LEMME TELL YA ‘BOUT SPORTS

John Walker is a Sarah Lawrence graduate who really likes the internet a lot.

So, sports.

Yeah, so, bring a book. I was gonna write something that would oh-so-subtly lead you from the theme of sports to the actual subject of my post: halftime shows. Then, I realized that I was really down to the wire in getting this piece in. Ok, so whatever, I still was totally set on my theme! AND THEN Gawker, by way of Deadspin, decided to rank every halftime show EVER on the Kinsey scale, as in assigning it a 0-6 as determined by its dad-rock to sequined riffs quotient.

Brilliant! Unless you’re me, right now. So basically, I’m not gonna fuck around with you. I’m gonna get right to the point and state loudly and clearly: I’M WRITING ABOUT MADONNA, AND YES, IT’S RELEVANT TO SPORTS. OH, AND, LET ME COUNT THE WAYS.

*ALSO I JUST NOTICED THAT I’M REALLY INTO COMMAS ATM [at the moment, not automated telling machine, IF THAT’S EVEN FOR WHAT IT STANDS #whatsgoogle]. FOR THE SAKE OF THIS PIECE, LET’S JUST SAY IT’S MY “STYLE.”*

Let’s begin:

1. Coming off of her Golden Globe win for Best Original Song, Madonna continues her comeback at the Super Bowl halftime show. Along with a medley featuring her classic hits “Ray of Light,” “Vogue,” “Music,” and “Holiday,” “The ‘Donz” [as nobody calls her] will publicly premiere her soon-to-be released single, “Give Me All Your Luvin’,” featuring Nicki Minaj and M.I.A.

This combo intrigues me, as the minaj ménage evokes 21 flavors of nihilism in quite unique ways. Madonna’s, while originally landing on the more hedonistic side of things, has, since 1998’s pivotal Ray of Light, performed in a cool and almost emotionless persona. M.I.A. is quite similar in her delivery, never seeming to be “trying,” so to speak, when she approaches the listener. It’s in her musical composition, especially on MAYA, that she speaks to a certain destructive quality, what with chainsaws as actual instruments and the like. More performative in her nihilism is Minaj, at least when in her Roman persona. Hers is a much more literal interpretation of destruction, which when coupled with such stony personas as Madonna and M.I.A., makes for quite the intriguing grouping.

2. As for the single itself, “Give Me All Your Luvin'” is still givin’ me 21 flavors of tingles [is this my “thing” now? ugh fml whatever I stand by it], even nearly four months following its unofficial leak.

In case you don’t know the full deal, here’s a super brief summary: someone fan in Spain leaked the song in November, litigation ensued, and most importantly John’s had a demo copy of the single to jam to since late fall.

Caught up? Good.

While not a revolutionary new step in her musical evolution, I feel like “Give Me All Your Luvin'” expertly blends together the first two periods of Madonna’s career in a seamless, effortless way. When I listen to the song, I hear hints of “Burning Up” couple with an overall undertone of “Beautiful Stranger,” and yeah, perhaps the kinetic feeling of “Ray of Light.” Using “Madonna” as a framework through which to create new work, the eponymous songstress is thrillingly post-modern, or rather, post-Madonna.

Ok, yeah, that was awful. Sorry. Ugh.

3. Maybe I’m just 8 years old (or, uh, 19) but Madonna’s new album is called M.D.N.A.

lolz.

4. Madonna’s probably going to wear fingerless gloves and/or long sleeves, because the world can’t handle the fact that she has really veiny, “unfeminine” arms. It’s really quite silly, because these underlying aspects of her physique are only visible because A) she’s in really good fucking shape, and B) the cul-tcha DEMANDS that she be so toned in the first place simply to remain relevant. It’s like, nobody would care about her if she didn’t keep herself in a sinewy state, and yet all she gets in return is: “GO HOME GRANDMA GAGA FOREVSTAT!!!!”

I would love to have that kind of muscle definition, but eh, I’m pretty happy with most of my arm-lifting being related to pouring more cabernet.

