Um...well this one took a weird turn
"I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves."
Hola amigos, I know it’s been a lick since I rapped at ya but I’ve been busier than a Fort Smith Arkansas police attorney lately, and lemme tell you, the work just piles on and beats you senseless sometimes. But enough about my incredibly packed schedule. Let’s get to it. I intended to write this post recently but was sideswiped by my own brain and ended up writing something totally different instead. Let’s see if I can do a better job today, eh?
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Recently, I tried to start this particular newsletter entry by talking about famed audio engineer Steve Albini not liking the bands he records and how he equivocated that to thinking that it’s inappropriate for gynecologists to be interested in vaginas (I’m paraphrasing, but this was at the heart of what he was saying).
This is patently absurd. I suppose his thinking is that it’s just creepy for a gynecologist to be, first and foremost, ‘in it for the beaver’ as it were, which is kind of a straw man argument which we’ll get to very soon, and likewise (??) if you’re really super taken with an artist, you may not have the objective skillset to do your best job producing said artist’s music.
Let’s address these points:
If (and this is a big if) there was actually a guy so infatuated with vaginas and so bereft of any concept of how humanity, or indeed the world at large works that he eschewed notions of romance, taking up figure drawing, becoming a pornographer or simply employing sex workers in favor of spending somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 hours of intense study so he could perform Pap smears on harried soccer moms impatiently googling divorce attorneys on their cel phones and their sagging elderly mothers, yes, that would be inappropriate and creepy, but it’s not totally just the vagina enthusiasm that makes it creepy, is it?
I don’t think so. I think it’s this ass backwards notion that this byzantine avenue to poon access is the most logical way to get your kicks, vaginas-wise. It’s the thought process of a fucking psychopath.
Besides that, Albini seems to be espousing the alternative, that someone in the gynecological profession should have nothing but a purely academic view of the vagina, which, I GUESS is fair enough, but isn’t there something to be said for a mechanic who genuinely appreciates cars or a chef who loves good food?
You don’t have to be some drooling pervert to be appreciative of a vagina as a human thing that’s mysterious and wonderful (or whatever the fuck it is that hippies say…I personally find them confusing and terrifying[both hippies and vaginas]) and what it takes to have a happy one. That basic appreciation probably goes a long way towards knowing what it takes to be a professional third party caretaker to a vagina, and this works in terms of the music half of this analogy too.
If you’re too starstruck to make the new Machine Gun Kelly record, it’s your duty as a professional to recognize that and not take the job, if for no other reason than because it will negatively affect your career and also your sense self worth to get in there and just make a steaming turd of an album out of Machine Gun’s beautiful songs/ideas.
But just liking his music shouldn’t preclude you from being able to do the job. In fact, if you behave like a professional, it can only help you do it better. If you, as a fan, know what is good about MGK’s output, but you, as a respectful colleague, have enough sense to know when he’s going for something new, something bold based on his preexisting body of work etc. then you will be much better a creative colleague than someone who’s clinically detached from the whole project and therefore has no context in terms of what’s daring, what’s standard and what’s a misstep, no?
Besides, Steve Albini is an engineer, meaning he is essentially a record keeper. He captures the sounds of your band as they exist. He is not a producer (meaning he doesn’t manipulate the sounds using a bag of techniques that could, in a very real way be considered its own instrument) though he does get producer credits here and there.
If you call bullshit on this, eh, whatever. That’s what he says himself. But who cares? We’re getting off track.
So you see, this is all kind of a fucked up justification for what seems to me like someone whose sense of self is so mired in Gen X irony and detachment and fear that to like something only gets in the way and it’s much easier to be Swiss or dismissive about everything and create a false equivalency that hoists up a completely outrageous and unreal but highly memorable comparable situation in order to shield yourself from having to critically consider the fact that you’ve built a universe in which loving or liking or appreciating something is detrimental, rather than amazing.
That’s pretty fucked up. But maybe Steve’s perspective is more right on than it seems, maybe it’s just the vagina bit that’s throwing me off. Please join me in navigating a very odd and somewhat questionable thought exercise.
