Sometimes you have to remind people that a critic can mock something, deride it even, and still love it, or at least love parts of it. This is always how I read Meltzer and Bangs on the Doors. In one of his early reviews of them (I forget of which album), Meltzer calls the band (not even Morrison, but the band) “ridiculous” but means it, I’m pretty sure, in a way that is entirely complimentary. Bangs referred to Morrison as a bozo, but also was intensely moved by some of their music; in the Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, he suggests that “Light My Fire” paved the way for “Gimme Shelter” (an argument I think Greil Marcus picked up in his recent book on the band). One of the trends I find disconcerting in so much music criticism today is that writers seem unwilling to acknowledge the idea that ridiculousness and pretensiousness and buffoonery sometimes don’t prevent great music, and in fact, sometimes lead directly to great music.
—Scott Woods, “Critics Are Strange”
In 1997, NBC canceled the sitcom “The Single Guy” after two seasons; it had an audience of 20.1 million people. This month, NBC is on the verge of renewing “Parks and Recreation,” which has an audience of 2.5 million, which tells you everything you need to know about the dwindling viewership for network TV. The highest-rated show this season among 18- to 49-years-olds — the demographic advertisers really care about — is not even a network show: it’s AMC’s “Walking Dead,” a cable show that drew a total of 12.4 million viewers for its recent season finale.
—Willa Paskin, “Network TV Is Broken. So How Does Shonda Rhimes Keep Making Hits?”
From the 19th century onward, liberally educated people from a variety of backgrounds have had at least four ways of responding to the onward march of industrial capitalism and state-supported ideology: they can become bourgeois (like most college professors), they can become anarchists (which means dropping out and behaving badly, like Rimbaud, Tzara and the Sex Pistols), they can become aesthetes (like Baudelaire, Wilde, Joyce, Woolf, and all the great modernists), or they can become revolutionary political activists (like Mother Jones, Lenin, Fanon and Malcolm X).
—James Naremore, Movie Mutations
Everything is at once hideous and hilarious, from the gory apparition of the parasitic creature in the bathtub to the zombielike orgy in the swimming pool at the end. [Shivers] neither idealizes nor condemns these transgressive moments of physical violation and orgiastic excess. Rather, it slyly suggests that the bourgeois sexual ‘revolution’ in fact merely reproduces the aggressive, hysterical logic of a commodified competitive society. Transgression is not transcendence.
Cronenberg is thus equally skeptical of “left-Fruedian” visions of personal and social liberation through the lifting of repression, and of right-wing claims that desire must always be repressed because it is inherently evil and disruptive. These positions are, in fact, mirror images of one another. They both posit a soul, an originary human essence—whether good or evil—and ignore the shady complicity that always already contaminates desire with the regulation and repression of desire. Humanist visions of unlimited freedom and conservative visions of original sin (or of inevitable limits) both strive to reject monstrosity, to deny the violent ambivalence of bodily passion. Harmonious utopian projections and anxious defenses of the status quo alike betray a continuing need to idealize, a panic in face of the excesses of the flesh. Both ideologies are trying to transcend the anxiety and insecurity implicit in the state of being a body.
—Steven Shaviro, “Bodies off Fear: The Films of David Cronenberg”
Teachers are often unaware of the gender distribution of talk in their classrooms. They usually consider that they give equal amounts of attention to girls and boys, and it is only when they make a tape recording that they realize that boys are dominating the interactions.
Dale Spender, an Australian feminist who has been a strong advocate of female rights in this area, noted that teachers who tried to restore the balance by deliberately ‘favouring’ the girls were astounded to find that despite their efforts they continued to devote more time to the boys in their classrooms. Another study reported that a male science teacher who managed to create an atmosphere in which girls and boys contributed more equally to discussion felt that he was devoting 90 per cent of his attention to the girls. And so did his male pupils. They complained vociferously that the girls were getting too much talking time.
In other public contexts, too, such as seminars and debates, when women and men are deliberately given an equal amount of the highly valued talking time, there is often a perception that they are getting more than their fair share. Dale Spender explains this as follows:
The talkativeness of women has been gauged in comparison not with men but with silence. Women have not been judged on the grounds of whether they talk more than men, but of whether they talk more than silent women.
In other words, if women talk at all, this may be perceived as ‘too much’ by men who expect them to provide a silent, decorative background in many social contexts. This may sound outrageous, but think about how you react when precocious children dominate the talk at an adult party. As women begin to make inroads into formerly ‘male’ domains such as business and professional contexts, we should not be surprised to find that their contributions are not always perceived positively or even accurately.
Lana Turner, photographed by Laszlo Willinger (via)
I really like inc.’s album. It’s my favorite album of the year, for whatever that’s worth in early March. It seems like more people feel “eh” (or worse) about it, which I understand — it’s slight by design. But the album has also been swimming upstream in some circles because it’s indie R&B, both literally (it’s on 4AD) and in terms of aesthetics. This, I think, is unfair — but that’s not the real issue.
Creatures of the internet who grew up on pop or R&B or rap have been bred to cast suspicion on our indie rock friends and foes. How open and adventurous are they as listeners? What are their worldviews? Are they SECRET RACISTS? Et cetera. That mindset is not totally without reason, but it’s also not at all disentangled from the infiltration of R&B into indie rock culture.
In fact, of course, there is a direct connection. A decade-plus (nb: I’m confining this discussion to the Pitchfork era, more or less) of the cool kids telling the squares what they ought to like has finally led to what we have now: Indie rock audiences elevating R&B albums to the same level as canonized indie records, indie rock audiences breaking major R&B acts before R&B audiences and indie rockers making their own R&B music.
This is what people wanted, right? Or maybe, it turns out, it’s just what people wanted in theory. Regardless, it’s more than a bit disingenuous to spend years imploring indie audiences to open their ears to R&B only to turn around and shut the doors after R&B has been listened to, loved and internalized to the point where it’s influencing indie music. It’s a cycle of shame where the blame is now being passed off onto the victim.
Which is to say this: if you’re going to cop to fathering the style, it makes you an asshole to abandon the baby.