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Category Archives: the dangers of essentialism in ethnography

Hey, you know what’s fun?! Esquire‘s list of the 75 albums that every man should own. If by fun you mean shooting yourself in the face with semen. Which clearly, I do. Let us learn what it’s like to be a man from Esquire.

The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
Brit pop’s platonic ideal.
Because when I think of manliness, I think of the British.

Lust for Life, Iggy Pop
In 1977 Iggy ran off to West Berlin with David Bowie to record an album so juiced with spleen that even cruise-line commercials can’t make it sound safe.
Because to be a man is to experience sodomy at least once.

Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Pavement
Makes you shout and rant and cry and it surprises you and challenges you and angers you and brings you to your knees. Then it makes you hit play again.
Because there is no greater and more truthful document of the emotional struggles of American men than a glib singer jabbering nonsense about cutting your hair and beefing with grunge.

The Headphone Masterpiece, Cody Chessnut
Thirty-six R&B songs recorded on a four-track at home. Makes you wish the lo-fi approach wasn’t almost exclusively embraced by sad white kids.
Because affirmative action is a good thing! I swear! I voted for Barack Obama!

MTV Unplugged in New York, Nirvana
It’s the last time a huge band recorded a surprising album.
Because it’s important to be sad.

Woke on a Whaleheart, Bill Callahan
Because we’re all just like a bee that “tries to find purchase in a turning spoke from Memphis to Potomac never giving up hope.”
Because…I’m sorry, I can’t even figure out why this is necessary.

The Velvet Underground & Nico, Velvet Underground
Makes you think that a woman’s voice could do any rock band good. Lou Reed’s heroin-addled musical lifeblood, for so long dependent on grit and experimentation, is chastened and made beautiful.
Oh really? This is the first lady you have included in your list, guys.

Workin’ Together, Ike & Tina Turner
Because they never did anything nice… and easy. They only did it nice… and rough.
Oh look the second lady, who was beat a lot.

The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place, Explosions in the Sky
Words sometimes mess things up, fumbling, mumbling, and sometimes we need to be reminded what four super-earnest guys can do with some guitars and drums when they really care about what they leave behind. Chuck Klosterman once wrote that listening to Explosions in the Sky could make hanging drywall seem transcendental, and he was right. Make this record your soaring soundtrack to just about anything you might do – driving through snowy fields, playing with your kids after dinner, putting ink into the copy machine – and you’ll feel capable of achieving something powerful and beautiful at the same time.
Did you really need to write all that? Just say Friday Night Lights, the end.

Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair
Liz Phair can make you feel ashamed to be a man. And to want to make it up to her.
Because it’s okay to listen to girls talk sometimes, only if you want to bone her. (This is the third and final album on the list featuring a lead female singer, FYI).

Songs in the Key of Life, Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder can make magic in minutes, but this complex double album took him two years to produce. Gritty, funky, and lush.
Because I like soul music, really! So long as it sounds polite and polished even though I will call it “gritty” and “funky.”

Grace, Jeff Buckley
Hallelujah.
Because I am TORTURED, won’t you SAAAAAVVVE ME??!??!! Zach Braff.

I don’t know about you, but I feel like my dick grew an inch.
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Some time ago I was talking with my roommate and we were probably drunk because I was discussing my ex-boyfriends and how most of them were total dickbags. After a litany of ludicrously white names like Terpsichorean Worthington III Esq., roommate decrees that my type is “Lacrosse Captain.” The term has now become a pretty nice meme between us, and what’s funniest about it to me is that basically “Lacrosse Captain” = WASP.

Full disclosure: I don’t know anyone who has played lacrosse and it wasn’t until I moved to New York that I found out what a WASP actually was. I knew what it stood for, but to me I just thought it was some kind of different notation of White Person. And when I look back at all the Lacrosse Captains, I realize that though their unifying WASPness connects them to me, they are dissimilar via region. This just adds another chapter to my unwritten thesis regarding sociological differences of identity in America based on region and the history thereof.

Here are three regional differences of American WASPs, based on gross essentialism:

1. Western WASP: has a lift pass; drinks beer to forget burden of bloodline and shameful lust
2. Southern WASP: family still owns plantation; drinks gin because it’s like that thing the coloreds did with cotton
3. East Coast WASP: boats are important i.e. they have a boat, wear boat shoes, and their family was on the Mayflower; drinks Scotch because it reminds them of the homeland

Oddly enough, a list of all the men I’ve ever dated is compiled here for some reason (hat tip).