Saturday, December 31, 2011

A new leaf

So in America, we always seem to be screwing up, then trying to get a fresh start, or a second chance, or a new opportunity. I'm sure there are self help type books about why that is, and why it's right, but I'm not real keen on second chances, myself. In my own life, I'm constantly making mistakes, poor attempts, bad judgements, and so on. I'm also getting some things right, and, crazy as I may be, I think that's a better path. Not all one way or the other- you might be a drug addict who's a brilliant songwriter, or a great accountant who's lousy to women, or whatever, but rather than looking for a "do over" what you need to do is concentrate more on what you're good at, and less on what makes you suck. Oh, you'll still suck. We all do, all the time. But by trying to do what we do best, we make up for it, a little bit. That strikes me as far more reasonable than some mythical "second try".
So, why am I getting all 'Dr Phil" on you? Because I've been reading biographies in the past week. I've been reading "American Demon" by Jack Grisham, "Violence Girl" by Alicia Velasquez (Alice Bag) and "My Booky Wook" by Russell Brand. All three approach the issue of screwing up in different manners, and, well, you'll be able to tell which one I like best, easily.
I know Jack. I wouldn't call us "friends", because I don't think he'd know my name, but he'd recognize my face. Jack supposedly has written the fictional biography of a demon living in America. What's closer to the truth is these are his story, based upon how he sees himself these days. On the one hand, he joyfully accepts responsibility of all the horrible things he's done. Yes, some are horrible- attempted murder happens fairly frequently. Like I said, I know Jack, and yes, he really has been one of the most dangerous guys around, so please don't think he's exaggerating. He's also witty, funny, a brilliant front man for any band he's in, and a real romantic who really wants to see the world as a better place. He isn't looking for a second chance, as it were, so much as he's looking for a chance. Half the time, that's a chance to do real harm, but other times, it's a chance to do real good. He's exploiting the trope that we all write fictions of ourselves, and that's very true. Whatever I am, I'll never know the objective truth about myself. But, there's still a distance between him and the awful things he's done, because he's fictionalized it as this "demon'. The truth is that he's a thug, with a good mind. An entertaining thug, but a thug, nonetheless.
If you look over to your left, you might note that I know Alice/Alicia. We have met face to face, and she might know my name but these would be separate events. I saw The Bags, and the Alice Bag band at places like the Vex in Los Angeles, in the late 1970's and early 1980's. They were amoung the very first tastes of rock and roll of any stripe I ever had. You have to understand, I'm in my mid-forties, now, so mathwise, that means there weren't a lot of concert opportunities for me pre-1977, in that it was still unacceptable for pre-teens to go unaccompanied to arenas or bars, in those days. Fortunately, I was very tall at a relatively young age ( I was almost adult height by 10, and the same height as now by 13) so, when I was 13 I did start passing for 18 and could go to places on my own. So, I was a face in the crowd at that time, and ran into her on the internet, only in the past few years.
So, why the diversion down memory lane? Because I've already read "Violence Girl' as blog posts on her blog of the same name, and I've now read it as a book, and what's more, I saw a few bits of it, firsthand. I think her truth is the closest to my truth of the three. Things happen, both good and bad, and while some bad things get punished in subtle ways, and some good things get rewarded in tiny ways, mostly things just play out. Hers is less a tale of redemption than it is of re-invention. She learns along the way to concentrate on her strengths and play less into the hands of her weaknesses. She doesn't exactly forgive those who have wronged her, but she learns to understand them. Definitely no 'second acts" here. I like that. It's all the first act. I only wish I'd been a bit more of her type, and a bit less of a wallflower when she was a real wild child, because while were both in good places,now, etc- it'd be really cool to say that I knew her back then- even if we both still have regrets about those times, I think she's never been anyone's regret, and I wish I could say the same, but I think she's able to make even a loser freak like me come across as more interesting. So, yes, better written, as well. Easily the best of the three books, and that is a matter of perspective- her perspective. It's better than Jack who avoids the typical "new leaf' cliches, but still excuses and distances himself.
Then, there's Russell Brand. I actually like some of his comedy, and I think he's interesting and smarter than expected for a celebrity. But he traffics in the worst of the cliches. Oh I was terrible, but it was terribly fun, but I'm all right now. He even called a comedy show 'Better now". So, why did i read it? Because he can be funny. That's it, really. I wouldn't want to know him. His life sounds like Jack's minus the violence, and, not to be too American, but I am of the sort that Violence was always a more likely sort of trouble for me than Sex. Even so, if he enjoyed it all so much as he very apparently did, as he rhapsodizes about his drugs and paid-for sex, then how am I to believe that he's "better', now? It's bullshit, one way or the other,and I think both.
See, that's the thing with these "new leafs"- it's bullshit one way or the other. Either you weren't having any fun, or you aren't having any fun, now. I had very little fun when I was doing things I don't do now- that's why I don't do them, now. There's no change in me, as a person. No sudden epiphany.
Let me give you an example because it's most recent ( if only very petty and minor). I gave up coffee. Were there times when I loved coffee? You bet. But, I have a lousy gut, and I gave up coffee because it was no longer any good to drink a cup, and have wrenching gut and chest pain for 3 hours afterwards. No fun in that at all. So, I gave up coffee. There's no wistfully thinking about the days when I drank coffee. There's no admitting that coffee was more powerful than me. No tearful confessions about what my love for coffee made me do. I just got sick, and quit. There you go. Done. I didn't need a new life, I just needed to have more fun.
So, it's New Year's eve, where I'm typing, now. That's my thought for New Year's eve- Auld Lang Syne. You know the words- For auld lang syne, my jo, for auld lang syne- we'll take a cup of kindness yet- for auld lang syne. That's the way I see the world-we are little but our memories, and if we cannot accept our memories, we cannot accept our lives. If we cannot accept our lives they become painful fictions- they will be fictions in any case, but the real goal is less about truth and more about minimizing pain. Yeah, I'm deep like that, yo....

Friday, December 23, 2011

A few Thoughts on Crossover

So, it's almost Christmas, thus my thoughts naturally turn to Metal. Yeah, right.
Actually, I've been reading "This Ain't the Summer of love" by Steve Waksman, and while it's not the worst bit of music criticism disguised as cultural anthropology I've ever read, it is merely that- this is just his way of writing about some bands he likes, and he managed to get it into book form because he got some grants from a few universities. His point is that Metal and Punk are connected, and while he's not wrong, he misses a whole lot; not the least of which goes something like this: His title is from a Blue Oyster Cult song. In the late 1970's, Blue Oyster Cult collaborated with Patti Smith, and their in-house producer, Sandy Pearlman, also produced the Clash's 2nd LP. The song in question "This ain't the Summer of love' shares a riff with Mudhoney's "Swallow my Pride", and a big song for BOC, "Godzilla" was very similar to a few Nirvana riffs, including "Smells Like Teen Spirit"... That's off the top of my head- I could get deeper, easily, but I don't think Waksman could, seeing as he's just a recovering "Hessian' ( Los Angeles punk rock slang for Metal head)
Anyway, enough about the book because it's just my jumping off point. Punk and Metal clearly are closely related, but mostly because they're both hard rock, and roughly contemporary. However, I'm a pretty big fan of punk, and really not such a big fan of Metal. That's more what I want to discuss.
See, I know I've mentioned metal on this blog, and on previous blogs and even in printed articles, and so, it might seem like I'm some kind of metal head, but I'm not and the reasons are many. I'm not a big believer in Virtuosos. I'm not impressed by speed picking, hammer ons and the like. I know plenty of music theory, and I can play well enough that I've passed for professional, but I just don't care for the whole notion that sheer technical prowess is musically more worthy. Shredding just doesn't mean much to me. Likewise, I don't give a rats ass about Frodo or the Devil. Fantasy and occult lyrics mean less than nothing to me. I don't like long hair, bullet belts, or black leather, either. Spandex is best left to strippers and pro-wrestlers. On top of all that, there inevitably is something... vaguely trashy about metal, in an unappealling way. What I mean is, ummm, well, let's do this by way of a story. Most socialists struggle a bit with the dichotomy between wanting to do what's best for "the masses" and the short-comings of those same 'masses". I had a friend who resolved this dichotomy by dividing up the Proletariat between the proles and the "lumpen Proletariat". I disagree, respectfully, but I can see what he meant. That's the kind of problem I've got with Metal- it always seems to lead to ignorant hickoid trash, of the least amusing kind- racists, close minded bigots, sexist pigs, etc. Do I have to bring up Zakk Wylde, or were you already there with me? I can deal with Cat Scratch Fever, but do I have to take Ted Nugent, too? See what I'm getting at?
So, almost reflexively, the only Metal I like shares some kind of 'crossover" with Punk. I can deal with the aforementioned Blue Oyster Cult in that their music fits in, at least in enough ways, with the detroit "Proto punk' style. I'm ok with Tru$T, and, very early Iron Maiden, because DiAnno was a bit of a punk, and hell, Jimmy Pursey even got thrown into the mix (East Enders, all). Likewise, bands like Kylesa and Torche have roots in Southern Crust punk, and it shows enough that I like them.
And what do I have to say about Motorhead? Isn't it obvious that they're as much a Punk band as a Metal band?
If you are a big Metal head, I know we share some musical tastes, but there are some points of divergence, and I'm bringing up that divergence because Waksman reminded me-
ultimately, the reason why I'm not real keen on Metal comes down to this- the divide isn't academic. When someone throws a punch at you, either for liking a band he doesn't, or for not liking a band he does, or, horrors, for both, it tends to turn you off to everything that clown likes. Well, I had more than a few punches thrown at me from Metal heads. Everything beyond that is just icing on the cake of hate. If Waksman missed anything important, it's that- there were plenty of real, not verbal fights between punks and Metal heads in the 80's. I haven't forgotten that, so I still have a bit of a grudge against Metal as a genre....

