Long Gone Blues: On Violence, Sex, Balloons, Repetition, Hello Kitty, Guy Hocquenghem, Airports, Billie Holiday, Miley Cyrus, Gender Autism and Shameless Promotions
by Kim Kim on Sep.10, 2013
Lately I’ve been thinking about the sexual part of violence and power. Lately I’ve been making something like blues music for an album (Black Water, estimated: side A in late September, side B in October). Lately I’ve been thinking about this one quote by Guy Hocquenghem found in the back register of the lovely little book “Sisyphus Outdone” by Nathanaël:
[Homosexual desire] is the slope towards trans-sexuality through the disappearance of objects and subjects, the slide towards the discovery that in matters of sex everything communicates.
One day I went to a child’s birthday party and ate cake from a hello kitty plate instead of a turtles plate. One thing that surprised me about America when I first got here was definitely the sweetness of its birthday cakes. One day I saw a daddy who was ready to let his son fall off a tall wall because a boy that gets really hurt turns into a man. Fourth of July fireworks were firing in the background. Lately I’ve been thinking about a photograph of Russian manly boys picking up and torturing young gay boys, posing shirtless with guns. I don’t even know where I saw the photograph, if it even exists, I think it was one of those facebook link shots. Maybe I had a dream. If you dream current events does that make you a whore for fashion? Lately I’ve been thinking about how being a man means being something singular and contained, the taming of the boy into an agent of rationality. A man is either irreparably violent or controlled, contained, a man whose subject-hood is locked and loaded.
in matters of sex everything communicates
On Friday nights the whole family gathers and watches Americas Next Top Model Girls & Boys. During the commercials we practice our best face-poses. The idea is to keep face despite the embarrassment of the body.
At the pool party it is modesty for girls only because boys can’t control what skin does, the belly-skin of girls. This is the skin of a certain age. This is the skin that is the most dangerous of all the skin and threatens to throw the not-yet rationalized boy into a raging rape scene.
I was thinking about the repetitive line and how it’s like an image in a way. We look at it sort of like an image. There is nothing to figure out. Instantaneous, useless. It becomes surface, sound.
in matters of sex everything communicates
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about rape-or-not-rape. On this new album of songs that are some kind of blues I made a song sort of about rape using a Mississippi Fred McDowell sample that runs over and over for eight minutes. It’s a remake of his “Find My Suitcase”. Toward the end it gets wobbly with weird dub-step-like bass lines.
Once I came on a plane and the man at the desk asked angry questions and made up lies because if you have nothing to hide you can’t be shaken because the world is ultimately fair. But I got shook up because the lies seemed very dangerous and I forgot some vital piece of information, became infantile, like a child. I stuttered. I couldn’t remember the name of my professor. I could see his bearded face, his gentle ways, his supreme knowledge of old testament lineage, but his name was gone. Because his name was gone I became someone hiding something. I wondered if this was how terrorists feel.
Sometimes I forget the silliest things. Like my own phone number. Like my own address. This is the stuff of identity, humanness: birth and death records. My band name is My Hot Air Balloon. It was inspired by Swedish balloon explorer Andrée and his demise on the north pole. Travel by hot air and spectacular failure.
Nothing has been heard of Professor Andrée, who started in a balloon for the North Pole, accompanied by two companions, about three weeks ago. Two carrier pigeons were afterward picked up, with certain marks on the wings intended to give the impression that they were from the explorer, but it was soon made manifest that they had not come from him.
-Baltimore News, Baltimore, MD. July 31, 1897
So anyway, I wrote this one song about interacting with authority called “Honey You Got the Bible, I Got the Gun”. It’s an American fairy tale. Its like Thelma and Louise. It’s religion and guns. It’s a love story with authority. It starts:
Hey Mr. Officer won’t you take down my name
You can keep it in your file no hard feelings
This was a while ago, maybe like two years, a kind of protest song. I played it on my daughter’s ukulele but it didn’t quite work. But one day recently I was making this really bouncy sexup beat using an old atari beep and I got to singing this old song. And I was singing over and over “Mr. Officer” until the old-fashioned protest song seemed to turn into something else, more intimate perhaps, or at least more deranged. Sort of like Miley Cyrus grinding with that ridiculous foam hand. A kind of impotence. A kind of yearning.
(I know I know. Dead tissue, be gone. But I think the most upsetting thing about the Miley Cyrus thing was the flatness, the over-the-top-ness and the redundancy of the performance, like it failed to tap into shocking-but-acceptable sex-up Disney coming out behavior (say Christina Aguilera back when) as well as arty androgynous lady gaga awareness. When you’re trying to dance sexily but its not sexy it becomes something else, deranged, less than human, porn. Like the commercial. Shocking. Simply Oranges.)
