‘The dance floor elides differences between the secular and the numinous’

When Katherine Meizel invited me to write about the Pulse shootings for a MoPop Pop Conference panel called “Raise Your Voice: Music and Mass Violence,” I wanted nothing to do with it at at first. Not because of that anodyne excuse I’ve Moved On. Quite the opposite. I held on to the anger. I didn’t want to lose the anger. So I wrote a paper set a minute before the massacre began. I prefer it to my “Deadbeat Club” submission. Here it is:


‘We would talk every day for hours’

When I am dead, my dears, sing no songs for me — no sad songs. My contribution to MoPOP Pop Conference’s theme “Only You and Your Ghost Will know: Music, Death, and the Afterlife” posits the B-52’s “Deadbeat Club” as yet another of the quintet’s songs devoted to partying out of bonds, this one haunted by the ghost of Ricky Wilson. I’ve attached the PDF below. Thanks for reading.

Deadbeat Club

The ‘sex recession’ and how to deal with it

W. Bradford Wilcox and Lyman Stone of the Institute for Family Studies posit in this Atlantic article that adults 18 to 34 are less happy than their predecessors. They link the erosion of happiness to a waning sex drive. This generation couples less frequently, abjures church going, and values friendship above all else. The result? A “sex recession.

Nowhere has this sex recession proved more consequential than among young adults, especially young men. Some academics and journalists have now begun grumbling about what they are calling a “moral panic” about the decline in young-adult sex. Before the 2018 data came out, the Daily suggested that the decline in sex was modest, and the sociologist Daniel Carlson claimed that the amount of sex one has “is a weak predictor of how satisfied you are with your sex life.” More important than frequency, the argument went, is the quality of your sexual relationship.

In other words, Wilcox and Stone conclude that frequency of sex is a key indicator of happiness. This inspired David French, considered a reasonable conservative, to write a response to “The Happiness Recession,” to which I won’t link. The article delighted him. At last – proof that falling birth rates and secularism are anathema to a healthy society.

But French and social media commentators mistake cause for effect. To imagine that happier people are likelier to find solid spouses requires no cogitative strain. Sad people may not go to church if they believe God has it in for them. More importantly, how do these articles define the happy/sad binary? Chronically sad people may suffer from depression, and while God and church and spouses have palliating effects it’s a chronic disease.

Finally, the emphasis on relationships and sex reflects our continued obsession with the home, the product of our labor and the stage where we play the roles for which our parents and teachers trained us. Evidence suggests that for many adults the Great Recession affected, in ways that we’re beginning to understand, the age at which they leave home, marry, and have children – if they choose to have children. Besides my reading habits, bachelorhood constitutes my essential queerness. I prefer to sleep alone in my bed. Developing friendships – for their own sweet sake – and tending to existing ones gives me a resounding pleasure. A couple times a quarter I’ll arrange a tryst. A Stephen Dedalus type until my junior year of high school, I cheerfully bade farewell to God while understanding the communal ties that bind even doubters to church; the shrewder among them recognize that church going exists to remind them of the sublimity against which friendship often brushes.

Aloneness defies the expectations of a culture that despite expanding the membership of who belongs still disdains the cultivation of interiority.

A reminder: a political party needs defeating

It’s possible I have readers who remain devastated that federal marshals will not frogmarch Donald Trump and his children out of the White House. I had to talk a white male acquaintance off a Facebook ledge yesterday after he moaned that Donald Trump was good as re-elected.

Put simply, I’m fucking tired of some friends implicitly hoping Trump wins so they can return to moaning about how awful the state of the world is. Those of us who are brown and gay in a state that Ron DeSantis barely won thank you for the leftist solidarity.

At any rate, here’s a reason to keep fighting every GOP candidate running for office between now and 2020, possibly forever: the Trump administration, in a move that surprises no one, has asked a federal court to dump the entire Affordable Care Act, including protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. More:

“The Department of Justice has determined that the district court’s judgment should be affirmed,” three Justice Department lawyers wrote to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is now considering the case. “[T]he United States is not urging that any portion of the district court’s judgment be reversed.”

Regardless of the outcome, legal experts anticipate that the 5th Circuit’s ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. If the courts ultimately strike down Obamacare — over the objections of a group of Democrat-led states, which have spent more than a year defending the health law in court — the consequences could be substantial for patients, health care organizations and other groups that have adapted to the nine-year-old law.

The story mentions the fate of the prescription drug controls for which the administration has theoretically fought, a fate dependent on the ACA, but Donald Trump cares about prescription drug controls like I do about Michael Bolton B-sides. He cares about prescription drug controls like he does about infrastructure. That his most fervent voters depend on the ACA matters not a whit.

Another phenomenon, reported by the paper of record:

Between 2015 and 2018, support for laws aimed at protecting L.G.B.T. individuals from discrimination fell by nearly 10 percentage points among Republicans under the age of 30. This was one of the key findings from a survey of more than 40,000 Americans’ views on L.G.B.T. issues that the Public Religion Research Institute released Tuesday.

One theory: “The ranks of young Republicans are thinning, with more socially liberal individuals opting to identify as independent.” I have my own theory: the Trump administration’s contempt for trans citizens has liberated young men and women from the tyranny of courtesy.

