1 (edited by kate h 2018-05-22 12:38:20)

Topic: Bike Lane

Vexing song.

Don't get me wrong, I totally love it musically. I find a kind of surfer vibe in it, and I've always loved surfer vibes. Makes me feel like I'm in California and the wind is blowing and I'm down by the ocean and everything is sunshine for miles and if I could still fit in a bikini I'd definitely be in one but I'll blithely pretend my second century curves are still sexy anyway. (They are.)

I love "Bike Lane" as long as I don't listen to the lyrics.

But of course so many reviewers have made so much of the lyrics, "Malkmus' most overtly political song..." and all that. Not that I necessarily agree. Well, I guess if overt is the criteria, okay. Maybe.

Anyway, so back to brass tacks.

So I'm listening to this tune, amazing musically, so of course I want to dance, apparently in some kind of surfer way. No problem, I'm grooving in my little studio. This tune works! She's still got it.

Then, predictably, in enters the consciousness that I'm dancing to the story of another beautiful black man, another beautiful black man...mowed down, "max 25!"

What kind of asshole would dance to that??? Gotto sit this one out.

Or maybe that's the point? Or if not the point intention-wise then at least the effect. I wouldn't dare tap my toe, either. "Hattie Carroll" and "Pawn in the Game" and even "Hurricane" this is not. You don't dance to those. "Bike Lane" is storytelling yes; frank balladeering, no. But watch out -- it tries to trick you into dancing!

So it gets me to wondering, wondering if maybe the point is, the effect is, to awakenly find oneself in a surfed out Cali groove in dance or in mood and then find oneself arrested, ah hem, to be in such a lackadaisical space, just like us 'Mericans are always in such a lackadaisical space --new music, let's go cruisin now eveybody's cruisin now come on and sa-cruising with me!

This endlessly gleeful American Bandstand ripples unabated because it's difficult to imagine that anything post-Kent State has ever shocked, arrested, or stopped us Yanks enough to really let it all sink in; the injustice, the indifference, the violence, the violence, the violence and all brought to us in widescreen, CinemaScope, Dolby surround sound. Thank you, Arthur Penn, we loved Bonnie and Clyde. Get me another glass of Champagne! Ros-ay Champagne!

Damn, I hate myself!

But then I start taking exception, content wise to "Bike Lane." We're all not distracted brutes!

It just so happens, entirely coincidentally, that I've been a person who has worked on issues like bike and pedestrian infrastructure. So of course "Bike Lane" stings even harder when it just happens to be exactly something I've worked on myself. It's not like it was, "Just another clean stream," or "Just another parts per million less..." or "Just another living wage."

Sure, I can mount a defense to the validity of working on bike lanes. The huge number of roadway fatalities, many attributed to bad infrastructure, others to distracted driving, some to stupid cyclists especially those w/out helmets, many to an increase in cycling, particularly in commutes, our wretched suburban paradigm in general.

I can note that cycling is greener than driving, it's massively doable for the lion's share of the citizenry, it's gentler on those streams and that air and climate and is more human and thus more humane and less brutal and isolating than car culture and that second century curves might stay fitter if cycling as transport was among the prevailing norms and thus safer and attended to.

I can mention that half of kids biked to school in the 60s when I was born and now fewer than 3% do. No wonder kids are whack -- those little bratty fatties need to burn some energy.

I can mention that, while little known, America's black citizens as organized factions are intimately involved in green infrastructure issues because environmental justice is social justice.

Damn, my cause starts to sound plausibly noble.

Not that I'm really taking it hyper-personally or anything, just a little sting, seriously, fodder for thought. I just want to think it through some more because it punched through.So weighty.

The prevailing view when the song's been brought up by reviewers, and maybe in some SM commentary too, is that on the one hand the struggle for racial justice, particularly in its more morbid and troubling dimensions, Eg., killed while black because...black...and no recourse... is naturally the story that should be out front, that should rise like cream in our culture's consciousness because of all its compounding factors -- our country's shadowed origins, the ever-twisting permutations of racial injustice playing out again and again and again so unabated, and the reality as well as the feeling that nothing substantive has ever happened to foment a real reckoning. Totally reasonable. To say nothing of the state's violence in the unchecked cops. And in the face of that, sure, other activist issues might plausibly be regarded as frivolous, even indulgent, petty, silly, and most of all, unconnected to a bigger story, to some possibly palpable whole.

But then I wonder why?

Why do things need to be pitted against one another and a hierarchy asserted and categories sequestered and one legitimated narrative presumed and calcified? Sometimes that's helpful, but when is it not?

The mob is always perched and ready to spring.

More than all that though is a question of omnipresent inputs, down to the telecasted, radiograph-ded, wirelessly swimming last byte. All the time.

