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bluegrass: on coming out

July 31st, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: The Greencards: Weather and Water

Today has been decidedly lazy. The Sunday ritual commenced with a read of the Austin newspaper to the backdrop of This Week and Meet the Press. Rick Santorum was on This Week, and I cannot believe how fucking idiotic this man is. His new book, It Takes a Family, is essentially that conservative talk-show style of “rhetoric,” you know, empty and baseless. He blamed “radical feminists”—and later, “academe” in general–for devaluing stay at home moms, and when George Stephanopoulos pressed him to name a radical feminist, he couldn’t. It was really fun to watch. At this point, us Leftists can claim George Will as one of our own since he’s clearly retreated from the neo-cons—at least on television. And can you blame him after Santorum’s book?

But today has mostly been about . . . bluegrass. I headed to Cheapo Records off of South Lamar to scout for some cheap vinyl, found some good stuff (some bluegrass, as well as the one-hit-wonders Kajagoogoo). Close friends know of my fondness for the Louvin Brothers, the Grateful Dead, and southern gospel. Well, I’m coming out: I love bluegrass music, and I’m proud to admit it. I honestly think I can blame this passion on Camper Van Beethoven, whose classic, golden era albums (such as my favorite, Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart ) got me hooked on the fiddle. I also grew up as a kid at my grandmother’s house watching lots of Hee-Haw, and therefore, hearing lots of banjo. So imagine my delight when I discovered the Greencards, a local band who creates divine bluegrass/Americana music. Their latest record, Weather and Water, is a contemplative masterpiece, mostly slow and depressing, with a lot of acoustic guitar and sad lyrics. My favorite track, “Long Way Down,” is worth the price of the disk alone. It begins with a sorrowful but medium paced fiddle, and then a gentle male voice sings: “Flying so high/ain’t gonna last/touchin’ the sky, but you’re fallin’ fast/findin’ a love, somethin’ brand new/is more than enough for me and for you/ and it’s a long way down . . . ” and when the chorus comes, it is a lovely harmony with a female voice. It’s perfect Sunday music, gentle, sad, but hopeful.

I’ve been lusting after the Louvin Brother’s box set for many years. Now that I’m in Texas—and further from Kentucky and Tennessee—I may just have to give in. I spent over a decade fighting my genetic heritage, but something soul-deep responds to bluegrass. How I can get goose bumps from synthpop and bluegrass at the same time is inexplicable, except for the fact that I like good music regardless of genre . . . and apparently drawl.

midday at the Fiesta

July 30th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Mansun: Attack of the Grey Lantern; David Bowie: Hunky Dory

After almost a week of mundane struggle, I’ve managed to establish myself in Austin. Aside from the toolbox that was stolen by the movers in Baton Rouge, it seems everything has arrived safely and intact, including Tara, my beloved mechanical fortuneteller. The cats are finished howling now that the furniture (and requisite, familiar smell) has arrived, and I’ve met a few neighbors. Marsha and Graham, a late 50-something couple across the street, seem pretty damn cool (they made jokes about prostitutes and gave me a key to their home). Graham works at the faculty club across the street from my office at UT, and Marsha at the hospital close by. “Miss Kay,” the 86-year-old matriarch next door, brought me some bean soup and muffins in exchange for my phone number. I promised to make her Jambalaya and she grinned from ear to ear. Seems like a nice neighborhood.

Some issues: first, everyone will come to my back door instead of my front door because there is a locked gate at the front area. This was installed, apparently, because kids from the neighboring apartments and condos were cutting through the property to go to school (I’m two blocks from a high school in a Hispanic neighborhood). In other words, “brown colored” youth were cutting through the neatly manicured lawns and the white, HOA leadership didn’t like it. What this means is that the HOA leadership is racist. I cannot wait until my first HOA meeting. I really would like to welcome my guests through the front door.

