August 2015
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Ecstasy is the only truly postmodern drug, and not just in terms of its place in history, or the completely “I’m so intensely into the many facets of this thing right now”/“I LOVE YOU GUYS” high. Ecstasy has always been produced and marketed with absolutely noaversion to literal branding. Not only are pills produced in pretty colors with cute little logos, the logos themselves are oftentimes the already immediately recognizable icons of corporate giants. It makes sense, too. You might not remember some elaborate little image on the face of a pill after a night of dancing on Molly, but you’ll probably remember the golden arches, the Rolls Royce logo or the Playboy bunny. That Rolls Royce was the best, gotta get more of that, right? See how that works?

A graffiti artist since the age of 14, Dean Zeus Colman now works under his nom d’arts “Zeus,” combining his urban artistic sensibilities with his formal training from Chelsea College of Art. Realizing the obvious pop art potential of ecstasy tablets, Zeus produced these plaster sculptures modeled after actual ecstasy pills to sleek, modern effect. The cheeky chic series is called, called “Love is a Drug,” and you should definitely buy me the Bart Simpson one

Via Creators Project

Throwback Review: ‘Hackers’

Throwback Review: ‘Hackers’

I get it: Hackers in no way represents, in any shade of reality, hacking, hackers, or computer culture in general. The plot is campy, blah, blah, blah. Having said that, it is the greatest computer-related film ever made. Hackers represents the ineptitude and unwavering stubborn attitudes of every authority figure that has ever lived. Here they are rightly treated as pawns, omnipresent but easily sidestepped by our heros. The authority, represented here by oil company execs and the F.B.I., know enough to know that they know nothing. They know they’re pawns and it annoys them, but not enough for them to learn how to use a computer.
Even ‘Supreme’ made an appearance.
In 1995, when Hackers was released, Angelina Jolie was still just Jon Voight’s daughter, Matthew Lillard hadn’t made SLC Punk (or the unfortunate slew of Freddie Prinze Jr. films that followed), and Jonny Lee Miller was still a year away from Trainspotting. Did this film really come out 20 years ago? After seeing it as a kid, I was sure that I would be a hacker. But don’t worry, after watching it again to write this review, I bought a programming book and yeah, I’m never going to be a hacker. What I can do is emulate the film’s fashion, which is actually amazing. Overwhelming prints, Akira-esque motorcycle gear, cloak hoodies, belts to keep your thighs tight, accessories for days, and of course, rollerblades. Kate, played by Angelina Jolie, could walk off the screen today and fit in perfectly in NYC. Everyone’s outfits are perfect. The film may not have gotten the computer thing right, but damn did they have a crystal ball that saw into the future of fashion.
You might be reading this and wondering what happened to rollerblades. Well, I really don’t know. Everyone interesting in the movie has a pair, except our villain, the Plague, who skateboards. But seriously, someone must have put a fatwa on rollerblading cause that shit is long dead. I dabbled in rollerblading as a kid and tbh I kind of miss it. My guess is someone was skating down the block one day and had his masculinity questioned, and that was that.
Back to the movie. At its heart, it’s a teen movie about rebellion. The thing it does so well is that it doesn’t fall for the usual tropes of teen movies. You won’t find yourself rolling your eyes at the dialogue (unless you’re a hacker), every character is believable, and the actors’ relationships with one another — platonic and romantic alike — don’t pander to an adult’s version of adolescence. It all feels genuine.
