Pop culture treasure, high culture trash.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Halloween costume party: suicidal literary edition

When Virginia Woolf took the picture I had my hand up the back of Anna Karenina's dress. "Try going through this hole here," suggested Anna's girlfriend, a fairy princess ballerina wearing a tutu, rhinestone eyelashes and a tiara. We were all congregated in Anna and the ballerina's bedroom, the place where, as Anna put it, "the magic happens." Anna was standing facing the wall while we worked, patiently reading her encyclopedia of lesbian pulp novels. Virginia stood a few feet away from us and waved her digital camera excitedly, making the stones in her pockets jangle. "This one shot is awesome! You guys have to see this!"

Anna's dress was made out of brocade and it was hard to work the crochet needle through the fabric without coming close to her skin. I like to sew and I'm more or less okay at it, but until that night I hadn't had any experience stitching railroad tracks to people's clothes.


I followed the fairy ballerina out the back door of the house. It was raining and we had to pick our way carefully across the muddy lawn. When we got to the garage Anna Karenina and Virginia Woolf were clustered around a beer keg with the Crocodile Hunter and a codpiece-endowed police clown, admiring the fake blood they have just poured down the front of Anna's dress. "Honey!" exclaimed the ballerina. "You look amazing!" "Yeah," agreed Anna. "I look much more dead now."

We stayed in the garage for a long time, shivering and watching the rain and discussing the stingray attached to the Crocodile Hunter's chest. Virginia smoked hand-rolled cigarettes and looked depressed but Anna was perky and upbeat. I turned down offers of beer and thought about the only reason I ever go to parties: to remember that I don't like going to parties. Miranda July wrote something once about looking at pictures of famous people at "events" and thinking, that is where life is exciting and real--there, at that moment. But it's a time and place we can't ever get to. Real life is something that is always happening somewhere else, to other people.

When everyone had gotten cold and bloodied enough we went back into the house. I wandered into the living room and met a teddy girl in eyeliner and a beehive wearing black heels, cuffed jeans and a leather jacket.

"I wanted to be a boy, "she explained. "But I couldn't find any Converse. So I had to be a girl."
"Oh, that's too bad."
"I know, isn't it?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

When she walks, the revolution's coming

HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY to my twin soul sister Mairead. She's most recently the author of this, but do browse her greatest hits.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Pop calculus


1. Mekons' "Never Been in a Riot" = Cold Cold Hearts' "5 Signs: Scorpio"

2. The Clash's "Clash City Rockers" - Strummerly urgency = the Who's "I Can't Explain"

3. (T. Rex's "Metal Guru" - glitter) x (children's chorus + genius) = the Smiths' "Panic" (this is by no means breaking news, but listen, it's stunning)

4. DIY bedroom electro x (Them's "Gloria" - casual phallocracy) = Julie Ruin's "V.G.I." = embryonic Le Tigre

5. Spinal Tap's "Gimme Some Money" + determined tambourine wankage + severe page boy haircuts + matching mariachi outfits = The Lords' "Don't Mince Matter" = HOW CAN THIS BE REAL?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Too good to make up

October 22nd, 2:33 AM
Hi, what’s up [inaudible]…Have you seen Jody?.
I think you have the wrong number, I don’t know anyone named Jody.
You must’ve seen him. Don’t you…[inaudible]
No, I think you have the wrong number. My name is Lizzie.
Ohhh. [a pause] Do you wanna suck cock?
Ha! No. Goodnight.

Voicemail, 2:36 AM
Hey Lizzie, how are you doing? It’s me again. I don’t know why you didn’t pick up, you picked up the first time. I really liked your voice. You know, I’d really like to get to know you. You can reach me at tumari9000@hotmail.com. Please, baby, I really liked the sound of your voice. How old are you? I’m, like, 25. I’ve got a Beemer. It’s a Z3. That means it’s a convertible. So I could bang it with the top down. That’s right, bitch! Okay, so, I love you, and I miss you, and…goodnight.


Oh, friend. There's no need to pretend with me. You aren't 25, are you? Confess--you are actually a 37 year-old investment banker from East Lansing, and your Beemer Z3 is a 1997 Ford Fiesta. Furthermore, I can tell from your halting and embarrassed use of "baby," "bitch," and the idiom "bang it" that you are familiar with the complexity of these terms, and their embeddedness within the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy as problematized by bell hooks in "Sexism and Misogyny: Who Takes the Rap?" You obviously feel a need to hide your sensitive true self in order to be attractive to women. Do you think no one will love you if they know you stay at home every night knitting and reading Shulamith Firestone? I mean, Firestone is, admittedly, problematic, but you should be open about your radical feminist sympathies! This can only help you! (And while we're on the subject, how do you read "The Women's Rights Movement in the U.S." in light of emergent third wave feminisms? That first graf has some crazy resonances with our contemporary situation, right?).

What I'm saying, Tumari9000, is that you shouldn't ignore your romantic and compassionate instincts. Calling strangers in the middle of the night may not be the best strategy, but one day soon you will meet someone who appreciates your shy smile, honey whole wheat french toast recipe and stunning collection of Bea Arthur memorabilia. That someone, I'm afraid, just isn't me.

