Disambiguate Before September Ends

It’s certainly gratifying to see an article in the New York Times by Sarah Boxer reviewing an appropriation and political intervention by independent vlogger Zadi at Karmagrrrl. Zadi’s Quicktime video reframes Green Day’s tune (Wake Me Up When September Ends) as a comment on the devastation resulting from hurricane Katrina and the inability of the U.S. government to protect and care for its own citizens.

While Green Day may have intended their song as a comment on the war in Iraq, the inherent ambiguity of the lyrics leaves it open to a wide range of interpretations. The Katrina disaster, as Boxer points out, seems a more comfortable and compelling fit than Sam Bayer’s emotionally predictable video [or here] showing two young lovers separated by the war.  The subtle editing of video and audio footage gathered by Zadi is both moving and suggestive. It sends a clear message without being in any way heavy-handed or preachy. The final (unattributed line) from the President’s mother, Barbara Bush, is chilling.

On Raves and Emergent Communities

Douglas Rushkoff makes a number of claims in his recent post on raves and attempts by legislators to control or prevent them.

The problem with consciousness expansion, for government, is not the fact that kids or the poor die from crack use. It’s the fact that people who alter their consciousness become aware of the stultifying reality tunnels (mind sets, ways of understanding the world, fixed perspectives) that dictate so much of human activity.

Rave culture, as it was first exercised, anyway, was about created [sic] an alternative to the mob-run nightclub scene of most cities, and the competitive, coked-up world of late disco.

…[T]hose involved in rave thought they had no agenda, when in fact they did. The agenda was not for the right to do drugs – it was for the right to assemble without involving the record industry, MTV, or the mob-sponsored club scene. It was about freedom from marketing and market-driven culture. It was about doing in public what is only supposed to happen in private.

In other words, rave culture emerged out of the search for an inexpensive, unmediated, and noncommercial form of socializing. This is consistent with what I saw in Detroit in the late ’80s. I was teaching at an art school in the cultural center at the time. A number of my students, such as Adam Miller of Adult, were painting and, at the same time, experimenting with electronic music on relatively simple synthesizers. In an artistic climate where videos and multi-media installations were commonplace, experimental music was treated as just another medium.

Detroit was, in many ways, the perfect setting for raves. It was the first post-industrial ruin — an economically depressed city devastated by its dependence on a single industry that had fallen on hard times. Since the riots in the late ’60s, there weren’t many resources for young people and there wasn’t alot of money in the city. For the young, hip, and mostly white kids around Detroit, the remnants of Motown and the Cass-Corridor rock of the ’60s was irrelevant. And the commercialization of college and alternative rock made it decidedly less intriguing than the new electronic sounds. An additional thing Detroit had — a crucial element for raves — was a large number of abandoned buildings. So the kids took advantage of the situation, crashed the buildings late at night, set up a sound system, and started dancing. Slowly, through word of mouth, information about dance parties began circulating and the local rave scene was born.