WE DON’T LIVE HERE NO MORE

March 18, 2009 at 3:27pm | Posted in internet | Leave a comment

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We’ve moved on, to our own little piece of the blogosphere at tinygems.org. Check our new location for recent updates, and please update all links and feeds accordingly. Tiny Gems – now with more unironic love of pop culture, making fun of art, semi-bullshit sociological analysis, and totally ridiculous media theory (on acid)!!!

Thanks for reading, and for feelin’ us, always, Nadine & Michael Tom

Black Magic Women

March 11, 2009 at 6:32pm | Posted in art, music, video | Leave a comment
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As much as I don’t want to like Bat For Lashes (aka British singer-songwriter Natasha Khan) for the total travesty that was her cover of “I’m On Fire” by Bruce Springsteen, I have to admit – she’s pretty awesome (for the record, no one should attempt to cover that song after the amazing Electrelane version). Check out these new songs from Khan’s upcoming album “Two Suns,” due out in the United States on April 7. I’m not going to deny that I’d probably like anyone rocking this kind of Björk-Kate-Bush-magic-space-goth-hippie-weirdo aesthetic – but, as Pitchfork points out, she must have a pretty good sense of humor about her own bizarre indie sub-genre in order to come out with this totally ridiculous cover for “Daniel,” the first single off of “Two Suns.” Plus, I have to mention she is the musician responsible for one of the best music videos of recent years with “What’s A Girl To Do.”

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While I’m at it, I’d also like to mention the awesomeness of another European lady rocking a similar aesthetic in her work – Swedish artist Nadine Byrne. Besides sharing a first name with my Tiny Gems co-contributor and a last name with Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, she creates some really interesting textile/sculpture, performance, sound and video pieces. The image above is a still from her ongoing video/performance/music project, The Magic State (2008).

Style Alert: British crackheads

March 9, 2009 at 4:43pm | Posted in fashion | Leave a comment
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Here in Philadelphia, we know a lot about crackheads – but “fashion plate” is rarely the first phrase to come to mind to describe them. Our crackheads typically dress like wizards from “Harry Potter” when they try to look like Muggles – that is, they wear some absurd combination of ridiculous found clothing that doesn’t really make any sense at all (for example, wearing a tuxedo shirt, sweatpants, cowboy boots, a trench coat and a sombrero). That in itself is kind of awesome, but not exactly what I would call a great sense of style.

So, what is it about all these British trainwreck celebrities that can make being a crackhead so stylish? I imagine that Pete Doherty, Amy Winehouse and Blake Fielder-Civil (Winehouse’s ex-husband, just recently released from prison) must use their few, precious moments of clarity to plan out their outfits – it really must take some effort to find clothes this good while hunting for your next fix. If they could only put the same amount of effort into getting sober – but I guess they must have said “No, no, no” to that.

Enjoy this photo gallery of sweet British crackhead celeb clothes below – plus some pictures of Allison Mosshart and Jamie Hince (without or without Kate Moss) of the Kills thrown in for good measure, even though they’re not really crackheads (I think) and Jamie Hince is totally the poor man’s Graham Coxon.

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(Keep an eye out for the next “Style Alert” – the new, semi-regular fashion section of Tiny Gems!)

Kick Out the Jams: Strawberry Spring

March 9, 2009 at 4:07pm | Posted in music | Leave a comment
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In reality, as I write this, I’m sitting in a tan cubicle at my desk job under fluorescent lights, basking in the sickly glow of the computer screen and its ever-present Excel spreadsheet. In my heart, however, I’m outside, slinging a busted boombox over my shoulder, wearing gold silk shorts and that Built by Wendy Mean Streets tee, drinking sixteen-thousand Diet Cokes, possibly hopping the next bus to Asbury Park N.J., and most definitely preemptively satisfying your needs for the utmost in perfect springtime pop jams.

Now that our old pal Muxtape has risen from the ashes – at least for now – in the form of 8tracks.com, I hope to make “Kick Out the Jams” a semi-regular feature on Tiny Gems. In honor of the sweet springtime weather that graced us here in Philadelphia this weekend, I’m gracing y’all with part one: Tiny Gems Strawberry Jams!

