The Operator [MP3]
Wake Me for Meals [MP3]
Kid Gloves [MP3]
Land of Talk
Speak to Me Bones [MP3]
Red Right Hands [MP3]
Motown signer Mary Wells released “Two Lovers” in 1962. It was one of her first big hits, paving the way for her biggest, “My Guy,” which is in some ways the diametric opposite of the earlier song. “My Guy” salvages some schmaltzy lyrics with a poised, restrained performance that hints at wayward thoughts being repressed—when Wells the ending refrain “There’s not a man today that could take me away from my guy,” it sounds a little as though she is trying to convince herself.
“Two Lovers,” however, can be seen as one of the better songs about cheating, because it is such a cheat itself. It opens up with the baldfaced declaration—“Well, I’ve got two lovers and I ain’t ashamed, Two lovers, and I love them both the same”—as if no one in the world could have a problem with that, as if the news were going to make us all celebrate too. It’s as startling in its own way as The Crystals “He hit me, and it felt like a kiss,” another semi-deviant ‘60s pop hit. When you think of all the effort we’ve put into stifling female sexuality and enforcing patriarchal notions of property, this becomes an extremely radical way to start a pop song, and you almost have to expect the way in which this subversion is going to be ultimately snuffed out by the time the song ends. But for the time being, for those first few measures, it as though an alternate universe has been created where women don’t need to fear becoming a slut by affording themselves romantic options. But then it starts to turn on itself. The other “lover” treats her badly, and it turns out, is simply the same guy as the first lover, who is apparently a capricious jerk: “You know, he treats me bad, makes me sad, Makes be cry, but still I can’t deny that I love him.” So far from being polyamorous and proud, the singer is now yet another masochistic woman tolerating rough treatment, no different from the woman in “He Hit Me” (”...and I knew he really loved me”)—indeed, she goes on to apologize for giving the appearance of having been untrue, taking the blame for his bad behavior. So the song is not progressive at all—by the end it’s depressingly conventional.
But this retraction of the radical way the song began doesn’t negate it; instead it enhances its power. We are expected to jump to the wrong conclusion and relish in how wrong we were when we are reminded that what we first thought is really impossible, really can’t be validated publicly and openly in popular song. The song reminds us how we an let ourselves think the unthinkable, reminds us how close to the surface it is, how quickly we can shift our whole way of evaluating what behavior is permissible. That illicit thrill appears to mirror the actual feeling of cheating, and the letdown mimics how reality inevitably encroaches. But the thrill is not in getting away with something—not in the betrayal of cheating at all—but in the very fact that it seems for a moment that there is nothing to get away with. What’s thrilling in “I’ve got two lovers and I ain’t ashamed” is the way that multiple, complicated, ambivalent desires are acknowledged and thereby simplified, naturalized. It extends the promise that simply being honest about the feelings could resolve them into the complacency that Wells so adeptly conveys. For the moment you forget that in reality this sort of honesty is not especially welcomed and it certainly doesn’t simplify anything, no matter how natural it may feel.
Forget all the other offerings this week. Pay no attention to the tepid horror films from an overhyped festival or those carefully commercialized cartoons. Heck, just avoid the whole stinking lot and make sure you pick up a copy of Alfonso Cuarón’s spectacular Children of Men. More or less rescuing sci-fi from the constant Star Warring of George Lucas and his ilk, this stunning cinematic achievement was criminally overlooked come end of the year awards season. Here at SE&L however, we put it right up there with The Prestige, The Fountain and Pan’s Labyrinth as an indicator of 2006’s best. Though the lack of a theatrical setting will cause the scope to shrink a bit, there is no denying the power in what Cuarón created here. All other releases this Tuesday are forced to take a back seat to this astonishing movie. For further comment on this classic, look no further than our proposed pick for the week of 27 March:
Children of Men
Other Titles of Interest
AfterDark HorrorFest: 8 Films to Die For
Color Me Kubrick
Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj
And Now for Something Completely Different
All Said & Done (LP Version) - Evidence feat. Kobe [MP3]
Chase the Clouds Away (LP Version) [MP3]
Believe in Me (LP Version) - Evidence feat. Res [MP3]
Buy at iTunes Music Store
Hello (I Love You) [MP3]
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
Bomb Repeat Bomb (1954) [MP3]
Heaven’s My Destination [MP3]
A Good Start [MP3]
Lost Time [MP3]
It’s pretty easy to mock management theory for its proclivity for taking something that’s fairly commonsensical and presenting it as if it were a miraculous discovery. Amazing but true, but people dislike “change” and resist it! Believe it or not, workers feel “empowered” when their opinions are solicited. And they even like it when you explain to them why they have to do what you tell them in the way you’ve requested, as this WSJ piece by Phred Dvorak (not Fred) reports with wide-eyed surprise.
Management gurus agree that employees are most likely to get on board when they are involved in the decision-making process. In the many cases when that’s not possible, the next-best thing is to make employees feel as if they were involved, consultants say.
I don’t want to even think about what these consultants probably got paid. Dvorak does point out some of the niceties behind this insight, namely, it rarely suit management to have their authority undermined by opening up decision-making processes to criticism. Management can often justify its existence by conserving and mystifying its knowledge of the systems it has put in place—this makes them indispensable and irreplaceable. In other words, it’s not usually an innocent mistake when you are kept ignorant by a boss, but on the plus side, if you deduce their reasons and start disseminating them, you may very well find yourself co-opted into a management position yourself.
Oddly enough, workers dislike being treated like interchangeable parts being plugged into a system that has no regard for their individuality—and the task of the manager is to overcome this fundamental obstacle. The obfuscating discourse of the pseudoscience of management furthers this end, helping to mask the humanity of those being managed and institutionalizing their needs into the production process—so many 15-minute breaks and ritualized pats on the back, as advised in whatever management guru’s (and they are invariably gurus) book is in vogue at the time. Management theory is useful in that it abstracts interpersonal behavior away from our ordinary human impulses, or tendency to drift toward the golden rule, the categorical imperative or whatever you want to call it, and allows managers to treat other people instrumentally—precisely how the managers themselves would not wanted to be treated. This is not to criticize managers—industrial-scale production and the division of labor forces the integration of a variety of individuals into a unified mechanism, one that requires the surrender of that individuality that elsewhere we are taught to prize and proudly flaunt. Managers have the unhappy task of enforcing that surrender of individuality, of breaking the sad news that you can’t simply do things your own way any more.
The consequences of this surrender of individuality is that workers stage small-scale clawbacks—decorating their cubicles with signs of the person they are outside of management’s clutches. I tend to resist this impulse personally and try to blend into anonymity; it just feels too desperate, like admitting that the battle for my soul has already been lost.