On the shuttle bus that was taking us from Port Authority to the Miley Cyrus concert, which I had affectionately dubbed the Bangerz Express, Jordan, Dombal and I were having a decidedly un-#Bangerz conversation about the lack of effective ways to record interviews on an iPhone. This is what writers do when we hang out with other writers, and we rarely even realize how lame we’re being until someone outside our bubble reveals that they’ve been listening. When we had exhausted the topic, a Miley fan sitting behind us popped up above our headrests and asked, “Are you guys, like, interviewers?” We had to admit that we were, yes. “Are you interviewing Miley?” Sadly, we were not. “We’re just going for fun,” Dombal said. Genuinely surprised, this Miley fan said, “Wow, it’s really cool that you guys would do something like that.” As in, like… have fun.
I want to believe her shock there is unwarranted. But unfortunately I think she might be onto something, because sometimes I worry that “fun” and “music writing” are like oil and water.
Dombal was lying, slightly. We were there to report on the show, but we’d sort of created the assignment ourselves, based off the fact that we just thought it would be fun to go to the Bangerz Tour. And, duh, it was. The next day, while we were putting together our report and trying to find usable footage of Miley Cyrus singing “FU” to a puppet that has been accurately described as “Puff the Magic Dragon’s deadbeat son,” everybody on Twitter was up in arms about some op-ed the New York Times Magazine had run decrying the rise of “poptimism”. Now, I agree with the general concept of poptimism, but that word never fails to make me want to barf, because 99+% of people who listen to pop music do not have to come up with some kind of factionalized team name in order to enjoy it—they just fucking like what they like. And maybe that was part of the reason why going to the Bangerz Tour was so refreshing and yes I will even say life-affirming: Nobody there was trying to debate, like, Ted Gioia’s Daily Beast article between sets. 99+% of the girls (yes, they were mostly girls) there would not know/care about what “rockism” meant, or whatever insider-baseball circle jerk the “music writing community” was engaged in that day. They were just there to freak out over the music they loved. And I looked around at them with their pigtail buns and their BOUT THAT LIFE crop tops and their “Miley Cyrus Bangerz Tour” inflatable bananas (I am very jealous I did not get to buy one of these before the merch kiosk sold out) and I remembered being like them and feeling like nobody took seriously the things I liked, all I wanted to do was write things for them. Not above them, or below them, but to them. I am so profoundly bored with writing for the 1%.
A little while after we posted our write-up, a few Miley fan accounts started tweeting it. One of them called it, “a thoughtful and in-depth review” of the tour; a girl whose Twitter name was Katniss Everdeen called it “one of the best reviews I’ve read in a while.” Maybe it was the lack of sleep of the #BangerzHangover or most likely the tragic death of Floyd Cyrus, but I was already feeling kind of emosh on Friday and seeing those tweets almost made me cry. For some reason, this immediately felt like the highest praise I’ve received in a long time. Everybody going on and on about this poptimism thing had only reminded me that there is a tremendous gulf between most of the people who listen to music and most of the people who write about it. I have started thinking lately that social media has made us all too connected, has made it too easy to find like-minded people at the expense of unique viewpoints, too easy to burrow into niche conversations and tune out the larger world around you. For music writers, it’s easy to write something that will rile up that 1%; it’s harder (but in my mind, a much more noble challenge) to write something that resonates outside the bubble. So I don’t know, maybe next time you’re wasting time and energy on some shirts-vs.-blouses/poptimists-vs.-rockists/us.-vs.-them debate, remember the girl sitting behind you on the Bangerz Express, the one for whom the whole idea of being “an interviewer” is refreshingly foreign and novel. She’s listening, if you’re willing to treat her like a potential reader.
You know that feeling when you’re playing a game of Tetris that you already know you’re losing and then it speeds up and out of nowhere a cruel and previously unimaginable amount of blocks fall on your head? That’s how I felt when I heard it was going to snow a foot today. Another foot. This winter has taunted me and tested me and done really shitty things to people I love. In one last attempt to counteract that, I asked one of my most optimistic and level-headed friends to come with me last night to see Julianna Barwick play at a church in Brooklyn Heights. “This winter is killing me,” she said on the subway platform. That is how I knew we were all doomed.