“Never say, ‘I’ll be right back,’ because you won’t be back.” (The State of the Slasher in 2009, Part Two)

March 3, 2009 at 6:29pm | Posted in film, pop culture, sociology | Leave a comment
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It seems (after Nadine’s epic, long-awaited analysis of “The Twilight Saga”) that we here at Tiny Gems are very interested in talking about teenage sexuality and its representation in popular, youth-focused media. Which means, of course, that I’m back to the slasher film. We all know the frequently re-hashed tropes of the sexual politics of the slasher – the carnage and chaos unleashed by any active teenage (female) sexuality, the killer as punisher of sexual activity, the “Final Girl” as “masculinized” virgin, the Freudian implications of knives and wounds. Been there, done that. At this point, these generic cliches have even become the founding principle/in-joke of an entire slasher franchise (the Scream series). But what I’m wondering is, do these tropes still hold up – and if they do, do they really impose any normative ideologies over slasher audiences?

In other words – do Randy’s “rules” from Scream (1996) really mean anything today? Did they ever really exist to begin with? Could all of the many, many academics and critics who have trashed the slasher sub-genre for years be wrong about its implications?

Continue Reading “Never say, ‘I’ll be right back,’ because you won’t be back.” (The State of the Slasher in 2009, Part Two)…

Another day, another GaGa

March 3, 2009 at 5:56pm | Posted in music, pop culture | Leave a comment
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…you didn’t think I’d really let you go this long without another Lady GaGa update, did you?

But seriously – has anyone else noted the odd similarities between “Poker Face” by Lady GaGa and “Vomiting Mirrors” by local punx Clockcleaner (aka “The Most Hated Band in Philadelphia”)?

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ClockGaGa? LadyCleaner? Who knows. In the meantime, check out Clockcleaner’s last show ever at Kung Fu Necktie on April 18. Oh wait, it’s “invite only.” Endless bummer!

The “The Twilight Saga” Saga

February 25, 2009 at 7:31pm | Posted in literature, pop culture, sexuality, year in review | 2 Comments
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While Michael Tom was regaling you throughout the month of January with posts about Chris Crocker, Joe the Plumber, and breakdancers kicking babies in the face, I have to admit I felt like a bit of a fraud. 2008 was the year when I finally lost touch with popular culture to a point where I barely know what any of that stuff even IS. I also recently discovered that several of my friends didn’t realize that Michael Tom even wrote for this blog and were under the impression it was all me, all the time. They were pretty confused about why I was writing all that stuff, when my bro is the true pop culture junkie of the fam (if he has his way, I think Lady Gaga will become the largest item in our “tag cloud,” oh shit is she already??).

We believe in new year’s resolutions around here at Tiny Gems; one of mine for 2009 was to get back in touch with popular culture, because I have a feeling it might be kind of ridiculous/awesome right now and I’m missing out. But for now – instead of pretending that I gave a shit about stuff I didn’t even know existed – I’m going to tell you about the two pieces of 2008 popular culture that I completely, unabashedly, truly and deeply GET:

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Except that maybe I don’t really get it.

Part One: On the Really Weird Sexual Politics of Twilight

(Spoiler alert, y’all: I read all four of the Twilight books in, like, a week while bored out of my mind at my parents’ house. I’m going to talk about all four here. If you want plot summaries or whatever, check wikipedia… loser.)

I know that – at least according to the many repetitive reviews I’ve read by this point – I’m supposed to think Twilight is this giant metaphor for abstinence or somebody’s half-baked idea of Puritanism or whatever. And it seems, as a “feminist,” I’m supposed to be afraid of its subliminal mental poison and what it’s doing to the selves of today’s teenage girls. The (possibly sad?) truth, however, is that the sexual politics and dynamics that permeate Stephenie Meyer’s supremely weird/fascinating – and yet fucking horribly written – Twilight “Saga” are actually, umm, a lot more complicated than that. OK, OK, I know, they get married. Which is totally lame. But which doesn’t begin to explain away the towering weirdness of everything else that’s going on here.