Second, my walls are fucking pink and the carpet is almost a powder blue. That will take some getting used to, and hopefully with all my tacky crap hung on the walls it will go away (or work in some delightful, unexpected way). The wallpaper in the foyer and front dining area is right out of a “tasteful” hotel, circa 1986, so I’ve decided to make that the media area with floor to ceiling shelving for my CDs and DVDs. My artsy side is coming out and I’m worried about the time-suck decorating this place “my style” will create; I really should be focusing on prepping for my first 250-student class. Nevertheless, the largest issue I’m facing with my “nest” is the previous owner’s aesthetics, which reflects the kind of “tasteful” that says, “I want to appear that I have wealth and taste.” Let’s call this JC Penny Aesthetic. I am battling with overcoming the JC Penny Aesthetic with the Ikea or Target Aesthetic, with a smidgen of low-class tacky.

One thing that I really loved about the middle class aesthetic in Louisiana was the “yeah, I’m middle class and I don’t pretend to be anything else” way of decorating. I mean, I lived in a neighborhood where people hung chicken feet above their front doors (voodoo good luck charm) and put pink flamingos in their front lawns. That so rocked! I miss that and have hope that one day I’ll live in a place like that again (e.g., the Hyde Park or South Congress area of Austin).

Anyhoot! I’ve been living for a week without refrigeration; I purchased a el-cheapo fridge (not so cheap with Texas sales tax!) at Sears and it was delivered this morning. Afterwards, I ventured out to get groceries, as I’ve been craving salad and green peppers, two staples in my daily diet. I decided to hit the “Fiesta Mart,” because it’s local and I was told had lots of Hispanic, Indian, and Asian foodstuffs. This store was so culture shock! I walked in the door and there was a one man mariachi band (dude behind a series of synths), who had guests dancing in the produce area! I’m serious. Folks were jamming out to Mexican folk tunes next to the melons. The store was mobbed full of folks, so much so that navigating a buggy seemed pointless. I decided instead to wander around and check out all the stuff in there, much of which was for Mexican households. I found fascinating cans of things I’ve never heard of (tubers of all sorts, beans, etc.). I need to get a Tex-Mex cookbook to try out this new cultural cuisine . . . .

After 30 minutes of exploration in the Fiesta Mart, I was overwhelmed with “crowd,” so I left (I was tempted to buy a t-shirt of the Virgin of Guadalupe that had flames coming out of her, though). I headed across I-35 to the “H-E-B,” basically, the “white” grocery store, where I was able to navigate a buggy and pick up a few needed refrigerables. I was amused by the other shoppers—most of whom looked like me, 30 something white people struggling to remain “cool” and not become something like the people whom my condo complex was created for. I’m cautiously optimistic.

final FPA

July 24th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Archer Prewitt: Way of the Sun

At the behest of Shappy, Friday night the usual front porch suspects (sadly, minus David Terry) gathered at The Chimes for a few pints, food, and warm, Bush-style gazes at each other. We discussed Rove-gate, the relative merits of Romero’s Land of the Dead, and, of course my imminent departure to Austin early tomorrow morning. Shappy conspired for a candle bearing cake to be brought to the table, whereupon FPA agents sang New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” to my abject embarrassment, which ended up producing applause from the entire south side of the restaurant. Later we retired to the front porch for my final action as a resident of Baton Rouge, where I gave away a bunch of stuff and had some drunken “I love you guys” moments.

Ben donated a bottle of Booker’s “True Barrel Bourbon Whiskey” , which, after I gulped it down as if it were regular bourbon, I discovered it was 130 proof or something like that. Needless to say, I got a bit silly (as did most imbibing that stuff) for the rest of the evening. At one point there was apparently a kissing fest as a result of this invention, “venom lip gloss”, which is a tingly concoction that Wendy swears makes the wearer’s lips bigger (I didn’t think so, but it does taste good).

Here’s a photo-gallery of the end of a three year corral of love. I look forward to coming back for more front porch action in the future, and the fond memories of Friday night should sustain me until I can find a surrogate porch in Austin.

