new music: but really this is about kathleen hanna

Kathleen Hanna by Jason Persse

I’m not the new-music sleuth I used to be. Back in the day (the 90s), I loved to flip through CDs and records until I found something that seemed interesting and shell out what little cash I had to make it mine. It was always a bit of a gamble but often worth it. And because I didn’t have much money to spend, each new item was special.

Then I married a serious music collector and ended up in a house so full of records and CDs that I don’t even know where to begin. My collection got swallowed up, and I often don’t remember what I have. He knows what he has, however, because he has a spreadsheet (or something much fancier now, some kind of app, I think) but also because I think he might have a photographic memory when it comes to records. But only records. You might say, no, he has whatever is the equivalent for sound memory, but there are records in there he has never listened to. And he still knows. He’s like the record whisperer.

Not long ago, he confessed that there probably isn’t enough time in his life to listen to everything he owns, so I said, “Maybe you have enough?” He looked at me like I was a naive child or confused alien. Recently, we watched a documentary about crazy record collectors, but that got me thinking that there needs to be a documentary about the people who live with record collectors and their multiplying shelves and stacks and bins and obsessions.

Though I’ve sometimes bought music online, it doesn’t elicit the same thrill as a living, breathing record store. There’s so much music online and so many avenues to wander down that I often feel overwhelmed and just go back to playing out the Cat Power CDs I can see at the front of one of the many shelves in our house.

So I’d been thinking that I needed some new music in my life, but then the news about Pussy Riot’s release (hurrah!) got me in a Bikini Kill mood. The original riot grrrls started their own record label, Bikini Kill Records, and reissued their 1992 self-titled debut in late 2012. It sold out, but they’ve got more now! The 20th anniversary reissue includes cool extras like interviews, liner notes, and zine excerpts. O zines, how I have missed thee! I know, that’s not exactly new music…

Remember that Julie Ruin album Kathleen Hanna made between Bikini Kill and Le Tigre? Get off the internet! I’ll meet you in the street. Well, she formed a band called The Julie Ruin, and their first album, Run Fast, came out last fall. (Oh my god, they have played with Hot Fruit.) That’s new! That counts, right?

Did you know there’s also a documentary about Kathleen Hanna? The Punk Singer, directed by Siri Anderson, includes Joan Jett, Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth, Free Kitten), Johanna Fateman (Le Tigre), Kathi Wilcox (Bikini Kill), Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker (Sleater Kinney), Ad-Rock (Beastie Boys and her hubby, in case you didn’t know), and Tavi Gevinson (Rookie Magazine). It’s still playing in select cities. If you don’t see your town, you can get a local venue to book it.

Kathleen Hanna’s “Riot Grrrl Manifesto” was instrumental in expanding my feminism and helping me define myself. She was an important figure in my life, and I still adore her.

This all makes me happy, but I need new music from new people. Hold the phone–Cibo Matto has a new record coming out on Valentine’s Day! Their last one came out fifteen years ago. Fifteen years!

Okay, I’m stuck in the 90s.

I promise that my next music post will be about new music.

I’m also taking suggestions. Ahem.

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tv women: olivia pope, mindy lahiri, and emily thorne

Do you watch television? I’m sure many of you don’t, and I get that. We don’t have cable because we’re not interested in being sucked into TV all the time, but we do watch some. We catch the big cable shows later on Netflix or DVD, and I watch a few network shows in addition to PBS. I often like to follow a good story and compelling characters while I’m knitting a scarf or folding my laundry or painting shutters (which we have too many of), so I don’t care so much about whether the medium is film or TV. Plus, television is a great place for women these days, far better than film.

I’m not going to pretend that these shows are ideal. Or that even their feminism is ideal. But I appreciate the changes I’ve noticed in television the past couple of years, especially the increased focus on narratives of women of color. It’s not just women actors who are benefitting from these changes. I’m also noticing more women writers and directors. Yes, women directed some of your favorite episodes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men. One of my favorites is Agnieszka Holland, who directed episodes of The Wire, Treme, and The Killing. Then there’s Deadwood, the filthy, brilliant western, with an unusually high number of shows written by women. Even if the popular cable epics aren’t strong on complex women characters–where’s our female Walter White, Don Draper, or Tony Soprano?–women are increasingly making decisions behind the scenes.

