Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Hurry Up and Blame the Victims!
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
You Clean; I'll Fix the Toilet
Warning, Cheap Shot
Monday, August 29, 2005
"If it's a whirling beat, she'll dance to it"
She picked up the drum to play and tore it to pieces, She danced under the Odan tree and tore that to pieces.
I've been thinking all day of Bob Dylan's song "High Water (for Charley Patton)." I don't think it's a song you can so much write about as map. You'd have to put the lyrics down on a big sheet of paper and with colored pens and lines for the direct borrowings, dashes for the associations, and dots for the things that just remind you of something else, draw out the universe in which that song both functions as the center--because it brings all those things together--and the outside edge--since it seems constantly to beckon you to look past it into a rich dark water of American history. There are the bluesmen--Charley Patton and Joe Turner by name, Robert Johnson by lyrical borrowing. With the water rising, you think back to Memphis Minnie's "When the Levee Breaks" and Bessie Smith's "Backwater Blues." There's poor Bertha Mason--the madwoman in the attic who inspired Gilbert and Gubar and, as Rhys reminds us, traveled over the wide Sargasso sea so that two Brits could fall in love. There's cheating (Bertha's plight and the arrival of the cuckoo) and religion and nursery rhymes. The song is less a narrative, less a song, than a way to listen to American history, knowing and dreading something dangerous coming up from the South (first Vicksburg, then Clarksdale) flooding the landscape and drowning us all. There's the banjo, that African instrument now so intimately linked with incestuous, violent rednecks (Deliverance). And the drums, the incessant drumming*, that calls to mind the drums of the voodoo rituals of New Orleans. What woman could be so in love with the drums? So angry at dear Bob that she'd flood all of Mississippi? Whose coffins? Who would throw her panties overboard? Who would have compassion for poor Bertha? Who knows the usefulness of converting to Christianity?
Ah, Bob and his inadvertent love song to Oya, the hurricane herself.
We're hunkering down in Nashville for our dance with Oya, who has not quite spent herself, if the email I got at work is to be believed--"The Nashville area may be subject to severe weather over the next 36 hours as Hurricane Katrina makes its way inland."
In Africa, this is a song they sing her:
Insatiable vagina Wizard's medicine Child who carries the corpse fighting Oya will come into her own fighting Oya will come into her own.
Sunrise hits the sky, pa pa Broom that handles reluctantly May she sweep in money!
Frowning canopy of huge trees beholds the strong wind Purifying stream of air fought the lagoon beat upon the mountain
Honest person who inhabits the sky Honest person of the sky cleaned out the swamp leaped over the mountain stripped off somebody's head.
Oya, don't take offense. Eeepa! Oya, please go easy!
Please go easy.
Context for the Rest of You
First the Chicago Tribune, then the New York Times
Sunday, August 28, 2005
Some Folks are Born Made to Wave the Flag
Saturday, August 27, 2005
Friday, August 26, 2005
The Shill is Smarter than Me
The Corporate Shill Shills for Me
What can dog nuts tell us about human gender issues?
"The men always say, 'You're taking my manhood away.' We get that every week. They say that they can't walk the dog in their neighborhood anymore because people will see that his testicles are gone. They are adamant about it," Clemmons says.They're talking about this over at Pandagon, too, and it's the comments that have me thinking. One commenter in particular says, in response to someone talking about dog vasectomies, "That's the solution for me. I'm sorry, I'm not going to be responsible for some other dude, whether human or canine, getting his balls cut off." Isn't this interesting? It's got me wondering if this is an opposite impulse to the "I must make sure those slutty women are punished with babies" or if it's really the same impulse. We could see it as an opposite impulse--some men saying "not my body, not my place to demand its modification to suit me." But I worry that's it's evidence of the same impulse, one that understands the man as being defined by his manhood, which is represented by his ability to control the animals and humans beneath him. Their fecundity is evidence of his manliness. The behavior of others--what a fragile and stupid thing to hang your own self-worth on.
Thursday, August 25, 2005
My New Reader & Other Stuff
Doing My Part for John McCain
"McCain told the Star that, like Bush, he believes 'all points of view' should be available to students studying the origins of mankind."--The Arizona Daily Star
Here's one for the kids.
The world started like this: there was a wide gaping nothing for a long time and then at one end of the nothing, it grew very, very cold and at the other end of the nothing, it became hotter and hotter. When the ice from the cold end met the fire from the hot end, the energy that encounter gave off started up the universe and recognizable things began to emerge--the world tree and the forces of chaos and out of chaos, the forces of order.
As things became more ordered, earth emerged and water and mountains and trees and the sky and wind and clouds and animals and people.
Still, because nothing had any relationship to anything else, there was no history, and without history, there was no life as we recognize it.
People were like trees--we grew; we reproduced; we died. We had no way of remembering it.
But, as is the way of the universe--order emerges out of chaos before descending back into it again--and as we were ordered, we developed life as we know it, with wit and emotions, and senses and speech--that "vital spark" if you will.
Woo-hoo. It was hard to strip any mention of the gods out of it, but I think I did without masking my point. Now all I have to do is whoop up some quasi-scientific language to couch it in and I can get science teachers everywhere to further my own religious agenda!