I can safely say I have never experienced anything quite like this show. I can’t remember the last time I saw an audience express emotion so openly and unashamedly; the house lights weren’t even down. When I listen to Julianna’s music, and her latest record Nepenthe in particular, I picture it as this cool mist over a grey lake. Last night it felt more like steam, as though she had poured this huge vat of warm water on our frozen but now thawing hearts. During every single song I could hear people around me crying. I could hear my friend crying. I cried a little, too. Something about this winter has been exceptionally difficult for every single person I know, and when I glanced around the room what I saw was a bunch of people locked in their private winter tragedies, probably thinking to themselves on top of everything, “Another foot?” So how generous of Julianna to bring us all back to life, to gather us in the folds of these things she very humbly calls songs. (At a Julianna Barwick show, you almost have to laugh when she floats back down to earth to dispense with formalities like “Thanks for coming out tonight” and “OK I have one more for you guys.”) When it was over I felt lighter, cleaner, ready, strong. My friend and I blew our noses and walked back out into the world. “Let it snow,” I said.
When I first moved to New York and didn’t have a job I used to go to Village East by myself a lot in the mornings, because I was broke and all the showings before noon were $6, and also I guess on some level because I was lonely and wanted to get out of my apartment and put myself in situations where I might have brief but meaningful conversations with strangers. I would always sit in the balcony. Most of the people who go to showings before noon at Village East—or any movie theater, really—are either very weird or very, very old, and there are generally few enough of us weirdos/olds that we give each other lots of space: entire rows to lord over and unspoken permission to put your feet up on the seat. Only this one time, when I went to see The Master in dazzling 70mm, an assertively perfumed woman in a pillbox hat who had to have been 90 years old sat down in the seat right next to me; I guess as you get older you discard the shame involved in admitting that you are doing something because you’re lonely. She didn’t say a word to me before or during the movie, and during certain scenes—when Joaquin Phoenix fucks a woman made out of sand and then jerks off into the ocean; when all the women in the movie are suddenly naked for no apparent reason; The Angry Handjob Scene—I stiffened in my seat, wondering what this elegant, pillbox-hatted lady was thinking. Did she know what she was getting into here? Was she offended? Would she walk out? She didn’t, though, and when the credits began to roll she turned to me looking very satisfied and declared in the most fabulous Old New York accent, “Philip Seymour Hoffman is a marvelous actor.” Then she stood up without another word and walked away.
“Like so many thrilling things women do—fucking or hitchhiking, being demoniacally ambitious or telling an asshole to stick a chainsaw in his eye—society tells us that growing up leads to ruin. Yes, you get older, but you can also grow tougher, kinder, braver. You can claw out the life you wanted. But as you age, the world will tell you you’re less worthy, even if you know that’s a lie. If there’s one thing society won’t stand for, it’s for a woman to be content.”—I can’t get that Molly Crabapple essay out of my mind!
“My friend Malcolm told me a story about pronghorns recently, the North American creatures sometimes confused with antelopes. They can run at speeds of nearly sixty miles an hour, much, much faster than any of their existing predators. Some biologists think they’re still outrunning the dangerous species that went extinct at the end of the Pleistocene, specifically the cheetahs that existed on this continent. And then Malcolm asked what each of us is still outrunning and whether we can tell when our predator has been extinct for ten thousand years.”—Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby
“You love the saints for what they do. They’re self-invented people who’ve worked hard to attain some state of grace. George Mosher, the horse logger on Bowen Hill, is a kind of saint. But Jesus is like a girl. He doesn’t have to do anything. You love him ‘cause he’s beautiful.”—I just read this passage from Chris Kraus’s I Love Dick and I swear I understand 100% of "Tropico" now
So after an agonizing five months of false leads, writer’s block, and people coming up to me at parties being like, “Whatever happened to that column you used to write?”, the new installment of Ordinary Machines FINALLY went up today. It’s about holograms (*excuse me*, “original virtual performances”), immortality, and how hip-hop turned a bizarre technology used to bring corporate CEOs back from the dead into way of paying tribute to a man who rapped about welfare and called himself Dirt McGirt. Read it here.