Bible Song Intro Beat (ca 15 seconds):
Usually when there’s protest songs there’s not much sex going on, its more a manly comradely thing (like those boys in Le Mis!), dustbowls and union meetings, like sports, numbers in the proper squares. But I was thinking about this officer, this border control man, politician (the three characters of the song) and how there is a sexual element in that kind of official control-controlee relationship, this sort of dance and courting. And how we don’t want it to be. How we want the violence to be rational, because if its rational it can be identified and labeled and codified and renamed and verified and classified until it becomes digestible and necessary.
Like what if the power to be couldn’t just symbolically fuck their subjects. Couldn’t reasonably go to war.
Then I added a Billie Holiday sample over it. Not sure why, but once I had it sounded good. I love Billie Holiday. When I grow up, that’s who I want to be. Billie singing: Long Gone Blues. It fitted strangely well. So it goes something like, (where there’s suppose to be something like a chorus):
Talk to me baby
Tell me what’s the matter now
You tryin’ to quit me baby
But you don’t know how
I didn’t know then that Kanye West had sampled Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit for his Blood on the Leaves, a song that is sort of nauseating to listen to, Nina’s sped-up and deranged sounding vocal, Kanyes autotune, lynching meets club romance. But anyway, I like the idea, because the violence of the original, written by some Jewish guy who was inspired by a photograph of a lynching, isn’t allowed to be contained in the No Trespassing Zone of American History Relics.
It always befuddles me when the expected reaction calls for reflection and respect because the topic is of a certain bloodiness and severity, like you’re suppose to stay in this remembrance stillness pose. It reminds me of when I was a kid and we were playing charades and I did the act of Thinking or maybe even The Thinker by that sculpture guy and nobody could figure it out.
My wife says this is because I’m autistic. This is probably right. I’m planning to write a blues about this.
One thing America likes are those Time Capsules which is funny because there’s no history allowed in this small town. There should be jazz and blues statues and museums. Instead there’s waste and dead towns.
Like there’s something disturbed about the past, like a disease of nostalgia.
I decided to try to make a blues album because I love old blues music. Instantly it felt kind of fraudulent, treating blues as a genre rather than tradition, to make a kind of “concept” album. Tradition suggests initiation, cultural and geographical (if not genetic) inclusion, blah blah. I don’t feel part of that “tradition”, I don’t feel particularly rootsy. But I was interested in exploring different themes that blues music deals with: violence, sex, death, mainly, and folklore ghosty stuff, gospel religious stuff. Interested in certain very bluesy sounds and bluesy phrases. To write songs on these subjects, exploring these sounds, these phrases. The idea of tradition is so full of shit anyway, just time passing allowing motive to overgrow so you have something supposedly “genuine” and “deeply rooted” or whatever. For the purpose of division. You can only really sing the blues if your an old black guy who has suffered. Also that the blues is more like a condition, something inside you, your devil-deprived soul, expressed as a summary of one person’s life lived in some unending misery, it has to be earned.
One way of questioning this earning seems to be questioning the containment of certain people and art by labeling them/it exotic, wholesome, “natural”, as opposed to capable of a more rational, severed-from-the-creator, constructed, layered, complex Entity, suggesting that they are not capable of such elaborate thought processes. But hidden in such questioning there seems to be an underlying moral stand favoring written and planned transactions of feelings and information over oral and improvised expression, an economic approach to art.
In blues lyrics one thing that becomes apparent is that its pretty impossible to determine ownership, multiple versions of songs coexist, lines are swapped, stolen and reused. There is (as in most pop music!) the use of heavy repetition, a musical employment of words for their secondary quality, their sounds, an oral transference, to convey a mood, incite dancing, movement, the promise of ecstasy, possession, tongue talking. I’m muchly interested in all this, and most of these songs are written to fit a certain sound, often a beat, an atmosphere, than the other way around, creating a mood in which exorcism becomes possible. Hopefully.
It’s interesting how in early America the drum was banned for its dangerous ability to cause riots. It’s also interesting that the early banjo, brought over from Africa, is a kind of secret, hidden drum, later made a decidedly white instrument through minstrelsy. That it was instead the formerly royal artsy-ass then industrialized guitar that became the blues man’s primary instrument, awesomely tortured with knives and bottlenecks, made to scream and weep. Etc. etc.
by Kim Kim on Mar.27, 2013
[Hi all rejects and deviants. I meant to write this a while ago but somehow didn’t, then reading Christian Peet’s post yesterday and rereading Johannes and Joyelle’s previous posts on the Memphis three reminded me of it.]
Some Thoughts on Masculinity (Or Whatever)
A couple of weeks ago I had a vivid dream in which I was writing a manifesto. It was one of those dreams when you wake up and feel terribly regretful and disappointed because you were doing something awesome. Writing the manifesto was coming very easy and it was full of exciting hyperbole and many different fonts and exclamation marks. Something about a “thin veneer”? I could see the text but it was blurry. I’m pretty sure it was a manifesto about masculinity. I don’t remember if it was for or against.
