Give it up for my favorite red-headed chanteuse, debuting “Ophelia” (among five other classics) on KCRW’s legendary radio show. Tori is on the road now—on the west coast and slowly making her way out east and then on to Europe! If you’ve never experienced Tori live, the KCRW set is but a taste of her live set—which includes Jon Evans on bass and drum-meister Matt Chamberlain keeping time.
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On a dark night in 1965, a busload of Scottish children is driving down a deserted road. The bus comes to a stop and the children nervously get out. A bright light appears in the sky and the children go towards it. As they get closer one child runs away unnoticed. The light gets brighter and suddenly the night is dark again and the other children have vanished.
Switch to a bright sunny day in 2009. Children are playing in the park or at school recess. Then they suddenly stop everything and are frozen in place. Frantic parents and teachers desperately try to find out what’s wrong but the children are mute and immobile. After a few moments they say in a flat voice “We are coming” over and over. Then it stops as suddenly as it started and the children resume what they were doing completely unaware of what has happened. It all happens at the exact time to every child in the world.
Now of course as anyone who’s been watching the Torchwood series knows, that the obvious thing for the British government to do at this point is to call the Torchwood team and ask them to sort it all out. But not this time since it turns out that the government has a secret that they want kept very badly. So the Prime Minister (Nicholas Farrell) wants all evidence of the secret to be literally wiped out and instructs a senior civil servant, Mr. Frobisher (Peter Capaldi) to make sure it happens.
4:30. Back inside to the A/C. It’s raining outside and I’m out of breath. Out of breath but not hopeless. I exhausted myself dancing under the rain on the rooftop. I danced- rehearsed—on the rooftop and made out with the rain. I can do this here in India; folks probably chuck it off to monsoon dance. Unless it’s immediately money-making, unless I show quick returns on investment, then this behavior would be considered crazy back in America.
My neighbors here in Delhi have heard monsoon ragas, perhaps since they’ve known life. And knowing this heat…! Really!!! The break is dynamic. I, too, celebrate the rain (I worship the sun in winter).
There’s little better than dancing in the rain. Yet, somewhere through my creation—fumbling with my earphones, which I keep pulling out as I move, so I have to restart. Somewhere in this dance I do, the rain forces me to arch my back. This choreography is truly inspired. It comforts me knowing that man others are dancing beneath this force, too, perhaps even right now. Yet, I see no one else and all rooftops are emptied. Yet, this is Delhi, there are people everywhere and someone is bound to be watching.
I bow back and let the rain fall on me. My hips are fully pressed forward, legs absolutely straight, knees locked; neck stomach, back and thigh muscles fully engaged. This beat has me going. And the rain, the rain, lightly but briskly slapping my concrete rooftop, silences this city. And I am calmed.
Ok, “girl power” is not new territory for Barrymore, and it is nice to see her breaking into the directorial boys club, but after a career-altering performance in Grey Gardens, this is what she has to offer? It looks fun, the politics look safe, and hopefully it will probably make her a lot of money to parlay into future endeavors, but everything about this looks stale and aimed toward the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants crowd. But it is Drew Barrymore and she can be extremely charming. I’m torn.
The NYT Ideas blog linked to this essay by Paula Marantz Cohen about the lack of modest swimsuits in The Smart Set, and I was reading along, completely buying into it. “Bathing suits: absurd, wrong-headed garments. I continue to be mystified by how people continue to buy and wear them.” Yes, I thought. I have often heard these complaints. It seems crazy that bathing suits are so immodest. Why don’t we wear dignified bathing costumes like they did in the olden days? “We laugh at the old bathing costumes, but we should be laughing at ourselves. It’s a lot more ridiculous to see her thunder thighs and his man breasts.” Yes, there is something shameful about prurient self-display. Let’s close up the beaches until common decency returns!
Then I mentioned the article to a friend, and she said patiently that it would be extremely uncomfortable to actually try to swim in one of those Victorian get-ups, and that the reason swimsuits have become more immodest is in part because they are more functional that way. It’s not necessarily some crazed conspiracy to humiliate women concocted by the bathing-suit industrial complex. It’s quite possible that the article is entirely ironic.
This seemed blatantly obvious suddenly, and I wondered how I couldn’t have thought of that immediately. I had fallen under the sway of the peculiar fascination of Victoriana, the same sort of blinding lapse of judgment that must lead people to listen to the Decembrists.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of conflating prudishness with proper respect for the mysteries of life, easy to imagine that widespread modesty might lead to a restoration of the link between sexual passion and some kind of holy transcendence like you read about in euphemistically engorged D.H. Lawrence novels. Maybe the bare ankle could again stoke the fire in the loins and heat our elemental urges and forge our link to the divine. Or maybe not. But the body of iconography that we know associate with the Victorian period—bathing costumes, etc.—exist to service those longings we may occasionally have for an era in which desire was more difficult to arouse and therefore must have seemed much more precious. Now, of course, an elaborate industry of persuasion and an ever-more infiltrative media apparatus works to keep us in a perpetual state of desiring from which it’s hard to garner relief. Victoriana offers a fantasy of escape into an era of less intensive marketing, where desire felt sacred because it was much easier to believe it was generated from deep within oneself.
// Notes from the Road
"Drive-By Truckers gave a sold out capacity crowd a powerful two hour set filled with scuzzy guitars and deeply political rock.READ the article