Whatever, what I really wanna talk about is: FINGERLESS GLOVES AT SUPER BOWL HALFTIME SHOWS. BECAUSE. It reminds me of what Britney Spears wore at the 2001 extravaganza, AND BY EXTENSION, what was considered cool to don at the time. I’ve been cooking this in-retrospect theory about popular fashions from late 2000 to mid-2002, and it goes something like: “DON’T WEAR ANYTHING ON YOUR DECOLLETAGE, CLEAVAGE, OR MIDRIFF. INSTEAD, DO WEAR FABRIC OVER YOUR ANKLES, WRISTS, AND ARMS.” Here are some visuals.

4. I’m really interested to see Madonna re-assert herself in a post-Lady Gaga music context. FIRST OF LET ME SAY NO DUH, LADY GAGA IS ALREADY ASSERTING, OR RATHER INSERTING HERSELF INTO A POST-MADONNA WORLD, WHICH IS A POST-THIS PERSON, POST-THAT PERSON WORLD ANYWAY. But come on. In a culture whose memory exponentially dwindles by the year, this is for all intents and purposes a “post-Lady Gaga era.”

Released in 2008, Madonna’s last album, Hard Candy was released four months, to the day, before Lady Gaga’s The Fame, at least according to Wikipedia. Gimme a break, I don’t go to school anymore. BYE BYE, CREDIBLE SOURCES TO BACK UP THE WORD COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH.

Especially considering Madonna’s recent 20/20 interview, during which she stated that comparing Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” with “Express Yourself” was, in her words, “reductive,” I’m interested how she fares.

About Madonna’s “reductive” comment, I can understand it two ways: A) Yes, “Born This Way” is a reductive reinterpretation of “Express Yourself,” seeing as how Lady Gaga is taking in many ways the rubric set forth by her predecessor and yet not quite delivering the punch; and B) The question itself – “Is Lady Gaga copying you, Madonna?” – is a reductive manner in which to view pop culture, female icons, and even interviews, seeing as how the interviewer [WHO DIDN’T EVEN KNOW WHAT REDUCTIVE MEANS] could have asked Madonna ANYTHING, and she focused on “Is Lady Gaga copying you?”

*PS – Can you tell how much I struggled not to say “Gaga” or “Madge?” I just don’t like “Gaga” minus the “Lady,” and who the eff calls Madonna “Madge” IRL??

5. I’ll work on being coherent, should we meet again.

6. GO PATS!

Big Smelly Ol’ Apple

John Walker is a Sarah Lawrence graduate who really likes the internet a lot.

You know how when you’re in your first real (read: high school) relationship, and you celebrate one-month “anniversaries” because you think that’s what grown-ups in love do?  Well, hop aboard the Inane Train, because this weekend marks my one-month anniversary of living in New York City. (read: Bushwick)

Ah, the Big Gay Apple, a truly cosmopolitan melting pot where people of all cultural backgrounds can come together as an integrated collective of individuals.

For many of the city’s residents, accustomed to such highly valued levels of diversity found in urban life, it must be difficult to imagine living in some intolerant, backwoods town.  I did just that this summer, and let me tell you that rural Wisconsin is, like, SUPER racist.  OH, and homophobic, too!  They just don’t. get. it.  They just don’t understand what it’s like to respect the differences of others, as city dwellers do.

Can you even picture what life is like even just a couple of hours upstate?  All the white people!  All the straight people!  It’s like they’re trying to section themselves off from those not like them.  That’s one reason why I, and really all who move to New York City, have chosen not to section myself off from those unlike me.  Living in a self-constructed bubble would do nothing but fuel ignorance and hatred among people.  Thank God urbanites actively counteract such things.

The spirit of the Civil Rights Movement lives on, and the progression of positive cross-cultural interaction is astounding.  These days, it is pretty unbelievable that people of color were denied such fundamental human rights and dignities due to the race.  I mean, it’s not like they were gay or anything.  Like most progressive NYC residents, I often go entire days without seeing color.  If only the rest of the country could be like New York when it comes to race relations. (Especially the South!  So racist!)

It’s unfortunate that queer people are still discriminated against.  Hello! It’s 2011!  At least New York, in the wake of legalizing same-sex marriage statewide, offers a safe haven for we, the not exactly heterosexual.  But I know that someday, in the not too distant future, discrimination will finally come to an end.  It’s really on its last legs right now.

