On #resist - utterance as activism
On #resist – utterance as activism

There is a growing linguistic phenomenon for internet-powered American hyper-liberals aiming to challenge the Trump Administration, conservatism, and capitalism in general. After finishing a brief platitude, tweet or satirical statement on the current state of politics or economics, a user adds the word RESIST, adorned with the #, or hashtag, which looks like this: “#resist”.

A very direct imperative for those reading, to resist something. However, it is unclear what one should be resisting. If it is the target of the user’s criticism (Trump/conservatism/capitalism), then we fall into a quagmire of issues that this electronic utterance represents, including signification and political (in)action.

#resist as a signifier of meaningful action

Resist, brought to you by Pampers.
Resist, brought to you by Pampers.

There are one thousand ways to place the word “resist” on a t-shirt or poster and one thousand ways for “resist” to signify an act that transcends its own base definition. Take for example the phrase “Hanya ada satu kata: Lawan!” (There is only one word: Resist!) that would have been heard with repetition in 1980s Indonesia by activist poets like Wiji Thukul against the authoritarian government.

These activists and protestors tapped into the transcending definition of “Resist!” as the performance of organized, visible protest against the powers that be, peaceful or otherwise, successful or otherwise, safe or otherwise. Activist figures found harsh consequences (Thukul hasn’t been seen for 19 years) yet continued organized movements against their oppressor.

But “Resist!” was spoken, it was professed through art and diction. Indonesian students felt reduced into action and to only one word. The monolithic meaning of “resist” was thus directed and solidified by the consequential actions of the individual and the group.

Three decades later and we arrive at #resist, and supposed symbol of action but instead we arrive at…

Political (in)action and posterboard activism

Remember Kony 2012, a documentary and campaign attempting to mobilize American youth to post in their suburbs and cities various graffiti and posters that highlight the deplorable actions of warlord Joseph Kony. Compassion was built among high schoolers and college students on Facebook, not angered by the video itself but by its synopsis by one of the few viewers of the video. A date was established to paint the town red. Kids bought their spray paints and rolls of paint and posters.

Yet by the time that date came around, the fervor died out. Perhaps people forgot to market on their calendars, or the next crisis came around, or maybe they did some research and found it wasn’t a particularly well-founded campaign. Whatever the case, #Kony2012 lived and died as the embodiment of activistic ephemerality: the idea was enough to entertain the senses, especially when these almost-activists were not even affected by the Ugandan rebel leader.

#resist is a summary of Kony 2012’s blunders. It comes from a sincere place in the heart, that these aphorisms and bold statements mean something to the overall anti-Trump/conservatism/capitalism debate. Yet the object itself is hollow and toxic to its historical significance as it emphasizes a meaninglessness of the word: it is now an electronic utterance, to be tacked on to faceless statements and forgettable social media posts. Also tragic is the misconstruing of a social network tagging feature (#) as a tool of rhetoric and change. “#resist” has been converted into a niche category and quietly filed away on servers, like the rolled up poster of a raised fist waiting in an Amazon warehouse.

The satisfaction gained from utilizing #resist is one of the many ingredients to produce complacency. The word’s vagueness should not appear monolithic, but rather highly contextual: it should only be used when paired with visible, organized action. Liberal activism cannot be headless — or worse off, faceless — when attempting to highlight the ideological and moral issues of their opponents. #resist should be plastered on the vocal chords of changemakers instead of the mass-produced t-shirts, posters, and tweets.


dancing guy and some music symbols wowweee
dancing guy and some music symbols wowweee

There is nothing more inoffensive than the state of the art of electronic dance music. The Adana Twins seem less made to move someone than to be incorporated into an example track on a future Korg iPad synth. Clap. Beat. Clap. Beat. Clap. Beat. Clap. Beat. etc. Don’t forget about the half-way build up to the sound of the beginning. Any movement to this music is an exercise in masochism: it is withholding, turning “fun” into a reward rather than as a dynamic element in the track. The music culture revolves around the DJ taking away rather than giving, like a God for the physical music consumer.

These points tend to characterize my want of dance music to fulfill some vague rule of instant gratification. Rather, I want to extend the asymmetrical power relation between producer and consumer outside the dance floor and on the laptop this uninspired music comes from. Attempting to leave responsibility to the producer to giveth and taketh has oppositely put more weight on the shoulders of the dancer to normalize this 130 BPM nothingness into something worth moving to. Here we find the virtuous cycle: mediocrity begets mediocrity in the guise of popular “quality”.

The normalization of second-rate dance music becomes toxic over time. Once accepted and explained away, these tracks and its authors are solidified as canonized producers of the “state of the art”. This would mean that 4Chan /mu/ graphics will become dedicated to these artists, and that music message boards will have to pay lip service to such people for a decade to come. The next generation of music consumers and dancers arrive in these vestigial discussions; they are taught that was the state of the art (SOTA), the stuff upon which we build our contemporary SOTA. And then the dance community builds the signifiers – signature sounds that harken back to a certain substandard artist. They are now a linguistic phenomenon.

And it is the seemingly necessary recognition of these signifiers that continue to perpetuate the four-on-the-floor (FOTF) doctrine. The components of dance music – just like the verb, adverb, adjective, and other components of language – are proprietary to its constructed history. Can one easily enjoy an unfamiliar language? Speedy recognition is thus the gateway to enjoyability. Innovative and new sound components are shoved to niche genres until the undiscerning dance consumer builds their language foundations to allow the inclusion of such units.