The Rosewater Chronicles will be down for a few days or perhaps even a week until I get the new household running. Stay tuned for an account of moving adventures, my thoughts about Lance Armstrong running for the governor of Texas, and the return of the The Smurfs to the big screen!

el corazon

July 20th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Melotron: Cliché

Here I am on the day of closing on my new town home, in the final days of moving, the house filled with boxes and millions of corners to stub a toe on (I think I’ve banged all ten at this point), and the Entertain-o-sphere EXPLODES with the kind of social drama I live for (that is, when I’m not moving, entertaining lovers or guests, under a writing deadline, scrambling for money to pay the bills, recovering from a hurricane, and so on): Pamela Anderson and Tommy and are getting married for a third time; while filming the remake of All the King’s Men Jude Law slept with his nanny, got caught by his kid, and issued a public apology to his families and fiancé yesterday; a sex tape of Colin Farrell has surfaced, which, if the sex partner and former Playboy Playmate succeeds in releasing it, the bad boy says will ruin his reputation (seriously! leads you to wonder what they’re doing on that sex tape; it must involve rodents); and Cameron Diaz has topless photos (careful clicking this link; it’s not work safe) circulating the Internet. Diaz was recently quoted defending her boobs, saying that they “look good” (I agree). So here’s this juicy movie/rock star buffet of bad, stupid, and hawt behavior and then comes along something just as scandalous: Bush nominates quasi closeted ultra-conservative, John Roberts.

Of course, we Leftist types hoped for a female judge, and not because of her biological sex, but because, as a woman, she would have been subjected to the same kinds of structural discrimination most women experience, and therefore would more likely have a sensibility that defended civil rights and liberties. Here is a man with no real paper trail, but who predictably went on record as saying in a state sponsored brief that Roe should be overturned. He also ruled in favor of military tribunals at the Guantanamo gulag. Nevertheless, reporters and pundits are saying his positions are hard to call, and, it would seem, the few defenders of the Left in congress are somewhat mystified as to how this dude is going to turn out.

Given the president’s remarks last night at the formal statement of nomination, we shouldn’t have much difficulty discerning the president’s hunch about this man, which can be reduced to a single turn of phrase:

In my meetings with Judge Roberts, I have been deeply impressed. He’s a man of extraordinary accomplishment and ability. He has a good heart. He has the qualities Americans expect in a judge: experience, wisdom, fairness, and civility. He has profound respect for the rule of law and for the liberties guaranteed to every citizen. He will strictly apply the Constitution and laws, not legislate from the bench.

This choice paragraph from an otherwise defensive speech is designed to answer the question, “why should this guy be the next supreme court justice?” The answer is: (1) the president is personally, deeply impressed; (2) his accomplishments at 50 are extra-ordinary; (3) “He has a good heart”; (4) he has qualities and qualifications of a supreme court justice, including respect for the law; (5) he will not participate in judicial activism. Which one of these reasons is not like the others?

“He has a good heart”

Since the beginning of his presidency, a number of popular magazines have devoted space to decoding the carefully crafted rhetoric of Michael Gerson and other Bush speechwriters, revealing its double voice. As a kid brought up in Christian evangelicalism, I recognize this language fairly easily. “Heart” is a word that is code for the condition of one’s soul, not merely one’s conscience. When one is “born again,” she is to “let Jesus into your heart,” meaning that one is to surrender to the saving, phallic power of the Almighty (yes, it’s all quite sexual). And the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary are figures for saving grace among Catholics too. In other words, when Bush/the speechwriters added the sentence, “he has a good heart,” they were speaking in code to evangelical Christians and certain Catholics: this man is down with Jesus and is assuredly “pro-life.” Why the pundits, reporters, and politicians are blind to the not-so-secret meaning of this reference to the heart, after six years of theological warmongering, is a mystery. Then again, speaking of the heart, Pamela and Tommy are getting married FOR THE THIRD TIME! I suppose that when it comes to matters of the heart, almost everyone is blinded by big dicks.

on the new heights of anal empowerment

July 16th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: iris: awakening

The recent product line by the Pampers division of Procter & Gamble is called “Kandoo,” which is centered around moist butt-wipes and foaming hand soap. Kandoo is a term for asserting of one’s anal acumen as well as the name of an enterprising frog character. I am amused by Kandoo because of the tidy ways in which P&G’s marketing campaign is so demonstrative of Freud and Abraham’s theory of the anal erotism. As we all know, it feels good to poop and, so the story goes, once kiddies get control of their sphincters (between the ages of two and three, approximately) they discover a new source of pleasure. It feels good to both hold it in and to let it out, and eventually the child associates this pleasure with a sense of mastery.