Here are a few of the shows I’m watching because they feature fantastic women characters, especially women of color, and they’re entertaining.

SCANDAL

If you watch TV, how have you not become one of Olivia’s gladiators? It’s such a relief to see a strong black woman as the center of a show. Olivia Pope is a game changer for women in TV, a sharp, sophisticated political genius who fixes every problem Washington, D.C. throws at her. Her team will do anything for her, and men keep risking their careers to be with her. I tire of Olivia’s star-crossed love with Fitz (aka, Mr. President) because it occasionally turns her into a wobbly pool of jello, but all the other scenes make up for it. Plus, Olivia Pope, the fixer, is based on a real black woman, Judy Smith, America’s #1 Crisis Management Expert.

Have I told you how much I love Kerry Washington? She proudly identifies as a feminist and womanist, actively engages in politics, and talks wisely about important issues in interviews. And this season’s addition of Lisa Kudrow as Fitz’s opponent in the upcoming election is divine. As Congressperson Josie Marcus, Kudrow recently got to deliver a whopping, off-the-cuff feminist speech that shames the sexism of her opponents and the media so deliciously that it must be right out of Hillary Clinton’s fantasy world. It doesn’t hurt that the show was created by Shonda Rhimes, herself a black woman who happens to be one of the most successful show runners in the business.

THE MINDY PROJECT

Mindy Kaling didn’t just play Kelly Kapoor on The Office; she was also one of the writers and directors. Then she published Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns). And then she created The Mindy Project: she produces, directs, writes, and stars in this sitcom about Mindy Lahiri, a successful OB/GYN trying to figure it all out in New York. She’s the very first South Asian-American woman to have her own show. Her character is confident about her work, loves her body, and says what she thinks. And she’s Hindu. And she’s sex-positive.

Kaling and the show have had to deal with some backlash, and there have been some weird moments. But I’m holding on because there are many more smart moments and her character is really new and fresh. The show’s heavy on the cameos, but some of the best episodes involve Anders Holm, of Workaholics, as Mindy’s boyfriend. The two have great chemistry, and their tent scene in “Take Me With You” of Season 1 had me giggling for days. The Mindy Project also rescued Adam Pally, whom I’d been missing since Happy Endings was canceled.

Additionally, I love how Kaling has been calling out the sexist, racist, and image-obsessed media lately. She’s tired of being asked about her weight and her ethnicity instead of her work. If you need more of a reason to like her, check out Lena Dunham’s interview with Kaling for Tavi Gevinson‘s Yearbook 2.

REVENGE

This show is a total guilty pleasure. My sister and I text each other in the midst of it: “Did she really do that?” “But how is he alive?” “Noooooooo!” Like Scandal‘s over-the-top plot lines, Revenge is designed to be somewhat absurd. That’s what makes it fun, especially when Emily Thorne (Emily VanCamp) comes face to face with her nemesis, Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe, who is active in women’s rights, by the way).

Emily is secretly destroying virtually every evil rich person in the Hamptons, and I love it when the girl next door kicks ass (see Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Now, I don’t normally like revenge stories because I think revenge is a useless concept, but this is basically an evening soap opera. And we frequently see the downside of vengeance with deaths and broken friendships. Emily comes complete with ninja skills, a mentor who trained her at a revenge school(!) in Japan, a British revenge companion, and an endless supply of complicated emotions.

One of the best parts of this show, however, is Nolan, Amanda’s closest friend, confidante, and partner in crime, played by Gabriel Mann. A tech genius and hacker, Nolan is equally sweet and sly, and he’s bisexual. Those around him treat his sexuality as completely normal, not batting an eye when he goes from pining over Padma to falling hard for Patrick. Yes, television, you can have characters with diverse sexualities and not make their stories all about said sexualities.

So what would you add to this list? Or remove?