Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

We hear swooping guitars

Pitchfork lets me play Lois Lane. Those lucky devils in Seattle and PDX are in for some fun shows, methinks.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Homo hoe-down and calendar

May has shaped up to be the queerest month of recent memory, rippling with so many excellent and subversive new film, musical and literary offerings I'm starting to think the revolution homo-style really is going down in earnest (further evidence: I persuaded a 20-something dude at my bookstore to buy Mrs. Dalloway even after he asked nervously, "Isn't this a girly book?" I also pushed Funeral Rites but he left it sitting on the shelf--can't imagine why). Here's a recap of what's been rumbling in the underground this month, with a preview of queerities to come:


Just when you thought they couldn't get any smarter, Matmos returns with a brainy concept record so queerly radical on the one hand and experimental, ambitious and ethereal on the other it makes Pansy Division sound like the 700 Club and the Books like Lawrence Welk. The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast (title snagged from Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations) is the soul of punk distilled, frozen into cubes and traced against yr fevered brow. There's no gabba-gabba-hey guitar slap, drum snarl or feedback to speak of, but this is punk for the new millennium--decentered, denatured, reimagined, kindred to its '77 self only via lust for the unexplored and a proud refusal to steal an arm or an earlobe from the overpicked corpses of records past. Every track is a tribute to a beloved queer icon, inclusive of the obscure, the cultish, the vaguely-known and the fist-eatingly unheard of (hence "Steam and Sequins for Larry Levan," "Snails and Lasers for Patricia Highsmith").


"If I weren't gay, or she weren't a woman, I might consider attempting to ensnare her in the ugly web of a monogamous relationship."

Joey Comeau's flawed debut novel of queer guerrilla terrorism reads like just that--a flawed debut novel--but draws its confused, vengeful protagonist with adamantine sympathy and realism. Our hero may break into people's homes and punch innocent teenage girls in shopping malls, but he's profoundly conflicted about it. He also can't figure out for the life of him why, if gender is a construction, and monogamy unnatural, so many people find themselves stubbornly attracted to the brains and bodies of either men or women. You can read the first seven chapters here for free, but even better than Lockpick are A Softer World, Comeau's collaborative online art and writing project, and his fake cover letters asking potential employers for jobs.


Still soldiering on after Lynn Breedlove's 4/15 appearance and the penultimate Tracy + the Plastics show, Homocore has organized a hip-hop night for May 28th (7th Street Entry, 21+) with seven different artists from around the country. Don't hate on homohop. It's like the line dance they somehow never got around to teaching you in yr elementary school physical education class.


Minneapolis' own Flaming Film Festival begins this Thursday, May 25th. Skip the treacly hetero liberal-baiting of "All Aboard! Rosie's Family Cruise" but stay for "Is it Really So Strange?", William E. Jones' 2004 doc on Hispanic and Latino Morrissey fans. They're pairing it up with Jem Cohen's Elliott Smith short, and then afterwards local music-types are gonna do live Moz/Smiths/Smith covers. I dare you to go and not sigh expressively. Monday the 29th is the Music Video Showcase, and since the entire festival is hosted by Kill Rock Stars they'll be showing classic and newer vids from E. Smith as well as the SSION, Deerhoof, Sleater-Kinney, Hella and Xiu Xiu.

[Last-minute addenda: Carrie Brownstein in the NYT! Augusten Burroughs in Mpls! Hold him hostage in an elevator with yr loquacity & love--or at least qualms about the film version of Running With Scissors.]

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Cartoon cult crit renaissance. I'm still waiting for the radical feminist metaethics of She-Ra.

Prince Adam, He-Man's alter ego, is a ripped Nordic pageboy with blinding teeth and sharply waxed eyebrows who spends lazy afternoons pampering his timid pet cat; he wears lavender stretch pants, furry purple Ugg boots, and a sleeveless pink blouse that clings like saran wrap to his pecs. To become He-Man, Adam harnesses what he calls "fabulous secret powers": His clothes fall off, his voice drops a full octave, his skin turns from vanilla to nut brown, his giant sword starts gushing energy, and he adopts a name so absurdly masculine it's redundant. Next, he typically runs around seizing space-wands with glowing knobs and fabulously straddling giant rockets. He hangs out with people called Fisto and Ram Man, and they all exchange wink-wink nudge-nudge dialogue: "I'd like to hear more about this hooded seed-man of yours!" "I feel the bony finger of Skeletor!" "Your assistance is required on Snake Mountain!"

