Monday, October 23, 2006

Go Out and See What You Can Find

So my brother, Mac, in all his manly glory, responded again to the question set forth in the post "I Won't Cuss Or Hitcha" where I asked all three readers of this blog to name a song written by a white man that celebrates a quality in women that is usually derided. That post was inspired by the songs "Big Leg Women" by Muddy Waters and "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot. I argued that the kind of values these songs embody are only appropriate in the context of songs sung by black men. Paul Dunn, one of Mac's best friends from high school, met my challenge with the song "Trashy Women" by Confederate Railroad.

In yesterday's post, Mac pointed out a whole genre of songs that almost fit this qualification: the I-Love-An-Ugly-Woman song. If you want to read what he wrote, just look at the comments from yesterday's post. As examples, he provided:

"Casimira" by Banda Machos. The gist of this song, which Mac was kind enough to translate, is that there is an ugly woman who a man dances with all night long.

"Get An Ugly Girl to Marry You" by Jimmy Soul. As Mac said, "Granted this song isn't about mutual sexual satisfaction, the asshole just wants someone to cook for him."

Then, Mac pointed to two "Butterface" songs. This term refers a woman who is ideal except her face. Elton John and Bernie Taupin's "Yell Help, Wednesday Night, Ugly" and Bob Dylan's "The Ugliest Girl In the World" (see Shakespeare's Sonnet 130). Dylan even notes that "she's not much to look at." These songs are about loving a woman, in spite of, not because of, some physical quality. Muddy Waters loves the women BECAUSE of their big legs, not IN SPITE OF their big legs.

He also suggested "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry. I don't quite understand what Mac intended by relating this song to the topic of loving a woman because of a quality that is usually considered unattractive. I think he's referring to the line: "If her Daddy's rich, take her out for a meal. If her Daddy's poor, just do what you feel." Mac thinks this song is misogynistic, but I think it's actually pretty sexy. Wanting to sleep with all the ladies isn't misogynistic; it's lovely. He's equal opportunity, which I am for. I think he's just saying that dating a poor girl is easier cause you can just hang out. I mean he even tells us, "we're not dirty, we're not mean." Plus, you have to love the naivete of "Have a drink, have a drive." And, to further prove my theory, here is a photo of this equal-opportunity man:

Mac also pointed out E.U.'s "Doin' the Butt." Um, I, uh, think this, kinda, um, refers to an action and not a specific body part.

Although I love the song, I didn't even think about "Maggie May" by Rod Stewart. After all, "the morning sun when it's in your face really shows your age, but that don't worry me none, in my eyes you're everything." Aw, this from creepy Mr. Stewart. However, again, he loves her despite the fact that she's getting old, not because of.

But, my sweet sweet brother, "Maggie May" reminded me of "Lady Midnight" by Leonard Cohen, which does work:

I came by myself to a very crowded place;
I was looking for someone who had lines in her face.
I found her there but she was past all concern;
I asked her to hold me, I said, "Lady, unfold me,"
but she scorned me and she told me
I was dead and I could never return.
Well, I argued all night like so many have before,
saying, "Whatever you give me, I seem to need so much more."
Then she pointed at me where I kneeled on her floor,
she said, "Don't try to use me or slyly refuse me,
just win me or lose me,
it is this that the darkness is for."

I cried, "Oh, Lady Midnight, I fear that you grow old,
the stars eat your body and the wind makes you cold."
"If we cry now," she said, "it will just be ignored."
So I walked through the morning, sweet early morning,
I could hear my lady calling,
"You've won me, you've won me, my lord,
you've won me, you've won me, my lord,
yes, you've won me, you've won me, my lord,
ah, you've won me, you've won me, my lord,
ah, you've won me, you've won me, my lord."

So, I guess Mac was right afterall. Thanks, Pooks.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

My Cat Sits Upright

Please, Mr. Postman

Bad news folks, I read recently in the newspaper that the postal service has decided to cut back on the number of free-standing blue boxes to drop a letter in. For shame. In Oakland, you can't leave your outgoing mail in your box cause people steal it. We have to use those blue boxes, and I'm always looking for one as it is to send off my Netflix movies. If they get rid of more of them, I'll have to go to the post office with all the tweakers and grumpy old ladies who don't know how to work the stamp machines!

OH, and the stamp machines. Apparently their nixing all those too by 2010 because they're too expensive to maintain. So we'll print our postage off the internet or teleport it from our synth-modes or something.

