the sequester is already having excellent effects. next time: sequester the entire budget.
seriously, these fiscal cliff things are the most boring crises in the pathetic history of mankind. all they are is a chance for both parties to issue clouds of idiotic rhetoric, each demonizing the other; it is a rhetorical crisis. i am so tired of being relentlessly manipulated; at a minimum, we need a new wave of cleverer or at least fresher manipulators. so anyway, after every single media personality absolutely assures us that there's no way to avoid the thing, there might easily be a last-minute deal; in which case, like the other times, there never was a crisis in the first place. seriously, wake me up when you've got a new approach or something, or when someone transcends the bullshit. meanwhile, if armegeddon breaks out, i'll adjust. or not. in fact, we'll all more or less figure out how to deal with any particular situation the government or the end of the government might provoke.
the democrats don't realize it, but they are systematically constructing an extremely compelling argument on behalf of rand paul. if you ever add any sort of government program, even if it's temporary or whatever, it becomes absolutely essential and there is no possibility that it will ever go away, and the democrats will essentially never permit it to be cut. so, just at a minimum, every new bureaucracy or expansion of the bureaucracy creates jobs, and then, you're going to throw people out of work? so, one rational response would be: alright, if that's your position, we've got to stop right here. not an inch further, or it will never not grow until it devours all.
and i have to say, the progressives' idea of progress is extremely unidimensional; there is essentially only one idea: progress is an ever-growing state or state sector. that's all there is, man, all you have to show intellectually for all that thought and theory and concern since 1848. obviously, the vision of utopia on the horizon is simply state domination of every aspect of every person's life. start over and think better. this course is demonstrably disastrous.
greetings from nola. here's a column i wrote last time i was down here, the mardi gras after katrina. with regard to the writer who declared that this is where she forgot the best moments of her life, i said that 'forgetting must always make you wonder whether regret is in order': that was perhaps too optimistic, because some folks are incapable of regret. one drawback of such people is that they are dangerous to themselves and others, because they will never undergo any moral development, or be better than they are now, which i would say it's obvious that they need to be. regret is a necessary condition of conscience, and not having any is really a kind or symptom or a mild case of psychopathy; the whole idea is to release yourself to do wrong or be disgusting or stupid, forever. i was negotiating my way back to the hotel through such people last night as they stumbled about swallowing ever-more alcohol and bellowing, or passed out in the alley puking, or tried to make out with strangers. these are, no doubt, the best moments of their lives.
on the other hand i had an amazing meal yesterday, and passed dr. john moving around with a cane on the outskirts of the quarter. everybody calls you 'baby' and makes you feel good just for being alive. the art that came and comes out of this place has changed the world. there is no doubt that these things are connected in certain ways, but not, i would say, by logical necessity or something, and even if the art is in part a transcendence of the degradation, it is also a self-reflection and something more than any particular source or experience can explain. honestly, the vice tourism isn't helping the quality of the art now, even if louis played the brothels in 1915 or whatever. it just freezes it into a kind of parody of itself and peddles it to these amazingly gross people from elsewhere.
if i sound puritanical, it's because puritanism is more or less the way i stay alive. i fail by its standards of course. but i am definitely opposed to these zones of moral impunity or moral vacation, and there is a catholic/protestant kind of split on this: mardi gras or the rio carnival are excellent examples, and occasionally people assert that these things are archetypal and necessary. but one problem is that these zones expand. every city has such zones. pretty soon, every saturday night is such a zone. but i do aspire to some sort of moral consistency. you have priests exempting themselves here or there from the values they profess, for example, and maybe confessing it later. that's a good way to become a monster.
ask yourself: you just married someone. they pledged monogamy. do you think as you pledge the same that they mean: except in vegas, except in new orleans, except saturday night, unless i'm really drunk? i've known people who actually became two people by this technique: the values they profess with total passion they violate in special zones or special occasions, when they have a completely different and incompatible set of values; they're like two moral agents, neither of whom appears even to know what the other is doing; personality b's acts don't count against personality c. it's a moral derangement, a form of dissociative personality disorder.
and then think about what actually happens to so many people in your zones of impunity. the hot young call girls, strippers, trade, who slowly decline into blank-eyed, broke, and broken victims. the addicts strewn around right there, under your very feet, leading lives of complete tortured misery and then dying. i guess the corpses stay in vegas. the people losing everything, including every shred of pride or decency, at the casinos. it seems like a happy harmless celebration. only if you are fucking blind, which is of course what you're trying to be.
