Posts by: "Lucy Steigerwald"

Barack Obama sadOn the occasion of some heroic individual leaking the Department of Justice white paper on the legality of drone strikes, here are some good links. Read them and  try to guess the chances of your getting assassinated by a flying death-robot in the next few months or years.

A vitally important music snob question: which version of “Wagon Wheel” is worse?

A) Generic country-rocker Jeremy McComb’s:

B) Darius “Hootie” Rucker’s:

Trick question, I don’t care because they’re both too boring for me to stay awake. Neither is dynamically bad enough to bleed the ears, they just made a great song significantly less good. Which is a strange thing to do —  to make a song ache less.

Now Laura Jane Grace (formerly known as Tom Gabel) of Against Me! managed to actually cover this now-fratty-douchebag-request song and make it even more gut-wrenching and lonely-sounding. This cover bridged one favorite band to another for me. It is excellent.

But, even though secretly we real music snobs go to Old Crow Medicine Show shows and roll our eyes at “Wagon Wheel” and the hysteria the prospect of it invokes in one-trick fans, please observe how good the original song sounds. And in spite of the wonky lip syncing, how rockin’ this video is, sexy dancing girls, carnival, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings cameo and all:

Still, the winner of all “Wagon Wheel” is this obscure BBC version, with the band cozied up around one mic. The very end cuts off and that drives me nuts, but damn if this version doesn’t make me weep for the lack of Willie Watson in the Old Crow of today.

Check it, and know that no matter how many acoustic guitar dudes cover this song, it will still be great. And more to the point, no matter how I hate the people who go to see Old Crow and drunkenly shout for “Wagon Wheel!”, when the band does play it, the sloshing idiots who only know that one song become a bit more bearable for those four minutes — because we all love that one damn song. And, uh, maybe that’s what liking sports is like all the time, or something. We’re all in it together, is what I mean. Even if they should act like that for “James River Blues” or “Raise a Ruckus” or other, arguably superior songs as well.

No, the real point is that the covers of this song are perhaps like a Taylor Swift song, or something that I kind of like, that’s a little catchy, more fun than average radio noise. Something to which I might listen a few times and like. Maybe if I just heard songs I liked that much, I would think that’s what music sounds like. It would be nice. It would be fun for parties.

But then there’s songs like this, and voices like Willie Watson’s, and that is just another fucking universe from the well-crafted, fun enough stuff — and that’s my music.

That’s the good stuff. That’s the hair-raising stuff.

I am so sorry.Ladies. Am I right, fellows?

I am going to violate feminism right now and tell you to pay attention to several ladies who have nothing to do with each other except their gender and my love for them. Sorry for the tokenism/yay for the greatness.

1) Tavi Gevinson: Ha, laughed some people, Lucy is a god damned hipster after all. Also, she is not a teenage girl, so she is not allowed to be a fan of teenage girls. But, no, Tavi Gevinson is 16 years old and adorable and stylish gave us the best website ever for (technically) teenage girls. It is a web magazine called Rookie. It has a whole mess of stuff, some great, some just okay, but all of it worlds above any content in any print magazine marketed for teenage girls (no offensive, good Sassy, because I don’t remember you).  Tavi, according to her editor’s notes, is also working through ignoring that whole overly self-aware thing where you wonder if you like certain things because they’re cool and hipsterness, blah, blah, blah. Nah, she is genuine, and therefore actually fucking cool. And I am old (relatively speaking) and Tavi is a pipsqueak, but she makes me feel (the way my love Kennedy does) that you don’t have to grow up and wear beige all day so that people take you seriously as an adult. And who wants to do that, anyway? Mismatching, and putting shit you love on your walls and around your house until you die! Woo! (Manic pixie dream girl life crisis? Fuck you, no. The Smiths are pretty great.)

Rookie makes me want to flip off Luddites who scream about the death of print for hours and hours. If you don’t understand why a teenage girl magazine that included “Top Five Cryptoid Crushes” and why Hedy Lemarr  rules in inspired, you were never, ever, ever a weird teenage girl. And that’s okay, but you don’t get it, man.

2) Cary Ann Hearst: Cary Ann Heart of the staggeringly hardcore, cute, and sexy country duo Shovels and Rope. Shovels and Rope who were the best completely mysterious opening band ever. Cary Ann Hearst, who perfectly encapsulates the question usually provoked by male musicians — do I want to be you or marry you? Cary Ann Hearst who is all witty banter and sings all guts. And her hair, her crazy-ass hair. I love this woman. I love her stage persona. I love her chemistry with her (I think) husband Michael Trent. Their records are worth picking up, but their live shows are mandatory. Before you manage the latter, check out this whole series of live performances which I believe will eventually be part of a documentary on the pair. Look here, here, here, and here. Maximum cuteness with her and Michael Trent here. And if she doesn’t break your damn heart and raise the hairs on the back of your neck over here, you have no soul at all.