I just hope the future is more fun, and has cool sounds and flashing lights.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

It's So Nice To See People Get What They Want

Thanks to my brother, my friend, Chris Rogers, and my brother's friend, Paul Dunn for answering the challenge from the last blog: a song written by a white man that celebrates/sexualizes a quality in women that is usually derided in our culture.

My brother pointed out Queen's Fat Bottomed Girls:

Are you gonna take me home tonight?
Ah, down beside that red firelight;
Are you gonna let it all hang out?
Fat bottomed girls,
You make the rockin' world go round.

I was just a skinny lad
Never knew no good from bad,
But I knew life before I left my luxury,
Left alone with big fat Fanny,
She was such a naughty nanny!
Hey big woman you made a bad boy out of me!
Hey, hey!

I've been singing with my band
Across the wire, across the land,
I seen ev'ry blue eyed floozy on the way, hey
But their beauty and their style
Wear kind of smooth after a while.
Take me to them lardy ladies every time!

Hey listen here,
Now I got mortgages on homes
I got stiffness in my bones
Ain't no beauty queens in this locality. (I tell ya!)
Oh, but I still get my pleasure
Still got my greatest treasure.
Heap big woman you done made a big man out-of me!
Now get this!

Oh, you gonna take me home tonight (please)
Ah, down beside that red firelight
Oh, you gonna let it all hang out
Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin' world go round
Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin' world go round

Oooh yeah oh yeah them fat bottomed girls
Fat bottomed girls
Yeah yeah yeah
all right
ride 'em cowboy
Fat bottomed girls
Yes yes

I've never heard this song, but I did read online that it has many appreciative, fat-bottomed fans. The title of this song even parallels Muddy Waters' Big Leg Women. Big:Fat::Leg:Bottom::Women:Girls. I do like that his obsession began because he was seduced by his fat nanny. However, wouldn't that make this more of a fetish song? Isn't the nature of a fetish a weird, often inexplicable sexual preference that may have some root in a possibly traumatic or at least strange childhood experience? I'm thinking of Rosseau. In Confessions, he explains how, after being spanked by his Governess as a child, as an adult he could only reach sexual climax by being paddled. This isn't to say that there aren't many men out there who genuinely dig ladies with more flesh, and this isn't to say that Brian May (who wrote the song) wasn't one of them. However, there is a difference between a preference and fetish, especially if you are the one being desired. Remember that episode of King of the Hill when Peggy, after being paid as a foot model, learned that her feet were desired only because of how definitively bizarre they were?

My friend Chris pointed out Fugazi's song Suggestion:

Why can't i walk down a street free of suggestion?
Is my body the only trait in the eye's of men?
I've got some skin
You want to look in
There lays no reward in what you discover
You spent yourself watching me suffer
Suffer you words, suffer your eyes, suffer your hands
Suffer your interpretation of what it is to be a man
I've got some skin
You want to look in
She does nothing to deserve it
He only wants to observe it
We sit back like they taught us
We keep quiet like they taught us
He just wants to prove it
She does nothing to remove it
We don't want anyone to mind us
So we play the roles that they assigned us
She does nothing to conceal it
He touches her 'cause he wants to feel it
We blame her for being there
But we are all guilty

Thanks for this song, which I've never heard, and it certainly does deal with many of the themes from the post before. However, and Chris pointed this out, this song's purpose is to talk about the objectification of women as a problem. Thank you, Fugazi, but I propose another solution: equal-opportunity objectification.

Then, Thank God, Paul Dunn, who I can't believe even reads this blog, pointed out a song I already knew: Confederate Railroad's Trashy Women:

Well, I was raised in a sophisticated kind of style.
Yeah, my taste in music and women drove my folks half wild.
Mom and Dad had a plan for me,
It was debutantes and er-symphonies,
But I like my music; I like my women wild.

Yeah, an' I like my women just a little on the trashy side,
When they wear their clothes too tight and their hair is dyed.
Too much lipstick an' er too much rouge,
Gets me excited, leaves me feeling confused.
An' I like my women just a little on the trashy side.

Shoulda seen the looks on the faces of my Dad and Mom,
When I showed up at the door with a date for the senior prom.
They said: "Well, pardon us son, she ain't no kid.
"That's a cocktail waitress in a Dolly Parton wig.
I said: "I know it dad, ain't she cool, that's the kind I dig."

