Arts & Entertainment

Sidenotes: Meaningless trains of thought on Terminator and all of Sarah’s shitty male allies.

Note: I wrote this as an tangent in the middle of a slightly more thought through and organized essay about my role within the patriarchy. This is a tangent, and just musings on connections my idiot brain has made between reality and a dumb movie that has resonated with me. In classic Michael Stevens fashion, it isn’t proofread, so if you quote me, please correct it if you don’t want to look dumb. Also, if something grammatically REALLY bothers you, please write a letter to Mark Zuckerberg about his (and his tech CEO peers’) role in the 2016 election and  the downfall of serious, trust worthy, journalism. 

I was thinking about my own masculinity from the lens of Terminator 2, one of my favorite action movies. I was talking about it at lunch with my friend Meg who pointed out to me that Sarah Connor should be read as a survivor of trauma.

Read the plot. After the conversation, it’s hard for me not to see Sarah Connor as the “Everywoman” kind of action hero who deals with everyday macro/micro-agressions from men on a magnified scale, where the stakes are as high as the survival of humanity.

Sarah Connor is every woman who gave her account of what happened that men decided not to believe. Fuck, she spends most of the movie getting gaslit.

Now there are way too many goddamn men in this movie, and I hope they do something about that in the next one, BUT, in this movie the men fall into categories that I think many of us need to recognize:

Femininity

Sarah Connor = All Women. Linda literally made this shit so easy for us to understand…she is the ONLY woman in the film. I know that it’s weird that this one white lady is supposed to stand in for the myriad traumas that all women have suffered, but I didn’t make the movie, I just have watched it a lot. She’s the survivor. She burdened with being the teacher, the savior, and the victim and gets none of the future renown and glory that shitty ass John Connor gets for like 13 movies.

Toxic Masculinity

Skynet = Toxic Masculinity. Our programming.

The T-800, from the flash forwards in the future = Obvious Abusers and Toxic Men. The men we’re train to recognize as bad. The men we’ve all agreed are known toxic abusers.

The Terminator that get the skin treatments and travel in time = Abusers and Toxic Men. The men we are trained to identify as bad. The dude who, because he has skin and bleeds, we assume is human and harmless. Fuck he might be you.

T-1000 = He’s just like the above, but he’s proud of his abuse. Think like Gavin McInnes types.

Those dudes at the asylum that beat and gaslight Sarah = That’s probably the average of where most men tend to be. This is you if you use words like “friend zone” and talk about “making moves” on people who have not expressed enthusiastic consent. This is probably you in a room with no women, laughing at a peer’s joke about his “crazy bitch of an ex.” This is probably you in the office investigating your female co-workers concerns and saying shit like “No, I see what you mean, but I don’t think that’s like harassment…did he touch you?

These characters I think fascinate me the most, because I find their brand of wrong doing to be the most common.

Characters that aren’t as toxic, but probably still need to STFU

The Reformed Terminator = Might be you after you deal with some of that faulty programming. What I like about this Reformed Terminator is that he is best used when he is a tool to signal boost Sarah’s more compelling arc. He’s not the fucking hero of the story. He’s a device. He’s not the most perfect ally, but he understands what is wrong with him, and shares his goal with Sarah.

The franchise is called Terminator, but it’s story is really centered on how Sarah’s survival guarantees humankind a fighting chance against tyranny. Similarly, we’re called mankind, but our story is centered on elevating the rights, lives, and voices of the other half of the world so that we can call this on world we have a good one…fuck I’m off-topic.

Kyle Reese = This is a character I’d like to identify with, but as the exposition character/protector, he’s also kind of like a perfect standing for keyboard white knights and mansplainers and male feminists who mean well, but will talk over you because they are “passionate” about what they have to say, but not about whatever it was that is about to come out of your mouth. He could also be the guy who is surprised to see you say #metoo. You’re like “of course.”

He may also be a victim of corrosive masculinity, but he still has to take a step back and recognize his own role in the resistance against the machines. Also, he should shut the fuck up because that’s why he dies in the first movie. Sarah’s ideas are why we’re even still here.

But Kyle talks too much and should shut the fuck up.

John Connor = I went back and forth on this, but ultimately I want to focus on the best version of this character which is Eddie Furlong’s clueless, bratty, messiah. John Connor is the dude in your women’s studies class who is very vocal about the fact that he comes from a female family. The good thing about him is that he could use his “powers for good” to end Skynet for good. The annoying part is you probably are doing so much emotional labor for this dude. He’s the type of dude that like probably never dealt with his mommy issues that you’re cool with, but he talks too much and should shut the fuck up.