OK, so I understand the common ‘abstinence’ reading of the first book; before I continued to the others I thought I got it, too. But after that, what sex is both representing and being represented by begins to shift in directions no one is really addressing (maybe because no one except me — as both a voracious reader of children’s and young adult fiction and someone with a degree in “sexuality studies” — would actually bother…..), and that maybe no one – not even the author herself – actually understands.

Continue Reading The “The Twilight Saga” Saga…

Lady GaGa: Experimental Filmmaker

February 23, 2009 at 11:51pm | Posted in film, pop culture, video | Leave a comment
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(Via Kirsten, via Perez Hilton.)

Edit: After posting this, I had a dream that I was a contestant on an MTV reality show entitled “Lady GaGa’s My New BFF.” I can only hope that I have psychic abilities and this was some kind of prophetic dream. For the record, I can’t say that I won (I woke up after one “episode”), but it was totally going in that direction. These short films totally prove that Lady GaGa and I are operating on the same wavelength, anyway – how could she not be my BFF?

Who Did It Better?

February 23, 2009 at 4:15pm | Posted in discussion, music, video | Leave a comment
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Tom Tom Club or Mariah Carey?

Subquestion: I listened to one of these songs every day of January 2009. Can you guess which one?

We Are Not the Same, I Am A Cyborg

February 20, 2009 at 4:30pm | Posted in music, pop culture, sexuality | 1 Comment
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In her famous essay A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century, Donna Haraway sets up the metaphor of the cyborg as a new way of thinking about feminism. The “cyborg” – both human and machine, both organic and inorganic, both real and fictional – defies conventional, static categorizations and fixed concepts of identity. The nature of the cyborg stresses the unification of opposites and fluid concepts of gender and sexuality. Cyborgs are products of multiple, simultaneous states of being, and stand in radical opposition to conventional ideologies.

Although he is probably not remotely what she had in mind when she wrote her essay, Haraway’s idea of the cyborg has been incarnated (at least, within the context of contemporary pop culture) in the figure of Kanye West.

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The typical persona of the successful, respected rapper/hip-hop producer is tough, collected, egocentric and hyper-masculine. Kanye West’s recent activities, however, actively subvert this image; rather than projecting this conventional masculine persona, Kanye takes part in traditionally feminine (or effeminate) behaviors. He has changed gears to release an R&B break-up album (808s and Heartbreak), collaborated with high-end designers and fine artists on music videos and fashion items, and expressed interest in posing for naked photographs. These behaviors are more typically associated with the female pop or R&B diva than male rapper/producer (Kanye’s interests and activities are much more in line with those of Beyoncé or even Björk than with those of, say, Jay-Z). His choices in clothing (Dayglo colors, tight pants, the famous Shutter shades) serve to further distance him from the hyper-masculine world of contemporary hip-hop; his image is robotic, highly stylized, and (above all) ambiguously gendered. Even his use of Auto-Tune vocals on 808s and Heartbreak underscores his new cyborg identity.

Of course, not everyone has taken kindly to Kanye’s development of this new cyborg identity. Both tabloid media and online pranksters have derided Kanye for perceived homosexuality. Porn trade mag Adult Video News recently printed a false interview in which “Kanye” stated,

I’m open to doing porn. Hell, I’ll even do bisexual scenes – myself, another man and a woman, or just me and two women. I know people will find that as some weird shit, but I am who I am.

Kanye has responded bombastically to these sorts of rumors through all-caps blog rants. This tendency to respond to rumors and accusations with “hysterics” pushes him even further beyond the typical gender binary.

Recently, Kanye claimed to have re-invented the term “gay” itself, transforming it from a fixed (negative) marker of identity into a marker of cultural cachet – the ultimate step toward becoming a post-gender cyborg being. Donna Haraway should be proud to see her cyborg literally personified – not to mention getting to #1 on the Billboard charts.

¡VIVA KANYE, VIVA LA REVOLUCION!

(OK, so I know the title is actually from a Lil Wayne song. Weezy isn’t a cyborg, he’s a Martian, and that’s totally different and probably just as revolutionary. Or, he’s just on too many drugs. Either way, it’s a completely different topic. What do you think, readers?)

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