obviously, i've been working on a chart of the interplay of gender, orientation, and aesthetics. in a positive moment in my aesthetic critique of girls and gay men, i said we love y'all anyway, in part because of the differences. now let me try to say a bit more about why, and how i'm thinking about this.
first you get the disclaimer: everything is at an absurdly general level; like, for example, david halperin, i'm trying to describe a cultural imaginary; no person occupies any point in the taxonomy with perfect centrality - and that goes for male and female as well as gay and straight and the various clusters of taste. also every interstice is occupied. i'm identifying an aesthetic coalition of straight women and gay men, and i'm saying that this alliance accounts for a lot of the way things look and sound in popular culture; i suppose one could sum it up like this: a celebration of artifice, an apotheosis of appearance, an orientation toward spectacle. but then just to portray the other side, where i was trying to pair lesbians and straight men, as the wholesale outlet of reality or sincerity or something would just be begging the question in favor of what i'm calling 'our side'. because, true, the appearance/reality split itself needs all sorts of examination. but one way it needs it is precisely as a gendered and orientated pair. it's a complementary system, a yin yang. you can't have one without the other. but i could also say: we're classical, you're baroque. you're rococo, we're neo-classical. you're impressionist, we're cubist. you're pop, we're minimalist.
look i think all these things arise in a system of complements, but then you've got to put them in action in time, like art movements, which they also literally are; they merge and diverge, divide within and coalesce across; the situation at a given time is complex and it's in the middle of reconfiguration. without touching the biology or genetics at all, the way male and female and straight and gay function makes them, i think obviously, interdependent and unstable. the center can be seen in all the sexual and erotic and aesthetic pairings, all the ways people in different groups are drawn to each other and repelled by each other, all the places and ways they merge and segregate themselves from each other, and each other from themselves: psychologically, linguistically, musically, visually, sexually.
the distinction between straight women and straight men - the immense venus/mars differences that supposedly make us incomprehensible to each other - are of course also the center of heterosexual erotics. right? we want to be incomprehensible to each other, and hence be ourselves. this really is actually symbolized in the yin yang, for example: it's a fucking cosmology of difference. and within heterosexuality, the differences become more and more intense because they are the center of the erotic lives of both sorts of people: men get manlier and drive trucks and watch sports, women get girlier and wear frills and makeup and stuff. they drink chardonnay and gossip or whatever. yo we despise that. we can't stand that shit. but what it means to be heterosexual is to emphasize the differentiation and want precisely people who drink creamy lattes and have closets full of incomprehensible grooming products. we are conniving to make ourselves so different that we can't communicate, and so different that we can't not want, can't not be for one another what the other lacks. then again, precisely because of wanting, we are drawn into proximity. we get to know each other. we want to be friends. we are frustrated that we can't communicate. we try. we oscillate toward similarity, and of course we are massively the same as embodied human beings and as part of the same culture or system of identities, even if our bodies and cultures are a bit different too. we try to approach our heterosexual relationships homosocially.
but and so, i don't think there's any objective normative weight in the eroticization of difference: sameness can also be eroticized (and every nuance in between). so we might call that homonormativity or, you know, yinyin or yangyang. well, guess what: heterosexual men and women are the same in that we are heterosexuals, and gay men and women are both gay. so this dimension is not just in play within gay and lesbian groups. now, as, say, lesbians emerge into a kind of erotic solidarity, straight men are migrating to similar symbol systems and erotic configurations, and vice versa: or as the hets push out they enter into an erotics of identification with the homos of the other gender, scattering outliers throughout the journey. one thing i'm trying not to do here is make the het categories fundamental; or to define the homo categories as parasitic on the het categories: i do think in their contemporary configuration they are mutually simultaneously caused, and inconceivable except as a whole system.
the thing is almost an erotic vortex or tornado, in which people are pulled in all sorts of directions by identifications and by disidentifications or disavowals. so the fact that i'm not female, and that i signal that with an entire repertoire - the way i move, the way i dress or groom, the way i adorn my environment, and so on - just is also the fact that i'm male: a complete aesthetic arsenal, but one that only makes sense in relation to its complements. and then the fact that i'm straight: well, that makes use of the same stuff. and so does the fact that you're not a straight woman. and then, with a tilde, that you're not a lesbian; then, that you're a gay man; then, with a tilde, that i'm a straight man, and so on, on each whirl picking up more debris, the whole thing changing shape as it spins.
