The Grrrls on Film festival taking place at Loyola Marymount University wouldn’t be happening if a postproduction professor at the School of Film and Television hadn’t agreed to come teach some of my journalism students how to edit with Audacity — despite the fact that she had just had a baby and, as a clinical professor, would neither get paid nor credited for service. As scant and egotistical compensation, I gave Sharon A. Mooney a copy of my book Mamarama: A Memoir of Sex, Kids and Rock’n’Roll, because basically all I knew about her was that she was a new parent. She emailed me a thank you, saying: “Oddly enough, as far as music goes, I really only like female fronted punk.” Thus, kindred spirits did meet.
After comparing our favorite bands and movies, and being simultaneously inspired by conversations I was having with filmmaker Abby Moser (Grrrl Love and Revolution and Women’s Studies Chair Stella Oh, I suggested to Sharon we put together a film festival. Out of these modest, organic roots grew Grrrls on Film. Sharon has been a great collaborator, and there is no way this event would be happening without her.
Sharon and I will be talking about the festival and playing some jams Wednesday morning at 8 on Mukta Mohan’s show on KXLU.
Kari Krome is one of my heroes. She wasn’t even Sweet Sixteen when she began hanging out in the glam haunts of Hollywood, hitchiking from the “Pit” (Peter Plagens’ term) of central LA to become one of the stylish habitues of Rodney’s English Disco. Three decades later, she’s writing songs and making music again — and speaking to the freshwomen in my Revolution Girl Style class. The original Runaways lyricist was kind enough to hang out and join me at my English Department symposium presentation of Queens of Noise, in which she’s quoted quite a bit. It was an epic night. One astute student compared Krome’s voice to Scout Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird. Thanks to Chris Green for capturing it in pixels.
Classes have started at LMU, where I teach; hence my relative silence here at Populism. Balancing writing and teaching is never easy, and my blog always seems to suffer most. I’m hoping that will change, as this is the first year when I am not trying to write a book as well as teach a full load. Instead, I’m busy publicizing that book. Teaser: Some very special activities are being planned to celebrate the publication of Queens of Noise. Watch this space for more.
I try to keep my various duties as integrated as possible. To that effect, I’m teaching a new course called Revolution Girl Style: Punk Feminism Then and Now. It’s a seminar for first-semester students, part of this year’s new Core Curriculum. Nineteen wonderful young ladies are looking to me to train them in the ways of the university (thankfully, I have a writing instructor too — go Liz!), but more importantly, to inspire them with the music and mottos of Riot Grrrl.
On Day 1, I played videos of the Runaways performing “Cherry Bomb,” Bratmobile performing the same song, and Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance two days earlier. The latter is what we educators call “a teachable moment.” The students had a lot to say — it was one of the best discussions I’ve had in a classroom. And it was refreshing to see it all from their eyes — and depressing to realize that they weren’t even born when the original Girl Night occurred (depressing because in 1991, I was already older than they are).
Their first assignment is to read Queens. No, I’m not just trying to generate some easy sales. The idea of the First Year Seminars is for professors to teach to their research interests — and the Runaways is what I’ve spent the last four years researching. Their story encapsulates the perils and power of women rockers before Riot Grrrl. They were a direct influence on Revolution Girl Style — i.e., that Bratmobile cover. And for better or worse, Joan Jett et al have inspired Cyrus’s clumsy attempts to shed her virginal Disney image. Long before the VMAs blew up in her face, Miley was the exploding Cherry Bomb, performing a Runaways/Jett medley live. Yeah, she’s no Cherie Currie or Allison Wolfe, but she doesn’t lip-sync and she means it when she says she doesn’t care.
But Cyrus is a side note. After the Runaways, we’ll talk about the explosion, and then implosion, of Riot Grrrl, and its reemergence via Pussy Riot et al. Here’s the syllabus, subject to change. Sorry: the class is full. Revolution Girl Style syllabus
On Tuesday I moderated with my esteemed colleague Ruben Martinez the annual Lay of the Land panel at Loyola Marymount. Ruben, who presents this event, invited me to join him this year as the topic was new media; we dubbed the event The Wired City: Writing the Future of Los Angeles. Our panelists were a diverse group of Angeleno bloggers and new-media gurus: KCET’S Departures producer Juan Devis, Loteria Chicana blogger Cindy Mosqueda, LA Observed‘s Kevin Roderick, and LMU student Kyle DePinna of Shifty Rhythms. While they range from grad-student personal bloggers to public media journalists, they all discussed the opportunities the online world has afforded them. It was interesting and encouraging. Thanks to all for participating. Here’s Kevin’s post on the event.
Fellow SJ student Jonathan Arkin wrote a lovely article about my appointment at Loyola Marymount for the USC School of Communication and Journalism online newsletter. The quotes from Henry Jenkins make me blush. It’s been an intense but incredibly productive year. I went back to school in order to teach, and that’s what I’m going to do. Isn’t it amazing when plans work?