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”
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.” —
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.
PITCHFORK. So if there is no difference between popular music and commercial music nowadays, does that mean that there is no space for resistance to commercialism?
TIMOTHY TAYLOR. I think there is: Kids who have a garage band but don’t have any intention of signing with a label, or people who sing in a church choir, are a form of resistance. For another project, I’ve been interviewing indie rock musicians here in L.A., mostly associated with Burger Records. I interviewed one person who doesn’t copyright her music, has a day job, and doesn’t have an interest in trying to make a living as a musician. She told me that her goal is to try to stay in the shadows. So I think the only way to resist capitalism now is not so much to try to overthrow it—I don’t think that’s going to happen—but to do things that capitalism doesn’t care about, or is not interested in. A lot of people who don’t have any interest in making a living at music derive a lot of pleasure from playing or singing, and that pleasure matters.” —“The Sounds of Capitalism”
“We looked at how we had constructed some of our more unusual songs, and a lot of them were made from concrete music, found sounds, and we looked at what we had explored in the past and we were trying not to repeat ourselves, and, well, we’ve done trains; we’ve done machinery. And then I actually said to myself “I realise now that everything that we’ve sampled from the real world – trains, machines, computers, guns, typewriters – they were actually accidental”. The audio that we had sampled was a waste product from the specific design function of whatever it was that we had recorded.
Let me clarify that: a typewriter is designed to type things onto a page, not make a clicking noise when you hit the key. A steam engine is not designed to go ‘chuff chuff’. That’s an audio waste product of the inefficiency of its engine. And as the world has modernised, the accidental audio by-products, waste products, of the things that have become concrete music are going to be less and less because the designers have designed out the waste so that the machinery of the modern world has actually become more silent.”
I trimmed the quote a bit to zoom in on this really interesting point about “audio waste”
I was thinking the other day about how there aren’t songs anymore with found-audio samples from interviews, like “Little Fluffy Clouds.” It was such a thing in the 90s, and now it’s not. What happened? If anything, it’s become easier to find these sorts of things. And I think that’s precisely the problem. Before, these snippets were rare, passed around on cassettes or bought as secondhand records at flea markets. But now, almost any interesting moment from media in the past lives on YouTube, and everyone has access to them. If you put them in a song, the listener hears someone playing a YouTube clip, not the sounds themselves. In the 90s, though, they would be hearing the obscurity, the rarity, the unexpectedness. The clip functioned as a signal of something ephemeral and therefore magic captured and preserved by an audio connoisseur. Now, however, it’s just another banal aspect of everyday life. You might as well put the audio from “David After Dentist” on your electro track. And you can do that, of course - but it will mean something very different now than it did then.
Gilles Deleuze, Coldness and Cruelty
I haven’t put all the pieces together, but I was thinking about the Weeknd recently when this passage came to mind. It seems highly relevant to the Weeknd’s aesthetic.
I. The critic is the strategist in the literary battle.
II. He who cannot take sides should keep silent.
III. The critic has nothing in common with the interpreter of past cultural epochs.
IV. Criticism must talk the language of artists. For the terms of the cenacle are slogans. And only in slogans is the battle-cry heard.
V. “Objectivity” must always be sacrificed to partisanship, if the cause fought for merits this.
VI. Criticism is a moral question. If Goethe misjudged Holderlin and Kleist, Beethoven and Jean Paul, his morality and not his artistic discernment was at fault.
VII. For the critic his colleagues are the higher authority. Not the public. Still less posterity.
VIII. Posterity forgets or acclaims. Only the critic judges in face of the author.
IX. Polemics mean to destroy a book in a few of its sentences. The less it has been studies the better. Only he who can destroy can criticize.
X. Genuine polemics approach a book as lovingly as a cannibal spices a baby.
XI. Artistic enthusiasm is alien to the critic. In his hand the artwork is the shining sword in the battle of the minds.
XII. The art of the critic in a nutshell: to coin slogans without betraying ideas. The slogans of an inadequate criticism peddle ideas to fashion.
XIII. The public must always be proved wrong, yet always feel represented by the critic.
I remember the first time I read something Moraga had written and it really affected me, but this was the first time I read something so impactful, true and close to home that it made me cry.
