Category Archives: fashion

Juxtaposition: Weird Al and strategic use of the interwebs

Robinson Meyer notes some of the interesting ways Weird Al uses the interwebs to promote his work.  Writing in The Atlantic, Meyer observes:

No wonder, then, that this week Al has mimicked the tactics of the preeminent Knowles. From last Monday to this upcoming one, he released a new music video every day, eight videos in total. There are few songs on his new album that will lack a video, meaning that, in medium and marketing, he’s pulling a sort of time-extended Yoncé.

But not all eight videos are going straight to YouTube. Weird Al is spreading that goodness around.

His parody of Pharrell’s “Happy” is hosted by Nerdist, a sprawling online entertainment empire that achieved fame through its eponymous podcast but which now encompasses a news website, a network of audio and video shows, and a television program on BBC America. Al’s Lorde spoof, meanwhile, went to competing digital content factory, CollegeHumor. It did go to YouTube, but is marked “Exclusive” and a “CollegeHumor ORIGINAL.” A “Blurred Lines” send-up sits on Yancovic’s Vevo page.

via The Surprisingly Savvy Weird Al Internet Machine – Robinson Meyer – The Atlantic.

I also liked the reflection about Weird Al’s mockery driven art.  Since the idea of juxtaposition comes up so much on Life of Refinement, it seems worthwhile to think about Weird Al laying a mocking interpretation on top of something already widely marketed.  Adbusters-style mock advertisements do the same thing.  Borrowing the millions of dollars of advertising money that preceded to simultaneously undercut the original message and build a counter-brand.

The situationists would call this détournement — to turn something against itself.  A media concept articulated by Debord, but well understood by any Weird Al fan.  Here Meyer describes this process as “disruptive innovation:”

The phenomenon Weird Al describes here is actually well described by a genre of scholarly literature—by business scholarship, of all things. It’s disruptive innovation, the buzzword so buzzwordy that the New Yorker devoted a thinkpiece to it in print!. Disruptive innovation describes what happens when new products create a new market for that type of product, which winds up challenging the existing one.

via The Surprisingly Savvy Weird Al Internet Machine – Robinson Meyer – The Atlantic.

I also appreciate the documentation of the Lady Gaga incident.  Yankovic created a parody of a Gaga song and when he checked in with her to get her blessing to release the tune on an upcoming album Gaga’s people refused.  Weird Al released the song on youtube with an explanation and Gaga quickly relented.

It’s worth noting something more about the substance of Weird Al’s mockery.

Not only is “Tacky” a review of a number of bad fashion moves, it is also a conservative morality rant.  This tune marks as “tacky” oversharing on instagram, forcing others to pay, reminding people you’ve done them favors, insulting people, dropping names, leaving bad yelp reviews, and having no shame.

At points Weird Al references particular low-points of recent toxic internet culture such as: “I’m a live-tweet a funeral and take selfies with the deceased.” This could be a Fox “news” commentary.

I happen to agree with Weird Al on most of these morality points.  But given that Pharrell’s “Happy” is a sort of liberation utopian expression of pop-oneness, the grounded grumpy juxtaposed retort is interesting.  [Let’s note that the use of the Odd Future crew in “Happy” is a juxtaposition in itself.]

If you add in the English-teacher favorite “Word Crimes” you can start to map a particular perspective to Weird Al.

I get the sense that Al is frustrated with some of the changes in this new-fangled world.  His juxtaposition is intended to bring down and anchor some of the worst behaviors of the current era.

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Filed under academics, fashion, humor, juxtaposition, media, representation, rhetoric

Consuming Natives: Kevin Durant Nike edition

I came across this Kevin Durant shoe that seems to scream cultural appropriation to me.

Thanks to the sportingnews.com for the image of Nike Kevin Durant shoe.

The shoe raises money for Nike, Kevin Durant and some Native American athletic programs (I assume in that order).  But the description is a toxic collection of generalizations and stereotypes mashed together.

 

The bold Nike N7 KD VI features the repeating pattern of arrows that first launched on the Pendleton Woolen Mills Nike N7 blanket last month. The arrow print  symbolizes energy and forward motion and has reflective built in for a surprise effect when worn in the elements.  The bold colors used on the KD VI have significant meaning in Native communities. Turquoise is used often as a color symbolic of friendship, and red is one of four colors—yellow, red, black and white—featured on the traditional Native America medicine wheel, representing movement and the four directions. The KD logo appears on the heel and the N7 logo is on the tongue.

via NIKE, Inc. – Nike N7 and Kevin Durant Collaborate to Support Native American Youth.

That is amazing!  Red is a color significant for Native Americans!  Whoa!  It is good to know where that stuff comes from (sarcasm).   How about vague ambiguity when it comes to so-called native symbols and precise articulation of the Kevin Durant logo?

Nike has also developed a wide shoe, the Air Native N7, for Native North American’s supposedly wider feet (they measured 224 indians feet to justify this claim!)  While criticizing the marketing of this shoe, we can lay some of the News from Indian Country analysis against this Kevin Durant shoe press release.