Until then, we’ll always have New York City, a post-racial, post-gender, post-asldjl;kadvl;knsalkkjlsdlksklsslk

/satire

Ok, I think you get the point.  Racism isn’t southern, homophobia isn’t rural, and we shouldn’t be dummies about it.

Hey, I never said I was a creative-writing student.

Real talk now: Here’s my true list of pros & cons regarding living in NY instead of rural Wisconsin.

PROS

–       I like being able to make out with guys on the regular.  New York fulfills this need.  I never said I was a role-model.

CONS

– New York actually smells really bad.  I literally dry-heaved the second I stepped out of Grand Central in September.  By removing myself from NY for the summer, I’ve lost all funk tolerance.  As someone who is used to smelling bad (also on the regular), I’m not even being dramatic.  Don’t believe me?  Go to an idyllic heaven, like rural Wisconsin, for 4 months, and then plop yourself right back into Midtown.

            {If you want to learn more about hate crime statistics in New York state, check out the NY State Division of Criminal Justice Services’ “Hate Crimes in New York State: 2010 Annual Report,” available at http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/crimnet/pubs.htm}

The Criminally Camp

 

John Walker is a Sarah Lawrence graduate who really likes the internet a lot.
 
 

True life: I’m enamored with Patty Hearst.  Heiress to the Hearst publishing fortune, hostage of the radical, yet ragtag, Symbionese Liberation Army, and later urban guerilla amongst the group’s ranks, the woman’s appeal seems evident, at least to me.  I guess notoriety might be a more appropriate word, but in my eyes, the events of Hearst’s past transcend the planes of basic morality.  She is a superstar, and I will not be dissuaded.

Though, sometimes I wonder why I am so drawn to the more “colorful” characters in history (like a moth to a crackpipe. #prose).  What does it say about me that I find Patty Hearst an electrifying figure, regardless of her complicity with the actions of the Symbionese Liberation Army?

I guess I am able to see Patty as a camp icon due to one of the very tenets of camp, as defined by Susan Sontag.  In Notes on Camp, she writes: “Things are campy… when we become less involved in them, and can enjoy, instead of be frustrated by, the failure of the attempt.”

Well first of all, I wasn’t born until 1988, so the entire Patty Hearst saga is pure legend to me.  In dealing with what the curious case of Patty Hearst (née Button) represents in American politics and culture, I could be upset by the failure of the SLA to make any lasting change on America’s rigid class system.

At the same time though, the image of Patty toting the weapon in front of the blood-red Symbionese Liberation Army flag is just so dramatic; I feel the tension, I feel the class warfare, I feel the pageantry (Junior Miss Anti-Amerikkka).  Also, it is so fun to view Patty’s, albeit temporary, rejection of her wealthy family as simply an extreme example of what every “different” kid from the suburbs does.  You know, become a vegan, call your parents problematic, rob a bank with a semi-automatic weapon, the usual.

Similar to the ways in which I value Patty Hearst, I deeply appreciate Tammy Faye Bakker (later Messner).  When I see Tammy Faye, I see a kind-hearted set of wilting eyelashes, not the hypocrite who “televangelized” trusting people out of their money.

Valerie Solanas not only authored the fabulously misandric SCUM Manifesto, but attempted murder on Andy Warhol.  THESE TWO THINGS SHOULD NOT MAKE ME LOVE HER, AND YET I DO.

 And is it just me, or does convicted serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer look like Ian Somerhalder’s babely blond brother every now and then?

OK, that was awful.  Awful and TRUE.

Death to the fascist insect that preys upon my irony!

Beyonce: A Visual Essay X John Walker

{John Walker is a Sarah Lawrence graduate who really likes the internet a lot.}


“Well, I care!”

When I was in college, (oh, is that weird to say in the past tense) I always strove to maintain a neutral voice in my academic writing.  Nothing was monolithic; my perspective was never universal.  Well, I’m not in school anymore, and if there is one subject to whom I can ascribe absolute essentialism, it is Beyoncé.  Drawing on entirely anecdotal evidence, she is the pop-cultural icon of our times.  By “our,” I mean “my,” and by “anecdotal evidence,” I mean WHATEVER JUST GO WITH ME.

