Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

This is really not okay

Miranda July couldn’t be exploding any faster if she were a WWI zeppelin. It’s been stunning to watch, totes def, but also ominous and sad in that excuse-me-while-I-go-cry-in-my-bedroom kind of way that is peculiar to indie kids watching their hero(in)es being gobbled up by the mainstream media--like seeing Huggy Bear in Newsweek, or hearing “Teenage Riot” in the Gap. She's not going to pull a Sassy on us and start collaborating with Jerry Bruckheimer or anything, but my stockpile of queer feminist DIY filmmaker role models is not all that big, so I dunno if I appreciate Esquire and Elle getting their sweaty hands all up ons when they didn't give a shit about July a year ago and juxtapose their Me and You and Everyone copy w/ ads for price-gouged hair dye and barely artsied-up jerk-off nudie books.

The right thing to do now is calm down, follow Jessica Hopper's wise-as-usual advice and revel in this rare win for the home team. But I can't. Maybe it's a DC thing and the Dischord/Fugazi indie pride has been soaking into my pores since birth. Maybe it's just b/c I am not in the finest of moods today. Somone stole my staple remover from my desk at work, the house is hot like a desert inside an oven inside a microwave on the "baked potato" setting and it turns out that my late adolescent musical guru really is the snivelly, misogynist basketcase I pretended he wasn't in order to justify listening to "Frail & Bedazzled" so many times:

Usually when you meet someone new, there is a whole dance that you have to go through before you become an actual couple...a ritual that demonstrates that the man is interested in the woman...he must prove his desire, willingness to be faithful, and individuality as a solitary spirit offset against all the other suitors...and she must prove her purity, desirability, and overall softness.

I'ma forget feminism & queer theory for a sec and just say--fuckin' fuck, Billy. What?

Luckily, the world is not all neo-Jungian emosploitation. The computer lab in which I sit also holds tiny physics-taking ten year-olds debating Stephen Hawking's wormholes theory and the difference btw. "possible" and "plausible" in breathless adenoidal gulps. Take it away, dears.

"Stupid symmetries A, C and T aren't right. Can a wormhole have more than two endings?"
"Do you mean could there be different branches of the same wormhole?"

Monday, June 27, 2005

Truly, truly, truly outrageous

Post-DC/Arlington jaunt I am missing my sister but glad to be back in Ohioland. Yesterday in the midst of the Sbarro-ed airport homogeneity I tried to use my Jem & the Holograms lunchbox like a semaphore to attract other traveling ladypunks who might be able to explain to me why A) Glenn Danzig never sued the creators of Jem for using the Misfits’ name when it was so totally his idea first, and B) Jem herself was about as outrageous as Lawrence Welk on Nembutal even though the theme song frantically promised us the contrary. No one seems to know.

I am still not really sure what to do w/ a show that taught little girls that they could be in rock bands, too—so long as they had magic earrings, a holographic alter-ego and a supercomputer fairy godmother. And defeated rival girl bands. Here what we really need is Mimi Nguyen to whip everything up into a good cultural studies froth--to get at the slapdash, clumsy multicultural politics of Aja and Shana, the latter of whom the producers were apparently too terrified to give more than two lines to during any given show (we can deal w/ black girls, so long as they don't say anything, look kinda white and play synth drums). In a musical-cultural era blindsided by the Go-Gos & the Bangles & Bananarama, to say nothing of, like, Siouxsie Sioux, is it so surprising that the 80s started coaxing us girls away from learning how to actually play instruments and towards the gender-appropriate cow pasture of glamor & glitter, fashion & fame? Or that nobody bothered to animate Aja a guitar strap, let alone an amp cord?

Let's teach our ladybabies and little sisters to plug in. Then maybe they can make some noise.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Notes from UndergrounDC, Part II

Kristina kindly allowed me to tag along w/ her to the Del Cielo & friends show (Day 1 of Exotic Fever Fest!) at the Warehouse Next Door. DC punk kids are, truly, some of the world's finest, and hospitably welcomed me into the fold. K set up her traveling distro cattycorner to the Del Cielo merch table and proferred copies of her zine masterpiece, Rebel Stew, along w/ various & sundry anarcha-feminist books & resources. Soon-to-be-birthday-girl Katy Otto ran around chatting and smiling and generally spreading good cheer. Now I am back home, wired, shamedly watching Boyskout videos. "Girl on Girl" is my jam of the week and the vox most definitely do not remind me of anything. No.