So no wonder, then, that the childhood version of mastery is described in terms of royalty. The ad campaign for Kadoo wipes (which you can view here) features the following narrative, which accompanies shots of a child taking a shit:

You are master of the toilet! Lord of the Loo! [child pulls off too much toilet paper and it gets heaped into a pile in his lap] . . . well, almost. [Mother’s voice] “Do you need me sweetie?” [Child looks defeated and sad.] Don’t worry! Now there’s Pamper’s Kandoo moist toilet wipes, designed especially for children. Simply wipe, and flush away! [little cartoon frog offers box of wipes to junior]. And for royally clean hands, there’s Kandoo foaming hand soap! By the time you’re done, you’ll be king of the throne! [child throw up hands in victorious glee]

One might wonder why the toilet is always associated with royalty, and the answer is money. It is no mere coincidence that the local port-a-potty company in Baton Rouge is “Pot-o-gold”: shit is associated with money, and royalty literally sit on their riches.

Why the association of shit with money? Well, it all has to do with love, says Freud. See, when you are a child you observe your parents exchanging gifts (money, flowers, the baby sister, and other objects of barter). The child soon learns to associate affection with the giving of gifts. Then, the child learns that mom and dad are simply thrilled when they shit or pee in the potty. Praising your kid for making doodie is almost universally recommended. The last step in Dr. Phil’s “one day method” of potty training recommends a Potty Party:

Step 6: Let the Celebration Begin! When your child successfully goes potty, throw him a potty party. Most importantly, your child can now call his favorite superhero and tell the hero about what he just did! Enlist the help of a friend or relative to play the hero and take the phone call.

If mommy and daddy are throwing you parties for making poo, you’ll pretty soon figure out that it’s just about the only thing you got to give for love. Hence, shit and pee-pee are associated with money.

Freud later says that the biphasic functioning of the anal sphincter becomes associated with the pleasures of not only giving (passivity) but withholding (aggressivity or “anal aggression”). Anally retentive children can come to associate his or her independence by withholding her turds. Further, some children can translate the pleasures of independence and “mastery” with the shit weapon, and can have fantasies of destruction (e.g., bombing things with their turds).

Horror of horrors, these television ads mask the roots of consumerist fascism. Kandoo is playing with filthy lucre here, and all this praise about mastery can back fire (pun intended, heh heh heh). Be careful with this cheerful frog moms and dads! You may find your toddler defiantly proclaiming “it’s mine to mind!” and have a three-foot kingly control freak on your hands. Marketing mastery is dangerous business! Just look what the President has done with the same party line about pooping on “terrorists.”

Speaking of control freaks, in related news Slavoj Zizek, certainly a frog of sorts, got hitched. Wow! He really Kandoo! And he looks like, oh, shall we say the anal object par excellence? The bride is beautiful to begin with, but standing next to him I think one is tempted to declare her among the most beautiful women alive. Perhaps proof positive that the “matching hypothesis” can be falsified in fantasy.

sing blue silver

July 14th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Mephisto Walz: Insidious

Well, this morning I don’t feel too bad, which is good considering my deliberate attempt to be a glutton last evening on my last evening in New Orleans as a resident. The Duran Duran show was fun, but the crowd was strange: I’ve never seen such a concentrated group of boring looking people with fanny packs and “god, guns, and no-gays” kinds of t-shirts except at Walt Disney World. I sez to my date: Gee, we’re not the oldest people here, and we still actually remember how to dress eighties style.

Speaking of my date, Jen is a friggin’ hoot and I will miss her very much. She’s like my only buddy in Nola these days. And despite the fact she was MY date, she was getting’ her girl on and picked up not one, not two, but three phone numbers from ladies she met at the concession stand. I sez, “Jeez Jen, how do you do it?” And she’s like, “I just go up and hit on ’em.” She’s a pro, I’ll give her that. I didn’t see her for half the concert . . . .

