illuminating quotations from the introduction of michael taussig's still stimulating mimesis and alterity (1993), a study which takes "the mimetic faculty" as its subject--or as Taussig calls it, "the nature that culture uses to create second nature, the faculty to copy, imitate, make models, explore difference, yield into and become Other" (xiii).

he continues:

"The wonder of mimesis lies in the copy drawing on the character and power of the original, to the point whereby the representation may even assume that character and power" (ibid).

...explore difference, yield into and become Other...

"When it was enthusiastically pointed out within memory of our present Academy that race or gender or nation . . . were so many social constructions, inventions, and representations, a window was opened, an invitation to begin the critical process of analysis and cultural reconstruction was offered. And one still feels its power even though what was nothing more than an invitation, a preamble to investigation has, by and large, been converted instead into a conclusion--eg. "sex is a social construction," "race is a social construction," "the nation is an invention" and so forth, the tradition of invention. The brilliance of the pronouncement was blinding. Nobody was asking what's the next step? What do we do with this insight? If life is constructed, how come it appears so immutable? How come culture appears so natural? If things coarse and subtle are constructed, then surely they can be reconstrued as well? To adopt Hegel, the beginnings of knowledge were made to pass for actual knowing" (xvi).

...made to pass...

"But just as we might garner courage to reinvent a new world and live in new fictions--what a sociology that would be!--so a devouring force comes at us from another direction, seducing us by playing on our yearning for the true real. Would that it would, would that it could, come clean, this true real. I so badly want that wink of recognition, that complicity with the nature of nature" (xvii).

...that wink of recognition...

"But the more I want it, the more I realize it's not for me. Nor for you either . . . which leaves us in this silly and often desperate place wanting the impossible so badly that while we believe it's our rightful destiny and so act as accomplices of the real, we also know in our heart of hearts that the way we picture and talk is bound to a dense set of representational gimmicks which, to coin a phrase, have but an arbitrary relation to the slippery referent easing its way out of graspable sight" (ibid).

...easing its way out of graspable sight...

"Now the strange thing between this silly if not desperate place between the real and the really made-up is that is appears to be where most of us spend most of our time as epistemically correct, socially created, and occasionally creative beings. We dissimulate. We act and have to act as if mischief were not afoot in the kingdom of the real and that all around the ground lay firm" (ibid).

...as if...all around the ground lay firm...

(see also...)


riffin' and raffin', liffin' and laffin'

who knew cartoon cats would be so newsworthy all a sudden?

so much to say, so little time.

look, i'm not going to go making up any sort of excuses. but, f'real, y'all really should have seen it coming.

wait a minute. what am i talking about again?

oh yeah: i've been busy. too busy--if you can believe it--to blog. (though i have found some time to leave lengthy comments on other blogs.)

i've also been inclined to rest on my laurels a bit. well, not really--but it's nice to get noticed not for what you look like when you're doing what you're doing but for what you're doing when you're doing what it looks like you're doing.

what i'm referring to, aside from the ever expressive charles wright, is a recent write-up in air jamaica's skywritings on jamaica-centric, if not jamaica-based, blogs. and guess what? this here boston jerk made the top of the list. now, that's bound to raise the ire of a certain jamaica-based blogger who will remain nameless (and linkless), but i'd like to think that we can all enjoy the ever expanding community of folks who are attempting to express and grapple with ideas about jamaica and its connections to the wider world. at any rate, if you're flying air jamaica in the near future, leaf through their fine publication to see the full piece. (and grab me a copy! [man, it's been far too long since i set foot on my favorite likkle island.])

along those lines, i recently came across another ethnomusicologist's blog, one which reminds me of my own early attempts at ethnographic blogging, if more tech savvy. seriously, this guy's vlogging and shit. seriously seriously, though, if you're interested in hiplife--that's a cross between hip-hop and highlife for all you not-in-the-know--and in ghanaian music and society more generally, check out the hiplife complex.

(yo D: better get your game up ;) [oh yeah, you did.]

anyhow, i better leave it right there for now. sorry--it's just that time of year. buzzing like a bee, see. you just wait.

more soon. stay tune.