Saturday, January 29, 2005

Say it ain't so, Ringo!

According to the New Musical Express:

RINGO STARR is to become a cartoon superhero.

The ex-Beatle is set to feature in a new cartoon which will hit TV and DVD next year.

The brainchild of the cartoon is ’Spider-Man’ creator Stan Lee.

He said: "Ringo is beloved worldwide for his commitment to people and his singular wit. Our Ringo superhero character will combine these qualities, along with Ringo's secret powers." (emphasis added)

Okay, not quite speechless. But two words for Ringo: Mission: Magic.

In disturbingly similar news, in 2003 Gene Simmons created a Canadian cartoon called My Dad the Rock Star. Any Canadian readers want to weigh in on this? I'm guessing it was short-lived, but one can never tell.... Posted by Hello

Friday, January 28, 2005

Thursday, January 27, 2005

True Confessions: The Donnas

I like The Donnas. That's all I'm going to say.

I just read a whole thread over at about how they're not as good as Husker Du. And how many guys there want to fuck them. And how they suck. And there are no good girl bands. And... ah, crap. *Sigh* I know I piss people off with my argument about misogyny, but I'm not wrong. I just wish there were *less* evidence for me.

The Donnas have crossed the punk/pop line, I think. Sounds like they live in our neighborhood now. And anyone who puts PJ Soles in a video (answering the question of Local H before they asked it) is OK by me.

I admit it, I was (gulp!) wrong!

A few weeks ago in this space, I noted that Bez, the delightfully pointless go-go boy/pusher/groupie for Happy Mondays and Black Grape, had been eliminated from the BBC version of Celebrity Big Brother.

I was wrong.

At one point, he had been the odds-on favorite, a position he slipped from after he tried to escape.
During the show, which raised £250,000 for charity, Bez attempted a half-hearted escape and lost his temper on several occasions which he put down to “missing my weed”.

Of course, that just made his odds better when he won.

More than that, according to NME, they're now giving him his own fly-on-the-wall show, like The Osbournes, in which we'll be able to watch (in three years, when BBC America gets around to showing it) The Life of Bez! Starring Shaun Ryder as, well, himself, one hopes. I can't wait to see the Christmas episode. I hope it's like the one on The Osbournes where Ozzy got trashed and talked to the camera for the whole show. "I'm a drunk and I'm a fool, but I could be worse. I could be.... (pregnant pause, obviously trying to think of the worst person possible)... Sting."

Admitting I'm wrong isn't so bad. That's what I get for my studious avoidance of reality TV. Fair enough.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Friday Babyblogging Returns!

Our little Irish girl.... Posted by Hello

More on the: Worst. Concert. Ever.

Wow. Only half-full. Even Jenna and Not Jenna didn't want to be there.

And at least one teen described Bush as "hot". I weep for the future.
Concertgoers Meghan Lowry and Abbee Thevenot, both 16 and from New Orleans, paid $2,000 to come to Washington for a week to learn about government and politics. Both supported Mr. Bush.

"I agree with most of his views. I think he's a good leader," Meghan said.

Abbee liked the president for a different reason though.

"He's hot," she said.

The two girls stood in front of a long catwalk that extended from the massive main stage, where, between acts, large video screens flashed quotes about community service from Abraham Lincoln, Anne Frank, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and former first lady Barbara Bush.

Some guy from Fuel did say "fuck" but apparently apologized right away. TBogg's good on this.

It's enough to make a girl long to see public oral sex at an AC/DC concert, an image our buddy Backslider has indelibly planted into the public imagination.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Not a real posting, but news of various kinds:

My buddies Provan have been featured on This Week's Finds over at Fingertips, a great site which links to all kinds of free mp3's on the web. Joe and Bill are back from their Midwestern adventure, apparently having narrowly avoided murder at a Ted Nugent concert. (True: Ted was encouraging his audience to kill liberals, New Yorkers, John Kerry, and.... um, singer-songwriters, maybe?) Anyway, they got out alive, undoubtedly in some Europa, Europa sort of fashion, by pretending to be Republicans, or perhaps by hiding under the rotting carcass of a bull, like Liam Neeson in Rob Roy.

Also, apparently The Records are back in the studio. For geeks like me and my buddy steve, this is deeply exciting news. You can read about it and hear some new (and old) clips at the link above.

I think I'll just keep posting nuggets as I find them.