pretty soon, you have, for example, the diva thing and all its doubly complex longings for the same and for the different. look one thing a diva is likely to be is a sex symbol among heterosexual men: the diva manifests various flavors of extreme femininity. and gay and straight men end up appreciating beyonce from different angles, but certainly erotically both ways round. if, say, lesbians at a certain point distinguish themselves from straight women by identifying with masculinity, then part of masculintiy is precisely eroticizing femininity: voila, lipstick. or if gay men are disavowing heterosexuality by disavowing masculinity or identifying as feminine, then part of being feminine is eroticizing masculinity: pretty soon you've got muscle-bound dudes with mustaches everywhere, more masculine than me by a ways.
but then these pairs might also put the eroticization of differences at an ironic distance, might put them in play, might be too conscious of them to regard them as natural, might see them as erotic resources rather than unbridgeable gaps. and that might be something you could teach us: to stop regarding our own sexuality as natural etc, or to not regard it as only natural, to see that it too is at least in part a performance, and put us in a position where performances of straightmaleness could be critiqued by straight males from different angles, or to see even paradigmatic enactments of masculinity as vulenrable to aesthetic and other sorts of critique. a muscley straight guy with a mustache might re-think his look and come to think of it as intentional. meanwhile, the hets are yearning across the gap and trying to keep the other side's interest or loyalty, and you've got straight women in business suits and metrosexuals. even in a very simplified picture of sameness difference/sameness sameness, there is a constantly volatile swirl of possibilities within all the groups and between them.
there are many oppressions in this unfolding situation, long histories of oppressions that are also eroticized, as dominance and submission, for example. alright? but still we do not want to be without the thing, because then we'd stop wanting, and also become incomprehensible to ourselves. and there are also many liberations, many zones of liberation, many stonewalls. all sorts of loves and all sorts of beauties are opened up as possibilities in the midst of the storm; it's the longings opening up within and across that make the beauty possible or give rise to it or even are it. the het male beauty of a michael jordan or a v-8 engine, the gay beauty of a judy garland or the exact right outfit. and it would not be crazy to look at these as both homo as well as hetero-erotic, as expressing solidarity and difference at once, or the erotics of identification and the erotics of distinction. there might even be transpositions over time as an expressions of yearnings-across.
what you actually want to do with these identities is not destroy or overcome them: no one really has that power even if they are sheer or mere cultural constructions. what you want to do is play with them. we need to try to reduce some of the weight, or some of the power of these systems to configure hatreds even as we try to hold on to the ways they configure loves: hatreds of the same and hatreds of the different. for these are also systems of exclusion, of course, or that's just to say the same thing again. what you want to try to do is increase the pleasure of them and decrease the pain, and i say the best place to focus and celebrate is the art, taking art at its broadest possible sweep, from body presentation to food to music to scent to interior design to cityscape. this is where the play of differences is relatively harmless, but profound. you can't have the identities without exclusions or at least judgments of taste that more or less condemn what is in contrast. but a question is: to what extent can you have these judgments without contemplating destruction? we often actually do pretty well at that, and straight guys in particular need to do it better without abandoning ourselves.
so one thing i am not going to do is just try to disown my male straightness. rather i am actually going to celebrate its aesthetic. we have given a lot of great stuff to the world, and we are, in our own way, extremely aesthetically oriented, or if you could take the oppression out, what you'd have left would be all kinds of interesting symbols and gestures, including all these signifiers of sincerity and authenticity and simplicity, hard work and self-discipline. you might think those are oppressive ideas; you don't actually want to be without them though. that's how we want to be seen, how we dress, how we want to think, how we want to talk.
