Tuesday, November 20, 2012

THF: Iggy Pop Covers Edith Piaf, I Implode With Joy.

When it comes to covers, it's hard to deny that novelty sometimes trumps quality—that often, the best part about a re-rendered track is the sheer fact of "Oh man, this one artist I like is covering this other artist I like...!" (See: my full-on conniption upon learning that Bowie covered Bruce Springsteen's "Growin' Up.")

However, there are certain cases in which this giddy disbelief changes tone to a more genuinely incredulous "... No fucking way. Wait. No. Really?" Enter Iggy Pop, with his brand new album, Après, on which he covers the likes of Serge Gainsbourg, Cole Porter, The Beatles, & yes, Ms. Piaf.

Now, Iggy Pop is deeply & profoundly brilliant, this we know—but he isn't exactly, well, a chanteur. He's more of a rake-this-broken-bottle-across-my-chest-&-stagedive-shirtless-at-age-63-eur.

But maybe for that very reason, there's something kind of lovely breaking through the ridiculousness of this endeavor: his crater-deep voice, vibrato through which you could drive a Mack truck, a French accent straight out of Monty Python—& still, the song is all the more endearing for it. It's like when your grandfather has one glass too many & does karaoke at some family function—except infinitely more fabulous, because in this scenario, your grandfather is Iggy fucking Pop.

In short: This is what I will dance to at my wedding, guys. Iggy Pop, godfather of Punk, singing (if we can call it that) "La vie en rose." Or, at least, it's a reminder that, even in times of terrible strife, so much is so good—is rosy, in bits, if we let it be.

(Also, can we talk for a second about that jacket? Just real quick? Just maybe to mention that, when added to the haircut & the turtleneck, it makes him look like he should be sharing a cosmo with Carrie Bradshaw? Just, like, throw that out into the ether?)

UPDATE: OH MY DEAR GIDDY GOD. In tracking down YouTube links for this post, I stumbled upon Iggy, at it again, doing a live rendition of one of my favorite songs of all time (which I've been revisiting especially recently, as posted about here), "Ne me quitte pas" by Jacques Brel. 

Note that he can't quite keep in time with the piano, that the woman who takes up the second verse proceeds to show him up & then some—& still, I think this might be one of my favorite versions. Because when he asks you, haltingly, not to leave him, you can see in his worn leather scrap of a face that he means it. He means every drastically mispronounced word. What an absurd & wonderful world this is.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Hurricane, a Birthday, & a Plethora of Tunes.

Oh, dearest Reader. Quite a bit has transpired since last we spoke.

First & foremost, as you can't not have heard by now, a hurricane recently smashed into the east coast, knocking out power, flooding subways, & generally making a huge & devastating mess from which many have yet to recover. While my part of New York City went relatively unscathed—only a few felled trees & broken windows, green-gray skies & horizontal rain—my heart & supplies & funds go out to those who fared far, far worse. If you're interested in helping out, check here, & if you or someone you know is interested in being helped, don't hesitate to let me know.

Meanwhile, here's an interesting (&, I think, important) article from The Atlantic, titled "The Hideous Inequality Exposed by Hurricane Sandy"—that inequality being economic. The writer notes that there were large groups of people who were simply, financially unable to "take off work," even in preparation for a natural disaster:
In the Union Square area, New York's privileged - including myself - could have dinner, order a food delivery and pick up supplies an hour or two before Sandy made landfall. The cooks, cashiers and hotel workers who stayed at work instead of rushing home made that possible. They were a diverse group. Some were young people in their twenties. Others were middle-aged Americans who had never landed white-collar jobs. Most were immigrants.
A friend & I spoke about this with the doorman who was still on duty at her building during the worst of the storm (though, to be honest, we spent most of the time talking about old movies & the brilliance of Jimmy Stewart). At least, he told us, the university had arranged to feed & shelter its remaining employees in the event they got stuck on campus—but still, I can't imagine how frightening it must have been to be stuck so far from family amid the doomsday prophecies pouring from every available media source. I can only hope his home was in one of the less-affected neighborhoods.

On a somewhat lighter note, amid the crash & bang of whipping rain—to the strains of Marilyn Monroe's crooning for JFK followed by The Smiths' "Unhappy Birthday," with microwave popcorn made haphazardly on a stovetop & Franzia White Zinfandel in a plastic Lion King cup—I turned 21. So, there's that.

Mostly, though, I've been itching to post about music lately—so much of it tingling in my fingertips for week upon stressful week. So, without much coherency or organization, here's a bunch of excellent songs / artists / noises that fill my head & make me move. Here's hoping you like any of them nearly as much as I do:

I first heard about Diamond Rings when a friend of mine sent me the single "Something Else" a few years ago. I loved it immediately—everything about it just mellow enough, just poppy enough, 80s-ish & quietly danceable & lovely. "You Oughta Know" was a close second—a little darker, slower, thick with echoes of Ian Curtis—deep-voiced & blithely melancholy over electronica in the best & hauntingest of ways.

Now, with the release of his new album Free Dimensional, I can truly call Diamond Rings a favorite (enough to buy a ticket to his concert in NYC on December 4th). There really isn't a true dud in the bunch, but some highlights include: "Runaway Love," above, which is the only song I want to dance to, ever, for the rest of my life; "All the Time," minor-tinged Platonic electropop; "Everything Speaks," ponderous & charged; "Put Me On," insistent & more Curtis-like than ever.

Not About Love—Fiona Apple.

Every Single Night—Fiona Apple.

I'm really glad I didn't get into Fiona Apple when I was younger—before I had even a modicum of my shit sorted out—because if I had, I honestly wonder if I would have done anything but stare at my wall & let her words soak through my skin. For whatever reason, her voice cuts right to the core of things, her lyrics somehow exactly what you always meant to say before you knew you wanted to say anything at all. Aside from the two songs above—whose videos are both deeply excellent, hence their embedded posting (Zack Galafinakis's cameo at once hilarious & poignant; the squid dangling on her sallow head the only way I feel these days)—I've also fallen for "Paper Bag," which is light & tumbling & so sweetly sad, & "Tymps," to which I'm (mentally) working on choreographing a zombie/necrophiliac-themed burlesque routine. (It's totally going to work, you guys.)

Ex-Girlfriend—The Dolls (No Doubt cover/remix).

On Tuesday, October 16th, I went alone to a MIKA concert. (No shame: MIKA is like a shot of pure sugar to your brainstem, effortlessly happiness-inducing but never insipid—which is an incredibly difficult balance to strike, & I think he does it brilliantly. I stand by my man.) Opening for him was a band I'd never heard of before: The Dolls, who the Internet told me consisted of DJ Mia Moretti & classically trained violinist Caitlin Moe. No albums, only one single, few available live recordings—my hopes weren't necessarily high. But, lo & behold, I found them kind of excellent.

