Who gives a shit what one white kid thinks?
For me, whether or not a memoir is true has nothing to do with its value as art. While I wonder sometimes what that stance says about me (sociopath? high-functioning autistic?), I believe that “real struggle” is no excuse for overwrought work. My imaginary dissertation is about how choreographers on “So You Think You Can Dance” slap a painful backstory on subpar numbers to elicit sympathy votes. Truth shouldn’t be an aesthetic consideration.
Still, that’s not to say that texts always operate in exactly the same way if we read them as fact or as fiction. This idea didn’t crystallize for me until the cartoonist Seth told me about a compliment he received from Art Spiegelman, who said he preferred It’s A Good Life If You Don’t Weaken as a work of fiction. Intrigued, I asked Spiegelman to explain exactly what happened when he changed the lens.
"My first impression of the book was that it was a well-crafted, but excruciatingly slow and ‘low-stakes’ report on the artist’s not-all-that-exciting obsessional collecting," he said. "Learning it was all invented and not relatively straightforward ‘first-degree’ reporting made me slow down and pay more attention to the details of what Seth was showing on the slow ride, and even let it all read as parody of other low-stakes autobio work."
I don’t believe in sincerity in music. I don’t understand what it would mean. It’s the same as with cooking or any form of art really; sincerity has no meaning. Folk is a marketing category rather than a musical one. In the United States for example, Billboard Magazine used to have three categories for folk to be broken up into; folk, which was essentially white people singing in southern accents, race, which was black people singing in southern accents and anything else was just seen as pop. To me these categories just sound like the civil war. The north versus the south and the south is divided into two. We could even use that analogy elsewhere, for example traditional music from the British Isles is often classed as folk, whereas traditional music from anywhere else where they don’t speak English is called World Music. Racism defines the whole category of folk.
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You could say that folk music is the middle classes singing the songs of the lower classes, and not attributing them to particular songwriters because they’re too condescending to bother to find out who wrote the song. You could actually say it’s wholesale theft, which it was in the case of The Carter Family. A.P. Carter blatantly lifted songs from other people and that was called “the folk process”. Others would call it theft. I guess my definition of folk music would be a contrived collision of racism and theft.
—Stephin Merritt, interviewed at Drowned in Sound
“People in that world behave badly and they don’t even know it, and those are the good guys,” said Kim O’Connor, and then wouldn’t you know, a bunch of commenters proved her right. Pffuuuuuk….
Seeing women pitted against men is a rare occurrence in sports. Men compete against men, and women against women. That’s the way the world works. And sex segregation makes a lot of sense. Men are (on average) taller, faster, and stronger. But while segregation may save women from being perpetually benched and bested, it also reinforces the already pervasive message that women can’t compete with men, that our physiological short straw has doomed us to never being better than second best in athletic endeavors.
And that message is not only destructive, it’s also inaccurate.
The Ping-Pong Theory of Tech Sexism: A true (illustrated) story by the great Ariel Schrag.
“I’m going to stalk dramatically through the center of the conversation and then disappear. Don’t touch me.”
(The style of the post linked above seems to owe a lot to Allie Brosh, whose influence is disproportionate to her profile.)
Tracking this information allowed planters to determine how far they could push their workers to get the most profit. Using the account books, slave owners could see how many pounds of cotton each slave picked and compare it to their output from previous years—and then create minimum picking requirements based on these calculations.
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The concept of depreciation is also credited to the railroad era, when railroad owners allocated the cost of their trains over time, but Rosenthal notes that slave owners were doing this before then.
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These account books played a role in reducing slaves to “human capital,” Rosenthal says, allowing owners who were removed from day-to-day operations to see their slaves as assets, as interchangeable units of production in a ledger, instead of as people.
It’s messed up.
Anne Boyer (twenty first century girl) wrote this: Hey Bo Diddley, which reminded me of my own Hey Bo Diddley. That’s right, I’m just as creative with the titles as the folks at Coldfront. Boyer’s piece is majestic and I am going to quote from it lavishly. I am going to quote almost all of it, without permission:
If Bo Diddley could do anything, it was grind. In this, he once again resembles nothing, for the most familiar nothing that is so much something is the grind, by which I mean the daily one, how in it time wears away like blades against themselves.