P.S. Mass Movement of the Moth: I am sorry I did not get to see yr set. You are awesome. Thank you for letting me hang out w/ you and admiring my burrito-eating skills.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Notes from UndergrounDC, Part I

I went to my sister's high school graduation today. Having gotten up at 6:15 am to squeeze lemons and pit cherries for the after-party eatins, I was bleary-eyed and oversexed and ran off to Constitution Hall with the familia looking like the alternate fifth member of Sahara Hotnights. On the way over the Roosevelt Bridge we passed Darth Bush's motorcade going the opposite direction into Virginny. The cab driver said, "Look, the president." I said, "Look, a disoriented weasel." Const. Hall was surreal enough, considering the last time I went there was to see Sonic Youth. This time instead of "Drunken Butterfly" and Kim Gordon I got "Pomp & Circumstance" and the superintendent of schools. I smirked rudely during the singing of the alma mater b/c this high school was my high school, too, and I don't remember its walls being particularly proud, nor its halls especially hallowed. What I remember is a conform-or-die imperative, overcrowding problems, patronizing administrators, and teachers using the word "gay" as an insult. I did learn, howevs, that the 18 year-old Arlingtonian ladygirls of today, like those of yesterday, favor very long hair & very high-heeled shoes in the manner of beauty pageant contestants.

The above-ground section of the Red Line btw. Silver Spring and Union Station is the ass-kickingest DC Metro ride ever, and the only route I can think of that even begins to rival the through-the-window urban anthropology of the Chicago El. I read my Stephen Fry book and fell in love with the woman sitting behind me talking on her phone without ever seeing her. That Southeast corridor should totes win some kind of national graffiti award. One wall said, "Rancor is an extreme monster." Totes, totes, totes. When I got out at my station these Wash. Post promo people were handing out free frozen cherry desert things in cones that were a scary, push-up pop-style combo of Italian ice and ice cream with the appeal of neither. The fireflies, though, were going nuts in the twilight and I had the Heavens to Betsy song in my head as I walked home, so all was right with the world.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Punk as DDS

Riot Librarrrian may have had only one issue, but the pulse of radical librarianship still beats as hot and strong as yr friendly neighborhood discotheque c. 1978. Stuffed full of love post-the S-K show though it may be, I found a little sun-lit corner in my heart today for Jenna Freedman, Mary Carmen Chimato and the InfoMuse. What can I say, y'all. Kill Rock Stars knows its shit.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

The scene is dead. Long live the scene.

Sleater-Kinney played the Beachland last night. I really don't know what to say. The entire point of the experience was that it was beyond words, beyond soundbites and slang and glib scenester reporting. Because it wasn't about haircuts and setlists and posters and interviews and label changes and promo and who used to go out with who. It was about a small roomful of people almost catching the same breath, skipping the same heartbeat, thinking the same thought at almost the same moment. It was about the impossibility of ever getting past that "almost," and having it be enough anyway.

Why is it that we so rarely take advantage of something as transcendent and potentially powerful as a community of the alienated, the weird, the queer, and instead let it devolve into a judgmental fashion show? We owe it to ourselves, and to our music and politics, to get over the too-hip/not-hip-enough zero-sum game, because if we don't love and help each other, no one will. People should be able to wear no-wave goth carnival drag and not get stared at and whispered about behind their backs. And so should people wearing t-shirts and courduroy pants. Maybe that's why this show was so inspiring and heart-breaking at the same time. For one painfully brief moment, all that mattered was the music, and catching the eye of the person next to you and the eyes of the people playing on stage and seeing your own joy reflected back at you. I know it will be a long time before I come across that moment again.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Dank disco

I got my new radio show off the ground today and it was great fun, excepting the fact that the monitors in the studio are busted and you have to just turn up the headphones volume really loud to be able to hear what you're doing. Also, the new Architecture in Helsinki record wasn't there (station manager says somebody nicked it), which was sad, and I got a bit panicked from forgetting my password to get into the playlist system and ran around the pop vault going, "Um, um...the Evens! Um..Metric!" looking for things to put on. I heard a taste of the new Electrelane, though, and it is some kind of wonderful. The accordion, ladies, the accordion! The pop vault smelled intensely of boy sweat, much more so than I remember from last year, and the creepy thing was that the smell itself seemed to be concentrated in the cds themselves. Like the fumes had leached into their very fibers. Or creepier still--that it was the music that was sweating. The hot rock, indeed.