There's something about the sound of string instruments in particular that's just irreplaceable—incredibly beautiful, pulling at you in a way other noise simply can't. It's why I get lost in violin covers of pop songs, why I tend to flock toward bands from What Time Is It Mr. Fox to The Adicts—& why, I think, what The Dolls do works so well. Hearing Moe's violin wheedling along to Moretti's remixed tracks—sometimes playing along to the melody, say, of Fiona Apple's "Criminal," sometimes adding dissonant tones & trills on top of Garbage's "Bad Boyfriend"—her playing became more than mere accompaniment or kitsch, a fusion of electronica & classical noise that just plain fit.

What really got to me, too, was the energy of Moe's performance—her wild swaying, knees knocked, pacing frenzied, sometimes falling to the floor then clambering up again, bow arm slicing all the while. It's the highest compliment you can pay a musician, I think: that sound really moves them on an involuntary, bodily level. 

Though I'm usually staunchly against the practice of taking concert videos (because seriously, you paid for a live experience, so put down your fucking phone & experience it), I couldn't help but record these guys for a bit—especially as I recalled the dearth of their music currently available online. In case you're interested, here's a playlist of the videos I took; more than a little clunky & distant & not the best quality—an improvised breaking of a DJ set's blend & flow into individual tracks—but you should be able to get the idea.

Fatty Boom Boom—Die Antwoord.

Yep, they're at it again. I fucking adore Die Antwoord. Sure, their blatant lampooning of Lady Gaga in this video is a little awkward at times in its length, its pettiness—but, you know, I happen to agree with their implicit message: compared to their out-&-out fantastically grotesque bizarreitude, Gaga's "weirdness" is painfully vanilla. Also, there's plenty of other anti-authoritarian symbolism throughout—referencing their less-than-amicable departure from Gaga's label, Interscope (referred to as "Inter-coke Records" in the equally ideal "Hey Sexy"), not so subtly flipping off the preciousness / Othering / general stale crapfest that is Music Gone Mainstream (see: the mural behind Yo-landi, which features a hydra of Gaga, Kanye, Nicki, & other label signees shitting out the Black Eyed Peas). But honestly, all of that interests me far less than simply watching the excellent combination of words & sounds & images their beautifully twisted brains have chosen to put together. I mean, come on—that body paint is just too much, in the most delightful way.

An oldie but very, very goodie. It was playing in the bar on my First Night of Legal Drinking in Public, & is playing again in my headphones now. It's one of those songs that seems to have special access to the back of your neck, twitching it into an involuntary headbang at the cut-out-two-strum chorus.

There is no one better than Jacques Brel when it feels like the world might be ending. His stumbling cadence, his barely composed face—every twitch of his lips breaks my heart.

I've posted about this song here before, as part of my motivational playlist from around this time last year. At the time, I was studying it as part of a class on the Masterpieces of Western Music, but then this particular piece got so far under my skin that I sandwiched it between the likes of The Yeah Yeah Yeahs & Azealia Banks & listened to it multiple times a day—sometimes solo, on repeat-repeat-repeat, so many times I can now hum along to all 8 minutes. 

To friends who've asked, I explain that I think it sounds how a panic attack feels—hot & frantic, twitching, bombastic, endorphins & fear exploding across your synapses, radiating out to your limbs, making you shake. I've said before, too, that I think violins sound like longing—& in this case it feels like longing for freedom: from the time signature, from the merry-go-round of its jagged theme, from major chords & orchestral coherence. The lead-in to the last minute—the screech of bow across strings as everything starts to fall apart, overflowing, tumbling avalanche-like toward a haphazard conclusion— I am, quite simply, in love.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lindy West is a Badass & a Genius.

So, remember a few weeks ago when I was all, "Hey guys, I'm not posting anything ever again, deuces!"?

Well, oops, turns out I'm posting two days in a row now—but only because I feel strongly enough about the following subject to forgo the bazillions of other things I really, honestly should be doing, because you all need to read this article.

Seriously, guys. You NEED to read this article.

Once, about a year ago, I tried to tackle a similar subject for the Eye ("Health Over Weight: Reordering America's Dietary Priorities"), but I think I was simply too intimidated by word count & "journalistic import," too focused on making my argument palatable—or, you know, let's be real, just not quite talented enough—to speak the raw fucking truth the way that West does here. 

Below are some of my favorite excerpts, the wit & righteous indignation of which I could only hope to ape on my best of days, the content of which I want beamed into the brainstem of every living being on this planet. Enjoy:
Growing up, I was always fat. Not as fat as I am now, but never, ever skinny. Never small. ... I was the girl the mean kids would target with the old, "See that guy over there? He likes you" gag. Good one, bros! In case you don't get it, the punchline is that I'm fat. So obviously he didn't like me—it would be against all the laws of the universe. At the same time, though, I played three sports, I was active and healthy, I was good at school, I was funny, and I was popular. I was a happy kid. And I was still miserable. Because that's what fat does.

I cannot even
imagine being that same fat kid in 2012—having to put up with all the misery and the shame and the tunics (SO MANY TUNICS), along with the added pain of knowing that the government officially considers you an epidemic. You're a "problem" that needs to be "fixed." Newscasters with knitted brows talk about you in the abstract like your butt is a crime wave or a natural disaster; they show bodies that look like yours with their heads chopped off; they tell you that this body you have—the one that grew around you out of nowhere, that you're just getting used to—is bankrupting the nation and mowing down future generations like fucking tuberculosis. Tu-pork-ulosis. Whatever.
Then, later:

Here is the thing.

I know no one will ever believe me when I say this, so fine. Whatever. But since, apparently, this isn't evident even among health professionals churning out ad campaigns, I do not fucking eat chocolate cereal and buckets of ice cream. Here is what I actually do: Pretty much every morning before work I walk 1.1 miles uphill to a coffee shop, which is across the street from the organic co-op where I do all my grocery shopping. I eat normal, human amounts of unprocessed, fresh, largely local foods. I have no mobility problems. I have flawless cholesterol and blood pressure. I never get colds, I have never been hospitalized. I have a great job, I make a good living, I'm in an incredibly happy relationship. Sometimes I eat dessert, sometimes I don't. I pay taxes. I take care of my family. I do not commit crimes. I'm nice to strangers. In general, I think you could say that I contribute more to the world than I take out of it.

And I'm a fucking epidemic?
I'm a problem?

