There’s something wrong if we’re having to default to a cultural script rather than following feeling.
Who likes to show Valentine’s Day a bit of love? Show of hands. I, for one, never have, because it has seemed to me that squishing expressions of love into one day of socially-approved heteronormative fluff is pretty empty. Apparently, however, you were in want of some musings on this holiday, readers, and in my journalistic strivings to bring it to you, I have, can we say, thought about it a little harder? This year, I’m going to overcome my dyed-in-the-wool side-eyeing cynicism and give Valentine’s another chance. That’s because what I resent is not actually the day itself, but what it represents about how culturally stagnant ideas of love are.
Amy Winehouse was born into a musical environment in which the dead-end kitsch of celebrity tabloid “journalism” and reality television were the truly dominant artforms of the age. It is that disenchanted world, in many ways, which was the subject of her art.
In the week since the death of English singer Amy Winehouse much newsprint, or the virtual equivalent, has been spent on her struggles with substance abuse. The analysis of her music, such as it is, has largely centred on her trademark song “Rehab” and its relationship to the addiction (or addiction de-tox) that may have claimed the singer at the early age of 27. But as magnificent a moment as “Rehab” is, such analysis is a reductive take on a far more interesting, albeit brief, body of artistic work.
There’s a moment in the videoclip for Amy Winehouse’s 2004 single “F*ck Me Pumps” where she sings in front of a nightclub called “Beyond Retro.” That, as much as anything, appeared to be something of a mission statement from the singer. Though her reference points ranged freely from jazz greats like Billie Holiday to Motown and Stax soul, Winehouse worked with producers Salaam Remi (the Fugees, Ms Dynamite) and Mark Ronson to produce at-once modern and retro-sounding soul music.
Retro has itself been a discussion of cultural criticism since at least 1984, the year after Amy Winehouse’s birth, when literary theorist Fredric Jameson introduced the idea of pastiche and the death of originality in postmodernism. But while this obsessive interest in the ephemera of the past was noted by Jameson in works such as Star Wars and American Graffiti, pop music paired this desire with a relentless futuristic invention for at least another decade and a half.
I too don’t want to be someone who doesn’t believe in any kind of magic.
Hey girl in the strobing light
What your mama never told ya
Love hurts when you do it right
You can cry when you get older – Robyn
Last weekend, an old friend of mine was in town. I jokingly introduced him to people by saying “I broke his heart in high school,” but that’s not exactly true even in the metaphorical territory of broken hearts.
He walked me home from the subway after drinks with a crew of other friends old and new and we talked about all the times we’d really had our hearts broken in the intervening years and at one point I shrugged something off and he told me I sounded like I’d lost the idea of magic. (more…)
Isn’t it the time now to think about real, long-term changes?
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The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood…Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another.
-George Orwell, “Can Socialists Be Happy?” 1943
I start with Orwell because people often forget that he remained a socialist even as he mounted critique after critique of the U.S.S.R. and other totalitarian-Communist states. Because the first argument one often faces in the U.S. when one suggests socialism as an alternative to the current political-economic structure is that Communism failed. But reading Orwell’s essays from the 40s, from an England struggling against Nazism on one side and yet learning of the brutality of Stalinism, is to remember that it is possible to have an intellectually honest critique of the states that called themselves socialist and to still advocate for socialism. (more…)
We make the bargain that we work for pay in order to have time and space to do the things we love.
I had a sort of vacation recently, a week or so out of the office in which I tried mightily not to do any work. I sat in coffee shops across Brooklyn, read books, scribbled notes, spilled my guts on a piece of paper or twelve and wondered why I was just struggling with vague anxiety the whole time.
Back at work this week, I felt my jangling nerves still, my muscles unlock, my body relax. See, work is more than what we do to pay the bills, sometimes. It’s what we do to make us feel human, too.
So it’s Labor Day here in the U.S. and I’m working anyway. I’m writing. Because that’s what I do, and as I noted to a friend a few days ago, sometimes me trying not to work is just trying to force myself into someone else’s idea of happiness. (more…)
Or maybe I can feel New Orleans shrugging at me and saying “Don’t cry for me, what good will your tears do?”