For some reason my show description tag didn't make it onto the playlist site, so here it is, just for you:

Good Advice for the Modern Girl
My name's the deconstruction of color, what's yours? Come to my post-pop & ladypunk party (Thursdays, 3:00-4:00 pm, www.wobc.org)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Dante was way better at this

Seeing as how a great many people are convinced I'm going to spend eternity there, I was excited at work today to run into xeroxed excerpts of Alice Turner's The History of Hell. But apart from the too-awesome-to-be-made-up words "chivy" and "psychopomp," I didn't learn a whole lot of new stuff. There wasn't any actual description of the square footage, closet space, neighborhood, etc., just some vague teases from Marlowe's Dr. Faustus about a place "under the heavens...where we are tortured and remain forever." Well yeah, I knew that much, hon. I need details--average temperatures, commonly assigned repetitive tasks, recommended wails of attrition, things I can use. Back to the Inferno it is.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Posies in the used bin

It occurs to me that all of the songs I've ever written, all 3 and a half of them, are actually Tullycraft's "Twee." Both musically and lyrically. Does this, um, mean something?

We're in the middle of getting slammed by the grumpy back-end of Hurricane Arlene. God has her amp turned up to 11 and there's so much thunder and hail and lightning and unnaturally dark sky I really don't understand why everybody in the office doesn't just drop what they're doing, sit in a circle on the floor in the big main room and tell ghost stories.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Hear what I say, girl

"You can’t upend the patriarchy while emulating the Who."

So writes Anthony Miccio, last seen defending the Ying Yang Twins' ode to pussy-beating, a.k.a. Wait (the Whisper Song), in the Village Voice and instigating a firestorm of 'cross-the-Net back-handing and spittle-launching. This is hella old news, so I'll step away from that rather intimidating hypocrisy sandwich and ask instead: why no Who? At first, it make sense. B/c, y'know, dedicating yrself to the imitation of cock rock's finest sons doesn't do much to restructure/dismantle the musical-industrial complex.

Or does it? When we assume this we overlook all the really faboo and radical things that can be done when female musicians cover canonical dino-core--namely, taking something that originally shut us up and out and diffusing its power to keep doing so by making it ours. I'm thinking Patti Smith exploding Van Morrison, Julie Ruin tweaking Foreigner, Nomy Lamm doing AC/DC, the Spells getting all up ons--wait for it--the Who. "Gloria" affirms queer ladyfan punklets like nobody's business, and it can do it b/c Smith so explicitly co-opts (emulates, anyone?) the specter of the predatory rock god/groupie-inhaler. In the world of that song, patriarchy isn't just upended, it's dead; women are the stars, the fans, the seducers and the seduced, and dammit if men seem to be around much at all.

So cross-gender covers rule the school--we knew that already. What about when a band just imitates a geezerly, boy-exclusive genre or style, which seems to get more to the point of Miccio's whole Who-emulation problem? And here I think we really gots to remind ourselves of the best-case scenario, the thing we're working for in the first place: an environment where women are encouraged to follow their creative instincts and make the music they love. If Susie Q. thinks Gina Birch is the shit and wants to start a Raincoats tribute band in her mom's garage, then she should totes go for it. But if Susie Z. gets off on hair metal--or emo or hip-hop or power pop or zydeco--then so should she. One thing guaranteed to upend patriarchy is women doing what they want, and if that involves guitar windmilling and some Quadrophenia remakes, then so fucking be it.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Love Rock Summer 2005

Summer broke into my house today after several weeks of rattling at the windows and doors and has proclaimed squatter's rights in my ktichen, from where it refuses to be dislodged even by massive, hi-level ceiling fan action. As a gesture of resignation I got me some Comet and Sonic Youth and did battle in the bathroom instead, and there was much sweeping and scrubbing and pogoing in the soapy bathtub, high risk of neck-breaking be damned.

My radio show starts up again this Thursday, 3:00-4:00 pm (linkage to follow). The format will be a lot like last year's but w/ more of a focus on the new (lady) danceables as opposed to just the ladies, riotous etc. Apparently they're putting AC in the station this week, so it's totes not going to feel as DJ-in-a-desert hardcore as before. For real, I used to worry the vinyl was going to melt and the cassettes were going to drip liquid tape onto the floor.