You have the gall to make generalizations about my life because, in your eyes, I superficially resemble a massive, diverse swath of the population whose lives you've also deigned to generalize? Whose complex, painful, messy, joyous lives you've boiled down to, "Har har too many Cheetos"? Please.
In short: You go, Lindy West. You fucking go.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

Yep. It's happening. Don't fight it. This song is amazing.

In Which I Prove Myself Both a Curmudgeon & a Cumberbitch.

When I took over Managing Editorship of my beloved Eye, one of my major initiatives was the creation of a new section: 20/20, a clever lil' vision pun that was to headline a page devoted to what I called "pop-culture op-eds"—punchy, funny, incisive nuggets of commentary, no more than 450 words, on a topic of the author's choosing. The idea was to increase the readability of the magazine by adding shorter, lighter pieces directly after our customary 3,000-word lead story. Sounds like a decent plan, right? I thought so, too.

Little did I realize that, as willing writers are few & far between, this would essentially entail turning myself into a raging snarkmonster on at least a bi-weekly basis. At this point, I've wigged out unnecessarily over Justin Bieber's burgeoning sexuality, Daniel Radcliffe's alcoholism, Scarlett Johansson's barfy tattoo, Madonna's whiskey-scented perfume that never was (just to name a few)—& now, it seems, I'm back again (o wretched column inches, will you never just fill yourselves?) with another wee tirade. 

This time, I bring you even more proof of my eternal curmudgeonitude & general fashion cretinhood: "F no, FNO," or, "Why Fashion's Night Out Is Pretty Effing Terrible." (Also, look out for another contribution from yours truly this upcoming Thursday—about what, I have no ungodly idea yet, but I'm sure I'll be inordinately upset about it.)

Meanwhile, I've been trucking away, nose pressed firmly to that infernal & omnipresent grindstone—by which, of course, I mean, "reading about 10 pages, getting up, making a snack, reading another 3 pages, painting my nails, listlessly thumbing through the remaining 100-some pages, sighing, & ultimately succumbing to Netflix." 

These days, that tends to mean Sherlock, Season 2 of which is now finally available thereupon. (Adios, sketchy Russian streaming sites!) If you haven't seen the show, do, not only because it's whip-smart & expertly put together (the way they handle text messaging is honestly, filmically fascinating), or because it's created/written by Doctor Who's Steven Moffat, or even because it stars Benedict Cumberbatch (AKA, Bandersnatch Cummerbund), whose austere, Victorian cheekbones have chiseled out a place in my heart of hearts—& whose devoted fans, I've just discovered, are called "Cumberbitches," so there's that—but mostly because this show can honestly claim to feature the single sexiest scene I've ever seen on television, like, ever. Behold:

Chills, I tell you. Chills. 

Until next time, team. Happy Monday.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

So, guys, there's this great band I just discovered—they're called MGMT? Like, the abbreviation for "Management"? Yeah, they're pretty sweet. You should probably check them out. (In all seriousness, though: for whatever reason, this particular song has been worming its way onto my playlists as of late, burrowing between my ears & refusing to leave. The heart wants what it wants, I suppose—& it is honestly a better song than I think it's gotten credit for, crowded out by the hyper-success of "Kids," "Time to Pretend," "Electric Feel," etc.)

That, & this:

The simple answer: I recently re-watched Magnolia in service of a class-sanctioned review of PTA's newest cinematic stab, The Master, text of which will be posted here post haste (once, you know, I actually write the damn thing). The honest answer: upbeat melancholy is my favoritest of tones, & no one plucks my particular mania's heartstrings quite like Ms. Mann. Jaunt & brass clash against bald-faced despair, raucously condemning the future to death—perfect for scrambling to find a second sock among dirty dishes in yesterday's make-up, already 10 minutes late to a meeting no one would mind if you missed.

& this:

Radiohead gone reggae-fied, & successfully so. Need I say more?

Friday, September 7, 2012

New Year's Realizations.

There comes a time in every girl's life when she realizes that she is, by definition, older than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

This is often closely followed by the realization that she will likely never learn to skateboard, that slating "concert tickets" & "gum" as primary expenses is no longer financially feasible—& that, despite her best efforts, she probably won't be developing superpowers anytime soon.

While this last revelation is, of course, most devastating on an "I'll never get to study at the X-Men school"-level, it also brings crashing down to earth, say, her perceived ability to take six college classes, manage a newspaper, have anything resembling a social life, & also continue writing for pleasure.

All of this is to say: Though I know I've been the slouchiest of slouches (read: nonexistent) when it comes to any sort of online writing as of late, it's likely that I'll sink even further into the depths of non-post-itude between now & December. All apologies, as the song goes, & on, & on. (What else could I write? I don't have a right...)

Meanwhile, as I prepare for my leap off this self-constructed plank into nonverbal oblivion, here's a slice to sate you: a piece I wrote for my beloved Eye on the recent resurgence of lady buddy comedies—AKA, "Girls Getting Gross."

Also, take this video, which is kind of beyond fabulous:

Catch you on the flipside, kids.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

Here's two for you—three, if you include the sick stylings of PSY, above. I'm all over the place these days.

That Time—Regina Spektor.
(Quick-thrumming, asymmetrical, easy to get lost in.)

Biggest Monkey—Chef'Special.
(Syncopated synth brass, brash braggart cockney.)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Film Called Fuckhead.

For those fortunate enough to have glimpsed my batshit insane (read: hopelessly sleep-deprived) Facebookery as of late, you are likely all too aware of the endeavor that consumed my past 72 hours. For those who didn't, a sampling:
5:37 AM—Still shackled to the editing bay through hour 15, I realize that, in order to have broken records in the credit sequence of my movie, I have to, you know, break some records. 
5:52 AM—Back at my dorm, so as not to disturb my roommate / floormates, I take records one by one into the elevator & attempt to break them. 
6:14 AM—I spend the next twenty minutes artfully scattering torn covers & jagged pieces across my floor & panning across them with the camera. 
6:38 AM—I seriously question my decision to become a film major—& feel, on many levels, like a broken record. 
8:52 AM—TRIUMPH, GLORIOUS & SWEET. & with just enough time to snag some breakfast before the screening...
All of this is to say: I made a movie, & it exists, because I made it, & thank God. Without further ado—mostly because my brain currently has the consistency of a deep fried Oreo, but extra mostly because, surprise, I still have 4 short essays to write before sunset—I give you my bizarre lil' explosion of an opus, Fuckhead:

Today's Headphone Fodder:

Because every finals season needs a good playlist—some old, some new, some borrowed, more than a few blue (I may or may not have developed a penchant for instrumental covers of Pixies songs—sorry, not sorry).