Anyway, aside from Jen’s gyno-conquests, there was a little drama here and again. Arriving an hour early, will call didn’t seem to have us on the VIP list. Bummer. So after waiting for what seemed like forever, two tickets were produced for us: 10th row, floor, very close. Alas, the floor was not packed and the arena was not sold out (poor guys, they thought they were bigger than they are, I guess). So we got even closer, so close that I could smell Simon’s sweaty bleating. This was certainly exciting, for there was no way I would have ever got seats this close (or that mom and dad would have ever chaperoned) when I was a sixth grader. We jammed out hard from about the third row for a good long bit, but then the security was all up in our grill and shit making us go back to our seats (I mean, us Duran Duran fans are dangerous).

The group was very polished, and the sound was very very good. I wondered at times if they were syncing, but nope, I was up so close I could see the spittle and I even heard a boo-boo chord once, so, these guys were live and were very professional. They were so good, in fact, it was all too slick for the first set. But once they stopped going through the motions, they got much better and the vibe was so 80s! It was happy times. And imagine my unbridled glee when Simon’s fourth wardrobe change was a Fascist-style suit and cap! And he sang “Sing Blue Silver!” I thought for a moment a heil hand gesture was coming, but no, it didn’t go as far as Marilyn Manson likes to take it.

Nick Rhodes, of course, is the genius behind the whole outfit, and he looked suave and smashing in his dark suit and serious red shirt and tie; he looked so serious the whole evening, like he always does. He was usually considered the “ugly weird one” but now he’s kinda hot and still delightfully fashionably strange; the guitarist Andy Taylor should get the “got-older-and-uglier” award, and he looking like such a dweeb jamming out to basic synth-pop (he left the band in the late 80s and made a hard rock album, and he and the band got in some sue-fest-ness over the album Notorious. Which reminds me, Simon was sooooooo gaaaaaayyyyy when “Notorious” was played (it was like he was on the catwalk or something; laugh-out-loud funny he’s so not hot anymore). And then there was this part in “Hungry Like a Wolf” or whatever when Simon crawled seductively to the edge of the stage. Oh my god that was so ridiculous: dude, if I’m not 24 any more, you certainly ain’t! Jen and I debated about who it would be cooler to sleep with: John Taylor (whose the only one left that really looks hot) or Nick Rhodes. I said Nick, obviously, because he makes good music and is the brains of the whole artifice and would be a better pillow talker. Besides, he never had any qualms about guy-make-up. Jen disagreed, saying that women really do respond to bass (association station says: Renegade Soundwave single from the early 90s; key scene in Private Parts with Howard Stern and a speaker-sitting caller).

They played all the good stuff. I only have three complaints. First, my favorite song, “Save a Prayer,” was one huge karaoke display, when Simon simply said “you sing it for me” and held the mic to the audience. NO! I’m sorry, but I didn’t pay to hear my favorite song sung by a bunch of drunken New Orleans natives with conservative clothes on. Second, they didn’t play the two best songs on the new album, “Astronaut” and “Bedroom Toys.” Boo. Third: Simon, yes, you can sing, and much better than any of the groups I’ve seen on Hit Me Baby One More Time, but, YOU ARE NOT A 24 YEAR OLD HOTTIE.

Here’s a photo album of last night. The little doggie is Jen’s miniature Doberman, Isis.

Overall, though, it was a fun show. I’ve not been to an arena show in some time. I don’t like them, in general, unless I’m doing lots of drugs, but I haven’t done drugs in about a decade (yes, it’s really true). But I’d do it for the Cure again, and perhaps Depeche Mode and the Rolling Stone . . . that is, I’d do an arena show.

Must . . . pack . . . boxes (repeat)

jukin on the synth low

July 13th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

music: Psychedelic Furs: talk talk talk

The new Dresden Dolls album is quite remarkable for a major label, and surely their opening for Nine Inch Nails on the recent tour dedicated to the theme of fellatio has given them an added boost. Equal parts cabaret music, Nellie McKay, and the tortured femi-goth anger of Switchblade Symphony, the debut album is a delightful moody masterpiece. While certainly cliché (the toy piano riffs are sometimes tiresome) and at times predictable, the album also has bursts of uniqueness that are inspired. I would recommend finding and sampling the track “Half Jack,” which is the best song on the album; like all good songs upon the first listen, it gave me goose bumps.