Sunday, December 18, 2011

I don't Do "Best Of" Lists

However, I've not put anything new under your nose in awhile. Why that is would be a combination of three factors; 1. I'm too busy working two jobs, and taking care of a household, and buying stuff for other people. 2. Really, music-wise, book-wise, and Film-wise, there hasn't been anything in the past month or so that really spoke to me. Now, TV, on the other hand- Boardwalk Empire is AMAZING! you must watch it at your earliest convenience. The acting? Michael Shannon, and Michael Pitt were just ungodly good. Steve Buscemi actually isn't playing Steve Buscemi. This is something harder, and more menacing. I like it. Gretchen Mol has finally redeemed herself from that horrible Bettie page movie, and is playing a vicious psycho who reminds me of my ex-wife ( and how's that for playing the villian?) and Kelly Macdonald finally, finally, Finally pays off that promised she showed in Trainspotting. The production? Hell, this is the most beautiful depiction of the prohibition era since prohibition. Just absolutely gorgeous. It blows away stuff like the Coen Brothers' attempts (Millers Crossing, and O, Brother) and yes, the Godfather flicks.The story is very loosely based upon the real-life Enoch Johnson, and, yes, some of the fun is in the docu-drama aspect, but there has been enough variation on real life that I'm rivetted to my seat- and nothing hammered in those rivets more than the season finale. I won't give you any spoilers, but I will say that the real-life counterpart to a major character was very much alive into the 1970's- so the point is that there are no rules- the story will play out, and what a story it is. Basically, it imagines a noirish world in which all are corrupt, and the only real nobility is if your corruption serves the greater good. In terms of plot, it centers around the efforts of Enoch 'Nucky" Thompson to run Atlantic City at the time when it was the Vice Capital of the USA. Beyond that, you can google it. But, hey, I'm getting distracted.... I'm just meaning to say the Boardwalk Empire has been the sole new pop culture thing to really catch me since the beginning of december.
So, since I don't do best of lists, since that would imply that I've not only got taste, but that my tastes are worth emulating, I'm just giving you a list of the 15 musical releases I've listened to the most this year. All are truly spectacular, and I think all are worth your time. Of course there's no hierarchy, and, of course, I listened to other stuff, but I just dumped itunes, and I happened to notice what had been most played, and these were the 2011 releases:
Gang of Four- Content
Ringo Deathstarr- Colour Trip
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart- Belong
The United Sons of Toil-When the Revolution comes, Everything will be Beautiful
Pandoras. Box- Monomeet
Wire- Red Barked Tree
Ritual-Paper Skin
Red Fang- Murder the Mountains
Cute Lepers- Adventure Time
dEUS- Keep you Close
Kasabian- Velociraptor!
Wild-Flag-Wild Flag
Lydia Loveless- Indestructible Machine
Wilco- the Whole Love
Coliseum-Parasites (ep)
Most of them should be available at Amazon, and Bandcamp. There's your christmas list if you don't already have them.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Giving Doubletwist a whirl

As the title states, I'm trying Doubletwist as an alternative to Itunes. It's... different, so far. Uploading was a freakin' breeze, and compatability doesn't appear to be an issue. I mean, 2000 songs uploaded in 10 minutes, that's not bad. And I lost no artwork, or whatever. playlists are organized a bit different, and I'm still learning there. It's easier just to right click and play in Windows Media player (which,by the way, sounds pretty good via headphones- seriously, I've not had bass response like this in quite awhile. Some of the highs are a bit mushy, but I've gotten fairly used to a pretty tinny sound, so I might be adjusting)
We're not quite at the Honeymoon, here, but not a bad introduction.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Except when I don't

Well, Apple, it was fun for a little bit. I'm done with you. Safari was a good browser, and I really liked my Ipod, but I was never the biggest fan of Itunes, and, now, with the Icloud, Ping, Home sharing crap, I view your products as a threat to my well being.
See, I got this shiny new laptop, and it really is shiny and new, all silvery and speedy. Then, I tried to upload itunes on. First, it wouldn't let me download it. Seems my shiny new laptop is a bit too shiny and new for anything but the absolute latest version of Itunes, the one that comes preloaded to operate on the cloud. Which would be OK if it retained functionality, but it didn't. See, I couldn't access my library. Worse yet, when I tried to access through Home sharing, I got someone else's library. Yes, I couldn't believe that either! I mean, I was using my information. My username, my password, my email address, the works, and yet, there I was, staring down a list of bad Nu-metal and pop country tunes owned by what I can only presume is a girl in dire need of therapy - and Amy K, if you ever stumble across my email that I sent you, before you delete it because you think I'm some kind of Nigerian Prince scam, I wish you the best of luck, and whoever is the guy who made you so hurt and angry, he's not worth it.
But, Apple, things got worse. I was still trying to make it work. After all, I'd invested so much time and money in you. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 800 songs purchased, not to mention the hardware, and all the time spent trying to recover from previous crashes, glitches, and problems. But, you were unavailable. No easy access to a help desk, unless I gave you a product code, but there is no product code to itunes, is there? I had a certainty inside that it wouldn't work. But I finally found a few places to email, and so I did.
Then, I heard back from you. More precisely, from Theresa. Theresa, I know you're just working a shit job. I know this because one of my jobs isn't so very different from yours. Theresa, I know you need information to do your job, but you don't need the personal data that you were asking for. I'm not going to sell out Amy K, either. On top of that, my kaspersky LIT UP every time I opened one of your emails. Worms, trojans, viruses: you're carrying more threats than a Somali hooker with a poorly made AK. It was then that my heart turned and hardened. I realized how bad our relationship has been.
I will find love again. I know I will. One of my real friends will set me up. When I fall in Love, I'm doggedly loyal, and I'm shameless in promoting. When I love something, or someone, I love them all the way, except when I don't. Then, I leave them behind me like excrement. Worth nothing but disgust. Yes, Apple you disgust me. Go fellate Jobs' corpse, you cancerous piece of trash. I mean it. Just like that. You've betrayed me for the last time. I won't trust you, and I don't like you. I hope that effing Coby electronics outsells you. I hope that someone hacks your new Iphone, and makes your operating system a cheap concubine for Russian Mobsters. Go die.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

mmm mmm I luuuv technology

So, still setting up the new computer. Actually, two computers. I got a Dell Inspirion as the "home" computer, meaning that it belongs mostly to my wife, but I can use it, too. She's got a netbook, and an HP Laptop for her use, as well. But, what I'm typing on is my new Toshiba Satellite. I got a rather low end model, nearly discontinued- one of the 4 gig, 2 ghz 755 models. Why? Well because I actually trust Toshiba. As far as corporate behemoths go, they're not so evil. But also because they make relatively reliable stuff. So, why go so low end? Because, so long as I've got a decent dvd/blu ray drive, and enough memory to run IE and Open Office, and a few USB ports, I don't need anything more. Really, I probably could have managed with a 2 Gig version, but then, it's a 1.6 ghz processing speed, and I'm used to have about 2ghz speed, and this one was en vente, at a muy bien price. The idea is to keep processes to a minimum, on the hard drive, and keep everything on external drives. Also, I'm OK with Microsoft, I've got good friends who work at Microsoft, but I was almost convinced to go mac, based upon how horrible Vista was, and how clunky MS office was becoming. Can I say that I hated it? Yeah, pretty much. So, I wasn't going to go full bore PC. I can still run IE happily, and Windows 7 is back up to snuff. Certainly not better than a Mac, but not so much worse. But, Office, I'm done with. I like Open office so far, and yes, I've got friends at Oracle, as well. I do have google chrome preloaded on this sucker, so there's always that option, as well. The only other "big" thing, is that I'm going to have to download Itunes on here. I'm worried about that, a bit. I've got somewhere around 1600 songs on 11 CDS to load, and we'll see how that works.
But, in the meantime, I've got, essentially, a netbook, with word processing, a blu-ray player, and a cool wireless mouse, and decent 25 watt speakers, at under the price of an IPad. So, yeah, so far, so good.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I've been away

No, I'm not dead. Just busy. And somewhat bummed out. And well, typing this on a new computer, which says that yes, the old one is dead. So, while I can't say I'll be putting up a whole lot of posts in the near future, but there might be some forthcoming. Again, if somebody tells you "But we really need to have you" for a second job, really consider if you need them.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Never let me down

Yes, I've got stuff to say- but no time to say it in. On top of my insane work schedule, I've got relatives visiting in short order. So I really cannot post much. I know that this lets down the entire world, as I've been posting so consistently lately (sarcasm can be printed, you just have to know the author).
So, just a thought to tide me over- I have two main jobs, right now. Bothare basically servicing the needs of rather wealthy people. Without getting too deep into it, you know that line in Fight Club- We watch you while you sleep- well, it's true. I get compensated middle class wages, which is good. But, I'm seen as being part of the machines I operate- these people depend on me, and don't realize it. For example, a very big reality TV star uses my services. I'm not stupid, so I know what they are doing, and so, I don't need the tabloids, I do know their secrets, and probably could make a mint by spilling said secrets. But, then, I'd have to live with myself, and quite frankly, it's against my sense of propriety to divulge these things I know. But, it irks me that so many wealthy people are so utterly base, debased, venal, and crapty humans. have you seen what Spencer Pratt wrote? It's ironic, because he's basically flogging a book, probably so's he'll get some additional fame and fortune, but what he says about the commercial nature of all things celebrity is dead on the money (all puns intended). If you buy into the celebrity culture, you're literally buying in, and I'm warning you now, it's a sick game where you'll never get what they promised you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Alt Country?