(Above: crucial screengrab from Big Pun’s posthumous 2001 animated video "How We Roll". Rap game Botero.)
I quit Twitter for a week, last week. I had a lot of reasons, most of which I don’t want to tell you, but here is one that I will: I woke up last Tuesday, unthinkingly checked my @ replies before I’d even gotten out of bed (I do this more often than I’d like to admit, but you probably do too) and saw one (I guess from someone who disagreed with something I’d written) that said, roughly, “I’m going to find out where you live so I can come take a shit on your head.” Not the worst thing anyone has ever said to me on the internet, but for some reason this was the day I thought to myself, “Yeah, let’s just see what it feels like to not even do this anymore.”
It felt good. Really good. On the second day I started telling people that it was like “a juice cleanse for my brain,” which for the record is probably the only kind of juice cleanse I would ever be interested in doing. I found myself using my internet time productively and mindfully; I replied to a bunch of starred and unread emails that had been clogging my inbox and unsubscribed to a “14-day free trial” of something I’d accidentally started paying for. My friends kept me up to speed on the best of what I was missing, which was basically just this tweet. On the sixth day, I offered up a long, rambling explanation to someone about why I was doing this, and when I was done she plucked out this one sentence I hadn’t even realized I’d said: “The nice comments have started to make me feel as shitty as the mean ones.”
Writers and artists have always had to learn this at some point in their careers, that to continue doing your work you have to learn how to detach from both the retweets and the subtweets, the praise and the blame. But it is this absolute faith in measurement that I am sick of. The idea that something I wrote that got 37 retweets was more “successful” than something that got four. I know in my head that this is dumb and not entirely true (I try to always keep in mind Cheryl Strayed’s definition of success: “Did I do the work I needed to do, and did I do it like a motherfucker?”), but it’s hard not to crave those little dopamine rushes that come from seeing a bunch of people passively “like” or “<3” something you have written. And as with any kind of craving the bar keeps getting set higher, so that it takes more and more of them to make you feel something.
Like 85% of people on the subway right now, I am reading a collection of Alice Munro’s short stories. There’s a part in the introduction where she says that she doesn’t like to talk about the early stages of her work too much, “because they are hard to explain and tend to fade away anyway after the story has been put out into the world and become a stranger to me.” I liked that last part best. Maybe the only way to psychically survive doing something like this in the long run is to let go a little bit, to surrender to the fact that no matter how much you try to reply to every tweet and email and how tightly you try to control the conversation about your work, the things you will publish will eventually become strangers to you.
I logged back into Twitter yesterday morning. I wondered what sort of @ replies I’d been missing—what if an editor for a place I’d really wanted to write for was trying to contact me? what if someone had said something very nice and I hadn’t responded and now they thought I was an asshole?—but as you can imagine it was pretty anticlimactic. You are the best! You are the WORST. I’m so glad you wrote this! How dare you write this! And (honestly): “YOU LIE.”
The time away must have helped, because I felt pretty detached from it all. Still, I don’t want this to seem like I don’t like talking to people about things I write. I try to reply in kind to every email I receive. Sometimes, even on Twitter, someone will point out something or disagree with me in a way that makes me think about something I’ve written in a whole new way. That is awesome, but I’m just saying that the internet makes new and arguably unreasonable demands on writers so it is OK and maybe even advisable to opt out of all of this every once in a while. If you did the work you needed to do the piece should (on most occasions) speak well enough for itself. It is OK, also, to think of your ideal reader as the one who doesn’t like or favorite or RT or email, or maybe the one who will surprise you with a long message out of the blue about something you wrote three years ago. Though it’s hard to remember in an environment that constantly demands that we show ourselves and be measurable and “present,” those people are lurking out there too. I swear.