How are any of us in a time of persistent, junctureless, visual-auditory-informational multiplicity supposed to both consume and D I G E S T the totality of it all in a way that we can remain present to the scale of horror from our corner streets to our broader localities to our regions to our nation as a whole and on out to the global world in conflict and also the violence of thought and word and Capital with its manipulation of values and the erosion of apparent meaning and the self-absorption of our vernacular needs playing out in personal-is-political identity spaces and now the proxy battle of the sexes and rise up to all that and respond in an utterly focused way -- Freddie versus bike lanes -- in a united manner, with enough work stoppage and life stoppage and complete stoppage that any given percolating horror leaves no more room to surf dance to bike songs? That makes us all act. A watershed.

How?

Not that I'm calling Steve intellectually weak for making such a juxtaposition. Far from it. Seriously. His is a rare mind and one I both admire and adore. "Bike Lane" is a song, and a song needs a device. And that device is effective if anyone is thinking about it in a literary and musical sense and even in a contemporary sense of the moment... which I am, and others have.

I guess I'm simply resistant to the interpretation of the song hardening around the notion that, first of all, issues and focuses must necessarily be either/or and nothing in between. And that anything short of obvious life and death (obvious life and death) must necessarily disintegrate into its own perverse triviality to anyone in the know. With those in the know likely very nod nod, wink wink, pass the soapstone-iced bourbon cocktail and it's their surf dance song.

Though America and Americans have achieved some singular greatness, much of it poorly understood and therefore not appreciated by the populace, nonetheless we remain both a young nation, and am immature people. We very likely lost "our rich inheritance" or at the least it is clearly in grave peril. Our cultural superficiality, distractedness, deep level indifference, and entitlement on so many scores by most of us, transcending race, class, sex, and gender assertions may be the things we hold most in common, up there with Coke and McDonald's french fries.

But we're not all brutes and we have a latent greatness to draw on if we'd dare rediscover it.

I wonder if, instead of issues needing to be ranked, or at least ranked in the manner that will bind us and limit us and drive us apart in the way the world of identity and issue politics has done in recent years, in wedge fashion -- as George W. Bush said to choke us out, "You're either with us or you're against us," a cognitive behavioral model that lived beyond its original intent -- that instead we might find a way to value again thoughtfulness, contemplation, debates that don't fall under the "Crossfire" rubric, national conversations, the ability to read through and think through an issue and explore its dimensions before reacting, choosing teams, aiming for win-lose, turning to marble, and then fighting it out to the death without even a "good game" when each round is over.

Lincoln versus Douglas in a long form debate cage match.

"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend." - Thomas Jefferson

There is a hunger out there. Evidence abounds. Maybe a fight for bike lanes proves it.

At a time when we have the encyclopedia of everything in our pockets 24/7 and powered glistening -- you might even say sparkling -- on ancient dinosaur goo, the best we can do is surf dance to tragic murder songs unawares and stop there?

Wakey wakey is a bigger story than woke with woke there, too.

Not that there's any guilt in surf dancing otherwise. Long live surf dancing! There is room enough for it all, but perhaps a little more room might be made for the worth and value of intellect and reason and compassion and the rejection of the real silliness. The real silliness. Silliness that a bike lane could never be.

If citizenry itself were a reasserted American value, and humanity an essential American value, too, then any of us would be working on service and effort and engagement in the ways that drew from our hearts and skills and we'd do what we could, where we could. "From each according...."

Some would likely still do nothing, and others too much. Maybe most would at least do something. If it was a value. A valuable value.

And if people themselves were valued, maybe we could truly pause aghast collectively when such a grave injustice as Freddie Gray was perpetrated that we'd be forced to either believe the spin and bow to it, cowing to the blue line or believe our lying eyes and then...stoppage, and unity, and our impenetrable line, and acting on it.

Anyone can mount a slay track to this -- the country's too big, people don't care, ideas and vision are for the deluded, it's just life, or worse, "it's all good." That's one road.

But I'd argue that there's a lot of tools in our arsenal of engagement should we wish to elevate them. Or you can "Elevate Me Later."

/Overt.

I really do love this song. Wouldn't mind the all-instrumental version for when I'd like to dance to it guilt-free, the music is stellar.

Re: Bike Lane

Kate, thanks so much for this post.  I have zero time to respond, which I desperately want to, and will do so later.  I wanted to come in and discuss this song too.

Particularly in regards to Bike Lane being a great companion piece 'of the moment' to "This is America" by Childish Gambino.  I'm liable to rise some hackles in making that statement, and I don't know that I'll be able to rationally defend it as much as I'd like, but the two songs are linked for me now for several reasons.

In short though, I think the very well thought out and impassioned thoughts you put out above prove the relevance of this song.  You are engaging in a dialog we need to be having, of which there is no omnipresent perspective we need to identify and marshal behind.  We need to contend with the shifting emotions and perspectives this song and songs like it bring up.  And I applaud Steve for creating this piece of art that challenges like this...

Re: Bike Lane

Thanks for the incredibly thoughtful post.

