This picture of the Obama family arriving in Cuba is iconic. The headline in Huffington Post read “Obama in Havana.” The picture resonates with many other images, so I keep thinking about it. The photographer got lucky, was in the right place at the right time, lined up a perfect shot, at least to my untutored eye. The picture makes me think of Afro-Cuban art, the image of umbrellas that runs through African American art, second line parades in New Orleans, and the way that blocky and flowing images dominate those genres. Even though the color is stark, it’s still lovely.Beyonce’s “Formation” shows how iconicRead More →

Back in 2010, Prince chided Beyonce for her lack of musical knowledge, but was impressed that she understood something about Mixolydian scales and Egyptian styles, WTF. Basically he thought she was quite talented and gifted, but her longevity and survival depended on learning a lot more. I’m not much of a Beyonce fan, and had no interest in Lemonade. The brouhaha over “Formation” is incredibly complex, but not enough to tempt me to listen or buy the album. Visually, the video is fascinating and brilliant, transgressive and offensive. The general invisibility of trans artist Big Freedia, the politics of colorism and authenticity in the deepRead More →

Last night I attended the Red Hot Chili Peppers concert in the New Orleans Arena. After seeing Los Lonely Boys at the House of Blues in NOLA, my ears hurt for two days. This is the product of living with a rock band practicing in my living room every day as a child and attending too many concerts for forty years thereafter. I decided to wear earplugs last night. I need to protect my hearing because I am losing it. My father lost his. My generation is post-Beatles, post-Elvis. I did not live in a world without Rock and Roll. Perhaps there are other generation-relatedRead More →

The Spice Girls represent “bustier feminism” in the 90s. It is no accident that Enlightened Sexism, Susan J. Douglas’s new book, opens with a discussion of this band. They represent the negation of feminism by commercial cooptation. The Spice Girls are the pinnacle of Girl Power and bustier feminism. They placed Girl Power, a frosted cupcake of an ambiguous message about feminism, front and center in the public imaginary at the turn of the century. According to Andi Zeisler’s Feminism and Pop Culture, the Spice Girls and the Girl Power they promoted were a “shorthand for a kind of a diet feminism that substituted consumer trappingsRead More →

Baton Rouge has a new radio station: 103.3. Well, not a new radio station, but an old station with a new format. The new format is “Music for Generation X.” The old format was “Divas.” It’s quite a Frankenstein’s monster of genres, playing everything from Nirvana and Guns-n-Roses, to C+C Music Factory, with pit stops at Salt – n- Peppa, and REM, not to mention mid to late 80s disco, hip hop, rock, and the weird, bad music everyone forgot existed. Funny, though, because I recognized every song, which demonstrates the way that music in the 80s and 90s was homogeneous despite the generic differencesRead More →

Mix tapes are dead. Among the many dead technologies, I miss the mix tape. The death of a technology and its associated objects and habits can bring regret or relief. Think of letter writing. Often, the only clues to women’s history or the only insights into a previous generation’s thoughts and emotions are found in letters. Writing letters was a habitus, a way of being and doing. Today, our digital documentation is excessive, often thin, and shallow. A constant stream of 140 characters fails to capture the nuances of a traditional letter. Perhaps 19th century upper-class women writing about their tea service (see Veblen on spoons;Read More →

The latest Rolling Stone has an offensive retrospective on Madonna. Although Madonna’s iconic look is always the subject of dispute, lately, the media has treated her like a clown. The only explanation is that she’s over 50. Fifty year old women, they say, shouldn’t prance around on a stage and spread their legs. It’s unbecoming. Rolling Stone frequently participates in this mistreatment even though they’ve helped turn Madonna into an icon.  Many of their pictures deliberately show her in an unflattering light. In this retrospective, they do put a handful of pictures of her in her 50s, but they fill the pages with the youthful,Read More →