Art, Rocks and Obama (Or how to live in the age of the perpetual remix)

Back when I was in the record business one of my bosses would always say you can find the future by looking at the edges.

Well he didn’t say that exactly but he would always go first to the gay clubs and see what they was listening to now because he claimed, by next year, everyone would be listening to it.

Some things don’t change.

Last year while visiting friends in Detroit a faghag friend of mine told me after a heated discussion, to “kick rocks!

Being a 40 year old man not up on the latest slang I had no idea what that meant.

But since I dig clever I asked.

“It’s like when a kid leaves upset with his head down and he kicks the first thing he sees. It’s gay slang for ‘fuck off!’.”

Flash forward.


A quick twitter search for “kick rocks” shows that a phrase  found in the gay slang dictionary has now moved to teenagers and rappers who probably have no idea where it came from. It won’t be long till it’s used in a New York Times opinion piece.

It’s been co-opted, remixed, or whatever else you want to call the way things move through culture today.

Which brings us to the current controversy concering Obama, the AP and artist Shepard Fairey.

Fairey created the now iconic Hope poster of President Obama based on a little known AP picture.

Now that that it has become so popular the AP wants credit and a cut.

Now this won’t be the case that frees remixes, mashups and other cool stuff from legal limbo. (It involves the President so it will be quietly resolved.)

But it makes it abundantly clear that the rules we created in the 20th Century are now practically archaic. And when you attempt to use them on 21st Century situations they sound ridiculous to current sensibilities.

Everything introduced to the public will be remixed and used in purposes that is only limited by imagination.

It’s the age we live in.

You have to accept that you never know where things will end up.

For the past week I have been in battle with the 70 year old lady that lives next door.

She’s nosy. She wakes me up at 7:30 every morning and called the city on me for mythical violations.

Trying to avoid an all out war with the lady I went to talk to her yesterday evening.

I explained my case and asked her to start being reasonable.

She told me, no lie, to “kick rocks”.

Explore posts in the same categories: Army Of One, chartreuse (beta), new rules, NYC, NYTimes

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12 Comments on “Art, Rocks and Obama (Or how to live in the age of the perpetual remix)”

  1. Andy E. Says:

    Fairey is a known plagiarizer. Check this out Char–

  2. chartreuse Says:

    Actually I saw that before I wrote this post but it was already too long!
    I don’t think it changes my point even if you do believe the allegations: Once the public has something it’s fair game.

  3. Derivative! Says:

    I will spend the rest of the day looking for a reason to say “Kick Rocks!”

  4. Dudeasincool Says:

    I think your record company boss was probably right about his musical forecasts.

  5. Daniel Edlen Says:

    “Bam!” I just fucking love it.

    I’m so glad you talked about Fairey. When I saw that he’d been attacked by the AP, I first thought, “ooo cool” because I was exploring repros of my work and was worried about the photo publishers coming back on me, or even worse, the record labels, if I repro’d the album cover behind.

    Then I checked out the article. And now that link above too. Fairey’s apparently a bit of a fraud and fake. He hadn’t even painted the original Obama piece. It was some sort of manipulation. The one in the NPG is a “version” created later. Sheesh. Shows how sometimes substance doesn’t matter. Nice message.

    What bothers me most is that though he acknowledges using the AP image, he won’t give appropriate credit. Awhile ago I responded to a post by @zeroinfluencer on his blog, when he was writing longwinded philosophical posts, about attribution. It grounds the work. It preserves its story. Fairey could’ve done way better, served the whole thing way better, if he’d included the AP in from the get-go. Or at least responded postively instead of antagonistically. Now I know, from reading some of Jarvis’s posts about the AP when they sent those cease and desist letters to bloggers, that they can be heavy-handed in protecting their content. But fundamentally, they’re right.

    If you take from somebody, pay for it. One way or another, don’t steal. It isn’t nice. It doesn’t make for trust. We need trust in art, and in life.

    If a photographer or othe party approaches me about my use of an image, I will be completely understanding of their position, whatever it is. I won’t roll over, but in their head, they’re right. I’ve gotta work with that. If I read your post and later quote you directly, I link to you. And if I or anybody makes money off of my remix, I either give you a cut or work out a deal that makes you happy.

    @gapingvoid just did that with a software co. that used a cartoon of his with no link or credit other than the copyright on the actual cartoon.

    I’m just sayin’.


  6. genius. you tell great stories. Hard to believe but yet i totally believe them

  7. chartreuse Says:

    Dude: Yeah, my boss was right,The same holds true for almost everything.Look to the edges.
    Vinyl: Good points.
    Howard: I never lie on my blog!

  8. ian Says:

    Two things: the phrase ‘Kick Rocks’ has been in use in hip hop circles for at least a couple years now so I question the argument that it originated in gay circles and; I don’t believe your 70 year old neighbor told you to kick rocks but its a funny story if it is true.

  9. chartreuse Says:

    First thing, Ian, I LOVE your blog (been reading it forever). And will definitely bow down to your hip hop knowledge. I just write about my own experiences and research.

    And the old black lady next door has been in this Brooklyn neighborhood longer than my 40 years on the planet. If the phrase has been around as long as you say then that explains why she knows it (Or from her bad ass grandkids that go to the high school across the street.)

    Anyway. Happy you even read me. You made my day!

  10. Clyde Smith Says:

    I first heard “kick rocks” from a 20 something gay member of the Aryan Nation back in 2004. He was also a speed freak just out of jail and the houseboy of an old friend of mine.

    I remember looking it up online but I can’t remember what I found though it seemed more like a country ass saying than a gay one.

  11. Clyde Smith Says:

    My old friend wasn’t with the brotherhood but he was gay as fuck and a country boy at heart living in San Francisco.

    And a great choreographer until meth took him out of the game.

    Anyway, it always seemed more like a country ass saying to me.

  12. Clyde Smith Says:

    urban dictionary has it at least as far back as 2003:

    don’t you guys google anything anymore?

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