My take on it is certain to evolve beyond this quick hit --

My interpretation is not that Steve is presenting an either/or to the listener, asking them to choose between racial justice or their local NIMBY/YIMBY projects. (As an important side note, I think it should be said that the listeners obviously are, and Steve obviously knows this, mostly white and relatively affluent.) I hear the song as being a plea from the perspective of the people that aren't the listener -- "You want me to worry about municipal improvement project while my kid has to worry about getting gunned down 'legally' for daring to wear a hoodie?" And I think that is a very fair either/or... I can't imagine I'd have the mental capacity to worry about bike lanes, tax cuts, single payer health care, or even global warming if the acute fear of my every day was what might happen when my kid walks to school because his skin is too dark. Every person only has so much capacity.

That said, I definitely agree that us listeners should have more capacity to engage with these issues because that's what our beneficial spot in society grants us -- more free time to think about these things, and more disposable income to put weight behind these things.

I'm not perfect. As a family, we participate in some causes important and close to us, and donate a little bit when we can afford it to a wider array of causes that we support but maybe haven't found the energy to engage with. To a degree I think that's a failing and we try to get better.

That is one silver lining of what happened in 2016. I think it woke a lot of people up. 2017 wasn't an easy year, but it was a year in which our household starting taking some issues seriously and actually doing things to try and make a difference, besides griping on twitter about it. There's more work to do.

- Nathan

Re: Bike Lane

I think the reason this song makes us so uncomfortable is because it forces us to insert ourselves as listeners into a very complex and difficult reality. When we listen to any song, we’re participating and interacting with it as a listener in a number of ways, whether it be dancing or singing along or merely thinking about it. We’re used to turning to songs like those made by Steve and his Jicks to escape the complex realities of daily life, but instead Bike Lane forces us to face the truth. His lyrics don’t tell us how to feel: they present two different realities (at least as Stephen sees them) and as we dance or sing along we’re left to deal with our own feelings about it. I found myself singing along to it in the car today, and I stopped myself because it felt fucking terrible to joyfully sing about the details of a young man’s murder (whether or not this happened etc etc is a debate I am not trying to participate in right now.) I’d rather not think about that at all, but every time I want to listen to this amazing song I have to confront this issue. It’s a conversation-enabling song rather than a preachy one, and I appreciate that.

Do a little hopscotch

Re: Bike Lane

it's all very punk-rock, isn't it? kinda rootsy for him in a way.

surf-vibe, faux brit/affected pronunciation of "Cops", dissonant crashing chord, angular new wavey guitar riff, political content, un-apologetically squirm inducing

and it's working

Re: Bike Lane

yeah i feel like making aging well-off white liberals uncomfortable is sort of the point.  on twitter, some portland bike advocacy group made similar points to the ones here and someone replied with "i just enjoy the 'another beautiful bike lane' part and ignore the rest of the lyrics" without a hint that they realized they were making malk's point for him

the boy your mother wanted you to meet

Re: Bike Lane

bob wrote:

yeah i feel like making aging well-off white liberals uncomfortable is sort of the point.  on twitter, some portland bike advocacy group made similar points to the ones here and someone replied with "i just enjoy the 'another beautiful bike lane' part and ignore the rest of the lyrics" without a hint that they realized they were making malk's point for him

That sounds like a bad crowd! Damned miscreants!

On the plus side I discovered you can dance to it because like music it's something intoning and incanting the art and in the right mind and spirit there's a way in. But it's very subtle. And I know because I did it today. I couldn't help it, the song forced my hand.  This whole album is difficult and subtle on the dance front but it's there. Rich territory.

8 (edited by setyabacksetyabacksetya 2018-05-24 07:38:33)

Re: Bike Lane

Poor cops, so busy shuttling the miscreants!

http://theundefeated.com/features/bucks … ee-police/

theundefeated.com wrote:

It’s a difficult scene to take in. The police rushing Brown and jumping on his body as he tries to tell them that he’s not a threat. It’s like a pride of lions circling an antelope, ready to devour its prey. It’s not the grainy cellphone and body cam videos we’ve grown accustomed to, the videos of Eric Garner gasping for air because he can’t breathe, 4-year-old Dae’Anna Reynolds consoling her mother as Philando Castile lay dead in the front seat, or Laquan McDonald’s body convulsing on the ground after he was riddled with bullets.

But’s it’s disturbing. It’s sick. It’s heartbreaking. It makes you want to cry, vomit and scream all at once. If you were given no context of the video, didn’t know the ending, you would be sure that Brown was going to be shot to death. Because we’ve seen this many times before: the yelling of officers, the collision of bodies, the all-too-familiar “I don’t want to die” tone in Brown’s screams.

Only after the stun gun was used does an officer recognize who Brown is. Not that he is a human being, but a professional basketball player for the home team.

“I look familiar, don’t I?” Brown responds.