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Arts & Entertainment, Life

White Ferrari: Impressions

I’m not one to straight up cry ambiguous tears on the subway.

I’m not really one to cry, period.  I am an endless marching steel cage of spiders, wires and code… but goddamn it…

Frank Ocean’s White Ferrari is one of those perfect beautiful sad things. Like the moment you wake up from a really good dream, the recollection of something that never happened, and the hour after a perfect day when you realize you cannot go back.

The moment you recall that this shit right here is not forever, not guaranteed, not promised. And you’ll never really know how much you spent, how much you have left, or how many corners of who you are that have gone unexplored.

So the best thing you can do is be here and feel the fistfuls of pain and joy that come with the stampede of weeks.

frank-ocean-650px

 

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Arts & Entertainment

“I’ve seen the future and it will be BATMAN”

This article is okay, but I bought the book anyway, because I wrote 60 pages (that I can’t find) about this same topic. A lot of my analysis papers were queer readings of traditionally straight characters.

I think this article is just okay, but I will reserve my final verdict for when I read the book. Because I think if I had the time, I could write a whole book on sexuality and Batman.

My final senior paper was a queer reading of Batman, which is something I definitely believe is a central aspect of this character, and perhaps superheroes in general. I would like to see more academic work studying the politics of sexuality as they pertain to superheroes.

There is a tension in comics between queer culture/sexual minorities and heteronormativity that has building for years. I think you can certainly measure that in the motivations of the heroes, for we create gods in our image. Are they born out of a culture of acceptance and tolerance? Or are they paranoid, punch first-talk later, sadists and bigots? You can see this in heroes, and you can also see this in whoever is the “Batman of the era.” Which means Batman is comic books’ first major ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-ex-gay main character. Writers either have him in the closet or out. He is either a cruel agent of establishment masculinity and heteronormativity OR he is an individualist with an alternative perspective of family, society, and justice.

I could write a much longer schpiel, but homeboy’s gotta make money. Basically, I think that queerness is at the heart of most superheroes with a secret identity — who must find a way to be themselves and also grapple with complex  and occasionally contrasting notions of identity. A certain kind of double consciousness, that many folks employ to survive in a world that only deems you valuable if you are cis, white, male, and/or hetero. [Hell, you don’t always have to be a sexual minority to deal with the world this way–as a straight black male who openly acknowledges his emotions & politics (despite how uncomfortable it make people when he is angry) I get this.] Wear a mask. Work a regular job. Keep your head down. Say somethings you don’t believe to make folks believe that you are “one of them.” Do your real work/live your life at night.

I think when interpreting Batman, this subtext and identity grappling HAS to be part of the interpretation.

(I know this was a nonsense rant, but ya boy is at work.)

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Impressions

Musings on Kim Kardashian @ Work.

So Kim Kardashian posted a nude selfie and folks got tight about it.

Yo. I’m not a fan of Kim K, but I love how angry and righteous people get whenever she does or says anything. 

What’s better is when other celebrities try to drag her. 

Who the fuck are these people? What bothers them about this? I just don’t get how celebrities can try to get away with this kind of criticism. (Yes. Even Piers Morgan whose editorial is consistently a waste of attention.)

It’s a classic “don’t hate the player, hate the game” situation.  It’s also how some folks get their cut of the 15 minutes of controversy. You could argue I’m doing the same (but at least I’m not being a dick about it). What new ideas are being introduced to us here? Or is it more of the same shaming her for her superficial fame, fandom, open sexuality, open embrace of the artifice of American pop culture. She is married to an outspoken celebrity with his own issues. She is an icon of a culture that has always been shallow, jejune, and empty. 

And we are seeing her naked body again. And some of you hate it. You hate her tits and her ass and her vagina. You shame her in the name of righteousness and intellectual superiority. For being any number of things, most commonly “a whore.” And why do we so badly need to make that association? Furthermore, why do we shame “sluts” and/or literal “whores/prostitutes” or whoever? Why have these words been made to taste like bile when we say them? Why is the notion of female sexuality OR physicality revolting to us? Or the notion of a woman’s own control and command of her body.

I think the reason for hate is either veiled misogyny or hypocrisy. Because how righteous can you really get when you have a Twitter/Instagram account. 