Silence is immeasurable on the internet. And especially in Western cultures, silence freaks people out. Too often we interpret it as fragility, or retreat, or an admission that someone was wrong. But silence can also be a song, or a joke, or a kind of rebellion. Silence can even be an answer. When I logged back in yesterday, one of the funniest things I saw was that someone had subtweeted me because they disagreed with a review I’d written, but their friend had tagged me in a reply to the subtweet just to guarantee that I would see it. When I didn’t respond right away, this person tweeted, “What do you have to say for yourself @lindsayzoladz?? The people demand answers!” What this person did not seem to realize was that I was already giving one.
“She knew there were only small joys in life—the big ones were too complicated to be joys when you got all through—and once you realized that, it took a lot of the pressure off. You could put the pressure aside, like a child’s game, its box ripped to flaps at the corners. You could stick it in some old closet and forget about it.”—Lorrie Moore, “Joy”
When the pawn hits the conflicts he thinks like a king What he knows throws the blows when he goes to the fight And he’ll win the whole thing ‘fore he enters the ring There’s no body to batter when your mind is your might So when you go solo, you hold your own hand And remember that depth is the greatest of heights And if you know where you stand, then you know where to land And if you fall it won’t matter, cause you’ll know that you’re right
In 2000, when I was 13 and my sister was 10, she made an RPG called “Chelsea’s World” starring the members of my family. My dad’s only speaking part is “I’m on the internet and it says, ‘Ralph Nader LOSES.’” What follows is my appearance in full.
“If you are curious, you have to sit and see what happens. You have to wait on the beach until it gets cold, and you have to invest in a glass-bottomed boat, which is more expensive than a fishing rod, and puts you in the path of the elements. The curious are always in some danger. If you are curious you might never come home.”—Jeanette Winterson
There is this thing I want to write. I’ve been thinking about writing it for years. It will need to be longer than anything I have ever written before (or more accurately, longer anything I have ever published before, and please don’t ask me any more questions about that, Internet) and it is related to the sort of topic that is so vague and all-encompasing that you could spend (waste?) an entire lifetime “researching” it. But I’ve been researching it. I’ve read books about it, though only when I finished reading them did I realize they were about it, and I’ve had conversations with people that a day later felt like they may have been interviews, accidentally. What I have, though, is a lot to say about it. Very often, that is enough.
I recently realized that the greatest fear in my life right right now— even greater than my fear of rats, and man do I hate those guys— is that I will talk myself out of writing this thing. And I also realized that my second greatest fear in life is that I will spend like fifteen years writing and crumpling up first drafts of this thing, and that if I ever finish it, I will realize that I probably could have written it in a year, or six months, or given a particularly cruel editor, a week. And then I will just think of all the other things I could have been writing in those fourteen wasted years, that is my second greatest fear. My third greatest fear will always be rats.
So I decided today that I am going to be a forgiving but firm editor to myself: on September 1, 2014, this thing is going to exist, in some form. It probably will not exist if I don’t post this here, so all I’m saying is please hold me to it, Internet.
On the seventh hour of the second day of being stranded in and around O’Hare International Airport, a woman sitting behind me exclaimed to another woman sitting behind me, “What is your secret?” The second woman had just revealed her age (60), and the first woman just couldn’t believe it.
"Well, I guess our secret is that my husband and I don’t really eat like other people eat,” the 60 year-old woman said. “We eat a very low-glycemic diet. We don’t eat pasta or rice or anything like that. Every morning I drink a shake full of green things.”
"I guess it helps that you are married to a doctor," the astonished woman said.
"Yes, that and that I am a professional ballroom dancer," the 60 year-old woman actually said.
"Oh you just look so amazing, I can’t get over it, is it weird if I ask to get a picture with you?"