Let’s go back in time for a bit. What do you think slave owners looked like without their shirts on? Keep in mind, they prided themselves on having lilly soft hands. They literally did nothing physical at all besides walk down to watch the latest whipping or whatever. They didn’t even DO the whipping. They made other slaves do it. Pretty shitty, to put it mildly, but the point is just that they didn’t do a goddamned thing in terms of physical exercise.
Now, these slave owners may not all have been garbage bags half full of oatmeal under their pantaloons and blouses but I bet you a month of fatty plantation style breakfasts that they didn’t look anything like Joe Manganiello on the cover of Men’s Health.
Do you think that was a problem?
Now, consider the slaves and the sharecroppers and free field workers. Or head north to the cities and consider the factory workers. Consider the oarsmen on ocean-traversing ships. How do you think they looked?
I bet those fuckers made old Joe Manganiello up there look like a sack of waterlogged dog dicks.
Do you think that brought them any advantages?
I bet I know what you’re thinking now and it’s something to the effect of “yeah yeah, and back in the day it was considered beautiful in some cultures to be fat because it meant you had food and could provide for some potential offspring, making you sexy to potential mates and you’re trotting out this tired perspective exercise when really SHOULDN’T it be attractive to be healthy? Why am I even wasting my time reading this highly entertaining piece when I could be out there blasting my lats?”
Nah. that’s not totally what I’m getting at, even though it DOES figure in here and there. How do you think Joe Manganiello (famed non slave) got to where he is now? I have some ideas and I think they look something like this:
Lack of stress
encyclopedic knowledge and stringent application of the cycle of work vs rest
These are pretty much in order by my reckoning. Now, if you’ve ever seen me, you know I don’t know what the fuck I’m talking about. But I bet I’m right.
So anyway, our slaves, our oarsmen, our factory workers etc were probably pretty stressed and most likely didn’t get the most high caliber sleep of all time but they made up for it by indulging in extremely rigorous long form workouts…dawn til dusk style workouts, and for that reason, their nutrition (which, I bet there weren’t a lot of preservatives in what they ate [a plus!] but I also bet the food was fairly dog food adjacent [not a plus]) kind of falls by the wayside in terms of what it takes to get real cut, ya know? But the upside is that they probably didn’t eat all that much which, while bad for general nutrition and combating hunger pains, is great for keeping the BMI down, innit?
When it comes to slaves, oarsmen and factory workers, their day to day tasks all have one huge thing in common: they are repetitive task machines. Lift this heavy thing up here, bend here and pull hard to get this out of the ground, pull this lever, which is extremely hard to pull, and pull it over and over again, pull the oar and stick to the beat so you don’t get whipped again. Now do that til the sun goes down. Reap literally zero rewards from doing this, besides getting ripped, a reward they most certainly would trade for a day of not being locked into slavery.
Lifting and pulling and pushing at the factory, rowing, hauling huge loads in the coal mine, pulling shit out of the ground and carrying said shit out of fields, laying railroads, all of it is done for the good of a master who honestly doesn’t care if you live or die as long as you keep doing these repetitive tasks until your heart gives out. Sounds terrible.
Unrelated, what are our fitness machines and routines like now? Rowing machines, factory work machines where you push large plates up and slowly lower them with various parts of your body, or the repetitive pull of a weighted lever, squatting and lifting that which you’ve picked off the floor, running like your life depends on it. We now have machines that replicate slavery because, as a modern society, we like the look of slaves now. Fucked up.
Of course there are myriad differences between being a dude working a cog machine in a dystopian Upton Sinclair style factory and working out at the gym (or at home, whatever) and the main difference is that as a member of a gym, you get nothing done besides working towards a slave body in order to get that ‘subjugated, tortured and tormented’ look. You don’t even get the faux grim satisfaction of having picked the whole field or getting the ship and its cargo all the way to Greenland or whatever. It’s just a show.
You’re essentially wearing full body class-war blackface.
