Friday, November 20, 2015

Where is the Music? Help Me Find This Music.

By: Kelly McClure

Yesterday was International Men's Day and it was a highly terrifying 24 hours, as well as prime opportunity for every man ever to choose from expressing one of the following sentiments via the social media platform of their choosing: 1) "ISN'T INTERNATIONAL MEN'S DAY EVERYDAY DAY???" (laughs until farts), 2) "I'm celebrating International Men's Day by taking my girlfriend/wife/mom/grandma/sister to (whatever) and definitely not raping ANYONE." 3) "I'm a feminist male, and I'm gonna tweet about that all day, and then mansplain something while trying to seem overly helpful in a "who's your turtleneck wearing Daddy" sort of way."

Pretty much all of yesterday was as close to a The Purge (you know, the movie) scenario as most women will ever achieve. Lock your doors, hammer wood over the windows, plug up your drains. The men are out there. And they're thinking things. Stupid things. No one is safe.

After a full day of peppering my work tasks with tweets and FB comments about whatever kind of little dick, hurt dick, dumb dick combo of insults I could find, all in an earnest effort to shit up a man, any man's day with these pointed word weapons lobbed over the wall that separates boobs from ding dangs for the remainder of earth's dwindling time, I saw THIS

If you're thinking something like "I'm not clicking that," I remain unphased. I'm about to tell you all about what THIS is. 

Yesterday, on actual INTERNATIONAL MEN'S DAY, Jimmy Iovine from Apple Music sat with Mary J Blige on CBS This Morning (hosted by Gayle King) and showed his wrinkly ass lips to the entire world by saying this:

“So I always knew that women find it very difficult at times – some women – to find music. And this helps makes it easier with playlists, curated by real people. They’re not made by algorithms alone – they’re made by algorithms but with a human touch.”

And then followed it up with this:

“I just thought of a problem: girls are sitting around talking about boys, right? Or complaining about boys! When they’re heartbroken or whatever…

“They need music for that, right? It’s hard to find the right music. Not everyone has, you know, the right list… or knows a DJ.”

All while Mary J. Blige, creator of twelve of her own studio albums, and Gayle King, who is best friends with Oprah Winfrey and should therefore not be in any sort of position to have to sit and feel this shit breeze across her powerful brow, sat there like "Sure. This is okay to be happening right now." I mean, who knows what they were secretly thinking inside their heads, probably a hardy "WTF" filtered in, but they for sure didn't stand up and overturn any coffee tables or furiously shake any silk set plants like I would have done/wanted to do.

Does it seem like any of these women would have a hard time "finding music?"

The above Apple commercial featuring Mary J. Blige (Famous Diva), Kerry Washington (Scandal), and Taraji P. Henson (Empire) was initially met with enthusiasm because it's rare to see a commercial on TV featuring a group of women enjoying anything other than yogurt or Kashi cereal together. It seemed powerful, refreshing, encouraging to see a commercial showing the world that women enjoy music, have opinions on it, weave it into the fabric of their lives just like some damn cotton underpants, etc. But now we know that that was not its intent. The intent of this commercial was to be like "Hey dumb bitches, help each other find where music is. Do you know where it is? It's right here. We've made it so easy for you, slutty, dumb, baby making bitches." 

So yeah, I processed Jimmy Iovine's comments at the end of my day. The end of what was a normal work day for me, curating music content for the internet, and also assisting six different up and coming bands in matters of publicity. I'm one out of a shit ton of women, and I realize that only the amount of women in the palm of my hand put up over my face have similar jobs - measured against all the women in the world, but to step to ME, to US at the end of our work days, on International Men's Day, with this horseshit??? How dare you. How actual dare you?

Irvine has since apologised for his comments in a statement saying: “We created Apple Music to make finding the right music easier for everyone — men and women, young and old. Our new ad focuses on women, which is why I answered the way I did, but of course the same applies equally for men. I could have chosen my words better, and I apologize.”

Sure. And International Men's Day is "over." 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Doing God's Work From the Passenger Seat of a Kia Soul

By: Kelly McClure

"Are you seeing this? You should be seeing this," Lindsey said as she anally (that's just a step up from carefully) inched down some random highway in Texas. "There's shit out here that we don't get to see everyday."

Kelly squinted out the passenger seat window, shifting the focus of her left eye, and then her right, to maneuver around a particularly large squished bug on the glass. Alongside the road was an endless sea of puffy white cotton fields. She wished she could roll down the window and spill her body out of it, like you'd discard the last few sips of a flat can of pop. She pictured what it would feel like to suffer the initial bounce and scrape of concrete, and then the mix of prickly and soft, once she rolled her oldish bones over to the cotton, waiting there in the sun. 

