Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Fake it till you make it

As I try to rescue an essay from an old, broken computer (stone cold coma'ed it is, like a Days of Our Lives character, awaiting a new storyline) for editing overhaul and possible submission to EMP Pop Con 2006, I have been reading the big kids' bios from previous years and feeling more and more preschool all the time. Because this playground I am eyeing, it has a big sign over the monkeybars that says, "LEGITIMATE," and another one next to the sandbox that says "ESTABLISHED," and I hear that Bobby X-gau beats you up and takes yr lunch money if you try to go down the slide. I am worrying about this, and about definitions of legitimacy and success in cultural criticism, and the ways in which they intersect with gendered assumptions about virtuosity and skill. I am thinking about my lady Becky Smith, who would have EMP-Con panels and syndicated columns coming out of her ears right this second if the world were anything close to fair, until I come across the following sentence:

When our five-year-old daughter Olivia's goldfish, Bluie, died, the other week, we were confronted by a crisis larger, or, at least, more intricate, than is entirely usual upon the death of a pet.

What's this? An earnest effort from the first night of a YMCA adult education creative writing class? Why no, it's Adam Gopnik writing in the New Yorker last July! I'm not trying to step to A. Gopnik, dude is fine, and has done great stuff in the past, and can write. But does achieving this thing called Legitimacy mean you can throw eight commas into the salvos of yr essays in drunken lapses of stylistic sanity? That you can toss off sentence structures with all the pacing, rhythm and clarity of Christopher Walken reading early Gertrude Stein in a six-page column in one of the most elite publications in the world and have yr editor give you a big fat pass? Even if it doesn't, being Legitimate at least means you will get gigs, and that is rilly, rilly essential, because without gigs, you will never get a bio. And without a bio, you will never be Legitimate. Right. Did Joseph Heller make this shit up or what?

Lucky for me I already have my bio good and ready:

Lizzie Pogo (AKA DJ Polly Seamy) is arts editor of numerous publications, including New York Metro NYC, NYC New York Metro, the Manhattanist, the Dusseldorf Times-Picayune and the Ronne Ice Shelf Gazette. She is also a frequent contributor to Hoyden Wench, Fucked-Up, Toothache, Rockist Review, McSwooney's, and Bummerang, and founded the performance art journal Scrimshaw at the age of 5.

After receiving an Anna Nicole Smith Genius Award for her 2004 one-woman multi-media show Speculum!, Pogo accepted a fellowship at Urger University, where she now teaches music journalism, performance art theory, quantum mechanics and basket-weaving. In her spare time, Pogo DJs Thursday nights at Brooklyn's Club CosmoNaughty, runs a number of record labels, guest-curates art shows and organizes vocoder workshops. Her book Blow It Out Yr Ass: Subversion, Performance & Methodology is forthcoming from Plosive Press.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Indictments for all!

Is anyone else following the P-Fitz grand jury announcement countdown and having flashbacks to Watergate, or, um, watching All the President's Men? Libby sounds too much like Liddy. And when yr nickname is Scooter...it's like wearing a sign that says "Indict me now!"

Monday, October 24, 2005

Conjure ghost of Rimbaud here

When the lights went out we were talking about Violette Leduc. Or maybe she was teling me the story of how she bought the bookstore, how she had her eye on this other place and then discovered it was secretly thousands of dollars in debt, and its owner was nicking copies on the sly--a trade paper D.H. Lawrence here, a cloth Doctorow there. But we were standing in FICTION L on the second floor, the room glowed imperceptibly brighter for a second, and then it was totally dark except for the dim natural light creeping over from the windows that face the street. The owner lady said, "Oh no. Oh no!" and looked panicked, apologized and ran downstairs, leaving me holding La Batarde and suspiciously eyeing the pics of Anais Nin and James Joyce scotch taped to the shelves, which suddenly looked less than benign, staring at me in the dark like that.