9 (edited by kate h 2018-05-25 08:28:25)

Re: Bike Lane

realmac wrote:

it's all very punk-rock, isn't it? kinda rootsy for him in a way.

surf-vibe, faux brit/affected pronunciation of "Cops", dissonant crashing chord, angular new wavey guitar riff, political content, un-apologetically squirm inducing

and it's working

Absolutely. And damn it's a ripper of a tune! It's the best dance song on the record except whichever other song you're listening to at any given moment.

I've shopped "Bike Lane" around to some folks and been trying to talk about things like "what songs that you're currently listening to that make you think about/talk about the song later because of something compelling in it" besides it being awesome music where you're like, "That song totally rocks..." and I haven't gotten much back from folks on that score.

Sometimes I talk about Decembrists songs with people but mostly seems to be kinda because of what is that narrative device or something like that, which is very pleasurable.

Not that I'd want music to be all commentary/protest whatever all the time. What makes it stand out is when it's something different.

Anyway, I'm glad "Bike Lane" made me think about things, I am still am pondering it, and moreover, those bigger questions I posed which somewhat rose out of it but somewhat was perched inside me ready anyway, which is to ponder the triumph of relativism as cynicism and how that model is not serving humanity, and then also what do we do about any one thing when there is so much stuff all the time that's thrust into our awareness. This time is like no other on that front.

My astrologer — I mean, he's not writing personal reports for me, but I am a supporter and so I'm reading his backstage stuff and it's heavy, man — he points to ways we're breaking down into a kind of tribalism that is also associated with language debasement and decay which has a social reorganizing principle in large part attributable to Internet based communications as a collective out-of-body experience which thus far has not yielded true good because most people can't handle life on the astral plane. You might not think something so woo-woo sounding is connected to the street level realities of both omnipresent racial injustice and life in a bike lane, but somehow I do.

Regardless of any of that, I'm always pleased when something gives me meaningful things to reflect upon.

Refreshingly in a local Portland mag, Street Roots, that was pointed to online in the press promo for Sparkling Along,  http://news.streetroots.org/2018/05/18/ … arkle-hard Steve comments on the song in a way I thought was more revealing of his own thought process and of his artistic process:

J.C.: Well, let’s talk about the song “Bike Lane,” which is pretty topical.

S.M.: Yeah man. Portland. Have you ever looked on these bike forums? They’re intense. It’s like, real tears, and a lot of anger is vented, and passive-aggression, but also positivity, and good things. Change happens.

And then, this wasn’t about bike lanes but I saw there was a benefit for something, and it seemed kind of like ... like it could have been for something else. It was a good thing. Good was done. But it got me thinking about, “Where do you spend your time? How are you going to use your service, and your helping time?” And so the bike lanes stood in for that. It was like, what are you into, if you’re just caring about the bike lane so much? And then the song changes pace. There’s a myriad of ways I could have gone. It would have been a bit preachy and didactic to criticize people’s kin-folky obsession with lifestyle. Or you know, how people are gonna hunker down with a good book by the fireplace and ride out this Trump thing. There’s a lot of kind of, almost Portlandia bullshit I could’ve put in there. But I wasn’t keen on it.

So I decided to make it dark. Police brutality. Combine my obsession with “Baltimore”(the name of a song on the Jicks’ 2008 record “Real Emotional Trash”) and a story that I also followed really intently. Freddie Gray. Just the name sounds like an outlaw folk hero to me. He got fucked with in a bad way.

Re: Bike Lane

SM wrote:

So I decided to make it dark. Police brutality. Combine my obsession with “Baltimore”(the name of a song on the Jicks’ 2008 record “Real Emotional Trash”) and a story that I also followed really intently. Freddie Gray. Just the name sounds like an outlaw folk hero to me. He got fucked with in a bad way.

I think part of what makes this song -- and maybe this album --  so interesting and arresting is the way in which the name Freddie Gray plays amongst the historical cast of Hopscotch Willies, Wicked Wandas, Ess-Dogs, Mediterranean Thugs, Mortimers, etc. Malkmus has always created music that is either surreal or somewhere close, and his trippy characters are often part of that equation for me. Freddie Gray is REAL. Seems surreal that "this is america," but this is, and it's a baaaad trip for a lot of folks.

Not to mention, just the serious lyrical allusion to an actual human being seems to be a leap for Steve. Unless my memory's failing me on some past lyrics? He's mentioned Yule Brenner, Richard Avedon  and the like -- now Egon Schiele. But it's always in jest.

Re: Bike Lane

setyabacksetyabacksetya wrote:
SM wrote:

So I decided to make it dark. Police brutality. Combine my obsession with “Baltimore”(the name of a song on the Jicks’ 2008 record “Real Emotional Trash”) and a story that I also followed really intently. Freddie Gray. Just the name sounds like an outlaw folk hero to me. He got fucked with in a bad way.

