Friday, August 24, 2007

Destroyers of Mass Production

A few weeks ago, I joined up with some fellow crafters in the Phoenix area who decided to get together to exchange ideas and work on projects. It was nice to connect with some other creative people from different backgrounds who all share an interest in making their own things. The deeper I get into crafting and sewing, the more I am finding that there is an alternate universe out there of people who are defying the mainstream consumer culture by making their own clothes, music, media and art. There's even a way for crafters to sell their creations online on a site called Etsy. It's kind of like Ebay but for buying and selling homemade goods. There are even some "superstars" of craft, like Twinkie Chan, whose incredibly cute crocheted creations are in big demand and Miss Oblivious, who honored me by adding me to her Payne Creations line of handmade dolls:

Alice Sweet Alice by Payne Creations.

After our group's first crafting session, we all decided to bring a homemade music CD to our next meetup; it was supposed to be a collection which would represent the "quintessential" us. It was intended to help us get to know each other better. I always feel you can learn a lot about a person by listening to the songs they like. It was a great idea but when it came down to selecting songs I struggled to narrow the choices down to a few that could fit on one disc. In the end, I selected the following songs, not because they are my absolute favorites, but because they represent styles or artists that I really like. Of course I second-guessed the set as soon as it was finished and I suspect that I erred on the side of safe choices because I didn't want to reveal myself completely. I actually thought it was a somewhat pedestrian mix and not eclectic enough but one member of the group reassured me that any mix with both Bessie Smith and the Dresden Dolls in it was not pedestrian. If you are acquainted with any of my previous music podcasts or "bagcasts," most of these choices will not surprise you, with (perhaps) the exceptions of Elvis Costello and Elton John. Shipbuilding is a great song musically and lyrically and First Episode is possibly my favorite Elton John song of all time. I was a huge Elton fan before I got into punk and this song is from his first record.

Essential Alice Mix Volume 1

1. Miss Otis Regrets - Ella Fitzgerald
2. Ain't Goin' To Play No Second Fiddle - Bessie Smith
3. The House That Jack Built - Aretha Franklin
4. Sni Bong - Dengue Fever
5. Swing Low - The Gossip
6. Coin-Operated Boy - Dresden Dolls
7. Knowing Me, Knowing You - Abba
8. Timido - Flans
9. Life on Mars - David Bowie
10. Baby's On Fire - Brian Eno
11. Irresistiblement - Syvlie Vartan
12. I Don't Mind - Buzzcocks
13. I Wanna Be Sedated - Ramones
14. Supply & Demand - The Hives
15. Shitlist - L7
16. Orgasm Addict - Buzzcocks
17. The Jeep Song - Dresden Dolls
18. Magic 8 Ball - Cub
19. Forbidden Fruit - Nina Simone
20. Wicked Little Town (Hedwig Version) - Hedwig & The Angry Inch
21. Shipbuilding - Elvis Costello
22. First Episode at Hienton - Elton John

I so much enjoyed the sense of community with the crafting group in Phoenix that I decided to create an online group for similarly inclined anti-mainstream crafters, musicians and creative types. I call it Destroyers of Mass Production and you can visit the group page here. As I write this, I'm still the only member, so come keep me company. I asked my talented daughter to design a group image for me to use and she did not disappoint.

Destroyer of Mass Production - by Snow.

The Destroyer Robot is clutching creative implements in each of its four hands and smashing into a sweatshop, scattering "free dresses" to the winds. Before I got into crafting, I never thought crocheting or sewing your own clothes could be subversive, but now I realize that it can be, because it takes the means of production (and consumer cash) out of the hands of big corporations that mass produce and mass market.

There's a scene in the film "The Devil Wears Prada" where the fashion editor character played by Meryl Streep explains to a young intern that the frumpy blue sweater the intern is wearing is actually a shade called Cerulean Blue, chosen by a designer for a haute couture collection a couple of years prior which eventually made its way down the fashion food chain to the store where the intern bought it, thinking it was just a pretty shade of blue. Everything the intern thought she knew about fashion and even her own style of dressing was actually pre-determined by someone else, a tastemaker or a manufacturer, who decided which colors and styles would be deemed 'fashionable.' That's another reason why making your own clothes to suit your own taste is so damned subversive. That scene struck a chord with me and the memory of it helps me keep my head high when I'm about town in my homemade frocks.

Another film that made me want to behave differently and which I heartily recommend is a documentary called The Corporation. It gave me more insight on the stranglehold big companies have on our way of life. Before I saw this movie, I made certain assumptions about corporations. I trusted in business ethics and the legal system to protect us from corporate greed. Boy, was I naive. I now see that a corporation is a legal entity which has all the rights and none of the responsibilities that keep greedy individuals in check. A corporation's only reason for existence is to create profits for the shareholders, so anything that cuts into corporate profits is subversive, by my estimation. Hence the idea for Destroyers of Mass Production. D.I.Y. does not have the Corporation Seal of Approval.

Just because we can't all be out in the streets protesting in Germany at the G8 conference or in Canada at the SPP Conference doesn't mean we can't engage in some small subversive, fun, creative acts of rebellion everyday.


Trish said...

ANOTHER great blog entry with tons of energy and lots of inspiration for me. Thank You, Alice! That Dengue Fever song is AMAZING, thanks for turning me on to them!

Jenny Lens said...


Jenny Lens said...

Your MOST brilliant post of all time.

I don't know how to explain the fact that people can be separated by space and activities, yet always connect. Twinkie Chan: I can't reveal my connection with her, but I've been thinking about her and the man who introduced us. Not in a crafting sense, but another context. Before I fell in with the evil man who robbed me of hard-earned money and time, I communicated briefly with Twinkie.

I must write her and now share this story. It's such a funny small world!!

I just finished reading "Enter Naomi," by Joe Carducci, formerly of SST Records. I highly recommend it. Alice's blog and my website are listed on the websites page at the end of the book. Exene, Trudie and I are quoted. For the first time, I'm quoted far more times than either of them, ha ha! It's a fascinating history about Black Flag, Minutemen, but stemming from what we started.

The book was derived from an online tribute to the late Naomi Peterson, who photographed all the great bands from LA that came after us. So Joe spends quite a bit of time talking about women in the scene, not our histories per se, but about what women went through or came from. Not too deeply, but far more than anyone has ever discussed in any punk book.

It's a fun, exciting read, with references to silent films, great books, and delving somewhat into our attitude/actions destroying/mutating the existing culture by creating a new one.

It's not a scholarly tome, but written as though he was sitting next to you and talking about it. Very conversational and flowing.

Twinkie Chan, of all the crafters out there, and you mention her. What a funny small world!

godoggo said...

Here's a fabuous video of "Miss Otis Regrets" performed my my favorite singer, Carmen McRae:

LouisJacinto said...

I love (put I won't marry it) Shitlist by L7 ... they sample Yoko Ono, perfectly!

LouisJacinto said...

Opps! Wrong song! L7 sample Yoko Ono on "Wargasm"!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to know you're still alive.

Anonymous said...

I saw Castration Squad a few times. Did they play with Speed Queens? I can't recall. I loved you.