kottke.org posts about Beyonce
Chipotle Cup Stories: Beyonce and Solange May 16 2014
Beyonce is mad at Solange for not sticking to the plan. What plan? I don't want to say too much, but it involves Chipotle.
"You just stood there. I was defending you."
"Do I need defending?"
"That's not the point. He is a monster."
"He is my husband."
Beyoncé looked away, out the window at the people and the buildings, as they sped across 59th St. "I know who I married. That was my decision and I'll live with it."
"Of course you take his side."
"Excuse me?" Beyoncé turned to face her sister. "Beyoncé is on Beyoncé's side. Always. Trust that."
2048: the Beyonce GIF edition Apr 22 2014
There are many versions of the game 2048 (which is itself a rip-off of Threes). There's the original, a version that plays itself, a multiplayer version, a collaborative version, a doge version, a clever Flappy Bird version, the Numberwang version, one that uses only colors, a version that uses Dropbox to save progress and high scores, a hard version that actively works against you, a version where you add tiles to thwart an evil AI, and probably thousands of other versions.
But the best one is the one where each square is an animated GIF of Beyonce.
Beyonce emoji Mar 04 2014
Jesse Hill made a music video for Beyonce's Drunk in Love entirely out of emoji. Fantastic work.
Fist Eggplant! Poo! Surfbort! Oh man, that was fun.
Soundboardt Feb 24 2014
Soundboart is a Beyonce soundboard. I must have pushed the AH-AH-AH button a thousand times until I discovered the SURFBOARDT button.
Muhly on Beyonce Jan 07 2014
Nico Muhly is a young and celebrated classical music composer. His review of Beyonce's new album is a pretty lyrical composition itself.
This is a beautiful song. On the video, there is a long introduction with piano and strings. Use real strings, please, Beyoncé. The piano might be real but it sounds like the most expensive fake piano on the market. One would love to think that this is a comment on the artificiality of beauty -- we've become accustomed to an expensive fake in favor of the built-in and beautiful imperfections of reality -- but I doubt that was the reason for this particular oversight. Bey: call me; you know where I stay.
Surprise Beyonce album just got released Dec 13 2013
About half an hour ago, Beyonce surprised the world (the internet, really) by releasing her 5th album on iTunes. There are 14 songs and videos for every song. Just two days ago, Rolling Stone reported on Columbia Records Chairman Rob Stringer saying, "At some point, Beyonce will put a record out, and when she does, it will be monumental" interpreting that to mean 'sometime in 2014.' Not exactly.
I tried to find another example of a musician releasing a surprise album, but the results are polluted with references to Paul Simon's 'Surprise,' which was likely no surprise at all.
Update: Last year at a show in Boston, Godspeed You! Black Emperor started selling copies of their unannounced new album. (thx, tomm)
The challenges of conversational journalism Jan 24 2013
The most visible journalism these days -- aka the loudest journalism, namely cable news, pop culture blogs, tabloid magazines, TMZ, Buzzfeed, HuffPo, talk radio, etc. -- mostly takes the form of opinionated conversation: professional media people discussing current events much like you and your friends might at a crowded lunch table. A side effect of this way of doing journalism is that you rarely hear from anyone who actually is an expert on the subject of interest at any particular time. That approach doesn't scale; finding and talking to experts is time consuming and experts without axes to grind are boring anyway. So what you get instead are people who are experts at talking about things about which they are inexpert.1
And the challenge for listeners/readers/viewers here is obvious: non-experts can completely miss stuff that's obvious to an expert. Take the two recent stories of our times: Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend and Beyonce's potential inaugural lip-sync.2 Literally hundreds of thousands of hours of the news media's time were taken up over the past week discussing whether or not these things occurred, who knew what and when, and so forth. And that's the appeal, right? Speculation is fun and people want their news to be fun.
But a little expertise is enlightening. Ilana Gershon, an Indiana University assistant professor, spent two and a half years doing fieldwork among Samoan migrants. Manti Te'o is Samoan. In a piece at Culture Digitally, Gershon provides some valuable context to the Te'o hoax.
None of the news stories are commenting on the fact that Manti Te'o is Samoan. The reporters are wondering whether he was truly hoaxed, or whether he was complicit. Why didn't he ever insist on visiting his girlfriend in person? They had been in touch for four years after all -- chatting by Facebook message, texting, calling each other on the phone. How could he not be a bit suspicious? But in wondering all these questions, they never ask what his cultural background might be -- what ideas about truth and verification did he learn growing up in a Samoan migrant community, especially one that was so religious (in his case, Mormon)?