More of a by-the-bye than a real post: you may have noticed some "alt country" in my tastes. I hate that term. Rocknroll, by its very nature is a mix between the blues and country. It wasn't just white people playing the blues- especially because the guys who pioneered it, like Ike Turner and Little Richard were black. It was incorporating what was around- so, from the gaelic and Scots high country interpreting American Swing you derive American Western Swing, then, add some Latino cowboy chords, and you get the kind of Country that people heard- hillbilly music. You add that to the gospel, and jazz derived blues formats, and you get rocknroll. If it was just White guys playing the blues and not a real mix, it'd be a lot slower, and a lot more modal- less open and major chords...
For me, then, Rocknroll inherently has a country element. I've been hearing it since I was a boy, and it was that lack of the electrified country tempo that was killing my love for music in the late seventies. I don't hate the disco beat, and I like funk. I'm ok even with the blues, but minus that hillbilly shuffle, and it gets pretty flaccid.
For me, therefore, a lot of what gets called "alt country" just sounds like rocknroll to me. I've been listening to it about as long as anything else- starting with True West, and then, the Americana side of the Dream Syndicate, and the more pronounced "Death Country" (Thanks George, for that term) of Thin White Rope, all the way back in 1984-85, going through stuff that actually made the country charts like Dwight Yoakam and the Mavericks, into Uncle Tupelo, and Son Volt and Wilco, to the present day, it's always been a part of what I listen to (oh, and bear in mind, I'm skipping over the " Cowpunk" of bands in Los Angeles- everyone from Los Lobos, The Minutemen, The Gun Club, to the Blasters, and X, as I just think of all that as Punk Rock, not even rocknroll)- so much like Alternative rock- Alternative to What?? It's just rocknroll to me....

Hybrid Moments

So, the past couple of days, I've been listening to what might get called hybrid music- for example, Lydia Loveless and her country/punk stylings. I'm not sure if I really think of this stuff as hybrid music. I mean, right this second, I'm listening to "Old Folks Boogie" by Jack Oblivian, from his new one "Rat City". I can hear the memphis R&B and the early 1970's rock and soul connection, and I can hear the Crypt/Sympathy for the Record Industry garage-rock production, where treble is clarity, and bass is blur. So, I know that it's got hybrid characteristics, but it still sounds whole to me, following its own thing. I mean, without the labels, I'd just think of it as a particularly funky garage boogie. For yet more clarity, I've been listening to Mariachi El Bronx II, which most folks classify as "The Bronx playing Mariachi music". But, it's not straight Mariachi music, at least not traditional Mariachi music. It's not the Rocking thrash punk that the Bronx specialize in, either. It's too uptempo to be Mariachi, but the instrumentation isn't rock. So, is that a hybrid between the two, or is it something new? I'm not sure. It's not a goof on traditional music, like how I get the feeling that Hayseed Dixie is a goof on both Ac/Dc and bluegrass. Let's not forget that Rocknroll is a "hybrid" to begin with, and rarely stays pure even to that supposed blend (Country and Blues). Of course, it's tempting to say it's all just "music", and who needs labels , Maaaaaan. But, that isn't honest, either, because Mariachi El Bronx has little in common with Jack Oblivian nor Lydia Loveless. So, what is it, a hybrid, or a flavour? a colouring? a shade? a mix? a mash up? Hard to say, hard to say....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


So, it's the time of year where I start to get grouchy. Not really seasonally affected, just grouchy. See, Christmas is coming soon, and my office is near a mall. So, I have to put up with about ten times the bad driving than I normally do. Also, because of the increased commute time, it means I do see the sun very little (less than 20 minutes in a day). On top of that, the forced festiveness of the season makes me irritated, as well. So, grouchy, yes. Depressed, no.
This is why I start looking for more aggressive music about this time. I'm just as big a fan of the other Arts, but music is for my emotional states, more than my philosophical stance, or my need for human connection ( though everything plays into everything; I'm not suffering from too much alienation)
So, here's three new bits of aggression that have been an appropriate soundtrack to my commute.
First is Lydia Loveless' "Indestructible Machine" which I have mentioned at least once before. Really, it's suiting me very well- it's country punk, but not like you think. This is more like The Clash running into Loretta Lynn, than some naff Eagles with distortion. Lydia's characters are alcoholics, pure and simple. Her voice is right up there with Lucinda Williams in the authenticity bracket, even if her songwriting isn't that great, yet, but her band makes up for it in pure drunken passion. I'm impressed.
Second is the new Coliseum EP, "Parasites". Wow, these guys just go from strength to strength. Stoner rock, Punk, hardcore, and edgy postpunk beat up in a blender with a handful of railroad spikes. If you like at least two of those genres, you should at least give them a listen. I've said before how they're a great fit for my musical tastes, and i stand by that, here. This is exactly what I want to hear when I just got cut off by some grandma in a minivan, talking on her archival cellphone.
Finally, we've got Poland's Joe Sixpack, with their new one "Riders of the Bomb". Yup, it's hardcore. Complete with strained vocals, and sloppy musicianship. The songs squeal, thrash, and wander, just the way I want hardcore to be. Aggressive, self-indulgent, and immature- like a temper tantrum. very nice, I like it.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gwar News

I know it might seem a bit out-of-character, but yes, I was a scumdog. So, it's pretty sad to hear that Cory's dead. I wouldn't say we were close friends, but I know many in the Smoot family, and some are good friends. Very sad to hear, really. No, there's no joke, no punchline, no point. That's how life is- things happen, then, arbitrary as it seems, you die. Bummer, huh?

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Janes Addiction/Wilco Deathmatch!!!!

Ok, ok, not really. But, because I bought both in the same week, I can't help comparing and contrasting.
The comparison is that both bands have settled into a comfortable middle age. Both have mellowed out. I don't think that Dave Navarro is in any danger of overdosing in a club bathroom, and I don't think Jeff Tweedy is going to blow his brains out- so, when I say "mellowed out", I guess I mean "have rejoined humanity". Both Albums sound relaxed and confident as compared to earlier, and you'd think that would be a good thing.
I think the contrast comes in based upon how suitable "mellowing out" is for each band. For Wilco, with their Electronic/Americana blend, it's a great fit. Dialing down the angst means that you get a chance to enjoy the melodies, and understand that they're enjoying them too. The themes still have spiked bits about loss, death, alienation, and existential dread, but from a more abstract view. There's still room for Nels to wig out, but it reads more like jokes between friends, than stubborn refusals to roll over.
Meanwhile, Jane's Addiction were dark Rock gods- the debauched sons of Led Zep, with Bauhaus theatrics. They don't sound like monsters of their Id, anymore, and that means they are now? what? Former monsters. Caged Rock beasts. Retired and toothless sleaze alligators. It's just not the right fit. We all like it when our depressed friend cheers up a bit, but do we really like it when the stripper's DJ decides to play weddings and Bar Mitzvahs? The comfort they radiate is less that of friendship and communal effort, and more about financial stability. There are parts that sound like the worst of U2- when they're coasting on formula. There are moments that call forth the primal ooze of their libidos, but precious little bodily fluids get spilled, least of all, blood, and, quite frankly, they suffer from becoming well adjusted middle aged businessmen.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention what's not there- Wilco had Jay Bennett, and Jane's Addiction had Eric Avery. Wilco seems to have benefited from removing the conflict that Bennett brought, since towards the end, all he brought was conflict and Janes Addiction just isn't they same band without Eric Avery fighting against Perry and Dave. His contributions gave the songs thrust, and subversion by countering the more conventional stylings of Dave's Van Halenisms and the melodrama of Perry's histrionics.
So, yes, in this Deathmatch, Wilco wins. Even down to the titles- The Whole Love can be read two ways- as the entire love, or as the healthy love. The Great Escape Artist can be read two ways, as well- as Harry Houdini, or as a vacation planner ( an Artist at "great escapes"). Which would you rather listen to?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Now this is news

Remember back in the 1980's, before MTV News took the bassline, Megadeth's Peace Sells? Remember the part in the video when the kids says "This is the news!"? Yeah, good times... Well, I'm not a fan of Atari Teenage Riot, and the songs is a second-rate Rage against The Machine pastiche, but I like the video for Black Flags, because it is the news...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Yes, I've got a twitter account. But I'm JAFO on there. (Look it up. JAFO, that is. My handle on Twitter is @MattMaxVan )
Yes, on one level, totally sold out. But I still don't plan on "tweeting" and I still think Twitter is a degrading concept that will further erode us as human beings- and no, I'm not saying that facetiously, as some kind of hyperbolic humour. I really think it's bad for you, as a person, the same way I think that wine coolers are bad for you as a person, or the same way that I think USA Today is bad for journalists, as journalists. It's crap that lowers the standards. But, I can't watch the decay from afar, so I got an account, and followed some folks. There. let's watch the empire fall, shall we?

