Archive | December, 2009

Give me g-strings or give me death

22 Dec

The other day I heard another story on NPR that pissed me off (big surprise). It was about how much “progress” is being made in the Middle East. No, I’m not talking about peace talks or infrastructure development. Not even a reduced death count or a comprehensive effort to clean up mine fields or what-have-you. No, dear readers, it was about how wonderful it is that women there now have the ability to shake it for an audience in tight clothing.

Well, halle-fuckin-lujah! Uncork the champagne and send out a press release: Oppression of women in the Middle East is over! How do we know? Because now the objectification of their bodies in public is A-OK! They can wear the same clothes as women who are oppressed in the West! Yay! Let’s pull out our troops now: Mission Accomplished.

The reporter attended a “fashion show” and described the women as dressed in “shades of tight and tighter” and the audience members as “hooting and hollering.” I don’t know about you, but nothing says liberation to me like a feather boa and some dolla dolla bills in the ol’ G-string.

Soundtrack of my love life

22 Dec

I’ve been transferring my music again – this time from Computer A, which has a stone-age processor and is made up of not one, not two, but THREE hard drives – to External Hard Drive B, that’s one-gazillionth the size of a Mack truck with five times the storage.

Mix CDs given from the heart can be sweet
and musically a propos. But they can also be stark reminders
of why you broke up with Person X in the first place.

What always strikes me every time I undertake a Music Migration project – and yes, I do it so often that it has earned proper noun status – is not only how much of my music I never listen to, but how much my music collection is a direct chronological reflection of my dating history.

When I put my iPod on shuffle, I always frantically skip past at least half of the songs, and, much like when memories of my past love affairs creep into my mind, I cringe and say, “What was I thinking?” In my Pod you can find musical gems from such far-flung genres as gangsta rap and children’s Christmas music. There’s also ska, a Britney Spears song, and a disturbingly large collection of Butthole Surfers and Wu-Tang Clan. I even have files named “Mysterious Blank CD 1, 2, & 3.” All of which shows that over the years, I have melded music collections with a lot of people with widely differing tastes.

A tour through my MP3s will take you on a sentimental journey through my love interests, going as far back as high school. From the boyfriends of my early adolescence, I acquired The Cranberries, Live, No Doubt (I know, right?), Garbage and Tom Petty. Surprisingly, I still like most of this stuff. I also acquired Aqua and Tori Amos as creepy gifts from a secret admirer that wormed their way into my locker when I wasn’t looking.

From the first C— I dated in college (there were at least two, but who can keep track?), I got a bunch of funky/cool instrumental techno, sweaty boy music like Tool, and alphabet soup: IPC, APC and RATM. From the second one, I got a whole lot of P-funk, Toto, ska, Information Society, Devo, and Ani Difranco. He thought that 2/3 time was the future of music. Both the C—s disappeared after freshman year with nary a word of goodbye, but here I am, ten years later, living with a Specials album I never listen to and a weird song about a pickle that sometimes pops into my head without warning.

I inherited a cache of trance-y techno through J—, who left me for Seattle and a pill-popping girl with a tramp stamp. From S1—, whose heart I apparently broke, I got Sneaker Pimps and a letter in which he was kind enough to include a reading list, from which I learned that “Whores and Other Feminists” is not, as he thought, a diatribe excoriating independent women of loose morals, but an empowering indictment of misogyny and heteronormativity.

For Jim Morrison, Blur, Jimi Hendrix, Radiohead, Beck, and Leonard Cohen, I have A1— to thank. He also left me with an eclectic collection of novelty music, including Adam Sandler, the Bloodhound Gang and a coterie of sound effects from such estimable television shows as Invader Zim and Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

From A2—, I inherited the entire gangsta rap oeuvre, from the 80s onward, of which my favorites are Eve and Lil’ Kim. The rest I keep just in case I ever need to throw a gin-n-juice party. I also am now the proud owner of every Indigo Girls song ever written. A2— also is responsible for that solitary, overprocessed Britney Spears hit.

From S2—, I got a few good things, like Mazzy Star and Thom Yorke. The rest included such not-so-good things as a freakishly complete collection of Chris Isaak and Corey Hart, and a bunch of stuff so odious it had to be destroyed: Soundtracks from 1970s porn, The Sound of Music, Ren & Stimpy, and Sesame Street, poorly performed audio erotica, and at least a gig of crappy, annoying sound effects. What is it with men and sound effects? From him, I kept a large contingent of Appalachian folk, just in case I ever need to soothe an errant, unwashed banjoist.

Mixtapes represent the pinnacle of musical love gestures.
They can take a day or more of laborious effort to make,
 and when someone makes you one, you
know you own them. Nowadays, I get my mixtape
fix via The International Mixtape Project.

