For the internet, few things are as reliably entertaining as the Kanye West show. Recently, the musician followed up last month’s hour-long endlessly-quotable (“my Truman Show boat has hit the painting!”) interview with Radio 1′s Zane Lowe with an appearance on the Breakfast Club show on Power 105.1—edited and truncated into the viral “Watch Kanye West Repeatedly Get His Ass Handed To Him”—and the “controversial” video for new single “Bound 2.” The “Ass Handed” video made front pages on multiple sites, provoking streams of comments celebrating such a “narcissist,” “egotistical dick,” and “piece of shit” getting “put in his place.” The “Bound 2″ video was roundly mocked for its trashiness, “lousy” green screen and “cringeworthy” inclusion of topless fiancée Kim Kardashian, and was almost immediately satirized in James Franco and Seth Rogen’s ”Bound 3.” Whatever one’s opinion of Kanye West, or his music, it is clear that the internet has a considerable amount of stock invested in the idea that he’s a crazy, self-centered twat who deserves some strikeback. What is less clear is why.
I don’t feel qualified to comment on Kanye’s artistic strengths and deficits. I don’t really know how to think about music and I don’t really know how to write about it. I’ve listened to Yeezus a few times and it seems to swerve between powerful, boring, creative and confusing. My impression of Kanye is that of a brilliant and troubled musician, powered by twin locomotives of self-belief and insecurity. I sense, though, that the animosity he provokes online is only tangentially related to the art he produces, and springs chiefly from something more emotional, more instinctual.
Let’s start with the “crazy, nonsensical rants” in the radio interviews. A quick Google search for them produces articles with titles like “Top 10 Most Bizarre Kanye West Self-Comparisons” or ”Kanye West’s 10 Craziest Radio Interview Quotes.” The Reddit thread for his most recent one is filled with random quotes, transcriptions and sour impersonations, and comments along the lines of “what is this guy on about?” You would get the impression from this reaction fog that Kanye turned up, snorted blow, and started babbling in backwards alien Latin. He’s fond of wild metaphors and imagery, but if you skip the commentary and watch the full interviews, a more complicated, human—and interesting—picture emerges.
Kanye comes across primarily as a manic, defensive creative frustrated with attempts by external forces to control his aesthetic output, both real and projected. He doesn’t always make sense, and drops clangers about futurism and post-modernism like an over-enthusiastic humanities undergraduate, but the ideas he’s trying to express are intelligible enough. He’s trying desperately to break into fashion design, but feels pigeonholed by preconceptions about what a black or “urban” designer can do. He views himself as an artist first, and a rapper second, and resents the rap community’s insistence that he stick to doing the things they like. He’s rich but he doesn’t have the resources to implement his creative ambitions on an industrial level. None of this is that ridiculous. Like countless artists, past and present, he feels burdened by internal creative vision and struggles to realize it in-the-world. You can argue about the level of sympathy a millionaire rapper’s creative struggle deserves from the public, but he’s still feeling it, and I’m not sure that scorn should be our default response. Indeed, I find sentiments like ‘I’m living inside a dream world’ sort of beautiful and resonant and sad.
The internet works well as a space for the sharing of high-value information, but it is spades better at producing waves of arbitrary, emotionally-charged group-think. The ability of the online media machine to implement and police orthodoxy is especially evident when it comes to celebrity personae. You’ve never met either of them, but you know Kristen Stewart’s a sour-faced bitch, and Jennifer Lawrence is a down-to-earth sweetheart. The machine was unanimous that Tom Cruise was a frenzied loon whose career was dead, all because he jumped on a sofa to declare his love for a women. You run through airport security broadcasting your megaphone affection and rom-com audiences applaud. But get on some furniture and suddenly you’re beyond the pale. Now the collective wisdom of the machine has nominated Kanye as the punching bag du jour. We should be careful about outsourcing our opinion-making faculties to an algorithm-shark dedicated to the resentment-fueled pursuit of page views.
The online commentariat trades primarily in snark, discourse’s least valuable commodity. Ostensibly, they like to feel like they’re contributing to “the conversation,” but really, they just want to feel good about themselves by putting others down. To come up with that perfect wisecrack and get off on the warm, comforting sensation of ”I sure showed him.” A bulk of the Reddit comments to Kanye’s Breakfast Show interview ran with DJ Charlemagne Tha God’s criticism of Kanye as a “walking contradiction” and rushed to catalogue his various hypocrisies and inconsistencies. He denounces corporations, but designs for Nike! He wrote a song called “Blood Diamonds” but has diamonds in his teeth! Etc. etc. As if everything we ever say has to correlate with itself, or else it’s worthless. The older I get the more convinced I am that professional hypocrisy hunters work not in service of the common good, but rather of a personal sense of aggrievement against those perceived as more successful, wealthy or famous than themselves.
