Even harder out here for a bitch: Lily Allen takes heat for hot new video

Satire or satyr-ific music porn?

Satire or satyr-ific music porn?

Kick-ass British chanteuse Lily Allen just released this video for her latest single, “Hard Out Here,” which strikes me as both a sharp-eyed commentary on mod pop culture and also, in its way, crazy hot.

Now, let’s get one thing straight: Lily gets me all hot and bothered, which seems all too typical (I’m a dude who is into ladies) but I swear has nothing to do with the way she looks, which is shall we say appealing. But then, I hardly ever contemplate her looks because I’m too busy listening to her songs and thrilling again to her insouciant voice and — more important — how smart and funny she is.

You’ve got to check Allen out if you haven’t yet. Her first two albums, Still, Alright, and It’s Not Me, It’s You are little masterpieces of danceable social observation and cultural criticism. A significant number of her songs include the singer describing a man she’s known who she then deconstructs into little quivering parts. And they all have it coming! The obnoxious guy at the bar (Are you stupid or just a little bit slow?/…it’s not going to happen/Not in a million years!) her stoned-and-shiftless little brother (Oh little brother please refrain from doing all that/I’m trying to help you out so you can stop being a twat…). And on and on, right up to the sap of a boyfriend she dumps in the devastating “Not Big.” I never wanted it to end this way/You’ve only got yourself to blame/I’m gonna tell the world you’re rubbish in bed now/And that you’re small in the game.

Why do I love Lily Allen so much? Because she can whip any man in this bar. Probably with half of her brain tied behind her back.

No matter, the seduce-you-to-death video she’s got now — with its squadrons of lycra-and-leather-clad twerk-bots — is stirring up all kinds of feminist outrage from critics wondering if the “Hard Out Here” video isn’t maybe protesting too much about sexist cliches propagated in pop culture (Miley, Robin, ad infinitum) while simultaneously using the very same tropes to its own OMG-look-at-that-girl’s-ass benefit.

But while I have absolutely no problem with feminists or hard-eyed feminist critiques of popular culture I’m still taking Allen, and “Hard Out Here,” for their word. Which is only fair when you consider Allen’s oeuvre as a whole. Consider the brutal boy-bashing noted above. Consider Allen’s equally unsparing analyses of greed culture (“The Fear”) and the Bush administration (“Fuck You”).

Mostly though, consider that sex — and being sexy — isn’t always a phallocentric weapon for diminishing women. Of course it can be. Power-obsessed guys (no shortage of them) take whatever they can get as long as it marginalizes someone else. But sex can also be empowering for women and as the men behind the men detonated in “Not Big,” “Knock ’em Out” et. al can surely attest, anyone who mistakes Lily Allen for a victim will live to regret it.

Don’t just take it from me. Here’s Lily herself responding to her critics (some of whom are clearly upset about the number of non-Caucasian dancers in the video, too):

Privilege, Superiority and Misconceptions

1. If anyone thinks for a second that I requested specific ethnicities for the video, they’re wrong.
2. If anyone thinks that after asking the girls to audition, I was going to send any of them away because of the colour of their skin, they’re wrong.
3. The message is clear. Whilst I don’t want to offend anyone. I do strive to provoke thought and conversation. The video is meant to be a lighthearted satirical video that deals with objectification of women within modern pop culture. It has nothing to do with race, at all.
4. If I could dance like the ladies can, it would have been my arse on your screens; I actually rehearsed for two weeks trying to perfect my twerk, but failed miserably. If I was a little braver, I would have been wearing a bikini too, but I do not and I have chronic cellulite, which nobody wants to see. What I’m trying to say is that me being covered up has nothing to do with me wanting to disassociate myself from the girls, it has more to do with my own insecurities and I just wanted to feel as comfortable as possible on the shoot day.
5. I’m not going to apologise because I think that would imply that I’m guilty of something, but I promise you this, in no way do I feel superior to anyone, except paedophiles, rapists murderers etc., and I would not only be surprised but deeply saddened if I thought anyone came away from that video feeling taken advantage of,or compromised in any way.
6. Ask the ladies yourselves @shalaeuroasia @monique_Lawz @ceodancers @TempleArtist@SelizaShowtime @melycrisp

The Beach Boys in Concert program, 1964: A chronicle of death, hate, tragedy and litigation foretold

Oh, the Beach Boys of 1964. So young and carefree. So sunny and guile-free. All harmony and sweet, beaming faces.

Your summer dream, times five. And they made it look so easy, too!

“The most beautiful part of this whole story,” Brian Wilson, 22,  gushed to the unnamed author of the text inside the program sold at the group’s concerts that Beatle-fired year, “is the way this musical (sic) awkward squad pulled together to form a team and the significant part each one played in building the organization.”

Oh, it was pretty to think so. But just wait a few years. Months, really. Then cue the demons, jealousy, booze, drugs, spooky murderous cults, wacko psychologists and on and on and on. . .

And the weirdest thing? It’s all right there in the ’64 tour program. Read a little further, into the individual profiles of the boys in the band. Don’t bother reading between the lines. It’s all there in the text.

Shall we?

BRIAN WILSON – He has the magic touch that turns wax to gold. . .The other four boys generally accept Brian’s judgments and decisions but they sound off loud when they don’t see eye to eye with him. He readily gives in when a better idea is presented….peace in the family and harmony in the group are more precious than rubies. . .He has a sense of humor that ranges from the whimsical to the way-out.

MIKE LOVE – Mike Love, 23, has a complicated and dual personality. He is both kind and sarcastic, neat and scruffy, carefree and cautious. . .if he can’t make like an expert, his inferiority complex shows up like a walrus in a goldfish bowl. . .”Friends tell me my humor is is often sarcastic but that stems from impatience, I think…the Beatles are okay but I like girls better.”

