Monday, November 28, 2016

One Last Pick Through the Bins, Volume 6: Notorious B.I.G (and 2Pac)



Eh, fair play.

As noted way back in this series (as measured by time; the link is Volume 1; production is...so slow), I kept current on rap (going with that over “hip hop” per a distinction heard made in this (awesome) mixtape (also, more)) in a vague sort of way, but without mucking around so much in the innards. That had a lot to do with why I knew about rap’s greatest all-time beef – 2Pac vs. Notorious B.I.G - while really knowing nothing at all about it. Still, I picked up B.I.G’s Ready to Die barely thinking about it, and, because I was going to review that, I figured that made sense of catching up (going with) The Beef.

Like most…going with white people here, even if that’s a little broad, the whole thing felt like a waste to me. Two talented dudes shot dead months apart for nothing more than talking shit about one another sounds plenty dumb; with a better appreciation of both artists’ bodies of work, it feels even more pointless. After putting in a little research on it (won’t lie; very little research), I picked up the time-lime, and learned a (weird) thing or twenty along the way – e.g. that Tupac’s Black Panther mom, Afeni Shakur, had her bail money paid in part by Leonard Bernstein and Jane Fonda, or that Tupac picked up Tony Danza as a pen pal while in prison.

As for the details, the most earnestly thorough (mildly typo-ridden) account I’ve so far read went tipped The Beef in 2Pac’s favor, and on the fairly sound metric of units moved and posthumous reputation. (It also puts the blame for 2Pac’s death on Suge Knight, founder of Death Row Records, and holder of a sizeable adverse position to the label 2Pac founded, Makaveli Records (of which, catchy)…what? Yes, yes, I know that the overwhelming majority of people reading this already know the story better than I ever will; I’m way behind, admitted as much; this is for my education, please bear with me.) Then again, the author of that post comes at the whole thing from a place of declaring 2Pac the victor, but he’s also pretty decent to B.I.G, only musing about why he didn’t say more when The Beef heated up (ew…phrasing).

Another one of my sources, a 2011 article in (what?) The Guardian (yep, that The Guardian), comes down on the same side that I did in the end. An uneasy part of my mind keeps whispering, “not a coincidence,” in my ear, but, since I made the mistake of reading that article, and since their phrasing both captures and improves upon any formulation I arrived at so far, I’m just going to quote it:

Monday, November 21, 2016

Chuck Klosterman Reimagines The Matrix



Another layer peels away...
“So think how this might alter the memory of The Matrix: In some protracted reality, film historians will reinvestigate an extremely commercial action movie made by people who (unbeknownst to the audience) would eventually transition from male to female. Suddenly, the symbolic meaning of a universe with two worlds – one false and constructed, the other genuine and hidden – takes on an entirely new meaning. The idea of a character choosing between swallowing a blue pill that allows him to remain a false placeholder and a red pill that forces him to confront who he truly is becomes a much different metaphor.”
And, suddenly, the whole (gross, weird, pathetic) “red pill” concept gets hit from another angle.

That quote came out of Chuck Klosterman’s interesting But What If We’re Wrong, a work on nonfiction that digs into the idea that just about everything humanity believes today will look just as stupid as, say (my go-to example), phrenology in 100 years’ time.

And, for those who don’t know, yes, the Larry Wachowski became Lana Wachowski (better name; good on ya, girl!) and, later, Andy Wachowski became Lilly Wachowski (eh, neutral on the name, but I got yer back either way), and, yes, that really does slip a couple pieces of subtext into The Matrix, at a minimum…even as I’m not sure what those larger details mean for smaller details like the slow-mo-dodging-bullets ballet for which the movie is famous.

At any rate, I’m only part way through But What If We’re Wrong, about mid-way through a chapter that poses the question of which of today’s writers will be tomorrow’s Franz Kafka – a point that’s interesting because not even Kafka thought he’d be Kafka. In fact, he semi-strenuously tried to avoid being Kafka by way of fire. Maybe. By which I mean he might have known exactly what Max Brod would ultimately do with this work.