I think part of what makes this song -- and maybe this album --  so interesting and arresting is the way in which the name Freddie Gray plays amongst the historical cast of Hopscotch Willies, Wicked Wandas, Ess-Dogs, Mediterranean Thugs, Mortimers, etc. Malkmus has always created music that is either surreal or somewhere close, and his trippy characters are often part of that equation for me. Freddie Gray is REAL. Seems surreal that "this is america," but this is, and it's a baaaad trip for a lot of folks.

Not to mention, just the serious lyrical allusion to an actual human being seems to be a leap for Steve. Unless my memory's failing me on some past lyrics? He's mentioned Yule Brenner, Richard Avedon  and the like -- now Egon Schiele. But it's always in jest.

Good points. He's mined a lot of historical names, but usually it seems it is just for the lyrical quality of the name, or for something of a lark (Bob Packwood wants to suck your toes).

- Nathan

Re: Bike Lane

Well, this takes the mystery out of it, but Steve confirmed a lot of our assessments on his Twitter account in reply to someone:

"Was just a lyrical shorthand to contrast street level politics in two different mental/socioeconomic geographies : no judgement no shade"

https://twitter.com/dronecoma/status/10 … 5851661312

- Nathan

Re: Bike Lane

Particlenoun wrote:

I have zero time to respond, which I desperately want to, and will do so later.  I wanted to come in and discuss this song too.

Particularly in regards to Bike Lane being a great companion piece 'of the moment' to "This is America" by Childish Gambino.  I'm liable to rise some hackles in making that statement, and I don't know that I'll be able to rationally defend it as much as I'd like, but the two songs are linked for me now for several reasons.

I had hoped to hear your thoughts on this. I never heard of Childish Gambino until this post of yours (I am woefully out of touch on myriad fronts) but went to a lecture this week on T.D. Rice, the effective inventor of black faced minstrelry in the 19th century. The lecturer, Chinua Thelwell, was showing some modern examples or assertions of black face minstrelry and said that some folks alleged that Childish Gambino was referencing it in the video for "This is America." Thelwell went on to disagree, showing us a still from the video I guess, where Childish is copping a pose as he points a gun at the head of someone seated maybe? I have a photo on my phone but don't know how to upload it here directly). Anyway Childish is in a similar pose that is iconic to the black face minstrelry genre — foot cocked up, left hand lifted, hand on hip but Thelwell maintained that the hand up would need to be more pronounced in order to qualify.

So all that is to say that now that the convergence of Childish Gambino happened in these unexpected overlapping places in my encounter, it makes me want to hear what you were thinking when I first brought this topic up, if it's still interesting to you.

As for me, my dancing to this song has really evolved. I love dancing to it though it draws out of me a very masculine aspect in taking on the totality of it — music and lyrics.

I take Malkmus's assertion about this being a kind of street hero on the run type narrative but I completely chuck all the juxtapositions out there on working for bike lanes as somehow less worthy and replace it with Freddie being on the run and being grateful as he dodges the cops that there's another beautiful bike lane to rip down to try to elude them. So during the "another beautiful bike lane" parts it calls out in me these very narrow, confined movements limited to the frontal plane and a boxed in sagittal plane like a hunched over street bike rider or churning locomotive wheels going full bore and gladly. Head down, focused, moving fast, darting eyes, with like a driven lion at the heels.

It also makes the "poor cops" part less villain than another victim in the mindspace of my song and dance journey, they of their jack boots and lack of relaxation enforcing something they scarcely understand ("forgive them Lord for they know not what they do") and that calls out a kind of a kind of trickster elusive move like setting the Keystone Cops in motion for a moment of escape making Freddie and the bike lanes in cahoots with one another and that makes it more of an outlaw victory to me, Freddie needing those bike lanes, even to the point of seeing that if there were more bike lanes in Freddie's neighborhood there'd be fewer hyperfventliating cops and less pent up tensions or at the least more ways out/less alienation. What a ride the mind is.

I can feel very masculine doing all this and I confess I like it in a sort of rebellious teen kind of stance. Not exactly the stuff you see silver haired ladies of the ripe old age of 51 either admitting to or daring to do publicly without folks thinking you're either touched or boozed up or just plain weird. Hard to be an aging lady in the land of the free and home of the brave. Guess I better go dance it off.

Oh, and one other note: Last Saturday my daughter Chloë's boyfriend got hit by a car while riding in...a bike lane. sad

14 (edited by Particlenoun 2018-05-31 15:46:30)

Re: Bike Lane

Holy shit about your daughters boyfriend!  sad

I'm sorry I never followed up!  I'll put my thoughts together for real this time.  I was recently promoted and am now fucking overwhelmed with shit to do pretty much all day.  But I want to engage on this one!

Quickly though, watch this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY

It is a fucking masterpiece.  Childish Gambino is really Donald Glover, the insanely talented artist who can act, sing, write, do comedy and pretty much anything better than anyone.  He has a show he wrote/produced/sometimes directed over on FX called Atlanta that is amazing.
I'm pretty much a superfan of his at some point.  Anyway, I PROMISE to lay out my thoughts tomorrow when I have some more space...