GRIMES: I think about that. I find it extremely obnoxious. My image seems to be so infantilized and I don’t really know why. It belittles the music. Maybe it’s because my voice is high-pitched. I look at my peers and I’m actually three or four years older than Azealia Banks or Sky Ferreira. I’m 24. I’m not a kid, but my image is very teenaged. Maybe it’s my fault. I was very into K-Pop and J-Pop when I made “Vanessa” and “Oblivion.” Those videos are kind of cutesy. And when I made them, I didn’t even think of that resonating with people. But I can see how it would. The sexual [stigma] is more dangerous than the cute thing. I see a lot of female artists who have a sexual image — it’s almost impossible for them to be taken seriously in a critical sense. And that’s really scary. If you focus too much on development of the visual angle, it could be a detriment to what you’re doing musically.” —From Jessica Hopper’s Grimes interview.
Leonard Cohen on his song “Dance Me to the End of Love”
Change is a motherfucker when you run from it. And right now, the conservative movement in America is fleeing from dramatic change that is certain and immutable. A man of color is president for the second time, and this happened despite a struggling economic climate and a national spirit of general discontent. He has been returned to office over the specific objections of the mass of white men. He has instead been re-elected by women, by people of color, by homosexuals, by people of varying religions or no religion whatsoever. Behold the New Jerusalem. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a white man, of course. There’s nothing wrong with being anything. That’s the point.
This election marks a moment in which the racial and social hierarchy of America is upended forever. No longer will it mean more politically to be a white male than to be anything else. Evolve, or don’t. Swallow your resentments, or don’t. But the votes are going to be counted, more of them with each election. Arizona will soon be in play. And in a few cycles, even Texas. And those wishing to hold national office in these United States will find it increasingly useless to argue for normal, to attempt to play one minority against each other, to turn pluralities against the feared “other” of gays, or blacks, or immigrants, or, incredibly in this election cycle, our very wives and lovers and daughters, fellow citizens who demand to control their own bodies.” —David Simon, “Barack Obama and the Death of Normal”
It doesn’t ever make sense to pit these kinds of struggles against oppression, discrimination, and just plain ignorance against one another (hello, intersectionality!), and in fact, I think doing so, and prioritizing one over the others (as Marxists did with class, which admittedly seemed like a good idea at the time), is kind of a hallmark of an outdated paradigm.
On the other hand, there are two ways we could more approvingly look at what Joe Biden said. First, it’s a rhetorical statement, as are most statements by politicians. There’s an important distinction to be made between speech that’s representative (accurately depicting an objective reality) and speech that’s generative (creating a new reality). I see Biden’s statement as being more generative: saying what he said communicated something very essential to the woman with whom he was speaking—the whole thing was part of a conversation, not a speech, after all—and put an issue on the political map that wasn’t really there before on a mainstream level. In that sense, it doesn’t matter if what he said is true, because it’s more valuable as a statement that redirects our attention to places where it hasn’t been and where it is needed.
But also, I think there’s another way to look at it. People get upset when you say one “civil rights issue” is the most important one, but in another sense, maybe it’s just that each era is defined by the issues that surface at the time. The late 1950s and early 1960s were defined by issues of race. That doesn’t mean that race isn’t an issue after that, nor that it somehow takes a backseat to other issues, but that it is no longer the emergent issue of that era. In the last few years, the right of gays and lesbians to get married was emergent in a way it wasn’t before, and the force of that is quite strong: already, I feel, there is so much more acceptance and embrace of difference re: sexuality among young people, like a radical shift from previous generations (even mine, and I’m only 27).
The reasons why the rights of trans people matter now are numerous. It’s a life or death matter for many. They constitute a relatively small minority of people, but to ignore the urgency of what they face every day would be inhuman. It’s not like being or not being able to get married, it’s about the right to even be recognized as who you ever (sometimes even by yourself). But also, I think it’s important because, for one, feminism is meaningless if it ignores trans people (and feminism is really, really important) and, secondly, gender is this giant, domineering force in our society, one I would argue is even more fundamental than sexuality, and there’s an urgent need for us to enlighten ourselves about it.
That’s why these issues transcend the groups they affect directly: combating misogyny affects women but also men, confronting homophobia affects gays and lesbians but also the straights, and opposing transphobia gets to the core of the gender mess that I think plagues the lives of even cis people. In some ways, and of course I can’t speak for them and don’t want to minimize what they are going through, I imagine there’s something really powerful about being trans (and we should regard it as just another awesome facet of being human) because it forces you to reflect on your gender identity more consciously. The whole nation could stand to do that (and I bet cis folks would learn a lot about themselves in the process), and if there’s the momentum, I don’t see why we shouldn’t see this issue as a defining one of the era in which we live.