In place of a post

Here's a life lesson for you: next time somebody asks you to work a second job, say no, if you can.
Yeesh, I've been ultra busy. However, I thought I'd drop a line or two.
I've bought some new releases. I hate none of it, but I'm surprised by what I like more and less. I bought both the new Jane's Addiction, and the new Wilco. Strangely enough, I'm in love with the new Wilco, and just like the new Jane's Addiction. Also, I got Lydia Loveless' Indestructible Machine, and it's pretty satisfying, as is the Boardwalk Empire soundtrack. I didn't really expect that out of either one. I expected Loveless to have a couple of decent sub-Lucinda Williams type alt-country grinders, and the Boardwalk soundtrack to be pale imitations of the gutsy music of the roaring 20's. Instead, Lydia Loveless does a fairly fresh take on Country punk, and the Boardwalk Empire soundtrack has pretty authentic takes on some vintage songs.
Speaking of Boardwalk Empire, I'm more and more impressed by Michael Shannon, and I really dig that they've spent a few episodes dealing with honest appraisals of race and politics in America. It's absolutely must-see stuff, so if you don't have HBO, or you live somewhere without the show, I really would suggest you at least rent or otherwise obtain the DVD when it comes out. This is what television should be.
I'm also watching the Walking Dead. I've liked it a lot, but with the new episodes deviating from the comic book, it's getting into much more morally interesting ground. Seriously, I'm intrigued by some of the philosophical quandaries presented and could see how it could be a good teaching tool for a sophomore philosophy class, somewhere.
So, I will post, soon, don't forget about me, I just have to find some time.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I don't know if I'm qualified for restaurant reviews. I've never been the best at judging food, and the highest job I ever had in the food service industry was as Prep cook at Scordato's.
But, I do like food, and food is definitely something that helps define a culture, and is one of the easiest ways to go out on the "long tail"- so, it's part of my mission statement here. So, if I screw this up entirely, please have mercy- I know I'm not a food critic.
I've heard people disrespect our local restaurants, and, frankly, I don't understand why. We've got some Zagat rated restaurants, a renowned Wine scene, a top-selling microbrewery, and even celebrity chefs. But, so be it, I guess. I still like some places around here.
I mean, if you don't like Volt, I question your credentials. The Voltaggio brothers are nationally known, and Bryan has his finger directly on the pulse- he's into gourmet pork, local and seasonal offerings, and even can do the so-called molecular cooking. What could be more of-the-moment, eh? Well, despite all that- the food really is spectacular. Yes, I'm unafraid of spending cash on food. I've had 2 and 300 dollar bills for meals. So, no, it's not cheap- but I defy you to say that anything offends your palette.
On the other end of the cost spectrum, I was a massive fan of That Cuban place, now That Cuban Truck. I'm a slave to good yucca fries, and black beans and rice. It's a weakness.
I also like fusion cuisines, so, a few yards away from my home, I dig El Sloppy Taco. Yes, because Tex-Mex meets Memphis BBQ is an awesome idea.
I've written about it before, but I'm also a massive fan of the Doner Bistro . It's everything a good teutonic boy, like myself could want.
But, I'm not picky. I also dig the deli counter at The Common Market and at Wegman's. I can do without decor, hence my abiding love for the exploded potato at AKA Frisco's.
So, in that spirit of simplicity, but really amazing food, my latest random discovery is Haute Dogs & Fries in Purcellvile, VA. I had the Lamb sausage, sliders, fries, a brownie, and the owner brought over the Eskimo dog. Oh, my. Just plain awesome. The buns are butter covered then grilled to caramelize the outer edge. The meat was fresh and flavorful, the condiments, especially the mint sauce on the lamb were exquisite, and the the place was beyond friendly. Lionel is smart, and a good chef. He knows his area, and, like Bryan Voltaggio, won't stay a local secret for long. Though I didn't meet Patricia, I'm sure she has an equal flair. Are they out of the way? Well, look at a map. My wife and I found the place completely randomly, out of a photo safari, but I'm very, very happy we did. It's a seriously worthy contender as a restaurant, selling what could otherwise be consider street food.
My wife thinks that this area- between Frederick County, MD, Loudoun County, VA and Jefferson County, WVA is an under-rated hotspot. Well, food-wise, with places like the Haute Dog and Fries? I'm more than happy to agree. That, my friends, is exactly why we shouldn't tolerate mass culture.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A stopped Clock

I've tried. A lot. I just don't care for St Vincent. However, Annie Clark's bunch did one good thing- the cover of Kerosene is pretty special. Still the master does it better.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Don't know much

I don't know much about the Howling Bells, other than a cursory read-through on the Wikipedia, and hearing the new song on the NME site, which prompted an immediate purchase of their "The Loudest Engine". They play a pretty exquisite mix of blues-based country rock mixed with shoe-gazey psychedelia. I see people mentioning folk, and yes, there are accoustic guitars, but I'm thinking that might be some laziness on the journalists' part. I'm hearing something more akin to Black Rebel Motorcycle Club meets Mazzy Star, out at Rancho De La Luna. I'm prefectly willing to admit if I'm missing something, and I really don't know very much about the band, and I've not heard anything but this record-however, what more do I need to know than that I like it?
I will learn more, of course, but in the meantime, I think I'm going to listen...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Orras- Skaing

(The title is a joke based upon the first time I heard of The Horrors- that's my best attempt at a Surrey accent. Normally, I'm good with accents, of various stripes, as I've got an accent myself- I speak with a bit of an American Southwestern accent, a bit cowboy, a bit surfer- mixed with my Mum's strong Saskatoon accent, and a little bit of my Dad's Dutch accent, but the Southern English accent defies me. Hell, I'm good to go in Edinburgh, and Cork, equally- but in Surrey everyone has to say everything twice to me. So, the guy is listening to this ungodly noise, and I ask him what is that crap, and he says "Tha Orras" and I ask "The Oreos?" he replies "Na, mate, tha Orras" so I ask him to spell it. He's frustrated but he does, and I realize the silent Haitch. I find my stupidity funny.)
So, have you seen High Fidelity? With Cusack, doing his best to make Chicago seem like London, and breaking down the fourth wall every chance he gets? Yeah, I thought you had. So, you know that scene where they're listening to Kinky Wizards for the first time, and Jack Black sorrowfully says that they're good? Well, that's how I feel about the Horrors' new one "Skying". I hated the Horrors. But this record? It's pretty good. It's not excellent, change your life great, but it is pretty good. Which means, if you're so inclined, give it a shot. It's got a 4AD/Shoegaze type of feel, with slightly more pop songwriting. Reminds me of when Bassman from Spaceman 3 formed the Darkside, mixed with latter day Chameleons. So, yeah, good stuff. Very odd that they kept the name with that sound, and with the improvement in songwriting. I'd think they'd change the name and distance themselves from the garbage on their first record- and yes, it was pure garbage. I think part of the enjoyment, though, is hearing a truly wretched band find something good. That might be related to why I find my stupidity funny- I rather like reversals.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wild Flag? Really, you're going with "Wild Flag"?

Again proving the dictum about bad band name equals good band, I've been listening to Wild Flag. Yup, it's good. Former members of Helium, Sleater Kinney , the Minders and Quasi type good.
How to describe it? Well, I've been listening to The Knux, as well. The best metaophor for them, in my mind is the dude you meet at a party on coke. (As in, the dude is on coke. You don't really know him, but you meet him at a party, and you can just observe him, knowing that his problems are his own, but the entertainment belongs to you) The Knux try to mix really raw garagey kind of post punk guitars, with rap and Pop choruses, with the end result sounding like a good New Wave band, but nothing so deep that I can truly relate to it. It's basically entertainment, and nothing more.
Wild Flag, meanwhile is much more like hanging out with a few friends and some beers. I know that there are some issues there, and that makes hearing them have some fun all the better- just like when you can have a drink or two with friends. It's not as tied to amusement, but the enjoyment is more satisfying. They play Indie rock (big surprise, there, huh?) but they do this really neat thing where the guitars and keyboards lock up just slightly behind the beat- it means that they sounds relaxed, no matter how energetic the tempo might be, but they also sound like they're tied in together- again, like hanging out with friends. I'm becoming a really big fan of Carrie Brownstein, though- between her no-nonsense interview persona, her work on Portlandia, and this? It seems like maybe it was good that Sleater Kinney is gone...
I only wish I didn't have to work, and so, will not be able to see them play the Black Cat on the 20th. Hopefully, they stick around long enough to tour again, sometime....

Steve Jobs is Dead

I just heard that it happened. I don't think it was any great shock to anyone, but it is sad, nonetheless. I'm sure the Pancreatic cancer had something to do with it., but I knew on a slightly more personal level that he was going. See, I worked for him, just a little. I knew that I was making arrangement to take him to medical facilities, and most of them were on the "hospice" end of the spectrum, as opposed to the treatment and curative end of the spectrum. So, no we weren't close in any way, but I felt bad for the guy- having to project strength, and command, all the while trying to make one last comfortable bed to lie down and die in.
Of course, his contributions are many, and you'll be hard pressed to find anyone in the western world entirely untouched by the things Steve Jobs brought in to our lives.
I hope that whatever else, the man came to peace with his life. I happen to believe that this is the goal for all of us, and so, I hope he met that. I hope that his family was ready, and can deal with what comes next. I hope that all of us can have some goodwill thrown our way, when we need it. I don't think he needs it, now, but it's there nonetheless. It's sad that the man needs nothing, now, but the comfort is that he didn't seem to waste a second of his time here, so hopefully he got a few minutes or hours of that time without the burden of conflict.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Whacha doin'?

So, I talk a lot about music, a little about TV and books, and the occaisional book on here, right? But, culture isn't that. These are all artifacts, objects, things. Culture is what people do between them. So, what have I been doing, culturally?
Well, Most recently, yesterday I went to Crafty Bastards. For those not in the area, it's a large craft show, based around the fact that those of us in the DC area are so behind the times, that we didn't get the memo that crafting is over. Heck, we're so out of the loop we didn't even know that it's not subversive anymore.
No, what's hip and happening is what I blundered into right next to Crafty Bastards- auditions to be on the 27th season of MTV's Real World.
For those not culturally aware enough to remember the 1990's, I'm deeply sarcastic, because someone named Douglas Coupland put a big X on my forehead, ands I thought that made me a follower of Charles Manson, so I've been bitter ever since.
Much more seriously, I really like Crafty Bastards, as an event. I'm friends with some of the folks involved, and I always make new friends when I go. I think that some of the motivations for it are pure- sustainability, recycling, etc. However, the event is held in one of places I dislike. The Adams Morgan area of DC. Yes, I was in the same area a few scant weeks ago for You Am I ( which was good, but not awesome, unfortunately, so no talking about it from me) , and yes, I do end up there from time to time, but I hate the fake hipsterism that goes with areas like it. I dislike rude people in ironic costume, I don't like having to suffer for fashion- parking is awful, and the response I get from my friends- "I'm sorry, that's why I'm glad I don't live here anymore"- is miles away from the response of the locals, who were telling me to get a bike or get out. Real nice, huh? I live 50 miles away, and they won't let me take my bike on the train.
That's the heart of the cultural matter. Heart. The culture I want to support, and the engine that drives things like Crafty Bastards is a generosity of spirit, a joy in mindset, and a warmth of heart that you will not find in the so-called mass culture. Sure, we might dress it up is sarcasm, and parade it down into the cool,cool depths of hipsterville, but that heart is at the center of what my friends, and I hope I am all about.
So, whether it's fashionable or not (I'm thinking Not) and whether it's your exact Taste, or not- please check out my friends- because they're better people than I am. There's Tina Seamonster and Saul Bare Tree and Jessee and , of Course, Jon Wye ( I think about 1/3 of my T shirts come from that studio.) Go through my blog roll, and you'll find others, as well. The point isn't about style so much as good people. These are all good people. That's something that won't fit into a hipster neighborhood.
However, I am still into blatant localism. So, another set of things I've been doing centers around Frederick. I went to the county fair, which is a really big deal. I ate a poor boy sandwich, drank some beer, watched some kids, and saw a friend play his guitar. He's onto something interesting, I think- do folk music that's tied heavily into genre fiction. Specifically, he's getting tied into Science Fiction, but not in a jokey-reference material way. More in a story type of way. So, yeah, Check out Jonah Knight, too. Now, unlike some of the friends I might mention, Jonah's a really close friend, so sorry no detailed explication on his music- I don't want to discuss it. I like his music, and I like Jonah, and I don't want to potentially argue with anyone over it. But, back to Frederick County-
Later today, I'm probably hitting up Oktoberfest. Like I need an excuse for beer and sausage?
So, if Culture is what you do, that's what I am, lately.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A post I cannot escape

