Friday, June 24, 2011
Athena is essentially the funniest person alive. She is comedy central, they just can't pay her enough so she left. That's why it sucks now. Except for John Stewart but that's because Athena's sideways brain writes his jokes. And boobly bah! New York weeps for this creatures absence every night. As do all who have left her presence, forever yearning for her sunny light. I love you womyn. You slithereen, you.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
After much thought I have decided to remove the mean and nasty blog post I wrote about Lady GaGa. It was unlike me to directly dis an artist just because I don't like her. That's not my style and I hear that other people do indeed get the type of things she offers as being empowering and motivational. So who am I to knock that? Especially when there are so many other way more morally horrendous musicians out there that I never blink an eye at. I guess what it comes down to is that I'm not a fan. I have my reasons and that's fine. I don't like her music at all and that should really be the main reason, as a music critic that I don't like her. So instead I will post these two finely crafted videos about her and Kanye that perfectly sum up my feelings. I will however keep the below videos in the post. In case you were wondering what I think is really badass.
You wanna watch some cool shit? Watch this:
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Nick's in NY and I miss him. This is my own personal blog so if I want to post dorky lovey dovey photos of my boyfriend mere hours after posting an Ellen Willis review, that is my prerogative.
But really, sorry for being gross.
an old one. i will call this one, "eww, don't."
a medium one. i will call this one, "dork face, don't you see me fucking recoiling?"
a now one. this one i will call "under the influence of your axe deodorant." seriously, that axe stuff is not so bad.
This one is my favorite.
Clearly we excel at picture taking.
There comes a time in the life of every writer when they need to let go and set a piece free. In the upcoming weeks I will post pieces written in the last six months that due to one reason or another, could not find homes out in the big bad world. But that is fine with me. The last time I posted something for that reason it turned out pretty alright, ahem, Best Music Writing 2010. So here we go, first up is my review of the Ellen Willis anthology Out of the Vinyl Deeps. An ode to my hero, the great Ellen Willis. Enjoy.
Out of the Vinyl Deeps, Ellen Willis Rock Music
The collected work of Chuck Klosterman, early 2000’s editor of Spin magazine and author of such notable essays as Sulking with Lisa Loeb On Ice Planet Hoth, pre dates this collection of Ellen Willis’ work, Out of the Vinyl Deeps, Ellen Willis Rock Music, by five years. In some ways this bit of information is the greatest unintentional tribute to her work; that Willis indeed had cause and reason to shout from rafters that women weren’t being heard. Willis of course is the pioneering rock critic who went on to shape any music criticism written in the past thirty years, whether the authors of this legacy are aware of that or not. She was the first pop music critic for the New Yorker and as Sasha Frere Jones, who later went on to hold the same position, notes in his superb introduction to the book, it’s longest running pop music crit occupant. By the mid eighties though Willis’ work as a music critic had largely been forgotten, as she turned her razor sharp eye to larger more personal battles: sexual feminist freedom, international women’s rights and a myriad of other social and political issues she saw standing in the way of gender equality.
To female critics of any pop genre however, the work of women like Willis’, Pauline Kael, Jaan Uhelszki, plus a handful of other notable writers, has never been forgotten, in fact her flame has stood as a roadmap for almost any practicing critic of the so called fairer sex. It is fitting then as Jason Gross notes in his recent flavorpill post, 33 Women Music Critics You Need to Read, that a sea change might be afoot. With the release Out of the Vinyl Deeps, Willis’ writing is finally receiving the most obvious of honors, a long overdue collection of her work, and with it new discussion about what it means to be and who gets to be a critic.
The writing itself is an astonishing mix of political and artistic criticism that stands up frighteningly well in contrast with many of her male peers. Dylan, the 1967 essay from Cheetah magazine that got Willis the New Yorker gig, is perhaps her most enduring and famous piece. Here she weaves a shrewd narrative around persona and identity, calling Dylan out for his artifice, without ever stooping to name-calling. Highlighted is Dylan’s childlike obsession with upsetting and confusing his fan base. In many ways Willis is a skilled lawyer, spinning backhanded compliments that echo some of Oscar Wilde’s finest work:
“Dylan has self-consciously explored the possibilities of mass communication just as the pop artists explored the possibilities of mass production. In the same sense that pop art is about commodities, Dylan’s art is about celebrity.”