Look, I get it. Kanye says some weird shit sometimes, and maybe his music doesn’t always back him up. We’ve always had talented, troubled artists who behave strangely and speak in mixed tongues of nonsense and insight (wouldn’t it be boring if everyone spoke the same way we do?). Except now we have that strangeness delivered to our screens in ready-made, digestible parcels for regular, immediate reaction. Like. Dislike. LOL. WTF?
There was a moment, today, when the sun made triangles of light in the corners of the bathroom, and the iPad malfunctioned, and the lapel pin kind of fell down onto the patch of shirt atop his nipple, and he thought: All I want is for someone to throw tiny rocks at my window at 3 a.m. on a weeknight.
That was after the new speechwriter — the one with the nose — kind of wagged his hand back and forth to make a point about the pronunciation of the word “Filipino,” and made him feel, in the way only speechwriters can, that yep, I am getting pretty goddamn old.
So, after the meeting, he listened to Michael Jackson’s “Pretty Young Thing” and looked at a spot on the wall of the Oval — the one he used to think was a European electrical outlet until he discovered it was just decorative. He stared at the spot so hard it became two spots. He remembered the first time he was in the Oval, and how matter-of-fact he was trying to be, trying to be all, “I know, I know, we got a little excited there, but come on now folks,” until he realized he was repeating that to himself, in his head, multiple times per minute, and focusing on that spot had allowed him to be present again.
As Michael Jackson sang “Hit the lovin’ spot/ I’ll give you all that I got,” Obama felt himself holding a bubble of gas in his anus, which was the same feeling he’d felt over the Adriatic Sea last week. Obama thought “I have to poop,” and this was the first line of the same inner monologue he’d said to himself every time he’d had to poop since age five. He went to the bathroom with the purple fleur de lis.
He sat down on the cushioned toilet seat, which made the “oooofffff” sound beneath his body. He picked up the iPad, entered his password, and slid his fingers over the national security briefing. Under the iPad’s screen, the national security briefing felt like the skin on Michelle’s calves, which he thought of now, as the sun set and he stared at the pixelated serifs of the word “intelligence.”
Obama thought: Am I a poet? He’d read some Bakhtin and reflected on the idea of the “unfinalizable self,” and the idea that we, like the continually evolving shades of meaning in our words, are never finished, never able to be pinned down. That like the “intelligence” behind the glare-resistant glass, we are all untouchables, as ephemeral and electric as pixels in a grid.
Obama looked down at the space between his legs. He could see the water, and it reflected his brow. He was like Narcissus with the toilet water, he thought. Obama imagined writing a poem about this moment, and publishing it on a clandestine Tumblr under a pseudonym, and telling only Bo and perhaps his publicist’s gay assistant’s assistant.
Perhaps he would let it sit there for years, glowing like a secret on the Internet.
He thought he must call it “All I want is for someone to throw tiny rocks at my window at 3 a.m. on a weeknight.”
Before bed, Obama spent an hour picking up his phone and putting it down again. Trying to balance it on its side, and watching/hearing it fall down. Ended up running his finger over a very personal/emotional email from a woman in Memphis who lost her mother to pancreatic cancer because “Obamacare cut funding to our healthcare provider.” Laws are just words on paper, he thought. And then: That was callous.
As his eyes closed, he imagined the new speechwriter speechless, and then he did a sit-up in bed and told himself to stop. It was already midnight, and Michelle was in Botswana. He let himself fall back into bed, on his stomach, and his collarbone fell onto his knuckles. It hurt. He exhaled fully. He thought he heard a siren. He let his shoulder muscles relax, and swallowed once, and thought about what the next MacBook will look like.
This post originally appeared on Medium.
1. Party in the USA
Ah, the “all-American”, let’s get some Bud Lights and have a good time kind of night. When this song inspires you to drink, it typically goes along with a generally laid back, pleasant attitude. No need for heels or lines to get into clubs, you’re all about chugging a beer in your backyard while your best friends set up the beer pong table. Perhaps a few shots of Jameson to kick up the night, but you won’t find any drama on a night like this. Granted, Miley was not of legal drinking age when she recorded this song, but I’m sure this is what she would have wanted (or at least Billy Ray).
2. We Can’t Stop
Miley’s infamous “I definitely like to party and here’s the proof” hit kicks your laid back mentality into a slightly more aggressive gear. You’re down to hit the town, and it’s likely that just beer will not suffice. Strong mixed drinks will start off the night, followed by some “casual” shots. This gets your buzz going and perhaps your fingers slip to the contact of your friend with the adult party supplies. Leaving the house isn’t a must, but you also want to show everyone else out there that you can stay out past 4, and you can’t stop (and you won’t stop).