America's Future Sucks Today

Like many of us, I'm hiding my head in the sand to avoid the triumphalist Nuremburg Rally coronation thingy currently taking shape in Washington. I toyed briefly with the idea of catching "Blue Flu," but since it's only the second day of classes, didn't think it would be ethically or pedagogically responsible. I do however, plan on honoring Not One Damn Dime Day tomorrow. When futile gestures are all we have, bring on the futile gestures!

But I was shocked to discover, through Atrios, that my own little plot of ground had something to do with the unpleasantness. Indeed, in an increasingly lame attempt to seem hip, the Bush girls apparently had their own inaugural ball/party/concert last night. See! They're modern! They're popular! They're going to work with orphans in Harlem! Or, you know, maybe they'll just keep getting drunk in public and elbowing their way into hip Manhattan eateries.
On November 3, 2004, I received an e-mail from Michael Moore entitled something like "Seventeen Reasons Not to Slit Your Wrists." I remember few of them, but one I do recall was "We love the Bush girls. Admit it." Ummmm.... no. I don't actually love them, being a straight woman and so immune to their charms. I find them deeply stupid and smug, feeding off evil. Sorry, Mike. Men may be able to forgive them and their brainless shilling on the off chance that one of the girls (apparently only one, though it's reportedly not that difficult ) will fuck them someday, but that's no inducement for me.

The main press this concert has received involves the Kid Rock kafuffle: apparently, if you write a song in which you consider, then reject as lame, pimping out a guy's mom (or some twins' grandma), it will not necessarily keep you from getting invited to perform at the inaugural. It might, however, get you uninvited when the 'rents or the Christian Right gets wind of it. I guess I'll have to wait for Jeb's inaugural to see Donald Wildmon dancing with Kid Rock's porn-star girlfriend.

So who did appear at this noble and family friendly event? Hillary Duff. Ruben Stoddard. And some cand called Boxkar, whose lack of spelling skills shows you just how cool they are ("Look! Just like the Beatles!"). I have no need to trash them: TBogg's done a fine job.
Can these artists rock?

Not fucking likely.

Here is what Boxkar has to say about itself on their own website:

Their songs have an appeal and realness of a Matchbox Twenty with a swagger of an Aerosmith.

Wanting to have the "appeal and realness" of Matchbox Twenty is like wanting to be funny like Bob Saget. After the inauguration I suggest a new name: A Flock of Wankers.

See, with TBogg around, I have no need for snark. But a quick check of the major news outlets reveals no reports about how the show actually went. I'll keep looking and update if necessary.

Hooo-boy. No news outlets appear to want to discuss it. But here's what Chuimpy McButwiggle said, according to the White House:
Listen, I want to thank all the entertainers who were here today. How about Hilary Duff. She was fantastic. (Applause.) Thank you, Hilary. JoJo -- JoJo is here -- yeah. (Applause.) Rubin Studdard -- you talk about a success story. (Applause.) Ryan Cabrera, I appreciate Ryan being here. (Applause.) How about Three Doors Down? (Applause.) Pretty cool guys, right? Seem cool to me. (Applause.) Fuel -- I appreciate Fuel being here. (Applause.) Jason Sehorn -- I'm honored that my friend, Jason -- and I'm really proud and pleased that he brought his wife, Angie Harmon. (Applause.)

I want to thank Steve Baldwin for being with us today. I'm honored that Steve was here. Erika Harold, Miss America 2003 -- what a fine person Erika is. (Applause.) How about Kelly Purdue, the "apprentice." (Applause.) Next thing you know, the guy will be running for President. (Applause.) Nancy O'Dell -- I'm honored that Nancy is with us. I appreciate you all coming.

But my fave, hands down:
And my call to you all is that as you enjoy the great freedoms of America, and as you enjoy yourself at this inauguration, I hope you take away the lesson of helping somebody in need. And when you do, it will not only make our country a better place, it will lift up your own spirit.

Didja ever see the movie Bedazzled? Not the crappy Brendan Frazer version (though I love him, usually), but the 1968 version with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, the one that actually discusses theology. In it, Satan has a deal with God that if he gets to one hundred billion souls first, he gets back into heaven. So he does, and even restores Stanley Moon's soul as a good deed. But as St. Peter points out, doing a good deed to make yourself feel better is doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Take that, Chimpy.

