This past summer the internet cast its quick and easy judgment on the alleged excesses of a superstar academic—a cruel and misguided reading of the text, in the eyes of fellow superstars. As an academic superstar myself, trained in the same disciplines, I wondered: Have we become too estranged from the online discourse? What matters to these people, out there? What repositories of meaning have shaped their (mis)understanding? To find out more, I turned my own critical eye back against that digital world.
In his hypnotic Sprechgesang composition, Zonday is “hot chocolate” pouring cold scorn on the American racial unconscious, lifting the medium of the viral/virile video to a space of gritty masculine critic-jism. Donning glasses reminiscent of an Urkel-from-another-Merkel, our Überdrivingmensch delivers a *Jamaican accent* ‘cinna-mon challenge’ to the masses. Like that feat of the human will, also captured by vloggers and streamers, Zonday’s thick truth serum is ingested quickly but, with an even greater rapidity, rejected by the mind/body. It is too pure, too raw. Not to our delicate tastes, no matter how much its anti-inflammatory properties might soothe our collective fever. Nevertheless, the rain falls on and the fever rises. The only recourse is to attempt again and to—this time—swallow. Thus Spoke Zonday.
When Black declares that it is Friday, the dusky young chunk of a Chicana is declaring her own “thrownness.” On the cusp of corpulent adult-’hood, the puberulent R.B. is freed from the b(lithe) days of her sexless adolescence—only, the excitement of the weak-end is too unbearable in its voluptuous morbidity to contemplate to bloated completion. Which seat can she take? She does not choose, and in doing so reveals the existential ennui associated with the possibilities which lay both before and alongside her.
The inclusion of ARK Music Factory’s own Patrice—a fitting Usher to our decadent, sugared New Era—is Balzacian in its funhouse mirror presentation of this “thrownness,” bringing a second layer of ambivalence to B’s own Comédie humaine. He is in the fast lane; he is switching lanes; he is impelled forward. Nevertheless, a school bus passes him. As with his talkin’ blues predecessor actor/director/filmmaker Iced Cube, the day holds immense significance. Yet it is not the Friday to come but the memories of Fridays long ago which overtake him on the journey. Becs is in thrall to her future, ’Trice held captive by his past; a declaration of care is expressed in one deliciously liminal exuberance of singularity and repetition, “It’s Friday!”
Two men, powerful in the vulnerability of their simultaneous sclerotic release, acknowledge the ontological limitations of the other’s presence on an episode of Accident & Emergency’s “hit” television series Intervention. Expressed in the tones and noises often found in videos of goats screaming is the urge towards not the presence of the other but the knowledge of that other. Recontextualized in the form of auto-tune, with syncopated beats and some phat-ass bass wobbles, like the goats, their pain is devastating.
Neither Flaubert nor Derrick Comedy could have scripted it better: a man’s body desecrated by his own people for the crime of resisting foreign imperialism. In the dazed state of a frayed dasein, Gaddafi’s mortality hangs in the balance alongside the fate of his country. Chaotic but orderly, both just and unjust, above all it is a prompt for reconsideration of the medium and the public/private space that these videos inhabit. For some, YouTube is the repository of unscripted human foibles and scripted rap “beefs,” for others, it is no less than of their own national history captured in visceral, all-too-real Real-Time.