Fucked up to say, right? I KNOW! And listen, I hear the very boring rebuttal that it’s just a health thing (it’s not just a health thing) and besides, nowadays being ripped means you’ve got some leisure time and you can afford to put it towards fitness, which YES, comes all the way back the whole thing about the fat Sultan in a world full of skinny people being hot because he has food…that which is scarce is sexy, and lord knows that these days free time is scarce, and besides, everything sucked back in the day. Surely this is the stupidest corollary has ever been put forth on this newsletter containing (let’s be honest) quite a lot of specious corollaries. Working out does not make me a slave fetishist. That’s dumb.
Go to a factory today. Look around and notice how fucking ripped and tired everyone is. You think they knock off there and hit the gym for a few hundred more pull down reps? Or do you think their stress-free/tons of sleep lifestyle is the reason that they’re looking so sexy and beach ready while thanklessly toiling in the factory that literally makes the tricep machines for all the planet fitnesses in the midwestern corridor that you poorly replicate their motions on in hopes of getting their body, OR do you think it’s because they’re stuck in the old “ah shit, I’m a slave” grind and that getting ripped is just a small unasked for compensation for being slowly murdered by slave based capitalism (or maybe it’s capitalism based slavery)? Honestly, could be any of these OR a combination.
But, the big thing is that that hot body isn’t doing them any favors. In that way it’s just like it was for the old slaves in the old days. How do you think those workers feel about you just blasting your delts because you can? Don’t you think they’d give anything to let their delts get soft for just a DAY before they settle into the sweet embrace of death? You think they’re flattered or impressed with your imitation or do you think it’s more like being someone with Tourettes and seeing a guy pretend he has Tourettes just so he can call everyone bitches or whatever and feeling completely co-opted and shit on by someone who doesn’t have to deal with any of the negative consequences of what this shit represents?
Again, could be either, huh?
Anyway, here’s the deal: if you’re at the gym, you pay money to do slave shit in the plantation that is your gym. And you pay it to fucking the plantation owners who just sit there and collect your cash every time you do another set of reps. You don’t even NEED to pick their cotton anymore. You work at the same machines the slaves work on doing the same things the slaves do without any results beyond appealing to vanity and you genuinely thank the plantation owners for it and see it as giving you some kind of greater reward, almost as though you’re looking in the mirror and hearing “the meek shall inherit the earth” and believing it. Cool.
Is it appropriate to have so much interest in slavery that you cosplay it in order to look more like a slave? Or are you the equivalent of a vagina enthusiast gynecologist out there on your rowing machine with a boner for being scolded by Attila the Hun if you don’t keep lockstep in time with the drum?
Listen, I’m glad that as a society we’ve made slavery a voluntary little escape for white people to try (lord knows, as we just discussed, there are still tons and tons of involuntary slaves out there) so we can look and feel like we’re part of the struggle too. We show off our pecs and abs and lean legs and say we’re tough too, not because we’ve endured hardships but because we quite literally went to the Hard Knocks University where we majored in roleplaying instead of actually getting knocked around. “We’ve done the factory/slave/oarsmen/sharecropper simulation too, tired black people, ragged asian children, etc etc etc. We’re also exhausted at the end of the day! It’s about us TOO!”
This makes us infinitely more fuckable to other white people who are plugged into the same slavery MMORPG but not really at all to anyone else. But eh, eke what you can out of the system I guess. Better than the people who just ‘play from home’ and don’t even go into the gym to get their factory worker body.
In closing, maybe having a weird deep appreciation for something can be kind of inappropriate? If only there was a fucking magazine or website or entire culture or something where I could look at more pictures of other, bigger, richer slaves to motivate me and help me to see what I need to do to be the best one at my neighborhood sweat farm plantation I’d be all set.
Listen in the distance, over the espresso machines and Priuses and you’ll hear the dulcet tones of our freedom song: “Swing low, sweet chariots, coming forth to Uber me home.”
Thanks for reading. Pls subscribe for more completely unhinged and borderline inappropriate half baked rants such as this one.