Big If

More niche sorrows from a certain newspaper:

If punk is the ultimate anti-establishment scene, why is it still run by all these white men?

And so we find “would-be musicologist” and transgender punk musician Alyssa Kai pining for a cartoon scene that reality can’t live up to: 

DIY punk – with its self-released music, non-corporate labels, cheap all-age shows in basements – embraces those things not as means toward corporate success, but as intrinsically worthwhile tools to build authentic rebellion and powerful community.

She wants none of that “corporate success,” which entails “getting signed, getting famous, getting a world tour,” terrible things like that. No, Ms Kai wants “authentic rebellion” and the purest of motives. Inevitably, disappointment looms:

Our authenticity [is] built on false premises of what it means to be “true” to punk in a messed-up, still-exclusionary scene made up of mostly white, abled middle-class men who make and buy most of the music.

Yes, too many punk musicians - and too many of their fans - are white, male and able-bodied. Will the horror never end? Apparently, our “would-be musicologist” is unfamiliar with the genres afro-punk and queercore, to say nothing of Pussy Riot, Pansy Division, Dinah Cancer and of course The Slits. 

And then it gets worse.

Without warning, in the audience or on a stage, I’ll hear someone say, “This song is about feminism,

Yay. Girl power.

which means: How hard it is to have a vagina in this world!”

Oh dear. Major gaffe. Ixnay on the v.j. 

And I’m suddenly… excluded from the supposedly ultra-inclusive community I’m trying to build.

Because feminist punk that doesn’t nod to transgendered women and their pseudo-vaginas is just no punk at all.

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Elsewhere (108)

Via Herb Deutsch, Heather Mac Donald on the self-destruction of the humanities: 

Until 2011, students majoring in English at UCLA had to take one course in Chaucer, two in Shakespeare, and one in Milton — the cornerstones of English literature. Following a revolt of the junior faculty, however, during which it was announced that Shakespeare was part of the “Empire,” UCLA junked these individual author requirements. It replaced them with a mandate that all English majors take a total of three courses in the following four areas: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability and Sexuality Studies; Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies; genre studies, interdisciplinary studies, and critical theory; or creative writing. In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton or Shakespeare, but the department was determined to expose students, according to the course catalogue, to “alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class.”

The UCLA coup represents the characteristic academic traits of our time: narcissism, an obsession with victimhood, and a relentless determination to reduce the stunning complexity of the past to the shallow categories of identity and class politics. Sitting atop an entire civilisation of aesthetic wonders, the contemporary academic wants only to study oppression, preferably his or her own, defined reductively according to gonads and melanin.[…] [Consider] the resentment of a Columbia University undergraduate, who had been required by the school’s core curriculum to study Mozart. She happens to be black, but her views are widely shared, to borrow a phrase, “across gender, sexuality, race and class.” “Why did I have to listen in music humanities to this Mozart?” she groused… “My problem with the core is that it upholds the premises of white supremacy and racism. It’s a racist core. Who is this Mozart, this Haydn, these superior white men? There are no women, no people of colour.” These are not the idiosyncratic thoughts of one disgruntled student; they represent the dominant ideology in the humanities today.

Yes, what could the music of Mozart possibly have to offer a black woman, any black woman? After all, he was a composer of pallor, and male, and therefore, apparently, in the service of evil. Mozart ain’t for dark folk. Nothing to learn or enjoy there.*

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Tidings (7)

Seven years, good grief. As is the custom here, posting will be intermittent over the holidays and readers are advised to subscribe to the blog feed, which will alert you to anything new as and when it materialises. Thanks for another million or so visits this year and another six thousand comments, many of which prompted threads that are much more interesting than the actual posts. Which is kind of the idea. And particular thanks to all those who’ve made PayPal donations to help keep this rickety barge above water. It’s much appreciated. Newcomers and people with nothing better to do are welcome to rummage through the reheated series and greatest hits. There you’ll find, among other things, great feats of artistry, an ongoing catalogue of leftwing agonies, the bewilderment of George Monbiot, the mind-blunting effects of pretentious racial guilt, and a righteous denunciation of the barbecue patriarchy

Lyrics here. To you and yours, a very good one.

It’s Harder Than You’d Think

IKEA is that friendly shop where you get cheap furniture from the inside of a giant, unending warehouse. Black metal is the kind of music that sounds like someone screaming while trapped inside a burning church. They each possess a fervent fan base. And to tell you the truth, the names of the furniture in IKEA sound a lot like the names of black metal bands. Consider this quiz an educational way to learn the difference.

Go on, test your knowledge

Lovely Stiffness

“Slightly rubbery, which picks up any residue off your fingers and makes the knob look dirty. The rotation is ever so slightly off axis. The click isn’t too satisfying.”

“Nowhere near enough depth, and too much weight to the rotation. Also lacking in knob grip.” 

“Great weight (not too heavy, not too light), and lovely stiffness.” 


Via Anna, via MeFi

Reheated (32)

For newcomers, more items from the archives.

All Pop Music Will Henceforth Be Terrible.  

The government is “waging naked class war,” says the Guardian’s Owen Hatherley. Can leftwing pop music avert catastrophe? 