Oh also, he plays Lando in the new Star Wars movie, Solo!

Re: Bike Lane

Particlenoun wrote:

Holy shit about your daughters boyfriend!  sad

Yes, thanks. Poor thing — he's thrashed. And he's a working musician — lots of instruments but primarily violin/fiddle/guitar and his shoulder is so messed up. Hope he'll fully recover.

Particlenoun wrote:

I'm sorry I never followed up!  I'll put my thoughts together for real this time.  I was recently promoted and am now fucking overwhelmed with shit to do pretty much all day.  But I want to engage on this one!

Quickly though, watch this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY

It is a fucking masterpiece.  Childish Gambino is really Donald Glover, the insanely talented artist who can act, sing, write, do comedy and pretty much anything better than anyone.  He has a show he wrote/produced/sometimes directed over on FX called Atlanta that is amazing.
I'm pretty much a superfan of his at some point.  Anyway, I PROMISE to lay out my thoughts tomorrow when I have some more space...

Oh also, he plays Lando in the new Star Wars movie, Solo!

I watched it. Very well done. Some great dance moves and lots of dissonant content clashes to give food for thought. I really loved his running at the end.

Kind of ironic too that he shoots that choir given that most mass shootings in the US are perpetrated by white guys.

Thanks for turning me on to him!

Re: Bike Lane

he's hysterical in community college (they all are)...one of da only comedy i get...and zach galifianakis...daz all

people don't change...

Re: Bike Lane

Alright Kate, let's see if I can get my thoughts down in any coherent manner.

"This Is America" for me is a masterpiece, in that it is a song/video with multiple currents happening simultaneously, in stark contrast.  You have this easy poppy song to start, which quickly descends into violence and darkness.  But then Glover 'wins' you back with his Charisma and dancing (with the school kids), leading them along, and keeping the focus on him and the foreground.  All of the dances he is doing are the latest viral dances, so he is showcasing those 'entertainments' which are taking everyone's attention, especially the kids.  Meanwhile, there is an escalating realm of chaos happening behind him.  If you watch the video again, and ONLY pay attention to what is happening behind him the whole time, it is fucking amazing.  It is still for me, after having watched it about 50 times (no hyperbole) VERY hard not to be distracted by his crazy charisma and presence.  That is the point.  All of this surface entertainment pulling our focus moment by moment from what is really important, from the chaos and life/death crisis we (especially the black community) find ourselves in all of the time.  There are an insane number of important little call outs in that video (it is seriously High Art level stuff in my opinion), including a moment where he pans up to some children recording everything on a cell phone (while saying "this a celly....that's a tool"), showing how the current generation, rather than step in and Act in a bad situation, sits back and records it, while at the same time highlighting how useful it has been to have these once hidden moments of brutality and chaos brought to light by the cell phone age.  Nothing is simple, but so much is laid bare.

So, now, Bike Lane.  Here we have a song from a white suburban perspective.  Contrasting Beautiful Bike Lanes with the death of Freddie Gray and the larger issue of police violence.  Steve can dissemble all he wants about not wanting to throw shade on those fighting for bike lanes, and that is probably right, bur for me the song works best when I listen to it as a stark contrast in the types of things we focus our outrage and community action on.  Bike lanes are very important, but there is an inherent level of privilege in fighting for bike lanes over fighting for the very safety and existence of your community, which many in the black community undoubtedly feel, and have for some time.  We comfortable white suburbanites can afford to fight for better bike lanes (again, important), while other communities fight not to be brutalized and killed by the police.  The difference is pretty stark.

For me, these two songs come at the same loci from two different worlds, and came out around the same time. They both even reference the difference Cell Phones make ("that's a celly...it's a tool"; "From the streets...to the station..but now they have an audience").

It will never be done, and it shouldn't, but I had this vision of a video where someone (Steve?) is riding down a beautiful bike lane, camera pretty tightly focused on the rider and road, while barely discernible in the background are escalating scenes of police brutality, blurry, out of focus and difficult to spot, much as in the Gambino video.  But you know, that would be dumb. 

Well, none of that was coherent, but there you go.  Think I'll go watch that video again!

Re: Bike Lane

what noun said...

people don't change...

19 (edited by kate h 2018-06-01 14:29:26)

Re: Bike Lane

Particlenoun wrote:

"This Is America" for me is a masterpiece, in that it is a song/video with multiple currents happening simultaneously, in stark contrast.  You have this easy poppy song to start, which quickly descends into violence and darkness.  But then Glover 'wins' you back with his Charisma and dancing (with the school kids), leading them along, and keeping the focus on him and the foreground.  All of the dances he is doing are the latest viral dances, so he is showcasing those 'entertainments' which are taking everyone's attention, especially the kids.  Meanwhile, there is an escalating realm of chaos happening behind him.  If you watch the video again, and ONLY pay attention to what is happening behind him the whole time, it is fucking amazing.