The essence of Klosterman’s book, though, interrogates the idea that we can’t know the present until it’s been judged/weighed on the scales of the future. He starts that argument with the critical reception/subsequent early anonymity of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. So, yeah, call Klosterman’s book a good read for a certain kind of person…

…and, here, I’m starting my personal bid to elevate Billy Budd over Moby Dick. The former feels like it would package better for Hollywood, if nothing else (or at least we’ve got one failure to go by). 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

One Last Pick Through the Bins, Volume 5: The Pixies


Gets at the tone pretty cleanly...

The first song I heard by The Pixies was “Debaser.” This makes linear sense in that someone dropped the needle on Doolittle, and that was the first song, so…

It was love at first listen. I was just…18 (? - look, I’m shit with linear time), I knew nothing, and still know nothing about Luis Bunuel, I don’t know what Un Chien Andalou is accept a corrupted lyric (I think The Pixies phrase it “Chien Andalousia,”), but the hyper-drive drumming and thudding bass with that soaring guitar hook playing over it hooked me right away. I went on to listen to the rest of Doolittle – probably several times over the next week – to figure out what it was about it that hit so cleanly. Later, I went back to Come on Pilgrim and Surfer Rosa, the first an EP, the second a full album (maybe?). Back when that sort of thing happened.

The Pixies made for a fantastic companion for life after high school. They covered all the big ones - sex, art, relationships (or, rather, artistic sex, creative violence, and fraught relationships) – and with the right portions of ambiguity and a sort of saucy, disarming humor. Better still, they droned those puzzling lyrics over actually superb compositions. On top of that, they added sneaky-clever little chop-cuts (see, the adorably relatable lead in to “I’m Amazed” and the goofing around before Surfer Rosa’sVamos,” which, tragically, doesn't make YouTube's video) that sounded enough like stuff you did with your friends. It hardly hurt that, at that time, just about everyone in the places where I lived either were in bands or wanted to be. (Related: If I can figure out a way to explain/do justice to Pullman, Washington’s tidy little rock scene, I will.)

“Debaser” gets at the way The Pixies leaned into “art” concepts, but without getting too far from traditional rock/pop approach and structure; I think the word/backhanded compliment for that was  “accessible” back then. Their sound lurked on the “poppier” edges of the college rock scene – which may or may not have been what people called the genre back before people started using the grab-bag vague term “alternative rock”; forgive the faulty memory – which made it stand out from the heavier stuff breaking through around the same time (think grunge, which would soon swallow too much), but without being music that everyone could tolerate or listen to. Against a subculture on persistent high alert against selling out, that mattered too. Even if it shouldn’t have.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

One Last Pick Through the Bins, Volume 4: The Rolling Stones, Less Hot Rocks


What is that...has a really strong fiber note...

The greatest hits album, the Cliff Notes of a musical act’s career, the gateway drug to said act’s oeuvre. It takes some amount of relevance plus time in the cultural spotlight to merit a “Greatest Hits” album. Only bands of a certain stature and longevity receive the pop music world’s commercial equivalent of a Lifetime Achievement Award: multiple greatest hits Albums.

When it reaches the rarefied air of the retrospective, a musical act achieves godhead, presumably, but that’s neither here nor there. Here.

For this volume, I want to talk less about The Rolling Stones – because I’ll do that later – than to talk about what I’ve always regarded as one of the greatest, greatest hits collections of all-time, Hot Rocks. But even that’s just a path to that collection’s famous sequel – and I mean sequel in every meaning of the word – More Hot Rocks. Just like any actor who picks up a life time achievement award, a band that’s lingered long enough to be worthy of serial releases of greatest hits albums has, frankly, squeezed out some amount of shit while pushing out the good stuff (graphic; sorry; it’s what came to me). Like the sawdust that pads your cat’s food, it has a purpose; it’s just that your cat isn’t eating that and thinking, “I taste the pork, but, oh my god…is that sawdust? C’est magnifique”!

The Greatest Hits Album falls into some neither-here-nor-there category between shortcut and advertising. By that I mean a lot of people buy a band’s greatest hits album and stop there, maybe even more people than most. Honestly, I have no idea; but that’s the “shortcut” iteration – i.e., a long introduction that leaves everyone with good memories, but not deep attachment. On a commercial level, though, I have to believe that at least one mission of the greatest hits album tracks the same logic as Discover Weekly does for Spotify, only it’s a much more specific pitch. Either way, the idea is the same: here are a bunch of songs; if you like that, why not roll over here and buy “Band X’s” other albums/get more eyeballs on our app.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Calm Blue Ocean, Calm Blue Ocean, Calm Blue Ocean...