i think the oppression has been taken out of this aesthetic repertoire at least to this extent: gay male/straight female aesthetics dominates our culture, even if it's still for the most part (apparently! straight men might always be gay men passing) straight men in congress or the board room. now, i say that our various aesthetic expressions and principles constitute a contribution and that you love us for it. and we don't want to lose it partly because of course you do want it. need it, i believe. and of course these categories play out in the tornado in a complex and equivocal way: we become self-deluded in our dedication to the simple truth, and y'all come out of the closet or delight to dress fashionably as an expression of the truth that should not be hidden. bruce springsteen - dressed simply, workin hard all night - might be as much of a gender/orientation re-enactor as rupaul, but might be less conscious of it.
and then i will say, albeit with some grudgingness because i do have the aesthetics i do have, that y'all have made all sorts of contributions too. and even if they were correctly described as frivolity or play or appearance or pop or hedonism or melodrama or spectacle: well, who the hell wants to live without those things in the world, right? anyway, even if i tried to withdraw from them, the withdrawal is defined by their presence. but i don't withdraw: i distinguish myself from them and i eroticize them, see? but looking at it the other way round: hedonism is not sufficient for anyone's liberation. liberation requires hard work, and you want to liberate yourself into something true or meaningful. on the other hand, folks like me seem to be somewhat pleasure or play-deprived. you need anger, but we're perhaps too angry. sheer insulation or ever-growing polarization are unfortunate, but they also intensify the yearnings that end up in new syntheses.
in short, we should really love each other. secretly or not, we do. we certainly need each other and depend on each other and want each other. we should stay different and we should yearn and try to appreciate. we should slum in each other's bars from time to time, and smile, etc. right? i think if you let these things play with you and play with them, the system might become more liquid or improvisational or multi-dimensional. but really who knows? it might even get more extremely differentiated or simplified, which could be interesting too if it doesn't freeze. but you want to start thinking of the gender/sexuality square as an immense set of aesthetic resources, which are also ways to be.
so, y'all think you can dance. could jerome robbins or rudolf nureyev improvise a great dance while you were trying to kick his ass? didn't have the stones, baby. but my people can do that. and we go a step further too: we dance while we kick your ass. we kick your ass by dancing.
needless to say, i am extremely opposed to universal pre-school. really i think they can get a standardized testing regime that extends from cradle to the grave: we can fully form every citizen's consciousness all day every day; that way we can compete with the chinese. you know, another way to represent universal pre-school would be this. tell me this is false: we are compelling you to surrender your toddlers to these government institutions for a certain portion of the day. it is precisely the sort of policy, for example, that religious schools practiced on indian reservations right through the 1950s; we have come to seize/retrain your children, or make them part of our culture. it was entirely a charitable project. however, unlike the indians, i believe, we will smile about it for the most part. for one thing, then parents can work longer hours. you will not even know that you are being compelled (though i think the toddler will be aware of it). and yet, read the law.
indian tribes eventually won the right to opt out of certain things; i guess they'll have to decide how 'universal pre-school' applies on reservations/nations. but few other sub-cultures (well, the amish, perhaps) could conceivably opt out. that is why each neighborhood ought to incorporate immediately as an independent nation in at least the indian/amish sense. then you could opt in if you like, and do your part to out-compete the finns.
remember what you thought about the characters in beasts of the southern wild? ok think about how they'd react to the fact that for their own good, we've come for your toddlers. one thing it is the death of: local knowledge, local centers of wisdom: it wants to make everyone the same, or we all have to have the same culture. that could be inspiring, i guess, but it is actually devoted to destroying all local cultures. and it rests on what i have to say is an arbitrary, artificial, historical contrivance: the basic cultural unit just has to be the nation state, because we are all americans. it is also almost the only culture that has to be, or that can be, actually enforced.
really obama is a pretty quintessential product of the 'meritocracy,' and one thing i'll say for such products: by and large they come out with the same opinions, expressed in the very same sentences. i don't think that this is because people with merit converge on the truth; i think they converge or coalesce into representatives of the institutions that produced them. there is less than no suspicion of power per se; something like that cannot even really be thematized by the time you've negotiated your way through harvard, with the jd/mba or whatever. one form of this is the cult of expertise that harvard just is: you keep deferring to the experts who have been created in these institutions, such as your profs, until you become one. that sounds good except it leaves you completely incapable of probing the assumptions of the discourse and institutions you're embedded in. you cannot rise unless you share these, and we inculcate them in you with every sentence for many years.
