It’s not clear how he got into this predicament, but it’s 1960 and this Louisiana singer is courting identical sisters of color, Rita and Juanita. “My head it spins because they are twins.” He loves them both, and they each love him. In order to avoid misidentifying them (and especially on the telephone), he calls them corporately, “Rita-Juanita.” Well, that solves one problem. But the singer eventually figures that a decision must be made. The girls, however, won’t accept such a choice: “You can’t love one and still be true.” Endlessly and ultimately aporetic, the trax exits by reiterating the impossible choice: “Which one shall I lose? Which one shall I choose?” This trax is in mono, but that doesn’t prevent us from recognizing its potential implication in “stereoscopic viewing,” a key invention of the nineteenth century. It’s as if the singer has taken two slightly separate images of the same person (the two related echoes in the trax), and is desperately trying to fuse them. But he cannot find his stereo Viewfinder and is thus doubled over in the agony of indecision. Relatedly, Samuel Delaney once informed a member of the Traxionary staff that both the stereoscope’s name and dream connect it to another crucial nineteenth-century invention, the “stereotype,” which was often made of papier-mâché, and allowed for the three-dimensional metal molding of printing plates. “Stereotyping” was thus originally deemed as substantially improving and correcting one’s representation or copy of reality. So back to the trax: it is possible to see that the singer is psychologically blocked precisely at the moment when he has to choose a woman of color as his main squeeze? Has he stereoscoped—and thus stereotyped—his girl, all in the name of a certain and definitive rendering? As for his motivation, surely he’s considering whether he can bring either of these girls home to meet Mom and Dad. (And remember the alternative, which is to skirt bigamy: one “Juanita” is diversity, two constitutes a girl gang.)Read more "“Rita Juanita” (Wayne Newman and the Torques)"
It’s all about a tree that has been cut, modified and commodified—turned into a red, cigar-store Indian. On the one hand, the tree, in the form of the brave warrior, aspires to human status. It wants to “show” something to the world—to speak and interact, for example, with the wooden Indian maiden across the street, peeking out from the antique store. But it also remembers a time before commodification, “when he was still an old pine tree,” communing in the forest. Perhaps this is the whole of the problem of the stereotype. It necessarily tends toward hardened inertia, and yet there is no clear alternative. Yes, one can fight stereotypes, and replace nasty, old types with seemingly benign and corrected new ones. But no matter how proud one is of these achievements, petrification begins again with representation and the market. A kind of reverse-Pinocchio strategy remains strangely plausible, however, and it starts by pining for the unformed.
Read more "“Kawa-Liga” (Hank Williams)"