26 September 2007

Titular Bazaar

I've been buying music to reward myself for not smoking. I have a question for you if you'll bear with me.

The other day I snatched up Josie Cotton's 1982 "Convertible Music" on vinyl,as I couldn't resist the bubblegum flavor of the images it brought to mind, of a certain toe-wiggling collegesoul mate of mine and the allure of its flagship single,
"Johnny, Are You Queer?" - a song as bouncily charming as it is politically suspect (featured now on my myspace if you want a quick listen). It has been covered by The Go-Go's and Screeching Weasel and Cotton performed for a minute in a scene in the Nic Cage vehicle "Valley Girl." The song is pretty straightforward and fairly innocuous - the speaker is kind of into Johnny but he doesn't seem to reciprocate and "dances" a little too much "with his friends." Naturally she has some questions. Apparently, she has remarkably little tact. Now this is potentially offensive stuff, but as evidenced by the song's inclusion on this year's "A Date With John Waters" compilation, it is absorbed into kitsch pretty easily (if it didn't live there already). After all, this is a cultural artifact from the age of jive subtitles on "Airplane," C. Thomas Howell's blackface ticket to Harvard in "Soul Man," and depictions of gays as well-rounded as Lamar Latrell from "Revenge of the Nerds."

Just days later, I received in the mail my copy of the Phil Spector box set "Back to Mono," which I was able to get from Amazon at a shockingly discounted price. Spector's shit from the his 60s heyday is unbeatable - "Be My Baby," "Then He Kissed Me," Da Doo Ron Ron," etc. But there's a song on here called "He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)." Wow. Here's a sampling:

And when I told him I had been untrue /He hit me and it felt like a kiss / He hit me and I knew he loved me / 'Cause if he didn't care for me / I could have never made him mad /He hit me and I was glad

The song is performed by The Crystals (who do a number of amazing Spector songs) and co-written by Carole King. To listen, it doesn't sound as if there is any self-consciousness or dark social satire to it (like I argue there is in a song like Antony's Fistful of Love). But googling indicates that King and her partner wrote it to do some of that after hearing from Crystals frontwoman Little Eva that she had a boyfriend who hit her because he loved her. In any case, nobody liked the song in 1962. Now, with the specter of Spector's recently alleged violence against women, there's another layer of stickiness.

So my question for you is - can you think of other songs, not by marginal or cult bands, whose titles (and / or) lyrical content is equally bizaare or offensive?

25 September 2007

White Knight at the Organ Harvest - On Football, Race, and the Many Forms Taken By Evil

monster, n.

1. a. Originally: a mythical creature which is part animal and part human, or combines elements of two or more animal forms ... (Oxford English Dictionary)

In the 19th century, evil was written all over your face - with the sickgreen and stitches of Frankenstein's monster to the phantom lumps of racist-eugenic phsyiognomy and pseudo scientific criminology, there was always an excuse not to get to know someone different from you. After all, the real fear is MIXING - the occult and alchemical composition of the doctor's creation on the one hand and the affront to purity that is miscegenation on the other.

One of the most startlingly evil beings in the history of worlds real or fictional has to be Serpentor, who was fashioned by Cobra's Dr. Mindbender out of DNA extracted from the exhumed bodies of historical badasses like Atila the Hun, Genghis Khan, and Vlad the Impaler in order to rid the world of the G.I. Joe team, who had long frustrated Cobra with their ability to somersault unharmed through a constant barrage of LASER beams.

But perhaps an even more evil being was hypothetically conjured by (I can't remember which) network football jock-pundits who grafted parts tangible and intangible (but represented by organs through metaphor or synecdoche) belonging to actual NFL quarterbacks onto one ultimate quarterback who would likely lead a team of those FOX football robots who've been warming up and stretching their metal parts for long enough ... they're ready to play.

The anatomy of a quarterback looked something like this: HEAD - MANNING, HEART - BRADY, GUTS - FAVRE, ARM - McNABB, LEGS - VICK, BODY - CULPEPPER. We recognize this venerable monster: black guys = pretty on the outside, white guys = pretty on the inside. Manning as a leader is a barrage of signals and verbiage, from his commercial ubiquity to the effusive gestural language he deploys at the line, Peyton is football LITERATE - he has 'read' your defense. Brady is a 'winner,' eyeblacked eyes the tribal marker of the American tribe of winners, almost undrafted backup to Drew Bledsoe who willed himself to SuperBowl victory. Favre, with his Mississippi stubble-and-drawl, well, he'd never give up. Ever. And if he throws into triple coverage and gets picked off, it's because he's a 'gunslinger,' a glorybound outlaw among sniveling statisticians.

But Culpepper is a headcase. A headcase who rides 'sexboats.' Vick doesn't think on his feet but with his feet, if he keeps running, it'll cut down on his propensity to make poor decisions.
McNabb can throw the deep ball AND work the press conference, but during the conference championship he's vomiting chunky soup.