And thank you, thank you, thank you to Holden, whose obsession with the gaggle always makes me giggle before I gag!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Where The Boys Are, Part 3

I almost fear addressing this issue, and as I examine my own reluctance, I realize that, while I consider this absolutely crucial, I retain the absolutely assinine concern of (for lack of a better term) alienating boys. As I write this, the imaginary blogger scandal dominates the discourse of the Sunday morning news shows, proving that, as Thers notes, only certain people are allowed to get angry, even in the face of complete fucking lies. (He has a more complicated point: that civility is invoked as a form of censorship, but you can toddle over to metacomments to get that.) In any case, I probably worry more than I should about offending: one of the benefits of having a pop blog with a--uh--selective readership (in the Spinal Tap sense) should be that I don't worry about such things. (I also don't get trolls, though I did have one once--followed me over from Eschaton--who wanted me to listen to Miles Davis. Heh. I guess that *is* how you'd troll a blog like this, though.)

But in truth, I do have issues with pop, mostly surrounding the issue of gender. Lyrically, much of the music I love obsesses over personal relationships, and because of the preponderance of male artists in this form, presents a certain view of them. I have no problem with that, except insofar as the bulk of the catalog turns into some rant by Saint Jerome--and that does happen sometimes. The peculiarity of pop, it seems to me, is that the melodic structure is so often fiercely at odds with the lyrical venom. Form and message functional oppositionally, like an Aryan Nations puppet show, or those old racist Bugs Bunny cartoons. It sounds great, but the pleasure conceals a damaging message: too frequently, the message is male rage at women, the rage of the powerful over the disempowered, which ought to leave a bad taste in anyone's mouth.

Of course women have rage, too. When women do music, I think, they tend toward harder genres: punk or metal, for example, which focus their anger differently. The venom--the power, maybe better--works on both levels, aurally and ideologically. There are examples of female anger in pop--Sam Phillips's "Baby, I Can't Please You" springs to mind--but generally one has to wander into the realm of the riot grrrls to get a real taste of it. (Mary Prankster's "The World Is Full of Bastards (And I've Dated Every One)" tells you all you need to know, really.)

The defense, which I've heard from some surprising quarters, is the persona. In other words, songwriting is not a wholly autobiographical process. Some percentage of what comes out is intended as a witty, ironic commentary on the state of gender relations in the world from a position not the writer's own: "Look at this outrageous position! Please join me in recognizing its fundamental absurdity." (Though, you know, not quite in those words.) Everybody wants to be Jonathan Swift.

It's not that I disbelieve the persona argument, necessarily. I do believe it some portion of the time. But I also recognize its function as an ex post facto defense. Women's anger at injustice is often declawed by this method. "Jeez! Didn't you get it? It was a joke!" (Once, and I swear I am not making this up, levelled at me by a colleague whose hand was still on my ass at the time I was supposed to be laughing at his witty deconstruction of the forms of sexual harrassment.) Some portion of my male readership, assuming they're still reading, is almost certainly rolling their eyes at this argument and muttering some long-toothed old saw about "political correctness" or how feminists have no sense humor. Perhaps I am proving their point. But it's worth noting that they are also proving mine.

I'll bet we can do better. Can't we?

Friday, January 14, 2005

Where the Boys Are, Part 2

When I think--as I probably do too often--about what pop music means to me, I frequently consider crucial questions of identity formation. I'm a scholar, guys. A professional geek. I think that the texts we consume shape us in important ways, teach us what it means to be human, but also to be female or male. There's beauty and language, sure. But underneath that, there's ideology. And that can be seriously scary stuff.

One of my ongoing concerns with this genre is a fear that the ideology of pop is inherently misogynist. Because of the overweening concern with personal relationships, the ideology of gender relations is central to any understanding of what pop means. And because of the overwhelming percentage of male artists in the field, the representations of such experiences tend to be, well, narrow.

Now, I love this band, but just consider this verse through the lens of gender relations.
Baby when I pointed the gun at you
I thought that you'd be begging down on your knees
Instead you wouldn't even say 'please'
And I didn't know what to do

Why do you lie?
Why do you hold your head up high
So other eyes passing by
See I'm not over you?

I am certainly willing to entertain the argument that this is merely witty overstatement intended to convey dramatic intent. I do not believe that this artist, who shall remain nameless, has ever pulled a weapon on anyone (and we'll pause to remind ourselves for one second of the Freudian implications here, eg: XTC's "My Weapon"). My point has more to do with the supposed crime of "hold[ing one's] head up high" as a rationale at all.

More on this later.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Mea Culpa!