The grind is at least partial evidence that Bo Diddley was, apart from himself and nothing, also a clock. “A clock” is the punch line to the riddle: “What marks everything but itself leaves no mark?” And “time” is the punch line to what tells but doesn’t speak: the minutes, half hours, hours, days, weeks, years and decades shuffle away, and if you don’t see them on a face at the instant they appeared there, you will never see them again. So, too, the shuffle of a Bo Diddley song: hands over minutes, each like the other but never exactly[.]
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Bo Diddley is the face of the nothing that is so much something that it must always be called after. Bo Diddley asks, “Where did the time go?” When you sing along to “Hey Bo Diddley” what you really sing is“Hey, come here, whatever both desperately needs and dissipates itself, what is marked by its unmarking, what tells but doesn’t speak, what is and isn’t until there is nothing and everything left.”
I said that the Bo Diddley Beat summoned a spirit. In the above paragraph, Boyer seems to have something of the same idea?
In the Palace of Irony, also, Bo Diddley’s face was straight man to his feet, which were hilarious. In the Palace of Irony, also, Bo Diddley’s rhythm was his melody (Bo Diddley: “I play drum licks on the guitar”). His hot was his cool. His going hard was his laying back. His showing off was his humility. For Bo Diddley, like any virtuoso, the least amount of effort was to allow all of his effort to be unleashed.
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It is in the nothing that is Utopia, however, that you will find the origin story of Bo Diddley. It’s the story of the birth, like all gods, of no one. He was born at midnight, playing a golden guitar, and just like the Baby Jesus, people came from miles around to see him. One might expect that this is the sign of someone who is something, but remember, Bo Diddley is Diddley Squat (nothing). Here’s what Bo Diddley sang about his exceptional nativity: “Woo! I’m a mess.”
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This is also the Palace of Irony’s wing of extreme trickster litotes: virtuosity is the messiest shit around. Everything spills out that way. It’s unstoppable, and what spills out (in a mess) of the virtuoso is not an individual but an era and all that era’s marks and vicissitudes. The golden guitar Bo Diddley was born with was the extension of the human hand as the human that was Bo Diddley was the instrument of the other-worldly force that is Bo Diddley’s exact world and his own exact times. There is nothing so precisely historical as the virtuoso’s magic deluge of “era.”
Bo Diddley was stolen from. Bo Diddley suffered. Bo Diddley sowed and barely reaped. About Bo Diddley, people forget, but if you listen closely to everything you might have loved, you will hear that Bo Diddley is the most obvious citation in any treatise on “cool.”
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What was timeless about Bo Diddley, on the other hand, is that Bo Diddley kept time. The Bo Diddley beat, like the Bo Diddley century, was above any other before or after it, propulsive. Woo! America. Woo! The 20th century! Woo! High modernity’s temporal acceleration! Where did the time go? I’m a mess!
In another origin story, Bo Diddley got his beat from the tambourines he heard in church. The church tambourines got theirs, by cunning preservation, from enslaved people from Africa who beat the hambone on their own bodies. Bo Diddley was nothing; everything; the court jester of the Palace of Irony, therefore its king; a clock; a riddle; a Utopic furnishing; the fly muse of history; a generally hilarious defiance; a drumless drum[mer]; a long transatlantic memory; music’s slow countermethod to war.
In another origin story, Bo Diddley claimed he wanted his guitar to sound like travelin’. He called it “the freight train sound.” It came not by nature, though part of being a virtuoso is the virtuoso’s claim of being the child of accident, but from experiment. What critics said Bo Diddley did with this discovery was “expansion.” Bo Diddley made the guitar big enough for Rock-n-Roll.
There is no doubt that beyond his own The Story of Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley came to be. Rumor has it his name came from the children on the playground in Chicago, where he moved from the South during Bo Diddley’s great migration. Bo Diddley was also a boxer: is this, too, where he gleaned that shuffle?