Archive for August, 2013

Pickle Trail Soundtrack

local natives

1. Bowery – Local Natives

8 diagrams

2. Unpredictable – Wu Tang Clan

From the totally underrated 8th Diagrams. RZA’s fetishizing of Ennio Morricone style film scores polarized both fans and the rest of the Wu, but I love it all the same.

bill callahan

3. The Wheel – Bill Callahan

Wowee-Zowee-by-Pavement_CQoUZQ-IWmox_full

4. Grounded – Pavement

vic chesnutt

5. Independence Day – Vic Chesnutt

Reminder of the tragic beauty of living.

the whole love

6. Open Mind – Wilco

From last year’s The Whole Love, my favorite Wilco album since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot

rhianna

7. Stay – Rhianna

(particularly this excellent performance from last fall on SNL) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-dW7z0QBNg

phosphorescent muchacho

8. Muchacho’s Tune – Phosphorescent

ethiopiques

9. Asmarina (My Asmara) – Mulatu Astake

Mystic, exotic beauty. Jim Jarmusch’s inappropriate scoring of Broken Flowers almost ruined Mulatu for me. Sorry Bill Murray.

xtc

10. That Is The Way – XTC

Masters of the art-punk genre. One or two radio songs and they would have been as big as Talking Heads

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Piper groped

“Orange Is The New Black” is Netflix’s fifth, and best attempt at original programming, (“House of Cards,” and “Arrested Development” were reboots). The show exercises a restraint that Jenji Kohan’s “Weeds” often did not, flirting with kitsch without veering headlong down its awkward path. OITNB’s story lines are emotionally steeped, sympathetic and sentimental in the best way.

Naturally, many will perceive the show as intended for a female audience, but what makes the show so engrossing to me as a white male is just that individual connection. Here we are, immersed in a world unlike what we know, or have even seen portrayed, of prison life. The thing most prison movies and TV shows have in common is the construction of exchange that replaces the infrastructure of the outside world. In the male prison this construction is the commerce of ego and status. Dominant sexual relationships, religious demagoguery, brute supremacy and tribal affiliations according to race or gang membership. Hostility toward the other forms the marketplace. All this violence establishes man as animal, clinging to hyper-masculinity as a form of survival. But for the women of Litchfield, it’s compassion, loyalty, love—their utter humanness, rather than toughness that allows them to survive.

The inmates arrange themselves into cliques but the overlap seems far more substantial. There are fights and there is intimidation but we see little serious physical damage. The ultimate punishment is a form of shunning. While the institution itself has the power to isolate difficult prisoners, the prisoners themselves have a way of isolating as a form of governance. Piper is denied food after insulting the chef. The denial of nutrition is only part of the punishment; without the ability to break bread with the others, she has been denied a powerful social ritual and therefore, diminished to solitude and rejection.

As in “Weeds,” all the central characters are women and men are relegated to foolish or sinister caricatures. While I found that somewhat useless and annoying on “Weeds,” (one guy teaches his pubescent nephew to masturbate using a banana peal) it functions in this far more sincere world as hyperbole, reminding us of the very absence of macho-mentality that we are used to among prisoners. Much of this comes courtesy of Piper’s bourgeois-journalist beau Larry (Jason Biggs), who cashes in on his struggles with an inmate fiance; Officer Caputo (Nick Sandow) who is interested primarily with climbing the institutional ladder; and the magnificently sleazy “Pornstache” Mendez (played superbly by Pablo Shreiber). The distillation of males to only their weakest qualities, though exaggerated, provides a nice foil, the prison serving as an institutional microcosm of females literally imprisoned in a male-controlled world.

Rather than read the differences between XX and XY lockups as some deterministic commentary of female/male nature on the whole, I think it much more fitting to consider that characteristics like compassion and camaraderie are not limited to females. Despite the advent of great change, we continue to live in a world dominated by aggressive white males, the most influential of whom are intent on defending a medieval state of oligarchy, warfare and oppression. Whether or not those are distinctively male phenomena, they form our history and it’s engrained. A more female world won’t change that, only a more diverse one can do that.