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Your telephoned reports of your visits with Cornell were chock-full of fascinating details, but all I can remember now is the food that was served. Once he invited you to Sunday lunch and served canned spaghetti and peas and carrots. Yum. Then there was the time you brought him a cake and the two of you sat down to drink tea and listen to Dionne Warwick recordings. Suddenly, Cornell burst into tears. You could not take your eyes off the tear-sodden slice of cake that was slowly disintegrating on his plate. Was he crying because he was so saddened by her poignant rendition of "Do You Know the Way to San Jose?" or "You'll Never Get to Heaven (If You Break My Heart)"? Or was he distressed by an intuition that she would later lose her girlish figure and become a spokesperson for the Psychic Friends Network?

-Art in America, 1995


Recently, I was called a son of a bitch in internet-public (a listserv of 300 people). I am both vaguely flattered and amused by this. As an epithet, SOB is noteworthy but less than fearsome--like a sticky, Ritalin'd five-year-old pulling at yr sleeve to watch him go down the slide. SOB is kind of comical. SOB is half the dialogue of a bad Al Pacino movie or Mandy Patinkin in The Princess Bride just before he kills the six-fingered man.

I am not backing down, I am not capitulating. I stand by what I originally wrote, and the style in which I wrote it. I also stand by the fact that I called myself a bitch, even though, like SOB, much of the impact that word once had has been drained or ceded to other words (thank you, Meredith Brooks). If a bitch is someone who speaks her mind in public fiercely, critically and unapologetically, then that is what I am. I wrote the clarification post sans vitriol to try and make it just that--clarified. Make no mistake, I love my Frosted Bitch Flakes. I eat them every morning.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Here's what my Slate post might have read like if I hadn't eaten my Frosted Bitch Flakes that morning:

Paragraph 1:
There was a piece in Slate today talking about the debate around S. Merritt's views on race. I'm glad this debate is continuing, because it's really important to talk about music and race and their intersections. The piece's intro, however, made me pause.

Paragraph 2:
The intro uses the word 'cracker,' which has some unpleasant, broadly anti-poor, anti-Southern connotations, and isn't really appropriate here. But the author is using it mainly to show the ways it doesn't apply in this situation anyway, and is picking up on an earlier usage, so I understand.

Paragraphs 3 and 4:
The article then goes on to cite evidence proving why Merritt is an unlikely cracker/racist. These pieces of evidence include his diminutive stature, homosexuality, intellectualism, wit and tenderness as a musician, ukulele-playing, and fondness for chihuahuas and Irving Berlin. I don't see a necessary connection between these things and the likelihood of someone being racist. Some of them also seem to be present in order to reinforce others--a penchant for Berlin and chihuahuas, for example, is often stereotypically (maybe harmfully, maybe not) attributed to gay men. The point, to me, seemed to be to show readers that M. is a recognizable type of person--a fey, sweet gay man--and therefore generally non-threatening and unlikely to be a racist. M. may be this type of person and he might not, but it makes me nervous that a writer would use this technique to disprove someone's alleged racism. Why do we assume that a sweet, musical, fey gay man couldn't be racist? What's the connection? It might be true, perhaps, that queer people are less statistically likely to be racist than straights. But does that really foreclose the issue once and for all? There are a lot of different kinds of queer people out there, with radically different backgrounds and beliefs.

If we really want to be vigilantly anti-racist, I think we should remember here that racism is systemic and institutionalized. We are all susceptible to it, regardless of how sensitive or musical or smart we are. The article suggested to me that it was only recognizing racism in the guise of obvious or stereotypical bigots, when racist ideology today is much more subtle than that.

Paragraph 5:
When the article mentioned M.'s musicianship, it got me thinking about the linkage people sometimes assume exists between artists and their art. Just because somebody makes a lovely song doesn't mean that they themselves are lovely, right? This is an easy trap to fall into, and I feel like the article comes close.

That's a fairly close transcription. I hope it clarifies things.

Röhm if you want to/ Röhm around the world

Anonymous wrote in to say re: my last post that "...your sentence, 'there are a lot of horribly racist queer people in the world'...needs to be clarified with a 'this is ernst and this is what he did' clause." An earlier anonymous poster also wrote, "Ernst Röhm was gay, but not 'openly' so."

