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"Watch my brains a minute, and see them whirl around."
We're still talking about David Bowie. 
27th-Sep-2006 12:37 pm
writing: glass cat
matociquala: Can I love him for admitting that he's only scared about an album if he thinks it's a good one?

truepenny: Yes. And that if he's not scared about it, he's doing something wrong. Totally. ::loff::

matociquala: Yes.


See, this is the problem. I went and watched too many interviews, and he got all humanized, and now I feel odd staring at his crotch.

Lust is so much easier when you can objectify someone.

truepenny: ... and the collectivity of the practitioners of the Male Gaze, starting all the way back with the first Homo sapiens to draw a dirty picture on the wall of his cave, just got terrible cold shivers AND THEY DON'T KNOW WHY.

But I do.

matociquala: Hee. *g* It's so TRUE!

..not that that's going to stop me from staring at his crotch.

truepenny: Bear, David Bowie WANTS you to stare at his crotch.

matociquala: Well, it's how he makes his money, after all. And keeps your attention long enough to subvert you.

But I still feel dirty.

truepenny: You know, you've probably just made him very happy.

matociquala: Hee. Because I can intellectualize my crotch-staring?

(No, really. I respect you as a person, as an artist, as a man. As a father. ... ... ...do that thing with your tongue again?)

truepenny: Because he's made you feel dirty.

matociquala: I made me feel dirty.

Although I now understand men who say "No, really, I do respect..." *g*

truepenny: He has caused you to make yourself feel dirty. Not merely the genderfuck, but the identityfuck, has worked.

matociquala: Yes. The genderfuck cannot make me feel dirty. But he has exposed my own hypocrisy to me.

truepenny: That's a really complicated piece of subversion he's got going on there.

And you know, it's still got a beautiful, sexy, entertaining surface.

Which is the difference between "popular entertainment" and "art." If his genderfuck was not accompanied by catchy and popular songs, and wasn't saturated in popular culture--if, you know, it was all stark and demanding, with all the theory showing, no one would watch him, but everyone would write about him.

Our society has got fucked in the head somehow.

matociquala: Yes. This, exactly. It's the same thing he's doing with those two songs--"Jump They Say" and "Everyone Says Hi." You think it's a pop song. Bouncy shiny happy people dance tune. Cute little kid writing a letter tune.

But it's nooooooooot.

This is the same Shakespeare-trick I really, really want to learn.

truepenny: Tension--conflict even--between surface and depth.

It's hard.

And half the audience will miss it anyway.

matociquala: More than half. If you do it right, maybe even most.

But it doesn't matter.

Heck, that's part of the magic trick.

truepenny: The surface has to be worth people's while. See above re: the difference between "popular entertainment" and "art."
27th-Sep-2006 05:56 pm (UTC)
The pair of you have shiny brains. It's a very interesting view from here.
27th-Sep-2006 06:10 pm (UTC) - ok, enough.
you two have got me full back into the Bowie Area black holeness. I thought I'd escaped its pull by moving to Dubai but no... denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

sigh. am i going to have to renew my bnet subscription??
27th-Sep-2006 06:12 pm (UTC) - Re: ok, enough.
Take refuge in critical theory. It's what we do.
27th-Sep-2006 06:37 pm (UTC)
This is really interesting for me; I'm a little too young to have any relevant Bowie experience. I knew him as the guy from Labyrinth and nothing else, and now I discover he's all meaningful and deep. He's one of the cultural things I've picked up on from references alone.
27th-Sep-2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
Until a week ago--literally--all I knew about David Bowie was Labyrinth and a couple of 80s songs I deeply disliked.

So you're not exactly alone.
27th-Sep-2006 06:44 pm (UTC)
I exist to pimp, really.

This is one of the videos we're talking about:

27th-Sep-2006 07:11 pm (UTC)
If I was willing to give in to my unkind streak, I'd suggest, right about now, that the possibility exists that David Bowie is not above ego-searching on Google. But that would be unkind, so I won't.
27th-Sep-2006 07:22 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I hear he's quite net-savvy, and something of an SFF fan. And were I he? "David Bowie's crotch" is one of the first things I would Google.

Sarah and I were actually talking about this last week, when the potential absolute trauma of his reading Mélusine and thinking (as apparently half the world does) that she'd modeled Felix on his public image came up.

His work--and the meta behind it--is still really interesting in terms of critical thought, however.

Besides, I know I'd rather find somebody deconstructing the meta behind my corpus than, you know, drooling fangirling. And I'm learning a lot of stuff I can use. So unless I get a cease and desist letter....

27th-Sep-2006 07:27 pm (UTC)
For the record, I did not realize there were any points of congruence until Bear pointed them out.

And then she turned me into a Bowie fan.
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27th-Sep-2006 07:22 pm (UTC)
Oh, we're way ahead of you. We thought of that days ago. (He's very tech-savvy, apparently.)

We just didn't let it stop us.
27th-Sep-2006 07:28 pm (UTC)
I've got **just enough** public presence currently to occasionally ego-google up people talking about me so I can lurk over their shoulders, and spy.