I think what made me think about masculinity more than usual was watching an episode of 20/20 a couple of months back and this interview they were doing with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o which made me write the following (grammatically suspect, but impassioned) post on facebook:
(yes, I’m officially using my own facebook post as a reference)
“so i finally got caught up on this manti te’o thing. the crime seem to be two-fold. 1) to as a man (and football player, a symbol of masculinity and violence) be duped and otherwise victimized (how come you didn’t suspect anything?) not just by a woman but another (lesser) man. it’s an interesting conflict of interest, confess to involvement and retain your masculinity. consider last weeks brief mention of crabtree’s suspected sexual assault and many others, violent crimes don’t contradict the story line of masculinity. if the culprit had been a woman it could possibly had been explained by women’s general devious nature and offered some relief, instead there are creepy gay undertones (“she sounded like a woman”) leading to 2) the suspected use of a dead girlfriend to further own “overcome” story-line, an overcoming that is quickly adapted by media as an integral part of character building. the hoax then doesn’t just reduce manti’s masculinity index which corresponds directly to his drafting number but threaten to turn a digestible success story into a collective gorging on dead bodies. phew. did i get close?”
Thinking about masculinity in this way reminded me of a Swedish poet that made his debut a number of years ago when I still lived in Sweden and it was widely written about at the time (or so I recall) mainly because he was something so weird as a hockey player who turned to poetry, writing poems about what goes on in those testosterone-packed towel-slapping don’t-be-a-pussy locker rooms.
I had to google for a while to find out that his name is Tom Malmquist and the book fittingly called “Sudden Death”. Here is a blurb (translated) that I like (for the writer, not the book:)
“He’s written about hockey as oppression-mechanism and about men who breast-feed, is a country singer, have dental trolls rather than groupies and like to root around masculinity’s hole.” (See)
Apparently his second collection is called Fadersmjölken (“Fathersmilk”, if you allow the merger). There is a poem from it at that link but I couldn’t decide how to translate words like “uppdragna” and “sugreflexen” so I got frustrated and didn’t.
Also, one of his country songs is called “Van Gogh’s Ear”, which I wanted to like more than I did.
It’s on youtube somewhere.
I’ve always loved both poetry and sports. I don’t really see the contradiction. It’s costumage, it’s beautiful, a spectacle of nothing but its own spectacle.
Continue reading “Some thoughts on father's milk, dreams of masculinity, fashion violence and hockey” »
by Kim Kim on Dec.31, 2012
not an introduction
So this summer I had two weeks with the kids and nothing better to do than to round them up and shoot a no-budget zombie-vampire-ghost film. Shoot might be an exaggeration, more like use the video function on an old kodak camera. This was partly inspired by some horror movie posts on here, David Lynch, Ringu etc. A very short script was quickly written and lost. Something about cornfields. I wanted to make a movie that was not jokey-scary but scary-scary. One idea was that if the kids were turned into monsters this might relieve their fear of horror.
For xmas my daughter got an English translation of a Swedish children’s book I remember from being her age. Lilla spöket Laban (“Little Spook Laban”) It’s about a family of ghosts that live just like real people except they’re ghosts and have to do ghost things like go to the big castle and rattle chains and scare chambermaids. Little Laban in this book fails to live up to his father’s ghost-standards (“Daddy Spook had made himself invisible as soon as the chambermaid moved toward the oak door. He was already on his way home to Mummy Spook to tell her how unsuccessful Little Laban was.”) and is suddenly left at the castle and becomes good friends with “The Prince”. The end.
What I like about it is that when the non-ghosts (real people) appear they seem to be the strange, inhuman ones, and you don’t want them to find you. Sort of like goldilocks seem inhuman when she appears in the little bear’s bed. You identify more with the bears.
by Kim Kim on Nov.26, 2012
(Hi. wrote this some weeks back.)
Wmagazine is the New Family Bible
/a fairy tale
It was good timing that our New Yorker prescription ran out and not so long after the magazine W took its place and started circulation within our home (wife went on an obsessed internet survey-binge and amassed some free stuff: tea, soaps, lady things, Martha Stewart’s magazine and W). The first issue was some kind of super-size-me-up binder full of mid-evil pixiegoth housewifery, featuring among other awesome things, Super Linda.
Our daughter, at 5, now comes home from school, asks for a snack (“I just want candy”) and hangs out in the sun room, flipping through the magazine. One of the twins was reading it the other night while watching Jeopardy (or maybe it was The Rifleman). It should be said though (mom) that other than that first issue (which has mysteriously disappeared, boys will be boys will be girls etc.) there is not much in terms of visible nipple-crotch-ass nudity going on.
by Kim Kim on Oct.10, 2012
Since goth week always seem to correspond with Nobel week, and since Haruki Murakami is a bit of a front runner in both categories, I’m going to try to write a little about 1Q84, his massive three-part novel that I read this summer (the first two parts in Swedish, the last in English, strangely fitting, somehow, seeing as it is a novel of parallels worlds that remain quite similar.)
