Thursday, March 03, 2005

Damn You, Shooter Jennings! Why don't you think of the Delicate Sensibilities of the Nashville Scene?

I ought to just stop reading the Nashville Scene, but I'm already boycotting The Tennessean due to the continued employment of Brad About You (if you don't know, don't ask. Trust me. You're better off in ignorance.) and I need to keep abreast of at least some local going's on. So, every week, I dutifully pick it up and check it out and wonder, "What the fuck are they doing over there?" I thought an alternative weekly had to have some "alternative," either an alternative vision of what the city might be or what the daily newspaper might do or what culture might be cool. Whatever it is an alternative to, it ought to have some coherent vision of what world it'd like to mold into existence. Bless its heart, the Scene has no coherent vision. And so, even though it's supposed to be the "cool" paper in town, Michael McCall devotes considerable space in his review of Shooter Jennings's debut album apparently to being shocked and feeling a bit faint (with considerable face fanning, I'm sure) that the title of the album "Put the O Back in Country" is a little jokey play on the noise the word country makes before it gets to the "ree." McCall explains, for those readers too stupid to figure it out for themselves but too delicate to actually see all the letters c-u-n-t together in one place:
Jennings realizes that the title might not be clear to everyone, or that they might mistake his use of the "O" as meaning that he wants to put the Outlaw back in country. So he uses the back of his CD cover to make himself understood. His torso is photographed in a T with the title emblazoned on it, only it says "Put the O Back in C untry." The c-word, which can shock even those unfazed by most profanity, is meant to suggest that Nashville's best-known musical product has become wimpy and limp.
It's hard to know where to start with this. Are there really people who are too stupid to get the cunt joke but sophisticated enough to come up with a reading in which the O stands for Outlaw? I don't buy it. Also, can we declare a moratorium on the *-word formation? Here, Nashville Scene, let me help. If there's a word that you don't want to use because people find the term offensive or degrading, don't be coy and condescending with the whole *-word, just say "an offensive term for women's genitalia" or "a racial slur" or whatever. See how that works? We get the idea without being treated as if we're morons who have to have everything spelled out for us. But is "cunt" really that shocking a word? Maybe I'm getting jaded in my old age, but I prefer cunt to other words for my genitalia. At least people know what it is. Yeah, it'd be weird to run around being like "I'm bleeding out my cunt, can I borrow a tampon?" but it's a vast improvement over the "I'm having a little woo-woo in my hoo-ha" crap that I encounter when grown-ass women try to talk about their own selves. Frankly, I don't have a hoo-ha and I don't know what a little woo-woo in such a place might be, so I don't know how to help you rectify it. I mean, if something were happening to me that made me go woo-woo and hoo-ha, I wouldn't be complaining. [...] I crack myself up. [...] Back to the sub-point: Women of America, it's just a part of your body. Go ahead and call it by a name that doesn't require others of us to have to guess or point in order to figure out what the hell you're talking about. And now, on to my last point: "The c-word, which can shock even those unfazed by most profanity, is meant to suggest that Nashville's best-known musical product has become wimpy and limp." Maybe it's not just the women of America who have a problem with basic biology. Girlie and impotent are not the same state of being. Jennings is using the word-play to suggest that country music has gotten too girlie. But McCall links the word "cunt" to "wimpy and limp." Hmm. Often, when you're reading a record review, you feel like you're learning more about the reviewer than you are about the record. This may be one such case.


Blogger Steve Pick said...

So many years ago, when Carlene Carter was to all appearances an innocent little angel carrying on the country music traditions of her mother, aunts, and grandmother, she was performing a high-profile gig. Upon taking the stage, she grabbed the microphone, and said something like, "It's time to put the cunt back into country" before launching into one of her rockin' numbers. This tidbit became news because, unknown to Carlene, her mama June and her step-daddy Johnny were in the audience.

Shooter, who knows a little about famous parentage, is playing off that line here. It's way funnier if you know the original story.

As for the Nashville Scene, I don't know the paper specifically, but today's alternative weeklies are moving inexorably towards the trashcans of America. Does New Times own this one? I write for the Riverfront Times, a St. Louis New Times paper. I love the paychecks, and I can say what I want when I get a pitch accepted, but as you say, there is no coherent vision of what the world should be. It's sad, because the paper was very succesful when it had such a vision, before the corporate buy-out.

3/03/2005 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

I'm glad to have your perspective on this, because I've wondered what it must be like for writers who work for alternative weeklies.

What's especially weird to me about the Scene is that it's owned by the Village Voice folks and the Village Voice strikes me as a paper with a clear sense of what kind of New York it represents.

Of all the services it might do, you'd think upper management might have asked the folks here "What kind of city would you like to be living in?" because it seems that the answer to that question shapes your paper in very specific ways.

What is your dream for St. Louis, if that's not too personal a question?