FOTF makes the statement: “My audiences want new through the familiar. My beneficiaries want innovation in regression.” A self-fulfilling prophecy that leaves unexplored the case of would-be musicians and dancers who, if enabled, could attract themselves to more irregular sounds and make produce/consume something unheard of. Why does it matter? What seems like an incisive question is answered by an optimism for the everlasting decree that “we can do better”. It’s not NECESSARY to discover innovative sounds and movements, but it surely is more agreeable than to comfortably accept that nothing should be done to forward dormant genres. In short, why not?

There is nothing concrete in this essay. To support my point, I will be writing a series on moving and making music that does more than accept the status quo.

micronotes: On “Nu-Vaporwave” Art

I ran across Robert Ek, a visual artist who makes GIF-like, looping videos of weird CGI objects.

The fascinating aspect of this type of style – “vaporwave” or what have you – is that the process behind making it is getting more and more complex despite looking so simple. Yes, everyone can use a Sharpie to draw something, but using a computer graphics software to model a body (or a piece of sushi) takes an incredible amount of time for one person.

But maybe it’s patronizing to say how much work is involved in making this. But this is an aesthetic that is really otherworldly and can only be produced in this day and age. So congrats to Robert.

micronotes: On LED and Sodium-Based Lights

Hal Espen for The Atlantic in 2011:

“Mankind is proceeding to envelop itself in a luminous fog,” wrote the authors of a paper on artificial night-sky brightness in 2001. This “perennial moonlight” that we’ve created enhances our safety and security, but it also dims our view of 10,000 stars and destroys the dance of light and dark.

Jeff Hecht for IEEE:

When my city of Newton, Mass., announced plans to install LED streetlights in 2014, I was optimistic. I’m all for energy conservation, and I was happy with the LED bulbs in my home office. But months later, returning from a week’s vacation in rural Maine, I was shocked to find my neighborhood lit by a stark bluish blaze that washed out almost all of the stars in the night sky.

University of Exeter:

Dr. Davies added: “While these approaches helped to reduce the number of ground dwelling spider and beetle species affected by LED lighting to varying degrees, our study also shows that avoiding these impacts may ultimately require avoiding the use of LEDs and night-time lighting more generally.”

Bob King for Universe Today:

To gauge the approximate difference in brightness between the two, I pulled out my camera and took a light meter reading on the pavement beneath an LED lamp and then under a high-pressure sodium lamp. The LED was brighter by more than more than one camera “stop” or more than twice as bright.

Robert Leeming for Lux Review:

The American Medical Association (AMA) sent shockwaves through the industry a few months ago by stating in a report that the blue light emitted from LED street-lighting could cause sleep problems as well as adverse risks when driving, guidelines the respected body has since officially adopted.

It’s hard to imagine that just fifty years ago, the United States was much dimmer, with electrical infrastructure slowly building out since the 1930s or 40s. Baby Boomers through Millenials have been bathed in streetlight their whole lives; do we naturally develop an avoidance of darkened streets?

Right outside my bedroom window is an light that has more than once fooled me into thinking it was still day time at 9 pm. I have issues falling asleep, but I can blame that on bad sleeping practices in general. But what if it’s the light that we’ve built around ourselves? And what is going to happen to future generations as they are bathed in even more light?

micronotes: On Google’s Many Talks and Voices

User aclimatt on Hacker News outlines nearly a dozen ways to communicate through Google services.

Google Duo: And then there’s this thing? I guess it’s almost identical to Hangouts Meet now? Maybe Hangouts Meet is for Business® users and Duo is for your friends and family?

There are ten to be exact. The user provides screenshots on the difference between Talk and Hangouts on Gmail. They are just as confused as I am on whether I’m using one or the other. For a normal “non-tech” type of person, how does this look when messages are centralized? Are people just searching around on each *.google.com page for a messaging function, regardless of name or utility?

And then there is the Supersonic Fun Voice Messenger.

micronotes: On In The Air Tonight and Experimentation

User josephprein posted “In The Air Tonight Drum Fill for 1 hour 10 minutes at 99.9%, 100%, and 100.1% speed” on SoundCloud.

Josh Millard has a great analysis of the effect on MetaFilter:

Polyrhythmics! So the structure of this fill: you can count it out as 16 beats long (sub-beats technically but let’s keep this simpler to write out), but there’s not a hit on every beat: Phil plays Duh-Duh (pause) Duh-Duh (pause) Duh-Duh (pause) Duh-Duh (pause) DUH (pause) DUH (pause).

We could rewrite that as a little string where X = hit, o = pause, like this: XXoXXoXXoXXoXoXo

At song start we get all the tones in unison, but every later juxtaposition of the XXo segments has some other set of tones mixed together. So they sound the same, but not! This is also where some of the more interesting effects in the muddier, less-coherent sections come in, as we get constantly-shifting miniature studies in melodic rhythm as those different tom tones crash against each other in little flams and arpeggios.

If you’re a drummer or just like wasting time reading about music technicalities, I highly recommend Millard’s explanation of juxtaposing the normal speed with modified speeds of this iconic drum fill.