So, over the past week or so, there's been a big to-do about 20 years since "Nevermind". I really don't want to comment on it, but I feel like I'd be lying if I didn't.
No one, I repeat no one is going to believe a word of this, so feel free to tear me a new one, but please know that I'm not fond of talking about this, at all.
See, on the one hand, I cannot comment on that record, because I've never owned it. Seriously, never. As a record, it wasn't all that to me. I'd easily go with that being Nirvana's weakest album. I genuinely couldn't care less about chart position, or voice of a generation hype. It's Kurt's attempt to draw out the best from his influences, and nothing better. Given that I am steeped heavily in those influences, I don't need the copycat version. All I can say is listen to bands like Killing Joke, The Melvins,The Pixies, Naked Raygun, and Leaving Trains, and you tell me if you hear anything really new or cool, or unexpected on Nevermind.
But, that brings me to why I have to comment. See, being so heavily steeped means that I knew several of the players involved. I knew Butch from his (last) days in Spooner, and from Smart studios in Madison. I know Dave Grohl from Scream. And yes, I knew Kurt. See, look up the history (I'm sure you'll find it online, don't ask me for a link.) and you'll note that several Seattle and Olympia-based bands went to Tucson quite frequently. It's because of friends of mine, and I was the soundman at several of those clubs that bands came to play at. So, I first met Kurt when they had either recently released bleach, or were about to, I honestly don't know. Dave was not in the band yet. It's a long story, and quite frankly, not one I will share in public, but Kurt ended up sleeping on my floor. (Not an unusual thing for the time, but yes, the circumstances were unusual). I remember thinking that even though he was the same age as me, he seemed so much more a little boy. Not in an innocent way- little boys can be worldly and evil- but in the sense that he was overwhelmed by life even then.
Which brings me to another person I knew back then. Courtney Michelle Harrison, better known as Courtney Love. She's a nightmare, always. She was back then, and still is. I have to be very careful talking about her because most of what I'd say about her are things that get called "allegations"- but suffice it to say that I know of very few people outside of prison with as big a trail of death, and ruin in their wake. My personal opinion is that she should have been wearing an Orange jumpsuit, years and years ago, and that was my opinion of her before she ever met Kurt. However, once I heard that they were together, I told everyone who asked "He'll be dead inside of a year". At least he surprised me by lasting a bit longer than that, but I mean what do you expect when you put together a weak pretty little boy with a maneater ( that's the nicest term I can use. Most of the terms I'd use for her I will not say here)- You expect him to "man up"? You expect him to suddenly turn into his opposite? Not gonna happen. What will happen is that he'll get chewed up, and will likely die. I'm not bragging when I say that I'm a much stronger man than Kurt ever was, and at about the same time, I married a maneater as well, and I barely got out with my life. It took the better part of a decade to recover, for me, and I got out quicker than Kurt. So, again, knowing the parties involved, I fully expected Kurt to die, and I was most shocked by the amount he got done before he succumbed. There were many parallels between Kurt and I, even down to both of us having extremely bad guts. My son even looks like Kurt, a bit. It's a strange thing.
So, what's my take on this landmark album? What deep and pithy comment can I make? Only this- the pain on there is real. Almost nothing else is real on that record. That's why I prefer Bleach and In Utero, easily. Because while they both have the same pain, the hope on Bleach, and the acceptance, and contentedness on In Utero are just as real as the pain. Yes, I know that Kurt wrote his suicide note on In Utero. In the exceedingly dark world that Kurt and I inhabited at that time, suicide might very well be seen as a relief. Yes, I know that on Bleach, Kurt was trying to be as big dark and cynical as his heroes, but hearing a little blonde boy trying to become his heroes, what do you call that, besides hope? There's a lot said in Punk Rock circles about "selling out", and 99% of it is claptrap for weak minds, but one element is relevant: there is a despair that is hard to stomach when someone gives up everything they could have been to try to "make it big", and I can hear it all over Nevermind, so I still would rather not listen to it. But, that pain is real. It's honest. You can hear the pain and frustration of someone who has been truly isolated, truly alone on that album, and I think that pain is what people connect to. Think about it- we're hard-wired to respond to distress calls. That's why the sound of a baby crying affects you- even if only to annoy you. Most of us have had some pain in our lives, like that. So, when we hear it, we respond. If you wade through the bulldada that people will write, that's the message I hear, in the end- I could feel Kurt's pain.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


So, I got the new one, "Velociraptor!", and I think it's quite good. I'm not going to throw around words like "brilliant" or "genius" because no, it's neither of those. It is very enjoyable, however. The right mix between Oasis-styled laddish Beatle-isms, quasi-Bollywood sampled strings, and minimalist techno. I would still group them in with the more continental Art-Rock semi-scene (Everyone from Danes like Mew, and Kashmir, to the by-now over-mentioned dEUS, with stops on Silence is Sexy, Millionaire, etc, etc- basically about 80% of the non-stoner, non-Punk I mention on this blog). It's rather enjoyable, too, to watch the notoriously clannish, faddish and fickle English Press attempt to pigeonhole it. I truly believe it's because there's something new underfoot in Europe. Bands that are influenced by Radiohead and Kanye West and still trying to make organic-sounding music- not embracing the icy detachment of even the most grimy dubstep- but instead trying to apply some of the post-rock experimentation towards decidedly more rockist fare. It's hard to define, because it's not finished, yet. However, as such, it also cannot be strapped down to a neat category, either. To show you a bit more what I'm getting at, here are three Videos. One from dEUS, one from Mew, and the latest from Kasabian. Am I full of it, or can you hear the thread there, as well?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A little Follow up

Still listening to the new dEUS. I like it. It's more "Pocket Revolution" than it is "Vantage Point", but I guess I am American, so I like the brashness of Vantage Point. Still, I like Pocket Revolution, and this fits very well with that record. But, I cannot simply listen to it over, and over like I can with Vantage Point. I've been mixing it with the new-ish Beastie Boys (Hot Sauce Committee pt 2) and the Danger Mouse/Sparklehorse combo "Dark Night of the Soul" and it fits in very nicely with that combination, if that makes any sense...
My point, beyond a fanboy gush, is that I still am enjoying music more than I'm thinking about what I don't like- and I'd encourage you to do the same.

REM stage complete

Yeah, so REM are broken up. I was a big fan, back in the 1980's. I was less of a fan in the 1990's, and now?
Let me put it this way- I'm glad they've packed it in. Michael Stipe can go do visual arts, which he's both better at, and seems to like more. Peter Buck can go play his guitar with musicians who actually mean it for a change, and Mike Mills? Go play on your private yacht, dude. No, you don't know me, because you didn't seem to give a damn about us "little people", but I know you, pal, and no, I'm not impressed. Seriously, I know all the members of REM have had severe cases of "rock star-itis" , just like the members of U2, but I never had to work with most of them, so I can't speak about them. Mills, yeah, him I've worked for, and I'm glad that it wasn't often. I'm OK with them being very wealthy men. I'm even good with them feeling like they are important. I'm not good with them making music as REM, because it just hasn't been worth it, for quite awhile, to me. I'm even less good with deifying anyone, and not at all good with worshipping some people I know inhabit a different planet from what people think. I'm glad they're done. For those of you who are fans of their millennial output, good for you, enjoy those CDs, but don't play 'em around me, thanks. Here's hoping that folks know when to kill it before it gets old.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Keep you Close

Ok, thanks to a Belgian friend, I just secured a copy, and I've got it downloaded. I'll commence listening, now. For those without such connections, it'll be out everywhere by mid-October, but you can listen Now. I've not listened enough to pass along much in the way of what I think, but suffice it to say that I love dEUS, both the version that self destructed in the 1990's, and the new, suave, sophisticated version that came about in 2005. I might even like that version more, because I'm a sucker for pop music. Regardless, I know that a goodly percentage of those who check on this blog are in such a position that they are getting their copies this week, and I'm with you people. I'm excited, and I'll say more when I know more.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

a Fetish for those Arty magazines

(OK, bonus points for anyone who gets the reference without looking it up)
I've been reading two magazines that I don't usually. One, I'd really reccomend, the other, not so much.
The one I'd suggest you pick up if you find it is "Twisted South". I got the issue with Headcat on the cover. What a lovely bunch of puff-pieces this thing is! It's not investigative journalism, it's promotional material for very-loosely defined "Southern" stuff- but most of it, I'd say 85%, is fascinating and awesome. Check it out, really.
I didn't really care for the Wire magazine, though. I've seen it around, and it seemed like it might be the kind of thing I'd be into- I really am pretty versed in avante garde music, even if it's not all to my taste. But I'm completely turned away by the pretension, the elitism, the cultural hypocrisy and the plain snobbery of this thing. It was bad enough that I actually decided against buying a book by an author I have previously enjoyed. They had a bit in there by Simon Reynolds that was just awful about fetishising vintage NME's because it's too hard to fetishize vintage vinyl, or some other claptrap- I honestly couldn't be bothered to read it deeply enough to appreciate his full point it was so poorly written and so full of logical fallacies. So, I looked up some of his other stuff, and it's basically caused me to think that it's only because I loved the post punk era so much that I thought so highly of his "Rip it up and Start over Again" . He's just not that good.
So, I guess I'm with the Brutarians, then, yeah? Not exactly... I'm still an over-educated geek, and I still value intellectualism, and I would rather have a chat with a genius than "juss Folks", but I value sincerity and joy over irony and Schadenfreude.