In sisterhood,
Lizzie Pogo

P.S. What do you think of the new Tanya Donnelly record? Yeah, it makes me miss Throwing Muses, too, but this is good in the meantime, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Tell me we're not better off

I went to the MSP last weekend and bought/inherited some records. Pairing Pussy Whipped and Bona Drag was revelatory and satisfying and suddenly obvious--like eating bananas and chocolate together for the first time. You can decide which one is the banana.

~OMD, Architecture and Morality
~Malaria! compilation, 1981-1984
~The A-Lines, You Can Touch
~Bikini Kill, Pussy Whipped
~Morrissey, Bona Drag
~Tender Trap, Film Molecules
~Mutant Pop compilation [PVC]
~Today's Top Girl Groups Vol. 1 [Spinout]
~The Mo-dettes, The Story So Far
~Patti Smith, Radio Ethiopia
~Les Rita Mitsouko, "C'est Comme Ca" b/w "Stupid Anyway"
~XTC, "Life Begins at the Hop" b/w "Homo Safari"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Anatomy of a pop song - or - When Jonathan Demme thinks like a riot grrrl

Most mainstream films and music videos don't do a very good job of demystifying the artistic process. Kidman-as-Woolf, Winslet-as-Murdoch and Paltrow-as-Plath brood attractively behind their writing desks, and Hayek-as-Kahlo glowers behind her faux unibrow, but nowhere do you get a fog-free tour of the thoroughly unglamorous business that is sitting in one place for six hours and making a painting, or a poem, or a song. This is partly a matter of aesthetics (Hayek throwing tantrums is more filmable than Hayek staring at a canvas) and partly a result of a cultural tendency to mythologize and deify artists.

Jonathan Demme's 1985 video for "The Perfect Kiss," New Order's nine-minute Ian Curtis eulogy, didn't buy in. It's fiercely, radically populist simply by virtue of being so instructional--like the new wave video equivalent of the Free to Fight LP, or Bikini Kill #2. There is no mystery here, no distance between art and artist and audience, no capitulation to the myth of the inscrutable genius pop band--just fingers on keys, hands on knobs, guitar picks in mouths.

There's also something distinctly RG about Demme's agenda. "Look, boys and grrrls," his camera says. "You can do this, too. There is nothing superhuman about these people. Yes, they are New Order, but they are also just some blokes and a lady making music in a room. That's all you need--a room, an idea, and some stuff to make it with. See this riff Peter Hook's playing here? He's barely using more than one string. And this other keyboard part over here? It's just three notes. Hear that rad explosion/croaking frog sound? You can make it with some synth drums/a special setting on yr Casio. You and yr friends can all play lots of different instruments and bang on cowbells in between verses. You can do this."

Cf. this scene from Gus Van Sant's Last Days, in which Mikey Pitt as Un-Kurt Not-Cobain improvises a song. He crawls around, turning on amps; he plays some guitar parts, loops them, screams into a microphone, loops that, then plays a second guitar part and finally a drum kit. A song blooms in front of our eyes and ears, and if it's not exactly "Be My Baby" (OR "Teen Age Riot"), it's okay, because the beauty is in the transparency of the performance process, not the final product.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Monk rock

The new White Magic record is coming. It's called Dat Rosa Mel Apibus, which means The rose gives honey to the bees in Latin, and if the curiously monastic Drag City site photo is any indication, it may amplify Through the Sun Door's droney, riot-in-the-refectory dirge-jams. Mira Billotte harbors skills both vocal (Quix*o*tic) and actorly (she starred to fingernail-biting effect in Jem Cohen's 16mm anti-corporate marvel Chain) and guarantees a listen worth yr while.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

From the desk of Mr. Lizzie

Virtual post-its for yr brain.

Janine Rostron does sound like Robert Plant, but on "Think That Thought" you also get echoes of Janis Joplin and Rasputina. Rostron wields one of the most stunningly androgynous vocal presences of '06, matching Antony, Jeff Hanson, and Thom Yorke on Eraser.

Girl Monster
Chicks on Speed genius-bricoleuse Alex Murray-Leslie's 3-CD girlpunk compilation to end all compilations is set to explode stateside October 31st. The zine-style liner notes are readable online and feature amazing essays by scene vets/writers Lucy O'Brien, Jason Gross and Shirley O'Loughlin.

Moe Tucker
She revolutionized drumming by opting for mallets instead of sticks, minimizing rolls and ignoring cymbals altogether, clearing the way for punk and hard rock. So why did she have to work at Wal-Mart to support her family in the mid-90s? "Someone who walks into a record store doesn’t think of me. But if they saw that poster, they might buy the record. You might check the Stones or you might check Dylan, but you don’t check Moe Tucker."

Capitol of Punk
Allison Wolfe! Ian MacKaye! Ian Svenonius! Former Mayor Marion Barry talking about a strip club! Exploiting Google Maps to structure a documentary film about DC punk history and gentrification! "I don't even think they had an oven. Everything they cooked was in the microwave."

Warped Reality Mag
Quality music crit, mp3s, and interviews. Really great interview with the Raincoats from 1994, just after Kurt Cobain's death axed their scheduled comeback tour opening for Nirvana.