Highlights include: said instrumental covers, Garbage's new track, two killer songs by San Francisco bands (Full Moon Partisans & The Abi Yo-yo's)—one of which is a link to a download!—& a tune off M. Ward's latest album that is, without a doubt, the most danceably adorable two minutes you'll hear all day.

[    ^   Listen to it all the way through on YouTube!   ^    ]
Mr. Zebra—Tori Amos.
Somebody That I Used to Know (feat. Kimbra)—Gotye.
That Old Black Hole—Dr. Dog. 
Blood for Poppies—Garbage. 
Hey Sexy—Die Antwoord. 
Venus in Furs—The Velvet Underground. 
Gouge Away—The Vitamin String Quartet (Pixies cover). 
**Raise the Glass—Full Moon Partisans.** [ MP3 DOWNLOAD!!!!
Playground Mutiny—The Abi Yo-yo's.
Yo-yo—Nicola Roberts.
Who's That? Brooown!—Das Racist. 
Take Off Your Sunglasses—Ezra Furman & the Harpoons. 
Wisdom—Gran Ronde.
Bad Girls—M.I.A.
I Don't Wanna Walk Around With You—The Ramones.
Tears Dry On Their Own—Amy Winehouse.
Killer Queen—Queen.
Good Person Inside—Jill Sobule.
The Man Who Sold the World (Live at the Beeb, 2000)—David Bowie. 
I Get Ideas—M. Ward.
No Conclusion—Of Montreal. 
Sister, Do You Know My Name?—The White Stripes.
California Dreamin'—Bobby Womack (Mamas & the Papas cover). 
Where Is My Mind?—Maxence Cyrin (Pixies cover).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

"The Filmic Equivalent of Vajazzling": A Trying Tale of RomCom Trailers.

As you're probably aware, dear Reader, it's Thursday, & we all know what that means: another lovely issue of The Eye came out today—including, as it does with rather disturbing frequency, another contribution from yours truly.

Unfortunately, as I'm so tied up in the business/organizational end of things, when I write for my favorite publication these days, it's almost always because someone else dropped out & we have some space that needs filling. Today's case was no different, but rather than struggling to fill the 450-word limit, I found myself really getting into the topic—such that I ultimately scribed a 900+ word opus, which then had to be hacked & mercilessly hacked again, like the evil stepsisters' toes in the grimmer Grimm tale, in order to fit its proper place.

So, though I encourage you to check out the version currently online & in print, I've also posted my original below for your reading pleasure. Behold, "Modern Love, Hollywood Style"—or, as I secretly wanted to call it, "The Filmic Equivalent of Vajazzling":

It’s not like we didn’t know what we were getting into. But we were in the mood for a movie, & my mother had just read an article about the new release Friends With Kids—how it was the endeavor of writer/director/star (& Jon Hamm's long-term partner) Jennifer Westfeldt, how the film seemed relatively interesting & Westfeldt relatively savvy & down-to-earth. Plus, it seemed like an appropriate choice for this, our annual mother-daughter trip to Montréal (yes, it’s exactly as adorable as it sounds). Most importantly, we reasoned, this would give us an excuse to look at Jon Hamm’s face for at least the better part of an hour. So, at 2 PM on that fateful Thursday, we made the decision so see a Romantic Comedy at a Canadian multiplex.

Still, only after the crowd (of 11) filed in, the lights dimmed, & the first trailer started to roll did the full gravity of our situation kick in. We were seeing a Romantic Comedy. At a Canadian multiplex. We exchanged a determined cringe, clutched our cup-holder armrests, & braced ourselves for fifteen minutes of trailers advertising some of the most hateful cinematic drivel ever to grace the silver screen.

I don’t mean to sound overdramatic. Okay, maybe I do—but believe me when I say I am, at most, only slightly exaggerating the baffling atrocity of these previews. I mean, surely my adverse reaction was compounded by the sheer volume—one after another after another, like a never-ending freight train of Terrible—but to be perfectly frank, my reaction to "RomCom" in general is not unlike my reaction after attending my first (& only) frat party: People actually think this is awesome?!, intoned with an incredulity hovering somewhere between rage & despair.

It seems that modern Romantic Comedies—as this onslaught of trailers so aptly exemplified—are specifically & infuriatingly marketed to a demographic that I think just simply doesn't exist—or if it does, it's only as an unfortunate result of this kind of marketing. To me, these movies represent the filmic equivalent of vajazzling: yeah, sure, it's something you might entertain—especially after reading Jennifer Love Hewitt's memoir—& you may even enjoy it on occasion, but not because you would ever organically desire this ever, ever, ever. (Unless, of course, you're Jennifer Love Hewitt, in which case I'd be willing to believe you came up with that on your own.) I just find it frustrating that, as an avid moviegoer—&, let's be real, a female moviegoer of marriageable age—I'm constantly being pandered to by a marketing philosophy that does little more than shout "it's pink, there's kissing, get into it!"

But let's get into it, lest you think me some hyper-hip cynic. The first trailer was for a Canadian film, the title of which I really don’t remember, but which we’ll call Boring Man Becomes Slightly Less Boring, because that sums up its utter lack of conceit with room to spare. In short: an American businessman meets a mysterious Canadian lass &, both at a crossroads in their lives, they decide to abscond on a whimsical road-trip through the wilderness. Think wide, scenic shots of wide, scenic landscapes, Guy making some cynical remark, Girl replying with stark genuineness, “But it’s beautiful”—etc. Sound relatively familiar? That’s because what the directors barely even try to conceal is that you’ve seen this movie about 800 times before (anyone familiar with the term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” employ it here)—except this time, it's Canadian.

My particular favorite moment: at a diner counter, Guy looks skeptically at his plate as Girl explains, “It’s called poutine.” For those blissfully unaware, “poutine” is a famous Québecois dish, consisting of french fries, cheese curds, & sometimes even foie gras or Canadian deli delicacy “smoked meat,” all slathered in gravy. So, Girl forcing Guy to try some is a typically Manic Pixie action—the equivalent of Zooey Deschannel making Joseph Gordon-Levitt yell “penis” in a park—except instead, she’s asking him to experience a uniquely Canadian heart attack.

Next, we open on Jennifer Garner & Anonymous Attractive Husband receiving unpromising news from a fertility doctor—a predictable premise, as romance has been known to lead to babies, & Jennifer Garner has been known to portray infertile mothers. (Thanks again, Diablo Cody.) Garner & Husband then retreat home & begin drinking (also understandable), at which point he looks into her eyes & says, “Let’s make a baby. Tonight”—a sentiment later complicated by a “Walt Disney presents” titlecard. If you’re thinking (as I was) “This gives a whole new meaning to ‘kiddie porn,’” never fear: apparently, what Hubby means by “make a baby” is “write adjectives on notecards, put them in a box, & bury it out front, in hopes that a mud-covered seven-year-old will show up in our living room tomorrow morning.” Because, of course, that’s what happens.