Pitchfork doesn't get it

So, I have been listening to some "b-listers" recently. Bands that I know aren't making great Art, but that aren't straight mainstream fluff, either. So, as part of that, I read the reviews, and it strikes me just how opposite I am from one of the biggies- Pitchfork. If they rank it a 2, I'll rank it a 7, if they rank it a 7, I'll rank it a 3. I tend to be much more positive on music, in general, than they ever are. I think that might be because I have worked in the actual business of music in America. I'm not talking about the artistic side, either. I mean the straight job end of the business, and all innuendos should remain intact. I've done stuff like advertising sales, and final mixing, and editing video, and live sound, and promotions, and so on and so on- all the loathsome stuff to the high-minded aesthetes.It has given me both a cynicism that ties in nicely with my punk rock roots- I have no heroes. Wanna know why? Well it's because of things like having to set up a late night last minute stretch limo to pick up a bass player for a certain rock band noted for being heroes to many alternative types, a band noted for charity and high-minded aesthetics, from his private yacht, and then, having to work with local authorities to get this spoiled brat a police escort for his late night limo hijinks, so that no punters show up in any inopportune papparazi shots that may or may not occur. I'm sorry, but having to kiss that guys' ass more than ruins any notions of Art or beauty. But, on the other end, I can really appreciate the compromises, and the sacrifices made by one of the many little bands around, and so I'll be much more kind to them than some pompous, yet ignorant blogger at Pitchfork is likely to be. They don't understand that if you're a band playing at 700-1000 seat gigs, with a couple of records out on major label subsidiaries, or larger indie labels, this isn't just about Art, anymore. It's a job. You're trying your damnedest to make enough cash that you can fit a little Art into your resume.
So, which bands am I talking about, explicitly? Four of them, and they all fit in together- I'm talking about Glasvegas, White Lies, Blonde Redhead, and the Foals.
Now, my individual reviews of each would not actually matter, and I'm not planning on reviewing any of them. They're all fairly mediocre, but enjoyable somewhat dreamy, somewhat echo-ey takes on synth-alt hybrids with heavy nods to the kinds of 1980's bands that would've been played on 120 minutes. My point is more or less that such bands might just have a bit of nostalgia for things like 120 minutes because it was the kind of promotional tool that just doesn't happen all that often. These are bands just trying to get by on concert and album sales because they're just big enough sellers that if everything goes right, they won't have to work day jobs. As a guy who never had a silver spoon, and is getting by ok, now, and is a bit of a pinko, I can totally appreciate that, even if the music is only OK.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

So, wat r u up 2?

Yes, that was a lame attempt at text speak. I'm horribly out of touch when it comes to phones. I still own a "dumb" phone, and have no desire for an app. I don't text, and don't use the quasi-Princetic graffiti abbreviations that texters do.
What I am up-to-date on, of course, is other aspects of our Pop culture. So, yes, the past three weeks have been crazy busy, so not as much from me on the blog front. However, I've still been driving, still need to decompress, and still have a sweet tooth when it comes to books, movies and music.
The easiest is what I've been reading- I'm reading both the Bob Mould/Husker Du biographies- both "See a little Light" and "The Story of the Noise Pop Pioneers who Launched Modern Rock". Both, I've read before, but I'm reading then together, trying to alternate so that the chronologies match , making it like a conversation. Like a he said/she said type of arrangement? Call me harsh, call me biased, but I think I mostly side with Bob. He seems much more ready to admit flaws, and is much more coherent, making me think that I'm getting a more measured, sober analysis. Operative word being sober- I get the feeling that Grant is still using, and some of his quotes remind me pretty much of junkie-speak, and no, kids, you should never trust a junkie. Bob is prone to the typical AA exagerration- for example, he describes spiking coffee with "crystal meth". Quite frankly, I'll bet they spiked the coffee, but I'll bet it wasn't crystal meth. In 1982, Crystal meth was a lot harder to come by, and less refined- it wouldn't have worked as well, wouldn't have been as available, and wouldn't have been as easy as dumping a bunch of cross tops in the coffee- basically, the same kind of biker speed that Husker Du were used to. But, having been to enough meetings, I know how it goes. The stories get embellished so that you can top each other with "I was the worst". I can trust that kind of exaggeration. I cannot trust a minimized version like Hart's when he describes a 45 hour recording session and 40 hour mixdown as "We just worked very expeditiously because of having the experiences of {recording before}". That's Junkie-speak for "we did stuff that I don't want to tell you, because I don't want any trouble".
Anyway, it's an interesting thought experiment. Next, I think I'll alternate between Dick Cavett's book and Mickey Leigh's "I slept with Joey Ramone". After that, I might read Robert Rodriguez's "Rebel without a Crew"
Movies, too, are easy. I've been watching my usual TV shows, and the series finale for "Rescue Me" was awesome. I liked several things very much, plot-wise. Tommy remains haunted, remains a firefighter, and remains troubled. That's true to life. Things like having massive numbers of deaths around you just don't get resolved, ever. I know. I'm around Tommy's age, and I've had about as many deaths. I spent many years trying to deal with that. Now, I'm like Tommy- I'm accepting that this is how it is, and I'm not OK, and that doesn't matter, I've still got to live, somehow. I'm fortunate that it's not like my kid died, like his did, nor did my brother, like his did. Had either one died, I probably would have done exactly what Tommy did, and lose my damn mind. However, the reason why I liked this isn't because it was a bummer. Far from it, it's because they finally gave us the reason Tommy holds on- his ghosts are literally his best friends and family. He's not ready to become a ghost, himself, because he has things to do, like deliver his own son, but he won't give up those things that haunt him because he cannot give up his life. That's reality for you. This was no "Sopranos" cop out with a "did he/didn't he"? Ending. It was a basic admission- some things cannot be resolved, but those things that can be resolved, were resolved.
I also re-discovered "Killing Zoe" which is a great Caper flick, with a Tarantino-esque twist of- the caper goes bad. Yes, it has Eric Stoltz doing an early incarnation of his character in Pulp Fiction, and Julie Delpy being, well, french. But, for me, the movie is all about Jean Hugues Anglade as Eric. Eric is, by turn, scheming, suicidal, swaggering and suspect. He's completely believable as a criminal, and, by far, the best representation of a diabolically insane, yet charismatic bad guy. You know, the kind of role that John Travolta, Nic Cage, and Quentin Tarrantino, himself, have been trying to capture for half of each of their careers? Anglade nails it down. Seriously, if you don't both like and fear him by the end of the movie, you must be high. That he didn't get all the roles assigned to Peter Stormare in America, and every villian Travolta played is a sure sign that Hollywood must have blackmail photos owned by Scientologists...

Saturday, September 3, 2011

A quick note

I'm not certain when I'm next posting. Life's busy, what can I say?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Are We Not Men?

So, speaking of mainstream stuff, this past week I went to the movies, and saw the new " Rise of the Planet of the Apes" re-boot. Umm, yeah.Spoilers ahoy- stop now if you really want to let the plot unfold for you.
It had some moments, mostly those involving John Lithgow, who is an under-appreciated genius of a character actor. Also, the CGI is pretty Whiz-bang.
The story is predictable, , even beyond the fact of the movie having already been made.
If I seem reluctant to talk about the plot, it's not because I want to keep the films mysteries, because it has none. As much as "Hobo with a Shotgun" or "Snakes on a Plane", if you know the title, you know where this is going.
No, I'm reluctant because of how it differs from the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. That film was a satire of just how polarized, and how close to real Totalitarianism America was teetering in 1970. This film is almost an apology for fascism. The protagonist is the Ape, named Caesar, and at one point, he illustrates his plan by literally making a roman fasces. Then, in the end, the film gives a cheap out to fascism, by removing the murder and bloodshed that real-life fascism always involves- instead trying to blame the victim ( the chemical that forces the evolution of the Apes is a virus, so the wiping out of humanity is not accomplished by our benevolent Ape overlords. Yes that's a huge spoiler. But does it surprise you, really?) So the plot repulses me, completely and utterly.
I think we're nearing the end of the Hollywood movie. At least, I fervently hope so. Yes, there should be a place for big, dumb action movies. I love big, dumb action movies- but I'm sick of remakes, reboots, reimaginings, and other recyclables. I'm sick of comic books as the sole source of inspiration, and the endless baby boomer bullshit of trying to bring out everything from the late sixties and early seventies. I'm sick of being subjected to shite that's genetically engineered for 13 year old boys. I'm sick of virtually everything Hollywood does, and I think they are sick of it, too. That's why the award shows load up on films no-one saw because no studio promoted them- not even the studio that produced it. That's why almost anyone worth their salt has migrated to TV, Cable TV, or online. So, if Americans really were a bunch of rugged individualists like the Tea Party would have us believe they themselves are, Rise of the Planet of the Apes would be the nail in the coffin for hollywood that it deserves.

My old Kentucky Home

You'd think I'm from Kentucky, from how often I rate Kentucky-based bands (Think about it- Workers, Metroschifter, Coliseum, Trophy Wives, etc. ) but honestly, I just like what I like, and I don't really care too much where it comes from. So, now, I'm here to turn you on to Bowling Green's own "Sleeper Agent". They're on the radar- heck even Rolling Stone has heard of them. But you know what? They're still pretty darn good, and part of the reason I'm writing this is to correct a bad tag they're getting because of the lack of taste the mainstream shows. Multiple citations of the Pixies are the result of really lazy journalism, not any sonic similarities (Well, Ok, both bands play indie rock with some female vocals and some male vocals). They fit in more like Arcade Fire meets Sleigh Bells than anything to do with the Pixies. So, even if the mainstream is telling you that they're good, the mainstream is saying so for the wrong reasons. I don't mean that in any holier-than-thou sense, it's just true. They do big pop hooks, but they don't do the sideways songwriting, the traditional harmonies, the biblical references, the surf guitar lines, the David Lynch homages- in other words, they're nothing like the pixies. Instead, like Arcade Fire, these are Indie rock Anthems, but like Sleigh Bells, there are shark's teeth in the bubble bath. It's not just distortion, nor key changes- they have some genuine aggression, and mostly keep things at Punkish tempos, with vocals straining to stay in tune. The keyboards provide more atmosphere than hooks. Overall, it's a joyful racket, but with a maniac's glee.
Listen to, then decide if you want to purchase, as always, but I did, and I chalk it up to the area- Kentucky seems to breed some really good rock music, you know?

