Sunday, October 30, 2011

Musings on Violet Stars, Happy Hunting!

A post on Janelle Monae's MySpace page posed a challenge to unveil the hidden meanings within "Violet Stars, Happy Hunting!  After much reflection, here's my contribution:

 “ I’m an alien from outer space”
Those who aren’t part of the majority are “alien”, “foreign”, or the “other”

“I’m a cybergirl without a face, a heart, or a mind”
In context of the story, this is Cindi’s description of how she is seen as an android-a bunch of metal and wires with no uniqueness, thought, or soul.

Metaphorically, this lyric can be a veiled description of the human identity in relation to technology.  In many instances, we “recreate our identities” when we interact with technology- ex: twitter/facebook profiles, e-mail addresses, etc.  Simultaneously, however, each individual in the digital world is just one of literally millions.

“I’m a slave girl without a race”
As demonstrated throughout history, slavery has occurred in various forms throughout the world and across racial lines. In many instances, especially in America, slaves were considered property.  In addition, women throughout history all over the world had the status of property-belonging to the father during youth and to the husband in older years.  Even in contemporary society, many women are beholden to behavioral and cultural norms.  This lyric is an expression of solidarity with all women-past and present-who are enslaved in any way, shape, or form.

“On the run cause they’re here to erase and chase out my kind”
The meaning of this line for the story goes without saying.  In another context, it alludes to the countless instances in history of systematic attempts to eliminate the “other” and those within such groups who literally (and figuratively) ran in order to survive in such circumstances.  Examples like Anne Frank and Immaculee Illibagiza come to mind.

“And I think to myself: ‘Wait, it’s impossible, that they’re gunning for me-and now they’re after you’”
Given Cindi’s precocious nature, this line suggests an inner sense of the injustice of the attempt on her life by Droid Control and a sense that right will prevail.  That this trait has been seen in every heroic figure-figurative and literal-needs no further explanation.  It could also imply a naiveté on Cindi’s part due to the fact she’s a celebrity. 
This also may allude to the trials endured by those who aided underprivileged and oppressed groups.

“And all the sirens go doo-doo…”
On the surface, this is another lyric with an obvious meaning. Underneath, however is a sense of allusion to the warning signs that go before times of distress. When hasn’t there been a moment where something indicated trouble was coming?

“You know the rules”
The story depicts androids being beholden to “The Rules” where, above all, they are forbidden to fall in love, especially with the human. In this context, this line could refer prevailing view of Metropolitan society that Cindi and Anthony have to face.  It could also be considered a metaphor to the internalization and/or challenging of societal norms. How many times do we internalize or question what is seen as “de rigeur”? When hasn’t “the hero”, or anyone else for that matter, come to the point where they question the status quo before realizing their destiny?  

“I love you, and I won’t take no for an answer”
Beneath the obvious reference, I saw this line as describing the persistent nature of love-not just romantic love, but love in all its forms.

“They say that violet stars will set you free, when your running lost and alone, up
Neon Valley Street
The first metaphor that came to mind when exploring this verse is the use of the North Star during slavery years to point the way to freedom, or the common usage of it to provide direction when navigating. An interesting explanation of the phenomenon of the violet star comes from physics, which explains it as the spectrum of light waves from the star when the distance between the star and the earth is decreasing (“Doppler Effect”). The closer the light of the star becomes in relation to the earth, then, the more violet it becomes. This can suggest a metaphoric correlation between gaining direction in life and getting closer to “the light”. In addition, given the common association of royalty with colors within the purple spectrum, this line could refer to the gaining of a royal nature the more heavenward one goes. In light of the tale, this could be a prediction of Cindi’s special calling..

“A pretty day makes a pretty picture”
What comes to mind here is holding on to the beautiful or positive.  With the prevalence of cameras these days, who wouldn’t want to take a permanent image of pretty things, especially a pretty day? Our minds can also be seen as cameras that hold on to images in the same manner as the ones we commonly carry. Implied here, then, is a message of uplifting minds. At this stage of the saga, it is love that Cindi holds on to. Her time with Anthony is the “pretty day” that “makes a pretty picture”

“…but fall in love and they’re coming to get ya”
Aside from the evident reference to what’s happening to Cindi, this line can easily describe the moments people have in life when they pursue their passion.  There will always be obstacles, nay-sayers, and doubts that come after people when they fall in love with something or someone.