I’ve written so often that New Orleans is like a lost love I can’t bear to see again that it’s become a cliche, party of one. I haven’t been back since 2002, you see, and this year once again I couldn’t do it.
But that’s not really true. I visit my exes all the time (and not just because the Internet has made drive-bys a lot easier; you can do them on Facebook instead of having to have a car and be in the same town). I have to see for myself that they’re OK.If they aren’t, I just can’t handle it.
I had made tentative plans to go to New Orleans this year, though, and then the Deepwater Horizon well blew and oil saturated my beloved Gulf and I thought about a New Orleans with another haze of depression, tragedy, pain hovering over it, the threat of hurricane season not just possibly breaching levees that still, five years on, are not up to snuff, but pouring crude oil all over the city, coating still-devastated areas in toxic sludge far worse than the swampy cocktail that soaked into the city in August and September, 2005. (more…)
I can’t help but notice that gyms are their own miniature ecosystems, with different characters playing unique and wonderful roles.
I’m grateful that gyms exist; without them, I’m sure I would have turned to messier alternatives for stress relief, such as pooping in mailboxes and shouting at small dogs. But the more time I spend there, the more I can’t help but notice that gyms are their own miniature ecosystems, with different characters playing unique and wonderful roles. So come with me on a social safari through Your Local Gym.
“Alligators pretending to be logs”
If you’re me, the process of entering the gym is a very simple one: I walk through the doors, have my membership card scanned, and proceed to have my ego deflated as I lift relatively tiny weights next to a genetic hybrid of Enrique Iglesias and The Incredible Hulk. But if you’re an attractive girl, then you’re obligated to stop, smile, and chat for a few minutes with the guy behind the desk because he’s like, so happy to see you here! Isn’t that weird? Seeing you here? You know?!
Speaking realistically, you can only be so surprised to see somebody when they show up at the same time every day. Also, it’s a little suspicious when you’re only surprised to see the people the people with wavy hair, high cheekbones, and ≥B cup. It’s even more suspicious when you come over to see how a gentle walk on the elliptical is going, and just happen to strike up a conversation about favorite colors. And “suspicious” goes right out the window after lines like “How do you manage to work out and smell so good?” You might as well just take things to their logical conclusion and start talking about how the bottle of warm tequila in your cupboard at home is filled with anti-oxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. (more…)
Effort does not suddenly grant one immunity from disability.
The personal narrative is something I have avoid, because the naked honesty also leaves one extremely vulnerable to attack. Living in a marginalized body is difficult enough without showing one’s war wounds, but when it becomes clear that hiding is only enabling the complete erasure of people who look and function like me, then it is time to speak out. You see, I am fat, Black, female and differently abled.
I can never completely be at home with any one of the labels that best describe me. In the media, I can see Black women, or even fat black women, but fat and differently abled are definitely categories that are understood to be mutually exclusive. A body like mine contradicts the mainstream social discourse. (more…)
Hizbollah has Scuds now, it seems, and so the balance is threatened.
And then the conversation turned to the war. The next war.
I can’t remember how we rounded that corner, how we hit against that brick wall. It was last Friday, a beautiful evening, and we sat on a rooftop with a view of all there is to see in Tel Aviv – not that much, except for the sunset over the Mediterranean. It was a small party of Americans, most of them experienced with Israel, longtime residents if not citizens. Familiar with war, in other words. (more…)
Booze, drugs, birds and brawls.
Driving home from work this evening, I head the news that Corey Haim was dead. I guessed it was a drug overdose, but I didn’t guess how I would feel. Gutted. Stupid, I know, considering I’ve really only seen him in about three decent movies. The rest of his later dross I saw by mistake in bleary-eyed snippets after some heavy nights out.
When I crashed in front of the television, Haim appeared to me as a grotesque straight-to-video caricature of himself. I couldn’t tell you the titles. Jesus, I might have dreamt them up, but then, like today, all I could think was – this little f*cker used to be the bollocks. He made me laugh. That quiff, the long coat with the collar turned up, the way he peeked over his sunglasses, the singing in the bath and that classic line, “What are ya, the flying nun?”
Or was that the other Corey? (more…)
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