I love St. Louis, but I'm a sucker for all the Mississippi River towns--New Orleans, Memphis, the Quad Cities, etc. Much of my childhood was spent driving through the cornfields of Illinois on our way to a Dairy Queen where my mom would go in and get our order--I'd get a medium cone dipped in chocolate, the boys would get Dilly Bars, my mom would get a small cone dipped in chocolate and my dad would get a peanut buster parfait, which my mom would promptly start eating, even before she got back to the car. Then, we'd sit there in the DQ parking lot with the windows open and the ice cream dripping all over our arms, listening to the Cardinals on KMOX.

Carlene Carter. That's awesome.

I have to say, the biggest shock to me was learning that Shooter was only 25. Jesus, he might want to lay off the booze, 'cause he's looking hard.

3/03/2005 11:56:00 AM  
Blogger Steve Pick said...

If you heard the Cardinals on KMOX as a child, you can appreciate that the highlight of my life took place 14 years ago when Jack Buck said my name in a public place. At the time, I had a music column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and inexplicably, when a local mall expanded and held a grand opening ceremony, I was invited to be one of the 50 Best of the Best in St. Louis. I mean, there was Ozzie Smith, there was sculptor Ernest Trova, there were theatre people, and there was me. Jack Buck was the MC at the event, and he introduced me, and boy, oh, boy, did that ever sound cool.

Anyway, the Voice has an identity, true, but even it isn't what it once was. And, I don't think the chain of Voice-held papers is trying to do the same things in other cities as it does in New York. Except sell ads and keep the articles short.

My dream for St. Louis? Interesting question, and one I'll have to think about for a while. I'm 46 years and three months old, and I've spent less than three months outside this city (or metropolitan area) in all that time. So, my awareness of other possibilities isn't all that great. And, my love of my own life as it is is pretty great.

So, what do I want for the city that doesn't really have anything to do with the specifics of my own life? I'd like to wave a magic wand and erase the racism in this town. I'd like to make the school system fantastically better. I'd like to get more people living in the city again.

But, that's not really part of a dream for the city, is it? I mean, almost every urban dweller wants that sort of thing.

Good work, Aunt B. You've got me thinking. I can't do it straight through, but somewhere down the line, I may have a better answer.

3/03/2005 02:19:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

I have two reactions to your most recent revelation. One is that it's awesome that Jack Buck said your name--though Steve Pick has the kind of ring you think an announcer would have a good time with--I imagine some of the SLU folks here will be swooning with me that you got an introduction from him.

And the other is that now that I know that you're one of the 50 best St. Louisians, and got that way because of your writing, I'm suddenly feeling very self-conscious about my inability to spell.

My one wish for St. Louis would be some explaination of why your streets don't go through. Is it some union thing, where they keep folks busy by having the randomly erect barriers in the middle of perfectly good streets so tht you can't get anywhere? What do you all do when there's a fire? Just hope the hoses reach?

For Nashville, I'd like us to develop a sense of humor, tolerance for people different than us, better public schools, a better zoo, and better public transportation. I can get on a bus and be to work in 10 minutes, but if I want to take the bus home, it's an hour and a half. No thanks.

Also, I wish we had more housing options and free parking downtown.

And for Toby Keith to get his head out of his ass, but maybe that's not a civic dream, but a personal one.

3/03/2005 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger Steve Pick said...

Hah! Toby Keith? That guy's still around?

Hey, don't worry, my 50 Best Status was for one day only, and has long since worn off for lack of use. I think by now I'm the only person left in town who even remembers I was there. Even my mother probably has no idea. As for spelling, well, you don't call me on grammar, and I won't call you on spelling.

The streets in St. Louis are theoretically blocked off to make crime less likely. I don't know if it's worked. I live in one of those neighborhoods with lots of one-way streets and dead ends, and yet I know there are still car break-ins and theft here and there. More than in some neighborhoods, less than in others.

In case of fire, rather than proceed directly from the fire station to my house, the fire fighters would have to drive around a couple blocks out of their way to get there.

I'm trying to remember my two days in Nashville twelve years ago. I had a good time. I remember an amazing photography exhibit in one of the college campuses - apparently a permanent collection of classic Stieglitz and O'Keefe and all the other stars of the early 20th century. I remember, for some strange reason, seeing the Acropolis. I loved the Country Music Hall of Fame, and Conway Twitty's record store, where there was a fifteen-foot blow up of his head, which looked like a space alien. And, I saw Marshall Chapman play in that really cool little club in a strip mall, the one that was in that movie once.

I haven't been, but I know you have a great record store, Grimey's.

3/04/2005 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Aunt B said...

No, not the Acropolis, but the Parthenon. It's in the park right by our house. We don't go to that park--because of the killer hobos and the lack of leashes on other dogs--but we could walk there if I were brave enough to cross the bridge over the interstate by foot.

You were over to Fisk, I think. They have the O'Keefes as well as other amazing art.

The best place in all of Nashville, in my opinion, is the Bicentennial Park Fountain, which is a huge fountain representing all of the rivers in Tennessee and you can play in it. During the summer, all the kids come out and run through the water.

Sometimes, when it's not too crowded, I bring the dog and we stay out of the way of the kids, and she plays at one of the spigots--leaping up into the air, biting at the water, barking and running around.

That place reminds me constantly of how I wish all of Nashville felt--community oriented and generous.

3/04/2005 01:06:00 PM  

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