Thanks, Senator McCain!
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
$2 Beer & $2 Parking
Deals You Make in Your Head--The Remix
Deals You Make in Your Head
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
Monday, August 22, 2005
Sunday, August 21, 2005
Saturday, August 20, 2005
Update on the Tiny Cat
Man, I Feel Like a Woman
A lot of this came up for me recently, and I would have buried it except tonight my boyfriend went on a standard rant about how Nashville ruined country music. It's true--a bunch of assholes decided country would sell better if you eliminated the fiddle and the steel guitar and the banjo and replaced it with pop music and called it country because an occasional twang could be extracted from the singer. (An aside: I lived in Virginia for a couple months and sang a lot of karaoke. Occasionally people would try country and fail miserably. I cannot sing to save my life, but I would sing Patsy Cline and the Dixie Chicks and because I have the requisite twang, people would be so impressed. It was funny.)The reason I quote this part is that it inadvertently reveals something very crucial to our discussion, I think, which is that our ideas about what is "country" are very much shaped by what we're told is country music, regardless of what it actually sounds like. At the same moment she says "a bunch of assholes decided country would sell better if you eliminated the fiddle and the steel guitar and the banjo and replaced it with pop music and called it country"--implicating Shania and Faith and them--she evokes Patsy Cline, whose most popular songs don't, by Marcotte's standards, sound country at all. Who does Marcotte see as the "real" country stars, the voices Nashville has left behind? Steve Earle, Dale Watson, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Willie Nelson. Who does Fox identify as the people outside of "Nashville" currently? John Conlee and Waylon Jennings, early Randy Travis, Steve Earle, Dwight Youkum, Hank Williams. Fox says that when he hosted a radio show in New Jersey, he had to find a way to balance listeners' desire to hear the Statler Brothers and Conway Twitty against the need to play what was on the Americana charts. But Fox clearly enjoys the energy of hearing these old, now neglected stars next to these new stars, also neglected by the Nashville establishment. So, he's recognizing a commonality between these older stars and the alt.country crowd. And now, my friends, we're in an interesting place. Because, now that you've seen the list of who makes up the alternate universe, who is recognized as being "authentic" and "real," clearly you've noticed who's not real or authentic country music. I'm not going to get too into this--the many ways women are excluded from being "real" country--, because I'm not Barbara Ching, and all I'd be doing is rehashing her kick-ass chapter in A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music. (Yes, the home of that awesome Michael Bertrand essay.) But I want to talk about what it means that women are not automatically recognized as being producers of "real" country music. Let's start with Shania Twain, since everyone seems to point to her as being the most fake, least country thing Nashville has ever produced. She really writes her own songs. She's really from a destitute, working class background. She really put her own dreams on hold to take care of her family and then came to Nashville to pursue her career. She then really made music that appealed to a wide audience of real country music fans (as much as she's had wide success, her fans are made up of a great many regular country music fans). She's got exactly the right characteristics. And yet Marcotte, Fox, and even I (shit, everyone except Steve Pick) characterize her as not a part of this authentic country music that we love. What's going on? I truly don't know. But here's the more interesting question. What's a girl to do? How can a woman be "real"? How can she be "authentic"? If having what seems to be the right credentials isn't good enough, what is? You could sleep with Gram Parsons like Emmylou Harris. You could sing songs about your rough upbringing like Loretta Lynn or Gretchen Wilson. You could make yourself so obviously fake that it circles around into real again like Dolly Parton. Or you can wear your hair back and dress very plain and take what you're doing very, very seriously while being in awe of your opportunities like Gillian Welch. But the truth is you have to do something, even if, like Lynn and Wilson, what you do is to pretend to be who you already are. You can't just be. So, here's where it's really interesting for me. What the fuck does it mean for me to have called Aaron Fox a poseur? With what authority can I indict him for anything? See, and here's where his article suggests some really interesting shit that he doesn't quite get to because of the constraints of the book it's published it (but he hints at the contours of such an argument in his discussion of the kinds of working class masculinities that were celebrated right after September 11th). Being recognized as authentically country means something very different for men than it does for women. For Fox, there is some standard, some core of "authentically country" that he can allude to (even if he disagrees about the fairness of such standard existing). He can rightly say to me "You are, in fact, using class to stereotype me (I put myself through Harvard working two and sometimes three full time jobs, and I'm the son of a professor and a nurse, not a banker or a president, I smoke, and like it sounds as if you do, I live pretty much paycheck to paycheck. What does that make me, a Rockefeller?)"; he can call upon his lived experiences to reinforce his authority to speak--working two or three full time jobs, being a DJ, listening to this music, knowing the cannon, AND, most importantly, he can allude to our common experiences to say "look, you live paycheck to paycheck and I live paycheck to paycheck. In some important ways, I'm very much like you." And that's the crux of the awesome feminist mistake he's making, what he's not getting when he reads me--like Marcotte, I'm not real. I can only access authenticity through Willie and Waylon and the boys. He can't say "In important ways, I'm like you," because the way the whole discourse of country music is set up, it doesn't work that way. I can be like him, but he can't be like me, because I, as an autonomous individual that is real and authentic just by being, don't exist. So, he's mistaking me for as real as him (thank the gods) and I'm mistaking him for as unreal as me, hence the reason I about died of shock when he showed up here in the first place. All very interesting.
