Saturday, March 21, 2009

Coca Crystal's Dance Revolution

Coca Crystal's public access show If I Can't Dance You Can Keep Your Revolution ran from 1977 to 1995 on public access in New York. Thanks to the Internet I just discovered Coca Crystal's existence and well, I'm in love. She always started out the show smoking a joint, then featured guests ranging from Philip Glass, Debbie Harry, Abbie Hoffman, Judith Malina, and Cesar Chavez, as well as poets, artists, babysitters, and dogs. Coca talked about protests, anti-nuke activism, local and world news(with special segment Newborn News). I can't imagine anything that happened on her show being allowed on local access or any other station these days. As I've gathered from Internet research Coca Crystal and her son Gus now live in upstate New York and she continues to be in her own words "fearless, fun, and zany. Not to mention gorgeous, kind, and generous."

Some of these take a little patience, at least for those of us from the MTV generation. But believe me this one is worth rolling with. Coca smokes a joint and then Vincent Titus does a poetry reading worth sticking around for.

Coca does a "magic trick", asks for food stamps, and reads the news - the Weather Underground fugitives get caught in Nyack and Coca has problems with cat hair on sweaters.

The executive assistant's babysitter Matthew is on the show. This kid is adorable but I don't know how many people would let him babysit their kids these days. Oh and then Vincent Titus reads another poem.

Tuli Kupferberg of The Fugs sings Coca a song called Einstein Didn't Wear Socks

Also watch her celebrate "Hash Wednesday"
One of my favorite guest clips from the show is Izzy Fertel singing about Reagan and then about Susan B. Anthony.
Young hippie explains how to get free MTV.

I can't post them all here but check out her Channel on Youtube

I Gotta Meeting In The Ladies Room

A fun one from back in the 80s, when everyone was "powdering their noses" in the ladies room.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Great American Blank Canvas

This year is the 50th anniversary of Barbie, which is mostly interesting because Sarah Haskins and Kristen Wiig have been making some good jokes about it.

When I was growing up in the 90s Barbie, was a huge point of controversy. Researchers studied the effects of Barbies on little girl's self esteem and the Barbie Liberation Organization switched the voices of hundreds of Barbies with hundreds of GI Joes.

My parents went to great pains to raise me in a world without Barbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, or TV commercials. Though I asked for a "baby changing table" for Christmas I got a tool kit and work table. Yet, my grandma did eventually show up with a big case of Barbies one day. Luckily, they were the ones my aunts had played with when they were little so I had some groovy 1960s Barbies with totally trippy outfits. So I suppose Barbie's looks do have some effects on children's minds since I still prefer vintage clothes.

Its also interesting to look at the reverse have we reflected ourselves back on Barbie. My favorite, since I'm from Connecticut, are the CT Barbies.
The area I'm from is best exemplified here

or here

Here are some of the adventures Barbies had over the years....

Yea and just when you think that's bad, here's the Andres Serrano Barbie.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Laugh Like A Girl

One of the reasons I put up posts of female comedians is because of the annoying article Vanity Fair publised two years ago titled Why Women Aren't Funny by Christopher Hitchens. Usually I enjoy Vanity Fair, and they did follow up the uproar the article caused with an issue all about how women are funny, but some part of me will never trust them again. I recently heard a male coworker talking about how "girls just aren't as funny as guys" and got the boiling feeling the Hitchens article spurred all over again. I actually find debating and arguing over what is funny to be the most annoying and unfunny thing out there so I was pretty relieved when another guy turned to this kid and just said "Yea, but you only know like 2 girls".
Marie Claire has a really great article that actually goes to the source itself and is a dialogue of quotes from well known female comedians, actresses, directors, and writers.

Its great and yet depressing to read about some of the things I've wondered about for years. For instance in this other post I wondered about why there weren't movies or shows that featured more than one female comedian :
KATHY GRIFFIN (My Life on the D-List): After Suddenly Susan, I went to every network and said, "What if you put four funny chicks together? Not newcomers, but four women who are proven in television: me, Jennifer Coolidge, Megan Mullally, Cheri Oteri, or Molly Shannon..." And the network people said, "What about Carmen Electra?"

