A Quick Update for the New Year
January 11, 2010
Part I: Blog plans
I’m going to try to write a lot more this year. I know I said that last year, but somehow planning a wedding, running a marathon, researching hipsters and teaching about rock and roll and music history got in the way. It’s as though I’ve been working four jobs, because I was! I’m going to be doing some new classes this semester, though, so I think I should have plenty to write about. Let’s find out what I end up leaving out about hip-hop! I can tell you one thing–I won’t give short shrift to Run-D.M.C. like Jeff Chang did!
(I do like Can’t Stop Won’t Stop quite a bit, but I’m sad that there’s such little room given to Run-D.M.C.)
Part II: New Commenting Rules
I have not approved many comments recently, since they violate the very rule I set down in my classroom: the “It’s awesome/It sucks” rule. This rule is very simple in the classroom. You can disagree with me about the importance of a band. You can hate what I play in class. You can love it. But if your only comment is, “It’s awesome” or “It sucks,” you are not being particularly insightful or revealing any sort of engagement.
Want to disagree with me about Damon Albarn? Okey doke. But do it in a way that indicates you at least read my critique of him, rather than tell me I don’t know anything about world music. I love his music, but I still believe that we can critique music and musicians we love, acknowledge problems with them, and still enjoy them.
Part III: Lost in Translation
Soooo, despite being a delinquent blogger for about a year now, I keep getting lots of comments regarding one particular post, “Anton Corbijn and the Curse of Death.” I’m not posting these comments, because they should be embarrassing to the posters. Why? Because they took it seriously. It is a joke. It reads, “Of course, this entry is tongue in cheek. I don’t really think that Anton Corbijn is a curse.” I realize I am not a standup comic, and maybe you don’t think it’s funny, and that is fine. But it is absolutely not meant as “conspiracy theory” as one idiot noted (who then continued, “I didn’t read any of your examples.” Well, then you also didn’t read the part where I note it’s not serious.).
I do understand that some of the people reading and commenting on this post are, in fact, from the Netherlands and may not get idiomatic U.S. English or my sense of humor. Maybe they are some of Corbijn’s relatives or view him as the pride of Groningen, but what about the sentence “I don’t really think that Anton Corbijn is a curse” indicates that I do think that?
Here’s what I really do believe about Anton Corbijn: His work is a fairly distinctive body of photography, yet his portrayal of different artists includes strikingly similar lighting, filters, and imagery. In his photography, U2 looks like Depeche Mode looks like Echo & the Bunnymen looks like Control. This reveals a strikingly limited and static visual vocabulary, as well as a restricted vision of his subjects, who become Corbijn’s ciphers of the moment. In terms of dynamism and individuality, he is no Annie Leibovitz, or Richard Avedon, or even Charles Peterson.
I also view his depiction of women in his film Control and in his videos and photography to be troubling at best. Control featured cardboard characterizations of Deborah Curtis and Annik Honore, who become stereotypical poles of responsibility and passion between which our troubled hero Ian Curtis cannot choose. In much of his late 1980s and early 1990s work with Depeche Mode, naked women frequently appeared as vacant sexual objects along with the band. Perhaps Corbijn viewed this as some sort of ironic commentary on gender relations, but mostly it just seems like Depeche Mode wanted to reinforce an idea of their heterosexuality in the quickest, cheapest way possible after their gender-bending dressing in the 1980s.
At any rate, if you still think that I believe Anton Corbijn is a curse, you are not reading. If you think my post was unfunny, that’s fine. We don’t all have the same sense of humor. If you lurve his work and disagree with me, that’s fine, too. Just don’t violate the “It’s awesome/It sucks” rule, and we’ll all be OK.