Turns out owner lady (Kathy, my nascent BFF & hero not only for owning the single greatest, most ramshackle and delapidated independent bookstore on the planet, but also for knowing who Natalie Barney is) used to be heavy into the femme-based p-rock, and rattled off this crazy list of trailblazer ladyacts she saw at the Turf Club back in the day, something like Lene Lovich/Lydia Lunch/Nina Hagen/X/Blondie. Patti Smith came into the store last year, says Kathy, just to browse, and I can totes imagine her there, trolling the poetry section for Baudelaire while the lights flicker overhead and dusty shelves threaten to collapse. Seance-worthy would be an understatement. Meet me there on Halloween and we can have a chat with Anne Sexton.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

N.B., Conde Nast

"I'd rather have no magazine to myself than have a magazine called 'Mixed Race Girls.'"

Zadie Smith on Fresh Air, adding that when White Teeth first came out, people sniveled that the only reason it got good reviews was that her pic was sent with the MS, and she's all purty-like. Says Zadie, "That would never happen to male writers, even pretty male writers, and there are a lot of them!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Je suis une saboteuse feministe

At the restaurant of corporate death today (aka one of my jobs) I served a woman who was reading Fast Food Nation, and we got in a little convo about how amazing it was, and she said, "Yeah, I feel guilty reading this and eating here." So I rejoined, "Not as guilty as I feel about working here, believe me." She said it was okay, we all have to do what we have to do to get by; she had to work a similar job not too long ago.

Afterwards, though, I was like, shit, that's enough of that, let's get down to the sabotage at hand. So when my shift managers weren't looking, I grabbed some of the table numbers from the bin next to my register, ran downstairs and put them in my bag. We are doing a promotion for a new gnocchi dish, so several of the numbers say on them,


Classy, right? That pun on 'gnocchi' for 'nookie'? Thank you, corporate marketers, for simultaneously (hetero)sexualizing me and making women customers feel guilty & "unfeminine" if they happen to like this dish (it's advertised as meat & potatoes and "manly"). Not only do I not know what men want, I do not care, and my nookie is ladies-only.

I didn't get all of the "what men want" ones, but I plan to systematically eliminate them from the restaurant. I got four today--all the better for writing "white" "supremacist" "capitalist" "patriarchy" on in sharpie and taping them to the window.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Notes on fandom

Sound Unseen 2005 is over, and while I had to miss the 3-hour director's cut of The Brian Epstein Story (never getting over that one) I did get to see what happens when a couple of Czech filmmakers shoot about a day's worth of digital video of crazy Nick Cave fans, try to edit it into something resembling a documentary and then decide to give up halfway through: you get The Myth, which is actually kind of great in spite of itself, especially the part where Nicky C., smoking and looking tour-weary and distracted in the posh inner sanctum of a European venue, explains that he used to have idols, too--like Bob Dylan! Only, he hurries to inform us, he met Bob Dylan. In fact, Bob Dylan approached him.

Also awesometastic was Debbie Harry in TV Party demonstrating the evolution of the pogo by breaking out an actual pogo stick, then confessing sadly that nobody really does it anymore and it's been appropriated. And this was in 1980.

I think if we want "a fascinating sociological study of the cathartic and sometimes crazy milieu of rock semi-stardom" we're gonna have to wait for Passions Just Like Mine: Morrissey and Fan Culture, forthcoming from Kerri Koch, begatrix of the essential RG chronicle Don't Need You. Lady is totes brilliant. I hope she gets the doc on in the near future, b/c lately, my world is like a 24/7 inquiry into fandom, and I could use some guidance. Last week, some disgruntled ladyfans at the theater where I work (job #3!) flounced out of the main house doors after the Honeydogs show, and I caught one of them hissing, "How can people be so rude? It's the fucking Hondeydogs!" the same way you might expect to hear an art collector say, "It's a fucking Picasso!" But as far as I could tell, the Honeydogs are not a Picasso, just a crappy pop band, and they were not doing it for me, because when a band needs more than twelve people on stage at a time and is not ska, something is wrong.

