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Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008

I’ve noted before Dialectic of Sex author Shulamith Firestone’s fatwa against smiling. Firestone responds to the way men often demand smiles from women (and children) and mask their aggression with this request that seems to them innocuous, almost a favor (she’ll be so much prettier if she smiles!) by calling for “a smile boycott, at which declaration all women would instantly abandon their ‘pleasing’ smiles, henceforth smiling only when something pleased them.”


She wouldn’t be happy with this article by Carl Zimmer in Discover magazine, noted by Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution. The article suggests that women with their faces frozen in a smile by Botox are possibly happier because they are always smiling, and they are also consequently making others happy with their contagious expression:


People with Botox may be less vulnerable to the angry emotions of other people because they themselves can’t make angry or unhappy faces as easily. And because people with Botox can’t spread bad feelings to others via their expressions, people without Botox may be happier too.


It’s easy to imagine this being distorted into lending support to the sexist idea that women owe the world their smiles, lest they become guilty of transferring negative emotions to the world. Maybe Botox is less about wrinkle eradication (a mere alibi) than it is about making women into dolls that can only express placid agreeableness. Zimmer sensibly warns, “Making faces helps us understand how other people are feeling. By altering our faces we’re tampering with the ancient lines of communication between face and brain that may change our minds in ways we don’t yet understand.”


The ability to use our face to express what we feel—the ability not to smile—seems fairly significant. When you are being leered at, for instance, it’s probably comforting to have a sneer in your arsenal to discourage others from consuming you as an object. The idea that what our mind feels can be altered or dictated by what our body is doing involuntarily is sort of scary and probably should be resisted, not abetted. Freezing our faces into a nonexpressive mask just doesn’t seem like a good way to enhance our interactions with the world, regardless how pleasant others may find it when we are incapable of expressing displeasure.


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Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008
Words and Pictures by John Bohannon

While their live show alone could easily carry them into the future, if Monotonix can find a way to translate the reckless energy onto record, these crazy folk from Tel Aviv are going to be huge. It was a smart lineup decision to put these guys on last, as trash buckets flew, drums were annihilated, and beer was spilled over the entire audience. The best thing about Monotonix, though, is they aren’t gimmicky; the instrumentation—just drums, guitar, and vocals—is so ungodly powerful that it would be fantastic even if they were just standing stoically. More bands need to take note that you’ve got to incorporate the best of both worlds to make it in today’s oversaturated musical market. Monotonix not only heed this advice, they go above and beyond it.



Tagged as: cmj, monotonix
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Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008
Words and Pictures by John Bohannon

High Places put out one of the best debut records of 2008, but unfortunately, their live show isn’t going to push them out into the crowd of developed bands quite yet. Although it’s hard for a duo to be able to put on a captivating live show with so much going on musically, they need to add elements to their live show to hold the audience’s interest. To be fair, they are still new on the scene and they have plenty of time to grow. The songs are great but the show is lacking, a common case these days it seems


Tagged as: cmj, high places
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Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008
Words and Pictures by John Bohannon

There’s something to be said for a band that can hold it down as a three-piece, and Thrill Jockey’s Pontiak can do just that. One the heaviest, more intelligent bands I saw over the course of CMJ, Pontiak proved they are more than just a “heavy” band. Their tracks are minimal, yet composed with great accuracy, and were able to hold the audience’s attention with a trance-like quality until the guitar exploded into freak-out territory: A true psychedelic, stoner metal experience without all the assorted clichés.


Tagged as: cmj, pontiak
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Tuesday, Oct 28, 2008
Words and Pictures by John Bohannon

Royal Bangs must be sitting on top of the world right now. They just supported The Black Keys on the Akron duo’s biggest tour to date and released an album on the band’s label earlier this year. Their CMJ performance wasn’t dead on, but it didn’t need to be. Their chops were great, their energy was great, and the audience from front to back was paying attention, and that’s more than you can ask out of any CMJ experience, especially at midnight on the very last evening (we were all just about dead by then). Their name is out there, now they just have to get their sound out there—and frankly, they are doing a damn good job at that.


Tagged as: cmj, royal bangs
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