Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse in the black for real this time

* Now simulcast on NOLAFemmes!

Amy Winehouse died today, and you can read all about it on the righteous Huffington Post obituary that reminds us her demise was just a "slo-mo car crash."

Her death is not altogether shocking, but it is disturbing nonetheless.

In a sense, her artistic marketability stemmed from a bad-girlification of 1960s soul music.  She was a skinny, tatted-up tough girl from working-class London, with big hair and a voice to match.  Her struggles with (or seeming acceptance of) drug addiction only enhanced her reputation as a true entertainer, one with moxie, attitude, and presence.

Fans relished her bad behavior, cheering lyrics like "You love blow and I love puff" ("Back to Black") and "I told you I was trouble / You know that I'm no good" ("You Know That I'm No Good").  Her refusal to go to rehab was celebrated in a Grammy-winning song ("Rehab"), in which Winehouse admits to suffering from addiction and depression.

This glorification of mental illness and self-destructive behavior sends mixed messages to those who also struggle with these issues.  Winehouse's drug use was not only acceptable but legitimized by her celebrity status.  This was a double validation:  Her drug use fed into her being perceived as a rock star, and her being a rock star forgave her drug use.  And now she's dead, and no one's surprised.

So what does it take to remove the idolatry from substance abuse?  The wasted talents of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and many others including Amy Winehouse now, have all developed into a tragic mythos of "forever young," without acknowledgement of what really ripped these creative beings from our midst.  The real scourge is untreated suffering, the exaltation of which prevents honesty, recovery, and true grit from being communicated to a public sold on the dangerous cheapness of entertainment.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Record/Panty Raid Part Deux

My illustrious journalistic career is back in full swing, ie: I just cannot keep my blogging to myself.

The latest on NoDef is a sneak peak at the upcoming Summer Record Raid, this Saturday at Siberia and the Hi-Ho Lounge.  It is also a glance at the life and times of Hunter King, the Dr. Pepper-swilling surfer-rock DJ and all-around good guy responsible for bringing vinyl to the masses of New Orleans.

Here's to dusty gems and the lucky scourers who find them!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Weird Shit from the New Orleans Public Library: Volume 1

When I moved here from New York, I was so excited about making a new home for myself I gave very little thought to what “home” actually meant.  It took exactly one week for me to start missing things: first bagels, then pizza, then more substantive things, like walkable sidewalks and meetings starting on time.

I tried to create a comfortable space in my house that would bring me daily reminders of what I love about New York, like subway maps and photos of my family.  Yet there was always an unsettled quality about this space, and it wasn’t for a while that I realized it was because I had no books.

And with that introduction, I am proud to welcome you, dear Reader, to a new Shtetl Chic feature, "Weird Shit from the New Orleans Public Library,"  simulcast by the lovely women's group blog NOLAFemmes.  Check it out!

Thanks to the talented and wonderful Kate Fogle for suggesting the NOLAFemmes connection.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Riding a bike can increase your dating pool, and not always in the good way

A few weeks ago I was riding my bike along Frenchmen Street, a jazz club strip near the French Quarter, when a man called out to me:

"Hey baby! I was thinking of you blowing me with that helmet on!"

Now while I'm glad I'm not the only one who finds the sexiness in bicycle safety, such comments generally confuse, frighten, or anger me.  This time, I waved the man off with a scoff and a "That's nice for you."  But the male companion I was riding with got really upset and asked if he should double back and confront the guy.  I told him no, that it wasn't worth it, and he should hear the things people say to me when I don't have a guy with me.

Sadly, this experience was just another consequence of our social failure to create and guarantee safe spaces for women.  It is a marker of civilization when women can walk/bike down the street without fear of verbal or bodily attack. Work on it.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Who said the Homosexual Agenda was a radical one?

It is not often I uphold the New York Post as a beacon of expertise in anything except clever headline writing, but this piece on marriage is pretty en pointe, as the French say, especially when they're talking about something gay.

It seems that the Post columnist makes a connection between Archbishop Timothy Egan and pro football player David Tyree, both of whom agree that gay marriage poses an "ominous threat" (Egan's words) to the "moral fabric of the country" (Tyree's), potentially leading to "anarchy" (Tyree's).

Now I'm inclined to believe that if anything is going to contribute to anarchy in this country, it's not going to be a bunch of committed homosexual couples petitioning the state for healthcare and tax cuts, which are the essential rationales behind government-sanctioned marriage in this country.

In any event, the good people over at Against Equality have some valid points about the whole affair, including the assertion that gay people (and their non-gay allies) who fight for marriage equality are actually fighting against their own best interests:

Gay marriage apes hetero privilege . . . [It] increases economic inequality by perpetuating a system which deems married beings more worthy of the basics like health care and economic rights.

That is, the goal of gay marriage is a misguided one. It situates the "homosexual agenda" within a heteronormative paradigm without confronting the inherent injustices of that model.

Historically, marriage has been the legal structure through which a man takes a wife as part of his property, and therefore is able to produce heirs.  Since then, marriage has remained the institution that guarantees access to one's spouse's resources, including health insurance, citizenship status, and financial assets.

The fight for gay marriage legitimizes the use of this institution to deny nonmarried couples access to each other's resources.  Why is the state needed to sanctify commitment when marriage is clearly an anachronistic legal means to arbitrate property issues?

But if we as a society are to continue placing a high value on marriage - not only for economic ends but emotional as well - then we should examine what exactly qualifies as "marriage material."

For more, we turn to Kathy Edin, an ethnographer based in Philadelphia, whose research concerns unwed parents in low-income households.  Assuming the relationship stability that marriage represents, she investigated the reasons why lower-income couples choose to remain unmarried despite being romantically involved and having children together.  She found that among her interview subjects:

Marriage is the finish line. It's the frosting on the cake; it's graduation, once you've achieved financial stability and you have some of the accoutrements of middle-class success, like maybe a mortgage and two working cars, and maybe some money in the bank, and you've really put your relationship through the test of time . . . So it's not that marriage isn't taken seriously. I would say that it's taken too seriously, in some ways.

Again we see marriage as a marker of socioeconomic status, and one perceived as inaccessible by many impoverished couples.  So why fight for it?  I suppose as long as it remains a guarantor of necessary social resources, it is important for the wellbeing of one's beloved.  That, and my grandmother would kill me if I died a swinging single.