The brilliance of Willis’ is that the above statement could just as easily be applied to the ongoing debate about Lady GaGa’s merit as an artist, and just as swiftly cut GaGa down at the knees, speaking in terms of artist as provocateur, artist as thief. Willis saw the connection between Warhol and Dylan, Jasper Johns and Jim Morrison. Artist was no longer artist, artist was an act and that act was the real truth. The ‘real’ Dylan, Robert Allen Zimmerman, whoever that might be was the artifice, the Dylan of Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, hopped trains and grew up at the foot of an old radio listening Woody Guthrie, even if the ‘real’ Dylan never saw a train car in his entire life or heard Guthrie till he reached his mid teens. That was not the Dylan of the world and that Dylan was useless to his art. The piece ends with a tip of the hat and mutual appreciation and respect for his performance both as a musician and artist. Like two cowboy outlaws passing peacefully in the street, Willis doesn’t walk away without acknowledging to the reader and Dylan himself, that she knows what he’s up to and that she’s allowing him to pass.
This is not to say that Dylan or great artists like him were beholden to Willis’ academic approval but only that her essays were some of the earliest works in which pop music was held to a higher standard. These criticisms of course were Willis’ ultimate love offerings to rock n roll: Her nascent ability to respect the music enough to take it seriously. It was her way of honoring its power.
Some of the artists lucky enough to be the beneficiaries of Willis’ love were Lou Reed, The Beatles, Elvis, and Creedance Clearwater. Reading these pieces one can’t help but wonder if she secretly relished this opportunity as a woman to dissect sacred cows. Her work never dealt in animus however, if anything, like Kale before her Willis’ writing offers the upmost respect to her subjects. Only that she takes men to task in ways that other male critics either did not notice or deem necessary. In the Rolling Stones essay, Sympathy for the Stones in which she acknowledges Mick Jagger’s sexuality not as a boyish immature affect but rather as a deep intrinsic part of who he was as a creative, she subtly hints that Jagger’s sexuality shouldn’t be toned down, but that other artists, possibly of the female variety, should be encouraged to emulate without repercussion. It is essays like this that laid the groundwork for modern pop feminist interpretation and analytical introspection.
If Dylan was the essay that put her on the map, then it is Janis Joplin that defined her as a music critic. It is a piece of writing not just loving in its appraisal of Janis as a fellow trailblazer but also interweaves Willis’ own story of self acceptance. A beautiful chunk of writing it must be read to be appreciated. As a template for analytical memoir and new journalism it is flawless, and in 2006 when Willis died of lung cancer, Salon ultimately chose it as the piece to eulogize her death.
It is a shame that Willis couldn’t live to see this collection come to light, but in many ways she had moved beyond music criticism years earlier on her own. When she passed she was an internationally recognized feminist and radical politico. The staffs she carried all pointed in the same direction: human equality, personal autonomy and freedom. Whether through the celebration of an album or the destruction of an absurd and sexist law, it was all the same to Willis, and perhaps she saw more than anyone that the space between the two was much smaller than we’d like to believe.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Jennifer Leopard is my new band crush.
A consistent fave. I love Katy's voice, it's like butter, and I especially love her sense of humor which is always present in her vids.
You know, I've always been a big supporter of Peaches as a person in the world and of her project. Peaches gets two thumbs up from me, however, I've never actually been a fan of Peaches actual music. A deal breaker for some, I know, but I'm advertising a bigger battle here so, anyway, this new Peaches song, Mud, is amazing. Is it because it doesn't sound at all like old Peaches? I don't know, but if this is the new direction she's going in, well, I endorse this. This video was also directed by the great Vice Cooler. What can't that guy do? I want to commission him to direct a video of me reading my book. I have musician envy.
Are you sick of this song yet? Surprisingly I'm not. I <3 Adele.
Sure, I'm down. Why not? I dig the basic bitches refrain.
Friday, June 10, 2011
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Swaddled in love, thats how I feel. Love and awesomeness. Erika played at the Echo and it was a fiery ball of red hot. It's awesome to watch your friends get to do the thing they love because they really shine. It's so rad to see people dig her. I mean, if you haven't bought Past Life Martyred Saints, hop to it. It's fucking blistering greatness. And if you have a chance to see her live, don't hesitate. Talent, it's a gift.
My mom was in town for my birthday and that was so lovely. We went to the arboretum and saw peacock babies and then home depot and bought flowers which she helped me plant. Then I had a wonderful potluck full of friends and dogs and good food. I couldn't have asked for a better afternoon. And then Nick on my actual birthday took me to Disneyland and my heart almost exploded from happiness. That is until we closed the evening with potato tacos at Al Atacor. The next day Heather, Jacqui and I all went to see Cathy DJ at the Smell for a riot grrl/zine/Crass fest.
