Monday, July 25, 2011

Monday Mix Tapes: For You, I Was a Flame

Like many, I can't say I was shocked to hear the news of Amy Winehouse's passing. I feel so saddened by it—both the reality of her death, and my lack of shock.

Maybe it's partly due to the curse of 27.

Maybe it's because I first fell in love with her, and that voice, when I first heard "Stronger than Me" while I was living in London.

Maybe it's because her swipes of eyeliner just got more and more dramatic, to the point of absurd, as Amy herself seemed more and more vulnerable.

Maybe it's because I loved the album Back to Black so goddamn much, and I had a feeling as soon as the first rehab cracks were made that there probably wasn't going to be a follow-up.

Or it might have even been how deeply affected I was by the title track, "Back to Black"—it might not have been a situation where he loved blow and I loved puff, but damn if I didn't cry for him on the kitchen floor, if we didn't only "say goodbye with words" as he went back to her "and I go back to black."

There was something about listening to Amy that made me relive every heartache, every guilt, every vulnerability.

Then there was that Rolling Stone cover article.

God, I love her music. My heart goes out to her family. Recently, when she had briefly started a tour, I watched a video of her attempts at performing. I sat at my desk and felt an overwhelming sense of sadness. I felt scared for this. And then it happened.

"I don't know why I got so attached":

And now, the final frame:

Amy, I hope you're at peace now. Just know, "for you, I was a flame."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Give Me a Reason

I am currently forcing myself not to buy pre-sale tickets for the Portishead show in October.

But...but! THIS:

I just wanna be a woman, too, Beth Gibbons! Buy me a ticket!

"I'm so tired of playing with this bow and arrow..."

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Mix Tapes: Pitchfork Roundup

Finally, I did it. I'd been talking about it for years, complained each year I didn't do it, but then still didn't make anything happen. But this year, I made it happen.

Wow, Alison! You mean you finally wrote your book? Got an essay published?

No, silly! I went to Pitchfork! All 3 days!

Until last Friday afternoon, I had never stepped foot in Union Park. The farthest I had journeyed on the Green line was to the Clinton stop.

Of course, I was no music festival virgin. (I am way too good of a white person for that! Duh!) I've been to Lolla twice; in fact, I worked one year at Lolla, passing out beer to the sweaty festival goers and gleefully snapping off wristbands of the underage kids and then taking a big, smug sip out of my Budweiser.

But I had never ventured to Pitchfork, and boy, oh boy, was I excited.  

Neko Case! Deerhunter! Fleet Foxes! Merrill! Tunde Adebimpe! TUNDE! ADEBIMPE!

Now that I am a seasoned veteran, let me tell you some things I've learned in the last few days, thanks to this experience. (Bear with me! At the end of this there is music! I swear.)

1. I must look incredibly innocent/harmless. Unfortunately, my pretzels did not.
After walking directly to the front of the line at the park entrance, and while the security person whom Natalie and I fondly referred to as "Dad" screamed at a guy trying to bring in the wrong kind of camera, I marched up to security and held open my tote bag. Having coming straight from work to the festival, I also had a purse within my tote. As I went to unzip the purse so he could look inside, he said, "Oh NO," grabbed my unopened bag of pretzels, and refused to look inside my purse.

He stared at me. "Is this food?"

"Umm, yes?" My real questions were: Aren't you supposed to look in my purse? What if I have a gun in there? WHY DON'T YOU KNOW THAT A BAG OF PRETZELS IS FOOD? Also, WHAT IF I HAVE A GUN?

He tossed the unopened pretzels in the garbage. I mourned the loss for five seconds, prayed that anyone who might actually be carrying a weapon into the park had her purse examined, entered Pitchfork, and blissfully ventured to the beer tent and to hear tUnE-yArDs