Hackers follows six friends: Dade Murphy a.k.a. Zero Cool a.k.a. Crash Override, Kate Libby a.k.a. Acid Burn, Joey (who has no handle), Ramon Sanchez a.k.a. Phantom Phreak a.k.a. King of Nynex, Paul Cook a.k.a. Lord Nikon, and Emmanuel Goldstein a.k.a. Cereal Killer. I can’t imagine how many of those handles went on to be immortalized as AOL Screen names, but I’m sure there were more than a few.  The film’s MacGuffin is a virus, launched by our villain — the hacker gone corporate, known as the Plague — ontp Ellingson Mineral Company, which promises to capsize its oil tankers if a ransom is not met. In reality the film is about the relationships of a group of brilliant, interesting high school students with wildly fascinating personalities who exist in NYC’s underground hacking/music/fashion community. (Though, I have never seen a group of kids this interesting survive passed freshman year at Stuyvesant High School).
Joey is the noob. He doesn’t have a handle like the others, his mom dresses him, and he smokes cigarettes two at a time. He lives in Battery Park and his struggle for respect lands his friends into a mess with the F.B.I. Phreak is a Venezuelan kid who lives in Soho, dresses himself, and reminds me of a Venezuelan friend I had in high school, who dressed exactly the same, had the same hair, lived in Soho, and was around the same height. It’s eerie.
Now, my favorite relationship in the film is between Cereal Killer and Lord Nikon, both outcasts who seem to live on their own. While Lord Nikon’s parents are never mentioned, we find out a bit about Cereal Killer’s when Dade asks why he always needs a place to crash: “His parents missed Woodstock and he’s been making up for it ever since.” Their chemistry is palpable; their eyes light up at the presence of the other. Who doesn’t strive for a friendship like that of Lord Nikon and Cereal Killer? The two are simpatico. Lord Nikon with his photographic memory (“It’s a curse”), Cereal Killer with his mild Tourette’s (“Oh! Look at that pooper, man. Spandex, it’s a privilege, not a right”). Throughout the film, these two BFF’s can be seen supporting one another. Nikon lets him sleep over, Cereal gets him a drink at Kate’s party, and Nikon lovingly encourages him in the film’s climax while tenderly holding his shoulders: “Cereal, you can do it! We’re counting on you. You can do it!” It’s a friendship we all wish we had.
Dade and Kate’s relationship is a complex one. It never finds itself in that hackneyed world of teen love, as represented in movies. Instead, it’s a realistic one. Kate is a girl way ahead of her time. She lives in Tribeca (probably), her mom is a famous feminist writer, and her walls are adorned with Keith Herring prints. From the start of Hackers, the two begin screwing with each other. Kate tells Dade about the pool on the roof, Dade sets off the sprinkler system, Dade puts himself in Kate’s classes, they challenge each other to a sort of “Hack-off,” and when Dade finally asks her on a date, Kate slyly replies, “I don’t do dates.” She is the epitome of cool.
The film’s pace is quick so you never get bored, with cut scenes reminiscent of ’90s video art, in addition absurd glimpses into the inner workings of computers and a soundtrack that makes you wonder what life would have been like had you been old enough to notice it in the ’90s. The music (Orbital, Prodigy, Urban Dance Squad), fashion, and attitude of this cult classic are something that will be appreciated for years to come. In most teen movies, the story’s resolution is usually some trite lesson. The characters accept their place in the world they just spent the entire movie fighting against. Not here. In fact, at the film’s climax, while the F.B.I. busily celebrates their victory, Lord Nikon can be seen stealing floppy discs off an F.B.I. computer and jamming them down his pants. The only lesson in the film is that “There is no right or wrong, just fun or boring.” Hackers is everything we dream computer culture could be: lawless, fun, fashionable, and cool. A far cry from today’s world, where the wrong Tweet, however innocent your intention, can ruin your life.
Review by Timothy White. Follow him on Twitter @TipToTheHip.