(click read more to. . . well. . .)

ALAN JARDINE – Although he and Mike both live in Manhattan Beach, they never see each other outside of work. . .loves liver.

CARL WILSON – Carl is generous, kind, affectionate, conscientious, cooperative and stronlgy attached to his home and family, especially to big brother Brian, whom he worships. . .”without the Beach Boys I’d be nothing.”

DENNIS WILSON – The group’s glad-hander, good-timer, mad-mixer and sex-pot. . .he loves to run barefoot through the fields of flower-eating starlets. “Three of us are brothers and we naturally get into some pretty good scraps which blow over soon. . .they tell me I’m the guy with the quick temper and far-out temperament. When I look into the big baby blue eyes of a long-haired girl I can agree with anything she says. . .”

Get it On, Bang a Gong, and in Portland You'll Fit Right In

Photo: Beth Nakamura/The Oregonian

Turns out there’s sex in Portland. Turns out there’s lots of sex in Portland. The whole story, going back to the writing of the Oregon state constitution and the randy religious culters, the many, many strip joints and the fundamentalist, yet cheerfully Sexy Christians can be found right here. Parental guidance suggested.

Media Manipulated: A Memoir

The little pink pony in happier times

I started my first newspaper when I was in 4th grade, sometime in late 1972, and it was badly written and horribly illustrated and full of stories that were either badly reported, based entirely on gossip or made up on the spot. That publication was short-lived (d. 1973) but its spirit lives on in the Huffington Post, the Drudge Report and virtually every American cable news outlet.

In a related story: Fox News’s Glenn Beck, whose willingness to say or do anything for attention has swiftly made him a hugely influential TV pundit, asserts that his media empire, which grosses north of $30 million US a year, asserted recently that it’s really all just entertainment. That all of his super-nationalist patriotism, with its 9 theses and 12 assertions, plus also its tear-stained recriminations and spit-flecked denunciations, much of which now resides at the heart of the Tea Party movement, is merely showbiz posturing. Which maybe isn’t a surprise, because the even-more-successful Rush Limbaugh tends to say precisely the same thing — that he’s really just an entertainer —  which is also probably what Keith Olbermann thinks every time he thunders through another Special Comment and/or Worst Person in the World segment. Then you realize how Beck, et. al, influence the T.P. types, whose protestations influence the political process, which influences the American gov’t, which holds a certain amount of sway over the entire free world. At which point, well, shit.

Last night I was summoned to a hotel bar to meet a source for a story I’m writing, a feature story, nothing all that important, and at the appointed time I was greeted not by my source (name and identity still unknown, btw) but by a confused woman who had been paid $10 by a stranger on the street, who asked her to hand me a small box that contained the head of a Lil’ Pink Pony (or whatever it’s called) and a note instructing me to email a single question, which would be answered via some mp3 message. So okay, fine, I’m up for this kind of antic. I realize this is an absurd game, that it suits the quirky personal and/or commercial and/or media interests of my subject. But what else is new? I’ve been writing professionally for 25 years, writing celebrity profiles, TV reviews, investigative pieces, medical stories, political stories, on and on and on. And I think all of them involved some measure of attempted/successful fibbing, distorting and obvious manipulation on the part of the subjects. In other words: there is very little separating a decapitated toy pony from the text of your average press release. Or White House briefing, for that matter.

Follow the jump for more on Glenn Beck, the big sex story I just wrote and more…

Sometimes the purpose of all of this, particularly when it comes to my own participation, seems elusive. To put it mildly. Are there other ways to earn a living? And if I’m going to be part of a vast fun-and-illusion factory, maybe I should get myself a top hat (with spangles. I’d want spangles on mine) and jump right into the ring.

The rewarding part comes when it seems like you’ve put your finger on some real thing, a split second of clarity, a moment of transcendence, and you manage to put it into words that may actually reach your friends and neighbors and give them something to think about. It’s an elusive target, and always, maddeningly, subject to the subjective judgments of others. For instance, I think there’s something sick and wrong about Glenn Beck’s 3 card monte version of moral fire and brimstone. As if it could ever be cool to play at matters of national/global policy — to actively screw with processes that affect the lives and sometimes deaths of the most vulnerable among us — because it’s fun and profitable. But even Richard Nixon had soul, to paraphrase Neil Young, and if Beck’s hokum makes his fans feel and think something, no matter how absurd, I guess that IS his job. And maybe it’s not his fault that our government is full of desperate, gullible and easily-led types whose commitment to the public interest takes a poor second to their own need for power and fame. That, I’m sorry to say, is pretty much our fault.

Now it’s time for me to get back to my job(s). I’m still waiting on the mp3 from the pink pony guys, and I’ve got a major investigative thing on sex set to appear in the Sunday Oregonian (you’ll want to check that out), plus also a handful of other newspaper stories in the works (celebrities, trends, the usual) and an endless procession of tasks related to the book I’m working on…..which also turns out to be about celebrities, the media, American culture, politics and image.

Sometimes I think I should just toss it all and go back to my first journalistic love, that fourth grade newspaper. We wrote it directly onto a ditto master that would imprint our scrawled words in fresh blue ink on the opposite side of the page. We’d clip that to the big metal roller in the middle of the ditto machine, turn the crank and see our work published on clean, white paper, right before our eyes. The stack of freshly run-off sheets emerged warm and redolent of ink and industry, then deliver them ourselves, walking around the classroom and handing them to our classmates, and to our teachers (Mr. Brooks, Ms. King). We could watch them read, see them respond, hear them talk about it all, right in front of us. Sometimes professional journalism, circa 2010, can feel that rewarding. Just not very often.