PopCornucopia is all about free associative pop culture tidbits as they strike my fancy, just like kernels of corn exploding into fullness at a random and unpredictable pace. And of course, the cornucopia is the horn of plenty.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


This evening, we bring you a sampler platter of work relating to bandits of various sorts.

We begin with a reading on Mancur Olson's concept about roving bandits and stationary bandits, a key contribution to theories on state-building and political economy.

For more from another scholar concerned with the nation-state we turn to Eric Hobsbawm. He coined the term social bandit. Here's an excerpt from his book Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Moving on, we have some audiovisual meditations on banditry among other things:

Oh, I heart Margaret Cho.

And to round off this session on bandits:

Thank you for joining us. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Venetian Chases

Some strange force of the cosmos is telling me that hot pursuit in Venice is the thing.

I never understand most of their lyrics unless I look at them in translation, but I've loved Fettes Brot, kings of German melodic hip hop, since I was 15. The release of this song is where it all began :

Matthew Goode is uber adorable:

See? So I hope you will forgive me for watching the truly awful Chasing Liberty. Shamelessly and sacrilegiously hijacking the plot from the untouchable Roman Holiday, there's a scene in it that features Matthew and Mandy Moore (who is the President's daughter) running away from restaurant staff and the secret service agents she's been trying to lose.

Venice's intrinsic cinematic qualities aside, what is with the chase thing here? The labyrinth passageways? The maze of bridges? Some odd link between canals and kineticism? Anyone got any other theories to offer up?

Really, though, I'd like to see them try this in Ganvie, the Venice of Africa.

Ganvie was one of the most incredible places I visited when I was in Benin. Once again, I am reminded of the power of the lens remembering the day I was there.

Ganvie was originally a site of resistance built to evade pro-slave trade Dahomey warriors whose codes prohibited water invasions. It is a community that perseveres today and the people who lived there sustain this way of life in such a way that their relationship with tourism is not wholly welcoming. I do not assert that in contempt, I assert that in veneration. In the 'developing world', tourism is characterized as a necessary evil, resorted to for survival and commerce. But the citizens whose lives are infringed upon by the acts of tourism are rarely portrayed as reluctant or hostile to the infringement. Often, they are viewed as benign and complicit, sometimes even aggressive and greedy in the tourist trade.

Ganvie ran counter to this stereotype. Some of Ganvie's inhabitants see tourists as a disruption and an invasive force. To take a picture of them without permission, was often viewed as an invasion of their privacy. This was most indelibly demonstrated when Kenneth, one of the other students on the trip, was trying to take a picture of the general landscape as we pulled away from the town. A woman fishing espied him with his camera poised. Thinking she was the target, she waved her arms frantically and yelled "NO, NO NO!" Refusing the probe of the gaze, railing against it, saying to no to having your everyday life become western spectacle, and retaining your agency to keep your personhood and your community for yourself rather than willingly proffering its image to a stranger--these are all things that rang true in that moment. In an image obsessed world, where people constantly whore themselves out for fame, Ganvie is a site of blessed resistance. Contrary to what this blog might often project, for me, indulgence in pop culture and the cult of celebrity must always be tempered with an awareness of its dark undercurrents.

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Friday, February 20, 2009

Before there was Vanilla Ice, there was Vanilla Fudge

This has to be the most OTT cover of an HDH classic:

Sunday, February 15, 2009


OMG check out Stevie Wonder's sweater in this. The first appearance is at 1:32.

Then close your eyes and focus on how beautiful the song is.


Six Degrees of Pop Culture Separation

To give a rundown of things rockin' my world right now that you should check out, we'll play Six Degrees of Separation.

Soul Murder in the First Degree

Gladys Knight and the Pips just kill me with how great they are.

Exhibit A:

So sharp!

Exhibit B: Take a listen. "Neither One Of Us" is pure mellow gold. Bittersweet, lush orchestrations. Gladys at her heartfelt vocal best.

Exhibit C: Two words--Peter Pan. Don't you just love the James Jamerson bass line on that? For better audio and a similar bass line, check out "Make Me the Woman That You Come Home To".

Second base, want you to feel me too boy

Alicia Keys did a cover of "If I Was Your Woman." Her version is ersatz compared to the Empress of Soul, but another song of hers that I like, "Teenage Love Affair", has a sorta cute video that's an homage to School Daze.

Biggie Biggie Biggie, Can't you see sometimes your rhymes just like degree thre

Note that Alicia's video ho of choice, Derek Luke, also starred as Puffy in the recent Notorious B.I.G. biopic Notorious, which I saw recently. So horrible it was awesome. And who knew Lil' Kim was so maligned? I love it when you call me Big Poppa.

Fourth Right

Notorious was exec produced by Sean "[now] Diddy" Combs. That is why it is so biased and sadly portrays Tupac as a paranoid turncoat. Although I hate to admit it, a little tune called "Get Right" by Diddy's former flame J. Lo, is makin' me shake my booty.

Pleading the Fifth
Did you know that before J.Lo made it big she was a backup dancer for Janet Jackson? Yet another songstress getting rotation during my jogs in the park. For the most part, JJ's songs were never super brilliant, just groovin'...but the dancing! That was what sold it. Just takes me back to my adolescent days in summer camp working out our counselor-choreographed moves for parents night to "New Agenda" and digging all those tracks off Janet.

Apparently, Tyra also works it out to Janet.

The Sixth Man

Of course, everyone remembers Justin Timberlake's unceremonious boobage exposure of Miss Janet, forecast by his lyric 'Gonna have you naked by the end of this song." Incidentally enough, that brings us to the final piece in my pop culture puzzle: Blur's bassist, Alex James, who according to Wiki, "quipped that it was he who had invented Justin Timberlake's catchphrase ...James has subsequently mentioned this, most likely erroneous claim, in a number of later articles in the Idler." The Idler is--surprise--all about idle living and anti-work. As the magazine's website states: "The intention of the magazine is to return dignity to the art of loafing, to make idling into something to aspire towards rather than reject." So easy to subscribe to such a philospohy when you have millions of pounds and live on a vast tract in Oxfordshire like Mr. James.

Now I know I've mentioned Alex's exploits before, but I was reminded of his entertainment value watching some vids. We'll save the discussion about the Blur reunion for later. I can't seem to muster the courage for it now.

Anyway, he did a series for the Guardian chronicling his love affair with the stinkiest comestible. Check out The Cheese Diaries. Sorry babe, but I'm allergic to dairy. It doesn't matter how hilarious you are, I will still barf if I eat it. For more on his obsession with consumables, check out his food column.

Now that he's into the hipness of sustainable farming and going green, he's also joining the white man-finding-himself-in-brief-visits-to-the-third-world trend.

Here's his experience learning about farming techniques in Burkina Faso.

For a more hard hitting report, check out his investigation of the cocaine trade in Colombia.

He's also tried his hand at conducting an orchestra.

Did I forget to point out he is the indie incarnation of Simon Cowell (2:32)?

It's strange to me how Alex James has sort of developed this character of a man who is clearly very erudite and aware of things around him, but simultaneously sort of happily bumbles through everything, strumming a tune, sloppily dressed with permanent bedhead, and somehow always ending up hunky dory. Clearly a function of rockstar privilege. Don't get me wrong, I will never stop loving the music he made with Blur. His behavior is guffaw-inducing too. And while I am quite upset about the bumbling, it is also downright funny how much the glibness and indulgence makes him look like an total asshole. That in itself is highly amusing. And who doesn't love to hate the wit and sangfroid of a careless renaissance man? A. J. Sexmeal, oh how I loathe and adore you all at once.

Really, this video says it best.

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