they cease to be aware of the power they are themselves exercising; they exercise it on behalf of the sheer facts uncovered by their expertise. it's the most basic things they are deploying that they can't defend because they can't be aware of them and be what or where they are. that is how they could just so effortlessly extend their sort of power - which is really them, disempowering you in quite concrete ways - right across the most intimate lives of people of every age: constantly building new, or building up existing structures of surveillance and information-control and consciousness-formation: it all flows perfectly through the rhetoric with no suspicion or even awareness of the fundamental character of their activities. it's all helping people or achieving prosperity. sometimes it might have these effects. but it is building and building the beast that will consume us, or might, at any rate, or is, bit by bit. it digests us slowly, until you don't even know you're ceasing to exist. the underside, where the power is applied, each person's or each family's or each hamlet's autonomy compromised more fully every day is just completely occluded. if foucault was around these days, he'd check out again.
see what i'm going to like about rand paul is that he will dip into this. he's not pushing everyone's interest in the sense that he's out here to preserve your benefits. he's pushing everyone's interest in the sense that he is still actually concerned with each person's liberty. that is what is worth holding onto in our tradition, but it is not even in the same universe as obama's rhetoric. (he might feel he has to wave around a disclaimer when he gets to guns, i guess.)
i have to say i kind of hate every bit of the state of the union. the pomp, the jockeying for handshakes, the laundry list: it's way too long to be some sort of meaningful single message, and it's way to short to do anything but wave vaguely at policies: 'i have a plan that will achieve as much medicare savings by the beginning of the next decade as the simpson-bowles plan.' you know, he delivered that with great passion. now it's back to 'we should do this right now, etc. i have to figure that reporters hate it; you have to cover it for days even though it is a completely staged non-event that never - never - makes actual news. and yet you have to say it's 'historic' etc. it has a certain power as a ritual or a tradition, however. i think they should read the constitution loud instead.
now on the other hand, here i am watching again. really it's a kinda twisted political life i lead: actively hostile and yet hypnotized or even obsessed. sad, really.
my amazing aesthetic manifesto is in the los angeles time today. free your senses, folks.
now, i think the first question that will arise for anyone is whether i can really defend my view that fast five is better than lincoln, obviously and by a long way. both films have stylish cinematography and good editing, but i think what made the difference for me with fast five were the really profound lesssons in leadership. watching vin diesel take a ragtag group of body-builders, hip hop artists, comedians, and models, and forge them into a unit capable of destroying rio...well, it was inspiring. as doris kerns-goodwin, on whose book fast five was based, has so often said with a groan of ecstasy, we need our president to be a lot more like vin diesel.
people like jill filipovic are spearheading a revival of classic second-wave feminism; she's amazingly appealing in a way just by being foursquare where ms. was in '72. but she definitely is writing in a different era; she has to deal now with her own love of fashion, which when you feed it through second-wave feminism just comes out as false consciousness. she takes a traditional line: women have to care about their appearance so much and engage in these consumption patterns and so on because the expectations on women's appearance by the patriarchy are so throrough and extreme; you can't survive an office job without carefully calibrating, etc.
this is a complete misunderstanding of where we are as a culture, i think. the fashion world is an aesthetic coalition of straight women and gay men that has developed autonomously for decades and which surely cannot, at this point, be plausibly regarded as sub-altern. (you have to think about these identities as combinations of privileged and deprivileged elements: gay, but male (and also, er, white); female, but straight (and white, etc.). they are not exactly only oppressed minorities.) we heterosexual guys for the most part have no idea what is happening or why and we don't care. perhaps straight women theorize that we have very fine-grained expectations about their appearance. not by their standards, we don't. so look, let's take the common obsession with shoes. if you think your 60-year-old het male boss at the real estate company is evaluating your shoes every day, or has any idea what the styles or brands or prices may be, or can distinguish a manohla or whatever it is from a target store brand, you're just wrong. 'aren't those boots from last year?' or 'i wonder whether those are knock-offs,' say, are sentences that simply cannot appear in the idiolect of people like me.
maybe straight women just stopped being subordinate to straight guys and started being subordinate to gay guys. if so, i think that was your call, not ours, though perhaps you were sheltering together against the storm of us. on antm or on the pages of vogue or seventeen: who is taking the pictures, designing the clothes, working the images over in photoshop, selecting the models, judging or training the contestants, doing the make-up? you might compare the images there to those in maxim, for example. the images that come from the het-wo/gay-man side are much more relentless, much more processed, and the models are skinnier. what the readers of maxim want is pretty straightforward: pretty girls in lingerie. on the other side is a gigantic fantasy world of images and identities that we just didn't build for you, that we could not possibly have imagined.