This is all a prelude to two events in the world of the NFL - one exhaustively discussed and one thus far mostly ignored: 1) The controversy sparked by McNabb's suggestion that the media are tougher on black quarterbacks and 2) The likely Sunday start at RB for Rams rookie Brian Leonard, who will fill in for ailing Stephen Jackson and will be white while doing it.

The reaction to McNabb seems to me tantamount to what we might call "the banality of racism," following Hannah Arendt's tract on "The Banality of Evil," in which she suggests that after the Nazis, "evil" can be bureaucratic, boring, and just following orders. Now this isn't to equate the kneejerk eyerolls of sports radio hosts with the horrors of war criminals, but rather to suggest that racism works systemically and most perniciously undercover at the water cooler. The mainstream media's frustration with McNabb finds them holding fast to a facile (and imaginary) colorblindness that gives any whiff of inequity the uncomfortable pungency of a fart in an elevator. And inevitably elicits the baffling claim that the deck is stacked the other way and loaded with "race cards." This is not to say that Manning isn't, in fact, impressively whipsmart and poised. Or that Michael Vick doesn't execute dogwarriors. But rather to suggest that neither quarterback can throw a ball all the way to a meritocratic raceless decontextualized utopia in a vacuum.

And this is why no one is discussing what to me seems to be a kind of earthshattering occurrence, the start of former Rutgers Scarlet Knight standout Leonard for the Rams on Sunday. Now sure, there are white fullbacks - Mike Alstott, Brad Hoover, Heath Evans, etc. But there has not been a white 1,000 yard rusher since Craig James for the 1985 Patriots. And I don't even know that there has been a starting featureback since then regardless of yardage totals. SO what are the implications? I have no idea whatsoever. But let's not pretend it isn't noteworthy. For the record, scary essentialist arguments are not entirely the province of the sons of hegemony. Witness this post on Leonard on something called "The Nation of Islam Sports Blog":

"Gradually, as time went on, the Negro proved to be a more qualified fit for the demands of the position of running back; vision, quickness, speed, durability, stength, power, explosiveness. All traditional athletic attributes common to the Negro. And lacking in most white athletes.Similarly, as time has gone on, the Negro is gradually assuming control of the QB position. Quick decision making, running ability, superior arm strength and unmatched determination have become the requisites to excel. Again, the position has gradually shifted to being tailor made for the Negro ... Clearly, the extinction of the white running back is a sign of evolution in the NFL. Natural selection. The absence of Negro QB's in the NFL was completely unnatural, and completely manufactured.In comparing the two, it becomes clear. If you are someone who appreciates the positive evolution of the game and understands that weakness selects itself out of the league; well, then you should anxiously be awaiting the extinction of the white QB."

I don't know, I'm thinking.

21 September 2007

Out of Thin Hair, An Inverted Samson

Anthropologists speculate that the functional significance of long headhair may be adornment, a by-product of secondary natural selection onceother somatic hair had been lost. Another possibility is that long headhair is a result of Fisherian runaway sexual selection, where long lustroushair is a visible marker for a healthy individual.

I have shaved off my hair. Not to sap my strength but to rally it. Not toremove myself from the buffet line of natural selection but to enticechicks to rub my head.

As a symbol, the peach fuzz is larval, caterpillular. I have come UN-LOCKED.

Aesthetically, a disguise.

Like a swimmer's shorn aerodynamism it should promote freedom of movement.The hippies would grow their hair to flaunt a sort of freedom of social movement, but history has consistently shown that hippies are dumb.

Tonsure is the religious practice of head-shaving among Hindus, Buddhists,and some sects of Christianity. Turning from the ephemoral fashions of the material to the immutable spirit realm. For Christians, the bald head reflects the light of the Son.

In the military, headshaving is a symbol of discipline that veers moretoward an evacuation of spirit that facilitates the Foucauldian docile body, a killing machine, a unit of meat to be arranged tactically, bent like a plastic action figure.

A shaved head can indicate a racist ideology, as in skinheads. A shaved head can also indicate a pointedly antiracist ideology, as in (other)skinheads.

After WWII, in France, women who had associated with Nazi occupiers had their hair shaved in order to punish and humiliate them.

Hair is shaven to prepare for surgery, actual or virtual (a rewiring of one's hardwiring).


BLOG! is the sound of virtual vomit, as our collective insides lurch out orangeyellow with chunks of our day from the openmouths of our fingertips, the public-ation of our private thoughts, the outer of our innermost, a culture on the expression express. Our hearts on our sleeves, only mustard stains and snot where they used to beat in our chests. We are the sons and daughters of Samuel Pepys, as Uncle Walt dipped his balls in ink and sang hisself and Taylor Hix, one nation under us.

Let us be naked and shiver, an end to leatherbound with sash, death to black-and-white mottled composition books! The keyboard is a threshold, the space of first contact, the "screening" of thought.

BLOG! is an alien. MYSPACE - the prosthetic frontier ... as the 80s (Minneapolitan?) new-wave band Information Society warbled with precious prescience in "Pure Energy," "I want to know what you're thinking, there are some things you can't hide / I want to know what you're feeling, Tell me what's on your mind."