In fact Kathy Griffin points out that there actually was a comraderie among female comedians that we never get to see. Maybe because the world likes to think of women as constantly being in competition instead of all hanging out having fun.

GRIFFIN: When I first started, I called Janeane and said, "I can’t get a break. Everybody is getting on SNL but me." Janeane said, "I think that we should do something called alternative comedy. Fuck the Comedy Store. Fuck the Improv — rent your own theater. Go do stand-up yourself." So I printed flyers: "Comedy night with Kathy Griffin and Janeane Garofalo." We would charge $1, and the show was only an hour. And then we would get celebrity guests — Lisa Kudrow, Quentin Tarantino. And it became the talk of the town.

MARGARET CHO: The boys were always supersupportive of each other. And the girls didn’t really have that until Janeane Garofalo came to L.A. She was like this punk-rock girl. She had really black hair and only wore red lipstick. She sort of lifted the veil of what comedy was about. I used to think, Oh, you’ve got to think up all these jokes. She’s like, "No, they just want to see you. They want to know what you’re thinking."

There were also some interesting comments that made it obvious why male comedians tend to do better career wise...
LISA KUDROW: Depending on who the director was, when we would rehearse stuff [for Friends], I know that there was a feeling sometimes like, Wow, they’re spending a lot of time on the guy scenes, figuring out how to make it as funny as possible. And sometimes with the girl scenes, we’d run it, and it was like, Alright, well, that’s good. It felt like there was a little more enthusiasm to figure it out with the guys.

SUZANNE SOMERS: I was fired from [Three’s Company] because I said, "I’d like you to pay me what you’re paying the men." I knew that I was number one in that coveted demographic, 18 to 49; why were men getting paid 10 times more? But they wanted to make it an example so that no other female could ever get that uppity on television. Penny Marshall told me years later that when she and Cindy Williams went to renegotiate their contracts, they said, "Remember what happened to Suzanne."

For instance its weird that Jimmy Fallon got Conan's Late Night show when comedians like Kathy Griffin have been kicking ass lately.
GRIFFIN: The last time I was on Leno, he turned to me during the commercial break and said, "Why aren’t you up for my job? You should get a late-night show on Fox." And I said, "Jay, I’m very flattered, but tell that to [Fox president of alternative entertainment] Mike Darnell." Have you met Mike Darnell? He’s like 4'11" and puts on shows like Joe Millionaire. That’s who I’m dealing with.

JOY BEHAR: There’s no way that they will ever hire a woman for a Leno job or a Letterman job, because they claim that it’s a male audience that watches — as if women are not working and staying up late watching Late Night.

A few others I enjoyed...

CAROLINE HIRSCH (owner, Carolines on Broadway): I went to see Sarah Silverman at Club Soda in Montreal. There were 300 people in the room, and when the audience was waning, she did something very sexually explicit with her hand down her pants. Sarah’s about the shock value. She once said something about Jimmy Kimmel’s balls smelling like her grandmother’s clothes. I mean, the things that would come out of her mouth. But she’s of a generation that is no-holds-barred.

ROSEANNE BARR: It was their own bigotry. They’d put on, like, four white guys who did impersonations of black guys, and then they wouldn’t put on any black guys. Most of the other women quit — but I wasn’t going to do that ’cause I knew I was funnier than all the men there.

And I leave you with this one... Thanks Lindsay and Kristen!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson - Kokuku in 1984

Head- 1982

Good point with this one.....

Her enthusiasm combined with good pronunciation sometimes reminds me of a really good teacher you would have had in elementary school......if that teacher was totally tripped out and played pranks on you or something.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Collective Consciousness

Way back at RISD me and my best gal pals took a class about Andy Warhol taught by the artist Deborah Bright. At the end of the semester we had to give a presentation to the class as a group, so we chose the topic of collectives and group art making. We got really into it, Kathleen and I were up till 4 am researching Kenneth Anger and creating sleep deprived hypotheses about Warhols similarities to Charles Manson (you should see how we talk about artists we don't like!). So in class we ended up going way over time and leading the class in a huge debate about weather Andy Warhol was sexist or not. He wouldn't even give Viva keys to the Factory!