Yeah, I caught that and really felt that tension, that juxtaposition. Basically it's the essence of the piece visually.

Particlenoun wrote:

It is still for me, after having watched it about 50 times (no hyperbole) VERY hard not to be distracted by his crazy charisma and presence.  That is the point.  All of this surface entertainment pulling our focus moment by moment from what is really important, from the chaos and life/death crisis we (especially the black community) find ourselves in all of the time.

Even though I get the foreground/background part visually, I didn't quite put it in the heightened terms you have, with the specificity around distinctly American tensions and issues in our clownishness versus our deep and fractured shadow. But I dig your take, your analysis. It's a reason you shouldn't self-efface on your analytical skillz.

Particlenoun wrote:

There are an insane number of important little call outs in that video (it is seriously High Art level stuff in my opinion), including a moment where he pans up to some children recording everything on a cell phone (while saying "this a celly....that's a tool"), showing how the current generation, rather than step in and Act in a bad situation, sits back and records it, while at the same time highlighting how useful it has been to have these once hidden moments of brutality and chaos brought to light by the cell phone age.  Nothing is simple, but so much is laid bare.

Yeppers. I see it.

Would be nice if such art could bring us ALL a breakthrough — and it has the potency to do just that.

I've tried to study as much as I can of slavery in America, and its legacy. It's rich territory to mine being in Virginia, being a Virginian. It's constant meat for looking within and looking at this country, our culture, amazing and shadowed.

A worthy source to look to in this regard from a more intellectual rather than artistic perspective (and not positing in any way that one is more important than another by citing this) is Ibram X. Kendi (https://www.ibramxkendi.com/), author of Stamped from the Beginning; The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America and founder of the Antiracist and Policy Center at American University, and author of the forthcoming book HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST. His whole deal is that A) Love is NOT the answer (too vague) B) Fretting over symbolism is NOT the answer (too many fraught emotions there) and C) Policy IS the answer. I defer to his greater knowledge, research, and perspective.

Particlenoun wrote:

So, now, Bike Lane.  Here we have a song from a white suburban perspective. Contrasting Beautiful Bike Lanes with the death of Freddie Gray and the larger issue of police violence. Steve can dissemble all he wants about not wanting to throw shade on those fighting for bike lanes, and that is probably right, but for me the song works best when I listen to it as a stark contrast in the types of things we focus our outrage and community action on. Bike lanes are very important, but there is an inherent level of privilege in fighting for bike lanes over fighting for the very safety and existence of your community, which many in the black community undoubtedly feel, and have for some time. We comfortable white suburbanites can afford to fight for better bike lanes (again, important), while other communities fight not to be brutalized and killed by the police. The difference is pretty stark.

Yes, true, and vexing. So many questions — questions of proximity, questions of scale, questions of priorities, questions of what we are all up against and what any of us is up against (individually or in micro-collective signals).

There is a part of white critiques of whites that...also has an aspect of...let's say paternalism and or liberal idealism in a fix-it sense. I'm not saying the impulse isn't sincere, nor the advice unwarranted. But there's at least a portion that admits of a certain remove while calling others to account — Eg., "I can see this about you/this situation that you don't see about yourself so get straight okay?"

It even subtly suggests that it's our duty to intervene in resolving longstanding issues of American racism, that is to say, to take the lead on them by first negating or at the least minimizing our own communities under the rubric of "privilege" and its allegedly insulating factors (true in some regards, not in all) and to essentially by implication be the lead for black communities who need white negation to achieve black equality. Or that we intervene to help them get what they can't get by taking the lead themselves rather than supporting their self-generated initiatives. (Charlottesville was problematic in this regard and is ill-understood as a result.)

I think Ibram X. Kendi would advocate something different. But I don't know for sure because I haven't read enough and it's not my area of expertise. What I find is that these things tend to orbit around the heart and the emotions (two perfectly valid fields of engagement) and that nuts and bolts, like the kind Kendi curries in, are above a lot of our pay grades. So we do what we can.

Bottom line it's a vexing time and to try to roll back things wrought in policy and then justified culturally, including all the hidden strands of racism — it's tough for the peeps of our time, for you and me and everyone else. It's a tough nut. Not trying to cop out but seriously, if there was ever a time for "it ain't easy," this one is it. Which is not a call to retreat. 

Particlenoun wrote:

For me, these two songs come at the same loci from two different worlds, and came out around the same time. They both even reference the difference Cell Phones make ("that's a celly...it's a tool"; "From the streets...to the station..but now they have an audience").

It will never be done, and it shouldn't, but I had this vision of a video where someone (Steve?) is riding down a beautiful bike lane, camera pretty tightly focused on the rider and road, while barely discernible in the background are escalating scenes of police brutality, blurry, out of focus and difficult to spot, much as in the Gambino video. But you know, that would be dumb. 