B/c when Xtina left she took her tv as well as my heart, I have decided to start an Inga Muscio-style mainstream media deprivation experiment. I dunno how useful this is going to be, seeing as how all I ever watched were dorktastic educational documentaries and indie flicks from the li-bary anyway, and I was never exactly a big fan of the Cosmo or the Newsweek. But so far it has meant a whole lot of reading, which is way nice. I'm crushed out on Antonia Fraser's Wives of Henry VIII and its liberal usage of write-yr-own-Decemberists-song words like "hauteur" and "nuncio." Not to mention Lady Tonia herself, whom Wikipedia seems to think had a 3-way w/ Harold Pinter and Vivien Merchant. I'm all up on the Pinter, but snaps, the Merchant thing is too good to be true.

Meanwhile, on the Internetron, I'm in awe of Michael Lukas for fitting Cervantes, Henry James, the Palestinian Declaration of Independence and Tuny Kushner into a 1,000-word Kitchen Sink screed about eating too fast and making it hella fun to read. In awe, dude, in awe.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Revolutionary Girl Christina

Xtina left today and I am hella bummed. Actually, throat-choked, just-saw-a-dead-kitten is closer, 'cause this is it, y'alls: no more lunch hour chats about A.E. Housman & Steve Albini, no more mental hangman, no more impromptu waltzing around the kitchen, no more Faygo cans and Utena and deeply serious fights about High Art, riot grrrl, and keeping the back door open. It feels like I got divorced. Her red 10-speed is still parked in the driveway and I have never seen an inanimate object smirk so hard.

Apparently, some higher power is trying to tell me that no, it is not morally okay to use the DVD player in my office to watch Songs for Cassavetes when I should be working, seeing as how the girl from the repairs lab whose name I cannot remember keeps interrupting and I have to pause the Peechees in mid-rock-out. I feel bad b/c she needs to let a researcher into the vault and I can't help her, as I am a lowly assistant and have no keys to the vault/city/castle.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Putting the Barthes before the horse

And I thought poststructuralism was giggly. Narratology is a laugh riot. You know a research assistantship is awesome like whoa when you get paid to read about actantial models, temporal delimitation, and the Lion of Russian folklore as representative of "the oriented thematic Force." To say nothing of the Earth, which is "both virtual Recipient of the Good" and "that for which the Lion is working." That's right, little folkloric Russian Lion! You can do it! Don't let 'em get you down!

Leila Moss as Karen O sound-a-like: yes, yes, yes. I'd only have to be about as observant as a paint bucket to notice that after listening to "The Dark Is Light Enough" eight times.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Rattle and hum

The boss-man has me Photoshopping a scan of what looks like a 19th cent. decaying script fragment to try to make the text readable. He thinks it says "Indian pipe of peace" but I'm seeing "Indiana police want power." Or maybe, "In dissing polio, get pewter."

I've been listening to The Woods but am haunted and angered by the suggestion I read the other day in an interview that this record is somehow more "masculine" and therefore more accessible to men than previous S-K fare. The interviewer knows her shit so she killed this idea. But it started me down the slippery slope of thinking, wellity, maybe that's why it's not getting into my bloodstream right away, why I haven't been able to climb into these songs and walk around in them the way I can w/ the old ones. I'm a girl.

This, loves, is seriously wonked out and effed up to an unverbalizable extreme. As if all male music fans secretly want for breakfast is 70s Sugar Sludge O's, and they might even have to pass on the Led Zep sometimes, b/c, y'know, Robert Plant's voice gets kinda high. As if no male music critic ever went cross-eyed praising Call the Doctor and Dig Me Out, and I'd never been to an S-K show where the front row was almost exclusively populated by worshipful guitar dork lads memorizing every barre chord and hammer-on.

As for the idea that I like treble and clarity and melody and Carrie's downstroke eighth notes b/c it's hardwired into my girlie, doll-collecting DNA, listen: I was raised on guitar sludge. I cut my musical teeth on fuzz et squeal, albeit of the kind born in 1991. I love Les Zeps, just as I do Bleach and Gish and Loveless and Rid of Me (if P.J. even counts, b/c she's, like, a lady). And it's not as if the first six S-K recs are flute concertos or something. If people stopped invoking a gendered monopoly on certain sounds, maybe that monopoly would get a little bit less tenacious, and then a little bit less tenacious still, until the time would come when a record could appeal or not appeal to someone based on her musical taste, not her XX.