it would be worth exploring how far one could go with the speculation that the way the images look has less to do with what straight men want to do than with what gay men want to be. they are hard to explain on any other terms, i believe. that might be the overriding source of the repertoire. this could plausibly be extended way backwards to when fashion designers and people who were dressing movie stars were still at least nominally in the closet. people like camille paglia or david halperin have looked back for the slightly-concealed gay sources of all sorts of arts and culture; what they say is plausible. but, it has got to be plausible for better and worse. finding the impetus in gay men probably gives straight women too little agency in the whole thing (as little as second-wave feminism attributed to them with regard to the hetmale gaze), and whatever the source, the images obviously work very powerfully on many straight women. one thing to consider: gay men are men, and straight women are women. the exercise of patriarchal power is possible, or indeed structurally inevitable, between the two groups in patriarchy, even if the story gets complicated after that. the gaze of a gay man is the gaze of a man.
at any rate, i'll tell you this: straight guys could not possibly have invented this repertoire; it corresponds to nothing we ever knew or envisioned. maybe it wasn't straight men who conveyed the message that you should stop eating and disappear, after all. (really, we never did want you to disappear. we needed your bodies with us, even if we didn't always want to have every piece of the subjectivity.) then think about the inextricably intertwined fantasy and shame that a gay man might have experienced in 1970 or whenever, and think about how images of what gay men wanted to be might really have come out. that is a rather brutal diagnosis. but...is it clearly false? that would need showing in the details of the history.
so first of all, maybe you shouldn't feel bad or wrong or anti-feminist for literally buying into that world. one thing it actually is is a sphere in which oppressed minorities have found power and self-determination (others have found there only prejudice and exclusion, however). but if you do feel funky about it, for god's sake you can't blame us (though we have plenty of actual oppression to answer for); the whole thing is internal to a culture that is closed to folks like us or is explicitly designed to extrude us and that we basically find incomprehensible. the standards of beauty it enforces really have very little to do with anything we ever thought or wanted. take some responsibility.
so to fend off the pernicious girl/gaydude aesthetic, now dominating everything and described primitively below, i think that a conscious arts coalition of straight guys and lesbians is called for. we're being thrown together anyway, and it's just as well because have you seen those people's taste? dress plainly, my people, love your woman right, and listen to excellent roots music. you're not going to believe this but i think we might like the same pornography! who knows? maybe they do too. as each other, i mean.
nothing from a broadway musical is permitted on this here jukebox. sorry, no, we don't serve mojitos. take your sparkles, your designer bag, your cosmetic surgery, your self-esteem issues, your david bowie and beyonce and boy bands, your theatrical emoting, and get em up out this bar, girl; you'll be more comfortable next door. you'll dig the techno. it's supposedly raining men over there again, so you better hurry. dunno, dude, they wander in here sometimes. slummin i guess.
we love y'all in spite of it all, though - even because of it a bit, maybe - and some of us will see some of y'all later on. or let's take in a movie saturday night, sweetie; we can split up by sexual identities in the lobby. you guys can do les mis: just please, i'm begging you, don't come home with the soundtrack. it would be wrong to make us pay for a ticket to that or to force us to smile vaguely and say it wasn't as bad as we thought it might be. you go look for something with amazing costumes; me and my lesbians will rummage around, hoping for explosions. actually, i heard this multiplex might be installing separate entrances. we can meet back here when it's over. we deeply respect foodies, fusion, the chew, and stuff, but we're going to need strictly segregated restaurants, so we can enjoy a burger and a beer without all that chatter. what we need is a tvroom of our own. you guys should go shoe-shopping together. we'll just stay here and watch the game. seriously, it's fine!
2:54 they have certainly succeeded in disrupting operations, and they are yelling still. there are many many policemen at the capitol, which is always surprising.
2:51: 4, and feinstein is clearing the room. he couldn't get the full sentence out about his 91-year-old mom. 5, 6 etc pitching in as the room is emptied.