I don't write to tell them of course, but I wouldn't ever say anything about *anybody* on the internet without expecting it to get back to them.

(I assume that a certain point of wealth, time contstraint, and busy-ness, one hires somebody to do this for one. *g* A PR firm, say.)
27th-Sep-2006 09:08 pm (UTC)
I went and watched too many interviews, and he got all humanized, and now I feel odd staring at his crotch.

Hmm. I've seen the links to music videos, but do you have links to the interviews up anywhere? If not, and if it isn't too inconvienient, could you point me in their general direction?
27th-Sep-2006 09:29 pm (UTC)
Tah dah.


That should get you all of the ones I scrounged.
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27th-Sep-2006 10:30 pm (UTC)
Come on! Where's your giant lit crit brain?

Bring it on!
27th-Sep-2006 11:17 pm (UTC)
The surface has to be worth people's while

This isn't apropos of David Bowie's crotch, but it just so happens that I was talking with a newer writer about his humorous noir SF story, which is as yet untitled. And I realized that the reason neither of us could come up with a good title for it is that the surface plot is undeveloped.

Which made me realize that all noir stories have both a surface and a real plot (yes, all stories do, but noir stories more than most). The surface plot doesn't really matter in the long run -- even the writers don't know who committed all the murders in The Big Sleep -- but it has to be there and it has to work. Casablanca is really about lost love, not about the letters of transit, but you've got to have the letters of transit or the plot doesn't get moving. The Maltese Falcon is really about loyalty, not the bird, but you've got to have the bird.

And the title is always taken from the surface plot.

It may not be much, but it's my literary revelation for the day.
27th-Sep-2006 11:45 pm (UTC)
That's really cool.

There's a thing Richard Hugo says in The Triggering Town about poems having a triggering subject and a generated subject. The triggering subject is the surface plot, or the thing that you go, "Ooh wouldn't it be cool to write a story about ..." The generated subject is the real plot, the thing the story is about. And, yeah, you have to have both.

I discovered in using Hugo (to try) to teach creative writing that most new writers are all about the triggering subject/surface plot, and may in fact resist strenuously efforts to make them move on to the generated subject/real plot. Whereas in twentieth-century literary poetry, the triggering subject/surface plot often gets attenuated to the point you can hardly find it.

But I agree with you. You have to have both. And the more they talk to each other, the stronger the story is going to be.
28th-Sep-2006 12:01 am (UTC)
I'm working on a story right now in which I'm trying to do exactly that (have the surface plot and the real plot talk to each other) and it's being very hard. I think the real plot (sometimes called "theme") works best when it evolves organically over the development of the story, and you notice it either late in development (in which case you can go back and insert subtle reinforcements) or you don't notice it at all until the story is published (in which case you say "ah, I meant to do that" and goggle in amazement at the number of places your subconscious inserted those subtle reinforcements for you). In this case I have the sub-surface plot deliberately in mind and it's making the whole thing harder. I hope it doesn't end up feeling forced.
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28th-Sep-2006 05:52 am (UTC)
I had to learn to tack surface narratives onto my brainfuck. And now the narratives are taking over.

la. what is this linear shit anyway?
28th-Sep-2006 01:15 am (UTC)

And the title is symbolic, in some way, of the underplot.
28th-Sep-2006 06:51 am (UTC) - I've been keeping this icon ready for AGES! And I get to USE IT!
This is all strangely reminiscent of the 'We Blame Sam' thing ... on all sorts of levels. Lea and I were talking abotu that a couple of days ago, IIRC.

Including feeling simultaneously dirty and pleased about having been sucked in and spat out.

I'm tempted to conclude that fangirling, considered as the intensive study of a single given artist's corpus (semi pun semi intended) under somewhat similar conditions (artist is thinky about their output; fangirl is thinky about her consumption, artist is strikingly sexual in their presentation; fangirl is sexually interested by said presentation) will tend to toss up some strikingly similar conclusions.

It's presently far too much stew from one oyster, but I shall keep it in mind and look for more evidence.

Or as I think I have said before, one cannot (mentally) follow a really good artist around for a bit without learning some unexpected things. I think I was commenting to Lea that part of what makes the whole microphone-fucking thing work is a sort of built up trust between performer and audience; you know, if Bowie's fucking his microphone I'm willing to wait and see what it's about, and have faith that it's about something, that it's deliberate and meant to go somewhere.

That's something artists earn over time, I think, an audience that's willing to follow them places they wouldn't necessarily go on their own.

And partly by having some trust in the audience; Bowie expects us to get it.

You know, I have been listening to Bowie for a really long time and only recently started to actually have fangirlish responses to him. When I was fifteen his stuff was sort of Letters From The Grown Up World. Deconstructing what he does is... hard.

Also, lust for someone you can't objectify is scary. And interesting. And a very odd feeling when they're a distant being, especially a performer. I think we babbled about this in the Elements commentary.

We don't really have a social model for lust between equals involving performance, especially if there's money involved.

It's either the disempowered performer, or the disempowered watcher.

And the woman in the transaction is generally the presumptively disempowered one no matter which side of the transaction she is on.

