Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Nam: 'Kill Anything That Moves'

I mostly use this blog to post material related to a course I've been teaching for several years: Popular Culture. One of the subjects we've been covering for several years is Vietnam in US pop culture. So although this post is not 'pop culture' per se, it is certainly relevant to the issue of Nam in US pop culture, especially when one sees movies like Rambo: First Blood Part II screened on the American Movie Channel over and over and over, endlessly. The theme of the Rambo series is mostly that the victims of the war were US servicemen. A new book by Nick Turse provides a very useful counter-point. Please listen to this riveting and rage-inducing interview he gave to Terri Gross on NPR's Fresh Air. And then go buy the book.

On March 16, 1968, between 347 and 504 unarmed Vietnamese civilians were gunned down by members of the U.S. Army in what became known as the My Lai Massacre. The U.S. government has maintained that atrocities like this were isolated incidents in the conflict. Nick Turse says otherwise. In his new book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, Turse argues that the intentional killing of civilians was quite common in a war that claimed 2 million civilian lives, with 5.3 million civilians wounded and 11 million refugees. And as Turse tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies, "as many as 4 million [were] exposed to toxic defoliants like Agent Orange." "It's suffering on an almost unimaginable scale, and it was generally due to heavy firepower," Turse says. "It's not these microlevel atrocities in most circumstances."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

On whiteness and indie rock

"The Only Black Guy at the Indie Rock Show," by Martin Douglas, courtesy MTV Hive. Smart on so many levels.

Indie rock seems to be a strain of music that has always walked hand-in-hand with whiteness... what about those kids of color born into the middle class? It’s likely that they’re going to be turned onto the culture all on their own, without the cooler older siblings who passes down their Pixies records. Also, what about the kids of color born into poverty, ones who take solace in skateboarding and punk?

Saturday, January 05, 2013

SPIN magazine's oral history of Chuck Taylors

which you will find in full here

MARKY RAMONE (drummer, the Ramones, 1977–83, 1987–96) You gotta understand, the Ramones were greasers. We were Fonzie with longer hair. The greasers and gangs in Brooklyn all wore Chuck Taylors and leather jackets. Either you copied basketball players or you copied greasers...

 ARABIAN PRINCE (N.W.A, 1986–88) Crips would wear blue Chucks or white ones with blue laces. Bloods would wear red. That's the OG hood way. N.W.A liked being different — we knew they weren't popular on the East Coast, where people were wearing the big, space-boot basketball sneakers. Dre and Cube even did a song that made fun of "My Adidas"...

 MARK ARM (singer-guitarist, Mudhoney) Everyone in Seattle — Eddie Vedder, Kurt — we were all punk and hardcore fans. So it wasn't really an aesthetic choice to wear Chuck Taylors; it's just kind of what you did. The reason, I think, we wore them is that it was either those or Doc Martens, and if you wore Doc Martens and jumped into the crowd, you could really hurt someone. Though doing anything in Chuck Taylors didn't feel that great either...

ANDREW W.K. I have no integrity, so I was fine with everything. [W.K. recorded "I'm a Goner" with Soulja Boy and Matt and Kim for Converse in 2011]. Converse is in an interesting position. It's like when Pabst Blue Ribbon realized that hipsters were drinking their beer, and they started marketing to hipsters, and now maybe it's not as cool. Whenever a brand positions itself to mean something to people, they risk losing people who don't like to be marketed to.
ELLIOT CURTIS At this point, Converse's number-one demographic for Chuck Taylors is teenage girls.