At this point, I was doing what you can’t help but do when you overhear a conversation like this going on behind you: imagining what the mystery woman looked like, and feeling badly about myself because of how much of a slobby loser I was comparison to this imaginary but surely ravishing ballroom-dancing, earth-mother-goddess-person. I thought of her green-thing shakes, and then I thought of all of the slop I had eaten on my trip, including a dinner the night before some friends and I had enjoyed at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. I also thought of the $4 pints of beer I’d drunk with dinner, because every night is ladies’ night at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill. I semi-drunkenly took a picture with a man in a Twinkie costume on this trip, I suddenly remembered. That was my secret.
I stood up just in time to see the two of them posing for the picture. I think I actually jumped because the 60 year-old woman had one of the most frightening and inexpressive plastic surgery faces I have ever seen. I walked to the Starbucks kiosk at the end of the gate, ordered a cinnamon chip scone, and, standing purposely in the woman’s line of vision, chewed the whole goddamn thing with my mouth open. I hadn’t felt that beautiful in months.
“I had asked [Sidney Lumet] during one of our first talks why he had given up acting and he had begun a long explanation about how acting was a faggot’s career and how he knew that if he was ever going to give a woman a real human relationship, etc., and I had simply jotted down “too short for acting career.””—The fact that Pauline Kael’s essay “The Making of The Group" is currently out of print/not on the internet is one of the great tragedies of our time.
A couple of years ago, I watched the Pixies documentary loudQUIETloud with someone who didn’t get Kim Deal. “Why are all of these people freaking out over her?” he asked, intoning the last word like Michael Bluth. How do you explain to somebody why Kim Deal is cool? That cool means going to a punk show dressed like a secretary because you came right from work and didn’t have time to change? That cool means showing up for a magazine cover photo shoot with visibly unwashed hair? (Kim Deal in Spin, 1995: “Of course I know how my photos look. I know I come off lookin’ like a fuckin’ haggy housewife compared to all these other women in rock, and that’s fine with me, man. So I don’t wanna wash my hair, fuck you, this is how I look.”) It’s like Kim Deal has D-G-A-F tattooed across her knuckles, except in invisible ink, because it’s so ingrained in her that she doesn’t even feel the need to broadcast it. If you don’t get why that’s cool, I don’t even know how to talk to you.
I like this thing Carrie Brownstein said in the Pixies oral history, Fool the World: “Kim Deal was the first female enigma in indie rock.” Last Splash came out in 1993, the year riot grrrl really started getting mainstream media attention. But in the opening line of her liner notes in Last Splash's reissue, Deal specifies, “We weren't riot grrrl and we weren't grunge.” In 1993 riot grrrl was proving the revolutionary potential of standing for something and having an easily communicable message, but Kim Deal was about something else, the power of being an enigma— which is also a particular kind of power when you're a woman. People are going to look at women whether or not they want to be looked at and they are going to impose a meaning on them based on how they look. So, in the public's gaze, women who get famous (and, let's be real, even women who don't) are either sexualized or totally neutered, and there is very little in between. But Kim Deal found the loophole, somehow. People adore her on her own terms. She is a punk and a jock. She is a chain-smoking cheerleader. She seems tough and also kind. And the cool that she beamed out into the world had something to do with owning your contradictions rather than stooping to explain them to the people who don't get it, because whatever, man.
I wrote a review of the Breeders’ 20th anniversary reissue of Last Splash, which went up at Pitchfork today, and until like a day before I filed it the opening paragraph was going to be full of quotes from the comments of Breeders songs on Songmeanings.net, until I tried to explain this idea to someone on Saturday and midway through explaining realized with absolute certainty and horror that it was a terrible idea that I could in no way pull off. But the point was going to be that everybody thinks every song Kim Deal ever wrote is about sex. One commenter had an elaborate theory about why “Invisible Man” was about masturbation, someone said “Divine Hammer” was about (and I quote) “a divine fuck”, and there was a whole discussion about whether “Cannonball” was anti-Marquis de Sade, pro-Marquis de Sade, or using the Marquis de Sade as a metaphor for Frank Black. Maybe all of these things are true, probably none of these things are true, maybe “Gigantic” is actually about whatever you think it’s about too. But I doubt you’ll ever hear it from Kim Deal. Amidst all the chatter, you can almost hear the hazy, singsongy chime of her voice as she smiles that smile that is at once the most guileless and opaque thing in the whole world: I’ll never tellllllll.