3. Can’t Be Tamed
Everyone else out tonight beware, you are most certainly ready to break out of that proverbial cage and you’re not afraid who sees it. Screw starting with mixed drinks, your pregame for this night is shots on shots on shots, and most likely a lot of redbull. Heels are a must, as well as the dress that says “Hi, I don’t want to wake up in my own bed tomorrow”. You are certainly ready to hit da club and god help anyone who is in your way. Extra points for hooking up with multiple people in the same night, minus points for getting kicked out of the bar. Nothing says I actually can be tamed like a bouncer kindly escorting you out the nearest exit.
4. Wrecking Ball
For the sake of every other person out to drink to have a good time, please stay in your own home. When “Wrecking Ball” inspires your alcohol-fueled evening, it is best to keep it to yourself. The beginning notes of this masterpiece get your tears flowing by 9pm, and no one likes a drunk crier. We all know that you can relate to this song, and that you never meant to start a war, but how about you just let sleep in instead and call it a night?
If you’ve gotten this far, you’re curious.
I write this in the spirit of empathy for those of you who do not menstruate to get off the cases of those of us who do. Lots of people menstruate, about half the population of people between the ages of twelve and sixty. You’ve probably spoken with someone who is menstruating this very day! So for those of you who don’t (or who haven’t yet), I’m about to lay down some cold, hard, truths about what this process feels like.
There is no universal period.
It can change throughout a person’s life and varies greatly between people. Starting, switching, or stopping birth control or other hormonal treatments can affect how often a person gets their period and how it feels. If a person has ovarian cysts there can be far more physical pain. Someone who has recently given birth, stopped breastfeeding, had a miscarriage, or had an abortion may have a very different experience than from what they are used to. Some people need to quarantine themselves away from society while they are menstruating, whereas others find it to be nothing serious. Basically, everything I lay down from here on out may be true in some cases but not in others. This is what I have come to learn from myself and the other menstruating people in my life.
There are a lot more physical changes than just blood coming out of a vagina.
Those cramps people talk about can be mild to nonexistent or really something horrible. When a person complains about cramps, their body is literally wringing out the wet washcloth of their uterus. This can feel pretty sucky. Sometimes midol or ibuprofen help, sometimes they don’t. In addition to cramping, back muscles can get all knotted up and you’re eating/pooping/sleeping/sex schedule gets all out of whack. Basically, nothing is easy. Oh, you wanted to wear your favorite pants to make yourself feel like a human? Too bad, because you’ve gained five pounds and they are too tight for today. Don’t worry, those five pounds will drop away as you emerge from the cranky chrysalis of menstruation and you can emerge in your sexy pants like a butterfly.
Everything gets more complicated.
Sometimes periods are all “surprise, motherfucker” while we’re out and about. Luckily, people who menstruate like to help one another and will often lend a spare pad or tampon to a fellow menstruater (so long as they have one). Speaking of which, pads and tampons are pretty much the worst ever. Neither is particularly comfortable and they cost a lot. Also, tampons can kill people if they are not used correctly. There are other reusable options out there, like sponges and cups, but they cost more up front and can be uncomfortable to use in scuzzy public bathrooms or porta potties (a menstruater’s nemesis). Surprise periods are also the #1 killer of favorite underpants, pants, and sheets (pro tip: hydrogen peroxide and water when it is fresh).
The emotional changes get a real bad rap.
Some people do turn into crazy monsters when they menstruate, but most of us remain able to function within society. Smarmily asking a person if “it’s their time of the month” when we are in a crappy mood (menstruating or not) is some real bullshit. People that make such remarks generally grind other people’s gears, menstruation aside. If someone is menstruating and in a crappy mood, please remember that their body feels all crazy right now and they may have lost a pair of really cute underwear to period stains, but they still managed to get up and function within society so they are doing okay. If they need to go home and watch a romantic comedy while eating junk food then they have earned that privilege.
It’s not all bad, though.
For people that are (hetero) sexually active and not trying to grow tiny people in their uteruses, the first sighting of menstrual blood is a welcome relief. For those that ARE trying to grow tiny people inside of their uteruses, it means that in two weeks their uteruses might be in baby-making prime time, complete with a fresh, healthy ovum. Doctors will routinely ask about menstrual cycles because disruption means something is happening to that body, which may be good or bad. It’s a signal that things are working, which is kind of nice to have despite all of the other baggage that comes along with it.
At a holiday party I was at the other day we got to talking about the power of language. Like, is language the rules and dumb speech exercises you learn in a classroom, or is language more about music and the stuff people say on the street? If you listen to the way most people talk, it all sounds like slang and word play if you ask me. I guess that’s when you know if you’re really fluent — if you can understand and communicate in the slang. Here are 36 amazing and perplexing slang phrases from the 90s that everyone should use in 2014, not that anyone has stopped using these words completely.
