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Infographics: The Best & Worst of the United States

Mother Nature Networks recently released the following infographics, illustrating superlatives of each of the states.  The titles are based on the way in which each state excels and falls flat in the areas of science, nature, public health, or social justice.  The state of New York excels in possessing the lowest per capita energy use, while it also has the top health risk from air pollution.  Pennsylvania (where I am originally from) boasts having the most organic mushrooms.  Similar interesting infographics entitled ‘The United States of Awesome' and 'The United States of Shame' should be viewed as well.

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Sarah Marshall

Analysis of “Friday” by Rebecca Black

Critical Reading & Writing II

April 11, 2011

            In recent years, the bar for fame is being set lower and lower.  There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to why many names in popular music and entertainment have risen to fame at all.  Many of today’s stars possess little or no true talent.  Take, for example, recent Internet sensation Rebecca Black.  Her new song “Friday” and accompanying music video have become viral within the last few weeks.  This popularity, however, is not the result of a quality song from a genuine, talented musician.  The song has garnered much attention largely due to audiences’ dislike of it.  Although many acknowledge that the music is not good, it has nonetheless become extremely popular.  This begs the question:  how could such a terrible song become so popular?  Has the quality of popular music diminished so intensely that this music is deemed acceptable?  Perhaps it has. 


            The creation of “Friday” occurred as a gift to Black.  Her mother, Georgina Marquez Kelly, contracted Ark Music Factory to produce the song and video.  This was done at a cost of two thousand dollars, which was doubled by purchasing the rights to the song and video.  Black’s mother has said that she decided to do this for her daughter because she wanted to reinforce the fact that things are not always easy and glamorous in the music industry.  She intended to illustrate this to Black through the creation of the video.  “I wanted her to see that the only glamour that comes with this career is when you go to a function and they roll out a red carpet. In a way I was hoping to discourage her, and to send the message that maybe she should have a backup plan.  I thought it would be a good experience and would give her a glimpse of what it takes,” Ms. Kelly says. 


            Quite the opposite of giving Black a glimpse of what it takes occurred as a result of the video.  Ark Music Factory posted the video to YouTube on February 10th, 2011.  It did not immediately receive waves of attention.  By March 11th, 2011, a few people began to notice the video, and linked to it from Twitter, blogged about it through Tumblr, and shared it of Facebook.  Social media soon took over and the video spread all over the web.  The video went from about four thousand views on March 11th to 96,316,217 at the moment.

            It is quite ironic that a video that was intended to show someone the hard work that is needed to become a singer has prematurely propelled this young woman into fame.  In fact, it is not apparent that any hard work on Black’s part went into the video at all.  She did even not write the song herself; it was written for her by Patrice Wilson, founder of Ark Music Factory.  Rather than truly working hard to draw forth her talent, Black simply performed a song that was written for her and stood in front of a green screen.  This “performance” has garnered Black so much attention and ultimately fame that the purpose of “giving her a glimpse of what it takes” has been quickly been overshadowed. 


            One of the most fascinating aspects of this video as a cultural phenomenon is that it is extremely popular primarily because it is very much disliked.  This is evidenced by the 1,929,075 dislikes and 250,537 likes, which pales dramatically in comparison.   The question is, if people dislike the song so much, why do they listen to it?  Why is it so popular?  Perhaps they cannot resist taking a look at the video and seeing for themselves if it is as terrible as they have heard.  Or maybe a percentage of the viewers secretly enjoy the song.  Perhaps they do not even realize that they enjoy the song. 


            A bit of logic does exist that explains in one sense why the song may have become so popular.  This is due to its musical structure.  Although the songwriter may not be praised for his lyrics, basing the song on this structure was a smart decision in getting it to stick in peoples’ heads.  The song features a fundamental four-chord progression that has been the foundation of hundreds of hit pop songs over the years.  Some of these songs include “Unchained Melody” by the Righteous Brothers (also the most-played pop radio hit of all time), “Earth Angel” by the Penguins, and “Octopus’s Garden” by the Beatles.  More recently, the structure has been used in the popular song “No One” by Alicia Keys.  Perhaps this is contributing reason that people cannot seem to stay away from the song.  They may be slightly appalled by Black’s voice (or what is left of it after the auto-tune), but maybe they secretly enjoy the song despite the voice and elementary lyrics, due solely to the musical structure of the song, which we have come to love through other pop songs. 