So since that project I've been interested in researching the concept of collective work.....from HaHa to Drop City. Recently I've read two really great pieces about women's collectives. Collectives of women tend to be incredibly diverse - from Redstockings to Alapine to the Dirt Palace.

The New Yorker recently had an amazing article about the Van Dykes. Founded by Heather Van Dyke this lesbian separatist group got together in the 70s. They piled in a van, changed their last names to Van Dyke, and took to the road, exploring everything from Mexico to S&M. The Van Dykes attempted to only stop at womyn's land (land or farms where only women lived). They ranged from straight women who had given up men for the sake of the sisterhood to lesbian separatists who refused to even talk to men. Heather Van Dyke was a 6ft tall charismatic charmer who discovered her love of women while living in Germany with her fugitive boyfriend. She went to a women's conference, started sleeping with a house guest and never turned back. Along the way she collected many Van Dykes, some of whom developed relationships with her other lovers. The Van Dykes were adamant about being part of the sexual revolution and though they sometimes fought over shoes or lit each others vans on fire, many of them remain friends to this day. Heather, now Lamar Van Dyke, lives in Seattle where she ran a tattoo shop for a while and has since been reunited with her daughter and granddaughter. I can't really do the article justice so check it out here or buy the latest New Yorker.

I also recently read about the Jane Collective in the book Group Material, put out by Temporary Services. Jane was a faction of the Chicago Women's Liberation Union. In a time when abortion was still illegal and many women paid huge amounts of cash to terribly inadequate underground doctors, Jane offered cheap and safe abortions. Heather Booth and a few other women began the operation by finding a reliable doctor for desperate women. Yet, they quickly found that the man performing the abortion was not in fact a doctor, and he was still charging more than most women could afford. So, the Jane collective decided to take charge. They taught themselves how to perform safe abortions and set up a comfortable system for the women. Jane kept track of the women's medical information and would counsel them before hand. If it became clear that a woman was being bullied into the decision by her family or partner, Jane would refuse to perform the abortion and would instead provide counseling for the family/ partner. If the woman was sure she wanted the abortion she would arrive at "the front" where she could leave her children or a partner/husband in the care of other Jane members. The woman then went to another location where Jane provided pain killers and walked her through the procedure in an inclusive way. Over the years over 100 women were members of Jane and over 12,000 abortions were performed. Jane advertised in student papers and was even listed in the phone book as Jane Howe. Despite police busts, Jane existed until Roe Vs. Wade made abortion legal.

For me there was a similar realization while reading about Jane as when I read about the Van Dykes. Times have changed and its easy to be critical of the methods of the past, yet you can't knock it till you've been there. I read about Jane and thought 'I'm pro-choice but could I really have been there and done that'. Yet without the context of the situation you can never say never. As one woman said of Jane " it was just shocking what people had to go through. Cook County (Hospital) was getting hundreds of (victims of) botched abortions a month. Abortions were unsafe and they cost thousands of dollars." If you decided to keep the baby it was not uncommon to be shunned by your family and expected to give up whatever schooling and career you might have desired so your equally confused boyfriend could provide for you. Reading about Jane made me appreciate living in a time when there are more options for birth control, more options for keeping or adopting babies, and more options for abortion.
When reading about the Van Dykes I kept thinking of their tour de womyn's land as some sort of physical embodiment of the Internet. At a time before cyberspace these women were creating their own connections through out the country in the most authentic way possible -with a gas tank and an eager libido. Lamar Van Dyke rips into my generation for letting the Internet do our work for us. Connecting over the web pretty obviously takes a lot of the fun out of human relationships and subcultures, yet, sometimes its so much easier. However, as with Jane, the women who were working to create womyn's land were dealing with a whole different breed of men, a patriarchal society so intense that writing off men all together didn't look so bad, even for straight women. As Lamar points out, young people need to think beyond fitting in (aka gay marriage and gays in the military) and not be afraid of being revolutionaries. Working as a collective is usually more effective than working alone - so who's ready to start the revolution with me? Also check back in with me in 10 years when I'm running my commune up state..... anyone have a band that wants to play there?