Man, where did I disappear to? Nowhere really. Just life and family and stuff. But I'm back, I promise. And I missed all kinds of good stuff, including the apparent dismissal of bookie favorite Bez from the British version of Celebrity Big Brother. Reportedly, the only thing he regretted was that he could not smoke ganja in the house. Ah, Bez.

I have just been called a snob on a music thread at Eschaton. Hmmm. I don't think I am, really. There are things I don't listen to, but hey, there are only so many hours in a day! I just don't need to fill them with New Edition.

But snobbery, it seems to me, is a peculiar impulse. Thersites would point us to Bourdieu's Distinction, in which everyone's favorite Frog sociologist discusses patterns of consumption, identity, and the field. But I'm not Thersites. I see snobbery as an essentially exclusionary impulse, identity formation through process of (fierce, refusing) elimination. Not, "I am this person," but, "I am this person because I am not that person and never would be, and the person I am is better than that other person."

None of which is intended in anything like a hierarchical or moral sense, at least not from my end. We pop fans are modest: we make no claims to high culture. There are pop snobs, no doubt. I've met them. But it's not like I'm tying people down making them listen to XTC. I'm just encouraging them to do so. And ya know, if you're in my car, you take what you get. But I do weary of people saying to me, "That sucks!" over what, is, essentially, a matter of taste. (Particular pet peeve? When they do not in fact know the music in question and are sneering based on reputation, not actual opinion.)

This really only seems to be a problem when I'm shuttling teens about, which gets to my central point about the process of identity formation implied by snobbery: it's basically an adolescent mode of functioning. I don't ask anyone to come this site; hell, I'm embarrassed that somehow my mother-in-law found it. I'm always deeply touched when people find me through it, which happens not frequently, but steadily. Fellow travelers. But I expect the Leonard Cohen people congregate somewhere, and the Queensryche people, and the New Edition people. Don't they?

Monday, January 03, 2005

Raspberries Reunion, Continued

A few weeks ago, I blogged in this space about the Raspberries Reunion show at the House of Blues in Cleveland. By all accouts, it went off surprisingly well, and even the famously full-of-himself Eric Carmen behaved, according to the Cleveland Free Times.
Surprises included two songs by pre-Raspberries band the Choir and covers of Who and Beatles tunes. The evening could have been potentially soured by Carmen's ego, notorious for 30 years running. But he actually seemed somehow humbled by the occasion, and his stage presence was rather endearing.
By all accounts, the crowd was older, which should come as no surprise, and many wore raspberry-colored ribbons to the bars ahead of time so as to recognize each other. That I can handle, but I think I would have been a bit put off by the raspberry scent which apparently was pumped into the club, and I know Dear Thers would have been bolting for the fresh air at that point.

Things went so well at Thanksgiving that they played again this week, for New Year's Eve. No reviews seem to have been posted for that show yet, however.

Next up is a January 15th show at the House of Blues in Chicago. Rumor has it that the Raspberries may not be the only band in attendance that evening, but I can't say much more than that. It's definitely a show I wish I could catch. But having blown all my spousal goodwill on another band trip this week, I'm afraid it's out.

Still, it's nice to see the press these guys are getting. According to Rolling Stone, the mythos of the band always threatened to overpower their presence, one reason the long-awaited reunion was, well, so long-awaited.
And while Carmen made his mark as a solo artist in the ensuing years ("All By Myself," "Hungry Eyes"), the Raspberries' shadow continued to loom large. So large that Carmen became squeamish about reuniting.

Oddly, for me this worked in exactly the opposite direction. As I noted back in November, The Raspberries weren't so huge for me, partly because of the backward shadow cast by Carmen's solo career as a balladeer. As a feminist, I felt duty-bound to resist the chick-flicking of my consciousness and so found it necessary to forswear Dirty Dancing and its attendant love theme. I certainly recognize this as my own perversion, however.

Carmen continues, ruminating on the why now, why here question of the reunion (they tried to do this in 1999 by all accounts):
"Over thirty-plus years, a certain myth has grown up around the band. And the last thing I ever wanted to do was put us on a stage somewhere, in less than the best circumstances, and pop the bubble, have the fans come in and say, 'Gee, they weren't that good,'" admits Carmen. "It's your responsibility to give them something to be excited about.

The influence of The Raspberries in this little corner of rock I love has been enormous, however, and I acknowledge that. Even if the rumors of full tours and new records aren't true, it's nice to see old acrimonies dissipate long enough to remind us what it was all about in the first place.