            Another explanation as to why “Friday” has become so popular is because people have significantly lowered the standards regarding what is deemed good music.  There was a time when popular music was real music, when the musicians were truly talented and deserved recognition.  But today, anyone who has access to the Internet can become famous, regardless of his or her talent or skills.  This phenomenon may be considered a result of technology, but it may also be a result of society’s diminishing respect for true talent.  Today, if something is merely entertaining, it has the ability to become extremely popular despite its quality or integrity.  This has shown to be the case with “Friday” by Rebecca Black.  The song is not good in many peoples’ opinions, but it is still glorified.  Maybe it is viewed less as music and more as entertainment.  


            Whether viewers enjoy the song or despise it, watching the video and commenting (even negatively) gives undeserved attention to Black and her song.  The true problem with popular music of today may not lie in the song but rather in peoples’ reaction to the song.  If the general public had disregarded the song, realizing that it was something of low, it never would have become so popular.  The song’s detractors could have just as well ignored it rather than viewing it and relentlessly commenting about how terrible it was.  If really wanted to combat the song, as well as similar music, he or she would ignore the song and allow their focus to rest on music that comes from someone with true talent with something to say.  In doing so, the power that songs such as “Friday” possess will gradually diminish, allowing the focus to be placed on music that sets high standards.

Citations

Youtube.  “Rebecca Black - Friday (Official Video).”  Last modified February 10, 2011.  Accessed April 10, 2011.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD2LRROpph0

Know Your Meme.  “Rebecca Black – Friday.”  Last modified, April 10, 2011.  Accessed April 10, 2011. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/rebecca-black-friday

Lewis, Randy.  “Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’: There are a million good reasons you can’t get it out of your head.”  Los Angeles Times, March 31, 2011.  Accessed April 10, 2011.  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/music_blog/2011/03/rebecca-black-friday-youtube-patrice-wilson.html?cid=6a00d8341c630a53ef014e604b0a81970c

Belkin, Lisa.  “An Internet Star’s Mom Responds.”  New York Times, March 25, 2011.  Accessed April 10, 2011.  http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/an-internet-stars-mom-responds/?scp=3&sq=rebecca%20black&st=cse

Larsen, Peter.  “Rebecca Black Talks About ‘Friday.’  Kansas City Star, March 31, 2011.  Accessed April 10, 2011.  http://www.kansascity.com/2011/03/31/2765265/rebecca-black-talks-about-friday.html

Final Essay Outline

1.  Introduction / Thesis statement

2.  Brief description of video and song

3.  Examples of other similar instances of cultural phenomena 

How this video relates in the larger picture

4.  Effect that these types of videos and songs have on the quality of or standard for today’s music and entertainment…what is deemed acceptable as music or entertainment?

5.  Conclusion

update on icosahedrons

This afternoon I returned to the locations where I left the sculptures yesterday morning.  The sculpture that I left on the wall on Eleventh Street had been replaced with a text book.  After I visited the other sites, I passed this location again and the book was gone.  The sculptures at the arch in Washington Square Park, Minetta Lane, and Christopher Park are no longer there.  Finally, the sculpture that I left under the fence of the Jefferson Market Garden had been moved across the sidewalk and was sitting next to a large orange construction barrel.  It was scuffed and speckled with dirt, so I don’t know what happened to it.

Icosahedrons in Greenwich Village

For the experiment of placing something in a public space, I decided to focus on an art-based project.  I created five small geometric sculptures using plaster and placed in them in different locations around Greenwich Village.  The project is meant to support the notion of being observant and noticing one’s surroundings in everyday life. 

Wall outside of Second Shearith Israel Cemetery (W. 11th St. near 6th Ave.)

Washington Square Arch

Minetta Lane

Christopher Park (Christopher St. near 7th Avenue South)

Jefferson Market Garden (W. 10th St. & Greenwich Ave.)

Midway by Chris Jordan

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Chris Jordan is an artist who works primarily in photography and digital imaging, illustrating social and environmental problems of today’s world.  Jordan has recently embarked on creating a film based on the vast plastic pollution in the North Pacific Ocean.  This pollution has led to an extremely high number of deaths in birds that inhabit the area.  In 2009, the artist created a collection of photographs based on this tragedy.  His statement regarding the work follows.