Cool Quote

Openly gay Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson explains on NPR the uproar caused by his comment about wanting to be a "June Bride" while on CSPAN.

"What I said was 'I always wanted to be a June bride'. Now I think part of why that raced around the world in no time flat, due to the magic of the internet, has to do with misogyny and its connection to homophobia. I think the thing that really irritates the world about referring to myself as a bride, is that I'm supposed to be privileged because I'm male, not female. And to refer to myself with a feminine word like bride, it really offends the patriarchal system, that, I think, is beginning to come apart. And gay and lesbian people, I think, are starting to begin the deconstruction of patriarchy."

that 90s sound

I recently fell into this long youtube path of 90s bands. Girl bands were so much more prevalent then.

The Breeders- Divine Hammer. Also here's another good video for Safari. And also the infamous Cannonball (video co-directed by Kim Gordon)

Elastica - Connection

Aaliyah - If your girl only knew
I remember so clearly watching this on mtv when i was young. Aaliyah's swagger and attitude is one in a million.

TLC -Waterfalls
I can't embed their other videos but check em out here and here.

Zhane- Right Here
I love this video.....if you want something slightly less adult contemporary check this out.

Milla- Gentlemen Who Fell
I totally didn't know Milla Jovovich had a music career, though I kind of rememeber this song. Also in the actress with singing career category..... did anyone know about Bijou Phillips's.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Videos by Alex and Annie

Here are two awesome videos by friends of mine.

The first is Self Love by Alexandra Gorczynski. Check her out here and here...

The second is Nite Glide by Annie Pearlman. Check her art out here or her band out here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Grace Lee Boggs and the call to action

Grace Lee Boggs is a force to be reckoned with! Born to Chinese immigrants in Providence, RI in 1915 she made a life of activism -fighting for the rights of all people through labor, civil rights, black power, asian american, women's, and environmental justice movements. Her achievements are so wide ranging that I was really surprized I'd never heard of her before. Yet, even today, ninety four years, later she's saying what needs to be said.

In this video from about a year ago she talks to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now) about her hopes for Obama. Its interesting to hear someone whose seen so much explain her support of him. Though she acknoweldges that Dennis Kucinich has much better policy plans, she's direct enough to point out that Obama has the leadership qualities that people need to feel inspired, and that is what will eventually put policies into place. Yet, the most important point she makes is that change and progress depend on all of us taking an active role in the direction of our country... filling the roles of local leadership and "and reassessing what it is within our capacity to do."

One of my favorite authors, Naomi Wolf, put out this book last fall about what we can do to start actively participating in our democracy. Give Me Liberty gives an explanation of the concept of democracy that our country was founded on, for instance that the Declaration of Independence is not so much about what we deserve but that we have a duty to hold our government accountable when they abuse their power. The latter half of the book is dedicated to explaining direct and practical methods for participating in local government. This is especially important to remember in a time when everyone seems to be watching and judging Obama's moves. The direction of our country depends on more than just the president.

Everyday I've been meeting people who confuse Obama's stimulus package for a big bandaid in an effort to not think about whats happening on a local level. Lately, for a job I've been working for the Working Families Party. I've mostly been working on the issue of the New York State budget deficit. Governor Paterson's proposed budget would cut huge amounts from schools and hospitals, not to mention other health services, senior centers, and the police force (and tuition increases for SUNY and CUNY). So we've been getting New Yorkers to write their state senator asking them to instead support the Fair Share Tax Reform Plan which would follow the example of states like Connecticut and New Jersey in creating a more progressive tax system to help bear the burden of the NY budget defecit. Yet, every day I talk to people who only follow the huge headlines of Obama's latest move - which won't protect them from the cuts to so many state services.

Involvement doesn't have to involve something so extreme, as Lee Boggs points out it could involve starting a community garden or simply being open to a dialogue.