Seriously, take some time.
I want to wrap up a week that feels like Liberal/Progressive 9/11, aka, the Election of Donald J. Trump, on the highest note I can hit. And, again, yes, I know people are various degrees of nervous, panicked and shattered and that’s a reasonable reaction among a lot of groups given Trump’s campaign trail rhetoric and some of the shitty, shitty people who are excited by his election.

The best news I can deliver is this: just 27% of the country voted for Trump. (The actual winner of Election 2016 was the ticket topped with “Fuck It” running as President, and “I Have No Fucking Idea” as Vice President; 43.1% of Americans did not vote.) Any time you feel like the country is irredeemable racist, or that it hates women, just hold tight to that 27% figure. Then take the next step and consider how many of that 27% voted Trump out of: party loyalty; a mania for giving others the “freedom” to do exactly as they say in their own bedrooms; a longing for change, any change; disgust with Hillary (whether displaced or not), etc.

That thought in no way minimizes what just happened – e.g., America did just elect a race-baiting, sexist, atavistic asshole, one with awful plans in his head and a capacity for passing some of them – but it does put it in perspective. Clinton was more popular than Trump;

And, if you need a little more comforting, check the polling data that tops David Wong’s most recent column for Cracked. Yeah, yeah, polls have a shitty rep right now, but I do believe those numbers, as well as the idea that the country is more progressive today than ever before. The trick comes with mobilizing those sentiments and getting them to the ballot box next time ‘round. I’m not claiming that’s easy by any means – again, the country just elected Trump, even if by a plurality that should make him blush – but the potential is there. There's more reassuring stuff in that column, too, so I'd encourage people to give it a read.

The best advice I can give right now is this: go home this weekend, relax and don’t give this shit another minute’s thought. Savor the last days of the Obama presidency, a man who, contrary to online vitriol, was persistently decent, honest, and who had the patience of a handful of saints. Take this time before Trump can do any real damage to relax, re-center and recharge. This is a marathon, people, not a sprint.


Lord knows I won’t take my own advice – I have a minimum of three posts percolating in my head – but I still think it’s sound.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

On Putting Election 2016 Behind Us



Like any animal, he's better off in his natural habitat.
“The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends on public opinion. The law is no protection. Government makes laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them.”
- George Orwell
The New Yorker’s David Remnick dropped that quote into an article that’s blossomed into a familiar genre since Donald J. Trump got elected. I call them “panic pieces,” basically, lurid imaginings of the very worst things that will come out of a Trump presidency. I wrote one myself too, so I’m not pretending I’m exempt.

Also, and I want to underline this point because I know that someone will stumble on this post and dismiss it due to my privileged position as a white, straight male in American society. And, to be clear, I acknowledge the hell out of not just that reality, but also that I genuinely do fear the worst from a Trump presidency, and not for me, but for all communities of color, the LGBT community, and for any faith that is not mainline Christian. (My only claim to be a victim of discrimination of any kind grows from my strong leanings toward atheism. Trust me, that kind of “victimhood” wears light if you let it.)

There are protests happening in Portland, Oregon tonight, big rumbling marches that are locking up traffic and that grow from the premise that Donald Trump is “not my president.” Silly as I find that idea, I don’t mind the protests. Hell, my own mom is going “full Kaepernick” (i.e., she has no intention of standing during the national anthem for the length of the Trump presidency), and that’s her right, just as the protesters own their protests.

With all that going on, with all the raw emotions and anger going on across the country, I just want to pose one question: is this permanent state of high agitation making anyone calmer or happier? Is the eternal state of political mobilization doing the country any good, or is everyone just more pissed off all the time?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016, Bound Together in Separate Bags, Thrown in the Same River

Just typing thoughts as they come to me on last night’s election.

First, I’ve read only one example of the “he’s not my president” thing so far and, bluntly, I think that’s stupid. It was stupid, even childish, when Red Staters said the same about President Barack Obama, or when they mulled over a “revolt” if Hillary Clinton got elected (“Sir, the peasants are revolting!” “I know!”). It announces a delusion. If you live in the United States and if you’re a U.S. citizen, Donald Trump is your president. Dealing with that reality is Step 1.