By Day 2, I learned my lesson. A granola bar came in with me to the festival, nestled deep inside the bag that once again was not searched, along with my oh so hip Eddie Bauer flask balanced on my hip, under my shorts. I was smugger than I was when I was 16 and sneaked Hot Damn in to the football game and chomped on Big Red to explain my lethal cinnamon breath. Take THAT, authority! I brought in a granola bar and blueberry vodka! I am a REBEL!
2. White people. Lots of white people.
We all knew this was coming. There's nothing we white folks love more than a hot, outdoor summer music festival. We get to wear silly outfits! Dance exactly as ridiculously as only we truly know how! Wear silly outfits! Dance, badly! And if we're not dancing, we are standing perfectly still. Except for that one right leg or some intense head nodding. You know what I'm talking about. 
I kid, I kid, it wasn't only white people in the audience. But there sure were a lot of them. I mean, us. There was also a lot of sweaty teenagers, tattoos, and feathers used as various pieces of jewelry. (And yes, I did wear my feather earrings one day, thank you for asking. I wore my tattoo all three days.)
See Stuff White People Like #41: Indie Music for more understanding about white people, and how music is the soundtrack to our lives.
3. Sunblock and the shade are your friends. Also, I'm old.
In years past, you might have seen me at a music festival, running around spilling beer all over myself, perfecting my helicopter dance and the art of going barefoot in public, but now I am old and wise. I remembered sunscreen. I willingly sat in the shade as much as possible. I still spilled beer on myself and actually dropped five dollars in my beer at one point, but that is only because I am clumsy. I will be doing that sort of shit when I am 70, I promise. Well, hopefully I won't be at Pitchfork when I'm 70, because that might be silly. But whatever. From our spot under a tree, Natalie and I watched all the kids walking around—yeah, I actually thought kids, cause I am apparently middle aged—and I felt old and young all at the same time. It was disconcerting and wonderful.
4. Enough of this! Here is some music!
 Obviously, you'll go to Pitchfork for the real roundup and coverage, but here are some of my personal favorite songs I got to hear live over the weekend.
Desire Lines! "When you were young/and your excitement showed/But as time goes by..."

Neko is still glad she left the party at 3 a.m. (alone, thank God). And may I mention I of course was standing in the port-o-pot line as this song was playing.

You're my favorite daydream. (Couldn't find a clip from the show, but I can't leave this one out.)

This dress rocks my world. And so does Zola Jesus.

I made it through "Limit to your love" without crying. I was quite pleased with myself. But, holy shit:

And then I fell in love with Cut Copy.

Apparently people were too busy doing other things (cough, cough) during Curren$y's set, because I'm not finding many videos on the YouTube. But he put on a damn entertaining show, and cracked me up almost as much as the fat kid in front of me smoking everyone else's weed. Just livin' the jet life. You know. HA!

Finally, a little glimpse of TV on the Radio, the performance I was most excited about:

As I expected, my favorite moment was when Tunde Adebimpe sang "Will Do"— what can I say, I'm a sucker for a love song.  

"Your heart makes a fool of you, you can't seem to understand"

There are plenty more moments I could bore or delight you with, but what can I say, I'm worn out. I just spent three days in the hot sun surrounded by a bunch of sweaty youngsters. But totally worth it.

What can I say. It's the feeling I get every time I hear Tunde Adebimpe belt out:

"Oh my reddest rose! Caldera! Set it off!"

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Poetry Slam Tuesdays: The Catastrophe of My Personality

A glass of red wine and Frank O'Hara. I highly recommend it. This poem, in particular. I'd say it makes me want to cry, but that's too obvious, huh. But God! The way he talks about his "wounded beauty" makes my heart aflutter, too.

I often wait for "for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again, and interesting."

Perhaps I am myself again. Words!

By Frank O'Hara

My heart’s aflutter!
I am standing in the bath tub
crying. Mother, mother
who am I? If he
will just come back once
and kiss me on the face
his coarse hair brush
my temple, it’s throbbing!

then I can put on my clothes
I guess, and walk the streets.

I love you. I love you,
but I’m turning to my verses
and my heart is closing
like a fist.

Words! be
sick as I am sick, swoon,
roll back your eyes, a pool,

and I’ll stare down
at my wounded beauty
which at best is only a talent
for poetry.

Cannot please, cannot charm or win
what a poet!
and the clear water is thick

with bloody blows on its head.
I embrace a cloud,
but when I soared
it rained.

That’s funny! there’s blood on my chest
oh yes, I’ve been carrying bricks
what a funny place to rupture!
and now it is raining on the ailanthus
as I step out onto the window ledge
the tracks below me are smoky and
glistening with a passion for running
I leap into the leaves, green like the sea

Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again,
and interesting, and modern.

The country is grey and
brown and white in trees,
snows and skies of laughter
always diminishing, less funny
not just darker, not just grey.

It may be the coldest day of
the year, what does he think of
that? I mean, what do I? And if I do,
perhaps I am myself again.

Monday, July 11, 2011

But Erica Jong, We're Raunchy, Too! The Young Feminists Cry

Yesterday I was thrilled to see an op-ed in the NY Times by Erica Jong, one of my favorite authors, poets, and sex-pots.

My thrill lasted for about 15 seconds.