Then, at my other job, we had an event for this insane celebrity quiltmaker man, and when I told a woman over the office phone about it she shrieked, "[Quiltmaker man] is coming here!? Tomorrow?!?!" and proceeded to say, "Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god" about 20 times while I tried to calm her down. So I was like, lady, it's no big deal, it's not like Patti Smith is coming or something. And then I realized, with a shudder and a grin--Celebrity quiltmaker man is her Patti Smith. And the Honeydogs are those women's Raincoats, or Bratmobile, or Mecca Normal. Because this fan thing is wildly relative, and it warps yr perspective once you get inside it.

The begged question for me still is, how does the fan-artist relationship square with feminism? How can we salvage the potentially revolutionary parts (women appreciating & encouraging each other & their art) from the parts that reinscribe hierarchies & boundaries (setlist/autograph hoarding, backstage/VIP areas)? No answer yet, just a question. In the meantime, anybody have a copy of Fanmail for research?

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Beachland blues

I am having ex-hometown venue withdrawal. Not for the new 9:30 after seeing 9:30 F Street, which was music docuriffic and made me admire & respect Ian Mackaye even more than before, which seemed impossible--no, for the Beachland Ballroom, my erstwhile pogoing grounds and site of many a 2nd wave riot grrrl rally/front row lady guitar hero swoon. I only just found out the pinball machine is free. To think, I could have been pinball wizarding it up gratis that whole time.

In all seriousness, this venue changed my life. It made me believe again in the power of live music, in the importance of breaking out of the bedroom listening circuit once in a while, of braving the smoke clouds and scenesters and drunk asses who yell, "Play Freebird!" for the chance to transplant that cloistered, personal transcendence into the middle of a crowd of other people, where you stand to gain so much more--something akin to collective spiritual catharsis. Because when the crowd isn't too wasted and the band isn't too tired and the jams are kicked the fuck out, stars align and you can look yr neighbor in the eye and know in yr gut of guts that we are all part of this same precious, psychopathic tribe called humanity.

The Beachland can swing this, I think, because it is so defiantly tiny. For reals, it's like my elementary school multi-purpose room reborn. Its stage, it is not the province of Rock Stars, it is the same creaky-floored, broken-curtained kids' hangout where my fourth grade English class performed Macbeth. Where I, as perhaps the campiest ten-year-old Lady Macbeth in the history of the world, got to sleepwalk, faint, and scream with great conviction from offstage left to indicate I was committing suicide by throwing myself off the castle wall. In that picture up there, if you replace the amp with a cauldron full of dry ice and the guitar with a cardboard tree, you have Act I, Scene I. So naturally, I am partial. Unsex me here and then some.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Zizek is my co-pilot

The new issue of Genders is out, and it's a doozy. While the Heavenly Creatures essay is disappointing (Are we ever going to get past Freud? Ever? I know that as misogynist Victorian coke addicts go he was totes the groundbreaking genius, but it's 2005. Could we at least do, like, Lacan?) Kathryn Kane's To Wong Foo exegesis is right on, wielding Zizekian social control theory like a sashimi knife to dice up racial and sexual minstrelsy. Especially awesome is her point that in order for a mainstream film like TWF to have drag queen characters and still be commercially viable (i.e., non-threatening, i.e., heterosexual) its narrative must necessarily elide those characters' sexual desires, reducing sexual preference to gender performance. Patrick Swayze in a dress is fine, so long as he doesn't start kissing any boys.

And speaking of kissing boys, Philip Seymour Hoffman doing Capote just sounds like Sarah Vowell. So, um, there. Part of me is like, dammit, Hollywood, quit fucking around with my revolutionary queer misfit icons. I know it's terribly convenient for you to clean up all of their struggle and complexity and anger and ugliness by casting Salma Hayek or Nicole Kidman and being done with it, but isn't there a Farrelly bros. project you could be greenlighting somewhere? And another part thinks, hold up, if some lonely, geektastic queer kid in Wichita gets turned on to Capote, or Frida, or Woolf by renting a video from the Blockbuster next to the Dairy Queen and starts writing or painting or even comes out because of it, then maybe, maybe it is worth it.

