You can never be too careful.
Portrait Of A Chair -
CW Roelly, the artist who created the art featured on my last CD, shows how it’s done via a time-lapse photo — 6+ hours of bending wire shown in less than five minutes.
In 2010, I read a New Yorker article about Brad Paisley which painted him as a guy who was easy-going and who didn’t take himself too seriously, someone with a voice of his own and a mischievous side that informs his stage presence and his music. I like a lot of old country, and some new alt.country, but though I’ve tried listening to mainstream country on occasion it’s been a while since I’ve found much of it enjoyable — there’s something about hearing autotune on a country song that sets my teeth on edge — so I was curious to hear some of Paisley’s music, since it seemed more along the lines of something I would like. However, I listened to a few songs and it left me pretty cold.
I asked my dad about Paisley — he’s the reason I was exposed to a lot of country music growing up and I was curious about his opinion — and he said that he thought the article accurately reflected the state of country music today, which is that it isn’t really about the country. In the New Yorker article, it says, “… in the post-Garth era, the music has thrived partly because of its willingness to chronicle domestic bliss in plainspoken language. This is a big a lucrative niche — and, by definition, an unhip one, because it suggests that respectable suburban family life can be pretty good.” My father says that, basically, the older the country music, and the closer to its roots as a rural music, the better he likes it. I wouldn’t necessarily say that myself, but it’s true that in most (if not all) cases I am not all that interested in listening to songs about comfortable suburban domesticity. (The fact that his music isn’t my cup of tea shouldn’t be taken as a criticism as such. There are a lot of clearly talented people whose music I don’t particularly like listening to.)
As many of you may be aware, Paisley recently released a collaboration with LL Cool J which has been discussed quite a bit online. The song is named ‘Casual Racist’, and I’m not going to say anything about it here, as I can’t imagine I would find anything to say that someone else hasn’t said better. However, the discussion of that song made me check out Paisley’s back catalog again, and (thanks to @travisnorris on twitter) I came across his song ‘I’m Still A Guy’, which he wrote in 2008. This caught my eye because, eight years or so ago, I wrote a song called ‘I’m A Guy’ which is basically the exact opposite of ‘I’m Still A Guy’.
Now, different people have different ideas about what my song means. I recently talked to someone who said that he enjoyed my song about metrosexuals, which surprised me, because the song is basically about me, and I wouldn’t consider myself a metrosexual. (Inasmuch as I understand the term, it implies that the person in question spends a lot of time working on their appearance, which I don’t think is realistically how anyone would describe me.) And that’s all legit — I try not to tell people how to interpret my songs too much, because I am a good postmodernist and don’t consider myself to be the ultimate expert on my own songs’ meanings.
But in terms of what I think “I’m a Guy” is about — well, it’s an attempt to write my own version of those songs, like ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’ and ‘I’m a Man’ and ‘Mannish Boy’, which were all about what an awesome specimen of masculinity the singers were. (Taken to exaggerated lengths, because those songs are supposed to be, and are, funny.) But my working definition of masculinity is different from theirs, and my song reflects that, hopefully also in an amusing and exaggerated way. If the song has a message, it’s that not adhering to traditional norms of masculinity does not make you any less of a man.
Paisley’s song is mostly about how there’s all this stuff he likes, or would like, to do because he’s a guy: hunting and fishing and riding bulls and so on. (How seriously we’re supposed to take this excuse for, say, not wanting to walk his wife’s little yappy dog, is debatable, but I think that on some level we’re supposed to buy into it.) Which is all fine; that’s a legitimate kind of guy to be, though it’s not the kind of guy I am. And it’s kind of couched as a struggle between him and his wife who tries to ‘civilize’ him, and him punching some guy who tries to cop a feel on her, none of which I’m real crazy about — there’s a lot of gender essentialism here, and a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude — but it’s a country song, and a comic, somewhat exaggerated one, a fact that the audience would by and large recognize, allowing them to enjoy the song even if they’ve never punched anyone in their life, and would rather stay home and watch TV than fish. (Also, the song implicitly recognizes that these days ‘boys will be boys’ isn’t generally considered a great excuse any more.)
However, the last verse starts talking about things that make you less of a guy, and (as you might expect) I’m even less crazy about that:
These days there’s dudes getting’ facials —
Manicured, waxed and botoxed.
With deep spray-on tans and creamy lotiony hands,
You can’t grip a tackle box
Yeah, with all of these men linen’ up to get neutered,
It’s hip now to be feminized.
I don’t highlight my hair.
I’ve still got a pair.
Yeah, honey, I’m still a guy.
Oh my eyebrows ain’t plucked.
There’s a gun in my truck.
Oh thank God, I’m still a guy.
This section of the song I might call ‘I’m A Guy (But Those Dudes Aren’t)’, and it’s why when I first heard it my first reaction was, this is the exact opposite of my song! Though that might be a overstated: interestingly, the New Yorker article mentions ‘I’m Still A Guy’ and says of how Paisley handles it during live shows:
“He likes to stop, after the second chorus, to tease the men in the audience, telling them that no matter what their beauty regimen is — ‘Even if you’re a man here tonight who wears Estée Lauder lotion on your face, or has hair highlights, maybe some Botox work’ — they’re all still real men.”
Which seems a little weird given that the last verse expressly mocks that kind of thing, but I reckon that Paisley’s song really is supposed to be an assurance to all the middle-class guys out there who think real men work with their hands and go hunting, even though they don’t do either — to reassure themselves that that they’re still a guy — a guy who listens to country music, even — and manlier than those other people, whoever they are.
In January, one of my favorite tumblr bloggers, GirlDetective, proposed that she, and anyone else who was interested, should watch the James Bond films in chronological order, with a new movie being watched every Sunday. She would then post a short essay on the movie’s place in Bond history and some notes she jotted down and she watched it. You can see her synopses here.
I joined the party kind of late — the movies aren’t on Netflix Streaming, and it took me a while to realize I could watch them via iTunes — and so the first set of my own notes that I’m posting are for the first Roger Moore episode, “Live and Let Die.” It’ll be a little while until GirlDetective makes her own post about the movie, but she encouraged me to go ahead and post mine.
and can just about be trusted to trim my own mustache.
I tried waxing my own eyebrows.
I’m really glad I have bangs.
The Day - Live Lunch Break: Jacob Haller | News from southeastern Connecticut -
Yesterday I took the day off of work and headed down to the headquarters of theday.com, a Connecticut newspaper, to participate in a live broadcast in which I played seven songs and answered some questions from the host, Rick Koster. I had a great time, and the episode is now online at http://www.theday.com/article/20130321/MEDIA0104/130329943/1128/medialivelunch . If you know anyone who might enjoy it, please share it around!