L— has gifted me every single Tori song ever performed, from 1980s covers to live and/or remixed versions of Bells for Her, as well as Kirsten Hersh, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Lamb, Bat for Lashes, Joanna Newsom, and a bunch more. I’d say our tastes align the most closely out of the bunch.

Not all my music has come from lovers, of course. From my friend Colin I acquired a bunch of ridiculously good self-produced trance and a collection of Frank Zappa and Primus, which, oddly, I gave to my mom. Go even farther back and you’ll find the roots of my love for Tori Amos, in the form of mix tapes I used to get in the mail from my friend Naomi, whose tapes squeezed my impressionable brain into the proper shape for learning to appreciate loads and loads of weird music, if only on the most academic of levels.

Set to the tune of something melancholy and instrumental

15 Dec

Truth just falls out of some people’s mouths. To wit:

“I don’t know, I don’t like this place.”

“What, this intersection?”

“…No. This city. The city.”

“Me neither.”

….

“It’s just… all these people. In their little cubbyholes. It makes me sad.”

“That’s what they are, you know. Little dolls waiting to be taken out and played with. They go to work and wait for someone to pull their strings, tell them what to type and how fast. Then they go back to their cubbyholes.”

Naked women gots brains!

8 Dec

Strippers. Effing strippers. Why are they always in the news? Wait, no. That’s not true – only some of them are always in the news. The white ones. The ones from upper- to upper-middle-class backgrounds. The well-spoken and well-educated ones. We NPR listeners prefer it if any stripper stories can include the tagline, “educated at a prestigious Northeastern university and author of the recently published book…”

Newsies love writing clichéd copy because it’s easy, recycling over and over again such tabloid-headline phrases as:

“Yes, she peels off her clothes for money, but no one forced her to do it!”
“She comes from a respectable family/background/university but she loves her job as a stripper!”

Examples? Diablo Cody, educated author and screenwriter. Viva Las Vegas, Ivy-Leaguer, author, Portland resident. Others I’m sure.

The problems with this kind of reporting are multifarious. First, spoiled, rich, hot young women shaking it for cash is not news. The only reason stories like this one get aired at all is because “stripper” is code for “hot twenty something.” It gives usually staid news organizations, like NPR or the Washington Post, an excuse to run an attention-grabbing headline with the word “stripper” in it, and a full color photograph of the sexy authoress herself. They tell themselves it’s legitimate news because she has published a book or written a mainstream screenplay. Their listeners or readers don’t feel guilty for their fascination with said stripper’s tits because she comes from a background like theirs – white, educated and upper-middle. They’re relieved of the class guilt they normally feel when they actually visit strip clubs. They can allay their shame by telling themselves that they are only jerking it to her because she is smart, dammit. The fact that she looks like a Barbie doll and would put her bare ass in your face for $5 has nothing to do with it.

Yeah fucking right. Viva Las Vegas has an Ivy-League education in anthropology. But she wrote a book about being a stripper. Great. Nothing new there – there’s been a disturbing spate of popular stripper memoirs lately, with the Belle Du Jour series, Cody’s “Candy Girl,” and Lily Burana’s “Strip City.” I have no idea how good her book is, and I won’t because I’m not going to read it. But I do know this: Had she written a fascinating, well-written, entertaining yet informative book about anthropology, no one would be interviewing her on national radio, no matter how smokin’ she is.

It’s oh-so-avant-garde to feign surprise at strippers being intelligent or capable in some realm other than fellatio. How is it that the middle-school idea that being hot, or being naked, somehow negates any intellectual powers one might otherwise possess is such a widely-accepted idea that it needs no introduction? What the fuck kind of world do we live in? One run by pubescent boys? Oh, right. I forgot. Silly me.

What’s unfortunate is that there actually is an important news story that is being overlooked here. What could reporters possibly investigate about strippers that isn’t prurient, frivolous and insulting? They could start by interviewing the impoverished, oppressed women that make up the majority of sex workers. They are the ones who are forced into this degrading profession – not by their pimps or some oppressive, imagined overlord, (although that does happen, a lot,) but by their crushing lack of options.

The women featured in these light-hearted news stories are entertaining for a number of reasons, but partly because unlike most sex workers, they had some semblance of a choice – the choice to use their bodies to have a little ignorant fun, then use their pedigrees to launch their mainstream careers. Where are the stories of the women without choices – the poor, the drug-addicted, the ones who will never write books or talk merrily about how fucking empowering it is to take their clothes off for pasty, slavering perverts? The ones who are daily unreported rape victims, who will end up only as footnotes in police reports: “drug overdose,” “unidentified 40ish woman found beaten to death”?

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