Still, though--anybody touches Renee Vivien and I'ma lose it.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

And I am totally a Kinks fan, too

Huh. Wow. I hereby forfeit all pretensions to musical knowledge.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Smile pretty, take take the money

Today at the sketchier of my two jobs, the restaurant one, some customers didn't like their food and sent it back for free replacements. My shift manager, already under potential dickwad surveillance by me, says under his breath, "God, that is so gay." Minutes later, said shift manager refuses to wear an apron because "it looks like a skirt," and a guy at a table I'm serving insults his friend for eating "like a girl." I steady myself, clutch my tray, and contemplate saying, "Listen, dudes, don't fuck with me. I'm a poststructuralist feminist. I read Judith Butler for fun. Any more of this shit and I'll rip yr balls out through yr nostrils."

Serves me right for not listening to Audre Lorde. Because this restaurant, it is definitely the master's house, and much as I thought I could destroy the system from the inside by queering and feministing and radicalizing shit up, I find myself passing over those tools and opting for the less confrontational, blunted, master's variety, i.e. not being "over-sensitive" and "giving the benefit of the doubt." And they get worse, the craptacular sexual politics of my workplace. In three weeks I have never seen a girl put on bus duty, and there has only been a dude up at the registers once. The cash ladies are all 17-24, cute, perky and carefully trained to smile and ask if you wouldn't like to add some steak to that for just $2.00. So I can't help feeling bummed and saddened and complicit in a centuries-old strategy of using young women's bodies and labor to grease the wheels of food service and capitalism in general, to comfort and congratulate and assure customers that buying more is always the answer. We're a couple of steps up from Renaissance tavern wenches, maybe...but only a couple.

It also reminds me of how some currents of (diluted?) 3rd wave feminism are too commodity fetishistic for comfort, particularly the ones that encourage us to buy our empowerment in the form of sex toys and coin purses rather than organize direct political action, mobilization and dissent. I've never been able to flaunt the Marxist/socialist steez before, just fierce alliance, because my survival feels imbricated with and enabled by capitalism in ways that are prickly like whoa to untangle. But maybe it wouldn't hurt to do a little review.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Pogo Digest

If the weekend's over and you're not up to integrating everything smoothly and you know it, clap yr hands (and just use bullet points!):

-No, I don't defend her conscience-blinkered, exhibitionistic, cash-mad L.A. fuck-up-ism; and no, I don't excuse her circa 1991 punching of K. Hanna, that was totes deplorable; but Courtney Love still interviews like a lab raccoon on meth that's been reading too much Lester Bangs, and dammit if there's anyone else out there being as gleefully, wittily confessional--even in the pages of SPIN, which continues to boast the journalistic standards of a kumquat. If you're gonna click the link, please, for yr own sake, scroll rilly, rilly fast over the picture, it's not pleasant.

-I have in some way handled (skimmed to read to re-read) ten of these books in the past three months. Creep. Tastic.

-Lydia Lunch and Exene Cervenka on the cover of Adulterers Anonymous. I love this. The way they're standing there, rocking the high contrast black & white--wary, conspiratorial, predatory--like a punked-out Dorothy and Lillian Gish. Exene's already got the early silents lace-up boots. Someobdy should have cast them in a low-budget 80s remake of Orphans of the Storm.

-Susan Sontag (Suzy Rosenblatt that was, RIP) gets her S&M on at the end of "Fascinating Fascism": "The color is black, the material is leather, the seduction is beauty, the justification is honesty, the aim is ecstasy, the fantasy is death." I read this sentence in a crowded airport two months ago and started giggling uncontrollably. Now I can't stop thinking about it. Tag, pass it on.