Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Lady Lazarus

On the back of my Patti Smith early poetry coll. there is a blurb by Michael Stipe that says, "Anybody that breathes should eat this book." My feelings re: M. Stipe aside, I am going to p-phrase him now and holler 'cross the Interweb: anybody that breathes should eat this blog post. It is about memory and grief and the rabid alligator biting at yr ankles called wanting to be a writer. It is elegiac in the best and oldest sense, down to the solitary vocative O's. Like Catullus. Like something that really deserves to be called poetry -- deliberate, precise, economical, every word accounted for and a shiver on yr spine. It has the impact of Plath without her opacity, the same clipped one-syllable word-grenades and snakey rhythms:

all the way to new england, new england where we could cup mugs and mop eyes...

I mean, shit. This is just it. Why we should all be writing in the first place. To mourn, to recall, to dream, to live.

Monday, November 28, 2005

It ain't bragging if it's true

So I had this amazing dream. It was called the last four days of my life. I was back in Oberlin, and the town had tricked itself out even more fantasy camp than usj, streets snowy and silent and holiday lights bedecking the downtown corridor, my daily responsibilities limited to cooking and eating and storytelling and snuggling. On our way in on Weds. eve the roads were slick like whoa and we skidded off the highway into a ditch, Deb and I, but in an injury-free, laugh-about-it-hysterically-for-ten-minutes-afterwards way rather than a dead-in-a-midwestern-cornfield way. We also continued our tradition of getting blazingly lost in major Ohio cities and then somehow showing up on time at our destination anyway.

The Allen has a show up right now that is, in my opinion, gonzo bizonkers Snickers bar fantastic. Even better than Jim Dine splashing Diet Coke on his canvases. The entire gallery hummed with sound. When I went in there was a metronome ticking on an old upright piano with a computer screen inlaid at its heart, and on it you could watch digital video of the artist schlepping around her home kitchen, toddler on hip, getting things out of her refrigerator and putting them back again. Next to the piano was a sealed glass cabinet full of kids' shoes spray painted red, and on a little stumpy table nearby there rested fingernail clippings and baby teeth next to a display of about 30 brass alarm clocks. Most of the humming, though, was coming from a two-story treehouse installation. A staircase wound around the side and up to a thickly curtained room housing throw pillows and a birdhouse emitting chirps and whistles of alternately human and avian varieties.

When I came down out of the treehouse the metronome had stopped ticking. This was mad jarring, since I had spent the last 15 mins. subconsciously attuning my breaths & movements, as if on some deep-ass Wrinkle In Time tip, to its pulse, and with the beat gone my equilibrium was suddenly six flavors of shaken. So I was thinking, is this some kind of strategic fait accompli? Did the artist put the metronome on a timer to deliberately shake us up, to draw attention to the unreliability of time in the face of all attempts to record its passage? Or did the thing just happen to, like, break while I was there?

Regardless, I love me some 'stlation art.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


I am spending Thanksgiving with my Deborah. While I am gone, read this--all of it. I'll be back pogoing in yr bedroom on Monday.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The covers issue II

Maureen Dowd is on Midmorning right now, so in order to stop listening to it and impotently yelling at the radio (FEMINISM IS NOT ALL ABOUT UPPER MIDDLE-CLASS HETEROSEXUAL DATING. STOP IMPLYING THAT IT IS) I'ma just write about the musics instead. Lots of new tunes passing through the Pogo office lately, including a comp. of post-punk 45s (Martha & the Muffins! Snap!) and the Army of Me remixes and covers record, which consists entirely of--wait for it--20 remixes and covers of "Army of Me" by Bjork. That's 69+ minutes of the same song, kittens. And you know what? It's totally effing Great. There's more representation of the industrial genre here than is perhaps, er, appreciated by yr average non-dustry listener, but otherwise it's a tasty chocolate box assortment of bossa nova, electro, country, acapella, accordion, Nintendo, and Klaus Nomi, who surely, surely deserves his own genre.

Other cuddly cocoa covers filtering in:

Peter Schilling -- Major Tom (Leaving Home)
Like Patti Smith's Gloria, not so much a cover as a structural overhaul. You can do a mean down-tempo skank move to it that the Bowie original just doesn't allow. Plus it has one of the most subtly moving, bittersweet choruses ever wrangled, in this or any galaxy. You're sniffling into yr sleeve before you've even finished mocking the synth lines. Dude, could this be any more 1983? (Sobs, wipes eyes). "This is my home/I'm coming home!"

Siouxsie & the Banshees -- Strange Fruit
Don't get me wrong, Through the Looking Gass is the shit, because yes, "Trust in Me" was originally sung by a cartoon snake. And the Sparks and Iggy Pop do-overs rock out. But covering "Strange Fruit" when you're a white British lady, albeit a sensitive and careful one, is inevitably going to bring up questions of ventriloquy and erasure. Does Siouxsie's performance elide or displace Billie Holiday, with whom the original is so associated as to be taken autobiographically, and whose vocal presence haunts the cover specifically because it is so absent? How is it different for Holiday to sing about "black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze" through the instrument of her own black body/voice than it is for Siouxsie to do it with her white one?