Friday, August 19, 2005
I am My Own Accountant/Lawyer/Hairy Biker
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Don't Put It In Writing
Hey, Aaron Fox here. And I would simply point out that you are being unfair by not reading my work, article or book. You are taking a complete simplification of my paper in CMGtW by some reviewer as a correct statement of my views. I self-identify as upper middle class in my book and clearly in the article in question. I am open about my own love for alt country, Gillian very much included. And that "working-class" picture you cite is just me dressed for one of my old jobs, since I made my living for about a decade as a country guitarist. If you're gonna slam me so hard with the class bat in print, it's really kinda obligatory to read *my* words before representing them in yours. I'd love to discuss the paper with you, publicly here or on my blog if you'd like, and would listen most respectfully to this argument if it was informed by a fair representation of my views. I've heard it before, many times, and I concede its force. It's really the same as the argument you accuse me of making (which I don't) that one's class background defines the authenticity of one's experience. Of course it doesn't. You are, in fact, using class to stereotype me (I put myself through Harvard working two and sometimes three full time jobs, and I'm the son of a professor and a nurse, not a banker or a president, I smoke, and like it sounds as if you do, I live pretty much paycheck to paycheck. What does that make me, a Rockefeller?)Well, America, I have never been so politely called a jackass, and rightfully so. I am a jackass and I was shooting off my mouth without knowing what the hell I was talking about. I don't even have the excuse of saying I was drunk, because as much as I talk about all my drunken adventures, I don't really drink that often and I never post drunk. I have insulted the man's honor and, though I feel bad about it, I'm not sure how to make it up to him. We could have a duel, maybe. Or he could smack me with an umbrella every time he saw me. Something. For starters, I'm going to actually read the essay and talk about it like a grown-up. We'll see how that goes. Shoot, what's next? Nat Hentoff?
All of this and Passionate Kisses
Obviously, Elias Likes Me Better than You
Yes, Feminism Again. Suck it up.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Oh, it's one of those days
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
The problems of feminism wrapped in a sex toy
Presently, women are taught to perceive their vaginas as either birth canals or as reception rooms for penises. Both of these perceptions involve us in fairly social events which require the presence of another person. The use of penis-like objects for vaginal stimulation (by self or others) only serves to reinforce this deplorably limited state of affairs. In addition, the use of tampons, handy though they are, reinforces our notion that the vagina is insensitive. Optimal use of tampons only teaches us to ignore or disregard subtle sensations in the vagina.
Okay, the idea of birth and vaginal intercourse as social events tickles me, but there's something about her tone--that participants in heterosexual vaginal intercourse as celebrated by our culture fail to understand that the "culture of [ben-was balls'] origin prizes the subtle and understated, not the neon flashing blaze of quick excitement"--that grates. I mean, first of all, if something doesn't work for me, why is that some evidence of my unsophisticated relationship to my body? Shoot, can I go around adding only one grain of salt to my dishes and, when my guests complain that they're bland, chastise them for not prizing "the subtle and understated?" But the other thing that bothers me is the subtle condescension towards the penis. As the Professor wisely asks, "Do we have to be mad at the penis to learn to love our vaginas?" Must we continue to see each other only as binary opposites? Oddly enough, on this very day, Summer reminds us that Cixous is wrestling with this same crap. She (Cixous) says, "The same shadowy impulse, divided in direction, and always its own reverse, pushes you, restraining you, to lose." Now, honestly, I always read through Cixous once and say "what the fuck is she talking about," so I could be wrong about this shit. Still, she's talking about this same thing, in part, I think. I think she's saying that these dichotomies by which we understand each other hurt us. You are the big strong man; I am the small weak woman. You thrust unfeelingly; I envelope in subtle sensations. But on the other hand, I am the strength of fidelity, while you cannot help your weak will and must stray. I am the cold bitch and you are the thoughtful poet. See? Divided in direction and somehow always its own reverse.
Seeing each other as only a collection of stuff that is not us doesn't get us anywhere. It keeps us from each other.
There's got to be ways to do this, to talk lovingly about ourselves in ways that don't degrade you. To talk about the things we need--pleasure, security, well-being, etc.--without conceiving of it as having to come at the expense of someone else.
I truly understand why some feminists hate men and advocate for women-only institutions. I understand it intellectually, but I don't get it in my heart. Again, these are my guys--my brothers, my father, my nephews, my lovers, my friends--and my life would be vastly diminished without them.
Can't we conceive of a feminism that doesn't always have to concern itself with being in opposition to men? What if we just acknowledge the shittiness of the patriarchy and get about the business of figuring out how to enjoy life (which, of course, includes healthy doses of picking on the patriarchy) as best we can?
Again, Cixous: "Let yourself go! Let go of everything! Lose everything! Take to the air. Take to the open sea. Take to letters. Listen: nothing is found. Nothing is lost. Everything remains to be sought."
How can you not want to be a part of that?