I dunno. On some level I think we’re all reluctant pornographers masturbating our brains to false photoshopped avatars of ourselves.

tl;dr – I think some of us wanna drag Kim K, but don’t really think about how that makes us either hateful or hypocritical. We think it’s Kim K, but it’s more than that. It’s deeper than that. The this hate is older than she is. Ye links himself to Jesus a lot, but I think a stronger case can be made linking Kim K to Mary Magdalene. The woman we want to stone for her audacity to profit from sharing her body.

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Arts & Entertainment

Late Night Thoughts: 50 Shades of Grey

50 Shades of Grey was probably on of the most rape-y movies I have ever seen that people are okay with.

I have not read the books, but I am confident now that I probably never will. I’m no *expert** on BDSM, but there was something about the power dynamics in  this film that felt like a predatory and warped depiction of a BDSM relationship.

I mean. It’s a fetish, right? So, maybe that was the point? I just honestly wish I could tell the difference between Jamie Dornan’s “sex face” and Jamie Dornan’s “I’ll murder you and everyone you love and masturbate over your corpse while wearing your face” face.

See? I find this character deeply unsettling.

Did you fart?

I’m not even going to talk about how cliched the characters were or how terrible the dialogue was. (That script was god awful, tho.)

I won’t go into how phoned-in the performances were or how the chemistry between the two leads felt like watching two high school drama nerds who hated each other play Romeo & Juliet.

“Dude, you just eat a hot dog?”

I won’t even talk about the missed opportunity to make something watchable in a “so bad it’s good” sort of way.

It’s just bad because it’s bad. Beyond the constant weird game of Twilight-esque romanti-sexual redlight/greenlight, it’s a bad movie because I have no clue what any of the characters’ motivations are. The supporting characters are all drones; they function as a kind of garnish for the main characters who are really just…super weird and way into their relationship in a gross co-dependent way. It’s not fun to watch.

Like what the fuck does Ana even want out of life? What is the goal here? I’m done talking about this movie. I’ll bring it up when I inevitably see the sequel (alone of course).

The only good thing to come out of this movie is that soundtrack though. It’s perfect doin’ it music. I hope the sequel has some Tinashe, tho. Seriously. If you can’t get it up, listen to this shit. And if your man isn’t doin’ it for you, dump him and listen to some Tinashe alone, girl.

*I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the subculture. In fact, I think when it comes to kinks, you do you. I’m not going to talk too much about my own experiences here in case my Mom is reading this.*

**JK, I’m an expert. Sorry family.

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Arts & Entertainment

So here’s the thing. Pearl and the Beard has been one of my favorite bands since the ancient precocious days of my sophomore year of college. At the time I was getting out of a brief relationship, mourning my “mayfly girlfriends,” and listening to alot of Phantom of the Opera. Complete with the mask and cape. There may have been some light manly crying involved. There are videos of it somewhere in the rabbit hole of my Facebook videos. During that haze of melancholy, I saw this video. First I thought, “Mein gott! Will Smith is a secret musical genius.” Then I thought, “I’m a fool for using ‘Will Smith’ and ‘genius’ in the same sentence. Then finally I realized that I should do more research on the actual rag-tag bespectacled gang of musicians who arranged it all.

These were those ancient days before Spotify, so I took a leap of faith and bought God Bless Your Weary Soul, Amanda Richardson on iTunes. On that winter afternoon in 2010, I was hooked. Fo. Lyfe. I followed them on every social media outlet possible, and then I made many of my friends listen to them (with me watching them listen). Encouraging people to listen to Pearl and the Beard is like trying to get people into The Wire. Maybe my fanboy-ish zeal is turning you off, but once you experience it for yourself, you will know why I’ve become a zealous bible-beating werewolf for this band (I wanted to think of a very specific monster).  In a nutshell, these musicians are lyrical travelers who explore emotional territory with infinite heights of joy and nostalgia and infinitesimal depths of yearning and sorrow. Give them several listens. Today, October 30th, my favorite song of theirs…it’s a toss up between Good Dog, Dumb Lovers, and Prodigal Daughter… I’m mad indecisive yo. But give em’ all a listen and note how each song kind of takes over the sounds around you. Every song is the sound of finding something. Or losing something.

Since 2010 I’ve bought several more albums and I’ve seen them live 3 times. I even struck up some rapport with the band via email, so I figured, why not do a brief interview to learn about their creative process and the well of experiences that they pull from?

Why are you so god damn accessible? I know many people have had the experience of contacting an artist they admire only to get a computerized response: “Thank for your email…” and whatnot. Why is it important for you guys to keep your fans close? Also, how do you do it?