2:48 two remarkably persistent protestors so far have interrupted brennan's opening statement.
if i go down this road, believe me i know that i am liable to hit a mine. so, i'll begin by saying that the boy scouts should change their policy on gay participation immediately. you just can't profile like that, and you should think about how you would feel or do feel about being tarred with the notion that you might be an abuser on the basis, not of anything you have ever done or thought about doing, but on the basis of your demographic segment. also, if there has been a problem of abuse, i feel that people who are out of the closet are a lot less likely to be the sorts of people who abuse boys than those who are huddled within it, and all these bans ever did was build more closets. any policy with that effect should be repudiated on the spot.
but still, i get a bit sqeamish. i was myself a boy scout and let's just say there were some weird 'your hand's on my knee' moments and unsettling rumors. and...perhaps you might want to think about how some of the gay men you've actually known or been have regarded very young men. oh, the cult of justin timeberlake as it existed a decade or so ago, say. now, you might say that het males are no better with very young women, as we might put it. once i knew a dude with a cheerleader fetish that was extraordinarily disturbing after awhile. right, but then again, as a parent, for example, you wouldn't necessarily be absolutely comfortable if girl scout troops or cheer squads were led by heterosexual men. of course, i am also going to assert that my proclivities don't run in that direction at all, and i am going to be pissed if cast under suspicion just in virtue of being a het male. so i am saying that the other way round too.
this is the sort of thing that turns women, and even men, against men in general, by the way; there and not in orientation is where the people with the problem are clustered.
speaking of beyonce i would say in 2002 that justin timberlake's audience was made up primarily of teenage-or-so girls and, you know, 40-something men. it is an aesthetic alliance worth pondering. now speculating on the basis of inadequate data, i would guess that beyonce's audience is somewhat similar, which is rather surprising in some respects. (yo this gender/identity thing is remarkably complex.) i have as it were exposed the entry below to some of my students. and of course college-age guys think beyonce is the very ultra-concentrated essence of hot. so they have her poster up, even. but is that who eagerly awaits her new release or listens to it over and over, dancing about? or goes to the concert when not encouraged by the gf? also i know nothing about beyonce's currency among gay men, but i am assuming that a drag show is inconceivable without her.
why the agreement on justin and beyonce, and perhaps on a number of other things? here's a notion. paraphrasing eve kosofsky sedgwik, there are two modes of the erotic: who you want to make out with and who you want to be. so, the girls and the gay men both wanted to...kiss timberlake, and they both wanted to be beyonce. not everyone, of course.
we might think of girls and gay men as for some purposes a single group of consumers of mass culture, and it is, not to be nasty about it or anything, rather a consumption-oriented demographic. what someone like me is always going to say is: too much surface, not enough depth; too much appearance, not enough reality; too much spectacle, not enough art; a naive aesthetic on one end, a too-ironic, worse-the-better, exceedingly decadent aesthetic on the other.
now, you should, if you do, enjoy this material. but you can't put it beyond criticism on the sheer ground that it emerges from or appeals to in-other-respects admirable groups; nor can you, i believe, safely chalk up the criticisms to sexism or homophobia, though that could be an element in a given straight dude's response. that doesn't show that you don't, to put it gently, have an extreme sucking problem lurking in your culture. so, you might have an alliance between 60-something women (who were younger in 1970) and gay men on barry manilow. nice! groove. buy. but you're going to have a long day defending that crap. well the coalition has had better moments: bowie, say, though i'm still, with complete sincerity and total commitment, nominating 'space oddity' for worst song ever to chart. or 'glee' is pretty good.
so if i'm ragging on beyonce, it's just who i am. but i'll also say this to any re-visitors. i gave reasons not to like beyonce. so far, i haven't heard much in the way of replies to those, only, "no matter what, beyonce is the greatest." i completely defend your right to like what you like. but there might be some pretty devastating drawbacks, or to be fairer, things you might be missing, or ways you might develop.
beyonce's halftime show has been garnering universal ecstasy, or literal idolatry. i have to say i hate framing musical performances in these insane-scale spectacles, which beyonce's show is, even not at the super bowl. but it just invites the response that the hugeness is inversely proportional to the truth at the heart. anyone that intent on distracting attention from her music probably has very good reasons to do so. anyway, i'm just gonna stare at something like that and go: wow that cost millions. what bullshit. i don't think even the sheer spectacle had any real visual unity or a great deal of panache or anything; it was just supposed to bludgeon you into obedience.