Yes, following a dark & stormy night, like a gremlin clawing his way from the depths, a little boy named Timothy appears in their home—addressing them casually as “mom & dad," as if by wacky coincidence, they buried their son alive instead of tucking him in. Rather than shoot the creature on sight, they decide to adopt their creepily immaculate conception—& from here, we get a montage of wholesome & heartwarming images, including a number of off-puttingly Jesus-y shots circling around the boy, his eyes closed & arms crucifixion-spread in the middle of a soccer field as inspirational orchestration swells. A final card reveals this masterwork is called The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Understatement of the decade, that.

But wait, there’s more. Indeed, by far the worst was What to Expect When You’re Expecting, as it appears to be 1) a movie based on an instructional pregnancy book, because that’s apparently a thing we’ve allowed to happen; 2) one of those “Let’s round up all of the famous people desperate for a paycheck & parade them past the camera!” ensemble feats, à la Valentine’s Day & its unfortunate cousin New Years Day; & 3) so deeply unfunny-looking as to warrant physical revulsion. Example: the tour-de-force joke—the one worthy of featuring in this, its marketable highlights reel—shows a group of BabyBjörn-clad men pushing strollers in slo-mo, set to hardcore hip-hop. But wait—a man in childcare garb, you say? Surely not, no! That would be like a dog walking on its hind legs! Oh, what a chuckle-worthy notion! Knees slapped all around!—& case squarely in point.

Pale-faced & deeply shaken, my mother & I squeezed hands, unsure if we could bear two hours more of what someone who would ever consider watching those movies ever might find pleasant. However, as it turns out, Friends With Kids is actually kind of excellent. First off, it’s populated with nuanced & realistic characters—friends who banter the same way mine do, getting over-invested in running hypothetical games (“Death by alligator or shark?”) & making just-too-vulgar jokes. Moreover, the Rom woven through this ever-present Com is particularly refreshing—in no way star-cross’d or easy, no character capitulating or suddenly changing heart, allowing each sequence to unfold in unexpected turns. Still, the film's not so busy flouting convention that it forgets to be entertaining—a genuinely pleasant mix of easy laughs & subtle surprises.

Especially as framed by this wasteland of recycled premises & empty one-liners, Westfeldt’s film proved that, plainly put, not all Romantic Comedy is inherently a suckfest. Now it’s up to the rest of the film factories to follow her lead.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

So, full disclosure: normally, for this section, I don't actually post the single song I've been listening to most that day/week, as 1) it would likely be the same song for posts on end (re: 99% Bowie/Iggy), & 2) it would often be really, profoundly embarrassing (re: Evanesence). Plus, I do genuinely want to recommend music that I think others will dig—that's cutting-edge or otherwise somewhat abnormal, but no so much as to be alienating, etc.

However, today, I'm performing a massive "fuck that" & putting up this song, which I woke up with a sincere yen to listen to & have been repeat-repeat-repeating all day long—one which is deeply bizarre & long & alienating, but also, therefore, deeply excellent. Like so much of Roxy/Ferry/Eno, it's electronic without being subsumed by synthesizers, pleasantly sinister until it breaks, wailing, into guitars. Also, essentially, it's a love song to a blow-up doll, AKA, my plain-wrapper baby—one line boasts, I'll love you 'til death-size—an ever-elaborating series of innuendoes, which culminates delightfully at the surge of all surges: I blew up your body—but you blew my mind. So get into it.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

THF: How Paris Hilton's New Single Changed My Life.

You guys, something really important happened.

Like, really, really important.

Paris Hilton came out with a new single called "Drunk Text," & it is AMAZING.

I'm not kidding. I am being in no way sarcastic, ironic, or otherwise insincere. I do, in fact, mean that when I hear these three-plus minutes of Paris Hilton talking—just talking—over that kind of inconsequential, blippy techno that sounds like champagne bubbles popping, I feel nothing but profound & utter amazement. Even awe. It is awesome, in the original sense of the term.

Because what she has created (or—well—it's "Manufactured Superstars feat. Paris Hilton," & we are talking about Paris fucking Hilton here—so, clearly, "what's been created for her & what she has brought to life, &/or its most beautifully blasée semblance")—is pure goddamn crazypants gold.

I'm actually at a loss as to how to give verbal justice to the unadulterated, spastic glee I feel upon hearing the life-summational first lyric—"I went out to the club the other night... To... You know... [ Pregnant pause... ] Dance with my bitches..."—or the line that now dictates the only way I will ever accept a drink, ever—"He hands me another shot of vodka, & I say... [ Pregnant pause... ] Sure."

Especially notable are the lines of batshit Xanga-meets-thesaurus glory—e.g., "In my head, I was writing a fiction of us / Behind my eyes, I was begging for things my lips could never ask / But my mouth kept pouring desperate clauses of random intent"—& that unforgettable lesson in portmanteaus: "You take the word 'sex' & mix it with 'texting' / It's called 'sexting' / When you add 'drunk sexting'? / Words just don't make any sense..."—all tumbled through the deliciously slack emptiness of her voice, that singular perpetual nasal sigh, the original & ultimate "Look at all the fucks I give!"

"...No one is safe in the Twittersphere anymore..."—"...It's a hot mess of misspelled obscenities..."—"...& I'll be damned if I end up in some lame diner after this, last night's lingerie in my purse..."—Every line in this song is a revelation.

Honestly, the closest explanation-slash-metaphor I can come up with is: if one of those 800-person K-Pop bands were to do a cover of a Slipknot song, the video for which was a technicolor re-rendering of Maru the cat clips played backwards. That is how I feel when I listen to "Drunk Text": like I'm on an impressive amount of the world's most beautiful acid. But, like, an acid martini, quaffed while wearing false eyelashes & very high heels & scoffing a lot.

It's fucking transcendent is what it is. I really can't stop playing it—nor do I want to.

You know what? Just watch the video. Experience it for yourself, pretty please—& if for whatever reason you don't glean the absolute & utter soul-bursting joy from it that I do, all I can say is, "Sorry... It was just a Drunk Text."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Meat? Cute! (AKA, I Made a Movie.)

So, I think I was set up on a meet-cute by God.

For those not so versed in the shorthand of everyone's favorite filmic genre—that is, of course, the Rom(antic) Com(edy)—"meet-cute" refers to the oft adorable way in which your charmingly flawed protagonist pair first encounter one other. Common examples include mixed-up food orders, shared recognition of a song—&, inevitably, on-street bumpings-into, pratfalls, or other generally unrealistic levels of clumsiness.