“The narrator of my non-fiction pieces is not the same person I am— she is a lot more articulate and thinks of much cleverer things to say than I usually do. I can imagine her coming across as a little insufferable sometimes. But she, too, is out of my hands— I may have invented her, but she is the person who insists on speaking for me.”—Janet Malcolm
“Part of my own affection for Kim Gordon, I realize, is her association with an era when even boys thought it was cool to call themselves feminists. I’m not sure when exactly that changed, but I know that by the time I was aware of experiencing sexism firsthand I’d already gotten the message that to identify myself as a feminist would limit me. I envy and admire the way Gordon—and the pop-cultural heroes she helped shape, like Hanna and Coppola and Courtney Love—seemed unafraid of that word. But I am even more envious and admiring of the way the men in Gordon’s orbit—from the Beastie Boys, who played with Sonic Youth over the years, to Moore to Cobain, who was very close to Gordon—seem to have taken cues from her about how to be good men.”—The Top 50 Gifs of Me Dancing At Coachella, Being Like, “Fuck Yes Kim Gordon (And Lizzy Goodman)”
Q: On “A Tooth for an Eye”, you sing, “I’m telling you stories, trust me.” So while you’re pointing out how so much of our history comes from a very white, male viewpoint, you’re also acknowledging that this album is coming from a specific perspective as well.
Karin Dreijer Andersson: It’s important to question my story and my way of telling it, too. It’s good to ask questions instead of serving answers.
”—The interviews The Knife are giving for Shaking the Habitual are next-level.
I saw a Harmony Korine movie at an AMC multiplex. I did! The one on 34th St. across from Penn Station. On a Saturday night, and with a sizable opening weekend crowd that was mostly teenagers, though I’d estimate about eight of them walked out during the film. They played some ads for Coca-Cola and a preview for the new Michael Bay movie about weight lifting and then they screened the new film by the guy who made Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy and Trash Humpers, which is called Spring Breakers.
Daniel Yacavone once called Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey “the most remarkable smuggling of the abstract/experimental into the cinematic mainstream,” although the way people are talking about Spring Breakers you feel like he’d have to amend that superlative. The Monday morning quarterbacking I saw today among Korine diehards today could pretty much be summed up as, “LOL at all these kids who thought they were going to see a vapid teen party flick and instead they found themselves enmeshed in” —gasp, oh look away! look away!— “A NON-LINEAR NARRATIVE.”
I was excited to see Spring Breakers. Radical art being smuggled into the mainstream— that is, like, my thing. That is so up my critical alley it’s not even fair. I believe in the radical possibility of film (I do! I do! I do!) to change the way we perceive the world, to invite us to identify with viewpoints that might seem foreign to us in daily life, to challenge everything safe and unquestioned that we hold dear. So I will admit that as I sat in that theater a big part of me was just smug about the seemingly subversive fact that I am seeing a Harmony Korine movie at an AMC multiplex. Dude’s really found a way to stick it to the man, eh?
I’m not going to sit here and tell you that Spring Breakers is a bad film. I once had this professor who’d say the only films that he thought were truly bad are the ones you can’t think to say a word about afterwards. The remake of Planet of the Apes, by his measure, was a bad film. I can’t call Spring Breakers a bad film because since I walked out of that theater two days ago I have been talking and reading about it incessantly.