Making vaguely alternative pop music is, it seems, all but impossible without indefinite subsidy, an Arts Council grant, a subsidised spell at art school and a bohemian squat to call your own. Yes, these young titans of the left need the state to make them edgy and countercultural. And there can be no better use for taxpayers’ money than indulging would-be pop stars while they become “class conscious” and find themselves, musically. However long it takes. 

Rebellion, Revisited.  

If what these educators want sounds a bit like grooming, a little predatory, that’s because it is. 

The problem is that adversarial role-play, like that of leftist academics Furr and Garelick, has little to do with reason, refutation or how the world actually is. It does, however, have a great deal to do with how those concerned wish to seem. In order to maintain a self-image of heroic radicalism - and in order to justify funding, influence and status - great leaps of imagination or paranoia may be required. Hence the goal posts of persecution tend to move and new and rarer forms of exploitation and injustice have to be discovered, many of which are curiously invisible to the untutored eye. Thus, the rebel academic tends towards extremism, intolerance and absurdity, not because the mainstream of society is becoming more racist, prejudiced, patriarchal or oppressive – but precisely because it isn’t.

Which may explain the doublethink of Mr Arun Smith

You’ll Notice They All Wear Shoes.

San Francisco’s radical nudists are remarkably needy. Your children must, simply must, see their genitals.

Imagine you’re out shopping with the kids in tow and having to weave your way through large groups of unattractive men waving their tackle at you. One doesn’t have to have “unrealistic issues of body shame” to find the exhibitionism tiresome or inappropriate. And the denials of any sexual aspect are also unconvincing, especially given that so many of the participants are enthusiasts of fetish clubs and websites catering to people who like public sex and scandalising others, and for whom the whole point is to have an audience, whether titillated or repelled. It’s rather like how the people at last year’s ‘protest’ claimed they just wanted to be left alone - while squealing for attention on a traffic island in the middle of a busy intersection.

Monbiot and the Morlocks.

George Monbiot encounters the exotic underclass. Things go badly wrong.

Maybe George wrote the article to show us how difficult it is to be virtuous, indeed heroic, at least as he conceives such things. I suspect, though, that any moral lesson is quite different from the one intended. You see, George believes in sharing, by which of course he means taking other people’s stuff. Yet he’s remarkably unprepared for that favour being returned. Say, by two burly chaps with neck tattoos and ill-tempered dogs. And as these burly chaps were members of a “marginalised group,” and therefore righteous by default, George was expecting noble savages. Alas, ‘twas not to be.

There’s a world of wonder in the greatest hits

On Fungal Matters

Speaking of identity politics and its befuddling effects, Julia steers us to another classic sentence from the Guardian:  

As a lover of white truffles, a stereotypically upper class food, the rapper [Jay-Z] is bolstering a new kind of black identity. 

That glorious caption is the work of a subeditor, but it’s perfectly attuned to the deep political musings of the article’s author, Ms Kieran Yates, who tells us: 

Jay-Z has shelled out an eye-watering €15,000 on three kilos of white truffles on a recent holiday to Italy.

Before asking the question pressing heavily on no-one’s mind. 

What does this extravagant detail say about the Jay-Z brand? 

And then answering it, excitedly and with tremendous gravitas: 

The term [bling] has always been political… This new kind of spending goes a long way to help his brand while bolstering a new kind of black identity. 

There we go.

This “new kind of spending” - buying overpriced fungus - is much more radical than buying Rolex watches, ostentatious cars or cases of Cristal champagne. It’s a thrilling development in “black identity.” 

Food has always been an issue in working class communities, and one of the first things you learn when you are finally allowed consumer power is that food that you once thought was off limits is in fact accessible. Jay-Z understands the cultural capital of food, and with his purchase he is showing the world that taste is not for the white elite to dictate. 

Note the words allowed and dictate. And indeed white elite. Ms Yates, an English Literature graduate, has evidently learned to regurgitate the kind of airy, tendentious guff her lecturers expected. 

What Jay-Z is in effect saying is that the world of decadent foodstuffs is not off limits – not to him, or to hip-hop culture. Assumptions are slowly being challenged.

See, radical and profound. One Guardian commenter helpfully distils the intellectual heft of this mighty opus: 


The fanciful pseudo-politics of “urban” music and rap paraphernalia are a Guardian staple, obviously, being as they are so daring and transgressive. Readers may recall Lanre Bakare, the recipient of a Scott Trust bursary, who tried to persuade us that “the soundtrack to the credit crunch is being written by hip-hop artists” whose “socially conscious” rapping should be acclaimed for its “focus on harsh economic issues.” Among the insightful thinkers offered as guides was the well-heeled Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy, aka Jay Wayne Jenkins, of whom, Mr Bakare said, 

Jeezy concentrates on his own money issues, with lines like “I’m staring at my stack like where the fuck’s the rest at” and “Looking at my watch like it’s a bad investment,” making it clear that even successful rappers suffer in an economic downturn.

In a later column, Mr Bakare urged us to believe that graffiti is deserving of taxpayer subsidy. Behaviour that our Guardianista would presumably find aggravating and costly to undo if done to him and his belongings should nonetheless be done to others because, well, it’s so edgy and countercultural. And let’s not forget Adam Harper’s apparent belief that “bobbing in time to the wacky syncopated beats and pitch-shifted vocals of Major Lazer’s Pon De Floor” is some kind of radical act, especially when done within fifty yards of a police officer. Wacky, syncopated beats having only been discovered in the second decade of the twenty-first century.