Rules Of The Game Followup #2: Paris Is Our Vietnam

Frank Kogan

Oh, bah, I was going to put off writing about Paris Hilton for weeks, if not months, but with nothing coming through the comments threads now’s a time to start. (Several people have told me that they posted comments that never appeared. Well, please be patient with us -- the LVW Web site has just been revamped, so we’re now on something like a shakedown cruise, and there are still glitches and delays. If your comments get lost in the electronic ether, you can always email them to me, and I’ll appreciate them even if I don’t respond explicitly:[email protected])

As for whether Paris should have been incarcerated, released, or reincarcerated, my thoughtful reasoned opinion would be that I think DUI is serious and that drunk driving kills people but that my first response to the actual probation violation (driving with a suspended license) was “This is awfully piddling.” But I haven’t thought through whether it’s really piddling or not; so I don’t have a thoughtful opinion. What I have is a feeling that I totally want to be on Paris’s side, and this isn’t so much because I know all that much about Paris (despite loving her album) but because I can’t stand the people who vociferously dislike her, and I can’t stand the people who pile on and their pretence of a concern for fairness, or the people who think that her getting to make an album is not only unfair but is a symptom of everything that has gone wrong in modern culture, etc. etc.

But going further into why I think those people are screwy is something I’ll postpone to later columns, since I’m still trying to work through the subterranean basics about where my taste comes from. The point here is that the haters stimulate me to want to like Paris’s music. I want to like her because I don’t like her enemies. (My friend Dave Moore did an excellent job last August analyzing the insane response to the album. See the following:






the last about the response to Brooke Hogan.)

Now a story from my past, not about music, but it might cast some light on my questions. Back in 1966, when I was 12 years old, I basically supported the U.S. in its war in Vietnam, believing that we were defending freedom against communist aggression. By 1968, age 14, I’d switched, and opposed the war. The reasons for the switch were complicated; the people around me were switching and I was switching with them, and also I was actually learning something about the war. But there was an early incident in 1966 that helped make me amenable to being turned: I heard a radio report about an antiwar demonstration where the peaceful demonstrators were attacked by a stone-throwing mob. Now, the way I’d had things worked out in my mind was that attacking peaceful protesters was something that racists in Mississippi did. So this incident with the Vietnam protesters created a rip in my understanding of the world.

I thought we were the good guys in Vietnam (defending the South Vietnamese against communist aggression), and it didn’t compute that the bad guys at home seemed to be on the good side and that the peaceful demonstrators seemed to be on the bad. My feeling was that I didn’t want to be on the side of the stone-throwers. So I had to realign my thinking and eventually turned against the war, though obviously not for this reason alone, since it’s not a very good one. But this incident opened me to change. And of course, over the years antiwar people themselves heaved plenty of rocks, literal and verbal, and so did I (and I’ve liked plenty of musical stone throwers, from the Stones through the Stooges and Sex Pistols and Contortions), so things never quite righted themselves into good guys versus bad guys.

Bringing this back to Paris (who’s thrown stones in her life), the point isn’t that these social reasons cause me to like her sound -- and anyway I liked her album before I realized the virulence of the hatred towards her -- but it certainly opens me to liking what I hear.

Concerning Paris’s music, she made a club album that is exceptionally good from start to almost finish (most club pop albums are agonizingly inconsistent). Social drama aside, how much you like it will depend on how you respond to club beats and pop melodies and how you deal with her voice, which is strangely dry and fuzzy. For some people it’s far too dry, but to my ears she and her producers found a way to layer the fuzz into something unexpectedly lovely. Here’s a long review from Ross Hoffman [http://mincetapes.blogspot.com/2006_10_01_archive.html#116053974113380695] that I like for the way it takes you into the details of each track and the way it conceives the album as being about the dance floor.

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