"I can't, I'm writing about Missy Eilliot," Kelly mumbled into the keys of her MacBook Air, the screen of which had been her main scenery for over 50% of the ten day road trip they'd been on. She'd offered to work via car, which isn't all that different from working from home, aside from the moving, in order to be able to keep her new writing gig, AND go on tour with her wife, a thing she'd never thought would be a thing in her life, and it seemed like a good idea until she fully weighed the cost of it. Like, the cost of sacrificing being able to stare at weird cows, and cotton fields, in exchange for ... yeah. 

The right side of her face was warm, almost painfully so, and she thought again about how much she'd like to feel a clump of that fresh cotton in her hand, lingering on it for a few minutes before returning to the sucking blue/white glare of her laptop screen. She checked the amount of data she had left on the hot spot device she bought for the trip. Almost 75% gone. She opened a new tab to Verizon and upped it. There's a joke to be made about someone who pays almost $200 a month for their phone plan, but never talks on the phone. 

"What's Missy Elliot doing?" Lindsey asked, still focused, almost comically so, on the road. 

"She's got a new video."

"Is it cool?"

"Yeah, she's always cool."

Kelly was already making a mental note to check the Facebook page of the site she was writing the post for in a few hours. She got a sick pleasure out of torturing herself by reading the comments on her posts. Always an uneasy mix of racist, sexist, and flat out dumb. It's almost as interesting to read the amount of ways a person can misspell a word, while trying to be uppity and insulting, as it is to read the posts themselves. 

"People are so fucking stupid," Kelly said, sort of in the direction of the glove box.



Kelly took one last look at the cotton fields and her mind filled with a bunch of different things. How her Dad hugged her with one arm when she stopped by to visit a few nights ago, how her Gramma asked her the same question about the coffee mugs she bought her as an early birthday present six times, how easy it is to just all of a sudden stop knowing someone, and how scary that is. She thought about how no one seems to hear her, in a crowd, and how she cares, but then doesn't care, and how it's all the same, for everyone, in some way or another. She started to get annoyed with herself, and how when she's "thinking about things," it's usually always the same shit. She looked out the window, as the last few rays of the day's sunshine kissed the cotton, and went back to typing. 

"Wanna switch soon?" Lindsey asked. She'd been driving for six hours and was getting loopy. 

"Yeah, let me just finish this thing." 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Black Jeans in Baltimore

By: Ben Johnson

photo by Mia Moreno-Hines

I bought a pair of black jeans last week. This is a boring non-event to you and to every human in the world who is not me. I’d never owned a pair of black jeans before, so it felt like a big step, like a minor identity shift. I’m a black jeans version of myself now. I realize this sounds stupid.

Black jeans just always seemed like they’d be a whole big thing. Like if I bought a pair of black jeans I’d have to get really into Nick Cave, and masculine jewelry, and get tattoos of spider webs on my elbows, and then go stand around in a garage and look menacing. I’d have to buy a bunch of heavy metal band shirts, and get a job training pit bulls in a scrap yard, and cook extreme smoked meats that would serve as my only source of nutrition. And I’d probably also want to wear my hair in a pompadour and get a pet wolf and refer to myself as “The Messenger” in some kind of hypersexualized creative setting. And get contacts.

But it turns out they’re just pants. You can just wear them. You can wear black jeans with anything. You don’t even really have to care about what color your shoes are. You don't have to adjust your wardrobe in any way to accommodate black jeans. Nobody will arrest you for any kind of crime if you wear something brown or blue with your black jeans. Nobody cares.

In the week I’ve had these black jeans, they’ve become my jeans. These jeans are my jeans now. I also have blue jeans, because there was a buy two get the second pair half off sale. I can wear those too if I want. I’m okay. I can do anything. Nobody will notice or care. The depth of this basic fact is never not surprising. It goes down to the marrow of the universe itself. But I am still me, and me is my own job.

Part of the reluctance was this idea that I just moved to Baltimore and now I’m buying black jeans and doing god knows what. Like maybe I’ve “gone Baltimore.” Which if true would actually be fine. Baltimore is a weird, dangerous, and interesting place to be alive, and I moved here on purpose, so I might as well “go” it. But I don’t want to be having one of those late-30’s identity crises. I don’t want to own a motorcycle. It seems like motorcycles are a huge pain in the ass, like an actual pain happening in the ass area.

Also I don’t want my personality, outwardly or inwardly, to be a reflection of panic in the face of advancing time, a desperate heave against mortality taking the shape of “I figure it’s my last chance to pull off Ray Bans.” I’d rather just sneeze feebly into the sun like the weak old man I am slowly becoming. That feels more honest.

But maybe you can also put up too much of a fight in the other direction. They’re pants. They’re not a big deal. Might as well wear ‘em.

I don’t need to put up that strong of a fight. I’ll be the guy in the zombie apocalypse that’s like “well, at least these guys don’t seem anxious about health insurance” and taps a zombie on the shoulder and says “I’m in.” And then there will be one more zombie in black jeans that might or might not look slightly more badass than the same zombie in blue jeans, but it really doesn’t matter because Oh God They’re Here.

Anyhow, I have these pants now. Check out my pants.