I’ve also been really getting my synthpop groove on recently (helps while away the time while packing), and I lament the fact that only Europeans seem to like it these days; why bands like De/Vision have never charted in the United States is a mystery, especially since we’re being bombarded by “new 80s” sound of bands like The Killers and Bloc Party. There is, in fact, an amazing U.S. synth band that puts out some pretty great records: Iris. They’re slated to release a much anticipated follow-up to their 2003 album, Wrath, in late August. Here’s the best part, though: they’re based in Austin, Texas! How cool is that? A great synthpop band in my hometown . . . .

I say that the relatively popular disinterest in synthpop stateside is a mystery, but the more one thinks about it less in terms of the sound of the music (which is groovy) and more about what it “represents,” it becomes less mysterious: it’s about norms of American middle class masculinity. Even if you’re a hair-in-the-face new mod, you’re not allowed to like synthpop unless it has a guitar in it or something guitar like, and only if the vocalist has “punk” (read, masculine) leanings (e.g., The Faint). Best friends hold hands in many European cities, regardless of sex; you’d be hard-pressed to find that in the U.S., of course. Synthpop, in other words, is a victim of homophobia. “Real men don’t listen to Erasure”, you know. And boys don’t cry, neither.

And in the key of crying, Terry McMillan was on The Today Show dissin’ her soon-to-be 30 year old ex-husband for coming out of the closet. This was preceded by a special “episode” of Oprah about “living on the down low,” a phrase that once circulated among the African American community (but now everywhere) that refers to self-identified straight black men who sleep with other black men (some dude has written an an entire book about this, as if its news or something). McMillan is claiming her once 23 year old suitor was “gay all along” and manipulated her for money. He says he was confused about his sexuality and that McMillan is a homophobe. I say they both right and both mistaken: sure, he was confused and yeah, he used her for money. But the underlying premise here is that somehow sexuality and the expression of desire is static. Identity is static and oppressive and confining, and perhaps he secretly knew he loved the cock all along, but to say when these two where groovin’ on the floor there wasn’t some chemistry is stupid. Didn’t Kinsey clear this up decades ago? Didn’t Kurt Cobain summarize it best?

Well, in the midst of this battle over the back door I’ve developed a new phrase for straight and bisexual men who secretly love synthpop: “jukin’ on the synth low.” This phrase refers to all the men out there, many of whom I have met, who will dance to Duran Duran or even Erasure if they’ve had a few beers. Perhaps I’ll see y’all who are jukin’ on the synth low TONIGHT AT THE DURAN DURAN CONCERT IN NEW ORLEANS!?!?!?! I’m so excited I have to pee . . . .

middlesex: of navels and the black hole

July 9th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Fever: Red Bedroom

The current controversy raging on blogs and discussion boards across the world orbits a navel: on the recent Macy’s fireworks spectacular on July 4th, Mariah appeared to lipsync to one of her finely crafted ditties with the requisite exposed midsection. Although it is possible for women to achieve chiseled abs of monstrosity, it requires a tireless dedication to every variation of the crunch imaginable more than once a day for many, many months, and so it has been speculated by netizens that Carey’s newly, well defined belly was an airbrushed canvas.

Although I admittedly do not know if Carey’s abs were painted on, I believe it is likely, and because its Mariah Carey, we should now begin to consider whether we would like to lick them. What would it be like to run a tongue up and down that washboard, darting among the crevices and ultimately into the navel itself?