ok beyonce can dance, but the style is still paula abdul and the laker girls with a little more stripper. the whole performance worked best as softcore porn or like one of those victoria's secret shows. i'm supposing that beyonce can sing, though i'm not as clear as everyone seems to be that she actually was. but even her voice was buried in audio sludge, and that's pretty true on the records too. i don't think the music means anything. seriously. the best riff by far was that horn thing on 'crazy in love,' which is a sample (of course there were models sort of pretending to be a horn section behind her). now i have less than no problem with sampling as a compositional and production technique; still there were no comparable musical accomplishments in her set.
the lyrics are just today's empty pop things, with the occasional pause for the 'believe in yourself' power ballad where one pretends to emote with unparalleled intensity. she does that no better than miley cyrus, and if you think that people can perform songs like that sincerely, you're not understanding that they don't engage or reflect any particular experience: they're like the self-esteem posters at the middle school. they might be aimed at your demographic, but not at you; in a way there's nothing it could mean for something like that to be sincere or even insincere. the pepsi jingle has more content, and really it might have some connection with what's inside you, or will be if you pop the top and tip it over into your mouth.
in short, that's just the kind of show caligula would have ordered up if he'd had the technology.
were i booking next year's super bowl halftime show for a useful contrast, here'd be my first brainstorm: what if we could get a reunion of the fugees instead of destiny's child? how would lauryn hill frame her voice and material? well, it would be personal. it would have dignity - she would have dignity - and believe it or not i think that is sexier. let wyclef do 'stayin alive.' wait, that's nas! maybe lauryn isn't as good a singer as beyonce (i'm not sure because no one knows what beyonce really sounds like singing in the shower or whatever). but that doesn't matter. lauryn sings great and she wants you to know what she's singing and she has a real connection to it. she might, even in this bloated context, move you, and not just her moneymaker.
i've been on this various times before, as in this, which ran in the latimes.
so i did promise to stop writing so angrily now and then, or to write about things i love as well as things i hate. i watched beasts of the southern wild last night with my daughter. what a beautiful and moving thing; those performances are unbelievably true: so true, as many have remarked, that they don't seem to be performances. of course, i also admired the ethos: we're trying to preserve our place and our people, fucked up though they are too. it is, for one thing, an enactment of emersonian self-reliance in every dimension, even for people who are 7 years old. (and see, that can be the self-reliance of a real community as well as of individuals; those are not in tension.) jane, i have to say (who was also very moved by the film) did not understand at all why they insisted on staying, why they wanted to escape from the shelter, and so on. and i do think that the idea that people would want to live eccentrically, or in a context not fully institutionalized by bureaucracies, is not something that people who are being processed through an urban public school system are liable to find comprehensible. but i'll also say this: at 12, she's starting to become aware that a lot of what they're telling her is manipulative claptrap; we're going to see a more independent person emerging as time goes on, i believe.
anyway, i don't think that the giant boars added anything to the film's real power; they seemed a very ham-handed, kind of jungian way to drive home points that were already completely developed: you have to face death, you have to face some fundamental dimensions of aloneness, you have to find your own place and your own peace and your own courage. we could say: you have to face the beasts, but then to make that quasi-literal does not make it more profound; all those things are so there and so perfect without that. having giant boars represent the beasts within etc is too easy in a film that everywhere else takes the hard way, as if in a romcom you cut away to a rose during each kiss. (the most egregious example of this technique is tree of life, in which the kiss/rose cut would seem subtle, but way too happy.) now i just feel like a chronic quibbler or something, because that is quite a great work of art. and the beasts were also depicted with great visual power and intimacy. indeed, even as a pure visual experience, the film was varied, beautiful, right.
and, to all my liberal friends and family members who loved that film, i would ask you: is the ethos of beasts of the southern wild compatible with your politics?
i have a funny feeling that the purpose of the whole amazing history of catholicism - the incomprehensible authoritarian hierarchy, the endless scholastic yip yap, the astonishing mysteries of the trinity and the eucharist, the clouds of choiring angels and saints, the burning of heretics, the attitude toward women and apples, the funny costumes, all that art, the confessional, 'celibacy,' 'God' - has always been buggery. it just never made any sense otherwise, putting it mildly.