You know, the socially prescribed behaviour for women watching men perform sexually is not the john or the strip-bar punter, it's the screaming Stones or Beatles fan. When I've been with women watching male strippers, that's been the dynamic; you know the guys are still performing dominance.

And yeah, direct reversal isn't the answer either, but fumbling around between the models is hard and disorienting.

Intellectualising from a distance (not what you're doing) can be a sort of dominance move. So can the objectifying and drooling.

It's finding a way to respond that isn't either that's hard. Responding vulnerably but as an equal.

Or, you know, performing that way.
28th-Sep-2006 07:21 am (UTC) - Re: I've been keeping this icon ready for AGES! And I get to USE IT!
Especially when one of the things the artist is deconstructing is the social construct of sexuality itself, de-dichotomizing, de-categorizing, creating a continuum where society wants HARD AND FAST RULES. What truepenny said about the Male Gaze is really relevant.

Because when a male performer invites that gaze--from both genders--you get a really interesting exploration. Demonstration....

Oh, here. Look at the two performances on this page and tell me what you see.


And then look at this:


and this:


It's all about creating a narrative tension and exploiting it.

It's hard to deconstruct Bowie, I think, because his schtick is *all* deconstruction. He deconstructs himself. It's this beautiful, elaborate self-mockery that becomes a mockery of social hypocrisies. He'll shrug on a narrative persona--there was a performance of "Cracked Actor" I saw a while back that was awesome; he was just oooozing slime, and every so often would let the audience in on the joke--no, dear, you are not supposed to like this son of a bitch--and it's just fabulous.

Or, frex, he'll do this thing where he's get *totally* butched up, and then pull it down with some infinitely feminine gesture. And it's not drag-queen schtick, because he can do that too, and uses it differently. And there are occasions where he'll be doing two or three things at once, all of them contradictory. (See this icon for an example--the suit, the slicked hair, the squared shoulders... the incredibly delicate chanteuse gesture cupping the microphone like the subject of a Waterhouse painting cupping a rose.)

It's beautiful to watch, from a craft point of view. It's a tension. Like the tension between the song lyrics and the delivery, and--

And tension, in art, is *good.*

What you say about the mike-stand fucking, yeah, on some level. In my trade, we call it "Author points." A reader who knows and trusts you will assign you more author points than one who does not. Author points can be redeemed in various ways; you buy indulgences with them.

First you have to earn them, though. And you also have to avoid becoming a washed-up old has-been to *keep* redeeming them. You don't get to rest on your laurels. (Can I point to Leonard Cohen as another example of a performer who is still doing interesting things after four decades? Or five, for Cohen, really.)

You do in fact get some credit just for shock value, especially if it's artfully delivered shock. I *like* Alice Cooper. But that is artfully delivered shock.

In contrast to what you are saying about the prescribed behavior, I... hmm. Dunno. There is a thing about (I would even say much of) fandom where it's very possessive, dominant, unpersoning, objectifying--scary. There are some thoroughly frightening women out there in fanland.

And people (male and female) who feel like they own the performer. I mean, I'm *nobody*, and I hit that occasionally. The fan develops a sense of entitlement not just over the work, but over the artist. Next thing you know, you've gone from fainting fangirl to crazy stalker chick.

I find that distressing. I can't be around it. It gives me a wiggins.


I'm glad I'm not coming across as creepy/dominating to you. I'm just freaking fascinated. I want to learn to do that narrative tension expectation/denial thing.
28th-Sep-2006 04:57 pm (UTC)
Although I now understand men who say "No, really, I do respect..." *g*

One of the most frustrating things that can happen to me is when an attractive, smart woman is wearing something that grabs my attention. The internal dialogue gets hopelessly cluttered with repetitions of "Look at her FACE, damn you!"

Which is the difference between "popular entertainment" and "art." If his genderfuck was not accompanied by catchy and popular songs, and wasn't saturated in popular culture--if, you know, it was all stark and demanding, with all the theory showing, no one would watch him, but everyone would write about him.

Our society has got fucked in the head somehow.

I disagree. Egan makes the point well in his novels Distress and Diaspora. There are people whose role in life is to come up with new ideas. There are people whose role in life is to communicate ideas. As both of those tasks become more difficult, there is going to be an increase in specialization.

Watching some of the early Bowie interviews, you get glimpses of him having done a hell of a lot of research and being exposed to some wild ideas. I remember his answer to the question about whether he practices black magic. If he has an ability to translate ideas into a form that the popular mind can absorb, that's just as valuable as coming up with the ideas themselves. (Time for me to plug Gladwell's The Tipping Point again, methinks.)
28th-Sep-2006 05:20 pm (UTC)
I don't think you're following Sarah's line of argument. What she's saying (what we're talking about in depth, in fact) is how he uses the charisma and performance to get across something subversive and important that people wouldn't sit still for if it were stripped of entertainment value.


Is the black magic one the eyeroll and annoyed dismissal of magical thinking in all its vagaries? Or something I haven't seen?
17th-Feb-2013 05:58 pm (UTC)
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