So as an ethnographer of Samoan migrants, I want to say that I heard a number of stories that sound almost exactly like Manti Te'o's story -- naïve Christian golden boys who had been fooled by other Samoans pretending to be dewy-eyed innocents. Leukemia was even a theme, I guess Samoan pranksters keep turning to the same diseases over and over again. But I did this fieldwork before Facebook or cell phones, and even before email became all that widespread outside of college circles. All the stories I heard involved husky voices on telephones, and maybe a letter or two.
Read the whole thing. Interesting, right? Te'o didn't have to be in on it. The whole crazy thing makes sense once you take the cultural context into account.
When she starts singing, her voice is hard to hear -- the microphone gain is too low. The sound-man quickly corrects this -- but if we were listening to a recording this wouldn't happen -- in fact back-up recordings are used to solve exactly this kind of problem.
At 1'16'' in the video above, she tilts her head slightly closer to the mic and the sound gets suddenly more bassy. This is because of an acoustic effect known as the "proximity effect".
At 1'52'' she takes out one of her earpieces. Some people are citing this as more evidence she was lip-syncing, but in fact it's what singers do when they're having trouble hearing the pitch of their own voice through the earpiece. By taking it out, she can hear her own voice more clearly and sing in tune more easily. (In fact, if the pre-recorded vocal was going to her earpiece, she may well have been finding it distracting.)
Most dramatically, sound waves actually blow around in the wind. Sometimes, when I do a big outdoor festival, I sound-check in calm weather, but the wind picks up when the actual show begins, taking my voice and throwing it someplace other than where I'm expecting it. It's easy to get confused. A politician might choke, like, "I'm not speaking right! Or the sound's not right! I better be super loud! Or use the mic differently!" That would be a Howard Dean moment. If you're the sound engineer at the inauguration, a big part of your gig is preventing Howard Dean moments.
Beyoncé, being a samurai, clearly came expecting that possibility. So she compensates: She sings the word "bursting" a little too close to the mic, causing a little bit of discernible distortion -- it's like a subtler version of when you're talking into the mic on your phone, and you suddenly get loud, or too close, and for a moment the voice gets kind of larger and fuzzier.
When she pulls out her left earpiece -- more on that in a moment -- she's adjusting how she sounds to herself, and she subsequently pulls the mic further from her face. Notice how the echo suddenly gets more obvious -- for a split second, the vocal sounds like it's going through a tin can.
Right after that, you can tell that the sound person is scrambling to adjust the sound, because she's adjusted her mic position. It sounds noticeably different until "Oh say does that star-spangled banner still wave," when the sound is dialed in again.
Doughty, because he is a performer himself, manages to be both expert and entertaining:
For me, the most compelling evidence that Beyoncé was doing it for real is the HELL YES smile on Joe Biden's face. Now, that is, clearly, a dude standing two feet from an electrifying lady singing like a motherfucker.
Pretty convincing in both cases, more so than thousands of hours of inexpert opinion anyway. More like this, please...and sooner in the process.
 And I should know...look at me prattling away about journalism and expertise (and food and parenting and politics) like I know what I'm talking about. I am an expert on people being inexpert experts. ↩
Teach me how to dougie May 04 2011
We've waited too long for a First Lady who can pull this off:
It's not just that Michelle Obama is the first black First Lady. It's also that she was born in 1964. She's sixteen-seventeen years younger than Hillary Clinton or Laura Bush. She was in high school when hip-hop broke. Even Barack was already in college. She probably did a few of these dances in a South Shore parking lot when her husband was already thinking about getting into law school. In Joshua Glenn's generational scheme, Barack is part of Original Generation X, while Michelle's firmly in the next cohort, alternately titled Generation PC/the Reconstructionists.
Michelle is the first First Lady of the hip-hop generation. And not only does that explain a few things; it's incredibly awesome.
PS: Here's the Beyonce dance-as-teen-fitness video the First Lady and DC junior high kids were trying to imitate. (In the mid-late 80s, learning a few of these moves from my sister, I was not unlike the chubby kid in the white hat.)
Telephone, music video, Lady Gaga, Beyonce Mar 12 2010
This might be the last great music video. Beyonce picks up Gaga from jail in the Pussy Wagon from Kill Bill! But Christ, the product placement. This thing has more brands in it than Logorama.
Song of summer 2007? May 22 2007
Is there a song for summer 2007 yet? Something along the lines of Crazy in Love in 2003 and, what, Since U Been Gone in 2005...a song that comes to identify the summer to a wide variety of people. There's been some discussion of this question, but no definite answers yet. I've heard MIMS' This is Why I'm Hot in a wide array of contexts...might be a contender, but does it have the mass popularity and longevity?