Sunday, August 21, 2011


So, I was talking about stuff bought from Borders going under. I don't buy a whole lot of movies because I've got 20 movie channels, on demand movies and 5 theaters within 30 miles. So, I just buy classic movies that I can watch multiple times, and TV shows that I enjoy. So, I got two movies- Rocknroll High School- because who doesn't love it? and Brick because I love film Noir and hardboiled detective fiction.
So much for that. I got the following TV shows: Burn Notice, Lost, NewsRadio and Rescue Me.
Burn Notice I've talked about enough. You get it, I like the pretty photography.
Lost, everyone has talked about that show more than enough. I got Season three, which I consider to be the end of the show. The last three seasons were sporadically interesting, but it was a different show from Lost. I'm not interested in anything after Season 4, but the first three seasons were essential.
NewsRadio, was amazing until Phil Hartman got murdered. Think about the talent on the show- Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall) Andy Dick (Ben Stiller show, Mr Show) Phil Hartman (SNL) Stephen Root ( From Office Space to True Blood, he's everywhere, and never bad) Joe Rogan (Fear Factor,UFC,manliness) Maura Tierney (ER, Rescue Me) Khandi Alexander ( CSI:Miami, CB4, ER) and Vicki Lewis (Tons of Voice work on everything from Finding Nemo to Justice League ). The writing was Paul Simms ( David Letterman, Larry Sanders, Flight of the Conchords, The Simpsons) and the guest stars are a who's who of American comedy. It was like SNL, shoved into a sit-com.
Finally, what do I need to say about Rescue me to get you to watch the second best TV show around (Best is Boardwalk Empire)? You've got an amazingly talented cast, scripts that sound like real life, incredible stories filled with drama and comedy, and some of the best-looking shots I've seen on TV. Seriously, I've worked as a cameraman, and Rescue Me is better filmed than most movies. The only reason why Boardwalk Empire is better is that the writing is better- not by a ton, but enough that I'd say it's a better show.
So, yeah, I'd say I scored on the DVD's...

Where's mah Bookit?

Ok, so I've been taking advantage of Borders books going out of business. Here's the books purchased in the past month, not counting books purchased for other people:
Route 19 Revisited: The Clash and London Calling by Marcus Gray. Have I mentioned I'm a fan of the Clash?
Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital by Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins. What is it with sociology majors, punk rock, subtitles, and the name Mark?
Hitman:My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling by Bret Hitman Hart. Yes, I like Wrestling. I was never a fan of Bret Hart, but he's a smart, interesting guy.
My Booky Wook: A memoir of Sex, Drugs and Stand-Up by Russell Brand. His comedy is hit or miss with me, but he's one sharp cat. So I find it interesting that such a bright young man could be so stupid.
See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody by Bob Mould and Michael Azerrad. I've already read most of it on a borrowed copy. Now I've got my own. Michael can write, and Bob is one of the best songwriters to come along.
The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness industry by Jon Ronson. I take Ronson with a grain of salt, but he does write fun pop Socio-psychological fluff.

That's not to mention the DVDs purchased, which will be next.

Things Change

OK, so I have been listening to music released this past decade as well. I've been listening to the Cute Lepers, as stated below, plus two others:
I finally decided to give the Artic Monkeys a try. Umm, well, still auditioning them, I guess. I've got Humbug, as I reckoned it would be the one I'd be most likely to enjoy. On paper, you'd think I'd like it- lots of retro beat references, articulate lyrics, some punky aggression and swagger. Maybe they'll grow on me, but as of now, it reminds me of The Vines and the Subways and a host of other bands that my wife really likes I suspect more for the way the band members look than how the music sounds. So, as of now, anyway, I cannot say that I'm a fan.
The other is Big Business' new Quadruple Single. Things change. Big Business used to clearly just be a Melvins side project, and mostly a joke at that. There's still humour, but things have changed. Now, they sound like a confident band in their own right, and yes, I like it. They're very seventies-influenced, but, not unlike the Melvins, no matter how metal influenced, there something that reads "Punk" in this. I mean how could there not be? They've got an Anthem consisting largely of a one note riff, and the lyrics? "Guns are better than anything else". Here, see what I mean.
So, I'll keep trying, because sooner or later, there will be something new to catch me.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Good Ol' Days

So, no, I haven't been putting much up here, as of late. however, that's mostly because I've been really enjoying some older stuff. The best of it is my re-discovery of Skin Yard's "Hallowed Ground". Now, if you don't know who Skin Yard were, here's a nutshell- they were the single most responsible unit in the creation of the whole "Grunge" thing. Don't believe me? Let's review- Dan House, the bass player ran C/Z records which put out the deep six compilation, considered by many to be the first Grunge record. Jack Endino, the guitar player, was the in-house engineer/producer for Sub Pop, so everything from Bleach to Zeke was recorded at Reciprocal studios. Matt Cameron, the drummer, went on to Soundgarden. Ben McMillan, the singer, formed Gruntruck, which opened for Alice in Chains more often than any other band, and were key to bringing Alice in Chains into the seattle scene. So, yeah, I think they were the unit most responsible for Grunge. On "Hallowed Ground" probably their most abrasive record they mix doom, psychedelia, funk metal, and Gothic rock- which tell me if you've heard different- is the formula for both grunge and Stoner rock. So, a key record? Yes, undoubtedly. Find it, if you can.
Another work of staggering genius that I've been listening to is the Effigies "For Ever Grounded". The Effigies were a early chicago skinhead punk band. Not quite Oi! and not quite Punk Rock, they mixed the two in a way that went a long way to creating the "Chicago sound" of bands like Naked Raygun, Pegboy, and Big Black. Then, they got influenced by Joy Division, and created some unique post punk, but on For Ever Grounded, they created a metallic, hard-edged new sound for punk, drawing from Oi!, like Blitz and the early Angelic Upstarts, from Punk, like The Ruts and Penetration and also from arty post punk like Killing Joke and Wire and Uk Decay. Really thrilling stuff, much better than what Los Angeles was producing in 1984.
Lastly, I've been listening to Chrome. Chrome were a kind of missing link between hard-edged psychedelic bands like Hawkwind and early industrial electronic bands like Caberet Voltaire. There were elements in common with The Stooges, Hawkwind, german Krautrock, like Neu! art like the Residents, and even Devo. So, I've been listening to Half Machine Lip Moves and Third from the Sun, both of which pursue a tinny metallic motorik grind with sci-fi lyrics half mumbled into badly functioning recording devices, then coat the whole thing in analog tape effects- it's like Silver Machine runs headlong into Throbbing Gristle. Easily some of the strangest stuff I had in my record collection in the early 1980's, and it wasn't until Six Finger Satellite revived the sound in 1997 that I thought about it. Now, I love it.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

That's not music

I just spent the last 45 minutes listening to squeaking noises, and I liked it.
I think the hard part about electronic, synthesized music is that it doesn't follow musical convention. Oh, sure, there are a lot of synthesizers in pop music, even, but the machinery, at its core, isn't designed to make music- it's pure noise generation. Certainly, the same argument can be made for any musical instrument- a guitar, a saxophone, a piano, all make noise- but all have a certain preset- a lot of conventions went in. Now, certainly, an electric guitar occupies a space where the conventional meets the pure noise element, and that might very well be why the electric guitar is my favorite instrument. But, the thing about hard electronics is that you have to harnass it to get it to follow the conventions. Sure, a lot are chained to a keyboard, but ultimately, the base machinery is just generating noise. Some folks need the conventions, and they need that system of organizing noise. I can understand that, and I don't look down upon it, but I also can appreciate pure noise- just the sound of an air conditioner running, or plates clinking in the sink while being washed can be aesthetically pleasing for me.
An appreciation for noise is what sets the Bloody Beetroots apart from other purveyors of electronica in Europe, right now. I can see how they have as much in common with Throbbing Gristle as Georgio Moroder , whereas a troupe like Justice, or Daft Punk are much more married to the disco end of the stick. Yes, you can dance to the Bloody Beetroots, and yes, they are "de nom" DJs, but they, themselves, even call it the Church of Noise. I am thoroughly impressed with how committed they are to exploring noise. It'd be very easy for them to adapt their sound to dubstep, or dance punk, or disco, and become far more mainstream, but they seem to love pure high-volume noise. Unless you're comfortable with hearing a good 45 minutes of squeaking, throbbing and oscillating noise, they're going to be somewhat off-putting.
So, I just got their best of remixes CD, and it carries on from the Death Crew 77 stuff. If anything, they seem to be even more committed to pure noise. That (and references to "Escape from New York") is certain to catch my attention. But what makes it work for me is the understanding of structure and dynamics. So, follow this link to what I think is the new highlight for them. Squeaking noises on a much higher level.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Cute Lepers

So, I've liked Steve E Nix's retropunk fixation for quite awhile, but it was just pure retropunk- all fetishizing a mythical 1977, with little to add. Forming the Cute Lepers was a step in the right direction, as up until the latest record, it's been punk-informed Power Pop. Now, with Adventure Time, we're getting to the payoff on all that. The music is still heavily referencing older music- there's a lot of Buzzcocks, and the Saints in there, but a new element makes it a better ballgame- Bruce Springsteen. Seriously, I can hear more than an echo of "Born to Run" era Springsteen in the new tunes and I like it. I'm not a big fan of Springsteen. I think he, like Nix, is a bit too slavish in his hero worship of earlier sounds, but the thing that Springsteen does bring is a kind of urgency- a desperation to cling to cliches as if not doing so will rob him of his life. That's what makes Springsteen listenable, where his progeny are not (ever listened all the way through a mid 80's John Cougar LP? How about ever made it all the way through Bat out of Hell 2? Meat loaf is a neat guy, and a good actor, but that stuff will drive you to applying a nail gun to your forehead). Steve E seems to have managed to channel some of that, and it really has elevated the music. So, yes, I can finally say that I like the Cute Lepers...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sometimes it crosses over

This'll be on both blogs, because it applies pretty universally. How do I feel about my life, my country and my culture. Knifeman by The Bronx

Friday, July 29, 2011

Thundercats, Hoooo!