As Grace Lee Boggs herself says "
I think we have to rethink the concept of "leader." 'Cause "leader" implies "follower." And......I think we need to appropriate, embrace the idea that we are the leaders we've been looking for. "

Here's a video a co-worker made about what we're working on. You can see me around the 1:06 point looking like I'm thinking about something.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


Here's a post from "Guest blogger" Sam. He's become totally obsessed with this deep throated singing that he describes only as "guttural slamming brutality", so I asked him to write about this singer Simone that he keeps raving about.
Here ya go.....

Every day I am constantly humbled by the talent of today's youth.
Take for example Som, or Simone. A totally brootal dutch teenager in
search of a band. Check out these sick vokillz:

Covering one of her many favorite bands, Disfiguring the Goddess (the band of storied youtube
vocalist Big Chocolate), she displays a level of utter vocal brutality that puts the pig squealing girl to shame, not to mention my own feeble attempts at singing. As she tries her hand at some older death metal material, notably Dying Fetus (the marijuana of Slam), going from her near perfect (and unprocessed!) low-end growl to a hi pitch scream demonstrates some limitations (self-admitted at that) to her range. But then I soon found that SHE IS ONLY 17! The world is hers. She'll get Melissa Cross' "Zen of Screaming" for christmas and, in broken english, she'll find her band and realize all of her metal dreams...

here's her youtube channel and her myspace:

Making Passes at Girls Who Wear Glasses

In Mary Ann Doane's essay Film and The Masquerade she devotes an entire section to the classic movie moment when the geeky girl takes off her glasses and all of a sudden is transformed into a bodacious prom queen.

As Doane puts it "The image is a heavily marked condensation of motifs concerned with repressed sexuality, knowledge, visibility and vision, intellectuality, and desire."

I think most people are aware of the absurdity of the moment when the glasses disappear.... after all if she didn't need them to see why was she even wearing glasses? Yet, when you think about it more the absurdity is really amped up. Are all our female protagonists walking around in a blurry haze of near-sightedness? It reminds me of the original Hans Christian Anderson version of The Little Mermaid where Ariel actually feels broken glass and pins shooting pain through her feet when she walks.....but that's the price you pay for beauty/ to be considered human.

Reading the Doane essay made me realize the interesting way that sexual awakening (aka shedding your glasses) can be seen as being put in your place - such as Ann Hathaway in The Princess Diaries learning to be a real lady or Rachel Leigh Cooke in She's All That learning to keep her yap shut and conform to the high school norm. Or there's the recent House Bunny where a whole sorority turns in their glasses for hair extensions, making female sexuality look like a train wreck of cleavage and fake tans.

Doane points out that "Glasses worn by a woman in the cinema do not generally signify a deficiency in seeing but an active looking, or even simply the fact of seeing as opposed to being seen."
So maybe Rachel Leigh Cooke in She's All That actually was on to something - keeping up in high school in the late nineties sucks, finding yourself doomed to a world of naval piercings and playing hacky sack. She sees it for what it is. Then she suddenly decides to take off her glasses and not "see", prompting the football player to exclaim "Check out the bobos on superfreak" and life becomes about being seen and not seeing.

Doane goes on to draw parallels between the female gaze and horror movie monsters. The horror movie female protagonist will always be punished for looking - punished by a monster that usually mirrors her own secondary status. This reminds me of why the movie Teeth is so great. In Teeth the girl is both protagonist and monster, her sexuality being the creature which must be obeyed. Mitchell Lichtenstein does an amazing job pointing out our fear of what happens when a girl takes off her promise ring.

So glasses are really just a symbol, but one that happens to have lasted since movies were first made. Doane's essay mainly centers on movies of the 1940s, and yet the same cliche rings true today. Additionally, this is one of those cliche's that isn't specific to women, take Patrick Dempsey in "Can't Buy Me Love" or Clayton Rohner in "Just One of The Guys". Glasses are a classic symbol of being in some androgynous state. Yet, as with "movie asthma" you can just throw your inhaler or glasses over your shoulder and get a boyfriend or girlfriend. Unfortunately, you'll probably never know what they look like.