Regular Media Criticism from The Shoestring
In a media column, The Shoestring will reflect on recent local news.
“GET READY. WE’RE COMING FOR YOU EASTHAMPTON” reads the image text on a Facebook event promoting the grand opening of a new small business: Eviction Crossfit. At the event, the public will have the opportunity to “enjoy some snacks with Eviction Owners.” And, if that wasn’t enough, members of the gym, dubbed “The Moving Crew,” will receive swag bags at the “Eviction Open House.”
On a social media post promoting the “Eviction Open House” on Saturday, an Instagram user with the handle @fleshcomputer posed the question, “why is it called eviction crossfit? Eviction is something nobody likes or wants.” To which, @evictioncrossfit responded: “Eviction Crossfit. Eviction of bad habits to create healthy habits. Eviction of negative mindsets to manifest positive mindsets. Eviction of weakness to harness strength.”
Of course, this is not what eviction means. According to The New Oxford American Dictionary, eviction is defined as “the action of expelling someone, especially a tenant from a property; expulsion.” There isn’t an alternative definition (alluding to self-help platitudes of positive thinking).
It should be noted that Easthampton is experiencing rapid spike in housing prices. Per a recent Masslive article describing the Easthampton housing market, homes have doubled in price since the early aughts. A $99/month eviction themed gym can only be interpreted as salt on the wound. —Will Meyer
A War on Plastic (Straws)?
Last week’s Valley Advocate ran a cover profile on an activist who aims to ban plastic straws. No doubt plastic is a massive problem choking the oceans and very little actually gets recycled.
What the article didn’t mention, however, is that one of Northampton’s largest exports (besides weapons of war) is plastic bottles of Coca-Cola products, shipped from the beverage giant’s Industrial Drive facility. And it certainly didn’t mention Coca-Cola’s intent to expand their parking facility to make way for twelve more trucks at any given time — significantly expanding their ability to transport plastic, which, as the public support for a straw ban indicates, is, at the very least, bad for the environment. There is a planning board meeting on August 8th, where the public is invited to express their concerns (presumably about traffic) to Coca-Cola and the city at the City Council Chambers at 7p.m.
As The Intercept’s recent feature on the plastic industry’s stealth PR initiatives describes, Coca-Cola has been active in industry efforts to thwart plastic bans by promoting individual responsibility instead of taking responsibility for their role in the crisis. —WM
In a recent edition of Basemental, Valley Advocate columnist and Shoestring co-editor Will Meyer yawns his way through Kurt Vile’s latest release, Bottle It In, to a fundamentally flawed argument that fails to realize its true objects.
The jabs start early in the text: “so profound,” Meyer deadpans regarding the Vile oeuvre, while highlighting the limited scope of the work. Divergent as my thoughts on this may be, Vile himself almost certainly wouldn’t disagree; as he says himself on his latest single, “One Trick Ponies,” in a characteristically tongue-in-cheek sidebar: “some are one-trick ponies / well, so am I”. (A real missed opportunity for the author.) This is the basic tension of the column – Meyer criticizes the music seemingly without realizing it, and the artist, have been in agreement with him all along. Bogged down in dedicated distaste, he glides over Vile’s own bemusement at the attempt to build some grand narrative arc out of his music by journalists and marketers alike, a struggle clearly outlined in the New York Times piece cited in the column.
“are there any worse writers than publicists for Brooklyn buzz bands” I once tweeted, and I stand by and in that shade. Press materials are at times malignantly bad, stuffed with lofty, empty adjectives and bizarre sentence structure (said with four fingers pointing back at me: same, but I don’t get paid for it). Publicity is to be tolerated as a necessary evil of the suspicious and exploitative business of art, and really what I’m saying is no band deserves to be evaluated 1:1 alongside whatever alphabet soup some burned-out hipster cooked up for their album rollout. Every critic should know this, so it’s sad that Meyer stumbles so painfully close before receding back into the muddled terrain of listening to the music through the lens of a third party.
The bottom line is it’s not the critique itself which offends; instead, it’s the architecture of the critique which reveals it to be politically disingenuous. Though Meyer pays lip service to radicalism, few methods of analysis are as fundamentally conservative as engaging more with the marketing mechanism than the music itself. I agree with him at points because not all music is, can, or should be an atomic bomb. Sometimes, girls just wanna have fun; sometimes, you just want to hum along while you make dinner, or hang out with your friends with the radio playing, and it doesn’t matter what’s on; sometimes, music is and should just be basic stimuli, a little color, a little light.
A culture of escalation is one of the major symptoms of a world so saturated with content and mass media that every release needs to be described as vital, or life-changing, or so on to attract the requisite attention for a casual half-minute Spotify listen. Accordingly, the ossified capitalist methods of manufacturing, hyping, and distributing music and other art deserve critique and disturbance — but it’s an unfair burden to place on the artist themself, and conflating the two in situations like this misidentifies the enemy. —Charlotte Murtishaw
Will Meyer is a co-editor of The Shoestring. Charlotte Muritshaw is a regular contributor to The Shoestring, who recently interviewed filmmaker Liz Walber.