The meet-cute is a particularly dangerous stumbling block for screenwriters, too—particularly screenwriters of particularly short films—particularly young student screenwriters of particularly short films who are particularly strapped for ideas. For example, at the end of last semester, some friends & I spent a box of wine trying to come up with a 12-page story for my final assignment, only to realize that every single remotely interesting or comedic idea we had was ultimately a meet-cute—to the point where we resolved to make either one of two films: 1) Meat? Cute!, in which a young-at-heart dreamer, played by Zooey Deschannel, visits a down-on-his-luck butcher, played by Joeseph Gordon-Levitt, at which point the two have profoundly raunchy sex among the carcasses & the film reveals itself to be a hardcore porn; or 2) A Fucking Autobiography of Frida Fucking Kahlo in 12 Fucking Pages Or Less: A Meet-Cute Between Man & God. (This one came toward the very end of the box.)

Still, it's important to note that meet-cutes are commonly regarded as loathsome not only for their ubiquity, but for their ubiquity despite the fact that they are, by definition, deeply & fantastically unrealistic—even, indeed, when you're actually dropped into one.

To set the stage: last Thursday, snagging dinner before an evening class, I sat down at an unoccupied-enough table in one of the school's least economically designed dining facilities with the intention to dine & dash, when I noticed the gentleman sitting a mere few seats away. He was:

1) ...reading the second issue of The Eye, which I had spent until 2 AM the previous night putting together—for which I wrote a short piece on silent film (&, more importantly, calling James Franco both a masturbator & a buffoon).
2) ...sitting by a bundle of filmmaking equipment, which was clearly from the same place I had visited earlier that afternoon to check out my own supply.
3) ...not-so-quietly singing "In Dreams" by Roy Orbison, as used prominently in Blue Velvet, my favorite movie by David Lynch—about whom I had just discovered a fantastically anecdote-worthy video.
4) ...very, very, very, very pretty.

Sure, okay, the whole singing in public thing is indicative of minor insanity, but that's honestly a plus in my book. The long & short of it is, this man was implicitly providing me with a statistical anomaly of possible conversation-starters. For example:

1) So, what do you think? (Pause for look of bepuzzlement.) The magazine. I'm always curious to hear feedback from our readers.
2) Are you shooting this weekend? (Pause for affirmative response.) Me too—what for?
3) Blue Velvet? (Pause for reference recognigtion.) Tell me you've seen the commercials for Lynch's new coffee line. Damn fine.
4) I like your face. Can I put mine close to it, please?

So, which did I use, you ask? Why none, of course, dear Reader. Why, you ask? Who knows.

I could say the sheer number of options was overwhelming (which it was); I could say I had homework to do before class (which I did); that my salad was almost certainly stuck between most of my teeth (also valid); but the plain truth of it is, I am an incorrigible fraidy cat when it comes to making the first move. Indeed, to compensate, I often find myself going to ridiculous extents to create scenarios in which those whom I admire will see me being Effortlessly Attractive & Eminently Approachable, thereby saving me the trouble of instigating. (In this case, that meant prominently laying out marked-up film readings & notebook doodles while craning my neck just so. It was, as usual, unsuccessful; he hummed off without a trace.)

Cut to the short film I was checking out all that equipment in order to make: First Impressions, the product of 72 hours, no lights, & four beautiful (dedicated, talented, wondrous) people. Are there things about it I want to fix? Certainly. Are there things about it I actually can fix & likely will in a soon-to-be-released Special Edition Director's Cut? Probably. Still, for now, it stands: a meet that never quite cutes—or perhaps, the clumsy merger of my (so-called) life & the hastily compiled fictions it tends to produce. Enjoy.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

As an officially declared Film Studies major, when not making movies, I'm often asked to watch/analyze them—& recently, I was lucky enough to have one of those movies be the beyond brilliant Almodóvar career-maker, Law of Desire. Those who've seen the film may remember the song's prominent (& telling) placement, but for those who haven't, 1) do, & 2) you can still enjoy this trillingly mournful little ditty—even if, like me, you speak only the most cursory approximation of Spanish. All you need to know are those thrice repeated eponymous words: I doubt it, I doubt it, I doubt it (...that you will ever find a love purer than the one you have in me—or something like that).

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cross-Posting A Go-Go.

As aforementioned, these past weeks have been stuffed to bursting with work on the Eye, the (glorious, effervescent) arts & features magazine for which I am now managing editor. At long, long (long) last, at the asscrack of dawn (5:30-something, my foggy memories tell me) this past Thursday, the stars aligned, the dream was realized—&, indeed, the first issue of the magazine was published.

Look how pretty! Click to read the pdf!

Of course, such intense Eyely pride made me remember that I've been an absolute lump when it comes to cross-posting the many words I've logged in its service. So, for any & all interested in what I do with my Clark Kent self—that is, the shy, bespectacled newspaper persona, who fills the hours between my righteous badassery (AKA, Blogsmanship)—here's what I was up to last semester, while, you know, going entirely AWOL hereabouts:

Cinema Verité.
In which I profile the site of my fabulous fall internship—the Maysles Cinema, a nonprofit documentary cinema in Harlem, founded by Al Maysles of Grey Gardens fame—& give it some well-deserved love. (Everyone should go there! Always!)
“Excuse me, can I interest you in some information on upcoming screenings at the Maysles Cinema?” This phrase tumbles out almost mechanically after hours spent repeating it, my handful of fliers dutifully thrust forward into a stream of oncoming pedestrians. As the Cinema’s new graphic design intern, I initially imagined myself more on the crafting than the distribution side of the promotional process—but, after only a short time behind the scenes, I know I’m exactly where I want to be: on the steps of a local Harlem church, making sure everyone I can possibly reach knows about the cutting-edge sociopolitical discourse going on only blocks away at 127th and Lenox...

Let's Bounce.
In which I interview Big Freedia, queen diva extraordinaire of the Bounce scene—which was amazing, because it's Big fucking Freedia, but which was rough, because we had to talk over the phone, & my deafness did not mix well with her somewhat overpowering drawl.
So, I’ve heard that, even within Bounce itself, you’re in a sort of subgenre called “Sissy Bounce”—which I find especially cool because I feel like, in the music industry, there isn’t often a platform for genderqueer artists, and it seems like Sissy Bounce represents a place for that.
Well, we don’t separate it here in New Orleans. There’s no such thing as “Sissy Bounce.” It’s all Bounce music and we have a few gay artists that work within the Bounce culture, but we don’t separate it. That just got misinterpreted through an interview that was done a while back, and they named it “Sissy Bounce” or whatever, but here in New Orleans we don’t separate it at all. Everybody just calls it Bounce music—and, you know, myself [and] Katey Red, we represent a part of that, and we’re gay artists...