In "Is Sex Passé?" Ms. Jong begins:

What could be more eternal than sexuality? The fog of longing, the obsession with the loved one’s voice, smell, touch. Sex is discombobulating and distracting, it makes you immune to money, politics and family. And sometimes I think the younger generation wants to give it up.

People always ask me what happened to sex since “Fear of Flying.” While editing an anthology of women’s sexual writing called “Sugar in My Bowl” last year, I was fascinated to see, among younger women, a nostalgia for ’50s-era attitudes toward sexuality. The older writers in my anthology are raunchier than the younger writers. The younger writers are obsessed with motherhood and monogamy.

Umm, what? What younger women are you hanging out with, Erica? (Can I call you Erica?) Even trying to imagine having a "nostalgia for '50s-era attitudes toward sexuality" makes me feel a little nauseated. I think I can say, with complete certainty, that not one woman in my circle of friends would share that sentiment.

But, I told myself, this is Erica Jong, visionary behind the "zipless fuck"—read Fear of Flying if you don't know what I'm referring to, for chrissakes!—so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt. Undoubtedly plenty of younger writers (along with a large group of older writers, I'll wager) are "obsessed with motherhood and monogamy." Sure. Wait, though: since when are motherhood and monogamy mutually exclusive? Jong herself is an obvious example that they're not. Yet even if these young writers are "obsessed" with motherhood and monogamy, how does that equate a disinterest in sexual passion, or let's get real, even a raunchy attitude toward sex? Aren't monogamous mothers capable of "discombobulating and distracting" sex?

C'mon now! Where is this all going?

While I do have to agree that “Daughters always want to be different from their mothers,” holds an element of truth, when Jong goes on to say, “If their mothers discovered free sex, then they want to rediscover monogamy,” she’s overlooking a huge factor. Not all of our mothers “discovered free sex”! And honestly, even if they did, that might not be an aspect that any of us witnessed about our mothers. Sure, I know my mother had some single years, but during my lifetime, she was a happily married woman. She was also open to talking to me about sex. I guess my point is, it’s not always so black and white. Not always one extreme or the other. Just because Jong was part of the “free sex” movement, I don’t think we can claim that all young women have mothers who were. Plenty of the young women today who yearn for married with children bliss have happily married mothers as role models.

Jong continues to make claims throughout the piece that I find disappointing and even confusing, such as when she discusses how the Internet offers “simulated sex without intimacy, without identity and without fear of infection”—okay, so what? Does she think that in between our daydreams of wearing a “man-distancing sling” and breast-feeding “at all hours so your mate knows your breasts don’t belong to him” we are all getting off to Internet porn? It's not entirely clear, as she uses vague language about "Internet sex" that makes me nervous that she's never, in fact, used the Internet. “Clearly the lure of Internet sex is the lack of involvement. We want to keep the chaos of sex trapped in a device we think we can control,” she writes.

I would argue that the “lure of Internet sex” (if that's what we're calling it) is indeed about control, but not necessarily as a means to avoid the “chaos” of actual sex. Without getting into the dreaded Feminism and Pornography argument (pleasegoddon’tbringmeintothat), I think it’s worth noting that, perhaps young women (and men) are going to the Internet to find sexual pleasure when they don’t have a partner. I mean, DUH. Of course it’s about control! Controlling your orgasms. Does that mean our generation doesn’t care about sex?

No. It just means we have more options.

Monday Mix Tapes: Gladys, Alicia, and Some Merry Men, It Seems

The other evening, Lauren and I were talking about boys and ponies and ribbons or whatever it is girls like to talk about, and we came to a startling realization:

She didn't know Alicia Keys' version of "If I Was Your Woman," a Gladys Knight and the Pips' cover. EVEN WORSE, I only knew Alicia's version. I think I even said, "Oh, THAT'S why she says it's a 'shout out to Miss Gladys Knight.'"


I had to put a stop to this.

Clueless young souls everywhere, meet Miss Gladys Knight and the Pips, who for some reason or another are dressed like Robin Hood's merry men (umm. the DANCING!). But whatever. Gladys is rocking that green eyeshadow.

And now we have Miss Alicia, who is beautiful as ever in the unplugged version. I may or may not have listened to her unplugged album repeatedly on drives from Bloomington to Knightstown in the Dodge Neon. I may or may not have been singing at the top of my lungs while doing so. (And may I point out that Alicia's eyeshadow is equally incredible in this video?)

Okay, I feel better now. But will someone get me a Gladys Knight and the Pips record, stat? Oh, and I don't have a record player, so I'll need that, too. Great, thanks!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011