Saved to your collection: navigating SoundCloud’s subculture

Saved to your collection: navigating SoundCloud’s subculture

Navigating the social music platform SoundCloud, scores of electronic music producers define their subjectivities with the self-referential motifs of emergent subcultures. In the late 1970s, French economist and writer Jacques Attali critiqued what he saw as the oppressive nature of the mass-produced record industry, claiming that consumers were driven to stockpile more records than they had the time to listen to. 
His 1977 book Noise: The Political Economy of Music argued that the music industry of the day was an undemocratic, top-down representation of the “monologue of institutions”. Specifically, Attali’s critique was indicative of a particular left wing anti-consumerist sentiment of the time, reacting to the dominance of Fordist-Keynesian capitalism and its largely American government-driven system of rationalized mass-production and mass-consumption.
nice shit by vomut
Nice shit by Vomut
Moving forward into the present day, social web music services such as SoundCloud appear to a tee as the liberating new model that Attali predicted as this totalizing model’s replacement. One in which the listener becomes the musician – the consumer becomes the producer. Interestingly, phrases used by Attali in Noise such as his call for “a permanent affirmation of the right to be different” and “the right to compose one’s life” sound very much like the rhetoric all too often employed by social web businesses in emphasizing the voice of the individual (for SoundCloud it is an invitation to “Be heard everywhere”). It is with this hindsight that we might start to consider how the promise of a potentially decentralized and democratic musi-topia as hoped for by Attali, became rather the neoliberal blurring of leisure and labor that is Web 2.0 music making.
Around the time of Attali’s Noise, the do-it-yourself (DIY) punk movement — fueled like the French left by a general disillusionment with capitalist consumerism as well as the increased technological ease with which music could be produced and distributed — began a protest against corporate-driven musical taste making. This movement was encapsulated by the call-to-arms: “It was easy, it was cheap – go and do it!” If we consider the nature of DIY in the present however, we are faced with something that is by no means radical. ‘Doing It Yourself’ is the dominant paradigm of today’s Internet ‘prosumers’ and the music industry of the day seeks not always to impose a spectacle of corporate-defined tastes on a passive audience. Rather, it turns a mirror towards this audience with its online platforms and asks users to share. Taken at face value, on services such as SoundCloud there are no professional musicians, no hobbyists and no passive consumers. There are only level playing-field users participating with varied tactics. This is the neoliberal decentralization of the old capitalism’s ‘music industry’.
Music critic Adam Harper draws connections between the punk movement and the contemporary online music underground, one of which being the ease of participation. As he has noted, the bedroom producer of the day needs no musical background, even less so than the punks did. They can use free software to become actively involved in various different subcultures. For instance the genre nightcore, a kind of musical détournement defined by the simple gesture of raising the pitch of a pop song, making it sound kawaii. Typically, nightcore edits are produced from polished sounding pieces of upbeat dance-pop or eurodance, often posted online alongside found imagery, with artists regularly adopting stills from anime films. The subculture began when a Norwegian duo began releasing tracks under the artist name ‘Nightcore’. Their early 2000s speed edits of dance tracks were followed by many other bedroom producers posting their own ‘nightcore’ edits online.
Manicure Records
Manicure Records
After growing within online communities over the last decade, nightcore is enjoying a global moment of popularity with the rising trend of kawaii aesthetics in underground music (PC MusicManicure Records’, JACK댄스 ) along with vaporwave. Subcultures such as nightcore and vaporwave take the simplifying of musical production — articulated initially in the 1970s DIY movement by the mantra “This is a chord, this is another, this is a third, now form a band” — to new digitally assisted extremes.
Whatever the intentions of the artists who have found the tools of the social web useful, the freedom to “make noise” (in Attali’s words) of one’s own has made 12 hours of music be uploaded to SoundCloud every minute. This is indicative of a number of changes to consumption over the last few decades. While Attali’s rhetoric echoes a disillusionment expressed by French post-structuralist philosophers with mass culture’s normalizing qualities, this desire for individualism is one part of an equation that has led to a revolution of user-generated labor. Alongside this cultural disillusionment, capitalism was in a global state of economic recession in the mid-1970s, with rising unemployment and increasing inflation (a result of the crisis of capital accumulation within a failing Fordist system). This, together with the political threats of communist and socialist parties gaining traction across Europe and a growing sense of public dissatisfaction, led to radical political and economic changes in order to ensure capitalism’s dominance; changes that we discuss in the present as neoliberalism.
GitS2: Innocence ft. Post-Structuralist Philosopher Donna Haraway
GitS2: Innocence ft. Post-Structuralist Philosopher Donna Haraway