From Stage to Screen.
In which I traveled to a swank-ass midtown screening room to see Roman Polanski's latest cinematic foray, Carnage, adapted from Yasmina Reza's Broadway smash The God of Carnage—& then subsequently compared it at length to Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, thus nudging at the question of what makes these simple-seeming plays cinematic.
“I believe,” oozes Christoph Waltz, in the same sinister drawl that earned him an Oscar for Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, “in the God of Carnage—the God whose rule has gone unchallenged since time immemorial.” Dressed as a modern American lawyer in a Paris-shot-for-Brooklyn parlor, he’s lending his villainous appeal to Carnage, the latest cinematic foray of infamous auteur Roman Polanski, which opened this year’s 49th Annual New York Film Festival. The film, based on Yasmina Reza’s Tony Award-winning play The God of Carnage, chronicles a conversation between two bourgeois couples—the Longstreets (Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly) and the Cowans (Waltz and Kate Winslet)—as they confer about a violent dispute between their young sons...

Abnormal Halloween Costumes.
In which I collaborated with the lovely & talented Margaret Boykin to dream up some creative solutions to the year's most intense outfit dilemma.
Sexy Feminist: Think Susan B. Anthony & Simone de Beauvoir…if they were in Mean Girls. These two feminists are already rolling in their graves at the sight of knee-highs and push-ups, so why not bring the empowerment-through-sexuality to a head? Simone loved black turtlenecks—but how about going backless, American Apparel style?...

Untested Development.
In which I ask the question no one wants to ask—that is, "Should there really be an Arrested Development movie? No, but really—think about it..."—&, in the process, drag in David Lynch, Joss Whedon, & Exiled: A Law & Order Movie.
“No, I don’t see it as a series,” acclaimed director Ron Howard says in the final moments of Arrested Development—a surprise cameo that is a typically tongue-in-cheek move for the show he narrated through three seasons. He pauses, fingers tapping. Then: “Maybe a movie?” This hanging question has gone on to haunt diehard fans and entertainment news outlets alike since the show’s 2006 cancellation, through an agonizing five years of will-they-won’t-they pre-production turmoil with enough ups and downs to inspire its own Lifetime miniseries...

Health Over Weight.
In which I rehash America's body image crazy, focusing specifically on the new documentary America the Beautiful 2—whose director, Darryl Roberts, savvily debunks the BMI myth—the Adipositivity Project—whose photographer, Substantia Jones, may just be one of the coolest people in the history of ever—& the controversial children's book Maggie Goes on a Diet—whose author, Paul Kramer, then kindly took the time to yell at me in the comment section.
“So, who do you want to look like?” The question catches me off guard. She smiles sympathetically, folds a stray piece of honey blonde hair behind her ear, and rephrases: “I find it's helpful to have a goal in place—a physical role model.” She grabs a dog-eared People from behind her desk and opens it. “What about Kate Winslet? She’s pretty healthy-looking, don’t you think?” I’ll admit, when I entered this nutritionist's office I was hoping for something a little different—given that none of the previous three had produced lasting results. Despite layers of meticulous meal logs and food pyramids camouflaging my fridge, I remained a significantly overweight (and therefore significantly distraught) 13-year-old—weary of feeling socially inferior to my classmates because I was physically larger. So when the doctor brought out her pictures of Kate, I smiled back and nodded and prayed silently that this plan, please, would stick.

Best of 2011: Best All-Nighter.
In which I recount the "best" of my many hateful study experiences—which can best be summed up by three key terms: "Immanuel Kant," "cockroaches," & "Valentines Day."
As a college student, consummate procrastinator, and incorrigible coffee fiend, I exhibit all possible risk factors for a user and abuser of the All-Nighter. Though my year has thus seen plenty of these harrowing 20-plus hour library entombments, one in particular sticks out: At 10:30-something on a Sunday night in icy February, I enter Butler to begin a five-page essay on the Categorical Imperative of Herr Immanuel Kant, due Monday afternoon...

Then, of course, I also edited a few articles—including one on aging punk rockers (called "Crusty Punks") & another on knitting culture (entitled "Yarns & Recreation").

...&, scene. End shameless self-promotion. (But, seriously, y'all—read the Eye!)

Today's Headphone Fodder:

More rumbly, mumbly acoustic boys, perfect for rumbly, mumbly brain-brambled girls, hacking away at keyboards long past the point of sanity.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Purity Bear Wants You to Cuddle Him, Kids. Hard.

Advertising has got to be tricky—& not just for that sonuvagun Don Draper. Consistently tempted by the thralls of this zippy, media-saturated Internet Age, we as consumers seem to have lost our last ounce of patience for straight-up salesmanship, such that ads are now expected to be especially fun & entertaining in & of themselves, attention-grabbing as the programming they're paired with, if not more so.

Of course, as this recent evocation of Auschwitz to sell gym memberships proves, there are many instances in which advertisers lose sight of any & all common sense in pursuit of this ardent viewer appeal—& in so doing, they don't just fail to hit their target demographic, but in fact fail to hit any potential demographic in the history of ever, apparently firing with the laser precision of 800 quail-hunting Dick Cheneys. (Hey there, 2006!—re: That's honestly the only place my brain went when it came time to think of an "inaccurate marksmanship" joke. Can more relevant people suck at shooting things, please?)

It stands to reason, then, that this problem of bafflingly self-sabotaging ads would be compounded tenfold when the product in question is even more fundamentally unappealing than exercise—for example, abstinence. Because, really now: in an industry with the simplest & most alliterative of mottos—that is, "sex sells" (as in, "Organ donation? Okay, but how can we make it sexy?")—creating an anti-sex PSA that is successful by modern advertising standards is likely going to be very, brain-bendingly difficult.

Anyhow, all of this is my attempt to somehow explain away the terror &/or bemusement &/or utter, stark lack of comprehension with which I view the following "Day of Purity" PSA, simply titled, "The Purity Bear."

In the first place, let's start with the opening dialogue:
"I really like you a lot. You're not like the other guys."
"I really like you a lot, too. You look so pretty tonight."
Now, I could put on my feminist smoking jacket (the kind with the elbow pads—I imagine it makes me look both authoritative & approachable, with a wink of vintage charm) & point out that the boy is praised for his substance while the girl is praised for her appearance, & so has it been since that whole rib-apple-serpent incident, etc.—but instead, I'm going to put on my person with a motor cortex jeggings & point out that no self-respecting teenagers would ever say these sentences to one another. At least not back-to-back. At least not when sober. Really, though—is it too much to ask that you splurge a little on your screenwriter?