For what it’s worth, I think The Daily Beast got it essentially right. The only way the entire system fails is if everyone starts treating the nation’s institutions and fundamental rights with the same, short-sighted contempt as movement conservatives.

All that said, yes, I honestly believe Donald Trump will be a terrible president. He might even prove a destructive one, but fingers and every ass hair tangled and holding one another for comfort. Setting aside emergencies – e.g., international crises, an unexpected natural disaster (again, imagine the man who wrote this letter to John Travolta attempting to comfort you (he will not succeed)), any and all manners of Trump scrambling when (not if, when) the shit hits the fan – a review of his stated, preferred policy agenda reads to me like a List of Terrible Ideas, most of them based on a combination of denial (see: global warming) and false premises (see: what’s happening to U.S. jobs). In run down of “winners and losers” from Election Night, Vox rolled a couple of the worst ideas under each category and, chillingly, their chances for getting through a federal government that Republicans now control, along with most statehouses.

Among Vox’s list of “winners” is among the most noxious ideas that festered throughout the 2016 campaign, white nationalism. (And we had several from which to choose.) As I was tweeting away my angst last night – and watching that poor Barron Trump kid fidget/quietly die on stage – I posted a pair that read like so:

Saturday, November 5, 2016

One Last Pick Through the Bins, Volume 3: Ty Segall (and his various inspirations)



Just wanted to go with something grotesque. That wasn't the album cover.
I used to frequent a site called TooGoodForRadio.com. It was mostly an outlet for (my understanding of) EDM (electronic dance music, yes?), or it might actually have been nothing more than a space for remixes of popular pop songs. I never read the site’s mission statement and resentment that I had to get on Facebook to download their content formed the strongest thought/emotion I had for it, but I’ve bent all kinds of dumb ways for free/cheap music. Anyway, amidst all the Skrillex and Deadmau5 and DJ Bahler (hey, it was 2012, Year of Mayan Death), I came across Ty Segall. Or I might have found his song, “I Bought My Eyes,” on Pitchfork, back when that site offered up more free downloads. Again, I’m very, very cheap.

“I Bought My Eyes” led me to Slaughterhouse, the album it came from. When I plugged in my earbuds to get reacquainted with it, I realized that I’d never actually got acquainted with it before. By that I mean, I picked it up based on that one song, which is pretty good if you ask me, but then I listened to the rest maybe once and never went back again. If you’ve ever got too ambitious on collecting music, this shouldn’t sound strange at all – I mean, who hasn’t over-bought at some point (or, in the modern era, over-subscribed)? – but things got (mildly) weirder after. I hopped over to Spotify to confirm that I could find it there, because why (intentionally) tell you about something you can’t find and listen to (then again, youtube)…only I couldn’t find it. Spotify has plenty of Ty Segall stuff – good stuff, too – but Slaughterhouse didn’t pull up. From there, I went to The Lazy Man’s Encyclopedia (Wikipedia) to see if I couldn’t figure out why. So I read his entry, and, like most music stuff, it’s interesting, lousy with other avenues to explore, both with Ty Segall, in particular, and his related projects, etc.

As I read, though, something caught my eye:
"Segall has stated in interviews that his favorite band of all time is Hawkwind.”
I only mention to explain the delay between volumes in this series.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The First Rule of Republican Politics

Warp the thing a little more, and voila! Scalia!
If there’s a general rule about modern conservatism, it’s that they’re almost certainly doing whatever it is they accuse their opposition of doing, and typically more of it. Examples abound: railing against President Obama for “dividing America” while identifying their partisans as “Real Americans” and speaking only to and for them; claims that Democrats lie to voters against the backdrop of Donald Trump lying daily and brazenly and an infotainment infrastructure that promotes ignorance among its own voters; extolling a definition of “freedom” that, again, defines “freedom” as being and thinking conservative; labeling Democrats as “extreme” as their party explodes a new societal norm every other week.