I like 'em sweet, I like 'em with a heart of gold.
Yeah an' I like 'em brassy, I like 'em brazen and bold.
Well, they say that opposites attract, well, I don't agree
I want a woman just as tacky as me.
Yeah, I like my women just a little on the trashy side.

Yeah, an' I like my women just a little on the trashy side,
When they wear their clothes too tight and their hair is dyed.
Too much lipstick an' er too much rouge,
Gets me excited, leaves me feeling confused.
An' I like my women just a little on the trashy side.

I'm tempted to dismiss this song as another ironic country song (like Redneck Woman by Gretchen Wilson), but it's so thorough. There is the part about the Dolly Parton wig, but it doesn't exploit the obvious advantage (and punch line) of dating a trashy woman: she puts out. Instead, he highlights the fact that they are "brazen and bold" and, yes, "wild." If this were just a fetish song, it would have some origin in his youth, such as his first encounter being with a trashy older prostitute. However, he liked them because his parents wanted something different for him, "debutantes and symphonies," and he rebelled.

I love this song. A year ago, I wrote a piece about the R. Crumb documentary and an experience I had at Office Max. The song's chorus was quoted in its entirety. I should have thought of it before! Thank you, Paul. You've completed my challenge, and for this, I will deliver as promised, another photo of me and my new boyfriend, Herbie:

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I Won't Cuss Or Hitcha

The sexiest album I've ever heard is Muddy Waters'Folk Singer. These are songs for a slow metabolism. They're Winter songs. Waters was 49 when it was released, and he's mellow and deep-voiced and heavy.

Most songs recycle the same themes, even lines, so much that sometimes they all seem like bible verses put to different tunes for us to memorize. LEARN OUR MYTHS, they say. THIS IS HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT.

Are you the one that I've been waiting for?
I can't live if livin' is without you
I'm never gonna dance again
When I fall in love it'll be forever
I will follow him
Our love was meant to be
I know eventually we'll be together
You are safe in my heart

These sentiments STRONGLY informed my ideas about love when I was a kid/young woman. Thank God for feminism, otherwise I'd still have a poster of Robert Doisneau's "The Kiss" on my wall:

Within Jazz and Blues there exists a different myth, a different set of values, and a different way of viewing desire. Billie Holliday laments:

Nobody knows how cruel fate can be
How close together love and hate can be
Goodbye, just clean the slate for me
That's life I guess

The first three lines could be any song, but the last line is about acceptance that things are difficult. She's not fighting, she's not asking, "why?", she's not saying that "eventually we'll be together," and she's not even threatening him with how much he'll miss her. It's just like: Life is shitty and love is difficult and that's just how it is so we might as well sing about it.

On Folk Singer, Muddy Waters has a slooooowwww song about things gone wrong. The first verse is about being on a ship. Read this s...l...o...w...l...y:

The cook's alriiiiiiiiiiiiiight. . . but the captain's so meannnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn. . . . .the cook's alriiiiiiiight...........but the captain's so mean . . . . . I mean he's so mean... . . . . . . . . . . . ..mmmmmmm.. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Won't feed me nothiiiiiiiiiiin'. . . . . . . . . . . . . but Sawyer bean.

My wheel mule is crippllllllllllle...... my lead mmmmmmmule is wheel mule is lead mule is blind................
Ain't gonna buy my baby no more stockings ooooohhhhhhhhh........with the seam behind.

(How I want to live in a world where your man buys you stockings.) This is music from a history of things gone wrong. It's the Blues. It ain't gonna be okay, so we may as well sing about it.

But the gem of the album is this:

Big legged women
Keep your dresses down
You got stuff that make a bulldog hug a hound
huh, big legged women
keep your dresses down
you got stuff that make a bulldog hug a hound

If you roll your belly like you roll your dough
People's that cryin, they want some more.
Ah, roll your belly like your roll your dough
People's that crying, people's that's crying for more.

Big legged women sure got something good,
Peoples that crying bout it in the neighborhood,
Big legged women, Sure got something good,
Now, If you don't believe me, ask everybody in my neighborhood.

Jerry Lee Lewis of "Great Balls of Fire" fame sang this song, too, but he made the lyrics dirtier. His version includes lines like "I like the way you shake that great big fat behind," "set your ass down at that table," and "ain't a cherry in the house." Now almost everything I know about Jerry Lee Lewis I learned from the movie Great Balls of Fire when I was 9, but I do know that I wouldn't let the man ever give me a ride home. His version is either hyperbole or satire; he's either fetishizing them or mocking them. It feels like the song "Get An Ugly Girl to Marry You."

