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Monthly Archives: November 2011

You’ll notice that the first thing critics always call Miranda Lambert out on is this bad-girl thing she affects in a lot of her up-tempo hits.  She’s obviously a sweetheart, they point out, and she’s not fooling anyone.  But she’s not really trying to fool anyone, I don’t think.

Lady performers under 30 often get stuck in this symbolism trap where they’re more appreciated as jump-off points for debates about adolescent girls and the evil media and blah blah hell in a hand basket than for their actual entertainment value.  And I suspect this is frustrating even for someone like Miley Cirus, whose entire career is based on being a catalyst for Poor Susceptible Tweens Outrage.  Because even if you’re not super talented, you’re still working pretty damn hard to be a good entertainer, and only being asked questions  about the length of your cut-off jeans when you’ve just finished busting your ass to nail that super-difficult choreography must just be maddening.

So I think the bad-girl thing is just Lambert’s way of trying to bypass all of that hot-young-country business and get to respected country artist territory with minimal hassle.  When she sings lyrics like, “I ain’t the kind you take home to mama,” and “Well, I’ll keep drinking/and you’ll keep getting skinnier,” I think she means it more in the traditional, honky-tonk angel sense than in the current, in-your-face Ke$ha sense.  She’s not trying to challenge anything; she’s just asking us nicely to all pretend she’s 10 years older with a couple of scandals long behind her so everything doesn’t seem so fraught and high-stakes, and her record label won’t try to limit her range of material or make her act because of an image she needs to maintain or break down or whatever.

And it seems to be working.   She has some very big hits, and tons of fans, but she gets to take on ever more ambitious and diverse material without any fallout.  And she got to do that Pistol Annies gig, which is pretty good, too.  People are watching, but they’re not staring…if that makes sense.

Lord knows I’m grateful for the “oh-don’t-mind-me” freedom she’s attained, because it means she consistently gets to write and cover songs that make full use of her excellent voice (unlike say…Carrie Underwood).  It’s sort of a deeper, richer version of Dolly Parton’s gentle warble, and no less memorable.

This is my favorite song off of her new album so far.

You know what’s nice about Leann Womack?  She’s one of the small handful of artists left in Nashville who still faithfully believe in the almighty power of the play-on-words.  Behold:

I can’t decide if my favorite part is the “That’s the only love I get,” line in the second verse, or the way she spits out “cheatin’ song!” in the second refrain.

You know what’s nice about Bobbie Gentry?

Everything: that’s what!  She’s the nicest.

This is the sultriest song you’ve ever heard.  It makes me think of once-lonely 40-year-olds having exciting affairs in cross-town hotel rooms.  That little bouncy bass noise followed by “Trembling fingers down my spine/shadows on the wall entwine.”  Mmm.  So nice.


Oh! And some shrill, clutched-pearl remarks about advertising.

I’m gonna ignore the low-hanging fruit that using a civil rights leader’s image to sell something is shamelessly shameless.  But the implication that Dr. King did what he did for the same kind of narcissistic glory lust that sells smartphones — rather than out of a sense of duty to and love for his people and his God — is just straight-up immoral.  And this is coming from a person who occasionally lies just for lying’s sake.

I know complaining about advertising is kinda played out at this point, and usually that stuff doesn’t really bother me, but something about the marketing of smartphones just squicks me out.  There’s this constant motif of extreme importance in all of the ads.  This phone isn’t just useful; it isn’t just cool; it’s significant.  It’s a game changer.  And so are you, by extension!  Cause it takes a very important and dynamic person to buy a very important and dynamic phone.

And I know that these things have played an important role in the Arab Spring, but I mean, guns played a pretty crucial role, too.  And yet you don’t see Smith & Wesson running ads about how you need to buy a gun for protection because the loss of such an important, dynamic human being would be too great for society to bear.

And it’s not like this tactic’s not used all of the time in advertising, but with smartphones you get the sense that people are actually buying into it.  I’ve talked to more than a handful of people at parties and such who actually say shit like, “The xx phone is such a great tool for all of my professional endeavors.  It really helps me manage everything.”  What are you: a senator?  Because I’m pretty sure you’re an unemployed 30-year-old “consultant” who’s talking about his fucking cellular telephone.  If you like it, just say it’s fast and easier to check email  and football scores or whatever.  Jesus, when did we all get so pompous?

And then there’s the way that smartphone companies somehow manage to market smartphones by getting people to talk about their marketing strategy.  I cannot tell you how many conversations I’ve ended up being party to that were centered on Apple’s prospects vs HTC’s.  People actually get all excited about this shit.  It’s like what happened in politics 15 years ago.  Everybody’s decided they want to be a savvy insider (again with the self-importance), so the actual insiders pursue everybody with these weird meta marketing campaigns that involve making decisions so people can evaluate those decisions and base their purchase (or vote) on how savvy they think the decision was.