And then there’s voter fraud, the whole idea of “rigged elections.” Yes, elections are being rigged, and all over the country. As with all of the above, it’s conservatives who are doing the rigging:
“From 2011 to 2015, after Republicans gained control of many state governments, legislators introduced 395 bills in forty-nine states designed to make it more difficult to vote, and half the states, nearly all under Republican control, adopted such restrictions.”
Reports on all this stuff come in daily and from all over the country (and was this good news?), but David Cole pulled a lot of them together in one good, intellectually honest review that The New York Review of Books ran back in mid-October. I note the honesty of the piece because Cole carefully separates actual fraud – e.g. voter suppression and gerrymandering – from tactics to challenge bad laws through the courts, etc. I tell ya, quality comes through when one looks for it…

All this is of a piece with other nefarious scumbaggery, like refusing to fill judicial vacancies, not just in the Supreme Court, but throughout the federal judicial system. These are the actions of a party that does not have popular support. Unable to win the arguments on the merits, conservatives go with changing the rules. While totally scummy, it’s basically understandable: they’re fighting to preserve the world as they want it to be and, in a lot of ways, conservatives lost their last institutional firewall when Justice Antonin Scalia went down. In that setting, what’s there left to do but tear down the institutions?

Cole’s piece, which is good, especially the second half when he’s explaining what aren't end-runs around democracy, ends on this hopeful note:
“Instead of modifying their policies to address the interests of new voters, however, the Republicans have sought to suppress those votes. The strategy, profoundly antidemocratic in the small ‘d’ sense, can swing elections in the short term. But in the long term, it will not only damage American democracy but will be self-defeating for the GOP.”
Maybe. One assumption implicit in Cole’s argument is that the institutions will survive the monkey wrenching and carry on in some restored state. It also glosses over the potential for chaos to alter the trajectory on how the public sees the world and, therefore how it votes. Which seems odd, seeing as the country has endured a real-time social experiment of this in real time since…when’d that piece of shit descend from his chintz elevator to let us know he’d be ruining our lives? Was it last June?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Roger Stone and the Tragedy of Donald Trump


Transmission received...provide instruction...

I want to start this post by admitting that, yes, the whole interview really could be nothing more than a dirty trick, one last little con from a man with a lengthy history of pulling them.

For all that, cognitive dissonance set in by the first answer in Vox.com’s interview with long-time Donald Trump confidante/enabler Roger Stone. It’s a challenging piece to read, in all honesty, and that has everything to do with the many, many areas where Stone’s politics line up with mine – again, assuming this entire interview isn’t a long con designed to help me stop worrying and love The Donald. Assuming it’s true, those include: gay marriage, the essential stupidity of the Iraq War (more on this later/elsewhere), a more circumscribed foreign policy, challenging all the political/corporate elites, etc. It’s not a perfect match – we split on supply side, and by a long shot, plus on some, ahem, other stuff (more later) – but two questions came to me by the time I got to the end.

1) Why the fuck does this guy spend even one minute on the utterly odious InfoWars, an outlet that I really believe needs to be utterly discredited and shuttered (by way of people ignoring it, thereby forcing them to shut off the lights, not via censorship, still, fuck those guys)?

2) How easily would Trump have won this election if he sounded anything like this?

From here, we need to wade through the second half of the blessing/curse reality that is the internet: because this is Stone, and given the company he keeps (lots of assholes; plus, InfoWars, a wart on an asshole), I had to check into other sources for background on Stone. And, yeah, it’s pretty much what you’d imagine – not just dirty tricks, but a lot, like, a fucking library's worth of just pointlessly awful things he’s said about other human beings, because…no, there really is no excuse to (short list): to call people “quota hires” or to call Herman Cain “Mandingo” (srsly, WTF, shithead?), 9/11 Truther shit….and, suddenly, the InfoWars thing makes perfect sense. And goddammit. Goddammit.