I have no doubt that Muddy Waters is sincere. I picture him sitting on a hot porch in a dry season, watching a big legged woman walk by in her house dress. Letting her pass and saying some sly, short, understated, something to his neighbor. This is a man who pronounces "pretty," "pruhty." There is such a fine, sweet line between misogyny and admiration, power and lust, objectification and appreciation.

Although both versions of the song are supposedly addressed to the women, Lewis' is really addressed to other men. This trait is all too common, especially in Rock music and Hip Hop: Warrant's "Cherry Pie," ZZ Top's "She's Got Legs," and The Hollies "Long Cool Woman (In a Black Dress)." Songs may seem grammatically like they are addressed to women, but really they are for other men: The Rolling Stone's "Brown Sugar," and ACDC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." (John Mayer's song for 17-year-old soon-to-be-ex-virgins "Your Body Is a Wonderland" was a popular exception).

Now think about the legacy of Big Legged Women : Baby Got Back.

Sir Mix-A-Lot's song is a political rant on how white culture has made black women feel inferior. He's looking at "rock videos" with "knock-kneed bimbos walkin' like hoes." His song is addressed to black women to make them understand that most black men think that they are sexy, REALLY SEXY, just how they are: "take the average black man and ask him that, she gotta pack much back." He's "tired on magazines saying flat butts are the thing." He tells the ladies, "so Cosmo says your fat, well I ain't down with that." On the ideal dimensions: "36-24-36? Only if she's 5'3"." He even encourages the girls to "shake that healthy butt."

Can anybody out there name a song by a white man, in any time, addressed to women in general telling them they are sexy eventhough mainstream culture proposes otherwise?

If you can, I'll post another picture of me and Herbie. Talk about back. Damn.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mac Attack

My brother was always way too nice to me. He's six years older, and could have been mean or at least distant, but Mac was the kind of brother who, at 13, spent his entire $5 at the Greek festival on a heart shaped box filled with potpourri for me. I was the kind of sister who kicked him in the face and made his nose bleed. And I was only two when I did it.

Now Mac is 32 and lives in New Orleans with his wife and their 4-year-old daughter, Marley, and 4-month-old son, Jack. He's fluent, and I mean fluent, in Spanish and is getting his doctorate in Spanish Literature at Tulane. Mac is consistent. He's impeccably moral. He alternates between periods of extreme sloth and activity. He'll watch 4 hours of Family Guy and then write on his dissertation all night. He'll play a game on a Sears website to take care of a virtual tree for an hour just to get a coupon. He's proud he can sing like the guy from Hootie and the Blowfish. He's an entrepreneur and actually has a savings account. He has beautiful light blue eyes with thick black lashes and a thick head of black, curly hair. I adore him.

Here's a photo of us posing like our ancestors in the hallway of my grandpa's assisted living facility:

Mac, the only brother, the best brother:

3 years old: He's babysitting me. We carpet the living room floor with newspaper and dried black eyed peas. He turns on the Oliver North Hearings and we simualate fart-powered aeronautics in my cabbage patch kids.

16 years old: He comes home from his job at an Internet gaming cafe at 2 in the morning and wakes me up. We go to Country Cupboard (an old gas station) and buy lemon-lime powerade and Reese's peanut butter cups. He drives me around Canton listening to 311 and Sublim with the windows down. It is a school night.

25 years old: New Orleans, his wife is in Utah and he's sad. After seeing Godzilla, we drive under a bridge singing, yes, Oasis, at the top of our lungs in his car named Bob Marley. At home we stay up all night listening to music from when we were in high school. Around 5, we decide to go to Cafe Du Monde and get coffee/hot chocolate and beignets. The sun comes up while we're sitting there. Then we go yardsale-ing.

But really, the best story happened before I was born, relayed to me by my mother tonight on the phone:

Mama (who deserves her own blog post, as well as my Dad) told me she was offended by how open Mac is on his blog.

"He talks about his sex life. He even emailed me some pictures of Jack's [his 4 month old son] first poop. He's always been obsessed with poop. I remember when we were at the Dillard House and he was five or six. We were all sitting at a family table and we could hear Mac in the bathroom. He yelled out 'Fire One!' and then flushed and then, 'Fire Two!' and then he flushed again. He was pooping in there! We could hear him perfectly. We were laughing so hard we were crying. Kermit Keezer had big tears just comin out of his eyes. He kept going 'Fire three! Fire four!' just going and going."