Anyways, it's probably just b/c my brain is so indexical, but looky:

The Fox; Jumpers; Lonely as a Cloud; Entertain (yeah, smells like you-know-what, but also)/ Entertainment

Monday, June 06, 2005

My hearts are colder than yr hearts

It turns out that the Cold Cold Hearts who appeared at the Beachland on Sat. night were not the Cold Cold Hearts of the dear-to-my-soul, 2/3 Bratmobile variety. I was all like, "Dudes, get yr own band name!" until I dug up their connection to a band involved w/ what is either an adorable local Cle-land queercore collective or a big tease. And anyone even marginally involved in Q to the Core merits only my heartfelt hugs n' kisses. For serious--if I ever ran into Stephen Trask I would turn six kinds of swoony. Not to mention...*starry-eyed sigh*

To celebrate the return of the hearing in my left ear to almost-normal, I listened to Loveless sitting cross-legged on the floor, eyes closed, 2 ft. away from my cracked-out stereo w/ the broken tape deck hinge. If you're an MBV fan/musicologist/cultural theorista you should check out Daphne Carr's transcription of Only Shallow, it's totes right on. It also uses the phrase "effete songsmiths" in ref. to B. Corgan, thereby winning my vote for Best Music Writing of Possibly Ever.

Finally, maybe I just live in a DIY ghetto, but everyone I know and their mom still makes mix tapes, so I'm not sure all the hand-wringing is in order just yet.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Inter-office politics

Coming in to the li-bary this morning I ran into the girl with the mohawk who works down the hall in AV. She was headed toward the bathroom and so was I. But when I got into the little vestibule area she was coming right back out again, and she was crying and clearly not in a friends-making mood. She must've heard me coming and decided to find somewhere else to sniffle with dignity by her lonesome. I know b/c I've done this myself. Now I'm worried about her, since getting yr crying jag on at 9:15 in the am is not a sign of the best emotional health/life sitch. I think I'ma keep up my determined campaign of shy smiles, hi's, and door openings.

Other current at-work distractions include the mysterious lady with bleached-blonde pigtails who keeps coming in afternoons and the thing under my desk that looks way too much like a harness. Y'know, like, not the kind for horses. It's all shiny black PVC and silver buckles and totally wasn't there two weeks ago. I am not the sole proprietress of my office so who knows. I'd be less suspishy if I didn't know there was an entire collection of BDSM erotica 'round the corner in the vault complete w/vintage costumes and, presumably, accessories. And this, my friends, is why we works in a li-bary.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

I'ma just watch MSCL instead

So say there was this movie. And it was about a New Jersey hausfrau in the 80s. And said frau felt alienated and unfulfilled until she uncovered her theretofore latent computer genius potential, kicked her husband out of her house and shacked up with her best friend turned girlfriend in a one-two punch of queer feminist resistance. And Lili Taylor played the h-frau, and maybe...I dunno, who's someone random...Courtney Love played the g-friend. Would it be fair, hypothetically, for this film to never have a theatrical release? Or for it to be hustled onto an obscure cable channel, all back-alley drug dealish and stealthy-like, five years later in the middle of the night?

Then again, now is not a particularly logical or comforting time for the American cinema, seeing as how the studios would much rather pump all my favorite childhood library rentables full of CGI than come up with actual new stories. I'm sad. And worried. Tilda Swinton as the White Witch, okay, okay. Never gonna be as low-budget drag queen-schizoid as Barbara Kellerman, but whatevs. And Helena B-C is totes my lady. But leave Veruca Salt and Mr. Tumnus the fuck alone.

(P.S. Is Todd Haynes' Poison an unflinching triptych meditation on deviance and masculinity? Yes. Am I grateful someone made it? Yes. Am I hella freaked out and not begging to see it again? Yes.)

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

This is so karmic payback for something

When I woke up this morning my ears felt weird. I thought it would go away but it only got worse until I couldn't hear anything out of my left ear. Suddenly every sound seemed precious and in heart-in-mouth danger of disappearing--not just the standard chirpy chirp happy Disney bird sounds, but the trucks driving down my block, the velcro on my bag, my housemate sighing across the room. According to WebMD I should see a dr. but according to my bank account I shouldn't. So yeah, y'all--my knowledge of hearing loss being limited to The Miracle Worker, Beethoven Lives Upstairs, and a sixth grade field trip to Gallaudet University, I seriously dunno. I might listen to Loveless a couple times tonight, just in case.