Purge them from public office. All of them.

Ideas of love clash in ‘Sorry Angel’

Opening with a smash cut montage set to Massive Attack’s “One Love,” Sorry Angel seeks to recreate the headiness of falling in love with the idea of love. Christophe Honoré’s film, set in 1993 at the height of the plague years, shows how two men vastly divided by age but sharing an intellectual honesty come together. Continue reading

Thirteen ways of looking at ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

Greeted with what I can generously call mixed reviews last fall, Bohemian Rhapsody has faced no such obstacles with the general audience. The producers can’t argue with the grosses ($200 million in American box office alone), nor can Queen argue, in depressed times for legacy acts with no new material, with fattened revenue streams. Rami Malek, who plays Freddie Mercury, will likely win Best Actor at next Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony.

My November experience was such a bore that I lacked the motivation to write a review. Instead of offering one now, I offer a series of impressions based on one of my mentors. Continue reading

Soto’s favorite love songs, 2019 edition,

1. Miguel – Adorn
2. New Order – True Faith
3. Vanessa Williams – Save the Best For Last
4. Roxy Music – To Turn You On
5. Dolly Parton – Touch Your Woman
6. Al Green – Your Love is a Morning Sun
7. Alexander O’ Neal – If You Were Here Tonight
8. John Cale – Andalucia
9. Mariah Carey – With You
10. Prince – Forever in My Life
11. Gary Stewart – Your Place or Mine
12. George Michael – Fastlove
13. A Tribe Called Quest – Electric Relaxation
14. Randy Travis – Forever and Ever, Amen
15. Salt-N-Pepa – Whatta Man
16. Pavement – Major Leagues
17. Yo La Tengo – Little Eyes
18. Maxwell – …Till the Cops Come Knockin’
19. Everything But the Girl – Lullaby of Clubland
20. The Velvet Underground – What Goes On
21. Years & Years – Shine
22. Mint Condition – Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)
23. Toni Braxton – You’re Makin’ Me High
24. Janet Jackson – When I Think of You
25. Madonna – Crazy For You
26. Shura – Tongue Tied
27. Pet Shop Boys – Why Don’t We Live Together?
28. Tim McGraw and Faith Hill – I Need You
29. Ghostface Killah – Stay
30. K Michelle – Nightstand
31. Taylor Swift – Starlight
32. Sade – No Ordinary Love
33. Miranda Lambert – Me and Your Cigarettes
34. George Harrison – Blow Away
35. Aretha Franklin – Call Me
36. R.E.M. – Half a World Away
37. The Cure – High
38. D’Angelo – Brown Sugar
39, The Go-Betweens – Bye Bye Pride
40. Sam Cooke – You Send Me
41. Troye Sivan – Bloom
42. Tamia – Leave It Smokin’
43. Dionne Warwick – Anyone Who Had a Heart
44. The Beatles – Two of Us
45. Romeo Santos – Hilito

Worst Songs Ever: Queen’s ‘We Are the Champions/We Will Rock You’

Like a good single, a terrible one reveals itself with airplay and forbearance. I don’t want to hate songs; to do so would shake ever-sensitive follicles, and styling gel is expensive. I promise my readers that my list will when possible eschew obvious selections. Songs beloved by colleagues and songs to which I’m supposed to genuflect will get my full hurricane-force winds, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t take shots at a jukebox hero overplayed when I was at a college bar drinking a cranberry vodka in a plastic thimble-sized cup.

Queen – “We Are the Champions/We Will Rock You”
PEAK CHART POSITION: #4 in February 1978

A bisexual man of Parsi descent shouting an triumphalist tub thumper? What, you hate fun?

As long as I’ve been alive, I’ve treated sports as the spectacle of sports, for how can one separate them? Spectacle requires a soundtrack. Mass enthusiasm — conscription by any other name — repels me, a guy who shrinks from parades, applause, whistling, and public means of demonstrating approval. Continue reading

Ten reasons you know you’re gay

We’ve made progress. Yet…

1. Friends ask for opinions about shoes
2. Dancing in place to a Coldplay song
3. The reluctance to say a sentence aloud without stressing unexpected syllables
4. Getting along better with your friends’ parents than you do with your own.
5. You smoke in public
6. Laughing at this stock photo of white dudes
7. Reflexively falling back on impersonal pronouns when discussing the most basic trysts
8. A constant sense of thinking you Went Too Far in conversation
9. Placing too much stress on biography, or, better, blankness
10. Flirting with a friend’s wife or husband

On the luridness of gay conservatives

The New York Times‘ Sunday magazine has run a story about the frustrations of gay conservatives. One Ben Holden, a Suffolk University student, explains himself:

Though he said he is liberal on most social issues and wishes the Republican Party would take climate change seriously, Holden aligns himself with conservatives and libertarians in many other ways — he’s anti-abortion, free-market-oriented and skeptical of big government. But perhaps above all else, Holden rejects what he considers a bedrock of contemporary liberalism: that, as he put it, your “immutable characteristics” — race, ethnicity, sexual orientation — “should determine what your position is on every political issue, or what you’re allowed to express an opinion about.” He added that he feels alienated from progressives on his campus and across the country, many of whom he believes are unwilling to debate issues “without resorting to shaming or name-calling.”

Continue reading