Well, none of that was coherent, but there you go.  Think I'll go watch that video again!

It was completely coherent and insightful. I'm not sure why the video shouldn't be made other than that things are so easily misunderstood right now in the age of disembodiment and the Internet and so even earnest and worthy impulses can so easily be misconstrued to where your back is against the wall and an official apology is called for. Shitty time to be a celeb or famous (if there was ever a good time that is), and maybe not the best time to have ideas. But I'm a sucker for hope. Perhaps "The Times they are A Changin'."

Re: Bike Lane

My take:

The song is basically about deluded progressives, caught up in their own world, who pat themselves on the back, despite the fact that no progress has actually been made.

I don't think he's criticizing bike lanes per se, it's just a songwriting device, a metaphor for the distraction/cognitive omission of more important issues. Bike lanes are cool, but examining and dealing with things like police brutality and holding the department accountable, is a far bigger problem, and that hasn't been solved at all. There hasn't really been any serious effort to actually change that. Lots of people, liberal, conservative, and moderate alike, fall into the trap of going all in on one thing, at the expense of losing track of what's actually important.

As far as feeling guilty about getting into the song; one of the tenets of art is making something positive out of something negative. Bike Lane is kind of a weird one: dark lyrics over some rocking instrumentation. Now, it's not a great comparison, but think about Jimmy Buffet's "Margaritaville;" it's a song about a depressed, alcoholic beach bum with no direction, no one to love, no hope, sung over steel drums. Yet, night after night at Buffet's shows, people get loaded and scream and dance along to it, women take their tops off, all that shit, to what's really a fucking bummer of a song.

Again, not a great comparison, but it's the best I could think of right now, and I like to think people on this board are reasonable enough to look past that and see the point. Out of something terrible, an artist makes something enjoyable.

Maybe Malkmus wants his audience to feel uncomfortable with the song, maybe he's going with my "light in the darkness" theory. Maybe it's both. I say, feel what you feel, but flagellating yourself with guilt isn't necessary. As far as I've seen, when the Jicks play the song, they get into it. So if you want to rock out, I say go for it.

---------- Do you ask that question often?
(\_/) 
(O.o)
(> <)

Re: Bike Lane

StefanMalkmus wrote:

My take:

The song is basically about deluded progressives, caught up in their own world, who pat themselves on the back, despite the fact that no progress has actually been made.

I've made my peace with the song -- it's a GREAT song in structure, melody, rhythm, lyrics, devices, and everything else. It's a GREAT song and I love it.

That said, your conclusion is overreaching, illogical, and unsupported by the evidence. smile

People can only solve so many problems and there are a lot of problems.

You might as well say why are we worrying about people who are eating when half the world is starving? Or why are we worrying about people who are free albeit in a troubled way when much of the world is in actual bondage, forms of modern day slavery, and war zones?

Bottom line is it's a great song and that's good enough. Its iron clad philosophical truth though is highly debatable. Fortunately it doesn't have to be iron clad or debated because it's a good device, a good song, gets folks talking about things that should be talked about more. But mostly should get people doing things that they should be doing more.

Don't know if we can ask more from music than that especially when it's such a great dance song to boot.

Up with No Bike Lines! smile

Re: Bike Lane

I have to agree with kate, I think that analysis is not likely to be correct. I'm pasting what I said earlier, but my take:

I hear the song as being a plea from the perspective of the people that aren't the generally affluent listeners -- "You want me to worry about municipal improvement project while my kid has to worry about getting gunned down 'legally' for daring to wear a hoodie?" And I think that is a very fair either/or... I can't imagine I'd have the mental capacity to worry about bike lanes, tax cuts, single payer health care, or even global warming if the acute fear of my every day was what might happen when my kid walks to school because his skin is too dark. Every person only has so much capacity.

- Nathan

Re: Bike Lane

https://www.billboard.com/articles/colu … -interview

Found a really good billboard interview, where he talks about it. About halfway down

"Phonetically, the "beautiful bike lane" rolls off the tongue and it's something comic about being pissed off about your cohorts whining on bike lane forums. A small, not important problem, but there's a lot of mental energy spent on it and other things like that and other things in your town."

He goes on more about it.

---------- Do you ask that question often?
(\_/) 
(O.o)
(> <)

24 (edited by bob 2018-06-05 11:18:42)

Re: Bike Lane

yeah he's not saying "bike lanes suck."  but if bike lanes (or whatever) are your pet project and the only cause you exert any energy on, then yes, that's definitely coming from a place of privilege.  and i think it's worth reminding people of that sometimes

the boy your mother wanted you to meet

Re: Bike Lane

bob wrote:

yeah he's not saying "bike lanes suck."  but if bike lanes (or whatever) are your passion project and the only cause you exert any energy on, then that's definitely coming from a place of privilege and i think it's worth reminding people of that sometimes

I think that's dead on  actually.

---------- Do you ask that question often?
(\_/) 
(O.o)
(> <)