Lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living

Magnificent blond beast

The promotional art for "Mean" shows Taylor Swift as the victim of a mustachioed melodrama villain The title track of Taylor Swift’s new album is an entertaining tune, and perhaps the most entertaining thing about it is the structures and themes it takes up and twists from “Love Story.” In both tracks, Swift is vocalizing a fantasy about a relationship, a fantasy which she repeats back to herself in the voice of the fantasized partner at the end of the song (there’s probably something to be said about phallogocentrism here; why is it so important for Swift to have her words authorized by male repetition?). The difference is that “Love Story” is a fairy tale, while “Speak Now” is a daydream at an ex’s wedding, in which she imagines herself interrupting the wedding and running off with the groom, complete with hilariously vituperative descriptions of the bride (“wearing a gown shaped like a pastry”).  This serves as a general model of how Swift has updated her songwriting now that she can no longer, quite, fictionalize her life into an everygirl story: she’s turned to her other strength, spite.

This might suggest a familiar narrative of spoiled innocence, in which disappointed naïveté sours into petty, reactive, vengeance. Swift herself endorses this conception of “meanness” when she attacks a critic as “a liar, and pathetic, and alone in life,” in the track “Mean,” which itself serves to prove that this is not true of Taylor Swift’s own meanness. The thing about this track, especially, is how joyful it is: the jaunty beat is accentuated by handclaps, while Swift’s voice is overdubbed to give it the quality of a playground chant. This track and  “Better Than Revenge” are so brightly cheerful in their cruelty, they give the whole album a delightfully untroubled conscience.

The internet didn’t kill newspapers; newspapers killed newspapers

I didn’t include American newspaper readers in my earlier credulity index because, hilariously, American newspaper readers are not merely credulous, but adulatory. Hence their mistaken belief that there’s something still alive for the internet to kill. On the contrary; if the internet can destroy the rotting corpse that gives off the kind of stench embodied in this Washington Post editorial, so much the better. When one republishes journalistic conventional wisdoms which anyone paying attention would know to be false, at what point does laziness become indistinguishable from lying? E.g.: Read more↴

Think global, act global

Why is localism such a big part of the green movement? I was made particularly aware of how odd this is at a meeting at the American Political Science Association recently, where the speaker argued that a critique of political economy was insufficient if it failed to critique the anthropocentric assumptions of modernity (which seems reasonable), which she equated with replacing modern political forms with an ecological politics which takes place locally, such localism apparently being “the scale of life.” I’m really not sure in what sense this could be true, especially in the context of environmentalism, where the most striking threat to life, global warming is, as the name implies, global. Read more↴

“Sexy,” in quotes

Katy Perry's 50s cheesecake aesthetic cites a particular construal of pornography. Now that I think about it, Katy Perry’s unsexy sexyness isn’t so unusual. This presentation of sexuality which is designed to fail is the stock in trade of lads mags like Loaded and Nuts. I’ve noticed this before, but never really thought about it; on reflection, though, it perhaps tells us something about the point of these magazines. While there’s been a fair amount of concern over these magazines as part of a “pornification” of society, I’m not sure that they quite function as “porn,” at least if by porn we mean something intended in a fairly causal way to get people off.

I read somewhere that, when Hugh Heffner first set up Playboy, he intended it solely as a lifestyle magazine, introducing men to fashion, interior design, culture, and other signifiers of the high life. Read more↴