Installation on the High Line. Image from thehighline.org
Original for clarity. Image from iwantapresident.wordpress.com
In Code of the Streets, Elijah Anderson discusses how poverty, racism, fallout from drugs, and a lack of faith in the criminal justice system in inner cities have resulted in alienation. The code of the street is a set of informal rules governing interpersonal behavior that act as a framework for obtaining and maintaining respect or “juice.” The code creates an alternative status system whereby respect is hard won and easily lost. The presentation of self, such as facial expressions, body language, manner of dress, and word use can signal intentions. Ignorance of the rules are no excuse; everyone is expected to know the code and behave in the prescribed manner.
In Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, Byron Hurt talks to academics and rappers about representations of masculinity and violence in rap music. Though the documentary is a bit older (2006), the content is still relevant. In an interview, rapper Fat Joe talks about how even at music industry events and in night clubs, everyone feels the need to present themselves as “hard.” Later, rapper Mos Def talks about growing up as a black man you “don’t want nobody taking you for short…but when shit got critical, you can’t be no punk…and you will get tested.” Hurt also includes discussion of the need for poor men who lack financial power to have control over their bodies and be able to present themselves as deserving of respect.
The Risk podcast, episode 510 “Impulsive,” featured a story called “Judgment Day” by J.J. about his experience coming from inner city poverty, going to college, and returning home to visit. The storyteller gets in an altercation with a man from the neighborhood and comes very close to killing the man as retaliation for hurting his pride.
Last week there has been a twitter argument centered around Assata Shakur, a black feminist who was convicted of the murder of a state trooper, escaped prison, and now has political asylum in Cuba. The Women’s March tweeted a happy birthday message to Assata on July 16th.
Jake Tapper, generally liked by the moderate left, responded to the tweet.
Assata Shakur is a bit of a flash point for the “alt-right.” This tweet was seen as legitimizing arguments of white supremacists. The Women’s March responded with a series of 20 tweets explaining who Assata is and why they support her. COINTELPRO, or the counter intelligence program of the FBI, became a talking point and some other journalists entered the discussion.
The Politically Reactive podcast with W. Kamau Bell and Hari Kondabolu was in an interesting situation. On July 13th they aired an interview with Linda Sarsour, the most well known of the Women’s March organizers, and the following week were scheduled to air an interview with Jake Tapper. The podcasters reached out to both after the twitter argument but did not hear back. They thought it would be inappropriate to simply air the second interview and instead made an episode “Hold Up, Wait a Minute: Twitter Feuds & Threat Models” featuring Prof. Jessie Daniels of Hunter College and CUNY College and cyber security expert Nicholas Weaver.
The most notorious episodes of the Risk podcast are probably the ones where host, Kevin Allison, talks about kink camp.
In number 229 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 1” and number 230 “Kevin Goes to Kink Camp 2” Kevin walks the listener through his first experience of kink camp and what it is like to be a gay man at a primarily heterosexual orgy.
In episode number 828 “Make Believe,” Kevin tells a story called “The Whiz Kid” about his return to kink camp where he participated in “water sports” or urine play.
Lou Reed’s song “Walk on the Wild Side” was recently put under the microscope after being called “transphobic” by a student group. The original song was released on Lou Reed’s Transformer in 1972.
Lyrics from Genus.com:
Holly came from Miami F L A
Hitchhiked her way across the U S A
Plucked her eyebrows on the way
Shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side,”
Said “Hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.”
Candy came from out on the Island
In the backroom she was just everybody’s darling
But she never lost her head
Even when she was giving head
She says, “Hey baby, take a walk on the wild side”
Said, “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”
And the colored girls go
Doo doo doo…
Little Joe never once gave it away
Everybody had to pay and pay
A hustle here and a hustle there
New York City is the place where they said
“Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side”
I said “Hey Joe, take a walk on the wild side”
Sugar Plum Fairy came and hit the streets
Looking for soul food and a place to eat
Went to the Apollo
You should have seen him go go go
They said “Hey sugar, take a walk on the wild side”
I said “Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side” alright, huh
Jackie, she is just speeding away
Thought she was James Dean for a day
Then you know that she had to crash on
Valium would have helped that dash
She said “Hey, babe, take a walk on the wild side”
I said, “Hey honey, take a walk on the wild side”
And the colored girls say
Doo doo doo…
Students at University of Guelph, Ontario issued an apology on their website for playing the song at a function, stating “We now know the lyrics to this song are hurtful to our friends in the trans community and we’d like to unreservedly apologize for this error in judgment.” What is considered objectionable was the “problematic” suggestion that transgender people are “wild” and the phrasing “he was a she.” Note, no mention was made of the use of the word “colored.”
While today the song would probably be phrased differently, contextualized it was very socially advanced for its time. The Stonewall riots were in 1969, homosexuality wasn’t removed by the American Psychiatric Association from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual until 1973. Just mentioning transgender people, oral sex, and drugs in a song was controversial. Lou Reed himself dated a transgender woman for years and was subject to electroshock treatment as a teenager to “cure” his homosexuality.
Most seem to think that the students were overreacting and projecting modern sensibilities. The song still has a lot of power for many young people. I had one student do a class project about the song just last semester. Though they might not be representative, most queer and trans people I know thought the censorship was ridiculous and potentially harmful for trans and queer communities. Friends in bands have pointed out that when they cover the song they just change the lyrics to “she was a she” and “the girls sing.”
Most importantly, Holly Woodlawn, the subject of the first stanza, was interviewed about the song. When saying the lyrics out loud she says “… was a she” skipping over the “he” in the original, but otherwise enjoying the lyrics. She said she loves the song because it has given her immortality.
When I was listening to episode 171 of the No Such Thing as a Fish podcast titled No Such Thing as a Half-Ape Vampire*, the podcasters mentioned this confusing phrasing from The Independent’s article “The World Is Running Out of Camembert.” The article states:
Out of the three hundred and sixty million made each year, just a treasured four have true Camembert credentials.
That’s just over one percent.
When presented in an online article with ads and the creation of the new paragraph, the podcasters discussed thinking it was literally 4 camembert cheeses, significantly less than 1%. *Warning: if you choose to listen to this episode they also talk about maggot excrement in the cheesemaking process.
image from QI because there is no way I’m looking at pictures of cheese after listening