But what I would like to challenge is this critical narrative that we’ve successfully ground up the antibiotics and snuck them into the dog’s peanut butter, that we’ve Trojan Horsed some piece of radical, subversive, ~*illuminating*~ art into the mainstream and that the only choice is either to shake our heads disappointedly at the ones who “didn’t get it” or feel triumphant about the ones whose sad, artless lives went from black-and-white to color and who vowed to minor in Cinema Studies the second they saw the Titties-and-Skrillex montage (“truly the Odessa Steps of the new millennium” —someone, probably) and thus we have won (ARTSY PEOPLE: 1; PHILISTINES: ZERO). I want to challenge all of that because I really don’t think the ideas at work in Spring Breakers are much more enlightening or interesting (not even to say radical) than that new Michael Bay movie about weightlifting. Or even, like, that Coke commercial.
"You see a woman and she’s really curvy and you’re attracted to that, and some guys see a woman and she’s like a straight line, and they’re attracted to that. I’m just attracted to what’s in Spring Breakers.”
I think some people want to read Spring Breakers as a critique of racial and gender politics in 21st century America, but trust me on this one, joke’s on you if you’re reading that into the film, because that is not the film Harmony Korine made. Korine’s movies are not critiques of anything; they’re gloriously, unapologetically lurid celebrations of the surface of things. My former internet colleague Calum Marsh (seriously are you reading his stuff at Film.com, he has been tearing it up over there recently) totally gets it: Spring Breakers is not as ironic as you think.
So it’s a fool’s errand to read it as some sort of biting critique of contemporary society, but to accept what’s on the surface is to accept a film that alienates, objectifies and commodifies women and people of color for the flimsy sake of “art, man.” The world it celebrates is, just like the real, non-cinematic world, depressingly racist and sexist, but that because it is not critiquing or saying anything halfway intelligent about those facts, there is no catharsis. No place for the anger and disgust that these images prompt in those who can’t just brush them aside. And when critics ignore those factors and blithely throw their hands up and say, “Well, maybe I don’t get it, but I like it!” (I SEE U, TRAVERS), they’re continuing to propagate the myth that “art film” is this elitist clubhouse closed to any spoilsport who daresarticulate the larger cultural forces that prevent them from blithely enjoying a movie like this. Trust me, we don’t hate fun. We believe in the American Dream. WE WANT SHORTS IN ALL THE COLORS TOO.
So let’s not laugh at the kids who don’t get it, Who-Is-Paul-McCartney-Dot-Tumblr-Dot-Com style. Let’s not be naive enough to believe that they’ll all grow up, take that Film Studies 101 Class Where You Watch Breathless and then will suddenly think, “OH, I AM FINALLY EDUCATED ENOUGH TO UNDERSTAND SPRING BREAKERS. WHAT I WAS SEEING THERE WAS A NON-LINEAR NARRATIVE.” (For one thing, this assumption greatly underestimates the average American teenagers’ likelihood to have already seen Memento?) Or maybe they will take that class and it will give them the critical license to say with confidence that they were right the first time, that the movie’s point of view was pretty boring and repetitive and trite, and then they will add, “Plus anything that is allegedly formally innovative about this movie is something Malick was doing way better and more poetically in the 70s.”
I think that Korine is a talented filmmaker in the way he conjures atmosphere. I think Benoit Debie is one of the most exciting working cinematographers. I am not trying to say that I found nothing here to think about, to be entertained by, even in some ways, to enjoy (I am not going to act like the Britney Spears montage was not grotesque/sublime/something I will Youtube in the future). But I do want to question what people find so subversive or rebellious or “intellectual” about this reductive ogglefest in arthouse’s clothes. I want to ask you to think about what you think radical art looks like to you in 2013, and how (or if!) it is at all different from what mainstream “pop” art looks like to you. Which is a really long-winded way of saying: Meet the art boss. Same as the old boss with the combover and the (“ironic”) Penthouse subscription and the self-satisfied air that everything he’s doing is New and Edgy and Never Been Done Before, ‘cept he knows Werner Herzog so I guess he’s cool.
1. I am loving the conversation it’s generating and it’s fun to learn about people’s own personal “Innocent Civilian”s. Katherine St. Asaph’s story is great. And the thought of Tom Ewing thinking for one moment that an ABBA cover of “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” existed is legitimately breaking my heart.