OK, I just proofread this thing, and I’m rapidly descending into belligerent-Grandpa territory, so I’m gonna call it a day.  In my defense: I like that one song on the radio!  You know, where the girl loves her boyfriend in a similar manner to the way she might love an especially affecting love song?  And she keeps hitting repeat….peat…….peat?

Fuck, somebody just bring me my goddamn Metamucil before I go take a nap.

Here are some really bitchy comments about movies.

1.  You know what always makes me clench my teeth and stare down at the movie theater floor instead of the screen?  A climactic scene that involves the hero(es) making an impromptu speech(es) about the revelation he/she/they’ve just had in front of a large group of people who have assembled for another purpose entirely.   Or sub meltdown for impromptu speech.  Or sub battle with the antagonist.  Just any melodramatic airing of dirty laundry in front of a crowd.

I hope you’re all enjoying the farmer’s market, but right now I need you to listen to this cliche’d and overwrought Aha! moment I’m going to try to explain to you total strangers at the top of my lungs as though that were a measure of my conviction!  Aren’t I just so quirky and whimsical and raw?  Hooray!  

Isn’t half the fun of a movie supposed to be that you’re getting to watch characters do intimate stuff like you’re a fly on the wall?  Isn’t half the fun of being alive that you get to do intimate stuff in private?  Everybody talks about how awful the people on reality TV are, but then they pay to go see movies where the characters have to do a monologue about their feelings in front of everybody and their mom.  I mean, at least the reality kids can create the illusion of intimacy by talking one-on-one to a camera in a closed room.

Anyway, the point of this rant was to say that I did not enjoy Crazy Stupid Love.  I shouldn’t have expected better from a RomCom, but I let myself because it had Ryan Gosling and a very high score on Rotten Tomatoes.  But if that’s what critics consider a good RomCom, then…I don’t even know anymore.  Can’t they just make something like His Girl Friday again?  Something that Jimmy Stuart and Carey Grant would be proud of?  Something where the characters don’t have to vomit their every thought out loud?  Please?

2.  Will someone (read: Emily) please explain to me what the appeal of a movie like Contagion is?  They showed the preview before Crazy Stupid Film last night, and…all that tension and paranoia and sudden germophobia?  And then you have to go out and live your life after having seen something like that?  We know bad things are going to happen.  We know we probably won’t be well enough prepared when they happen.  Why do people want to see a movie illustrating with gut-wrenching specificity just how bad it’s going to be?  What’s the draw?  I mean, that scene where they show all of the people Gwynneth Paltrow has touched?  Why would you want to see a movie that makes you afraid of touching other people?  I like touching people!  I don’t get to do it near often enough.  Why would you want to be paranoid about that?

I’m sure if you’re a science person it’s really interesting to hear all the stats on the imaginary virus, and lord knows geography nuts like me get a kick  out of seeing how transmission patterns develop, but why actually show all that suffering?  And then show other people struggle desperately, futilely, to stop other people from suffering?  You’re not opening anyone’s eyes; we all already know about this crap.  This is just gratuitous unhappiness, which should be an oxymoron.  I don’t understand.  Please explain.

Here are some really shitty photographs of Wilmington, North Carolina.

So Wilmington’s kind of a strange experience.  There’s downtown in the west (old-world southern charm easily eclipsed by Savannah & Charleston further south!), coastal towns way out in the east (pastel houses up on stilts! sub shop!  pizza shop!  tattoo parlor! Mexican restaurant with $2 margaritas! you know the drill!), and then for the 8 miles in between you’ve got a big ol’ sprawling sunbelt city (subdivisions with pompously garish names! two supermarkets at every intersection!  literally indistinguishable from metro Atlanta!)  It’s kind of exciting, driving from one landscape to the next with no transition.

This motel is right on the edge of the sunbelt area.  You can’t tell from my shitty picture, but it’s this exceptionally retro ’60s building wrapped around an enormous plantation-style courtyard with oak trees, with a palm tree-bedecked pool in the middle.  It’s kind of a microcosm of Wilmington: 3 different atmospheres all in one place.  Just so, so cool.  I really wish I were better at taking pictures so I could have captured it.

Is it kind of baffling that my dad and stepmom keep paying a premium for houses near the ocean even though they hardly ever go to the beach?  Well, yeah.

Is it kind of frustrating to know you’re in the same state as Asheville right when the leaves in the Appalachians are at their peak while you’re staring at a mockingly verdant row of palm trees?  Yes.  Jesus fuck, yes.  But the decadent warmth of a 76-degree day in late October somewhat makes up for this.  It’s kind of like taking a vacation back to September.

Jellyfish!  The most fearsome and devious of all the food-themed fishes!  There were like 800 of them washed up on the shore the night I went for a stroll down it.  Big ones, too.  Like, the size of a small pizza.

Anyway, by and large it was a perfectly enjoyable trip that wasn’t quite worth the strain of the 6-hour plane flights back and forth.  But it’s family, so what are you gonna do?