So: this is Ernst, and this is what he did. And here is why I think you could argue that he was "open":

Unlike others in the Nazi Party, Rohm was openly homosexual, admitting to associates that he was "far from unhappy" about his sexual orientation. He frequented gay bars, belonged to a homosexual organization called the League for Human Rights, and publicly advocated the repeal of Paragraph 175. An anonymous 1932 article called "National Socialism and Inversion" has been credited to Rohm's influence (or even authorship); the article stated that if Nazi Party members performed their official duties well, they were entitled to private lives of "creative eroticism" and "loving homosexual relationship[s]."

Rohm established a kind of gay network within the S.A., assigning prominent posts to gay friends and lovers. Among Rohm's "sweethearts" was Edmund Heines, whom Rohm appointed first as his deputy and later as leader of the Munich branch of the S.A. Another of Rohm's favorites was Karl Ernst, who was nicknamed "Frau Rohrbein" for his intimate friendship with Paul Rohrbein, Berlin's S.A. commander...Rohm and his close-knit circle [were] dubbed in a Munich paper the "Brotherhood of Poofs"...

As for the rest of the comments, I am going to let the hate mail pile up a bit more before responding.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Cries and whispers

This Saturday night, the Minnesota Film Arts 24th Annual International Film Festival will show what promises to be the best movie about misfit Swedish teenage girls since Show Me Love. And that's saying a lot. What is it about Sweden that alienates its creative ladygirls so? You'd think that social democracy would count for something, but this tradition stretches all the way back through Bergman and shows no signs of weakening. In God Save the King, director Ulf Malmros pays tribute to the power of punk to save us all, whether from the patriarchy, the sausage factory or ourselves. Don't confuse it with God Wears My Underwear--though that looks awfully Orlando-licious and deserving of yr time as well.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Ain't no shame/ ladies do yr thang

Seattle was impossibly green. I couldn't recall much about the last time I was there (1995?) apart from sitting on some dude's roof and seeing a blue heron. This time around, since it was the pop conference, instead of roofs and herons there were name tags, Power Point presentations and Robert Christgau giggling. Falafel pitas were eaten and record stores trolled . Mairead's eagle eyes spotted the Real Janelle EP in Easy Street for $.99 (a steal and a half for the cover of "Where Eagles Dare" alone), and they had Louder Than Bombs for $7.99, so it is officially my new favorite music store. Take that, Cheapo! I also procured two lovely zines:

1) States of White & Green: Writings from the South Bend Juvenile Justice Center (Mairead C., editrix). I got this from Lady M. in lieu of one of her famous perzines, which are out of print, but it is a stunner and far better bound than any of mine.

2) Adventures in High Contrast Living N*23, Pacific NW Special Edition: Babies + Parties, by Shayla H. Babies and parties are rad, and so is Shayla. Marvel and admire here!

My panel went well, despite the fact that I had to follow what might have been the funniest paper of the entire conference: Glenn Dixon's "Boldly Gone: A Personal Trek into the Shameless, Sincere Music of Leonard Nimoy (With an Illuminating Side Trip into the Vocalizing of William Shatner)." All of us in the room, including S. Merritt, grinned and brayed like overly anesthetized donkeys. Other con hi-lites included Jabali Stewart blowing out a Learning Lab speaker with Bad Brains, Sara Marcus exorcising Ani, Joon Oluchi Lee theorizing Courtney Love through Phyllis Wheatley and just about everybody and her mother batting around the words "melisma" and "timbre" like so many music nerd tennis balls. Douglas Wolk's "Complete and Utter History of the Numa Numa Dance" was beautiful, not just for its judicious display of YouTube golden nuggets but also its celebration of misfit pride (the Numa dude was a true pomo freak messiah, preaching his gospel of embarassing yet unabashed love for pop music via webcam).

In general, it was a rapturous, pogo-inducing joy to be around such brilliant and generous people, ladies and men alike, who are helping to tear down the "boys only" sign from the rock crit treehouse. For reals--25 years ago, it would have been floor-to-ceiling Dylan wank-offs and Beatles retrospectives; today we can talk about race! gender! sexuality! and not get backed into the corner with "how is that relevant, exactly?" stares and the threat of girldeath-by-canon. Today I can sit in the audience of a panel made up entirely of women weaving sonic feminism and queerness and Sassy magazine and watch the dudes around me applaud. I felt more than a little twinge of pride in my heart, and I think Jessica Hopper did, too.

Because I was so preoccupied with picking up my jaw from the floor most of the time, my notes were cursory like whoa (M. was far more diligent) but I still managed to scrawl a few choice observations on the back of my entry ticket:

classic 50s chord progression
abjection like in Kristeva; Lacanian presence through absence
Drew Daniel is awesome

I guess that's all one needs to know.