New book celebrates subversive music throughout history

Music: A Subversive HistoryIn Music: A Subversive History, Ted Gioia makes the case that music has challenged cultural norms throughout the ages. This constant reinvention not only helps music flower artistically but facilitates cultural change. What frightens the establishment in one generation gets embraced (and often co-opted) by the establishment a generation or more later. Gioia calls this force “creative destruction.” Music helps tear down walls, liberating society from arbitrary codes designed to control behavior. Tracing this pattern through four thousand years of history, Gioia shows how the force of change usually originates in outsiders and marginalized groups. I like the description from the dust jacket: “Music is essential reading for anyone interested in the hidden sources of music’s timeless power, from Sappho to the Sex Pistols to Spotify.” Continue reading →

Songwriters Willis and Warren Reveal Their Charm

Songwriters Willis and WarrenYou never know who will turn up on “What’s the Tee?,” the always entertaining podcast by RuPaul and Michelle Visage. To my delight, they welcomed songwriters on two occasions this year. Allee Willis appeared on Episode 223 (September 18, 2019), and Diane Warren on Episode 213 (July 10, 2019). I’m embarrassed to admit I had not known either writer played such a large role in popular music. Willis co-wrote a ton of well-known music, from “September” and “Boogie Wonderland” (Earth, Wind & Fire) to the Broadway music for The Color Purple and the theme song for Friends. Warren has written songs for dozens of artists, including Cher, Céline Dion, Aerosmith, Toni Braxton, Trisha Yearwood, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Elton John, Whitney Houston… The list goes on and on. Continue reading →

Horror Toronto: New One-Stop Source for All Things Horror

Horror Toronto logoAs the bewitching season of Halloween approaches, Toronto has a new online resource for all things horror, supernatural, and dark fantasy. Whether you’re a visitor or a local, Horror Toronto catalogs the city’s wealth of offerings from festivals to shopping to performers like the Diet Ghosts. Toronto has become a hidden gem for horror fans. One of the most iconic horror magazines, Rue Morgue, has its headquarters here. And Casa Loma’s annual Legends of Horror is perhaps the premier haunted attraction in North America. All of this activity needed a bigger profile, compiled in one place for easy access. And that’s why I created this one-stop source. Continue reading →

Horror drag in performance, music, and books

Charity Kase horror dragThroughout the years, drag and horror have not paired off as much as one might like. At least, not unless the pairing springs from comedy. But that may be changing.

When they aren’t awing us with the illusion of a real woman, drag artists traditionally serve as clowns, their exaggerated attitude rooted in camp and satire. I remember watching a humble drag version of Brian de Palma’s Carrie during the late 90s in San Francisco. Hilarious. So I appreciate the clowning around. Especially when, like Lear’s fool, the queen helps us discover some profound truth about the world.

But there’s now a richer world of drag horror waiting to be unleashed. The humor hasn’t necessarily been bled from it completely, but the horror element has a more prominent role. And the drag queens themselves are taking control of the narrative, dissatisfied with being portrayed simply as victims or villains. So let’s take a look at the history of drag and horror. Continue reading →