One thing that interests me about his writing is how, when I read most of his stuff a couple of years ago, it made me feel again like a teenager swallowing books. Not reading books as much as moving into books and living there for a while. And why that might be. It seems not incidental that his writing resonates with a lot of young people. In fact, I don’t think I’ve read a book of this size since I was 16 burning in the Spanish sun with a copy of The Brothers Karamazov (or maybe it was Stephen King’s IT).
One appealing aspect of his work, I think, and a potential answer, is its failure, its incompleteness, its fragmentation For instance, there seems to always be sections in his longer novels where nothing happens. Where a character is just stuck and waiting it out. Not to give anything away, but one of the three books that make up 1Q84 is pretty much just one long wait. Then there is that exhausting part in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle where the main character descends into a well. Continue reading “Featured suicide girl, Haruki Murakami, up for nobel” »
by Kim Kim on May.29, 2012
I didn’t get around to see Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland until yesterday, partly, I think, because I didn’t care too much for Sweeny Todd, but partly because of the overwhelming bad critique it received when it first came out. It quickly fell out of view. I never actively sought it out. Luckily, in a home where many kids roam, these things tend to correct themselves.
In short, I thought it was awesome. I’m glad my daughter got to witness a female lead in an adventure pic hopscotch on severed heads and without much anguish and tribulations decapitate the top-beast-monster, the grimly jabberwocky, voiced by the always evil baritone Christopher Lee. (Is he even a bariton? It sounds nice to say though.)
What the critics I’ve read seem to agree on is that Alice sucks because the characters are flat, too much craziness going on and not enough substance, repetitive, the simplistic division of good and evil etc. It is also predictable. Alice’s arranged husband to-be in the beginning of the movie is a total dumbass, flat, a caricature like the rest of the aristocracy undone by their own formal gesturing, and of course Alice is not going to marry him. So what? Alice is quirky, goth-pale and doesn’t belong. She prefers to chase rabbits. She says weird things. Why would you want “realism” in Alice in Wonderland? Come on.
I was expecting a hallucinatory dream, which might have been its own awesome, but found the story surprisingly straight forward. However great Fantasia is, there’s no way my daughter would sit through it. We’ve tried. She sat through all of Alice and giggled. She’s almost 5. Her standard response when we ask her if something is scary (like when the little mouse pops out the bandersnatch’s eye with a needle) is “yes”, but when we ask if she’s scared, she’ll say “duh, no.” Continue reading “Red Queen/White Queen: A belated defense of Burton's Alice” »
by Kim Kim on May.15, 2012
Hi. The following started out as a response to Johannes’s post “Take your goddamn class hatred and shove it up your ass”: DN attacks Johan Jönson. But mutated. Became big. An elephant.
“When I pulled the trigger I did not hear the bang or feel the kick – one never does when a shot goes home – but I heard the devilish roar of glee that went up from the crowd. In that instant, in too short a time, one would have thought, even for the bullet to get there, a mysterious, terrible change had come over the elephant.”
-George Orwell, Shooting An Elephant
“The elephant’s age had led to its adoption by our town a year earlier. When financial problems caused the little private zoo on the edge of town to close its doors, a wildlife dealer found places for other animals in the zoos throughout the country. But all the zoos had plenty of elephants, apparently, and not one of them was willing to take in a feeble old thing that looked as if it might die of a heart attack at any moment.”
-Haruki Murakami, The Elephant Vanishes
Some time ago I happened upon Aase Berg’s DN article “Hatet mot teatern gnager i mig” (“The/My hatred for theater nags in me”, nags or bites or tears) by chance, through a response to the article, by Leif Zern, also in DN: “Hatet håller teatern vid liv” (“the hatred keeps theater alive”). The soundbite being that Aase Berg, apparently, hates theater.
She writes, in the beginning of the article:
“This is probably not the right forum to write something like this, but OK: I don’t understand theater. Yes, it has happened that I have used the word “hate”. I have said exactly this in conversations with decently culture-interested people: “I hate theater.””
(Should note that in many instances “culture” is probably more accurately translated as “art”.)
Leif Zern, in turn, informs us that he’s not upset by the hatred, but surprised that a writer and literature critic seems unaware of the history of theater, which sets him up nicely to proceed to educate Berg, and anyone else reading in, about this history. There is a bit on Plato, some Euripides and Christianity in the middle ages, with the obligatory Strindberg thrown in. Continue reading “in pursuit of art’s big elephant (aase berg, theater, sarah kane, and art’s big elephants)” »