3) Wendy McElroy: McElroy is the libertarian lady of choice in your life, if you are living correctly. She saw the word “feminist” and was like, yeah, I’ll take that, statists. Her new book, The Art of Being Free, taught me about the best libertarian newspaper dude ever — R. C. Hoiles. It also explicitly looked and talked about the divide between wanting to be both of the two versions of Henry David Thoreau — the one who went to jail so as not to pay a tax that funded war and slavery, and the one who came out of jail, went berry-picking with some boys from town, looked over the rolling Connecticut hills and thought “the state was nowhere to be found.” She knows the conflicts, the warring feelings between just living free and wanting to not help to do evil towards your fellow man and lady. What I mean is, McElroy is the lady who wants to let you be, but she would appreciate you returning the favor.  She is great. Read her.

New York City subway

Subway Guy, plus Spanish anti-smoking PSA

Self portrait on Coney Island

Tourists on the Brooklyn Bridge

 

 

  • Barack Obama sadObama administration no longer even pretending to be opposed to indefinite detainment, or Gitmo in general. 
  • The New York Times’ John Tierney on why the crime rate in New York City has declined so much — soft on police, but a very good and useful read. I intend to study this further — perhaps while wearing my minarchist hat. I guess I would rather have more police and fewer prisons as well, but I doubt it’s that simple…
  • Two phenomenal ’60s collections of Life photos: a piece of 1969’s drug war, and  a look at Appalachia in 1964.
  • SWAT team silliness and video game hysteria and Sweden!
  • Wonkette is at least as tedious as Gawker whenever the word “libertarian” comes up.
  • Everyone panic!
  • North Korea continues to make everyone want to throw up — even if every single story that appears isn’t true.
  • Colorado prison population declines.  Yay. [Via: John Payne]
  • School choice week, bitches. I say bitches, because this link goes to The Hill.
  • I am a feminist asshole about high heels, I freely admit it. But have you seen The Towering Inferno or other disaster movies? Even with Steve McQueen and Paul Newman saving the day, those are not shoes to flee in. And also, people who lazily lean on the nature of nature vs. nature, remember when men wore high heels?
  • Girls apparently continues the glorious tradition of mocking magazine maestra Jane Pratt. 1) Daria will forever do it — and everything — better because 2) Girls is just pretty okay. But my God, the few times I have visited xojane.com — yeah it deserves to be satirized.

esq-megan-fox-cover-0213-lgEsquire, oh Esquire. You’re the confederate vampire character Jasper in Twilight — compared to  the other characters/magazines (Bella/Cosmo), you are the weightiest, most literary thing.  But there you are, somehow still being terrible and shallow. You’re always there, a reminder of how bad you are, but don’t have to be, but how much better you are than things that are worse.

But first, a list. Cosmo and associated lady magazines think that women are interested in sex, men, make-up, clothes, things that will kill you, and not much else. Esquire, according to their February issue, believes that you, a Man, are interested in the following things:

Megan Fox’s weirdness and her hotness and her sadness (more on that later), Barack Obama’s second term, how the Post Office is the Best Thing in the World and is Also America, Everyone Should Calm Down About Sex Scandals, head injuries in the NFL,  Kevin Bacon wearing a 5,000 dollar suit, Alan Arkin’s life advice, how to make mushroom gravy for your steak, various sexual things, short stories, poetry — one poem is even by a lady, alcohol, which smartphones have the best cameras, the war in Afghanistan, jokes told by scantily clad women, clothing, the World Trade Center, Chris Christie.

Yes, they are selling you lots of shit, same as lady magazines do, but nobody who has given even a cursory glance at both general interest men magazines and lady ones could ever argue against this summary; that men’s magazines, even the most shallow ones, suggest a lot wider, and meatier range of interests than any women’s ones (even more than, say, Bust, which is just a little too into knitting and shit). You, a Man, have a lot of interests. Sexy ladies are just one of them. Sexy ladies are interested in their looks and in men, men are interested in doing things and thinking things and, yes, getting sexy women. This is not new. This is still frustrating.