Still, once the kids are done waxing poetic, the girl, being the instigating strumpet she is (ahem, rib-serpent-apple), mentions that her parents aren't home—&, as the two take long, paralyzingly awkward looks into each other's eyes... suddenly, like a muppet crawling from the depths of Hades, a teddy bear slides his way onscreen. & not just any bear. Oh, no. This is a "purity bear"—who, incidentally, sounds like he has an affinity for chain-smoking, cheap whiskey, & driving slowly around his neighborhood in an unmarked van offering candy to small children. "I'm cuddly," he whispers insidiously into the young lad's ear, & it's hard not to shudder at the thought of the many counseling sessions filled with those to whom he's said those words before.

So, kids, the moral of the story is, if you want to have sex with your cuddly girlfriend (also worth an eyebrow raise), hug a cuddly teddy bear instead. Just don't get too serious—especially if you're interested in actually getting a message across, not haunting my dreams with lurking stuffed animal sex predators.

Today's Headphone Fodder:

A relevant title for today's subject matter—& a relevant song for my state of mind (read: insomniac, collegiate, aimless). Bright & boppy strumming with blithely despairing lyrics—sweet indifference, as its crooner croons, with the wry breathiness of those jaded left grinning, bitterly, grinning.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

THF: Kim Deal Meets Eraserhead.

So, I know it seems like I've been slacking somewhat on my "write more" resolution, having gone AWOL over a week at this point—but, in fact, I've been writing a sickening, daunting, patently hateful amount... of e-mail. Indeed, this is the one potential downside of my otherwise lovely & exciting new position as managing editor of Columbia's (brilliant, indubitable) arts & features magazine, The Eye: the necessary parameters of the post are such that, as I've taken to describing it, were GMail rendered real, my life would resemble that scene from the first Harry Potter movie, when all the thousands of letters are pouring in through the Dursleys' fireplace—except, instead of jumping & giggling like a cracked-out Carebear, I'm huddled in the fetal position, quietly weeping, until the swamp of envelopes swallows me whole. (Or, you know, just making the face Aunt Petunia's making.)

My point is, I'm still getting used to this new influx of textual responsibility—still figuring how best to juggle many the balls unceasingly catapulted in my general direction—so, for today, it's going to have to be quick, which means some more music.

Still, I'm confident that this offering is pretty excellent—especially for movie nerds & Pixies fans. (& honestly, if you're neither, I suggest seriously examining your life choices.) In short & in sweet, welcome to Kim Deal, backed by her original band, crooning away to "In Heaven," the song sung by the Lady in the Radiator from David Lynch's Eraserhead.

Her version is softer than another I have, where Frank Black takes up lead vocals—found, if I'm not mistaken, on the band's Complete B Sides collection. Where Black grates & surges, Deal remains subdued—only slightly flubbing the lyrics, just enough to be charming. Meanwhile, the persistent thrum of her bassline entwines effortlessly with the quiet pull of the guitar, tap-tap of the cymbals—soft & lovely & only a little terrifying, much like the best of things.

Monday, January 9, 2012

THF: Kitchen Dancing With "Honey Bunny."

Okay, to be fair, I came across this song on Hypem.com's Music Blog Zeitgeist of 2011, so there is every chance that I am literally the last person in the Western hemisphere to have heard it, let alone to spout some online commentary thereupon.

However, what I will say is, while doing dishes in my pajamas earlier this evening, idly listening to Hypem's most-blogged artist countdown, I was struck by this song—"Honey Bunny" by painfully hip(ster) pop-rock outfit Girls—so much so that I ended up dancing in soap-splattering circles in front of my kitchen's large picture windows, grinning like a loon.

There's just something about the pounding snare-cymbal pickup of the multivoice chorus: They don't like my bony body / they don't like my dirty hair...

Because, though I don't have a particularly bony body & would hope that my hair smells, at least not infrequently, like Garnier's interpretation of flowers—nor, indeed, do I tend to go for men in bellyshirts who try to pick up women from inside their convertibles & hold band practice in the woods—I can't help but jive with a song that takes that brand of omnipresent romantic self-consciousness & turns it into a defiantly upbeat sing-along. Aggravating Hipstamatic sepia tone of its video aside, "Honey Bunny" is the jangly ideal with which to twist & shout away the blues—preferably while wielding a dish sponge.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Micro-Rant on Geographical Semantics.

I am absolutely not the first person to point this out—nor, hopefully, will I be the last—but upon paging through my local newspaper this morning, I came across the following headline & was immediately struck by a wave of profound & interrobang-laced indignation:

Now, no one loves a good movie pun more than I do, & while the Out of Africa linkage is more than a little forced in this case, I would be willing to accept it, I suppose—chalk it up to inept headlining & all (Lord knows I once tried to call an article about Knitting Culture "Needle Exchange")—were it not for sentences like this:
Auerbach said she initially had no idea what African people needed. But through her interactions, she found two needs: school tuition and income.
First of all, "needed" followed immediately by "needs"? Let's vary our word choice, please. More disturbing than stylistics, though, is the geographical adjective: though the reporter has already specified that Ms. Auerbach did her subhead-touted chance-giving in Uganda, the sentence still reads "what African people needed."

In fact, in my estimation, what "African people" need is for people to stop blithely referring to them as "African"—to recognize that Africa is a continent, not a country, nor a "nation" (thanks again, Mr. Bush)—that it is, in fact, made up of many of these, each of which is host to its own separate concerns.

While Americans are also apt to use other continent-consuming adjectives in similarly problematic ways (re: "European techno sounds like a very unhappy cat being shoved through a synthesizer"), I still think we can all agree that each individual country therein gets far more autonomous consideration far more often. For example, if Friendly Suburban Lady decided to bring her Dell laptops to a village in Thailand, we wouldn't say she figured out "what Asian people needed."

It's a frustrating semantic trend to be sure—one I think is symptomatic of a far larger conceptual Othering, but that's a problem for other days & greater minds. For now, let's just concentrate on our words—which we can change, now, ASAP.

(Also, because this post is simply begging for it, here's a link to "I Studied Abroad in Africa!," an "I'm laughing in disbelief"-type Tumblr on which this article would be right at home. Also, here's one pseudo-relevant recent post—though, to her credit, this woman did at least say "Ugandan.")

Today's Headphone Fodder:

I've long appreciated VV Brown & her wispy-voiced, rounded-voweled retro-techno-pop style—especially as regards her truly brilliant cover of "This Charming Man." Recently, though, I've found myself particularly drawn to this song—its chorus's nonsensical string of warnings beckoning through the surge of computerized brass.