Consciousness Ain't Always False



Different Time, Different Ideas. (And, yes, different technologies.)
“The story of [Wright] Patman’s ousting is part of the larger story of how the Democratic Party helped to create today’s shockingly disillusioned and sullen public, a large chunk of whom is now marching for Donald Trump.”
- Matt Stoller, The Atlantic, October 24, 2016
One detail that repeated through many of the personal narratives of the interviewees of Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land was a personal or familial history of voting Democratic before shifting, often out of a sense of betrayal, to Tea Party. A lot of what I’ve read and heard over the past couple decades as the American Right has grown more and more radical parses that concept of “betrayal” by way of social issues – e.g. abortion, gay marriage, sanctity of the family, etc. etc. As much as those same interviewees sometimes spoke to those issues, they directed their hotter grievances toward feelings of 1) being ridiculed for questioning the new social order (which brings up a rule of thumb: making fun of Southerners really pisses them off), something more than a few hinted that they could take or leave, and 2) feeling forgotten economically.

It’s dawning on much of the country that #2 actually forms the Gordian Knot at the center of rural America’s grievances. The sense of insecurity, even desperation, flowed under almost every aspect of Louisianans' lives in Strangers in Their Own Land; it formed the spine of the “deep story” that Hochschild read back to her friend/subjects (sorta like sister/wives, only less complicated, and no sex). Both Hochschild’s book and the Stoller article quoted above form the basis of an argument that “the betrayal” was, and is, economic at root.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

On the Silent Majority


An antidote for our never-ending national nightmare?
“She would say, yes, life is unfair, but don’t be one of those people who think the deck is stacked against them.”
- J. D. Vance, interview with Sean Illing on Vox.com

"Are you assholes listening now?"
- The most vividly meaningful line from an article all progressives should read.
I’m not clear on why I chose those two quotes to top a post that will talk about something entirely different. My best guess lands somewhere in the contrast between two lines of thought that are equally valid, but where one has more real-world value than the other.

The idea of the “Silent Majority:” has been in my head a lot lately. Donald Trump tried to appropriate the phrase (from Richard M. Nixon....think about that for a minute), but, appropriation being what it is, and math pointing where it does, Trump can’t claim he speaks for a “Silent Majority” – not least because the people he leads are fucking loud. Also, not a majority. That’s true regardless of the poll you consult.

I think Slate ran a piece on what the real Silent Majority sounds like. In a word, it’s sad. Probably more than a little sickened. Well, maybe sickened, then sad. Y’know, the feeling you get from eating an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting? Sucks, right?

Anyway, the existential nausea of the unfocused focus group (hat-tip: Rocky Horror Picture Show, if I’m being honest) captures where I think the actual majority of Americans live these days. What else is there to say about a world where public officials – e.g. people who, in a better world, should feel more qualified than you to run….anything – talk to you like elementary school teachers caught stealing your lunch money? That article was described as sad, but all I could think for as long as I read it was that I was “Fellow travelers!” I mean, these were my people! Who can no longer wrap their heads around the perverse dog ‘n’ pony show that has become every Presiden…scratch that, every camp….never mind, they really never, never stop campaigning, do they? Pretty goddamn sure that’s not the point of democracy, but it’s the sick, stupid world we live in and, yes, I blame Iowa and New Hampshire for all of this.

On Saudi Arabia and Stereotypes


Saudi Arabian Spring Break Central. (Apparently.)

[I’m trying to be better about serving as host, and letting other, smarter people do the talking. Bear with me.]

Saudi Arabia is what you think (the laws), and it isn’t (a handful of other things, at a minimum). And on more levels than you think. Most people who care to carry some defining details in his/her head – e.g. women can’t drive, open bank accounts, etc., and corporal punishment is still very, very much a thing in Saudi Arabia. I mean, the article I’m referencing here contains this passage:

“[Mohammed bin Salman] had marked the New Year by executing forty-seven people—including forty-three Sunni jihadists and four Shias—the kingdom’s largest group of executions since the crackdown that followed the retaking of Mecca’s Grand Mosque in 1979. Throughout the meeting, the young prince watched reports of the executions on a large television screen—seeming to confirm the caricature of himself on social media as a teenager who played at brutal statecraft as if it were a video game.”
Saudi Arabia also boasts a small (10% of total population), concentrated Shia community on its east coast. Moreover, the review, “Saudi Arabia: Can It Really Change?” talks to people within the ruling elite who see the wisdom in opening the society to fuller participation by women, and, toward the end, the review it talks about a musical festival in Jeddah (from what I gather, one of the more cosmopolitan Saudi cities) where, “After the show, the more adventurous of both sexes then mingle onstage, taking group selfies.”