I could sleep for a hundred years.
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Okay, so I saw Bridesmaids in the theatre twice it's so fucking funny. I can't even begin to describe the amount I cried from laughing so hard. Kristin Wiig and Melissa Mccarthy are my new Tina Fey and Amy Pohler. Not that I don't still LOVE T Pain and Amy Dawg, and I'm sure those two lovely ladies are super psyched that other funny women are getting the spotlight.
Here's an interview with Melissa conducted by the amazing Manny the movie guy who ps, is also AWESOME squared.
If you don't know about Manny click here for pure joy and happiness. Seriously, the fact that Manny is out there interviewing Melissa about her fucking kickass role in a female driven comedy makes my heart sing. Also, Rebel Wilson who plays Kristen's crazy ass roommate also sort of steals the movie. Everyone steals the movie! Don Draper and Kathy Najimy the nun from Sister Act steal the movie. The chick from the office and the other chick from Reno 911 and the chick who was the only person in Get Him To the stupid Greek that I didn't hate, steal the movie.
ANYWAY. I've been feeling rather girl powery lately. One of my bestest friends Alex click here, here, here and here from college came into town for work and it was a most magical brief encounter. I am already missing her beauty and big laugh and covered hand smirk and devious side chuckle. We did what girlfriends do, we got fish and chips, went to a bar- I had a mocktail, but the sentiment was the same- did face masks, drank rose tea and watched South Park, reminiscing the entire time about past episodes we watched together when we were neighbors back in Brooklyn, smoking cigarettes nearing morning, switching to Bev Hills 90210 while her boyfriend James banged on weird drums and keyboards in his music room waiting for our coven of two to disperse. Casa Bonita, Butters, Clyde Frog and so many others.
When I first met Alex we were both at Lang, I was interested in creative writing and feminism and she was interested in public health for women and children and also, feminism. The first time Alex remembers seeing me was at orientation, she says I had bangs. This is true, I did. And also that I talked about being older than everyone and that she wanted to talk to me because she had also lived on her own and was a tad older. We were 20 and 22, respectively. Grandmas, I know. I remember secretly following Alex down the subway to get to Times Square where we had both signed up for modern dance class. I didn't know how to take the train and she was in a light purple leotard and jeans and her hair was loose and she pulled it into a bun while walking down the steps- our school didn't have a traditional campus- I sat at the very far end of the subway car and she was holding onto the pole and I slipped off the train when she did and kept a few feet behind. I had no idea where I was going. When we got there we walked up a long flight of stairs in an old off Broadway dance rehearsal studio. The floors were waxed and wood and it had been at least three years since I had danced or worn dance clothes and it felt so good to be in front of those long mirrors again and to move my body and I watched her move her arms around and she had no idea I was watching. It was an exciting time.
Alex works now for Maila Mills, the most amazing bathing suit designer ever. She makes suits for real bodies and I was lucky enough to be asked to model for her. Malia is a wonderful smart chic rad lady feminist cancer survivor Hilary Clinton supporter positive fashion force. Seriously, I got a suit and is DIVINE. Click here to see her awesomeness.
And lastly, and perhaps most excitingly, two weeks ago I gathered at Masa in Echo park with an army of feminist music critics. It was in honor of many things, solidarity, Ellen Willis, and the east coast one that happened a couple weeks before ours. Just a few of the awesome women in attendance were the ladies who run the LA Rock Girls Camp and Jessica Hundley. It felt powerful and special and all sorts of gooey good feelings swelled up inside me. Especially since some twenty odd years earlier, Ellen Willis, my college mentor Ann Snitow and a group of other awesome ladies gathered together on the cover of New York Times Magazine to celebrate their huge strides for women back then. They laid the bricks for us now, and great women laid the bricks before them. I feel so blessed to be a woman.
Daiana taking our group shot.
Beautiful Margaret! And Evelyn McDonnnel who was just picked to be in Best Music Writing 2011!
The east coast photo. Hey, it's the terrific Ann Powers!
And lastly, for good measure, two of my favorite ladies, Biz and Alice. Shining examples of the fiery flame of feminism. Also, also, a special shoutout congratulations to Jhopps for inclusion in BMW 2011. She's tied with Christgua!