The neoliberal project saw an emphasis on market freedom from government regulation, a winding back of union power and the security of waged workers (ushering in increasingly casual and precarious employment) alongside a competitiveness that places a particular value on innovative entrepreneurialism and subsequently knowledge as well as service based work. The Internet’s capabilities for distribution of knowledge and information, increasing flexibility by way of the facilitation of freelance work, as well as its providing users opportunities to satisfy their cultured desires for active participation and creative expression, have made the burgeoning digital economy a crucial part of the neoliberal restructuring of society. Culturally, a shift towards neoliberalism (away from the totalizing aesthetic of high Modernism which went hand-in-hand with regulated, big picture postwar Fordism) was accompanied by an emphasis in art and culture on difference, individualism and an embrace of fashion. For consumers, a condition of neoliberalism is a fostering of individualism and a want for one’s voice to be heard, to be a producer. This is a condition that has popularized the participatory music making of the social web. Consumer-led music making, with its initial radical sentiment in the DIY ethos and subsequent forecasting of a now ubiquitous model of consumption, makes for a perfect discussion point of the paradoxical notion of ‘freedom’ in the present day political economy.
While the winding back of Fordist-Keynesian economics was a supposed solution for a crisis of capital accumulation, as Marxist geographer David Harvey has observed, neoliberal economic policy has a particularly poor record in aiding economic growth. Further, despite an overarching political rhetoric of freedom, social inequality grows and increasingly impenetrable and massive tech corporations monopolize the innovation of a new knowledge and information-based economy. This reflects what Harvey argues critically is neoliberalism’s largest achievement: reinstating class power for a small global elite. The world we have arrived at is far from one of the small egalitarian cooperatives that some free market optimists hoped for in neoliberal decentralization and tech-utopians hoped for in the early days of the Web. It is also not one where supposedly democratized music making is free from corporate interests and control. Google’s acquisition of YouTube, expanding the platform from its beginnings in sharing user-generated video content towards including partnerships with large media corporations, is a good example of this. One could also consider the fact that Apple’s new music streaming service seems to be incorporating an aspect of social web consumption.
Twooctave Wireless Keyboard for Apple
Twooctave Wireless Keyboard for Apple
Apple Music’s Connect platform opens up lines of communication from artists to fans in order to post messages, videos and other content. These examples give an indication that SoundCloud may either be squeezed out by new competing platforms or eventually bought out by a larger company (Twitter was already considering an acquisition of SoundCloud in 2014). On social music platforms like SoundCloud, DIY music making is now not so much an interruption within capitalism of cultural normalization, but rather a mainstream means of consumption as well as often an act of unpaid labor. The notion of ‘doing-it-yourself’ becomes a subcultural stopgap for the necessarily continuous consumer demand that the corporate-driven tastemaking of the old music industry could never have upheld.
Music, held in such high esteem by Attali for its forecasting of political-economic changes in society, was once again at the vanguard of consumption in bringing notions of consumers-as-producers to the mainstream with the late 1970s punk movement. The DIY-urge expressed by music practitioners in the face of corporate sameness did not however actualize a means in which to create a musical economy outside of capitalism as some had hoped. Instead, it became a means for reforming consumption within a hierarchical capitalism that continues, albeit in an evolved form, today. The desires of those disillusioned with corporate normalization, their wants for difference, individualism and freedom of creative expression have been adopted wholesale in the participatory consumption of Web 2.0 platforms; where new subcultures abound amongst streams of favorites and reposts on SoundCloud. On social music platforms we see a push for users to present their ever-updating creative subjectivities; this is not too much unlike the old model of more passive consumption and its push to purchase new, ever-updating products. No matter how accessible use of the social web’s tools may become, ownership of the underlying infrastructure of these platforms sits not in the hands of its users, but in the hands of companies whose interests lie in extracting value from users’ productivity. As a company SoundCloud is perhaps still closer to its startup origins than the massive tech corporations alluded to earlier. However as SoundCloud begins the introduction of new subscription services and advertising, juggling its artist-focused roots with major record labels, we can perhaps speculate how it may evolve to serve the interests of the latter. While the increasing ease of digital music production and the tools of the social web have given birth to new subcultures, this contemporary DIY freedom is coupled with our changing relationship to music listening and participation, as creative expression becomes more and more a way in which we are expected to participate as consumers.


By: Fan Fiction


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