Emily Hope Price: We are musicians but we’re also music lovers.  If we wrote to a band we loved, we’d love a personal response.  How awesome would that be?  It’s just what we’d want for ourselves as music lovers.  I guess it’s that simple. We’re interested in forming relationships with our fans that are long lasting and meaningful.

Jeremy Styles:  It’s important that if someone has cared about your music enough to overcome any self-conscious feelings that we are usually mired in and reach out to a band, then I think it warrants a nice response! Things like that can go a long way.

Jocelyn Mackenzie: We care about our fans as people and not just as numbers or “likes” on Facebook. It’s really important to us to communicate to those fans that we couldn’t do what we do without their support, quite literally.

I’m an aspiring novelist who knows nothing about music (or proper novels for that matter) but I find that the most difficult part of any artistic endeavor is getting up off my ass and going to work on my work. What thoughts or motivations get you to slog through apprehension and begin working on your art?

Emily: This is an awesome question.  We each have this problem in different ways and about different elements of our craft.  Honestly? Sometimes there isn’t a magic answer to get you moving.  Sometimes you just. aren’t. motivated.  And there isn’t anything that will remove you from your slog, and it’s important to be kind to yourself in these moments.  Show yourself love and understanding rather than guilt, obligation, or judgement.  How motivating is it to beat yourself up? BUT sometimes it’s as easy as sitting down with an instrument or a beautifully clean piece of paper or a white screen.  Just go, just play, just write.  Not thoughts or expectations – free improvise/free write.  Do it for 5, 10, 15, 30 minutes.  Then stop, get up, eat a sandwich, call your BFF or your mom, listen to your favorite band or go searching for new or unusual music or information.  Keep focused (don’t turn on Netflix – it’s always my downfall) with an open and nonjudgmental mind. Be kind to yourself at all times.  I think that’s the basic secret to succeeding in an art. Be kind, stay open.

Jeremy: Part of it is just that it has to come out of you. That being said, those desires can get muddled with laziness, a tasty beverage, or a call from a dear friend. The problem is those things are all extremely fun, and it’s important not to beat yourself up over it. The process of creation is also extremely fun, but can be riddled with frustrations and at times not a barrel full of laughs. But when you actually get it down and see your vision beginning to take shape, that can be a drug as well. Working with other people has gotten me to be less lazy and push myself to work a little further than I normally would because those people are depending on me to do my share. When solo, I tend to work either at a much more slow pace, or incredibly rapid pace because it doesn’t get checked by anyone else. Figure out a system that works the best for you and trick your mind and body into doing what you want it to do!

Jocelyn: I would add that just making a schedule for yourself is hard enough, let alone sticking to it, let alone with other people! But when I’m working solo, it helps me to reward myself for productive behavior… I’ll tell myself that if I get done what I wanted to get done that day, THEN I can have a twenty minute YouTube binge, but not before. It doesn’t always work, but it’s funny how the tactics we use on small children often translate as perfectly viable motivation to us as adults!

Before I tell you my favorite song (and the minutiae involved in its selection), what song would you consider your favorite? Most difficult to write? The one you are most proud of? I understand how this could be comparable to picking which child is your favorite, so in lieu answering this question, you can explain why this question is impossible.

Emily: We are currently in the post-production phase of our newest album. We are so excited about sharing it already. There is a song we’re working on in the mix that has avoided us at every turn.  We have been chasing after it for months and months.  Normally we would probably abandoned it, but we pushed and pushed it because we felt like it had a specific potential – so we needed to see it through.  It has been a struggle, but I think it has finally opened up for us.  At the moment, picking favorites is like picking a favorite child, but I would probably argue that the songs which were completely collaborative between the three of us are some of the strongest song in our repertoire – and often the most rewarding to perform.

Jeremy: I agree with Emily about this particular process. I have been jonesing to hear our new stuff fully recorded and fleshed out. Right now they all seem like a very awesome group of friends waiting inside of a secret shack with tons of food, booze, and back rubs for me to experience. I want to be in there so badly.

Jocelyn: Yeah, the process of writing this new album has been incredibly challenging, but coming out the other side with a batch of songs that we all love has proven to be incredibly rewarding as well as cathartic. But I’d say if I had to chose one song from our past catalog that was my favorite to write, I’d go with “The Lament of Coronado Brown.” We were at a writing retreat at a friend’s lake house, and Jeremy had this amazing guitar part and melody prepared. Emily heard it and out of nowhere just said, “Can we sing… ‘They don’t know that I love you?'” And it just fit so perfectly with her voice. We spent the rest of the day adding the bell parts and drums and cello, and then worked on the verse lyrics while swimming in the lake, shouting words at each other between backstrokes and flips. It was pretty magical, and that song remains one of my favorites to perform as well.