So, yes, I used to watch thundercats. Why not? It was better than some of the other options. Quite randomly, I caught the premiere of the reboot tonight. And? Well, it's not quite as cheesetastic, and it's borrowing heavily from quasi-Asian fare like the Avatar series. I suppose it's good to try to tell a story, and try to grow the show both in terms of maturity and story, but, I don't know.... I miss being able to laugh at it. If you're into it, here you go....

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Quiet? Really?

So, enough with the negativity. I've got a new band for you. Call themselves "Quiet Arcs", and they play metallic hardcore with a grunge twist. It's a bit like like the Slayer-influenced hardcore from the mid 1990's, mixed with the doomy grunge of the late 1990's grunge of the Melvins. Pretty darn classy, if you ask me. There are some moments that are a bit screamo, which isn't exactly my favorite, but this stuff still gets the blood and brain moving enough that I can forgive the occasional overwrought passage. Overall, it's hardcore enough that I don't think I'm hearing a metal band in waiting, but it's metal enough that it appeals to my testosterone levels. My much younger self would complain that there are too many slow bits so it'd be hard to slam to
( and now time for a digression. It's slamming. It's not pogo. Pogo has become so mainstream that hippies pogo at Blues Traveller gigs. I've seen them, it's nothing good. It's not moshing. Moshing is the dance equivalent of a toilet flushing, with everyone chasing each others' ass. None for me, thanks. When I was a kid, it was slamming- kind of like the circle pit, but far more chaotic. Ever heard of the Naked Raygun "Wall of Death"? Yeah, I thought not. Basically, Slamming was like trying to pogo in a mosh, mixed with playing American football. All with folks stage diving on top. So, yes, I'm exact with my terms. You Pogo at a Weirdos gig. You mosh at a Slayer gig. You slam at a hardcore show. Teeth get lost, skulls get cracked, ribs get bruised, and a good time is had by all. Seriously, I've lost teeth, I've cracked my skull, and I've bruised my ribs in the pit, and I don't regret it at all. )

but screw my younger self, I dig the slower bits, too. Put it on very loudly, you might just like it, and say, just like me, Why Quiet Arcs? That makes no sense....
Then, again, I'm still with Brian Grillo- I'm not good at keeping silent. Am I loud? Hehehe...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ghouls Night out

OK, yes, I know this might be ghoulish, coming only minutes after she's found dead, But honestly, Amy Winehouse dead? Hmmm, file that under "Yeah, I thought so". I don't think anyone will be surprised, and I don't think anyone will doubt the reason why boils down to self-abuse. If it wasn't the drugs, drink and smoking, it was the obvious easting disorder. If it was neither of those, it was due to a misadventure brought on by poor judgement.
She was 27. That's about the same age as the rest of them, right? All the rock stars and movie stars who drug it up, and make a religion out of abusing themselves.
Not to get all political on you, but I still believe that drugs should be legalized. All of them. Because it's not that the substance is good or bad, in and of itself. It's that we, as human beings, can be so stupid, so selfish, and so cruel. Oh, they'll talk about Amy's "struggle" with her "demons", but what a load of crap! I believe in demons, but they're not in bottles, or packets. They're us. We are the demons we fear. Not the substance. Her fight was not with any substance. She chose her demons over everything else. Demons of her psyche, not of her ingestion. So, yes, we might pity her, but why? She got exactly what she asked for- demons want us dead. She chose her demons, and her demons did what demons do. So, while I think drugs should all be legal, I don't believe in excusing bad behaviour. You kill somebody while drunk driving, you're a murderer in my eyes. You rob people so you can get drugs? You're a thief in my eyes, plain and simple. I don't believe in excusing bad behaviour. I don't care if it was bipolar or Benzedrine you blame it on- if you act poorly, it's on you. I don't care if you're on Alcohol or Al-Anon, if you're a jerk to me.
So, she died young. Good for her, I guess. That's what the drive was, anyway. A drive for death. Ask Kurt, ask Jim Morrison, ask John Belushi, ask Brittney Murphy- ultimately, all this stuff is simply a desire to be nowhere and no one.
If it makes me a ghoul to be so harsh, then a Ghoul I am. There are so many others I'd prefer to celebrate; people who really are struggling with their demons- and trying to overcome them. Tell me about Carla Bozulich who had far more personal issues than Amy Winehouse will ever have, but strives to find beauty outside of those issues. Tell me about Art Alexakis who had all those demons, but has made a career out of destroying those demons one by one. Tell me about Robert Downey Jr who went as far down a self destructive path as anyone, and now doesn't make much of it, focusing instead on living a full artistic life. Get the idea? If I'm a ghoul for not giving honour to the disgraceful dead its only because I'm more concerned with the grace and honour of the will to live.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bury Potter and the Ghastly, hallowed

Not that I've got an "audience"- we're all friends, here- but I've set myself up for charges of hypocrisy from the audience, here.
What I mean is that I've chartered this here blog on the idea that so-called "mass culture" is dead, dead, dead, and that we can operate on a different scale. I still believe that. However, I do talk about stuff that would register on the scales for "mass culture"- stuff like TV shows, U2, and today, the Harry Potter movies. So, what's up with that?
Here's my internal rationalization- It's me talking about this stuff. I don't really have an audience, and I'm strange, so necessarily, my take on it will be sideways, and anyone reading my take will read it sideways, as well. That's an internal rationalization, though. I recognize that we're all "non-conformists"- everybody thinks they're a unique snowflake, and I'm no different. Except, well, I really am a bit different, and I can prove it; most folks haven't worked in the industry, and of those who have, even fewer have my particular brand of mixed feelings about it.
But, enough with the intellectual pud-pulling! I've got a more external, objective reasoning- that is, the process is in enough flux that we can talk about mass culture. What I mean is that there still is enough of the old world to talk about, that when I say "Mass culture" you have an idea of what I mean. Because of that, in a dialectic, we're not yet at a new synthesis- we're still negotiating between theses. Exactly how much mass, and how much idiosyncratic culture will come out is still up for grabs. Therefore, I cannot totally ignore mass culture, and though I might be hostile to the vast majority of it, it really isn't the job of history to be hostile to an idea until it's totally resolved.
What I am saying is that I am a product of my upbringing, and my environs- which has weighted in favor of mass culture very heavily, but I'm not a blind consumer, so I'm welcoming the impending demise of that paradigm- I'm welcoming it, because it's not yet complete.
Seem like neurotic posturing to you? Yeah, it might be, but I'm going to see the new Harry potter movie today, most likely. I've got a few thoughts on that. The first is on the phenomena. Obviously, it's become a world-wide cultural phenomena- but it's not unique in that. In fact, it takes quite a bit from earlier incarnations of that same phenomena- most notably JRR Tolkien and the "teen mystery" novels (Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys). So, the reasons for Harry Potter becoming such a phenomena are probably much the same as for the earlier incarnations of the same phenomena. I don't think it's all that productive looking for significance in the books themselves, in that they're simply re-tellings of already existing themes, tropes and even stories. (By the way, this isn't meant as a slam on the books- since the time of the Greeks, the point of telling stories and myths isn't to be wholly original- the point is to tell the story that does the most for the audience)The real interest, for me, is why these stories? Why is Harry Potter world wide, while, say,Lemony Snicket, isn't? I suspect that it's something to do with Britain. Think about how many people watched the recent Royal Wedding. Think about how vast the British Empire was. Think about how rotten things have been in England since the 1970's. I think there's a strong element in Empire nostalgia in the Harry Potter series. Children seem to desire strong parents. I think I can see why. There is a comfort in knowing what's expected, and there is security in strength. Adults find that "strong parent" is authoritarian governments. I can understand that it's easier to place one's faith in a person than in abstract ideas, and for all the "magic" and "mystery" of Harry Potter, the strongest theme is of Harry seeking the comfort of a strong parent who won't go away. His birth parents are dead, his Godfather gets killed, his mentors die, and still, Harry never truly looks within to set his own agenda. Instead, he's always the plaything of his fears, as personified by Lord Voldemort. Essentially, the need fulfilled, on a cultural level, by the Harry Potter series, is the post-modern, multicultural democratic longing for the premodern monocultural empire. It's the desire for people to be exonerated for the crimes of their cultural past, while also wishing that the past could be secure enough to be the present. JK Rowling has said that her books were a plea for tolerance, but tolerance for whom? I'm a white middle class, middle aged American. I don't see a need for me to "tolerate" the third world, or women, or any other group. At this stage in history, I can only hope that all these other groups, who are much more dynamic than my own culture, will tolerate me. I think that's who rowling is pleading tolerance for, ultimately. Harry Potter is the British Empire personified in the most sympathetic light possible. That's what I think, anyway. Essentially, I think the Harry potter answer to the dialectic is to reject it altogether, and wish that we could all just be happy together. I think that Rowling's answer to my Blog's question would be something along the lines of "We don't need to tolerate mass culture, Mass culture should be tolerant, and, if we can accept others, mass culture will be tolerant". Now to draw too much of a straw man, but my answer to such thinking is that mass culture is not the same as the culture of the masses. I don't think that mass culture can be tolerant or intolerant. Mass culture is ultimately a proposition, and attempt to persuade us to a mindset. I have come to the opposite conclusion from what I see as the Harry potter answer to post modern insecurity. I think we should just give in to that insecurity, not look for our Parents, and instead enjoy what joys our lives can afford us, and fight those who would seek to be our cultural Parents.
So, if that's how I feel, why am I seeing the movie? Because my wife and kid do not feel as I do. They both really like Harry Potter. My son likes to identify as Harry Potter, and sees himself as the misunderstood noble hero, and my wife has literally said that she enjoys the "world of Harry Potter" because it's like her imaginings of old England.I'm interested enough in seeing the phenomena that I'm allowing myself to dragged along.