2. Something I did not really get a chance to tease out: “shameful” as some of these memories and misunderstandings can feel now (THOUGH), for a lot of people this was a legitimate source of musical discovery, and often the kind that pointed you in the direction of an artist you might not have found otherwise.
3. There have been a lot of really interesting— and, ultimately futile— attempts undo the damage of P2P mislabels. I came across this blog called Mislabeled P2P, which “is basically a source to help prevent the mislabeling of song titles and artists on peer to peer file sharing networks, namely the ever-popular Limewire,” as its anonymous vigilante author stated in an introductory post in 2009. They wrote a few blurbs with the noble aim of, say, educating the public to the fact that “Sex and Candy” was not a Nirvana song. (“Marcy [Playground]’s John Wozniak has a much deeper, [more] monotonous voice than Kurt Cobain’s.” A-HA!) But like so many well-intentioned blogs and coveted Wordpress usernames, its author abandoned Mislabeled P2P after 5 posts. It’s quiet the way a dead mall is quiet. Something about its silence says something about the impossible scope and ultimate futility of the task.
5. One of the artists most often mistagged on p2p sites was, true story, Weird Al. The best site I found in my research (and, to my knowledge, the best site in the history of the internet) is a fan-created page called Songs Not By Weird Al, which provides authoritative confirmation that Weird Al did NOT write such p2p hits as “Beer Polka,” “I Bit His Ear,” “Bohemian Rap City,” “Wrong Foot Amputated,” “I Hate Big Butts,” “I Like Big Butts” (“This song is by an individual named ‘Sir Mix-A-Lot’”), “What If God Smoked Cannibus,” “Oh Taliban,” and “Oops! I Farted Again.” I bet he wishes he did, though.
And I will grow out of all the empty bottles in my closet
And you’ll quit having dreams about a swan dive to the hot asphalt
And I will grow out of all the empty words I often speak
And you will be depleted but much better off without me
And we will find a way to be lonely any chance we get
And I’ll keep having dreams about loveless marriage and regret
—Waxahatchee, “Swan Dive”
When I was writing my review of Waxahatchee’s excellent new album Cerulean Salt, I kept thinking about this line that Mary Timony sings in the Helium song "Superball": “Everything I say ends with ‘and.’” I take “Superball” to be this sly and surreal little poem about the elasticity of identity, and in particularly about a femininity that can house all sorts of contradictions. “I’m small, like a superball/Throw me at the wall/I’m fragile, like an eggshell/I’m mad as hell.” With each line she morphs into something different, with different physical properties, different strengths and different weaknesses; she is up on some serious Alex Mack shit. To be small and fragile and mad as hell. And…
A more precise description of a Waxahatchee song might be “Everything I say begins with ‘and,’” but still. I really like the rhythmic structure of Katie Crutchfield’s lyrics, she never goes for the easy or obvious end rhyme, there are a lot of interstitial words spilling over between lines, and the sense you get from that approach is that these words are pouring out of her almost faster than she can get them down. (Seriously, listen to her music with an ear for the soft-spoken, hidden “ands,” it’s like an egg hunt.) They all feel like run-on sentences, thumbing their noses at grammatical rules and containment, existing somewhere between stations, capturing both the anxiety and the joy of endless possibilities, the youthful feeling that there will always be more. I felt that way in my early twenties; a lot of people have felt that way in their early twenties. Small and fragile and invincible and huge. It’s as disorienting as it is empowering and if you’re lucky you never grow out of it. I saw a quote going around the internet yesterday, an interviewer asked Margaret Atwood what her favorite word was. “And,” she said. “It is so hopeful.”
“These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long-distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
The way we look to a distant constellation that’s dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder and don’t cry, baby, don’t cry”—I saw Waxahatchee last night. They played what is likely to be the best cover of “The Boy in the Bubble” I will ever hear and Katie dedicated it to “anyone who hasn’t checked the internet on their phone since they’ve been here.”