February 02nd, 2018 | Category: Essays
The Ends Against the Middle

To point out changes in the media landscape is to recite clichés. Everything is different, and nothing has changed.
Those two forces are flipping our media environment inside out. On one end, broadcasting became narrowcasting, and has now become microcasting. Advertisers and politicians are able to send ever-more targeted messages to smaller and smaller groups, moving from the broadcast model of one-to-many to something ever-closer to one-to-one. This shift has allowed an entity to tell one person one thing and then next person something possibly contradictory and gain the support of …

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January 24th, 2018 | Category: Reviews
The Alterity of Cool

William Melvin Kelley’s debut novel, A Different Drummer (Doubleday, 1962), imagines a different America, one where a slave revolt reconfigured the civil war and the nation thereafter. Three weeks before its release, Kelley flipped the term “woke” into its current common parlance in a New York Times Op-Ed piece. His central point was that the African Diaspora was responsible for the cool, “beatnik” slang of the time. One could say the same for hip-hop slang now. Some of it stays in predominantly hip-hop contexts, but quite a lot of it …

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January 10th, 2018 | Category: Essays
Coming to Terms with Dave Chappelle

There is an aspect of speculative design sometimes called “design fiction,” sometimes called “critical design.” Its practitioners basically set out to challenge the hegemony of the present way of thinking about things—buildings, gadgets, objects, whatever. Instead of reifying the currently held ideas, critical design imagines a different way of doing or seeing things.
I distinctly remember the only issue of Blender Magazine that I ever read (August, 2004) had Dave Chappelle on the cover. The mid-00s were the print-magazine format’s last peak, and there were so many of them, newsstands stretching …

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December 31st, 2017 | Category: Essays
Decaf or Rehab? Quitting Clarity

I started drinking coffee in kindergarten. I wanted to be more grown-up, and with enough cream and sugar, I could.
I didn’t realize I was addicted to the stuff in elementary school until I tried to quit many years later. The headaches that follow depriving your brain of caffeine are a special kind of pain. When I made my first effort to quit in my late 20s, I recognized that pain. My head had been through that before.
I thought back and realized that my first sleepovers with friends were fraught with …

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December 02nd, 2017 | Category: Reviews
Top Records, 2017

This has been another year of change for me. I’m finding more and more difficult to see how others stagnate as they age. Maybe others see me some kind of way, but one place that tendency is evident is in the music we listen to: I am constantly finding new and exciting sounds. Whether it’s seeing Street Sects open for my dudes dälek at Beat Kitchen in Chicago, or EMA, Sleaford Mods, Moor Mother, and Sturgill Simpson making me rethink the very concept of genre, there’s always someone pushing things …

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