Thankfully, Esquire also has some really solid examples of appalling sentences and paragraphs. Their fault, intriguingly (again, when contrasted with Cosmo, which is written at probably a fifth grade reading level) is most often that they are pretentious.  And so, presenting the top five most awful piece of writing in the February Esquire —

1) No reaction to the cover profile of Megan Fox could beat Caity Weaver’s blog for Gawker. Her headline, “Megan Fox Speaks in Tongues and is Symmetrical” is an impressively accurate summary of the content. Weaver’s takeaway, that Fox alludes to a lot of weird, fascinating beliefs, mentioning Pentecostal church, leprechauns  aliens —  but the writer — Stephan Marche — is much more interested in her face, is correct. The worst part of Marche’s writing (read it out loud in the most theatrical tone possible):

The symmetry of her face, up close, is genuinely shocking. The lip on the left curves exactly the same way as the lip on the right. The eyes match exactly. The brow is in perfect balance, like a problem of logic, like a visual labyrinth. It’s not really even that beautiful. It’s closer to the sublime, a force of nature, the patterns of waves crisscrossing a lake, snow avalanching down the side of a mountain, an elaborately camouflaged butterfly. What she is is flawless. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her.

As previously noted by The Awl and Jezebel. Marche also calls Amy Adams and Adele and Lady Gaga “perfectly plain.” This is obviously ridiculous. But says Marche, they are basically signs that ugly women have been okayed by society now. That leads him to his thesis — not that Fox believes weird shit and hates her body being used as dissected and that could be interesting, np — that it’s hard out there fore the symmetrical-faced.

Marche also has to put “I” in his lede. Every single profile of a sexy celebrity needs to start with the author sitting next to or across from their subject. It’s very important. It’s key. I am there, the sexy celebrity is there, look how she eats food, how she curls up her feet onto the sofa, look at her.

(All of this makes me realize how God damned good that New York Times Magazine article about Lindsay Lohan actually was.)

2) I am not reading your article about Barack Obama, Charlies Pierce. You are boring. Okay, fine, here’s something:

“The personal victory he won over most of the things that are cheap and lazy and stupid in our politics has given him the power to disenthrall the public from those same things, and to disenthrall his own administration from its notion that there was some good to be found in the people who so fastened themselves to the cheap and the lazy and the stupid, and that there was some patriotism to be found in the politicians who so profited from them. In his second term, it should be Barack Obama’s job to make that personal victory ours as well.”

Shut up.

3) “This isn’t a story about whether we could live without the post office. It’s about whether we’d want to.” Gawker, my God, your talents could be so great mocking this ode to American postal greatness, if only Hamilton Nolan wasn’t a God damned commie he could skewer this absurity so well.

The name Lysander Spooner sure never shows up in this piece. Nor is a query that maybe private folks could do this easier ever answered. It just hangs there for a paragraph. There is just a worried collection of numbers about privatization — we have 110,000 military contractors, private companies house 16 percent of federal inmates — that have nothing to say about efficiency or morality or public versus private. The person who wrote this piece had better be 150 years old, or we are doomed.

4) “He was the Martyred Jesus of Oral Sex with Interns…” No. Fuck you. Stop it. Your writing makes my my teeth itch. And if you’re pleading for a less puritanical America (fair enough!) do not include Eliot Spitzer in your list of fallen, free love heroes. You get to go to prostitutes, or you get to use your powers as attorney general to crack down on sex workers. You do not get to do both and not be awful. (Though, of course, cracking down on prostitution is gross either way. ) Author, your good points are buried under my urge to punch you.

5) Turns out everything else is tolerable. Tom Junod wrote about head injuries in the NFL, and Junod is overrated, but also not so bad. However, I already read about concussions in sports in Rolling Stone, and I cannot read two articles about sports in one day.  Pleasantly enough, many of asides and briefs are even funny. Something about this issue is slightly more charming than usual, but only the bits and pieces — which, as I know from Reason days, take plenty of time to ensemble, too.

And three out of nine poems aren’t bad — that’s a whole lot better than The New Yorker does.

The laundry list of wide, interesting subjects, the occasional humor, the excessive need to be literary about everything (calm down, we know you published Salinger, you don’t need to get so swoony about Morena Baccarin)… Esquire, you try. I want to like you more than I do, every damn time. This is why you’re are on my love/hate list. I want to write for you, but you piss me off at least half the time. You’re like the Red Eye of magazines, but with much, much worse politics. And yet, every time I start to rant about you, Esquire, I get even more depressed that women’s magazines aren’t even close to being as good as you.