On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean.

For me, kneeling over their carcasses is like looking into a macabre mirror. These birds reflect back an appallingly emblematic result of the collective trance of our consumerism and runaway industrial growth. Like the albatross, we first-world humans find ourselves lacking the ability to discern anymore what is nourishing from what is toxic to our lives and our spirits. Choked to death on our waste, the mythical albatross calls upon us to recognize that our greatest challenge lies not out there, but in here.   -Chris Jordan

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photographs by Chris Jordan

Family Businesses

Brizzi’s Candy & Nut Shop on Market Street


The film Everyday People, which is centered around a family-owned Brooklyn restaurant that is facing economic pressures, highlights very prevalent problems that small independent businesses must combat on a regular basis.  The restaurant depicted in the film was a central gathering space for many of the neighborhood’s residents.  It had been in business for generations and impacted many lives.  Economic problems arose, however, and the restaurant was swarmed by offers from developers.  Situations such as this begin to arise more and more in recent years.  In Blairsville, my hometown in Pennsylvania, a very significant business existed for many years which had an impact on numerous residents.  The business was called Brizzi’s; it was a candy and nut shop, as well as a soda fountain.  Originally opened by the Brizzi family in 1926 as a grocery store, the shop eventually developed into the candy store and became renowned in the area.  Brizzi’s served as a main gathering place for much of Blairsville’s youth for decades.  Eventually the store closed, but the owner continued to fill candy orders for holidays until her death.  My family had wanted to purchase the building for many years, and it finally went up for sale a few years ago.  My parents have purchased it and are currently renovating the building.  This summer we will open a bakery, Market Street Pastries, in the former Brizzi building.  Through restoring the building and opening a new business, we hope to bring back the memory of Brizzi’s as well as the importance that family-owned businesses once had in Blairsville.

Market Street present-day


The Brizzi building present-day

soon to be…


Related article:

Himler, Jeff.  ”Blairsville’s Brizzi building cited as preservation prospect”.  Blairsville Dispatch 27 May 2010.  20 March 2011  <http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/blairsvilledispatch/s_683295.html>.

breakfast during break

One breakfast that I particularly enjoyed during spring break was on Saturday morning.  My mom made miniature muffins called French breakfast puffs, which are very light and fluffy and have a cinnamon-sugar coating on top.  It was nice to have freshly-baked pastries with coffee for breakfast at home with my family.

The Mutato-Archive

The Mutato-Archive is a project started by artist Uli Westphal in 2006.  The artist chronicles uniquely-formed fruits and vegetables through photography.  In his words it is:  "a collection of non-standard fruits, roots, and vegetables found at Berlin’s Farmers’ Markets."  Westphal documents the produce’s resistance to "the suppression of mutation and polymorphism in our industrial food system."  With these photographs, the artist attempts to illustrate the beauty and variety of fruits and vegetables that is absent from most grocery stores today, which generally carry uniformly-shaped, standardized produce that consumers are accustomed to.  This work is particularly interesting to me because I have a great interest in gardening.  For the vegetable garden that I grow at home in the summer, I search for unique heirloom varieties to grow rather than sticking with traditional, sometimes genetically engineered seeds that produce predictable results.

 

Below are a few of the vegetables from my garden last summer.



A feature that I believe would be very useful to and appreciated by Parsons students would be the creation of art supply vending machines.  Sometimes when working on a project in a studio-based class, a need arises for a fresh supply of materials.  Generally there is not enough time to get to an art supply store during class time, so having the ability to pick up a few materials quickly and conveniently within any Parsons building would be very helpful to many students. Local art supply stores such as Blick or Utrecht could operate the vending machines, offering an array of materials to students.  Perhaps the vending machines could be organized based on medium.  Supplies for painting, drawing, and three-dimensional work could each be allocated to specific machines.  A few general, all-purpose art supply vending machines could exist as well, offering basic essentials such as pencils, pens, erasers, sketchbooks, and x-acto and olfa blades.  As a school where art materials are always in high demand, Parsons would certainly benefit from the addition of art supply vending machines.

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An example of a similar idea, but more specifically a graffiti supply vending machine: the Graffomat, is featured here and in the images below.

the Graffomat

the Graffomat