The following is an account of eight moments in which Beyoncé has defined my personal narrative.  My experience is your experience.  Enjoy!

2000 CE

No doubt coupled with the waning influence of Marilyn Manson, my parents finally unblocked MTV at home.  Destiny’s Child’s “Say My Name” was in heavy rotation on the network.  By “heavy,” I mean a 30 second clip of the video daily on TRL, which is actually pretty heavy in comparison with the “Music Television” of today. [Cue The Price Is Right horn!]

With Beyoncé anchored front and center, Destiny’s Child conquered both the fake TRL charts, and my real pre-gay heart.  Say her name, I did.  I remember one embarrassing mid-flight exchange with another unaccompanied minor regarding how much we both just LOOOVED Beyoncé.  “I want Beyoncé to be my fiancé.”  I thought I was sewww clever.  I think the fact that I spent an entire flight from Boston to Puerto Rico gushing about how fierce Beyoncé is negates any of the heterosexuality my then 11 year-old self was fronting.  If not that, then definitely when I got mad because the other kid TOTALLY didn’t believe me that Farrah Franklin got kicked out of the group.  Because, really, duh. I just. Duh. You know? Right? Duh.

2002 CE

Following her groundbreaking acting debut in MTV’s Carmen: A Hip Hopera, Beyoncé set her sights on the silver screen.  As Foxxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers in Goldmember, an independently produced art house period piece, Bey really tapped into Foxxy’s psyche, begging the question of what it really means to be “a whole lot of woman.”

In retrospect, this melding of Austin Powers and Beyoncé represents such a pivotal shift in my tastes and interests.  The former symbolizes my youth, my irrepressible childish tittering at hearing the words “penis enlarger.”  The latter evokes my burgeoning queer sensibilities and love of strong, artistic women.  I’m not saying that I came out the next year because of Beyoncé, but I’m also not not saying that.

2003 – 2006 CE

Beyoncé… Hmm… This is odd.  It seems like the records from these years have been destroyed.  I’ve searched up and down the shelves at the John Walker’s Precious Moments Private Library, but all I can find is information on Siouxsie and the Banshees.  And black hair dye.

2007 CE

Ah, here we go.  In 2007, I received my first Beyoncé album, the deluxe re-release of B’Day.  This was the year that my perspective on my musical interests underwent a decisive shift.  After years of publicly shunning pop music, only to blast “Toxic” behind closed doors, I embraced the genre.  Pop music is engineered to be enjoyed.  It is just plain silly not to admit that basic truth.  Lambaste the grossness that is the mainstream music industry, sure, but to deny the catchy-by-design nature of the songs it produces?  Come on, twee-ty bird.  In the eternal words of Kylie Minogue: “You’re getting boring.”

Moving back to our baBey, I feel like the B’Day era was the first time in which Beyoncé really began to assert her developing artistic vision of self.  Whereas Dangerously in Love produced a string of pop hits, it comes across as a collection of hit singles meant to launch a career.  Conversely, B’Day’s lead video for “Déjà vu” features a sultry Bey, swirling in her building insanity.  No back-up dancers.  No explosions.  Just Beyoncé, her voice, and her moves.  Ungh.

2008 CE

If B’Day marked the “rebirth” of Beyoncé as a solo artist, I Am… Sasha Fierce established her as more icon than pop star (more Liza than Britney).  I do not say this as a testament to the music contained within the album. I actually find B’Day to be far superior to the somewhat disjointed 2008 effort.  What leads me to this conclusion, however, is the shift in Beyoncé’s overall presence and presentation.  “Single Ladies” masterfully combines old-school choreography with new-school viral sensationalism, allowing Beyoncé to showcase her strength as a performer.  This was when she convinced me that she will continue to pack arenas for decades to come.

“Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)” (which is apparently the full title) also resonates with me on a more personal level.  Not to get too heavy, but I first saw the music video the night before a close friend died.  I remember thinking how pissed I was that I’d never get a chance to watch the video obsessively with him.  He was the guy who reinvigorated my passion for certain contemporary pop artists, Beyoncé included, while simultaneously turning me on to Bikini Kill’s “Suck My Left One.”  I know we would’ve had a lot of fun shrieking about this on YouTube.  No doubt due to his influence, I began thinking of a senior thesis concerning the connections between Riot Grrrl and Beyoncé.  This never got off the ground because it was based on a) “I LOVE BEYONCÉ” and b) she performs live with an all-female band (which Kathleen Hanna notes in this interview).  But hey, being a shameless fanboy isn’t stopping me from writing this article, so…

2009 CE

The most monumental of monumental events happened in 2009.  I don’t think that I can encapsulate all of the emotions swirling around in this memory.  All I can muster is a haiku:

I saw Beyoncé

At Madison Square Garden

This was my Mecca

2010 CE

Huh.  Another missing section in my an-Knowles.  All I see is “Courtney Love is really significant because…” this and “YOU JUST DON’T GET COURTNEY LOVE BECAUSE…” that.  I guess this reflects the blessing and the curse of Beyoncé taking three to four years off between albums.  She returns with high quality music, videos, and live performances, but leaves a huge power vacuum that needs to be fed in her absence.

2011 CE

Aaaaaaand, we’re back.  I cannot get over how impressed I am with Beyoncé’s new album, 4.  From start to finish, it is one, cohesive work.  The twelve solid tracks leave no room for filler.  The lyrics are simple, but what Bey does with her voice is anything but.  All of the vocal weirdness and unconventional riffs that I’ve heard her play around with in her live performances are finally added to the official album tracks. (For examples of what I mean listen to 2:50 – 3:16 on “I Care,” as well as 0:00 – 0:04 of “Countdown”)  To those who were turned off by “Run the World (Girls),” I recommend listening to it in the context of the album, specifically following the preceding track, “I Was Here.”  Coupled together, the lead single takes on a new meaning, one that celebrates the girls and women who will inherit a post-Beyoncé world.

Also: “Swagú”.  Enough said.

I guess I’ve just really appreciated Beyoncé’s evolutionary album coinciding with this next evolution in my own post-grad life.  We work really well together, you know?

Beyoncé, so significant.

Tune in next week, when I discuss the impact of “Single Ladies” on Queen Elizabeth I’s life as the Virgin Queen.

First: A Visual Story

John Walker is a Sarah Lawrence graduate who really likes the internet a lot.

When I heard that this month’s theme was “Firsts,” my mind immediately jumped to this image.
Ah yes, the first staged moon landing. JK, that’s Neil Armstrong, the first person on the moon.
Speaking of men on the moon, here’s Britney Spears winning her first “moonman” at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards.
Is this also the first televised breast self-exam?  Britney Spears, always the trailblazer.
(As an aside, did someone tell BritBrit about Re/Visionist’s “Firsts” theme? She’s schilling for us pretty hard: “I first wanna thank God, first and firrmost firr…
Speaking of award show firsts, my mind also kept returning to Halle Berry’s historic 2002 Oscar win.  As the first black woman to win the Academy Award for best actress, Berry’s acceptance speech is SO moving; you can really see her trying to process being the first black woman to win the award.
Almost enough to make you forget about Catwoman.
JK, Halle, you know I love you.  Catwoman never happened.
Moving away from these significant, cultural firsts (and also Britney Spears), there are also those more personal firsts that we all experience at some time or another.
There is of course your first time.
Or perhaps more powerful, or at least more scarring, there is also your first sexual humiliation.
“That’s the ticket!” says Jason Biggs.
I think we can all, unfortunately, agree.
Some firsts, like the above, you might forget on purpose. (Support your local therapists – Repress! Repress! Repress!)  Other firsts may be forgotten simply because they occur before you develop consciousness, like your first word.
Apparently Maggie Simpson had already developed a sense of style, however.  BOW LOOKS GOOD, BB!
Soon, you grow up, stop being such a little freeloader, and get your first job.  Hopefully, this first is a little more Almost Famous
…and a little less A Little Princess.
(Side note: Doesn’t Sara Crewe look positively witchy in the above shot?  I’d drink of that sister! The Craft reference, FTW!)
And of course, you can’t forget about your first kiss.
Ah, if only mine could’ve been this precious.  And not in a basement.  Also, I wish someone had taught me how to properly French kiss.  TMI?  Whatever, I feel like we’ve grown close over the course of this visual essay.
Kiss Kiss.