Of course, I’m only articulating the ab-ticular fantasy that resides in the popular imaginary (it’s beginning marked by the arrival of the widely successful Abs of Steel video in 1991, succeeded by many sequels). More seriously, although the gesture of painting on abdominal muscles is amusing, it also tracks, on the one hand, the way in which the abdomen has become that obscure object of desire in the past decade. The belly has taken over the pride of place previously claimed by more prodigious bulges on the chest or below the waist; now, breasts and penis bulges merely “frame” the abdomen, like those frilly flower-wallpaper runners on suburban walls across the country. Despite recent attempts to domesticate and normalize the abdomen by Novartis, the makers of Zelnorm, in a series of television commercials depicting a parade of “normal, everyday” folks proudly lifting their shirts to reveal the words written on their bellies (e.g., “yes, there is help for your IBS” or whatever the hell), the fact remains that defined abdominal muscles are coded as the signature of good health and, ultimately, the ability to have good sexual intercourse (after all, its not the size that matters, but the motion of the ocean). The only thing Ms. Carey had going for her–as a superficial icon–was her public pride she demonstrated about her more typical womanly figure and smug in-your-face buxomness; in the current word-war with Madonna, she could play the trump card that she’s naturally beautiful without all those crunches. But now, of course, she has succumbed to the fantasy of abdominal promise. How do we reckon with Carey’s succumbing to the ab-ticular? How to reconcile her fall from abdominal normalcy into the clutches of the popular fashionista-abticularity?

One obvious way is, of course, to read Carey as an automaton and her belly as a barometer, tracking the ideological formations of the new century; we might thus locate the public abdomen as the new “public screen,” a miniature television set, if you will, providing us images of popular consciousness. In this respect, for example, it makes sense so many people find the navel a rim for adornment. The “belly button ring,” once symbolic of a defiant urban primitivism (a legacy of “punk”), is now the exotica of newfound nubility—a token of “youth.”

The defined abdomen is similarly signiferous beyond the promise of sexual prowess, as it also represents the mobility of a code for masculine self-control to the female body: The original Abs of Steel video for women features a flat and strong tummy, but it remains coded “feminine”; the most recent version of that series depicts a more knobby female abdomen, but it does not resemble a “six pack” and, again, is coded feminine. Carey’s airbrushed abdomen, however, is unquestionably masculine in appearance (the only, similarly defined abs were owned by Janet Jackson, who was bombarded with the centuries-old myth of having a rib removed to achieve them!). Carey’s airbrushed abs are hyperbole for a desire to appear “in control” and, in this sense, represent an overdetermined, obsessive gesture that defies the association of the feminine with the hysterical. This is why the original advertisement of Zelnorm was targeted to women, who proudly displayed their more normal bellies as a sign that they are in control of their GI tracts, no longer a slave to the renegade turd that refused to exit on command. Hence, when sharing her feelings about being called a “diva” to a British reporter, Carey said: ““Well, my mother was an opera singer, so I’m comfortable with the old-fashioned meaning of the word diva. And if somebody said you were the cupcake diva of Manhattan, that would be OK too. But I’m not, like, this hysterical woman — I promise you!” Airbrushing is, hence, the token of a promise. The pierced belly is the promise of youth; the defined abdomen, the promise of self-control—and we should add, the beer belly a commitment to sloth and, the pregnant belly, the promise of life. Insofar as the navel is a reminder of origins, moreso than breasts, penises, vaginas, mouths, eyes, and assholes, the abdomen reflects our fears of social and literal death.

clamoring for atrocity

July 7th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult: Diamonds and Daggers

Like many of us, I awoke this morning to the horrific news that London had been bombed, and this hour, it seems there are approximately 40 confirmed deaths. What is almost as equally disturbing is the way the news media are choosing to cover the “event.” News has decidedly entered the zone of “real time” coverage as the immediacy of terror is willfully elongated into an exciting, Speilberg-esque state of continual emergency. Now it’s time for Blair to assert the state of exception, no?

Watching television news coverage of the London bombings—the inane chatter that mindlessly repeats the same, scanty details over and over and over to fill the time and keep the sense of immediate presence alive—one cannot help but think of Baudrillard’s many compelling arguments about terrorism, especially the following:


It is almost they who did it, but we who wanted it. If one does not take that into account, the event lost all symbolic dimension to become a pure accident, an act purely arbitrary, the murderous fantasy of a few fanatics, who would need only to be suppressed. But we know very well that this is not so. Thus all those delirious, counter-phobic exorcisms: because evil is there, everywhere as an obscure object of desire. Without this deep complicity, the event would not have had such repercussions, and without doubt, terrorists know that in their symbolic strategy they can count on this unavowable complicity.