Still more queries than answers. Covers issue I available here.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Fair

My theater job buddy Sanden (aka Thurston Massacre, former WOBC punk director and on-the-street radio interview producer extraordinaire) is obvs. the coolest kid in school. No, not the one who has all the hot tub parties you aren't invited to, the one who introduced you to the Mekons and DIY silkscreening during sophomore year. So why, MPR, don't you give the dude a job already? He's experienced, talented, volunteers aqui, and cleans up real nice-like in a bow tie and vest. We aren't plotting the downfall of yr theater during intermissions, just having good, clean whisper-debates about art & economics--I promise.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Crystal blue Naomi

Forget about rodents in blenders--the weirdest two minutes of video on the internet is officially Naomi Weisstein c. 1999 fielding queries for an axed VH1 doc about the "state" of women "in music." Naomi seems mired in some kind of late 90s/Lilith Fair empowerment-lite mainstream-o-vision (i.e., couldn't see past Sheryl Crow to, like, Chicks on Speed, Kristin Hersh) but offers about as much trenchant insight and analysis as you could expect from someone who is flat on her back and drinking out of a green plastic cup. Did VH1 agree to the interview on the condition that it could hang out in Naomi's rec room after dinner and eat Funnyuns? Is Naomi recovering from surgery/an illness? What is that butterfly thing on the wall?

This is still Naomi Weisstein, though, so when she starts slamming down lyrics from "Papa Don't Lay That Shit On Me" and sums up, "Just don't mess with me, 'cause I have a life, and I'm gonna live it," she commands respect, frog-voiced and supine as she is. She also wins the Metaphor of the Year Award for coming up with "gender church," "where the only thing you could do was frenzied worship of men--or suffering, abject devotion." Not surprising, really, since this is the lady who lays out my entire approach to feminism in three sentences:

"Except for their genitals, I don't know what immutable differences exist between men and women. Perhaps there are some other unchangeable differences; probably there are a number of irrelevant differences. But it is clear that until social expectations for men and women are equal, until we provide equal respect for both sexes, answers to this question will simply reflect our prejudices."

Right, totes. Next project: reclaiming mikvah.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Fassbinder is dead, Greta

It is all very High Art at the Pogo homestead right now, because there is water dripping from our bathroom ceiling and it's starting to look like the problem is upstairs. Except I have been upstairs, and there are no celebrity photographers snorting heroin, just some nice indie kids who bake cookies and play music. Shoot. How will I ever get ahead at my cutthroat New York art magazine job without Ally Sheedy to seduce?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

These monsters are real

When you listen to Heavens to Betsy all the time, you forget. When yr perspective is firmly squared behind songs like "My Secret" and "The Ones," to say nothing of the first B-mobile and Bikini Kill records, you lose sight of how brave and fierce these women had to be in the first place to come forward with songs about sexual violence and abuse, to pound the musical landscape with such seismic force that it would crack and shift and divide. It wasn't just a conspiracy of silence they were up against--it was an entire musical tradition, premised upon the "immortal" boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl-and-sings-about-it narrative that both reifies notions of men as poet-singer-subjects and freezes women as lyrical objects. For someone to re-write that narrative, to say, YES, I am going to work in the rock idiom but it is going to be on my terms and in the service of my own rage and surivival and subjectivity as a woman--that is how you spell revolution.

Today it's easy to lose sight of how radical a strategy this is, to parody, inhabit and reclaim "(male) rock guises & tropes"* in order to cope with sexual abuse. The Free to Fight LP has been sitting on shelves for well nigh ten years. But there was never anything inevitable or easy about it, and there won't be, so long as musical traditions romanticizing assault conspire with male entitlement to produce a culture of violence against women. Because the formula is still there--displaced but lurking & thriving in subtler, superficially innocent (read: EMO) forms, a la Kind of Like Spitting's "We Are Both Writers," in which our wounded guy-protagonist sings,

All I really want to do is get back into you
No tension, no worries...
I can't control my instincts
Why can't I be happy just to call you a friend?...
I'm getting reacquainted with my lower self
Redhead teach me compassion from your fragrant continent...
I'm so sick of trying to fight my body and you at the same time
I am righteous in my anger!
All I have to give you is my lower self

It's not like the KoLS example isn't nuanced or complicated, since the Bridges Worth Burning LP also offers up "He Calls Me" in addition to "Writers" (my sister Jennie reads it as homosocial/erotic rather than as speaking from a girl's point of view, but theorize fer yrself). And Ben Barnett is obviously not a hulking, blatantly pervy misogynist like, say, Gene Simmons. But listen to the "Direction" H2B 7 inch and "Writers" back to back and see how innocuous the "I can't control my instincts" lyric sounds then. Plus, "fragrant continent"? What the Saidian hell??

*Phrasing is adapted from Gayle Wald.

Man sex can wait

File under "Becky Smith Rocks":

"so the center girl, blowing the bubble....is it just me or does she kind of have that secret look behind her eyes that's saying, "yeah...MAN sex can wait!"


Monday, November 07, 2005

No time to do battle

Last week I quit one of my jobs. I cited "personal problems" to my boss, failing to mention that said problems arose from working in the corporate food service hellhole of which she is head manager. Adequate income be damned--I need to live my politics and I need to live them now. Like today, instead of contributing to the global solid waste crisis, culture of disposability and underpaid immigrant labor, I worked on getting this radical librarian gig a little further off the ground. So far it's been buckling and swaying at a cruising altitude of about 5 feet, and while I am proud to be flying at all, it'd still be nice to be able to clear, like, tree-level.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Lady, yr so self-reflexive!

"To find you here, all on your own, writing books like that--!"
Again, she looked almost proud. "Why shouldn't I?" she said.
I did not know. "It just don't seem right," I said. "A girl, like you--"
"Like me? There are no girls like me."

-Sarah Waters, Fingersmith