Some vocal opponents of the Air Native N7 believe the shoe line indeed fosters stereotypes because, along with the company’s trademark swoosh, the footwear features feathers, arrowheads, sunset designs and circle of life motifs. Nike officials have said the product is designed to “deliver sustainable innovation,” and the “N7” portion of its name is meant to encourage “a seventh generation ethos.”

“In my opinion, the whole idea is racist,” says Eugene Johnson, a member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians, who’s paid close attention to the development of the shoe line. “This is a branding scheme of advertising that Nike is known for… I have no doubt that the sales folks are hoping that Indian sympathizers and the general public will be thinking of how Nike is so charitable in thinking of the Indians, thus, increasing sales through the usual brand of Nike branding advertising.”

via Does the Shoe Fit? Native Nike footwear raises concerns – Indian Country News.

I happen to agree that the dual marketing benefit of being seen as charitable  to anonymous poor indians helps to sell the shoe as does the appropriation of cultural symbols.  I think the same might be said about this Kevin Durant shoe.

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Filed under cultural appropriation, fashion, health, Native, race, representation, sport

Juxtaposition: Fiona Apple and Dave Chappelle walk off the stage

Artifact One: Fiona Apple at a Tokyo fashion event.

Apple grew frustrated with the ongoing chatter in the venue, a hall at Tokyo Station Hotel, where the exhibition makes its home. Partway through her short set, she climbed on top of her grand piano and asked the audience to be quiet so that she could perform. She then challenged everyone to be silent for the duration of a tone she created by striking a small metal bell. The performer grew even more angry when the noise in the venue continued.

Apple instructed the audience to “shut the f–k up” and uttered other expletives, both audibly and under her breath, calling the event’s attendees “rude.” She continued with her set before shouting, “Predictable! Predictable fashion, what the f–k?” as she stormed off the stage. The show was punctuated with other bizarre moments, such as when she hit her head with her microphone, did a back bend over her piano bench and stared intensely at her guitarist as if in a love-struck trance.

via Louis Vuitton Toasts ‘Timeless Muses’ in Tokyo – Parties – Eye – WWD.com.

Artifact 2: Dave Chappelle walking off the stage at a Connecticut comedy club.

Chappelle wasn’t having a meltdown. This was a Black artist shrugging the weight of White consumption, deciding when enough was enough. This isn’t the first time Chappelle has done so and it isn’t the first time his behavior has been characterized as a meltdown.

There is a long history of asking African-Americans to endure racism silently; it’s characterized as grace, as strength. Chappelle’s Connecticut audience, made up of largely young White males, demanded a shuck and jive. Men who seemed to have missed the fine satire of the Chappelle show demanded he do characters who, out of the context of the show look more like more racist tropes, than mockery of America’s belief in them.

When he expressed shock at the fact that he’d sat there and been yelled at for so long, people yelled that they’d paid him. They felt paying for a show meant they could verbally harass him, direct him in any tone of voice, as though they’d bought him.

via Dave Chappelle Didn’t Melt Down – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY.

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Filed under art, fashion, juxtaposition, media, protest, race, representation, resistance, vulnerability

Juxtaposition: Nike

Artifact one: Cambodian Nike factory fires 300 striking workers. 

Around 300 workers on strike for better pay at a Nike factory in Cambodia have lost their jobs. A union spokesperson said the fired workers’ dismissal letters cited their involvement in the strike, which seeks a wage hike of $14 a month. Although the vast majority of the factory’s 5,000 workers have taken part in the strike, many have begun returning to work after over three weeks off the job. It’s the 48th strike by Cambodian garment workers this year, more than in the entire years of 2010 or 2011.

via Headlines for June 12, 2013 | Democracy Now!.

Artifact two: Nike Air Foamposite One

Nike’s showing no signs of slowing down with Foam releases, but why should they? The Foamposite One’s received a ton of love at retail for the past year with even the most absurd color schemes ending up selling well. And when this sport royal-game royal-wolf grey colorway hits retail – especially in a hue that’s Orlando-themed – they’re likely to join the ranks of this year’s most wanted footwear.

via Coming Attractions: Nike Air Foamposite One “Sport Royal” | The Smoking Section.

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Filed under colonialism, fashion, human rights, juxtaposition, propaganda, resistance

Detroit Rubber: shoes and art

I know sneakers are important.  And just ‘cuz I don’t pay attention, doesn’t mean that I don’t know. Y’know.

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Dapper Dan: Respect

You think you know about roots of hip hop?  Get correct.

Thanks to Nah Right for the link.

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What’s up with pants?

I’m feeling this little essay in the Atlantic on the history of pants.  Turns out bicycles, horse riding and new rights for women were partially to blame for the development of this constricting fabric!

What all these examples suggest is that technological systems — cavalry, bicycling — sometimes require massive alterations in a society’s culture before they can truly become functional. And once it’s locked in, the cultural solution (pants) to an era’s big problem can be more durable than the activity (horse-mounted combat) that prompted it.

via Q: Why Do We Wear Pants? A: Horses – Alexis Madrigal – The Atlantic.

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Filed under bicycle, fashion, learning