“Who knew ten men with guns were at the door-the Droid Control”
 The explanation of the aforementioned line can be applied here.

“All my cyboys, and cybergirls, get up if you’re gon’ get down”
This could allude to a call to all those in the oppressed to build courage within themselves to fight for their freedom, in whatever form it may be.

“Citizens pull your pants up, and cyborgs pull your pants down-down your ankles and show your rust. Shake your tank, you know it’s a must”
In the story, Metropolis is described as being plagued with decadence. This line, then, would infer a call to refrain from such behavior. For the cyborg-the “other”, it is a call to be not be shy about voicing the injustices against them. Don’t sugar-coat what’s going on, in other words.

“Now where’s Cindi Mayweather? Get on up there, and let…me see you squeak”
I see this as, apart from the obvious, a veiled reference to view of Cindi as a leader and a foreshadowing of the particular leadership role she would take.

“ I love my baby so…and he loves me too…”
More than a declaration of love, this describes the mutual nature of the love between Cindi and Anthony and true love in general.  Also suggested here is that anything one is sincerely passionate about will work out to one’s benefit.

Doppler Effect."Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2001. © 1993-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Review: The M.I.L.K. EP/Golden Age of The Apocalypse

Ok-this HAD to be written because the gauntlet has been thrown. 2011 isn't over yet but these two albums are easily the tops of indy releases of this year-All Cows Eat Grass' (ACEG) "The M.I.L.K. EP" and Thundercat's "Golden Age of the Apocalypse".  These two artists are unadulterated geniuses with their respective instruments: keyboard for ACEG and bass guitar for Thundercat.  Both albums feature the aforementioned very well amid a plethora of genre-bending sounds.  There are literally no words to describe the sounds of these albums-they would do no kind of justice.  On the surface they could be electronica, but they're more than that. These are new sounds, the sounds of the future. They are guaranteed to make you move your feet and bob your head. Now, for the standouts: "SMH" on M.I.L.K. and "Jamboree" for Apocalypse. Check them out:

(ACEG image courtesy of, Thundercat image courtesy of

Thursday, October 6, 2011

About a Ball

Everything seems to be used as a metaphor nowadays. At the very least, a lot of people try to create profundity out of the most mundane (cf. Nephew Tommy's "That's Not Deep...That's Stupid").  Then again, there may be some truth to said attempts.  For yours truly, it came in the form of a beach ball at Thrivals 4.0 two weeks ago.

At the beginning of the conference, everyone was handed beach balls to inflate.  Within minutes, myriads of beach balls made their way through the audience onto the stage-except for mine. It seemed as if my lung capacity was non existent. Despondency set in a little bit within a short period of time. At the same time, there was a dogged determination to inflate that beach ball. Throuhout the sessions, I snuck in blows to get that ball to blow up.  Luckily, I was seated towards the back.

Then came intermission.

Like a miracle, my blows into the ball gained headway. Gradually, the mass of plastic took the shape of an actual air-filled ball worthy of using at the beach.  As to how my tries at blowing up the ball had more success in the middle of the day in comparison to the beginning is beyond me.  However, once achieved, a feeling of accomplishment blended in with the already present feeling of inspiration from the conference speakers.

And herein lies the profundity-and irony. A recurrent theme throughout the conference was perseverance, no matter what the odds, especially for work that will change the world for good.  In an odd way, the attempts to blow up the beach ball paralleled the stories of children in impoverished areas of India learning English in order to learn how to use the computers in Dr. Sugata Mitra's "Hole in the Wall" Project and Al Letson's journey from dyslexia to performing spoken word and writing plays-subjects of some of the sessions at Thrivals.

The moral of this tale? Keep on going for the good, come what may. Patience and persevearance is key. It's not about WHEN you get to your goal (and/or calling), its THAT you get to your goal (and/or calling). Most importantly, like Janelle Monae pointedly said at Thrivals 4.0, "Don't be afraid to fail".  Now to put it into practice.