The news media, as we all know, is almost synonymous with Western government—at least here in the United States—and so the gaped-mouthed reporting and clamoring for bloody images and photos of blown up buses are used to create a sense of deep anticipation to ready us for the phallic assertion of community. Just like Speilberg’s War of the Worlds, atrocity generates the desire for the assertion of the sovereign, the mystical rites of the force of law.

So not once, but twice the G8 “leaders” met behind Tony Blair as the inevitable dirty work is done (notably, with Bush on his right): the bombings are rightly condemned as barbaric, but then, quickly packaged into a binary that characterizes whatever the resolution of the G8 talks will be, it is perfectly righteous in comparison. More disturbing yet predictable, of course, are Bush’s inane remarks urging “vigilance” and home and stressing, repeatedly, the “resolve” of world leaders. “The War on Terror goes on,” he said to reporters this morning asserting his righteous rigidity. They, I mean we, secretly want atrocity to remind us of how good we are.

fireworks barge catches fire, or, welcome to louisiana

July 5th, 2005 by Bolibuckness

Music: Junior Kimbrough: “Go To Hell”

Last night was a spirited evening of grilling, music, conversation . . . and fireworks! The best exploding balls of fire were seen on the sidewalk in front of our house; Shappy made some dynamite burgers, and it was good to see so many merry folk meting measured patriotism (patriotism is a good thing; last night we celebrated the strict separation of church and state, something definitely to be patriotic about).

After days of televised talk about how this year’s display of explosions in the sky would be bigger and better than ever, we were only treated to about ten minutes of rather lackluster boom-boom; all of us were disappointed and much more amused by the “snakes” and “Blue Thunder” roman candles that Jim acquired. Photo’s of last night can be found in this gallery.

It turns out the Baton Rouge fireworks extravaganza was plagued by typical, Louisiana-style incompetence: the fireworks barge caught fire (Wendy Armington arrived later to report she saw the whole fiasco from the banks of the levee). The write up in theThe Advocate, Baton Rouge’s premiere newspaper, is hilarious and demonstrative of the kind of smart thinking typical of the in-charge crowd here:


“July 4 Celebration Sparkles, Shimmers; America Reflects on Iraq War, Issues at Home”

By Nikki G. Bannister and David Jacobs, Advocate Staff Writers

Thousands of Baton Rougeans and others decencded upon downtown for the annual Star Spangled Celebration thoughout the day on Monday, jamming streets, parking lots and the levee.

The celebration included a tour of the USS Kidd Veterans Memorial and Museum [basically, an abandoned WWII warship docked next to a casino], vendor booths, face-painting, music, a World War II re-enactment, hot air balloons, flyovers by the F-15 Eagles and “Fireworks on the Mississippi,” sponsored by The Advocate and WBRZ Channel 2.

The fireworks display was shorter than expected.

David Spear, a friend of the sponsors, said a fireworks shell blew up on the deck barge instead of up in the air.

The blowup caused a malfunction in the electrical control-firing system, he said, and a significant amount of the display was lost.

As millions of Americans celebrated the Fourth of July from beaches to backyard barbecues, at concert venues and elsewhere, they also reflected on the most pressing issues facing the country.

“I’m trying to save the ones who can’t make it in public schools,” said David Matlosz, an adult education teacher and St. Amant resident.

“We need to go back to the basics: reading and basic math.”

“We try to be too technical. They can work a computer, but they can’t read and write. They’d rather play with a computer than read a book,” he said.

Janie Bernal of Baker has a son in the U.S. Air Force and she believes the war is the most serious problem facing the country . . . .

“And Josh Gunn, a three-year resident of the Red Stick, believes that there really must be something in the water supply . . . . ” I’d type more of this front page story if I could bear it, adding some cynically smug commentary had I the patience, but I think the gist is clear enough: the newspaper story is homologous to the display, which bespeaks some horrifying and hilarious underlying commonality.