1. All That And A Bag Of Chips: Used to describe something that is meritorious beyond belief. Like, actually so good.
2. All: Used in place of “like.” You know, “She was all…and he was all…” It really gets the point across.
3. As If: Translation: I don’t think so, buddy! Funny how one movie could bless us with one of the most known 90s slang phrases ever.
4. Bounce: Used to announce an imminent departure. “I gotta bounce.” “Let’s bounce.”
5. Bout It-Bout It: A terminology emanating from hip-hop culture of the 90s, indicating that one is “down for anything.” Translation: Sure, why not?
6. Bugg’n: Used to express concern about someone who is probably freaking out about something that doesn’t need to be freaked out over. “Man, why are you bugg’n?”
7. Clownin: You know how clowns are like kind of scary? Crazy scary? Yeah, this is that. Going crazy; acting crazy. “She was straight clownin’ on her.”
8. Crib: A house, a pad. Someone’s “place.”
9. Crunk: Typically used in reference to the weekend. Things get “crunk” on the weekend, thanks to brown liquor in red cups!
10. Cut. It. Out: You can’t really say this without also doing the hand gestures, too. Also if you could comprehend language in the 90s and you don’t know what this means, I feel sorry for you kind of.
11. Fart-Knocker: A blazing idiot; a “doofus.” Coined by Beavis and Butthead.
12. Fly: Cool, awesome, dope. Jennifer Lopez was a Fly Girl on In Living Color. Every time I hear someone using this word I automatically think about how dated it sounds, which means now is the perfect time to bring it back!
13. Going Postal: Going crazy, losing it. Think of how mail goes all over the place. “I told her that I slept with her sister and she went postal.” Yikes.
14. Hella: A lot, very; wow. Before “ginormous” became a thing. “Yo this apartment is hella tight.” Also? Tight, which I guess means that something is fresh, good, “the bomb.”
15. Home Skillett: A close friend. Someone you go to over and over, maybe kind of like you have that one skillet you always use when you cook?
16. I’m Outtie: Gotta go!
17. Mad: Mad not as in angry, mad as in “very” or “a lot.” Contrary to the way it sounds, you can tell something is really good when a description of it is preceded by “mad.”
18. No Duh: Well clearly you are just stating the obvious, you butt munch — another key phrase that ought to be brought back.
19. NOT: Meaning the exact opposite of whatever was said before it. “Of course I don’t think you look ridiculous in that tube dress…NOT!” See also: psyche or sike.
20. Oh Snap!: Used to punctuate a situation that has taken everyone by surprise and which leaves everyone in a state of total disbelief.
21. Open Up A Can of Whoop-Ass: Translation: don’t make me fuck you up because I will not hesitate.
22. Pick Up Your Face: Used to describe an instance of embarrassment that you can’t step down from. Pick up your face is often used when someone proves you wrong.
23. Phat: Something that’s really awesome, cool. Mindbogglingly great at stuff. “That ish is so phat!”
24. Psyche: See also: NOT
25. Salty: Used to describe someone who is angry about something, kind of for no real reason, too. “Why are you being so salty right now?” It’s the perfect expression because when something is too salty, there is definitely a face people make much to that effect.
26. Schwing!: This is a thing white dudes say/I have never said this word in my life. But it’s a thing, kind of like “score” or “haha, awesome!”
27. She Wrong For That!: No translation needed.
28. Step Off: Like, step off my man. Typically used before a fight or some other violent altercation. Consider yourself warned.
29. Take A Chill Pill: Used to calm someone down, to talk them off of a ledge.
30. Talk To The Hand: Today we say “things ain’t nobody got time for,” but back when everybody was all, “Talk to the hand.”
31. That’s My Name, Don’t Wear It Out!: Has no direct translation, really. It’s just a stupid thing people say.
32. Trippin’: Used to call out someone who is acting a fool. “Why are you trippin’ over this?” See also: salty, going postal.
33. What’s The 4-1-1: I’m not even sure what would happen if you dialed 4-1-1 today, but anyway, What’s The 411 is the title of Mary J. Blige’s 1992 debut record, and as such it perfectly reflects its time period. 4-1-1 meaning information, gossip, tea.
34. Wicked: White people’s very own version of “mad.” Black people say something was “mad cool, mad ____.” White people are all, “that was wicked ______.” Possibly originates in Boston?
35. Word: Translation: Worry not — I understand you totally and completely. As in, “You understand what I’m going through?” Your response: “word.”
36. You Go, Girl/Boy!: Translation: Alright, Miss Thing! I see you!