Sunday, October 08, 2006

My New Boyfriend!

His name is Herbie. We met in Chinatown. He was wrapped in cellophane, adorned with a "Good Luck" bow. Amen, Herbie, Amen.

It's pretty serious.

He works out.

That's why he looks so good from behind.

Sometimes we work out together.

He's SO cute!

13 years ago

I was thirteen 13 years ago.

October 13th, 1993

Homecoming is tomorrow and I can't wait. I hate how Chris always talks about his girlfriend, Rebecca. He didn't call me like I asked him to. Aja told me he was a pothead. I don't believe her. I like him alot, he's easy to talk to and he's nice. He isn't a pervert. The only problem is that dang girlfriend. Hopefully they'll break up because I like him. Melanie Grizzard (a girl at church) kissed him. Matt I don't think is going. My dress is long black velvet sleeveless and scoop neck. It has a slit about mid thigh. I hope I have alot of fun. I hope alot of guys ask me to dance--especially Chris. I like him alot.

Susanna [a smiley face and a flower]

p.s. [tomahawk] Braves Rock!

UPDATE: Chris did ask me to dance, and he was lying about his girlfriend. He still owes me $28 from the pictures. I stole his braided belt and left it on the lawn at church during a game of kickball. He told me about the "Tao" but he couldn't tell me what it meant. There was no kissing and nothing happened, except the next year I wore the same dress and split the front slit all the way up to my hip when I crossed my legs in the back seat of my mother's Ford Taurus sitting next to Tanner Acker, who also didn't kiss me.

Who were you in love with 13 years ago?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Teach me, teach me, teach, teach me, teacher

High Point of teaching:

My new, precious 13 year old over-acheiver. Her Mom is Phillipino-American and Nicole gets embarassed by how loudly she talks on the phone. Her Dad is Chinese-American and makes Nicole memorize two new vocabulary words in the car everyday on the way to school. She's the shortest girl in her 8th grade class. I'm tutoring her for the SAT. (I know!)

I was teaching her the word "erosion" and asked her to make a sentence.

"On Sunday, when there was a rainstorm, it eroded the cemetary and all the dead bodies washed into the ocean."

Thank you, Nicole.

Low Point of Teaching:

Two years ago I was asked to tutor a boy going into the 5th grade. I usually don't tutor students that young, but figured I could give it a try. His uncle, who was insanely beautiful, made the arrangements and paid for the lessons. David, the kid, was a tiny little guy who was very very very into Grand Theft Auto. For our first lesson I had found a simple essay about a young man's admiration for his father. We read the story together, and then I asked him what it was about. He just kinda sat there with his shoulders slumped. I asked him if the person who wrote the story loved his father. He just nodded his head; he wasn't talking. I pointed out sentences about the dog they walked together or going on walks or eating dinner.

I said, "what kinds of things do you do with your Dad?"
Then he said "My Dad's dead."

That was probably even worse than the woman who was trying to pressure me into helping her plagarize after she'd taken me out to some bitchin' dim sum. Her parents survived the Holocaust. God bless us, everyone.

Let's end on a high point, cause it started raining here and I'm having a hell of a time:

Today I taught a 79 year old woman how to read the words "address," "telephone number," and "Social Security Number" in English. That's her, Sam Jeom Jeong, on the left in the red blazer.

I'd like you to try reading anything in Korean when you're 79.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Whoever You Are

So yesterday I was waiting in rush hour traffic to cross the Bay Bridge. I had misjudged which lanes were the carpool lanes, and had to cut in front of an unhappy, grumpy, annoyed man. The girl-smile-wave-thank-you didn't even make him happy. So we waited and waited and waited and waited.

Then I did a terrible thing: I paid the toll with a $100 bill. It was all I had. They make a big production of it: sighing, writing on it with the little marker, holding it up to the light, and even getting out of their booth to take down your license plate number. Everyone is so pissed off behind you. Sometimes they honk. But it's not like you're doing anything wrong by paying with a big bill, you know? It's a good problem to have!

I decided not to look at the grumpy man behind me until I pulled forward 5 feet to wait in another hour of traffic. That's when I got to see him look confused when the operator told him his toll had already been paid. That's when I got to see him wave and smile. I knew he'd come around.

p.s. He wasn't hot.