Archive for March, 2004

Jacki-O

Monday, March 8th, 2004

Jacki-O’s “Pussy” (or, in the censored-for-radio version, “Nookie”) is the latest rap song (following Lil Kim, Khia, and Missy Elliott, among others) in which a woman celebrates her “wet and deep” orifice.
What’s fascinating about Jacki-O’s song (and — depending upon your perspective — either deeply weird or all-too-symptomatic of normative conditions) is the balance it negotiates between pleasure on the one hand, and power and money on the other.
The lyrics mostly celebrate pussy power as what can “pay my bills… I don’t pay for weed, I get in clubs free… Girls, we got power cuz’ we got pussy.” Jackie-O boasts that men are just slobbering to sample what’s between her legs: “He need this pussy/ He smell this pussy/ He wanna taste this pussy/ You gotta pay for pussy.”
In hip hop’s current battle of the sexes, this is probably only to be expected, as a response to male power. Money continually trumps desire on both sides of the fence. (Remember, the most woman-positive thing Jay-Z can ever bring himself to say is: “ladies is pimps too.” And even Missy reminds her girls to “get your cash” when you are getting off). Still, there’s nothing here that matches Lil Kim’s demand for clitoral pleasure from her men (“How Many Licks”), or Missy’s gleeful hymn to the vibrator, thereby dispensing with men entirely (“Toys”). Jacki-O seems concentrated on cash and luxury (emphasized in the video), to the exclusion of all else.
Does the pussy have more than instrumental value for Jacki-O?
Here’s where, I think, the song means more (and differently) than the words. The music sets a heavy beat against an almost nursery-rhyme-like melody (reminiscent of the Ying Yang Twinz’ “Naggin'” (a misogynistic battle-of-the-sexes song itself, with a “Part 2″ ladies’ response). This makes the song sillier, and more playful, than it would be with a different instrumental track. (“Pussy” mash-ups, anyone?) And Jackie-O’s sultry, slightly slurry voice suggests an immense narcissistic pleasure, rather than calculation for gain.
Where Missy is comfortably laughing and gossiping with her girlfriends, and where Lil Kim is both boasting to the world of her sexual prowess, and warning her men that they’d better have what it takes to keep her satisfied (all this amplified by the irony of the video for “How Many Licks,” which turns Kim into a series of commercial sex-toy dolls), Jacki-O sounds like she is only talking to herself. Which makes it seem like the cash is only an alibi for the pleasure, rather than the reverse.
Of course, as Freud (among others) says, nothing’s more seductive to heterosexual men than a woman who seems totally narcissistic and self-contained, so that apparently she doesn’t need them; so maybe Jacki-O’s voice in this song is really nothing more than a calculated ploy after all. And it works: she did indeed seduce me to buy her song for 99 cents (plus tax) from the Apple Music Store.
Which brings it all back to performance. We are always performing, calculatedly putting on various personas. But we cannot do this with impunity; we always become, to some extent, what we are merely pretending to be. Which is part of what popular music does for its listeners: it seduces us, it gives us points of identification and irony, as it slides from one identity to another, forever proclaiming authenticity in the most artificial, factitious way possible, exploring/exploiting the fault lines of our culture.

The Latest on Equal Marriage Rights

Monday, March 8th, 2004

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has proposed an ordinance that mandates the city to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere.
This is a step in the right direction.
However, County Executive Ron Sims still refuses to start granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples, saying: “There is nothing I can do. Governments cannot pick and choose which laws they’re going to enforce.” This is an evasion; Sims ought to grant the licenses, and to say, like San Francisco Mayor Newsome, that he is enforcing the equal protection under the law provisions of the state constitution. The state could then be sued if it refused to recognize the validity of such licenses.

Karloff’s Circus

Friday, March 5th, 2004

Karloff’s Circus is the fourth (and presumably last) novel in Steve Aylett‘s “Accomplice” series. Aylett is one of my favorite writers, but his books are so singular that they are extremely difficult to describe. They don’t fit into any known categories.
It’s sort of like Aylett is writing old-fashioned British farce, except that it is taking place somewhere that is considerably weirder than anything any of the Surrealists ever imagined. Bits and pieces of pulp fiction of various sorts pop up now and again, somehow rearranged by a crazed anatomist into grotesque new patterns. The books are hilarious, but with a humor that seems to be equal parts P. G. Wodehouse and William Burroughs (an impossible combination if there ever was one — Monty Python is the nearest analogue I can think of, but it doesn’t really come close).
Aylett creates imaginary worlds as rigorously and capaciously imagined as those of any of the great works of fantasy; but he does this comically, satirically, and sarcastically — qualities not usually associated with fantasy literature.
Aylett’s prose is unbelievably careful and precise. There are no wasted words; every sentence glistens with a hard, epigrammatic luster; every last detail is meaningful and carefully placed; and the books are all plotted out with the rigor of an Agatha Christie novel. Their nonsense, like that of Lewis Carrol, is rigorously logical, even if based on ridiculous premises.
Aylett’s novels have to be read very carefully, because details are never repeated to make things easy for the unattentive reader. In this way, Aylett’s books have a certain puzzle- and play-like aspect, in the manner of many modernist (Joyce, Faulkner) and postmodernist (Calvino, Perec) writers before him.
The Accomplice series is more difficult to get a handle on than Aylett’s “Beerlight” series, set in a futuristic American city where crime is the only occupation of the citizens, and the only art form (The Crime Studio, Slaughtermatic, and Atom), but not as dense and impenetrable as The Inflatable Volunteer, a book that could be described as sort of a punk version of Raymond Roussel.
The Accomplice books feature insectoid demons and corrupt politicians and guileless innocents who take venomous snakes out for walks because they just love animals. There are also battling religious sects (one worships guns, the other venerates porcelain dolls), and evil clowns, and “floor lobsters” (sort of like two-foot-long cockroaches). Amidst all this, the demented characters exchange pithy epigrams, in nasty exchanges and asides, as if they were at a Noel Coward tea party.