For Pearl and the Beard, what does a boring day consist of?

Emily: An 8-12 hour drive.

Jeremy: ditto.

Within the confines of a six word story, Tell me about the experience of writing and recording your upcoming album.

Jocelyn: Try. Fail. Try. Fail. Try. Succeed.

***

With that short literary masterpiece concludes our interview. Special thanks goes to Pearl and the Beard for taking the time to answer my questions and Rookerville for cross-posting my article. It’s such a good feeling, a very good feeling, the feeling you know that I’ll be back — when the day is new. And I’ll have more Swimfan-esque email interviews for you. And you’ll have things you want to talk about.

I will too. If you heeded any of my advice you’ll keep your eyes and ears peeled for Pearl and the Beard when they come to a town near you. And be sure keep their next full length album on your radar! That’s a thing to be expected sometime in 2014, so treat it like Doctor Who: familiarize yourself with the back catalogue before you jump into the most recent seasons. The new stuff will be good, but be a good fan and earn the new material will ya? Old stuff just makes new stuff better, am I right ladies?

Follow @PEARLntheBEARD to get social and whatnot.

Voices Grown, Swallow the Room: A [digital] Interview with Pearl and the Beard

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Arts & Entertainment, Impressions

Impressions: Sleepy Hollow (TV)

The Breakdown: So it’s Sleepy Hollow with a little Rip Van Winkle thrown in. So Ichabod is the fish out of water, Abbey is the audience surrogate reflecting the changing times of our world, The Headless Horseman is the gimp from American Horror Story, and Orlando Jones is basically Lance Reddick.

The Audience: Well, you’ll have you usual nerds who like this kind of shit (specifically Buffy fandom, steampunks, and your average consistent “everynerd”) but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were actively trying to *GASP* engage black people, women, and more specifically black women. Look at the cast man.

Bad News First: Being the English snot that I am, I couldn’t help but notice that this show strays way far from the source material, but it’s being billed as a “modern-retelling” rather than “a complete re-imagining.” That’s my main gripe with the show. To me, a genuine telling of the Sleepy Hollow story has yet to be told. When are we going to see the story of Ichabod Crane, timid schoolteacher? Why are we trying to “macho-ize” one of literature’s most notorious milquetoasts? A detective? A spy?

He’s not Bond or Holmes, he’s just a really, really scared guy. Furthermore, the story that they’re telling seriously could have been framed by any other classic story. Hero and villain rise from ancient death to wage an epic war. In between their rise and the war, weird stuff happens. Couldn’t that have been done with anyone else? Couldn’t that have been done with a new character? Or has no one touched a Sleepy Hollow movie in a while? I can imagine Fox execs right now. What story hasn’t been retold for a while? 

Call me a big fat whiner, but by the time the series ends, I’ll bet you $10.00 that I could plot out the entire main plot with the stories and poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Seriously. They could have just called the show “Poe” and replaced the main big bad (the Headless Horseman) with “The Red Death.”

Good News:

Captain America reference!

2. I really love this show’s level of self awareness. It’s aware of it’s kind of cliche setup and familiar formula. We’ve seen this show a million times, so the best thing the actors, writers, and crew can do is have fun, which is exactly what this show does. The acting is pretty decent and really takes advantage of Ichabod’s fish-out-of-wateriness. Yes the “origin” is a little contrived, but what are you gonna do?

Final Verdict: I never judge a show by a pilot, but I am intrigued by this one. Why? Because of the trite dynamic between the two main characters. This show kind of takes a bite out of Twin Peaks, Indiana Jones, Da Vinci Code, X-Files, Sherlock/Elementary, a teensy smidge of American Horror Story, and a dash of Doctor Who. It’s not terribly cerebral, but it’s either this or Arrow, which I’m sadly not watching yet. So while the concept of the show is uninspired, I think that the execution will make up for it. I’m honestly going to watch the next episode, if only to see how they handle a change into modern clothes for the man from 250 years ago. I like this show enough to recommend it to everyone except my communist girlfriend who has been brainwashed into liking Doctor Who, but still won’t give Pacific Rim a chance.

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